Letters to the Editor

“How the Spanish Mercantile Empire Paved the Way for Modern Capitalism”

By Chris Kinder

Dear Comrades,

I thank you for publishing my piece, “How the Spanish Mercantile Empire Paved the Way for Modern Capitalism” (SV, Vol. 12, No. 4, July-August 2012). I’ll excuse you for leaving off my main head, which was “Restore Spanish Galleon-Trade Silver To the Native Miners of Mexico, Peru and Bolivia.”

However, I must object to your leaving off my footnote number 17, which was to have followed the statement that, “Only Cuba, following its 1959 revolution, was finally liberated from capitalism.” This statement came at the end of a paragraph toward the end of the article, in which revolutions in Latin America were mentioned. 

The footnote that was left out was: “(17) It is the author’s opinion that Cuba, though liberated from capitalism, is nevertheless saddled with an undemocratic bureaucracy similar to that which obtained in the Soviet Union in the early 1920’s under Stalin, which must be dealt with in a political revolution before it sells out the Cuban workers state to imperialism.” 

My comment on the nature of the Cuban state was designed as a footnote to express my difference with SV in the least objectionable way. But even that seems to have been unacceptable to you.

We all agree that Cuba was the only revolution in Latin America in which capitalism was overthrown. However, as should be clear to all of us, there was a distinct difference as to the nature of this revolution within the Trotskyist movement.

The tendency, to which you adhere, descending from the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) majority of the early 1960’s, claimed Cuba, after the 1959 revolution, as a healthy workers state. The tendency in the SWP—the Revolutionary Tendency (RT, later becoming the Spartacist League)—which, correctly, in my opinion, identified the Cuban Revolution as resulting in a deformed workers state, seems to have been disappeared from your history.

The concept of a deformed workers state was/is central to Trotskyism, following on Trotsky’s analysis of the Soviet Union under Stalin as a degenerated workers state. The Stalinist-led state retained the defensible working-class ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, but was saddled with a bureaucratic ruling caste, which adopted “socialism in one country,” and sold out revolutions abroad. These betrayals started with China in 1927, and proceeded to the popular fronts of France and Spain (which led to the defeat of the Spanish Revolution), and to the suppression of a united-front struggle against fascism in Germany.

As you know, the alternative for Trotsky began with a political revolution in the Soviet Union to restore the working class to political power, and the revolution to its true national and international tasks.

Although the Cuban state today is perhaps the best of the current deformed workers states, it is nevertheless saddled with a bureaucratic ruling elite, allows only local democracy, denies the right of pro-revolutionary oppositional parties to exist nationally, and has a history of imprisoning Trotskyists. While there are local communal organizations, there is no soviet democracy as Trotskyists, recalling the experience of the Russian Revolution, remember and call for. Nor is there a true revolutionary internationalism politically, despite the well-known aid efforts.

And now, there is a growing threat of the return of capitalism, in the form of private businesses currently being encouraged by the regime. Uncontrolled penetration by the international capitalist market might not be far behind. To deny that the Cuban working class of today needs a Trotskyist political revolution is to accept that the current Cuban leadership will eventually sell out the revolution to U.S. imperialism.

In its March-April 2012 issue, Socialist Viewpoint invited contributions in response to Paul Le Blanc’s article, “Revolutionary Organization and the ‘Occupy Movement’,” in the interest of revolutionary regroupment. SV in May-June 2012, accepted my piece on “Tax the Rich?” in the spirit of that discussion, despite the fact that it differed with other views expressed in SV. Yet now, one issue later, my footnote on a difference over Cuba is left out. Why?

My footnote (17) did not go into everything mentioned in this letter; it merely gave an indication of the different views involved. But since it was left out, I would like to request that this letter appear in the next issue as a corrective. Thanks for your consideration in this regard.

I’ll look forward to future discussions in which the subject of the deformed workers states may be discussed in SV.

Warmest comradely greetings,

Chris Kinder, July 25, 2012

Response from the Editors of Socialist Viewpoint

In response to Chris Kinder’s letter protesting the editor’s excising his footnote 17 from his article discussing the impact of primitive accumulation in Central and South America, we believe his objections are justified and hope he will accept the regrets of the editors.

Although removing the footnote was a mistake and certainly does not reflect the policies of Socialist Viewpoint, Comrade Kinder did himself no favor when he shortened his political view of the Cuban government to a single sentence, likening this rapidly evolving institution to the USSR regime of Stalin “… which must be dealt with in a political revolution before it sells out the Cuban workers state to imperialism.” Here we read a flat assertion with a call to overthrow the current Cuban leadership. Surely Kinder can write many pages leading up to a justification of his view, and perhaps he should. But to wrap it all up in one sentence invites misunderstanding.

Certainly, Kinder defends the Cuban Revolution against the unremitting 53-year aggression by the U.S., the leader of world imperialism. He will agree that the first duty of any alert and honest American is to protest the illegal and cruel embargo and to counter the downpour of vicious propaganda. Socialist Viewpoint has done its part in this effort for over ten years and needs to make no apologies for its record here.

There is an additional point to make. There is a 50-year history of debate on the left over the nature of the Cuban experience, its ideology and the material constraints it has suffered. We have a long and heavy bookshelf on these topics. Since we are agreed on our defense of the Cuban Revolution as against imperialism—and that’s the first priority—we can be leisurely and thorough when adding weight to the bookshelf.

We suggest we direct our criticism of Cuba to specifics that effect our work, that we address today’s concrete problems and leave at rest a discussion dating back to 1961 (in the Socialist Workers Party, and those who split from it partly over the revolution in Cuba), until necessary.