This exchange of views on the early history of the Cuban revolution was published in the 11 May 1981 issue of Intercontinental Press. The first two pieces are open letters, one by Adolfo Gilly and the other by Angel Fanjul, written in response to a speech given by US Socialist Workers Party National Secretary Jack Barnes on 31 December 1978, which was published as "Twenty Years of the Cuban Revolution" in the 19 February 1979 issue of Intercontinental Press. The third article is a reply to Gilly and Fanjul by José G. Pérez, who was at that time a member of the SWP National Committee.
Open Letter to Jack Barnes on Trotskyism in Cuba
Dear Comrade Barnes,
The speech you gave on December 31, 1978, "Cuba – Twenty Years of Revolution", seems to me an important document, both in view of its content and because of the occasion on which it was made. I think it was appropriate that you sought to draw an objective balance sheet of the Cuban revolution and the evolution of its leadership. This included appraising the revolutionary significance of Cuba’s intervention in Angola and other African countries, and pointing out that in judging the Cuban compañeros one must understand that their alliance with the Soviet Union, while indispensable, at the same time puts them under terrible pressure from the bureaucracy.
It’s true, as you said, that the Cuban revolution – particularly during the crucial years from 1959 to 1962 – has been a test for all revolutionary tendencies, including tendencies in the Trotskyist movement. I thought that your summary of the activity in defense of the revolution carried out by Trotskyists in the United States during those years was impressive. The Latin American Trotskyist movement, which was then organized mostly in the International Secretariat of the Fourth International, did no less. (In fact we did a few more things that you were able to do because of our situation.)
I think, therefore, it would be of interest to apply the test you talked about to the positions and activity of all the tendencies in the Trotskyist movement at that time, those in the International Secretariat as well as those in the International Committee, not only in the United States but in other countries as well, including the countries of Latin America.
(At that time there was no "Posadista" tendency because that split took place in the beginning of 1962. In those days Posadas considered himself a "Pabloist" Furthermore, he was not by any means saying the kind of crazy things he came up with in later years, since he was subject to the control, the influence, and the political life of what was then the Fourth International-IS.)
The history of our movement is important. It’s in that history – not in some abstractions – that our program lives on, and our young comrades find a source of confidence and education in party work. Throughout our history, experience has taught that none of the tendencies into which the movement has been politically or organizationally divided since the Second World Congress (1948) has a monopoly on Trotskyist principles and traditions, nor on the movement’s achievements or its mistakes. (This doesn’t mean, of course, that all these tendencies are the same.)
History is an indispensable tool for the development of our cadres. One thing we’ve learned from the likes of Stalin, Healy (whom I trust you know well), and Posadas (whom I know well), is that you can’t build for the future by slandering or distorting the past. It’s bad enough to do such a thing out of ignorance or carelessness. But it’s even worse when done in the service of immediate political interests of a faction, sect, or clique, as was the case with those individuals.
The tradition of Trotskyism is a rich one, of tenacity in defense of principles, of the ability to stand up to long years of adversity, of devotion to revolutionary activity not just for three or five years as a student but for one’s whole conscious life. Only a program that has passed all tests can provide such a continuity having had, so far, few victories and many defeats.
That continuity is embodied in men and women, in real militants. And regardless of which Trotskyist tendency they may belong to, what those militants do and have done for the revolution is something that has to be valued and respected. Otherwise our program would appear as merely some abstract truth, to be discovered by the first novice who comes along, used however and for as long as he or she may like, and then discarded in favor of some other pursuit.
The attitude of veteran comrades who whip out their past (real or invented) to score points on authority whenever younger activists speak up or contradict them is arrogant and fatuous, in my opinion. Young comrades will pay little heed to such people – and rightly so. But on the other hand it seems to me unserious for us to ignore or downplay all of the past (or the present) in which we ourselves have not participated, as if the movement only began at the point where each of us joined. If comrades come in with that sort of attitude and don’t change it in the course of party life, they will not be firm in their convictions and their enthusiasm for Trotskyism won’t last very long. As a rule, such people wind up becoming centrists or just dropping out of politics.
Slanders and amalgams have always been the weapons of Stalinists and centrists. Each in their own way, they use these weapons in their struggle against Trotskyism to make up for their own weakness or their lack of theoretical arguments.
This has been no less true of the Cubans, a typical current of centrist revolutionaries (whom you appraise too uncritically), who moreover have a powerful apparatus. From the writings of Blas Roca and Régis Debray up to Fidel Castro’s speech at the January 1966 Tricontinental Conference – not to mention the innumerable bits of gossip spread around by paid functionaries or journalists – amalgams and slander have periodically been given free rein in their polemics. The focus of these slanders, and their intermittent character, are, to be sure, much more akin to the methods of centrists than of Stalinists. But there is no sharp division between the two. Centrists as well as Stalinists are pragmatists, who discount theory; what they believe in is the apparatus, or power.
Between 1959 and 1960 a vigorous theoretical polemic took place between the Trotskyists and Stalinists in Cuba (the latter then belonging to the PSP) over the immediate course of the revolution. The Trotskyists maintained that in order to survive the revolution had to continue, and grow over into a socialist revolution. The Stalinists said that this was an imperialist provocation to justify Yankee intervention. They maintained that the revolution was merely bourgeois-democratic. This polemic shows up in the documents of both sides during those years. We all know who was proven right by the subsequent course of the revolution and of the Castro-Guevara leadership.
But although the Stalinists lacked cogent arguments, they cooked up other things. Among these, they said that the Trotskyists were involved in pushing the idea of a march on the naval base at Guantánamo, in order to prove that the Trotskyists really were provocateurs in the service of imperialism.
The Trotskyists, like all Cubans, beginning with the revolutionary government itself, denounced the military presence of imperialism in Guantánamo and called for its expulsion, just as in our propaganda we call for the expulsion of imperialism from all of Latin America. It should not be forgotten that the recovery of Guantánamo was among the five points raised by Cuba during the October 1962 crisis.
We Trotskyists have always proposed the expulsion of imperialism from the Panama Canal, as expressed concretely in propagandistic slogans such as "Imperialism out of Panama!" or "Imperialist military bases out of Latin America!" But there remains a qualitative difference between raising these propagandistic slogans and concretely proposing to organize a march right now on the Panama Canal. It’s the difference between propaganda and provocation. It was the same in the case of Guantánamo.
Furthermore, that demand was by no means the center of the Trotskyists’ program. They were fighting for nationalizations, for agrarian reform, for the revolution to take a socialist course. But the Stalinists – good pragmatists that they are – didn’t bother themselves with such theoretical subtleties.
Lacking arguments, they found it expedient to invent (among other slanders) the charge that the Trotskyists were running around proposing a march on Guantánamo. There are dozens of documents that show what program the Trotskyists were really fighting for, documents in which Guantánamo doesn’t even appear. But of course such a fact never stood in the way of any slanderers, least of all the Stalinists. They cooked up the slander and started it rolling. Others, whose purposes it also suited, picked it up and repeated it.
And now, twenty years later, you repeat this same anti-Trotskyist slander in front of six hundred youth at the YSA Convention on the anniversary of the revolution! Unbelievable!
In your speech you said: "The world Trotskyist movement must accept the responsibility for missing two great opportunities to influence the Cuban leadership. The first was right after the victory over Batista. Unfortunately, in Cuba Trotskyism was misrepresented by a group that followed a cult leader named Juan Posadas. Their specialty was passing out leaflets demanding a march on the Guantánamo naval base, while the Cubans were trying to consolidate the revolution. They denounced the leaders of the revolution for not being socialists."
The center of your argument, in which you lay the blame on the world Trotskyist movement in general and on the Cuban Trotskyists in particular, is that their "specialty" (by which I understand main or almost exclusive activity) consisted of proposing a march on Guantánamo.
That’s a lie.
The rest of your argument also collapses along with this point.
If there are documents in the SWP’s files that prove what you said, I’d like to see them, and I’d be willing to correct my own view. Obviously, I can’t prove a negative fact – that the Cuban Trotskyists did not have such a "specialty". That’s the problem in cases like this, the same problem Trotsky faced in the Dewey hearings in Coyoacán.
But I can offer some other evidence. This includes documents of the Fourth International-IS published during those years in Fourth International; documents of the Latin American Bureau of the IS published in Revista Marxista Latinoamericana (1959); the pamphlet by Comrade Ortiz published in Cuba in 1960; and the resolution of the Sixth World Congress (December 1960) presented by Comrade Maitan, in which it is stated that Cuba was already a workers’ state.
(If I’m not mistaken it was the first organization to make such a characterization, even before the Cubans themselves did. Huberman and Sweezy had said the same thing a little earlier – almost at the same time. Prior to that, Comrade Mandel and Patrice had posed the idea in the IS and, as I recall, in the discussion Comrades Maitan and Frank supported it right away.)
I can also present articles by Posadas which show what his positions were at that time. They were within the same analytical framework.
Now believe me, I have no interest whatsoever in defending the political cadaver that Juan Posadas has become, a model slanderer (as shown first of all by his slander about the death of Che). But I won’t try to take him on by using his own methods.
The old Latin American Bureau (and even the later "Posadista" current, despite its monolithism) was never Posadas’s one-man show (he was the one that always held that it was). Around the time of the Cuban revolution (1959-60) it was quite a substantial current, a majority of the Fourth Internationalists in Latin America at that time.
I don’t deny any of the good things that have been done since by other tendencies. But there’s a whole series of comrades who don’t know about the past and who – whether out of pragmatism or expediency – don’t take the trouble to learn about it. And I think it’s time, it’s high time, for those comrades to stop treating the lives, the traditions, the experience, the militant past of comrades who deserve to be respected and appreciated, like some kind of dead dog they can all join in kicking.
I should think that the documents I’ve mentioned constitute sufficient and abundant proof of what the position of the Fourth International and its Cuban section really was in 1960.
Comrade Barnes, you say you were there in the summer of 1960 and saw for yourself. Apparently you didn’t see very clearly. I’m not criticizing you – at the time, you were barely starting to come around the Trotskyist movement and you didn’t know Spanish (at least I presume so, since you say you don’t know it today).
In addition to documents, I can present the testimony of Latin-American Trotskyists who were also in Cuba at that time. These were comrades who already had many years of experience in the Trotskyist movement (as many as you have now). They participated personally, as representatives of the Fourth International and its Latin American Bureau, in the Congress of Youth in Havana.
There against an overwhelming majority organized by the Stalinists in support of a democratic revolution, those comrades championed the program of a workers’ and farmers’ government, of expropriating the imperialists, of a socialist revolution in Cuba, of extending the revolution. They were attacked, threatened, and slandered. But just a few days later, they were thoroughly vindicated in fact when Fidel Castro made his historic speech launching the first wave of nationalizations and opening the socialist course of the revolution.
One of these comrades is Angel Fanjul, at the time a leader of the Argentine section, who now lives in exile in Europe (and to whom I’ll send a copy of this letter.)
As I recall, comrades from Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, and Peru participated in that congress as representatives of the Trotskyist current. They did not mouth "insanities", as you so lightly allege. They defended the program of socialist revolution. It’s in the documents.
When you were there, you saw only comrades from the United States. That’s understandable, given your situation and your comprehension at the time. But what in not understandable is why you, twenty years later, as one of the main leaders of the SWP, in a speech whose importance and the scope of whose objectives could hardly be overlooked, came out making it look as if the attendance of a few Trotskyists from the United States was the only thing that saved the honor and the program of Trotskyism from the "insanities" of the Cuban and Latin American Trotskyists.
