The adaptation of the national bourgeoisie to the revolutionary reality of the nation was not likely to occur, given various economic, political, and ideological obstacles. But there was wisdom in Fidel’s approach. No one could know with certainty beforehand what the comportment of the national bourgeoisie would be. The historic moment was dynamic, driven by the unprecedented force and overwhelming popular appeal of the Revolution. Fidel waited for the revolutionary process itself to teach the revolutionary leaders and the revolutionary people what the comportment of the national bourgeoisie would be.
Beginning in July 1960, Fidel began to teach the people that the revolutionary process was demonstrating that the interests of the national bourgeoisie and foreign capital were one and the same in the revolutionary moment, as they had been in the neocolonial situation. Therefore, although the Revolution would prefer that the big industrialists continue to own and manage their companies in accordance with the revolutionary reconstruction of the economy, the industrialists in reality were working against the revolution by sabotaging production, abandoning management of their companies, and participating in illegal and violent counterrevolutionary activities. The comportment of the national bourgeoisie made necessary the nationalization of Cuban companies in industry, commerce, and banking. The first nationalizations of Cuban companies occurred on October 13-14, 1960, with the hope that no more nationalizations would be necessary. But with the national bourgeoisie continuing to abandon the country and expanding their participation in illegal counterrevolutionary activities, subsequent nationalizations occurred through July 1962, in effect liquidating the national bourgeoisie as a class. (See “Cuban property ‘confiscations,’ 1959-1962” 07/11/2019 in the category Cuban History; see also my article in Counterpunch, “The Cuban Revolution and the National Bourgeoisie”).
Observing that the Cuban Revolution, through the Agrarian Reform Law of 1959 and the nationalization of U.S. properties of 1960, had struck at the center of U.S. neocolonial interests in Cuba, the national bourgeoisie during the period 1959 to 1962 increasingly placed its hopes in the interests of the USA to bring the Revolution to an end. Unable to transform itself from a figurehead bourgeoisie to an autonomous national bourgeoisie allied with a popular revolutionary project, the national bourgeoisie abandoned the nation and worked in cooperation with U.S. interests to bring about regime change in Cuba. However, the revolution’s overwhelming popular appeal within Cuba made its reversal politically impossible. Having misread the political situation and having left the country at the decisive historic moment, the Cuban national bourgeoisie subsequently had no option but to adapt to a permanent self-imposed exile in the USA.
The Cuban émigré community that took shape in Miami during the period 1959 to 1962 was constituted almost entirely by the national bourgeoisie and the most privileged members of Cuban society, including many professionals and technicians. The first counterrevolutionary organizations operating from Miami were formed in 1960, and they were composed of members of the national bourgeoisie, persons affiliated with the Batista regime, representatives of the traditional political parties, and Catholics influenced by the anti-Communist ideology. There thus emerged a political and social integration of the different economic and social sectors that had an economic or political interest in the overthrow of the Cuban Revolution.
In 1962, a special unit of the CIA created approximately 55 legitimate companies in Florida that supported covert counterrevolutionary activities in Cuba. In 1962 and 1963, the U.S. government no longer directly supported internal clandestine groups in Cuba, which had been nearly totally dismantled by Cuban civilian-military security. Rather, the U.S. strategy was to use the Cuban émigré community as the base of the Cuban counterrevolution. During the period, the CIA directly and indirectly financed and supplied counterrevolutionary groups in Miami that were engaging in counterrevolutionary activities in Cuba, including sabotage of the Cuban energy, transportation, and production infrastructure. Such injection of resources by the CIA was the base for the economic development of the Cuban-American community in Miami and the re-composition of the Cuban figurehead bourgeoisie and other privileged sectors into a Cuban-American bourgeoisie.
The evident failure of the counterrevolution to bring down the Cuban government led the United States to decrease its support for the Cuban counterrevolution. In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson ordered the suspension of operations of sabotage against Cuba. In the 1970s, with the deterioration of the prestige and influence of the counterrevolutionary groups based in Miami, U.S. government support of counterrevolutionary activity declined significantly, and the number of counterrevolutionary groups decreased. From 1973 to 1975, President Richard Nixon softened policy toward Cuba, seeking global détente with the Communist world, although the normalization of relations was blocked by the USA, supposedly over objections to Cuban support of Angola and for the independence of Puerto Rico.
