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The Theory^ 

of the 


by Joseph Hansen 





1 16 University Place New York 3, N. Y. 


JEAN Paul Sartre relates .that at the 
beginning of the year some Cuban 
friends came to see him. "They talked 
at length, with fire, of the Revolution, 
but I tried in vain to get them to tell 
me whether the new regime was social- 
ist or not." 

Sartre was prevailed on to visit Cuba 
and determine for himself. Upon leav- 
ing, he offered his impressions in an 
essay of unusual interest, "Ideologia y 
Revolution" (Ideology and Revolution) . 
which was published in the March 21 
issue of Limes de Revolacion. 

"What first surprises one in Cuba — 
above all if you have visited the coun- 
tries of the East — " he wrote; "is the 
apparent absence of ideology. Yet it is 
not ideologies that are lacking in this 
century; here too, they have represen- - 
tatives who from all sides offer us their 
services. Your leaders are not ignorant 
of them; they simply don't employ them. 
Their adversaries formulate the most 
contradictory reproaches: for some, this 
absence of ideas is nothing more than 
a trick; it hides the most rigorous Marx- 
ism which does not yet dare name itself; 
some day the Cubans will remove the 
mask and communism will be installed 
in the Caribbean, a few miles from 
Miami. Other enemies — or, on occa- 
sion, the same — accuse them of think- 
ing of absolutely nothing: 'They are im- 
provising,' I have been told, 'and after 
having done something they elaborate a 
theory.' Someone adds politely: 'Try to 
speak with the members of the govern- 
ment; perhaps they know what they 
are doing. As for us, I must confess that 
we know absolutely nothing.' And a few 
days ago at the University, a student 
declared, 'Autonomy becomes all the 
more indispensable since the Revolution 
has not defined its objectives.' " 

Reprinted from the Summer 1960 
International Socialist Review 


In reply to all this, Sartre continued, 
he had heard a thousand times: "The 
Revolution is a praxis which forges its 
ideas in action." This reply, the French 
Existentialist philosopher and play- 
wright held, was logically unassailable, 
but a little abstract. Citing a practical 
interest in clearing up the question of 
the theory of the Cuban revolution, he 
declared: "It is necessary to understand, 
certainly, the uneasiness — sincere or 
feigned — of those who say that they 
don't know anything or who reproach 
the revolutionary movement with not 
having defined its aims." Mentioning his 
first query — is the Cuban revolution 
socialist or not? — Sartre recognized 
that the question was not well put,, due 
to the fact that from a distance one 
tends to be a "little abstract, falling into 
those big words that today constitute 
symbols rather than programs." Never- 
theless, "Socialism? Liberal economy? 
Many intellects ask; they are convinced 
in good faith that a Revolution ought to 
know where it is going." 

Sartre believes they are wrong. The 
French Revolution of 1789 was "totally 
blind" The same ones "who voted for 

the Republic were monarchists two 
years before. Everything terminated in 
a military dictatorship that saved the 
rich and reinstituted the monarchy. And, 
through the mirages of an inflexible ri- 
gidity, how many vacillations, how many 
errors, how many slips backward the 
Russian Revolution experienced during 
its first years!" A NEP imposed by cir- 
cumstances , "failure to foresee" the 
wreck of the revolutionary movements 
in Europe or even its own isolation. 
"The new ideas were expressed within 
the framework of an ideology without 
flexibility, becoming converted into her- 
nias: Socialism in one country, the per- 
manent revolution; inventions which it 
was believed could be justified through 

Sartre, presenting his credentials in 

PrrnteJ in the United Statrj of America 


this field, is clearly not io be taken as 
a serious theoretician of revolution. 
From his brief remarks about Europe's 
two greatest revolutions, it would be 
hard to escape the conclusion that rev- 
olutionary theory is of little use. Never- 
theless,, he finds it scarcely satisfying to 
reply in response to the question in 
Cuba, "Are you going to build So- 
cialism?" that "praxis will define its 
own ideology." 

Sartre found among the leaders of 
the Cuban Revolution two conceptions 
which he at first thought were contra- 
dictory. One of the leaders told him 
that the Revolution is unable to take 
a long-range objective "because it is a 
re-action, or if you wish, something that 

"He meant by this that your people, 
placed before a too powerful neighbor, 
never had the absolute initiative and 
saw themselves obliged to employ every 
recourse of intelligence and energy to 
invent a counterblow. And he added: 
'How can we make long-range plans 
when we can find ourselves invaded 
tomorrow, or suffer the most intense 
economic pressure? Guerrilla war, re- 
sistance to economic blockade, would 
. necessarily change the structure of our 
society. All we know is this: we will 
not be defeated. But the conditions of 
our struggle would change us: it will 
be another Cuba that sees the victory.' 
I understood that he meant that your 
"improvisations' are not, in fact, any- 
thing but a defensive technique: the 
Cuban Revolution must adapt itself 
constantly to the enemy maneuvers. Per- 
haps the measures of counterblow will 
give birth to a counter-ideology?" 

Leaders Became Radicalized 

However, other leaders talked about 
themselves, "r asked them questions 
about their lives, about the evolution 
of their thought. All of them told me 
that the Revolution had dragged them 
far beyond their first positions. Violent 
clashes had occurred and they had to 
confront severe realities: some of their 
old friends had not followed the move- 
ment; others, reluctantly in the begin- 
ning, had become radicalized.'' 

The two concepts at first seemed in- 
compatible to Sartre. "In the first case, 
1 thought, one adapts himself, one tem- 
porizes, everything must remain fluid 
and principles must not constitute a hin- 
drance. In the second, the revolutionary 
movement becomes more profound, in a 
sure and, as a whole, regular manner; 
there exist then an order of march, 
points of reference, a direction. Perhaps 
it would be too ambitious to call the 
discovery of an orientation an 'ideology,' 
but it must be admitted that the de- 
mands of praxis have changed the ideas 
of these revolutionary leaders," 

Observing the reciprocal relation be- 
tween Havana's masses and Castro, dur- 
ing the Cuban leader's speech following 
the blowing up of the freighter La Cou- 
bre as it was unloading nrmitions for 
the defense of the country, Sartre came 
to the conclusion that the two concepts 
"counterblow" and "radicalization" were 
actually interrelated and that they 
marked the entire course of the Cuban 
Revolution. In the rest of his essay he 
sketches this interrelation, beginning 
with the appearance of bourgeois-demo- 
cratic patriots who had to find a class 
base in the "agricultural workers 1 ' in 
order to build an effective movement, 
then take up the agrarian cause to carry 
through the overthrow of the Batista 
dictatorship, and finally undertake ra- 
dical economic measures to consolidate 
the victory and defend the country 
against imperialism. Sartre sees as the 
possible end point of this development, 
should the foreign pressure prove suf- 
ficient, "self-radicalization" of the Cu- 
ban Revolution and, as its economic 
counterpart, "radical socialization." 

I N APRIL, a few weeks after the ap- 
pearance of Sartre's observations, a 
book by Ernesto "Che" Guevara was 
published in Havana.* As one of the 
lop figures of the Cuban government, 
anything that Guevara writes is, of 
course, to be studied. In the particular 
field covered in the book, .guerrilla war- 

• La Guerra dc OucrrflUs, by Che Gnevaivi. 
FubJi^hrd tay the Dcpartirumt of Instruction at 
MrNFAR fMlnlstry of the RevoJu.tion.flry Armed 
I'-nrccsl, Havana. Cuba, I960. 187 pp $1 

fare, he is an undoubted authority, hav- 
ing proved this by his military leader- 
ship in the civil war. At present, as head 
of the National Bank, he is in charge of 
Cuba's foreign trade, a post of key im- 
portance in the defense of the country 
and in the development of economic 
planning. La Guerra de GiterriHas will 
undoubtedly be widely discussed in rev- 
olutionary circles throughout Latin 
America where Cuba is now pre-emi- 
nent as a source of inspiration. 

Largely a handbook, the author deals 
in considerable detail with the practical 
side of guerrilla warfare in a country 
like Cuba under the conditions of a dic- 
tatorship like Batista's. As Guevara 
stresses, virtually everything he presents 
is taken from the Cuban experience and 
may not be applicable in every instance 
to other countries even those having 
much in common in the way of climate, 
topography and socio-economic inherit- 
ance. I shall not deal with this aspect 
of the book save to note the striking 
portrait that emerges of the average 
Cuban guerrilla fighter. 

Recruited from the countryside, 
chances were that he came to the Sierra 
Maestra barefoot and unable to read or 
write. He had gone through a period 
of testing, not least of which was to 
obtain his own gun and ammunition, 
most likely by a raid on a contingent of 
Batista's armed forces. He did not come 
with blind faith. Observing the guerrilla 
leadership in action he had become con- 
vinced of its honesty and fairness, the 
sincerity of its program of agrarian re- 
form and its will to carry the struggle 
through to the end. 

The guerrilla's life wa;, not easy — 
under constant threat of death, he was 
often like a hunted animal, scurrying 
from cover to cover. He had to make 
lightning marches by night, attack, and 
flee. Sometimes as much as three days 
went without food. Sleeping in a ham- 
mock at best, under a strip of nylon to 
keep off rain and insects, tension was 
never absent. A bath, a shave were lux- 
uries to dream of. (Guevara notes that 
each man could be told by his individual 
odor and the whole force by its acrid 
smell, "repelling strangers/') 

The firmest ascetism prevailed; the 
fighters living like monks or Spartans. 
An iron principle of the leaders was to 
lead by example ". . . the chiefs must 
constantly offer the example of a crystal 
clear and self-sacrificing life." All, lead- 
ers and ranks, shared and shared alike 
— no exceptions. This included not only 
the occasional handouts of tobacco but 
the rugged fare, the hunger, the risks 
and the worst hardships. As the guer- 
rilla fighter's horizon widened under 
indoctrination, he became a revolution- 
ary, charged with the conviction and 
fervor so characteristic of forces de- 
dicated to a great cause. 

The small guerrilla bands grew until 
they were able to hold considerable ter- 
ritory where, as a power dual to that of 
Batista, they were able to give a de- 
monstration of what their government 
would be like. The guerrilla forces de- 
veloped into a full-fledged army of 
such force, hardness and skill that no- 
thing in the country could stand against 
it. Batista's forces melted away. The 
barbudos, the bearded ones, marched in 
triumph into Havana, many of them 
seeing the wonders of the nation's cap- 
ital for the first time. . 

Guevara's Conclusions 

Is it possible to draw more general 
lessons from this experience than the 
best practical way to organize guerrilla 
forces and later convert them into an 
army? Guevara thinks so, He presents 
some rather far-reaching conclusions. It 
is these, of considerable ideological in- 
terest, rather than such items as a good 
recipe for making a Molotov cocktail, 
or how to trap a Sherman tank, that 
will undoubtedly arouse most interest. 
Here is how Guevara begins; 

"The armed victory of the Cuban peo- 
ple over the Batista dictatorship has 
been, in addition to the epic triumph 
recognized in the news of the entire 
world, a modifier of old dogmas on lead- 
ing the popular masses of Latin Amer- 
ica, demonstrating palpably the capacity 
of the people to liberate themselves 
from a suffocating government through 
guerrilla struggle. 

"We hold that the Cuban revolution 
made three fundamental contributions 

to the mechanics of the revolutionary 
movements in America. They are: 

"<l) The popular forces can win a 
war against the army. 

"(2) It is not always necessary to 
wait until all the conditions are ripe for 
the revolution; the insurrectional center 
can create them, 

"(3) In underdeveloped America, the 
terrain of the armed struggle must be 
fundamentally the countryside." 

Explaining his first two conclusions, 
the Cuban revolutionary leader says 
that they speak against "the quietist 
attitude of revolutionaries or pseudo rev- 
olutionaries who take cover and cover up 
for their inactivity, under the pretext 
that against a professional army nothing 
can be done, and some others who feel 
that they have to wait until, in a me- 
chanical form, all the necessary objec- 
tive and subjective conditions are ready, 
without preoccupying themselves about 
accelerating them." 

Guevara recognizes, of course, that 
certain minimum objective conditions 
must ripen before the "first insurrec- 
tional center" can be set up. "Where a 
government has come to power through 
any form of popular consultation, fraud- 
ulent or not, and maintains at least an 
appearance of constitutional legality, it 
is impossible to precipitate guerrilla 
warfare since the possibilities of civic 
struggle have not been exhausted." 

On the third point, which is of greater 
interest, both in itself and as an indica- 
tion of now at least this top leader 
views the Cuban revolution in its wider 
aspects, Guevara declares: 

"The third contribution is fundament- 
ally of strategic import and must be 
a call to attention for those who attempt 
with dogmatic criteria to center the 
struggle of the masses in the movements 
of the cities, completely forgetting the 
immense participation of those in the 
countryside in the life of all the under- 
developed countries of the Americas. 
Not that struggles of the masses of or- 
ganized workers are to be depreciated, 
the analysis simply chooses a realistic 
criterion to estimate the possibilities 
under the difficult conditions of armed 
struggle, where the guarantees that 

customarily adorn our Constitutions are 
suspended or ignored. Under these con- 
ditions, the workers' movements must 
be clandestine, without arms, in illegali- 
ty and running enormous dangers; the 
situation in the open field is not so 
difficult, the inhabitants supporting the 
armed guerrillas and in places where 
the repressive forces cannot reach." 

Developing his point further, Gue- 
vara specifies that since guerrilla action 
is best conducted "in wild and little 
populated places" the struggle for the 
demands of the people is centered "pre- 
ferentially and even almost exclusively, 
on the plane of changing the social com- 
position of land tenancy; that is, the 
guerrilla is above all an agrarian rev- 
olutionary. He expresses the desire of 
the great peasant mass to be owner of 
the land, owner of their means of pro- 
duction, of their animals, of all that 
they have dreamed of for years, of what 
constitutes their life and will also con- 
stitute their cemetery." 

Of the two types of guerrilla warfare, 
Guevara sets aside the one which is 
complementary to the struggle of big 
regular armies "such as the case of the 
Ukrainian guerrillas in the Soviet 
Union." "What interests us," he con- 
tinues, "is the case of an armed group 
which continues progressing in the 
struggle against the constituted power, 
whether it be colonial or not, which es- 
tablishes a single base and which con- 
tinues progressing in the rural surround- 
ings. In all these cases, whatever may 
be the ideological structure that ani- 
mates the struggle, the economic base 
is given by the aspiration to possess 
the land." 

Seeking other examples to support Ins 
generalization, the Cuban leader points 
first of all to China: 

"Mao's China begins as an eruption 
of workers' nuclei in the South that is 
defeated and almost annihilated. It be- 
comes established and initiates its as- 
cendant march only after the lon^ march 
to Yenan when it settles in rural ter- 
ritories and places as the base of de- 
mands the agrarian reform, The strug- 
gle of Ho Chi Min in Indochina is based 
on the rice-growing peasants oppressed 
by the French colonial yoke and with 

this force it continues progressing until 
it defeats the colonialists. In both cases 
there is an interruption of patriotic war 
against the Japanese invader, but the 
economic base of the struggle for the 
land does not vanish. In the case of 
Algiers, the great idea of Arab national- 
ism has its economic replica in the ex- 
ploitation of almost the entire arable 
land of Algiers by a million French 
colons; and in some countries like Puer- 
to Rico, where the particular conditions 
of the island have not permitted a guer- 
rilla outbreak, the national . spirit, 
wounded to the depths by the discrim- 
ination committed daily against them, 
has as its base the aspirations of the 
peasantry (although in many cases it is 
already proletarianized) for the land 
which the Yankee invader seized; and 
this same central idea was what ani- 
mated, although in different projections, 
the small holders, peasants and slaves of 
the haciendas of eastern Cuba who 
closed ranks to defend together the 
right to possession of the land during 
the thirty-year war of liberation-" 

Guevara does not rule out the action 
of the city proletariat altogether. But, 
since city terrain is the most unfavor- 
able for guerrilla warfare, only limited 
acts are possible. In other words, re- 
versing the situation of the Ukrainian 
guerrillas, the workers can only com- 
plement the struggle of the guerrilla 
fighters in the countryside. At a final 
point in the civil war, however, when 
the guerrilla forces have swelled into a 
peasant army capable of regular battle, 
the city proletariat can find it possible 
to engage in mass actions "whose final 
result is the general strike." 

IN THE closing section of his book, 
"Analysis of the Cuban Situation, 
Present and Future," Guevara offers 
some additional considerations. After 
more than a year in power, it is nec- 
essary, he thinks, to take "the exact 
dimension" of the Cuban Revolution. 
"This national Revolution, fundamental- 
ly agrarian, but with the enthusiastic 

participation of the workers, the people 
of the middle class and even today with 
the support of the industrialists, has ac- 
quired great continental and even world 
importance . . -'" 

The Agrarian Reform, "extremely 
harsh" for those whom it displaced from 
ownership, put in motion INRA (Na- 
tional Institute of Agrarian Reform) 
which now "advances like a tractor or 
tank" breaking up the big landholdings. 
The Agrarian Reform was "antifeudal" 
but occurred in "capitalist surround- 
ings" and against the monopolies. Thus 
it had to help the peasants and agri- 
cultural workers with credit and with 
machinery and "People's Stores." 

"Of all the characteristics distinguish- 
ing it from the other three great agra- 
rian reforms of the Americas {Mexico, 
Guatemala and Bolivia), what appears 
most important is the decision to carry 
it through to the end without favors or 
concessions to any class." 

Production of such important items 
as rice, grain and cotton is developing 
rapidly, constituting "the center of the 
process of planning." Cuba's rich sub- 
soil resources have been retrieved . 
through petroleum and mining laws 
which may turn out to be "as impor- 
tant" as the Agrarian Reform. The pro- 
fits of foreign monopolists have been 
limited. The small island of Cuba, is 
leading the anticolonial struggle in the 
Americas and has been permitted to 
take "the heroic, glorious and dangerous 
post, of the vanguard." 

