THIS article charts the organisational and theoretical development of the Cuban Trotskyist movement following the crushing of the March 1935 general strike, through the war years when the official Communists were in an alliance of national unity with Batista, until the end of the insurrection conducted by the Movimiento 26 de Julio (M26J) during 1956-58. The central argument is that the Cuban Trotskyists organised in the Partido Bolchevique Leninista (PBL) and then, from 1940, in the Partido Obrero Revolucionario (POR) were characterised by an increasingly overt tendency to make common cause with petit-bourgeois nationalism, and to emphasise the slogans and struggle for national liberation. In linking the Cuban Trotskyists’ ideological evolution to their organisational fortunes, I conclude that the disappearance of the POR as an organised party in the 1950s reflected not only the weakness of the working class after more than a decade of trade union and state collaboration, but also the Trotskyists’ own willingness to accept the notion of the independence of the democratic anti-imperialist revolution, and their failure to distinguish themselves clearly from various petit-bourgeois nationalist groups.

The PBL 1935-39: Regrouping and Revolutionary Strategy

The failure of the March 1935 general strike signalled an unleashing of terror and repression against the organisations of the radical national liberation and working-class movements. Under such conditions, disorganisation and disarray characterised the PBL as much as any other organisation. Whilst numerous members of the PBL in Oriente were either arrested or forced to flee their locality, the PBL’s principal organic roots in the working-class movement through its members in the Labour Federation of Havana (FOH) were broken. During the short-lived but decisive strike and its aftermath, the offices of the PBL-controlled FOH were raided, and those present were arrested. At a meeting of the FOH and the Confederación Nacional Obrera de Cuba (CNOC) leaderships called to discuss a proposal of joint work, Gastón Medina, the General Secretary of the PBL and the FOH, was arrested along with César Vilar, the leader of the CNOC.1 Amongst the dead at other centres was Cresencio Freyre, a PBL member and head of the Bakery Workers Union. The Emergency Tribunals later sentenced other Trotskyists to terms of from six to 10 years imprisonment. By October 1935, the PBL’s Havana section alone had 30 comrades in prison, for the most part prominent political and trade union leaders.2

However, a crisis in the party’s organisation in the months following the March 1935 general strike was as much the result of continuing internal discord as it was of repression from outside. As numerous documents of the PBL during 1935-36 stated, the party was passing through an ‘exceptional period’. Whilst this undoubtedly referred to the task of regrouping taking place in conditions of illegality, it also alluded to the continued internal conflict between advocates of building a broad multi-class anti-imperialist association and those who adhered to the Leninist project of building a proletarian vanguard party. This internal division was recognised by Gastón Medina, the General Secretary of the PBL after the defeat of the general strike of March 1935. As a firm adherent of ‘the immediate defense of the present organisation of the Bolshevik Leninist Party’, he warned that the PBL was still faced with a capitulation, albeit more spontaneous than organised, to the ‘petit-bourgeois chieftains’,3 that is, dissolution of the PBL inside Joven Cuba and the Partido Revolucionario Cubano (Auténtico) (PRC(A)).

The perspective of continuing to participate uncritically within the ranks of Joven Cuba in an attempt to push the Guiteristas towards revolutionary Socialism was expressed by RS de la Torre in the international Trotskyist journal The New International. This current within Cuban Trotskyism continued to adhere to the so-called ‘external road’ perspective, which, by focusing on a vague military bloc, did not insist on presenting an independent working-class position in competition with petit-bourgeois nationalism in the anti-imperialist struggle. De la Torre was convinced of the potential of loose participation in Joven Cuba:

‘... penetration into the ranks of Young Cuba [Joven Cuba], the sympathy that its members have for our party, open up good perspectives for our organization. The petty bourgeoisie does not want to call a halt to its insurrectionary intentions. It is a question of life of death for it. Here is offered a brilliant opportunity to the proletarian party to demonstrate its abilities of leadership.’4

In opposition to the so-called ‘liquidators’ who supported ‘the concept of a new “centrist” organism on the basis of the dissolution of the party’,5 Gastón Medina, the principal advocate of organisational independence, suggested the creation of a ‘pre-party (bridge) organization’ to reinforce the PBL’s independent party structure. His intention was to reverse the trend of PBL members deserting the party for other organisations by constituting an ‘external’ organisation through which the PBL’s peripheral contacts could pass on their way to the proletarian vanguard party. As Gastón Medina argued, this ‘bridge’ organisation was intended to consolidate the proletarian rehabilitation of the party on the basis of the existence of the Fourth International.6

However, just as in 1934, the internal political conflict was not expressed in the formal presentation of contending theses which explicitly linked the two distinct organisational paths with the two very different underlying strategies for revolution. Instead, events again overtook the conflict as Joven Cuba itself began to disintegrate after the assassination of its figure-head, Guiteras, in mid-1935. Paying testimony to the ultimate futility of the ‘external road’ perspective, that sector of the PBL which had thoroughly convinced itself of the viability of tying the destiny of the working-class party to the fate of petit-bourgeois nationalism largely joined the Guiteristas either by abandoning active politics or by joining the PRC(A), the increasingly moderate nationalist-reformist party led by Grau San Martín.

Thereafter, those who insisted on the validity of the project of building an independent revolutionary Marxist party began the task of reorganising their much reduced forces. In 1936, a small sectional committee consisting of nine members was reconstituted in Victoria de las Tunas.7 Pérez Santiesteban himself, the original General Secretary of the Las Tunas Trotskyists, remained active in the party in Havana after escaping the persecution in the Las Tunas municipality. He subsequently became a national leader of the PBL, and then of the POR, until the latter’s ultimate disappearance in the early 1950s. The guantanameño and santiaguero sectional committees were similarly restructured amongst those members who had not either drifted into Joven Cuba on an individual basis or abandoned all revolutionary activity, disillusioned in the face of the mounting repression and the apparent victory of the Batista regime. In 1936, Luis Miyares (or ‘Manuel López’) was one of the local leaders in Santiago de Cuba with whom the national leadership of the PBL in Havana maintained contact.8

In taking concrete steps towards reconstituting a centralised party leadership at the national level, the Cuban Trotskyists held a national plenum in February 1936. They also addressed the serious problem of the gap which had existed between the political level of the PBL’s leadership and the underlying broad democratic bloc prejudices of a majority of the party’s rank-and-file membership. The Central Committee of the PBL couched its discussion of this issue in terms which identified excessive bureaucratic centralisation in the 1933-35 leadership as the principal past organisational failing. The new Central Committee effectively recognised that the PBL’s leading bodies had tended to impose decisions on a politically ill-prepared membership. Alluding to the lack of a vibrant party life which stressed the importance of members’ political education, an internal document of the PBL noted that the pre-March 1935 leadership had not given sufficient value to the party’s basic unit, the cells. The report perceptively recognised that it had been as a consequence of this failing that when the initial leadership wasted away it was accompanied by a total breakdown in party discipline and the near collapse of the PBL as an organised political party.9

In resolving to correct these past organisational deficiencies, the membership’s identification with the party, together with homogeneity in the ranks, were declared paramount concerns in confronting the task of building a ‘vanguard which is flexible, yet with a strong backbone’.10 Of primary concern was an insistence that there must be a strict delimitation in the cells and sections between members and supporters. Seemingly with the intention of preventing the re-emergence of branches with a loose mass character, as had been built in Guantánamo in 1932-34, the Central Committee of the PBL gave life to Gastón Medina’s idea of creating a pre-party bridge organisation. The leadership proposed that whilst members who were active in the internal and public life of the PBL and who were subject to party discipline would be considered full party members, they had to be distinguished from supporters, who should be integrated into the party’s Socorro Obrero (Workers Aid) organisation.11

Those militants who insisted on the validity of building an independent Trotskyist party also attempted to re-establish the production of a journal. However, as in the period of 1933-35, these publications seem to have appeared spasmodically. In September 1936, the efforts to rebuild the organisation led the PBL to resume publication of a short-lived party organ, a periodical entitled Noticiero Bolchevique. The production of this journal also seems to have been timed to coincide with preparations for a proposed ‘Congress of Marxist Unification’. This national meeting of PBL members and supporters was apparently planned for December 1936, although it does not appear to have taken place.12 In early 1938, the Havana District Committee, again showing signs of operating independently from the Oriente branches, produced a newspaper called Divisa Proletaria.13 In 1938-40, various international Trotskyist publications regularly reported that the Cuban Trotskyists were also publishing an organ entitled Rayo, the journal they had first produced in 1934.

However, more important for the stabilisation and reorientation of the PBL was the elaboration and publication for internal circulation of an extensive Political Thesis in October 1935. This document, breaking from the ambiguous path developed by the PBL during the revolutionary upheaval of 1934-35, not only displayed a firm grasp of the social and economic forces at work in Cuba, incorporating the idea that the governing regime displayed Bonapartist features, a characterisation which Trotsky himself later applied in general terms to all Latin American regimes,14 but proposed a definite plan for revolutionary activity in Cuba which highlighted the need for the independence of the proletariat’s programme and organisation. The Trotskyists referred to the immediate insurrectionary perspective as an exhausted technique, and explicitly recognised that the central task was the conquest of the masses through the development of an action programme which combined a struggle to liquidate the remnants of feudalism in the countryside (the agrarian revolution) with a struggle to overthrow imperialist domination (national independence), under the leadership of the proletariat. This marked a decided return to the strategic and tactical approach advocated by both Trotsky and the PBL in its own manifestos and programmes drawn up in September-October 1933.

In the first place, during the period in which Batista was consolidating his authority after the defeat of the general strike of March 1935, the PBL drew on the concept of Bonapartism in order to characterise the Batista regime in terms Marx had used to describe the French bourgeoisie’s acceptance of Bonaparte in revolutionary France in 1852. That is, just as Marx considered that the weakened French bourgeoisie through ‘fear of losing their conquests’ recognised that they depended on their rival, Bonaparte,15 so the Cuban Trotskyists argued that the Batista regime was equally divorced from any of the local class formations, but was one which the old parties of the oligarchy approached in order to secure their positions in economic and political life, albeit ‘with a complete understanding of their submission’.16

In addition to introducing the concept of Bonapartism into an analysis of the structurally weak Cuban political economy, another strength of the PBL’s 1935 Political Thesis was its attempt to address the causes of the defeat of the Revolution of the 1930s and the Trotskyists’ own rôle in events. The PBL advanced a self-criticism which made reference to the ambiguity inherent in its own understanding of the form and content of the anti-imperialist united front leading up to the March 1935 general strike. Rejecting its past belief that abstract discussions with the forces of petit-bourgeois nationalism could lead to a fighting united front, the PBL returned to Trotsky’s explicit understanding that the united front had to be formed on the basis of an immediate struggle for concrete demands. The Cuban Trotskyists proposed that a united front had to be formed ‘on the basis of a programme of immediate action’.17 Underlining this understanding of the importance of such well-defined united front work, they furthermore criticised the strategy of the Auténticos, Joven Cuba, and the PCC immediately after March 1935 of calling for an insurrection to install a so-called ‘revolutionary popular government’. For the PBL, this was an élitist strategy based on an exhausted technique,18 in the sense that it approached the problem of the seizure of power independently of the democratic participation of the working masses. Significantly, however, the PBL did not explicitly address the inherent ambiguities in the actual slogan of a ‘revolutionary popular government’ in terms of the petit-bourgeois nature of the proposed regime.

The PBL’s Trotskyist credentials, however, were also revealed by its analysis of the world-wide revolutionary process. Starting from an understanding that every nation’s economic life and development were dependent on the world market, and that it was utopian to believe in the possibility of destroying the features of the world market for the sake of an independent bourgeois national economy, the PBL argued that the only way forward was the world-wide proletarian revolution and socialism. The Trotskyists also insisted that the petit-bourgeoisie was incapable of leading a successful anti-imperialist revolution, and that the democratic anti-imperialist revolution was not a distinct stage in the revolutionary process, but was rather a temporary phase in the deeper proletarian revolution leading to the unequivocal installation of a necessarily proletarian revolutionary state. Adhering to the strategy of Permanent Revolution, the PBL declared in its Political Thesis that:

‘1. The arrival of imperialism — the last stage of capitalism — has opened the epoch of the world-wide proletarian revolution and Socialism as the only progressive way forward...

‘3. The democratic and anti-imperialist agrarian struggles cannot have an independent or permanent character. The so-called “anti-imperialist, agrarian democratic revolution” is none other than the first phase of one single revolution: the proletarian revolution...

‘6. The petit-bourgeoisie (including the peasantry) does not possess its own economy. Despite its revolutionary rôle in the face of the oppressive bourgeoisie, imperialism and the landlords, because of its multiple contradictions and lack of homogeneity, it is incapable of leading the revolution. The petit-bourgeoisie is destined to orient itself towards capitalism, or to be dragged along by the proletariat. No half-way solution is possible.

‘7. Only the proletariat, as a progressive class, is capable of exercising revolutionary hegemony, even in the initial anti-imperialist agrarian democratic phase...

‘12. The slogan of a “democratic dictatorship of the workers and peasants” advanced by the Comintern is a meaningless slogan which can only sow confusion. This slogan carries with it the idea of the development of an independent economy in the country based in the community of interests of the workers and peasants...

‘13. The Bolshevik Leninist Party declares: only the dictatorship of the proletariat is capable of guaranteeing the success of the permanent development of the revolution. Only a state based on the soviets of workers, peasants and soldiers represents the guarantee of the dictatorship of the proletariat and of the revolution. Only the independent action of the proletariat in the struggle to install its dictatorship will make possible the revolutionary enrolment of the great masses of the peasantry and the petit-bourgeoisie.’19

On the basis of this theoretical analysis, and returning to clarify the issue of the character of any united front work, the PBL advanced a 45-point Programme of Democratic Demands as well as a 14-point Action Programme. The series of democratic demands included a rejection of the electoral manoeuvres proposed by Batista and the convocation of a democratic Constituent Assembly, freedom of speech, press, meeting, organisation and demonstration, abolition of the Fifty Per Cent Law, the right to strike and an end to compulsory arbitration, the establishment of a minimum wage and the implementation of the eight-hour working day, nationalisation of the private railways and public services, measures enabling financial assistance and credit facilities for cooperatives in the rural areas involved in either production or consumption, the state supply of quality seed and livestock for the poor peasants, an end to all payment of the foreign debt, renouncing all foreign territorial claims on Cuba, a break in diplomatic relations with the Vatican and the establishment of diplomatic and commercial relations with the USSR, as well as the right of asylum for persecuted foreign political revolutionaries, in particular for Trotsky.20

The PBL’s Action Programme called for a struggle for the reconstruction of the trade union movement, the development of revolutionary work within the legal trade unions, the formation of a National Revolutionary Army and special brigades to defend the class actions of the proletariat and the mass revolutionary movements, the creation of peasant leagues on the basis of a plan of specifically agrarian demands, and the creation of workers’ and peasants’ committees in the workplaces to plan their struggles.21

Taken together, these two interrelated sets of democratic slogans and transitional demands were an exemplary exposition of the PBL’s attempt to link the struggle for the most elementary features of bourgeois democracy and national independence with the struggle of the working class against imperialism. The Cuban Trotskyists implicitly argued that the proletariat had suffered an historic defeat in the general strike of March 1935, and called for the rebuilding of the trade union movement, the basic form of working-class organisation. They also attempted to orient the continuing calls for armed actions emanating from the remains of Joven Cuba towards the working class by insisting on the need to attach such isolated, individual displays of revolutionary violence to the struggles of the working class. Furthermore, in concluding the Action Programme with a call for ‘the creation of a united front of all the revolutionary parties upon the basis of the Action Programme and the Plan of Democratic Demands at the national and local level’,22 the Trotskyists reaffirmed the clarity with which they, at least in theory, defined any anti-imperialist work. That is, they posed the issue of forming a united front on the basis of a struggle for clearly defined immediate goals.

However, despite formally elaborating an unequivocally proletarian anti-imperialist perspective, as well as a perceptive critique of the PBL’s own past activity, the Cuban Trotskyists’ efforts to rebuild a stable party structure and reverse their political fortunes bore little fruit. In the period of 1935-39, the PBL did not recover the membership or levels of influence which it had gradually lost during the course of 1934-35. Firstly, by the end of the 1930s the PBL had been further reduced to three geographical centres, namely, Havana, from whose ranks the Central Committee was largely drawn, and the Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo regions of Oriente. The reconstituted Victoria de las Tunas branch disappeared in 1937-38. Furthermore, the number of activists in each branch substantially declined, giving the PBL a membership total which mirrored that of most other Trotskyist groups in Latin America. Although a report at the Founding Conference of the Fourth International of 1938 cautiously credited the Cuban Trotskyists with 100 militants,23 this figure seems to be a rather optimistic assessment. In the early 1940s, it was reported, for example, that the Santiago de Cuba Sectional Committee, albeit the smallest of the three remaining branches, had not recruited anyone since 1937, and had apparently been reduced to five members.24

Whilst state repression in 1935-36 had initially hindered the rebuilding and growth of the PBL, the continued inability of the Cuban Trotskyists to build on the organisation which they had at least stabilised in 1936 was the result of a combination of factors both internal and external. In the first place, although the PBL’s formal understanding of the form and content of united front work corresponded with Trotsky’s insistence on concrete action on the basis of an agreed programme of demands, it was evident that discrepancies continued to exist between the perspectives outlined by the leadership in the party’s principal programmatic documents and the practical work of the PBL’s rank and file. For example, the Cuban Trotskyists demonstrated their return to united front work on the basis of ill-defined goals in their intervention in the National Committee for Amnesty for Social and Political Prisoners, agitating alongside the PCC and 29 other organisations for an end to torture and the release of those imprisoned by the Batista regime. In short, the PBL did not participate on the basis of a clearly elaborated programme of action which furthered the cause of working-class regrouping and political independence. As the PBL itself recognised, this amnesty committee’s work was largely limited to covering itself in a cloak of respectability by making appeals to the church and the ‘good bourgeoisie’. Its ineffectiveness was confirmed when 22 of its 27-member Central Committee were arrested and sentenced to terms in prison early in 1936.25

On the other hand, the PBL constituted its Socorro Obrero organisation as a type of pre-party bridge. It was laudably conceived as a type of parallel organisation to the PCC’s International Labour Defence, bringing together a mixture of Anarchists and PBL members largely on the basis of anti-Stalinism and looking after the welfare of prisoners who belonged to the FOH trade unions. The PBL also displayed a firm commitment to furthering the cause of working-class independence from both the petit-bourgeoisie and the state when an open trade union movement re-emerged. The Trotskyists first joined the legal trade unions organised by the Batista regime, and used the unions’ magazines to supplement the education and propaganda value of their own party journals. By mid-1937, leading Trotskyists such as Pérez Santiesteban, Pablo Díaz and Gregorio Marrero were regularly having articles published in Dialéctica, the organ of the Sindicato de Yesistas de La Habana, the Plasterers Union of Havana, and El Repartidor, the magazine of the Sindicato de Repartidores de Pan de La Habana, the Bread Distributors Union of Havana. More importantly, though, the organisation and political content of the PBL’s actual fractional work inside the trade unions was based on a strict understanding of the dangers of class collaboration. The Trotskyists argued that, just as under Machado, reformist leaders were seeking to organise the labour movement under the aegis of the Ministry of Labour, and to submit the movement to government arbitration. In order to combat the penetration of this spirit of reformism into the ranks of the working class, the PBL, rejecting the PCC’s sectarian strategy in 1931-34 of attempting to build isolated ‘revolutionary’ trade union fronts, put forward in outline form a strong trade union platform around which Trotskyist fractions in various trade unions could organise the most radical workers who had not yet joined the PBL politically. Linking the slogan for the formation of a ‘Workers’ Alliance’ to a programme of action, the PBL made calls to organise the working class independently of the state on the basis of a number of minimum democratic demands, including the right to strike and freedom of organisation, assembly and speech and the repeal of the decree laws.26

However, despite these attempts to rebuild a revolutionary movement in the trade unions, the PBL faced a number of obstacles. Importantly, the party’s stability and growth were adversely affected by serious disruptions in the Trotskyists’ national leadership. Although not on the scale which the revolutionary events during 1934-35 had induced, the leadership continued to display a degree of instability in terms of personnel. The most significant loss was that of the post-March 1935 General Secretary, Gastón Medina, who died of tuberculosis in Havana on 17 August 1938, the result of past torture in Batista’s jails. He had been the principal defender of what I have characterised as the ‘Trotskyist’ proletarian anti-imperialist tendency within the PBL during 1933-35. He had also been responsible for drawing up the Political Thesis of October 1935 which had attempted to reorient the party after the defeat of the Revolution of the 1930s.

Arguably even more significantly, however, the PBL had to overcome peculiar socio-politico hurdles. Although all revolutionary organisations had found themselves in a state of disarray after the defeat of the Revolution of the 1930s, in the late 1930s an already weak working-class movement faced the further obstacle of a Batista-PCC joint front which reinforced the containment of class-based organisations and struggles. As described in a previous article, after the effective crushing of the revolutionary movement in 1935, the Batista regime increasingly took on a paternalistic Bonapartist character as Batista himself sought to broaden his base of popular support. He achieved this by turning to the Stalinists, and cementing a joint front with the PCC. Although this was not completed until early 1939, from 1938 Batista was able to use the official Communists to contain a renewal of working-class opposition.

In sum, then, the Cuban Trotskyists’ attempt to reorganise the PBL in the aftermath of the defeat of the Revolution of the 1930s, and then in the light of the PCC’s rank opportunism in the face of overtures from Batista, had to a large extent come to nothing by the end of the 1930s as a real decline in the PBL’s numbers and implantation in the labour movement reflected the balance of class forces. Whilst internationally, after a decade of defeats, the working class was being led into an international military conflict by largely compliant Social Democratic and Stalinist parties, in Cuba the defeat had been of historic proportions. The crushing of working-class organisation in the aftermath of the general strike of March 1935 produced a crisis in every political organisation, as much amongst the Auténticos and official Communists as amongst the Trotskyists. This had cleared the ground for Batista to set about reorganising a national social equilibrium from above, unchallenged by either a weak national bourgeoisie or a defeated working-class movement. The cementing of the Batista-PCC joint front only added to the enormity of the task of cultivating an independent working-class movement which the small group of Cuban Trotskyists faced. Thus, although the elaboration of the Political Thesis in late 1935 marked a return to an insistence on the independence of working-class political organisation and the leading rôle of the proletariat in the anti-imperialist revolution, the PBL’s dislocation in 1935-36 and its small size within the already weak opposition movements hindered its ability to challenge the general decline of autonomous working-class organisation. However, it was the Trotskyists’ tendency to dilute the class-based content of any practical united front work which ultimately both confirmed the steady stagnation in membership, and determined the subsequent development of Cuban Trotskyism in the 1940s.

The Cuban Trotskyists and the Spanish Civil War

The Spanish Civil War broke out in mid-1936, at a time when the reorganised PBL was still adjusting to the conditions of the defeat of March 1935, and continued until 1939, when class collaboration in Cuba had been cemented in an alliance between Batista and the official Communist Party. From the outset, the Cuban Trotskyists were unequivocal in rebutting the Stalinists’ assertion that it was simply a war between pro-democratic leftists and pro-Fascist Spanish reactionaries. They instead adhered to the perspective of Permanent Revolution, arguing that only the independent action of the Spanish proletariat against both the Fascists and the vacillating Popular Front government could save the Spanish Revolution.27 However, in again raising its internationalist proletarian flag in the Cuban labour and revolutionary milieu, the PBL seems to have been ignorant of the content of the political debate which had erupted between Trotsky and the followers of Nin in the Spanish POUM.

Fulfilling the basic educational and propaganda functions of a revolutionary party, the PBL published Trotsky’s article of July 1936, The Lesson of Spain, which polemicised against the Popular Front alliance of working-class leaders with the bourgeoisie. However, whilst Trotsky argued for a ‘genuine alliance of workers and peasants... against the bourgeoisie’,28 which was ultimately aimed against the POUM, as well as the Spanish Stalinists, the PBL was rather more ambiguous. On the one hand, the Cuban Trotskyists attacked the Comintern when arguing against all notions of political blocs with the Republican bourgeoisie:

‘The policy of forming a bloc with the republican bourgeoisie, with the so-called “democratic bourgeoisie”, as advocated by the revisionist Stalinists since the Seventh Congress of the Communist International, is in essence a restraining counter-revolutionary policy, the price for which will be paid by the Spanish proletariat.’29

On the other hand, however, they did not offer any criticism of the POUM for signing the Left Electoral Pact, a de facto Popular Front. The Cuban Trotskyists limited their analysis of the POUM to congratulatory comments on its calls to reorganise the Workers’ Alliances as organs of proletarian representation,30 and seem to have been unaware of the POUM’s subsequent decision to enter the Catalan government, a move which led to the undermining and dissolution of the anti-Fascist committees, the real embryonic organs of proletarian power.

In Cuba, the PBL followed a broad Trotskyist perspective in its intervention in the Ateneo Socialista Español, a non-partisan Spanish workers’ organisation, whilst appearing to have little knowledge of the conflict which had erupted between Nin and the POUM, on the one hand, and Trotsky and the Spanish Bolshevik-Leninists, the official Trotskyist group, on the other.31 This schism at the international level certainly did not provoke any debate within the PBL at the time. In one of the few references which they made to the POUM, the Cuban Trotskyists praised Maurín for speaking against a policy of collaboration and subordination to the bourgeoisie, and naïvely commended the POUM for ‘calling on the Spanish proletariat day after day to reorganise the Workers’ Alliances, the true organs of proletarian expression, and the workers’ militias, the embryos of the Red Army’.32 Indeed, unlike the fiercely intransigent Trotskyist movement elsewhere in Europe and the Americas, it was only after the Civil War had ended that the Cuban Trotskyists addressed the Nin-Trotsky controversy. However, even in their belated references to the dispute, they displayed their split loyalties. Whilst in 1940 they unequivocally labelled the POUM as a centrist group between Marxism and reformism which was incapable of leading a successful struggle for Socialist revolution,33 in the same year, in a more considered reflection on the outcome of the fiery debate between Nin and Trotsky, they questioned what they perceived to be Trotsky’s unnecessarily hostile language, as well as the actual substance of his arguments:

‘The violent characterization made by Comrade Crux calling Nin and Andrade “traitors” closed the road to reintegrating into our ranks a great number of revolutionaries. Because, if it is true that the conduct of Nin and Andrade well merited the characterization, it is no less certain the characterization was impolitic.’34

Amongst those Cuban Trotskyists who went on an individual basis to fight in the Spanish Civil War, however, the POUM-Trotsky controversy certainly was well known, and had a number of consequences. The most prominent Cuban Trotskyist who fought in Spain was Breá, a central figure in stimulating Trotskyist discussion within the Oposición Comunista de Cuba during 1932-33. Having returned to Europe after the fall of the Grau San Martín government in 1934, Breá made his way to Spain in July 1936 with his companion Mary Low.35 From late July 1936 to early 1937, as a militant of the Bolshevik-Leninists, he fought with the POUM militia on the Aragón Front, and worked with the International Secretariat of the POUM and as a journalist for the POUM’s newspapers La Batalla and POUM.

In Barcelona, in late 1936, Breá was detained on two separate occasions by the Stalinist security forces. The POUM refused to give him any protection, and, together with Low, he eventually had to leave once more for France.36 Their experiences in Spain were vividly recounted in their Red Spanish Notebook, the first account of the Spanish Civil War from a Trotskyist perspective to be published in English in book form. Unlike the PBL in Cuba, in this book Breá outlined the ideological confusion of the Anarchists and Anarcho-Syndicalists, who, in his opinion, ‘threw away the power when it fell into their hands because their principles were against taking it’.37 For Breá, the only way forward in Spain was to oppose Communism to Fascism, and he argued the need for what he termed ‘a Common Front — that is to say an alliance of the proletariat without an amalgamation of programme’.38 Breá also reaffirmed the outright counter-revolutionary rôle of those who adhered to the Comintern, whilst at the same time refusing to lay the whole blame for the failure of the revolution at their door. In revealing the depth of the Cuban Trotskyists’ anti-Stalinism, Breá also criticised the POUM:

‘It would be childish to throw the blame there [at the Stalinists’ doorstep] when we have known so long what a counter-revolutionary part Russia and her acolytes have been playing in all countries. Forewarned is forearmed. The responsibility must lie with those revolutionary parties in Spain who know Stalinism for what it is. I mean the POUM and Anarchists, and the Anarcho-Syndicalists.’39

Aside from Breá, other Cuban Trotskyists also fought in the Spanish Civil War, albeit as individuals isolated from the international Trotskyist movement. Apart from the PBL members of Spanish origin who had been deported from Cuba to Spain in 1934,40 news reached the PBL in late 1936 that Edelmiro Blanco, a leader of the General Commercial Workers Union, had been killed in action.41 Wilebaldo Solano has also noted that another Cuban Trotskyist, Enrique de la Uz, fought in the International Brigades, and that Juan Andrade, a leader of the POUM, spoke on various occasions of a group of Cuban Trotskyists which had fought valiantly.42

The Cuban Trotskyists’ activity during the Spanish Civil War, therefore, was broadly determined by an acceptance of the necessity for insisting on the proletarian character of the anti-Fascist war, a fundamental tenet of the theory of Permanent Revolution. However, as a group the PBL seem to have failed to gain an understanding of the deep chasm which had developed between the POUM and Trotsky. Only Breá in Spain developed a clear understanding of this dispute, and perhaps it was only as a result of his return to Cuba in 1940 that the PBL subsequently came out against the POUM’s so-called ‘centrism’.

The Foundation of the POR and the Organisation and Strategy of Cuban Trotskyists, 1940-1946

The isolation and gradual decline in the PBL’s membership after 1935 eventually provoked a round of largely unprincipled in-fighting and dissension amongst the party’s three remaining branches in 1940. The spark which appears to have triggered the two-year round of internal disputes was the expulsion of Charles Simeón, the PBL’s General Secretary, in late 1939 or in early 1940. He had first temporarily occupied the post of General Secretary during Gastón Medina’s two-year illness, before taking over on a permanent basis after Medina’s death. Although the specific reasons behind Simeón’s separation remain uncertain,43 the PBL was subsequently seen to be in need of an overhaul in terms of discipline and orientation. The apparent virtual internal paralysis led the Havana-based leadership to take the initiative by selecting a new Provisional Executive Committee in May 1940, charging it with the task of convening a national conference with a view to ‘normalising the life of the party’.44

The new Provisional Executive Committee, composed of the remaining members of the previous members of the National Executive Committee and the most active militants in Havana, included ‘Bode’, the General Secretary (possibly Pérez Santiesteban),45 Pablo Díaz González (or ‘Pedro Durán’), ‘Alonso’, ‘Andrade’, ‘Santiso’, ‘Kamayen’ and ‘Rufo’.46 This Provisional Executive Committee subsequently constituted a new Central Committee, and concentrated its authority in a three-member Political Bureau which was responsible for the day-to-day work of the party. This reorganisation of the leading bodies of the Cuban Trotskyist group led to the founding of the Partido Obrero Revolucionario on 19 September 1940, shortly after Trotsky’s murder.

However, despite this attempt on the part of the POR’s leadership to ‘discipline and orient the party’,47 the Cuban Trotskyists continued to gravitate away from Trotsky’s prescription for revolutionary activity by forging a democratic centralist vanguard party advocating a strict proletarian anti-imperialist revolution. In the first place, not every branch of the old PBL was integrated into the new party. The organisational changes initiated by the Provisional Executive Committee were rejected by the Santiago de Cuba Sectional Committee, which continued to operate under the title of the PBL until at least the end of 1941. The underlying cause of the feuding was general frustration with the atmosphere of stagnation and decline which had permeated party activity. This was shown by the fact the organisational split did not take place on the basis of any ideological differences, but as the result of secondary, tactical considerations. On the initiative of ‘Bakunin’, the santiaguero branch refused to embrace the project of restructuring and renaming the party solely on the grounds that a simple change of name could not lead to the consolidation of the revolutionary party in Cuba.48 In correctly identifying a possible limitation of the new Provisional Executive Committee’s initiatives, the santiaguero Trotskyists, however, did not identify nor propose a principled debate over the political causes behind the PBL’s organisational crisis. Whilst, at this stage, they were not explicitly challenging the need for a centralised vanguard party, they did challenge the principle of democratic centralism by repeatedly rejecting the leadership’s invitations to continue the discussions within the POR. With no explicit ideological issue at stake, and with both the POR and the Santiago de Cuba Sectional Committee of the PBL continuing to declare publicly their adherence to the Fourth International, the santiagueros, frustrated at the party’s stagnation and apparent inability to influence the workers’ movement, had in effect used a disagreement over a secondary issue as a pretext for initiating a de facto split in the ranks of Cuban Trotskyism.

