A shoddy article by Kola Ibrahim
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Kola Ibrahim of the Democratic Socialist Movement of Nigeria looks at the legacy of Fidel Castro, the internationalisation of struggle and calls for ``working-class activists from Kenya to Venezuela to Georgia to Pakistan and the rest of the world'' to build a genuine working people's political platform.
This year, an ailing but still going Fidel Castro will turn 82. Castro used the early part of his life for the emancipation of Cuba and laying the basis for the radicalisation of a whole new layer of youth in search of truth. Fidel along with the late Che Guevara led the armed struggle for the liberation of Cuba and indeed the whole of Latin America. The eventual success of the armed struggle (itself a product of the inability of the Cuban capitalism under Batista to grant full democratic rights), after a series of setbacks, led to the formation of the first workers' state in Latin America. Fidel at first hesitated in moving the revolution (which was massively welcomed by the working poor of Cuba) forward towards socialism, but the pressure of events especially from the attacks by US imperialism; the further radicalisation of the working poor of Cuba; and the resoluteness of some of the other leaders such as Che, pushed him to take to the road of socialism.
Less than three decades after the revolution, despite a US embargo and consequent isolation, Cuban society under Fidel was able to achieve what many leading capitalist countries have not achieved in centuries. In Cuba one finds a well-educated population (with more than 90 per cent literate) and a sound health system (Cubans have an average lifespan of 80 years). Of course, it can be argued that the presence of the Soviet Union under the Stalinists bureaucratic apparatus (a caricature of genuine socialist ideas as espoused by Marx, Engels and Lenin) helped Cuba, but the Soviet Union only supported Cuba as long as her expansionist interest were satisfied. This meant that Cuba would not criticise the Soviet bureaucracy, it would not struggle for democratic socialism within its own country, or internationalise the revolution and would accept Soviet goods at any cost.
All these had a terrible effect on Cuba as many inferior goods were brought in without any alternative. Any attempt to turn to the then ``Communist'' China would have incurred the wrath of the Stalinist bureaucracy in Russia. Lack of internationalisation of the revolution along a Marxist line, at least within Latin America further isolated Cuba. Yet, despite the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba was still able to survive.
When Che went to the Soviet Union in early 1960s, he was forced, despite his liking the Soviet Union, to criticise the bourgeois lifestyle of Soviet bureaucrats. This incurred the wrath of the Soviet bureaucracy, which tagged Che, a Trotskyite (a term used then to denigrate the followers and ideas of the foremost leader of the Russian Revolution, Leon Trotsky who fought against Stalinist degeneration of the revolution after the death of Lenin). Also, when Che launched a guerilla campaign for an international revolution, he was categorised as an adventurer by the Soviet bureaucracy. This was contrary to a genuine Marxist position, which encourages the building of revolutionary movements among the working people of the Third World countries, radicalised by the liberation movements and especially the Cuban revolution, rather than launching a revolution over their heads thus giving the capitalist state the excuse to behead genuine working people's movement.
But the singular attempt and aspiration by Che (and Castro) for an international revolution against imperialism has inspired youth activists across the world (even capitalists have turned him into a commodity). The Soviet bureaucracy that had the power to build an international socialist movement deliberately abandoned this vision.
The best of the contemporary capitalist rulers from US to Europe to Asia cannot be compared to Fidel. He has inspired a generation to fight for their freedom while the former brought the working people of the world wars, misery, poverty and exploitation in the search of profit. Of course, Cuba needs democracy but not the market democracy that has led to misery for the working poor.
Cuba needs genuine socialist democracy where the huge gains of the nationalised economy will be realised by the collective leadership of the working people. There is need for a socialist multi-party democracy from local to national level in Cuba and the ability of the people to determine and discuss every government policy. This will appeal to the working poor of the world and lay the basis for revolution in the whole of Latin America (which is now under radicalisation from Venezuela to Bolivia to Ecuador) and the world as a whole.
It is not for the capitalist apologists to teach Cuba democracy because the history of capitalism is that of subjugation of the people's will. Is it not hypocritical for US to claim to be fighting for democracy in Cuba when the whole world rejected the US embargo on Cuba and yet the Bush government still maintains it? Despite the millions that protested around the world against the invasion on Iraq, the US along with the willing allies still went ahead. The same US government that is championing democracy supported Pakistani military rule for over eight years thus boosting the strength of militants.
Cuba has shown what can be achieved under a genuine socialist government. The task before the working people of Cuba is to prevent a restoration of capitalism. Despite the so-called increase in GDP by many Third World countries in the past few years, hundreds of millions are still wallowing in abject poverty while a tiny clique continue to increase their wealth. Neoliberalism will only mean diversion of the wealth for a tiny clique as has been seen in Nigeria where just 1 per cent controls 80 per cent of the nation's wealth while over 70 per cent go hungry.
To get another Castro in the world will require a revolution that will enthrone genuine socialist democracy. This is the real task before the working class activists from Kenya to Venezuela to Georgia to Pakistan and the rest of the world -- to build a genuine working people's political platform that will wrest power from the hands of the capitalist class and enthrone a genuine socialist society, and not to depend on capitalist politicians for liberation.
[Kola Ibrahim is a member of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), which is affiliated to the Committee for a Workers International -- Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. This article first appeared in Pambazuka News.]
I agree with Kola Ibrahim that "Cuba has shown what can be achieved under a genuine socialist government".
However I must disagree with a number of his/her assertions. Comrade Ibrahim says: "The eventual success of the armed struggle (itself a product of the inability of the Cuban capitalism under Batista to grant full democratic rights), after a series of setbacks, led to the formation of the first workers' state in Latin America."
The reference to "armed struggle" ignores the general strike/popular insurrection that accompanied the entry of the guerrilla fighters into Havana in January 1959. The strike, called by Fidel Castro and supported by the urban underground, including anti-Batista union activists, played a key role in destroying the old army and police, key elements of the bourgeois state apparatus.
Ongoing mass struggle, including further general strikes and mass rallies, played a key role in deepening the revolution and making the transition from a democratic to a socialist revolution.
Comrade Ibrahim says: "Fidel at first hesitated in moving the revolution (which was massively welcomed by the working poor of Cuba) forward towards socialism, but the pressure of events especially from the attacks by US imperialism; the further radicalisation of the working poor of Cuba; and the resoluteness of some of the other leaders such as Che, pushed him to take to the road of socialism."
In reality Fidel Castro played a key role in leading "the further radicalisation of the working poor of Cuba". His speeches to mass rallies helped inspire workers and peasants to deepen the revolution.
Comrade Ibrahim says: "...Cuba would not criticise the Soviet bureaucracy, it would not struggle for democratic socialism within its own country, or internationalise the revolution...."
It is true that Cuba did not usually publically criticise the Soviet bureaucracy. It needed Soviet aid to survive the imperialist economic blockade and to deter the threat of a US invasion.
However Cuba does have the system known as Peoples Power, enabling Cubans to elect local, regional and national representative bodies. It is true that this is not a "multi-party" system, but it does give Cubans a say in running their country.
Cuba has done a lot to try and spread the revolution internationally. It defeated the South African army in Angola, thereby contributing to the fall of apartheid. It has sent thousands of doctors to countries around the world, and is training thousands of doctors from other poor countries in Cuba. By showing what a socialist health system can do, it is popularising the idea of socialism amongst the people of countries who benefit from Cuba's aid.
Democratic Socialist perspective, Australia.