Nikos Mottas: Thank You Compañero Fidel Castro!

fidel-castro-ruz-great-revolutionaryBy Nikos Mottas / In Defense of Communism.

«Rights are to be taken, 

not requested; seized, 

not begged for»

– Jose Marti.

After 25th November 2016 humanity is poorer. The international working class, the people who fiught for a better world, those who believe in a society without exploitation of man by man, are poorer. Along with the proud people of Cuba, the international communist movement mourns the biological death of one of the greatest, the most emblematic revolutionaries of contemporary History. The heart of the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Comandante Fidel Castro stopped beating, marking the biological end of a life of 90 years full of struggles and sacrifices for the ideals of Socialism-Communism, for a Cuba where the people will be the masters of their destiny.

The death of Fidel, as well as the biological deaths of other extraordinary revolutionaries and communists like Lenin, Stalin, Che, Ho Chi Minch, consists a motive for the evaluation of their revolutionary work and legacy. A work and a legacy which are key factors in the formation of the class conciousness of the working class.

Fidel approached Marxism-Leninism in practice. He was a communist in actions, not words.Comandante Fidel identified himself with revolutionary practice which is dialectically inter-connected with the Marxist revolutionary theory. Along with his comrades and the Cuban people he accomplished an extraordinary achievement- the first Socialist revolution in the history of the American continent. Comrade Castro and the Cuban Revolution proved that Imperialism is not undefeated and that the only real superpower is the people who resist, the people who fight against capitalist barbarity and open the road to socialist perspective.

Various imperialists, apologists of Capitalism, fascists and anticommunists are trying these days to vilify Fidel and his legacy. They have already failed. Because History- the only unmistakable judge- has absolved him. Fidel has been irreversibly and ultimately absolved by History. The achievements of the Cuban Revolution consist a solid proof of that.

Today, 57 years after the 1959 Revolution, the achievements of socialist construction in Cuba’s public sectors including Health, Education and Housing is much higher than in many capitalist countries in Latin America. The literacy rate is almost 98%, education is accessible to all citizens without exceptions while the Cuban national health system (free for all) is justifiably regarded one of the best in the world. Some indicative data speak by themselves:

  • In 2007, the average life expectancy rate in Cuba was 78.26 years, having increasing trend. For the same year, the rate in the US was 77.99 years. (World Bank).
  • In 2010, infant mortality rate in the island was 4.7 for ever 1000 births, less than any country in the whole continent, including the US.
  • During the last years, 1,390,000 patients from 32 countries had their vision improved or fully restored in 59 ophalmology centers operating under the support of the Cuban and Venezuelan governments.
  • The centralized, state control of economy has let Cuba to constantly develop the national health system, even after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the hardening of the US economic blockade. From 1990 to 2003, the number of doctors in Cuba increased by 76%, of dentists by 46% and nurses by 16%. During the same period, the population coverage of the social institution of «family doctor» was increased by 52.2%, touching a rate of 99.2% in 2003.
  • In November 2008, Cuba had more than 70,000 doctors. From them, approximately 17,600 were sent to 75 different countries in order to offer their services there. In 27 countries (including African countries such as Ghana, Botswana, Namimbia etc.) Cuba has supplied medical personnel which offers high quality services. In Timor Leste, for example, it is estimated that between 2003 and 2008, the Cuban medical mission saved 11,400 people contributing significantly to the fall of birth mortality rate.
  • The high solidarity feeling among Cuban people is undoubted. The first Cuban medical team was sent in 1960 to the then devastated by an earthquake Chile. From 1960 to 1980 the Cuban government immediately sent medical aid to 16 countries which had been facing natural disasters or conflicts. On August 2005, after the disastrous hurricane Katrina in the United States, the Castro government volunteered to sent a team of doctors to the state of Louisianna. The proposal was turned down by the Bush administration. During the same year, on October 2005, Cuba sent the largest number of specialized medical personnel (2,500 men and women) to Pakistan, shortly after the earthquake. Moreover, the Cuban government offered 1,000 scholarships to Pakistani students from poor families who desired to study medicine.

fidel-castro-speech-1Furthermore…

  • The 99.8% of Cubans over the age of 15 know how to read and write (UNESCO). That consists the highest rate of literacy in Latin America and one of the highest internationally.

  • During 2010, one million young Cubans were graduated from the country’s universities.