In January 1941, after the Santiago de Cuba section had reiterated that it would continue to publish its own propaganda without seeking any central authority, the POR’s national leadership decided to apply the letter of the party’s statutes. Concerned that the conditions created by the Second World War would increasingly narrow the Cuban Trotskyists’ opportunities for open work, and that the santiagueros’ criticisms could sabotage the other oriental branch in nearby Guantánamo, the Political Bureau argued that members should be separated from sympathisers, that each militant should be assigned his or her task and responsibility so that new members would not be ‘infected with the ballast of irresponsibility and lack of discipline’ inherited from the past.49

Despite the firm statement of intent, however, this further attempt on the part of the Trotskyists to establish a degree of discipline and stability and give an impetus to internal party life did not lead to any marked growth in membership or influence, or even to a sustained period of commitment to publishing a party organ. During 1940-42, whilst it seems that the santiagueros fell in line with the newly-established POR party structure, the only new shoots of growth were a five-member branch constituted in the small town of Aguacate in the province of Havana,50 and what appears to have been a short-lived sectional committee formed in Camagüey on 17 November 1940.51 As for the production of a regular party press and theoretical material, the newly-constituted POR repeated the pattern which the PBL had established after its two attempts to establish some order in the Trotskyists’ ranks in September 1933 and late 1935. In the first place, the POR launched what was intended to be a regular party organ, Cuba Obrera (Workers’ Cuba). However, despite the POR’s fears about the government’s intention to suppress ‘propaganda of a class character’, it appears that, like Rayo and Noticiero Bolchevique before it, this newspaper ceased publication shortly after its birth solely as a result of a dwindling internal commitment and lack of funds. Production first lapsed after four issues had appeared in successive months at the end of 1940, and although it reappeared in June, July and August 1941, the August issue was the last to be published.

As the PBL had done at its founding in 1933, and again in 1935 when attempting to establish a degree of stability and direction in the party, the POR on its founding also drew up and submitted to its rank and file an extensive theoretical document, the Declaración de Principios. In outlining the Trotskyists’ views on the general crisis of capitalism and the specific problems of the Cuban revolution, this document again marked a definite return to Trotsky’s perspective of Permanent Revolution, at least in theory. First, the ‘Declaration of Principles’ reiterated that the working class in alliance with the rural and urban petit-bourgeoisie had to play the leading rôle in the struggle against capitalism and for a necessarily Socialist revolution.52 Like the early texts of the Comintern and, indeed, Trotsky himself, the POR also drew a distinction between the conquest of power by the proletariat in Latin America and the actual construction of Communism.53 Basing its analysis on an appreciation of the indissolubility of the world economy and the necessary international character of Socialism, the POR argued that in the first phase of the Latin American revolution the proletariat would combine the basic democratic tasks with the possible Socialist ones. The ultimate Socialist transformation of Latin America could only totally triumph, they argued, when the proletarian revolution in the USA also erupted.54

Although the document stressed that the definitive triumph of the revolution in Cuba depended on the success of the Socialist movement in the USA, the POR rejected the idea that the Cuban working class must await the triumph of the North American proletariat before posing the question of proletarian revolution in Cuba. The Cuban Trotskyists argued that such an understanding approached that of the Stalinists, who denied the possibility of revolution on the grounds of Cuba’s lack of ‘maturity’ for Socialism, and the substitution of the theory of the ‘next stages’ of national and social liberation under the ‘progressive platform’ of the Coalición Socialista Democrática.55 Emphasising that the proletariat in Cuba could not renounce the struggle to forge its own vanguard or even initiate its own proletarian revolution until the proletariat in the USA had seized power, the POR reiterated the perspectives of the Bolsheviks in backward Russia in 1917, and railed against geographic fatalists who rejected the revolutionary project on the grounds of Cuba’s proximity to the USA:

‘The perspective of Permanent Revolution in no case means that backward countries should await the starting signal from the more developed ones, nor that the colonial peoples should wait patiently for the proletariat of the imperialist centres to free them. He is helped who helps himself. The workers must struggle in a revolutionary fashion in all countries, wherever favorable conditions exist, thus giving an example to the workers of other countries.’56

However, again, as in the case of 1933 and 1935, the branches took up this renewed theoretical commitment to the principles of the theory of Permanent Revolution in a thoroughly ambiguous fashion. This was most evident in the activity of the POR’s principal asset, its branch in the Guantánamo region, where the local Trotskyists had maintained a base in the working class. During the late 1930s and 1940s, having established an embryonic youth organisation, the Juventud Obrera Revolucionaria, as well as participating in anti-Stalinist Comités de Oposición Sindical in various trade unions, the POR had a pool of support in the two branches, Delegaciones 10 and 11, of the Hermandad Ferroviaria, the local Commercial Workers Union, as well as a number of centrales.57 Moreover, the Trotskyists played a leading rôle in a small number of strike movements which challenged the official Communists’ de facto ‘no-strike’ policy. At the start of the 1940 sugar-cane harvest, for example, the guantanameño Trotskyists participated in stoppages in the Cecilia and Romelié centrales, denouncing the official Communists’ collaboration with the government and the employers.58 José Medina Campos of the POR also led strikes of railway workers in April and November 1941, which interrupted sugar production and transport to and from the US naval base.59 However, the guantanameño Trotskyists’ activity was not strictly directed at exposing the limitations of petit-bourgeois nationalism, and bringing those radical worker elements in the trade union milieu into political agreement with the POR. That is, although the Trotskyists called for increased autonomy from the Ministry of Labour and the Stalinist-controlled trade union bureaucracy alike, a call which found a wide echo amongst broad layers at the base of the Auténtico party, the POR’s united front platform did not display a clear, worked-out understanding of the practical importance of working-class political independence. Instead, the Trotskyists tended to accept a ‘lesser evil’ thesis which characterised Stalinism as the main enemy in the workers’ movement, and failed to distinguish the POR from the local worker Auténtico leaders in the non-Stalinist opposition movements. As such, the guantanameño Trotskyists participated in a largely uncritical manner in the Auténtico worker-dominated Comités Pro Demandas Obreros y Campesinos, a loose united front organisation which had been formed for the purposes of securing the election of non-Stalinists in local elections. Moreover, the Trotskyists could claim that their own youth organisation worked in ‘close harmony’ with its Auténtico counterpart. Indeed, far from ultimately viewing these radical petit-bourgeois groups as obstacles to the proletarian revolution, the POR enthused that these groups were the ‘fertile sap of the future of our Revolution’.60

On the national level, on the other hand, the Trotskyists’ trade union intervention during the Third National Congress of the Confederación de Trabajadores de Cuba (CTC), the official Communist-controlled national labour confederation, in December 1942, was more consistent with insisting on the unequivocal proletarian nature of the anti-imperialist struggle and competing directly with the Auténticos for the leadership of the masses. Raising the POR’s profile on the national stage, the Trotskyist delegates acted as an organised fraction at the congress, and developed a strategy which not only challenged the Stalinist domination of the labour movement, but did so from a perspective which sought to rally the Auténtico worker opposition around an unambiguously anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist programme.

As described in the Fourth International’s theoretical journal, the POR fraction contributed to the preparation and presentation of ‘a detailed and positive program of independent trade union action around which the anti-Stalinist opposition could rally’.61 In the first place, in their interventions on the platform POR members criticised the CTC leadership for accepting Batista’s dictates on wage claims, which granted pay increases below the rate of price inflation that was caused by a dearth of consumer goods. Pablo Díaz claimed that the CTC Executive had simply served as a government tool, preventing workers from using its most basic weapon, that of the strike, just at the moment when there was a ground swell of discontent in various sectors for better wages.62

However, the Trotskyists also insisted that organisational unity in the trade union movement should be maintained, and argued against setting up a second national trade union centre. When the Stalinist-controlled Credentials’ Commission at the CTC Congress eventually refused entry to 150 opposition delegates, the Trotskyists, though joining 303 delegates in walking out in protest, rejected the Auténtico leaders’ sectarian calls to set up a second, parallel trade union centre,63 just as the OCC and PBL had earlier opposed the PCC’s sectarian trade union policy. At a meeting of the Frente Democrático Sindical, the temporary organisation constituted by the delegates who had withdrawn, the POR fraction argued for the constitution of a revolutionary opposition workers’ front within the CTC on the basis of a minimum programme for internal democracy, and for an end to Stalinist-reformism in collusion with the state.64 In its declaration to the Frente Democrático Sindical, the POR fraction insisted that:

‘We cannot think... of the formation of a new trade union center so long as there has not been demonstrated in a clear definitive way the impossibility of salvaging the CTC from the hands of the Stalinist-reformist gang, through constant and effective work among the rank and file. We shall oppose any group or tendency which tries to drag the Cuban proletariat along the road of adventurism.’65

In presenting a coherent and incisive argument consistent with Trotsky’s analysis of trade unions in Latin America that the principal struggle was for workers’ control of the existing bureaucratic apparatuses and trade union independence from the state,66 the POR fraction thereby helped to avoid, at least temporarily, a disastrous split in the trade union movement. They furthermore presented an action programme which embodied the essential features of The Transitional Programme, the founding programmatic document of the Fourth International. Incorporating the essence of Trotsky’s ‘transitional’ method of attempting to deepen the struggle and lead the masses through a conscious fight for democratic demands to Socialist goals in their own independent proletarian organisations created in that struggle, the platform of demands included calls for the implementation of a sliding scale of wages and popular committees for the control of prices, the maintenance of class-based trade union unity along with the widest trade union democracy, and a Proletarian Military Policy similar to that of the US Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in which the trade unions took responsibility for the military training of workers.67

However, despite having enjoyed a degree of success in this exemplary fraction work in mass organisations at a national level, and despite the apparent return to the Cuban Trotskyist fold of the self-styled santiaguero sectional committee of the PBL at some point in 1942-43, the POR as a national party did not break out of its isolation in the early 1940s. Only at a local level did the guantanameño Trotskyists continue to lead strikes alongside Auténtico trade unionists against the dictates of a complicitous official Communist Party. On 17 May 1943, the railway workers in the Guantánamo region again went on strike, demanding a pay increase of 50 per cent to counteract the high rate of war-induced price inflation. Whilst the strike was crushed after 16 days, leaving six workers, amongst them two POR members, Juan Medina Campos and Luciano García Pellicier, either dismissed or disciplined by the management,68 the Guantánamo branch of the POR reiterated the basic tenet of revolutionary defeatism, namely, that there should be no cease-fire in the struggle against capitalism. Raising the banner of proletarian organisational and political independence, the Trotskyists denounced Manuel Tur, the local PSP leader, for intervening in the strike only to the extent of sabotaging and choking off any national action by railway workers, and Mujal for having disowned the strike movement in an attempt to ensure that the Auténtico leadership took no responsibility for it in the eyes of the government and imperialism in this militarily strategic region.69

In general terms, however, the POR failed in its objective of creating a revolutionary Communist opposition to the Stalinist domination of the labour movement during the course of the Second World War. As with previous attempts to stabilise the PBL’s organisation and extend Trotskyist influence in the late 1930s, this failure was caused by structural factors largely beyond the POR’s control, and political ones that were the responsibility of the Trotskyists alone. In the first place, the Cuban Trotskyists were active in a country in which class-based institutions were weak. Whilst imperialism had already rendered the national bourgeoisie largely ineffectual in the aftermath of the 1895-98 War of Independence, the historic defeat of the revolutionary movement in the 1930s had accelerated the decline of the old ruling oligarchy, and destroyed the independent working-class movement. The consequent exceptional weakness of class formations in Cuba was further exacerbated in the post-1935 period with the emergence of a Bonapartist-like regime committed to the project of coopting elements of various classes into a governing entente. Most significantly for the fortunes of Trotskyism, after the formation of the Batista-PCC joint front in the late 1930s, the official Communists used the power which they acquired to blunt attempts to renew class-based opposition to the Batista capitalist government. The rapid growth of the official Communist Party and its seats in Batista’s cabinet testify to the fact that class collaboration under Stalinist leadership was deeper in Cuba than in any other Latin American country.

In addition to the Bonapartist features of the Cuban political economy, which tended to weaken the development of already fragile class-based institutions, the Cuban Trotskyists were also confronted with the problem of the lack of a Marxist tradition in Cuba. Although the Cuban labour movement was dominated by Anarcho-Syndicalism for 40 years from 1885 to 1925, it was nationalism rather than Communism which conditioned the peculiar aspects of the Cuban variant of Anarchism. It was primarily because of this lack of a distinct Socialist culture in the Cuban working class that the Russian October Revolution did not provoke any ideological split in the labour movement. Furthermore, the Cuban Communist Party itself was only formed in 1925. Thus, in the early to mid-1940s, opposition to the Stalinists’ state-sponsored bureaucratic usurpation of working-class organisation more easily found spontaneous expression in the deeply-rooted traditions of petit-bourgeois nationalism, rather than a class position.

The Cuban Trotskyists also suffered from a lack of resources at their disposal. This, for example, prevented them from financing a full-time party worker to coordinate internal party life activity. The great distances between the POR’s two principal centres, Havana and Guantánamo, also made it difficult to hold any regular national meetings to discuss and plan coordinated work. The Cuban Trotskyists in the early 1940s also had little experience of the tasks which a small group of revolutionaries had to undertake in order to lay the basis for future growth. Unlike most Trotskyist groups in the world, the PBL was virtually a mass party at birth with prominent cadres already leading various trade unions and student organisations. Although not necessarily desirable, it had not undergone an organic development from a small revolutionary nucleus through a fighting propaganda group to a genuine revolutionary party with solid roots in the working class. With the death of Rogelio Benache, arguably the POR’s most talented workers’ leader in January 1944, like Gastón Medina, as a result of past torture in Batista’s jail,70 the remaining POR members in the early 1940s had little preparation for the tasks of slowly and methodically consolidating the POR as a well-defined fighting propaganda group.

Despite these obstacles to growth, if the POR had developed a different strategy and a set of tactics from those it actually did employ, then the Cuban Trotskyists could have to some extent overcome the structural obstacles which they faced, and a different outcome may have resulted. It was the Trotskyists’ own political strategy which continued to be a major factor conditioning their inability either to stabilise their organisation, or to break out of their isolation and take advantage of a general level of dissatisfaction in the labour movement with the PCC’s collaboration with Batista. More specifically, just as the PBL in the 1930s ultimately displayed that it had no well-formed understanding of the need for working-class organisations to maintain their political independence from the forces of petit-bourgeois nationalism, so the POR in the early to mid-1940s also emphasised the formation of undelineated blocs with essentially pro-capitalist forces. It was this political characteristic of the POR which ultimately determined the Trotskyists’ continued isolation.

The effect that the Cuban Trotskyists’ own political failings had on the fortunes and organisational continuity of their party was demonstrated by their activity and the line which they developed around the events of 1944-45. In early 1944, the POR launched a national newspaper and developed an electoral tactical line in an attempt to take advantage of the heightened political atmosphere created by the forthcoming May-June 1944 elections, and the hopes of Auténtico workers that these could bring an end to the control by Batista and the official Communists of the labour movement.

The newspaper, launched in May 1944 to coincide with the elections, and under the influence of Louis Rigaudias, a prominent activist in the prewar French Trotskyist movement, was given the name Revolución Proletaria in order to proclaim unambiguously the necessary character of any revolution at that juncture in Latin America.71 From May 1944 to May 1946, 19 issues of the newspaper appeared, edited by Pablo Díaz, ensuring that the party fulfilled its basic propaganda and educational functions of disseminating Socialist ideas amongst its supporters and contacts. However, the content of this propaganda advocated an essentially opportunist tactical line. Specifically, the electoral line which the Trotskyists developed only inconsistently maintained the principle of proletarian political independence. Indeed, the Trotskyists’ attitude towards the Auténticos, as set out in the pages of Revolución Proletaria, betrayed the essence of the name of their paper.

