August 12, 2021
From Internationalism
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On July 11 and 12 of this year, the largest street demonstrations in Cuba for 62 years took place, which the Cuban government and the entire left-wing apparatus of the bourgeoisie try to explain as the result of the so-called “economic blockade” and the manipulations of the US government against “socialism”. On the other hand, the right-wing ideological media present it as an uprising of the people against “communism”. Both positions are based on the same assumption that Cuba is a socialist or communist country. This is a lie! Cuba is nothing but a remnant of the Stalinist regimes, which are an extreme form of the universal domination of state capitalism, expressing the decadence of this moribund system that is deadly for humanity.

The left and the right hide the reality that Cuba is a country whose economy is governed by capitalist laws, in which there are opposing social classes and fierce exploitation of the workers, so that, as in any other country, there are expressions of discontent on the part of the exploited, rejecting the miserable life that this system offers. [1] However, the recognition of the existence in Cuba of social classes with opposing interests and in a permanent balance of forces (bourgeoisie and proletariat), does not mean that every manifestation of discontent or anger in the population is a sign of a conscious response by the proletariat, even if initially it shows the real needs of the exploited. The process through which the consciousness and autonomy of the proletariat’s struggle develops is neither immediate nor mechanical, especially because the workers have to continuously confront the weight of the dominant ideology and the atmosphere of confusion spread by a capitalist system in full putrefaction.

The mobilisations in Chile and Ecuador in 2019, where interclassism prevented the advance of workers’ combativity and conscious action, are an example. [2] In May 2020, in the US, demonstrations also took place to protest against the assassination of George Floyd, but here the working class was diluted and controlled by the same bourgeoisie. There was undoubtedly discontent with the criminal action of the police; many individual workers joined the demonstrations, and yet the bourgeoisie, starting with the “Black Lives Matter” movement, managed to focus the rage on the issue of “race” and sterilise it by pushing it into democratic illusions, demanding better police and a more democratic justice system, which even led to it being used in the electoral circus. [3]

In South Africa, the first few days of July were also marked by riots in which police repression resulted in over 200 deaths and hundreds of arrests. The demonstrations were undoubtedly led by the exploited and disenfranchised, and it was these same people who lost their lives, but the reasons why they were on the streets had nothing to do with defending their interests. The struggle within the ruling party, the African National Congress, which led to the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma (accused of corruption), was an opportunity for a faction of the bourgeoisie to launch a propaganda campaign (via social networks), inflaming the chauvinistic and racial animosity of the Zulu population, throwing the impoverished and desperate masses into a dead end with no prospects, taking advantage of the ongoing discontent that exists and which, in the context of the pandemic, is marked by powerlessness and uncertainty.

In order to understand the revolts that took place in Cuba, it is necessary to analyse their motives, their effects and, above all, whether the proletariat took an active part in them or not, taking into account the fact that these protest movements took place at a time when the decomposition of the system was accelerating, resulting in further pauperisation, in worsening the living conditions of the proletarians, due to the shortage of basic necessities, but also to the neglect of the medical care necessary to fight the pandemic. [4]

The material causes of social unrest in Cuba

As in the rest of the world, in Cuba the economic crisis has aggravated the deterioration of the living conditions of the workers, but when it is mixed with the pandemic, the trail of death and misery that it leaves in its wake increases dramatically. The spread of the Covid-19 virus has revealed the great lie spread by the Cuban government and taken up in chorus by all the scoundrels of the left and the extreme left of capital, about the existence of an exemplary Cuban health system, which they base on the fact that there are more than 95,000 doctors, which means that there are practically 9 doctors for every 1,000 inhabitants. However, the same cases of neglect and shortage that are found throughout the world are being repeated, and here they take on an even more dramatic aspect, as confirmed by the fact that the vast majority of the population is not vaccinated (the vaccination rate is only 22%), and also by the fact that doctors do not have medicines, oxygen, antigens, gel or syringes, etc. …

The 2008 crisis had left latent scars that the pandemic has rekindled on a greater scale. The difficulty in reactivating investment is a problem present in all countries and although the closure of a large part of production has aggravated it, the truth is that it was already apparent even before the spread of the Covid-19 virus, and in the case of Cuba, due to its chronic instability, the problems are even greater when tourist activities (from which the State derives its main benefits) are closed, reducing its GDP by 11% in 2020 and decreasing its imports by 80%.

