The Cuban Revolution

A Critical Perspective

by Sam Dolgoff

Castro's Friendly Critics

From Waldo Frank to Rene Dumont

The repercussions of the Cuban Revolution are still being felt in Latin America and throughout the world. The character of the Revolution is being passionately debated. Many of Castro's original leftist and liberal supporters who have witnessed the gradual degeneration of the Revolution into a totalitarian dictatorship have been forced, much against their inclinations, to accept this disappointing reality. In the process of accounting for the degeneration, these friendly critics clarify certain crucial facts about the Cuban Revolution which confirm the libertarian position, although most of them vehemently deny that this is indeed the case.

Still others, the more fanatical pro-Castroites, in trying to explain the dictatorial measures of the regime, fall into the most glaring contradictions -- which serve only to emphasize the unpleasant facts they try to camouflage. A few typical examples are arranged chronologically to illustrate the progression of events.

Waldo Frank's Cuba: A Prophetic Island (New York, 1961) is particularly disappointing because he had always been a consistent anti-state communist, strongly influenced by libertarian ideas, which he amply demonstrated by his sympathetic attitude towards the CNT (anarcho-syndicalist union confederation of Spain). That Frank with 40 years study of Spanish and Latin American history should have allowed his pro-Castro euphoria to becloud his judgement to the point where he could not recognize the obvious earmarks of a dictatorship in the making is unpardonable.

Although Frank was granted a two year subsidy by the Cuban government to write his book, he insists that his "only obligation was to seek the truth as I found it" (Preface). Nevertheless Frank's

"unbiased" evaluation of Castro's personality and achievements rivals the tributes heaped upon Stalin by his sycophants. Thus:

... the Chevrolet rolled into the first streets of Matanzas ... the crowd blocking Castro's way had, somehow, the shape of Casto ... and what was the shape of Castro? Was it not Cuba itself? (p. 79) ... in his exquisite sensibilities ... Castro is less the poet and the LOVER ... to call Castro a dictator is dishonest semantics ... (p. 141, Frank's emphasis)
In the very next paragraph Frank unwittingly marshalls crushing arguments against himself. Castro will not tolerate criticism:
... he likes to have intellectuals around him, not so much to discuss ideas as to fortify his actions and ideas ... (p. 141) [in other words, Castro must, like Stalin, surround himself with fawning flatterers] Castro is not a dictator, [but] ... there always comes a time, when leaders must dare, for the people's sake, to oppose the people ... (p. 62) ... there are times of nation ferver when an opposition press becomes a nuisance ... [just because there are no elections in Cuba] ... the opposition slanders Castro. [How dare they call him] "'totalitarian' 'communist'!?" (p. 16)

... [In spite of Frank's pro-Castro obsession, traces of anarcho-syndicalist influence come through] ... the Cubans do not know that mere natiuonalization of their industries is no goal, that it may enthrone a bureaucracy even more rigid than capitalist posession. Nationalization is not necessarily true socialization, an end which demands [that there be workers in each industry to run these industries in coordination with the other sectors of the economy]. (p. 134)

Does Frank indict Castro for instituting nationalization? By no means! On the contrary, he considers that Castro summary
... act of nationalization was an intelligent, courageous deed ... to defend the Cuban Republic against those hostile forces that would destroy it ... (p. 134) [Frank is even afraid] that ... technicians from the Soviet Union will bring with them the communist ideology ... equally alien, equally unwelcom ... (p. 136) [But Frank hastens to dispel such fears] ... the leaders are GOOD and what they are attempting to do is GOOD ... they will tell you in plain words that they have not overthrown the overlordship of the United States in order to submit to a new master ... the Soviet Union or anyone else ... (p. 136) (Frank's emphasis)
Unfortunately, it turns out that the "good" men destined to save Cuba from totalitarian domination are themselves authoritarian communists: Armando Hart, Carlos Rafael Rodriguez, and irony of ironies! Castro himself, a few days after the American publication of Frank's book, confessed that "I am a Marxist-Leninist and will remain one until the last day of my life."

