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September 2002

 

cwi

Part 9. Latin America

333) In the 1990s the prevailing 'consensus' was that democracy and the market would considerably reduce the age-old poverty in Latin America as well as substantially improving the 'quality of life'. Yet the bitter harvest that the masses of the region have reaped from this neo-liberal 'paradise' has been a continuation of economic stagnation, the maintenance of huge inequalities - in fact the growth of these inequalities - and the chaos and disintegration which goes with this, even in the formerly strong countries such as Argentina.

334) During the 1950s and 1960s the world capitalist economic boom resulted in high commodity prices and the injection of capital, particularly from the US, which helped bourgeois governments to improve welfare provision and the generation of jobs. US imperialism was motivated to intervene economically in this fashion in order to secure the continent against the 'communist threat', particularly after the Cuban revolution. Latin American countries also used tariff barriers and capital controls to develop their industries. In contrast, today the prices of many commodities are close to all-time lows and after the collapse of the Berlin Wall the 'communist threat' has been nullified.

335) The world recession which began in 1997 in Asia seriously affected Latin America. For instance, the present economic catastrophe which affects Argentina in effect dates from this. During the 1990s most of the countries of Latin America were incapable of arresting their decline. Indeed, the situation got worse, perhaps apart from Chile, Brazil and Mexico. A certain development in their economies took place with the Chilean economy experiencing a 6 per cent growth on average during the 1990s. One consequence of this was that the number of Chileans living in poverty halved. Poverty and unemployment, however, still remain high in Chile, and with it goes the simmering discontent of the majority of the population.

336) The problem is that this mood of dissatisfaction can find no outlet given the abandonment of socialism by the 'Socialist' party, and the collapse of the Communist Party. This is almost a shadow of its former self. The effects of the coup 30 years ago, together with the mood of disappointment which is a legacy of the 'transition' from the military regime to bourgeois democracy, are still felt. In these conditions it is an achievement for us to maintain a small organisation, a toe-hold, in Chile. When the masses get on the move, as they are likely to do given the general economic perspectives for Latin America and in the context of a new dip in the world economy, the small but important forces we have accumulated will come into their own.

337) Most of the economic agencies of world capitalism have predicted a 'strong recovery' for Latin America as a whole in the second half of 2002. Yet overall growth, according to the IMF, for 2002 is likely to be 1 per cent (excluding Argentina), compared to a miserly 0.7 per cent in 2001. The complete failure of the policies of the 1990s has led to a rising tide of discontent throughout the continent and the shattering of the rosy perspectives painted by bourgeois commentators for the continent on condition that it hitched its wagon to US imperialism. At the Inter-American Development Bank conference in the early part of 2002, its head of research declared: "Latin America is suffering the worst crisis in various decades and both governments and public opinion in the region are searching for a way to deal with this". Showing the concern of the bourgeois in the region he went on: "Popular disenchantment with reforms and disenchantment with democracy are both increasing while many countries are mired in economic stagnation or outright recession".

338) In the process, the cherished aim of the Latin American bourgeois to ape the EU and NAFTA, and unify the countries and economies of the region through Mercosur, has suffered a severe blow. Mercosur was perhaps, next to the EU and NAFTA, the most unified trading bloc. Average tariff levels fell from above 40 per cent in the mid-1980s to around 10 per cent at the end of the last decade. However, Argentina has shown that, faced with a serious domestic economic crisis, the governments of the region will not hesitate to once more take measures aimed at protecting their own national position.

339) The giant in the north is already struck a severe blow against 'free trade'. While the steel producers in the region are not as seriously affected as elsewhere, nevertheless it will have a serious effect on already weakened Latin American industry. The measures such as those taken by the Argentinian government, which are likely to be repeated in other Latin American countries faced with a serious economic crisis, could deal a death blow to Mercosur in the next period. The bare bones of the agreement may remain intact, largely on paper, but the reality could be that each country, each national bourgeoisie, will be busy scrambling for advantage over its rivals and with this will go the collapse of wider co-operation on a continental basis.

Peru

340) The depth of the crisis is reflected by the rapidity with which a 'popular' regime can quickly become unpopular, or a government or president, can be rapidly replaced by another, as the masses desperately search for a way out. The obvious example of this is in Argentina. Yet even in Peru the same process has been witnessed. Fujimori was forced to flee into exile surrounded by a cloud of corruption and he was replaced by Toledo. Yet, seven months after his election victory, his popularity sunk with 65 per cent in a poll disapproving of his leadership. Broken election promises, lack of jobs, and the slow pace of economic recovery, were all cited. Peru's gross domestic product grew by only 2 per cent in 2001, meanwhile 'lack of work', a euphemism for unemployment and underemployment affects half of the workforce in Peru, where 13 million people live on less than $2 a day.

341) The promise of Toledo to put the country to right through a rapid introduction of the market economy with a 'human face' has not been realised. Mass demonstrations have taken place in Lima, with the banging of the saucepans in the streets, similar to events in Argentina. New protests against the privatisation of the electrical company have erupted in Arequipa in the south of Peru. These mass protests, involving both electrical workers and the rest of the local community, have had major repercussions nationally. As the Spanish daily El Pais commented they "have put into question the governability of the country." [21/6/02] As a result of these protests the government was forced to apologise for the privatisations carried out and have suspended for now further proposals to privatise energy companies.

342) Even the discredited forces of Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) have been able to make a comeback in this situation. Its forces are small; numbering barely 500 it is estimated and largely concentrated in the rural areas. They seem to have struck alliances with the drug cartels, and mainly defend peasants against state repression for the growing of the cocaine crop. However, guerrillaism could return in Latin America, mainly in the countryside, but under some conditions in the urban areas as well. There is a kind of class deadlock throughout the continent with all conceivable policies and parties tried and found wanting. Yet, because the conditions continue to deteriorate, in desperation guerrillaism could once again become an important phenomena elsewhere.

Central America

343) Even in Central America armed confrontation including an outbreak of guerrillaism is entirely possible. This region paid a terrible price - an estimated 250,000 lives lost - in the guerrilla struggle against a series of brutal military regimes. In Guatemala alone, the war killed 200,000 people, mostly in massacres of indigenous peoples. The president of Guatemala described this as "the cruellest civil war in Latin America in the twentieth century". The memory of this lies heavily on the consciousness of the peoples of Central America and they would not easily take to that road once more. However, the economy remains shattered, even after a decade of so-called growth. More than half of Central America's 36 million people live in poverty and the average income per head is below that of 1979.

344) The guerrillas who have given up the armed struggle feel cheated, as do the masses. And even the former guerrillas of the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unit (URNG) have stated that the peace process is dead, discrimination against the Mayans remains rife and discontent is once more growing amongst the masses. There is an implied threat to take to the road of guerrillaism once more. If Latin America is to once more experience another cruel phase of guerrillaism this will be payment for the failure of the working class in the region to develop mass revolutionary parties capable of breaking the back of landlordism, capitalism and the grip of imperialism.

345) The only hope for the Central American masses is the socialist transformation of society and the linking up of the six countries which comprise the region into a confederation of a socialist character. There have been 25 attempts by the bourgeois in the past to put together a 'united provinces of Central America'. All have failed because only the proletariat in this era is capable of effecting such a harmonious collaboration of the peoples of the region.

346) The concern of US imperialism at developments in the area was underlined by the visit of Bush in March 2002 to the area. However, he rejected any proposals for a reduction in agricultural subsidies and tariff barriers in the US, which affects Central America's main exports, allegedly because of 'congressional pressure'. There is no hope for the masses in the region on the basis of a perpetuation of the present situation of capitalism, landlordism and the economic domination of US imperialism.

