The following document was published in the Internal Bulletin of March 1963 which the International Secretariat of the Fourth International prepared for the national leaderships of its various sections. Although the report was unsigned, it appears to have been written by a North American who was in Cuba after the Cuban Missile Crisis in late 1962 and/or early 1963, and who had a good command of French, though no knowledge of Spanish. He apparently met the Cuban Trotskyists, and had wide-ranging discussions with them. I have only changed a few punctuation marks and those misspellings which demonstrate the original unsigned author’s unfamiliarity with the Spanish language.
The account as a whole gives a much fuller picture of the Cuban Trotskyists’ politics in the early 1960s than the US SWP’s later public article which argued that the POR(T)’s ‘distinguishing characteristic’ had been its call for the military takeover of the Guantánamo Naval Base.1 This alleged adventurist proposal does not appear to have been mentioned once in the discussions. One other notable feature of the report is that it reveals certain similarities in the views of the North American and the Cuban Trotskyists of the Revolution and of the Castro leadership. The author accurately describes how the Cuban Trotskyists had effectively abandoned developing a strategy which insisted that the working class itself had to be the agent of revolutionary change, a perspective which the US SWP shared, as it gave largely uncritical support to Castro.
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I have just recently returned from a trip to Cuba where I spent a month... While in Havana I was able to make good contact with the Posadas group, and I thought it might be a good idea to pass on to you a report of our conversations, as well as some observations of my own regarding the developments in Cuba.
First, a few remarks in general... Most of my time was spent in Havana, with two trips to the countryside — one to the lush farming province of Pinar del Río, the other to Playa Girón and through the province of Matanzas. Needless to say, I was very impressed with the things I saw — a visit to Cuba is like a shot in the arm and a sure cure for any demoralization incurred through the struggle in backward North America. Particularly encouraging is the mood of the Cubans themselves. Morale is high, and the constant harassments and invasion threats seem only to have strengthened their revolutionary consciousness. As a nation, they are probably the most politically conscious people in the world, and the best part of it is that they have a wonderful sense of the international significance of the revolution, and the importance of the world socialist movement. Despite the keen nationalistic fervor (which is wholly understandable in itself, in the light of what they have accomplished) there is no evidence of a ‘socialism in one country’ complex. While the blockade is of course hurting them to a considerable extent, and there is a tremendous amount of disorganization, none of the many problems which at present confront them appears insurmountable, and the general tendency of the revolution is, both economically and politically, a progressive one. This is the Year of Organization in Cuba, and already the effects are being felt. Fidel’s speech to the Women’s Congress is only the first of a whole series of such statements that will derive from the top leadership this year, in the opinions of most Cubans I spoke to...
Now, when I left for Cuba I had the intention of meeting the Posadas group. I had little trouble in locating the headquarters of the Partido Obrero Revolucionario Trotskista, which is the apartment of Idalberto Ferrera, and also a center of the local Comité de Defensa de la Revolución. Ferrera, their leader, was not in the first time I went, but I was able to speak to a few of their comrades, who took great pride in showing me pictures of themselves with their beards and long hair in the hills with Fidel and the 26th of July Movement. This, I thought, was a rather auspicious beginning for making contact, but for one thing (and there I was reminded of Joe Hansen’s experiences with these people in Latin America) — the first thing they all asked was ‘What is your position on the War?’ My initial reaction was to say ‘What War?’ When they replied, ‘The Atomic War’, I said that I was generally against it. At that, their faces fell, and they began to explain that this was the root difference between them and us. I went out for a coffee with one of them, and he, in great enthusiasm, made a toast: ‘To the inevitable war.’
Well, I finally met Ferrera, and he arranged to meet with me in company with one of their comrades, Molina, who speaks good English and excellent French. Since I knew scarcely any Spanish, we conversed in English, and later French, as Molina was more comfortable in that language. I had with me a translation of their Manifesto to the Cuban People, published in the September issue of Voz Proletaria; a document which contains many references to ‘bureaucracy’, ‘Stalinists’, ‘socialism in one country’, etc. I went over this with them, paragraph by paragraph, pointing out these allegations and asking them for real evidence of such deformations and tendencies in Cuba. I pointed out to them that we in North America have great difficulties in getting serious information on what is going on in Cuba, and that they would be performing a useful service to the cause of the American revolution if they could provide us with material of that nature. I said that we were interested in what the Cuban Trotskyists had to say, and particularly in the views expressed in this document. If there was a real bureaucracy in the political sense of the term, and if the Stalinists had really usurped power, then surely our own political line was inadequate. And I raised other questions of that nature. Most of all, I tried to impress upon them the importance of corresponding with us.
