Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Cuba: Revolution Revisited.

I'm reprinting an overview article, summarizing a six part review of Samuel Farber's "The Origins of the Cuban Revolution Reconsidered" (University of North Carolina Press,2006), reprinted from Paul Hampton's Blog at Workers\' Liberty. I found this entry challenging and provocative.

Although critical of Fidelistas, it is not a call to support the blockade, or the reactionary opposition to Castro.

The Cuban revolution revisited: Part I – Overview

What was the class character of the Cuban revolution of 1959-61? More than any other Marxist over the last forty-five years, Sam Farber has tried to tackle this question from the standpoint of Third Camp working class socialism.

Farber was born and grew up in Cuba. Since the early 1960s he has been an active revolutionary socialist, most recently as a member of the Solidarity organisation in the United States that publishes Against the Current magazine.

His earlier book, Revolution and Reaction in Cuba 1933-1960 (Wesleyan University Press, 1976) is the most coherent Marxist explanation of the Cuban revolution to date. Now this new book, The Origins of the Cuban Revolution Reconsidered (University of North Carolina Press, 2006) updates his interpretation in the light of scholarship published over the last thirty years.

Farber uses original documents, biographies and other sources emanating from Cuba and elsewhere, fleshing out some issues that were previously not well known or understood. In particular he uses declassified US State Department files and Soviet documents to clarify a number of crucial matters.

What happened in the Cuban revolution?

There is little dispute about the broad outlines of the Cuban revolution 1959-61.

Before the revolution, Cuba was ruled by a military dictator Fulgencio Batista, who seized power in a coup in 1952. A range of organisations - and even sections of the military - challenged Batista’s rule, including the group around Fidel Castro, which attacked the Moncada barracks on 26 July 1953. Although the attack failed and the participants imprisoned, they were released and exiled two years later.

Castro’s group, now known as the July 26 Movement (M26J), returned to Cuba in December 1956, launching a guerrilla struggle against Batista from the mountains of the Sierra Maestra. Other urban groups, such as the Directorio Revolucionario and the Partido Socialista Popular (PSP, the Cuban Communist Party) also opposed Batista. In April 1958 the M26J called a general strike, but it largely failed.

However Batista’s offensive against the guerrillas in July 1958 failed and by the end of the year his forces had been driven back. On 1 January 1959 Batista fled and his army collapsed. The M26J took over, celebrated by a general strike lasting four days.

Castro’s political revolution was consolidated when leading Batista figures were tried and executed and the new regime passed a series of reforms, notably an Agrarian Reform Law in May 1959. Castro himself became prime minister in February 1959. In November 1959 pro-Castro and Communist (PSP) supporters took control of the trade union movement.

Towards the end of 1959, the US government began making plans to overthrow the Cuban government – and Castro began making links with the USSR. In May 1960 the government took complete control of the media. In the following months US oil and other businesses were expropriated. In April 1961 the US sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion failed and Castro declared the “socialist” character of the Cuban Revolution – in reality a social revolution that created the first Stalinist bureaucratic social formation in Latin America.

Why was there a revolution in Cuba 1959-61?

Lenin argued that revolutions come about when the ruling class is no longer able to rule in the old way, and the mass of people are no longer willing to be ruled in the old way.

This means trying to understand the circumstances that made a revolution possible – but also clearly identifying the agents involved, their aims and strategies for power.

Any explanation of the nature of the Cuban revolution has to grapple with five key issues:
1) The political economy of Cuba before and after 1959;
2) The nature of the Castro group that led the revolution, and other parties contending for power (e.g. the PSP);
3) The role of the US government in pushing Castro towards Stalinism;
4) The role of the USSR and the PSP in attracting the Cuban regime towards its orbit; and
5) The role of the working class and other classes in the process.

Most “left-wing” explanations of the Cuban revolution address these issues in the following way:
1) They emphasise the backward, dependent nature of Cuban capitalism, dominated by imperialism and ruled by a dictatorship often depicted as a puppet of the US.
2) They depict the Castro group as radical nationalists, but pragmatic revolutionaries who evolved their programme and strategy as they went along.
3) They emphasise the US government’s imperial bungling, which pushed the new regime away from bourgeois-democratic rule towards “socialism”.
4) The role of the USSR is presented as benign or even progressive, coming to the aid of the Cuban government when it came under attack from the US.
5) The working class is presented as an integral part of a popular, multi-class alliance that eventually put its representatives (the Castroites, sometimes with the PSP) in control.

In most “Trotskyist” accounts, this is sometimes dressed up as “permanent revolution”, whereby a process of growing over from a national-democratic revolution to a socialist revolution is asserted, with Castro’s leadership playing the locum role for a Marxist party. Differences about the nature of Stalinist rule in Cuba revolve around the extent of bureaucratic “deformation” or “health” of a “workers’ state”.

The central problem with this approach is that it displaces the working class from the centre of the analysis, substituting the Castro group as the progressive agency. The working class is at best perceived as a subordinate prop for the Castro regime – rather than the victim of its rule. Despite the absence of mass workers’ organisations, such as soviets (factory councils) or factory committees, and the absence of a Marxist party leading a class conscious working class to take power in its own interests, proponents of this view describe with ever great detachment from reality the manner in which the Cuban working class “rules” vicariously through the agency of Castro’s state. They forget that a “workers’ state” created without the active intervention of the working class is no workers’ state at all.

