Fifty Years of the Cuban Revolution

Reply Fri 25 Jul, 2003 12:20 pm
On Sunday, july 26th 1953, a group of 120 young men and women assaulted the Moncada barracks in Santiago de Cuba. Their goal was to steal the weapons and ammunition, and start a popualr uprising against dictator Fulgencio Batista.

The assault was a failure. Some of the revolutionaries died in battle, more than 70 were captured, tortured and killed. Only 15 survived, among them, their political leader, Fidel Castro.

The group consisted in a couple of soldiers, several Sears salesmen, many High School and University students and a few young politicians. The organizers came from 3 fronts: a masonic logia of British ancestry, "Odd Fellows", the Catholic Workers Party and the Orthodox Revolutionary Party. None of them were Communist.

The massive repression in the aftermath of the assault arose the public opinion and saved the lives of the surviving prisoners, who were expelled from Cuba a few years later.

While in their refuge in Mexico, Castro and his comrades prepared another armed uprising, now with a big network of supporters, both in Cuba and abroad. On November 25th, 1956, Castro and other 81 men -Ernesto Ché Guevara among them- embarked in a yatch to restart the liberation struggle and to make Cuba "the Switzerland of the Americas". With popular (and some American) support, Castro and his bearded men ousted the dictatorship on January 1st, 1959.

Today, 50 years after the assault on the Moncada barracks, we know that Cuba became everything but "the Switzerland of the Americas"; we've seen a revolution who brought hope for many Latin Americans, only to bring despair to millions of Cubans; we've seen a tense relationship between Cuba and the USA, which once made the world shiver with fright; an economic embargo widely critizised by both friends and foes; achievements in health and education, followed by an economic collapse after the demise of the Soviet Union; and we have a brilliant, perverse man who has held to power, near absolute power in a police State, for more than four decades.

What's your opinion about these events?
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Reply Fri 25 Jul, 2003 12:31 pm
Someone else started a thread on this topic, and the thought occurred to me: "That should read, the most recent Cuban revolution." Prior to 1898, American military men who had retired from service were frequently contacted to head a revolutionary movement in the island. Albert Sidney Johnston, who had resigned as commander of the U.S. Second Cavalry in San Antonio de Bexar, and travelled to California to meet with exiles attempting to organize such a revolution, was actually on his way to Florida to take ship for Cuba at the time of the bombardment of Fort Sumter, which, of course, resulted in a little distraction for him, the War Between the States.

When the Marines first landed in Cuba in 1898, not far from Santiago, they were contacted by insurgents, who pointed out to them that the Spaniards need only surround them, and wait--there was no fresh water where they had been landed. Lead by local men, they moved to a better position on high ground, at Guantanamo. They've been there ever since.

I was going to list the number of times that there have been government collapses, coup attempts, successful coups, peasant uprisings and organized rebellions--but i won't bother. For whatever else may be adduced against Castro, he has brought peace to the island for the longest period in it's history since 1810.
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Reply Fri 25 Jul, 2003 12:35 pm
Peace at a steep price.
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Reply Fri 25 Jul, 2003 12:44 pm
What do you mean by peace, boss?

First there was the counterrevolutionaries and their guns in Ciénega de Zapata.
Then there was Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs).
Then the October Crisis ("Nikita, you fag!")
Then, the need to defend the Revolution against all enemies, in an everlasting class war, in which perhaps your neighbor, your teacher, your coworker, your best friend, your spouse is at the service of American Imperialism.
The Revolution has "given wall" to at least 15 000 "traitors".
Then, there was the war in Angola, against South Africans and Angolan imperialist puppets.
And always -but most noticeably after the end of Soviet Communism- an economy of war: no medicines, no glass, no toilet paper, no gasoline, no electricity.

I fail to see the peace, boss.
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Reply Fri 25 Jul, 2003 01:04 pm
Well, i did qualify that by saying "whatever else may be assuced against Castro." I only meant that there has not been years of the warfare of insurgency--a common condition before 1959. I didn't come here to defend Castro, but compared to the past, his has been a period of relative stability. As for Angola, i know of few countries with that kind of militarism which have not used their armies in such a manner--but it was not warfare within Cuba.

You don't like the remark, i'll withdraw it. What you have left is a picture of Cuba as an unstable nation suffering constant strife for about 200 years--and that doesn't take into account the intrigues, assassinations and assassination attempts which plagued the Spanish ascendancy from about 1500 onward.

Not a happy nation by any measure.

I'll go back to my original reaction: the most recent Cuban revolution.
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Merry Andrew
Reply Sat 26 Jul, 2003 06:30 am
Two major mistakes were made regarding Cuba during the past 50 years, The first was made by Castro in allying himself with the Communist bloc, The second was made by the USA (and continues to be made) in isolating him with a trade and travel embargo on the basis of this unfortunate misalliance.

