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T. Stamm

The Cuban Government Moves to the Right

(October 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 47, 14 October 1933, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The recent flare-up of the army rank and file against the officers barricaded in the National Hotel in Havana weakened the government and strengthened the soldiers. The assault was carried out against the temporizing policy of the government with regard to the agents of the Machado terror and now the champions of De Cespedes. The speed and energy with which the soldiers attacked the officers following the latter’s provocation testified to their hatred of their former superiors and their dissatisfaction with the policy of the government.

The sniping from roof tops and windows and the innumerable miniature street battles which followed the battle of the National Hotel sharply emphasized the fact that large numbers of the population are armed. Following the overthrow of Machado the ABC systematically armed its members and sympathizers. The Student Directorate did the same. In the interior the workers armed themselves as best they could. In Cienfuegos the workers sacked the hardware stores and carried off arms and ammunition. Following the establishment of the Grau San Martin government and the rising tide of working class struggles the students organized the Caribbean Army, an armed auxiliary to the police and army. Today the armed detachments of students are being directed against the workers to recover from them the mills they have seized to enforce their demands for higher wages and better conditions.

Government Turns to Right

The sending of armed detachments against the workers and the forcible suppression of the Communist Party in Havana and other cities marks the end of the Martin government’s development to the left on the basis of the struggle against imperialism, and its evolution to the right out of fear of the workers and the pressure of the Cuban bourgeoisie and the American imperialists. This change of direction, which is characteristic of the whole course of the petty bourgeoisie and was to be foreseen, is inherent in the position of the petty bourgeoisie in Cuban society.

The social structure of Cuba is cast in the capitalist mold: bourgeoisie, petty bourgeoisie and the working class. But for the bourgeoisie it is a distorted one. The bourgeoisie is not master in its own house. The almost total concentration of the economic resources of the country in the hands of American capital leaves little room and very few avenues of development for the Cuban bourgeoisie except in the service of Yankee imperialism. Thus, Machado on the road to power became the vice-president of several American corporations in Cuba.

But the petty bourgeoisie cannot aspire even to vice-presidencies. The student in the university who studied law knew that nearly all of the legal practice of the country was in the hands of large American law firms. The colono, who rented land from the large American owned mills and corporations, on which he raised sugar cane, the only market for which is these same mills and corporations, was hopelessly enmeshed in the net of American property and finance. Across the road of development into big bourgeoisie in Cuba stands the American imperialist colossus.

The Impoverishment of the Petty Bourgeoisie

On the other hand, the crisis in sugar, which began years before the present world crisis of capitalism, impoverished not only the workers but also the petty bourgeoisie. To pay the interest and principal on Machado’s loans from Wall Street, his extravagant public works’ program, and his army, he levied insupportable taxes, which fell upon the petty bourgeoisie with crushing force. Out of their decreasing income the petty bourgeoisie had to pay the exorbitant rates of the American owned utility companies. In New York City, which has a high rate, the cost of domestic electricity is six and five cents per kilowatt hour. In Havana it is seventeen; in the interior it is as high as twenty. Altho they were equipped to use these necessities, whole towns are forced to do without gas and electricity.

Under the pressure of the increasing difficulties of his rule, Machado reduced the public services. All high schools were closed in 1932. This economy program was also extended to a lesser degree to the lower schools. Practically a whole generation was condemned to illiteracy. The appropriation for army mules was thirty-two cents a day; for hospital patients, before the hospitals ceased to function, twelve!

The Pressure of the Crisis

The merciless pressure of the crisis, the domination of the country’s life by American capitalism and the tyrannical rule of Machado drove the petty bourgeoisie on to the path of revolution. The same factors pushed the workers along the same road. All the efforts of the petty bourgeoisie to remove Machado were unavailing until the workers intervened with a general strike. The continuing struggles of the workers provided the Left petty bourgeoisie with their opportunity to remove the servile De Cespedes government.

But this victory and the failure of the workers to raise their struggle to the plane of the contest for state power placed the Left wing of the petty bourgeoisie in power. There, of course, they cannot long remain. Below, the workers refuse to be satisfied with programmatic promises which supplement pledges to the imperialist wolves that their loans and property will be respected. The workers are taking over mills and mines as guarantees of their demands for higher pay and better conditions, setting up workers’ committees to run them and here and there they are setting up Soviets and organizing a Red Guard. All this constitutes a potential threat to the whole capitalist-imperialist system in Cuba.

This threat has driven the petty bourgeoisie to the right, toward the American “mediators”. This is covered up by the protest that the workers are provoking armed intervention. The anti-imperialism of the petty bourgeoisie is not the revolutionary, international anti-capitalist program of the workers; it is the futile, nationalist, hodgepodge of the desperate middle class without a social program and without the resource and ability to guide the destinies of modern society.

In the first period following its assumption of governmental power the petty bourgeoisie made concessions to the workers. The arbitration of strikes which they instituted granted the workers’ demands. At this stage of the revolution the petty bourgeoisie saw in the workers allies against the imperialists, levers with which to force concessions for themselves.

But when the workers refused any longer to follow the leadership of the petty bourgeoisie and conducted independent struggles in their own interests the petty bourgeoisie became terrified at the rising spectre of the proletarian revolution. On the other hand, the swift development of the workers’ struggles and their increasingly revolutionary character frightened the bourgeoisie who, dissatisfied with the “liberalism” of the government, made and are making attempts at armed insurrection to overthrow the government of the petty bourgeoisie after which they hope to put down the workers. In this they are encouraged by American imperialism.

The fear of the bourgeoisie and the imperialist on the one hand, and the fear of the workers on the other, and the vacillations between these giants reflect the contradictory position of the Cuban petty bourgeoisie. Today, as was inevitable from the beginning, it is swinging to the right against the workers. That is the meaning of the shooting of the Communist demonstrators in Havana and in the interior. That is the meaning, of the sacking of the Left trade union center. That is the meaning of the organization of the Caribbean Army and the illegalization, in practice, of the Communist Party.

It remains to be seen whether the workers will not drive off the armed students who are moving against the seized mills and mines; and whether the workers, confronting the soldiers cannot win them over. What they need most for that is a correct program and leadership. The influence of Communism is growing. But the failure of the workers to put forward political demands signifies that the Communist Party, haltered by Stalinism, is not measuring up to the great tasks that the situation has thrust upon it.

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