Trotsky, as Taught in Cuba

Daisy Valera

Leon Trotsky. Photo: wikipedia.com

Lev Davidovich Bronstein —better known to the world as Leon Trotsky— died on August 21, 1940, in Coyoacan, Mexico.  One could think that the name of this Russian revolutionary would have come to my ears in my contemporary history classes in my first year of high school here in Cuba.

Nevertheless, the name Trotsky was not written in the history book that I carried around when I was 14 and 15.   From the classes of that period I can only remember the figure of Lenin, who was glorified by my teacher.

Like the more than 30 other students in my class, I knew of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin as the primary and practically sole leader of the Great October Socialist Revolution.  The only other memory that I retained of those classes was the day we learned about the causes for the collapse of the USSR; for some reason, many of the students in the room looked at each other as if we had been double-crossed.

The history lessons concluded, as did my high school studies, without me ever learning that there had been a Leon Trotsky.  Only a few days before I began my program at the university —and by pure chance— I heard a song by a Cuban folk singer about how Trotsky had been one of the main figures in the Russian Revolution of 1917.

The name of that revolutionary stuck in my mind, but any information about him was scarce in every place one could go to look him up.  It wasn’t until my third year at the university that the fact that I found myself among a very particular group of people allowed me to discover the full story of a part of history that no one had thought it necessary to reveal to me.

Finally the name of Trotsky stopped being just a name and for me turned into a person who had carried out actions of critical importance for the Russian Revolution.  He had been the principle representative of the St. Petersburg’s soviets (workers’ councils) as well as in the organization of the Red Army.

Perhaps the fact that I had never before known about Trotsky made me become an assiduous reader of most of his works, among which I have to highlight Permanent Revolution (1930) and The Revolution Betrayed (1936).

August 20th will mark 70 years since the fateful attack carried out by a Stalinist clique against a man who exhibited in his deeds and writings a love for the world proletariat.  He was confident that a social structure different from capitalism could free life of all wrongs.

Yet despite everything, this Trotsky still doesn’t appear in Cuban history books.  There’s no mention of the founder of the Fourth International, an organization committed to the struggle against bureaucracy, against those who sought to enrich themselves at the expense of other people’s labor, against those lacking scruples in accentuating the differences between classes in a society that aimed to construct socialism, and against those who did not allow the workers to either participate or decide.

So isn’t it important to reclaim him in the history taught on the island, a person truly committed until the final few days of their life to the non-degeneration of societies that are called socialist.

Daisy Valera

Daisy Valera:Soil scientist and blogger. I write from Mexico City, where Havana sometimes becomes so small that it disappears. However in others, the Cuban capital is a city so past and present that it steals your breath.


38 thoughts on “Trotsky, as Taught in Cuba

  • January 18, 2018 at 10:59 pm
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    Yes the food coops are the means of struggle for those who wish to avoid the class struggle.

  • October 8, 2017 at 11:31 am
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    but it was stalinists that handed the soviet union and the workers states in eastern europe over to the capitalists , not Trotskyists .All the hostile capitalist regimes you mention are a result of that .

  • April 22, 2015 at 10:57 am
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    The Cuban Stalinist bureaucracy wouldn’t allow the truth to be known, it would’ve triggered a political revolution to deepen the revolutionary conquests, and awaken the Cuban people to the disposable character of the island rulers. Now they are turning to USA to complete the capitalism restoration process just like their ex soviet masters did. Hopefully Leonardo Padura’s “The Man Who Loved Dogs” will help Cubans find about the Stalinist forgeries of history.

  • August 13, 2014 at 7:18 am
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    Fidel Castro himself welcomed the murder of Trotsky when he was released from prison. Cuba is not a socialist nation but a deformed ”workers” state in which the means of production are nationalized, but win-out workers control. The Communist Party of Cuba is a special caste of Cubans with privileges like the old communist parties in Eastern Europe. Old men in their 60’s and 70’s are the guiding force of the nation. Raul Castro himself is 83 years old.

    Like all nations based on post 1956 stalinism, the Cuban bureaucracy censors all information that does not conform to their Marxist-Leninist ( Stalinist ) dogma. Trotsky always rejected Stalin and therefore he was hated by all stalinists. Fidel Castro is a Stalinist, not a classic one like Ever Hoxha, but he was the leader of a centralized bureaucracy that systematic rejects genuine socialism!

    We revolutionary socialists must defend the planned economy against the capitalist reforms which are happening. Raul Castro will start with more deregulation as his bureaucracy will demand more. The Chinese bureaucracy has grown very rich with enough millionaires and billionaires. These class-traitors are the best friends of Raul Castro’s deformed ”workers” state!

  • June 23, 2012 at 11:05 pm
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    I think that the disgraceful and slanderous position of the SEP is the reason why distrust of Trotskyists exists to this day. The reflexive and baseless comparison of Stalin’s methods to Cuba discredits those who fail to see what Trotsky was saying or who overextend his critique. To say that Cuba is “middle class” denies the massive workers power in Cuba, global economic realities, the real progress in Cuba in essential spheres of improving the basic quality of life for all, and its undying internationalism. It is the Socialist Workers Party in the US that better represents a correct view of Trotsky (although I am not a member) and fervently SUPPORTS the Cuban revolution AND defends Trotsky’s legacy. Also, Trotsky critiqued many severe problems during Stalin’s rule and his murdering of many revolutionaries, in spite of this, honest Trotskyists still seek to defend worker’s states (even those that they may classify rightly or wrongly as deformed). However, the shameful position that insults real struggles and seeks a sort of revolutionary purity that does not coincide with “concrete conditions” betrays the workers movements and workers’ hope in socialism. Some Trotskyists spend more time attacking Cuba than defending it- and they don’t offer constructive criticism. The International Marxist Tendency is far better than the ISO and others, but I still think that they could defend Cuba and other revolutionary movements more, but they don’t bash them and tend to support them- all the while encouraging a deepening of socialism. They let they critiques known but they do not descend into outright slander as does the ISO or this SEP. Like I said before the SWP in the US (also known as the Communist League) abroad- although not without its problems- is a far better representation of Trotsky and Trotsky’s thought, although I still think that they hurl around the term Stalinist a bit loosely- they have never used it in regards to Cuba and hold up Cuba as a primary example for workers and farmers. They also publish many of Trotsky’s works.

  • June 25, 2011 at 10:57 am
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    Oliver Campbell: I will try to answer your long response a bit later, if and when my time permits. But let me answer one thing right now. You say: “Your reference to the 1928 Program of the Comintern has been scanty. . .” May I point out that I quoted the precise 5 paragraphs from that 1928 Program that deals with the transitional program of the Comintern. This I did so that readers–including you–might judge for themselves. To say that this “has been scanty” is absurd.

    The 5 paragraphs quoted are the textual heart of the Leninist wisdom gleaned from the 1917 experience. They deserve serious study. You ought to thank me for setting them forth–and thank HT for printing them. To not address them, but instead to ease around them with verbose bluster. is a disservice to yourself and to readers.

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