In spite of Castro's own statement that the so-called peasant cooperative farms (granjas del pueblo) are modeled after the Russian style "Kolkhozes," Frank still nurtures the forlorn hope that the:

... cooperative farms and industries of Cuba could well become the nuclei of a radical syndicalism, developed from the tradition of anarcho-syndicalism, which has long appealed to Spanish and Hispanic workers ... far more than the crude kolkhoz within communism, libertarianism might flourish within a revived syndicalism ... (p. 186)
In early 1963, members of the Cuban Libertarian Movement in Exile (CLME) addressed a letter to Pablo Casals, a co-sponsor of the Spanish Refuge Aid Committee, informing him that Waldo Frank, also a co-sponsor, had been commissioned by the Cuban Government to write a book in which he eulogized Castro. In its Bulletin for April 1963, the CLME published Casals' reply:
... like you, I too believe that all lovers of freedom ... must condemn all dictatorship, "right," "left" or whatever the name ... I feel strongly the anguish of the unfortunate people of Cuba, who, having suffered under the dictatorship of Batista, are now, anew, being subjected to the dictatorship of his successor, Fidel Castro ... as to the attitude of Waldo Frank and his support of the Castro regime, I will immediately request the Spanish Refugee Aid Committee to order a thorough investigation of your charges, and if -- as it seems -- Waldo Frank violates the ideals of the organization, he be removed as member and co-sponsor ... With best wishes, Pablo Casals.
In 1964 Monthly Review, a Marxist-Leninist journal, published a special 96 page essay, Inside the Cuban Revolution, written by Adolfo Gilly, a fanatical "left wing" pro-Castro Argentine journalist who lived among the Cuban people for more than ayear. Although Gilly acknowledges the deformation of the Cuban revolution, he is "... still unconditionally on the side of the Revolution." (preface, p. vii) Gilly was nevertheless bitterly denounced by Castro. The following excerpts from his essay best illustrate the kind of muddled thinking which leads to the most glaring contradictions by "leftist" Castroite critics:

Statement: "the State defends the position ... and concrete economic interests of the functionaries, the State itself, the Party and the union bureaucracy ... the people have no direct power ... the State creates and defends positions of privilege." (p. 42) Contradiction: "The State is the workers' very own" (p.46)

Statement: "Just as there has not appeared in the Cuban leadership any tendency that proposes self-management, neither has there appeared any which looks to the development of those bodies which in a socialist democracy express the will of the people; soviets, workers' councils, unions independent of the State, etc. ..." (p. 40-41) Contradiction: "... in Cuba the masses feel that they have begun to govern their own lives ..." (p. 78)

Statement: "When it comes to decisions of the government, it never allows dissent or criticism or proposals for change ... nothing can be published without permission ..." (p.28) Contradiction: "There is no country today where there is greater freedom and democracy than in Cuba." (ibid.)

Like Gilly, the editors of the Monthly Review, Leo Huberman and Paul Sweezy, also combine extravagant praise with what adds up to a devastating indictment of the Castro regime:

... the success achieved by the Cuban Revolution ... the upsurge of mass living standard to create a quantity and quality of popular support for the Revolutionary Government ... and its supreme leader Fidel Castro ... has few, if any, parallels (Socialism in Cuba; N.Y., New York, 1970, p. 203, 204) ... there have been remarkable achievements in the economic field and there will be even more remarkable ones in the future ... (p. 65)
Huberman and Sweezy then inadvertantly deny their own statements:
nearly everything is scarce in Cuba today (p. 129) ... there is the continuing difficult economic situation. Daily life is hard, and after ten years many people are tired ... tending to lose confidence in the leadership's ability to keep its optimistic promises ... the ties that bind the masses to their paternalistic government are beginning to erode ... (p. 217-218)
While the examples of the alleged economic "achievementes" are indeed rare, the catastrophic collapse of the economy and the mass discontent for which the "Revolutionary Government" is directly responsible are overwhelmingly documented. (see pgs. 74, 81, 82, 86, 103, 107, 200, 205-207, 217-220)
To create material incentives and reduce absenteeism the Revolutionary leadership, to its everlasting credit ... has at no time committed the folly of restoring the capitalist wage system in which ... whoever works harder gets more ... Castro is quoted: "to offer a man more for doing his duty is to buy his conscience with money." (p. 145)
A few pages later, Huberman and Sweezy again refute themselves. The Revolution can be saved only if the capitalist wage system is restored. Now, the "... Revolution cannot afford to rely exclusively on political and moral incentives"; it will even have to resort to semi-militarization of work!" (p. 153)