"Small countries have sought before 
now to maintain this position; Guate- 
mala . . - which fell before the direct 
aggression of the colonialists; and Bo- 
livia . '. . which, yielded before the ter- 
rible difficulties of the struggle despite 
having provided three of the examples 
which served the Cuban Revolution in 
a fundamental way: the suppression of 
the army, the Agrarian Reform and the 
nationalization of the mines . . . 
"Cuba knows these examples, knows 
the pitfalls and the difficulties, but 
knows also that we are in the dawn of 
a new era in the world; the colonial pil- 
lars have been swept down by the pop- 
ular national struggle in Asia and in 
Africa. The tendency today toward 

unification of the peoples does not come 
from their religions, from their customs, 
from their appetites, racial affinity or 
lack of it- it comes from the economic 
similarity of their social conditions and 
from the similarity of their eagerness 
for progress and recuperation. Asia and 
Africa shook hands at Bandung; Asia 
and Africa will shake hands with native 
and colonial America through Cuba 
here in Havana." 

Guevara notes the decline of the old 
colonial empires in face of ^ the popular 
upheavals. "Belgium and Holland are 
two caricatures of empire; Germany and 
Italy lost their colonies. France debates 
in the bitterness of a war she must 
lose, and England, diplomatic and skill- 
ful, liquidates her political power while 
maintaining economic connections." 

The United States has replaced some 
of the old capitalist colonial powers but 
knows that this is "transitory/' Wall 
Street's main field is Latin America. 
But if "all the Latin -American people 
raised the banner of dignity, like Cuba," 
the monopolists would tremble and have 
to accommodate themselves to a "new 
politico -economic situation and to sub- 
stantial pruning of their gains." That is 
why the monopolists today attack Cuba 
as a "bad example." They accuse Cuba 
because of the road it has pointed out, 
"the road of armed popular struggle 
against the supposedly invincible armies,. 
the road of struggle in wild areas to con- 
sume and destroy the enemy outside its 
bases, in one word, the road of dignity." 

Guevara winds up discussing the pos- 
sible variants of imperialist aggression 
against Cuba and the means of combat- 
ting it. For defense he counts heavily on 
"international solidarity" and guerrilla 

EON Trotsky remarked in 1940, "The 
™ life- and- death task of the prole- 
tariat now consists not in interpreting 
the world anew but in remaking it from 
top to bottom. In the next epoch we 
can expect great revolutionists of action 
but hardly a new Marx." 

Cuba, it would seem, has done her 
share toward verifying this observation. 
In their pattern of action, the Cuban 
revolutionaries feel certain that they 

have pointed the way for all of Latin 
America. The proof is their own suc- 
cess. But when we seek to determine the 
exact meaning of their deeds, Marxist 
clarity is not easily found. 

Are we to understand from what Gue- 
vara says that the peasantry has dis- 
placed the proletariat as the leading 
revolutionary class — in the underde- 
veloped countries at least? 

If so, what does this signify for rev- 
olutionary perspectives in the highly in- 
dustrialized countries? Must the perspec- 
tive of proletarian revolution be con- 
sidered unrealistic there? If so, how 
does this affect the defense of revolu- 
tions like the one in Cuba? And what 
does it signify for humanity on such an 
issue as the possibility of a Third World 
War? Can the proletariat by revolu- 
tionary means hope to prevent a nuclear 
conflict or must this possibility be re- 
linquished as Utopian — unless the 
farmers take the lead by mounting 
guerrilla warfare? 

Guevara insists, quite correctly the 
facts testify, that Cuba now stands in 
the vanguard of the Latin-American 
revolution. This would seem to impose 
an obligation to examine the theories 
and programs affecting that revolution, 
particularly if Cuba has made a new 
discovery. Why did the others happen 
to go wrong? How did the Cubans hap- 
pen to stumble upon the right road? If 
for no other reason, such an examina- 
tion could prove fairly decisive for the 
defense of the Cuban revolution. Yet 
even Guevara seems to evade such ques- 
tions, confining himself to a cryptic ref- 
erence ■ — the "quietist attitude of rev- 
olutionaries or pseudo revolutionaries." 
What revolutionaries or pseudo revolu- 
tionaries? The Stalinists? The Apristas? 
We are left in the dark. 

It is quite true that the Cuban rev- 
olutionaries do not have any time for 
spinning fine theories. They are prac- 
tical people, swamped with tasks. They 
scarcely have time to look up from the 
day-and-night schedules they have had 
to follow since they came to power. 

Yet there are some questions about 
which the Cubans should be able to 
say a good deal. For example, how did 
it happen that the once-powerful Com- 

munist party proved incapable, of -.lead- . 
ing the revolution? How did it happen 
Instead, that a handful of dedicated 
students were able to build a revolu- 
tionary . movement from virtually noth- . 
ing .arid accomplish what the Commu- .• 
,rilst" party failed , to., accomplish? -The 
answer to, that should prove instructive ■ „ 
to all of Latin America ; and the,, entire h 
world f or, that matter. 
, Such topics, ■ hpweyer,. are not : very 
high on the agenda of the Cuban revolu- 
tionaries. Their boldness and sureness ,, 
of touch in, the field .of | action have no 
corresponding reflection in the field of ;; 
theory. Despite Guevara^s sweeping con- 
elusions, the theoretical lessons, of the . 
Cuban Revolution . have not yet been 
drawn,; ■-■ .-''.-■ Lb 

-By way of beginning this taski' let us 
establish some preliminary points ofo 

.The founders of the July ,26 Move- 
ment started as pettyTbourgeois dem- " 
; ocrats. Fidel Castro, for. example, ran 
< f or- \ Congress in the ■] 1952- elections as 
;iia member: of the Ortbdoxo party^Par- , 
tidd del Pueblo). After Batista's March . 
10 coup d'etat, 'Castro "shortly set: out 
oh the road to insurrection. This led 
him within a year to the famous assault 
on the Moncada- fortress and then to"' 
prison and exile. On March 19, 1956, he 
declared 'his disillusionment with'" the' 
Ortodoxo party and announced the- July 
1 26 Movement as an independent revolu- 
> tionary organization. This proved to- be 
primaTiiy a parfy -Of action, dedicated 
to the overthrow of the- Batista' dicta- 
torship. Although occasional blocs were 
made with other" groups and parties,- the 
essence of its politics was to remain 
■'; ■ independent and not to swerve from its 
-primary -objective. It. was a revolution- 
ary youth movement much closer to, the 
campus in the beginning than to either 
■■- the factories or the fields, although later 
it came powerfully under-the facial in- 
fluence- of the : poorest peasants and 
agricultural workers. ■ '' 

.Why weren't these youthful revolu- 
tionaries attracted by the. , Communist 
party?.;.The answer would., appear be 
quite simple and. even obvious. The 
Communist party was not revolutionary 

enough. In fact,,, it was not revolution- 
. ary-at all. It was tainted by its 'support 
of the Batista regime. Moreover,, neither 
Stalin nor his heirs were exactly mag- 
nets to. youth burning with the will to 
smash the dictatorship^. Among other 
things, Moscow's policy of '^peaceful; co- 
existence"; i.e.* maintenance, , of the 
i status quo, wrdch. was faithfully echoed 
by the Commuriist- parties ^rpughout 
the world, was repellerd, to revolution- 
aries peeking above all things to alter 
"the status quo. 

The models and inspirational guidance 
^hey, might have found in the early 
Soviet leaders were ntit available to 
them, or" were at least? obscured under 
the successive, layers of. Stalinist mud. 

The.Cubans turned to what was closest 
at hand D-^* the leaders of the iTJde- 
/ipendence movement! d& the past cen- 
tury. These figures had a virtue lack- 
ing :in the i Stalinist movement: honesty. 
Implacable foes of tyranny of any kind, 
they were dedicated men capable of ac- 
cepting martyrdom to; advance the cause 
of freedom, .-. 

Thus it came about that the July 26 
. Movement- marched under the banners 
of freedom, equality and independence, 
as if the. main problem. .of a modern 
', revolution boils, down to re-enacting 
m6, '1,789,. of— in Cuban history — 
1868 "and 1£95. 'The 1956-59 struggle 
' closely paralleled the struggle of 1895- 
98, including the opening landing; and 
, the final advance of' the guerrilla 
forces. Although they did not consciously 
plan it that way, the, Cuban revolu- 
tionaries, with their beards, even bore 
close physical resemblance to the heroes 
jql the past century.. 

Moreover, they took power, as Guevara 
stresses, not at "the head of the modern 
proletariat but at the head of "the 
peasantry, a .class that.,is. .vestigial from 
the pre -capitalist era, . .,.-.-:■„ 

The^pattera seems, to defy the Marxist 
theory that the proletarian' revolution 
has superseded the bourgeois. Yet does 
it really, invalidate the main .'., laws of 
the world, revolutionary "process as.much 
as it appears .to-, when, you look at the 
Cuban Revolution merely, in isolation? 
If we connect it with the. main interna- 
tional events of trie past foiAy-odd years. 

. : 9 

two outstanding facts of contemporary 
history at once offer a key: (1) the 
deepening decay of capitalism, which 
impels revolutionary outbursts no mat- 
ter what the barriers; (2) the decades 
of defeats of the proletarian revolution 
in the capitalist centers due to the per- 
nicious influence of the Communist 
parties under control of the bureaucratic 
caste that usurped power in the first 
workers" state. 

