Friday, 2 December 2016

The Demise of Castro and the Lessons from History

Rajesh Tyagi/ 2.12.2016

Castro died at the age of 90, leaving behind a legacy and very important lessons to be learnt from it.

Sections of the rich and elite in the US and the world over rejoiced over and celebrated his death. To their understanding, death of Castro symbolizes the end of an era of brutal dictatorship, marked by a challenge to US hegemony on American continent and an alternative path of development based on rejection of the capitalist road. They hailed his death for good riddance from the red monster.

Castro’s supporters, however, mourned his demise as the end of a martyr who opened up a ‘new road to socialism’ through his dare-devil struggle against Batista regime and liberated Cuba from the shackles of imperialist domination.

At the outset, marxist revolutionaries, must reject the venomous propaganda against Castro, motivated as it is by the deep-rooted imperialist malice, vile prejudices and political ill-will against the Cuban revolution, by those who had all through supported bloody, predatory dictatorships everywhere in the world including in Latin Americas. 

The ruthlessness, of which Castro is accused repeatedly by the imperialist bigots, was the most legitimate answer of the revolution to the unlimited reactionary savagery perpetuated and forced on Cuban workers and toilers by the imperialist butchers and their client regimes in Cuba for decades before and after the revolution. 

Recording all appreciation for Castro and his comrades like Che Guevara, for their selfless struggle and the sacrifices in the fight against imperialism, inspired solely by the honest and genuine intentions to put an end to colonial slavery and exploitation, and unconditionally defending them against imperialist propaganda, marxists must take a departure to embark upon a more serious study of the dynamics of Cuban revolution. 

Spiralling to a high point in 1959 that catapulted Castro to power, followed by the prolonged period of gradual decline before open accommodation with US imperialism, Cuban revolution comprises an essential link in the history of revolutionary movement of the last century. 

Roots of Cuban revolution can never be traced and understood except in the context of a world scenario set-up by the end of the WWII. This period, starting from the mid of the fourth decade of the last century, is distinctly understandable as the period of mass eruptions and tumultuous events that were destabilizing world capitalism. The end of old colonialism, decline of British empire, mass struggles in colonies, revolutionary overturn in China, and a revolutionary wave in countries of Eastern Europe were its main features. Alongside, Asia, Africa and Latin Americas were engulfed in waves and waves of mass upsurge.

Most striking feature of this period, was the dominance of Stalinism upon the mass communist parties, the world over. Through violent purging of the left opposition inside the Soviet Union and the Comintern for decades preceding this period, Stalinism had gained the upper hand. This dominance of Stalinists over the socialist movement, was of most fatal consequence that included not only physical destruction of the advanced Bolshevik guard inside the Party and the Red Army in Soviet Union in previous period but purging of communist parties, the world over, of all revolutionary elements existing inside them, under the authority of third international, before official dissolution of the International itself. The end result was the complete decline and demobilization of the front ranks of the world socialist movement, leaving the mass that was gradually radicalized by the conditions of war, in total disarray.

While Left Opposition under Leon Trotsky waged heroic fight against Stalinism, yet the fatal collusion between imperialism and Stalinism on one hand and later the betrayal of Pabloites inside the fourth international after Trotsky, prevented the arming of the radicalized working class with a revolutionary program that could have enabled it to find the road to world socialist revolution.      

While Stalinists continued to subordinate the international working class to one imperialist power after the other, around the period of WWII, they consciously prevented its independent political mobilization against capitalism.

In the backdrop of destabilization of world capitalism on one hand and the disorder and confusion among the front ranks of the international working class on the other, innumerable petty-bourgeois movements of different political shades- fascist, reformist and radical nationalist- emerged to claim the leadership of the revolting mass.

Castro’s movement in Cuba, popularly known as ‘26th July movement’ identified by the day that witnessed the adventurist assault by Castro and his men on Moncada military barracks, was one among lot many such petty-bourgeois movements that came to fill the space left over by the absence of opposition by the revolutionary working class to Batista regime.

