Notes on the ideology of the Cuban Revolution
Our ideology is defined by the guiding principles of Cuba’s struggle for national liberation and social justice, on the development of our own thought, characterized, as Martí explained, by placing universal thought within the unique, Cuban context
I believe that what can give coherence to cultural, political and ideological work is a definition of the ideology of the Cuban Revolution.
Our ideology is based on the guiding principles of Cuba’s national liberation and social emancipation processes; on the development of our own thought characterized, as pointed out by José Martí, by placing universal thought within a relative, singular context, according to the specific demands of Cuba’s reality.
Fidel Castro, deeply knowledgeable of Marti’s thought, was the architect of the Cuban revolutionary project and the person who gave it, in praxis and in his dialectical thought, both universal and particular content. As he stated, his contribution to revolutionary theory was uniting Marxist thought with Marti’s. It follows that the Ideology of the Cuban Revolution contains two guiding components: Cuban revolutionary thought and Marxist thought, adapted to our reality.
This combination is absolutely necessary to understand Cuba’s historical processes and current complexities, as well as those of Third World countries, which have evolved in a manner very different from that of countries in the First World. While the latter are the center of developed capitalist modernity, the former constitute the periphery, the modern world’s marginal areas.
This implies a complexity emerging from the domination and exploitation by imperialist countries which characterize sour historical evolution and the current struggles we face.
In this regard Karl Marx writes, in a letter to the Russian magazine Otiéchestviennie Zapiski, addressing N. K. Mikhailovki’s attempt to schematically extrapolate contents of Capital to the Russian reality: “At all costs he wants to convert my historical sketch on the origins of capitalism in Western Europe into a philosophical-historical theory on the general trajectory to which all peoples are unavoidably subjected, whatever the historical circumstances that affect them, to finally take shape in an economic formation which, along with an expansion of the productive forces, of social labor, ensures the development of man in each and every one of his aspects. (This shows me too great an honor and, at the same time, too much contempt.)”
The characteristics of Cuban society and its evolution are based on elements very different from those of Europe and the United States, since our lot was colonizer -colonized, slave holder-enslaved, producer of raw materials within the north-south and east-west commercial network, according to Martí, “the fulcrum of America.”
The study of this complexity and the evolution of Cuban revolutionary thought allow us to understand why in our country, an uninterrupted process of national liberation and social justice has unfolded, and converged in socialism as a consequence of class, social and ideological struggles.
The component added by Marti differentiates this socialism from that of Eastern Europe, by introducing typical Latin American contradictions and paradoxes, as well as the humanist aspect flowing from his confrontation with capitalist factors that structured a slave society, and later, a society that was dependent not only economically, but culturally, as well.
Lenin would call the Spanish-American War the first imperialist war. Martí, who knew the United States well, understood that Cuba would be decisive in the birth of U.S. imperialism, and devoted all the power of his thought and action to producing in our country the foundations of world equilibrium: “an error in Cuba is an error for America, an error for modern humanity. Whoever rises up for Cuba today, rises up for all time.”
With regard to Marxist thought, it should be noted that this theory includes three parts: historical materialism, dialectical materialism and political economy. When communicating Marxist ideas, it is important that the concept of political economy is not an economic technicality, but a vision, a method and an essentially political concept.
As far as historical materialism is concerned, it is an essentially theoretical-philosophical analysis that should not be confused with historical science, which, like all sciences, is governed by and evolves on the basis of rigorous methods and factual investigations to ensure the best possible understanding of reality. Scientific findings produce debate and abstractions that penetrate into metahistorical fields.
A fundamental concept guiding the study of specific societies is that of socio-economic formation, created by Marx, which allows the understanding of a specific economic and social complex, with an objective assessment of differences (like those between the Soviet, Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean models as compared to the Cuban, considering their historical, cultural and social evolution).This is essential to understanding contemporaneity and the richness it possesses. Even beyond the base-superstructure scheme, which Marx himself used so effectively, but should not be used casually– as is the case with any binary hypothesis. The essential feature of social-economic formation is the interrelation and interdependence of all components of a specific society, hierarchically established, to configure its unique characteristics (Engels’ parallelogram of forces). Cuban complexity thus acquires cognitive coherence.
Another important aspect is that of the class struggle. It is absolutely necessary to study firsthand the characteristics of social classes and class struggles in a specific society.
