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Cuba 11J: counter-hegemonic perspectives of social protests, Alexander Hall Lujardo (coordinator), published by Marx21, 2023, 392pp digital edition free under Creative Commons Licence.

On 11 July 2021, street protests broke out in various locations across Cuba, some turning violent. They were the first widespread social disturbances in Cuba for 27 years. They occurred in the context of Covid-19 lockdown measures, and conditions of extreme hardship imposed by the tightening of the 62-year US blockade of Cuba, and were stoked by a US-backed social media campaign. 11 July was celebrated by the imperialist media and Florida’s right-wing Cuban exiles, some of whom called for US military intervention (see FRFI 283 for a detailed analysis).

Social media manipulation: Betty Paisol denounced the use of her image in support of protesters, including by UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet. Betty was one of thousands of Cubans who took to the streets on 11 July to defend the Cuban Revolution.

The protests were also greeted with excitement by Cuba’s opponents on the ‘left’. Published on 11 July 2023 to mark two years since the protests, Cuba 11J is a collection of essays by members of this opportunist trend which is miniscule in Cuba yet significant in imperialist countries such as Britain. Marx21, the publisher, is the Spanish section of the International Socialist Tendency (IST), and a sister party of Britain’s Socialist Workers Party (SWP).

Alex Callinicos, leading member of the SWP, supplied the foreword to Cuba 11J. The political trend to which the SWP belongs celebrated the fall of the Soviet Union, has always called for a counter-revolution in Cuba,1 and attempts to nurture a ‘critical left’ opposition on the island. This book is part of that counter-revolutionary campaign.

Published in Spanish language both for Marx21’s prospective audience in Spain and to be readable among the Cuban public, the free digital book was released at a time when anti-Cuban reactionaries stepped up their lobbying activities in Europe.

The contributors identify themselves with labels such as ‘libertarian socialism’, ‘decoloniality’, ‘critical Marxism’, etc. These cannot conceal the commitment to the restoration of capitalism in Cuba which runs throughout. This is evident in some common themes:

1. Denying the blockade

The authors consistently deny that the US blockade or disinformation played a part in the eruption of 11 July 2021, arguing the primary cause of the protests was Cuban state mismanagement of the economy and authoritarianism (or ‘verticalism’). Samuel Farber, a US-based professor claiming Cuban origins, contributes one essay; his ideas have not advanced in over a decade.2 Farber shows the weakness of his analysis when he writes, ‘American politics is not driven by ruling class interests, but rather by electoral considerations’ (p17). For David Karvala (Madrid-based academic and member of the IST), ‘Cuba suffers the consequences of hostility under imperialism. The ethical position should be to reject and denounce these policies’ (p160). His ‘ethical position’ is simply a cover for counter-revolution: the IST does not organise any practical solidarity action against the blockade whatsoever.

2. Denying Cuban democracy

Despite being published two years after the events which they purport to analyse, many of the essays were in fact written weeks after 11 July 2021, and therefore address little of what has happened since then. A deliberate omission is the fact that thousands of Cubans reacted to the protests within hours by taking to the streets to defend the revolution and socialism. Pro-revolutionary rallies were attended by hundreds of thousands of Cubans in the following days. Protests of the same scale have not re-occurred in the two intervening years, despite there being no let-up in the blockade under US president Biden, and despite constant attempts by US-funded counter-revolutionaries to orchestrate a repeat. Instead, there is a refrain that by declaring ‘the streets belong to the revolutionaries’ and calling Cubans to the defence of socialism, President Miguel Diaz-Canel was provoking a violent response – by ‘hordes armed with sticks’, says Alexei Padilla Herrera, a Cuban-born professor based in Brazil (p81).