I don’t know what the comrades you mentioned said, what they did, or what program they were putting forward at that time. I’m inclined to believe that their actions were quite good; I’d like to know about them in more detail. What I’m not prepared to believe, though, is your presentation of the facts.
Comrade B. Ortiz – later a member of the International Secretariat – also went to Cuba, and in 1961 published an article on Cuba in Quatrième Internationale in which he by no means preached insanities. Later, in 1961 and 1962, Comrade Juan, a member of the political bureau of the Argentine section, was sent to Cuba by the Latin American Bureau. Juan was a worker, one of the participants in the October 17, 1945, general strike in Argentina, who had been won to Trotskyism in 1946. I was also active in the Cuban section from July 1962 to October 1963 (when I was deported to Europe).
We never proposed any march on Guantánamo. On the contrary, we were extremely cautious in regard to the tactics we used to try to influence the Cuban leadership and revolutionary cadres.
I can also present one piece of material evidence. In 1963 I published a small book entitled Inside the Cuban Revolution. It appeared first in Partisans and Marcha, and later in expanded form in Monthly Review. What I wrote there was nothing other than the positions, the analysis, and even the tactical thinking of the Cuban Trotskyists. Had I not been there with the Cuban comrades, and more importantly with the Cuban people going through the day-to-day tasks of that period. I could never have written that pamphlet. The pamphlet was favorably reviewed by The Militant, as I recall.
You assert that Trotskyism was "misrepresented" by the Cuban Trotskyists. You can’t present a single proof of what you said. I, on the other hand, present to you this pamphlet. That should be enough. You must now tell me where and why the positions in that pamphlet "misrepresent" the ideas and the program of Trotskyism on the Cuban revolution.
Cuban Trotskyism has a long history. You don’t seem to be familiar with it. I’ll try to trace some of it from my own limited knowledge. It would be useful for someone to do some research on this in the archives and libraries, including the United States. According to a note that appeared on page 83 of the May 1960 issue of Quatrième Internationale:
"Cuba: Reconstitution of the Cuban Section of the Fourth International.
"The Partido Obrero Revolucionado (Revolutionary Workers Party, Cuban section of the Fourth International) has been reconstituted. The Trotskyist movement has long traditions in the Cuban mass movement. The Trotskyist organization in Cuba was founded in 1934, when Communist Party member Sandalio Junco returned from the USSR. Comrade Sandalio Junco was murdered by the Stalinists. The organization functioned openly until 1946, when repression was unleashed against it. Later on, some Trotskyists played an important role in the ‘Action and Sabotage’ section of the July 26th Movement. There they met up with other militants expelled from the Communist Party in 1949 for opposing the pro-Batista policy, and others kicked out in 1953. The reconstituted Cuban section also included militants who have participated in the revolutionary struggle in Cuba. It will thus benefit from the real respect that exists in that country for Trotskyist ideas and traditions."
When the group was dissolved around 1947, I don’t think it was because of the repression. After all, repression never breaks up any group that’s not in crisis. What happened, then? As the older comrades relate it, the majority of the Cuban section came out in favor of the anti-defensist or Shachtmanite tendency, and split away after 1946 to follow this tendency, and as a result soon disappeared.
In any case, the nonexistence of organized Trotskyism in Cuba during the phase of the guerrilla struggle for power (1956-59) must be seen as the main factor accounting for the paltry influence of Trotskyism on the Cuban leadership in subsequent years.
But all was not so dark. The Trotskyists did intervene. Since there was no section, and the International was unable to help them organize one, the Trotskyist comrades just went on getting involved in the revolutionary struggle wherever and however they could. They didn’t just sit around meditating, waiting to sally forth after the victory to give advice and propose an "assault on Guantánamo". The case of Pablo Díaz, who in 1947 was listed as the editor of their newspaper, was not an isolated one. The central group that reorganized the section participated in the armed struggle.
Comrade Miranda was sent by the Latin American Bureau in early 1959. She helped reorganize the group and put it back into contact with the International. Miranda was far from taking a sectarian attitude toward the July 26th Movement. She intervened in its debates, and spoke on its radio broadcasts. She was well respected by the Fidelistas.
The Cuban section began putting out a printed paper, Voz Proletaria, in 1960. The Stalinists launched a brutal campaign against it, all the more so since their people – following their usual tactic – had gained control over the state media. In 1961 the Trotskyists’ paper was shut down. After that it continued to appear in mimeographed form. It was not clandestine; we always rejected that option. We fought for the Trotskyist tendency’s right to legal existence in the workers’ state. This was something far more important than our little group and its little paper. It was a question of principles, a key point of our Founding Program – the right of revolutionary tendencies to exist in a workers’ state.
The comrades of the Cuban section participated on the job and in their neighborhoods in all the tasks of the revolution. They all belonged to the militia and all did voluntary work on Sundays. The section even adopted a resolution saying that no one could be a member who didn’t join the militia and do voluntary work. The comrades participated in the literacy campaign, in the coffee harvest, in the cane-cutting brigades, in the Committees for Defense of the Revolution.
In 1962, during the missile crisis, all the comrades of the section were in their respective military or militia units, in the trenches or in the cities. We also placed ourselves, as an organization, at the disposal of the revolutionary government for whatever duty it might assign us. This was personally communicated to them on October 24. I understand that it was symbolic gesture, given our numerical smallness. But it was a political position we took.
On at least two occasions during the time I was in Cuba comrades were thrown in jail for periods of a month or more. And I know that more than once Che intervened on their behalf. He never would have done that if he considered them bunch of irresponsible provocateurs, as you make them out to be.
In jail the comrades’ attitude was invariably one of defending the workers’ state and the revolutionary government against the counterrevolutionaries with whom they were confined (and who sometimes wanted to beat them up), while at the same time defending the Trotskyist program and the party’s right to legal existence again their jailers.
Nevertheless the small Cuban group was by no means perfect. It had weaknesses apart from its small size. The main weakness did not have to do with its conduct in political struggle, which was unimpeachable, nor its attitude toward the revolution, in whose tasks it participated in the front ranks. Its main problem was the theoretical weakness of the leading team, something that was unavoidable given the youthfulness of the section and its recent reorganization after the long period in which no Trotskyist party existed in Cuba.
We tried our best to overcome the failings. I know we didn’t always succeed. It’s probably not hard to look through the section’s publications and find schema, analyses, political errors, theoretical weak points, or the sort of sectarian formulations you’d expect from a small group facing a great revolution. I don’t ask anyone, nor do I try myself, to defend every single thing the comrades said or did. We’re not a clique or a sect, we’re a revolutionary International.
But be that as it may, one cannot find in the comrades’ writings a single attack on the workers’ state, a single provocative proposal. On the contrary, one will generally find a constant preoccupation with being pedagogical and persuasive. That at least is how I remember it. I trust my memory, because it coincides with what’s said in documents published abroad of which I have copies. We can probably corroborate it if we find Voz Proletaria in the archives.
Among the things you proposed for Cuba, you omitted the right to legal existence for revolutionary tendencies. I don’t know how you envision the councils (soviets) you propose without this right. You mention the right of tendency only within the party in power, the single party. I don’t know if you realize it, but when you repeat Stalinist falsehoods you are justifying – from a Trotskyist platform – the suppression of the right of the Trotskyists (and other revolutionary tendencies) to exist and function within the legality of the workers’ state, to fight with our program for the revolution and as an inseparable part of the revolution.
This is the group that, according to your talk to the YSA comrades, "misrepresented" Trotskyism in Cuba in 1960.
I know two ways of "misrepresenting" revolutionary Marxism: One in its political positions, the other in the moral conduct of its militants. These generally go together, but in any case as far as I’m concerned I tend to give more weight to the second than the first. I always have.
If you believe that the Cuban comrades fit into the first of these two categories, you should demonstrate it with evidence from the documents I mentioned or others that prove what you say. If you think they were in the second category, you should cite facts, attitudes, or actions. (The Cuban Trotskyists were there in the guerrilla struggle, in the underground, and in the prisons, and they conducted themselves far better than others toward whom you seem more lenient.)
If you can prove what you said in either of these two respects, I’m willing to make the necessary corrections in my statement.
But if you don’t know about either case, if what you said in Pittsburgh and now print in the February 1979 International Socialist Review for the SWP and the International was just, what someone told you, just your "impression", or just what you "heard said", then you know what you must do.
What I propose is that the International and the SWP, through the Cuban government or other possible means, investigate what has happened to the comrades of the Partido Obrero Revolucionario (Trotskista) of Cuba and what their present situation is. I also say you should defend the right of Trotskyists (and other revolutionary tendencies) to function legally in the workers’ state.
With fraternal greetings,
February 2, 1979
The Role of the Trotskyists in the Cuban Revolution
I just received a copy of the letter from Comrade Adolfo Gilly to Comrade Jack Barnes regarding Barnes’s December 31, 1978 speech, "Cuba – Twenty Years of Revolution".
Comrade Gilly refers to my testimony regarding the activity of the Trotskyists, and about my own activity, during the first months of the Cuban revolution. I feel politically and morally obliged to repeat that testimony, not only in view of the importance of the question posed by Gilly (it in an important question in its own right), but also for the education of the thousands and thousands of young cadres vho are joining our ranks today, and because I myself was a participant in the events in question.
I speak of "repeating" the testimony because a detailed report on the Trotskyists’ activity was submitted to the Latin American Bureau and to the Secretariat of the Fourth International at that time – October 1960).
While the struggle was still going on in the mountains of Cuba, while Batista still ruled the island, we Trotskyists launched a campaign in support of the guerrilla struggle in Cuba. In an article of mine published in Voz Proletaria (I think around the middle of 1958) entitled "Batista’s Downfall Is Nearing", I argued that within the July 26 Movement and in the guerrilla struggle a contradictory dynamic was unfolding, a dynamic that we Marxists should strive to define. I said that within that movement militants from petty-bourgeois tendencies fighting to humanize capitalism were coexisting with other groupings, including objectively Bolshevik elements that were looking toward a socialist solution. These were not my own ideas or predictions, but rather the predictions and conclusions shared by an entire team of Latin American Trotskyists, functioning under the leadership of the International Secretariat of that time.
While all this was going on, the Latin American Bureau of the Fourth International strained its resources in order to send two of its main leaders (Comrades Ortiz and Miranda) to Cuba to work in support of the Cuban revolution and, as an essential pivot of that support, to help build or rebuild the revolutionary Marxist party, the Cuban section of the Fourth International.
It would be wrong, however, to think that the reorganization of Cuban Trotskyism began when we arrived. A Trotskyist movement had existed for long years in Cuba and had a certain tradition. Gilly mentions some milestones in its history. So does Comrade Livio Maitan in his "Notes on the History of Trotskyism in Latin America". I refer the reader to them.
Part of the old movement survived the long, dark days of Batista’s regime. But these were not isolated individuals, not fighters who had lowered their banners; they were active on several fronts. (For reasons of security, since we do not know what has happened to some of those magnificent cadres today, I will only refer to things that are public and well known in Cuba, or to persons who are no longer alive.)
There in no doubt that Trotskyism had become part of the living tradition of the Cuban proletariat, regardless of the Latin American Bureau or the International Secretariat. How could anyone forget about Mella, who fell victim to the Stalinists; Sandalio Cujas; and so many others? What about Medina, who died of tuberculosis in Batista’s jails for his defense of Trotskyism?