There are also right-wing explanations of Castro’s rise to power.
1) These emphasise the developed nature of Cuban capitalism in the 1950s and suggest that Batista would have given way to some form of bourgeois democracy.
2) They depict the Castro regime as Stalinist from the start, as a conspiracy that carefully concealed its true nature within a broadly democratic movement before foisting its real designs on the Cuban people after two years in power.
3) The US government is usually presented as moderate, protecting the interests of its businesses, sometimes making mistakes – but essentially benign;
4) By contrast, the USSR is portrayed as pulling Cuba towards its orbit from the beginning.
5) The working class is presented as duped by Castro’s promises – or is simply irrelevant to government-level machinations.

The main problem with this view is that it completely misunderstands the international context in which the Cuban revolution took place and the various contending forces that vied for power. It too fails to grasp the reality of the situation for Cuban workers before and after 1959, so provides no conception of what workers could have done in the situation – or what lessons can be learned for today.

Neither of these broad views offers a class analysis of the Cuban revolution. Neither grasps the dynamics of the period, the motives of the key social agents nor understands the trajectory the regime took between 1959 and 1961.

By contrast, Farber’s view is much more nuanced. To summarise it tersely:
1) The political economy of Cuban capitalism in the 1950s was defined by uneven development and Batista’s regime is understood as a Bonapartist formation, balancing between social classes with little social base.
2) Castro’s group was a declassed populist movement in the tradition of Latin American caudillismo, an active agent with its own aims and with internal tensions and pressures – and faced competitors for power. It created its own form of Bonapartist rule before choosing the Stalinist camp.
3) US policy emanated from its imperial role in the hemisphere and its priorities in the Cold War - consistent with its treatment of other regimes in Latin America.
4) The USSR pursued its own imperial state interests and was involved from the early days in the regime – acting as a pole of attraction and actively promoted as a model by the PSP.
5) The Cuban working class lacked the kind of independent politics necessary to fight for its own interests and self-rule. Workers were not the social force that made the revolution, nor its ultimate beneficiary – indeed the working class was hegemonised and effectively exploited by the new class that came to rule by 1961, under what Farber has called a “bureaucratic collectivist class society”. (1976 p.237)

To sum up, Farber’s book is exceptionally useful, dispelling the veil of romanticism that surrounds Castro’s Cuba on the left. It is vital contribution towards reorienting the left and a tremendous contribution towards understanding the nature of the Cuban regime today. With Fidel Castro’s death likely to set off a chain reaction inside and outside Cuba, Marxists have a substantial task in seeking to understand the Cuban social formation and its direction. This book helps us to do that work.
Renegade Eye


Sangroncito said...

I went to Cuba the first time with rose-colored glasses. By my fourth visit the rose-colored glasses were long gone, and they had been taken off by the Cubans I met and who told me their stories.
Cuba still fascinates me and I find myself defending the revolution from those who attack it, but I also find myself acknowledging the failures of the revolution from those who live or have lived its reality.

MC Fanon said...

Many like to argue that the U.S.' intervention hurt the revolutionary efforts. I don't buy that. After just watching a very thorough documentary on Ernesto Che Guevara and the Cuban Revolution, I realize now why the effort was underminded: Castro was never a Marxist to begin with.

The true Marxist behind the Cuban Revolution was Guevara, as he sought to truly give the working class at least some control of the economy. Castro never wanted this, evident not only in his alliance with the USSR and apparent adoption of Stalinism, but also in his exorcism of Che from Cuba (Castro would tell you otherwise but let's be realistic).

What's more, Castro is one of the worst human rights violaters, taking on a sort of "you're with us or against us" attitude (George W. anyone?) where any who stood in his way were cut down (mass executions, often completely unwarranted). Castro was no communist, socialist, or Marxist. Castro believed in the all-power of Castro and nothing more, which was ultimately why the revolution failed.

That and I don't think socialism can or should be achieved by a violent uprising.

SecondComingOfBast said...

I always thought US Cuban policy pushed Castro to an extremist position, and I think that now. We pushed him closer toward the Soviet Union, and from there it just became a vicous cycle. It's a failed policy, but a continuing one, pushed more by economics and politics than by the mere outer trappings of ideology.

By the same token, any political or economic system that is dominated totally by one party, person, or faction, is doomed by human nature to fall into corruption, and eventual tyranny. That is true regardless of what ideology is in control.

Just imagine how corrupt, oppressive, and tyrannical the United States would become if it were dominated solely by the Republican Party. Or, for that matter, the Democratic Party, Green Party, etc.

MC Fanon said...

That's a valid point, I suppose (one-party system). But few will argue that Castro was power-hungry from the beginning. I venture to say that Cuba might have been more successful had Guevara been the one to take charge, although like you said there wasn't a good flow of opinion and politics going on at that time.

Castro just... wasn't a Marxist...

celticfire said...