Since the 1960s, within the framework of the “Cold War”, the island of Cuba was integrated into the imperialist bloc led by the USSR. Thus, responding to imperialist interests, the Cuban state was drawn into the confrontation with the US-led bloc, which, as part of this confrontation, imposed certain trade restrictions (described by Castro’s propaganda as a complete “economic blockade”, while the US government defines it as a mere “embargo” [5]). Nevertheless, the USSR supported the island economically and politically, as it was the main buyer of its few exports, covered 70% of its imports, equipped it militarily, but also transferred a large amount of capital to it. So when the Stalinist bloc collapsed in the late 1980s, Cuba was left without a sponsor and its economy collapsed.

Between 1990 and 1993, Cuba’s GDP fell by 36%, which led it to enter what has been called a “special period”, which resulted in a sharp deterioration in the living conditions of the population; and if it managed to survive, it was thanks to its rapprochement with European capital (mainly Spanish) which invested in tourism and financial projects, and later, with the support it obtained from the Venezuelan state, it managed to stem the collapse. The Chávez government, taking advantage of the high revenues received from oil, within a framework of imperialist collaboration, carried out political and commercial projects with the Cuban state; however, the monetary flows obtained from Venezuelan oil came to a halt in 2015, bankrupting the Cuban economy at the same time as the Venezuelan economy, with both economies reaching high levels of insolvency.

One of the measures implemented by Castro’s government in 1994, as part of the “special period”, was the use of a dual currency: the Cuban peso (CUP), in which workers received their salaries, and the convertible peso (CUC), which was used for the tourist trade. In this way, the state controlled the management of all incoming foreign currency, both from tourists and the transfer of funds.

It is relevant to mention this project because in December 2020, the government of Díaz Canel, successor to the Castro family, decreed monetary unification, accompanying the decree with the formation of shops with exclusive payment in foreign currency, called MLC (Moneda Libremente Convertible), which concentrate the few subsistence goods and make payment in foreign currency obligatory, thus making it more difficult for workers to acquire these goods. But in addition, this “monetary adjustment” brought to light such serious levels of inflation that wages had to be increased by 450% and pensions by 500%, which did not improve the living conditions of the workers, since the prices of basic foodstuffs as well as those of electricity and public transport [6] immediately increased in the same proportions. The paralysis of the economy and the scarcity of productive activity (which is not sufficient to cover internal demand) have led to a chronic shortage of food and medicines, forcing those who can still pay to queue for an average of 6 hours a day. Fuel shortages have led to a lack of public transport but have also caused daily power cuts of up to 12 hours.

In this climate, which became even more explosive as the number of Covid-19 cases increased [7], despair and exasperation grew and encouraged protests, which initially appeared in the town of San Antonio de los Baños. A few hundred people took to the streets shouting “Freedom and food!” and “Down with the MLC!”… for almost an hour, these protests were broadcast on social networks, until the government blocked access to the internet and social networks and launched the police repression, but by then the protests had spread to 40 towns and villages and even to Havana. In all the places where the demonstrations took place, tear gas was the first weapon of the police attacks, then came the bullets of the police and the army, which left one dead (a resident of one of the poorest neighbourhoods of Havana), dozens wounded and, to top it all, massive arrests. On the first day of the demonstration, 150 people were arrested, the number increased in the following days, and to maintain the climate of fear and intimidation, the detainees were put in isolation and kept in the condition of the “disappeared”.

The Cuban proletariat in the crossfire of “socialism” and the hope for “democracy”

One of the great myths maintained by the bourgeoisie in relation to Cuba is the alleged existence of socialism. With this argument, it has not only been able to confuse and subjugate the exploited inside Cuba, but even at the world level, the left-wing apparatus of the bourgeoisie has widely exploited it to confuse the consciousness of the proletariat, identifying Stalinism with communism, when in reality Stalinism represents a total ideological falsification of marxism and communism. But all the states and their media also use this great lie, passing off the policies repeated for years in Cuba, such as rationing and tyrannical actions of the state, as the basis on which the communist project is built. These widely disseminated visions, as we said at the beginning, prevent us from understanding what is happening with the proletariat in Cuba.

