Cuba and the Socialist Revolution

Image: Leonie Fahjen
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By FLORESTAN FERNANDES*

The Cuban revolutionary experience did not occur by accident.

For many, it is an enigma that the Revolution, which would split the history of the Americas, took place in Cuba. Why Cuba? We could move on, disdaining this ultimately naive debate. To proceed in this way would be to ignore, however, that the Cuban Revolution transcends Cuba and the Caribbean: it places the Americas in the very circuit of formation, diffusion and expansion of a new type of civilization. It represents, for all the Americas, the conquest of a historical-cultural level that seemed nebulous or improbable and, for Latin America, in particular, the evidence that there are socialist alternatives for building a new society in the New World. Taking up the theme here implies, without a doubt, a deflection. There is nothing wrong with accepting it, as long as the idea is kept in mind that such a discussion is preliminary (it does not explain the Cuban Revolution). We must not, under any circumstances, tie Cuba to those left behind and what is most important to know has to be seen by Cuba and through Cuba. Therefore, this discussion has two themes. First, without intending to take the analysis too far or deeper, how to understand the Cuban “revolutionary leap”? Second, how is the revolutionary situation that would lead to socialism constituted and evolved (in terms of certain essential aspects for understanding the present)? You see, we need to escape Europeancentrism and North American cultural pollution. Industrialized and “advanced” capitalist nations block the advance of socialism: a democratic path, which prevents revolution, or a revolutionary path, which will lead to socialist democracy? This is the dilemma and the Cuban experience takes us to the essence of this questioning.

One could not speak of a decisive differential element. However, conjectures or comparative presumptions make it possible to point out that the content of Cuban nationalism and the peculiarities of the national revolution in Cuba make it possible to understand and, to a certain extent, explain the mentioned jump. This is a good angle of observation and analysis, because both nationalism and the climax of the national revolution have to be thought of in light of the interaction between changing structures and the history of global society, also involving psychological and political factors that operate in continuity and depth. One consequence, which needs to be mentioned: from this perspective, the Cuban Revolution is represented in strict accordance with the ideological identifications and utopian polarizations of the Castro movement, as it was outlined at the time of its structuring and unleashing.

It has already been pointed out that the frustration of national emancipation only reformulated, deepened and transferred the historical disintegrating and constructive functions of the national revolution. One of the most important effects of this process appears in the type of nationalism that is formed in Cuba, over a secular evolution. In other countries, nationalist feelings and ideas were severed from the idea of ​​the Nation, since what was defined as a “nation” was a “liberal” projection of the interests and conservative values ​​of the privileged classes (which, in fact, did not carry out a national movement and limited themselves to creating an oligarchic State, replacing the Crown and the colonial government). All of this came before the appearance of more or less consolidated bourgeoisies and, therefore, it was very far from the functions that nationalism represented, in capitalist development, as a factor of political unification and social class hegemony. In Cuba, even the rudiments of this transformation historically did not take place and nationalism was confined to the most radical sectors of the various social strata of the population. It grew not from the economic, social and political domination of conservative strata, often allied with external controls and anti-nationalist repression itself, but from the confluence of several divergent social forces, committed to national liberation, in the fight against colonial rule and Spanish domination. or in struggles against US imperialism and domination. Although the intellectuals had an enormous role in the political formulation of the various successive nationalist projects, they were nothing more than spokespersons (and, sometimes, leaders) of deep, suffered and exalted nationalist feelings and ideas, shared vertically by the mobilized sectors. by nationalist militancy. Thus, there is a development of nationalism from the bottom up, under a constant radical-national political fermentation, which oscillates in moments of greater economic, social and political tension. Furthermore, all conflicts, first between estates and then between classes, had to pass through the sieve of this militant nationalism and its high political fermentation. It was paralyzed or neutralized by the colonial social order and, for little more than half a century, by the neocolonial social order. This did not prevent it from growing, maturing and ending up expressing a vertical section of a society launched with all vigor in the aspiration of becoming a free, independent Nation, mistress of its historical destiny and its political sovereignty. In short, a pure nationalism, of “apostles” (remember the normal representation and the cult of José Martí), which rebelled against the negotiated capitulation of the dominant strata of the bourgeoisie and against the systematic interference of imperialism. In the 1930s and 1950s, this nationalism would reappear in a historic climax, fighting fiercely against these two simultaneous poles, in a political climate susceptible of raising its ideological and utopian effectiveness to the maximum. Given the imperialist penetration of bourgeois domination, the compulsion against the neocolonial order encompasses both radical-bourgeois components, which could contain the national revolution under capitalism, and strictly anti-capitalist components, which would tend to drive the national revolution to the bottom. In the fight against Batista, these two components merged and activated each other. After the success of the Rebel Army, the second components prevailed and grew rapidly, showing the true revolutionary face of Cuban nationalism. No country in all of the Americas managed to develop a nationalism of this type that could be linked either to a bourgeois victory, with the national integration that could result from it, or to a victory of the masses and the proletariat, with the consequent national liberation and the transition to socialism.