The assertion that the "... Cuban Revolution has resorted to very little regimentation is refuted in the same paragraph:

... there are doubtless evidences of this in the large-scale mobilizations of voluntary labor ... indeed, there are already signs of this regimentation in the growing role of the army in the economy bringing with it military concepts of organization and discipline ... an example of this is the Che Guevara Trail Blazers Brigade, organized along strictly military lines [which] has been clearing huge amounts of land ... (p. 146) Cuba's system is clearly one of bureaucratic rule ... [nor has the government worked out] an alternative ... (p. 219-220)
For Huberman and Sweezy, the realization of socialism is, in effect, based upon the omnipotence of the State. The people are not the masters but the servants of the "revolutionary" leadership who graciously grant them the privilege of sharing "in the great decisions which shape their lives..." (p. 204)

Toi ignore the lessons of history and expect rulers to voluntarily surrender or even share power with their subjects is -- to say the least --- incredibly naive.

Herbert Matthews -- foreign correspondent and later a senior editor of the New York Times, now retired -- was granted his sensational interview with Fidel Castro in the Sierra Maestra on February 17, 1957. Matthews has since then been welcomed to Cuba and granted interviews with Castro and other leaders. His attitude towards the

Castro dictatorship resembles that of the doting parent who inflates the virtues of his offspring and invents excuses for the child's transgressions.

... Fidel's personality is overwhelming. He has done many things that enraged me. He has made colossal mistakes ... but we must forgive him, he has to deal with difficult problems which no man could have tried to solve without making errors and causing harm to large sectors of Cuban society... (p. 4)
Not the least of the privileges accorded to despots is the right to make mistakes at the expense of ordinary mortals.

How Castro, who is "... a great orator ... the greatest of his times," is "not able to express his emotions" (p. 44) is a peculiar failing that Matthews does not deem it necessary to explain.

Although his latest work (a big 486 page volume, Revolution in Cuba; New York, 1975) contains a great deal of valuable information about the situation in Cuba, it suffers from his clumsy efforts to reconcile his unabashed admiration for Castro with the brutal, bitter facts. Out of the chaotic mass of contradictions, absurdities and distortions, startling facts about the degeneration of the Cuban Revolution emerge. A few examples:

Castro is a dictator. His revolution is "autocratic," but it is still -- strangely enough -- "... a government by consensus, based upon popular support ..." The support comes from the members of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) comprising "almost every able bodied adult in Cuba ... everyone PARTICIPATES in the Cuban Revolution..." But this grass-roots consensus which is not "a democracy ... has nothing to do with civil liberties ..." (p. 15, Matthews' emphasis)

It should be obvious that a regime that has "nothing to do with civil rights" is by definition a dictatorship. It soon becomes apparent that this is indeed the case. Matthews notes that "... many Cubans are uneasy over the fact that the CDR [this model of participatory democracy] ... is now completely under the control of the Communist Party of Cuba ..." (p. 15, Matthews' emphasis)

... we Americans think of the Rights of Man in civic terms: equality before the law, non-discrimination, freedom of the press, sacredness of the home ... In Cuba, as in Latin America, individual rights are cherished too (p. 7) But on page 129, Matthews reverses himself: "... I do not believe that the Cubans cared enough about civic freedoms to fight for them ... the emphasis is not on civil liberties but on personal attributes: personal dignity, perservation of family life...
Matthews, however, tries to camouflage the fact that personal attributes cannot be exercised in Cuba because the State regiments the life of the individual from the cradle to the grave. He unintentionally documents this fact in his chapter on the Cultural Revolution.