That the main thrust of the Cuban 
Revolution from the beginning was 
against capitalist imperialism is well 
understood among those who overthrew 
Batista. When McKinley intervened in 
the civil war in 1898, the freedom 
fighters bad virtually won independence 
from the Spanish colonial master. Mc- 
Kinley aimed at blocking Cuba's inde- 
pendence and bringing the island into 
the orbit of Wall Street. American cap- 
ital soon became dominant in both the 
island's economy and politics. Under the 
State Department, Batista, like Machado 
before him, ruled in the style of a 
gauleiter. Consequently, it is not diffi- 
cult to see that the main motor force 
in the Cuban upheaval was American 

It is perhaps not so easy to see that 
Batista's rule of a quarter of a century 
was no more necessary than the similar 
span of Chiang Kai-shek's rule in China. 
Had the Cuban Communist party re- 
sponded to Batista's seizure of power in 
1933 with one-tenth the energy and 
singleness of purpose later displayed by 
the July 26 Movement, there can be no 
doubt that among Roosevelt's headaches 
would have been a socialist Cuba. In- 
stead the Cuban Stalinists used their 
influence in the working class to rally 
support to Batista just as the American 
Stalinists utilized their influence among 
the American workers to spread the 
debilitating cult of "FDR." 

The pattern was fundamentally the 
same as that followed by the Communist 
parties throughout the world prior to 
World War II. This is the true explana- 
tion for the fact that more than forty 
years after the October 1917 Revolu- 
tion, not a single Communist party. has 
led a revolutionary struggle to success 
anywhere in the world save in China 

and Yugoslavia; and in both these in- 
stances the leaderships disregarded the 
line laid down by Moscow. Stalinism 
proved to be the most powerful brake 
on revolution in the experience of the 
proletariat. This was so not only in Ger- 
many, France and Spain before World 
War II 1 to mention only the most out- 
standing examples where the workers 
could easily have taken power, but after 
the war, when millions of workers 
flocked into the Communist parties in 
France and Italy and other countries. 
If twelve determined men on Pico Tur- 
quino proved sufficient to start the 
avalanche that buried Batista, what 
couldn't the Italian Communist party ac- 
complish with its millions of members 
if it displayed similar revolutionary de- 
termination and devotion to the socialist 
cause which it claims to represent! 

On a world scale, taking the entire 
span since the advent of Stalinism, it 
is the same default of leadership in the 
working class, due to Stalinist exploita- 
tion of the proletarian tendency to turn 
toward the first workers' state, that 
finally resulted in the extraordinary 
spectacle today of revolutions breaking 
out in dozens of countries — not under 
Communist, but under petty -bourgeois 
and even bourgeois nationalist leader- 
ship, One may imagine what Lenin 
might say of a Soviet Union capable of 
putting satellites in orbit about the sun 
and photographing the other srde of the 
moon, yet incapable of giving direct in- 
spiration to revolutionary-socialist strug- 
gles in other lands; on the contrary, 
sabotaging them, and thus creating a 
vacuum in revolutionary leadership! 

However, the extension granted cap- 
italism did not remove the objective 
necessity for transcending the system. 
The great new fact in world politics is 
that neither Stalinism nor imperialism, 
nor the combination of the two proved 
capable of suppressing the revolutionary 
process indefinitely- They could not pre- 
vent it from breaking out finally on 
democratic issues that might even mask 
the proletarian direction. They could not 
prevent the revolutionary process from 
finding leaders capable of at least mak- 
ing a beginning even though thev might 

fail to meet the objective need — or op- 
pose it — at the very next stage. 

Unable to blast away the Stalinist 
obstacle > the revolution turned back a 
considerable distance and took a detour. 
The detour has led us over some very 
rough ground, including the Sierra 
Maestra of Cuba, but it is clear that the 
Stalinist road block is now being by- 

The Main Lesson 

It is not necessary to turn to Moscow 
for leadership. This is the main lesson 
to be drawn from, the experience in 
Cuba. And it is the lesson to be drawn 
above all by the working class in other 
countries, especially the underdeveloped 
ones where the revolutionary potential 
is high. Once this lesson sinks home we 
will witness an acceleration of the rev- 
olutionary process that will not leave 
the slightest doubt that the main power 
in society resides with the working class 
and that it will not forfeit its manifest 
destiny of leadership in the decisive bat- 
tles now looming. 

A single revolution under the guidance 
of the working class anywhere in the 
world today will reveal such energy 
and dispatch in breaking out of the old 
society that in retrospect even the 
dynamic Cuban Revolution will appear 
drawn out and grossly out of proportion 
in toil and agony. That, howeveT, will 
not detract from the debt the working 
people of the world owe the Cubans. 
To finally break the hypnosis of Stalin- 
ism, it became necessary to crawl on 

all fours through the jungles of the 
Sierra Maestra. 

Men and women capable of that, will 
prove capable, we think, of transcend- 
ing the bourgeois limits set at the 
beginning of the Cuban Revolution. 
Already indications of this are visible. 
The July 26 Movement came to power 
not in 1898 but in 1959; and within a 
few months it became amply clear that 
not even the simplest democratic aims 
could be achieved without far-reaching 
alterations in the economy. Here the 
revolutionary models taken from the 
past century could offer little in the way 
of guidance. Their theory was inade- 

But economic planning, thanks to the 
October 1917 Revolution, is no longer 
a matter of theory. Models exist and 
a vast practical experience, both good 
and bad. To help solve their own prob- 
lems, the Cuban leaders are evidently 
seeking to come abreast of modern 
times and are turning in this direction. 

Thus the inherent tendency of the 
Cuban Revolution to develop in the 
proletarian direction has been acceler- 
ated and there is every possibility that 
in an indirect way the fate of Cuba will 
be profoundly affected by the prole- 
tarian revolution led by Lenin and Trot- 
sky. As this pattern of action cuts its 
way to consciousness, we may hope that 
the influence of October will b* reflected 
directly in the ideology of the Cuban 

tf No revolution has ever anywhere wholly coincided with the concep- 
tions of it formed by its participants, nor could it do so,**— Leon Trotsky. 

LISTEN, YANKEE -The Revolution in Cuba, by C. Wright Mills. Ballan- 
tine Books, New York. I960. 192 pp. 50 cents. 

CUBA- Anatomy of a Revolution, by Leo Huberman and Paul M. Sweezy. 
Monthly Review Press, New York. I960. 176 pp. $3,50. 

IN THE first stages of the Cuban Revolution, not much appeared about 
it in the way of searching analysis. Publicity was largely agitational 
whether for or against. Consequently the worth of most early writings 
hinges largely on the accuracy of the reporting and the extent to which 
documentary material is included. This is especially true of some items, 
highly laudatory of the Revolution and its leaders, by authors who have 
since gone over to the counter-revolution. 

The situation today is quite different. The character and meaning of 
the Cuban Revolution, of the government that displaced the Batista dicta- 
torship and of the state now in power are under intense discussion 
throughout the radical movement on an international scale. The theoret- 
ical questions have come to the fore. 

This reflects the course of the Revolution itself. It began as an ill- 
reported and ill-understood revolutionary democratic movement in a small 
island ruled by one of a dozen strong men in Wall Street's empire. To- 
day it stands as a colossal fact in world politics — the opening stage of 
the socialist revolution in Latin America, the beginning of the end of A- 
merican capitalist rule in the Western Hemisphere. 

The two books under review are among the best in a new literature 
appearing about the Cuban Revolution, a literature written by serious 
thinkers accustomed to probing for the deep -lying forces and trends in 
modern society. These thinkers are fascinated by what this Revolution 
has revealed, for they feel that perhaps here may be found clues to titanic 
revolutionary events now drawing near. As Huberman and Sweezy express 
it: rt ln Cuba they are actually doing what young people all over the 
world are dreaming about and would like to do." (Emphasis in original.) 

Reprinted from the Winter l?6l 
International Socialist Review 





AUSTIN. T '.■--. ; 

Let's begin with Listen, Yankee, In writing this book C. Wright Mills 
displayed considerable courage. The author of The Power Elite and 
White Collar, to mention his best known books, staked a big reputation 
and high standing in academic circles when he decided to support the 
Cuban Revolution with such fort-brightness. That he weighed the issues 
is evident ftom the following statement: 

"Like most Cubans, I too believe that this revolution is a moment ofl 
truth, and like some Cuban revolutionaries, I too believe that such truth,! 
like all revolutionary truth, is perilous, 

"Any moment of such military and economic truth might become an 
epoch of political and cultural lies. It might harden into any one of sever- 
al kinds of dictatorial tyranny* But I do not believe that this is at all 
inevitable in Cuba. And I do believe that should it happen it would be 
due, in very large part, to the role the Government of the United States 
has been and is continuing to play in Cuban affairs .... 

"The policies the United States has pursued and is pursuing against 
Cuba are based upon a profound ignorance, and are shot through with 
hysteria. I believe that if they are continued they will result in more dis- 
grace and more disaster for the image of my country before Cuba, before 
Latin America, and before the world." (Emphasis in original.) 

