Waters is the editor of Cuba and the Coming American Revolution and wrote the foreword to the new edition, published simultaneously in October 2007 by Pathfinder and by the Venezuelan publishing house Monte Avila. First released six years earlier, the book tells the story of the political impact of the Cuban Revolution on a generation of young people in the United States in the early 1960s, the place of the revolution in building the communist movement in the United States, and its weight in the U.S. class struggle today.
Joining Waters on the speakers platform were José Ramón Fernández, vice president of Cubas Council of Ministers, and Gen. Moisés Sío Wong, president of the National Institute of State Reserves and of the Cuba-China Friendship Association.
The talk is copyright © 2008 Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission. Footnotes and headings are by the Militant.
In the historic days of April 1961, the author, Jack Barnes, was a student at a college in the state of Minnesota, where he and other studentsand I count myself among those then won to this battleorganized what for a time became the largest Fair Play for Cuba Committee on a campus anywhere in the United States. Some of you in the audience here today already know of the important work of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in North America during the early years of the revolution. Others of you, especially among the younger generations, will learn of it for the first time as you read the pages of this book.
Jack Barnes is today the national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party in the United States. He describes here the political battlethe battle of ideas, and sometimes the physical battlesthat we were waging night and day inside the United States in the months leading up to and through the mercenary invasion of Cuba, an invasion the entire world knew was coming.
He describes how we fought to counter the lies about the Cuban Revolution being spread by the U.S. government and mass media. He describes how, as revolutionary-minded youth whose enthusiasm and energy were matched only by our own inexperience, we were taken under the wing by workers who were veterans of years of class battles in the United States and who educated us. He describes how these workers, members of the Socialist Workers Party, shared our enthusiasm and determination to emulate the example of our Cuban compañeros and fight shoulder to shoulder with you to prevent the U.S. government from crushing the first socialist revolution in our hemisphere.
He describes how in the course of these battles we too were transformed … for life.
Even though the starting point of this book is the victory of Playa Girón, it is not primarily a book about Cuba. As the back cover puts it, this is a book
about the struggles of working people in the imperialist heartland, the youth who are attracted to them, and the example set by the people of Cuba that revolution is not only necessaryit can be made. It is about the class struggle in the United States, where the political capacities and revolutionary potential of workers and farmers are today as utterly discounted by the ruling powers as were those of the Cuban toilers. And just as wrongly.
There may be some even among you who are here today who doubt that there isor ever will bea coming American revolution. A profoundly popular socialist revolution, the only kind worthy of the name. That is the question this book addresses.
Three months ago the organizers of the Venezuela International Book Fair organized a debate on precisely this question. The United States: a possible revolution was the theme of that cultural event, where more than 20 participants from the United States, all active in various social struggles or political partiesincluding myselftook part in a rolling five-day forum debating this question. Among the panelists were some who indeed argued that there has never been and will never be a revolution in the United States. Who argued that working people there are too comfortable, have too high a standard of living, can buy anything they want with a credit card, never go hungry, and cant think for themselves because they are fed so many lies by the mass media.
Caricature vs. reality
This caricatureso far from the lives of most working people in the United Stateswas forcefully answered by others participating in the forum. We pointed out that real wages continue to fall for the big majority of workersthat on average, they are below what they were 35 years ago. Meanwhile, the brutal intensification of laborthe, literally, killer speed of production linesextension of the work day, the absence of health care and other social services, cuts in unemployment benefits and pensions, the fact that four out of ten workers in private industry have no paid sick days, and twenty-five percent no paid vacation time, the lack of housing workers can affordthese are the daily realities that lie behind the increasing determination of a still small but growing vanguard of workers to find effective ways to resist.
The most dramatic manifestation of thisthough far from the only onehas been the mass outpouring of millions of workers the last two years on May Day, led by immigrant workers from Mexico and Central America, above all, most of them without papers the U.S. government accepts as valid. Despite their vulnerability, they took to the streets in cities and towns large and small across the entire country, hoisting the banner We are workers, not criminals, and demanding Legalization now.
This is not a movement of immigrant workers alone. It is the nucleus of the beginning of a real working-class vanguard. The fight to win the majority of working people in the United States to support and fight for the legalization of workers the bosses call undocumented, to prevent the employers from using this issue to divide and weaken the working class, especially as the economic crisis accelerates, is the most important political battle in the United States today. It is one that we have a better chance of winning than we did during the last great organizing battles of the U.S. working class in the 1930s.
Capitalist financial crisis
In the past several months the depth and breadth of the spreading global financial crisis capitalism faces has started to become clear to millions. It is far beyond a matter of whether one of capitalisms cyclical recessions has begun. What we have seen so far is but the tip of the iceberg created by a collapsing balloon of debt and contraction of credit. No one, not even the capitalists themselves, know how big the crisis is, or how it will end.
Even before the repercussions are broadly felt within the working class in the United States, however, what little cushion that remains is disappearing. Most families already have multiple wage earners. Millions are already working more than one job, and still going deeper and deeper in debt. And millions more workers will, in the next two years, find themselves packed together in apartments and houses, or without a roof over their heads of any kind, as they lose their homes for nonpayment of mortgages or rent hikes they simply cant afford.
Even without talking about imperialisms bloody wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and much more, this is the world in which we live. It is why we say that not only is revolution possible in the United States. Revolutionary struggles are inevitable, initiated not by the producing class to begin with, but forced upon us by the crisis-driven assaults of the propertied classes. And our struggles will be intertwined as always with the resistance and struggles of other oppressed and exploited producers around the globe.
If all this is inevitable, what is not inevitable is the outcome of these coming revolutionary struggles. As you here in Cuba know so well, that is where class consciousness, political clarity, organization, discipline, and the caliber of leadership become decisive. That is why what we do now, the kind of party we build now, weighs so heavily.
Dedicated to Cuban Five
Cuba and the Coming American Revolution is dedicated to Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio, Fernando, and René: Five exemplary products of the Cuban Revolution who today, even if against their will, serve with honor on the front lines of the class struggle in the United States.2
For us, this dedication is not simply an expression of solidarity and support, however vital that is. There is nothing symbolic about it.
As you well know, there are more than two million men and women behind bars in the United States. It is the country with the highest per capita prison population in the world. With few exceptions these are the sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters of the working classes, disproportionately Black and Latino in composition. That is where the vicissitudes of the class struggle have placed each of the Five, and that is where they continue to act as the Cuban revolutionaries they are, carrying out communist political work wherever they find themselvesthis time within the heartland of world imperialism itself.
From the books they write Pathfinder to get, and from the letters, comments, and questions they send us about the history of the class struggle in the United States, we know how broad their interests and political discussions with other prisoners are. For us it is an incentive.
To give just one example, it is Renés probing and persistent questions about the history of racist oppression in the United States that have pushed us to prepare a much-needed book we will be publishing later this year entitled Black Liberation and the Fight for Workers Power.
After reading the initial version of 1961: Year of Education, the lead article in Cuba and the Coming American Revolution, we received a letter of appreciation from Ramón, which is cited in the foreword to this new edition. Even though he had read many books and documents on Playa Girón, Ramón commented, it was only in reading this article that he for the first time learned about the direct influence of the Cuban Revolution, its example and impact, on the people of the United States, and on the education of the revolutionary left movement.
We hope that is what you will take away from this presentation here today as well. As Ramón said, it is evidence that our peoples are fraternaland invincible.