Hey Renegade,

Thanks for commenting on the Stalin post. I hope you aren't turned off by the whole thing, I am struggling for a better understanding of Stalin, and rasing criticism is a good way to do that. I hope you know you are entirely welcome to post more. Even though I might be jumped for having a Trot friend LOL! :)


sonia said...

Good post, good comments.

The key question for me is whether Castro was a totalitarian dictator from the very begining, or whether he was 'pushed' towards Communist dictatorship by the US imperialism.

As for Che Guevara, he was quite totalitarian as well. But at least, unlike Castro, he realized that there was something immoral and wrong about being an oppressor, and decided, in a way, to go back in time, to relieve the glory of the revolutionary struggle. That's what makes him so appealing...

MC Fanon said...

If you look back though, Guevara didn't want the creation of a totalitarian state, as evident in his criticism of the USSR (which probably led to his exorcism from Cuba). He worked the fields along side the people he was in charge of. Guevara believed in a true Marxist state.

Castro was corrupt from the very beginning, and it's almost strange the two coexisted as long as they did. You saw Castro's lust for power even before the actual overthrow.

Would Che have been corrupted also had he taken power? Hard to say.

Craig Bardo said...

Language helps in understanding, but so to does reality. Those who romaticize the "revolution" want to think of its genesis as eminating from some collective consciousness of the working class that never existed. The revolution's failure is that it was a military coup, much in the way that Batista came into power.

Had Che led instead of Castro, do you really believe things would be markedly different? He would have toiled in futility trying to give people a vision of something they weren't seeking.

The entire premise of Marxism is flawed and cannot succeed. It would crumble under the weight of its economic ineptitude, and cause flight or revolt from those not willing to subject themselves to the whims and vissicitudes of the state.

Agnes said...

Excellent post, Ren, and thanks: I will read it.

Dave, "Many like to argue that the U.S.' intervention hurt the revolutionary efforts." - Dave, don't forget about the Cold War: people on both sides did buy that.These regimes could resist exactly because so many bought it.
"The revolution's failure is that it was a military coup, much in the way that Batista came into power." - also an intellectual one, if there is such a thing.

"Had Che led instead of Castro, do you really believe things would be markedly different?" - that we may never find out, CB, amd I think it is useless to speculate. These countries,all oppressive and authoritarian, were very different, and very much depended on the party secretary, president, etc. Part of the tragedy was that most could become "one man shows".

Fantomas said...



John Brown said...

I saw Faber speak last year at the ISO conference in Chicago and appreciated much of what he had so say.

One should bear in mind that, whatever Cuba's faults, it is a nation that has been under a barbaric 40 year siege and has still managed - without nearly the resources of other countries - to elevate its education and health care systems to the top of the world.

Where Uncle Sam exports mercinaries, IMF loans, and chain stores, Cuba exports doctors and teachers.

Cuba may not be socialist in the way that many of us would like, but socialism has changed the culture there in a profoundly positive way.

roman said...

"socialism has changed the culture there in a profoundly positive way."
John Brown,
Are you living on the same planet that the rest of us are? Imagine this scene: A mother and her infant son along with other family members tie together four inner tubes, pack some provisions and throw themselves into the water in the middle of the night. This scene is repeated over and over. Their desperate and mostly futile attempts to cross the 90 miles to our shores underscores the utter failure of Castro's socialism. Lipstick on a pig?

sonia said...

John Brown,

it is a nation that has been under a barbaric 40 year siege and has still managed...

John Brown wouldn't be himself if he didn't defend a tyrant, no matter how totalitarian, just because the tyrant in question happens to be anti-American.

The siege is a myth, John Brown. The Americans are under no obligation to trade with Cuba. Other countries are trading with them and Cuba is still an economic basket case.

It's a big leftist lie that Cuba's problems are caused by the trade embargo. They are caused by the socialist system itself.

Besides that leftist lie isn't even coherent. With all the other countries, the leftist talking points are: 'dirty Yankee capitalists are trying to impose free trade to better plunder the country'. Only in respect to Cuba, the talking points are in total contradiction to the other ones: 'dirty Yankee capitalists are REFUSING to allow free trade (or any trade for that matter)...'

Anonymous said...


How did you get to go to Kooba? Are you a non-American?

Anonymous said...

cb wrote:

Had Che led instead of Castro, do you really believe things would be markedly different? He would have toiled in futility trying to give people a vision of something they weren't seeking.

Explain the current rise of modern, leftist heads of state in South America, then, if the ideology is so flawed and has no grassroots appeal.

Dave said...


I'm off to Cuba for a month from mid-July. Promise to come back with a rounded Marxist analysis.

If any readers know useful people to speak to while I'm there, please email me through my blog.

Tell me more about this Farber guy. What groups has he aligned with? Basically third campist, I suppose?

Dave (the Brit version)

Craig Bardo said...


I don't know if I would call what is happening in South America a rise...its more like a stagger.

Frank Partisan said...

celticfire: Vidrohi from My Red Diary traded links with me. We agreed to disagree. If my links and comments were based on agreement, I'd have about four links. I could only respond to your post, is by read thses articles sometime.

I do agree with John Brown, that the socialist reforms, made strides in medicine, racism and education.

In Trotsky and Lenin's writings, you can't find any references, to that there should be only one party.

