Voices from the Collective: Cuba Libre Redux
Frederick Luis Aldama
Issue #66, February 2004
Rather than present a point-by-point reply to the response on Cuba Libre, requiring lengthy explanations and the fashioning of an article anew, let me briefly raise several points.
First, I absolutely agree that our ideas must be open to debate and discussion. Since the founding of the First International by Marx and Engels, this openness to criticism, debate, and analysis — the freedom of thought and expression generally — has been the backbone to the labor movement in its everyday struggle to build a workers' organization worldwide. It is this basic principle that allowed such uncommon activists as Marx and Bakunin to sleep in the same bed, so to speak, within the First International. And, it is this principle that later fostered discussions and debates between Lenin and Kautsky. Without the freedom of expression, the labor movements nationally and internationally would have completely stagnated and died out. This was, of course, one of Rosa Luxemburg's greatest fear's for a post-Bolshevik Russia — a fear that proved well founded and ultimately realized by Stalin. At the head of Soviet's bureaucracy, Stalin not only censored debate and dissent, but ordered the concentration camp internment, exile, and/or execution of those dissenters and activists of the central committee, including, of course, Leon Trotsky (murdered in August 1940 in Mexico City). Moreover, it was the Stalinist bureaucracy — a cancerous growth within the worker's movement — that provided the foundation of a rule of blind obedience to future policies dictated by this bureaucracy and others like many of today's "Left" identifying activist-scholars as well as Fidel Castro.
To return briefly to points made in Cuba Libre: As labor historians have verified, it is a fact that it was the Cuban people that organized the general strikes and en masse uprisings that led to the ousting of Batista; it was the Cuban people who occupied and expropriated the factories, land, and the sugar mills. It is a well known fact that none of these actions were apart of Castro's political agenda nor that of the Cuban Communist Party. Indeed, once Castro's tiny organization fused with the Cuban Communist Party, he actively subordinated the Cuban revolution to the interests and policies of the Stalinist bureaucracy. It is also a fact that Castro's Cuban bureaucracy has systematically undermined the gains made by the Cuban masses to ensure universal access to health care and education as well as the state control of industry and agricultural production, for example. Castro's counter-revolutionary policies in Cuba and elsewhere — he condemned the Czechoslovakian workers' revolution in 1968, turned a blind-eye to the French workers' general strike of May 1968, supported the Mexican government's massacre of workers and students in the Plaza Tlalteloco just before the Olympic Games, and condemned the Chilean miners' strikes in 1971 when Allende was elected president — has had massive negative consequences for the mobilization of workers; most concretely, we see this in his isolation of Cuban workers from those worldwide who have weakened their mobilization.
This is to say, we must be mindful of reproducing criticism that doesn't address the issues we raise in our work and that instead follow an extremely prejudicial tradition of Stalinism that states in so many words: any form of criticism, say to that of the Castro regime, is counter-revolutionary. Rather, it is being counter-revolutionary not to say things as they are under the pretense that one should renounce the freedom of expression in order not to give weapons to the enemy. We should criticize what is in fact wrong, like those policies followed by Castro's bureaucracy that runs counter to the interests of Cubans themselves. Since the times of Diderot, all progressive thinkers and activists have considered that it is truth and fact that make for advances in our everyday struggle against capitalist exploitation and oppression.
Frederick Luis Aldama is a member of the Bad Subjects Production team.