The Pope´s visit

Cuba: "Close relationships" in order to advance in the restoration [of capitalism]

April 10, 2012

By Diego Dalai

After his cynical and provocative passage through the Mexico of the murders of women and homophobia, protected by the state, Pope Joseph Ratzinger, the highest representative of the Catholic Church, a close ally of imperialism and the most reactionary and obscurantist institution on the planet, that is against the use of condoms, even in countries where AIDS is epidemic, and opposed even to therapeutic abortion, arrived in Cuba, having declared that "Marxism no longer corresponds to reality." The female comrades of Pan y Rosas of Mexico actively repudiated the presence of this sinister figure in their country.

Scarcely having arrived in Santiago de Cuba, the second-largest city of the island, he gave another clear sign of the political character of his trip, by calling on the people of Cuba to "struggle to build an open and renewed society, a better society, more worthy of man" and to go "by paths of justice, peace, freedom and reconciliation."

These short sentences clearly mark what the aim is of the Catholic Church, that Raúl Castro’s government welcomes with great honors: to consolidate and strengthen still further its role as an institution in Cuban society, to be a mainstay of capitalist restoration on the island and the bureaucracy’s privileged negotiator in the discussion of Cuba’s future. At the mass in Havana, where, in an act without precedents, hundreds of Cuban pilgrims coming from Miami attended, the highest representative of the Cuban Church, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, asked "that love and forgiveness reign among all Cubans, and that reconciliation and peace become truth." There the Pope openly asked for "religious liberty" ... even in education (currently, a single, public, and secular system)!

The Church is pressing for an economic and political opening up and for "reconciliation" with Cubans who emigrated, especially with the Cuban bourgeoisie in Miami, to accelerate the return to capitalism on the island and to end and bury the Cuban Revolution, that still, 50 years after having expropriated the capitalists and thrown out imperialism, in spite of the disasters caused by its bureaucratic leadership, continues to be a symbol for thousands of those who struggle throughout Latin America.

Negotiations between the Vatican and the Castro brothers

In the meeting between Raúl and the Pope, behind closed doors, that lasted 40 minutes, as the Vatican spokesman reported, the Pontiff declared that "the Church wants to contribute to a positive and creative climate in the period the country is living through," at the same time that he asked for "a larger opening" for the Church, so that it "can better carry out its mission."

In turn, Castro had declared that Cuba "continues changing everything that should be changed," reaffirming once more the restorationist course of the bureaucracy, expressed in the Guidelines approved at the Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party, and he greeted the "close relationships between the Holy See and Cuba." Fidel’s handshake with the Pope, described as "very cordial," was the "perfect finale," to reaffirm, in case that was necessary, the willingness of the entire bureaucracy to continue advancing along this path. It was also a sign of the more conciliatory attitude of the Holy See, that did not have such a meeting "on the agenda."

In this context, Raúl also set forth the limits of this strategy and the terms of negotiation that they seek, attacking the US for the criminal economic blockade that it has maintained for 50 years.

The Church has been multiplying its links with the leadership of the bureaucracy and has become the valid negotiator between the bureaucratic leadership (that, increasingly, grants it more prominence in Cuban political life) and imperialism. The Church even declared itself (and now Benedict XVI has confirmed it at the last minute) in favor of ending the US economic blockade, which it describes as "useless." This more conciliatory policy that Pope John Paul II inaugurated in his 1998 trip, has now allowed it to be the biggest non-governmental institution in Cuba, with real weight in national political life and even with some programs on (completely government-controlled) television. Its highest authority, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, is now a public figure nationally and internationally. Last year, through his direct mediation, he achieved the release of dozens of political prisoners, an act with few precedents in post-1959 Cuban history.

Disputes about the future of the regime

However, the Cuban government tried, as much as possible, to present the Pope’s visit as merely religious, using the commemoration of the Virgin of Cobre. The (unsuccessful) attempt to dilute the political character of the visit, was an effort to conceal the renewed activity of the "dissident" groups, that, in view of the Pontiff’s arrival, increased their masses and excursions, and even occupied a church in Havana for two days.

The Pope was cautious and did not have an interview with the so-called "dissident" groups, nor did he allude to the persecution of which they were the object at that time, with the incarceration of dozens of their members. That would have complicated the good relations with the government. But he did indeed mention "the prisoners and their relatives," and dedicated a prayer to them, a gesture of support in view of the renewed activity they displayed.