On the one hand, in Guantánamo the POR attempted to win adherents to Communism and extend and consolidate its influence within the working class by standing independent candidates in the 1944 local elections. Although the Supreme Court ultimately prevented the Trotskyists from getting on the ballot paper, they held a ‘write-in campaign’ for two posts on the Guantánamo council. Building on the prestige they had won in their trade union work in the region, the POR’s two candidates, Juan Medina and Luciano García, the two militants who had been victimised in the rail strike the year before, received over 1000 officially-counted votes,72 a substantial figure in a region where the rate of illiteracy was high. In the National Legislative and Presidential elections, on the other hand, where the Trotskyists did not have the resources to stand their own candidates, the POR, as a result of its belief that the Auténtico base was made up of revolutionary workers,73 displayed ambiguous concern for safeguarding the independence of the working class from the forces of pro-capitalist nationalism. That is to say, the Trotskyists made a distinction between the private views of individual Auténtico candidates and the relationship of the party as a whole to the working class by giving ‘critical support’ to what they termed ‘Grau San Martín and the working-class candidates within the PRC(A)’.74 Thus, in the National Legislative elections, they called for a vote for those Auténticos in Guantánamo and Santiago de Cuba who had agreed to a minimum programme of democratic and trade union demands.75

Whilst this dilution could have been justified in Cuba on the basis of the incomplete and ill-defined identification of parties with specific social classes, in the 1944 Presidential elections the POR slipped into loose, ultimately opportunist, phraseology which illustrated its own illusions in the revolutionary potential of the petit-bourgeoisie. Although the POR was certainly more ‘critical’ than ‘supportive’ in its assessment that Grau San Martín had abandoned the anti-imperialist struggle in favour of ‘democratic’ imperialism, and that he headed an electoral bloc which included an assortment of old anti-labour pro-Machado supporters,76 the electoral tactic of ‘critical support’ did not ‘clearly dissociate’ Trotskyism from these alien class forces. That is, whilst Grau San Martín did not propose any anti-capitalist or anti-imperialist measures, the Cuban Trotskyists developed a united front tactic which lowered the banner of proletarian independence in the anti-imperialist struggle. Indeed, despite formally rejecting the notion that they proposed support for Grau San Martin on the limited basis that he was the ‘lesser evil’, in the same article, and in direct contradiction, they rather loosely viewed their orientation as a ‘tactic in fighting the immediate enemy of the workers: that is, the military-police dictatorship of Batista disguised under the civilian trappings of the Socialist Democratic Coalition’.77 In other articles, they similarly gave definition to the ‘lesser evil’ tactic, arguing that despite the Auténticos’ reconciliation with US imperialism, the re-election of Batista would mean the crushing of the Cuban Revolution for the foreseeable future. They contended that a victory for Grau San Martín at the polls would represent a step forward, and accordingly raised the slogan: ‘To fight continuismo is to struggle for the Revolution.’78

Thus, rather than adopting the only consistent proletarian position in an election in which no working-class candidates stood, that of ‘active abstention’, limiting agitation to that of propaganda in favour of a future independent working-class party in preparation for the day when the masses, or at least their most advanced section, turned against the government pretenders of both camps,79 the POR settled into a softer left line which, whilst not jeopardising its prestige with Auténtico workers in the short term, did little to break those same workers away to an independent proletarian line in the long term.

On Grau San Martín’s victory at the polls, the collapse of the POR’s strictly class-based political analysis was most evident in the propaganda and activity of the party’s guantanameño sectional committee. In a leaflet entitled Let’s Make the Victory Gained on 1 June a Decisive Step Along the Road of the National and Social Liberation of Cuba!,80 the Trotskyists not only associated themselves with the awakened desires of the masses to move against the defeated Batista-Stalinist alliance in the field of labour, but ambiguously viewed Grau San Martín’s election as somehow ‘theirs’, a progressive step towards the revolution. Rather than warning the workers that the new government would ultimately be incapable of implementing even a moderate nationalist programme because of the clash this would provoke with imperialism, the Cuban Trotskyists gave the impression that the nature of the Grau San Martín government was open to question, to be determined by its future performance.81

The POR rather belatedly sought to rectify its confused position and re-establish its concern for proletarian independence only after the most advanced sections of the working class had already begun to turn away from the Auténticos. In January 1945, as it became evident that the government of Grau San Martín would not embark on a process of democratising the CTC to challenge the PSP’s dominance, the POR launched a trade union fractional organisation, the Defensa Obrera Revolucionaria de la Confederación de Trabajadores de Cuba, in an attempt to group the most radical workers who had not yet identified politically with the POR around a programme of demands which emphasised the need for increased autonomy from both the Ministry of Labour and the trade union bureaucracy. In denouncing the PSP for its acts of armed aggression, its state-sanctioned extortion and its abandonment of the struggle against the bourgeoisie and the capitalist state, as well as the Auténtico leaders for reaching an agreement with the PSP at the post-election Fourth Congress of the CTC, the Defensa Obrera Revolucionaria’s 11-point programme of struggle reasserted the need for ‘the absolute political independence of the proletariat, against all arrangements with the political parties of the bourgeoisie’. In attempting to carry forward the struggle for independent working-class organisation, the clearly elaborated programme also insisted that the right to call a strike had to reside solely with the workers, without any involvement from the Ministry of Labour, and that real wages should be defended through the introduction of a sliding scale of wages.82

However, after more than a decade of debilitating reliance on state intervention to attain economic and political goals, as well as the lack of a Marxist tradition in Cuba which consistently espoused the principle of proletarian political independence, these attempts to create a revolutionary opposition to the de facto PSP-Grau San Martín alliance within the trade union movement failed. Having limped behind the Auténticos with a rather weak perspective of ‘critical support’, the POR’s principled trade union fraction initiative came too late to influence a section of the Auténtico workers. The POR, displaying the Cuban Trotskyists’ long-term tendency to create undelineated blocs with the forces of petit-bourgeois nationalism, proved unable to forge a class-based opposition to the overtly pro-capitalist PSP-Grau San Martín alliance. Instead, democratic nationalist sentiment again took hold, and conditioned the re-emergence of a myriad of petit-bourgeois revolutionary action groups when the general level of discontent and the outbreak of the Cold War necessitated the removal of the PSP from its positions of influence in the labour movement. The POR, having been unable to win any substantial number of fresh recruits to breathe life into the party, again faced another round of organisational disintegration as internal differences virtually paralysed its activities for a time in 1946.

Cuban Trotskyism and a Proletarian Military Policy during Wartime

Despite Trotskyism’s small number of adherents in Cuba during the course of the Second World War, one of its principal merits as a radical left alternative was that the PBL, and then the POR, broadly maintained the principle that the greatest threat to Latin American countries was imperialism, whatever its mask, be it bourgeois democratic or Fascist. During the course of the war, whilst the local Stalinists eventually served as uncritical recruiting agents for war abroad, and as strike-breakers on the home front, the Trotskyists identified US imperialism, the local oppressor, as the main threat, rather than Nazi Germany, and attempted to apply the US SWP’s Proletarian Military Policy to Cuban conditions. However, in their interpretation of the nature of the war and the strategy they advocated, the Trotskyists also displayed their essentially one-sided approach to the revolution in Cuba, giving undue emphasis to the slogans and struggle for national liberation.

On the outbreak of the war, the Cuban Trotskyists argued that it was not a war of Fascism against democracy, but an imperialist war for a new division of the world. For the PBL, there was no basic distinction to be drawn between Britain oppressing millions of Indians and Africans, and Nazi Germany oppressing its working class. Capitalism itself was seen to be the cause of the war, and the war could only be stopped once and for all by directing action towards the destruction of the capitalist system.83 After the entry of the Soviet Union into the war in 1941, the Cuban Trotskyists denounced the Stalinists for their initial pacifism and then subsequent pro-war stance, which entailed supporting the despatch of the Cuban working masses as cannon-fodder.84 Even the independent-minded Santiago de Cuba Sectional Committee of the PBL remained firm in accusing the official Communists of becoming the ‘fervent supporters of imperialist war at the service of the White House’.85 In contrast with the Stalinists’ volte-face, the Trotskyists consistently advanced three central programmatic demands throughout the course of the war, which taken together constituted a variation of the Proletarian Military Policy. In numerous documents, they raised the slogan of ‘Not a Single Cuban Soldier Outside Cuba’, they opposed government-sponsored compulsory military service from September 1940, and they argued for military instruction for the masses under the control of workers’ organisations.86

However, in advancing a Proletarian Military Policy, the Trotskyists’ underlying bias towards the slogans and demands for national liberation diluted the primacy of the proletarian nature of the envisaged revolution. For example, although they rejected neutral pacifism with the argument that the working class would ultimately solve the great problems of the day with arms in hand, rather than uncompromisingly insisting on the class significance of the workers under arms, they invoked the bourgeois democratic traditions of the nineteenth century Cuban Liberation Army. As they wrote: ‘We want to reclaim the mambisa tradition of the soldier-citizen: it was the soldiers of the Liberation Army who, exercising the right of suffrage, elected the Government in Arms.’87

The Cuban Trotskyists also showed that they accepted the theory of the independence of the democratic anti-imperialist revolution in the unconditional support they gave to various national liberation struggles against imperialism during the war. Apart from raising rather ambiguous slogans, such as ‘Long live the war of the colonial peoples for their national liberation!’,88 which on their own implied an acceptance of a two-stage revolutionary strategy, the Cuban Trotskyists also directly equated the struggle of the Soviet Union against imperialist aggression with that of the Chinese people in their war of national liberation against Japan. They suggested that both struggles were equally anti-imperialist, and therefore both deserved unconditional support.89 In accepting Trotsky’s argument that the Soviet Union would deserve unconditional support in the war, no matter how subservient it was to the Allies and how great the material aid it received from them, the Cuban Trotskyists mistakenly gave unconditional support to national liberation movements when that support should have been conditioned by the degree of independence which the bourgeois nationalists maintained with respect to the Allies.90

Further prioritising the struggle for national liberation, the Cuban Trotskyists also displayed a tendency to justify their slogan of ‘Not a Single Cuban Soldier Outside Cuba!’ on narrow tactical grounds, rather than on the basis of wider political arguments. That is, rather than insisting that the proletariat’s main enemy was imperialism, and workers simply had no interest in prosecuting imperialist designs, the POR diluted this message with the argument that: ‘The defence of the national territory [of Cuba] demands the permanent presence within that territory of all available forces.’91 The slogan of ‘National and Social Liberation!’ was twisted to prioritise the struggle for national defence, neglecting the permanent struggle of the world proletariat.

Activity of the POR and Organisational Dissolution, 1946-58

Just as a stagnation at the end of the 1930s had provoked a crisis within the Cuban Trotskyist party, so the Trotskyists’ inability to recruit substantial numbers of new members in 1944-46 led to internal dissension and paralysis early in 1946. The dissent within the POR was initiated by a section of the small Havana branch, which, apart from Pablo Díaz’s work in the Laundry Workers Union, had virtually no contact with the working class, and had largely been reduced to serving as the POR’s administrative centre. Three members in Havana, describing themselves as representing the majority on the Central Committee, drew up and circulated an internal report in March 1946 which launched into a sharp criticism of the party’s listless direction.92

Although various reports to be found in the internal documents of the international Trotskyist movement stated that the Cuban POR counted on 75 members in 1944-45,93 and 35 early in 1947,94 the number of comrades who considered themselves to be Trotskyists in the immediate postwar period most probably numbered somewhere nearer 20. The March 1946 internal report drawn up by the ‘majority’ Central Committee faction in Havana noted that the POR had been reduced to a total of seven or eight in members in its principal section, Guantánamo, with a further three individuals in Santiago de Cuba, three or four comrades in the small western town of Aguacate, a candidate member in Victoria de las Tunas, three members of the Havana group who acted as a Central Committee, and four others in the capital on the periphery.95 The report set out in no uncertain terms the view that the party was faced with a progressive disappearance, without the slightest perspective of how to halt the decline and rejuvenate its revolutionary potential. In describing how the POR had not capitalised on the opportunities which had opened up for it because Stalinism had delivered itself to Batista, and the ‘revolutionary’ Auténtico opposition had subsequently been discredited in government, the report located the reasons for this failure in the POR’s own organisation and political perspectives. As with the PBL during the Revolution of the 1930s, the collapse of cell activity and the internal discussion of issues were again identified as a basic debilitating factor. That is, the POR was a ‘centralist’ organisation, but without a vibrant internal life it could not be a ‘democratic centralist’ one. The report also correctly argued that the party’s apparent paralysis was the result of its own political opportunism in not clearly differentiating itself from petit-bourgeois nationalism in the struggle against Stalinism. The report’s authors wrote:

‘Despite the efforts of our comrades in the trade unions, in practice we did nothing other than tail-end the groups in opposition to Stalinism which arose from time to time. With slight exceptions, we practically remained behind the coat-tails of the Comisión Nacional Obrera of the PRC(A).’96

Frustrated with the atmosphere of inertia which characterised the remaining elements of the POR, the ‘majority’ Havana faction derided the party for its lack of the ‘seriousness and systematic persistence appropriate for Bolshevik militants’,97 and advanced a list of general and immediate questions which needed to be addressed in order to regenerate the internal life of the POR. These included the elaboration of a general political thesis, a trade union thesis, a declaration of principles for a projected youth organisation, a study of the documents of the US SWP Minority and Majority, the removal of all resolutions on international matters which had not been fully discussed by the party membership, and the application of rigorous collective discipline.98 Posing a blunt ultimatum, the ‘majority’ Havana faction stated that if these issues were not addressed, the newspaper, for which they were largely responsible, would cease publication. In their words: ‘We want order, or else we cannot plan anything.’99

The atmosphere created by this sort of strongly-worded address, on top of the progressive paralysis in the internal life of the party, along with the failure of the party’s fraction work in the CTC, could have easily announced the imminent collapse of the POR. However, although the issues put forward were not taken up in any proposed internal discussion, the party was given another focus and temporary lease of life through a sudden tactical turn to political work within a series of the revolutionary action groups which emerged amongst the ranks of disaffected pesepistas and Auténticos. Whilst the leader of the disgruntled ‘majority’ faction in Havana was expelled shortly after drafting the report,100 the crisis was, therefore, mainly defused by another round of ill-thought-out empiricism. In a kind of caricature of the PBL’s spontaneous and ill-disciplined entry into Joven Cuba in an attempt to construct the revolutionary Trotskyist party via the ‘external road’ in 1934-35, Pérez Santiesteban, the one Central Committee member in Havana who opposed the highly critical internal report of the ‘majority’ faction, responded to the crisis by leading a largely unorganised entry into the recently organised Movimiento Socialista Revolucionario (MSR) of Rolando Masferrer.

The MSR had been born out of a nucleus of activists from the Legión Revolucionaria de Cuba, an anti-Machado action group from the 1930s, and a number of members around Masferrer from the official Communists’ shock brigade who had disagreed with the party’s adherence to the doctrine of dissolution proposed by Browder in the USA in the mid-1940s. These pesepista dissidents had received some support from the Soviet Union as a result of the PSP’s unwillingness to disown Browderism when requested by Moscow. However, after the Duclos letter and the PSP’s reluctant acceptance of the Moscow line, the dissident ‘officials’ were expelled from the Cuban party as part of the eventual agreement which brought the Cuban Communists back into the official fold.101 Profiting from the discontent with Grau San Martín, Masferrer and his supporters were able to attract a variety of leftists who were prepared to join them in forming a new revolutionary organisation. From the beginning, Pérez Santiesteban played a leading part in the discussions for the new formation, and, indeed, it appears that he more than anyone was responsible for it adopting the name ‘Revolutionary Socialist Movement’, as he claimed, in an attempt to combat the ambiguities implicit in the previously proposed ‘Izquierda Revolucionaria’.102

Although the Cuban Trotskyists recognised that the MSR was essentially another petit-bourgeois organisation to which the Cuban political economy characteristically gave birth from time to time,103 and that it admitted anyone and everyone, had no perspective for building a revolutionary party, and had no political line to guide activity, they initially viewed their entry into the MSR with a great deal of optimism in terms of possibilities for recruitment. Even Pablo Díaz, one of the authors of the internal report which had criticised the party for being on the ‘coat-tails’ of the petit-bourgeois opposition to Stalinism, was enthusiastic about the fact that the POR was effectively in charge of the MSR’s programmatic elaboration.104

However, the POR’s almost spontaneous turn towards political work in the MSR had taken place with little analysis or preparation, and quickly slumped into chaotic improvisation and eventual despondency.105 Rather than seeking to win the best elements of the new organisation to the POR by attempting to expose the petit-bourgeois character of the MSR’s leadership, the Cuban Trotskyists all but dissolved themselves within the new organisation. The principle of concluding temporary alliances with the forces of petit-bourgeois nationalism for concrete and carefully delineated ends was sacrificed as the POR, in effect, viewed the MSR as the ‘blunt’ vehicle for revolution. The publication of the POR’s only public organ, the newspaper Revolución Proletaria, was suspended, never to reappear, and without any independent programme of its own the POR took responsibility for elaborating the MSR’s theoretical documents.

The futility of this ill-thought-out fractional work was displayed by the fact that these documents were wholly ignored by the MSR’s leadership and activists alike, as they threw themselves into adventurist ‘actions’ and opportunism to wrest control of certain sectors of the labour movement from their rivals, the PSP. Threats and bureaucratic manoeuvres agreed on the spot by leaders who were not controlled by the base simply drowned out the POR’s vain calls for a discussion of theoretical issues.