To help enlighten his fellow Americans and as a service in counter- 
ing the hysteria, Mills presents the Cuban revolutionary case. As a 
succinct presentation of the main facts that led to the revolutionary ex- 
plosion, of the achievements since then, and of the aims, attitude and 
outlook of the main rebel forces, the book is a remarkable accomplish- 
ment. I cannot recommend it too highly to anyone seeking a quick brief- 
ing, particularly as a knowledgeable Cuban revolutionist, ieaving aside 
diplomatic considerations, might give it to you on a visit to the island. 

It's Not Stalinist 

The salient feature of Listen,. Yankee is the clarity with which it pre- 
sents the anti-Stalinist aspect of the Cuban Revolution, Most readers of 
the International Socialist Review will understand at once, I am sure, 
that this has nothing to do with the anti-Communism of the House Un- 
American Activities Committee or similar bodies of witch -hunters and 
counter-revolutionaries. Even in most Communist parties where the cult 
of the late dictator was once the first commandment, it is generally ac- 
cepted today -since Khrushchev's Twentieth Congress revelations about 



Stalin's crimes and paranoia — that to be anti- Stalinist docs not auto- 
matically put you in Hitler's camp. 

An understanding of the attitude of the Cuban revolutionists toward 
Stalinism is particularly important. The Cuban Communist party supports 
the revolution. The government, in turn, has respected its democratic 
rights, as it has the democratic rights of other radical groupings* It has 
refused to engage in any witch-hunting and has denounced anti -Com- 
munism as a divisive weapon of the counter-revolution. This, plus the 
aid solicited from the Soviet bloc countries (which undoubtedly saved 
the Cuban Revolution from going down), has been utilised to falsely pic- 
ture the Cuban government as having succumbed to Stalinism. 

The issue happens to be crucial in the United States for winning sup- 
port for the Cuban Revolution in sectors of the trade ■ union movement, 
among intellectuals and on the campus. It is not just a matter of attempt- 
ing to overcome hysterical Stalinophobia. In these circles the truth is 
widely known about Stalin's suppression of proletarian democracy, his 
frame-ups of working-class political opponents, mass deportations and 
assassination of socialist leaders. Many rebel -minded people in the 
United States, who offered their support to the Soviet Union, felt betrayed 
on learning the facts about Stalinism. Consequently, out of fear of being 
burned again, they are cautious. On the other hand, the appearance of a 
genuinely democratic socialist revolution could reanimate them. Besides 
constituting the only sectors of the population ready at present to give a 
fair hearing to the Cubans, they are an essential link in rebuilding a 
mass socialist movement in America. 

Mills gives the question the importance it warrants, citing many facts 
to indicate the profoundly anti -Stalinist nature of the revolution. Among 
these he notes the stress placed on immediate benefits for the people, 
the readiness to listen and learn in all fields, the freedom that makes 
Cuba so exhilarating to radicals, above all those on vacation from the 
stifling atmosphere of McCarthyland. 

On the decisive political fact of leadership, Mills has his Cuban pro- 
tagonist write an entire letter (No. 5), explaining why the Communist party 
is not in power in Cuba and why it is highly unlikely even to seek power. 
The plain fact is, our revolution has outdone the Communist on every 
score. From the beginning up till today, always at every turn of event and 
policy, the revolution is always faster than the Cuban Communist Party, 
or individual Communists. In all objective facts, then, we are much more 
radical, much more revolutionary than they. And that is why we are using 


them, rather than the reverse; they are not using us. In fact they are be- 
ing very grateful to us for letting them in on the work of the revolution. 

"In fact, this is the case generally with local Communist parties in 
Latin America. In a real revolution today, In Latin America at least, the 
local Communists are to the right of the revolution. Here in Cuba, cer- 
tainly the revolution has outpaced them and does on every front. They al- 
ways arrive too late and with too little. This has been the case in Cuba 
and it still is the case: They lag behind our revolution." (Emphasis in 

The truth is that Stalinism proved to be an insuperable handicap for 
the Communist party of Cuba, no matter how revolutionary -minded its 
ranks were; and it was by -passed by Castro's July 26 Movement. 

Capitalist Base Destroyed 

On the theoretical assessment of the Cuban revolution as it stands to- 
day, Mills offers some interesting opinions. "The Cuban revolution " he 
observes, "has swiftly destroyed the economic basis of capitalism — both 
foreign and Cuban. Most of this power was foreign— in fact, North American. 
It has now been destroyed with a thoroughness unique in Latin -American 
history/ 1 

In his sociological estimate, Mills says, "The Cuban revolutionary is 
a new and distinct type of left-wing thinker and actor. He is neither 
capitalist nor Communist. He is socialist in a manner, I believe, borh 
practical and humane. And if Cuba is let alone, I believe that Cubans 
have a good chance to keep the socialist society they are building prac- 
tical and humane. If Cubans are properly helped-economically, technical-; 
ly and culturally- I believe they would have a very good chance." (Em- 
phasis in original.) 

As to political power, in Mill's opinion, "The Government of Cuba is 
a revolutionary dictatorship of the peasants and workers of Cuba. It is 
legally arbitrary. It is legitimized by the enthusiastic support of an over- 
whelming majority of the people of Cuba." In Letter No. 6, the Cuban 
spokesman specifies that it is not a Stalinist -type dictatorship: 

"In the most literal sense imaginable t Cuba is a dictatorship of, by, 
and for the peasants and the workers of Cuba. That phiase, * dictatorship 
of workers and peasants,' was turned into a lie by Stalin and under Stalin- 
Ism. Some of us know that. But none of us is going about our revolution 
in that way. So, to understand us, you must try to disabuse yourself of 



certain images and ideas of 'dictatorship. ' It is the pre -Stalin meaning 
of the phrase that is accurate for Cuba." 

""*" It is in the political area that Mills expresses the greatest worry for 
Cuba. t( I do not like such dependence upon one man as exists in Cuba 
today, nor the virtually absolute power that this one man possesses.'* 
However, Mills believes that "it is not enough either to approve or to 
disapprove this fact about Cuba, That is much too easy; it is also pol- 
itically fruitless. One must understand the conditions that have made it 
so; for only then can one consider the prospects of its development." The 
conditions include the form of struggle needed to overthrow Batista, the 
enormous counter-revolutionary pressure of the United States, and the 
I fluidity of the present situation in which democratic forms have not yet 
'been worked out in the living experience of the revolution. 
*-^ Castro's leadership in the difficult revolutionary struggle brought him 
this exceptional personal power, but it is Mills' conviction that Castro is 
opposed to any leadership cult, is aware of the danger and will help the 
revolution to pass through it. "In my judgment," says Mills, "one must 
take seriously this man's own attempts to shift roles, even in the middle 
of his necessary action, and his own astute awareness of the need to 
develop a more systematic relation between a government of law and the 
people of Cuba." 

"Anatomy of a Revolution" 

Let us turn now to the book by Leo Huberman and Paul M. Sweezy, 
the editors of the Monthly Review. They wrote this after a three -week 
visit to Cuba in March, I960, publishing it as a special edition of their 
magazine. Events soon dated parts of it* The authors took another trip to 
Cuba and have now published a supplement, "Cuba Revisited," (Dec- 
ember I960 issue of the Monthly Review) which, I understand, is to be 
included in a new edition of the book. 

The strong side of Cuba — Anatomy of a Revolution is its emphasis on 
economics. The authors do a good job of summarizing the main facts 
about Cuba under Batista, available in such books as Lowry Nelson's 
Rural Cuba, then turn to current problems where they offer the results of 
their own investigations on the scene. The facts they have assembled 
are encouraging indeed. Instead of collapsing, as the capitalist press has 
been predicting, the Cuban economy has grown stronger. Consider, for 
instance, the main crops, which have been the center of a planned ex- 
pansion drive: 

"Their total volume increased by almost one third in the first Year of 


the Revolution, and there is no doubt that a comparable rate of expansion 
is being maintained this year. China, it seems, is not the only country 
capable of 'big leaps forward'! But what other country has ever staged 
such a leap forward in the very first year of a Revolution and in the midst 
of a far-reaching agrarian reform? It can be said without exaggeration: in 
the Cuban Revolution the world is witnessing a process of socio-eco- 
nomic transformation and virilization that is in many important respects 
without any precedent. Let the world look hard and draw the appropriate 
conclusions!" (Emphasis in. original.) 

When the agrarian reform was put through, predictions were freely 
made in the big press that the Cubans with their "lack of know- how" 
would speedily bring the cattle industry to ruin by slaughtering the breed- 
ing stock, some of it of top quality. The spiteful forecasts of the dis- 
possessed cattle barons were not borne out. Huberman and Sweezy cite 
a representative of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization 
who said that while no figures were available for the Island as a whole, 
Havana was eating 60 to 70 per cent more beef in March, I960, than the 
previous year while the supply of beef cattle had also been sharply step- 
ped up "chiefly owing to better feeding methods." The authors conclude: 
"There could be no better evidence than this that (1) the Revolution has 
already transformed the standard of living of the Cuban masses, and (2) 
chis new and higher standard of living has come to stay." 

