The Old International Left and the New Cuban Right

Pedro Campos      


HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban revolution has always relied on the solidarity of the international Left in its confrontation with imperialist aggression and the criminal US blockade. Those who, in Cuba, continue to struggle for the development of socialism, for a society without exploiters or exploited people, should continue to enjoy this support.

It seems, however, that part of this international Left, the Old Left that never managed to get in step with the times, hasn’t realized that this revolutionary process has stagnated economically and politically, and not because of the blockade or imperialist aggression, but as a result of the government-Party-State’s resistance to the democratization of politics and the socialization of the country’s economy.

They are the ones who do not see, do not want to see or find it inconvenient to see that the revolutionary leadership – which has been in power for over fifty years – continues to try and perpetuate a failed political system borrowed from the Soviet Union, a neo-Stalinist model with some superficial pro-capitalist reforms.

These reforms are aimed at creating the conditions that will allow Cuba’s bureaucratic elite and its descendants to become the owners of major profitable State companies (in the tourism, biotechnology and trade sectors), on the basis of a new compromise with the island’s nascent small and mid-sized capitalist businesses and international Capital – something not unlike what happened in the former Soviet Union.

Waiting for the bus. Photo: Juan Suarez

Their lust for power, their insistence on maintaining the salaried exploitation of workers and their current push towards and connivance with Cuba’s incipient capitalist class and foreign Capital have transformed the Cuban leadership into a new Right.

Of course, this Right is made up of people who are different from those of the traditional Cuban right, based chiefly in Miami. Their objectives, however, are not that different: giving more and more power to national and international private capitalists through such familiar methods as the reduction of funds destined to variable capital (labor), shutting down companies, lay-offs and lowered salaries, the curtailment of worker rights (to the benefit of employers) and others that have been clearly outlined in the so-called reform process.

What we are seeing is a struggle between two capitalist classes, between the capitalists of old and a leadership that aspires to become a new capitalist class (and, in fact, currently lives like the bourgeoisie), between those who were expropriated and those who did the expropriating and never handed the means of production over to the workers.

In between, we have the great majority of Cubans, who do not want to return to that odious past when the traditional Right was in power, and also do not want to continue to be exploited by this new Right which declares itself the rightful heir of a revolution that all of us have fought for.

Cuban pharmacy. Photo: Juan Suarez

The attitude of the old-school, international Left may stem from its ideological affinity to neo-Stalinism, from the desire to continue receiving favors from the Cuban government, from a lack of information or, quite simply, from a misguided notion of revolutionary solidarity.

Whatever the reason, it has yet to understand that much of the opposition faced by the Cuban government isn’t prompted by imperialism or the Miami-based Right (as the Cuban government, its media and international spokespeople want us to believe), but, rather, by its own economic and political measures, its abusive exploitation of Cuban workers and professionals, its restrictions on individual liberties, its anti-democratic model of government, the lack of freedom of expression and association it has brought about and the unnecessarily violent actions it has taken against all dissenting thought, be it at the right, center or left of the political spectrum.

Of course, the traditional Right, with the support of imperialism, advertises all of the mistakes and civil rights violations that the new Right is responsible for. The fact that the traditional Right and imperialist powers use such facts in their campaigns against the Cuban government (controlled by the new Cuban Right) does not make these violations of the rights of Cubans any less real.

I am not asking for this sector of the international Left to deny Cuba’s revolutionary process its solidarity. The Cuban revolution is much more than what its current leaders, who have become the country’s new Right, are doing. Those of us who continue to struggle for socialism need the Left to continue to support us, and even to increase its support.

What this Left ought to do (if it still considers itself the Left) is reconsider its distorted perception of the human rights situation in Cuba and direct its support towards the criticisms coming from Cuba’s Left, socialist and democratic movement, which opposes the economic and political drift to the right brought about by the country’s current government. This Left ought to support true and profound changes aimed at the socialization and democratization of the Cuban system and against the repression of dissenting political thought by State powers.

Photo: Juan Suarez

Otherwise, this solidarity will continue to be enjoyed by a State that continues to distance itself from the libertarian and democratic ideals that inspired the Cuban revolution of 1959 and, as such, from the genuine interests of the Cuban people.

What’s become of the solidarity towards the Cuban people, towards the workers, the exploited, those who are not part of the government, the Party or the State?