Although the POR also worked in a number of smaller petit-bourgeois organisations, for example, the Juventudes Laboristas, the youth wing of the Movimiento Laborista led by a future Ortodoxo leader Carlos Márquez Sterling, and the Liga Radical Martiana, another revolutionary action group, which had come to life as a result of disillusionment with the government of Grau San Martín, the Cuban Trotskyists continued to concentrate their activity within the MSR until 1948. The spark which triggered their effective withdrawal was the MSR’s agreement to support Carlos Prío Socorrás, the Auténtico party candidate, in the Presidential elections. For Pérez Santiesteban, who was still in the MSR’s leadership, the MSR’s electoral tactic was the final straw, and he wrote a document for circulation around the loose collection of MSR branches which outlined the problems of the organisation. Rather belatedly, he set out in no uncertain terms that the MSR had fallen into the traditional pattern of activity which had characterised the revolutionary movement in Cuba, and that a complete break from the past was required. Proposing a drastic internal change in terms of the MSR’s basic organisation and approach to theory, he argued that the organisation should first draw up statutes in order to establish the rights and duties of its membership, before then elaborating a programme of transitional demands, the defence of which should be the principal activity of its activists.106 However, he was only in fact forlornly recognising the limitations of petit-bourgeois nationalism, without attempting to develop a similarly profound review of the POR’s strategy and tactics, which argued that action groups like the MSR were in fact obstacles to workers’ power, rather than vehicles for it. The document was circulated around the country, but only had an impact in terms of helping to win activists to the POR in the Guantánamo region, where the Trotskyists had a relatively strong representation in the MSR and some prestige amongst the working class.107

Following its involvement with the MSR, whilst the POR broadly viewed the experience as a failure, it continued to fail to recognise that the forces of petit-bourgeois nationalism were ultimately an obstacle, and not agencies for the necessary proletarian anti-imperialist revolution. Despite the criticisms Pérez Santiesteban made of the MSR and its leadership, the POR did not criticise its own willingness to make common cause with petit-bourgeois groups. Indeed, it was this inability or unwillingness to propose a politically independent course for the working class, something which characterised the whole history of Trotskyism in Cuba, which ultimately led the Trotskyists to argue that they had enjoyed only limited success because of the backwardness of the MSR’s leaders, and this leadership’s inability to work towards the construction of a revolutionary party in a Bolshevik sense.108

In further limiting criticisms of its entry work to the tactical concerns of not having thoroughly discussed and prepared itself for fraction work beforehand, the POR pursued a policy of substituting a more prepared entry into the Acción Revolucionaria Guiteras (ARG), another action group with terrorist roots and little political formation, for its work within the MSR. By mid-1949, however, after the POR had recognised that the Socialist-sounding phrases of all the recently resurrected action groups were used to cover simple criminal activity, this attempt at working within the ARG ended. With specific reference to the ARG, the POR wrote that between what it says and what it does lies an ocean, and its ‘revolutionary syndicalism’ had ‘not gone beyond simple racketeering and gangsterism’.109

In abandoning its activity in these action groups, the POR, far from leaving with additional recruits, had taken another step towards organisational and theoretical collapse. The reason, as confirmed by Pablo Díaz’s own outline of the Cubans’ revolutionary perspectives, was that the Cuban Trotskyists’ activity had become characterised by a concern for participation in movements which at best strove for national economic development. In implicitly accepting a one-sided approach to the revolutionary process, he admitted that the POR emphasised the struggle for national liberation, and simply sought to push democratic nationalist groups further and further to the left against imperialism, rather than raise a programme of action of its own which prioritised the necessary proletarian anti-imperialist character of the struggle.110 So, whilst the Trotskyists did not disintegrate in a round of splits within the confines of their own organisation, they did wither on the vine of a nationalist movement which, though identified as a ‘vehicle’ for revolution, did not offer much by way of an anti-imperialist action programme.

At the POR’s last appearance as a nationally organised party during the Sixth National Workers Congress in 1949, the party’s fraction paid testimony to its inability to show that a great gulf existed between Trotskyism and the forces of petit-bourgeois nationalism. Through the intervention of a number of delegates from the Guantánamo region headed by Antonio ‘Ñico’ Torres, a representative of Delegación 11 of the Hermandad Ferroviaria de Cuba, the raising of the banner of Trotskyism at this congress did little more than confirm that a deep malaise had set in. The Trotskyist delegates distributed a manifesto which, far from seeking to orient a proletarian vanguard, merely amounted to a well-structured piece of advice for a nationalist government setting out on the path of national economic regeneration within the confines of the world market. With its central concerns being economic diversification, industrialisation and the pipe-dream of breaking out of the dollar orbit by setting up barter agreements with Western Europe and Latin America,111 the POR provided a wretched caricature of the PBL’s earlier theoretical attempts to break away from a theory which defended the independence of a democratic anti-imperialist revolution. The wider horizons of revolutionary Socialism had dwindled, along with its membership, into an overtly stagist approach to revolutionary activity. Like the Apristas, and indeed to some extent the PSP, the POR was effectively reduced to agitating in the left-nationalist milieu for a round of ‘progressive’ capitalist development before the proletarian anti-imperialist programme was raised.

During the early 1950s, the POR’s Havana branch seems to have collapsed as its most committed member, Pablo Díaz, spent increasingly lengthy spells in New York for the purposes of employment. The remaining activists in the Guantánamo region who adhered to the banner of Trotskyism did so as individual trade union militants.112 Although Broué has found evidence relating to the expression of Trotskyist ideas in Cuba during the 1950s in the correspondence of various individuals, for example, the Mexican Octavio Fernández,113 and the Cubans ‘Bodernea’, Pérez Santiesteban and Pablo Díaz,114 real continuity amounted to abandonment of the necessary proletarian character of the anti-imperialist revolution. Indeed, the only ‘permanent’ characteristic of the Trotskyists’ assessment of revolutionary strategy was their steady flight from a perspective which sought to defend an independent class programme of the proletariat against the forces of democratic petit-bourgeois nationalism.

Such a ‘dissolutionist’ strategy was not without precedent in the Latin American Trotskyist movement, the most notable example being the Bolivian POR, which effectively placed itself at the service of the petit-bourgeois nationalist Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR) government in an attempt to serve as a radicalising influence and push it gently towards Socialism.115 In Cuba in the 1950s, the old POR members’ flight from Trotskyism was completed with their integration into the milieu of the 26 July Movement in the insurrectionary war against the regime of Batista. With the POR having lost all of its earlier independent initiative and drive, those ex-Trotskyists who remained committed to a revolutionary project effectively identified the M26J as another petit-bourgeois vehicle for revolution, and settled into an open struggle for a democratic anti-imperialist revolution without any attempt to build a Trotskyist vanguard party, or even a fraction, if only to push the forces of petit-bourgeois nationalism gently towards Socialism.

In sum, then, under the conditions of semi-legality after the general strike of March 1935, those sections of the PBL which had opposed the so-called ‘external road’ to building the revolutionary party were able to regroup, albeit with a much reduced membership, which mirrored that of most other Latin American Trotskyist groups. From the mid-1930s to the early 1950s, their numbers steadily declined from a figure approaching approximately 100 to no more than 20. However, even at their weakest moment before their eventual organisational dissolution in the early 1950s, they enjoyed some trade union influence amongst the workers in the Guantánamo, the only region in which they had been a mass party during the Revolution of the 1930s.

Organisationally, just as the PBL during the Revolution of the 1930s was characterised by periods of internal dislocation followed by attempts at reorganisation, so Cuban Trotskyism between 1935 and 1959 was characterised by increasingly lengthy intervals of organisational crisis punctuated by brief periods in which the leadership attempted to establish some stability in the party. This pattern of organisational development, which ended with the POR’s eventual dissolution, was as much the result of the peculiar features of the Cuban group’s political thinking as it was of the characteristics and difficulties posed by the environment in which they operated. In other words, the disappearance of the POR as an organised party in the 1950s reflected not only the weakness of the working class after more than a decade of trade union and state collaboration, as well as the pressures of operating in a nationalist, anti-Stalinist milieu, but, more importantly, the Trotskyists’ own failure to distinguish clearly between the democratic and proletarian anti-imperialist revolutions, and to steer the working class along a politically independent course of action.

The Cuban Trotskyists made various attempts to break out of their organisational isolation, not by insisting on the political independence of proletarian organisations, but by making increasing concessions to petit-bourgeois nationalist groups. From a loose and ambiguous perspective of critical support for the Auténticos in the early to mid-1940s, they made several largely unorganised attempts at ill-defined entry into a number of self-titled action groups in the late 1940s. However, the final crisis in the evolution of the POR in the period between the revolutions did not simply spring from poorly prepared fraction work or from the slide of the MSR and then the ARG into increasingly open gangsterism. It was rather the result of the POR’s mistaken assessment of its whole method of revolutionary activity. That is, in again tying its destiny — and that of the working class — to the fate of petit-bourgeois nationalist groups, the POR’s fraction work unsurprisingly came to an ignominious end when the action groups themselves were either incorporated into the government machine or suppressed. The government simply no longer required the pistoleros’ threats and terror tactics to remove the PSP from its positions of office in the working class. Pursuing their own logic of organisational dissolution, many ex-Trotskyists ultimately coalesced in and around the M26J on an individual basis without any ‘critical’ component. If they remained Socialists, their entry into the M26J milieu confirmed their explicit acceptance of the theory of the independence of the democratic anti-imperialist revolution, a tendency which had characterised the early OCC and the PBL.

Cuban Trotskyism in the Fourth International

During the period between the end of the general strike of March 1935 and the late 1940s, the PBL, and then the POR, maintained regular contact with the international Trotskyist movement mainly through the offices of the US Trotskyists. They received the press of numerous Trotskyist groups across the Americas and Europe, and sent letters and reports to the US SWP and the international leadership in New York. Whilst they were never able to send a delegate to any international meeting, principally due to financial constraints, they mandated the New York-based US Trotskyist Fred Browner to represent them in their stead.116 They also maintained contact with the international movement through occasional visits from US Trotskyists,117 and through a small number of European Trotskyists who as refugees spent the duration of the Second World War in Cuba. Apart from Louis Rigaudias, this included Anton Grylewicz,118 a leader of the German Trotskyists.119

However, in the late 1940s, these links and contacts with the Fourth International gradually faded. Whilst this drift away from the international movement was largely the result of the Cuban Trotskyists’ own crisis of organisation and ultimate dissolution, it was not a one-way causal relationship. That is, the POR developed specific positions on the nature of the Soviet Union, as well as on the nature of the revolution in Cuba, which led it to become increasingly estranged from its principal link with the international movement, the US SWP. This international isolation, whilst it was not the cause of the POR’s dissolution, did further compound the stagnation and disillusion which had set in amongst the Cuban Trotskyists.

Notwithstanding their small numbers in the 1940s, in the debate on the nature of the revolution in Latin American and the Trotskyists’ orientation towards local petit-bourgeois nationalist groups, the Cuban Trotskyists were one of the principal groups belonging to the loose ‘national liberation’ camp. Thus, when Liborio Justo’s Liga Obrera Revolucionaria (LOR) in Argentina took up the struggle and slogans for national liberation in a theoretical struggle against the Trotskyists’ international centre based in New York, the Cuban Trotskyists initially expressed sympathy for Justo’s view.120

Political disagreements between the POR and US SWP continued to surface on the issue of the ‘proletarian’ versus the ‘national liberation’ line until the POR’s organisational dissolution in the early 1950s. The US SWP pressed the Cubans to establish unambiguously their proletarian anti-imperialist credentials. The North Americans, for example, expressed their ‘thorough-going disagreement’ with the POR’s tactic of ‘critical support’ in the 1944 elections,121 on the grounds that it failed to dissociate the Cuban Trotskyists clearly from Grau San Martín’s ‘treacherous banner’.122 By the early 1950s, the polarisation in views was such that the US SWP curtly advised the POR to resume its activity and become ‘a real revolutionary Marxist proletarian tendency’ free from its past confusion and deviations by orienting itself towards workers influenced by the PSP. No mention was made of its work amongst those groups influenced by ortodoxia and the struggle for national liberation.123

Despite these criticisms, the POR remained ever firm in its commitment to loosely-based alliances and entry work in petit-bourgeois nationalist groups. Whilst this was evident from its entry into the MSR and then the ARG in the late 1940s, on the international plane the Cubans also supported the tactics of participating in the Peronist movement in Argentina and the MNR in Bolivia. They justified this on the ‘national liberation’ basis that such Bonapartist and petit-bourgeois nationalist movements had a mass following, and were essentially progressive as a result of their opposition to imperialism.124

Differences between the Cuban Trotskyists and the US SWP also opened up over the question of the class nature of the Soviet Union. In contrast with the dispute between Nin and Trotsky, from an early stage the Cuban Trotskyists were broadly aware that a debate on the nature of Soviet Union had erupted within the international Trotskyist movement. In May 1940, for example, they condemned the SWP Minority, which had taken up an ‘anti-defencist’ position, as a petit-bourgeois opposition which had succumbed to the pressure of bourgeois public opinion.125 During the course of the Second World War, like Trotsky before his murder and the majority of the International Trotskyist movement, the POR consistently advocated giving unconditional defence to the Soviet Union on the basis of various economic features; namely, the existent property relations, state-sponsored economic planning and the state monopoly of foreign trade.126 At the same time, and again like Trotsky, they were also unrelenting in their denunciation of the political character of the Soviet regime. Criticising the suppression of soviet, worker and party democracy, which in their view only served the interests of increasing the control and privileges of the bureaucracy,127 the Cuban Trotskyists expressed the opinion that the Soviet bureaucracy in power was a ‘privileged caste’ which had broken with the concept of ‘proletarian revolution’ and which had consolidated a ‘Bonapartist state and an anti-proletarian dictatorship’ on the back of the Soviet masses.128 Whilst giving no political support to the Soviet bureaucracy, the POR entrusted the gains of the October Revolution to the working class across the world. Calling for the defence of these gains by the same methods which had installed the dictatorship of the proletariat, the POR advocated continuing the class struggle against the local bourgeoisies and representatives of imperialism everywhere, and opposition to the imperialist war with a struggle to ignite civil war and national and social liberation.129

However, during the mid-1940s, the Cuban Trotskyists’ views on the nature of the Soviet Union underwent a qualitative change. From advocating the unconditional defence of the Soviet Union on the basis that the existing property relations conferred upon it the status of a ‘workers’ state’, however politically degenerated, the POR came to support the Shachtmanite ‘anti-defencist’ thesis, and eventually decided that the Soviet Union was some sort of state capitalist formation.130 Whilst the exact route by which the Cuban Trotskyists adopted this position is unclear, it is more than likely that their analysis of the Soviet Union was influenced not only by Mario Pedrosa, a member of the Fourth International’s International Executive Committee representing Latin America, but by their experience of Moscow’s acolytes in Cuba. During the Revolution of the 1930s, the PBL had been unequivocal in denouncing the counter-revolutionary trajectory of the PCC. They argued, in fact, that the first task for revolutionaries lay in eliminating Stalinism as a factor in the workers’ movement. The POR had been similarly unequivocal in denouncing the official Communists for abandoning all pretence of class struggle in exchange for state support during 1940-44 when Batista was in power.

Thus, despite the POR’s formal ‘defencist’ position with regard to the Soviet Union during the Second World War, by July 1945 the newspaper Revolución Proletaria was lambasting the ‘Stalinist Dictatorship’ for its history of crushing working-class organisations in Poland in order to expand its ‘Totalitarian State’. From this analysis, it was a short step to abandoning the Fourth International’s position that the subsequent overturn of property relations in Eastern Europe was somehow progressive. Arguing for an end to the Soviet occupation of Poland, the POR reminded the readers of its newspaper of a quote from The Communist Manifesto: ‘The liberation of the working class is the task of the workers themselves.’131 By the late 1940s, the POR’s completely revised ‘anti-defencist’ and state capitalist conclusions on the Soviet Union were publicly expressed in a letter to the French Socialisme ou Barbarie group.132

Whilst the Cuban Trotskyists do not seem to have explicitly supported the ‘anti-defencists’ in any faction fight within the international Trotskyist movement, their revised political conclusions were shared by Louis Rigaudias, who moved to New York in September 1945 and became a leader of the SWP Minority standing for a state capitalist explanation of the USSR’s development.133 However, despite this personal link with the ‘anti-defencist’ camp on the American continent, the POR does not seem to have established any formal organisational ties with any of the ‘anti-defencist’ tendencies which split from the Fourth International in the 1940s. Given that the major group of ‘anti-defencists’, the Shachtmanites, advised the Cuban Trotskyists to integrate as a fraction into the nationalist movements,134 a strategy which the POR itself prioritised in spite of advice from the US SWP, this absence of formal contact is even more surprising. Ultimately, it may have been the Shachtmanites’ own internal ruptures in the late 1940s, and their limited interest in forming an international organisation as they moved to the right in pursuit of an elusive Labor Party in the USA, which determined this outcome.

