Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2034

The Venezuelan masses have backed Hugo Chavez. Only their power can bring real change (Pic: Jess Hurd/ http://www.

The Venezuelan masses have backed Hugo Chavez. Only their power can bring real change (Pic: Jess Hurd/

What is the road to revolution?

Diana Raby (The road to change, 13 January) poses some interesting points for the ongoing debate on Latin America and the “Bolivarian Revolution”.

But I found her focus on the importance of strong, charismatic leaders – Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales and Fidel Castro – and their vital importance in achieving socialism, a problem.

In both Venezuela and Bolivia the poor are benefiting from actions taken by Chavez and Morales. However we cannot rely on leaders, who are under massive pressure from the right and the state bureaucracy, to bring about socialism in Latin America.

The inspiration in Latin America is the incredible uprising against neoliberalism, by workers, students, indigenous communities and the urban poor.

Raby believes Cuba is socialist and this is the fundamental problem with her analysis. Cuba is not a socialist country.

It is a dictatorship run by Castro and his party.

The workers and students of Cuba, unlike those in Venezuela or Bolivia, are not permitted to act or behave independently or to be part of building their own future.

Cuba under Castro has consistently primarily pursued its own strategic interests in the region. It is a restraining influence on other struggles in the region.

Raby speaks of Chavez, Morales and Castro finding a new type of socialism.

But Karl Marx said, “The emancipation of the working class must be the act of the workers themselves.” I believe that means workers, students, the indigenous and the poor, fighting for their freedom and a socialist future.

Debbie Jack, Glasgow

In Bolivia and Venezuela ordinary people are struggling to find new methods of taking power into their own hands. They are an inspiration to many of us in Britain.

Unfortunately there are no such powerful movements in Cuba. Diana Raby is simply wrong to imply that socialism exists or is being created in Cuba.

Socialism cannot be imposed by the state, or through the simple nationalisation of industry. The reality of Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin’s “debate” was that Stalin’s authoritarian road did not end in socialism at all, but in brutal repression and the dictatorship of a bureaucratic clique.

The democratic control of workers can only lie at the end of a process of mass struggle in which the working class founds society anew. This raises difficult questions about the relationship between the movement and its leaders.

We should not deny the importance of left wing leaders and representatives in electoral positions. But as Venezuelan activist Roland Denis says, “The defence of Chavez is a symbol for us. The difficulty for us is not to confuse the symbol with the politics.”

Rob Jackson, Manchester

I found Diana Raby’s analysis of Latin America worryingly reminiscent of the enthusiastic tributes to Tito’s Yugoslavia after it had broken with Stalin in 1948.

The experience of the “Yugoslav road to socialism” should be a lesson to many. Real mechanisms of political power must be created from below that increasingly wrest economic control from the ruling class.

Without these it is impossible for the leaderships of what Raby calls “revolutionary states of popular power” to remain “profoundly democratic and in touch with the working people”.

Various attempts to survive in a hostile environment produced only disillusion and bureaucracy at every stage of “revolutionary reform” in Yugoslavia.

The system ultimately collapsed under the tensions that it was unable to reconcile, with tragic consequences.

Raby argues that Cuba reached socialism in practice and then consciousness followed – the same argument was used to justify the Russian tanks rolling into Eastern Europe to create “socialist states”.

Revolutionary change can never come from above by those who retain decisive control of the working conditions of the majority of the population.

It can only come from a class whose position in social production makes it act in a collective fashion from below.

Vladimir Unkovski-Korica, Central London

Diana Raby seems to confuse the popular support for Chavez and Castro, with the genuine revolutionary self-emancipation that socialists have always argued is central to change.

It is not enough for the working class and popular movements to put their faith in strong leaders who give voice to their “latent sentiments”. Socialism must be built actively by these people themselves.

Popular support for a charismatic leader is no substitute for the mass activity of working people in transforming their daily lives.

Dan Swain, Cambridge

The different structures of workers’ power

Alex Callinicos’s article on workers’ power (‘Dual Power’ in our hands, 6 January) rightly says it does not necessarily follow models like Russia’s soviets.

He cites the 1871 Paris Commune example, stressing the dominance of small craft workplaces there. 

However, the Commune was even more unconventional than Alex suggests. It emerged when virtually all production (large or small) had ceased due to the Franco-Prussian war and siege.

The mass of unemployed workers joined the National Guard, which overthrew the government on 18 March 1871.