In Cuba, as elsewhere, the counter-revolutionary role of Stalinists was so apparent and starkly clear. Stalinists and the most unpopular communist party under them, known as ‘Partido Socialista Popular’ (PSP), all through had sided with US sponsored dictatorships of Machado and Batista against the revolution. It continuously opposed Castro’s movement too. In 1933, it virtually reversed a workers’ revolution against the dictator Machado, that forced Machado to flee from Cuba after all Mills and Mines were seized by the workers. Coming to aid of Machado, Stalinist PSP forced the workers to go back to work ending the seize. In 1940’s it formally joined Batista cabinet.

Organised in 1925, PSP had many revolutionary elements inside its ranks. Its most prominent leader and organizer, Julio Antonio Mella, a student leader in Havana University, led the mass movement against the dictator Gerardo Machado and was jailed. Released under mass pressure, he slipped away to Soviet Union and sided with Trotsky’s fight against Stalin. In 1929, as PSP sided with Stalin, Mella denounced it and severed his ties with the Party. Few weeks after, Mella was murdered in Mexico. Under sway of Stalinists, PSP lost its glare and glory and became tool of reaction in Cuba.

As working class in Cuba, under stranglehold of Stalinists and the PSP under them, remained chained to Batista dictatorship, more conscious elements inside the rebellious sections of middle class continued to take to firing lines against US imperialism and its stooge, Batista dictatorship, but with their own solutions that drifted the movement away from socialist path.

26th July Movement, far from being a socialist movement, was a petty bourgeois nationalist movement. It could emerge and flourish because of shameful betrayal of the PSP under Stalinists that prevented the working class from challenging the Batista dictatorship by subordinating the working class to Batista regime. According to Stalin, Batista himself was the apostle of revolution in Latin America.

For his part, Castro himself was member of a fascist, anti-communist Party, the Ortodoxo Party, on whose ticket he fought election for the Cuban legislature in 1952, close to his attack on Moncada barracks in 1953. Castro remained adhered to his sectarian-nationalist outlook all through his life.

After unsuccessful adventure of Moncada, Castro was jailed and tried, but got amnesty later. His court statement ‘history will absolve me’ is living proof of the fact that he never dreamed even then of any socialism or revolution, but was vying for petty reforms. If he could succeed it was simply for the reason of a political vacuum created by betrayals of the Stalinists and the PSP under them, who remained accomplice with the dictatorships in Cuba. It was the pitiable program of the Stalinist PSP in whose contrast, even the core reformist program of Castro appeared far more radical.

After his release from prison, Castro again prepared the Granma adventure, which failed too. Out of 200 men only one dozen could survive by retreat to the nearby mountains of Sierra Maestra. In the mountains, they grew in numbers and swelled into several bands, which they called Rebel Army.

Rebel Army succeeded in taking over Havana by force in 1959. Albeit this success, contrary to what Castroists themselves perceived, was not the result of military adventures of few 'heroes', but a complex of several national and international factors, on top of them the mass struggle in Cuban cities against Batista. Batista dictatorship was hated not only by wider sections of workers and peasants, but by the national bourgeoisie itself. Months before its fall, even US was forced to withdraw all logistic support to Batista. The struggle in Cuban cities, took a big toll at around nineteen thousand, out of total twenty thousand casualties over 6 years of Batista's rule. Castro's Rebel Army never ever engaged in any major decisive battle against Batista's forces. No military engagement in Sierra Maestra ever exceeded 200 men.  

The movement of urban working class in the cities, was a powerful impetus to revolution. The urban strikes, the strikes of miners, were the instruments of attrition that made the Batista dictatorship vulnerable for a final push. However, as the struggle of urban workers failed to consolidate and crystallize itself politically, in absence of a revolutionary marxist vanguard party at its head, it failed to seize the leadership of the rebellious mass and give the final push to Batista dictatorship through an armed overthrow.

