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T. Stamm

Problems of the Cuban Revolution

Cuba and Montevideo

(December 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 55, 16 December 1933, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The great importance of the Montevideo Pan-American Conference for the Cuban workers and their American imperialist masters can be seen in the latest developments in the world’s former sugar bowl. At Montevideo the Latin American capitalists, supported and inspired by the English and Japanese imperialists, are maneuvering for advantages for themselves and Uncle Sam’s rivals at his expense. The U.S. is sitting so tightly on the lid that about all they can do is, to borrow a word from the Blue Eagle general, chisel.

Just the same they have the American moneybags in a delicate situation. If he makes a miscue any place in Latin America while this conference is on they will squeeze him for all they can get out of him.

Strike Wave Rising Again

The news coming out of Cuba is fragmentary and unreliable, being either capitalist or Stalinist in origin. But it seems the Cuban workers understand that Uncle Sam’s necessity for stepping warily gives them more latitude. The strike wave is rising high again. If Harry Cannes, head of the Anti-Imperialist Delegation to Cuba, is to be believed the workers of 30 sugar mills in Santa Clara province have been involved in strikes recently (Daily Worker, December 9, 1933). The scope of this struggle can be seen from the fact that, according to the Cuban Review of February 1927, there were 53 sugar mills in this province in 1920, nearly thirty percent of all the sugar mills on the island, producing seventeen percent of all the bags of sugar of that year.

Other strikes are taking place; tobacco workers are out in thousands; all the Woolworth Co. stores are closed, and have been bombed. Most important among the strikes is the strike against the Cuban Electric Co. of which Machado is a vice-president, an affiliate of the Electric Bond and Share Company. The Emperor of America, J.P. Morgan, is the big shot in both of these outfits. How big the Electric Bond and Share is can be seen from the fact that its subsidiaries in 1930 supplied light, power, gas, water and ice to 1,520,000 Cubans, thirty-eight percent of the population.

Importance of the Strike

The importance of the strike lies not only in the size and importance of the company. The Martin government, government of the petty bourgeoisie, is using the strike and the temporary weakness of the American imperialists’ position to consolidate its position and delude the masses of the country. The army high command told the Cuban Department of Interior delegates to the meeting of the electric workers which decided on the strike that it would not interfere with the strike. This is a bid for support by the masses.

At the same time it is part of a more comprehensive scheme: The government has issued an order to the Electric Company to reduce its electric and gas rates by forty-five percent and had forbidden it to reduce salaries or discharge workers in carrying through this necessary and insufficient reduction in the rates. In a previous article we gave the figures for electric rates: 17 cents a kilowatt hour in Havana an 20 cents in the interior; compared to New York which has a high rate of 6 and 5 cents a kilowatt hour. A second order struck at another Morgan outfit, the Cuban Telephone Company, a subsidiary of the International Telephone and Telegraph Company, also controlled by J.P. Morgan.

Strategy of the Martin Government

The attack on the utility rates is a sop thrown to the petty bourgeoisie who have had to bear the traffic; workers’ towns in the interior have long [been] without gas and electricity although equipped to use them. The threat to take over the American monopolies if they ceased operations in protest against the rate reductions is a gesture made by the government, to the anti-imperialist sentiments of the workers and petty bourgeoisie. The order not to lay off workers or cut wages is part of the bid for support by labor.

Now the Martin government can afford this show of strength. It doesn’t cost it anything now. It knows that only the most direct and serious threat to the stakes of Wall Street in Cuba will cause Roosevelt to risk arousing the whole of Latin America and playing into the hands of England, France, Spain and Japan by sending armed forces into Cuba.

At the same time the government is strengthening itself internally, so that when the conference is over, or maybe before if all goes well, its bargaining hand for recognition by Washington will be a whole lot stronger.

Cuban Workers Need International Support

That is how the government figures the lay of the land. But what about the workers? They are still putting forward only economic demands. We take that as a sign of the absence of an influential revolutionary Communist party. A Marxist vanguard could take great advantage of the situation in the interests of the workers by consciously raising the struggle to the political plane under the slogan of nationalization of industry under workers’ control of production. The weakness of the American capitalists’ position now is also, in the last analysis, the weakness of the Martin government. The advancing workers’ movement could also count on the weakness of the American imperialists’ position, its present, necessary reluctance to assist the beleaguered petty bourgeois government.

The momentary weakness of the world’s leading imperialist power should be exploited in another way to assist the Cuban revolution. An international protest movement demanding hands off Cuba, centering in Latin America, and on Montevideo would cause Washington great embarrassment and would weaken its position still further. It is in this connection and at this moment that we feel most acutely the collapse of the C.I. and the nationalist orientation of the Communist Parties.

It is not loo late to build the defense movement. That task stands high on the agenda of international working class problems. The Stalinists have demonstrated their failure to understand the problem and build the movement. The Left Opposition together with all other revolutionary elements must take the initiative and issue the call to the masses of the United States and Latin America, and the entire world to organize the movement of support and defense of the Cuban revolution.

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