Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Castro: Latin American Nationalist (2017)

From the January 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard

On 26 November Fidel Castro, one of the oldest dictators in Latin America, died. The announcement of his death was made by his brother Raul Castro on state television. His death was celebrated by the opponents of the government of Cuba in Miami in Florida, and it was also taken as sad news by many of the Latin America Leftists and supporters of the Cuban regime.

In 1959 Fidel Castro, Raul Castro, and Che Guevara were part of an armed rebellion which provoked the overthrow of the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, a government backed by the US for several years. Then, part of the ruling elite of Cuba shifted toward the support of the guerrillas who were fighting in the Sierra Maestra against the Cuban military forces.

After their victory, Fidel Castro and the Communist Party of Cuba initiated the nationalization of all the US holdings and assets, and all private land was taken over by the state. The US declared an embargo on the island.

Castro declared himself a ‘Marxist-Leninist’ and entered a relationship with the Soviet Union, and established a form of state capitalism like the one established by the Bolsheviks, and called it socialism. In a country where agriculture prevailed over industrial production, sugar was the main production that existed in the whole country, and most of the workers were peasants and did not have any socialist consciousness. The level of illiteracy was high in the rural areas of the country. The economic backwardness was as in most of the countries of Latin America

After the defeat of the invasion of the Bay of Pigs which was financed by the US and backed by the CIA, and, at the peak of the Cold War period after the 1962 missile crisis during the government of John F Kennedy in the USA, and Nikita Khrushchev in the Soviet Union, an accord of no intervention was signed between the US and the Soviet Union.

Several social and economic reform programmes were implemented such as state-run medical services, public transportation, and public education. A large programme of education was initiated throughout the country,  

A long period of stagnation, poverty, and scarcity began. While the government blamed this on the embargo imposed by the US, they never recognized that so-called socialism in one country was an impossibility and that despite collaboration with the Soviet Union, which also proclaimed itself a socialist country, the economic laws of capitalism prevailed in the country. Most of the followers of Cuban ‘socialism’ in Latin America blamed Cuba’s problems simply on the US embargo, and never recognized the class character of the ruling elite, and the economical exploitation of the Cuban workers.

For many years, the Latin American left proclaimed Fidel Castro as the leader and commander in chief of the Cuban revolution, and a bastion of socialism in that region where many guerrilla groups were financed by Cuba on behalf of the Soviet Union during the period of the Cold War. Most of those groups were defeated by the military forces of several Latin American countries.

The whole region of Latin America is a clear indication that socialism cannot be established by a small group of armed individuals. The great majority of the class-conscious-less workers never gave support to any of these groups, including the guerrillas of Manolo Tavarez Justo, and the invasion of Francisco Caamano in the Dominican Republic, who at the end did not obtain the support of Fidel Castro and the Cuban Government. In the same manner Che Guevara did not receive any support from the Communist Party of Bolivia.

Che Guevara was assassinated in Bolivia trying to obtain the support of the peasants to carry out the same revolt that took place in Cuba in 1959, and the guerrillas that accompanied him were killed or imprisoned. Within the Cuban leadership he was the only one who verbally advocated a moneyless society but after the Fidelista guerrillas took power he became the Minister of Commerce, and he was in charge of the Central Bank of Cuba, which contradicted his aspiration for a socialist society without money.

Despite their socialist and Marxist rhetoric and phraseology none of the leaders of the Cuban revolution including Fidel Castro ever had a real conception of what a socialist society should be. Most of the speeches and writings of Fidel Castro show that he was an apologist of Latin American Nationalism and later representative of the struggle of the Latin American capitalist class to liberate themselves from the influence of the US capitalist, like Domingo Peron in Argentina, and Ernesto Cardenas in Mexico, and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

The case of Cuba is a living example of what the Socialist Party and the companion parties of the World Socialist Movement have indicated for many years, which is that socialism cannot be established in one single country, and that it must be established in a world scale by the vast socialistically conscious majority of the workers, and that socialism cannot be established in an economical backward society to be a free access society. That is the reason why the Cuban regime had to initiate a rationing programme with the excuse to create equality among the workers, while the ruling elite enjoyed all kinds of privileges and benefits.

Good work in Manchester (1950)

Party News from the August 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

During the visit of the Provincial Propagandist to Manchester, our outdoor propaganda increased, from what could be described as a struggle to express ourselves, to a point whence from day to day the case for Socialism was put before the workers of Manchester. Our main speaking site is in the centre of the city and for a change, the workers who usually spend their staggered lunch hours listening to street traders and strong arm men, heard the party’s case, acquired useful political knowledge and were made to realise how little they really understood the world in which they live. After a week or two on this site, the laughs which greeted our attempts to expound Socialism, the arguments that we were utopian dreamers, or too advanced, began to change, the audience were interested, discussions became lively and questions began to show that our case was being thought about and that the literature sales were having effect. The importance of this site should not be under estimated as these lunch hour meetings served workers from all the suburbs of Manchester. In addition to these excellent meetings and others which were held on our normal sites, the large industrial concern of Metropolitan Vickers was given a treat, speaking sites which had gone in to disuse owing to lack of speaking strength, were again opened up with success, efforts were made to revive Eccles. where, although the audiences were small, literature sales were good and it was thought that given time a reasonably good hearing could be obtained. One Sunday evening, one could hear the case for Socialism being expounded in Eccles. a bus ride into Manchester the same thing was happening, and again on the other side of the city, in Platt Fields, this vital propaganda was in progress. It really did seem that the workers would waken up under such bombardment. As an experiment Liverpool was tried on a Saturday afternoon and the large audiences of 300 to 500 and literature sales of approximately 14/- gave promise for the near future.