  • The role of woman in society is upgraded. Fourty-three percent (43%) of the seats at the country’s parliament are held by females, while 65% of the labor force in technical sectors are women.

  • Despite the relatively small size of the country (11 million), Cuba is a significant power in sports. For example, in the Pan-American Games of 2011 held in Mexico, the country was terminated second with 58 golden medals.

On the above we should add the fact that any citizen, indifferently of sex, race or ethnicity, can find a job, without facing the terrible situation of unemployment that bedevils many «developed» capitalist countries of the West.

The socialist construction in Cuba is not perfect- there are existing problems which constantly changing and the Revolution faces new challenges. However, we should ask ourselves: Under what conditions does Cuba and Cuban people try to live and develop the socialist system for more than four decades? The answer is clear

Since the triumph of the 1959 Revolution and until today, Imperialism- more specifically the U.S. imperialism- has not stopped to undermine the socialist construction in this small but proud island. The inhuman embargo (economic blockade) that has been imposed by the US government is an example of a multi-dimensional war that Imperialism has declared to Cuba. It is estimated that, in economic terms, 8 hours of economic blockade equals with 140 school buildings’ renovations. Three days of blockade equals with 100 tones of pharmaceutical material.

The war of Imperialism against the Castro government and the Cuban people became more relentless after the counter-revolutionary events of 1989-1991 in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. However, Cuba‘s Socialism managed not only to stay firm, but also to progress under especially adverse circumstances. That consists the unambiguous and undoubted vindication of Fidel Castro.

Every communist, every Marxist-Leninist, every honest fighter against capitalist exploitation and Imperialism, in every corner of the world, owes a massive “Gracias” to Comandante Fidel.

Thank You companero Fidel Castro! Thank you for your dedication to the ideals of Socialism-Communism. Thank you for all the unforgettable heroes who fought by your side- for Che, for Camilo, for Celia, for Raul and many others! Thank you for the proletarian internationalism which you and Cuba honoured in the best possible way! Thank you for your solidarity to the people of the world. Thank you for your extraordinary speeches which will continue to inspire a spirit of disobedience and rebellion against Imperialism. Thank you for the Revolution and the bread of the Cuban people who loved you like a father.

Thank You, Compañero Fidel, most of all, for the hope for a better world! Hasta La Victoria, Siempre Comandante!

28.11.2016.
 
*Nikos Mottas is the Editor-in-Chief of In Defense of Communism, a PhD candidate in Political Science, International Relations and Political History. 
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Che Guevara: “I came to communism because of Stalin”

joseph stalin - che guevaraChe Guevara: «I came to communism because of Stalin».

By Nikos Mottas / In Defense of Communism.

