Introduction by LCMRCI.
The 30th aniversary of the death of Ernesto "Che" Guevara is a very important issue for revolutionaries world-wide. In many countries he is associated with anti-imperialist rebellion. However, Trotskyists are very critical of him. On the one hand we defend his heroism against the bourgeoisie, but on the other hand we need to counterpose the strategy of permanent revolution against his left-wing variant of Stalinism.
We are reproducing an article from Lutta Operaria, paper of the International Bolshevik League. This is a Brazilian group of the Bolshevik Current for the Fourth International, a current which includes the Bolshevik Party of Argentina. Comrades of the Latin American sections of the LCMRCI (CEMICOR) had been in discussion with both groups for many years. In 1991 one of our comrades was the first foreign militant to visit the Argentinian Bolsheviks. Comrades from the LCMRCI have been in Brazil and Argentina discussion with them and also attended the founding conference of their international current.
The first article from another group published in Lutta Operaria was the declaration of our split from the LRCI. Some months ago a leader of the Brazilian group visited us and later one of our comrades was with them participating in their intervention in a union congress and in the preparation of land seizures.
We have many agreements especially with the Brazilian Bolsheviks on the question of the defence of every workers state and oppressed nation against imperialism and of the Polish workers and other anti-Stalinist non-bourgeois movements in the east against bureaucratic repression. Nevertheless, we have important differences on the attitude towards the Moscow Coup in 1991 and on the characterisation of an 'anti-capitalist' wing of the bureaucracy. Yet,we have a relationship which includes practical collaborations and mutual respect. We reprint the article below in that spirit.
However, it is important to mention that there are two points where it would appear that we are not in agreement. One is how we characterise the Cuban Revolution and the other is about the left-Stalinist character of Che.
Character of the Cuban Revolution.
In the 'Fourth Internationalist movement' there was a discussion in the early 1960's about the nature of the Cuban revolution. The International Committee (IC) refused to believe that Castro had expropriated the bourgeoisie and created a Degenerated Workers' State. The United Secretariat (USec), created in 1963, believed that Castro was pushed by the masses to create a workers' state which has some deformations. If the IC advocated a social revolution against the Castroite capitalist state, the USec thought that no political revolution was on the agenda because Che and Castro were revolutionaries who only needed some Trotskyist advice to correct their orientation.
We think that both are wrong. We think that post-revolutionary Cuba was a Degenerated Workers' State which needed straight away a new political revolution to pave the way for socialism. Castro and Che didn't lead a revolution based on workers' councils and militias. In 1959 they replaced Batista with a new bourgeois popular front regime. Under the pressure of the masses, the threats of Washington, and under the auspices of the Soviet Union (interested in creating a base close to the US), Castro and Che moved against the bourgeoisie and expropriated it.
However, the new state was quite different to the one that Lenin and Trotsky built in 1917. It was not based on workers' councils, on a workers' party or the attempt to promote workers' parties and revolutions outside the small island. Cuba joined the COMECON and copied the bureaucratic totalitarian rule of the Soviet Bloc. The planned economy was distorted by a new oligarchy interested in maintaining its national privileges against any workers' revolution. The only way to regenerate the state was through a new political revolution that would put all the power in the hands of workers' councils led by an internationalist revolutionary party.
Therefore, we don't use the term deformed workers' state in relation to Cuba because it could be confused with the Pablo-Mandelite conception that it was a revolutionary state with some deformations that only needed some reforms to make healthy.
Che as a Left-Stalinist.
We also think that Che never broke with Stalinism. He was always against building working class councils and militias, and even any form of workers' political party. He died in Bolivia, the country which had the most militant proletariat in all Latin America, without having any participation in the workers' movement. The Bolivian toilers have a very strong tradition of combative and prolonged general strikes, factory and mine armed occupations, armed battles with the army and very strong and massive organisations. The only working class in the West that was able to destroy by itself "their" national bourgeois army was the Bolivian one in 1952. Yet Guavara didn't participate at all in any of the actions or organisations of the miners, factory workers and even the peasant organisations.
Guavara's strategy was opposed to the one advocated by Trotsky in his book The Permanent Revolution. Che talked about a socialist revolution (which was more progressive than the traditional Stalinist Stageist theory). However, he never called for a PROLETARIAN revolution. His idea of a 'socialist' revolution was a multi-class upheaval controlled by an elite guerrilla army. He thought that a volutarist armed elite based in the rural and urban petite bourgeoisie could undermine the official army and could press other sections of the reformist and nationalist forces to create a new popular front with them.