They replied that all my questions and objections would be taken account of in their remarks to me, but that they wished to discuss in a more formal manner. I readily complied, as I saw my task as one of getting information from them on their own position, rather than endeavoring to conduct polemics with them. They wanted to discuss in the following order these topics: the war question, the political revolution in the Soviet Union, Algeria, the colonial revolution, the problems of the international movement, and, of course, Cuba. This is their position, as presented to me.
1. The War. Atomic war is inevitable and cannot be avoided. With each victory of the socialist forces, the capitalists are willing to concede less and less. While the atomic war will cause much destruction, it is incorrect to refer to it as a holocaust and the end of mankind. It will probably mean the end or annihilation of one-half of the world’s population but it will also mean the final rout of imperialism and the victory of the workers’ states. For the workers’ states now have superior firepower and military strength, and concomitant with this is the fact that the people of the world have now developed a ‘socialist consciousness’. The outbreak of the atomic war will mark the outbreak of a cataclysmic series of socialist revolutions throughout the world. Even the workers of the United States have within their class this latent socialist consciousness, and upon the atomic ruins it is to be presumed that they will build socialism. The impending and inevitable war is the major factor in the Marxist analysis of the objective conditions. Because the SWP and the other Trotskyist currents believe that the nature of war has changed qualitatively with the development of nuclear arms, the logical result of their new revisionism is a line of peaceful coexistence. ‘Peace’ is not the desire of the world’s masses — rather, it is socialism. With the rise of the buffer states, Yugoslavia, and China within the last 20 years, the balance of forces has changed. It has swung to the side of the workers’ states.
Confirmation of the above position was found in the recent Caribbean crisis. In Cuba, everyone expected war, yet were prepared to die if necessary for the victory of socialism. When Castro says ‘Our people may be killed, but never destroyed’, he is simply expressing the consciousness of the Cuban people as it was displayed during the crisis. The Cuban Trotskyists defended the missiles in Cuba, and claim that Khrushchev betrayed the revolution by pulling them out. (Since, according to the Cuban Trotskyists the Chinese say the same thing, Khrushchev is correct in accusing them of Trotskyism on this score.) In the midst of the crisis, Voz Proletaria, in special supplements, called upon the Soviet Union to strike the first blow in the atomic war. This, of course, is the logical extension of the argument that war is inevitable. The Cubans wish that the missiles were still there, as indeed Castro does. They wept when the missiles were removed from Cuba, and so did the Russian technicians at the missile sites. Castro made a special speech at the University of Havana (which was off the record officially, but quoted in Voz Proletaria) during the crisis. He attacked the theory of peaceful coexistence as enunciated by the Russians and generally took a similar position to that of the Posadas group. (That speech was said to have been made on 19 November.)
2. The political revolution in the USSR. The ‘de-Stalinization’ of which the SWP speaks is really putting the emphasis in the wrong place. Khrushchev is the continuator of Stalin, but is under tremendous pressure from the left wing in the CPSU and the military, as well as in the international communist movement. These forces may be Trotskyist or semi-Trotskyist. There are Trotskyists in the Soviet Union, and they have the same position on the war question as the Posadas group in the Fourth International. (The Posadas group have no direct contact with these ‘Trotskyists’.) The political revolution in the Soviet Union may well take place within the CPSU. Trotskyist views are strong within the military, which is their stronghold. Hence the differences of the Posadas forces with the other Trotskyists regarding the USSR political revolution stems from this position of the atomic war.
3. Algeria. Ben Bella is not a socialist, and is not deserving of our support — he is not a Castro. The Cubans criticize The Militant article on the suppression of the CP in Algeria, because it does not really appear to care particularly, nor does it oppose Ben Bella enough on this issue. The suppression of the CP is simply the prelude to the banning of all revolutionary socialist tendencies. An Algerian Trotskyist party has just recently been formed.
4. The colonial revolution. This is the main center of the socialist revolution today. Charges that the Posadas elements overlook the importance of revolution in the developed capitalist countries are only slanders — they have created sections of their international in France, Spain, and Italy.
5. The International Movement. The SWP and its co-thinkers are neither reformists nor centrists, but ‘Liberals’. We neglect neither the world movement and are overly provincial, bound up in our own little national problems. This is particularly bad at a time when the international questions are of supreme importance. Our analysis of developments in the international sphere is shallow, witness The Militant’s treatment of the Peking-Moscow dispute, where no really serious analysis is presented, and no program is suggested for the revolutionary militants within the CPs of those countries of the world. The bourgeois press has analyses which are at least as perceptive and often more so. Even more shallow, considering its supposed function, is the ISR.2 This lack of depth is revealed in The Militant’s position with regard to Castro and the leadership of the revolution. You do not help Castro by merely supporting him uncritically. He is under tremendous pressure on the left, from the Cuban masses, and on the right from the Stalinists. Our task is to be a step ahead of Castro, more or less preparing the way for him, and making it easier for him to continue in a good direction. The SWP would appear to have given up the perspective of building a mass revolutionary Trotskyist party, not only in the US, but also in Cuba and perhaps around the world. We have no concept of international discipline, witness our split from the centralized leadership of Pablo and Co in 1953. Regardless of our organizational differences, we should have remained within the International and carried on a struggle in a principled fashion. (This charge is particularly ironic, n’est-ce pas?) Unity is impossible between the Posadas group and the other forces of world Trotskyism, because the political differences are too great. They can’t understand why we bother to carry on a discussion with the Socialist Labour League, since their position is so completely false. Essentially, Pablo was right in 1953, politically, that is, but the IS forces have since given up the correct line, and have adapted themselves to bourgeois liberal pacifist pressure. Because we are not telling the working class of the inevitability of war, and preparing them for it, we are misleading them with pacifist delusions.
6. Cuba. First, regarding the matter of the united party of socialist revolution, and the ORI (Integrated Revolutionary Organisations). The Trotskyists did not apply to it for representation on the national executive committee as a legitimate revolutionary grouping. They did not do so on the grounds that not only would they have been refused, but they would have had no opportunity to publish Trotsky’s works, or to disseminate their ideas and their program, for within the ORI apparatus there is no political discussion. ORI is not a party, it is only an apparatus, an organization of the government. It is not simply the old Stalinist PSP in other clothing, however it operates in Stalinist fashion. The membership is being selected not on the basis of political program or discussion, but in an arbitrary and apolitical manner. The real party of the socialist revolution should be formed through political discussions in the unions, with the culmination of the preliminary discussion in a Congress of the CTC-R (the trade union federation) at which the political line would be worked out. Then recruitment would take place on the basis of the program, in the Marxist-Leninist tradition. When I asked if the possibility existed of any political ferment taking place within the ORI in the future, they admitted the possibility, even the probability of such, but insisted that the Trotskyists maintain an independent identity and discipline. If a comrade is selected for the ORI (that is, is an exemplary worker) then he accepts — there are some comrades within the organization.
The Cuban Trotskyists see a three-fold division in the top leadership of the revolution. On the left is Guevara, Dorticós and some others; on the right are the old PSPers; and in the center but leaning to the left is Castro. Differences within the top leadership are not thrashed out or discussed publicly. Instead a monolithic front is presented to the people. But there is a tremendous amount of political discussion going on in the streets, so to speak, and the people (as Castro himself admitted in a speech made after the Escalante exposure) are three months or more ahead of the leadership of the revolution. But they are given no opportunity to discuss and to engage in the formulation of the program of the new ‘Party’. There is no programmatic debate, and in such an eclectic atmosphere the ‘Stalinists’ have an excellent opportunity to distort the ORI to their ends, as indeed they are now doing. The Stalinists control the Army, the CTC-R, and the CDRs, as well as other departments of the government. Much of the reason for this is to be found in the theory that their influence is a condition of aid from the Soviet bloc. The ORI is being imposed on the people.
As for their position on Castro: he is going in a good direction, but he lags behind the masses. They give critical support to him. And as to the ‘bureaucracy’: it is not an established phenomenon. It is still only a tendency, somewhat ephemeral in character. There are privileges for functionaries, although very little difference in income. The situation is much better than that obtaining in the Soviet Union: ‘Compared to the USSR there is no bureaucracy, but compared to the desires of the masses, there is.’ There are no organs for the expressions of the masses, in a formal way, only grievance committees in the shops and unions.