Ernesto Che Guevara is undoubtedly a historical figure of the 20th century’s communist movement who attracts the interest of people from a vast range of political ideologies. The years followed his cowardly assassination in Bolivia, Che became a revolutionary symbol for a variety of marxist-oriented, leftist and progressive parties and organisations- from Trotskyists to militant leninists and from Social Democrats to anarcho-libertarians. A significant number of those who admire the argentine revolutionary identify themselves as “anti-stalinists”, hate and curse Stalin while they often refer to the so-called “crimes” of Stalin’s era. What is a contradiction and an irony of history is the following: Che Guevara himself was an admirer of Joseph Stalin.
On the occasion of the 63 years since the death of the great Soviet leader, let us remember what Che thought about Joseph Stalin, taking into account Guevara’s own writings and letters.
In 1953, situated in Guatemala, the 25 years old then Che noted in his letter to aunt Beatriz: Along the way, I had the opportunity to pass through the dominions of the United Fruit, convincing me once again of just how terrible these capitalist octopuses are. I have sworn before a picture of the old and mourned comrade Stalin that I won’t rest until I see these capitalist octopuses annihilated” (Jon Lee Anderson, Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life, 1997).
Years ago after his letter from Guatemala- in the midst of the revolutionary process in Cuba- Guevara would re-affirm his position towards Stalin:
In the so called mistakes of Stalin lies the difference between a revolutionary attitude and a revisionist attitude. You have to look at Stalin in the historical context in which he moves, you don’t have to look at him as some kind of brute, but in that particular historical context. I have come to communism because of daddy Stalin and nobody must come and tell me that I mustn’t read Stalin. I read him when it was very bad to read him. That was another time. And because I’m not very bright, and a hard-headed person, I keep on reading him. Especially in this new period, now that it is worse to read him. Then, as well as now, I still find a Seri of things that are very good.”
While praising Stalin’s leadership, Che was always pointing out the counter-revolutionary role of Trotsky, blaming him for “hidden motives” and “fundamental errors”. In one of his writings he was underlining: I think that the fundamental stuff that Trotsky was based upon was erroneous and that his ulterior behaviour was wrong and his last years were even dark. The Trotskyites have not contributed anything whatsoever to the revolutionary movement; where they did most was in Peru, but they finally failed there because their methods are bad” (Comments on ‘Critical Notes on Political Economy’ by Che Guevara, Revolutionary Democracy Journal, 2007).
Ernesto Guevara, a prolific reader with a developed knowledge of marxist philosophy, was including Stalin’s writings in the classical marxist-leninist readings. That’s what he wrote in a letter to Armando Hart Dávalos, a trotskyite and prominent member of the Cuban Revolution:
In Cuba there is nothing published, if one excludes the Soviet bricks, which bring the inconvenience that they do not let you think; the party did it for you and you should digest it. It would be necessary to publish the complete works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin [underlined by Che in the original] and other great Marxists. Here would come to the great revisionists (if you want you can add here Khrushchev), well analyzed, more profoundly than any others and also your friend Trotsky, who existed and apparently wrote something” (Contracorriente, No.9, Sept.1997).
The revisionist route that the Soviet leadership followed after the CPSU 20th Congress became a source of intense concern for Che. The policy of the so-called “De-Stalinization” and the erroneous, opportunist perceptions about the process of building socialism that the Khrushchev leadership introduced after 1956 had their own critical impact on Guevara’s view on Revolution and Socialism.
One of Guevara’s biographers, the Mexican politician Jorge Castañeda wrote (adding an anti-communist flavor): “Guevara became a Stalinist at a time when thousands were becoming disillusioned with official “Communism”. He rejected Khrushchev’s speech in 1956 denouncing the crimes of Stalin as “imperialist propaganda” and defended the Russian invasion of Hungary that crushed the workers’ uprising there in the same year” (J. Castañeda, Compañero: The Life and Death of Che Guevara, 1997).
Four years after the beginning of Khrushchev’s “de-stalinization”, on November 1960, Ernesto Che Guevara was visiting Moscow as an official representative of the Cuban government. Against the advise of the then Cuban ambassador to avoid such an action, Che insisted on visiting and depositing a floral tribute at Stalin’s tomb at the Kremlin necropolis.
Che had a deep admiration for the leader Joseph Stalin and his contribution in building Socialism. And that because, as Che himself was saying, “ You have to look at Stalin in the historical context in which he moves […] in that particular historical context”. That historical context and the extremely adverse and difficult social, economic and political environment in which Stalin led the Soviet Union are muted by the votaries of antistalinism. They hush up and deliberately ignore the fact that the process of building Socialism in the Soviet Union was taking place within a frame of fierce class-struggle, with numerous – internal and external (imperialist encirclement)- threats, while the massive effort of industrialization faced reactions and extensive sabotages (the collectivisation process, for example, faced the negative stance of Kulaks).
Joseph Stalin, as a personality and leader, was the product of the action of the masses within a specific historical context. And it was Stalin who guided the Bolsheviks’ Party (AUCP-B) and the Soviet people for 30 years, based on Lenin’s solid ideological heritage. As a real communist, a true revolutionary- in theory and in practice- Ernesto Che Guevara would inevitably recognize and appreciate that historical reality. 

Che Guevara in Search of a New Socialism

By Michael Löwy*.

IN AN ARTICLE published in 1928, José Carlos Mariátegui, the true founder of Latin American Marxism, wrote: “Of course, we do not want socialism in Latin America to be an imitation or a copy. It must be a heroic creation. We must inspire Indo-American socialism with our own reality, our own language. That is a mission worthy of a new generation.” [1] His warning went unheard. In that same year the Latin American communist movement fell under the influence of the Stalinist paradigm, which for close to a half century imposed on it an imitation of the ideology of the Soviet bureaucracy and its so-called “actually existing socialism.”

We do not know whether Ernesto “Che” Guevara was acquainted with Mariátegui’s article. He may have read it, for his companion Hilda Gadea loaned him Mariátegui’s writings in the years preceding the Cuban revolution. Whatever the case, much of his political thought and practice, especially in the 1960s, can be said to have been aimed at emerging from the impasse to which the servile imitation of the Soviet model had led in Eastern Europe.

Che’s ideas on the construction of socialism are an attempt at “heroic creation” of something new, the search — interrupted and incomplete — for a distinct model of socialism, radically opposed in many respects to the “actually existing” bureaucratic caricature.

From 1959 to 1967, Che’s thought evolved considerably. He distanced himself ever further from his initial illusions concerning Soviet or Soviet-style socialism, that is, from the Stalinist version of Marxism. In a 1965 letter to a Cuban friend, he harshly criticized the “ideological tailism” that was manifested in Cuba by the publication of Soviet manuals for instruction in Marxism. These manuals, “Soviet bricks” to use his expression, “have the disadvantage of not letting you think: the Party has already done it for you and you have to digest it.” [2]

Still more explicit, especially in his post-1963 writings, is his rejection of “imitation and copy” and his search for an alternative model, his attempt to formulate another path toward socialism, one that is more radical, more egalitarian, more fraternal, and more consistent with the communist ethic.

An Uncompleted Journey

Che’s death in October 1967 interrupted a process of independent political maturation and intellectual development. His work is not a closed system, a polished system of thought with an answer to everything. On many questions, such as planning, the struggle against bureaucracy, and so on, his thinking remains incomplete. [3]

The driving force behind this quest for a new road — over and above the specific economic issues — was the conviction that socialism is meaningless and consequently cannot triumph unless it holds out the offer of a civilization, a social ethic, a model of society that is totally antagonistic to the values of petty individualism, unfettered egoism, competition, the war of all against all that is characteristic of capitalist civilization, this world in which “man eats man.”

The construction of socialism for Che is inseparable from certain moral values, in contrast to the “economistic” conceptions of Stalin, Krushchev and their successors, who consider only the “development of the productive forces.” In a famous interview with the journalist Jean Daniel, in July 1963, Che was already developing an implicit critique of “actually existing socialism”: “Economic socialism without a communist morale does not interest me. We are fighting poverty, but at the same time alienation….If communism is dissociated from consciousness, it may be a method of distribution but it is no longer a revolutionary morality.” [4]

If socialism claims to fight capitalism and conquer it on its own ground, that of productivism and consumption, using the weapons of capitalism — the commodity form, competition, self-center individualism — it is doomed to failure. It cannot be said that Che anticipated the dismantling of the USSR, but in a way he did have the intuition that a “socialist” system that does not tolerate differences, that does not embody new values, that attempts to imitate its adversary, that has no ambitions but to “catch up to and surpass” the production of the imperialist metropolises, has no future.

Socialism, for Che, represented the historical project of a new society based on values of equality, solidarity, collectivism, revolutionary altruism, free discussion and mass participation. His increasing criticisms of “actually existing socialism,” like his practice as a leader and his thinking about the Cuban experience, were inspired by this communist utopia, in the sense given this concept by Ernst Bloch. [5]

Three things express in concrete terms this aspiration of Guevara and his search for a new path: the discussion on the methods of economic management, the question of the free expression of differences and the perspective of socialist democracy. The first clearly occupied a central place in Che’s thinking, while the other two, which are closely related, are much less developed, with some lacunae and contradictions. But they are ever-present in his concerns and his political practice.

The New Man

In his famous “Speech in Algiers” in February 1965, Ernesto Guevara called on the countries claiming to be socialist to “put an end to their implicit complicity with the exploiting countries of the West” as expressed in the unequal exchange relationships they were carrying on with peoples engaged in struggle against imperialism. Socialism, in Che’s view, “cannot exist without a change in consciousness to a new fraternal attitude toward humanity, not only within the societies which are building or have built socialism, but also on a world scale toward all peoples suffering from imperialist oppression.” [6]

In his March 1965 essay, “Socialism and Man in Cuba,” analyzing the models for building socialism that were applied in Eastern Europe, Che rejected the conception that claimed to “conquer capitalism with its own fetishes.” “The pipe dream that socialism can be achieved with the help of the dull instruments bequeathed to us by capitalism (the commodity as the economic cell, profitability, individual material interest as a lever and so on) can lead into a blind alley….To build communism it is necessary, simultaneous with the new material foundations, to build the new man.” [7]