In all 50 meetings were held including two indoors, one of which was held to round off the month’s propaganda. £8 of literature was disposed of, including 32 dozen Standards, and collections, which were not often taken, amounted to £2 15s. Od. There is no question on the grounds of literature sales and though it is hard to measure to what extent socialist knowledge was acquired by people hitherto unfamiliar with our case, we certainly upset the Labour Party supporters and the Stalin idolisers and even the religious meetings increased to combat the dreadful spread of materialism. If anything, a month is far too short, but the least we of the Manchester branch can do is to make every effort to continue with the excellent work put in by the part time organisers. That along with our new methods of door to door canvassing, which is showing excellent results will, we hope, bring into being new branches in this area and help to fill in those blank spaces between here and London.
A. G. Atkinson.
Propaganda Organiser.
Manchester Branch.

Interpreting Shakespeare (1950)

Book Review from the February 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

New books on the life, works and ideas of Shakespeare are continually added to the enormous literature on the subject. Recent additions have included Ivor Brown's "Shakespeare," Duff-Cooper's “Sergeant Shakespeare" (in which it is suggested that be must have served in the army to have gained his familiarity with military matters), and a reprint of Hesketh Pearson's lively and entertaining "Shakespeare" that Ivor Brown catalogues under the heading "Imaginative.” Pearson seeks to interpret Shakespeare’s writings in the light of political and other happenings at the time, and of Shakespeare's likely reactions to them. Writing during the recent war when, as Pearson puts it, the world had before its eyes in the persons of Hitler, Mussolini, etc., a large number of modem Julius Caesars. Pearson claims that Shakespeare, with a similar example to study at first hand in Queen Elizabeth, had a much better understanding of Caesar and of all dictators than is shown by G. B. Shaw in his idealised version of the ancient Roman dictator.

But for Socialists a much more profitable study is "Shakespeare—A Marxist Interpretation,” a short work by A. A. Smirnov, translated from the Russian and published in 1937 by the “Critics Group” (96, Fifth Avenue. New York).

Smirnov set out to relate Shakespeare's views to the basic economic and political changes and class struggles taking place in the 16th century.

He argues alike against those who see Shakespeare as "the ideologist of the feudal aristocracy” as against those who see him as "the ideologist of that section of the nobility which was acquiring bourgeois trappings.” To Smirnov, “Shakespeare was the humanist ideologist of the bourgeoisie, the exponent of the program advanced by them, when, in the name of humanity. they first challenged the feudal order, but which they later disavowed ” (Pages 92 and 93). According to this interpretation, which Smirnov supports with many quotations from the plays, Shakespeare in the early years portrayed in a favourable light the absolutist monarchy needed by rising Capitalism as a protection against the warring feudal barons. Later, that need became less urgent, the Monarchy and Court degenerated and leaned towards feudal reaction, and at the same time the narrow Puritan group emerged as a representation of capitalist interests and outlook.

Then Shakespeare, who was particularly antagonised by the Puritan hostility to the theatre, found himself, like other "humanists,” faced with the dilemma of the contrast between early bourgeois ideals and the sordid money-grubbing of the bourgeois way of life. To some extent he then "surrendered his former position and yielded to the taste of the reactionary aristocracy which held such triumphant sway over the London stage in 1610.” (P. 85.)

The evidence adduced by Smirnov is necessarily partly speculative and may or may not convince the reader; but those who follow his argument will at any rate appreciate that here is a serious study worth many of the more usual superficial interpretations.

It is not made clear whether Smirnov is, or was. a supporter of the Stalin regime in Russia and he wrote very guardedly when expressing dissent from views on Shakespeare held by some Soviet writers. But one of his tributes to Shakespeare would certainly now give offence to Stalin worshippers. He praises Shakespeare for having had the insight to realise "three centuries before the appearance of scientific history,” that the battle of Agincourt was not won by “a little group of well-born heroes, but by the English soldiers.” If Shakespeare lived in Russia now and wrote plays dealing with the war he would have to reshape his ideas and become a groveller. He would have to pay slavish tribute to "the great leader and supreme commander of genius. Generalissimo of the Soviet Union. Stalin." “the greatest man of our planet." "creator of Soviet military science.” etc., etc.
Edgar Hardcastle