Without a shift towards greater “working class control” in Cuba, “capitalism will be restored”, according to Southwark Socialist Party branch secretary Magnus Dewsbury.
Speaking at a meeting at Goldsmiths, University of London, in New Cross, on the legacy of Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution, Dewsbury argued for a change in the nature of Cuba’s socialism and called for an end to the “creeping privatisation” of Cuba’s economy.
“If you had a different planned economy, where you had proper working class control and democracy, then people would be able to plan the economy as needed. It can never work when a very small minority dictating in a top-down way, who never really experience the effects themselves of the failings of their edicts.”
Also under discussion was Raul Castro’s leadership, and the future of Cuba – one of the only planned economies left – following the recent thawing in relations between the USA and Cuba.
“We’ve got a period of capitalist crisis,” said Dewsbury, “Twenty–five years of peoples’ experience of untroubled neoliberalism with no other real concept of alternative, but people are starting to fight back. We’re seeing that all over the world now.”
Even so, and despite the likely prospect of a Donald Trump presidency promising a less conciliatory American approach, Dewsbury conceded: “Without a shift towards… working class control, then I think capitalism will be restored.”
Dewsbury acknowledged that some criticisms of Castro were accurate and justified, before arguing: “it is nevertheless hard to stomach when you read it, because these same people making these attacks on Castro had no problem with Pinochet in Chile and a whole host of other Latin American strongmen when they served the interests of capitalism.”
“The attacks on Castro are not really about his dictatorship. It’s really an attack on the ideas of socialism and an attack on Cuba.”
Dewsbury was quick to acknowledge the nature of Cuba’s revolution was not conducive to democratic socialism. Moreover, despite popular opinion, in the beginning Castro was not a staunch socialist, but rather saw himself as a liberating hero in the mould of the Spanish defeating 1800s figure José Martí.
“The working class was only ever given an auxiliary role. They did not lead the revolution, and it was not working class organisations that brought about the revolutionary process,” Dewsbury said.
“So we would say that because of that, you never really had in place the kind of working class structures in order to develop a functioning democratic socialist society.”
“Castro never had a socialist outlook” growing up, Dewsbury argued, “But then, as events developed, especially with the movement of the masses onto the scene, it put a great deal of pressure on the leadership, it pushed them towards the Left”
Dewsbury sees the advice of Castro to other socialist leaders in the Americas as proof of this. When instructing Hugo Chavez of Venezuela on how to win control as a socialist party, Castro told Chavez to open a dialogue with the ruling elites and take an accommodative approach. Dewsbury says this was a “crazy position.”
Ultimately, his approach toward Chavez showed “he did not have a conception of the working class being the necessary agents of change for a socialist revolution.”