The national revolution, as a historical process and as a political transformation, contains two central peculiarities in the Cuban case. One difference is related to distinct typical elements linked to the alteration of the socio-historical context (something inevitable: not only does one move from the 1895th century to the XNUMXth century; the connection between capitalism, containment of decolonization and an external domination that becomes imperialist particularizes half a century of socio-historical evolution). Another difference relates specifically to the class content (and not just the social content) of the national revolution in Cuba. This emerges and triumphs belatedly, but not too late: in the flow of a profound transformation of Cuban society, it would have to reflect and give predominance to the revolutionary social forces of the XNUMXth century (and not those that could have been revolutionary during the “war of the XNUMXs”). years” or the “revolution of XNUMX”).

The rule in Latin America (not in the United States; but in Canada as well) is that victorious “national” revolutions were led and stopped by the dominant privileged estates. In fact, the national revolution meant, as a starting point, a nativization of economic, social and political controls – including the level of political-state power: a despotic State emerged, less “national” than estates, oligarchic, slaveholding (in many cases ) and anti-popular (its democratic orbit was restricted and only fully effective for the groups that saw themselves as the People and the Nation, on behalf of which they spoke out to defend particularist and ultra-particularist interests, all strangely anti-national or extra-national). By delaying itself, the national revolution in Cuba escaped this nefarious circuit. Conservative and reactionary tutelage prevented or stopped the disintegration of the colonial order and imposed a neocolonial order that made the idea and reality of the Nation unfeasible. However, when the flow of the national revolution grew to an irreducible and indestructible boiling point, in the struggles against the Machado dictatorship, that is, from the 1930s onwards, this tutelage could not be imposed. It had fragmented, depriving the bourgeois classes of a strategic position in the political and police-military control of the nationalist movement. All of this would then get worse, as the anti-imperialism and antagonism provoked by the Batista dictatorship turned the national revolution into an authentic crusade (in what could be called a peoples revolution, of all classes, against the current social order ꟷ, based on unification in the interests and social values ​​common to all classes). The idea of ​​Nation is embodied, therefore, in this historical-social context as a concretion that should serve both the possessing classes and their dominant strata, as well as the working classes and the most humble strata.