The locally based regiments were run democratically and mustered daily, so an effective collective power now replaced the old state.

In the Russian Revolution it was “the peasant in uniform” who joined with industrial workers to create the soviets.

Disparate forces can shape revolutionary movements and their fight for power.

Russia 1917 and Paris 1871 show workers can find different forms of expressing their power, though the content is consistent.

Going beyond protest movements or even mass strikes, it must be a permanent, collective alternative to all capitalism’s structures of “command and control”.

This is a question confronting revolutionaries in Latin America today.

Donny Gluckstein, Edinburgh

We were victims of racist witchhunt

My husband and I were recently stopped from boarding a plane – I believe it is a clear case of racism against Muslims.

We were due to take a short break in Dubai last month. We arrived at Cardiff airport early, checked in and went through all the security checks in plenty of time and with no problems.

As we got to the boarding gate we were stopped by two men.

They started questioning us and then took us into a room and carried on questioning us. They got our luggage off the plane and searched it.

They kept asking why we were going to Dubai.

My husband is a Palestinian. He has had a British passport for 12 years, but it says that he was born in Gaza in Palestine.

They kept asking him about his family, about how long he had been in Britain. I am British born and bred and I feel ashamed that my country has launched this witchhunt.

In the end they let us go, but we had missed our flight and the airline said our tickets were non transferable.

This is not about security, it is racism. People need to wake up and challenge this. Otherwise who will be next?

Aisha Pritchard, Cardiff

Hypocrisy on integration

John Curtis is quite right to highlight the current attack on language services for migrants (Letters, 6 January).

One of the most commonly deployed arguments is that new arrivals should “integrate” by learning English. New Labour ministers in particular clamber over each other to push this line.

And yet look at the detail and you’ll notice, one of the services being cut is English lessons for migrants. As all too often the “integration” mantra hides utter hypocrisy.

The UCU lecturers’ union is leading a campaign against the cuts, along with

anti-deportation campaigns. All those who care about migrants should back the campaign.

Ben Drake, York

Keeping us in the dark

Thanks for the information on single status (This ‘equal pay’ deal cuts women’s wages, 13 January). The council I work for has told us nothing.

I am a carer. Most of my colleagues don’t know about it or understand the subject.

Keep up the good work. You are the only place I can get detailed information.

Louie New, by e-mail

The Scottish question

I agree with Jimmy Ross’s analysis of the dead end represented by the four main political parties in Scotland (Labour Party faces serious setbacks in Scotland, 6 January).

But his article missed out some important elements in the forthcoming Scottish parliamentary elections.

Jimmy is right to say that the Scottish National Party (SNP) is increasingly pro-business in its agenda.

However the party’s leader, Alex Salmond, has been astute in using his opposition to both the Iraq war and Trident to project a left face.

Jimmy also fails to mention that the vote to the left of the four main parties will be split three ways – between the Greens, Solidarity and the rump Scottish Socialist Party.

Of course most readers of Socialist Worker, myself included, want to see the new Solidarity movement achieve the best vote possible.

But we do ourselves no favours by ignoring the fact that the Scottish left goes into the elections divided and in danger of losing votes to the SNP.

Mark Brown, Glasgow

Resisting imperialism

I am glad the people of Africa can rely on Socialist Worker to deliver great coverage and analysis of the current Western made and Western aggravated crisis in Africa.

When Tony Blair says the West should intervene to prevent another Rwanda, we must respond by saying we don’t want another Democratic Republic of Congo.

The West scrambled for wealth and control, and sponsored an invasion led by three African governments resulting in ten million deaths.

What the people of Somalia, and indeed all Africans who are resisting imperialism, want is another South Africa, or Lebanon.

There the activists on the ground were supported by mass international solidarity campaigns that exposed and helped to drive the imperialists out.

That is the job of all activists in the Stop the War Coalition – to stop the war in the Middle East, and the spread of it in Africa.

Makola Mayambika, East London

Inclusive changes

I am delighted to read that the SWP has changed its language in “Where We Stand” to be inclusive of bisexual and transgender people (Conference decisions, 13 January).

Sexual orientation and gender exist on a beautiful, diverse spectrum, and we are all better off when we can recognise – and celebrate – all of its beauty.

Robyn Ochs, Editor of Getting Bi

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Article information

Sat 20 Jan 2007, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 2034
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