Cuba 11J contains the repeated lie that ‘authentic democracy of the workers never existed on the island’ (p130, Eduardo Almeida Neto of the United Socialist Workers Party, Brazil). Nowhere do the writers seriously engage with the fact that millions of Cubans have participated in the writing of the country’s constitutions, the latest being in 2019, and the Families Code of 2022, let alone account for Cuba’s electoral system which is more participatory than bourgeois models.3

Havana-based Alexander Hall Lujardo, the ‘coordinator’ of Cuba 11J, insists that socialism must be ‘decolonised’ in Cuba, and other writers similarly use identity politics as a cover for counter-revolution, served up in the tortured word soup of critical theory. Cuba’s National Programme against Racism and Racial Discrimination, launched in 2019 and headed by President Diaz-Canel, is dismissed by Hall because it excludes ‘numerous academics, activists and intellectuals of great relevance’ (p263), presumably himself and the other authors of Cuba 11J.

Yet Roberto Zurbano Torres, a Cuban literary critic, has to admit in his essay that ‘the great black and mixed race majority has shown inalienable support for the Revolution’ (p232).

3. Socialism via a ‘third way’

Perhaps the most naked manifesto for capitalist restoration in the collection is by Mauricio de Miranda Parrondo (a Cuban-born academic based in Colombia), who declares: ‘The models of centrally directed economies have failed resoundingly’ (p87). De Miranda calls for: the abolition of central economic planning; the elimination of the state monopoly over foreign trade, critical infrastructure and currency exchange; a constituent assembly to re-write the constitution; and so on – because ‘there is no other way of conceiving of socialism’ except through these measures (p95). It is unsurprising that such ideas get the SWP stamp of approval.

Hall claims, along with many other contributors, only ‘workers’ self-management’ of enterprises is the essence of true socialism; and ‘a corrupt bureaucracy’ is holding back the productive forces (p72). Each contributor’s insistence that they follow a ‘third way’, neither US imperialism nor Cuba’s ‘socialism from above’, is a thin veil for opportunism. Recall Solidarnosc, the ‘independent’ CIA-backed trade union federation in socialist Poland of the 1980s, which succeeded in winning the working class to the side of counter-revolution under slogans including ‘worker self-management’ (cheered on, of course, by the SWP), leading them on a road which led to unbridled capitalist restoration.

What infuriates the contributors to Cuba 11J above all is that the Cuban revolution continues to inspire unconditional solidarity. ‘The international left’, complains Hall (p71), ‘shows its unconditional support for the ruling class [in Cuba]’ – indeed, since it tends to understand that in Cuba the workers are in power. This is despite the best efforts of the IST which has published Cuba 11J to bolster its own pro-imperialist trend. Fundamentally, they represent the worst chauvinist tendencies of the privileged layers of the working class in the imperialist countries, lecturing the revolutionary movements of oppressed nations on how to wage their struggles.

Raul Antonio Capote, a Cuban who understands counter-revolutionary strategy (he was a member of Cuban state intelligence who worked for the CIA as a double agent), wrote for the Cuban Communist Party newspaper Granma, 9 July 2023, two days before the publication of Cuba 11J: ‘Lenin said on the bankruptcy of the Second International: “Frank opportunism, which provokes the immediate repulsion of the working masses, is not as dangerous or harmful as this theory of the just mean, which exculpates with Marxist words the practice of opportunism, which tries to demonstrate with a series of sophisms the inopportuneness of revolutionary actions”. The third way is a false flag raised against socialism, they raise it whenever they need it to prevent a profound revolution, to mediatise it or to put an end to it. It is the spearhead of capitalist restoration, of neoliberal plunder and disaster.’ What more needs to be said?

Will Jones

1. See ‘The oppressed people of the world support socialist Cuba - why doesn’t the SWP?’ FRFI 180, August/September 2004.
2. See Helen Yaffe’s review of his book The origins of the Cuban revolution reconsidered in FRFI 198, August/September 2007.
3. See ‘Cuba elections: a vote for socialism’, FRFI 294, June/July 2023.

FIGHT RACISM! FIGHT IMPERIALISM! 296 October/November 2023