Workers Hammer No. 216
1961 Bay of Pigs invasion
The following article is reprinted from Workers Vanguard no 978, 15 April 2011, newspaper of the Spartacist League/US.
This year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the defeat of the CIA-organised Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs) invasion of Cuba, an attempt to overturn the social revolution that overthrew capitalism in 1960. The attack, launched on 17 April 1961 by counterrevolutionaries and mercenary ground troops using US-equipped bombers, amphibious assault ships and tanks, was defeated within three days by heroic Cuban fighters. The social composition of the invading forces, documented by Cuban authorities, was revealing: 100 plantation owners, 67 landlords, 35 factory owners, 112 businessmen, 179 people living off unearned income, 194 former soldiers of the Batista dictatorship that had been overthrown by Castro’s guerrilla forces.
The Bay of Pigs operation was ordered by Democratic president John F Kennedy at the beginning of his term as Commander-in-Chief of US imperialism. JFK never forgave the CIA for the fiasco, whose planning had been authorised by the Republican Eisenhower administration a year earlier. Kennedy went on to tighten the US embargo of Cuba and put his brother, Attorney General Robert F Kennedy, in charge of “Operation Mongoose” — a campaign of sabotage, destabilisation and terror mobilising the CIA and a range of government departments. The operation included repeated assassination plots against Castro and massive funding for a spy base in Miami involving Cuban counterrevolutionary gusanos (worms) and Mafiosi. In the October 1962 Cuban missile crisis, Kennedy took the world to the brink of nuclear war over Soviet nuclear missiles that were placed in Cuba, although later pulled out.
The intrigues and assassination attempts continued under both Democratic and Republican presidents. In April, an El Paso federal court acquitted 83-year-old Cuban CIA-operative Luis Posada Carriles, a veteran of the Bay of Pigs, of charges of lying at an immigration hearing. This assassin is wanted by both Cuba and Hugo Chávez’s populist capitalist government in Venezuela for the 1976 bombing of a Cubana airliner, which killed all 73 people aboard, and for masterminding hotel bombings in Cuba in 1997 that killed an Italian tourist and wounded twelve other people. The Feds prosecuted Posada Carriles on immigration charges as a way to circumvent extradition attempts by Venezuela. We say: Extradite Posada Carriles to Cuba!
Although under the rule of a nationalist Stalinist bureaucracy, the workers and peasants of Cuba have gained enormously from the overthrow of capitalist rule on the island. When Castro’s petty-bourgeois guerrilla forces marched into Havana in January 1959, the army and the rest of the capitalist state apparatus of the US-backed Batista dictatorship shattered. The new government had to confront US imperialism’s mounting attempts to bring it to heel through economic pressure. When Eisenhower sought to lower the US quota for Cuban sugar in January 1960, Castro signed an agreement to sell one million tons yearly to the Soviet Union. Refusal by imperialist-owned oil refineries to process Russian crude led to the nationalisation of US-owned properties in Cuba in August 1960, including sugar mills, oil companies, and the power and telephone companies. By October of that year, 80 per cent of the country’s industry had been nationalised. Cuba became a deformed workers state with these pervasive nationalisations, which liquidated the bourgeoisie as a class.
The elimination of production for profit and the introduction of a semblance of centralised planning on the island provided jobs, housing and education for everyone. To this day, Cuba has one of the highest literacy rates in the world and a renowned healthcare system, with more teachers and doctors per capita than anywhere else. Infant mortality is lower than in the US, the European Union and Canada. We stand for the unconditional military defence of the Cuban deformed workers state while calling for proletarian political revolution to oust the Stalinist bureaucracy, whose nationalist programme of “socialism in one country” is an obstacle to the necessary extension of socialist revolution to the Latin American mainland and, crucially, to the US imperialist heartland.
The fight to defend and extend the Cuban Revolution has been a hallmark of our tendency from its inception as the Revolutionary Tendency (RT) in the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in the US. Against the SWP majority, which equated the Castro regime with the revolutionary Bolshevik government of Lenin and Trotsky, the RT fought for the understanding that Cuba had become a bureaucratically deformed workers state. Indeed, following the Bay of Pigs, the Castro regime tightened its political grip on the country. The Trotskyist press was suppressed, key labour leaders were replaced by Stalinist hacks, a one-party system was instituted, etc. The RT upheld the need to build Leninist-Trotskyist parties in Cuba and in the US, where the SWP majority was increasingly abandoning a revolutionary perspective, instead tailing Castroism and black nationalism.
Based on our analysis of the Cuban Revolution, the Spartacist League was able to extend Marxist theory to encompass how bureaucratically deformed workers states were created (see Marxist Bulletin no 8, “Cuba and Marxist Theory”). In Cuba, a petty-bourgeois movement under exceptional circumstances — the absence of the working class as a contender for social power in its own right, the flight of the national bourgeoisie, hostile imperialist encirclement, a lifeline thrown by the Soviet Union — was able to eventually smash capitalist property relations. But Castroism (like other peasant-based guerrilla movements) could not bring the working class to political power. As stated in the International Communist League’s “Declaration of Principles and Some Elements of Program”:
“Under the most favorable historic circumstances conceivable, the petty-bourgeois peasantry was only capable of creating a bureaucratically deformed workers state, that is, a state of the same order as that issuing out of the political counterrevolution of Stalin in the Soviet Union, an anti-working-class regime which blocked the possibilities to extend social revolution into Latin America and North America, and suppressed Cuba’s further development in the direction of socialism. To place the working class in political power and open the road to socialist development requires a supplemental political revolution led by a Trotskyist party.”
The Soviet Union, which provided Cuba with crucial military support and economic aid, is no more, destroyed in 1991-92 by capitalist counterrevolution after decades of Stalinist misrule and imperialist pressure. The Cuban economy has suffered massively in the aftermath, although not evenly and uniformly. While the predominant section of the US capitalist ruling class seeks to keep a stranglehold on the island through the trade embargo, some elements seek to relax the embargo along with Cuba’s diplomatic isolation from the US, seeing this as a more effective means of subverting the gains of the revolution. Meanwhile, Cuba remains in the imperialists’ military crosshairs, a fact that its people are reminded of every day by the presence of the US naval base (and detention-torture centre) at Guantánamo Bay. US out of Guantánamo Bay now! Our defence of the Cuban deformed workers state against the class enemy is an integral part of our programme for the overthrow of bloody US imperialism through proletarian revolution here, in the “belly of the beast”.