Cuba: The Real Fight Against State Repression Begins with Workers' Self-Organization

Liberal capitalism is a remedy for the ailments brought on by six decades of state capitalism in just the same way that swimming in sewage would be a suitable "remedy" for a staph infection.

Submitted by Internationali… on November 18, 2021

Political events in Cuba since the July 11 protests

Currently the political and social climate within Cuba is bleak. On July 11 of this year there were turbulent protests against the government which saw the latter employ all its repressive muscle and issue a call, out of sheer desperation, to its own supporters through national radio and television to join its armed thugs on the streets in beating protesters and hauling them off to jail. In the immediate aftermath of this historic revolt, the scale and intensity of which provoked terror in the ruling class and exposed the limits of the regime's security apparatus, liberal-minded activists on the island are planning another mass action; this time a peaceful march, of a more formal style and putting forward a more cohesive set of demands.

The aforementioned march, which is scheduled for November 15 of this year, is in favor of the "Archipelago Platform", so named after the private Facebook group wherein it was developed. This platform has as its stated objectives the release of political prisoners, particularly those detained on July 11, basic democratic rights, and multi-party elections. In other words, it is a march for liberal capitalism. Meanwhile, the public face of the protest, Yunior García Aguilera, a young liberal playwright, has been slandered in state media as a terrorist and agent of US imperialism. This is a tactic familiar to the ruling class in Cuba, who have been waging a similar smear campaign against the July 11 protesters, vilifying them as mercenaries or useful idiots of the same foreign entities in order to retroactively justify the violence being done to them in the name of a so-called "social peace" that means hunger for the majority.

Officially, the government has denied permission for the protest, and state officials at all levels, from President Miguel Díaz-Canel to the attorneys general of Havana and the Republic, have made very clear their position that anyone who marches will encounter all the brutality of the state’s security apparatus and, should they survive, will be subsequently charged with serious criminal and political offenses. The state is doing everything that it can to generate an atmosphere of fear and mistrust among the exploited with the aim of discouraging them from taking any type of organized action. They are trying to accomplish this by mobilizing security forces from all over the country to a few sensitive "hot spots", even going so far as to bring them in by buses or military vehicles from the easternmost provinces to the capital, a major hot spot of the July 11 revolt and the place where approximately 20% of the island's population also resides. The government has also deputized its regular supporters — i.e., not simply those most involved in the alphabet soup of regime organizations — to serve as its informants and gendarmes for the march scheduled for November 15, and in any future mass action against the regime.

In large cities like Havana and other sites of major clashes between protesters and state security forces on July 11, the social tension is palpably dense. There, well-fed police and agents of the Department of State Security (DSE) stand fully equipped and ready to repress an unarmed population of mostly hungry people. If that were not enough, the state has also ordered its supporters to conduct public military-style drills in which they practice striking a person with a metal pipe or other blunt object. Obviously, those in power intend that these exercises will function as preparation for the regime supporters, who will be present at the protests to support the state security forces, as well as a terror tactic designed to inspire fear in the exploited, whose living conditions would otherwise drive them to revolt against the state.

The myth of Cuban “socialism” and the false alternative of liberal capitalism

The current regime in Cuba is the product of a military coup with limited support from sectors of the peasantry and Cuban capital, not a workers' revolution; therefore, to speak of "socialism" in Cuba is complete nonsense. Rather, in Cuba as in all other countries, including those that call themselves "socialist," all the basic features of capitalism (wage labor, prices, money, merchandise) exist completely intact. The irony of this situation does not go unnoticed by most workers in Cuba. Indeed, they understand, on some level, however abstract or superficial, that the hardships and hunger they daily experience is the result of an economy presided by a subset of the society that, being capitalist in all but name, justifies its privileges and social position in the name of the same workers it ruthlessly exploits.

Given the harsh reality of living conditions for the majority of island’s inhabitants — not to mention the shameless way in which the Cuban government has discredited the authentic ideas of socialism, transforming its ideas from a tool for workers’ self-emancipation into an ideology that rationalizes the infallible authority of the Cuban "Communist" Party — it is not difficult to understand why so many workers on the island would join a march, like the one scheduled for November 15 of this year, to demand from the government basic freedoms. However, if the history of all the so-called "pro-democracy" movements has demonstrated anything with certainty, it is that the guarantees provided by liberal regimes, which many naively call "freedoms" and "democratic rights," are fundamentally temporary and contingent. That is to say, they will be rescinded without notice when necessity demands it, as it inevitably always does.

Moreover, a transition from the state-capitalist model that has prevailed in Cuba from the early 1960s towards a more "liberalized" economy, which would mean that the private sector will constitute the majority of the economy, as opposed to the approximately 25 percent that it currently represents, will do precious little to improve the living conditions of the island’s working population. Capitalism forces all companies, whether large or small, private or state-owned, to pursue profits to keep up with other companies, which are their rivals in the market. Companies achieve this by two means, primarily: increasing labor productivity and reducing the working-class consumption (either as money-wages or any other form in which it can be "paid out", for example, as part of the crop yield). This necessarily happens at the expense of the workers, whose bodies and living standards are sacrificed to achieve the growth targets of the company or the state. There is neither a capitalist nor national solution for the widespread misery in Cuba because the world capitalist economic system, of which Cuba forms part, is the source of that misery. Liberal capitalism is a remedy for the ailments brought on by six decades of state capitalism in just the same way that swimming in sewage would be a suitable "remedy" for a staph infection.

The role of the nationalist poison

Within Cuba today, the social strata that aspire — or already are — in power use nationalism to mobilize the exploited in support of their political programs. It is not a specifically Left or Right phenomenon either. The majority of the population within Cuba, as in the entire world, who are forced to earn a living by working for someone else in exchange for a wage, have no stake whatsoever in debates between competing nationalisms. The nation as such does not exist. It is rather the name given to the regime of capital within a specific geographic area. It is a false community where the exploited and exploiting classes are theoretically "equal", insofar as both are citizens of the nation, but the false equality of the nation hides the real material inequality that exists between them, and which fuels the class struggle. All nations and nationalisms, whatever their origin, therefore, reveal themselves as so much manipulation and falsehood. That is why, as workers, we do not have a nation or countries; no homeland to defend or die for. On the contrary, the working class of the entire world exists as a single exploited group, whose interests are one and the same everywhere. Nations, countries, and states are our enemies since these are all manifestations of the will of capital over the working class. Our self-organized struggle as a class issues the death penalty to every state, without any distinction. If, on the other hand, the workers let themselves be mobilized under the banner of the "Fatherland" (or the "nation", or the "people", which are nothing more than different names for capitalism), then they will continue to be the playthings of other classes, who will use them when and however they wish and then just as easily discard them, in the best of circumstances. The only way out for the exploited in Cuba and in the entire world, their only method of escape from state control and wretched living conditions, will be found in their collective struggle as a class — i.e., as a conscious political force — for the overthrow of capitalism everywhere.

For a revolutionary working-class alternative

The spontaneous uprising of July 11 is a moment practically without equal in the history of Cuba after 1959. The closest event were the uprisings that took place in August 1994, known collectively as the “Maleconazo”, but these protests were limited to the capital, they were not a nationwide movement, and the number of participants was estimated at a few hundred people. Although there are no precise counts of the total number of protesters on July 11, a conservative estimate based on the hundreds of confirmed arrests would put the total turnout figure in the thousands. However, this would be purely conjectural. Regardless of the true figure, the July 11 protests inspired fear in the hearts of the ruling class in Cuba because it reminded our rulers, albeit momentarily, that their privileges and power are not a divine right; that it can all evaporate to nothing if and when, we the exploited, decide to stop playing their game.

The peaceful march planned for November 15 is likely and tragically destined to end up as a bloodbath. The ruling class has been mobilizing its entire personnel (and recruiting new ones), training and preparing them for a mass action of this type and scale since the July 11 protests, in which they were caught "with their pants down", so to speak. But even in the extreme improbability that the protesters managed to extract from the regime all the concessions they are asking for, such that Cuba peacefully transitioned from a one-party state to a multi-party one, with its accompanying temporary guarantees; this would not improve the living situation or solve the essential problems of working people in Cuba. In short, the march is a fallacy built upon an even greater fallacy that will end inevitably in butchery.

To avoid this outcome, workers must create their own fighting organizations (strike committees, mass assemblies, workers' councils), which exclude non-exploited strata, to coordinate and lead their own struggle. This is not a novel idea, nor something that we are trying to impose schematically on the Cuban situation. The workers' councils, or whatever one wishes to call them, are simply the organizations that the exploited class is naturally inclined, by their living and working conditions in capitalism, to build in order to deepen and generalize their struggle. In broad outline, they are assemblies of mandated (meaning they are obliged to vote as their electors have instructed them) and democratically-elected delegates, who function as glorified messengers between different groups of workers. This decision-making structure, in addition to representing the purest system of democracy (the only one worthy of being called such), allows the entire class to join in and participate in the struggle, moving in unison towards the same goal: the global revolt of the wage-slave class against the capitalist system.

The unity of the exploited as an organized power in society is indispensable to combat the savage repression of the Cuban state and the misery in which the majority of the island lives. All the mechanisms of brutalization and deprivation of the majority disappear before it like castles floating on air. The self-organization of the workers, which consists in their unity of action and their independent struggle for their own material interests, achieves the total emancipation of the exploited; in the first place, by organizing them for the overthrow of the state, which cannot be anything other than the imposition of one class over another of its economic and social regime, and secondly, by creating the basic decision-making apparatus (the councils) through which the freely associated producers will be able to jointly manage the economy, which will grow as the revolution does, according to their own needs as human beings.

A genuine workers’ revolution in Cuba can have profound implications that reverberate beyond the island, potentially serving as the initial eruption site for the worldwide revolt of the exploited. On this matter, we must insist that such a revolution, whether it begins in Cuba or any other country, will soon have to spread beyond its initial start point, or otherwise be asphyxiated by imperialist encirclement and the inevitable reassertion of capitalist imperatives, a consequence of the interconnectedness of all national economies to the world market. To that end, there must already be in place a class political organization, international in scale and operation, that regroups within itself the most politically advanced elements among the exploited. Its principal objective is to expand the class struggle to the entire world capitalist system. Both this organization and its practical interventions within the class are guided by the fundamental socialist maxim that only workers can win their own freedom. As such, it does not attempt to act for the class in any fashion, nor does it strive to gain power for itself. Instead, it participates in workers’ struggles as equals and fights for their interests within their organizations. The class political organization of the proletariat is a guiding beacon always pointing the way to freedom, to communism.

This is the way forward for the exploited, for the working class and peasants (effectively agricultural workers) in Cuba as anywhere else. The unity of the working class in the struggle for its own material interests, as made manifest via the workers' councils, can overcome any resistance from the exploiters, shatter any and all barriers. Our capitalist masters tremble with fear when we stop taking their orders and instead unite to fight them. They know that the unity of the working class means that their giant racket is over. In Cuba, the exploited must not be intimidated by state terror or join liberal protests as cannon fodder for another class’ political project. Instead, they should organize themselves independently, on the basis of their shared hardships and material interests as workers, to create their own fighting organizations capable of overthrowing the state and assuming control over the society.

Affiliates of the Internationalist Communist Tendency
and Internationalist Communists of Oceania