On the flimsy and insulting pretext that the "... Cuban people do not have the Anglo-Saxon mania for privacy ..." Matthews tries to minimize the fact that "Cuba is a goldfish bowl." (p. 15)

"Castro made the mistake at his Moncada trial in 1953 and in the Sierra Maestra in 1957, of promising to implement the liberal democratic constitution of 1940." (p. 40) Castro did not make a mistake. He knew full well and later openly confessed (in his "I am a Marxist-Leninist" speech, Dec. 1, 1961) that Batista could be overthrown and his clique come to power, only on the basis of a democratic program acceptable to the anti-Castro bourgeoisie, The Church and other non-radical forces. "... in the circumstances [comments Matthews] to get them to accept revolution was an ... impossibility ..." (p. 125) Castro is an astute politician. He did not make the mistake of antagonizing these elements by prematurely intiating expropriation of property and other radical measures. He waited until his regime was strong enough to neutralize, and if necessary, smother the opposition.

Matthews even tries to condone Castro's atrocities. For him the crimes committed by the Castro regime in the first ten years of the Revolution -- 1959-1970 -- "has only historic meaning today ... they were in Fidel's breathtaking word [?] an apprenticeship ..." (p. 2) In short, the Dictator was learning his trade at the expense of his victims!

In connection with the restoration of the death penalty and the execution of prisoners without a fair trial, Matthews asserts that "... I was in Cuba twice while executions were going on and I did not then, nor ever, hear or read of an innocent man being condemned ..." (p. 134) But Matthews himself unwittingly presents overwhelming evidence to the contrary:

... I felt critical over the summary nature of Cuban trials. Herman Marks, a native of Milwaukee, reportedly with a criminal record, was the executioner at the Cabanas fortress in Havana ... he became a captain in Che Guevara's column. He was used to avoid killing by Cubans. He was like a butcher killing cattle in an abatoir ... (p. 135) ... ordinary courts lost much of their authority. Lawyers who defended those accused of being counter-revolutionaries ran the danger of prosecution themselves ... (p. 143). Habeas corpus was suspended in 1959. (p. 142)

... the evidence in the Matos case [see below] could not stand up in a Western court of law ... but we must not blame the dictators ... this was a Cuban court of law in the midst of a perilous revolution ... the vilification of Castro in the Matos case is unjustified ... (p. 142) The prisons were filled to overflowing. The interrogation rooms of the G2, Castro's secret police, were scarcely less vile than the torture chambers of Batista's SIM ... there were more prisonaers now than Batista ever had ... (Hugh Thomas quoted by Matthews, p. 142)

It is impossible to understand how Matthews, in view of his own evidence, could deny that such atrocities did take place and then reverse himself. His attitude is all the more incomprehensible, when in respect to the Matos case, he, at the request of Matos' family, tried to intercede with Castro on their behalf and his plea was ignored. (see p. 142)

Castro's refusal to honor "his repeated promises to hold elections for a multi-party democratic government" is justified on the pretext that this outrageous violation of elementary rights would crystallize a "strong congressional opposition to Castro's revolutionary policies at every step." But Castro is a better dictator than Franco was because "he never perpetuated the hypocrisy of a plebiscite as in Franco Spain ..."! (p. 147)

After revealing that "Havana University was stripped of whatever autonomy remained to it in July 1960 and purged ... and two thirds of the professors went into exile ...", Matthews tries to condone these crimes because "... as with somuch happening, unscupulous means had to be used to achieve desirable ends ..." As is means can ever be separated from ends! Matthews himself admits that the "University became an organ of the Marxist-Leninist government, but it also became a disciplined, serious, center of learning, which in the 1970s is undergoing an extraordinary rebirth ..." (p. 183)

With respect to the criminal mismanagement of the economy and the proliferation of a new bureaucracy, Matthews gives examples:

... the Central Planning Board (Jucesplan) was created to control the economy as a whole but it did little of practical value ... Fidel, Che, and a few others had the real authority which they failed to coordinate or use systematically ... There was a decline in the national income ... too many cattle were slaughtered in 1961, bringing severe shortages from 1962 onwards ... rationing of foodstuffs was instituted in the summer of 1961 ... somthing had gone seriously wrong with the economy. Even in World War II, there was no need for rationing ... Che Guevara, the Minister of Industry, reported many errors ... much of what they were planning was impossible. Naturally a huge bureaucracy evolved ... (pgs. 167-169)
Reasonable people, taking into account the accumulating mountain of evidence, naturally came to realize that the Cuban Revolution was over. Not Mattews. His faith remains undimmed: "... they were all so young! The group had any amount of faith ... honesty and energy ..." Mattews comes to the ridiculous conclusion that although the "economy was failing ... the Revolution was succeeding ..." The blundering despots who are largely responsible for the collapse of the Revolution "... put the Revolution on the rocky, unevenly advancing path it has followed since then ..." (p. 167-169)