This difference in historical-social context naturally corresponds to a difference in the class content of the national revolution. In the particular conditions of the struggle against imperialism and the dictatorships of Machado or Batista, the tendency to privilege common social interests and values ​​was moderate and bourgeois. This tendency was at odds with ultranationalist social forces (of the “right” and “left”, in relative terms thinking about the ultranationalism of the settlers; and the libertarian nationalism inherent in the student movement, trade unionism or the socialism of the working classes). What is more important, it was also being displaced by the alternative trend, for the very center of gravity of the national revolution had gradually shifted from the top to the bottom of society. Extreme, puritanical and revolutionary militant nationalism had fallen into the hands of radical youth, certain strata of the middle classes and the petty bourgeoisie and, above all, the rural and urban proletariat. If it was already impracticable to contain the national revolution within the order (how to reconcile it with the neocolonial social order?), this displacement of the center of gravity presupposed that the limits of the revolution against the order would arise from political practice and military struggle (not of nationalism, in itself, nor of the ideologies and utopias of the classes in conflict). For this reason, to the extent that the balance of forces decides that what should prevail are the interests and values ​​of the popular masses (that is, of the working classes), the national revolution will move towards corresponding, structurally and dynamically, , to its new gravitational axis. This impulse was due to the need to root out neocolonialism at all levels (that of imperialist domination and that of the Cuban bourgeois classes). However, by going so far and so deep, he detaches the national revolution from “bourgeois idealism”, from liberalism, from constitutional and representative democracy. And it reverses the predominant tendency of the XNUMXth century: the class content of the national revolution would come from the bottom up, that is, from the popular masses, from the humble and exploiters, from the organized sectors of the working classes.

As a result, the national revolution ceases to be a purely political revolution (building a “sovereign”, national and “independent” state domination apparatus). It dissociates itself – this after the guerrillas shared power with radical sectors of the bourgeoisie – according to growing and fast rhythms, from the bourgeois impregnation of defense and consolidation of a so desired competitive social order. The historical experience with the competitive social order had been catastrophic: it had led Cuba to the economic, social and political impasse that dramatically took shape in the 1950s and was so vividly denounced by Fidel Castro. For the bourgeoisie to be able to impose a revolution against order through capitalism, it would need to preserve its strategic positions of class domination. The plebs had no fundamental links with the competitive social order and the acceleration of the national revolution led them to conquer a new composition, which would result in the hegemony of the working class. For the first time in the history of Latin America, a national revolution failed to dissociate the national element from the democratic element, and when it won, the idea of ​​the Nation dragged with it the construction of an entirely new and socialist social order.

It is risky to attempt a global sociological interpretation of the Cuban Revolution. Not because she's too close. But because the sociological investigation of neocolonial society is still insufficient. There is, moreover, the disadvantage that some of the best descriptions and interpretations have absorbed too many models or assumptions of autonomous capitalist development, which places the perspective of interpretation that I subscribe to, which is more rigorous in terms of the specificity of the concrete situation, under suspicion of partiality. Despite everything – from this perspective and taking into account the end of this period, which goes from the 1930s to the first year of the 1960s – I would like to, seeking “unity in the diverse”, give a balance on the superposition, mismatches and interpenetration of structural alterations (here described in terms of the passage from the neocolonial social order to a new competitive social order, which was in process, but ended up crumbling) and of historical transformations (focused here in terms of the performance of personalities, groups and political currents, that changed the course of that process and created an unforeseen alternative for the outcome of struggles against tyranny, imperialism and for national autonomy). Undoubtedly, structural alterations are also History (in-depth and long-term history); and historical transformations, when they affect the collective behavior and the “destiny” of a national society, are also structural (the structures in emergence and formation, which, in the Cuban case, reveal a shift due to the “revolution within the revolution”: the leap from capitalism to socialism). The importance of maintaining distinctions appears at the level of consideration of the object – the degree of rational or objective awareness reached by individuals, groups or social classes in conflict of ongoing processes; and, additionally, at the level of interpretation. If we do not resort to the deepest level, paradoxically, we will be unable to understand the revolutionary situation that was formed within the neocolonial social order and served as a kind of escalator of the true revolution, which was incubated in the facts and in the social conscience, but which only fully revealed itself from the historical advances that occurred until the constitution of the Urrutia government and its fall.