Some Flaws 

In political matters, Huberman and Sweezy in general leave much to 
be desired, in my opinion, A few indications: 

They manage to "credit" the "administration of Franklin D. Roose- 
velt" with having "abrogated" the Piatt Amendment. They also criticize 
the same administration for withholding recognition of the Grau govern- 
ment and granting it to Batista; but the political necessity of tipping 
their hats to the FDR myth blocks them from seeing Roosevelt's role in 
establishing the foul Cuban dictator and maintaining his brutal rule. 

In lauding the readiness of the Cuban peasantry to go directly to 
agricultural cooperatives, Huberman and Sweezy refer to the views of 
bourgeois land reformers who have aimed at breaking up large landed 
estates into small peasant holdings. "More radical thought, at least from 
the time of Marx," they say, "has generally rejected this aim on the dual 
ground that small-scale peasant cultivation of the soil is hopelessly in- 


efficient and that a small peasantry is inevitably a reactionary, counter- 
revolutionary force. However, the Russian Revolution showed the dif- 
ficulties which confronted any attempt to go directly from a system of 
latifundia to some form of collective agriculture. In spite of themselves, 
the Russian Bolsheviks were forced to distribute the land to millions of 
small peasants, and it was only much later after fierce and bloody social 
struggles and frightful agricultural losses that they succeeded in es- 
tablishing the system of collective and state farms." 

Thus they amalgamate Lenin *s adherence to the political position of 
Engels with its direct opposite, that of Stalin. Engels held that collect- 
ivization in agriculture, despite its obvious economic advantages, could 
proceed only in accordance with the will of the peasants themselves. A 
revolutionary government could seek to convince them by argument and 
examples but in no case force them. That was how Lenin proceeded. 
Stalin, after first pandering to the rich peasants, collectivized Soviet 
agriculture by force. The catastrophic consequences still plague the 
Soviet Union. If a real lesson is to be drawn from the Cuban experience, 
it is the advantages to be gained by following the method worked out in 
theory by Engels and put into practice by Lenin in contrast to the brutal 
method used by Stalin. Huberman and Sweezy credit Cuba's success to 
Castro's knowledge of the peasantry and sensitivity to their deepest wish- 
es. If Castro is not aware of the theoretical and historical background, 
the confirmation of the Marxist view is all the more notable. 

A serious political error which Huberman and Sweezy themselves ad- 
mit in their postcript to the book was the estimate that Washington would 
not slash the Cuban sugar quota. We remain uncertain as to why they made 
the error. Did they calculate that it was not in die best interests of cap- 
italism to do this and that the powers that be would recognize this? Or 
did they underestimate the deeply reactionary character of both the Dem- 
ocratic and Republican machines? Fortunately, the politically astute 
Cuban leaders were not caught by surprise. As Castro indicated in his 
speech at the United Nations, they are well aware of the true relation- 
ship between "the shark and the sardine." 

I mention these Items with no thought of disqualifying Cuba - Ana- 
tomy of a Revolution. They are minor, if annoying, flaws in an excellent 
report and strong defense of the Cuban Revolution, % intent is to sug- 
gest that if the authors have any predilection it is in the direction of the 
Communist party. This gives certain of the things they say about Cuban 
politics much greater weight than they would otherwise have; for, rep- 


resenting a break with their predilection, these views were undoubtedly 

pondered many times over before being expressed. 

Made by Non-Communists 

From the origin of the July 26 Movement in 1953 until the rebel army 
was well on the way to victory, Huberman and Sweezy declare, "the Cuban , ,-' 
CP was cool to and sometimes critical" of Castro's organization. The 
leadership of the revolution" owed absolutely nothing to the Communists...^ 
Only Castro, if he should join the Communist party, could persuade any 
of th e othe r s to follo w him. ( 'Since no responsible observer, to the best 
of our knowledge, has ever suggested" that Fidel has done any such thing, 
we conclude that the hypothesis of Communist infiltration of the leader- 
ship is a pure figment of the anti - Communist imagination." 

Can the Communists get into position to 1 * wrest leadership of the 
masses, of the revolutionary movement itself, our of the hands of Fidel 
and his colleagues in the army and government?" Huberman and Sweezy 
ridicule the possibility, pointing to the smallness of the Communist 
party and its lack of standing as against the size of Castro's following 
and their revolutionary record. 

The authors go even further: "In our judgment, for what it is worth, 
the Communists could make no bigger mistake, now or in the foreseeable 
future, than to challenge Fidel and his close associates for the leader- 
ship of the Revolution. They would lose, and in losing they might easily 
do irreparable damage to the cause of the Revolution, which of course is 
also their cause. On the other hand, if they continue to pursue their pre- 
sent course, they may play an important, and in some respects perhaps 
an indispensable, even if subordinate, role in the building of socialism 
in Cuba." 

To make their meaning still clearer, they compare the Cuban Com- 
munists with the American Communists in the New Deal period. "They 
worked hard and often effectively, trying of course always to push matters 
somewhat further to the Left than they would otherwise tend to go. While 
they won control in some unions, they were never in a position to make 
a bid for political leadership in the country and never caused any serious 
problems except in the minds of the right-wing lunatic fringe." In short, 
although the authors do not say it, since the thirties neither the Cuban 
nor the American Communists have played the role of revolutionists 

"All the charges and accusations concerning the alleged Communist 
character of the Cuban government and/or Revolution tend to hide what 


may turn out to be historically one of the most important facts about the 
Cuban Revolution: this is the first time — ever, anywhere — that a genuine 
socialist revolution has been made by nan- Communists I" (Emphasis in 

Cascto and the rebel army, "calling themselves neither socialists nor 
Communists, in fact without any clearly formulated ideology, seized 
power in Cuba after two years of bloody civil war and proceeded with 
elan and dispatch" to do what needed to be done, "No one can now fore- 
tell the full implications of this startling fact," Huberman and Sweezy 
believe, **but no one need doubt that it wild open up new vistas not only 
in the. realm of social thought but also in the realm of revolutionary 

Although there is considerable difference in the angle of view, in em- 
phasis, in political inclination, and in the wav they express what they 
observed, it is clear that the impressions which the Revolution made on 
C. Wright Mills on the one hand and Huberman-Sweezy on the other were 
not greatly different. The similarity extends to other fields. 

What kind of social order does Cuba have? "For our part," declare 
Huberman -Sweezy, ."we have no hesitation in answering: the new Cuba 
is a socialist Cuba-" (Emphasis in original*) 

How did it get that way? After the seizure of power, "the aspect 
which the Cuban Revolution first presented to the world was that of a 
quite respectable middle-class regime. " This gave rise to many misunder- 
standings. However, the real power remained in the hands of Castro. "A 
sort of dual system of government began to emerge, with Fidel on one 
side and Urrutia and the cabinet on the other." The "paradox between the 
essentially revolutionary character of the regime and the predominantly 
liberal-to-conservative personnel which represented it before the world" 
was resolved by March I960. Two of the landmarks were Castro's resigna- 
tion in July 1959 to force the resignation of Urrutia and Che Guevara's 
assumption of the presidency of the National Bank in November in place 
of Felipe Pazos. The Castro regime carried the revolution through to the 
establishment of a planned economy. 

Communist Party Viewpoint 

Cuba — Anatomy of a Revolution was saluted with vexed criticism 
from spokesmen of both the Cuban and American Communist parties. (At 
this writing they have not yet got around to reviewing Mills* book.) The 




CP finds it obnoxious to think that the Label "socialist" should be ap- 
plied to Cuba. It's a national democratic revolution, you see, in which the 
national bourgeoisie still plays an important role and in which the need" 
for "unity" is foremost. In addition, Huberman -Sweeny slight the role of 
the Communist party in the Revolution and the increasingly important 
role it will play after the proletarian stage opejjs. 

The two derelict authors answer the criticism somewhat disrespect- 
fully with a footnote in their postscript: "Now that the big majority of the 
means of production are in public ownership, and the regime is rapidly de- 
veloping a consciously socialist ideology, the Communist argument 
against classifying Cuba as socialist appears more and more clearly as 
mere verbal gymnastics. The reason for the Communists' adopting this 
position, however, is straightforward enough: they don't want to admit 
that it is possible for socialism to be built under non- Communist leader- 

One wishes that Huberman and Sweezy would venture to analyze this 
reluctance of the Communists, The question would seem not unimportant 
and very definitely related to their own belief that the Cuban Revolution 
has opened up "new vistas not only in the realm of social thought but 
also in the realm of revolutionary action," Isn't the failure of the Cuban 
Communist party central to this far -reaching conclusion? Wouldn't a 
knowledge of the reasons for the failure be of considerable value to other 
Communist parties - to the revolutionary - minded rank and file if not to 
leaders who never cause "any serious problems"? 

In the dispute between the Communists and the editors of the Monthly 
Review, it appears to me that Huberman and Sweezy have the stronger 
case. In fact they hanged the Communist party theoreticians with their 
own terminology. If each of the countries in the Soviet bloc, including 
Albania, is "socialist," then why should this term be denied Cuba, which 
now has a planned economy - and far greater freedom than any of them? 