According to the available information, the discontent of the vast majority of the Cuban population is due to the lack of food and medicine, the high prices of products, the constant power cuts [8] and, no doubt, the existing weariness with Stalinist tyranny. It is not at all surprising that in several cities the demonstrations were concentrated in front of the Cuban “Communist” party’s offices. However, it is also very clear that, in all this revolt, the proletariat is politically diluted, confused and dominated by nationalism and the hope for democracy.

In all the demonstrations we saw national flags being waved while nationalist speeches were also used by the spokespersons of the Cuban state to justify the repression. The bourgeois and petty bourgeois forces involved in the “anti-Castro” opposition groups (who immediately took over the protest space), invoke nationalism to call for democratisation. Meanwhile, groups associated with factions of the US bourgeoisie (operating mainly from Miami) call for the military invasion of the island in order to “save” the nation. In this social chaos, the Cuban proletariat finds itself disoriented, unable to recognise its class nature and identity and therefore unable to act autonomously, allowing its discontent to be exploited by bourgeois and petty-bourgeois factions. [9]

A characteristic of Cuba has been the absence of a tradition of struggle on the part of the working class. We can recall that even during the savage conditions of exploitation in the 19th century, the working class had a very close political connection with the bourgeois liberal movement (led by Martí) which, although it may be politically explicable in this phase of capitalist development, later, during the 20th century, with the decadent character of the capitalist system already defined, the working class continued to hope in the search for the “national liberation” promised by all bourgeois parties. [10]  These difficulties for the proletariat are aggravated by the failure to assimilate the experiences and the impetus of the revolutionary wave which had as its centre the revolutions in Russia (1917) and Germany (1919). The formation of the Communist Party (CP) did not take place until 1925, at a moment when the world revolutionary wave was in decline and the Third International and with it the CPs had entered a process of degeneration, abandoning internationalist principles.

And to top it all off, the fact that the Cuban proletariat lives under a Stalinist tyranny that presents itself as communist, creates a very confusing environment for the development of its consciousness. For more than 60 years of Castro’s regime, the workers have lived in isolation, deception, repression and hunger, which is not an environment that allows them to recover the experiences of the struggles of their class brothers and sisters in other regions and to be able to cultivate their strength as a class. For this reason, the political situation of Cuban workers in each revolt is often similar.

In the 1994 revolt, known as the “Maleconazo”, the trigger was also the shortage of food, medicine and electricity, and in the same way, the workers were captured in the illusion of internal democracy or the “freedom” demanded in Miami. Neither in 1994, nor today, were there any signs of mass reflection by the proletarians in the general assemblies. This lack of reflection makes them easy prey for the dominant bourgeois positions, directed from the government and the official party, or from the various “opposition groups” in Cuba and the USA. All of this combined leads expressions of discontent into the deceptive terrain of democracy or even more into the trap of imperialist disputes, placing this discontented mass as cannon fodder for bourgeois interests.

The responsibility of the proletariat of the central countries of capitalism

When we insist on the vulnerability of the workers of Cuba to nationalist and democratic poisons, it is not to minimise their discontent or to discourage the struggle for their own demands; on the contrary, the denunciation of these poisons is indispensable to arm the proletarian struggle in Cuba and in the world.

It is true that a serious error of the Communist International, which has weighed heavily on the struggles of the working class in the last century until today, especially in Latin America, was the “weak link theory”, which places the greatest possibility of proletarian revolution in the countries where capitalism is weakest. Our article, “The proletariat of Western Europe at the centre of the generalisation of the class struggle” criticises this dangerously erroneous vision without concession, stressing that “social revolut­ions did not take place where the old ruling class was weakest and its structures the least developed, but, on the contrary, where its structure had reached the highest point compatible with the productive forces, and where the class bearing the new relations of production destined to replace the old ones was strong­est”. [11] While Lenin looked for and insisted on the point of greatest weakness of the bourgeoisie, Marx and Engels looked for and insisted on the points where the proletariat is the strongest, the most concentrated and the most capable of bringing about a social transformation.

