Saturday, November 13, 2021

Trotsky and the Cuban Political Crisis

Send to Printer, PDF or Email
Note: We are reprinting an English translation of an article penned by Frank García Hernández in the Cuban online publication, Communistas. The original article is here:
We wish to thank Robert Montgomery for providing this English translation.

While we may not agree with everything presented in this analysis, it is on the whole a sign of the increasing political maturity of the Marxist left opposition in Cuba, acknowledging the important contribution of Trotsky’s analysis of Stalinism.  It is written by a courageous leader of that movement Frank García Hernández, who organized the first International Conference on Trotsky in Havana, Cuba in May of 2019. See our coverage of the conference:

by Frank García Hernández

In addition to the triumph of the Bolshevik Revolution, the birthday of Leon Trotsky was commemorated on November 7. His analysis on the degeneration of the Soviet bureaucracy is an essential instrument to understand the political crisis that Cuba is going through. Similar to the Soviet bureaucracy, the Cuban government has been moving away from the reality experienced by the working class. The most resounding example of this is the very fact that the July 11 protests took place. [1] Added to this, as another sign of disconnection, is the way in which the official discourse has handled the protests, criminalizing them and reducing them to supposedly having been functional to the counterrevolution.

After the July 11 demonstrations, the Cuban government did not realize the urgent need to create new mechanisms for citizen participation. The way the government understood how to approach the working class was not by stimulating socialist democracy but by making visits to the popular neighborhoods. In general, these visits, planned vertically from above and announced in advance, end up putting on makeup over the area where the high official will pass, and later everything remains the same.


In a recent interview to a foreign media, a high Cuban leader declared that in Cuba there was neither hunger, nor unemployment, nor poverty. This serious case of a break with reality can only have two motives. Either, the most dangerous one: the bureaucracy is unaware of the reality of the country; or, it knows about it but transmits a triumphalist discourse which causes discontent among broad sectors of the Cuban working class. In December 2020, the Minister of Economy Alejandro Gil informed that in 2021 the Gross Domestic Product would grow by 6%. Contrary to this, in the past sessions of parliament, Gil announced that the GDP had fallen by -13%. The same official announced in May 2021 that this year Cuba would receive at least 2 million tourists. According to Cuba's National Statistics and Information Office, as of September the country had not exceeded 190 thousand tourists and health restrictions for foreign visitors will only be lifted on November 15. In three months, of which only 45 days will be without restrictions for international travelers, Cuba will not be able to receive the 1 million 810 thousand tourists it needs to meet the figure announced in May by the Minister of Economy; even if Gil knew that up to that month only 120 thousand tourists had entered Cuba.


To this worrisome scenario, it should be added that an important sector of the Cuban youth is becoming increasingly depoliticized, identifying socialism with the stagnant official discourse. Young people contrast the triumphalism of the Communist Party with an increasingly critical daily reality, marked by a deep shortage, long lines to buy basic foodstuffs and an important concentration of basic necessities offered in stores where one can only pay with cards backed by foreign currency. In this way, an important sector of the Cuban youth ends up repelling Marxist ideas, falling into political apathy, and in the worst cases, turning to the right.


At the same time, this deep economic and political crisis has produced the emergence of new and young figures in the Cuban critical left. Most of them share a common denominator: they find Trotsky's book, The Revolution Betrayed, a useful analysis to understand the Cuban crisis. Except for the Stalinist purges, the complexities involved in a multi-ethnic state, and the distance in time, those young people who publicly position themselves to the left of the Communist Party, discover how in the Cuban bureaucracy dangerous features of the Soviet bureaucracy are reproduced.


That young socialist left sees that Cuba is increasingly marked by the separation of the Cuban bureaucracy from the reality of the majorities, the stagnant and empty ideological discourse, the rise of young opportunists to public office, the unequal standards of living between the bourgeois leaders and the working majorities, as well as the political double standards, among other factors typical of a socialist project that has degenerated politically. The new Cuban Marxist left finds, therefore, a scenario very similar to the one described by Trotsky in The Revolution Betrayed.


This November 9 marks another anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, an event that preluded the disappearance of the so-called Eastern European Socialist Camp and the final disintegration of the Soviet Union on December 25, 1991. Thirty years ago the Soviet working class did not know how to defend its rights, to lead the fall of the bureaucracy towards a new revolutionary process and to carry forward the construction of a truly socialist system. The hundreds of young people who crossed the Berlin Wall that November 9, 1989 did not do so to carry the red flag of revolution and overthrow capitalism to their fellow Germans in the West. They did so in pursuit of a bourgeois society where they were promised high levels of consumption. At the cost of predatory financial policies -where Greece appears as the most critical case-, Germany is one of the main economic powers of the world; but if the Cuban government falls, Cuba will fall towards an underdeveloped capitalist system corresponding to the most serious economies of the third world. The supposed fall of the Cuban government will only produce the enthronement of an anti-communist regime, with neo-liberal economic policies and bent to the political interests of the United States. The neoliberal economic project of the Council for Democratic Transition presented for a future socialist Cuba, only shows what would be the fate of the Caribbean nation under a capitalist regime.


In the midst of an ever worsening political crisis, it is an urgent duty of the Cuban critical left to act, or at least to raise awareness. Every young socialist must expand their ideas in their range of action. To demonstrate to their fellow students and workmates that the errors committed by the Cuban government are not intrinsic to the socialist project, that another socialism is possible, thus stopping the expansion of political apathy, which is functional to the counterrevolution.


Trotsky is not Marx's prophet. To see him as such is to destroy him. Trotsky is a defining Marxist tool to understand and apply to the current Cuban political crisis. The difference in lucidity between the young Cubans who have incorporated him and those who either represent the bureaucracy or proclaim a class conciliatory socialism is quite perceptible. The political lucidity of the new Cuban Marxist left is expressed in that they assume socialism as an emancipatory project only viable if it is built in freedom; but freedom and democracy built and led by the working class. The naivety that economic and political power can be shared equally between the bourgeoisie and the working class is something that, by the fact of being Marxist, the young Cuban socialist left has rejected.


This explains the position of the new Cuban Marxist left regarding the November 15 demonstration: it defends the right to demonstrate for those who decide to march on that day, but at the same time refuses to march on November 15, since it understands that it is a serious political error to share space with representatives of neo-liberal organizations such as the Council for Democratic Transition. This is the great difference between Trotsky's united front and Stalin's popular fronts. The former grouped the revolutionary forces, while in the latter the communists could even ally themselves with characters such as General Fulgencio Batista. [2]


The Cuban government has declared the November 15 demonstration illegal. It warned from official media that those who participate in the demonstration will be punished by law, however sometimes some legal decisions do not bring with them the necessary political legitimacy. Although the November 15 demonstrations have almost no popular support, they do have an important political weight. To repress them would therefore be a serious political mistake and a violation of the right to peaceful protest. It is true that the Marxist critical left should not participate in the November 15 demonstration, but if it positions itself in favor of repression it will be making the same mistake of marching with the Council for Democratic Transition. This is another of the great differences between Stalin's project and Trotsky's political proposal. The former has repression as the central axis of his political program. Trotsky's socialism is grounded in freedom.


In this hour of definitions that Cuba is living, let us have the political lucidity and militancy to be and do two, three, many Trotsky.

[1] See the previous statement on the events of July 11 from the Communistas blog:

[2] The reference, well-known to students of Cuban history, is to the support offered to the dictator Fulgencio Batista by the Cuban Communist Party.  Support for Batista was sanctioned by the Stalinist controlled Communist International in 1934 basing itself on the new policy of a “Popular Front” between the “progressive” elements of the  bourgeoisie – represented in this case by Batista - and the working class. The Cuban Communist Party’s support for Batista continued, more or less uninterrupted, for over 20 years.