The fact is that "socialist" was used by Stalin in the years of his 
psychosis as a mislabel for Soviet society. It was a way of proving that 
you can build "socialism in one country." This played into the hands 
of the worst enemies of the Soviet Union, for they never tired of agreeing 
and even emphasizing that socialism was what the Soviet Union had all 
right and therefore Stalinism and socialism were one and the same thing 
and if America went socialist you'd lose democracy and get frame-up 
trials and concentration camps here, too. To confer the badge "socialist" 
on Cuba may thus - unfortunately - be taken as a somewhat dubious 


honor. The repugnance the Cubans feel for much that goes by the name of 
"theory" is not without good political justification. 

In the early days the Soviet Union was called a workers' state; "with 
bureaucratic deformations," Lenin added. It was socialist in tendency: 
that is, k was a transitional formation on the road to socialism but not 
there by a. long shot. Nor could it reach socialism on its own resources — 
such a concept, had anyone suggested it in Lenin's time, would have been 
dismissed as self -contradictory. The Soviet power was a working-class 
conquest in the international struggle for a world-wide, scientifically 
planned society built on the foundation of capitalism as a whole, or at 
least on the combined resources of several industrially advanced coun- 


The concern the Bolsheviks felt for terminology was not due to an 
aesthetic pleasure in splitting hairs. Precision in applying labels reflect- 
ed their concern over knowing exactly where they stood in relation to 
the goal still to be was a good tradition, well worth emulating, 
like much else in Leninism. 

What Is It? 

If Cuba is not "socialist" and is highly unlikely to achieve social- 
ism by itself small island, what is it? 

The Cubans themselves have been reluctant to say. Professing some 
disinterest in abstruse questions of theory, they have politely invited 
those of their supporters and well-wishers who are better informed in 
such matters to have at it. Meanwhile they propose to move ahead, with 
or without labels, to work out problems that permit no delay and that have 
kept their limited personnel going twenty -four hours a day. As their own 
guide, they find it sufficient to follow the broad generalizations of a 
humanism concerned with the fate of the humble. If you can tell a guajiro 
from an imperialist and hold government power, it seems to work out ail 


This pragmatic approach has added to the theoretical puzzle. If the 
Cubans don't know whether Cuba is socialist or not, how is anyone else 
to know? Jean Paul Sartre, on visiting Cuba, came away with the con- 
viction that the world was witnessing something completely novel —a 
revolution impelled by blows from an imperialist power to respoad with 
counterblows, each more radical than the previous. Would a revolution 
driven forward by such a process create its own ideology? That remains 
to be seen. In any case, Sartre found it a refreshing contrast to what he 

considers the sectarian approach — applying a preconceived ideology to 
a revolution. 

Others, stimulated like Sartre by the Cuban Revolution, have decided 
that even Marxist theory breaks down before such phenomena. What pro- 
visions are there in Marxism for a revolution, obviously socialist in 
tendency but powered by the peasantry and led by revolutionists who have 
never professed socialist aims; indeed, seem to have been limited to the 
bourgeois democratic horizon? It's not in the books! 

If Marxism has no provisions for such phenomena, perhaps it is time 
provisions were made. It would seem a fair enough exchange for a revolu- 
tion as good as this one. On the other hand, what books do you read? 

Paradox of Russia. 

The Cuban Revolution is not the first to have given the theoreticians 
something fresh to consider. The Russian Revolution exceeded it in that 
respect. In 1917 the entire world socialist movement was caught by sur- 
prise, including the Bolshevik party — not excepting even Lenin. Soc- 
ialists wielding power at the head of the workers and peasants in a back- 
ward country like Russia! It wasn't in the book. Wei Li. . most of the books. 

The Russian Revolution was fortunate in having a leadership as 
great in theory as in action. Four decades ago it was common knowledge 
in the socialist movement that one at least of the Russian leaders had 
accounted in theory for the peculiarities of the Russian Revolution in 
all its main lines — some twelve years before it happened. His name was 
Leon Trotsky. 

Trotsky's theory of the Permanent Revolution greatly facilitated the 
the Bolshevik victory by giving the revolutionary cadre the clearest pos- 
sible conception of the import of their action. But if Trotsky had not 
been there, had not made his great theoretical contribution, we may be 
sure that Lenin, consummate socialist politician and man of action that 
he was, would have led the Bolsheviks to power just the same and an 
accurate reflection in theory of the Revolution would have come later* 

I mention this not only to defend the right of the Cuban Revolution 
to have its own peculiarities but to draw from Bolshevik theory to attempt 
to explain certain of these peculiarities. 

The main power in the Cuban Revolution was the peasantry (as in 
Hussia). But this peasantry shaded into the powerful mass of agricultural 
workers, which, because of the role of the sugar industry, constituted 
I he most dynamic section of the Cuban proletariat/The agricultural work- 



ers solidly backed the Revolution. The city workers favored the Revolu- 
tion but were not in position to head it (unlike Russia; for two reasons. 
(I) The unions were strapped in the strait jacket of ^mujalismo": that 
is, a bureaucracy tied directly to the Batista dictatorship. (2) The politi- 
cal leadership was held by the Communist party, an organization devoted 
to ^peaceful coexistence;-' "people's ffontism," and- the cult ; of Stalin, 
an organization Whicfe-as Huberman^and Sweezy pur it diplomatic aily, 
"never caused any serious problems*" (The CP leaders actually went: 
so 'far in avoiding causing any serious problems for Batista that they 
pictured 'him as a man of the people and took posts in his government.) 

The main demands' of" the peasantry were an end to hunger, an end to 
Batista's savage killings, and agrarian reform, (In Russia: Bread! Peace! 
Landl) These demands became the slogans of the July 26 Movement. 

£7 all the criteria of origin, aims ! and social following, the July 26 
Movement was a petty -bourgeois formation, but an extremely radical one. 
It had one plank in its program which separated. it. from ail similar group- 
ings and which was to prove decisive. It made a principle of armed strug- 
gle without compromise agaiostthe Batista dictatorship. To carry out this 
aim, it organized a peasant guerrilla movement that has been compared 
to Tito's and Mao's. Parallels can also be found, however, in the rich 
revolutionary experience of Latin America, including Cuba itself, Jts 
formation was not as novel as its success.^ 

Character of Government 

On coming to power, the July 26 Movement set up a coaiitipngovern- 
ment that included well-known bourgeois democratic figures — and not 
in-secondary- posts. In retrospect these may have seemed middle -class 
decorations- or mere camouflage- hiding the real nature .of the government- 
It is : more accurate, I think, to view this government as corresponding, 
ro the political. aims of the revolution as they were eonceivedat the time 
by its leaders, avs 

- But such a government stood in contradiction to the demands , of the 
insurgent masses and to the commitment of the, July 26 lyloveraept to sat- 
isfy these demands. The Revolution urgently required far-reaching in 
roads on private property, including imperialist holdings. As Castro and 
his collaborators moved toward fulfillment of the agrarian reform they 
met with resistance from their partners in the coalition, a resistance 
that.wias considerably stiffened by support from Wall Street, which viewed 
them as the "reasonable"elements ia a regime packed with bearded 
"wild men." 



As Huberman and Sweezy correctly observe, "a sort of dual system 
government began to emerge." The displacement of Felipe Pazos by 
Che Guevara in November 1959 marked a decisive shift and the resolution 
of the governmental crisis, whatever hang-overs from the coalition still 
remained. The government that now existed was qualitatively different 
from the coalition regime. 

Its chief characteristics were a genuine interest in the welfare of the 
bottom strata of the population, readiness to entrust the defense of the 
Revolution to them by giving them arms, clear recognition of the identity 
of the main enemies of the Revolution and resoluteness in disarming and 
combating them. It was even free from fetishismof private property. Yet 
it did not think of itself as socialist. It did not proclaim socialist aims. 
What should we call such a strange government? 

Among the great discussions organized by the Bolsheviks in the first 
four congresses of the Communist International was one precisely on this 
question. Deeply buried under landslides of Stalinist propaganda, the 
minutes and resolutions of that discussion are not readily available. 
When you unearth them, your feeling is one of shock at their timeliness. 
Did the Bolsheviks really discuss such a question four years before 
Castro was born! 

The Bolsheviks analyzed several varieties of ''workers and peasants 
government"; that is, radical petty - bourgeois governments, indicating 
differences that would cause a revolutionary -socialist party to offer sup- 
port or to refuse support. They also left open the possibility in theory 
of variants they could not readily foresee at the time. The general label 
they used for such regimes was "Workers and Farmers Government." 
Here we must expostulate a bit with the Bolsheviks; they also called 
the dictatorship of the proletariat a "Workers and Farmers Government." 
A representative from theoretically backward America might have asked 
for distinctive labels so he could more easily tell them apart. But the 
Bolsheviks discussed this point, too, and felt that it would not be con- 
fusing so long as everyone was clear on the difference in content, since 
the first kind of government would likely prove to be only a transient 
form preliminary to the latter type. 

Of course, the Communist delegates in 1922 could not visualize such 
a change without the helpful presence of a genuine revolutionary- soc- 
ialist party such as the Russian workers had in the Bolsheviks. A key 
question requiring our attention, therefore, is the absence of this factor 


in Cuba. To find the answer we must turn to the world situation in which 
Cuba is locked. 

