Saturday, 2 October 2010

Open letter to Weekly Worker in defence of Cuba

The changes to the Cuban economy have stimulated an outpouring of reactionary comment, from the appalling Rory Carroll in The Guardian, to many on the left in Britain, particularly those who call themselves 'Trotskyists'. One example was an article in Weekly Worker by James Turley Slow death of Cuban ‘socialism' - below is a letter in response which was published the following week.

You [Weekly Worker] can have your racist, imperialist, anti-working class British Labour Party
Source: Weekly Worker* 835, Thursday September 30 2010. 

Dear Weekly Worker, 

James Turley may have missed our initial contribution on the changes in Cuba; it was posted on our website on 22 September, the day before his article appeared in Weekly Worker. He will now be able to read that and a more extended analysis in the latest issue of FRFI which will be available by the time this letter is published, as will those readers who want to get a real understanding of the processes taking place in Cuba at the present time. Although these articles specifically address the likes of Rory Carroll of The Guardian, they also deal with the points that Turley himself raises, since, in common with virtually all Trotskyists in Britain, these reactionary bourgeois journalists are amongst the sources he will have used to write his piece – he finds, if I recall rightly, Cuban sources to be tainted, a convenient bit of chauvinism to cover for the absence of original thought. And anyway, will there be any real difference in the coverage of these changes between Weekly Worker, Socialist Worker, The Socialist, Workers’ Liberty, Socialist Resistance,? I think not; they will all drink at the poisoned well called Samuel Farber where they do not use the likes of Carroll.

However, what I want to deal with are not so much the specifics about Cuba as the more general questions of socialism, imperialism and revolution. The first is the statement Turley makes that ‘we [the RCG] were lured away from Trotskyism by the revolutionary excitement surrounding Cuba and national liberation movements.’ No, we were lured away by the utterly reactionary positions that Trotskyists had in relation to the Irish liberation struggle, and then in relation to the anti-apartheid struggle, and then in relation to the Labour Party. We understood through our political work and by our reading of Lenin that the essence of building a revolutionary movement in this country is anti-imperialism, and that there can be no question of building a socialist movement unless we oppose social imperialists all along the line (Imperialism and the split in socialism). It was a rediscovery of those of Lenin’s positions which the British Trotskyists reject: on imperialism, on the division of the world into oppressed and oppressor nations, on the right of nations of self-determination, on the material basis for split in the working class in imperialist nations, on the different tasks facing the working class in oppressor and oppressed nations.

You see, when the chips are down, the Trotskyists – and I of course include Weekly Worker in this category - line up with the imperialist Labour Party, and perform some sickening intellectual contortions in order to do so. We saw this in the drivel written by Alex John with its puerile headline (Weekly Worker, Vote preference one for Abbott – and fuck warmongering ex-ministers) where, like the SWP, he cites Lenin’s description of Labour as a bourgeois workers’ party and when, like the SWP, he as a member of the CPGB completely rejects Lenin’s position on the material basis of opportunism. Talk about illusions – the idea that there are socialists in the Labour Party, not just common-or-garden opportunists with a ready socialist phrase for the gullible Trotskyists; the belief that it has a working class base when nearly 25 years ago Whitty reported that 60% of its members had a degree or equivalent, and that before the Blair levy of the 1990s and the membership slump of the last ten years; the notion that communists do not want to destroy the Labour Party – of course we do, just as Lenin wanted to destroy the Mensheviks. This article is just reactionary guff – but with a purpose, because of course Weekly Worker likes to keep in with ‘Comrade’ John McDonnell. I hope your readers appreciate this – the way Weekly Worker fawns over this utterly backward nonentity, and reserves its bile for revolutionaries who have changed history and who continue to do so. Does anyone seriously imagine that Chavez will turn out like Batista as Turley suggests? Only a wretched died-in-the-wool reactionary British Trotskyist could even think of making the comparison. 

Weekly Worker (like the SWP, AWL, SP etc etc) sets a very different standard for revolutionary movements in the oppressed nations from that they apply to themselves in imperialist Britain. Here it is OK to support a racist, imperialist anti-working class party led by war criminals in a general election – but when it comes to the Bolivarian Revolution, or the Cuban Revolution, nothing is ever good enough for our Trotskyists. Because popular meetings in Cuba do not call for the overthrow of socialism, or decide they should give up because there isn’t socialism elsewhere, Turley has to dismiss this: ‘carefully monitored forms of public participation in politics are unthreatening enough to be allowed.’ Rory Carroll would be proud of such a line. You can try to dignify this by calling this Trotskyism; I call it by its real name – chauvinism.

And we see it time and again: when revolutionaries rush on ahead in the oppressed nations, there are the great British Trotkysists who have built absolutely nothing saying: you cannot do this, the revolution has to be international, you have to wait for us. And when the revolutionary movements don’t wait – well there is no fury like a British Trotskyist scorned. Out comes permanent revolution, the impossibility of building socialism in one country, Stalinist this, petit bourgeois that. In reality it means that British Trotskyists never support any revolutionary movement anywhere because they are such wretched doctrinaires.

The other point we realised when we ‘turned away’ from Trotskyism was that it had a material basis in the class relations of British imperialism. Its backward ideas express the interests of a petit bourgeois stratum whose privileged position depends on British imperialism’s parasitic relationship of the rest of the world. That is why they instinctively oppose revolutionary movements (with suitably radical phrases, of course) which might upset the relationship, declaring that they can’t possibly or indeed shouldn’t win, and endorse the Labour Party whose raison d’etre is defending British imperialism.

Turning to the situation in Cuba: no, we don’t think it will be a ‘harder sell’ since we understand as materialists the difficulties in moving towards socialism and can see the honesty and openness with which the Cuban communists deal with them. They have no blueprint; there is very little historical experience they can draw on. Instead they have to steadily build up the cultural level of the Cuban people to ensure that they can strengthen the democratic processes that they have in place; they have to seek allies internationally as a defence against US imperialism and its ruthless economic blockade; and they have to deal with the serious economic problems they face through a constant dialogue with the people. They cannot wait until the revolution spreads to ‘strategically important sections of the advanced capitalist world’ since if they have to wait for the Trotskyists they will have to wait forever.

So, James Turley and Weekly Worker, you can have your racist, imperialist, anti-working class Labour Party with all its mythical left workers, with its comrades John McDonnell’s and its Diane Abbott’s, and you can have all your comrade Trotskyists. We will gladly take Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, the Cuban and Bolivarian Revolutions whatever difficulties they face, and know that we are on the side of the overwhelming majority of revolutionaries and communists in the world in keeping to this choice.

Robert Clough, RCG
28 September 2010 

*Weekly Worker is the newspaper of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB).