In 2007 I had the pleasure to participate in a workshop on the history of the Russian Revolution in commemoration of its 90th anniversary. It was organized by a group of intellectuals who were mostly University of Havana professors. That was the first time I ever attended a political debate in Cuba.
The analysis looked at the early years of the socialist movement beginning with the first international, the discrepancies that resulted in the formation of subsequent internationals, and finally the end of the socialist block.
Around 70 people participated in this workshop, which had noticeably little youth involvement as most participants were over 50.
A debate ensued at the end of each presentation. These debates became increasingly heated with each speaker.
Participants boldly discussed the bureaucracy, the murders associated with the purges of 1935, so-called “real socialism”, the falsification of communist comrades’ documents, and the distortion of socialism caused by the treachery of Stalinism.
All these debates resulted in the inevitable; university professors told how they had studied using Russian text books, which falsified or distorted the ideas of the greatest Marxist thinkers, and how those books are still being used at the university.
After agreeing on the betrayal of Stalinism and the treachery of subsequent bureaucracies installed in the USSR after the death of Lenin, the audience began to shift from contemplating the USSR to debating the reformist ideas that Cuba acquired from Stalinism.
At that point the people began to speak directly about the Cuban bureaucracy and all the errors that have been committed since the beginning of the revolution.
Unfortunately the workshop ended at the most impassioned moment, even though the people asked to remain in the hall to finish with their discussion about Cuba.
The workshop served to strengthen ties between those who want to make changes in Cuba, dismantle the bureaucracy, and increase the active participation of all workers in a willful and responsible way.