A new path for socialism? Revolutionary renewal in the Soviet Union and Cuba – from FRFI 85, March 1989
‘Less than 75 years after it officially began, the contest between capitalism and socialism is over: capitalism has won.' (New Yorker 23 January 1989)
‘We face a tremendous historical challenge. Who will win? Who will prevail? The selfish, chaotic and inhumane capitalist regime? Or the more rational and humane socialist system? This is the challenge which now faces not just Cuban youth and the Cuban people, but the youth and people of all the socialist countries.’ (Fidel Castro Granma 29 January 1989)
The imperialists have never been so confident that they have won the ideological battle against communism. They are presenting socialism as a failure, as an economic system with no future, forced to accept capitalist economic mechanisms to survive.
Not only does socialism appear to be on the retreat on the economic front but politically and militarily as well. The withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, of Vietnamese troops from Kampuchea and Cuban troops from Angola show how much the balance of forces has swung against the socialist countries. Revolutionary regimes like those in Nicaragua, Angola and Mozambique are also being forced to make more and more concessions to capitalist and imperialist forces in their efforts to survive.
In the socialist countries there is much talk of pluralism and multi-party systems. The Hungarian Communist Party is to legislate for independent political movements and there is talk of the 'Finlandisation' of Hungary. In Poland an important political role will soon be found for the reactionary Solidarnosc. There is a move to form a western-type social democratic party in the Soviet Union.
The most prominent communist leader to have practically and ideologically resisted this dangerous trend to embrace capitalist economic mechanisms and political values has been Fidel Castro. He is seen by the imperialists as a hardliner who is determined that Cuban socialism will not be 'tainted with "deviationist capitalist tendencies" ' (Financial Times 17 February 1989)
Castro reminds us of certain political realities of the world in which we live. The revolution daren't lower its guard and must be ready to fight as long as imperialism lasts and as long as its warmongering, threatening philosophy lasts. The imperialists will never give up the idea of liquidating socialism worldwide. While recognising the gains made by the Soviet Union towards peace and disarmament he warns that the imperialists will interpret peace in their own way.
‘ . . . it's almost certain that the way that the empire conceives peace is peace among the powerful, peace with the Soviet Union and. war with the small socialist, revolutionary, progressive countries or simply independent countries of the Third World; peace with the powerful countries and open or covert wars like in El Salvador or low intensity conflicts as they call them with other countries.' (Granma 18 December 1988)
Hundreds of thousands of people die in wars perpetuated by the imperialist countries and millions live in abject poverty because oppressed people are forced to defend themselves against counter-revolutionary forces sustained and armed by the United States and Britain. This is the reality of imperialism for most people in the world. As Castro says, 'developed capitalism deserves the sad credit for having impoverished four billion people in the Third World (Granma 12 February 1989). It kills 120,000 children under one year old every 72 hours – the same as the number of people killed by the atom bomb at Hiroshima in 1945.
Capitalism has always been, and always will be, a system that creates massive poverty for the majority in the midst of enormous wealth for the few. Even in the United States, the wealthiest country of the world, there are about two million homeless and some 30 million people living in poverty – and this is after a period of economic boom. 3.4 million men and women – 1.4 per cent of the population are locked away in federal, state or city prisons. New York, a city of 7.3m people, achieved a new record rate of five murders a day. One eighth of its population is on public assistance, 500,000 of them people under 18. In Britain nearly 16 million people live in poverty, up to 200,000 family households are either homeless or threatened with homelessness. Britain has the highest prison population per head in Europe and many basic democratic rights including those of free speech and assembly are fast disappearing. So much for capitalist mechanisms.
And what of capitalist democracy, the multi-party system and parliamentary democracy? Has it ever served anybody but the rich and powerful? Haven't social democratic parties played just as ruthless a role in defending the capitalist system, supporting imperialist barbarity and perpetuating racism as the other capitalist parties? Is it not clear that the imperialists want to see the emergence of such parties in the socialist countries as a vehicle for promoting their own counter-revolutionary ends? The aims of the imperialists are clear. They know that the introduction of capitalist market mechanisms into the socialist economies paves the way for the restoration of capitalism.
‘. . . successful market socialism has never existed, which is hardly surprising. A market is not even feasible, let alone efficient without clearly defined property rights, the key requirement being exclusivity and transferability. But such property rights are, of course, the essential characteristic of capitalism.' (Financial Times 28 February 1989)
They are seeking the political forces to complete the process and restore capitalist property relations. The socialist countries are faced with many problems of a political, economic and social character. Imperialism appears confident that it is winning the battle. But it is precisely at times like this that communists must raise the banner of socialism and defend it against imperialism's ideological offensive.
As Castro says, we must not be discouraged. Even small countries are capable of taking on the empire and winning and he reminds us of Vietnam. The social and material successes of socialist Cuba blockaded by the United States for 30 years are even grudgingly acknowledged by the imperialists. Cuba's internationalist fighters in Angola have changed the balance of forces in Southern Africa. People in the oppressed nations and the socialist countries are well aware of the material benefits that socialism has brought about.
Castro has raised the banner of resistance, the true banner of socialism and Marxism-Leninism.
In Britain, while Thatcher and her supporters exude confidence in the face of a deepening economic crisis, the British left is in headlong retreat. However, the section of the working class experiencing poverty, racism and cuts in living standards is daily growing. The time will come when they will fight back. Communists must prepare for these times by raising the principles of Marxism-Leninism: the need to overthrow the capitalist system, socialist internationalism and the struggle against opportunism. The RCG is fighting to keep such principles alive.