Do comrades know that Pablo Díaz, the official editor of our paper before it was banned by Batista, was the main leader of the opposition in the Cuban trade-union organization? Or that he is one of the twelve survivors of the Granma who managed to get past the lines of Batista’s troops and go up into the Sierra Maestra? Or that he now holds the rank of comandante in the Cuban Army, or that he was in charge of the operation against the armed activity of the gusanos in Camaguey? Do they know that Pablo Díaz was responsible for the financial apparatus of the guerrillas?
Young and old cadres alike fought in the guerrilla struggle. I remember Mirella, who was hardly more than a child, along with Juan and Idalbertico Ferrara – the former a sergeant of a machine-gun squad, and the latter a medical corpsman in the guerrilla front in Oriente. There was also Comrade Antonio Torres of Havana, president of the Brotherhood of Railroad Workers. In his union paper I personally read many articles that had been taken from the Fourth International, including from The Militant, which in those days was in political solidarity with the International Committee.
From key posts in the class struggle all these comrades carried on an audacious struggle for the program of socialist revolution, for workers’ democracy, against the bureaucracy. Other comrades, whom I cannot name but whom I know very well, worked in key positions in the campaign of urban sabotage in support of the guerrillas.
When I arrived in Cuba I was officially received by the Cuban government and given housing at the site of the Latin American Congress of Youth. There I met up with the rest of the Trotskyist delegation, which as I recall included a delegate from the Chilean POR and one other Peruvian comrade in addition to those cited by Comrade Gilly,
From the beginning we could sense the charged atmosphere that forewarned of the ordeal to come. The Stalinist apparatus was ready to resort to any means to silence the Trotskyists. An soon as we arrived we were placed aboard a train – dubbed the "Freedom Train" – along with delegates headed for the Sierra Maestra, where the Youth Congress was to be held. That trip was an unforgettable experience for me. The train stopped in each town and village, and the workers and peasants would gather around it demanding that the delegates make speeches about the Cuban revolution. Traveling on that train were Luis Naguil of Uruguay, Felipe Galván from Mexico, and myself from Argentina. We did not arrive in time for the opening of the congress because the crowds delayed the train much longer that anticipated.
In impromptu speeches we brought greetings to the Cuban people from the International Secretariat of the Fourth International. We also argued that the socialist revolution in Cuba should go forward in a process of permanent revolution, opposing every kind of conciliation with the capitalists, and opposing the bourgeois coalition. Along with this, we called for self-organization of the workers, for workers’ control, for expropriating the capitalist economy and establishing planing. We called on workers and peasants to remain active and vigilant, and constantly reminded them of what had happened in Guatemala. We urged them not to delegate power to anyone.
When we returned to Havana, the fight was already under way. The Stalinist leadership had decided to challenge our mandates and deprive us of the right to voice and vote in the congress. This was not just a conflict between the Stalinists and us; it was a conflict over the course of the Cuban revolution itself.
It was part of the class conflict in the Cuban revolution, the conflict over whether to build a bourgeois state or a workers’ state. We realized that these and these alone were the two alternatives. The Latin American Youth Congress was just a pale reflection of the debate that was taking shape within the leadership of the Cuban revolution.
Faced with this, the Trotskyist delegation did not waver. We printed up three thousand copies of the manifesto we were going to present as a set of theses to the congress, and we distributed it massively to all the congress delegates. Copies were also given to the Cuban authorities, to political, trade-union, and popular organizations, and to all official and private publications.
Unfortunately, for the reasons of clandestinity that I have already explained, I do not have a copy of that manifesto. But since I was the one who edited the document, I recall its general lines. In any case, the basic points in that manifesto were excerpted and published in all the Cuban and Latin American press of the time. I refer the reader to this.
In this situation, the Stalinists could no longer quietly exclude the Trotskyists. Therefore, they tried a new scheme. I was publicly accused of being a CIA agent. Those were difficult times. The accusation was made on the front pages of all the newspapers in Cuba. They printed all our names – Naguil’s name, Galván’s name, my name, others. We were all CIA agents, with me heading up the list.
We were not intimidated by this. On the contrary, it only served to strengthen our conviction that it was necessary and important for us to intervene in the discussion. From then on, there was one provocation after another. A personal friend of mine from Chile, a delegate from a Christian organization in that country, expressed concern about my life – perhaps sincerely so – and offered to take me surreptitiously to the Chilean Embassy where I could seek asylum in order to avoid, as he put it, "being put up against a wall tomorrow".
We firmly rejected any idea of going underground, of asking for asylum of any kind from anyone. The Trotskyists in Cuba resolved unanimously to confront the allegations, demand a judgment, and defeat the bureaucratic maneuver. And we proposed that if we lost that battle we would fight in any ensuing trials in defense of the International, in order to defend Cuba.
This provocation was not carried out by just the Cuban Stalinist youth group. The high command of the Stalinist bureaucracy of the Western Communist parties, from Duclos to Blas Roca, was holding a conference in Havana at the same time. And that meeting – if we can take the word of Hoy, the daily paper of the Cuban PSP (as the Cuban Stalinist party was then called) – decided to come out in favor of the formation of an anti-oligarchical and anti-imperialist coalition government in Cuba.
The entire right wing, reformists of all shades as well as the Stalinists, had an interest in silencing the Trotskyists. We stood out as the coherent spokespersons, with a definite program, for a powerful wing within the revolutionary movement and within Cuban society that was calling for a socialist solution.
We stood up to the provocation and attended the first session of the congress. There, in the name of the entire Trotskyist delegation, I exposed the conspiracy against us and demanded the formation of a Revolutionary Tribunal to judge the revolutionary moral quality of the Trotskyists.
I made it clear that we would submit our revolutionary conduct to a review by such a tribunal, but that we would never agree that any such tribunal had the right to judge our program or our politics. Those we submitted to the judgment of the masses and to the test of history, not to any tribunal.
I also asked that if the proposed tribunal cleared us of the charges regarding our moral conduct, it should then put on trial those who had instigated, defended, and spread the slanders against us as defamers of revolutionaries, and expel them from the congress.
It was not easy to make such a presentation. When I requested to speak, the congress delegates and some of the others there stood up and drowned out my voice with shouts of "Cuba sí, Yankees no!" I estimate that the uproar against us went on for ten minutes. We did not let ourselves be shouted down, however. I held on to the microphone, starting to speak over and over again, for as long as it took to make them shut up. I was finally able to speak when it became evident that they would not be able to silence us.
I had been given five minutes to state my case. I spoke for nearly half an hour to a completely silent audience. When I finished, there was rousing applause from the galleries, in particular from the Electric Workers Union and from the Mexican Teachers group, as well as from Caribbean revolutionary groups.
The Congress president, a member of the Workers Federation of Chile, Comrade Nuñez, took the floor to call for rejection of my motion for the formation of a tribunal. He noted that I was referring to accusations and characterizations that had been made outside the congress hall, and asked if anyone among the delegates would take responsibility for the accusations that I was denouncing. If no one did, the case would be considered closed, and the congress could be considered to have confirmed that at no time had the Trotskyist delegation been attacked in word or in deed. Since no one took responsibility for the slander, that was the end of this first episode.
At dramatic moments such as this, the expressions and the words of revolutionary militants take on a special significance. I would like to cite three examples:
The peasant militia guard at the congress, when the attack against us intensified, gave me encouragement for my intervention by a single sentence: "Go on, buddy, go on!" A leader of the Cuban tobacco workers told me that if the Congress did not put a stop to this outrageous attack against us, his delegation would walk out. As he put it, they "didn’t make the revolution to go back to lies". A third example is the actions of Trotskyists who were not members of the delegation. Among them was Comrade Juan Ferrara, a sergeant in the rebel army. Ferrara, dressed in his uniform, personally distributed to each delegate a statement condemning the slander. In addition, as the shouts of "Cuba sí, Yankees no" were growing louder, a very young comrade from the United States, a member of the SWP youth group, broke through the barrier separating the public from the delegates, and without saying a word took a seat right at the table of the Trotskyist delegation.
As it turned out, a sort of revolutionary tribunal was set up. It was composed of members of the July 26th Movement, the PSP, the Chomón Movement and others which I do not remember. It was presided over by the General Secretary of the CTC (Cuban Workers Federation) youth section. Two Trotskyists attended the hearing: Galván and myself. At the same time, the other Trotskyists were working incessantly, talking to the congress delegates in a number of meetings and speeches in order to beat back the Stalinist maneuver. Our "trial" lasted several hours. A Stalinist was the "prosecutor", and I the "defense attorney". In the course of the hearing it was evident that the Stalinist maneuver had been repudiated, and by a very weighty authority. A telephone call interrupted the sessions, and after that everything changed. My right to defend myself was guaranteed and respected.
My statement, on the future of the Latin American revolution and the socialist tasks of the Cuban revolution, lasted two hours. During my speech, the Stalinist "prosecutor", who had stepped out of the session temporarily, played his last card, in an obvious attempt at blackmail: they would be willing, he said, to retract their whole campaign against the Trotskyists if we would withdraw the theses we had proposed to the congress. When this proposal was made to me, it was clear that the battle had been won. My answer was clear and final. I recall its terms more or less: "Neither the power of world imperialism, nor the attacks of the Soviet bureaucracy with its falsifications and its Moscow Trials, had been able to silence the Trotskyist movement. Does the comrade ‘prosecutor’ think that we can be shut up by such a miserable attempt at blackmail as this? I reaffirm before this court that we will uphold, defend, and expand upon our theses so long as we are physically able to do so, and if we cannot, others will do so in our name!"
That was the end of our "trial". The president of the CTC youth stated firmly that the commission considered that there were no valid charges against the Trotskyists, and that the congress would guarantee that we would not be subjected to physical or moral attacks.
What was in those much-talked-about theses? I repeat that I do not have the text at hand, but I can say that those theses were nothing but a reiteration of the Fourth International’s transitional program for Latin America. We were fighting for the expropriation without compensation of all imperialist and Cuban-owned companies in the public interest under workers’ control; for planning of the economy; for agrarian reform and agrarian revolution; for the dissolution of all organs of the bourgeois state and their replacement by a workers’ and peasants’ government based on freely elected workers’ and peasants’ councils subject to recall; for the establishment of armed workers and peasants militias; for breaking all economic, commercial, political, cultural, and military pacts that tied Cuba to world imperialism and Yankee imperialism in particular; for the right to have more than one workers party; etc.
We placed special stress on the following points:
For expulsion of the representative of the Kuomintang and the ambassador of Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalist China whose presence was an insult to Cuba and for recognition of the government of People’s China, which up to then had not been recognized by Cuba;
For recognition of the Algerian government in exile (comrades should recall that at that time the Algerian war of liberation was in full swing, and a government in exile had been set up, which included Ben Bella and Ben Yusef Ben Khedda);
For Cuba to denounce the Organization of American States (OAS) as an imperialist den of thieves, and to call for a Congress of Latin American Peoples, with representatives of workers’ organizations and trade-union federations, political parties, youth organizations, peasants’ organizations, etc., in order to constitute a permanent Assembly of the People of Latin America.
Among the points that raised the most furor, in addition to those mentioned above, was one that said precisely: "For the expulsion of the Guantánamo naval base, the spearhead of the counterrevolution!" We never called for a march on this or any other base. The Stalinists took up this sentence as the basis for another slander. Very sensitive, no doubt, the Stalinists focused on our slogans calling for expropriation of the American, British, or French-owned refineries, for collectivization of the land, etc. They knew well that the basis for class collaboration lay in defense of private property.