Cuban workers are confronted with a brutal state, without trade union and democratic mechanisms of social mystification, resorting only to permanent and grotesque terror. In the countries of so-called “socialism” (now reduced to China, Cuba, Vietnam, North Korea and Venezuela), “the weight of the counter-revolution in the form of a totalitarian regime which is certainly rigid and thus fragile, but in which democratic, unionist, trade unionist and even religious mystifications are much harder to overcome by the proletariat. These countries, as has been the case up till now, will probably see more violent explosions, and each time that this proves necessary, these outbreaks will be accompanied by the appearance of forces for derailing the movement like Solidarity [12]. In general they will not be the theatre for the development of the most advanced class consciousness”.

It will be the struggle of their brothers and sisters in the central countries of capitalism that will show them that democracy, “free” trade unions, etc. are a vile deception that reinforces and makes exploitation more oppressive. It will be the struggle of these crucial sections of the proletariat that will show that the problem of humanity is not simply empty shops or queues for a kilo of rice. These are caricatured expressions of the global barbarism of decadent capitalism, but it is the generalised overproduction that causes hunger and misery with supermarkets overflowing with food and shopping malls saturated with unsaleable goods. It is this struggle that will give meaning and direction to the efforts to resist exploitation, to the attempts to develop class consciousness that will take place in these countries.

As stated in the International Review article cited above [13]: “This does not mean that the class struggle or the activity of revolutionaries has no sense in the other parts of the world. The working class is one class. The class struggle exists everywhere that labor and capital face each other. The lessons of the different manifestations of this struggle are valid for the whole class no matter where they are drawn from: in particular, the experience of the struggle in the peripheral countries will influence the struggle in the central ones. The revolution will be worldwide and will involve all countries. The revolutionary currents of the class are precious wherever the proletariat takes on the bourgeoisie, ie, all over the world.”

Revolucion Mundial, publication of the ICC in Mexico,  28 July 2021


[3] See: The answer to racism is not bourgeois anti-racism, but international class struggle; ICConline – 2020

[4] Cuba has recently begun early production of two “national” vaccines (Abdala and Soberana 2), while rejecting the Covax programme.  They do not meet international standards of verification and their effectiveness cannot be known, especially as Cuba notoriously lacks refrigeration facilities to store them and syringes to inject them, although the Cuban government keeps making this a propaganda point. After the demonstrations, Cuba’s former Russian sponsor sent two planes loaded with more than 88 tons of food, medical protection material and one million masks.

[5] We will not elaborate on this issue at this time, but it should be noted that although there are mechanisms of intimidation by the US government to prevent trade with the Cuban government, 6.6% of Cuba’s total imports do come from the US.

[6] Not only is public transport scarce, but the price of the tickets has increased by 500%.

[7] This situation shows that the bourgeoisie all over the world (including Cuba) applies a policy of profit-making everywhere, dismantling those parts of its activity that are not profitable, such as health services. This is why it considerably aggravates the powerlessness of the states in the face of major problems such as those posed by the pandemic.

[8] It should be noted that Puerto Rico, a country “associated” with the United States, also suffers from systematic power cuts lasting several hours, despite having recently privatised this activity. The same is true in many parts of Mexico, for example.  This undoubtedly shows that the inability of the system to cover the needs of the population is a general problem of capitalism, but the case of Cuba stands out because it has become a recurrent phenomenon that is repeated daily and for a prolonged period.

[9] Nowhere, to our knowledge, were assemblies or other forms of workers’ mobilisation reported in these events.

[10] Fidel Castro himself presented himself as a continuation of the liberal thinking of Martí and Chivás. Once Castro and his clique were installed in the Sierra Maestra, he gave an interview to the American journalist Robert Taber, who asked him, “Are you a communist or a Marxist?” and the answer was, “There is no communism or Marxism in our ideas. Our political philosophy is that of a representative democracy of social justice within a planned economy…”. (April 1957). He repeated the same answer several times during his visit to the US in April 1959. It was not until December 1961, under the pressure of the failed invasion promoted by the US government, that the Cuban regime proclaimed itself “communist”, in order to justify its integration into the Russian imperialist bloc.




Source: En.internationalism.org