Nevertheless, the Cuban-American organizations of the Left of the 1970s did not have sufficient cohesion or capacity to reframe U.S. policy to Cuba on a foundation of alternative premises, nor did it have the necessary resources to influence U.S. policy. The counterrevolutionary rhetoric remained the official line of U.S. policy and of the sectors that controlled the political life of the Cuban-American community.
The conservative restauration of 1980 in the USA revitalized the fortunes of the Cuban counterrevolution based in Miami. The emergence of the Right in the United States was due to various factors. The student anti-war and black power movements, while correctly pointing to the colonialist and imperialist foundation of the nation’s ascent, adopted tactics that alienated a majority of the people. The emergence of the movements of national and social liberation in the Third World, symbolized by the black power movement in the USA and the triumph of anti-imperialist revolutions in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Iran, generated popular insecurities by casting doubt on the capacity of the U.S. government to maintain control of the neocolonial world order. Popular apprehensions were further fed by the sustained economic problems of inflation and recession. The Left in the United States lacked the maturity to explain the causes of these developments to the people, and to reformulate the American narrative on a foundation of historical and scientific knowledge and universal human values. In contrast, the Right was able to revitalize the American narrative, but with a discourse that omitted significant historical facts.
The “New Right” reformulation, later known as neo-conservativism, was new in the sense that it rejected the focus on small-scale capitalism as well as the international isolationism of the conservativism of the past; rather, it accepted the logic of monopoly capitalism that had emerged in the last decades of the nineteenth century, and it envisioned the reestablishment of the supreme power of the United States that had existed in the post-World War II era. At the same time, it promoted values that had reigned in an earlier era, advocating a restoration of religious values and the family. It extolled individual liberty, rejecting the growing size of the governmental bureaucracy. It promoted “the law of supply and demand,” attacking the state for hindering production by intervening in the economy for what it considered dubious social ends. It rejected the initial proposals then emerging for the protection of the environment.
With respect to Latin America, the New Right called for the re-imposition of U.S. power and interests over the region. It rejected the efforts of the Carter administration to improve relations with Cuba, and it called for support of the Cuban counterrevolution. Cuba was presented as a vassal of the Soviet Union, as an organizer of subversion in Latin America and the Caribbean, and as a violator of human rights.
The ideology of the New Right coincided with the Cuban-American counterrevolution’s rejection of the strongly interventionist role of the Cuban Revolutionary Government in the economy, and it coincided as well with counterrevolution’s religion-based anti-communism. Once in power, the New Right adopted a policy of using the Cuban-American community to disseminate an essentially false portrayal of Cuba that was distorted by the particular interests of the Cuban-American bourgeoisie. At the same time, the Cuban-American bourgeoisie, owners of businesses that provided goods and services to the Cuban émigré community, were useful to the neoconservatives of the national power structure, because of its capacity to mobilize necessary resources for political ends in an area of concentrated population in a key Electoral College state.
Accordingly, the counterrevolutionary function of the Cuban immigration was revitalized, and the Cuban-American Right was incorporated into the neoconservative movement, catapulting it into a position of national influence. Integrated into the U.S. structures of power, the Cuban-American national bourgeoisie has been able to influence U.S. policy toward Cuba, shaping it in accordance with its particular interests and its presuppositions, setting aside analysis on a basis of U.S. interests as a whole, thus legitimating a policy of maximum hostility toward Cuba. This political revitalization was the culmination of the re-composition of the Cuban national bourgeoisie as a Cuban-American bourgeoisie in the United States.
The Cuban-American National Foundation has played a key role in this process of connecting the Cuban-American counterrevolutionary bourgeoisie to the neoconservatives of the national political power structure. In the early 1980s, some 100 Cuban-American business persons were integrated into the Foundation, many of whom had been tied to the Cuban national bourgeoisie and were active participants in the counterrevolutionary organizations, including many with ties to the CIA. The Foundation has made financial contributions to the political campaigns of U.S. congresspersons and senators, and it has been able to influence donations to campaigns by individuals associated with the activities of the Foundation. The local means of communication submit to its pressure, either through common interest or fear. In fact, Americas Watch has singled out the Foundation for its participation in the intimidation of dissident political voices in the Cuban-American community in Miami, and for its repeated verbal assaults against newspapers, radio stations, and individuals. In addition to its repressive methods, a decisive factor in the success of the Foundation as the undisputed source of legitimation of U.S. policy with respect to Cuba has been the absence of a true opposition to the suppositions of U.S. policy toward Cuba.