Our manifesto, of which we had printed only 3,000 copies, attained a circulation of hundreds of thousands. It was cited by all the Cuban press, including the essential points I have mentioned. This aroused great popular sympathy for our positions.
As would have been obvious to any observer, we knew that our theses would be rejected by an overwhelming majority. We therefore decided to separate out each of the points in the theses and present them in the form of amendments. Since our theses received only five votes – our own – that is what we did. As we proposed amendment after amendment, through the course of long sessions, the climate of the congress gradually changed. Some of our amendments were approved, by acclamation. I recall two of them: the ones on recognition of the Algerian Provisional government in exile, and on recognition of People’s China.
Objectively, we changed the course of the congress. It had been expected to take two sessions, with things being approved by acclamation, without presentation of documents and without discussion. But the small Trotskyist delegation imposed a frank, open, and loyal debate. The congress was greatly prolonged; I think it lasted ten days, with lengthy, exhausting sessions. The last forty-eight hours of the congress continued without a break, and the Trotskyist delegation got no sleep. The discussion was intense, and the resolutions adopted were oriented along the lines of proletarian internationalism.
I do not claim, nor is it my intention to say, that everything we did was correct, that we did not commit errors, that things could not have been better. No doubt they could have been. But the Trotskyist delegation did the best it could. And nobody, as I recall, came forward in the name of our International to do anything better than we did.
During the congress, on the evening of August 6, 1960, the government of Fidel Castro called a new meeting in the national stadium in Havana. As members of the congress, we were invited to attend that meeting. We discussed whether or not we should accept the invitation, since in a mass meeting it would not be hard for them to carry out a new provocation against us. We talked it over and decided to go.
That was a memorable night. Fidel Castro denounced the OAS, and announced the expropriation without compensation of all the sugar refineries and the main imperialist companies. The revolution was back on its course – the course that we had been fighting for. The first workers’ state in Latin America was born that night, and Trotskyists participated in its birth.
As one last note on these events, I should mention an episode that took place in the sweltering afternoon of September 2, 1960, in what was then called the Civic Plaza of Havana (now, I believe, it in the Plaza of the Revolution). There, before hundreds of thousands of people, Castro announced the breaking of all military pacts that tied Cuba to US imperialism. the expulsion of the representative of Chiang Kai-shek’s Koumintang, and the simultaneous recognition of People’s China. I stayed in the plaza for a long time, and when I finally left people were still cheering. The proposals of the Trotskyists – which reflected the vital need for the revolution to move forward as a process of permanent revolution – had taken on material and legal form. And as Gilly well recalls, we had the privilege of being the first formally recognized Trotskyist delegation in a workers’ state since the Stalinist Thermidor.
After the congress I received instructions from the International Secretariat through one of its members at that time, Comrade Juan Posadas. I was told to convey to the Cuban government the greetings, the support, and the program of action proposed by the Fourth International for international solidarity with the Cuban revolution. We did this, and in a chance meeting with Guevara, following a brief discussion, we arranged a meeting. Comrade Miranda and I attended that meeting. It was I who spoke.
Guevara thought that we were going to talk about the incident created by the Stalinists, with their miserable slander. We let him know that was not what we had in mind – since such questions are not settled in a ministry – but rather to convey to him the message and the thinking of the Secretariat of the Fourth International. The meeting had originally been scheduled to last fifteen minutes. Guevara extended it to more than two hours.
As instructed, I informed him of the International’s concern, and conveyed our unconditional solidarity with the Cuban revolution (we couldn’t call it a workers’ state, since we had not yet resolved to characterise it that way) and with the Cuban government. I told him that we were concerned with the question of the masses organizing themselves in order to exercise power, and that we considered the crux of the problem to lie in economic planning and workers’ control and administration. We stressed rather strongly the question of which social forces the defense of the Cuban revolution had to be based upon, and how important it would be from that standpoint to recognize People’s China. (Note that this meeting took place at least fifteen days before September 2, 1960.)
We discussed our proposals with him rather extensively. Guevara was obviously very interested, especially in our interpretation of the Peronist mass movement, and the movements in Chile and Brazil. He discussed with us the process of workers’ administration, and asked our opinion on the emerging Sino-Soviet conflict. He wanted to know about Yugoslavia. Several times Captain Manresa – his secretary – came into the office to remind him that the time had come for other meetings. Guevara ordered those appointments suspended, so that our meeting would not be interrupted. Guevara gave great importance to the judgment of the Fourth International. He followed our press attentively. Several times, during our discussion he referred to articles, from The Militant or Revista Marxista Latinoamericana.
In the course of that meeting we informed Guevara that our party was preparing to send me on another tour around Cuba, in order to organize the party and set up a branch in Guantánamo. At that point he said that they were moving toward the formation of a single party of the revolution, and that other parties would not be tolerated; but that nonetheless I could make my tour, since the government would guarantee my freedom of action.
February 2, 1971
A Reply to Gilly and Fanjul: How Sectarians Misrepresented Trotskyism in Cuba
José G. Pérez
On December 31, 1978, Jack Barnes, National Secretary of the US Socialist Workers Party, gave a speech celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the Cuban revolution. It was one uf the highlights of the eighteenth national convention of the Young Socialist Alliance.
He contrasted this anniversary to the twentieth anniversaries of the Russian and Chinese revolutions, noting that in Cuba, twenty years after its revolution, a privileged bureaucratic caste does not govern. He pointed out that there have been no purges of the original revolutionary cadre, no turning back from proletarian internationalism, and no abandoning of egalitarian domestic policies.
He described some of the impressive achievements of the revolution and noted some of its problems. He explained how the Fourth International including the Socialist Workers Party, its fraternal organization in the US, from the beginning has unwaveringly defended the Cuban revolution.
Barnes also cited two opportunities to develop collaboration with the Cuban leadership that were missed by the world Trotskyist movement. "The first was right after the victory over Batista", Barnes said. "Unfortunately, in Cuba Trotskyism was misrepresented by a group that followed a cult leader named Juan Posadas. Their specialty was passing out leaflets demanding a march on the Guantánamo naval base, while the Cubans were trying to consolidate the revolution. They denounced the leaders of the revolution for not being socialists."
Barnes recounted his own experience in Cuba in the summer of 1960 as a young, unaffiliated radical, and how he came to learn "that there was quite a difference between Trotskyism and the Posadista insanities".
"But the Fourth International lost an opportunity to influence the Cuban leadership as much as it could have because of the character of the Cuban organization that called itself Trotskyist", Barnes said. "This resulted, in part, from an unnecessarily long and brutal split in the Fourth International. This split, which wasn’t healed until 1963, weakened the world movement, and blocked the international leadership from using its full strength to influence the Cuban Trotskyists."
The second missed opportunity, he said, occurred during the period "from about 1967 to a little more than a year ago. During this time a majority of the leadership of the Fourth International themselves turned toward a strategy of guerrilla warfare. The Cuban leadership was trying to think out how to move forward in the aftermath of the collapse of the guerrilla orientation in Latin America, symbolized by the defeat in Bolivia and the death of Che. At that very moment, several sections of the Fourth International were speeding right past the Cubans in the opposite direction. The Trotskyist movement was giving the Cubans an outmoded answer that the Cubans themselves were trying to move beyond. It took some years and much discussion, but the Fourth International has now rejected these errors and puts forward a revolutionary strategy for Latin America that does provide answers to the questions the Cubans were weighing. But valuable time was lost in this process."
Barnes noted that the world Trotskyist movement once again has excellent opportunities to collaborate with and learn from the Cuban leadership. He specifically pointed to the changes coming in the United States that "are a great opening for deeply influencing the Cuban revolution. The rise of working-class struggle in this country and the role Trotskyists will be playing in it is going to spark some new thinking in Cuba about the revolutionary prospects in the imperialist countries".
Shortly following the publication of Barnes’s speech, Adolfo Gilly and Angel Fanjul, two Latin American revolutionists, addressed open letters to Barnes disputing what he said about the first of these missed opportunities. They had nothing to say on the second missed opening and the opportunities that are unfolding today.
They take issue with Barnes’s statement that the Partido Obrero Revolucionario (Trotskista) [POR(T) – Revolutionary Workers Party (Trotskyist)], the IS group in Cuba, "misrepresented" Trotskyism. The positions of the POR(T) at that time were generally correct, they claim, despite some minor errors. They say that the Stalinists originated the lie that the POR(T) called for Cuba to attack the US base at Guantánamo. They accuse Barnes of repeating this alleged slander.
Gilly and Fanjul, both Argentines, were active in the Latin American Bureau. After the split, both continued to be leaders of the Posadista current. Gilly has also been a prominent journalist and figure in the Latin American left since the early 1960s. He is the author of several books and now is a frequent contributor to the Mexican daily Uno más Uno. By the 1970s the Posadistas had all but ceased to exist, and Gilly had broken from them. Fanjul also broke from them and returned to the Fourth International.
Gilly states that he was active in the Cuban POR(T) from July 1962 until October 1963. Fanjul describes his visit to Cuba in the summer of 1960. Speaking from memory about their experience, they question Barnes’s credibility as a witness to the activities of the Cuban "Trotskyists". [Note] When Barnes visited Cuba in 1960, Gilly says, he was "barely starting to come around the Trotskyist movement" and "didn’t know Spanish". He suggests that a review of relevant articles and documents, published in official organs of the International Executive Committee, the Latin American Bureau, and the Latin American parties of the International Secretariat, will prove that Barnes is wrong.
The SWP’s archives have an extensive collection of publications and leaflets published by the Cuban POR(T) and some from the POR(T)’s cothinkers in Latin America. We have complete sets of Quatrième Internationale and Fourth International, the French- and English-language organs of the International Executive Committee. An examination of these materials incontrovertibly confirms that Barnes is correct, and that Gilly and Fanjul misremember what happened. The facts show that the Cuban POR(T) did have an ultraleft sectarian line that included passing out leaflets demanding a march on the Guantánamo naval base.
Like Gilly, we believe that the history of our movement is important and that clarifying the historical record of what the Cuban "Trotskyism" did in the early 1960s can serve a useful purpose. Reviewing this missed opportunity of the world Trotskyist movement is especially relevant today in light of the extension of the socialist revolution to Nicaragua and Grenada and its impact on Cuba. These developments are offering excellent opportunities for the Fourth International to develop fraternal collaboration with the revolutionary leaderships in these countries in defense of their revolutions and other revolutionary struggles.
To evaluate the views and actions of the Cuban POR(T), it is necessary to place them in the context of what was happening in Cuba during the first few years after the revolutionary government came to power.
Those years saw the revolutionary organization and mobilization of the workers and peasants that transformed Cuba from a virtual colony of US imperialism into the first Free Territory of the Americas.
The provisional government that came to power immediately following the January 1, 1959, revolutionary victory was a coalition government of the various forces that had opposed the dictatorship. While it included leaders of the July 26 Movement, which had led the fighting, the most important posts went to bourgeois figures. The government proved to be unstable, because the bourgeois figures were determined to block implementation of measures such as slashing rents and utility rates and a thoroughgoing land reform. Faced with the resistance of the capitalist politicians, the Castro leadership turned to the Cuban masses. During the course of a series of massive mobilizations supporting the government’s radical measures, one bourgeois figure after another left the government. Key turning points in this process included the replacement of Prime Minister José Miró Cardona by Fidel Castro in February 1959 and the resignation – under intense popular pressure – of President Manuel Urrutia in July.