One thing could be said: the capitalist form of production, with its pattern of population composition, and relative expansion of the class regime and its political requirements, had gone too far to fit into the framework of the social and neocolonial order. This, after the crises of the 1920s and 1930s and, mainly, the recovery of the levels reached by the productive forces, had become a true straitjacket for capitalist development. All the fuss caused by the “disorganization” of the economy or the “chaos” of society should be seen from this perspective. Economic, social and political forces did not find ways of expression and regulation – what K. Mannheim formulated it as disciplining and structuring; even if capitalism preserved it, the emerging forces demanded the national space they were deprived of (that is, in other words: the neocolonial order blocked said forces, preventing the spontaneous and natural emergence of a sufficiently differentiated competitive social order, integrated and dynamic to respond to “the demands of the situation”). Therefore, the vitality of these forces – already in the conditions that marked the fall of the Machado dictatorship – underlines something evident: both at the level of the bourgeoisie and at the level of the working class, irremediable contradictions were established (which would incessantly worsen afterwards) with the neocolonial model of capitalist development. This had run out and to the extent that it was perpetuated, by imperialist pressure, by resistance to change by privileged classes or by the static reproduction of order (a very strong “inertia” force in prolonged or permanent neocolonial situations) it created a kind of historical hiatus. (the ineffective validity of the neocolonial order, which was supposed to disappear, but survived in contrast to the need for a more complex social order, partially present in many production and market relations, but which could not grow and become universal). All of this gave a false impression of institutionalized disorder or invincible chaos. What there was, in fact, was an extreme duration and an extreme deepening of the transient disorder, intrinsic to progressive social change (in the language of many authors, the so-called “structural change”). No society can withstand this situation without severe internal upheavals and an appearance of “final catastrophe”. A social order too weak to control economic crises, social anomie and political violence, so rich in artifices to exploit them all and, therefore, to aggravate them normally, when it disintegrated it exposed them to a paroxysmal cycle. My invitation, therefore, is to rethink the dilemma of the transition from the neocolonial social order to the competitive social order. It was not just the imperialist center that “braked the car”. The bourgeois classes had no way to change gears, first, and to take off, later; the straitjacket of the neocolonial social order hampered them, while the whole of society was shaken from top to bottom by the forces that were born of its economic, demographic and cultural growth. Consequently, the emergence of the competitive social order found obstacles where it should have found stimuli and the dominant classes – internal and external – began to act against themselves and their situations of interests, thinking that they were defending “capitalist development”. In short, there is a fully configured explosive revolutionary situation. A revolutionary situation that would not need to get worse if it could be resolved through a revolution within the order (that is, as a capitalist transformation within the capitalist transformation, through the absorption of colonial structures and functions by the dynamic national element). That story was out of reach in Cuba (although it has been repeated in so many places).

The revolutionary situation indicated was already in place, with all the structural and dynamic elements that made it cyclical, during the overthrow of Machado and in the subsequent attempts at reconstruction, which failed in a complex way. There is the historical path of the latent growth of this situation, until its climax and outcome in the 1950s. What should interest us here are the aspects linked to class relations and conflicts, which allow us to understand, on the one hand, why the transition from the neocolonial social order to the competitive social order was impossible and, on the other hand, because the revolutionary situation itself was led to the solution of the stalemate by civil war. From an extreme and superficial historical perspective, all this evolution can be ignored. The struggle against Batista takes center stage and the defeat of imperialism appears as a consequence. However, if one goes deep into the contradictions that worked (or moved) that revolutionary situation, one discovers: (1) that its raison d'être was not the “impotence of the bourgeoisie”, but the unfeasibility, under Cuban conditions, of the social order neocolonial and the impossibility of achieving within it, a capitalist transformation of existing capitalism; (2) that historical processes would quickly shift the gravitational axis of this revolutionary situation from the unfeasible capitalist transformation to the construction of a social order that broke at all points with the past and with the present, converting national liberation, anti-imperialism and the democratic revolution at the backbone of the birth of new social forms of production, organization of society and ordering of the State. When activated, in short, decolonization broke with what had become a capitalist straitjacket and imprinted on the revolutionary situation the rhythms and targets of the proletarian revolutions of the XNUMXth century.

To clarify this global picture, it is necessary to consider some central aspects of class relations and conflicts. On the one hand, how these relationships and conflicts were reflected in the composition and functioning of bourgeois domination. On the other hand, how and why opposition to the neocolonial order reached the proportions of a social revolution, despite the inconsistencies and weaknesses of the class regime (and perhaps for this very reason, since if it were more consolidated, solutions against the existing order would find other ways). obstacles and difficulties, including at the level of linking the popular masses and the working classes with various known forms of embourgeoisamento).

On the plane of bourgeois domination three contradictory elements operated. First, the hegemonic element, intrinsic to US interests and imperialism. Despite the sectoral divergences and despite certain changes that occurred in economic control, with the appearance of new areas of investment and industrial production, imperialism contained the North American impetus to modernize Cuba within neocolonial limits. Concessions were made, such as the extinction of the Platt Amendment (in 1934) or the recompositions that emerged in the sugar business. But the scheme of systematic and universal interference was preserved intact, both at the economic level, as well as at the cultural and political levels. Therefore, this powerful pole, due to its decisive importance in capital inflows, technology transfer and capitalist growth flows, constituted the dynamic factor of the impasse, since it was what prevented, in fact, the collapse of the neocolonial social order and which it stifled the potential for expansion of the competitive social order in Cuba (which required a “revolution within the order” feared and blocked, above all, from the outside). Unlike Spain, the United States did not give ground and maintained its position of power in a determined way (and even with evident political myopia). Second, the “local” (or internal) capitalist interests that, allegorically, could be said to be involved in the Cubanization of capitalist development. This pole held considerable economic and social power, as it encompassed various types of businesses (among which were either two relatively active sectors, such as landowners committed to the recovery of the mills and the settlers). He suffered, however, from a double paralysis. On the one hand, he was divided on imperialism and on the revolutionary caliber of the nationalist movement. On the other hand, it did not have a material and social base strong enough to extinguish the crop of dictatorial and corrupt governments typical of the agony of the intervened Republic. In the hypothesis of a long period of economic, social and political stability, he could advance from within, achieving the gradual Cubanization of capitalist development (commanding the growth of the competitive social order). A vicious circle was therefore created: this pole needed capitalist development to reinforce its position and, in fact, its greater relative autonomy constituted a prerequisite for the Cubanization of capitalist development. Economic stagnation and social instability cut this path at the root, shifting the orbit of the nationalist movement away from the field of the “forces of order”. This pole was not neutralized, but lost real power and only actively contributed to the destabilization of the current regime through some of its most radical and nationalist sectors. It lacked what could be described as a “bloc movement”, which resulted in the loss of the historic opportunity that was open, albeit weakly, to the Cuban bourgeoisie. Third, the entire mass of Cuban capitalist interests, spread across the various sectors of the economy and society, which oscillated between a strong pro-imperialist bias and self-protective withdrawal. This was the pole most hated by revolutionaries, whatever their ideological identification or their nationalist fervor. Corruption without mysteries, reactionary opportunism, indifference to the situation of national calamity in Cuba, blind conservatism, etc., prevailed in it. However, as a result of passive gravitation, those with a weak or apathetic capitalist spirit also counted in it (they had so little confidence in a possible Cubanization of capitalist development that they preferred to block almost 500 million dollars, between investments in the United States and hoarding). . They could “sympathetically” see the radiations of nationalism and the cause of democracy, but they omitted and indirectly reinforced what was left of the compradore bourgeoisie.