Sonia: Most states don't apply moral guidelines to trade.

The discussion is going in the direction Fidel may have been relieved that Che was killed.

I was expecting heat from the left with this post, that didn't come.

Graeme said...

maybe I am old school, but isn't the ultimate goal of both socialism and communism no government? \

I regard Castro's communist party the same as the Soviets, right wing regimes that are against any revolution except one that keeps their one party system in charge.

Anonymous said...

Communism doesn't work and never will. The reason is because of dictatorships. No matter how you analyze it and in all the angles you look at it, you always end out on square one. There is always someone who wants more power than the one in charge. This is human behavior, its all about ego. Look at Stalin, he was a butcher. The Chinese, supposedly are communist, but they are really capitalist but with a slave labor work force. At least in a democracy the citizens have more power. Governments are just different types of systems but communism controls your HUMAN RIGHTS, look at all the communist systems that exist and existed. How many people were murdered unjustly? Communism was a great idea, that's all. Everyone dreams of a Utopian society, but that's all it is, a dream. Don't brake your heads over it. Try to achieve something that will improve society, not confuse it. Jose

Intrepidflame said...

Jose, you may be right that communism has never worked, because it has always turned into dictatorships and state contorlled regimes. The way I see communism, as Marx argues, is that Communism is the end product that will not come about until the entire world is ready for revolution and the workers take control of their own destinies, a sort of evolutionary state that we must aspire to. In the last centuries, we have had several small revolutions that started off with much potential, but were hijacked by ego driven or conflicting ideological leaders. See Cuba and even Iran in 79 before the mullahs took it over. The global situation is still not ready for global revolution, but fear not with the US slowly gobbling up the world it will come soon. I see a final showdown with the US and china in this century and then after that…? Workers of the world unite! Lose your chain…

But to say that it is impossible to achieve a world in which we promote human equality and justice over greed and profit, because of human nature is a cop out. I don’t know about you, but most people I know are quite kind and loving and would like to live in a world where they can help others. Human beings evolve and grow depending on their environment, and although it may not seem like we are moving toward something more civil. I think that human nature is flexible and multifaceted, and that the behaviors of human beings are shaped by their social circumstances. So if we can change these circumstances, maybe we can move toward a more fair and egalitarian world. I think often times we see the world through a sharp capitalist filter, and since all we have ever known is competition, profit and imperialism, we are led to believe that is all we are capable of. But I have to argue here that, human beings are capable of much more. When you put us in small groups, give us what we need, and show us love, we tend to be quite beautiful beings. It is only when we are pushed into corners, forced to face injustice in the name of imperialism, capitalism, and greed do our ugly traits reveal themselves.

Check this article for more on this topic:

I agree with much of what was said here, Castro was not a Marxist and Cuba was not ready for revolution. Che was a petty bourgeois, like many of us, who dreamed of a better world and he forced his ideas on Cuba. Don’t get me wrong I think some of his policies were great, but he too became obsessed with the idea of revolution more than the actual goal of what he was trying to achieve. See the movie Before Night Falls, for more on the destruction of bohemia in Cuba after the revolution.

However, if Cuba had not been alone in the world, maybe better things could have happened. Vietnam is another example of a failed revolution that could have done so much, if it had been fostered. You have to remember that the Us has spent a high percentage of its resource trying to bring down communism since 1917. It’s hard to create a world in which you control everything and make trillions of dollars off the labor of the masses, if they can think and act for themselves. The revolution will come, we must be slowly working on it…

sonia said...


communism has never worked, because it has always turned into dictatorships and state controlled regimes

The US has spent a high percentage of its resource trying to bring down communism since 1917

And God bless them for that...

Agnes said...

Ren, "In Trotsky and Lenin's writings, you can't find any references, to that there should be only one party." - yes, there are, not only one. It was Lenin talking about the dictatorship of the proletariat" and the power in the hands of 'one class', and that, quite in an early phase.

MC Fanon said...

A friend of mine once profoundly stated "Utopia may be out of reach, but it's still nice to view even through the barbed-wire fences."

That's the end goal of communism because I agree that practically it doesn't hold much salt. It's the end goal that may never come but at least it's there to define the end goal so we can work toward it.

Socialism on the other hand, can and has worked (with partial implementation; for instance, Sweden). The problem with any other socialist government is that it has never arisen with any base appreciation for democracy, which is why I believe socialism and the United States can and should be one.

^Comment sometime, if you're interested.

Craig Bardo said...

Sweden is a very small, insular, homogenous society. They have a highly educated population with an economy built on technology. Their "success" with socialism is also relatively untested against the backdrop of an economic downturn and it is new.

However, it has not yet failed and I acknowledge that. My contention had been that socialism can't work even on a micro date I stand corrected.

troutsky said...

Could anything possibly be more boring than trying to argue with the "there is no alternative " crowd ie. CB Sonia Jose roman Margaret Thatcher etc ?

Basically,we are still debating whether it is possible for a socialist revolution to rise out of a pre-industrial society.Cubas main export was sugar cane with an economy built on whores and gambling.Hardly fertile soil for a proletariat to develop, and yet the revolutionary project still progresses in the hearts and minds of a great many Cubans.( such as the Cuban doctors I met helping the Venezuelans) To the degree that we can stand in solidarity with them, there hope for a better future still exists.