The development of the Castro team as it led the revolution forward produced fissures along class lines within the July 26 Movement and its Rebel Army. The most important of these was the attempt by Huber Matos to split the army in October 1959 when he was military commander of one of Cubda six provinces. This last-ditch attempt by the bourgeois forces to reverse the course of the revolution led to the launching of the popular militias and the replacement in November of Felipe Pazos by Ernesto Che Guevara as head of the national bank.
These events closed this early chapter in the revolution’s history. They made clear that the capitalists had lost control of the government. Cuba now had a workers’ and farmers’ government, although much of the economy was still in capitalist hands.
The workers increasingly asserted control over production and conditions on the job in order to counter economic sabotage by the employers. In February 1960 trade was established with the USSR. At the beginning of June, the Soviet government announced that Premier Nikita Khrushchev would visit Cuba. Later that month, imperialist-owned refineries responded by refusing to process Soviet crude oil purchased by the Cuban government. Cuba answered by taking over the refineries of three US companies, occupying them with workers’ militias.
In September, the democratic organization of the masses took a major step forward with the formation of the block-by-block Committees for the Defense of the Revolution. Between July and October, all remaining major capitalists were expropriated. The Cuban workers, led by the Castro government, had established a workers’ state, extending the socialist revolution to the Americas.
The following year, 1961, was marked by the massive literacy campaign and by Washington’s attempt to crush the revolution militarily. In April, the US government staged an invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs with a mercenary force of nearly 1,500 counterrevolutionaries armed, trained, and led by the CIA. The invasion was crushed in less than seventy-two hours.
During the April events, Castro proclaimed the socialist character of the revolution. At the end of the year he gave a major address where he explained the evolution of the political thinking of the leadership, and its adherence to Marxism-Leninism.
The Position of the SWP
The approach, at the time, of the Socialist Workers Party to the revolutionary process unfolding in Cuba was clearly laid out in many articles and documents, the most important of which have been reprinted in Dynamics of the Cuban Revolution, by Joseph Hansen (Pathfinder Press, 1978). Among these is a document "The Character of the New Cuban Government", that SWP leader Joseph Hansen wrote in July 1960. It gave a positive assessment of the nature and direction of the Castro leadership and the Cuban government.
Hansen, who along with SWP presidential candidate Farrell Dobbs toured Cuba in early 1960, explains that:
"The Castro government has proved that its responses to the mass revolutionary movement in Cuba and to the counterpressure from the US are not simply passive. The new government has courageously defied American imperialism, resisting blandishments, threats and reprisals. On the domestic side, it has repeatedly mobilized the Cuban workers and peasants in political demonstrations, in taking over landlord and capitalist holdings, in disarming the forces of the old regime, and in arming the people....
"The Castro leadership has shown awareness of its own origin and its own leftward evolution, including the stages through which it has developed. What is remarkable is its acceptance of this development and its repeated declarations of intent to follow through to the end, ‘no matter what’, and despite its own surprise at the turns that open up. The constantly emphasized concept of the Cuban revolution as an example for Latin America, as the first link in a new chain of revolutions in Latin America against Wall Street’s domination, is especially to be noted as an indication of awareness that the leadership of the Cuban revolution faces great historic responsibilities.
"The dynamic rather than static character of the Castro leadership, of extraordinary interest to the revolutionary socialist movement, is undoubtedly ascribable in large part to the world setting in which the Cuban revolution occurs....
"In addition, this leadership is close to the mass movement of both the peasants and workers, who have solidly and militantly supported each revolutionary measure and inspired their leaders to go further. The popular response throughout Latin America has had a further effect in the same direction.
"All this points to the conclusion that the new Cuban government is a workers’ and farmers’ government of the kind described in our Transitional Program [adopted at the founding congress of the Fourth International in 1938] as ‘a government independent of the bourgeoisie’."
In December 1960 the SWP Political Committee adopted a resolution which also appears in Dynamics of the Cuban Revolution, characterizing Cuba as a workers’ state.
A Sectarian Approach from the Beginning
Gilly and Fanjul accurately state that the International Secretariat and its Latin American Bureau supported the Cuban revolution from its beginning, approved of its key social and economic measures, and defended it against imperialism. By the beginning of 1961 they had recognized that Cuba had become a workers date.
But during the first period of the revolution, they took a sectarian attitude to the leadership team around Castro and sought to organize a left wing against it.
In March 1959, the Latin American Bureau issued an appeal on the rising tide of revolutionary struggles in Latin America. It was reprinted in the Spring 1959 Fourth International. In passing, the appeal refers to the July 26 movement and similar movements as being led by "bourgeois parties and agents of imperialism", whose anti-imperialist stance was due only to "the enormous pressure that the masses are bringing to bear on them".
Of course, this might simply have been an initial sectarian reaction easily corrected as the revolution unfolded and as the revolutionary character of its leadership emerged even more clearly. But this did not prove to be the case.
By 1960, the Latin American supporters of the International Secretariat codified their sectarian view of the Cuban leadership into a fully worked-out line that was reflected in several articles printed in Fourth Internotional and Voz Proletaria, the newspaper of the Cuban POR(T).
The Latin American Bureau believed that while the Castroists had taken some progressive measures due to mass pressure, they were trying to hold back the struggle. In the view of the POR(T), a major conflict was developing in Cuba between the masses on one side and the Fidelista leadership on the other. It foresaw a coming confrontation between the mass organizations – the unions, peasant cooperatives and militias – and the Castroist-led Rebel Army.
Underlying this conflict, the POR(T) believed, was the struggle between a petty-bourgeois current, which was trying to limit the revolution to reforms within a capitalist framework, and the proletariat, which was trying to push the revolution forward to socialism. To the Latin American Bureau of the IS the split between the Castro leadership and bourgeois forces such as Urrutia was "infinitely" less important than the confrontation they predicted was coming.
These views were clearly expressed in an article by A. Ortiz, a central leader of the Latin American Bureau, dated October 1, 1960, and published in the Autumn 1960 Fourth International. Ortiz writes:
"There is in fact a parallel process going on to the degree that the intervention of the masses ceases to be by mass-meetings and simple support, and, that the movement is getting channelized into organizations and is intervening through its trade unions, militia, and cooperatives, the old political apparatus of the insurrection, based on the action of the petty bourgeoisie, is becoming inadequate and entering into conflict with the new forces. "Behind this dual process lies the basic contradiction in the development of the Cuban resolution and the elements of its most serious internal crisis, infinitely more serious than the crises with Urrutia, Díaz Lanz, and other capitalist elements."
Ortiz was elaborating the line laid out by Posadas in a feature article in the previous issue of Fourth International (Summer 1960). At the same time that a workers’ and farmers’ government had already been established that was on the road to consolidating a workers’ state in a couple of months, Posadas asserted that the masses were fighting "despite the leadership’s hesitations, fears and raising of obstacles". He argued that, "The Cuban working class must be in the first ranks in defense of its revolution against Yankee imperialism.... But it must do so directly and in a form independent of its own Cuban government." (Original emphasis.)
Posadas – in the summer of 1960! – called on the Cuban workers to "struggle for a workers’ and peasants’ government in Cuba". He warned against certain measures taken by the Castro government, such as organizing a student wing of the militia "directed by the state" instead of the trade unions, saying it was "a step backward and at the present stage an embryo of a capitalist army...".
The general approach of Posadas and Ortiz was fundamentally the same as that of the International Secretariat. For example, an editor’s footnote to Posadas’s 1960 article stated that developments in Cuba since it was written "fully confirm the line indicated in this article". The same issue of Fourth International that carried Posadas’s article also included an editorial on Cuba that stated:
"... the Fidel Castro leadership is advancing in an empirical way. It is taking steps forward under the pressure of the masses, but it remains a prisoner to its own conception of ‘humanist capitalism’. There is a permanent contradiction between its underlying paternalism concerning the participation of the masses, and the impact made on it from below by those same masses who would like to control and even run the economy. At this level, when the centre of the tasks of the revolution is shifting from the countryside to the cities, it is evident that the revolutionary army cannot be the only source of cadres for the revolution, the only ‘party’ that organizes the masses....
"In the 26 July Movement, in the trade unions, there is a left tendency that is heading towards an understanding of the turning-point that the revolution is reaching. This tendency is posing itself the task of building, on revolutionary Marxist bases, a leadership that will apply in a conscious way a workers’ prograrnme for the purpose of overcoming the revolution’s national and international contradictions, and ensuring a Latin American extension of the Cuban revolution.
"The action of the Partido Obrero Revolucionario, Cuban Section of the Fourth International, has as its aim to aid the development of this tendency, to speed up the building of a workers’ leadership for the revolution, and to orient, by mean of a workers’ programme, the course of the revolution and the formation of the leading cadres of the next stage."
This orientation of building a "left wing" against the revolutionary government and the Fidelista leadership led the POR(T) to misjudge the situation in the summer of 1960 when a workers’ state was being established in Cuba. For example, its first reaction to the August 6 expropriations of all imperialist companies in Cuba was to downplay their significance and to belittle the role of the Castro leadership in carrying them through. This is laid out in a speech by Posadas, excerpts of which were printed in the September 1960 Voz Proletaria. Posadas states:
"Between what the rank and file wants and what the leadership wants there is a tremendous distance, no matter how radical this leadership might be.... Fidel said on the sixth [of August]: we are going to expropriate with compensation and the masses shouted NO! ... When collectively, at the rally, they shouted NO! it’s because they want to go further. And when they shout ‘Arms to the mlitias!’ it’s because they want to advance, to go further. The masses were shouting ‘Militias!, Militias!’, not army, but militias, because they have confidence in them."
Apart from the infantile ultraleft nostrums (counterposition of militias to a revolutionary army and elevation of noncompensation to a principle), the Posadas speech was dishonest. It was the Castro leadership that had organized workplace and neighborhood militias beginning in 1959. And the Cuban government offered compensation to the imperialist corporations on terms that would have meant the US ruling class abandoning its economic war against the revolution. The Cubans, for example, proposed to pay compensation only on the basis of property values officially listed by American companies with the Cuban government for tax evasion purposes. If the imperialists wanted higher compensation for their properties, they first had to pay off back taxes and penalties. So there was little surprise when the US imperialists refused this reasonable offer and no compensation was paid. In fact, later in his speech, Posadas acknowledged that the nationalizations were "really without compensation", apparently not noticing that this contradicted his earlier argument.
It should be noted that Castro’s political approach, was clearly superior to refusing to pay compensation on the basis of principle as Posadas proposed, because it helped educate the Cuban masses about the extent of US imperialist robbery and showed the entire world who was in the right.
The most striking thing, however, was not that, but rather where Posadas drew the battle lines. In the same speech he says, "But what’s fundamental is that the proletariat is not in power, is not leading or intervening in the process of the Revolution, but rather is only a base of support". He adds that: "Unless the Revolution advances it will stagnate and that is the greatest counterrevolutionary danger. The danger is not in an invasion, although there is a danger of an invasion.... But the biggest danger is that, while they speak of invasion, if the Revolution does not advance with the intervention of the masses, there is a risk that in the near future it will decompose." That is, at a time when the Cuban masses were solidly arrayed behind their revolutionary government, responding blow for blow to the imperialist enemy, Posadas drew the line between the Cuban masses and the Cuban leaders.