Reviewing all the vast literature about the Cuban Revolution is beyond the scope of this work. We center out discussion on Rene Dumont's analysis because it is by far, the most profound, and especially, because it is, in important areas, relevant to the position of the Cuban anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists -- a position formulated long before Dumont's two books were published. (see his Cuba: Socialism and Development; New York 1970, and Is Cuba Socialist? New York 1974)

We will summarize Dumont's critique of Castro and his policies; the libertarian content of his constructive proposals; and how he departs from the libertarian implications of his work and contradicts himself.

Dumont's Critique

From the jacket blurb of Is Cuba Socialist? we gather that the significance of Dumont's book lies not so much:

... in his richly detailed ... devastating portrait of economic disorder and militarization but [primarily because it] comes from a friend of the Revolution, who at earlier times praised Castro's efforts to create a socialist nation ... Dumont, a distinguished agonomist, a veteran [pro-communist] activist, who in the 1960's paid [on Castro's invitation] several long visits as an expert adiser to, and sympathizer with, Castro's Cuba...
The book "created a sensation throughout Europe" because for Dumont to dispute the infallibility of Castro, or even dare deny the socialist nature of the Cuban Revolution, is, for the Castroites, a heresy comparable to a papal encyclical questioning the existence of God. The phrasing of the chapter headings alone, constitutes a devastating indictment of the Castro regime:


That the answer is a resounding NO!, can be gathered from the text, which also explains why both Dumont and his books are banned in Cuba. What follows is a representative selection of Dumont's critical remarks. (Unless otherwise noted, all quotations are from Is Cuba Socialist?)

Workers and Unions

... note should be taken of the diminishing role of the unions which are due to disappear entirely since the state is -- in principle -- supposed to be the State of the workers ... (p. 52) The government's decisions seem to be intended FOR the people, but it was not government BY the people ... they used to have a capitalist boss, and now they have another boss ... the State. (p. 22, Dumont's emphasis)
Dumont quotes Armando Hart, a member of the political bureau of the Popular People's (Communist) Party who speculated hopefully that it would be a good idea:
... if all the labor force were in encampments, like columns of soldiers ... the development of the Cuban economy would be accelerated by the militarization of the labor force ... it is toward this that we must work ... (p. 94)

In mid-1969, ... the Minister of Labor warned that severe measures would be taken against ... undisciplined work, absenteeism, and negligence ... a month later, in September, the government promulgated a law under which each new worker must have a dossier and work book in which will be noted the places in which he works, his comings and goings, etc. (p. 114)

The Boss

... the number one man in Cuba is Castro. Castro is Prime Minister of the Revolutionary Government, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, and First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party ... As an official, one's job depends upon Castro's confidence and on personal conections ... leadership of the essential agencies is placed in the hands of men in whom the Boss [Castro] has confidence (p. 51) ... Cuban society remains authoritarian and hierarchized; Fidel maneuvers it as he sees fit. The result is a militaristic society ... (34)

In public everybody is for Castro. In private his partisans are less numerous. Everybody goes to the demonstrations in the Plaza de la Revolucion. It is obligatory (p. 59) ... Castro has confidence only in himself. He is no longer content with claims to military and political fame. He has to feel himself the leader in both scientific research and agricultural practice [about which he knows next to nothing] (p. 107) Nobody dares oppose him if he wants to hold his job. (p. 108) ... when he throws his beret on the ground and flies into one of his rages, everybody quakes and fears reprisals ... (p. 111)

Censorship and Spying

There exists vigilance [spying] with the increasing control of neighborhoods by the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution [CDRs] standing in for and helping the police. Everybody belongs to the CDRs, unless he wants to miss out on many advantages... Capitalism robs the worker of his dignity ... Police inquisition in the Cuban Revolution again denies it to the poorest worker ... (p. 119) [In exposing press censorship, Dumont quotes Marx] "... the censored press CONSTANTLY lies." I challenge Granma to publish this [Marx's] sentence ... [Granma is the official organ of the Communist Party of Cuba.]
Dumont cites the case of Heberto Padilla, the renowned Cuban poet and former editor of Granma. Padilla had been relieved of his editorial post because he commented favorably on the work of Guillermo Cabrera Infante, a prominent poet, who was at that time out of favor with the Party.