MC Fanon said...

That's just what I mean, though, about socialism working in America. Not only does our government have a fairly democratic base but our economy has some sort of firm basis. The only conflict is how to set such a change in motion. Violent revolution is never the answer.


Frank Partisan said...

I agree with Troutsky. He put his argument together brilliantly.

The article I reprinted, is political criticism, of an actually less priviledged elite, than most countries.

roman said...

Troutsky and Ren,
It is true that some recent Cuban cultural developments appear to be progressive and admirable. Don't forget, however, that a Marxist-style regime run by a tyrant has a far more powerful grip on its populace than a true democracy. It has the control necessary to export and "sell" a positive image without a pesky free press getting in the way. Transparency is non-existent. The doctors "helping out" in South American nations is just another calculated move to export their brand of Marxist doctrine ,i.e Grenada.
Castro (a former lawyer) is not the "military hero" he is portrayed to be.
Twice he abandoned and ran from the battle field leaving his men, who put their trust in him, to be slaughtered and executed.
When he finally meets his maker, not soon enough for me, the real Cuban proletariat will rejoice and start the process of positive changes leading to real political transparency and real freedom.

Justin Delacour said...

I glanced over the analysis. I suspect that most of what Farber says is right; groups like the Socialist Workers Party are overly romantic about Cuba. However, the fact that Cuba is not a paragon of working class emancipation says nothing about whether the historical conditions ever existed for it to become such. Given the historical conditions within which the Cuban Revolution came into being (conditions of economic underdevelopment, in the context of a Cold War that gave the country a very limited set of options with regard to its course of development), it's a bit much to expect Cuba to have become a paragon of working class emancipation. It makes more sense to look at Cuba in comparative perspective and to assess whether its revolution has brought some significant social advancements to the working class. To expect Cuba to have become a paragon of working class emancipation, under the historical conditions in which it came into being, is to set the bar a little high, from my perspective.

Dave Brown said...

Trotsky said if you can't defend past victories you can't win new ones. Cuba is caught between capitalism and socialism. It needs a Latin American revolution to defend the expropriation of capitalist property and prevent the restoration of capitalism, and to win the new victory of a socialist Cuba as part of a union of socialist republics stretching from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego.

John Brown said...

Is it true, Roman, that you would rather Cuba return to the Batista days when Uncle Sam ruled that nation like it rules Puerto Rico today?

Is that really what you prefer?

Because under Batista there may not have been people leaving on rafts. Instead, there were people holding general strikes and forcing him from power.

Maybe that should tell us something.

Your anecdote about one family does nothing to obfuscate the reality for Cubans: things may not be perfect there, but thanks to the Cuban revolution, they're a lot better than they were during the 1950s.

Despite the siege, they have better medical care than Uncle Sam, a smarter, more educated populus than Uncle Sam, and a government that doesn't leave 300,000 of them stranded helpless and alone when disaster strikes.

John Brown said...

sonia wouldn't be sonia if she didn't spout out unconfirmed, uncorroborated CIA/Pentagon propaganda to smear a country with interests hostile to Uncle Sam.

Because she's really a mindless lacky of Dick Cheney.

She is, however, right about one thing: there is torture, degredation, and abuse in Cuba.

At GUANTANAMO BAY. Yet 'ironically', we read in sonia's post no condemnation of Uncle Sam's concentration camp. Nope, all we get from her are assertions - offered without any supporting evidence - that Cuba is a totalitarian state run by a tyrant.

Yet the Cubans have a parliamentary system and millions fewer people in prison than Uncle Sam (the fact that Uncle Sam has the largest prison gulag in the history of the world doesn't seem to bother sonia, either).

And unlike on Uncle Sams Plantation, none are there, to the best of my knowledge, on thought crimes like the latest Sears Tower charade.

For being an economic basket case, the Cuban people have the staples: education and health care.

They may not be living in luxury like the 20% of Uncle Sam's children living below the poverty line.

Or the 3,000,000 who are incarcertated.

Or the 40,000,000 who lack health coverage.

But they're not $40,000,000,000 in debt, either.

John Brown said...

Sorry... I wrote $40,000,000,000 in debt.

The actual number is 100x that: $40,000,000,000,000.

Anonymous said...

There is one thing people do not understand about Cuba and many of you who are here are young and were not informed about. Cuba had an incredible school system, including great universities. They had great health plans, unemployment was low, the economy was booming, for a very long time before Castro took over. The whole problem in Cuba was corruption and that was because we had a "dictator". Batista was a mafioso. The people were tired of him and wanted him out. Castro was actually a hero when he took over Cuba, but when the people realized that he was more of a mafioso than Batista then it was too late. By then, he nationalized everything, took over all of the private property and took over the press. Since he has taken over, he has made Cuba a hole in the ground. Not to mentioned, with the advice of the Che, he had Thousands of innocent people executed and placed in jail. Now he controls everything, the prostitution and the casinos are still there. His claim to fame is the US embargo, that's a lot of crap. He has food and tourists enriching the country, but the people are poor. When Castro has gone and his regime is eliminated, the people around the world are going to know the truth about this demon, and you people are so blind to realize this now. Tell me one thing, just one thing, that Castro has done for the Cuban people. We are dealing with human life here, this is not a big joke. What is so fascinating to you about a bearded man with a cigar in his mouth, unless you really do not care about the Cuban people. Why don't you try to get some opinions from the Cuban citizens, themselves, but you can't, they are not allowed to express their opinion. Then how can you speak for them? Stop romanticizing, these are real people here.