Death Agony of Capitalism 

The most prominent conditioning force in international politics today 
is the deep decay of the capitalist system. Leaving aside the effect of 
such general threats as another major depression or atomic annihilation 
in a third world war, Cuba has experienced the decay of capitalism in 
two specific ways: (l)The deformation of national life through imperialist 
domination - monoculture, super profits, hunger, disease, ignorance, 
dictatorial rule, etc. (2) The economic and diplomatic strangulation a 
power like the U.S. applies to a colonial nation seeking independence. 
The moves emanating from Wall Street and the State Department, as many 
observers have noted, powerfully accelerated, if they did not make in- 
evitable , the radicalization of the Cuban Revolution. Eisenhower* 'lost" 
Cuba much the way Truman "lost" China. 

Nest in importance to the death agony of capitalism is the existence 
and the growing power of the orbit where capitalist property relations 
have been transcended and planned economies constructed. Showing what 
can be achieved in economic, scientific. and cultural progress, not to men- 
tion sovereign standing, these countries serve as practical object lessons. 
Their tendency to magnetize attention, especially in the underdeveloped 
areas, has become an active political factor that is now powerfully 
strengthened by the possibility of securing material aid from this source. 
The Soviet Union, by its mere existence, has always been - even in the 
terrible years- under Stalin - a radicalising force among oppressed peo- 
ples. The attraction was enormously increased by the Chinese Revolution 
and the fresh example which China has provided of how to break out of 
age-old stagnation and imperialist oppression. Cuba has' been affected by 
all this in the most vivid and concrete way. 

The third feature of world politics is the long default of the Com- 
munist parties in providing revolutionary - socialist leadership to the 
working class. For decades this signified betrayal and defeat in the most 
promising of revolutionary situations. Today it has finally begun to 
signify the emergence of alternative leaderships - the masses in the 
underdeveloped areas, having lost fatalistic acceptance of hunger, misery, 
ignorance and ruthless exploitation, have become impatient and are push- 
ing forward whatever leaderships are at hand. Nationalists have filled 
the vacuum at least temporarily in many areas, but the tendency is toward 


much more radical currents. Nowhere is this to be seen with greater 
■ larky than in Cuba. 

Finally, there is a tendency among the nationalist movements and 
newly emerging countries in the Far East, the Middle East, Africa and 
Latin America to seek mutual encouragement and support- The Cuban 
revolutionists for example, are in close touch with the Algerian freedom 
fighters. They have diplomatic relations with Yugoslavia, India, Ghana, 
etc. Sekou Toure and Soekarno have been honored guests in Havana. 
Lumumba is a hero in Cuba. A radical move taken by any of them that 
proves successful has big impact on all the others. For instance, Nasser's 
seizure of the Suez Canal when Egypt suffered the combined attack of 
Britain, France and Israel made a lasting impression. 

In the light of this international background, the series of counter- 
measures taken by the Cuban government under pressure from the State 
Department are seen to have an ideological origin that does no violence 
to Marxist theory; in fact these countermeasures are explainable only 
by a theory grounded in the international class struggle. 

Character of the State *S 

Whatever the consciousness of the Cuban revolutionists may have 
been, not a single major measure undertaken by them was unique. 
"Intervention" of the latifundia and domestic and foreign capitalist hold- 
ings was undoubtedly as Cuban as the royal palms, but it finds a pre- 
cedent in the "control" exercised- over private enterprises under the 
Bolsheviks prior to the establishment of workers management of Industry. 
A similar stage appeared in the Chinese Revolution. The expropriations 
nnd nationalizations are likewise fat from no.el. A government monopoly 
of foreign trade is in the Russian tradition; and the planned economy which 
Cuba has now begun is, of course, recognized by everyone as in the 
pattern initiated by the Russian workers and peasants* 

In the October, I960, issue of Political Affairs, James S. Allen, a 
spokesman of the Communist party, labels these as "measures of a state- 
■ apitalist type." This effort to avoid the label "socialist," as advanced 
by Huberman and Sweezy, is not very satisfactory. Are the measures of 
Himilar kind in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Yugoslavia, Albania 
And China also to be labeled as "of a state - capitalist type"? Evidently 



Aside from this, Allen's position has another flaw. What about the 
state? Is it capitalist? Can a capitalist state carry out such measures 
and still remain capitalist? Judging from the shrieks of the counter-rev- 
olutionaries and the froth on Wall Street's mouth, it is not possible. 

The fact is that the state structure began to undergo alteration upon 
Castro's coming to power January 1 > 1959- For good and valid political 
reasons, Castro insisted on smashing both the old army and the old pol- 
ice force. The lesson of Guatemala had been well absorbed by the July 
26 Movement. A new army and a new police, based on the rebel forces, 
replaced the old. A nationwide militia was organized. 

One could have decided that this was enough to require us at the time 
to call Cuba a workers state. But the premise for such a conclusion is 
that the conscious aims of the- leadership are revolutionary-socialist, 
openly proclaimed^ so that it remains only a question of time until the 
entire state structure is altered to conform to the needs of a planned 
economy. This political premise, of course, did not exist. It remained to 
be seen what course the pragmatic leadership would take and whether 
their proclaimed political aims would become altered as they sought to 
put into effect the reforms they advocated; or whether in sticking to their 
political positions they modified or gave up their social and economic 
aims. The outcome could only be determined by the struggle itself. 
r^^The results are now in. In the two years since the victory, the hold- 
I overs from the old state have been sloughed off in the key positions al- 
' though they may still hold authority in some sectors. With the completion 
between August-October, I960, of the nationalizations in the major areas 
of Cuban industry, a new state had come into being so deeply committed 
to a planned economy that Cuba's course in this direction cannot now 
be changed save by an imperialist invasion and a bloody civil war. 
" Since the transcending of capitalist property relations and the con- 
struction of a planned economy correspond with the economic interests of 
the working class and are objectively socialist in tendency, we must, if 
we are interested in exact terminology, call this a "workers state," 
signifying that it is a state committed to the task of carrying Cuban econ- 
omy and society forward through the transition from capitalism to so- 

Proletarian Democracy 

It is true that this workers state Lacks, as yet, the forms of proletar- 
ian democracy. This does not mean that democracy is lacking in Cuba. 


Far more democracy exists today in Cuba than ever existed under any 
previous regime. It does mean that a government based on workers, peas- 
ants and soldiers councils, or some form of councils in the democratic 
control of the government, has not yet been worked out. Mills > observa- 
tions about the concentration of power in one person are accurate. 
^Marxist theory admits the possibility of situations in which no alter- 
native exists save such concentration of power. However, it regards this 
as exceptional and dangerous to the revolutionary interests of the work- 
ers and peasants. It is a sign of weakness in the organization of the 
struggle. The norm is the extension of democracy into all phases of the 
nation's life. It is not just a question of democratic rights but of organ- 
izing the most powerful defense and bringing the maximum power to bear 
in carrying out the structural changes and constructing the planned econ- 
omy. Consequently, while defending the present Cuban government from 
attack from all quarters, Marxists advocate the earlie r possible develop- 
ment , fit pro l fc tar ian forms of democracy in Cuba . It would seem self- 
evident that this would add greatly to the political defense of the Rev-/ 
olution, above all as an example to be emulated in other countries. -jL 

This is the tendency in Cuba, as Mills notes, and one must join him 
Hi ardently hoping that the ferocious pressure from American imperialism 
will not lead to retrogression. 

What Next? 

A new stage in the Cuban Revolution is now opening up of the great- 
est interest and importance. The leaders have convincingly demonstrated 
that they really meant it when they said they were prepared to carry the 
Revolution through to its necessary conclusion no matter where it took 
them. What have been the consequences in their thinking? 

Looking back, they must note with some astonishment, I imagine 
that it proved impossible to carry through simple humanistic aims all 
of them long proclaimed by the bourgeois society that toppled feudalism 
without taking measures that transcended capitalist property relations' 
Capitalism doesn't work for the . poor. To fulfill their desire to turn the 
promise of a better life for the humble into reality, these men of powerful 
w.LI found they had to put Cuba on the road to socialism. They discov- 
ered this through practical experience and not through preconceived no- 
tions. It is almost like a laboratory test. What theories did it confirm or 
disprove, or must we wipe the slate of theory clean and start fresh? 


Is this experience not worth evaluation? Wouldn't the way be smoothed 
for revolutionists in othet Latin-American countries, for example, if they 
knew the reasons for the course that had to be taken in Cuba? Surely the 
experience will be similar elsewhere in Latin America and other conti- 
nents as revolutionists follow the example of the Cuban vanguard and 
bring their peoples into the mainstream of history* 

Up to now the Cuban leaders have appeared as great revolutionists of 
action. Perhaps some of them may now venture into the field of theory 
with commensurate contributions. It is time, we think, to attempt to bring 
the theory of the Cuban Revolution up to the level of its practice. From 
such a development all the friends and supporters of the Cuban Revolu- 
tion stand to gain — not least of all in the United States where the suc- 
cess of the July 26 Movement has brought new hope and inspiration to 
the radical movement. 





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