[Marxism] Re: Cuba and State Capitalism

Joaquín Bustelo jbustelo at bellsouth.net
Wed Aug 17 05:54:33 MDT 2005

Carl Webb says: "I had a discussion with someone from Workers World who
thought the title misrepresented Trotsky's real view of the Soviet

I don't know that the comrades from Workers World have ever done much
theoretical work focused on contradictory aspects of reality. IMHO, they
often have a tendency to simplistically reduce matters to binary poles.
But without a fuller description of how and in what way the comrade
contends the book title misrepresents Trotsky's views, I really can't
say much more about their opinion other than the general observation of
their tendency to oversimplify things.

Trotsky's view of the USSR of the mid-1930's was subtle and complex,
encompassing multiple dialectics and contradictions. It is hardly likely
to have been possible to capture it in any title. The title does
capture, fairly and accurately, I think, his view of the Soviet
bureaucracy and its political expression. 

Viewed that way I think the title probably discomfited Trotsky because
the main, underlying, causal factor in the Stalinist counterrevolution
wasn't a conscious betrayal by Stalin and his followers, but rather the
demobilization and atomization of the working class as a result of the
civil war and the narrowness of the economic base. 

And, of course, for Trotsky the bureaucracy and its policies wasn't
decisive in determining his attitude towards the Soviet Union as a
"workers state."

What Trotsky meant by this latter term included, among other things, an
unstable and unfinished phenomenon, the *beginning* of a transition to
socialism (understanding that term strictly). It is well worth reading
the entire book, which is online at Marxists.org, but FWIW here is a

"The Soviet Union is a contradictory society halfway between capitalism
and socialism, in which: (a) the productive forces are still far from
adequate to give the state property a socialist character; (b) the
tendency toward primitive accumulation created by want breaks out
through innumerable pores of the planned economy; (c) norms of
distribution preserving a bourgeois character lie at the basis of a new
differentiation of society; (d) the economic growth, while slowly
bettering the situation of the toilers, promotes a swift formation of
privileged strata; (e) exploiting the social antagonisms, a bureaucracy
has converted itself into an uncontrolled caste alien to socialism; (f)
the social revolution, betrayed by the ruling party, still exists in
property relations and in the consciousness of the toiling masses; (g) a
further development of the accumulating contradictions can as well lead
to socialism as back to capitalism; (h) on the road to capitalism the
counterrevolution would have to break the resistance of the workers; (i)
on the road to socialism the workers would have to overthrow the
bureaucracy. In the last analysis, the question will be decided by a
struggle of living social forces, both on the national and the world

It was especially striking to me in going back to look this up that
Trotsky links the survival of the revolution in the property relations
also to its survival "in the consciousness of the toiling masses,"
because, of course, this aspect of things, that socialism can only be
built consciously, that it is a constant battle of ideas, is a central
tenet of Cuban communism.


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