A similar example is the POR(T)’s handling of the September 2, 1960, Declaration of Havana. This was Cuba’s answer to the US-inspired, anticommunist "Declaration of San Jose, Costa Rica", which had been adopted by the Organization of American States (OAS) shortly before. Presented at a mass rally in Havana by Fidel, this declaration forthrightly condemned imperialism and proclaimed:
"The right of peasants to the land; the right of the workers to the fruit of his labor; the right of children to receive education; the right of the sick to receive medical and hospital care; the right of the young to work; the right of students to receive free instruction. practical and scientific; the right of Negroes and Indians to ‘a full measure of human dignity’; the right of women to civic, social and political equality; the right of the aged to a secure old age; the right of intellectuals, artists and scientists to fight through their work for a better world; the rights of states to nationalize imperialist monopolies as a means of recovering national wealth and resources; the right of countries to engage freely in trade with all other countries of the world; the right of nations to full sovereignty; the right of the people to convert their fortresses into schools and to arm their workers, peasants, students, intellectuals, Negroes, Indians, women, the young, the old, all the oppressed and exploited; that they may better defend, with their own hands, their rights and their future." (The Second Declaration of Havana. With the First Declaration of Havana, Pathfinder Press, 1979.)
It affirmed "the duty of oppressed and exploited nations to fight for their liberation", and predicted that the toiling masses of Latin America, "the heirs of Zapata and Sandino", would "take up the arms of liberty". It appealed to the Latin American masses for solidarity against the growing imperialist plot to use the Latin American governments against Cuba. In order to counter the imperialist lie that the Cuban revolution did not represent the interests of the Cuban people, the declaration was made in the form of a resolution adopted by an assembly of hundreds of thousands of Cubans.
"The people of Cuba, Free Territory of America", the declaration begins, "acting with the inalienable powers that flow from an effective exercise of their sovereignty through direct, public and universal suffrage, have formed themselves in National General Assembly close to the monument and memory of Jose Marti."
Voz Proletaria replied with a centerspread feature by Angel Fanjul in its October 1960 issue. After a few sentences of praise, Fanjul launched into an attack against Castro’s "Bonapartist sui generis government" for having taken a vote on the declaration at the meeting. "To which class does this so-called Direct, Universal, and Public Democracy correspond?" Fanjul asked. "It is based on an idealization and abstraction. It is based on the idealist conception of unity, which seeks to ignore or overcome the class struggle, to go above the classes. It is the negation of the existence of the class struggle, the idealization of democracy, and the ignoring or idealizing of the character of the State as an organ of class rule."
Fanjul’s blindly sectarian potshots at one of the outstanding manifestos of the Cuban revolution totally missed the mark. His implication that the revolutionary government was unclear about bourgeois parliamentary democracy was absurd. The rally and the declaration, calling on the toiling masses of Latin America to revolutionary struggle, represented the exact opposite. They reflected the deepening of the Cuban revolution as a proletarian revolution and were part of its determined struggle against US imperialism
Organizing a "Left Wing"
The ultraleft approach of the Latin American Bureau and its Cuban affiliate was also shown in their view of the fusion between the July 26 Movement, the Revolutionary Directorate, and the People’s Socialist Party (PSP). Discussions around this proposal were in the air in 1960, and by July 1961, the three groups were fused into a single party. the Integrated Revolutionary Organizations. In 1965 this became the Communist Party of Cuba.
Criticizing the proposed regroupment in an article on "The Unification of the Forces of the Revolution" in the June 1960 Voz Proletaria, A. Ortiz argued: "The Party of the Revolution should be, not the sum of the "26" [of July Movement] and the old parties and movements, but rather, a new Party, structured around a revolutionary program.... It should not be based on simple party organizations. It should be based on the already existing mass organizations.... It should be, therefore, a labor party based on the unions and other organizations of the exploited masses."
The following May, in another article, Ortiz counterposed the formation of a "revolutionary Marxist Party" to the unification of the three main organizations supporting the revolution. In this article, published in the Spring-Summer 1961 Fourth International, he wrote: "The alternative to the Single Party is the achievement of political cohesion in the working class and the formation of its own party, of a revolutionary Marxist leadership which would not be swallowed up by the state apparatus, but would impose its will on that apparatus. There is a political force in Cuba which expresses that alternative, the Partido Obrero Revolucionario (Revolutionary Workers Party), the Trotskyist Party of Cuba." This made no sense, unless one thought, as the POR(T) did, that the purpose of a new party was to represent the masses against the government and the Castro leadership. But this flew in the face of the way the leadership question was unfolding in the Cuban working class.
The July 26 Movement was a revolutionary organization that by its actions had won the loyalty of the toiling masses. Due to the revolutionary mobilizations of the masses, by 1960 the July 26 Movement was running the government and the armed forces and leading the workers to take over the economy. The Revolutionary Directorate was based among the students and played a significant role in the struggle against Batista, especially in Havana. The PSP was the old-time Stalinist party which had been bypassed by the July 26 Movement. It had many cadres, however, especially in the labor movement. Under the impact of the revolution and the rise of the July 26 Movement, thousands of PSP members were radicalized and were putting pressure on the party’s leadership.
Joseph Hansen explained this process in a 1977 article, "Two Interpretations of the Cuban Revolution":
"This pressure mounted greatly after the victory as Castro initiated measure after measure advancing the socialist revolution in Cuba. In view of it disintegrating base, the PSP faced a bleak perspective. It could collapse or it could possibly join the July 26 Movement. To succeed in the latter move it had to prove its reliability and loyalty to the July 26 Movement.
"On August 21, 1960, Blas Roca, the general secretary of the PSP, made a collective self-criticism of the party’s errors, particularly the error of not having recognized the historic merits of Fidel Castro. The ranks of the party had already demonstrated their views by the way they pitched in to carry out the immense tasks facing the country. And during the Bay of Pigs invasion the following April they showed their capacity to carry out the directives issued by the government.
"From this it ought to be clear to everyone that in moving toward a fusion of the July 26 Movement, the Revolutionary Directorate, and the PSP, Castro was engaging in a simple political operation. He was responding positively to overtures from political forces that had previously fought the July 26 Movement and had committed grave errors. He did this in a generous way, making it easier for his former opponents to complete their turn. He did not even insist that the name of his own organization be kept. He assured posts for the leaders of the former groups in the top bodies of the new formation. All his moves were calculated to bring the greatest possible unity among these disparate currents in facing American imperialism." (Revolutionary Cuba Today: The Record of A Discussion, Education for Socialists bulletin, Pathfinder Press, 1980.)
Instead of becoming part of this important process that led to the formation of a new revolutionary workers’ party, the POR(T) remained outside of it, counterposing its own tiny organization to it. This sectarian folly was an obstacle to advancing the development of revolutionary leadership in Cuba and served to discredit the POR(T) among Cuban workers. To this day Fanjul apparently considers this course to have been correct. In his letter to Barnes, Fanjul recalls approvingly informing Che Guevara that he was going to tour Cuba in order to organize the POR(T) and set up a branch in Guantánamo. Yet in the same meeting, Che had told him about the plans to establish a new unified party!
Intervention at the Latin American Youth Congress
Gilly and Fanjul devote a big part of their letters to defending what the Latin American affiliates of the IS did at the First Latin American Youth Congress held in Havana, July 28-August 6, 1960.
Gilly was not in Cuba at the time. But Fanjul, who was part of the Latin American Bureau’s delegation to the congress, gives a vivid, blow-by-blow description of the conflict between the Stalinists and his delegation, creating the impression that this conflict dominated the proceedings.
Both the Militant and Voz Proletaria covered the congress at the time, and the SWP archives contain a record of the congress published by the Cuban government in the pamphlet series, Obra Revolucionaria. From this material, it is clear that Fanjul’s memory is inexact on many points. For example, the public accusations of the Stalinists against the IS delegation, far from dominating the proceedings, were launched only on the next to the last day of the meeting.
Nevertheless, Fanjul’s recent account and the September 1960 Voz Proletaria article do coincide in their analysis of the political forces involved in the youth congress. According to Voz Proletaria: "Two conceptions clashed at this Congress. One, which had a majority, led by the communist tendencies allied with the right wing of the "26" [of July Movement] and with the most conservative tendencies, wanted to make the Congress a ‘Festival of Latin American Youth’ with purely verbal support to the Cuban revolution. And the other conception, which found in our faction conscious, homogeneous, and coherent expression, fought to make this congress a real center of ideological debate, which would tend to lay down the programmatic, political, and organizational foundations of the Latin American Anti-Imperialist United Front...."
There is no indication who represented the "right wing" of the July 26 Movement or where the "left wing" fits in. Since the pro-bourgeois forces in the July 26 Movement had left the year before, did the Latin American Bureau consider the Castro leadership to be the "right wing"? This would be consistent with the sectarian approach to the July 26 leadership that was being put forward in Voz Proletaria at the time. But to make an amalgam of the Stalinists and the Castroists missed what was really happening in Cuba and at the congress.
In 1960 the revolution was rapidly advancing in a socialist direction, and the Castro leadership was leading this process. These gigantic events were the dominant theme at the youth congress and the source of tremendous enthusiasm for the delegates who came from many countries.
Leaving aside Voz Proletaria’s prejudice that it is somehow suspect to have a youth festival, it must be stressed that the Cuban leaders did not view the congress as some kind of extended party. Raúl Castro and Che Guevara gave major speeches to the gathering, and Fidel symbolically inaugurated the congress with his July 26 address and closed the congress on August 6 by announcing the expropriation of hundreds of millions of dollars of imperialist property. The central theme that ran through the speeches of the Cuban leaders and the resolutions approved by the congress was to extend the revolution. The objective of the Cubans was succinctly stated on a banner that decorated the congress hall: "Make the Andes the Sierra Maestra of Latin America."
The congress was clearly a move by the Cubans to win over the new generation of fighters inspired by the Cuban example to revolutionary positions. This was a constant axis of the Cuban leadership’s activities at that time (and today). Among those who were inspired by the example of the Cubans, and who responded to their appeals to make a revolution in their own country, were the founders of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) of Nicaragua.
In carrying out this strategy, the Cubans did not rely primarily on polemical denunciations of the Communist parties or other reformists. They realized that many who still looked to these forces were sincere and dedicated militants who could be won over to a revolutionary outlook. The Cubans tailored their tactics so that they could get a favorable hearing among such people. In doing this, the Casto leadership was applying on a broader arena the lessons they drew from the evolution of these kinds of forces within Cuba itself.
Stalinists Resist Revolution’s Course
The PSP leadership, which before 1959 was openly hostile to the July 26 Movement, had been adapting more and more to it under the pressure of its own membership. By mid-1960, the PSP was headed on a course toward fusion with the July 26 Movement.
At the same time, however, differences continued to be expressed, although less directly. For example, at the same PSP congress in August 1960 where Blas Roca explained that the PSP had been wrong about Castro, he criticized the idea that the revolution was "Communist". His report, reprinted in the October 1960 Political Affairs magazine of the US Communist Party, took to task many revolutionists who answered "The revolution is not Communist. It is Cuban", to the charge that the revolution was Communist. "This is an unbefitting reply", Blas Roca argued. "Communism does not refer to the nationality of the revolution but to its character.... The reason our revolution is not Communist is ... because it is not applying Communist methods or laws.... The Cuban Revolution is not a Communist revolution; it is anti-imperialist and anti-feudal.... The social classes that are objectively interested in the fulfilment of these historic tasks are the workers, the peasants, the urban middle classes and the national bourgeoisie."