Venezuela

347) In what it has always considered its own 'backyard' the US government is prepared to snuff out any challenge to its rule and that of its local agents. This was highlighted in the attempted coup in Venezuela which has been fully dealt with in a CWI statement and therefore requires just a few comments here on the main lessons of this event and the immediate perspectives ahead for Venezuela. US imperialism played a key role, despite claims to the contrary, in the preparations for the coup fronted by Carmona. The fingerprints of Otto Reich, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs and a former US ambassador to Venezuela, were all over the preparations for the coup. He occupies the same position in the Bush regime as those such as Oliver North did for Reagan in the 1980s. Indeed, the Cuban-born Reich was a collaborator of North's and seven out of the top twelve officials in the US Latin American department are right-wing Cuban-Americans. His personal crusade has been for the overthrow of Castro.

348) After the failure of the coup it emerged that the US Navy had helped in its preparations, with intelligence supplied to the Venezuelan military from its vessels in the Caribbean. US financial backing was key for the participants in the coup and US military officers were present at the Furerte Tiuna military headquarters with the coup leaders during the night of 11-12 April. However, their stooge, 'Carmona the Brief', lasted just one day in office. The reason for this lay not in the counter-actions of Chávez or his immediate circle, but from a spontaneous movement of the masses and the ranks of the army from below, as we have explained in our statement.

349) Indeed the warnings of a coup, which came from many quarters, were unheeded by Chávez in the period leading up to this. The Venezuelan chief of OPEC, Rodriguez, a former left-wing guerrilla, actually telephoned Chávez from his Vienna headquarters several days before the attempted overthrow in April, warning them that the US was considering action because of the vital importance of oil. Some Arab countries, notably Libya and Iraq had planned to call for a new oil embargo against the United States because of its support for Israel. When the oil embargo of 1973 was introduced, Venezuela, then under a pro-US regime, undermined the embargo by replacing Arab oil with its own huge reserves. The Chávez regime was unlikely to pursue a similar policy today, hence the pressure from the US for what turned out to be a premature coup.

350) Initially, Chávez, when faced with the reality of the coup, requested from those who arrested him that he be allowed to fly into exile from Cuba. As we have explained in the very full document of the CWI, he was saved from this fate, at least temporarily by a revolutionary upsurge by the ranks of the army and the masses. After his return to power, Bush commented that he hoped that Chávez had "learned his lesson". Just what this meant has been shown in the period since the coup in the actions of the Chávez government. There is some difference between the way that Chávez has acted and the way that Allende, for instance, responded to the premature coup in Chile in June 1973. Under the pressure of the masses, Allende was compelled to take over 30 per cent of industry but stopped short of arming the working class, despite the mass clamour for this from the Chilean masses. He also maintained Pinochet as the head of the armed forces. Chávez, on the other hand, has promised a 'shake up' of his cabinet and has removed left-wing allies, from the defence ministry for instance.

351) A major bone of contention with the Venezuelan officer caste was the radicalisation of sections of the army, which had taken place under the Chávez government. Their price for not resorting to further immediate measures of a coup character was the removal of any radical figures with access to the army. Another disputed issue was the creation of the 30,000 Bolivarian Circles, involving an estimated half a million Venezuelans who played a key role in preventing the April coup. Remorseless pressure is now being exerted on Chávez for the dissolution of the circles, which are seen by the military caste as an alternative armed militia to its own forces. It remains to be seen whether Chávez will accede to their requests or will continue to prevaricate, thereby laying the basis for further attempts to topple him.

352) It is not certain how events will transpire in the next period. It is possible that a further attempt at a military overthrow could be tried, particularly if there is a turn towards the left by Chávez. This, however, remains a difficult option for US imperialism and reaction in Venezuela. The continental and world background, of the promotion of 'democracy', is not conducive to such measures at the present time. It is therefore possible that the opposition to Chávez will concentrate its efforts on unseating him and his supporters at the next elections in 2003. However, it is still not certain that Chávez would be defeated in elections.

