An Anarchist Critique of the Cuban “Revolution”

Regime change in Cuba? Che rolling in his grave? The first shriek comes from a liberal, the latter a Marxist. With all due respect to both, I think the former quite confused if he thinks that Castroite Cuba more closely reflects his own Keynesian delusions, and the latter seems not to understand Che’s significant contribution to the normalization of relations between Cuba and the US (even though it occurs long after his death). Che was the Beard’s partner in the charade that was Cuban socialism, and his ally in the effort to rid that island of all forms of dissent and opposition. This seeming capitulation by Raul Castro finds its theoretical justification in a teleology which slithers back through Che and Sankara and Deng and Ho and Lenin, and eventually to Marx and Engels in the First International. More specifically, this fiasco finds its provenance in a single, horrifying, insipid, enervating phrase: the dictatorship of the proletariat.

There will be no regime change in Cuba because the social revolution did not occur. There was instead a Leninist reorganization of capitalist social relations and the ascension of a new ruling class to enforce them. Was anyone quite so gullible as to think that that this would lead to socialism?!? How rich it is to see authoritarian socialists of various stripes hang their heads in holy despair as they try to figure out just where the Cuban Revolution went off the rails. Did anybody really think that this application of Leninist principles was going to produce a different result in Cuba than it had everywhere else? Did anyone really believe that a political party; a party which reproduces within its infrastructure the bourgeois disparities of empowered and powerless, bureaucrat and supplicant, rewarded and punished, rulers and ruled, benefactor and beneficiary; that a party so conceived and constituted could actually create proletarian democracy?

Was anyone quite so witless as to believe that a party whose organizing principle was centralism; a party which disenfranchises the toiling classes, which expunges all organs of worker management and control and utterly divorces the proletariat from public affairs, could at the same time emancipate it?

The Cuban Revolution failed because it was stillborn. It died soon after Battista fled and its “leader,” taking a page from the Bolshevik playbook, immediately began repressing and/or subverting those student and worker organizations which were instrumental in the revolution. Castro created a steeply hierarchical power structure outside which the workers stood in permanent alienation. ((Carlos Franqui’s writings are indispensable. Diary of the Cuban Revolution is quite long, but is the best book I’ve ever encountered on its subject. His Family Portrait with Fidel is a real treat. Don’t miss it.)) With only minor differences, Castro created a Leninist terror state. Castro’s chief revolutionary rival, Camilo Cienfuegos, dies in a still unexplained plane accident. Other revolutionary leaders are soon arrested and denounced as foreign agents (oh, Lenin would have been so proud).  The gulag sprang up in no time.

Cuba is normalizing relations with the United States because the workers have no power, and never have. Purged of their revolutionary ardor long ago, they are now a gray, moribund mass accustomed to looking up and awaiting instructions.

Which brings us to the Che myth. Guevara participated in this dictatorship over the proletariat for six years!

Che was a Stalinist, and an enthusiastic supporter of the one-party state. Shortly before he died, his opinion changed, but for most of his life, including those six years in office, he was an open admirer of Stalin, even occasionally signing letters with his name rather than his own. He criticized The Revolution Betrayed specifically because therein Trotsky renounced the one-party state.

But he was not so much the Stalinist that he couldn’t indulge in Trotsky’s counterrevolutionary vices. Che supported the nationalization of the trade unions along precisely the same lines as had Trotsky: in a workers’ state workers didn’t need independent unions. Lenin saw them as “conveyor belts” providing two-way communication between the party and the proletariat (how sweet of him to want to keep in touch!), and was critical of Trotsky’s position. Not so Che.

As Minister of Industries, Che outlawed labor strikes (again employing Trotsky’s argument). Accordingly, he introduced “labor correction camps” (my emphasis) for uppity workers who didn’t take orders as well as Che would like.

Che also initiated the practice of Administrative Detention. This meant he could hold anyone he chose indefinitely without a trial.

Che complained that the USSR exploited the nations under it protection economically. Indeed that Leninist state extracted surplus value (capital) from its workers and from its colonies in the form of unequal exchange. But Cuba was doing the same thing internally with Che’s support.

Che is one of the gravediggers of the Cuban Revolution, if he’s rolling in his then he has nobody to blame but himself. From the days of Marx and Engels, they and their followers have persecuted other socialist tendencies and argued for a dictatorship. ((In fairness to Marx and Engels, their idea of the dictatorship was quite different from Lenin’s.)) Marx got the IWMA Congress of 1872 moved to Holland so Bakunin could not attend and then issued credentials to loyalists, far in excess of what had been issued at any other Congress, and succeeded in getting the anarchists expelled. Then he got the International moved to New York so that the Blanquists would not gain control of it. The IWMA didn’t survive Marx’ Machiavellian machinations.

Purging, justified in the name of ideological purity, became a staple of the first Marxist government, the Soviet Union, and those which followed. Lenin launched the Cheka immediately, and the lion’s share of its unsuspecting victims were revolutionary workers and other socialist tendencies. Then Lenin banned factions within the party. That repressive measure not being entirely successful, Lenin launched the CPSU’s first major purge. In the effort to rid himself of the Workers’ Opposition, one quarter of the membership was expelled. (Those workers are just nothing but trouble.)

This was the template which the Cuban Revolution followed, and failed because of it. When socialism does take hold, real socialism, as it did in anarchist Spain, then the workers will build barricades in the streets and fight to the death rather than hand control over to bourgeois predators. After fifty years of Leninism, the workers of Cuba are a docilized, compliant, vassalized class so used to obeying orders that they probably won’t even notice the changes occurring overhead.

Dave Fryett is an anarchist in Pacific Northwest and can be reached at: Read other articles by Dave, or visit Dave's website.