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CUBADEBATE: Alfredo Guevara & Students 4

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  • Marce Cameron
    From Cuba s Socialist Renewal http://cubasocialistrenewal.blogspot.com To receive email updates or feeds click link above Support this blog
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 31, 2011
      From "Cuba's Socialist Renewal"
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      Here is the final instalment of my translation, slightly abridged, of
      Alfredo Guevara’s candid dialogue with students and staff hosted by
      the Faculty of Chemistry of Havana University. Guevara comments at
      some length on the rise of the Stalinist bureaucracy in the USSR and
      how this contributed to the miseducation of communist cadres in Cuba.

      It’s worth noting that he does this without once mentioning Leon
      Trotsky, the key leader in the struggle against the bureaucratic
      degeneration of the Soviet state and Communist Party. This may be
      because Guevara is unfamiliar with the role of Trotsky in this
      struggle. Trotsky’s works have not been widely available in
      revolutionary Cuba and only recently have a few of them been published
      on the island. Or, it could be that Guevara felt that given decades of
      Stalinist demonisation of Trotsky, this is a controversy best left for
      another occasion. It may, of course, have been purely incidental and
      one should not read too much into it. What’s important is that
      Guevara’s analysis of Stalinism converges with that of Trotsky on key
      points, and Guevara makes these arguments explicitly and publicly.

      If Cuba were really ruled by a Stalinist bureaucracy, as some leftists
      imagine, it would hardly allow a prominent public figure such as
      Guevara to say what he says here. Nor would such a ruling bureaucracy
      allow Cubadebate, a semi-official website hosted by distinguished
      Cuban journalists based on the island, to transcribe and publish such
      an exchange. In other words, Cuba’s working people have an ally
      against bureaucracy in the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) leadership.

      Guevara also touches here on an important debate that took place in
      the 1960s between Carlos Rafael Rodriguez and Che Guevara on economic
      management in socialist-oriented Cuba, and praises the PCC secretary
      for Granma province, Lazaro Exposito, for his energetic efforts to
      clean up the city of Santiago de Cuba and provide decent dining out
      options at affordable prices. Rather than cloning Exposito, as his
      admirers suggest on a blog, what really needs to be cloned is
      Exposito’s work methods, says Guevara.

      He begins here by answering a question put to him by Alejandro
      Fernandez, a professor in the Faculty of Philosophy at Havana
      University. Unfortunately the transcript of Fernandez’s question is
      incomplete because, as the transcriber notes, the recording equipment
      malfunctioned momentarily. This makes it difficult to follow what
      Fernandez was saying. His question had something to do with the
      distinction between the Marxism of Marx and Lenin, and Soviet

      Debate Forum dialogue with Alfredo Guevara in the Faculty of
      Chemistry, Havana University


      Part 4

      (Part 3, Part 2, Part 1)

      Cubadebate website, June 22, 2011

      Translation: Marce Cameron

      Alfredo Guevara: This is a big topic. I assure you that dogmatic ideas
      do not prevail at the highest levels of leadership today, but for
      years we had a formal school of Marxism-Leninism in which Marxism was
      officially studied as Marxism-Leninism, that is, as a Stalinist

      Many cadres have been schooled in this. Some cadres, among them some
      who still hold important positions, studied in the Soviet Union in
      schools where the curriculum was based on the Soviet manuals on
      Marxism-Leninism. This greatly discredited a book that had not
      circulated widely enough, Che’s “Critical Notes on Political Economy”
      – I don’t know if you’ve made a study of it – in which there’s an
      in-depth analysis of the Manual of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. In
      reality, the content of the Soviet manual was a new, falsely Marxist
      theory of “Marxism-Leninism”. Not because Leninist thought – which in
      some cases is an important aid to political thought and to the
      analysis of the evolution of capitalism and of imperialist power – is
      false, but because there are some political positions that applied to
      very concrete situations faced by the first country that tried to
      build socialism.

