A new path for socialism? Revolutionary renewal in the Soviet Union and Cuba – 1989


The socialist movement worldwide is in turmoil. Dramatic events in the Soviet Union and China over the last few years have called into question accepted political institutions and ideology. With these developments taking place in the context of an intense global counter-offensive by the imperialist powers, a very serious assault on the basic conceptions of communism has emerged.

The imperialist powers believe they have won the battle against communism. They have been aided in this by the headlong ideological retreat of the socialist movement in the major capitalist countries. This is most pronounced in Britain where an already weak left movement has run for cover, faced with the political dominance of Thatcherism. Confined by its Eurocentrism, the British left is unable to grasp the significance of revolutionary struggles in the Third World or assimilate the important intervention by revolutionaries outside the European orbit. This helps to explain its deeply pessimistic and essentially reactionary approach to developments in the socialist countries.

We reject the old framework of the Stalin-Trotsky controversy, an essentially Eurocentric one, which still dominates much of the discussion on the European left about the socialist countries. This framework prevents any serious examination of the very concrete developments which have taken place in revolutions in less developed countries. It shows a petty-bourgeois detachment from the real practical problems facing the socialist countries and revolutionary democratic governments in the Third World. And it has meant that the contributions of revolutionary leaders such as Fidel Castro have been dismissed or simply ignored.

The articles in this pamphlet have been reproduced from issues of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! and were commentaries on the events and the discussion raised as they unfolded. While we have used the method and principles of Marxism and Leninism to examine the difficult circumstances facing the socialist countries, we have attempted to examine the arguments as they were presented and not force them into a 'predetermined framework'. The purpose of our analysis is to learn the crucial lessons of these developments as a means of strengthening the communist movement.

It is significant that the 30th anniversary of the Cuban revolution and Mikhail Gorbachev's visit to Havana and London in 1989 were used by bourgeois ideologues and sections of the left as a vehicle to attack Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution. The modern, flexible Gorbachev was counterposed to the anachronistic, orthodox Castro. Castro was subject to systematic vilification and ridicule. This conceals a real fear in capitalist circles of the continuing revolutionary process in Cuba and its lessons for the oppressed nations. Castro has made a major theoretical contribution on many levels from the international debt crisis to the 'rectification' process within Cuba itself. Cuba's internationalism is exemplary and represents a real barrier to imperialism's counter-offensive. The articles in this pamphlet attempt to remedy the neglect of Castro and show the importance of his contribution to the current debate.

The article on the 19th All-Union Conference of the CPSU while welcoming the democratisation of Soviet political life and the opportunity this affords the working class to take the revolution forward, nevertheless recognises the dangers inherent in the reform process. Likewise Gorbachev's foreign policy initiatives are double-edged. His welcome proposals on peace and disarmament have sown confusion in imperialist ranks. At the same time concessions made to imperialism in Asia and Southern Africa have posed serious dangers to the revolutionary democratic movements there.

The article 'The limits of co-existence' was a reply to a series of three articles written by Patrick Newman in FRFI 74-76. The articles on Afghanistan report recent developments from a quite different perspective than that of the mainstream British left. On this issue the abstract and therefore reactionary idealism of nearly all the left has been exposed as they find themselves with Thatcher in supporting the reactionary feudal US-backed counter-revolutionary mercenaries – the Mojahedin.

Socialism in Britain will not advance unless there is solidarity with the socialist countries and the struggles of the oppressed peoples worldwide. This is the spirit in which these articles were written.