353) Venezuela shows that, due to the blind alley of landlordism and capitalism in Latin America, radical populist regimes can come to power which can enormously arouse the expectations of the masses. However, remaining in a halfway house situation gives the bourgeois, backed by imperialism, the opportunity to use the inevitable disappointment to prepare to sabotage and eventually overthrow such a government. The striking thing about Venezuela is that here was a government and a leader, Chávez, who were not socialists but populists who took some radical measures. Yet, faced with a coup, aimed at not only overthrowing the government but setting back the rights and conditions of the mass of the working class and the peasantry, a spontaneous movement from below was able on this occasion to defeat reaction.

354) A phase of populism is possible, indeed most likely now, in Latin America. It will be somewhat different to the 'populist' regimes of the 1950s and 1960s, or in the interwar period. These regimes were able, sometimes by state intervention, to improve the living standards of at least some sections of the poor and working class. The collapse of the 'socialist' model of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union meant a switch to 'the market' by the bourgeoisie. But the extreme social crisis in Latin America and the need to find a way out demand radical proposals and radical leadership. Different hues of populism are entirely possible in the coming period. This will be a phase, a stage, towards a reawakening of socialist consciousness and the need for a radical economic transformation of society throughout the continent.

Argentina

355) The dilemma which confronts the whole continent is summed up by the situation in Argentina. There are no real historical parallels with what has transpired there in the course of the last six months to a year. The collapse of the economy has been reflected in the spiralling of poverty, now put at two-thirds of the population, and unemployment, presently at the level of 30 per cent. The economy is expected to decline by 15 per cent in 2002. The Financial Times declared that Argentina can "no longer afford its middle class" and decrepit Argentine capitalism is going a long way to realising this goal through its improvement. The descendents of those Italian and Spanish citizens who fled the poverty of their homelands in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries are queuing up outside the embassies to return to Europe. This is a visible expression of 'modern' capitalism attempting to turn back the wheel of history.

356) This collapse is particularly striking as Argentina was a relatively developed and prosperous economy, ranking at one stage eighth in the world in terms of GDP. In 1913 real living standards were higher than France and Germany. Buenos Aires was known as the Paris of Latin America. The Peronist governments were able to grant substantial concessions to the working class which had a relatively high standard of living, at least by Latin America standards. Beef was the stable diet for the masses. Today, according to the most recent reports, in the poorer districts the search for food is undertaken on rubbish tips, and rats, cats and dogs are eaten to stave off hunger.

357) The reports of desperation amongst the masses fill the bourgeois press in the West. A government worker declared: "I have five kids at home and there is no money in the cash machines. What am I to do? I don't have a peso in my wallet". A cashless economy, primitive barter, is the norm for significant sections of the population. The incidence of extreme stress, headaches, stomach troubles and other stress disorders has soared , along with the sale of tranquillisers, described by doctors as 'Argentinitis'.

358) The near anarchy, the economic ruination of the lives of millions has led to an unprecedented anger directed at the 'political class', the different bourgeois politicians present and past, who are now universally blamed for the precipitous decline of what was the world's seventh richest nation to a basket case to day. The brother of former Peronist president Carlos Menem, who is a national senator himself, was confronted by a young man on a plane shouting, "What an awful smell of shit in here!" Passengers travelling to Europe complained of having to share a flight with a former foreign minister. Former Radical Party president Alfonsín has been besieged in his house with shouts of "thief" and "give back the money". Former president Fernando de la Rúa and ex-economy minister Domingo Cavallo are so fearful for their safety that they have not appeared in public since they were swept from power in December 2001. All over Argentina politicians are abused, driven from restaurants, shopping malls and cafes, by angry workers and sections of the middle class. This treatment was once reserved for army officers who had participated in the military government which slaughtered 30,000 people during the dirty war of the 1970s and 1980s.

359) There is not just the discrediting of all bourgeois politicians but the very institutions of Argentine capitalism itself, on top of a profound social, political and economic crisis. The fact that Zamora, a former member of the Trotskyist Morenoite organisation, was in the leading position in early 2002 for a future presidential election is just one indication of this. Zamora is the politician seen in the most positive image by 35 per cent of those polled, followed by Kirchner (a Peronist) on 21 per cent. In relation to voting intentions Zamora was in first place with 13.5 per cent followed by Carrio (who has split from the government) on 12.7 per cent [Pagina 12, 5 May, 2002]. The populist leader of the recently created 'Alternative for a Republic of Equals', has declared apropos the politicians: "If this was France here you would see the guillotine being used". Lenin described four conditions for a revolutionary situation. One: a division amongst the ruling class. Two: ferment amongst the middle class and the search for an alternative. Three: the preparedness of the working class to no longer tolerate the old regime and to fight for its overthrow. Four: the existence of a mass revolutionary party. Some of these conditions already exist in Argentina but there is no mass socialist consciousness and there is, unfortunately, no mass revolutionary pole of attraction, a mass party with a far-sighted leadership capable of mobilising the masses for power. This is why the CWI has described the conditions in Argentina as 'pre-pre-revolutionary'.

360) The class deadlock is unprecedented in history. Normally in such a situation either a socialist revolution or a military coup would be on the agenda. The first is not immediately possible given the present insufficient socialist and class consciousness of the Argentinian working class. It has demonstrated heroic combativity in five general strikes in 18 months but lacks, as yet, an understanding that capitalism should be replaced by socialism, or the need for a mass revolutionary party. The mood of 'a plague on all politicians' is expressed in an extreme form in Argentina. The role of Peronism, the absence historically of a mass socialist consciousness, is a factor here which has deepened the 'anti-politicians' mood which exists around the world. Yet, the votes for small Trotskyist organisations in Buenos Aires and Cordoba in the last regional and municipal elections - they received a million votes in Buenos Aires - is an expression of the yearning for a change including a revolutionary overturn, by a section of the working class at this stage.

361) On the other hand, there is no appetite in the military, severely burnt as they were after their last seizure of power in the 1970s and 1980s, to resort once more to a coup. Indeed the top military figure of the Argentine armed forces explained that there would be "no intervention" by the military as in the past; now the army was there to "serve the people".

362) >From below there is a movement of an estimated 150 groups across the country, including many co-ordinated by internet or e-mail, calling for 'change'. Moreover, despite the denunciation of politics they are being dragged into the political arena. Initially, these meetings featured Argentinian flags but now, as The Independent in Britain has reported, they are "full of red banners belonging to political groups and pictures of Che Guevara".

363) A drawn out death agony of Argentine capitalism appears to be the most likely scenario. This will not be at all a smooth, tranquil process, a gentle and 'glorious decline'. On the contrary, it will be punctuated by further outbursts of anger by the masses. This will be the case even if different populist regimes come to power. Further moods of despair, and even a small growth in the economy at a certain stage, are possible. But, in general, there is no way out on the basis of capitalism. The Latin American bourgeois can pretend that the Argentine contagion can be contained but the real danger to them is of a "domino effect", with Argentina infecting Brazil, Chile, indeed the whole continent.

364) It is crucial that the CWI continues with the valiant efforts of our comrades in Brazil to find a road to the best layers of the youth and the working class in Argentina. The mood of this section is summed up by a worker commenting to The Guardian: "The problem in Argentina isn't actually corruption, there is corruption everywhere in the world, what we have in Argentina is outright plunder." He went on: "In the 1970s they came for our industry, in the 1990s they came for our savings, but now they are coming for our homes and our land". The Argentine president, Duhalde, echoed the same sentiments when he stated that the country was just a step away from anarchy: "Argentina is on the edge of a bloodbath. This time bomb will explode if we don't carefully dismantle it. Class war may not be far off. "

365) However, class war is already a fact in Argentina and will break out with redoubled ferocity in the next period. A programme for revolutionary organisations in Latin America must have a pronounced anti-imperialist character because of the domination exercised particularly by the US. In the post-11 September period, the US has managed to establish bases in Argentina and Brazil. Small though these are - in some cases amounting to 'scientific' teams with a pronounced military bent - it would have been unimaginable even five years ago such a situation. It is a measure of the capitulation of the Latin American bourgeois to US imperialism on all fundamental issues.