There are three parties in Cuba — the legal one is the ORI, semi-legal is the PORT, and illegal is the PSP, which still meets, secretly. The Trotskyists cannot get Voz Proletaria printed; even small private publishing houses are forbidden to do so by the government. Neither can they publish any of Trotsky’s works. The government knows of the existence of the PORT, and is under tremendous pressure from the Stalinists and the USSR to ban them. Only the pressure of the Cuban people (who are not anti-Trotskyist) maintains the present equilibrium. They are harassed to a certain extent — in August, a number of comrades, including Ferrera, were picked up and held incommunicado and without formal reason for a number of days. In December a comrade was deported to Argentina (he was the representative of the BLA) after having been held for some time.3 Once again there was no reason given. The Cubans cannot hold open forums; they are refused by the police, who revive an old Batista by-law requiring 14 days’ notice before permission may be granted for a public meeting. Even with such advance notice, no permission is ever granted.
They are particularly annoyed with the attitude of the other Trotskyist currents, in their disavowal of the Cuban Posadas group. In particular they single out Hansen’s reply to Hoy’s slanders, and Maitan’s Open Letter to Castro in which they are publicly renounced. They claim that such efforts to get Castro’s ear are not even helping Castro, as it is necessary for him to fight the Stalinist influence and to defend what in essence the Trotskyists here (in Cuba) are defending.
Incidentally, Voz Proletaria has a circulation of 1000, and is said to be passed from hand to hand, widely read. If printed, it could have an initial circulation of 20 000 — so they say.
They also told me of an incident at the University at the time of Yevtushenko’s visit. He was giving a series of lectures for several days. At one of them, a Trotskyist rose and spoke of the deportation (or detention, as it was at that time) of this comrade from Argentina. He asked Yevtushenko his position. The latter replied that if the comrade was a revolutionary, then the deportation was a mistake, and that Fidel would not allow the deportation. The next day, the case was mentioned again by another comrade at the next lecture of Yevtushenko. This time the comrade presented himself as a Trotskyist in order to raise the question of Trotskyist legality. He mentioned the rehabilitation of Bukharin, Tomsky, etc,4 and asked what about Trotsky? Yevtushenko replied that Trotsky would never be rehabilitated, that he was a traitor, and mentioned Brest-Litovsk as an example. A student who was not a comrade got up at this point and said from the floor that Yevtushenko was wrong on Brest-Litovsk. He asked why, when Lenin criticized both Trotsky and Stalin in his Testament (?) did he not mention his differences with Trotsky on Brest-Litovsk,5 and why was Yevtushenko taking the Stalinist position? Yevtushenko was taken aback — it was probably the first time he had been called a ‘Stalinist’. He abruptly left the room, refusing to answer any more questions.
According to the Cuban Trotskyists the difficulties facing Cuba now in the economic sphere stem largely from the attempts of the Cubans to build socialism in one country. They claim that the Cubans are endeavouring to make the country economically self-sufficient. They see this as a contradiction of the revolutionary perspective of the foreign policy of the government. They are acutely interested in the problems of building socialism in a workers’ state, and are quite conscious of their rather unique position as the only legal Trotskyist party in a workers’ state (at least, not illegal).
Well, there it is — the presentation of their views as they made them known to me. While I find myself in general agreement with them on such matters as Algeria, and the ORI, and their status as a party in Cuba, I cannot help feeling sad at the knowledge that this is the group which is presenting itself as the legitimate Trotskyist party to the Cuban people. Just before I left, they asked me to forward to them copies of Trotsky’s articles on the war question which are contained in the 1944 FIs [Fourth International]. This we are doing, and one can hope that they will be able to follow through with their plans to in some way get these published as they wish. After all, they can perform a good service by distributing Trotsky’s works. Since they claim to be recruiting at a rapid pace, perhaps the influx of new members will eventually have some influence on the more sectarian elements of their line.
Perhaps I should finish off with some remarks on my general observations while in Cuba. Regarding the position of Trotskyism in the broad, intellectual sense of the philosophy: apparently, Trotsky is being read by many of the students. There are five of his books in the University library — Terrorism and Communism, Literature and Revolution, Permanent Revolution, The Revolution Betrayed and The Living Thoughts of Karl Marx. These are listed under Bronstein, and have just recently been placed back in the library, according to a Canadian whom I spoke to in Havana. I noticed that the cards for them are old ones, rather worn around the edges. The Biblioteca Nacional had only the collected pamphlets on France and Germany, but at least these give a good exposition of the differences between United Front and Popular Front. Each ministry has its own library, and some of these contain Trotsky’s writings. The Ministry for Education, for example, has an English edition of The History of the Russian Revolution. There is considerable interest in what Trotsky had to say, particularly because of the slanderous attacks of Hoy, and of the PSP and its adjuncts. Members of the Unión de Jóvenes Comunistas (the youth movement) have in some places been told not to talk with Trotskyists. There is a subtle anti-Trotskyist campaign being carried out, but it is not, so far as I could ascertain, officially sponsored.
