To save the Cuban Revolution, a new socialist party is needed

Share with your friends

Este artículo en español

Half a century ago, the Cuban people ignited hope among the globe’s have-nots by making a revolution and building the first workers’ state in the West.

From the first, the Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) passionately defended Cuba — defying the U.S. blockade, leading aid caravans, and more. The party was also frank about its disagreements with the Cuban Communist Party (PCC).

Over the years, FSP criticized the government’s treatment of lesbians and gays, urged deeper change for women, raised concerns about persistent racism, and called for decision-making by workers and for consistent support to revolutionary uprisings elsewhere. In recent years, FSP argued against the hardening trend toward market “reforms” and privatization.

Unlike many Trotskyists, however, FSP did not call for political revolution, which entails forcibly replacing the existing leadership. As long as the PCC still responded to some extent to popular will, and a capitalist course did not seem irrevocably fixed, FSP believed it would be dangerously irresponsible to press for an alternative party. The right wing lies in wait for just such an opening.

Now, however, the PCC is unmistakably driving Cuba toward capitalist restoration while shutting down even potential opposition. This became clear for FSP members at a party convention in July through reports by recent visitors to the island and by members who closely studied events of the last few years. After intense discussion, FSP members concluded that the only possible way to save the Cuban Revolution is to create a new party willing to fight for a socialist program and contend for state leadership.

While it is still premature to call for political revolution, the crying need is to build an alternative leadership.

Brought to the brink. Inevitably, an anti-capitalist state exists precariously in a capitalist-dominated world. Cuba’s lot became far more difficult after the collapse of the USSR. Desperate for hard currency and technology — needed to keep people from starving — the government courted foreign investment.

Two decades later, the PCC no longer warns of market methods as treacherous necessities, but touts them. The incursion of capital is eroding stellar achievements in education, healthcare, literacy, and housing. Gossamer threads hold together the core of a workers’ state economy: nationalized property, control of foreign trade, and central planning. (For a full analysis, see “Cuba: Imperiled and Defiant — Can the Revolution Survive?”)

Privatization is quickening. In July, the government revealed that one million Cubans will be phased out of state jobs and announced measures to encourage small businesses. In August, it relaxed controls on private sales by farmers and opened 99-year leases to foreigners planning golf resorts and other lavish developments. Then, in September, Fidel Castro told a U.S. journalist that the “Cuban model” doesn’t work — a seeming endorsement of recent “reforms.”

The PCC’s “free market” measures have greatly aggravated social inequality. Women and Black Cubans have lost the most, and their situation will worsen severely if capitalism returns.

Build a revolutionary party. One of Cuba’s main problems is the growth of an increasingly rigid bureaucracy. Workers do not control production or state policy. The government has promoted public discussions. But left critics assert, convincingly, that the real purpose of these is to win cooperation with already decided policies and to stigmatize people who disagree as counterrevolutionaries.

The PCC seems bent on squelching any possibility of correction by its own members. Last year, it indefinitely postponed its next Congress, at which left critics intended to present alternative economic policies and call for more democracy.

This spring, Cuban scholar Esteban Morales wrote that pervasive corruption is the revolution’s greatest threat and called on the PCC ranks to mobilize against it. He claimed that some officials are feathering their own nests as they ready for capitalism’s return. In response, the party booted him out.

In 2008, Cuban scientist Celia Hart told an FSP visitor that Cuba needs a party embracing the internationalism and uncompromising opposition to capitalism advocated by V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky. She anticipated taking up this challenge at some point in the future. Just weeks later, a car accident claimed her life.

Since then, the need for leadership to carry out an organized campaign for socialism has sharpened. Capitalist restoration could happen in a heartbeat.

Many in Cuba call for change, but they are not yet united politically or organizationally. Despite the challenges posed by the bureaucracy — indeed, because of those challenges — a disciplined, dedicated party is the only vehicle able to bring this unity about.

The party that the FSP is calling for is a revolutionary and internationalist socialist party. FSP believes that cornerstones of its program would include:

• Protect public ownership, reverse privatization and the invasion of foreign capital, and reassert central planning as the only way to meet people’s needs.

• Build genuine workers’ democracy, including means for workers to control production and make social policy.

Material and political support to revolutionary uprisings internationally. Contrary to Stalinist notions of appeasing imperialism, this is the best security for Cuba’s own revolution.

Will defenders of socialism in Cuba be able to build such a party? There are no guarantees, but it’s clear that no other road now exists to save the revolution. And it may be that comradeship from abroad will encourage and support Cuban leftists in this essential task.

For too long, the solidarity movement has seen any critique of the PCC as treason — but the true betrayal is to hide from reality. Only a party that is still honestly confident in socialism can give Cuba the strength to hold on until U.S. imperialism is brought down in its homeland. The duty of Cuba’s friends is not to stick to “my party, right or wrong.” It is to support a break with the past that will make possible the future of liberation for which so many Cubans have lived, fought and died.

¡Viva la Revolución cubana!

Share with your friends