Although the Cuban-American counterrevolution, based in Miami, has been successful in attaining influence in Washington, it has scant influence in Cuba, where it completely discredited itself in the early 1960s by virtue by its blatant subservience to a foreign imperial power. The Cuban counterrevolution seeks a return to representative democracy, a political system much more subjectable to elite manipulation than are structures of popular democracy; and a return to rule by the market, curtailing the authority of the state to control and regulate the economy. Such proposals represent the interests of the U.S. power elite and the Cuban-American bourgeoisie. In Cuba, however, such a program lacks a domestic class base; it represents the specific interests of no particular sector of Cuban society, as a result of the massive emigration of the national bourgeoisie in the early 1960s. At the same time, the Cuban Revolution has been able to develop viable alternatives to these proposals. Following the departure of the bourgeoisie from national life, the Revolution attained the integration of the remaining social classes, including a professional class formed by the remnant that remained in Cuba in the early 1960s and the considerable number of professionals that have been educated and formed by the Revolution itself. Such is the political reality within Cuba, a situation that could be called a revolutionary reality.
The Helms-Burton Law of 1996 permits civil demands in U.S. courts by proprietors who were not U.S. citizens at the time of the expropriation, such as Cuban big industrialists whose property was nationalized and who emigrated to the USA and subsequently became U.S. citizens. This unusual and questionable feature of the Law reflects the influence of the Cuban-American bourgeoisie on the U.S. government. In contrast, reflecting the Cuban political reality, the National Assembly of Popular Power emitted from 1996 to 1999 a number of laws that constitute a Cuban legal counteroffensive to the Helms-Burton Law. Law No. 80 of 1996, Reaffirmation of the Dignity and the Sovereignty of Cuba, declares the Helms-Burton Law illicit, and it considers null any demand based on it. In addition, the Law reaffirms the disposition of the Cuban government to negotiate with the U.S. government compensation for proprietors who were U.S. citizens at the time of the nationalization, apparently not recognizing the U.S. government as a legitimate representative of the interests of the Cuban national bourgeoisie reconstituted as a Cuban-American bourgeoisie.
A 1999 Cuban law declares the economic, commercial, and financial blockade imposed by the USA against Cuba since 1962 to constitute the crime of genocide, as defined by the 1948 UN Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The Law also declares as criminal any support of or collaboration with the blockade, the Helms-Burton Law, and the economic war against Cuba, within the national territory or from outside Cuba, including the territory of the United States. Therefore, any negotiation of compensation for expropriated properties with the Cuban-American bourgeoisie is complicated by the criminal conduct of some of its most prominent members, with respect to association with the Batista regime, illegal counterrevolutionary activities in 1959 and 1960, and support for the criminal genocidal blockade in recent years.
For decades, Cubans whose property was confiscated and their descendants have disseminated a discourse that conveniently ignores their own activities and that exploits the limited understanding of the people of the United States, portraying a “communist tyranny” that has little to do with Cuban reality. The people of the United States ought to have sufficient political maturity to recognize the discourse of the Cuban-American bourgeoisie as a distortion of reality in pursuit of particular interests.
The Trump administration’s move toward the implementation of Title III is consistent with its policy toward Latin America as a whole. It seeks to reestablish U.S. neocolonial domination, which has lost terrain to the popular revolutions of the last two decades. The USA, however, has experienced relative decline, and it no longer has the economic capacity nor the necessary prestige to reestablish the relatively stable political domination and economic penetration that it possessed in the 1950s. Inasmuch as it is politically incapable of accepting and adjusting to its decline, the United States is likely to continue to use its hegemonic military power and its remaining economic capacity to unleash great damage on Latin America and the world. The Left in the United States, however, should make a comprehensive, scientifically informed, and principled analysis of this situation, proposing an alternative direction for the nation.
Arboleya, Jesús. 1997. La Contrarrevolución Cubana. La Habana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales.