“The United States respects your aspirations as citizens and we will stand with you to secure your rights — to speak as you choose, to think as you please, to worship as you wish and to choose your leaders freely and fairly in democratic elections”.
On Saturday I went to Socialist Resistance's Latin America dayschool, which had sessions focusing in particular on Bolivia, Venezuela and Cuba. While there was open discussion where members from other groups could say what they thought - all too rare for many left "schools" - I felt that key questions about the character of these governments were ignored, and it had little focus on independent, working class politics.
Writing about the V&A exhibition of the famous Che Guevara photo in this week’s Socialist Worker Tim Sanders writes:
“The power of this image ultimately comes from the fact that Che was a genuine revolutionary, a fighter against capitalism and injustice. It is this authenticity that gives the image its force and is the one thing the image makers cannot hope to manufacture.
The key test of Castro’s movement was and is its relationship to the working class in Cuba. Farber’s book does not contain much new information on workers struggles during the period, though it clearly identifies the control Castro attained over the labour movement as a crucial turning point on the road to a Stalinist regime.
Farber tries to explain the evolution of the Cuban regime by grounding his interpretation in the context of the period. By the late 1950s, many people had the perception that the USSR was catching up and even surpassing the US – symbolised by the first Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile and the Sputnik launch in 1957.
If US-Cuban relations were neo-colonial in the 1950s, US policy was essentially one of “law and order and business as usual”. In the context of the Cold War, support for any Latin American government professing anti-Communism, whether they had been democratically elected or were military dictatorships. Hence US backing for Batista during the 1950s. (2006 p.73)
Fidel Castro was undoubtedly the central historical figure in the Cuban revolution. Farber locates Castro within the long Cuban and Latin American tradition of populist nationalism - as a caudillo with particular political ideas and organisational practices that “transcended” that tradition.
Any Marxist account of the Cuban revolution has to be rooted in an analysis of Cuba’s political economy, to explain the relative weight of the contending classes and of the existing state, and to understand what drove millions of Cubans to support Batista’s overthrow.
Review of Samuel Farber, The Origins of the Cuban Revolution Reconsidered (University of North Carolina Press, 2006)
What was the class character of the Cuban revolution of 1959-61? More than any other Marxist over the last forty-five years, Sam Farber has tried to tackle this question from the standpoint of Third Camp working class socialism.
New York’s bus and subway workers, who shut down the US’s largest transit system for three days last month, have voted down the contract they were offered by seven votes.