In 1968 Padilla was awarded the Casa de la Americas literary prize for his collection of critical poetry Out of the Game (two examples are reprinted below). The Writers Union published the book, including their disclaimer, charging that the poems were against the Revolution. Padilla's verses were judged Counter-Revolutionary by Granma and the weekly newspaper of the Cuban Army, Verde Olivo (Olive Green -- color of the uniform).

On March 27, 1971, Padilla was jailed for 37 days. He was also denied work for a year. His case aroused a world-wide storm of protest by prominent pro-Castro and other intellectuals and writers. Dumont in true Stalinist fashion confesses that he was guilty of adopting "counter-revolutionary" attitudes and in the words of Dumont "... providing information to CIA agents like myself and K.S. Karol (p. 120ff.; Karol is a friendly critic of Castro, was like Dumont invited to visit Cuba by Castro, and author of Guerillas in Power).

Out of the Game

The poet, get rid of him
He has nothing to do around here
He does not play the game
lacks enthusiasm
He does not make his message clear
does not even notice the miracles.
He spends the whole day thinking
always finds something to object to
That fellow, get rid of him
Remove the party pooper
the summer malcontent
who wears dark glasses in the new dawn
of time without history
He is even out of date
He likes only the old Louis Armstrong
Humming, at most, a song of Pete Seeger
He sings 'Guantanamera' through clenched teeth
No one can make him talk
No one can make him smile
each time the spectacle begins

Instructions for Admission into a New Society

In the first place: optimism.
Secondly: be correct, circumspect, submissive.
(Having undergone all the sports tests)
and to finish, march
as do all the other members:
one step forwards
two or three backwards:
but always aplauding


... the new man is a model soldier, ever obedient to his leaders ... children are enrolled in organizations as soon as ten years old ... young teachers are subjected to programs that smack of the convent and the barracks: 'WORK AND Shut Up!' 'The Leaders Are Always Right!' 'Fidel Doesn't Argue!' (p. 122) Technological training was under the control of the Vice-Minister of the Armed Forces. Military training was given at all levels. By the time they are eight, young people are marching in step ... (p. 92)

Cuba: A Military Dictatorship

... In Cuba the military are taking over command of the economy ... (p. 179) ... it is becoming clearer and clearer that the army is transforming Cuban society. (p. 84) Militarization was urged not only to eliminate inefficiency and disorganization, but to cope with the passive resistance of a growing number of workers. (p. 100)

... it became increasingly difficult to distinguish between the Communist Party and the army, since they both wore uniforms and carried revolvers ... This sort of Cuban communism is devilishly close to army life ... This military society ... follows a path leading away from participation of the people; it leads to a hierarchized society with an authoritarian leadership headed by Castro who decides all problems, political, economic and technical ... (p. 112-113)

Agriculture is Militarized

Under the heading Agrarian Reform Law and Cooperatives, Dumont deplores that the

... estates confiscated in 1960 were cooperatives in name only ... they were state farms ... by August 1960, after my second visit, the cooperative formula was definitively set aside without those involved being advised or consulted (p. 22) [Dumont quotes law 43]: "the INRA [National Institute of Agrarian Reform] will APPOINT their administrators ... and the workers will accept and respect [whatever commands the INRA] will dictate." (p. 47) [Dumont remarks that] "the workers have the mentality of paid employees ... their boss is the state." (p. 22) [Dumont concludes that] "Cuban agriculture is certainly becoming more and more militarized ... all important jobs are entrusted to the army, headed by a Major, Captain or a First Lieutenant." (p. 96)

Dumont's Libertarian Socialist Proposals

The typical attitude of the Marxist-Leninist left toward the Cuban Revolution was perhaps best summarized in one of its well known organs the New Left Review (issue #3, 1960) in the course of an ecstatic review of Cuba: Anatomy of a Revolution by Huberman and Sweezy, editors of the Marxist-Leninist Monthly Review:

... as a result of the final period of nationalization completed this past October, Cuba has become a sovereign socialist state ... the first nation to have achieved socialism without benefit of Marxist-Leninist orientation...
Dumont rejects this brand of "socialism." He does not equate socialism with nationalization. Although a professed Marxist-Leninist, Dumont touches on anarchist themes insofar as he advocates a decentralist voluntaristic variety of socialism, not only because it is desirable, but also because it is eminently more practical than nationalization and other authoritarian alternatives. As an expert agronomist, Dumont concentrates on the problems of the agrarian revolution. But his general conclusions are applicable to the whole economic setup. He insists that "... socialism demands true popular participation at all levels of decision making..." (p. 140)
... an agrarian socialism does not require collectivizationfrom above ... I sought a solution that would tend to more decentralization, more responsibility at the base ... self-management of basic units ... (p. 97) [To stimulate the creativity of the individual and encourage him to take the initiative in the self-management of a cooperative society] ... socialism must learn to be more respectful of his dignity and therefore of his autonomy. (Cuba: Socialism and Development, p. 161)

... the moreal incentive would be respect for his individuality as a worker, the irreplaceable feeling on the part of the worker that he is PARTICIPATING in the management of the enterprise, that he PERSONALLY contributes to the decisions about the nature and quality of his work ... more initiative, more autonomy, more repsonsibility ... (Is Cuba Socialist? p. 137; emphasis Dumont's)

In Russia the anarchists bitterly criticized the Bolsheviks because they extirpated the grass-roots voluntary organizations and set up a state dictatorship. Dumont, too, does not think:
... it is a good idea to suppress pre-revolutionary cooperatives which are useful for the training of management personel [and believes that] the cooperative formula ... applies to handwork, distribution, small-scale industry, shops, services, etc. [where] the workers take better care of the material belonging to the group than that which belongs to the state ... (Cuba: Socialism and Development, p. 163)
Under headings like "An Agrarian Socialism With Little Work Collectives;" "A Multiplicity of Socialist Patterns of Change" (Cuba: Socialism and Development, p. 160-170) Dumont's proposals read almost like excerpts from Kropotkin's anarchist classic, Fields, Factories and Workshops:
... in 1960 I suggested that the hypertrophied city of Havana be surrounded with a 'green belt' of market gardens and fruit farms as far as the adaptability of land and availability of water allowed. I urged a second concentric belt for the production of sweet potatoes, potatoes, plantains, etc. and that a dairy farm should be established. Other cities could have adopted the same plan ... I even suggested a plan by which each major agricultural unit could supply itself with a significant portion of its food supply. The prolongation and aggravation of scarcities only emphasized the value of this project which was never undertaken. (Is Cuba Socialist? p. 33)

... if every family that wanted to had been able to have a small garden plot, it could have raised a good portion of its own food ... (p. 66.) The workers would organize their own work themselves. The farm groups would evolve not so much as giant cooperatives as TOWARD A FEDERATION OF SMALL COOPERATIVES. ... (Socialism and Development, p. 160; emphasis Dumont's)

Dumont: Spurious Libertarian

Unfortunately, Dumont's modifications negate his libertarianism and render his work useless to arrest the deformation of the Revolution and guide it in a libertarian direction. He makes this unmistakeably clear:

... Democratic Centralism which elsewhere has too often been the cover [read consequences] for totalitarianism, which would take on a new meaning [back to Lenin the architect of "communist" tyranny]. Within this structure [cooperatives] the top echelon [i.e. the state] would be responsible for the economic plan ... for the allotment of state funds [which gives the state life and death power over the cooperatives simply by granting or witholding funds] ... the heads of cooperatives would be APPOINTED [until] such time as they were elected within a cooperative framework [until as in Russia the State "will wither away"?] (Cuba: Socialism ... p. 160; our emphasis)

Wanted: A Libertarian Caudillo

Dumont unwittingly endorses de facto paternalism on the part of Castro. For example:

... if Castro could rid himself of his mystics and utopians and surround himself with real representatives of the people, he [Castro the savior] COULD LEAD the Cuban People to prosperity ... (p. 122; our emphasis) ... [Since Castro] ... would not accept control from below because he enjoyed personal power too long to GIVE IT UP GRADUALLY ... it is therefore up to the country's political leaders, especially Raul Castro, Dorticos, Rafael Rodriguez, Armando Hart and Blas Roca, to advise Castro to do so IF THEY HAVE THE COURAGE AND IF THEY REALIZE THAT THE PRESENT PERSONAL DICTATORSHIP may lead to catastrophe ... (p. 140-141, Dumont's emphasis)
Since they have neither "the will nor the courage" to take Dumont's advice, the situation is hopeless. Is it at all likely that these hardened, cynical politicians who make up the "innermost ruling group," would, no more than Castro himself, "accept control from below," since they too "enjoyed power too long to give it up gradually"? Is it at all likely that this "communist bourgeoisie ... which clings to power by flattering Castro," whose very lives depend on Castro's good will, would summon up "the courage" to correct Castro? (p. 141)

That a realistic observer like Dumont could entertain the faintest hope that these puppets would willingly sacrifice themselves, is hard to understand. Especially, when Dumont himself cautions us "not to forget that despotism and its paternalistic variety has always been badly enlightened ... and power corrupts ...", and in the very next paragraph flatly contradicts himself be suggesting that the remedy for Castro's de facto "... absolute monarchy is a more modern version of what I will simplify in calling ... LIMITED IF NOT CONSTITUTIONAL MONARCHY ..." (p. 141, our emphasis)

Disregarding contrary evidence such as: the massacre of the Kronstadt sailors; the exile, persecution and murder of political prisoners by Lenin's secret police and other crimes for which Lenin is directly responsible; Dumont, nevertheless asserts that the "... freedom of discussion and popular control advised [but never practised] by Lenin has been forgotten by the Castroites ... Lenin's theory of democratic centralism has been interpreted to justify the unlimited dictatoship of personal power ..." (p. 116)

Dumont, like the other Marxist-Leninists, whitewashes Lenin's crimes. He ignores the incontestable fact that it was Lenin himself who set the precedent followed on a wider scale by his successor Stalin. Dumont's remedy for the chronic afflictions of the Castro regime does not even begin to measure up to his excellent diagnosis.

Like his colleague K.S. Karol, Dumont assumes a similar self-contradictory attitude in respect to the Chinese Revolution, oscillating between extravagant praise and severe criticism:

... developing countries will most certainly find in China the basis for a new faith in Man and in his possibilities for progress. Socialist consciousness has attained a very high level ... the people are almost exclusively concerned [not with personal affairs but] with the general interest ...
Dumont then contradicts himself devastatingly exposing the true character of Mao's despotism:
... fundamental decisions, such as foreign policy and the economic plan are all made by the top hierarchy and a small minority of managers ... without consultation or intervention of the famous 'popular' control called for [but never practiced] by Lenin ...
Dumont then immediately proceeds to justify these outrageous violations of elementary rights by pointing to the "... hypocrisy of the false friends of democracy ..." As if one evil automatically justifies another Dumont:
... salutes the devotion of the Chinese rulers to the welfare of the nation and the workers ... if we prefer for OUSELVES more freedom of information and only formal democracy, IT IS SURELY NOT FOR US TO PRESCRIBE WHAT IS BEST FOR THE CHINESE ...
(above quotes from L'Utopie ou la Mort; Paris, 1973, pgs. 156-158; Dumont's emphasis)

If Dumont were consistent, he would at least add that the totalitarian despots who rule China also have no right to "prescribe what is best for" THE CHINESE PEOPLE.

Like Dumont, the other loyal leftist critics of the Cuban Revolution do not realize that their own analysis leads inevitably to the conclusion that NO STATE CAN EVER PLAY A REVOLUTIONARY ROLE. It is their inability to grasp this fact. It is their orientation that enmeshes the Marxist-Leninists in a series of massive and insoluble contradictions. Their writings project a distorted, utterly false image of the Cuban Revolution; they are never a guide to meaningful alternatives.

To Chapter 3
To Table of Contents
Return to the Sam Dolgoff Archive
To Anarchy Archives