John Brown said...

Do you have anything substantiating any one of your dozens of claims, Reyes, or are you just going to keep spouting Pentagon propaganda?

Mark Prime (tpm/Confession Zero) said...

If you haven't already this 45 minute video on "Get In Their Face" blog will open the eyes to those not sold on the war for oil phraseology.

I thought you would appreciate this video... Hope you don't mind.

roman said...

John Brown,

I do not recall seeing any news reports of hordes of Puerto Ricans emigrating to Cuba, have you? As a matter of fact, I would guess that the typical family in Puerto Rico is "better off" socially and economically than its counterpart in Cuba.
Your shameful characterization of my description of desperate Cubans risking their lives to reach the US shores as an "anectode of ONE family" is disingenuous at best. It hints at making this an isolated incident. As everyone knows, this scene has repeated itself over and over since Castro expropriated everything of any value on the island. To downplay this horrific tragedy which repeats itself to the present day defies the historical record.
Also, for your information, Batista, not an angel by any means, was in fact a democratically elected head of state. His government reforms were already improving the lives of the Cuban people when his government was brought down by leftist rebels who kept attacking ALL the previous governments whether good or bad.
Lets deal in facts please and not leftist talking points which constitute nothing but "propaganda by repetition".

Agnes said...

"I do agree with John Brown, that the socialist reforms, made strides in medicine, racism and education." - Ren, that characterizes most countries from that period. Another question is: how much do you trust statistics in such isolated countries? Romania had excellent statistics: and now a huge percent of the population is infected with hep B and C, because the excellent statistics forgot to mention that there were no funds for sterilizing needles. I would like some to look in the eyes of those who developed liver cancer, because there was no money and gas and electricity for such a basic thing in healthcare. How can you explain that these countries have now such a miserable health statistics and such a low life expectancy since 1991? In 1989 all these were excellent. People fell ill overnight or real statistics were made availabe?
Albania had excellent statistics, and when the borders opened it was quite shocking their lack of infrastructure and basic necessities in education and healthcare. Racism: that you can tell only in a country which guarantees free speech.
"Yet the Cubans have a parliamentary system " John Brown, no kidding? You make me laugh. With one party and some 'independents' all loyal to the CP? I don't question your good intentions, I do question your knowledge when it comes to the socialist bloc. What you fail to realize is that we can rant here exactly because we do have a more or less restricted freedom of speech: they don't. And you obviously haven't experienced yet what the complete lack of basic rights and freedoms means.

You don't support the people, you support those who oppress them. I would like if the left kept its promise and stood by the oppressed instead of the oppressors.

John Bwown said...

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Anonymous said...

Various articles by Sam Farber can be found at the website of the Marxist-oriented democratic socialist journal New Politics ( Check the back issue archives.

Dave Brown said...

Farber's concept of a 'bureaucratic collective society' was already rejected by Trotsky in the 1930's. Its an attempt to find a 'new society' between capitalism and socialism. But this requires a 'new class'for a new class state. Logically this has to be a new middle class.

Trotsky rejected the conception of the bureaucracy as a 'new class'.It was a kind of petty bourgeoisie balanced between the bourgeois and the working class, but it did not and could not have its 'own' property. For that reason Trotsky referred to it as a 'caste' inside the working class like the union bureaucracy in capitalist society.

As a petty bourgeois caste it could not build a new society on its own property. It had either to base itself on the working class collective state property which it could not personally own, or turn itself into a new bourgeoisie. This situation was inherently unstable and could only be resolved by a 'political' revolution in which workers took power from the bureaucracy and claimed their own property for real, or a return to capitalism.

In Cuba's case this decision was made for the July 26 movement by the already exising Soviet bureaucracy which backed Castro and Co and allowed it to base itself on collective workers property rather than revert under pressure into to become another comprador bourgeoisie dependent on US imperialism.

The result was a workers state but degenerated at birth because dependent for its survival on the degenerated Soviet workers state.

Trotsky's conception has been vindicated by the collapse of the soviet union. Failing a political revolution, capitalism has been restored, as also is the case in the Eastern European states, China and Vietnam.

In Cuba's case, the restoration of capitalism in the SU etc, means that its trajectory is backwards towards capitalist restoration, under the guise of 'market socialism' or some other cover phrase like '21st century socialism', unless the Latin American workers combine to kick imperialism out of LA and overpower their own national bourgeosies, empowering the Cuban working people to take direct control of their degenerated workers state.

Agnes said...

Dave, you keep talking about "degenerated workers' state" - when did the workers own anything? When did they have a say? All decisions were taken by the party, hand in hand with the secret services.

Also, as you talk about "capitalism" - owning a pig or a hen is not capitalism.

