the most important events in the international socialist movement in 1960 took place in Cuba. And it may be that the most important event of 1961 will be the consolidation or overthrow of Cuba’s socialist revolution.
If the revolution is consolidated, then the kind of socialist society which emerges will be significantly affected by the response of socialists in the rest of the world. Can the revolution remain Cuban and “olive-green”—as Castro hoped in 1959—or must it become Comintern red? Will Castro become a be-medalled institution, like Tito, or will the leadership of the Fidelistas continue to be marked by the zest and the expansive shirt-sleeve informality which made all the other Heads of State at Lake Success look like waxworks? Can Cuba hold to a position of active neutrality—while accepting the economic and technical aid which Communist countries are willing to provide—or must she become a Communist “Formosa” off the shore of the USA? Must the libertarian and humanist values which have distinguished the Cuban revolution wilt and die in the arctic climate of Cold War realism?
The questions are all interesting. Should the answers prove favourable, then Cuba’s example will be of the very greatest importance to countries—in Latin America, Africa, Asia—where a similar combination of circumstances could lead on to a similar revolution. Moreover, Cuba’s example can shatter one of the oldest and strongest of the Cold War myths—that socialist power is synonymous with Communism, and that only under the leadership of a disciplined Communist élite is it possible to expropriate the capitalist class and to found an economy upon common ownership.
Meanwhile, there is another question, which concerns us more directly. Who are we, who are asking these questions?
If we are actors then it is time for us to act. As fellow socialists we have three duties to the Cuban revolution. First, to understand it. Second, to show effective solidarity with the Cuban people in the general course of their revolution. Third, to criticise it. But criticism must follow from, and out of, our performance of the first two duties.
Understanding. As yet, no contributors to this journal have been able to visit Cuba, and we must rely on second-hand accounts. But these come from some of our most-trusted fellow socialists: Leo Huberman and Paul Sweezy, special Monthly Review supplement, now a book, Cuba: Anatomy Of A Revolution: C. Wright Mills, Listen Yankee; Jean-Paul Sartre, whose essay is reprinted in the special Cuba Issue of New University, obtainable from The Editors, 6 New College Lane, Oxford; and the Huberman-Sweezy “Cuba Revisited” in the December Monthly Review.
These articles present no more than the bones—it is only when the flesh of human detail is added that we can see the Cuban revolution in its full originality, freshness and audacity. The genius of the revolution has been in its improvisation, and in the swiftness and flexibility of the leadership. The strength of the revolution has been in the dedicated support of the peasantry. The weaknesses and dangers are to be found in the Cold War situation, in Cuba’s lack of experienced technical and cultural personnel, and in its overdependence upon one man, Fidel Castro.