Incidentally, Molina told me of an incident that happened just recently where a comrade met a compañero with whom he had fought in the hills who is now a captain in the G2. This G2 man did not know the other fellow was a Trotskyist, and he held up a copy of The Revolution Betrayed which he was reading and advised the comrade to read this guy Trotsky, as he was pretty good. At this, the comrade said he was a Trotskyist, and then the G2 man clasped him warmly and asked him if he could get him some more books by the same author. I’m quite sure that this is the only workers’ state where the secret police go around advising people to read Trotsky! (I note that IF Stone found the Old Man in the library of the jail.)6
One more remark — while it is undoubtedly true that the Cubans in the vast majority wish that the missiles were still there, this does not in any way demonstrate that the conclusions of the Posadas group are correct. Also, it is not true that Fidel lags behind the masses, in my opinion. The people are Trotskyist, actually, in their international outlook, but they need a leadership of the caliber of a Castro in order to elucidate and formulate their own intuitive comprehension. If it is true that Fidel said he was three months behind the masses at the time of the Escalante speech (which had a tremendous effect in Cuba, where the people came out into the streets after hearing it on TV) it was necessary for the people to have gone through this experience and to understand it fully — to attack the Escalante tendency, as many Cubans reminded me, one had to ensure that one was supported by the masses. By the way, the Cubans themselves are publishing Left-Wing Communism, An Infantile Disorder by Lenin, and it is on sale everywhere.
8 February 1963
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1. See JG Pérez, ‘How Sectarians Misrepresented Trotskyism in Cuba’, Intercontinental Press (New York), 11 May 1981, p497.
2. The ISR, the International Socialist Review, was the US SWP’s monthly theoretical journal.
3. This was José Oscar Lungarzo, the Latin American Bureau’s representative, who had been in Cuba for over a year. See pages 183 and 189-90 of this issue of Revolutionary History.
4. Nikolai Bukharin (1888-1938) was an Old Bolshevik who swung to the right in 1923 and succeeded Zinoviev as the leader of the Comintern in 1926. He broke with Stalin in 1928 to form the Right Opposition as the Comintern was about to embark on its ultra-leftist course. Expelled from the party in 1929, he was executed after the third of the Moscow Trials. Mikhail Tomsky (1886-1936) was a leading figure in the Soviet trade union movement, who also supported Stalin against the Left Opposition until 1928. He then helped found the Right Opposition, which led him to be removed from all posts. He committed suicide during the first Moscow trial.
5. The suppressed testament of Lenin was Lenin’s letter of December 1922 to the Spring 1923 Congress of the Russian Communist Party. In this ‘testament’, Lenin dealt with the issue of his succession, and, despite the uncertainty of the anonymous author of this IS Internal Bulletin, addressed the qualities and failings of both Stalin and Trotsky. Whilst Lenin did not give unqualified support to either, his praise for Trotsky as ‘the most able man in the present Central Committee’ contrasted with the withering attack on Stalin’s leadership, which included a call for his removal from the position of General Secretary. See R Service, Lenin: A Political Life: The Iron Ring, Basingstoke, 1995, pp282-6. Suppressed by the supporters of Stalin, it was only published by the Trotskyist movement up until 1956, when Khrushchev made it known to the CPSU. It was thereafter included in the Moscow versions of Lenin’s Collected Works. See VI Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 36, Moscow, 1956, pp594-5.
6. IF Stone (1907-1989) was a well-known left-wing journalist in the USA who was initially an enthusiastic supporter of the Cuban Revolution. The reference to Stone’s knowledge of the contents of Cuban prison libraries no doubt refers to when on arrival in Havana on one of his many trips to Cuba, an over-zealous security officer arrested him after finding $100-worth of medical supplies, intended as a gift, in his possession. He was detained overnight, and released without explanation. Thereafter, though Stone remained hopeful about the Cuban Revolution, he was slightly more critical. See RC Cottrell, Izzy: A Biography of IF Stone, New Brunswick, 1992, pp203-16.