We have made a distinction between a specter and a phantom. And we have seen that that the phantom of communism was used as an ideological weapon against the Cuban Revolution, seeking to portray it not as a specter, that is, as a threat to the interests of the powerful, which in fact it was; but as a uncontrollable social process that included sinister and evil forces that would negate all that is good (see “The phantom of communism” 9/26/2014).
Let us try to disentangle the specter from the phantom in the case of Cuba. There is no doubt that communism in Cuba was and is real and a threat to the established order, but because of the ideological maneuver of the phantom of communism, there is much confusion in the world concerning what communism actually is, and with respect to the relation between communism and revolution at the time of its triumph.
In the months following the promulgation of the Agrarian Reform Law, there were two specific charges made with respect to communist influence in the Cuban Revolution. First, it was proclaimed that the most radical members of the revolution, leaders like Raúl and Che, were communists (Buch and Suarez 2009:203). In fact, Raúl and Che were not communists in the sense of being members of the Cuban communist party or in being part of the international communist movement, formed by communist parties in many nations. But they were communists in the sense of being part of the evolving threat to the established order emerging from below. That is to say, they were Marxist-Leninists, developing a form of Marxism-Leninism integrated into Cuban and Latin American anti-imperialist and anti-neocolonial movements for independence and genuine sovereignty. They and other radicals in the Cuban revolution sought to develop in theory and practice a revolution that ensured the sovereignty of formerly colonized nations and that protected the social and economic rights of the people, a project that necessarily involved negation of imperialist and bourgeois interests. This effort to negate the interests of the powerful was the reason that they were a threat to the established order. However, most people had limited understanding of the evolving Third World Marxism-Leninism specter, and it was not what generally was meant by “communist.” Thus, in labeling them “communist,” the radicals in the Cuban Revolution were being portrayed in a way that distorted their views and their purposes, converting their efforts to create true sovereignty and a deeper form of democracy into a movement for undemocratic and totalitarian structures. Therefore, the accusation that radicals in the Cuban Revolution were communists was a distortion.
The second charge was that the Popular Socialist Party (the Cuban communist party) had influence in the revolutionary government (Buch and Suarez 2009:203). In fact, the PSP had played a marginal role in the triumph of the revolution. Favoring the strategy of the organization and education of workers and peasants, it did not support the armed struggle against Batista until it was approaching triumph. The communist party to a considerable extent was isolated from the people, as a result of the anti-communist ideology as well as its strategic errors, although it continued to have significant influence among urban workers.
The Provisional Revolutionary Government that was formed in January 1959 contained no members of the Cuban communist party. On the other hand, it did include persons who were tied to the national bourgeoisie (Buch and Suarez 2009:191-96). Thus, there was in fact in the early months of 1959 a stronger case for criticizing bourgeois infiltration in the revolution, and such bourgeois influence historically had been a serious problem for the Cuban Revolution.
But it spite of its representation in the Provisional Revolutionary Government, the national bourgeoisie did not to seek to forge an alliance with the revolution. Such an alliance theoretically was possible, although it would have been full of practical obstacles, particularly in the long term. But an alliance could have been attempted on the basis of an independent capitalist development that would break the core-peripheral economic relation, in which the Cuban national bourgeoisie would function as a buffer to the imperialist intentions of the United States. However, far from seeking such an alliance with the revolution, the national bourgeoisie cooperated with the United States in the counterrevolution, thus making apparent its weakness as a truly national bourgeoisie and its character as a figurehead bourgeoisie (see “Neocolonialism in Africa and Asia” 9/11/2013; “Neocolonialism in Cuba and Latin America” 9/12/2013).
As a result of the inability of the Cuban bourgeoisie to act politically in any form other than counterrevolution, it was cast aside by the revolution, which increasingly embraced the communist party, taking into account its historic role in the Cuban Revolution, the high levels of political consciousness and revolutionary commitment of its militants, and its capacity to organize urban workers. Thus, in the early 1960s, an alliance emerged between the 26th of July Movement and the communist party, in support of the revolution and its question for national sovereignty and social transformation, and in opposition to the national bourgeoisie, allied with the imperialist United States in the counterrevolution.
So there was a real connection between the Cuban Revolution in 1959 and communism, The Cuban Revolution represented the most advanced expression of the specter haunting Europe that had been identified by Marx. And the triumphant revolution had political relations with the communist political party, which became stronger following the betrayal of the nation by the Cuban national bourgeoisie after the triumph of the Revolution. But the Cuban Revolution was never communist in the sense of the phantom, an evil and sinister force, denying the democratic rights of the people. This charge of “communism” was a counterrevolutionary ideological maneuver by the reactionary forces of the Cuban national bourgeoisie and US imperialism, designed to confuse the people and to undermine support for the revolutionary process.
The Cuban revolutionary leadership was able to overcome the maneuver of the communist phantom by acting decisively in defense of the interests of the people, addressing the concrete needs of the people, thus demonstrating to the people that the radicals were not promoting something evil but were seeking a fulfillment of the historic hopes of the people. With time, the revolution was able to educate the people, so that the belief in the phantom lost credibility.
But the conflict between the triumphant revolution and the forces of reaction would intensify and escalate, as we will see in subsequent posts.
Buch Rodríguez, Luis M. and Reinald Suárez Suárez. 2009. Gobierno Revolucionario Cubano: Primeros pasos. La Habana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales.
Key words: Third World, revolution, colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism, democracy, national liberation, sovereignty, self-determination, socialism, Marxism, Leninism, Cuba, Latin America, world-system, world-economy, development, underdevelopment, colonial, neocolonial, blog Third World perspective, Cuban Revolution