This general overview indicates two things. Bourgeois domination was broken in structural terms. Imperialism was not just a “political issue”. It defined the orientation of bourgeois domination and constituted its center of gravity, not from the outside, but from the inside, from where it blocked the initiative of the possessing classes, mainly at the level of their dominant strata. Thereby, the liquidation of the status quo it became impossible and capitalist development was magnetized to neocolonial conditions, which needed to be overcome and destroyed by the bourgeois classes. The social order, which had ceased to respond to the demands of the historical situation, was preserved to the detriment of Cuba as a whole and to the detriment of sectors of the Cuban bourgeoisie that could lead a faster implementation of the Cubanization of capitalist development. Furthermore, bourgeois domination was also divided in terms of the situations of interests and values ​​of the Cuban bourgeois classes themselves. It had neither unity nor firmness and effectiveness – which removed from the possessing classes and their dominant strata the possibility of seeing themselves converted into a dynamic nucleus of disintegration of the neocolonial social order and acceleration of the internal growth of the competitive social order. This process unfolded and accelerated, therefore, above and against what the national bourgeoisie could wish or prefer. There was a concrete historical opportunity (including in terms of self-defense and the “demands of the situation”, since since the overthrow of the Machado dictatorship, political instability had begun to undermine the economic bases of class domination by the bourgeoisie). This opportunity, however, could not be seized by the bourgeoisie, which raises, not the question of the “impotence of the Cuban bourgeoisie”, but that of knowing: for which classes or sectors of classes did that historic opportunity arise? The bourgeois classes should break free and violently oppose the neocolonial conditions of capitalist development, at the forefront of a political revolution against the existing order. Not realizing this transformation, they continued to be the bourgeois classes that built and maintained neocolonialism with their own hands. How could they arise and act as revolutionary classes? From this angle, not even the United States moved forward to provide the Cuban bourgeoisie with economic and political space to carry out a revolution within the order, through which the competitive social order could come out of hibernation. Not even the bourgeois classes in Cuba had the conditions and means to become revolutionary at the level of depth that was spontaneously imposed, which demanded that they “risk everything” in exchange for something that looked like a utopia or a “dream”. What is essential, therefore, is not how divided the Cuban bourgeoisie was internally, but the fact that it preferred temporization as a technique.

On the opposition level there was a symmetric historical-social and political fragmentation. The elements that came out of the possessing classes – from their upper, middle and lower strata – found themselves divided by interests, values ​​and ideological and political options. In these sectors, the radical patriotism of the settlers, for example, had the only thing in common with the nationalism of socialist or ultra-radical currents was the independentist elan of anti-imperialism. What the colonists wanted was a kind of purification of order, as the most extreme champions of the consolidation of the competitive social order (in short, they wanted all the advantages of capitalist development, without the suffocating presence and obstacles of the North Americans). The socialist and ultra-radical currents brought, through university youth, intellectuals or the Catholic left, the deepest and purest breath of nationalist utopias. However, their moving sacrifices did not remove them from a desperate relative isolation, which led them to moral revolt and extremism, increasingly divorced from the revolutionary situation from which they emerged and from their own bourgeois condition. In turn, the mass movements were linked to the working classes and drew their dynamics from the deeper structural processes, through which strikes, the struggle for freedom, democracy and working conditions, etc. made them active in the breakdown of the neocolonial social order and the simultaneous expansion of the competitive social order. They responded to a nationalist and anti-imperialist stance, but it did not provide them with a revolutionary ethic. Their flags were in strategic claims that demanded the presence of a strong bourgeoisie and that, in the absence of a revolution within the order, compelled the working classes and their historical targets to move increasingly to the left. Nevertheless, they would have to be the alpha and omega of any solution, capitalist or anti-capitalist, and their demands both accelerated the disintegration of the existing order and caused the forces working within the revolutionary situation to oscillate, increasing its instability and lability.

This sketch makes it clear that the difficulty of a decisive evolution also existed in the radical area of ​​the bourgeois sectors and in the most organized and active nucleus of the working classes. It must be noted that the “immobilism” of the bourgeoisie did not proceed from lack of action. But the inability to break head-on and once and for all with the neocolonial social order. Well, the same thing would end up happening in the opposition, in which the excess of dispersive action fragmented and weakened the struggle against the existing order. The opposition was a consortium: by becoming politically active, it tended to provoke the opposite of what it intended, that is, it contributed to strengthen the static reproduction of that order. The dictatorial government and US interests, Cubans more or less favorable to neocolonialism, gained greater historical space to act reactionarily or counterrevolutionarily, in the name of defending customs, order or property and law. However, the divisions that flourished were not paralyzing. Unlike bourgeois domination, the opposition against dictatorship and imperialism could seize the historic opportunity, although the question was how and to what extent? Without a minimum of political unification, this advance would be impossible and, as far as we know, historical contradictions do not automatically resolve themselves.

