[Marxism] It's those damn petty-bourgeois at it again!

Joaquín Bustelo jbustelo at bellsouth.net
Wed Nov 30 10:12:49 MST 2005

Callum writes: "I said that Castro DID create welfare state capitalism
after the revolution, which is broadly the system we have in place now
in Cuba - that is, I'm saying Cuba is State Capitalist, not a
degenerated workers' state, or socialist, or bureaucratic collectivist."

Callum, let's look at the POLITICS of all this for a moment,  and then
its implications for a THEORY coherent with those politics.

First you posit the existence of a p-b that is fundamentally different
from the one encountered elsewhere in Marxist theory. Traditionally the
p-b is viewed as the soul of vacillation, torn between the two
fundamental class forces in society, indecisive, incoherent.

So this p-b leadership *and social force* is a) Able to overthrow the
dictatorship b) Free the island from imperialist tutelage c) expropriate
all the local capitalists d) establish a cradle-to-the-grave "welfare
state" that would put Sweden in its best days to shame and that on the
narrowest imaginable material base, that of a small semicolonial country
permanently blockaded by imperialism; e) Zealously and effectively
defend the country's independence against unrelenting efforts from
Washington to bend Cuba to its will; f) Render effective aid, and
recognized as such, to revolutionary and anti-imperialist movements from
Vietnam to Palestine to southern Africa to Nicaragua and Venezuela; and
g) Serve as an example and source of inspiration for revolutionary
fighters everywhere and most of all in Latin America.

Other state capitalist comrades suggest they are not unsympathetic to
the accomplishments of the Cuban Revolution nor the ("subjectively" I
guess they would say) revolutionary character of its leadership, and add
that really, it would have been and remains quite impossible for the
Cubans to "go further" because to begin the construction of socialism
requires at least the combined efforts of several of the most advanced
capitalist countries, i.e., pretty much breaking the back of imperialism
as a world system. 

I suggest that what this all says that 

a) Capitalism has not yet exhausted its historic role; there is still a
progressive role to be played by State Capitalism, at least in the Third
World, in which case we're also compelled to investigate whether this
might not also be true in the advanced capitalist countries; 

b) Working-class based fights for socialism (at *least* in the colonial
and semicolonial countries) are utopian and therefore reactionary -- the
real fight is for (state) capitalism like Cuba has; 

c) the revolutionary class under whose leadership the working class
should place itself is this newly-found revolutionary petty-bourgeoisie;

d) the theory of permanent revolution is wrong, or at least needs to be
substantially modified -- national and anti-imperialist revolutions do
not have a tendency to "grow over" into socialist revolutions because
that is the only way to accomplish their national goals, but instead to
culminate in state capitalism, which is sufficient to get you at least
as much as Cuba has now, and which is as much as can be gotten until the
working class breaks the back of imperialism on a world scale.

And most of all this would necessitate the conclusion that Marxism as a
movement is not the conscious expression of the proletariat in the class
struggle nor its theory simply the expression on the theoretical plane
of this actual movement. Instead, it would have to be seen (at least in
the Third World) as the *ideology* of the revolutionary nationalist
petty-bourgeois proto state capitalist class which drapes itself with
the robes of the proletariat in order to consolidate its alliance with
the working class and thereby fulfill its historically necessary --or at
least historically possible-- role of freeing semicolonial countries
from imperialist tutelage.

I would say the inescapable conclusion of this is that we should be
Fidelistas and Chavistas -- not uncritically, certainly, but recognizing
that, for the moment, this is all that can be accomplished. Somewhat in
the manner that Marx was a partisan of Lincoln. 

And we must instruct the proletariat that, while its interests in the
long run are distinct from those of the revolutionary petty bourgeois
state capitalist class, for an entire historic period, we must be in a
strategic alliance with that class an under its leadership, waiting for
the day when proletarian revolution in the advanced capitalist countries
will finally put genuine proletarian revolution on the historic agenda
of semi colonial countries. 

And it would mean that any break in that alliance --by the workers for
example trying to create an independent movement and vie with the state
capitalists for power-- is going to wind up serving the interests of
imperialism because socialist revolution is not *possible* today in
countries like Cuba, Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia and so on. 

*Socialist* revolution is *possible* today only in countries of Europe,
the Anglophone imperialist countries elsewhere, and Japan, but even
there we should be clear that a revolution only in a Belgium --or
possibly even a France, Germany or Japan-- wouldn't be enough in and of
itself. Perhaps one in the United States by itself might be, as it is
the core of imperialism today, but elsewhere you're going to need
several if not many countries.

Having done all this, I suggest you've only succeeded in replicating
with one or another adjustment the political stance vis a vis
revolutions like Cuba's of those of us who consider Cuba a workers state
but in the process have introduced a whole theoretical apparatus that,
as I have tried to suggest, inevitably calls into question at the
deepest possible core level the character of the Marxist movement and
Marxist theory.

Many of the insights of the state capitalist comrades contain a grain or
more of truth, and especially the reality that, in relation to the world
market, the Cuban working class is still oppressed and exploited by
capitalism. But I suggest that the more straightforward way to account
for this strange phenomenon is not to posit the existence of an
ultra-benevolent dictatorial petty-bourgeoisie that, having raised
itself to the position of a ruling state capitalist class, delusionally
imagines it represents the interests of a class other than its own. 

We should stop judging Cuba with yardsticks drawn from what we imagine
socialism after the abolition of capitalism on a world scale will look
like. Instead we should look at it for what it is -- an embattled
outpost of proletarian revolution surrounded by a hostile capitalist
world, essentially, a union on steroids. 


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