      Certainly while Lenin was alive there was an open debate in the Soviet
      party, and only when Lenin became ill did this debate subside. It
      should be recalled that Lenin died in 1923, didn’t he? OK, at the
      beginning of 1924. So Lenin’s last instructions to the party
      leadership were written in 1923. Lenin died, and the line of
      succession he proposed, more or less as an anxious reflection on the
      dangers of ... etc. etc., was not implemented. But despite appearances
      it wasn’t Stalin who replaced Lenin, because of Stalin’s ignorance it
      could be said. Lenin was replaced by a triumvirate. This happened
      gradually because these were struggles for power. Stalin goes about
      destroying those who could have been an obstacle to his absolute power
      until this was achieved, that’s to say, there was a transition period.
      But in the end, once he’d attained absolute power, he elaborated a
      philosophy, a philosophy that overlaps here and there with Marxism,
      here and there with Leninism, but it’s a Stalinist philosophy aimed at
      consolidating absolute power, because it may be that Stalin wasn’t as
      monstrous as history will portray him, but perhaps there’s a mixture
      of nationalism and power, because if you compare two episodes in
      Russian history you’ll find a close similarity between Stalin and Ivan
      the Terrible.

      Sergei Eisenstein, the great film director who was almost the
      originator of cinematographic technique given his contributions on
      editing and on form, made a film titled “Ivan the Terrible” that was
      censored because Stalin was portrayed in “Ivan the Terrible”, in other
      words Stalin ended up becoming – excuse me for going on about this a
      little because I’m going to relate it back to Cuba, I’m just beginning
      but I won’t go on too long – Stalin ended up being the great defender
      of Russian nationalism, that of Russia prior to the Soviet Union, and
      don’t forget that at the Yalta meeting [of Stalin, Roosevelt and
      Churchill in February 1945 – translator’s note], Stalin decided to
      annexe all of the countries under the influence of the Soviet Union
      [i.e. of the Soviet Red Army], but [not] the Slavic countries.

      At one point Lenin had said that the worst Russian chauvinists, that’s
      to say nationalists, were non-Russians, because Stalin was Georgian.
      Lenin said this and he also said something else. I’m not saying that
      what he said was valid, but he was a participant, a protagonist, and
      he clarified many things. Lenin said that the triumph of socialism –
      he said this before the October Revolution – that the triumph of
      socialism in Russia would be a barrier to the spread of of oriental
      barbarism. Stalin was the oriental barbarian.

      Unless you study and grasp the history of the Communist International
      you can’t understanding the early period of the Cuban Revolution, you
      can’t even begin to shed light on certain mistakes, among them the
      education that was given in the Schools of Revolutionary Instruction
      for a long while. These schools have a new leadership now, I’m sure
      they’ll change some things, though I still don’t know if they've done

      The old Popular Socialist Party (PSP) was under the influence of the
      Communist International, and the International became – secretly,
      silently, stealthily, by means of assassinations – dominated by
      Stalin. This old PSP was full of good people, marvellous people of
      very high calibre. Some were Stalinists in good faith, and the PSP
      trained Stalinist cadres who formed a part of our [post-1959
      revolutionary] leadership and occupied high positions in our political

      I don’t think this is the time – maybe someone will tell me this, who
      knows – this isn’t the appropriate time to be dedicating ourselves to
      digging up this history, but the researchers have to delve into it,
      since history cannot remain in obscurity either. And those of us – I
      still feel like a professor, I’ve been a professor at this university
      – those of us that have an interest in these things have to make sure
      that the youth understand them, given that we’ve studied these
      problems and we’ve searched for the documentation that backs up what
      we’re saying.

      We must convey it to you as I’ve done many times, or on certain
      occasions. We have to transmit this and the researchers must take it
      up: you won’t understand anything unless you study the International,
      because the International was the Communist Party International, that
      is, it condemned nationalism. There were many mistakes that have to be
      corrected, aren’t there, and because of this many things remain in the

      We’ve contributed two outstanding Latin American thinkers. One, Julio
      Antonio Mella [1903-29, a founder of the original Cuban Communist
      Party in the early 1920s – translator’s note], didn’t live long but he
      lived intensely the whole of those five short years in which he
      accomplished everything. He was a founding member of the Cuban
      Communist Party; he went to Mexico, the Latin American headquarters of
      the International; he was a member of the Mexican Communist Party, he
      worked for the International, he established the organisation in
      solidarity with [Nicaraguan revolutionary Augusto] Sandino, etc.,
      etc., the Anti-imperialist League of the Americas. He attempted, like
      Fidel, an expedition to invade Cuba and topple the Machado
      dictatorship, against the wishes of the International and the Mexican
      Communist Party. Where can one find out about all this? Where can one
      find the information about Paul Lafargue whom I spoke about earlier?
      Why isn't it more readily available?