In spite of the close relationships, there are profound differences, difficult to resolve, between the bureaucracy and the Church. The discussion is about what political regime to establish on the island, in the context of the advance of capitalist restoration. The bureaucracy is trying to keep political control and the one-party regime, betting on a "Chinese way," as we have explained in other articles in La Verdad Obrera. This was confirmed at the recent National Conference of the Cuban Communist Party and shown again, now in statements by Economics Minister Murillo. But the Church and imperialism, on the contrary, want the economic reforms to go hand in hand with reforms aimed at a (bourgeois) parliamentary "democracy," that will allow them to impose the tempos and conditions of the capitalist restoration and the semi-colonization of Cuba, according to their own interests.

The policy of imperialism

Washington is reluctant to accept the bureaucracy’s plan that it should be the main agent of restoration, by keeping the monopoly of political power. Although, since the defeat of the US invasion at Playa Girón, a direct military attack has been ruled out, US imperialism has maintained a criminal economic blockade, that has now lasted for 50 years and remains intact, and it rejects a solution negotiated with Castro’s rule, despite all the appeals Raúl has made to the US in this sense, since his taking office in 2006. Even now, some imperialist groups and the "dissidents" have come out against the Pope’s visit, as did US legislators and the famous blogger Yoani Sánchez, because it would strengthen the regime. One wing of the most hardline US bourgeoisie (represented by most of the Republican Party, the Tea Party and groups of the Democratic Party) is refusing to accept the permanence of Castro’s bureaucracy in running Cuba, and that Cuba will return to capitalism with the sponsorship of those who currently govern it. They are demanding a "democratic" regime, where they can have their own parties, their own laws, their own institutions, to be able to recolonize the country and force it to go back to its old status as a brothel for the US. The most extreme expression of this is the exiled bourgeoisie in Miami, that celebrated every illness of Fidel Castro, that emphatically rejects any relaxation of the economic blockade (that in almost 50 years of existence has already caused economic losses calculated at more than 100 billion dollars), and that even asks for the physical elimination of the Castro brothers as the only way of "democratizing Cuba." Despite the fact that more lucid groups from imperialism exist, that propose negotiating a gradual and orderly restoration with the bureaucracy, that "anti-Cuban lobby" retains an enormous weight in all US institutions, from Congress to the White House. In fact, the White House goes on spending tens of millions of dollars to promote "a regime change" in Cuba.

The social situation

For years, the masses have endured a critical social situation. Monthly wages averaging 20 dollars, an ever-thinner ration book, an enormous deficit in housing, supplying water, transportation, and a pending plan for massive layoffs of state workers. The pro-market measures, with concessions to foreign "investors" and the austerity measures against the people, with which the bureaucracy is trying to unload the crisis onto the workers, are only aggravating social differences and weakening the already battered nationalized economy (called the "budgeted" sector). In this context, there is an increasing and brazen enrichment of the leaders of the bureaucracy that controls the apparatus of production (connected to foreign capitals in the mixed enterprises), who are trying to become the future bourgeois of a capitalist Cuba. In this critical setting, with growing social unrest, and with a large number of Catholic believers, the Church has undoubtedly become, after the bureaucracy, that is the main agent of the restoration, a key institution for the return to capitalism in Cuba.

A workers’ and socialist solution for Cuba

None of the groups that are on the scene (the bureaucracy, the Church, or imperialism) could be a solution for the the workers and Cuban masses. The only way to save the Cuban Revolution and to prevent the ongoing restoration from being completed is a political revolution that, beginning with defending the conquests that, although degraded, have still been kept since 1959, will sweep away the bureaucracy and its single-party regime that is stifling the political and cultural life of the masses (giving rise to the strengthening of an extremely reactionary institution like the Church), and will defeat the US blockade by appealing to the struggle of their class brothers, the workers and the poor of the cities and the countryside of Latin America. The bureaucracy gives ever-increasing freedom and rights to the reactionary Catholic Church, while it impedes the free organization of the workers and campesinos both in their own unions and in political organizations. The Cuban masses must impose a new regime, based on their organizations of struggle, established on the broadest workers’ democracy and full freedom for the formation of unions, parties and other organizations that defend the Revolution.

In view of the "dissident" groups, largely financed by the US, that do not have support among sectors of the population, but that, on the contrary, are marginal and have mainly come from the most prosperous groups, we Trotskyists resolutely combat their pro-capitalist positions. But we also repudiate the repression and persecution of those who do not participate in violent acts against the Revolution. These police methods will be used tomorrow against the workers and the people, who will confront the bureaucracy’s restorationist policy.

A real workers’ and popular government must review all the reforms and concessions made to capital from the special period up to the Guidelines, eliminating all the privileges of the increasingly wealthy bureaucrats, restoring the monopoly of foreign trade, that has practically been dismantled, and establishing democratic planning of the economy, in accord with the interests of the working and popular masses.

Thursday, March 29, 2012