In the case of Cuba, its history is linked to the presence of slavery, in its diverse modalities -ranging from patriarchal to intensive plantation slavery – and from this to a society that replaced legal slavery with racial discrimination.
The structuring of republican society further complicated the issue of social classes. To understand this complexity, one must not only consider a class in and of itself, but also intra-class divisions, among which is racist division within the same social class.
Likewise, the influence on ideology of tastes and fashion that affect middle classes, fundamentally, which, in countries like ours, are often more a half-class than a middle class, must be taken into account.
Lenin contributed two fundamental elements to Cuban ideology: the study of the imperialist phase of capital at its birth and the state-revolution relationship, which addresses the structures of power and explains the emergence of revolutionary situations at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Marxism as revolutionary theory and practice, as well as Lenin’s contributions, must confront the current stage of capitalism – considering, for example, the difference between financial capital and speculative capital or neoliberal domination under alliances of capitalist powers which can overcome a period of inter-imperialist war.
Mastery of Marxist and Leninist theory, methods and concepts is fundamental to providing theoretical coherence to the Cuban Revolution’s ideology. Concepts that have been surpassed must be set aside, and experiences, new knowledge, contributed during the 20th century, and the 21st thus far, must be integrated.
Our ideological tools must be up to the task in current debates with new proposals being made, including the lessons learned through our experiences and the development of a political consciousness that has in José Martí and Fidel Castro its most profound and realistic creators.
Cuba’s nature as a “privileged satellite” within the U.S. imperialist expansion created an aspiration in its bourgeoisie and sectors of its middle class, linked to the symbolic dominance and prevalence, in many, of the so-called American way of life.
This was a visible influence in our society, which originated in the 19th century and was consolidated in the neocolonial period. The Cuban Revolution openly challenged this with the traditions, customs, habits, beliefs of the most genuine of the “ajiaco” (stew) that constitute the extraordinary combination we call Cuban. It has been forged over centuries. This Cuban way of being, feeling and doing, which necessarily identifies our nation, was developed by the people in confrontation with projections that surrendered to a new style of colonialism.
The subject must be addressed in depth, without over-simplifications or vulgarization, which have emerged based on improvisation, speculation, and a lack of knowledge of critical aspects of Cuban history and culture.
There are research centers, researchers, scholars who can contribute to a better understanding of Cuban ideology, which found in Marxism a method and a practice that allowed us to channel much of previous revolutionary thought, particularly that of José Martí. These are our strengths.
The person who made the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, broke with dogmas that ruled out the possibility of a revolution in Cuba succeeding, including the theory of geographic fatalism, the idea that “a revolution can be made with the army, without the army, but not against the army” and that “for a revolution to triumph in Cuba, it must first have triumphed in the United States.” He understood that change in Cuba, the road to socialism, must respond to the most pressing needs of Cuban society, and be profoundly humanist, addressing education, public health, agrarian reform, urban reform…
And moreover, it must have a vision of the future, a great humanist revolution advancing in the construction of a new socialism confronting the problems of Latin America and the Third World, with U.S. imperialism as the fundamental obstacle.
Cuban thought was also characterized by establishing, from its very beginnings, (Félix Varela, José de la Luz y Caballero, Rafael María de Mendive), the link between science, consciousness and virtue.
For the country to develop, needed were scientific thought and practice that reflected a patriotic sentiment which in turn contributed to shaping national consciousness (science to create consciousness; consciousness to do science). This was linked to ethical practices in all aspects of the country’s life. It was the Cuban school that conveyed in all social spheres the aspiration to build a new, free, humanist society, with social equality.
Overcoming the orthodoxy-heterodoxy dichotomy is key to developing a true Marxist dialectical understanding of Cuba’s evolution and reality, one that allows us to understand not only the original texts that give life to a Marxist point of view, but also to appreciate the results of the contribution of Marxist thought in the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st, their contradictions, and that which, through the praxis of the Cuban Revolution, led to e development of a revolutionary consciousness that was not only patriotic, but included identification with the revolutionary project, its specific content defining social classes and class struggle, in a country in which slavery, colonization, neocolonial restoration, the racial problem and its place in the expansion of U.S. imperialism (different in its evolution from the European empires) have shaped and given specific characteristics to the class struggle in Cuba.