Blas Roca’s remarks were a thinly-veiled polemic against the central leaders of the July 26 Movement. In truth, the answer of many Fidelistas that the revolution was Cuban was not such a bad one, since the imperialists claimed that it was a plot cooked up in Moscow or Peking. But the July 26 leaders were already beginning to go beyond that formula. Only three weeks before, Che had announced to the youth congress that the Cuban revolution had "discovered, through its own methods, the roads pointed out by Marx". Far from looking to the national bourgeoisie for support, the workers led by the Fidelistas were expropriating them! Blas Roca’s speech was a thinly-veiled attack on that course.
The differences between the Fidelistas and the Stalinists in Cuba in 1960, which were reflected at the youth congress, were far more central than any debates with the delegation from the Latin American Bureau. The truth is that the activities of this delegation were a convenient target for the Stalinists, who did not want to directly attack what they considered to be an ultraleft and adventurist line promoted by the Fidelista leadership.
In spite of the scandalous attempt of the Stalinists to exclude the delegation from the Latin American Bureau and to create a witch-hunt atmosphere against them, the majority, to their credit, refused to go along. Peter Buch, who headed the delegation of seven observers from the Young Socialist Alliance (the only national youth organization from the United States to send an official delegation), noted this in his report on the congress in the September 5 and 12 Militant. Writing under the pen name "Peter Allan", he said that: "On the closing days of the Youth Congress Gerardo Figueras, chairman of the Cuban delegation and president of the Congress, called for unity among all tendencies represented at the parley – including the Trotskyists – to pursue the common struggle against imperialism."
Blinded by sectarianism, Fanjul and his colleagues totally missed the real battle-lines at the congress. Instead of forming a bloc with the Fidelistas, who were putting forward a revolutionary perspective, the followers of the Latin American Bureau centered their intervention on maneuvers designed to "expose" the Castro leadership. Instead of supporting the forces presenting a revolutionary outlook, the Latin American Bureau delegation counterposed to the resolutions backed by the Fidelistas their own sectarian manifesto. The full text of that manifesto – but not even a brief summary of the resolutions approved by the congress as a whole – appeared in both Voz Proletaria and Fourth International. Major excerpts from it were published in Quatrième Internationale.
The proposed manifesto attempted to present a comprehensive and ideal anti-imperialist program without relating concretely to the issues being discussed at the congress. For example, its proposals for anti-imperialist organizations included:
A Latin American Anti-Imperialist United Front; a Proletarian United Front; an All-Latin-American Trade Union Organization; single United Trade Union Organizations for each country; a Central Latin American Students’ Association; and a Latin American Raw-Materials Pool.
As if all of these suggestions weren’t enough for a youth conference, the Latin American Bureau manifesto also called for the Federation of Socialist Republics of Workers’ and Peasants’ Councils in Latin America and popular militias in all countries.
A section on the United States recommended replacing the leadership of the AFL-CIO. Almost as an afterthought, it threw in establishing a "... true workers’ democracy in a planned economy with workers’ management and a workers’ government in the United States".
It’s no wonder that the resolution was voted down with only five Latin American Bureau delegates voting for it. But not to be put off by that overwhelming rebuff, they proceeded to reintroduce the document piece by piece in the form of amendments to other proposals. The purpose of this exercise was to "expose" the congress majority, especially the July 26 Movement.
This is explained in the September 1960 Voz Proletaria account of the conference, which denounced "the sectarianism and opportunism of the majority of the delegations" for rejecting such motions as one calling for "a general strike in all Latin America the day of the meeting of the OAS".
In spite of all this, eighteen years later in his letter to Barnes, Fanjul boasts: "Objectively, we changed the course of the congress. It had been expected to take two sessions. with things being approved by acclamation, without presentation of documents and without discussion. But the small Trotskyist delegation imposed a frank, open, and loyal debate.... The discussion was intense, and the resolutions adopted were oriented along the lines of proletarian internationalism."
Fanjul then goes on to describe Castro’s speech at the closing rally on August 6: "Fidel Castro denounced the OAS, and announced the expropriation without compensation of all the sugar refineries and the main imperialist companies. The revolution was back on its course – the course that we had been fighting for. The first workers’ state in Latin America was born that night, and Trotskyists participated in its birth."
Fanjul seems to be suffering from delusions of grandeur. The implication that the small sectarian delegation that he was part of seriously influenced the youth congress, or even more preposterous, helped put the revolution "back on its course" is ridiculous and flies in the face of all the facts. (It should be noted that the law authorizing the nationalization of 91 imperialist properties was adopted on July 6, 1960, three weeks before the youth congress began.) And, of course, this assumes that the revolution was ever off its course.
Fanjul’s recollection that the revolution got "back on its course" is particularly puzzling in light of the fact that following Castro’s August 6 speech the POR(T) continued, and even deepened, its sectarian approach to the Cuban revolution and its revolution.
What Che Guevara Said
Evidence of the POR(T)’s sectarian course is corroborated by the one Cuban leader who both Gilly and Fanjul speak highly of as a person of integrity, Che Guevara.
Gilly refers to the imprisonment of POR(T) activists while he was in Cuba. "I know", he writes, "that more than once Che intervened on their behalf. He never would have done that if he considered them a bunch of irresponsible provocateurs, as you [referring to Barnes] make them out to be."
In a September 14, 1961, interview with Princeton University professor Maurice Zeitlin, published in a US radical quarterly, Root and Branch, and excerpted in the April 9, 1962, Militant, Guevara was asked about the suppression of Voz Proletaria and The Permanent Revolution by Leon Trotsky. Guevara explained:
"That did happen. It was an error. It was an error committed by a functionary of second rank. They smashed the plates. It should not have been done. However, we consider the Trotskyist party to be acting against the revolution. For example, they were taking the line that the revolutionary government is petty bourgeois, and were calling an the proletariat to exert pressure on the government, and even to carry out another revolution in which the proletariat would come to power. This was prejudicing the discipline necessary at the time."
The March on Guantánamo Issue
One of Gilly’s sharpest charges is that Barnes lied in saying that the POR(T) advocated that Cuba militarily take over the US naval base at Guantánamo. Gilly says: "The center of your (Barnes’s] argument ... is that their ‘specialty’ (by which I understand main or almost exclusive activity) consisted of proposing a march on Guantánamo. That’s a lie. The rest of your argument also collapses along with this point."
And earlier in his letter Gilly says: "The Trotskyists, like all the Cubans beginning with the revolutionary government itself, denounced the military presence of imperialism in Guantánamo, and called for its expulsion, just as in our propaganda we call for the expulsion of imperialism from Latin America. It should not be forgotten that the recovery of Guantánamo was among the five points of the Cubans during the October 1962 crisis."
First, we should do away with a misunderstanding. Gilly interprets "specialty" to mean "main or almost exclusive activity". However, "distinguishing characteristic" would be a better definition. For example, a restaurant could advertise that "desserts are our specialty" without implying that customers would find desserts the "main or almost exclusive" item on the menu.
More important to note is how Gilly throughout his letter confuses the demand on the imperialists to withdraw from Guantánamo with the call to expel imperialism from Guantánamo. The same misformulation occurs consistently in Latin American Bureau publications from the early 1960s, as well as in Fanjul’s letter.
The distinction is not a question of playing with words; it has considerable practical significance. The demand to expel imperialism from Guantánamo could only be read as a demand on the government of Cuba to attack the US military base. However, by focusing on the demand for withdrawal the fire is placed on imperialism, where it belongs.
It is certainly the right of the Cuban people to get rid of the imperialist base by whatever means they consider necessary. But if the Cuban government were to move toward expelling US forces from the base, it would have had to weigh carefully the relationship of forces between the United States and Cuba. Such moves would undoubtedly have been used as a pretext by Washington for invading Cuba. The Cuban leadership realized this and acted accordingly.
Gilly is simply wrong in implying that the Cubans included a demand to expel the United States from Guantánamo in their five point program in response to the 1962 missile crisis. The Cubans demanded that Washington withdraw; they were very careful not to make threats to expel. Fidel presented this point precisely in a radio and television speech on November 1, 1962, reprinted in the November 12, 1962, Militant. He stated that the Cuban government demands "the withdrawal of the naval base at Guantánamo and the return of Cuban territory occupied by the United States". (Emphasis added.)
This point simply reaffirmed the revolutionary government’s position on this question. In his speech to the United Nations General Assembly in September 1960, Castro stated: "The Revolutionary Government of Cuba has repeatedly expressed concern at the fact that the imperialist government of the United States of America may use the base in the heart of our national territory as a means of promoting a self-aggression, to justify an attack on our country.... we have never spoken one single, solitary word of aggression, or any word that might be taken as implying any type of attack on the Guantánamo base, because we are the first in not wanting to give imperialism a pretext to attack us."
In polar contrast to this approach, Voz Proletaria, from its first issue in April 1960, waged a campaign to demand of the Cuban government that it expel the US navy from the base at Guantánamo. In other words, their proposal would have led the Cuban government to fall into the trap Castro had warned against – giving "imperialism a pretext" to attack Cuba.
But the POR(T) and Latin American Bureau not only advocated expulsion. They agitated for it and organized demonstrations demanding it. At one point they even proposed that the time had come to launch a military attack.
Gilly claims that Barnes lies about this. In defense of Barnes, the following items are submitted:
The centerfold article, "The Conflict at the Guantánamo Naval Base", in the April 1960 Voz Proletaria, declares: "Although there may be periods of ‘armistice’, the workers of the Naval Base, the people of Guantánamo and Caimanera, the Cuban masses as a whole should prepare the struggle for the definitive expulsion of imperialism."
The manifesto introduced by the Latin American Bureau delegation at the youth congress stated: "Here, in Cuba, the Congress vigorously asserts its determination to liquidate the aggressive military bases of imperialism by expelling it from Guantánamo (Cuba), Ezeiza (Argentina), Fernando de Noronha (Brazil)."
Lucha Obrera, newspaper of the POR, the IS section in Bolivia, in its issue for the second half of August 1961, ran an article under the headline, "Expel Imperialism from Guantánamo". The article proposed that: "Among the anti-imperialist measures of the Cuban revolution, the fundamental point must be the nationalization of the North American Naval Base at Guantánamo. This measure is today more important than ever, as the Revolutionary Workers Party (Trotskyist) of Cuba states...."
In the next issue of Lucha Obrera, an article under the headline, "Last Minute", declared: "We have received a letter from the Revolutionary Workers Party (Trotskyist) of Cuba, through which we are informed that the comrades distributed some leaflets calling the workers to a demonstration to ask for the expulsion of imperialism from the Guantánamo base. The Stalinists were able to arrest the comrades to put them on trial for ‘distributing counterrevolutionary propaganda’. The judge read the leaflet, and immediately freed them, saying there was nothing counterrevolutionary about the leaflet."
In the February-March 1962 Voz Obrera, the Mexican paper of the Latin American Bureau, there is a reference to this demonstration. It says, "... the masses proposed to organize their own offensive to expel the imperialist aggressor from the Caimanera base in Guantánamo". Later, in the October 1962 issue of the same paper, a front-page headline, screamed, "For the Expulsion of Imperialism from Guantánamo".