"Failing a political revolution, capitalism has been restored, as also is the case in the Eastern European states" - wrong. Most of them did have a politcal revolution and a strong left. That was hijacked.

Anonymous said...

Hey Brown, my family went through all of the hardships, if you don't believe me, than what can I say. It was America that provided freedom and accepted all the Cuban exiles and also accepted others from around the world, maybe even yours. You should love your country more and respect it. Until you lose your freedom, you will never understand. I'm telling you first hand, I'm giving you some advice. Open your eyes, stop dreaming. It's funny how you support communism and then you never lived in a communist system.

Dave Brown said...

Redwine you should read Trotsky The Revolution Betrayed to understand how I use the terms 'degenerated workers' state'. Also a 'political revolution' that fails is not a revolution. Owning some chickens is not capitlism. Employing a number of workers to farm them for you is.

? said...

Nice post! So much to learn from the comments as well. I can recall a similar discussion on the poormouth, with Jams and Elasticwaistebandlady.

Agnes said...

I read it, I was more curious of your opinion. So who decides owning a pig or cow and using a helping hand is capitalism or not? Many were considered kulaks for as much, not more.

Frank Partisan said...

This is a pretty clear defnition.


Agnes said...

Saw that, Ren: but I am curious how that defines the former USSR and Eastern Europe. It is too easy to play with these definitions, and blame everything on Stalin.

Nicholas said...

I cannot tell if this has been said but "third camp socialism" is Shachtmanism, which is an ideology that denies proletarian revolution for some other "real" proletarian revolution, like chasing after shadows when the real thing is looking you in the face. In addition they inevitably take the side of US imperialism.

While Cuba has problems yes, one should not forget that there are definate gains made by the workers and peasants from the revolution, and it is this that should be defended.
Thanks for the post Ren

Frank Partisan said...

I agree with Nicholas in general about Shachtmanism. Only recently through blogging, have I ever had any interaction with any Shachtman follower. I think the conclusions from believing the Soviet Union was state capitalist, were insidious. Even helping neoconservatism evolve.

The leaders of the East European governments, were heirs to Stalin. They lived with economic priviledges, and vastly more political power, than the average worker. The economy was not capitalist.

Anonymous said...

One doesn't have to agree with Farber's definition of Stalinist states as bureaucratic-collectivist class societies to note that he gets his facts right, or to agree with his general political outlook.

"Trotsky's conception has been vindicated by the collapse of the soviet union." Nope. Trotsky never believed that the denationalization of the USSR's property could occur without a (counter-)revolution. Yet, it has. Those who ran the USSR were not overthrown. They are still in power -- they just don't pretend to be socialists anymore. Further, Trotsky thought that the USSR's workers would defend "their" state. But they didn't.

By the way, arguing from authority usually just proves that you don't care to think for yourself.

And as for "Shachtmanism" -- Hal Draper was a revolutionary Marxist until his death, and he held to the bureaucratic collectivist theory. So obviously holding to that theory doesn't make one move rightwards. Same with the state-capitalist theory -- many who've held to a version of that theory have been ultra-leftists!

Agnes said...

Jason, agreed. This was my point. Though it was less collectivist as generally thought.

Dave Brown said...

One doesn't have to agree with Farber's definition of Stalinist states as bureaucratic-collectivist class societies to note that he gets his facts right, or to agree with his general political outlook.

Trotsky rejected the BC definition like all 'not workers, not bourgeois state' positions as empiricist (pragmatic) labels stuck onto complex reality.
(In In Defence of Marxism -a petty bourgeois opposition in the SWP).

The bureaucracy never became a ruling class (negative concept) because (stubborn facts) it could never take control of, let alone own, the forces of production. After it had exhausted political terror as a means to extract surplus from the working class, the economy went into a long permanent decline. These 'facts' cannot be explained by the existence of the bureaucracy as a new class.

"Trotsky's conception has been vindicated by the collapse of the soviet union." Nope. Trotsky never believed that the denationalization of the USSR's property could occur without a (counter-)revolution. Yet, it has. Those who ran the USSR were not overthrown. They are still in power -- they just don't pretend to be socialists anymore. Further, Trotsky thought that the USSR's workers would defend "their" state. But they didn't.

The USSR was 'run' by the 'new class' into the ground? If you are the ruling class why wait 70 years to privatise underperforming state assets? A class that controlled or 'owned' state assets would not allow such prolonged disaccumulation to the point of collapse.

The bureacuracy as a 'caste' (concept) however, had (facts) no choice in the matter, it lived off the surplus as parasites. Only when the body was almost a corpse, did the parasites seek to privatise state assets. To do that they had to become private owners i.e. capitalists, some succeeded, most didnt, and large chunks of assets were bought up by foreign capitalists.

As for the counter-revolution and resistance to it.

The essence of the counter-revolution was the massive devaluation and destruction of 'value' imposed on the ex USSR by the law of value internationally.

Resistance by the working class?
The totalitarian rule of the bureaucracy (Trotsky called it 'fascist' at the political level) meant that over many years resistance was squashed to the point that in the final days there was no prospect of success.

By the way, arguing from authority usually just proves that you don't care to think for yourself.