This impasse was broken thanks to three elements. First, the constant spontaneous aggravation of the revolutionary situation (those who persist in ignoring this component, because it was intrinsically capitalist and was underestimated, fail to understand that the guerrillas did not create “other Cubas” because it was out of their power to engender the very situation in which they were). it would become revolutionary operational). The aggravation was born from several different foci. Most important were radical bottom-up pressures from workers and widespread popular dissatisfaction. The situation of interests and values ​​of the working classes (contrary to what happened with those of the bourgeoisie), in that historical period, tended towards unification and the tactics of pressure on all fronts. For the working classes, bourgeois domination was class domination. It did not matter who in the bourgeoisie was on which side, and imperialist interference only aggravated the existing exasperation and made the bourgeoisie as a whole more vulnerable. When the imperialist element penetrated the class conflict, for the most organized and strong sector of workers what came into question was the hegemonic component of bourgeois domination. Therefore, it is from the bottom up, from the working classes and the poor population that the main disintegrating force of order comes, the invisible solvent and the basic factor in the deterioration of the real power of the bourgeoisie and its governments. Demands were put forward and answered with tenacity and increasing violence, forcing the bourgeoisie to shrink back and show its inability to conduct the necessary capitalist transformation of capitalism, without advancing in the same direction as the working classes and the poor population. Consequently, it is this anonymous but massive and constantly growing pressure that changes the quality of the revolutionary situation and makes it go beyond the framework of capitalism and the class action of the bourgeoisie. Eventually the question of overthrowing the existing order became a political question of a military nature. The neocolonial order was already practically destroyed and maintained for a long time. duress machine, which needed to be challenged and defeated. What is essential, in this context, is not how the “replacement of generations” was supposed in the 1930s and in the struggles against Machado's dictatorship. But the specifically revolutionary impetus of the forces that suffered the most destructive and inhuman consequences of the neocolonial social order. The expansion of the class regime was linked to the expansion of capitalism, which, in Cuba, could only occur through a new model of capitalist development. If this were not possible, class struggles would have to move quickly to another terrain and redefine themselves according to a new historical axis, in which the working classes and the poor mass of the population appeared as bearers of real revolutionary power.

The second element is what functioned, over several decades, as the “powder keg” of Cuban society. Not just the younger generations, their national idealism and political radicalism, but the deliberate and desperate uprooting of young people who repudiated a whole lifestyle and power they knew inside. Many would stop the rupture within the revolutionary situation that was configured as “Cuba for the Cubans”. Others jumped right out of these limits and saw that anti-imperialism demanded, as something inevitable, anti-capitalism: one could not take a historic leap without the other and, therefore, it was imperative to go straight to the libertarian and socialist conception of national liberation. Now, a generation that had cut itself off from its class and its class ideology had ended up being free to do one thing or another. What is fundamental: in the case of Cuba, this process has been visible since the struggles of the 1930s. However, as the breakdown of the neocolonial social order completes itself and the working classes move from revolution within the order to revolution against the order, the political socialization of the young radical undergoes a transmutation. He catches that potentiality still in its larval state and advances through it. Consequently, the young radical will be an exemplary protagonist: he will be the seismograph of the successive changes in the revolutionary situation and the spokesman for the specifically revolutionary classes and strata of classes in Cuban society. At first, this advance takes place in a historical void. Apparently, the working classes and the “humble” did not respond in kind. As a historical phenomenon, however, this impregnation is indeed crucial. Nationalist idealism and anti-imperialism are projected downwards and into the background, coming to the fore recast in terms of the economic, social and political demands of a revolution of all of Cuban society. In other words, uprooting had ceased to exist and had given way to an objective and intransigent revolutionary conscience, willing to go as far as possible to convert Cuba into a national society, within capitalism or against it. Then the historical void dissipated. The military success of the young rebels, from the end of 1957 onwards, left the political field open for the outbreak of repressed revolutionary forces in the confines of Cuban society. The working classes and the humble were displaced to the condition of a mobilized and militant rearguard. The climax of the political socialization produced is then reached and the revolutionary consciousness of the young rebel translates not only the demands of the “national revolution” and the “anti-imperialist struggle”, but the consciousness of the working class itself, which emerges as the revolutionary class. , and its real power, popular power. To understand how much the rebellious sector of the young generation altered the quality of the pre-existing revolutionary situation, it is necessary to go back to 1959, the year in which the meaning of the relations between class, generation and revolution in Cuba is also completely unveiled. The “revolution within the order” evaporates forever.