Castro’s Army gave that final push and in turn seized the power for itself, creating a petty bourgeois, nationalist, bureaucratic state in Cuba. In the backdrop of failure of the working class to claim power, the Castroists perpetuated this failure through demagogy about socialism, substituting themselves instead of the working class at the head of the national revolution.

Mutilating and misrepresenting the mechanics of Cuban revolution while artificially magnifying their own role inside it, Castroists claimed that the path of guerilla struggle was the new road to socialism, shown by Cuba. This new road implied that the whole strategic lessons derived from the October revolution and the teachings from Marx to Lenin and after, that underscored the pivotal role of the working class and its Marxist party to carry out a successful revolution, were obtuse and what was needed on the ‘new road to revolution’ was few men, weapons and determination to win.

Far from opening any ‘new road to socialism’ as Castroists claimed eulogizing themselves, they caused immense damage to revolution not only in Cuba and Latin America but in the world as a whole. Generations after generations of revolutionary fighters were drifted away from the real road to socialism, illuminated by the victorious October revolution. Castorists and their illusions in guerrilla war as ‘new road to socialism’, shattered the pivotal role of working class and its Marxist Party in the political discourse and substituted it with bands of guerillas. The political mobilization of the working class and its education in political mass struggles was thrown to fringes. On the Castroist road to revolution, working class was only mute spectator on roadsides, cheering for guerilla heroes , while the petty-bourgeois guerillas march on to victory.

Castroists had no confidence in the immense strength and revolutionary role of the international working class. For them, the revolution is the matter of determination, reinforced by the force of weapons. This illusion was the result of self-serving misinterpretation of the victory of 1959, oblivious to the essential and true mechanics of the Cuban revolution. 

Results were catastrophic.Wherever the 'Cuban path' was attempted, from Latin Americas to Africa, the results were equally disastrous. Not even a single victory could be achieved through it, rather crucial forces of the revolution were drained and ruined, that include destruction of thousands of promising young militants.

Immesurable losses were however caused by Castroism to world socialist movement. Like Maoism, Castroism also assisted in dislocating the pivot of the socialist movement, through false understanding and explanations of the dynamics of revolutions. Like Maoists, Castroists also denied the centrality of the role of the working class and its internationalist perspective.

Acting on a petty-bourgeois nationalist basis, after taking to power, Castroites attempted to opportunistically embrace the worst dictatorships in Latin America in the hope to strengthen themselves. Castro supported the reactionary bourgeois PRI in Mexico, immediately after its government ordered the student massacre in 1968. It continued the support to the military dictatorships in Argentina and Peru when their governments continued brutal suppression of working class movements. In Chile, immediately before the massacre of 1971, that followed the CIA sponsored military coup led by General Pinochet, forcibly overthrowing the government of president Allende, Castro, on a tour in Chile, had hailed Allende's 'peaceful road to socialism'.

The pragmatic and realpolitik of Castroism could emerge and survive only in buffer space between the warring camps of US and Soviet Union, in its time. Castro could successfully bargain between them. For around three decades, Cuba not only survived but thrived upon the huge Soviet subsidies. In turn, Soviet Union used Cuba as its military base right under the nose of the United States to gag it to ‘peaceful co-existence’ with Soviet Union.

With destruction of Soviet Union Cuba found itself in shambles and was forced to redefine its relations with the US ending all hostility. Venezuela under Chavez also supported it for some time.

Lip service to socialism amidst the realpolitik of Castroists is amply clear from their own political chicanery. Castro banned all political discussion, specially the mention of the word ‘socialism’, by a military order even during his early struggle in the hills of Sierra Maestra.

Even after taking to power in 1959, Castroists consciously distanced themselves from the Soviet Union. They turned for assistance to the US instead, as they planned to put up a bourgeois republic in Cuba. Four months after taking to power, Castro boasted in US, "I have stated in a clear and definitive manner that we are not communists. The doors are open to private investments that contribute to the development of industry in Cuba. It is absolutely impossible for us to make progress if we do not reach an understanding with the United States.''

It was only after that the arrogant US resisted even the slightest reforms inside Cuba, including minimal land reforms implemented by Castro regime and imposed embargo on sugar import and oil export to Cuba, that Castroists had to turn to Soviet Union under Khrushchev. In aftermath of this turn, Castroists merged with Stalinist PSP that opposed the revolution throughout and housed the most reactionary elements in Cuba. Castroists thus crowned the counter-revolutionary Stalinist PSP with red fervour and in turn got the colossal command structure and bureaucratic machine of the PSP, as future instrument to rule. The state under Castro, gave asylum to Ramon Mercader, the murderer of Leon Trotsky, after he completed his 20 years sentence in a Mexico jail, to appease the reactionary Stalinist regime under Khurshchev in Kremlin.

Socialism and democracy were pure demagogy for Castroists, to cover-up their petty-bourgeois origins and character. It assisted and enabled them to import the autocratic and authoritarian state structure from Kremlin under camouflage of revolution. In the name of socialism, Castroists borrowed the bureaucratic ‘apparatus’ from Kremlin, alongside the reactionary program and ideology of Stalinism. Later Castro was to put it in different words, “I had been a Marxist-Leninist before Batista Coup, but not a communist”.

After adhering of Cuba to Stalinist Soviet Union, Che Guevara, next in command to Fidel, soon got disenchanted with it and leaned upon Mao. Not very fond of political studies, Che remained stuck to 'really existing socialism' and never ventured to go through and comprehend the disputes raised by the left opposition under Trotsky, inside and outside the Comintern. He remained oblivious to those great struggles and blindly supported Stalin and Mao whom he assumed to be leaders of the revolution in their respective countries. False politics of Pabloites, degenerated to the core by then, still couched under banner of Trotskyism, also repelled Che from venturing through Trotsky's struggle. Misconceiving the mechanics of the Cuban revolution itself, Che fantasised to duplicate it anywhere and was doomed while taking up the misadventure in Bolivia. 

Armando Hart and Haydee Santamaria, from Fidel's rebel group, later half-heartedly attempted to venture into Trotsky's perspectives and struggles and criticised Stalinism. But their association with a Pabloite group prevented them from carrying out an uncompromising struggle in defence of a revolutionary program in Cuba and they ended up reconciling Castroism with their own Pabloism. 

As it faced the real wrath of US imperialism after dissolution of the rival camp of USSR in 1991, Castro regime immediately succumbed to it. It opened up the floodgates of Cuba for foreign investments. The role that Castro leadership played in relation to world capitalism was no different than the role played by other bourgeois nationalist states. It bartered its cheap labour and natural resources for the supplies from abroad. The regime under Castro remained instrumental in diluting the gains of the 1959 revolution, one after the other. Castro himself witnessed and oversaw the decline.

As in the face of ever growing radicalisation of the mass, resulting into a series of revolts now and then, the hated dictatorships were rendered disabled to rule, petty bourgeois Castroists took to the reigns of power in Cuba. Like all other petty bourgeois regimes, mushrooming frequently, on the back of the tragic defeats of the world working class over decades, Castroists also came to power, but only to assist in perpetuating these defeats

On the waves of mass upsurge and in absence of any claim from the working class, Castroists came to power but the power under them posed no challenge or threat to world capitalism. They were only temporary holders of the power during the period of revolutionary upswing. 

The core nationalist regime under Fidel was a bonapartist dictatorship that kept the working class on fringes and in fact prevented it from taking to power.

Revelation in December 2014, that Cuba was engaged in secret talks with the US with mediation of Pope Francis, on the back of its own people, surprised none. Sooner than later, the petty-bourgeois regime under Castro was to submit to world capitalism. 

After surviving on foreign aid and subsidies, first from Moscow then Venezuela, finally, it is turning fast into just another backyard for world capitalism, a new tourist spot for rich Americans and supplier of sugar as before the revolution. Forced to adapt itself to neo-liberalism to survive, Cuba is sliding back to its pre-revolutionary status of a semi-colony of the US.

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