IGNACIO RAMONET: It’s been said that Che even had some Trotskyite sympathies. Did you see that in him at that point?
FIDEL CASTRO: No, no. Let me tell you, really, what Che was like. Che already had, as I’ve said, a political education. He had come naturally to read a number of books on the theories of Marx, Engels and Lenin . . . He was a Marxist. I never heard him talk about Trotsky. He defended Marx, he defended Lenin, and be attacked Stalin — or rather, he criticized the cult of personality, Stalin’s errors … But I never heard him speak, really, about Trotsky. He was a Leninist and, to a degree, he even recognized some merits in Stalin — you know, industrialization, some of those things.
I, deep inside, was more critical of Stalin [than Che was], because of some of his mistakes. He was to blame, in my view, for the invasion of the USSR in 1941 by Hitler’s powerful war machine, without the Soviet forces ever hearing a call to arms. Stalin also committed serious errors — everyone knows about his abuse of force, the repression, and his personal characteristics, the cult of personality. But yet he also showed tremendous merit in industrializing the country, in moving the military industry to Siberia — those were decisive factors in the world’s fight against Nazism.
So, when I analyze it, I weigh his merits and also his great errors, and one of those was when he purged the Red Army due to Nazi misinformation — that weakened the USSR militarily on the very eve of the Fascist attack.
FIDEL CASTRO, My Life. By Fidel Castro and Ignacio Ramonet, p. 181.
On another occasion you said to me that there was no longer any ‘model’ in the sphere of politics and that today no one knew very well what the concept ‘Socialism’ meant. You were telling me that at a meeting of the São Paulo Forum that was held in Havana, which all the Latin American Lefts attended, you, the participants, had to reach an agreement not to speak the word ‘Socialism’ because it’s a word that ‘divides’.
Look — what is Marxism? What is Socialism? They’re not well defined. In the first place, the only political economy that exists is the capitalist one, but the capitalist one of Adam Smith.’ So here we are making Socialism sometimes with those categories adopted from capitalism, which is one of the greatest concerns we have. Because if you use the categories of capitalism as an instrument in the construction of Socialism, you force all the corporations to compete with each other, and criminal, thieving corporations spring up, pirates that buy here and buy there. There needs to be a very profound study [of this].
Che once got involved in a tremendous controversy about the consequences of using budget financing versus self-financing. We talked about that.’ As a government minister, he had studied the organization of several great monopolies, and they used budget financing. The USSR used another method: self-financing. And he had strong opinions about that.’
Marx made just one slight attempt, in the Critique of the Gotha Programme,’ to try to define what Socialism would be like, because he was a man of too much wisdom, too much intelligence, too great a sense of realism to think that one could write a utopia of what Socialism would be like. The problem was the interpretation of the doctrines, and there have been ‘a lot of interpretations. That was why the progressives were divided for so long, and that’s the reason behind the controversies between anarchists and socialists, the problems after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 between the Trotskyites and the Stalinists, or, we might say, [in deference to] the people on one or another side of those great controversies, the ideological schism between the two great leaders. The more intellectual of the two was, without a doubt, Trotsky.
Stalin was more a practical leader — he was a conspirator, not a theorist, even though once in a while, later, he would try to turn theorist … I remember some booklets that were passed around in which Stalin tried to explain the essence of ‘dialectical ‘materialism’, and he used the example of water. They tried to make Stalin into a theorist. He was an organizer of great ability, I think he was a revolutionary — I don’t think he was ever at the service of the tsar, ever. But then he committed those errors that we all know about — the repression, the purges, all that.
Lenin was the genius; he died relatively young, but he would have been able to do so much had he lived. Theory doesn’t always help. In the period during which the Socialist state was being built, Lenin desperately applied-beginning in 1921 — the NEP,” the new economic policy . . . We’ve talked about that, and I told you that Che himself didn’t like the NEP.
Lenin had a truly ingenious idea: build capitalism under a dictatorship of the proletariat. Remember that what the great powers wanted to do was destroy the Bolshevik Revolution; everybody attacked it. One mustn’t forget the history of the destruction they caused in that underdeveloped country; Russia was the least-developed country in Europe, and of course Lenin, following Marx’s formulation, thought that the revolution couldn’t occur in a single country, that it had to occur simultaneously in the most highly industrialized countries, on the basis of a great awakening of the forces of production.
So the great dilemma, after that first revolution took place in Russia, was what path to follow. When the revolutionary movement failed in the rest of Europe, Lenin had no alternative: he had to build Socialism in a single country: Russia. Imagine the construction of Socialism in that country with an 80 per cent illiteracy rate and a situation in which they had to defend themselves against everybody that was attacking them, and in which the main intellectuals, the men and women with the most knowledge, had fled or were executed. You see?
It was a pretty terrible time, with intense debates.
There were many, many controversies. Lenin had died by then. In my opinion, during the ten years of the NEP the Soviet Union wasted time setting up agricultural cooperatives. Since individual production yielded the maximum of what could be produced under those conditions, collectivization was precipitate. In Cuba there were always, out in the country, over 100,000 individual landowners. The first thing we did in 1959 was give everyone who was leasing land or working as sharecroppers the property they were working on.
FIDEL CASTRO, My Life. By Fidel Castro and Ignacio Ramonet, p. 387-389.