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Revolution advances in Cuba and Venezuela

Commentary by Sean Orr |
May 1, 2021
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Raúl Castro speaks to Eighth Congress of Communist Party of Cuba.
Raúl Castro speaks to Eighth Congress of Communist Party of Cuba.

“Let no one doubt that as long as I live, I will be ready, with a foot in the stirrup to defend the homeland, the revolution and socialism. I will continue serving as one more revolutionary fighter, ready to make my modest contribution until the end of my life.”

With these stirring words on April 17, Raúl Castro retired. A revolutionary life that began as a guerrilla commander alongside his brother Fidel and Che Guevara, the younger Castro most recently served as the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, a role which he took up in 2011 after the retirement of Fidel. He had previously served two terms as president of Cuba from 2008 to 2018, a position now currently held by Miguel Díaz-Canel.

Raúl Castro’s remarks came during the 8th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party. The party’s delegates gathered to debate, to criticize and to perfect their level of organization so as to continue the country’s socialist revolution into the future.

Appropriately, the 8th Congress began on the 60th anniversary of Fidel Castro’s rallying of the nation against imperialist attacks, during which he declared for a first time that the process underway in Cuba was “a socialist and democratic revolution of the humble, by the humble and for the humble. And for this revolution… we are ready to give our lives.” The very next day, Castro and thousands of armed Cubans confronted a U.S. invasion at the Bay of Pigs and landed a wondrous defeat of imperialism, winning against all odds their sovereignty and the right to build socialism on their own terms.

Since then, the Cuban people have carried the banner of socialism in the Western hemisphere. They struggled, suffered and persevered against all odds. In the process, they created a humane society that is more democratic and just than other nations with comparable histories and conditions.

Their constitution - rewritten and approved in 2019 after a months-long national referendum that involved millions of Cubans in a democratic endeavor never before seen in history - spells out that socialism in Cuba “is irrevocable” and that the Communist Party is “the organized vanguard of the Cuban nation” that “organizes and orients the communal forces towards the construction of socialism and its progress toward a communist society.” Socialism and the end goal of a classless society are inseparable from the achievements of Cuba, and will continue to be the goals of this nation into the future.

For decades, Cuba’s ongoing socialist revolution inspired workers, peasants, students and intellectuals around the world, but nowhere more deeply than in their own hemisphere. In urban slums and isolated villages across Central and South America, Fidel and Che can be found to have the level of veneration typically reserved for Catholic saints.

Despite these bonds of solidarity with the oppressed of the Americas, the Cuban revolution stood alone. There were attempts: Chile’s government of Popular Unity, Grenada’s New Jewel movement, Nicaragua’s Sandinista Revolution. All, like the Cuban Revolution, were expressions of the people’s desire to live and develop on their own terms. For this very reason, all were violently stopped by an imperialism fully committed to leaving Cuba isolated and encircled.

Venezuela and Cuba stand together

Finally, following the brutal time of the Special Period (when the Cuban economy underwent a dramatic restructuring to avoid total collapse following the defeat of the Soviet Union) there emerged a fraternal project to the Cuban Revolution that managed to consolidate itself - the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela.

The Bolivarian movement, led by Hugo Chávez until his death in 2013, came to power in a different manner than Fidel, Raúl and their comrades. They were elected into office in overwhelming numbers on the back of a mass movement decades in the making. Seven years after first winning office in 1999, Chávez declared socialism to be the end goal of the movement. Along with his establishment of a political organization, the United Socialist Party (PSUV), Chávez and his comrades developed a revolutionary strategy.

“To advance toward the socialist society that we want, we need to substitute the bourgeois capitalist state for a socialist state,” the PSUV declares in its statement of principles, “the concretization of which from the dialectical interaction between old organizational cells [of the state] - non-dynamic and obsolete - and new superior organizational forms like the communes, communal councils, revolutionary worker councils, etc.” To simultaneously govern the country and organize for the establishment of a parallel socialist state - this is a strategy that is certainly rife with contradictions. Yet, the governments of Chávez and Maduro advanced along this path, despite tactical setbacks in the face of imperialist aggressions.

The key to their strategy is the dialectical relationship between the Bolivarian movement - millions of workers, informal workers, farmers, mothers and students active in the trade unions, communes and other mass formations - and the Chávez and Maduro governments, themselves products of the movement. The organized expressions of the Bolivarian movement (particularly the 3000 communes across the country) are the driving force in the construction of a new socialist state - yet, their capacity to do so greatly depends upon the support of the national government, hence the absolute importance placed on electoral victories in Venezuela.

A new state rises

At the end of 2020, the Bolivarian movement won a massive majority in the National Assembly elections, returning the legislature to the needs of the Venezuelan people after five years of hard struggle. With all branches of the government now held by the Bolivarian movement, advances can now be made. Major steps can now be taken toward the establishment of a new socialist state in the Americas.

Along these lines, the National Assembly passed two laws in recent weeks - the Law of Communal Cities and the Law of the National Communal Parliament. Both laws express long-desired demands of the Bolivarian movement, and since their passage they have now gone to a “national consultation” for the people themselves to have their input on the law’s implementation.

In his last major address to the country, known as the “Strike at the Helm” speech, Hugo Chávez called for the transformation of Venezuela into a communal socialist state. He described the communes, which combine communal councils with socially-owned economic enterprises, as the “implants” of socialism within the capitalist present, and that the Bolivarian movement must “territorialize” and centralize the communes so that they can take over the functions of state now held by local, state and national governments. These two laws aim to codify this goal and open the way for its realization by the Bolivarian movement.

Communal Cities are to be established by the initiative of the people. They will encompass all communes, communal councils, housing assemblies, worker councils and other mass formations in a specific territory. These “bodies of People’s Power” will elect a parliament, an executive council, a planning council, an economic council and a social control council. Through these structures, the Communal City will not only assume the functions of municipal government, but become the space for the working class and other popular sectors to develop socially-owned productive assets and systems of distribution.

The Communal Parliament, for its part, will bring together representatives of the Communal Cities to debate and determine the development of the communal state. It will have authority over the Ministry of Communes and will serve as a legislative body of equal legal standing to the National Assembly.

In short, the Communal Cities and the Communal Parliament will be the means by which the masses can build a new world out of the ashes of the old. For years Venezuela has been ravaged by imperialist aggression, by the internal sabotage of cowardly capitalists, and now the ravages of COVID-19. Unlike in the United States - where the motto of the Biden government is a “return to normalcy” - the Venezuelan people will not return to a past that did not meet their needs. They advance now, despite it all, in full unity with their Cuban comrades.

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