The third element is guerrilla warfare, the ingredient through which the house of cards and illusions was dismantled. It emerged at an advanced stage of the decomposition of neocolonial society, when it was already politically clear that the “revolution within the order” was nothing more than a good intention and that the reality was the permanent survival of neocolonialism. Therefore, it does not appear as a fiat. It attaches itself to that revolutionary situation as a political necessity and as the final resource to make its collapse evident. Also for this reason, it is the armed wing of a political movement (the 26th of July Movement), which was its link with all classes and with the revolutionary political effervescence of Cuban society. The guerrillas grew beyond what would be needed if the rebellion were to be contained at the bourgeois level. However, the Cuban Revolution had a historical level of its own: it would not stop short of final and total decolonization. This is what gave the guerrillas and the guerrillas a dense body politic. They ended up concentrating and representing this historical need, through which their anti-imperialism broke free from bourgeois tutelage and their nationalism united with the revolutionary impetus of the working classes and the “humble”. At first, just by its possibility of existence, it attested to the degree of depth of the revolutionary situation that prevailed in Cuba. The dictatorship could not hinder either its implantation or its transformation into the Rebel Army: which meant both that the neocolonial order was in agony and that the bourgeois forces had lost any possibility of containing the national revolution “within the order”. Soon after, as soon as it consolidated itself militarily and politically, the guerrillas shifted the order's balance axis, shifting it from the minority to the majority and emerging, itself, as an artificer and mediator of popular power. Therefore, she and her victory unleashed the true revolutionary component of the Cuban Revolution. By creating a historic space for the manifestation and affirmation of the working classes and the poor population, it took the revolutionary situation to the extreme limit and laid the political foundations for its overcoming by socialism.

This picture is very summary. However, it reveals that the Cuban Revolution did not occur by accident. The “impotence of the bourgeoisie” and the revolutionary role of the Young Rebels have already been highlighted. However, the crippling of the United States, victimized by a bad habit, is not secondary. They limited themselves to intervening and collaborating through the appointed government (exactly at the moment when the intervened Republic reached its final collapse!). And, in particular, the revolutionary situation is not secondary, which arose from a neocolonial social order in crisis, disintegration and on the verge of collapse, and grew against the order thanks to the organizational and protest capacity of the working classes and popular masses in Cuba . Finally, without its engagement with the liberation of the working class, the political significance of guerrilla warfare would be much less. There was a secular storage or accumulation of social forces in Cuban society. The Revolution is the product of all these forces, which have not disappeared throughout history. They concentrated and exploded in the middle of the XNUMXth century, signaling that through Cuba the Americas participate in revolutions open to the future.

*Florestan Fernandes (1920-1995) was professor emeritus at FFLCH-USP, professor at PUC-SP and federal deputy for the PT. Author, among other books, of The bourgeois revolution in Brazil (Countercurrent).

Originally published in the magazine Encounters with Brazilian Civilization 18, in December 1979.

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