By Brian Becker
Even as stock markets were beginning to crash in a panic that would quickly spread from Asia to the rest of the capitalist world, representatives of more than 100 Marxist, communist, socialist and progressive parties were meeting here in Cuba to assess the world situation. The conference called "Socialism toward the 21st Century," hosted by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, met Oct. 21-23.
Participants debated and discussed the prospects for socialism and the validity of Marxism and Leninism as the doctrine of the revolutionary struggle to overcome oppression, poverty and exploitation.
It was clear where the Cuban Communist Party stands on socialism. The conference followed by one week the party's Fifth Congress and a mass march of the Cuban people to pay homage to fallen guerrilla leader Che Guevara, who was executed by the Bolivian military in collaboration with the CIA 30 years ago.
At the Party Congress and in speeches commemorating Che, Cuban President Fidel Castro analyzed Cuba's problems resulting from the 35-year-long U.S. blockade of the island and intensified by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the socialist-bloc countries in Eastern Europe.
In the face of these difficulties, Castro and the other Cuban leaders militantly reaffirmed Cuba's socialist path.
Jos‚ Ramon Balaguer, a member of the Cuban party's Political Bureau, summarized the conclusions and fighting spirit of the Party Congress for the delegates at the international conference on socialism.
"Whenever revolutionaries engage in struggle there exists the inherent possibility of achieving victory," said Balaguer. "But if we were to surrender we would automatically eliminate the possibility of victory.
"As capitalism has gotten stronger, as profits go higher and higher, it only means additional hunger and suffering for the working people. That is why we choose to continue to fight for socialism."
Delegates from communist parties holding state power in China, Vietnam, north Korea and Laos attended the conference. The MPLA of Angola was there, along with big parties like the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Portuguese Communist Party, the Communist Party of France, the Greek Communist Party and AKEL (communist party of Cyprus).
The Communist Party of Spain and the Communist Party of the Peoples of Spain both took part. Most Latin American countries were represented.
From the United States, Workers World Party, the Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Action, Freedom Socialist Party and the Committees of Correspondence sent delegates. Cliff Durand, professor of philosophy at Morgan State University, and Kwame Tour‚, known during the civil rights movement as Stokely Carmichael, were also present.
Three working commissions took up contemporary Marxism; the validity of Marxism and Leninism; and imperialism at the end of the 20th century. All delegates were invited to present a paper and a 15-minute presentation at one of the three commissions. Each commission met six times over the three days.
FULL AND LIVELY DISCUSSION
The conference format was noteworthy for its democratic character. After presentations, a lively discussion was allowed. Delegates had an opportunity to react to the analyses and political presentations put forward.
The various parties represented a broad cross section of communist, social democratic and progressive tendencies. The organizers did not insist on conformity to one political program.
No formal proposals were adopted. The gathering provided a forum for principled and respectful political debate and dialogue among those fighting to renew the struggle for socialism and communism.
Most of speakers analyzed the events leading to the collapse of the first socialist government in the Soviet Union and the countries of Eastern Europe. The general conclusion was that these events did not invalidate socialism, Marxist theory or its Leninist application.
Nor does the destruction of Soviet socialism mean that capitalism's existence is eternal.
Speaker after speaker documented how wage cutting, slashing of social programs, rising unemployment and hunger are spreading throughout their countries, even as capitalist corporations and banks announce record profits.
A paper from the National Committee of Workers World Party emphasized the need to combat both capitalist ideology and the tendency to abandon elementary class-struggle conceptions in the face of the temporary setbacks dealt the socialist movement.
"Comrade Fidel Castro asserts that the preservation of socialist values is of decisive importance. We could not agree more," said the WWP statement. "Every reactionary historical epoch, which is always proclaimed as a crowning and enduring achievement by the ruling classes, gives way to a new, tremendous surge forward of revolutionary struggle.
"But it is crucial that revolutionaries fight tooth and nail for their values, their principles and the revolutionary conceptions put forward by Marxism and Leninism."
[The writer attended the conference and presented WWP's position paper.]
Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the November 6, 1997
issue of Workers World newspaper
Sat, 1 Nov 1997
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