So the authority of Farber is somehow comparable to that of Trotsky? Possibly but only if his position in relation to explaining events (as above) is valid on the basis of a test of both positions (as above).

Hardly an argument from authority unless we mean authoritative argument.

Nicholas said...

Possibly people are done with this thread but now I have read all the comments and can fill in.
First, I have lived in a communist and former communist societies (real existing socialism if you will) and I can tell you they are often deeply divided between ardent or passive supporters and their numerous detractors. I can also tell you that most detractors, like my entire family of Serbian genocidal Chetniks, hate communism because we were property owners before the Partizan victory, and we lost most of the large house in the middle of Belgrade, which was divided up to house the homeless, yeah totalitarian all right!
Second I wish the article clearly stated what kind of property forms really exist today in Cuba.
Third, the involvement of the Soviet Union saved Cuba from another bloody invasion by the US. Since 1898 the US used force or invaded Cuba 6 times including the blockade, according to my database on US military force.
Thanks all
Viva la Revolution
I will always be a Marxist-Leninist!

Michael Caputo said...

July 8, 2006

By Frank Bolanos

Mr. Frank Bolanos is a member of the Miami-Dade School Board

If the Newark, New Jersey school board decided to issue "Little Black Sambo" as a third grade reader, how would that largely African-American community react?

Famed progressive educator Carl L. Marburger posed this question in 1974, when he said controversial schoolbooks in rural West Virginia showed the public school system's "astonishing insensitivity to local cultural values."

Those aggrieved local folks endured the insults, catcalls and jeers of the liberal elite until Marburger, a self-described liberal's liberal, spoke up and gave them pause. Today, the Miami-Dade school board and I are being accused of censorship for our efforts to remove from school libraries "Vamos a Cuba," a children's book that paints a false and distorted portrait of life in communist Cuba.

If the teachers' unions, Herald columnists, the ACLU and Fidel Castro himself are to be believed, the Miami-Dade school board is pillaging school libraries, burning books, oppressing the intellectual freedom of helpless children, and stomping on the First Amendment.

None of this is true; this is not a First Amendment issue. Censorship occurs when government refuses to allow people to purchase material, not when it refuses to provide that material at no charge.

Just as the First Amendment grants basic freedoms to those espousing even the most repugnant of views, I support Alta Schreier's right to author and publish "Vamos a Cuba." I defend the right of any Miami bookstore to sell it and I defend the right of any American to read it. Indeed, let the author promote and sell her book and compete in the marketplace of ideas.

But taxpayers must not be forced to subsidize falsehoods, propaganda or insulting imagery. As Thomas Jefferson, wrote, "to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical."

Simply put, Jefferson, a framer of the Constitution our critics cite, would see no reason for our schools to spend sparse taxpayer money to promote the circulation of misinformation and lies many in our community equate to oppression and the loss of liberty and life.

If our public schools provided "Little Black Sambo" to African-America children, I would stand with their parents as this would be offensive, racist and an inappropriate use of tax dollars. If our public schools put the grotesquely anti-Semitic children's book "The Poisonous Mushroom" into libraries, I would stand with Jewish parents to oppose this abhorrent act and misappropriation of public funds. The struggle against Cuban communism is no less important.

In 1995, the Miami Herald was forced to trash an entire section after an offensive cartoon of Martin Luther King, Jr. was mistakenly printed inside. Over the nationally syndicated cartoonist's objections, editors made the bold decision to pull a half million copies of the magazine.

They did it by hand; it took two full days. It was hard and expensive work to correct a mistake that took only moments to make. Similarly, a foolish decision by an entrenched bureaucracy had to be corrected and has cost our school district valuable time, money and focus.

After the mess, the Herald's executive editor at the time wrote that the newspaper's First Amendment obligation is "to present the broadest range of perspectives and opinions in its news and opinion pages. But a newspaper also has an obligation to protect its readers from the outrageously offensive or the egregiously insensitive."

If such an obligation exists at a privately funded newspaper, certainly Miami's public officials have a responsibility to assure taxpayers aren't forced to subsidize racism, anti-Semitism or communism with public dollars.

Likewise, taxpayers shouldn't have to foot the bill for entrenched and misguided bureaucrats who want to whitewash the horrors of life under Fidel Castro and his brutal regime.


Nicholas said...

This last comment is quite ridiculous. First, in the US every day taxpayers are "forced" to pay for books advertisements and the like that are racist, misleading or wrong. My exapmples are the text books that continually whitewash slavery and US imperialisms role in keeping down the peoples of the world, and the lying advertisements for the military, need I say more?
Second, Jefferson truely know nothing avbout what he was saying and could never even see the blatent contraditions of his own theories and practices. If the taxpayers have to fund the military, conservative textbooks, and such why should they not fund one childrens book about like in Cuba?
Finally there is no commparison of racism and anti-semitism on the one hand and communism on the other.

Doug Nesbitt said...

A new review of Farber's "The Origins of the Cuban Revolution Reconsidered" by Chris Harman can be found here: Also twinned with a review of Richard Gott's "Cuba: A New History".

LeftyHenry said...

interesting and I can definately understand where he's coming from. Good article.

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