Investigation of the development of the communist ranks and revolutionary sectors leads to the conclusion that, in many cases, exposure to texts fundamental to the ideology of the Cuban Revolution is absent or deficient.
Moreover, the absence of certain fundamental aspects of our revolutionary theory can be noted in a significant portion of the population.
In this regard, the formation of philosophers and intellectuals, who need to deepen and update theory, based on Cuban revolutionary practice, must be differentiated from what should be general knowledge of the classic works of the Cuban Revolution’s ideology.
I would recommend identifying a selection of readings of the most important works of the revolutionary theory and the dissemination of these works accompanied by seminars, courses and debate workshops.
Writing manuals is not advisable, given their customary structure, which necessarily reflect the opinions of their authors and reduce the richness, both literary and in content, of the classics of revolutionary thought. Additionally, students must have access to selections of readings to evaluate observations of the classics, which are not usually included in manuals.
In the development of Cuban revolutionaries, particularly communist militants, mastery of the fundamental ideas of José Martí and Fidel Castro, the constructors of Cuban revolutionary thought, is essential. A connection must be established with Marxist training, to create a dialectically linked whole.
Likewise, the works of important Cuban revolutionary thinkers should be considered, such as Felix Varela, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Ignacio Agramonte, Antonio Maceo, Máximo Gómez, Diego Vicente Tejera, Julio Antonio Mella, Antonio Guiteras, Rubén Martínez Villena, Pablo de la Torriente Brau, Juan Marinello, Carlos Rafael Rodríguez and Blas Roca, among others.
Also essential is the inclusion, within these studies, of figures who developed a knowledge-building body of thought, addressing who we are, whether in poetry or in the social sciences. Let us name here Fernando Ortiz, Nicolás Guillén, Alfredo Guevara, Roberto Fernández Retamar, and Fernando Martínez, who, along with a number of other essayists, have made an essential contribution to a better understanding of Cuban society.
A selection of works that allows for the comprehensive development of Cuban revolutionaries is needed. As a contribution to the realization of such a project, I submit the following:
Basic Library of the Cuban Revolutionary
Karl Marx: The Communist Manifesto, Eleven Theses on Feuerbach, Prologue to the Critique of Political Economy and Critique of the Gotha Program.
Friedrich Engels: The Role of Labor in the Transformation of Ape to Man.
José Martí: Selected works from Our America, on the United States; its national and international projections; the party; and the necessary war.
Vladimir I. Lenin: Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism, plus State and Revolution.
Antonio Gramsci: Selected Letters from Prison.
Julio Antonio Mella: Glosas al pensamiento martiano y selección de otros trabajos.
Antonio Guiteras Holmes: El septembrismo and Programa de la Joven Cuba.
Fidel Castro: Selection of key texts on conceptual issues from the Moncada to his mature definition of the concept of Revolution in his May 1, 2000 speech. (The Fidel Castro Center is currently working on the selected works)
Ernesto Guevara: Socialism and Man in Cuba, Letter to Fidel Castro, March 25, 1965.
Selection of texts that provide a comprehensive overview of the complexities of today’s global strategic panorama.
This selection of readings can be complemented with important works that allow a better understanding of the periods in which these classic authors wrote. Suggested readings: Marx’s biography, by Franz Mahring; Lenin’s, by Gerald Walter; Martí’s, by Jorge Mañach and Cintio Vitier; Guiteras’, by José Tabares del Real and Paco I. Taibo; Che’s, by María del Carmen Ariet and Taibo; and Fidel Castro’s, by Katiuska Blanco.
Additionally, Army General Raúl Castro and President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez have delivered speeches of special relevance to the ideological struggle and the strengthening of the Revolution’s ideology, at this time.
The most relevant speeches they delivered during Party, government, and public events, as well as Díaz-Canel’s comments on Fidel “Words to the intellectuals” and his speeches during the last Congress of the Union of Cuban Writers and Artists (Uneac), should be necessary reading, not only as a complement to the revolutionary classics, but also as key to understanding current strategies and conceptions of the battle faced today by the Cuban Revolution, on all its diverse fronts.
It is evident that the amplitude and complexity of the text selections identified as resources implies the need for adjustments in each case, taking into account the level and length of development activities in which they are used.