Before he was in Bolivia he tried to organise a guerrila war with Kabila in the Congo. Like in the Andes he never thought it necessary to participate in the organisation and mobilisation of workers and peasants. He always tried to build a small heroic army in the mountains to harrass the army of the national bourgeoisie and create the conditions for a broader popular front.
Despite his friction with Moscow and with Castro, Guevara never broke with Stalinism. He was one of the main leaders in the creation of a new bureaucratised workers' state in Cuba and he endorsed (albeit with some criticism) the Stalinist models in the USSR and China. He participated in the repression of the small Fourth-Internationalist Workers' Revolutionary Party in Cuba. In 1959 he was in favour of a bourgeois candidate as Cuban President and later he supported different bourgeois regimes in Latin America. Guevara was quite friendly with the Brazilian governments before the military coup in 1964. Like Castro in Chile during the early 1970's, Guevara at no time called on the Brazilian workers to organise independently and against Goulart, Quadros, Brizola or other Brazilian bourgeois nationalists.
Cuba promoted guerrilla movements in Latin America as a way of undermining the regimes which supported the US blockade of the island. In the countries which were not hostile towards La Habana, Castro and Guevara were not keen to support guerrilla movements. When the Latin American regimes started to have good relations with Cuba, Castro helped them by asking the armed groups to moderate their policies or to reintegrate into the bourgeois armies.
LRCI centrist confusion.
In the last Trotskyist International, Keith Harvey published a long article on Guevara. In that article he revised the previous position of the LRCI formulated by Dave Hughes. He put the position that Guevara was a progressive centrist who was breaking with Stalinism. This position is a concession to Mandel and Moreno. Guevara had some differences with Moscow and he had some sypathies with Mao, who at that time was promoting a more hostile attitude towards US imperialism and "peaceful coexistence", and organising the "Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution".
According to The Degenerated Revolution - the original programmatic document of the LRCI now being rejected by Harvey - Mao, Tito and any other Stalinists who entered into conflict with Moscow and attacked their own bourgeoisie, were not any kind of centrists. They were described as "disobedient Stalinists" who adopted an autonomous policy towards the Kremlin in making new politically counter-revolutionary Degenerated Workers' States.
Despite the claim of some of his associates, like the Peruvian Morenoite Ricardo Napuri, that Guevara was reading some of Trotsky's books, Che never adopted any kind of strategy towards the workers' movement. A centrist is someone who oscillates between Stalinism and the workers' revolution. Guevara never flirted, even in a deformed way, with any idea of a revolution organised or based in the industrial proletariat.
The central question.
This methodological question is important for revolutionaries in Latin America and other oppressed nations. The Sandinistas or the FMLN in the 1980's, or the Colombian Coordinadora Simon Bolivar, or the Peruvian Shining Path, were never centrists. They were always a mixture of Stalinism and petite bourgeois nationalism. Like all guerrilla movements based in the rural or uban petite bourgeoisie they rejected the need for working class independence, councils, militias and revolution.
The proletariat has to defnd such petite bourgeois movements against imperialism, but also has to defend its own interests and aims against such movements. These guerrilla movement can and do attack workers' organisations. Because its violence doesn't come from or express the class interests of wage-workers it can be used against them. It is not possible to create a workers semi-state by means of a guerrilla strategy. If these armed groups are not destroyed, they can negotiate their future integration into the system. If they take power, they can maintain capitalism, or in the most radical and actually improbable circumstances, they can create new non-capitalist bureaucratic collectivised regimes.
Our sections in Latin America are fighting to build WORKERS parties for an internationalist revolution based upon workers' and peasants' councils and militias. Our strategy is in direct opposition to the one advocated by Guevarist, Maoist or other left variants of Stalinism They are in favour of petite bourgeois armed elites that will undermine the workers' organisations and that sooner or later are condemned to create new popular fronts.
So we don't think that Guevarism or Maoism are capable of fighting for the creation of "one, two, three or more workerss' states". Guevara could talk about developing new Vietnams (anti-Imperialist war scenarios). However, his strategy was incapable of building healthy workers' states and was not even a guarantee for the overthrowing of a military junta. In fact, 3 years after his death, the Bolivian workers made a massive general strike which smashed a right wing military coup and opened the way towards the creation of a semi-soviet Popular Assembly.