We also have the testimony of an expert and, moreover, one called to the stand by Gilly himself – Che Guevara. In the interview printed in Root and Branch, previously referred to, Che was asked about the Trotskyists in the United States who were "enthusiastically approving" of the revolution. Guevara commented: "I do not have any opinions about Trotskyists in general. But here in Cuba – let me give an example. They have one of their principal centers in the town of Guantánamo near the US base. And they agitated there for the Cuban people to march on the base – something that cannot be permitted." (Emphasis added.)
Finally, we have it from Juan Posadas himself. In an article mimeographed in the "Supplement to the Latin American Marxist Review, Cuban Edition" dated October 1962, he wrote: "Yankee imperialism organizes a new invasion of Cuba. Fidel Castro charges that from Guantánamo the counterrevolution is being organized. The concrete measure to be adopted is the immediate expulsion of Yankee imperialism from Guantánamo." (Emphasis added.)
To underline that he was not just issuing demands on the imperialists but making concrete proposals for action, Posadas added: "The Workers’ States, the Communist Parties, the unions, the labor federations of the Workers’ States and the whole world, should openly come to the aid of Cuba, sending armed militias and all sufficient means to crush Yankee imperialism."
As Gilly himself explains, there is a "qualitative difference" between raising "propagandistic slogans and concretely proposing to organize a march right now on the Panama Canal. It’s the difference between propaganda and provocation. It was the same in the case of Guantánamo".
We rest our case.
The Missile Crisis
The POR(T)’s position on Guantánamo was all the more dangerous, and "insane" if you will, given the situation Cuba faced at the time. Throughout 1962 President John F. Kennedy was looking for a pretext to invade Cuba with US troops.
After the April 1961 invasion organized by Washington, Cuba asked the USSR to install nuclear missiles on Cuban soil to discourage a future invasion attempt. In October 1962, Kennedy "discovered" that the missiles were there and threatened nuclear war if they were not removed. Kennedy sent US warships to stop Soviet freighters on the high sea. Simultaneously he prepared a full invasion of Cuba.
The revolutionary government called the Cuban people to arms. The entire population rose up as one to defend their revolution. From one end of the island to the other workers took to the trenches with their rifles, while others poured into the factories, not only maintaining, but increasing production during the crisis.
The Soviet ships stopped at sea to avoid a confrontation. The Kremlin agreed to withdraw the missiles in return for a pledge by the Kennedy administration not to invade Cuba. Nikita Khrushchev’s decision defused a US-provoked confrontation that could have led to a nuclear holocaust. However, the way this decision was made – without consulting the Cuban government – was publicly criticized by Castro.
While the future of humanity hung in the balance, what was the POR(T) doing? It called on the Kremlin to launch nuclear war against the United States! "General Strike and Worker-Peasant Insurrection in all the Capitalist Countries! Let the Soviet Army Strike the First Blow!" read a POR(T) Political Bureau statement issued October 23, the day after Kennedy’s televised speech threatening war with the USSR. "Atomic War Will Be Followed Instantaneously by the World Revolution" read the title of an October 26 letter from Posadas (under the name Luis) to all "Comrades, parties and Leaderships". This was published in the second half of November issue of Voz Proletaria in Cuba.
Such ultraleft ravings really leave one speechless. They were used by Stalinists all over the world to attack Trotskyism and the Fourth International, since the statements were signed by Posadas’s bogus "Fourth International".
To give Gilly his due, he does admit that today he has "no interest in defending the political cadaver that Juan Posadas has become, a model slanderer (as shown first of all by his slander about the death of Che)". This is an especially noteworthy criticism, since internationally one of the most prominent spokespersons for the Posadista slander that Castro ordered Che’s death was none other than Gilly himself.
After Che dropped from public view in early 1965, there was considerable speculation about what happened to him. The Posadistas advanced the notion that to cement the political alliance with Moscow and support peaceful coexistence Castro did away with Che. Gilly, writing in the April 1966 Monthly Review, stated that: "The vertiginous political evolution of the Cuban leadership in recent months confirms the opinion that it is true that they have either assassinated Guevara or that they are restraining him by some means or other from expressing himself politically." This scurrilous attack on the Castro leadership was shattered when Che later surfaced as a leader of the guerrilla struggle in Bolivia.
In a March 1978 article, entitled "Guerrilla, Program and Party in Guatemala", published in Coyoacán magazine, Gilly ex-plained that, at the time, he repeated these slanders, although he knew that they were false, "out of a bad understanding of party discipline", and that he "shares, therefore, complete responsibility for these political insanities".
This rectification, is welcome, of course. But why is Gilly so reluctant to apply the same corrective to thie earlier "political insanities" of the IS section in Cuba in opposing the Castro leadership? The answer is that Gilly, still basically holds the same sectarian pbtition on the Cuban revolution and its leadership that he held in the early 1960s.
In the same article from Coyoacán referred to above, Gilly argues that Che’s leaving Cuba "was indisputably a defeat for the left wing of the Cuban revolution.... It would mean that the Cuban leadership would progressively take its distance from its policy of extending the revolution in Latin Arnerica...". This is an updating of the old Latin American Bureau line that Castro headed a "right wing" in the Cuban leadership that carried out progressive measures only when forced to by mass pressure and by the "left wing".
The attempt to pit Guevara against Castro by placing him in this imaginary left wing is too shameful for words. Che himself most clearly refutes this insinuation in his farewell letter to Fidel written in April 1965. He wrote: "My only serious failing was not having confided more in you from the first moments in the Sierra Maestra, and not having understood quickly enough your qualities as a leader and a revolutionary. I have lived magnificent days, and I felt at your side the pride of belonging to our people in the brilliant yet sad days of the Caribbean crisis. Seldom has a statesman been more brilliant than you in those days. I am also proud of having followed you without hesitation, identified with your way of thinking and of seeing and appraising dangers and principles." (Che Guevara Speaks, Pathfinder Press, 1980.)
Gilly’s assertion that the Cuban leadership stopped trying to extend the revolution in Latin America falls apart when confronted by the facts of the Nicaraguan and Grenadian revolutions and the deepening struggles in El Salvador and Guatemala, which the Castro leadership dearly- supports and seeks to advance.
The depth of Gilly’s Castrophobia is most clearly seen in an article in Coyoacán written in March 1979 entitled "The China-Vietnam War: ‘National Socialism’ and Bureaucratic Nationalism". Gilly wrote that: "The theory and the practice of all these leaderships – Tito, Kim, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro, Pol Pot – is national-communist." This outrageous amalgam was made only weeks after Pol Pot had been overturned and reports of the unspeakable atrocities committed by his dictatorship were making their way into the international press.
Does Gilly really believe that Tito – who backed US imperialism in the Korean war and led the wing in the Movement of Nonaligned Countries most conciliatory to imperialism – can be lumped together with Castro, who has consistently opposed imperialism and has struggled for that course in the Nonaligned Movement? Does Gilly think that all these "national-communists" are part of "a typical current of centrist revolutionaries", which is how he characterizes the
Castro leadership in his letter to Barnes?
Throughout the March 1979 article in Coyoacán Gilly repeatedly indulges in formulations like "the bureaucratic workers’ states", "the bureaucracy that dominates the states in transition [to socialism]", and "the struggle against bureaucratic power and for the socialist regeneration of the workers’ states", without attempting to distinguish between the workers’ states where a Stalinist bureaucracy is in power and Cuba, which has a revolutionary government that, as Castro explains, is consciously combatting bureaucratic deformations.
By throwing these countries together in this all-inclusive way, Gilly leaves himself open to the charge that he favors the same course for Cuba as the Trotskyist movement advances in such countries as Yugoslavia and China, that is the overthrow of the present government by the working class. Such a position in relation to Cuba is counterrevolutionary and has nothing to do with Trotskyism or the positions of the Fourth International.
Gilly and Fanjul’s attempt to discredit Barnes’s evaluation of the Cuban Trotskyists in the early 1960s falls flat on its face when confronted with the documentary record. Not only does this record disprove their unrestrained charges, but it places them in the position today of defending and praising the sectarian policies that led to one of the most significant missed opportunities for the world Trotskyist movement.
We should not apologize for these sectarian blunders as Gilly and Fanjul do, but instead learn from them in order to get rid of the method underpinning them and their remnants today. This will help us to better meet the challenge we face in establishing collaborative relations with the new revolutionary proletarian leaderships and class struggle currents that are coming forward from Central America to Poland.
The Fourth International was founded in 1938 and led by Leon Trotsky until his assassination in August 1940. In 1953 the International split into two public factions, the International Executive Committee – more often identified by its subordinate body, the International Secretariat (IS) – and the International Committee (IC). It was reunified on a principled basis in 1963.
Among the most prominent supporters of the IC were James P. Cannon (US), Joseph Hansen (US), Farrell Dobbs (US), Nahuel Moreno (Argentina), Gerry Healy (Britain), Pierre Lambert (France), and Peng Shu-tse (China). Leaders of the IS included Ernest Mandel (Belgium), Pierre Frank (France), Michel Pablo (France), Sal Santen (Holland), Livio Maitan (Italy), and Juan Posadas (Argentina).
The groupings headed by Healy, Lambert, and Posadas refused to take part in the reunification. All of them split from the Fourth International. Pablo was expelled from the International in 1965.
The Latin American Trotskyists supporting the IS were affiliated to the Latin American Bureau, which had its own secretariat headed by Juan Posadas. In April 1962, Posadas and his followers consummated their split from the Fourth International. They organized an "extraordinary congress" that "expelled" all other Trotskyists in the world and set up a "Fourth International" of its own.
The IEC and IS publicly denounced the Posadas group’s use of the name of the Fourth International in June 1962. Their statement, published in the July 1962 Quatrième Internationale, said that the Latin American Bureau "does not in the least way represent the Fourth International or its political line and that the positions expressed by the Argentine newspaper Voz Proletaria, particularly on the question of nuclear war and the Second Declaration of Havana, do not correspond to those of the Fourth International".
Gilly implies in his letter to Barnes that the 1962 split marked the beginning of the "Posadista" tendency. Before this, he says, "Posadas considered himself a ‘Pabloist’. Furthermore, he was not by any means saying the kind of crazy things he came up with in later years, since he was subject to the control, the influence, and the political life of what was then the Fourth International-IS".
Gilly is essentially correct in noting that the "Posadistas" as a political tendency, distinct from the line of the IS, did not emerge until after the split. Long before the split, however, Posadas had developed a core of followers, personally loyal to him. This core followed him out of the Fourth International and supported "the crazy things" that Gilly concedes Posadas came up with in subsequent years.
The process that led to the split by Posadas began following the January 1961 world congress of the IS. Posadas opened up a public attack on Pablo in the press of the Latin American sections of the IS. On September 29, 1961, he sent a letter to these same parties calling for a new world congress.
Even as this split was being prepared in 1961, the political differences were not clear. In reply to Posadas’s September 29 letter, the IS sent a letter to its Latin American sections that states that "this document [the September 29 letter], of around 10 pages, contains no exposition of political differences, with the exception of a few allusions to points of view formulated by Comrade Pablo on nuclear tests in which no one could find a valid reason for breaking with the International". The IS further states that: "It is undeniable that the political debate of the Sixth Congress [January 1961] was not exhaustive. It did not have documents before it containing differences; at most there were amendments proposed. The differences appear at most in the form of different emphasis in the course of the discussion."
The IS letter also pointed out that at every international meeting of the IS through the 1961 congress Posadas had supported the other leaders of the IS, especially Pablo. It adds that: "The publications of the International, Quatrième Internationale in particular, have reserved a big space for writings of the Latin American comrades." This was true through 1961.
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