One of the major dangers in the model imported from the countries of Eastern Europe was the increase in social inequality and the formation of a privileged layer of technocrats and bureaucrats: in this system of remuneration, “it is the directors who always earn more. Just look at the recent proposal in the German Democratic Republic; the importance assigned to management by the director, or what’s more the director’s remuneration for managing.” [8]

Basically, the debate was a confrontation between an “economistic” view, which considered the economic sphere as an autonomous system governed by its own laws like the law of value or the laws of the market, and a political conception of socialism, in which economic decisions concerning production priorities, prices, and so on are governed by social, ethical, and political criteria.

Che’s economic proposals — planning in opposition to market forces, the budgetary finance system, collective or “moral” incentives — were attempts to find a model for building socialism based on these criteria, and thus differing from the Soviet model. It should be added that Guevara did not successfully develop a clear idea of the nature of the Stalinist bureaucratic system. In my opinion, he was mistaken in tracing the origin of the problems and limitations of the Soviet experience to the NEP rather than the Stalinist Thermidor. [9]

NOTES

[1] J. C. Mariátegui, “Aniversario y balance,” Ideología y Política, Biblioteca Amauta, 1971): 249. José Carlos Mariátegui (1894–1930) was one of the major Marxist thinkers of Latin America. He is primarily known for his 1928 work, Seven Interpretive Essays on Peruvian Reality (Austin: University of Texas, Austin, 1971).

[2] Letter from Che to a Cuban friend (1965). This letter is one of Che’s documents that remain unpublished. Carlos Tablada quotes from it in his article “Le marxisme d’Ernesto (Che) Guevara,” Alternatives Sud III, no. 2 (1996):168. See also, by the same author, Che Guevara: Economics and Politics in the Transition to Socialism (Pathfinder Press, 1992) and Cuba, quelle transition? (L’Harmattan, 2001).

[3] Fernando Martínez Heredia correctly notes that “… there are even some positive aspects to the incomplete nature of Che’s thinking. The great thinker is there, points to some problems and some approaches, shows some possibilities, and demands that his comrades think, study, and combine practice and theory. It becomes impossible, once one really comes to terms with his thought, to dogmatize it and transform it into a speculative bastion or a receptacle of slogans.” “Che, el socialismo y el comunismo,” Pensar el Che, (Havana: Centro de estudios sobre América, Editorial José Martí, vol. II, 1989): 30. See also Fernando Martínez Heredia, Che, el socialismo y el comunismo (Havana: Casa de las Américas prize, 1989).

[4] L’Express, July 25, 1963, 9.

[5] Ernst Bloch (1885-1977) was a Jewish-German philosopher exiled to the United States in 1938 . He became a professor at Karl Marx University in Leipzig in 1949, and at the University of Tübingen after going over to the West in 1961. From The Spirit of Utopia (1918) to The Principle of Hope (1954-1959), this unorthodox Marxist sought to restore to socialism its secular messianic dimension.

[6] Ernesto Che Guevara, Oeuvres 1957-1967, vol. 2 (Paris: François Maspero, 1971): 574.

[7] Guevara, Oeuvres, vol. 2, 371–372.

[8] Ernesto Che Guevara, “Le plan et les hommes,” Oeuvres 1957–1967, vol. 6 [unedited text] (Paris: Maspero, 1972): 90.

[9] This concept is very clear in the essay on political economy that Che wrote in 1966, from which Carlos Tablada quotes certain extracts in “Le marxisme d’Ernesto (Che) Guevara.” Janette Habel rightly observes that Guevara put “too much emphasis, in the economic criticism of Stalinist deformations, on the weight of market relations and not enough on the police and repressive nature of the Soviet political system.” (J. Habel, preface to M. Löwy, La pensée de Che Guevara (Paris: Syllepse, 1997): 11.

* Michael Löwy is a French philosopher and sociologist of Brazilian origin. A Fellow of the IIRE in Amsterdam and former research director of the French National Council for Scientific Research (CNRS), he has written many books, including The Marxism of Che Guevara, Marxism and Liberation Theology, Fatherland or Mother Earth? and The War of Gods: Religion and Politics in Latin America. Löwy is a member of the New Anti-capitalist Party in France.

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