Brazil

366) Brazil, along with Argentina and Mexico, is decisive for future developments throughout Latin America. Economically the most powerful country in the region, with a population of over 160 million and a landmass comparable to the USA, it has almost continental characteristics. It also contains an extremely powerful and youthful proletariat with millions organised into the trade unions, CUT, and the powerful landless workers movement, the MST. The combined and uneven development of Brazil means that some features of developed countries such as Spain or Italy exist alongside regions or states comparable with Nigeria. This gives rise to explosive contradictions. The most modern industrial, chemical and computer industries exist alongside landless peasants, child labour and even slavery in some North Eastern states. Brazilians correctly often use the term "Bel-India" (Belgium and India) to describe the unevenness of its social contradictions under capitalism and landlordism. Brazil is of particular importance for the work of the CWI in Latin America as a whole.

367) In its eight years in power, the Cardoso government in Brazil has pursued neo-liberal policies like its counterparts in the rest of Latin America. However, the country during this period has been the scene of significant movements of the workers and the agricultural population. A manifestation of this was the invasion of Cardoso's 'cattle ranch', 200 kilometres from the capital Brasilia, in March 2002. The MST, which is pushing for serious land reform in Latin America's largest country in order to redress the inequalities in ownership and wealth distribution, led hundreds of peasant families in demanding land for them and credit for the 1,500 workers who had previously been given land in the region. During the peaceful occupation, landless families cooked food and picnicked after unfurling a large red flag bearing the MST logo in Cardoso's 'living room'. There was liberal use of the telephone by the invading peasants.

368) Despite the denunciations by the government ministers of what they called agrarian terrorism, an entirely different approach was adopted towards this than a similar confrontation seven years previously. Then, 19 MST activists were shot dead while confronting the army in a remote Amazon region. This mood in the countryside has been matched by that of the working class. In 2002 a general strike of the Brazilian working class took place in opposition to the Cardoso government's attempts to 'restructure' (attack) labour and trade union rights. However, its effectiveness was undermined by the right wing of the CUT.

369) These events are a portent of the general election in Brazil in October 2002. At the time of writing, Lula, the candidate of the Workers' Party (PT), is way ahead in the polls. If Lula should come to power, as is quite widely anticipated, a new chapter would open up in Brazil and especially for the PT. Lula has tried to appease the ruling class and recently won a standing ovation from business representatives following a speech aimed at proving that he is now "safe" for the capitalists. Reflecting this process, his Vice-Presidential running mate is leader of the capitalist Liberal Party and a businessman. This is in marked contrast to the election campaign in 1989 when Lula threatened to replace capitalism with socialism and came within a whisker of victory.

370) However, despite this pronounced swing to the right the ruling class still fear a Lula victory. He could open the flood-gates of a mass movement of workers, youth and peasants demanding serious reforms and radical measures from a new government. These factors and the history of the PT mean that, as the Financial Times explained, the very name of the party sends shivers down the spine of businessmen.

371) The PT, has never been in power, and despite the swing to the right by the leadership still maintains a radical credibility amongst important sections of workers. Many workers undoubtedly think that Lula has no alternative but to make "moderate" gestures to win power and then they expect more radical policies will be adopted if he is elected. A PT victory, against the likely background of economic crisis and recession, will rapidly provoke divisions and possibly splits from the PT. It is possible that Lula will just bow the knee and follow the dictates of big business. On the other hand, the depth of the crisis and mass pressure from below could force him into introducing some radical populist measures despite his rightward turn in recent years.

372) The CWI section in Brazil has already demonstrated great flexibility in tactics, as well as audacity in the campaigns on education and against privatization. These conditions will allow the forces of the CWI to make a significant breakthrough in the period we are now going into.

Cuba

373) Cuba remains at the centre of perspectives for Latin America. The country has returned to the centre of the political stage after the visit of former US president Jimmy Carter in May 2002. Carter was allowed to call on live Cuban TV for a less repressive regime, a lifting of the persecution of dissidents and greater democracy. This was accompanied by public opposition to the continued US sanctions against Cuba, including the infamous Helms-Burton Act.

374) Vicente Fox, president of Mexico, had also attacked this act in February, while calling for the Castro regime to show a greater commitment to human rights. Fox was allowed to meet Castro's opponents in Havana. The position of Carter and Fox undoubtedly expresses the majority views of the bourgeois worldwide, probably even in the US itself, in how to approach the Cuban regime. They reckon that opening trade to Cuba, more contact with US tourists and 'the almighty dollar' will weaken the Castro regime, much more than economic or other sanctions.

375) Indeed, the embargo plays into the hands of Castro, they correctly calculate. Its maintenance, and with it the implied threat of foreign intervention in Cuba, are used to mobilise the population behind him. It taps into Cuba's deep-rooted national sentiments, an anti-imperialist mood throughout Cuba and Latin America as a whole. The Bush administration, however, with its eyes on the November gubernatorial elections in Florida, where Bush's brother Jeb is once more standing, has set its face against any concessions to the Cuban regime . The 60,000 Cuban Americans in Florida were key in allowing George Bush to steal Florida from the Democrats in the 2000 presidential elections.

376) Bush defended the forty year old trade and travel embargo of Cuba the day after Carter, in a televised speech in Cuba, called for sanctions to be lifted. Bush claimed that Cuba did not meet "international standards of democracy". Yet nor does China and the US has not imposed sanctions there or against other states that sin against the 'democratic' credo of Bush. He then added, without any evidence whatsoever, the additional charge that Cuba was developing bio-terrorist weapons and exporting this knowledge to 'rogue states'. This is despite the fact that Cuba rushed to support the Bush administration in denouncing terrorism immediately after 11 September, and complied behind the scenes to the use of Guantanamo to hold Al Qa'ida suspects. Moreover, as the Financial Times commented, "These claims seem to have little basis beyond the fact that Cuba has developed a biotechnical industry".

377) The stance of the Bush regime, while tailored to extracting the maximum political benefits for the Republicans in Florida, has met with growing opposition of significant forces in the US Congress, both Republicans and Democrats. The farming states in particular, desperate to sell surplus agricultural products, are clamouring for a lifting of the trade ban with Cuba. An ending of the 40-year policy of isolating Cuba is inevitable at a certain stage.

378) The Cuban economy itself grew at about 4 per cent in 2001 and slightly less than 5 per cent growth is projected for 2002. This still compares favourably to the desperate economic plight of its neighbours in Latin America and the Caribbean. Yet, the island has seen a drop in tourism in the aftermath of 11 September. Hotels have closed, taxi drivers were laid off and restaurants were empty. Moreover, the next biggest foreign currency earner, dollars from relatives abroad, estimated worth $1.2 billion (£820 million) a year, also dipped as the world economy went into recession. Added to this is a drop in the world price of Cuba's main earners, nickel and coffee, and the announcement of the closure of the last Russian intelligence base, south of Havana, with the loss of $200 million of rent. At the same time it is not expected that Cuba will face the position of 1993-94, the most desperate years of financial crisis and collapse, which followed the implosion of the Soviet Union and the withdrawal of aid from Moscow.

379) Cuba still remains a workers' state, a deformed one, but if the present situation should drag on for any length of time, and particularly if there is a switch in US policy towards Cuba, the burgeoning capitalist elements already present could push Cuba firmly along the road to capitalist restoration. The death of Castro itself could be the trigger for such a situation. Short of a political revolution in Cuba itself, only a new revolutionary wave in Latin America could cut across this perspective. At the same time, Cuba still remains a symbol, and particularly Che Guevara and the Cuban revolution, for a significant layer of workers and young people worldwide, who are looking for an alternative to capitalism. This means that we must approach the dilemma confronting Cuba in a principled but sympathetic way. We stand for the defence of the considerable social gains of the Cuban revolution, while at the same time advancing a programme for workers' democracy.