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The Internationalist
October 2021

Social-Democratic Counterrevolutionaries and Camp Followers

Cuba Protests: Litmus Test for the Left

A supporter of the Cuban government demonstrating on July 11. This photo was widely misused, including by United Nations “human rights” chief Michele Bachelet, to symbolize the anti-government protests. When the woman in the picture, Betty Pariol Quesada, complained on Twitter about this vile distortion, her Twitter account was blocked. This was one of many mislabeled photos of the hundreds who took to the streets to block the rioters.
  (Photo: Ernesto Mastrascusa / EFE)

As Facebook videos and tweets started coming in from the July 11 protests in Cuba – instigated, propagated and exploited by counterrevolutionaries – the media machine of U.S. imperialism kicked into high gear. (See our article, “The Truth About Cuba Protests,” The Internationalist, 23 July.) A Twitter storm on the Internet hooked up with a demonstration by gusanos (Cuban counterrevolutionaries) in Miami to provide the visuals. Artists and social media “influencers” weighed in with the hashtag #SOSCuba and calls for “freedom.” When police in Havana responded to protesters throwing rocks by making some arrests, there followed a chorus of denunciations of “repression.” And when Cuban president and Communist Party (PCC) leader Miguel Díaz-Canel called for “all revolutionaries to go into the streets to defend the Revolution everywhere,” this was met with an outcry accusing the government of calling for “civil war.”

For all the talk of repression, the reality is that the Cuban police stood by and did not make arrests until the July 11 protests turned violent. PCC supporters mobilized to stop provocations, first heading off an attempt to take over the monument to Máximo Gómez on the Havana waterfront and later blocking the attempt to march on the iconic Plaza de la Revolución. Along the way, marchers chanting counterrevolutionary slogans physically attacked defenders of the Revolution. The London Financial Times (14 July) reported soberly: “Although Sunday’s protests were a serious and rare challenge to the government, the authorities acted with relative restraint. Police and special forces avoided directly confronting demonstrators, though some arrests were made.”

But such facts didn’t stop the hype. First, Cuban American Republican senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz proclaimed that the protests were not about shortages and vaccines but “the Cuban people” fighting against “Communist/socialist tyranny,” and complained of silence from Democratic president Joe Biden. The next day Biden chimed in, hailing the “clarion call” by “the Cuban people” for “freedom” from “decades of repression” by “Cuba’s authoritarian regime.” He followed up on July 15 by labeling Cuba “a failed state … repressing its citizens,” and declaring “Communism is a failed system.” While responding to right-wing Republican barbs, the Democrat in the White House is a hardline anti-communist Cold Warrior currently waging an escalating war drive against China, which like Cuba is a bureaucratically deformed workers state.

Florida Democrats went further. As Miami Republican mayor Francis Suarez called to bomb Havana and Cuban exiles clamored for U.S. “humanitarian” intervention, Democratic Rep. Val Demings urged the White House to “move swiftly” against Cuba, while the Florida state party called for “additional sanctions against the leaders of the failed socialist-communist regime” – which Biden imposed a couple of days later. As for Democratic “progressives,” Sen. Bernie Sanders “call[ed] on the Cuban government to respect opposition rights and refrain from violence,” while Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez proclaimed: “We are seeing Cubans rise up and protest for their rights like never before.” Sanders called to end the U.S. embargo, and AOC “reject[ed] the Biden administrations defense” of it, But these routine invocations only covered their support for the anti-communist protests.

Bringing up the rear of the bipartisan imperialist hue and cry over repression by the Cuban regime were assorted voices on the left, ranging from liberal intellectuals to avowed socialists. Among the most egregious are some groups that falsely lay claim to the heritage of Leon Trotsky, the co-leader along with V.I. Lenin of the 1917 Russian October Revolution. Many of these would-be “Trotskyists” are at bottom social democrats of the sort that Trotsky and his Fourth International fought against tooth and nail. This is thrown into sharp relief by their responses to the Cuban protests, but it’s nothing new. We saw the same with the rise of Solidarność in Poland in the 1980s and in the capitalist counterrevolution of 1989-92 in the Soviet Union and Soviet-bloc deformed workers states.

Authentic Trotskyists, then represented by the International Communist League (ICL) whose revolutionary political continuity is carried forward by the League for the Fourth International (LFI), called instead to stop Solidarność counterrevolution, mobilized to fight against capitalist reunification of Germany, and fought to defeat Yeltsin/Bush counterrevolution in the USSR. We called for proletarian political revolution to oust the Stalinist bureaucracies which undermined the workers states, and to replace them with soviet democracy led by genuinely communist, Leninist-Trotskyist parties. On Cuba today, the LFI has called to actively combat capitalist counterrevolution, to break the U.S. imperialist blockade, mobilize workers councils to defend the gains of the Cuban Revolution and to extend them through international socialist revolution.

DSA, FSP and SAlt: Social Democrats for Counterrevolution

Social-democratic anti-communists praised July 11 demonstrators carrying counterrevolutionary slogans. (Photo: Alexandre Meneghini / AP)

The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is by far the largest left organization in the U.S. This social-democratic outfit is a hodgepodge of different tendencies, with at least a dozen national caucuses at last count, plus various local groupings. The DSA has been part of the Democratic Party since its foundation in 1982. With the disappointment over Bernie Sanders’ loss to Hillary Clinton and the shock of her defeat by Donald Trump in 2016, there was a flurry of controversy over how long this would or should continue. But with the electoral successes of “the Squad” of DSA and other “progressive” Democrats in Congress, and the election of DSA candidates in several city council elections, the DSA is now firmly ensconced in the ruling party of American capitalism. Our pamphlet DSA: Fronting for the Democrats (February 2018) spells out how this goes back decades.

Over Latin America, DSAers range from hard-core anti-communist “socialists” like Samuel Farber and Dan La Botz on the right to sympathizers of left-populist regimes (Venezuela, Bolivia) and Cuba.1 On July 11, the DSA International Committee tweeted a brief statement, “DSA stands with the Cuban people and their Revolution in this moment of unrest. End the blockade.” But what actually counts when it comes to the DSA is what its star Ocasio-Cortez says. When AOC declared solidarity with the protests and denounced the mobilization of supporters of the Cuban Revolution, La Botz chimed in, “I agree with her.”2 No surprise there. Both Farber and La Botz come out of the current led by Max Shachtman, who broke with Trotsky and Trotskyism by refusing the defend the Soviet Union in World War II.

When it comes to the DSA, what counts is AOC.

As Shachtman moved to the right, Shachtmanism became synonymous with Stalinophobia, the virulent anti-communism that embraced bourgeois and even imperialist forces besieging Stalinist-ruled workers states. (Shachtman backed the U.S.’ failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961.) In this vein, writing in the neo-Shachtmanite journal New Politics, which he co-edits, La Botz demanded the “right” to “organize new political parties” in Cuba and to “organize independent labor unions”3 – like the anti-communist, Polish Solidarność. That “free trade union” was bankrolled by U.S. imperialism under union-buster Ronald Reagan, in an operation run by Shachtmanites from top to bottom. Farber, writing in a paper reflecting the views of the DSA right wing, praised the gusano Patria y vida video as expressing “many democratic sentiments against the present Cuban dictatorship.”4

So while many varieties of leftists are playing around in the DSA sandbox, the bottom line is: ever since 1917, social democracy and “democratic socialism” have always served as a cover for anti-communist counterrevolution.

In the United States, one group that quickly embraced the July 11 protests is the “socialist-feminist” Freedom Socialist Party (FSP). On July 16, the FSP issued a statement titled “Support protesters in Cuba, defend freedom of speech!” This statement makes no mention of the fact (which can be seen in numerous online videos) that marchers shouted anti-communist slogans such as “down with the dictatorship” and “freedom,” or that these were spread by blasts of thousands of postings on social media. The FSP article parroted the claim of the counterrevolutionary website 14ymedio that the call by Díaz-Canel for revolutionaries to take to the streets to defend the Revolution was “a call for civil war.” And it proclaimed: “The Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) stands with the protesters and calls on the Cuban government to release all political prisoners immediately and to respect the rights of its people to demand change.”

Release all “political prisoners”? Demand “change”? What about those alleged political prisoners and forces who instigated the June 11 protests, egged on by (and in some cases paid by) U.S. imperialism, who shouted “down with communism,” calling for “regime change”? Or the gusanos who proclaim their aim of ending “62 years of socialism,” i.e., undoing the 1959 revolution led by Fidel and Raúl Castro. Genuine Trotskyists do not recognize a “right” to foment counterrevolution! On the contrary, we recognize the duty of revolutionary communists to prevent the overthrow of the Cuban Revolution. This includes taking to the streets to stop those who would stage counterrevolutionary provocations, as well as a political fight to deepen the revolution, combating pro-capitalist forces internally, and extending it internationally.

As has always been the position of real Trotskyists since the formation of the Cuban deformed workers state, standing foursquare for the defeat of imperialist-backed counterrevolutionaries is the basis for any real fight for proletarian democracy, the rule of workers councils and revolutionary internationalism.

In its July 16 statement, the FSP made only a single passing mention of the U.S. blockade and didn’t even call to oppose it. But on July 22, it decided to “update” its statement (overwriting the same internet address so that readers would not see the original version), including a new headline: “FSP demands an end to the U.S. blockade and intervention against Cuba while supporting the right of Cubans to protest for survival needs.” The “updated” statement ditched some lyrical passages (e.g., of protesters “joyfully greeting each other”) lifted from gusano web sites, while now noting the presence of elements “influenced by the anti-communist propaganda of the U.S. government and right-wing Cuban exiles in Miami.” Yet even as it sought to clean up its act, the FSP kept its call for “freedom” for counterrevolutionaries.

A similar tack was taken by a second social-democratic tendency, Socialist Alternative (SAlt), which embraced the Cuban protests lock, stock and barrel. A July 19 statement of the International Socialist Alternative (ISA, SAlt’s international current)5 declared that it was “the Cuban working people, who took to the streets on July 11.” Not a word about the anti-communist chants of the protesters, nor of the role of the U.S.-orchestrated exile milieu in propagating the protests, as we (and others) have detailed. Instead, SAlt asserts that:

“The demonstrations of last July 11 are thus not in this sense ‘against socialism’ as the imperialist media pretend to present them, much less ‘counter-revolutionary’ as Diaz-Canel has called them. On the contrary, they express genuine discontent with an economic and health crisis aggravated by the capitalist counter-reforms of recent years….”

We have spelled out how the privatizing “reforms” by the Cuban bureaucracy have aggravated the crisis, but that crisis is overwhelmingly and fundamentally caused by U.S. imperialism’s six-decade long economic war on the Cuban Revolution, and by the capitalist world market.

SAlt’s attempt to prettify and paint the protests as a healthy working-class response to pro-capitalist betrayals by the bureaucracy is a cynical ploy to give a “left” cover to the drive for counterrevolution in Cuba. It’s part of a broader program of siding with U.S. imperialism against the deformed workers states, China in particular. We have documented how SAlt/ISA and its Hong Kong affiliate not only hailed the 2019 anti-communist riots in that capitalist enclave but have for years worked in tandem with U.S.-sponsored “democrats” there and in Taiwan.6 The “theoretical” pretext of these “Social-Democratic Accomplices of U.S. Imperialism” (as we have described them) for their machinations in league with open counterrevolutionaries is the bogus claim that China is “capitalist,” and indeed “imperialist.”

The SAlt/ISA statement on Cuba goes on for several paragraphs denouncing China, declaring that “today China is no alternative to capitalism. On the contrary, it is capitalism’s most brutal expression.” The claim that China somehow made a seamless transition to capitalism under the rule of the Communist Party is belied by facts: as the entire capitalist world sank into depression after the 2007-08 market crash, China boomed; and with its socialized economy, China was able to contain the coronavirus which has devastated the richest capitalist countries. It is also contrary to Marxism, which holds that restoration of capitalist rule would require the overthrow of the workers state. But for these pseudo-socialists, their fatuous talk of a “capitalist/imperialist China” is above all an excuse to refuse to defend China against imperialism and counterrevolution.

One of the pro-imperialist 2019 Hong Kong protests hailed by social-democratic pseudo-Trotskyists.  (Photo: AP)

China, says SAlt, is the model for “the Cuban regime and its pro-capitalist reforms.” Later on, it refers to “the policies of the regime in favor of the market and capitalist restoration.” Yet as Trotsky emphasized, the dual nature of the Stalinist bureaucracy (sitting atop the foundations of proletarian rule even as it seeks accommodation with capitalism) means that, while its privatizing “reforms” dangerously foster the growth of capitalist forces, this brittle, contradictory layer is not itself capable of restoring capitalism or leading the counterrevolution. That requires the power of the imperialist bourgeoisie – and everyone, from Wall Street and Washington to Miami and Havana, knows it. If capitalist rule is restored – and everything must be done to prevent that – it will be the Yankee imperialists and their gusano flunkies who carry it out.

It’s noteworthy that the anti-Trotskyists of Socialist Alternative do not call to defend Cuba against U.S. imperialism. Rather they call to “defend the historic gains of the Cuban revolution” – meaning what exactly? They write that the working class should “defend those gains of the revolution that benefit them,” but they do not call to defend the Cuban workers state, the target of Washington’s unremitting war. And what would they put in place of the present regime? SAlt talks of a process of “grass roots democratization,” of “radical democracy from below, to replace the rule of the bureaucracy: for a genuine workers’ democracy,” and “an alternative socialist democracy.” All this could be taken straight from any mainline pro-imperialist social-democrats such as the British Labour Party, or the DSA, which SAlt members have now entered.

Various Stalinist and Stalinoid groups – including the Communist Party USA (CPUSA), Young Communist League, Workers World Party (WWP) and the Party of Socialism and Liberation (PSL) – of course denounced the July 11 protests and called for solidarity with Cuba, also stressing their political support for the Cuban government. They do so from a reformist standpoint, looking for alliances with bourgeois and petty-bourgeois “progressives.” This was brought out sharply in a New York Times (23 July) ad, of which the PSL and its popular-front ANSWER Coalition were prime movers, calling to “Let Cuba Live.” Among the hundreds of signers were former presidents Lula da Silva (Brazil) and Rafael Correa (Ecuador), the Brazilian Workers Party (PT), Jeremy Corbyn, Cornel West, Noam Chomsky, and other luminaries.

The ad was an open letter to President Joe Biden, citing his July 12 statement that “we stand with the Cuban people,” and based on that calling on him to undo the “243 coercive measures” imposed by Trump and “begin the process of ending the embargo.” It called to “return to the Obama opening,” when the previous Democratic president reestablished diplomatic relations with Cuba. But aside from the patent absurdity of calling on arch-Cold Warrior Biden to drop Cold War politics and treat Cuba as a “neighbor” rather than an “existential enemy,” Obama’s policy was hardly intended to establish “peaceful coexistence.” Rather he sought to subvert the Cuban Revolution from within, by increasing contact with the U.S., and spending more millions spent on financing anti-communist “dissidents” in Cuba. Genuine defense of Cuba requires struggle for socialist revolution in the U.S. and throughout the Americas.

And the once-Trotskyist Spartacist League? Silence. This would be striking enough from any group claiming to be Marxist, let alone communist. But for a tendency whose origins went back to a historic and crucial fight for genuine Trotskyism at the time of the Cuban Revolution, it is doubly shameful. Some of its cyberspace apologists took up the cudgels in favor of … the counterrevolutionary-led protests. But the SL, sphinx- or hydra-like, neither confirms nor denies whether that is its line. It seems, according to its online volunteer lawyers, that this is due to yet another all-consuming internal battle. ■

Left Voice/Trotskyist Fraction:
Zigzagging Across the Class Line

Repression? This is the aftermath of anti-government riot in Havana that social-democrats claim was repressed. (Photo: Yamil Lage / AFP)

Hovering on the left flank of the DSA milieu is Left Voice (LV), an internet media outlet that is part of an international network of the “Trotskyist Fraction.” (Known as the FT from its Spanish acronym, it is led by the Argentine Partido de los Trabajadores Socialistas, or PST.) As the FSP and SAlt echo Biden and AOC in fulsomely embracing the protests and denouncing repression by the Cuban government, LV talks out of both sides of its mouth. It notes that U.S. and bourgeois exile forces sought to “manipulate” the protests to promote counterrevolution, while mainly denouncing the bureaucracy, which it (like SAlt) calls capitalist-restorationist. The double-talk serves to cover the fact that ultimately the FT lines up with imperialism, as in 2019 over Hong Kong’s anti-China riots, and as it did in 1989-92 in the counterrevolutionary wave that swept through East Europe and the Soviet Union – all in the name of “democracy.”

The first, instinctive reaction of the FT and LV to the July 11 protests in Cuba was to denounce “police repression.” As noted above, the police only intervened when the protests became violent. In response to the arrest of Frank García Hernández (the main organizer of the 2019 Trotsky Conference in Havana) during the protests, Left Voice (12 July) published a statement demanding, “Repression and arbitrary detentions by the Cuban government must end. Yes to the democratic right to protest and to free trade union, social, and political organizations.” “Free trade unions”? This was the classic anti-communist demand of Cold War labor operatives – whose counterrevolutionary machinations led the U.S. labor federation to be known as the “AFL-CIA” – as they went about financing subversion in the Soviet bloc (e.g., Polish Solidarność). “Free political organizations”? What about counterrevolutionaries like the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU)? Trotskyists say, no way!

And that “democratic right to protest” – any protest? There was no mention of the role of U.S. government-funded actors and of gusano internet operations in the July 11 protests. At least it called for “hands off Cuba” and to “end the blockade,” although this is hardly radical, as almost every government in the world has voted year after year for almost three decades calling for the U.S. to end the embargo. Moreover, when the next day it was reported that García Hernández had been released, Left Voice repeated its “democratic” demand for freedom for counterrevolutionary agitation. This is a fundamental class issue, particularly in an isolated workers state under unrelenting imperialist assault – and LV/FT is on the wrong side of the class line.

Left Voice and the FT often use leftist verbiage to package their ingrained opportunist practice, so unlike out-and-out reformists like SAlt and the FSP, they soon started oscillating. The first iteration was an article, “End the U.S. Embargo of Cuba: Support the Revolution and the Right to Protest” (Left Voice, 12 July), saying they “reject the right wing, the church, and the ‘Patria y Vida’ movement that continue to capitalize on this discontent over the situation in Cuba, attempt to stifle the pending conquests of the revolution, and set the path for capitalist restoration.” This time they defended the “right to demonstration and union organization of those who fight to defend and deepen the conquests of the Cuban Revolution,” while demanding “an immediate release of the political prisoners that defend the revolution.”

But, hold on, in an article on July 16 they were back to the original bourgeois democratic call: “In the present context, we must first of all fight government repression, and fight for the freedom of those arrested in demonstrations, and for freedom of expression, demonstration, and union democracy.”7 So whatever happened to the call for the right to demonstration and union organization and freedom for political prisoners “that defend the revolution”? On July 17, we read: “We must not hand over the banner of democracy to imperialism and its agents.” Here the FT calls for “an end to repression; freedom for those detained” and “political freedom and freedom of organization for the Cuban masses.” Yet the next sentence calls for “legalization of the anti-imperialist Left parties and forces that defend the conquests of the revolution.”8

This was becoming downright schizophrenic: every day a different line on whether it’s calling for democratic rights for all (thus including counterrevolutionaries) or for defenders of the revolution, and now two lines in one article. So yet again, as the “Trotskyist” Fraction swayed to and fro, it was time for another corrective. On July 18, an article by one of the FT’s main writers, Claudia Cinatti, admitted that rightists not only “encouraged” and were “taking advantage of” the July 11 protests, they also “participated,” and “bombarded the social media,” using agencies “funded by the State Department,” along with “bots, ‘influencers’ and celebrities coopted by imperialism.”9 But along with “legalization of political organizations committed to defending the gains of the revolution,” there is once again a call for “the right to freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, freedom of trade unions.”

Wanting to have it both ways, with its endless zigzagging over fundamental questions of principle – of revolution vs. counterrevolution – the FT proved, yet again, blind to the class line.

The gyrations of the “Trotskyist Fraction” over Cuba make clear that it is anything but Trotskyist. In the Transitional Program, the founding document of the Fourth International, Trotsky emphasized that in the USSR under Stalin’s bureaucratic regime, the fight for “freedom of the trade unions and the factory committees, for the right of assembly and freedom of the press” must be part of “the struggle for the regeneration and development of Soviet democracy” (emphasis in original). And again: “Democratization of the soviets is impossible without legalization of soviet parties.” Not “free trade unions” in general; not the “right of assembly” for counterrevolutionaries as well; not “freedom of the press” for imperialist-financed publications, nor “free political organizations” of any stripe, but specifically soviet democracy, soviet parties.

This question was sharply posed during the 2019 Havana Trotsky conference. Comrades of the League for the Fourth International who participated there waged a sharp fight against “third camp” tendencies that raise such supposedly classless “democratic” demands, and thereby undercut defense of Cuba. As we reported on this groundbreaking event, our comrades said:

“Democracy. Is Trotskyism the champion of democracy ‘in general’? Does Trotskyism want democracy ‘in general’ in a state where capitalism has been abolished, in a bureaucratically degenerated or deformed workers state? Does Trotskyism call for freedom for all political parties in states of that type? Not according to Trotsky. Not according to Lenin. According to Lenin, if you read his ‘Theses on Bourgeois Democracy and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat’ [1919], you’ll see that democracy ‘in general’ means bourgeois democracy. We stand for proletarian democracy. What is bourgeois democracy, the call for bourgeois democracy, in a bureaucratically degenerated or deformed workers state? It means capitalist counterrevolution. Capitalist counterrevolution.
“And this is not an asterisk or a footnote for Trotsky. He wrote many polemics and whole books on these topics. Comrades should know that there was a fundamental split in the Trotskyist movement between those who upheld the program of the Fourth International, of unconditional military defense of the Soviet Union against imperialism, and those who rejected this program, such as Max Shachtman. That meant that Shachtman refused to defend the Soviet Union in World War Two.”10

After one of our comrades gave a presentation on Trotsky’s last battles, including the fight against Shachtman, DSAer La Botz shouted “Shachtman was right” in taking a “third camp” position rather than defending the USSR, as Trotsky had insisted. Now La Botz’s immediate reponse to the July protests on Cuba was to call for the “right” of “Cubans” to “organize new political parties” in general and to “organize independent labor unions.”11 And the knee-jerk response of the misnamed Trotskyist Fraction was the same line as that of this latter-day Shachtmanite.

Anti-Trotskyist Fraction Sided with Counterrevolution in the Soviet Bloc

Cinatti’s article claims that “free trade unions” is “a basic demand which Lenin defended in the 1920s in the Soviet Union.” False! Lenin held, in the 1921 trade-union controversy with Trotsky and Bukharin, that the trade unions in Soviet Russia should not be simply a state institution (although already fulfilling certain functions of the workers state) but should be mass organizations “open to workers of various political views and attitudes” while “under the leadership of the communist fractions.”12 This is very different from what the LV/FT as well as “labor” spokesmen for U.S. imperialism are calling for, the “freedom” to form anti-communist unions that would in reality be pro-capitalist political groupings serving as weapons against the workers state. And when the model of such a “union,” CIA-financed Solidarność, brought own the Polish deformed workers state in the late 1980s, the FT’s forerunner opposed calls to defend that state.

The Trotskyist Fraction resulted from a split with the current founded and led by the Argentine pseudo-Trotskyist Nahuel Moreno, whose followers were so rabid in their “solidarity with Solidarność” that they named their newspaper after it, copying the logo. The new Partido de los Trabajadores Socialistas (PTS – Socialist Workers Party), which gave rise to the FT, was founded in 1989, just as Polish Solidarność took power as the spearhead of counterrevolution in East Europe. Today, Claudia Cinatti writes that, “The processes of capitalist restoration started in 1989 have re-created exploitative relations, deepened inequality, and, against all democratic illusions, established authoritarian (Bonapartist) regimes.” But that was decidedly not what the PTS said at the time. On the contrary, it insisted that, “In short, the process we are going through is one of political revolution and not of capitalist counterrevolution.” And so it argued that calls to “defend the workers state” were a “crude capitulation to Stalinism.”13

Not only did the PTS explicitly not call to defend the bureaucratically deformed workers states against imperialism and counterrevolution (and denounced those who did), it actively called for counterrevolution in East Germany in the guise of defending “democracy.” Thus as struggle over the fate of the German Democratic Republic (DDR, from its initials in German) heated up, even as it talked of a “united, workers and socialist Germany,” the PTS called for the “Immediate withdrawal of all occupation troops from German soil, of the armed forces of NATO and the Warsaw Pact.”14 In neither case were these “occupation armies,” and as the then-Trotskyist International Communist League (ICL)15 underlined: “The Soviet troops have been the first line of defense of the workers states against imperialism, and that is what the Morenoites want to withdraw.”16

While the future Trotskyist Fraction joined the pro-imperialist chorus of Western leftists demanding withdrawal of Soviet troops, we were distributing Trotskyist literature to those troops, as well as forming soldiers committees in the DDR army on the program of mobilizing to stop counterrevolution. Then, following the March 1990 DDR elections – in which the ICL ran candidates on a program of “No to Capitalist Reunification” and “For a Red Germany of Workers Councils” – the PTS wrote that it “defended the right of the German masses to unite however they wish, even if they decide to do so within the framework of capitalism,” so long as it “is carried out democratically.”17 Spelling that out, the next month they added the slogan: “For a Truly Sovereign Constituent Assembly” in East and West Germany. Here the FT’s hobbyhorse call for constituent assemblies everywhere was directly in the service of restoring capitalist rule.

The real position of the current that is now the Trotskyist Fraction in 1989-90 was for “democratic” counterrevolution, refusing to defend the workers states as they were being liquidated by imperialism. Today it joins the imperialist outcry to free all those detained in the July 11 protests that were instigated, propagated and exploited by counterrevolutionary forces. In Mexico, the FT affiliate noted that the government of the bourgeois populist Andrés Manuel López Obrador sent aid to Cuba, but took AMLO to task for “not say[ing] a word about the repression unleashed by Díaz-Canel’s government, nor about the political prisoners after the recent demonstrations” (La Izquierda Diario, 27 July). So the FT is calling on the capitalist Mexican government to demand the freeing of those arrested in anti-communist-led protests!

The Trotskyist Fraction claims now to have broken with Morenoism, but maintains Moreno’s overall “democratist” outlook, constituent assemblies and all, and his penchant for constant maneuverism. Far from repudiating its tailing of capitalist counterrevolution in the crucialperiod of 1989-92, this was a central building block for what became the FT. After the July 11 events in Cuba, the official Morenoites noted that the FT’s back-and-forth over the protests meant that, in its several articles, there was “not a single concrete orientation about what an FT member should do faced with these mobilizations…. Should they promote and participate in them, … or on the contrary, fight them and call to not participate.”18 For our part, the League for the Fourth International declared forthrightly, “Trotskyists would have joined the pro-government mobilization, appropriately equipped to stop those who would bring back the Yankee imperialists and gusanos.” ■19

Morenoites – Gusano “Socialists”

Anti-communist march in Miami, 10 December 1994. Morenoites hailed these protests, claiming the gusanos were the “Cuban proletariat in the U.S.” (Photo: Doug Collier / AFP)

As the Trotskyist Fraction went back and forth calling for “free trade unions,” freedom for political parties and all “political prisoners” while claiming to oppose counterrevolution, the mainline followers of Nahuel Moreno dispense with the fig leaf and openly side with the anti-communists in the name of “democracy,” and not only in Cuba. After several decades of political banditry in which Moreno donned different disguises, sequentially posing as a Peronist, Maoist Red Guard, Guevarist guerrillaist, Sandinista guerrilla and Iranian Islamic populist, from 1982 on he settled down as a social-democratic advocate of a (bourgeois) “democratic revolution.” Throughout, Moreonite politics were marked by virulent anti-Soviet Stalinophobia, to the point of calling (in response to the 1980 Soviet intervention against CIA-backed “holy warriors” in Afghanistan) to extend the mullah-led “Iranian revolution” to Soviet Central Asia.20

So having examined the wayward offspring, let’s look at the official heirs of the pseudo-Trotskyist imposter.

A July 14 statement by the Morenoite International Workers League (LIT, from its Spanish and Portuguese acronym) proclaimed: “Total Support to the Struggle of the Cuban People.” It wholeheartedly adopted the language of the gusano counterrevolutionaries denouncing the “Cuban dictatorship” and the “dictatorship of an oligarchy concentrated atop the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC).” The LIT says that although Cuba was “the first victorious socialist revolution in the Americas,” this is all part of a past of which “the capitalist restoration, completed by Castroism itself, eliminated any trace.” It warns readers not to be “confused” by “the struggle between the Cuban bourgeoisie in Miami and the Cuban regime,” which is supposedly just about “who shall take charge of the capitalist restoration [which has been] carried out by the state.”

It goes on endlessly in this vein, denouncing the “capitalist dictatorship, like that in China, a dictatorial regime in the service of capital.” Many may indeed find it hard to swallow the Morenoite fiction that in Cuba a counterrevolution took place unbeknownst to all (they place the date “in the 1990s”), carried out by the same people who led the revolution. U.S. imperialists, Cuban gusano exiles and the governing Stalinist bureaucracy all insist the fight is over what they (inaccurately) call communism. To back its claim of a phantom counterrevolution, the LIT lists various European, Russian, Latin American and Canadian companies doing business in Cuba. This hardly amounts to restoring capitalist rule, and in any case, the fundamentals of the Cuban economy are not set by profits or losses in a capitalist market but by the PCC leaders.

The reality is that Cuba is, and has been since the early 1960s, a bureaucratically deformed workers state, which U.S. imperialism has never ceased trying to overthrow. As we have explained in detail in our pamphlet on Cuba,21 the Castro regime, emerging from the guerrilla army that destroyed the old state apparatus ruled by rightist dictator Fulgencio Batista, was pushed by Washington’s provocations into alignment with Khrushchev’s Soviet Union, building up the corresponding bureaucracy and adopting the Stalinist policy of building “socialism in one country.” After the 1991-92 counterrevolution that destroyed the USSR (which the Morenoites hailed!), and thus cut off the vital Soviet aid that kept the island economy afloat, the Cuban Stalinist bureaucracy has adopted pro-capitalist economic “reforms” and tried to attract capitalist investment. As opposed to this, authentic Trotskyists call to form workers councils in a proletarian political revolution to oust the bureaucracy and unleash the energy of the Cuban working class in defense of the Revolution.

In another article, the Morenoite LIT declares that, contrary to abundant evidence, “the character of the July 11 mobilizations was neither reactionary nor ‘pro-imperialist’” but rather was “a process of just and legitimate struggle.” The same line is echoed by smaller Morenoite tendencies, like the Argentine Izquierda Socialista, leading party of the International Workers Unity tendency (UIT, from its Spanish initials). The IS/UIT declared that “we support the popular protest,” and that the imperialist blockade “is not the fundamental cause of the grave social situation the Cuban people are enduring,” but instead it is “capitalism a la cubana [that] has existed for decades” on the island.22 This group equates the protests in Cuba with “mobilizations in Chile, Colombia, Peru or Brazil against austerity.” Really? Like Colombia, where well over 100 have been killed and “disappeared” by the government of Iván Duque, which continues the murderous work of its rightist predecessors that murdered untold thousands of leftists and trade unionists? What a cynical whitewash of capitalist terror!

In turn, the Argentine Nuevo MAS (Movimiento al Socialismo), of the Socialismo o Barbarie international tendency, declares that Cuba is a “bureaucratic state,” explicitly denying that it was ever a bureaucratically deformed workers state.23 The Nuevo MAS seems to have had some difficulties with its initial support for the protests, however, later issuing a “corrected and revised report,” which while declaring the “legitimacy” of the July 11 “outbreak,” notes that “it would be hard for the protests not to be used by the right.” It adds that “in Cuba were are facing a fight on two fronts,” namely “against Castroism and ‘progressives’” who defend the bureaucracy and “against the gusanos and imperialism.” In keeping with this “third camp” position, the Nuevo MAS/Socialismo o Barbarie does not call to defend the Cuban state against counterrevolution.24

A third Morenoite tendency, the Argentine Movimiento Socialista de los Trabajadores (MST), of the International Socialist League (LIS, from its Spanish acronym), is more circumspect, declaring that “the July 11 mobilization was heterogeneous” and noting the impact of the economic blockade in causing shortages.25 At the same time, the LIS describes Cuba as having embarked on a “restorationist course that began in the 1980s” and “accelerated” in the 1990s as a result of the “disintegration” of the USSR, but which has not yet been “consummated.”26 And while the MST/LIS is not quite so openly counterrevolutionary as the other Morenoite tendencies on Cuba, its Venezuelan affiliate, Marea Socialista, is notoriously rightist, having held formal talks with the Yankee’ would-be puppet president, Juan Guaidó.

All of these offshoots of the tendency founded by the pseudo-Trotskyist Nahuel Moreno supported the July 11 protests in Cuba, whether fulsomely (PSTU/LIT), “critically” (MAS/SoB) or equivocally (LIS); they all denounce the “repression” of the protests; and whether claiming that a “capitalist dictatorship” has already been restored on the besieged island, or that a “restorationist bureaucracy” is irrevocably establishing bourgeois rule, they all direct their fire mainly against the Castroite “dictatorship” rather than against the imperialist and pro-imperialist forces that are trying to overthrow the Cuban deformed workers state and against pro-capitalist sectors of the bureaucracy that endanger it. Thus in practice the Morenoites of all denominations are stooges of imperialist-led counterrevolution, in Cuba as elsewhere.

The LIT, in particular, has made its denunciation of “capitalist Cuba” a calling card. This requires a fundamental revision of the Trotskyist analysis of the bureaucratically degenerated Soviet workers state under Stalin. Trotsky insisted, against James Burnham, who would soon become a leader of Shachtman’s petty-bourgeois opposition tendency in the U.S. Socialist Workers Party, that “The class character of the state is determined by its relation to the forms of property in the means of production.”27 For the Morenoites, in contrast: “the (objective) social-economic bases that are being built depend on a factor that we can consider ‘subjective’: the will of the ‘power’ (the state and the political regime that controls it) to promote and defend these social-economic bases.” If that regime “undertakes a policy” that would “promote a capitalist functioning of the economy, it ceases to be a workers state and has become a capitalist state.”28

So for the Morenoite LIT, the class character of the Cuban (or Chinese, or Vietnamese, or North Korean) state depends not on the objective, material basis of the property forms that it rests on but on the perceived subjective political “will” and policies of the leadership. This was a common thread of the petty-bourgeois oppositions that broke with Trotsky and the Fourth International, refusing to defend the Soviet workers state in war on the grounds of the policies of Stalin and his heirs. Whether they labeled the USSR “bureaucratic collectivist” (Shachtman/Burnham), “state capitalist” (Cliff) or some other construct, these anti-materialists based their “analysis” on what they divined to be the ideas of the leadership. It is the same basis on which Mao declared Khrushchev’s Soviet Union “social-imperialist,” and on which Maoists declared China under Deng “capitalist,” because they were led by “capitalist roaders.”

This asserts that counterrevolution can take place by a mere change of leaders, or even a change in the leaders’ policies without any struggle, and often unnoticed until years later. What it means in practice, is writing off the bureaucratically degenerated/deformed workers states before the final battle is posed, claiming there is nothing left to defend. So the LIT now claims that China became a “capitalist dictatorship” in 1978 with Deng’s “four modernizations”; that the USSR went capitalist in 1985-86 with Mikhail Gorbachev’s proclamation of perestroika market reforms; and that Cuba did so in 1994 as the central planning council was folded into the economic and planning ministry. None of these measures established capitalist rule, and this anti-Marxist “analysis,” that capitalism has already been restored, serves to justify the LIT’s support for actual counterrevolutionaries in China and Cuba today.

The upshot in the Soviet Union was that when the key battle did occur, with Boris Yeltsin’s August 1991 countercoup in conjunction with U.S. president Bush,29 the LIT not only did not oppose this, it hailed this as a new “Russian Revolution.” The then-revolutionary International Communist League (ICL) instead called for “Soviet Workers: Defeat Yeltsin-Bush Counterrevolution!” Tens of thousands of copies of this appeal in Russian were distributed by our comrades in the Soviet Union. Earlier, in an October 1990 conference of Soviet miners in Kuznetsk, where ICL representatives sold hundreds of copies of a Russian-language bulletin calling for workers soviets and opposing a capitalist market economy, we ran into Morenoites working together with hard-core “AFL-CIA” counterrevolutionaries in pushing for a Solidarność-type anti-communist “union.”

As for Cuba, the Morenoites counterrevolutionary agitation goes way back. In August 1994 during the “Special Period” when the island nation was desperately short of everything following the end of Soviet aid, a few hundred people rioted on Havana’s seaside avenue, the Malecón, in what became known as the “maleconazo.” Mexican supporters of the Morenoite LIT published an article (El Socialista, October 1994) praising this counterrevolutionary action, along with another article hailing the “Cuban proletariat in the U.S.” for blocking an agreement between the Democratic administration of Bill Clinton and Fidel Castro. The Morenoites wrote that “hundreds of thousands of Cuban exiles hate Castro” and his “dictatorial regime” because they “had to leave their fatherland and separate from their families.” They approvingly quoted “Cuban leaders in exile” and hailed a demonstration called by the Cuban American National Foundation led by the fascistic Jorge Mas Canosa.30 The Morenoites really are gusano “socialists”!

This is not some literary dispute – at key moments the Morenoites have intervened with their bogus arguments as active counterrevolutionaries. The ludicrous “theoretical” claims they come up with to justify this are – like those of Max Shachtman and Tony Cliff before them – are utterly threadbare. If Cuba is capitalist, who are the members of the capitalist class that own the means of production? A layer of bureaucrats who run enterprises, and can be promoted or purged, is a parasitic growth on the workers state, but they are not capitalists. And if Cuba has already been a “capitalist dictatorship” for 27 years, according to these phonies, how come U.S. imperialism is still trying to overthrow it after repeatedly trying to do so? On the other hand, if according to Morenoite split-offs like the Trotskyist Fraction and others, the Cuban bureaucracy is solidly “capitalist-restorationist,” why hasn’t it been able to finish the job in more than a quarter century, or a decade, depending on their dating? In reality, despite the Cuban leaders’ pro-capitalist initiatives, there has been plenty of backsliding … and resistance.

Leon Trotsky in Coyoacán. The founder of the Red Army and of the Fourth International defended the Soviet Union against imperialism and counterrevolution. The pseudo-Trotskyist Morenoites side with imperialists and counterrevolutionaries against Cuba.   (Photo: © A.H. Buchman)

Leon Trotsky’s Fourth International was founded on the program of intransigent opposition to the Stalinist bureaucracy, and intransigent defense of the Soviet workers state that the Stalinist misleaders betrayed with their anti-Marxist dogmas of building “socialism in one country” and seeking “peaceful coexistence” with imperialism. Cuba’s experience is proof positive of the impossibility of both, and of the bankruptcy of Stalinism. But the Cuban workers state – with its enormous achievements in education, medicine and health care – as bureaucratically deformed as it is, is a historic conquest for all of humanity, and must be unconditionally defended. Those like the Morenoites who refuse to do so in the hour of need, placing themselves on the other side of the barricades along with the gusanos and Yankee imperialists, are traitors not Trotskyists.

Trotsky, in his analysis of the degeneration of the Soviet Union under Stalin, repeatedly emphasized the brittle and contradictory nature of the bureaucracy. In the Transitional Program (1938), he wrote: “either the bureaucracy, becoming ever more the organ of the world bourgeoisie in the workers state, will overthrow the new forms of property and plunge the country back to capitalism; or the working class will crush the bureaucracy and open the way to socialism.” At the same time, he stressed that “all shades of political thought are to be found among the bureaucracy,” from genuine Bolshevism to fascism. The counterrevolutionary sectors, “candidates for the role of compradors, consider, not without reason,” that their privileges can be insured “only through rejection of nationalization, collectivization and monopoly of foreign trade in the name of … capitalism.” There is no doubt that such sectors exist in Cuba, and are growing.

But not the entire bureaucracy is capitalist-restorationist, especially given the likelihood that counterrevolution would bring about a bloodbath of supporters and officials of the regime. Trotsky noted that “The revolutionary elements within the bureaucracy, only a small minority, reflect, passively it is true, the socialist interests of the proletariat.” In a crisis, they could be thrown to the workers’ side. But that requires, first of all, the understanding that capitalist rule has not already been restored, nor is the entire regime dead-set on restoring it. It calls for a genuinely Marxist program to mobilize the working class in defense of the workers state, including to form workers councils to preserve and extend the gains of the Cuban Revolution, and above all, to forge an authentically Leninist-Trotskyist party to lead the struggle.

The League for the Fourth International has put forward such a program for a proletarian political revolution to fight for egalitarian communism. The cheerleaders for counterrevolution, as well as the camp followers tagging along behind, are unable to do so because they are, one and all, on the other side of the barricades – some enthusiastically, others with qualms and hesitations. The Cuban protests of July 11 are a time of reckoning, a litmus test for the left. Where do you stand? ■

  1. 1. “How Cuba’s Communists Survived the Fall of the Soviet Union,” Jacobin, 26 July.
  2. 2. La Botz, “Cuban Protests and the American Reaction,” New Politics, 21 July.
  3. 3. “Where Should Socialists Stand on Cuba Today?” New Politics, 12 July.
  4. 4. Farber, “Why Cubans Protested on July 11,” In These Times, 27 July.
  5. 5. A 2019 split from the Committee for a Workers International (CWI), historically led by Peter Taaffe.
  6. 6. See the section on “Social-Democratic Accomplices of U.S. Imperialism” in the article “Hong Kong ‘Democracy’ Riots: Pro-Imperialist, Anti-Communist, Fascist Infested,” The Internationalist No. 58, Winter 2020.
  7. 7. “Protests in Cuba: Between Imperialist Cynicism and the One-Party Regime,” Left Voice, 16 July.
  8. 8. “The Mobilizations in Cuba and Defense of the Revolution,” Left Voice, 17 July.
  9. 9. “Cuba: Causes and Consequences of July 11,” Left Voice, 25 July. The article appeared in Spanish on July 18.
  10. 10. See “Presentations and Comments at the Trotsky Conference in Havana,” The Internationalist No. 57, September-October 2019. For Trotsky’s polemics in the 1939-40 fight against Shachtman see the Bolshevik leader’s book In Defense of Marxism, particularly his essay “The USSR in War.
  11. 11. La Botz, “Where Should Socialists Stand on Cuba Today?” New Politics, 12 July.
  12. 12. “On the Role and Tasks of Trade Unions,” X Congress of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks), March 1921.
  13. 13. Cuadernos de Avanzada Socialista No. 4 (April 1990)
  14. 14. Avanzada Socialista, 6 December 1989.
  15. 15. The founders of the League for the Fourth International include leading cadres of the ICL (expelled in 1996) who were directly involved in and responsible for its work in Germany, where the Spartakist-Arbeiterpartei Deutschlands (Spartacist Workers Party of Germany) was formed in January 1990 with comrades from both East and West Germany.
  16. 16. See “Morenoism: A Case Study of Stalinophobia” in Workers Vanguard Nos.506 and 507, 13/27 July 1990.
  17. 17. Avanzada Socialista, 30 March 1990.
  18. 18. LIT-CI, “What Must the Policy of Trotskyism Be Toward the Present Cuban Process?” (in Spanish), 14 August.
  19. 19. “The Truth About Cuba Protests – Defend the Revolution Against U.S. Imperialism and Its Frontmen.”
  20. 20. See “Morenoites Call for Counterrevolution in the USSR,” Spartacist No. 27-28, Winter 1979-80.
  21. 21. See the Internationalist Group Class Readings, Cuba: A Bureaucratically Deformed Workers State (August 2010).
  22. 22. El Socialista, 15 July.
  23. 23. IzquierdaWeb, 18 July. This is similar to Shachtman’s claim that the USSR under Stalin was “bureaucratic collectivist,” to excuse his refusal to defend it in World War II. Not surprisingly, the Nuevo MAS’ prime source on Cuba is the Shachtmanite Samuel Farber.
  24. 24. “States exist, to be sure. But we do not sum up our policy or start from fights between states…. So we do not start with the blockade. We start with the legitimacy, or not, of a particular mobilization,” as the July 11 protests whose “legitimacy” they defend (IzquierdaWeb, 25 July). The “correction and revision” of the report was evidently substantial, as the entire issue of the Nuevo MAS’ publication Socialismo o Barbarie No. 596 disappeared from its website.
  25. 25. MST/LIS, 24 July.
  26. 26. Periodismo de Izquierda, 31 July.
  27. 27. Leon Trotsky, “Not a Workers and Not a Bourgeois State?” (November 1937).
  28. 28. LIT-CI, “What Must the Policy of Trotskyism Be Toward the Present Cuban Process?”
  29. 29. When Soviet leader Gorbachev was seized by a cabal of rump Stalinist bureaucrats (the Emergency Committee), the pro-capitalist Russian Federation president Yeltsin moved to seize power, in telephone communication with and the backing of U.S. president George G.W. Bush, with the CIA’s Radio Liberty broadcasting directly from an office in Yeltsin’s headquarters. See “Soviet Union: X-Ray of a Coup,” Workers Vanguard No. 540, 6 December 2021.
  30. 30. See “Morenoites and Cliffites, Gusano Socialists?” in Espartaco No. 6, Winter 1994-95.