Everyone is free to think and act as they wish, but no one who considers themselves a member of the Left should ignore the violation of civil rights practiced by governments, even when these call themselves revolutionary, socialist or left-wing, particularly when they actually implement right-wing policies. No one in the Left has any right to try and discredit those who do criticize such violations.

To dispel any doubts about Cuba’s current situation, suffice is to review the draft Labor Bill which the government wants to impose on Cuban workers through the Cuban Workers Federation (CTC), an organization which, today, in no way resembles what it was in the times of Lazaro, Jesus and Arcelio, working-class, communist black men who sincerely defended the interests of workers against those of Capital before the triumph of the revolution in 59.

The bill clearly defends the rights of employers, State or private exploiters of salaried labor, that is, at the cost of undermining the rights of workers, and makes absolutely no mention of a society in which workers are the ones that administer, own or control the means of production or services.

The traditional and new Right represents the past for Cuba, the times of the Cold War, the confrontation between the two great superpowers, the United States and Soviet Union. The future does not belong to them. New waves of young and veteran activists who struggle for socialism, for the democratization of the system, for the liberation of the productive forces, for individual freedom, for freedom of expression and association, are confronting this new Right, a class that, not unlike the traditional Right, would take Cuba to the brink of real or virtual annexation by its northern neighbor.

Human rights are precisely that: human. They are not the exclusive domain of the Right or Left and their violation must be condemned by the Left wherever it takes place. Otherwise, the Left would be guilty of the same double standards that imperialism is criticized for.
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11 thoughts on “The Old International Left and the New Cuban Right

  • Pedro,
    I agree with every word you wrote. I, too, have been writing for some years warning leftists that the Cuban government has been moving steadily right, headed towards open capitalism and that the US blockade has little to do with that. The key problem is, as you also state, that this government, like all other communist governments, is afraid to turn over the ownership and management of production and policy making to the producers.
    How we do it differently is not quite clear to me but by now, I imagine, it is too late for Cuba to transform itself into a real socialist society run by the workers and not the rulers. I am afraid another Russia is in the works.
    I lived and worked in Cuba for Editorial Jose Marti and Prensa Latina, 1988-96. You can see my writings on this subject at
    In solidarity,
    Ron Ridenour

  • If you believe in Capitalism (and I’m not talking about your average family-run restaurants here) you can’t be considered leftist – that is the defining feature. Hitler adored Henry Ford — he is the only person he speaks admiringly of in Mein Kamp. You are trying to equate leftism with authoritarianism big state which doesn’t hold. Anarchists are leftists but don’t believe in any state at all. I didn’t say Conservatives are Fascists I said that there was an overlap at one wing. Pinochet and Thatcher had a lot in common economically, politically and on a personal level and Franco could be considered a right wing Conservative or a Fascist – either could be applied.

  • The Fascists had their industrialists, but that in no way refutes their taxonomy as a Leftist ideology. I’m not saying Fascism is the same as Marxism. They have their differences and are rival Leftist ideologies. Large corporations financed German, Italian & Spanish Fascists as an alternative to the threat posed by Communism. Fascism involved an alliance of the Big State, Big Corporations and Big Unions.

    But you are wrong when you identify conservatism with Fascism. Conservatism, as espoused by conservative parties in Western liberal democratic countries, is all about individual responsibility and smaller government under the citizens’ control.

    Fascism is a collectivist society organized under a large and powerful militarized police State, in alliance with big corporations and one big state-run union.

    Interestingly enough, the Castro regime, which is dominated by the military, has some very helpful partners among the capitalist corporations who have invested in mining and tourism. The Cuban workers, who all belong to one Big Union are rented out to the big corporations for a pittance.

    Doesn’t that look like Fascism to you?

  • Ford has vehemently denied any assistance to the Nazis after the US entered the war. They allege that their factory was taken over by Hitler’s forces. Still, you wrote ” Hitler’s rise to power by was financed by Ford and General Motors…”. This statement overstates their involvement.

  • I’m not sure what your problem is. That Ford contributed money to the Nazi party and that Henry Ford was deeply anti-Semitic and him and Hitler mutually admired each other is pretty much common knowledge. I tried to post some links but for some reason they haven’t appeared. In the early years of the war Ford helped with the German war effort but refused to help the British and they continued to make military trucks for the Germans even after the US had joined the war. Strangely enough after the war the US government paid them compensation for damage caused to their factories in Germany by American bombers.

    I’m not trying to imply that this was the only cause or funding source for the 3rd Reich, nor that every capitalist was a Nazi.

  • OK, let me get this straight…”General Motors and Ford, official sponsors of the Second World War”. What a loon!

  • The truth is that nobody was that fussed about having multi-party elections, especially the liberals in the government. They all voted to postpone them, probably because they knew that they would be trounced by the Fidelistas. They got squeezed out because of their opposition to the land reform which started to echo the US and its policies of aggression. Though some were loyal others started rebelling and some went so far as to team up with the Batistas and the US invasion. Inevitably, when you have these kinds of alliances you end up with people who feel betrayed because everyone believes they are the spirit of the revolution. If the land reform program had not gone forward a lot of other people would have felt betrayed as well.
    I think your point on fascism being another form of leftism. I think you are really wide of the mark here. Hitler’s rise to power by was financed by Ford and General Motors and Henry Ford remained an inspiration for Hitler. Coca cola also sponsored the Munich Olympics. If you consider the policies of order, racism, the family, militarism, traditional religion, these are all policies espoused to some extent by right conservatives.

  • Seriously? The only defence against imperialism is a cynical cadre of octogenarian thugs?

    You honestly think they are defending “socialism” and not their own power and privilege?

  • the caption that accompanies the picture at the top of this article says “50 years of revolution and dignity”

    …revolution certainly, dignity, not so much.

    What dignity is there in being denied the right to travel, or speak your mind? What dignity is there to be found in ration cards, and repressive laws used to keep the population under heal? What dignity is there in being denied the right to obtain information and news, outside of the state controlled media?

  • Pedro, the international Left has no where else to turn, but Cuba. What the Left in Cuba should be doing is researching and critically appraising Russia, China, even Vietnam. They should be making there voice heard there in the international community rather than trying to tear down the only barrier between socialism and imperialism which is the historical leadership. Let us hear what Cubans think of everyone from Lenin to Putin, from Zhou Enlai to Li Keqiang and leave the discourse on Cuban leaders to the Cubans themselves.

  • A very interesting a thought provoking essay, Pedro.

    You wrote:

    “a State that continues to distance itself from the libertarian and democratic ideals that inspired the Cuban revolution of 1959 and, as such, from the genuine interests of the Cuban people.”

    I will argue that those ideals which inspired the Cuban people to rise up and overthrow the dictator Batista were betrayed much earlier than the recent changes in economic policy pursued by the Cuban government today. An alliance of anti-Batista groups came together to fight against dictatorship. They had agreed to hold free and fair multi-party elections after Batista was defeated. Yet after Fidel consolidated his grip on power, those free, multi-party elections were cancelled.

    Historically, the Cuban Revolution did not “triumph” in 1959, as the official mythology says. What happened during the night of December 31, 1958, was that a dictator had fled in the face of a rebellion by the people. The rebellion had triumphed. The vast majority of Cubans assumed the next step was a restoration of the 1940 constitutional and a democratic election. A few people had a very different future in mind for Cuba.

    A revolution is a complex process involving changes in the economic, political and social organization of a country. That process did not truly begin until Fidel Castro had obtained supreme power for himself and started pulling the country towards Communism.

    That is when “the libertarian and democratic ideals” were betrayed. Everything that has happened since then has flowed from that moment. As for the International Left, they enthusiastically embraced Castro’s revolution and supported his betrayal of the Cuban people from the very beginning. There is no reason to suppose they would think or behave any differently today.

    Finally, I dispute your use of the terms “Left” and “Right”. The current Cuban government under Raul Castro seems bent on taking Cuba down the Chinese (or Vietnamese) path. That is, toward a state-corporate alliance running the economy, under the control of the Party and dominated by the military. There is already a name for such a system: Fascism. Marxist orientated Leftists like to call Fascism a “right wing” ideology, but in fact it is merely a rival form of Leftism. Both systems are totalitarian single-party states dominated by the military. Both systems crush individualism and deny the people their innate human rights.

    That is the path the current Cuban leadership is moving towards and it will be yet one more tragic betrayal of the Cuban people.

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