Whilst two profound theoretical schisms therefore opened up between the Cuban Trotskyists and the Fourth International’s centre in New York, there was also a degree of discontent on the part of the Cubans for what they perceived to be the excessive interference of the US Trotskyists in the affairs of Latin American groups, and the ‘exclusiveness’ of the international leadership. In the first place, the Cuban Trotskyists objected to what they perceived to be the centre’s interference in the internal affairs of national sections. Under the conditions imposed by the Second World War in which the functioning of the Fourth International as a genuinely collaborative and democratic body was compromised, the POR contended that it was ultimately the task of the national sections in Latin America to solve their own issues, and to take responsibility for doing so. Recognising their own fallibility, whilst at the same time rebuking the international centre for its belief that the seemingly permanent crises in Latin American sections should be solved from New York, the POR wrote:

‘There are metropolitan prejudices and there are colonial prejudices. We have to cure ourselves of that disease. Messianic prejudice belonging to our own prevailing politics in our countries weighs down on us quite often. The action is a reflection of the environment. Likewise, our prejudice is balanced by that of our North American friends. As a general rule, though with exceptions, they have an encyclopaedic ignorance of the South American countries, though they think they are very well informed. We are the ones who have to solve our own issues, and this behaviour will in the end turn out to be to our collective advantage, going beyond political borders.’135

During wartime conditions, the POR viewed the centre in New York as no more than ‘a point of moral convergence’, which needed ‘to be maintained as an effective leadership in embryo’.136 It was on this basis that the Cuban Trotskyists distanced themselves from Justo and the Argentinian LOR for intransigently pursuing a split from the Fourth International. The Cubans argued that the conditions of war meant that any organisational split was virtually meaningless, and that the task for the time being was to fight out the battle within the existing loose international framework. The Cubans’ disagreement with the LOR, then, was principally a tactical concern over its decision to attempt to build an alternative international centre. In a letter dated 9 June 1942 to the LOR, ‘Bode’, the General Secretary of the POR, expressed the Cuban Trotskyists’ deep regret at the what it termed the LOR’s precipitate ‘decision to break with New York, since such a step can only lead to the abandonment of a position legitimately held and leave the best arguments in the hands of the centrist tendency to defend its position’.137

The POR also criticised the Fourth International’s leadership for what the Cubans perceived as its tendency towards ‘exclusiveness’. Just as the POR tended to advocate the building of broad anti-imperialist blocs at home, so on the international level it urged a tolerance and inclusiveness when it came to dealing with groups who fundamentally challenged the line of the International. Thus, although in 1940 the Cuban Trotskyists agreed that the US SWP Minority should be denied an independent public press,138 and condemned its conduct in appropriating the organs of the Majority,139 they urged that every effort should be made to keep the oppositionists within the ranks of the party. Constructive work with the activists influenced by the Minority, and not the ‘blind imposition of discipline’ by expulsions and personal attacks was what the PBL advised.140 As already described, the Cuban Trotskyists also expressed their tendency to favour broad inclusion over sharp delineation in their reflections on Trotsky’s approach to challenging Nin during the course of the Spanish Civil War. The POR furthermore criticised the Fourth International’s leadership for its perceived ‘exclusiveness’ in not initially inviting so-called centrist and ultra-leftist organisations, including the POUM, to the International’s congresses and conferences in the period following the Second World War.141

Whilst the political differences which existed between the Cuban Trotskyists and the various Trotskyist centres in the Americas in the 1940s only compounded the POR’s isolation, further schisms which arose in the international Trotskyist movement in the 1950s did little to encourage the small number of Trotskyist activists to regroup and develop a coherent understanding of the revolutionary process.142 The International Secretariat of the Fourth International in the early 1950s was perhaps the most logical home for adherents of the ‘national liberation’ tendency within international Trotskyism. However, this distinct ‘Pab­loite’ tendency was of little assistance, since it had become a supporter of actual liquidation within ‘centrist’ Stalinist parties as well as in revolutionary nationalist groups. The Cubans with their experience of a particularly pro-capitalist official Communist Party at home, as well as a state capitalist interpretation of the Soviet Union, would have rejected outright any suggestion that Stalinism could act as a vehicle for proletarian revolution.

So, although the Cuban Trotskyists kept in contact with the stabilising influence of the international centres during the 1930s and early 1940s via correspondence, exchanges of press, foreign refugees and the occasional visits from North Americans, after the Second World War a number of theoretical differences developed between the Cubans and the US Trotskyists, which contributed to their international isolation. This isolation removed the one factor which could have served as a fixed point in avoiding complete dissolution. Thus, the Cuban Trotskyists’ support for the state capitalist, ‘anti-defencist’ thesis on the Soviet Union cut the POR off from contact with the major Trotskyist parties in the USA and Latin America in the late 1940s. Moreover, whilst the majority of the Shachtmanites ‘discovered’ that there were only two camps, and not three, as they evolved towards conciliation with the trade union bureaucracy and the US Democratic Party in pursuit of an elusive Labor Party, the dispersion of the groups adhering to the Fourth International in the 1950s and the International Secretariat’s ‘critical’ faith in the revolutionary potential of pro-Soviet Communist parties did not aid the Cubans in establishing any stabilising external links.

Relations Between Trotskyists and the Official Cuban Communists, 1935-58

The official Cuban Communists’ commentary on Trotskyism was characterised by a series of inaccurate and slanderous outbursts which, whilst depicting Trotskyism as a counter-revolutionary current in the workers’ movement working hand-in-hand with Fascism, over-emphasised the actual strength of Trotskyism in Cuba. However, just as in the case of Cuban historiography after 1959, these attacks were directed at discrediting the activities of Mujal and the Auténticos’ labour organisations during the 1940s as much as they were aimed at attacking Trotskyism in Cuba.

During the Moscow Trials in the late 1930s, the official Cuban Communists supplemented the propaganda disseminated from Moscow by initiating an anti-Trotskyist campaign of their own in Cuba. The PCC’s Bandera Roja newspaper accused Trotskyists of a litany of crimes, from creating terrorist centres to sabotaging Soviet industry,143 to attempting to restore capitalism in the Soviet Union, and — rather ironically — to concluding a pact with Nazi Germany.144 The Cuban Stalinists also launched a campaign against Trotskyism shortly after Trotsky’s assassination in Mexico in August 1940. Blaming Trotsky’s murder on a disaffected group within the Trotskyist movement, the Stalinists portrayed Trotsky as a spy in the pay of imperialism who from the 1920s had been fighting for the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union.145 Carlos Rafael Rodríguez, a leading member of the PSP, labelled Trotsky a ‘Menshevik’, and rather stupidly slated the bourgeois press for suggesting that the ‘beloved guide of the workers of the world, comrade Stalin’, was involved in his death.146 Trotskyism, the official Cuban Communists argued, had long since ceased to be a political tendency, and had become ‘a gang of criminals’.147

During the Second World War, the official Communists continued to direct the standard Stalinist slanders against Trotskyists, accusing them of being counter-revolutionary agents and Fascist spies bent on dividing the working class so as to facilitate the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, and carrying on a general offensive against the progressive forces of the day.148 Their attack on Trotskyism in Cuba peaked in 1942, shortly after the official Communists had revised their understanding of the nature of the Second World War, and had made another zigzag to support the war effort of Batista and the USA. As already outlined, the official Communists’ new policy included uncritically supporting proposals for compulsory military service and the suppression of any strike action. Given that the opposition which the official Communists faced within the labour movement was concentrated in the Auténticos’ Comisión Obrera Nacional, whose General Secretary was Junco, one of the principal founders of the OCC in 1932, the Stalinists’ tactic was one of denouncing the Auténticos in terms previously reserved for the Trotskyists. Their principal recurring accusation was that the Trotskyists had taken shelter in and taken over the Comisión Obrera Nacional. Despite the protests of various Auténtico leaders, the official Communists argued that any denials of ‘Trotskyism’ were part of a ‘cunning manoeuvre’ to betray the working class in an underhand way, just as the so-called ‘Trotskyists’ were supposedly being exposed.149 This tendency to over-emphasise the influence of Trotskyism was no better displayed than in the CTC’s report entitled ‘The State of Forces Represented at the Third Congress of the CTC in December 1942’. Although, as described above, the POR only had a small number of delegates who acted as a cohesive fraction at the congress, the official Communists calculated that of the 972 delegates who attended, 108 — 11 per cent — were Trotskyists.150

In particular, the official Communists identified Junco and Mujal, the leaders of the Comisión Obrera Nacional, as Trotskyists committed to the project of dividing the working class and delivering its organisations to the forces of reaction.151 Adding to the official Communists’ extensive track record of falsification and misrepresentation, they argued that this ‘cunning’ Trotskyist plan had a long history. They rather ludicrously contended that:

‘In 1935, the Cuban Trotskyists, expelled like rats from the trade unions and the popular organisations, received orders from their boss, Trotsky, to join Joven Cuba in order to disguise their activities and avoid the wrath of the masses. When Joven Cuba became politically fused with the PRC, the Trotskyists took shelter under the Auténticos banner in order to carry on poisoning the honest workers in that party with their intrigues and betrayals.’152

So, by the 1940s the Stalinists’ campaign against the perceived threat of Trotskyism was primarily directed at discrediting the Auténticos rather than the much reduced group of Trotskyists. The official Communists appear to have been motivated by the challenge which the PBL had once posed during the Revolution of the 1930s, as well as by the physical presence and perceived radicalism of such former Trotskyists as Junco in the leading bodies of the Auténticos’ labour organisations, rather than by any reasoned analysis. The anti-Trotskyist propaganda which Moscow was promoting in the wake of the Moscow Trials and murder of Trotsky simply served to concentrate the focus of the Cuban Communists on the continued threat which Trotskyism allegedly posed. However, as I have pointed out, the Trotskyist threat to the Stalinists’ state-sponsored leadership of the labour movement was very much exaggerated. The POR’s only trade union base of substantial note was in the Guantánamo region, and even there it was a minority fraction of the Auténtico-dominated labour opposition.

That the official Communists were principally concerned with eliminating the Auténticos from positions of influence was demonstrated by their actions in May 1942. The Stalinists first initiated a campaign against Junco, a leader of the Auténticos’ National Labour Commission, formally expelling him from the Bakery Workers Union of Havana. In the run-up to a meeting which he was due to attend in Sancti Spíritus to commemorate the seventh anniversary of Guiteras’ murder, Stalinist propaganda then began to denounce Junco and other Auténtico labour leaders like Simeón as divisionists, spies and fifth columnist agents in the workers’ movement,153 terms usually reserved for the Trotskyists. In this sharpened atmosphere, a Stalinist gun-squad went so far as to murder Junco whilst he was actually speaking at the commemorative meeting on 8 May 1942.

In contrast with the crude barbarity of the official Communists, as much on the level of theoretical analysis as of physical assault, the Cuban Trotskyists attempted to rebut the false accusations levelled against Trotskyism with the limited resources at their disposal. In the first place, although a number of leading members of the Auténtico National Labour Commission like Mujal and Junco were indeed ex-Trotskyists,154 the PBL and then the POR publicly dissociated themselves from the political strategy and activity of these former Trotskyists. Thus, when García Villareal reappeared as an associate of a government minister in 1936 after his expulsion from the PBL in the first months of 1935, the PBL denounced him as a turncoat and traitor who, along with Junco, was a hardened adventurer who had dreamed of ‘profitable speculation close to the groups of the petit-bourgeoisie’.155 The Trotskyists similarly rejected the Stalinists’ accusations that Mujal, Junco and Simeón were Trotskyists during the 1940s.156 Aside from warning of the danger which Mujal represented for the working class, they argued that, if anything, it was the official Communists who had something in common with Junco and his colleagues in the Comisión Obrera Nacional leadership. They succinctly argued that both were united in a pursuing a policy of class conciliation.157

Although there is no evidence to suggest that the accusations put forward by the official Communist Party with respect to either the anti-working-class nature of Trotskyism or the more specific charge that the Auténticos somehow represented the face of Trotskyism in Cuba, the PBL’s and POR’s rebuttals of the Stalinists’ accusations went largely unheard at the time. Whilst the Trotskyists’ protests have equally been ignored in Cuban historiography after 1959, this stems from concerns which the Cuban Trotskyists themselves did not notice. That is, the official Cuban Communists wanted to pass over a serious class-based analysis of Mujal, Junco and the Auténticos in the 1940s as much as they wanted to discredit the relatively small Cuban Trotskyist movement.

Conclusion

Trotskyism had a much reduced influence on the national political scene and direction of the working-class movement in Cuba from 1935 to the 1950s, compared with that which it had exercised during the Revolution of the 1930s. After the regrouping which took place in the ranks of the PBL after the defeat of the March 1935 general strike, Trotskyism did not experience any substantial period of growth. Indeed, through the 1940s the POR suffered a gradual decline in membership, before it eventually disappeared as an organised party in the early 1950s.

There were various interrelated factors explaining the Trotskyists’ diminished influence on the national political scene and their eventual dissolution, both structural reasons largely outside their immediate control, as well as their own understanding of the revolutionary process. Thus, the Trotskyists’ failure was in part conditioned by the peculiar balance of political forces skewed against them. Firstly, the international balance of class forces militated against them. Whilst the Fourth International itself was born in a period of defeat for the working class, the Second World War saw potentially powerful working-class movements in the major industrial nations following their respective bourgeoisies into war. The broad consensus achieved with the aid of class collaborationist Social Democratic and Stalinist parties was that Fascism, and not capitalism itself, was the principal enemy.

The most significant structural obstacle which the Cuban Trotskyists faced at home was the lack of a Marxist tradition, and the particularly weak local class-based institutions which had never developed a belief in their own independent activity and destiny. After the defeat of the Revolution of the 1930s, these conditions facilitated the rise of a right-Bonapartist regime under Batista, which granted favour to a compliant official Communist Party in exchange for certain economic incentives. The growth of the Cuban Communist Party from the late 1930s into one of the largest and most powerful official Communist parties in the Americas not only further depoliticised a working class which had suffered a recent historic defeat, but enabled a bitter and slanderous campaign to be waged against Trotskyism. The Trotskyists themselves simply did not have the resources to respond effectively to such attacks.

However, although the overwhelmingly negative balance of social and political forces severely hindered the building of a Trotskyist party, it is insufficient to explain the apparent failure of Trotskyism in Cuba in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, and the POR’s eventual disappearance, purely in these terms. Another major reason behind the Trotskyists’ organisational dislocation was their own underlying political trajectory. That is, the gradual dissolution of the POR not only reflected the weakness of the working class and a long period of state and trade union collaboration, but also the failure of the Cuban Trotskyists to distinguish themselves clearly from the strategy and organisations of the forces of petit-bourgeois nationalism. So, although a different political strategy may not have resulted in the Trotskyists leading a proletarian anti-imperialist revolution in the short or medium term, it would have produced a different outcome, at least in terms of avoiding actual dissolution and keeping alive a tradition of working-class political independence.

The historic defeat of the revolutionary movement in March 1935 effectively cleansed the PBL of those advocates of the ‘external road’ thesis who more or less openly opposed a clear delineation between the petit-bourgeoisie and a proletarian Marxist party. However, although what I have referred to as the ‘Trotskyist’ tendency within the PBL during the Revolution of the 1930s reassessed its understanding of the revolutionary process so as to formulate a strategy which incorporated the essence of Trotsky’s theory of Permanent Revolution, the Cuban Trotskyists continued to display a long-term tendency to be one-sided in their approach to revolutionary activity by effectively tying the destiny of the working-class and anti-imperialist revolution to the fate of petit-bourgeois nationalism.

This tendency was particularly evident during the 1940s, when the POR all but abandoned Trotsky’s understanding that any anti-imperialist united front could only be formed on the basis of a struggle for immediate practical objectives in order to expose the ultimate inability of the petit-bourgeoisie to lead even the most limited anti-imperialist revolution. The Trotskyists instead developed an action programme which prioritised the struggle for an ‘intermediate’ democratic anti-imperialist revolution. Whilst they borrowed the language of radical petit-bourgeois nationalism, the name of their newspaper in the early 1940s — Cuba Obrera — being the most public expression of this, they furthermore blurred the clear lines of demarcation between proletarian anti-imperialism and petit-bourgeois nationalism by calling for an uncritical vote for the Auténticos in the 1944 elections. This feature of Cuban Trotskyism was illustrated by dissolving without any distinct programme within the Mov­imiento Socialista Revolucionaria, an organisation which professed a continuity with Joven Cuba. These tactical orientations were therefore rather desperate attempts to escape from their isolation, and embodied an opportunist, short-term perspective which ultimately failed to understand what Lenin had defined as their ‘special task’, that is, ‘the struggle against the bourgeois-democratic movements’ within their own country.158 The POR simply did not appreciate that whilst Stalinism had to be fought in the labour movement, this could not be achieved effectively through making common cause with the various petit-bourgeois gangs.

It was because the Cuban Trotskyists prioritised the broad Second Period policy of forming democratic anti-imperialist blocs with the forces of reformist and revolutionary nationalism at the expense of proletarian political independence in strict competition with petit-bourgeois nationalism, that they themselves ultimately disappeared into the ill-defined nationalist milieu by the 1950s. Whilst the Cuban Trotskyists’ anti-Stalinism, combined with the terrorism of the pistoleros took a small number of them off to the right, those who remained loyal to the revolutionary project aligned themselves uncritically with the M26J.

Although the Cuban Trotskyists were small in numbers during 1935-58, their significance for and their contribution to the history of the revolutionary movement in Cuba were far from negligible. In the first place, during the 1930s and 1940s, when the official Communists substituted the ultra-radicalism of the Third Period, which neglected all the concerns of the national liberation movement, and then entirely abandoned the project of class struggle and revolutionary politics by participating in the bourgeois government of Batista, the Cuban Trotskyists insisted on the validity of the project of Socialism and the dictatorship of the working class on an international scale. Furthermore, unlike the official Cuban Communists, who (with a notable exception in the mid-1940s when they only reluctantly jettisoned the perspectives of Browderism) broadly made tactical turns in the wake of a rewritten script passed down from Moscow, the PBL and then POR defended their own argument developed during the formative years of the OCC, that it was necessary to intervene on the terrain of national liberation in order to win to the cause of Socialism the most radical sectors of petit-bourgeois nationalism. However misguided their tactics, which failed to propose a politically independent course of action for the working class, their attempt to integrate the problem of national liberation and the rôle of the petit-bourgeoisie in the semi-colonial setting of Cuba into the revolutionary project was a sincere attempt to further the cause of Socialism.

 

NOTES

1. ‘Report Reveals Terror Rule of Wall Street Regime in Cuba’, New Militant, 9 November 1935, pp1, 4.

2. RS de la Torre, ‘The Situation in Cuba’, The New International, October 1935, pp204-5; ‘Solidarity with Cuban Comrades!’, New Militant, 9 May 1936, p1.

3. Letter from the PBL to the International Secretariat of the ICL, Havana, 20 March 1935, p14.

4. RS de la Torre, ‘The Situation in Cuba’, The New International, October 1935, p205.

5. Letter from the PBL to the International Secretariat of the ICL, op cit, p14.

6. Op cit, pp13-14.

7. Minutes of the Sectional Conference of the Victoria de las Tunas Section of the PBL, 21 September 1936.

8. Letter from Manuel López to G Melt, Santiago de Cuba, 11 September 1936.

9. CC of the PBL, A Todas las Secciones, Células y Militantes del Partido, 24 October 1936, p1.

10. Op cit, p2.

11. Op cit, pp1-2.

12. See letter from López to Melt, op cit. Whilst this intended attempt to promote the rebuilding of a Marxist party appears to have reflected, at least in name, a certain influence from Spain and the POUM, I have found no evidence which indicates that such a project actually got off the ground.

13. Letter from Roberto Pérez Santiesteban to Fred Browner, Havana, 13 February 1938.

14. See LD Trotsky, ‘Nationalised Industry and Workers’ Management’, Writings of Leon Trotsky (1938-39), New York, 1974, p326; LD Trotsky, ‘Latin American Problems: A Transcript’, op cit, p785.

15. K Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Moscow, 1977, pp66-7.

16. ‘La Situación Política Nacional’, Noticiero Bolchevique (Havana), September 1936, p2.

17. CC of the PBL, Tesis Política, Havana, 25 October 1935, p19.

18. To their credit, the PBL through the period of 1935-39 continued to criticise Guiteras and Joven Cuba for being ‘enslaved by the idea of the next putsch’, and for viewing the problem of the revolution as a technical matter which could be solved independently of the masses (letter from the PBL to the International Secretariat of the ICL, op cit, p13; ‘En Memoria de Antonio Guiteras’, Dialéctica (Havana), May 1938, p10). Accurately depicting Joven Cuba as an insurrectionary army without any democratic internal life, Pérez Santiesteban insisted that the task of national liberation in Cuba could only be achieved ‘under the banner of revolutionary Socialism as a joint project of the oppressed layers of the Cuban population under the leadership of the proletariat’ (ibid).

19. Tesis Política, op cit, pp10-11.

20. Op cit, pp24-5.

21. Op cit, p23.

22. Ibid.

23. W Reisner (ed), Documents of the Fourth International: The Formative Years (1933-40), New York, 1973, p289. This undoubtedly inflated figure was the one presented by Pierre Naville in his credentials report to the founding conference of the Fourth International in September 1938. The unreliability of these figures is proved by the fact that the Cuban section was also incorrectly referred to as the ‘Partido Obrero Revolucionario’.

24. Letter from the Political Bureau of the POR to the Latin American Department of the Fourth International, Havana, 26 March 1941.

25. ‘Terror Reigns in FD’s Cuba’, New Militant, 9 May 1936, pp1, 4.

26. ‘La Cuestión Sindical’, Noticiero Bolchevique, September 1936, pp10-11. This slogan for the Workers’ Alliance was repeated in numerous documents.

27. ‘¡Apoyemos la Heroica Acción Revolucionaria del Proletariado Español! ¡Adelante por la Revolución Proletaria Mundial!’, Noticiero Bolchevique, September 1936, p21.

28. LD Trotsky, ‘La Lección de España’, Noticiero Bolchevique, September 1936, pp7-9 (translation LD Trotsky, The Spanish Revolution (1931-39), New York, 1973, pp234-9).

29. ‘La Revolución Española’, Noticiero Bolchevique, September 1936, p4.

30. Op cit, pp4-5.

31. See, for example, the letter from Charles Simeón to Fred Browner, Havana, 30 September 1937, which refers to Nin and Maurín as if they were upholders of Trotskyism and the Movement for the Fourth International. There were two rival Trotskyist groups in Spain. The Bolshevik-Leninist Group led by ‘Munis’ (Manuel Fernández Grandizo) was recognised as the official representative of the world Trotskyist movement.

32. ‘La Revolución Española’, Noticiero Bolchevique, September 1936, p5.

33. CC of the POR, Declaración de Principios del POR, Havana, October 1940, p19.

34. Provisional Executive Commission of the PBL, Resolution on the Problem of the Opposition in the SWP, Havana, 11 May 1940. This was also the view of Nicola di Bartolomeo (Fosco), the leader of the El Soviet Trotskyist group in Spain. See Revolutionary History, Volume 4, nos 1/2, Winter 1991-92, pp230-6.

35. Mary Low (born 1912), a futurist poet, who was Breá’s companion from 1933 until his death in 1941, worked for the POUM radio station broadcasting in English, as well as writing for their English language bulletin, The Spanish Revolution. See M Low Machado, Where the Wolf Sings, Chicago, 1994, pp53-59; V Alba and S Schwartz, Spanish Marxism Versus Soviet Communism, New Brunswick, 1988, pp286-9.

36. Letter from Mary Low Machado to Agustín Guillamón, Miami, December 1997-January 1998. The exact reasons for the POUM’s refusal may be manifold. There are various accounts which argue that the POUM’s leadership did not take kindly to Breá on the grounds of his Bohemian lifestyle, but tolerated him only because they attached great value to the work of Mary Low. However, Mary Low Machado herself has recounted that the POUM refused Breá protection, stating that his ‘presence complicated their relations with Stalinism!’. An additional factor supporting this interpretation is that the official Trotskyist group in Spain, the Bolshevik Leninists, were all expelled in February 1937.

37. M Low and J Breá, Red Spanish Notebook, San Francisco, 1979, p247.

38. Op cit, p254.

39. Ibid.

40. ‘La Lucha Revolucionaria en Cuba’, Comunismo (Madrid), May-June 1934, p237.

41. ‘La Revolución Española’, Noticiero Bolchevique, September 1936, p6.

42. Letter from Wilebaldo Solano to the author, Paris, 15 July 1997. Wilebaldo Solano (born 1916) became the Secretary of the POUM’s youth organisation, the Juventud Comunista Ibérica, after the death of Germinal Vidal in street fighting in Barcelona in June 1936. Later, in exile, Solano was one of only two people to hold the post of General Secretary of the POUM.

43. Whilst I have been unable to ascertain the precise reasons behind Simeón’s separation, his subsequent public activity in the Auténtico milieu suggests that his support for such a trajectory may have been at the root of the disagreement.

44. Letter from Bode to G Munis, Havana, 2 May 1940.

45. Although Broué states that ‘Bode’ was the pseudonym of a Cuban called Bodernea, it appears that both ‘Bode’ and ‘Bodernea’ were pseudonyms.

46. ‘Bolshevik-Leninist Party of Cuba’, International Bulletin, July 1940, p6.

47. Boletín Interior del Partido Obrero Revo­lucionario, March 1946, p5.

48. See the letter from the IEC and the Latin American Department of the Fourth International to the Santiago de Cuba Comrades, 16 August 1941.

49. Letter from the Political Bureau of the POR to the Latin American Department of the Fourth International, Havana, 26 March 1941.

50. Ibid.

51. ‘¡Salud, Camaradas de Camagüey!’, Cuba Obrera (Havana), December 1940, p8.

52. Declaración de Principios del POR, op cit, p3.

53. See LD Trotsky, ‘Latin American Problems: A Transcript’, op cit, pp785-6. Whilst he did not exclude the possibility that Latin American workers might come to power before those in the USA, this did not mean for him that they could build their own Socialism independently of the most advanced countries which hitherto had dominated their political economy. See also various documents of the Comintern in M Löwy (ed), Marxism in Latin America from 1909 to the Present, New Jersey, 1992, pp8-16.

54. Declaración de Principios del POR, op cit, p11.

55. Op cit, pp12-13.

56. Op cit, p13 (translation from ‘Problems of the Cuban Revolution’, International Bulletin, December 1941, p3).

57. Unión de Empleados del Comercio de Guantánamo: Asamblea General, 23 April 1942; ‘De la Sección de Guantánamo’, Cuba Obrera, October 1940, p7; ‘De la Sección de Guantánamo’, Cuba Obrera, November 1940, pp3, 7.

58. Trade Union Department of the Guantánamo Section of the PBL, A los Obreros de los Centrales y sus Colonias. A Toda la Clase Obrera, 25 January 1940.

59. Letter from JB Gaylord of the Ferrocarril de Guantánamo to the Fiscal de la Audencia de Oriente, Santiago de Cuba, 1 April 1941; Letter from JB Gaylord to the Fiscal del Tribunal Supremo, Havana, 21 November 1941.

60. ‘De la Sección de Guantánamo’, Cuba Obrera, October 1940, p7.

61. ‘Cuba’, Fourth International, August 1943, p254.

62. Ibid.

63. La Voz Revolucionaria del Trotskismo en el III Congreso Nacional Obrero, Havana, nd, pp6-9; Hoover to Berle Jr, Survey of Communist Activities in Cuba, op cit, p46.

64. La Voz Revolucionaria del Trotskismo en el III Congreso Nacional Obrero, op cit, pp36-8.

65. Op cit, p37 (translation from ‘Cuba’, Fourth International, August 1943, p254).

66. See LD Trotsky, ‘Latin American Problems: A Transcript’, op cit, pp790-2; LD Trotsky, ‘To the Pillory!’, Writings (1938-39), op cit, pp171-3.

67. La Voz Revolucionaria del Trotskismo en el III Congreso Nacional Obrero, op cit, pp11-27. The Proletarian Military Policy as elaborated by Trotsky argued that revolutionaries, though opposed to the capitalist state defining and regulating conscription and military training, should not campaign against conscription once it had been made into law. Trotsky argued against any let-up in the struggle against capitalism, and to defend the widest democracy by calling instead for compulsory military training under the control of the trade unions and workers’ movement. For Trotsky’s thoughts on this matter see Writings of Leon Trotsky (1939-40), New York, 1973, pp321-2, 344-5, 392.

68. ‘Cuba’, Fourth International, August 1943, p255.

69. Guantánamo Sectional Committee of the POR, ¡Obreros de Cuba!, 2 June 1943.

70. ‘Hombre y Ejemplo: Rogelio Benache’, Revolución Proletaria (Havana), 1 May 1945, pp1, 3.

71. Excerpt from unpublished manuscript of Rigaudias’ Souvenirs (translated by Margaret ‘Gretl’ Glogau), nd, p4. Louis Rigaudias, also known as ‘Rigal’ and ‘Charles Millner’, was born in Turkey, but joined the Trotskyist movement in France in 1933 after having gone to Paris to study in 1928. During the 1930s, he was a leading militant in the French Trotskyist milieu before arriving in Havana on 14 February 1942 after 18 months of underground Trotskyist activity after the Nazi occupation of Paris. See the account of Rigaudias’ life on pages 289-97 of this issue of Revolutionary History.

72. ‘Centenares de Obreros Votaron por el Trotskismo’, Revolución Proletaria, 15 July 1944, pp1, 3; ‘Cuba’s Elections: Background and Analysis’, Fourth International, July 1944, p208.

73. ‘La Reacción y la Voz del Autenticismo Revolucionario’, Revolución Proletaria, 15 July 1944, p1.

74. ‘Para Combatir el Continuismo Votemos por Grau San Martín: Apoyemos los Candidatos Proletarios del PRC’, Revolución Proletaria, 1 May 1944, p3.

75. See ‘Los Trotskistas Santiagueros Apoyan a R Mugica Guzmán’, Revolución Proletaria, 1 June 1944, pp1, 5; ‘Martín Castellanos, Candidato Auténtico Defiende un Programa Revolucionario’, Revolución Proletaria, 1 June 1944, pp1, 4-5; ‘Al Pueblo de Guantánamo’, Revolución Proletaria, 1 June 1944, p3.

76. See ‘Para Combatir el Continuismo Votemos por Grau San Martín...’, Revolución Proletaria, 1 May 1944, p3.

77. Ibid.

78. ‘Combatir el Continuismo Es Luchar por la Revolución’, Revolución Proletaria, 1 June 1944, pp1, 3; ‘Contra la Conciliación: Vigilancia Revolucionaria’, Revolución Proletaria, 15 July 1944, pp1, 3.

79. This was Trotsky’s proposal for class-based participation in elections in Mexico in 1940 when no working-class candidates were standing. See Gall, op cit, pp241-2.

80. Guantánamo Sectional Committee of the POR, ¡Hagamos de la Victoria Obtenida el 1º de Junio un Paso Decisivo en el Camino de la Liberación Nacional y Social de Cuba!, 3 June 1944.

81. See ‘Editoriales: Perspectivas del Nuevo Gobierno’, Revolución Proletaria, 31 October 1944, p6.

82. Defensa Obrera Revolucionaria de la Confederación de Trabajadores de Cuba, Declaración de Principios, Havana, January 1945, p3.

83. PBL, A las Masas Trabajadoras de Cuba, Havana, 15 October 1939.

84. POR, ¡Aprestémonos a la Defensa Armada de Nuestros Derechos Democráticos!, Havana, 14 December 1941.

85. Santiago de Cuba Sectional Committee of the PBL, Al Pueblo de Cuba, November 1941, p2.

86. See, for example, ¡Aprestémonos a la Defensa Armada de Nuestros Derechos Democráticos!, op cit.

87. Ibid, p3.

88. PBL, ¡Obreros! ¡Defendemos la Unión Soviética!, June 1941.

89. La Voz Revolucionaria del Trotskismo en el III Congreso Nacional Obrero, op cit, pp11-12.

90. In 1942-43, Max Shachtman’s Workers Party argued against support for the Guomindang, a position which was adopted by a minority of Chinese Trotskyists, most notably Wang Fanxi. This ‘proletarian’ line was opposed by the US SWP and the majority of the Chinese Trotskyists, including Peng Shuzhi. Their ‘national liberation’ arguments, which seemingly did not take into account the extent of support the Guomindang received from the Allies, held that the war against Japan was progressive from a Chinese point of view, and opposed attempting to win it through proletarian revolution. See Revolutionary History, Volume 2, no 4, Spring 1990, pp29-35, 38-42; G Benton, China’s Urban Revolutionaries: Explorations in the History of Chinese Trotskyism, 1921-1952, New Jersey, 1996, pp86-8. Simon Pirani reviews Benton’s book on pages 345-7 of this issue of Revolutionary History.