      Right now I’m trying to fathom, I’m coming to understand it more and
      more, why Paul Lafargue, who married one of Karl Marx’s daughters, the
      first deputy elected to the French parliament, a Cuban [by birth], why
      is it that we know nothing about Paul Lafargue? Ah, because the old
      PSP imposed ideological lines to ensure silence. We must study these

      Raul [Castro] said that we’ve made mistakes. Why have we made these
      mistakes, what are they and who was responsible for them? Do any of
      you know – you knew there were debates, perhaps – about the profound
      debates on economic management between Che and [former PSP leader]
      Carlos Rafael Rodriguez, the two lines? Would I say now that Che was
      entirely correct? I don’t think so. Would I say that Carlos Rafael was
      entirely correct? No, but boy, was there was a debate about the
      economy. Che ran a cadre school for the training of managerial cadres.
      What manager from any enterprise, from any entity, from any ministry,
      has had managerial training? This is why I say that we’ve no right to
      be ignorant of others’ experiences.

      Why are there scarcities, is everything a result of what we know? No,
      it’s also because of what we don't know. Because I’ve just returned,
      three weeks ago I was in Santiago de Cuba. My secretary pointed out to
      me a blog on the internet called, “Let’s Clone Exposito” [Lazaro
      Exposito is the Cuban Communist Party secretary in Granma province –
      translator’s note]. Lazaro is the new leader over there, he was also
      in Bayamo and he sorted everything out in Bayamo, and Santiago de Cuba
      is a marvel, except for transport which has not been fixed, everything
      is clean, everything is … you were there, weren’t you? … everything’s
      clean, no [old] buildings are collapsing, the footpaths are free of
      cigarette butts and waste paper. Let me tell you, the last time I was
      in Santiago de Cuba it was filthy. How did they get everyone to stop
      stop tossing cigarette butts and bits of paper on the pavement? This
      is an example of dignity, the the recovery of dignity. It’s going to
      be hard given what everything been through, but that’s how it is in
      Santiago de Cuba.

      But I haven’t told you everything. Walk down the street in Santiago de
      Cuba and you can buy bread with beef steak in regular [rather than
      convertible] Cuban pesos. Walk two blocks further and you can eat
      bread with suckling pork, also sold in regular pesos. In the next
      block you can eat a plate of prawns, sold in regular pesos, and a
      lobster, in regular pesos. All this in regular pesos, and I say OK,
      why? Ah, let’s clone Exposito, as the blog suggests, but I’d say we
      should do something even better, or more critical, to complement what
      you’re doing, Exposito. And why Exposito? Why the devil does it have
      to be just one person whom we can trust in to set things right? No,
      let’s clone a work method, and this work method is a shipment of
      truth, honest and clean truth, because this is how he works. It may
      shorten his life, he’s still a young man.

      Monsignor Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, who is naturally very alert to
      everything that happens in Bayamo, when Exposito was in Bayamo the
      Monsignor told me: “Alfredo, it’s as if we were in another country”.
      He talked about things there the way I’m describing Santiago de Cuba.

      I was worried they might be teasing me, so I had to go and take a look
      with my doctor and my son, because as you can see I’m somewhat frail,
      and they told me: “Go and have a look and tell me if everything I see
      there is real when I’m not there.” It was real, it’s magic. And why? I
      know Havana has 2.2 million inhabitants and is invaded by internal
      migrants, but OK, it’ll be more difficult but we must clone a method.
      First comes the method, the plan, rigour in the planning, in the
      method. (Applause).

      Chair: Well Professor, thank you very much, I never thought we’d be
      able to have you come and speak to us here. I hope it won’t be the
      last time given what I said in the introduction about what we’re
      trying to do with this debate space, which is not to create it for one
      occasion but to maintain it, which is the most difficult thing to
      achieve. And another time, when you have a bit more of an audience,
      when we have electricity, when all this is OK, then we’d like to
      invite you to come again because it’s very enriching to converse with
      you. We’ve brought you a little present, a very humble one, in the
      name of the organisers of this forum.
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