91. La Voz Revolucionaria del Trotskismo en el III Congreso Nacional Obrero, op cit, p15.

92. Boletín Interior del Partido Obrero Revo­lucionario, March 1946.

93. Cuban Report, nd, p4 (from internal evidence, dated 1944-45).

94. ‘Report on Latin America’, Minutes of the Third International Executive Committee Plenum of the Fourth International, March 1947. The unreliability of this report written by Sherry Mangan (or ‘Patrice’) is evident in the fact that it also stated that the Cuban Trotskyists published a monthly newspaper and had no urgent problems. Their newspaper in fact ceased publication in mid-1946, and, as the 1946 internal report detailed, the POR was faced with disintegration as an organised party. On Mangan’s general unreliability see Revolutionary History, Volume 3, no 1, Summer 1980, p44.

95. Boletín Interior del Partido Obrero Revo­lucionario, March 1946, p5.

96. Op cit, p6.

97. Op cit, p5.

98. Op cit, p8.

99. Op cit, p7.

100. According to Pablo Díaz, himself a signatory of the scathing internal report, the comrade was expelled on the grounds of putting the organisation in danger after he had became involved in ‘some very shady stories, and was arrested by the secret police’ (letter from Pablo Díaz González to an unnamed US-based comrade, Havana, 3 November 1946). By a process of elimination, this comrade was probably the signatory ‘N Bacun’. Although I have been unable to identify the real name of this person, it is not beyond the bounds of reason that it was the same person who had instigated the split of the Santiago de Cuba branch of the PBL from the POR in 1940-41. The principal opponent of the POR initiative in Santiago de Cuba was known by the name of ‘Bakunin’.

101. See letter from Pablo Díaz González to Stein, Havana, 22 June 1948; Pérez Santiesteban, Por una Rectificación del Curso Político del MSR, Havana, 18 April 1948, p1. The PSP’s dispute with Moscow eventually culminated in an agreement between the two Stalinist centres. The official Cuban Communists subsequently confessed their opportunism in arguing that imperialist powers would be able to cooperate in promoting the well-being of the working masses. The PSP also struck up an anti-imperialist tune once more, although it did not go to the extreme of compromising its good relations with the Grau San Martín government.

102. Por una Rectificación del Curso Político del MSR, op cit, p1.

103. Letter from ‘Lasalle’ to the International Secretariat of the Fourth International, Havana, 22 December 1946.

104. Letter from Pablo Díaz González to an unnamed US-based comrade, Havana, 3 November 1946.

105. The POR were not the only non-PSP Socialists to find that their initial optimism was misplaced. Boris Goldenberg, a naturalised Cuban citizen of German origin who had been a leader of the German Sozialistische Arbeiterpartei (SAP), a split from the German Communist Party shortly before Hitler came to power which had signed the ‘Declaration of the Bloc of Four’ with the International Communist League in 1933, was also a leading member of the MSR in 1946-47. He worked closely with Pérez Santiesteban within the MSR, and quickly became discontented with the terrorist intentions of the new organisation.

106. Por una Rectificación del Curso Político del MSR, op cit, pp2-7.

107. Letter from Pablo Díaz González to Morris Stein, Havana, 9 May 1948.

108. Ibid.

109. Trotskyist Fraction, El VI Congreso Nacional Obrero, Culminación de Once Años de Traición y Entreguismo en el Movimiento Sindical, Havana, 6 May 1949.

110. See letter from Pablo Díaz González to Morris Stein, 9 May 1948, op cit, p5.

111. Trotskyist Fraction, El VI Congreso Nacional Obrero..., op cit.

112. In the 1950s, the former POR members in Guantánamo appear to have continued to publish various articles translated from The Militant in the trade union journal of the Railway Workers Brotherhood. A Fanjul, ‘The rôle of the Trotskyists in the Cuban Revolution’, Intercontinental Press, 11 May 1981, p493.

113. Octavio Fernández (born 1914) was a prominent member of the Liga Comunista Internacionalista in Mexico in the mid-1930s, before leading a split in that organisation. He was also in charge of Trotsky’s Mexican guards for almost a year, and he was one of the principal contributors to the magazine Clave.

114. Broué, op cit, p23.

115. This topic has been discussed in Revolutionary History, Volume 4, no 3, Summer 1992.

116. Fred Browner was a member of Albert Weisbord’s Communist League of Struggle in the early 1930s. He broke with that organisation, and attended the US SWP’s founding convention in December 1937-January 1938 as a delegate from the West Bronx branch.

117. Apart from meetings with visiting Trotskyists who worked as US seamen, POR members also met Max Shachtman in December 1941 when he visited Cuba to investigate the death of Arkady Maslow. Maslow (1891-1941), along with Ruth Fischer, had been a supporter of Zinoviev in the German Communist Party (KPD). Expelled from the KPD in 1926, he was a founding member of the Leninbund, though he dropped out of active politics after Zinoviev capitulated to Stalin. He fled to Paris in 1933, moving on to Havana in 1940. Though he died suddenly in the streets of Havana, Shachtman’s investigation found that he probably did die of natural causes (letter from Max Shachtman to Ruth Fischer, Havana, 5 December 1941, in P Lübbe (ed), Ruth Fischer/Arkady Maslow: Abtrünnig wider Willen, Munich, 1990, pp148-9).

118. Anton Grylewicz (1885-1971), a member of the Central Committee of the KPD in the early 1920s, was removed from that post in 1925 after steps were taken against the Zinovievists, Ruth Fischer and Arkady Maslow. He subsequently became a leader of the Fischer-Maslow group, and was a leading member of the Leninbund before leaving with the Trotskyist minority to form the German Left Opposition in 1930. After emigrating to Prague in 1933, he moved on to Cuba after the outbreak of war. See Revolutionary History, Volume 2, no 3, Autumn 1989, p35, n6.

119. It appears that despite having made contact with Goldenberg, the Cuban Trotskyists did not establish contact with two other prominent ‘dissident’ German Communists, Heinrich Brandler (1881-1967) and August Thalheimer (1884-1948). Having been leaders the KPD in the 1920s, they were expelled from the party in 1929 and went on to form the Communist Party (Opposition) (KPO), broadly supporting Bukharin’s Right Opposition in the Soviet Union. After Hitler came to power, they moved to France, and then, when war broke out, moved to Cuba, though they were largely inactive politically. See J Becker and H Jentsch, ‘Heinrich Brandler — Biographische Skizze, 1924-1967’, Jahrbuch für Historische Kommunismusforschung, Volume 6, Berlin, 1998, pp322-3.

120. Quebracho, Estrategia Revolucionaria: Lucha por la Unidad y por la Liberación Nacional y Social de la América Latina, Buenos Aires, 1957, p190. Liborio Justo (or ‘Quebracho’, born 1902) challenged the main body of the Fourth International, temporarily located in New York, on the issue of the emphasis which should be given to the struggle and demands for national liberation in the fight for Socialism. Justo’s central argument was that the Trotskyist movement, particularly the US SWP, was comparing Argentina with the imperialist centres, thereby ignoring democratic anti-imperialist questions. He argued that the struggle for national liberation was an integral part of the democratic revolution, and as such should be an integral part of the proletarian party’s programme. However, in using the slogans for national liberation, which until then had been the terminology of the nationalist and reformist groups, Justo himself went to the extreme of advocating a de facto two-stage strategy, in which the primary struggle was for an agrarian anti-imperialist revolution to realise the tasks of the bourgeois democratic revolution as a first step towards the Socialist revolution. See JL Sullivan, ‘Liborio Justo and Argentinian Trotskyism’, Revolutionary History, Volume 2, no 2, Summer 1989, pp30-2; Quebracho, op cit, pp94-7. Rather ironically, Justo switched positions, and went on to criticise the Fourth International during the Bolivian National Revolution of 1952 for having a Menshevik position. See Revolutionary History, Volume 4, no 3, Summer 1992, pp38-51.

121. Letter from SH Braverman to R Hernández, 11 August 1944.

122. Cited in ‘Cuba’s Elections: Background and Analysis’, Fourth International, July 1944, p208.

123. ‘Resolutions of the Third World Congress, Latin America: Problems and Tasks’, Fourth International, November-December 1951, p212.

124. See the letter from Pablo Díaz González to Stein, 22 June 1948, op cit.

125. PBL, Resolution on the Problem of the Opposition in the SWP, Havana, 11 May 1940. Given the POR’s subsequent trajectory over this issue, it must be noted that this resolution was passed within 10 days of a visit to Havana by a US seaman, and may not have been the result of extensive discussions within the POR. At the time, Mario Pedrosa (or ‘Lebrún’), the leading Latin American supporter of the Minority ‘anti-defencist’ position, was claiming to speak on behalf of a number of Latin American groups, and it is not beyond the realms of possibility that a primary concern of the visiting US seaman was to secure the formal support for the Majority of a principal Latin American section. Certainly, the highly critical Internal Bulletin called for the removal of all resolutions on international questions which had not been previously discussed by the party’s dispersed membership (Boletín Interior del Partido Obrero Revo­lucionario, March 1946, p8).

126. ¡Obreros! ¡Defendemos la Unión Soviética!, June 1941.

127. Declaración de Principios del POR, op cit, p18.

128. A las Masas Trabajadoras de Cuba, op cit, p2.

129. ¡Obreros! ¡Defendemos la Unión Soviética!, op cit.

130. See A Gilly, ‘Open Letter to Jack Barnes on Trotskyism in Cuba’, Intercontinental Press, 11 May 1981, p492.

131. ‘El Caso Polaco Es Ejemplo de la Contrarevolución Burocrática’, Revolución Proletaria, 8 July 1945, pp1-2, 4.

132. In this letter, the Cuban Trotskyists argued that Tony Cliff’s state capitalist thesis on the Soviet Union was the most convincing explanation which they had come across, and that they were working on a Spanish translation (letter from the POR to Socialisme ou Barbarie, Havana, 25 June 1949, published in Socialisme ou Barbarie (Paris), 1949, p93). The journal Socialisme ou Barbarie, founded by Cornelius Castoriadis (1922-1997) in 1949, characterised the Soviet Union under the rule of the Stalinist bureaucracy as an expansionist capitalist superpower. The journal was also notable for defending the Council Communist ideas of workers’ management from below. See D Ames Curtis (ed), Cornelius Castoriadis: Political and Social Writings (Volume 1, 1946-1955: From the Critique of Bureaucracy to the Positive Content of Socialism), Minneapolis, 1987; A Economou, ‘Cornelius Castoriadis’, Revolutionary History, Volume 7, no 2, 1999, pp219-1.

133. Letter from Louis Rigaudias to the author, 27 February 1997.

134. ‘Letter to a Cuban Socialist: On the Problems of Latin America’, The New International, April 1949, pp103-6.

135. Bode, ‘Apreciaciones sobre la Lucha de la LOR contra el Centrismo’, Boletín Sudamericano (Buenos Aires), June 1943, p3.

136. Op cit, p2.

137. Op cit, pp2-3.

138. Ibid.

139. ‘Bolshevik-Leninist Party of Cuba’, International Bulletin, July 1940.

140. PBL, Resolution on the Problem of the Opposition in the SWP, op cit.

141. Letter from the CC of the POR to the International Secretariat of the Fourth International, Havana, 19 July 1947.

142. By the early 1950s, optimism within the Fourth International was receding, and internal tensions were mounting as the Trotskyists made little progress either in terms of recruitment or influence within the labour movement. This provoked a thorough reappraisal of strategic orientations, which precipitated a round of splits and splinters in the international Trotskyist movement. The cause of the initial postwar split was what became known in Trotskyist parlance as ‘Pabloism’, that is, the views espoused by Michel Pablo in 1951-54. His theses were based on the conviction that individual Communist parties were not necessarily compliant pawns in Soviet foreign policy manoeuvres, but were instead being forced by objective conditions to take a lead in carrying forward the revolutionary tide which was sweeping the postwar world. Stalinism and war were thereby seen as agencies for revolution, and the new tactic of long-term entry, or dissolution, into what were seen as blunt instruments of revolution, namely the Communist and Socialist parties, was urged upon the Fourth International’s affiliates. The imposition of the strategy of long-term entry, with its ‘national liberation’ variation in Latin America, is often cited as the principal cause behind the organisational split which took place in the Fourth International in the early 1950s. The International Committee of the Fourth International, formed in November 1953 and comprising a number of groups in the advanced capitalist countries, purported to define itself by ‘anti-Pabloism’ and an adherence to ‘proletarian’ theses.

143. ‘De la Teoría Trotskista al Fascismo’, Bandera Roja (Havana), 9 January 1937, pp1, 4.

144. ‘La Alianza Trotsko-Fascista’, Bandera Roja, 26 March 1937, pp1-2, 5.

145. See ‘La Reacción no Podrá Ocultar la Negra Historia de Trotzki’, Hoy (Havana), 23 August 1940, p12.

146. ‘El Fin de Una Carrera Criminal’, El Comunista, October 1940, pp772-3.

147. ‘La Banda Internacional Trotskista’, El Comunista, December 1940, p975.

148. See ‘La Lucha contra el Trotskismo’, Fundamentos (Havana), June 1941, p214; Tercer Congreso de la CTC (1942), Intervención del Compañero Faustino Calcines, Morning Session, 11 December 1942.

149. See ‘El Trotskismo Enemigo del Movimiento Obrero: Intervención de Faustino Calcines, Secretario de la Federación de Trabajadores de las Villas’, in III Congreso Nacional de la CTC ¡La Unidad es Victoria!, Havana, 1944, pp39-40.

150. Informe sobre el Estado de Fuerzas Representantes en el III Congreso.

151. See ‘Elementos Trotskistas Le Prendieron Fuego Intencionalmente al Local de las Oficinas del Comité de UR Comunista en Vedado’, Hoy, 17 May 1942, pp1, 8; ‘La Lucha contra el Trotskismo’, Fundamentos, June 1941, pp214-5.

152. ‘Guantánamo: Un Caso de Provocación Trotskista’, Magazine de Hoy (Havana), 30 May 1943, pp1, 3.

153. See the leaflets by the URC Sancti Spíritus Municipal Committee, A la Cárcel los Especuladores, Agiotistas, Troskistas y Quintacolumnistas, nd; URC Sancti Spíritus Municipal Executive Committee, A los Trabajadores, Campesinos y a Todo el Pueblo, April 1942; Sancti Spíritus Partido Unión Revolucionaria Comunista, A los Trabajadores Espirituanos, nd (from internal evidence, April-May 1942).

154. In addition to the likes of Mujal and Junco, a limited number of ex-Trotskyists eventually became associated with a variety of overtly anti-working-class causes. Emilio Tró, for example, a member of the OCC during the Revolution of the 1930s was the leader of the Unión Insurreccional Revolucionaria, the pistolero gang to which Fidel Castro himself belonged. The starkest example, however, of a former Trotskyist consciously participating in anti-working-class movements was that of Rafael Solér Puig. Having entered the organisations of the petit-bourgeois pistolero groups along with the POR members in the late 1940s, Solér Puig was dragged by these groups into gangsterism and counter-revolution on the extreme right of the political spectrum. A long-time Trotskyist in Santiago de Cuba in the 1930s and 1940s, he became a gangster in the 1950s and amongst other things was responsible for the assassination of ‘Pipi’ Hernández, an exiled leader of the opposition to Trujillo, the dictator of the Dominican Republic. Solér Puig later returned to Cuba as part of the US-sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion force. After being captured, he was shot by the Revolutionary Government.

155. ‘Villareal Ha Encontrado su Camino’, Noticiero Bolchevique, September 1936, pp13-14. García Villareal in fact went on to hold a lucrative post in the coffee industry. It seems that his crossing of class lines cost him his life. The Stalinists remembered him, and it appears that he was shot in La Cabaña prison in Havana in the early 1960s.

156. See ‘En Torno a los “Trotskistas” en el PRC’, Cuba Obrera, December 1940, pp1, 8.

157. ‘De la Sección de Guantánamo’, Cuba Obrera, October 1940, p7; ‘Lazaro Peña-Junco, Blas Roca-Mujal, Hermanos Gemelos Bajo una Misma Bandera: ¡Conciliación de Clases!’, Cuba Obrera, August 1941, pp1, 6.

158. See Lenin’s clear statement during the Second Congress of the Comintern in Theses, Resolutions and Manifestos of the First Four Congresses of the Third International, London, 1983, p80.