From all I can gather, Castro is really one of those dedicated ideological Marxists who actually believes in the viability of a Marxist-Leninist state despite the example of the Soviet Union's collapse and the trend of China to drift toward a market economy. This, more than anything else, has helped to wreck not only Cuba's economy but has made the country a pariah among nations.

The situation has been badly aggravated by the US's intransigence in dealing with Fidel. That 50 years adter the fact we still don't fully recognize the legitimacy of the current Cuban government is shameful. We do a landslide business with China which also a Communist country, also established by an armed revolution against an existing right-wing government led by Chiang Kai-Shek. Start importing some Cuban cigars and rum and deal with the political problems on a diplomatic, not economic, level.
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Reply Sun 27 Jul, 2003 03:04 pm
I personally do NOT believe Castro is a "dedicated ideological Marxist", but is first of all a Nationalist.
Being Nationalist in Cuba means, also, to be anti-American, since the country was sort of an American colony dominated by corrupt croonies.
Castro went looking for allies during the sixties. First it was the Soviets, but they got scared in the October crisis; then it was the Chinese (and the pro-Soviet members of the Cuban Communist Party were accused of deviations and expelled), but they did want to sell rice at international prices; then it was the Soviets again (and the expelled pro-Soviet Union Communist went back to top posts).
I think Castro'd be ANYTHING, as long as it's Anti-American and keeps him in power.

The US embargo is one of the least successfull political and economical measures one can imagine. It gives Fidel the perfect propaganda alibi to justify, both home and among leftists from abroad- his keeping of a system that does not work.
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Reply Tue 29 Jul, 2003 12:02 pm
if you withdraw your remarks, I'll posit them again.

We will never know how Cuba would have done without the embargo.
Somewhere, in a corner of my brain, is the memory of Jeanne Kirkpratick writing in Foreign Affairs that we could not allow Nicaragua to succeed under Socialism because the success of one left wing government would cause a ripple effect. Certainly that concern was part of our official thinking during Batista's regime in Cuba.

There is no excuse for Castro's dictatorship. However, it bugs me that the media have always (yes, always) treated right wing dictatorships as equal to democratic countries. The horrors of Duvalier, Batista, Somoza, Pinochet,
the Argentinian military, Stroesner, (the list is long) received and receive short shrift from our media. As long as these butchers espoused anti-communism, they could safely do anything to their citizens.

That is the context in which I can discuss Cuba.
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Reply Tue 29 Jul, 2003 12:48 pm
The context is correct in a historical sense, and explains why the Cuban revolution received such a teflon treatment by many people in Latin America and left-wingers all over the world. But it doesn't justify the Cuban tyranny.
Evil things in Cuba were dismissed because they weren't that different from the evil things American sponsored dictators were doing elsewhere, and Castro was David against the US-Goliath.
But there was a lot of hypocrisy (sp?) justifying Castro's regime. The fact that the US was doing it wrong did not mean that the enemy of the US was doing it right. The enemy of the US was building a police State, nothing to do with the original dreams of the revolution.

As for the Sandinistas, yes, there was an effort from the US to make them lose. nevertheless they won one election. But they finally lost power mostly because of their own mistakes (in some countries, it is hard to believe how unprepared to govern are both the left and the right).
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Reply Wed 30 Jul, 2003 06:58 pm
fbaeser, You are right that one evil does not justify another. We differ in out impressions of the media. I recall no "teflon" treatment of Castro, but rather the reverse. If there was hypocracy justifying Castro's regime, it pales in comparison. For one thing, we created, or at least approved, of all the right wing dictatorships. They were our babies. From Gussman Arbenz to Salvador Allende, we had no compunction about getting rid of (assassinating) elected heads of government that did not meet our requirements.

I must repeat that I basically agree with your post. It's our emphasis and perceptions that differ.
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Reply Thu 31 Jul, 2003 10:50 am
The teflon treatment was obviously not given by the American media, specially during the cold war.

What I said is that there are many good-willed left-wing people that are ready to justify just about anything from the Castro regime, from food rationing to prohibition of travel to programmed blakouts to censorship to the death penalty. They always say: "look at the terrible things Castro's enemy has done".
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Merry Andrew
Reply Thu 31 Jul, 2003 12:42 pm
That's so true, fbaezer. I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard someone in the 60s and 70s say, "Well, look at Batista, He was even worse." To which I could only reply, "What's Batista got to do with it? Castro was supposed to make things better, not even worse."

No, Fidel didn't get the teflon treatment from the US media. But he sure got it from the American left. And, to a large extent, continues to get it. I know a number of people who have made trips to Cuba and come back with glowing reports of the high literacy rate, the wonderful musical venues etc. etc., while glossing over the abject poverty and economic chaos.
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Reply Thu 31 Jul, 2003 04:19 pm
Merry Andrew, in Cuba you see what you want to see.

I've heard people say that Cubans are allowed in "diplotiendas" (for foreigners only), but don't want to get in, because they're proud of Socialism and don't want to consume any "luxuries". In those stores, you have to show your passport in order to buy anything, and I've been confused for a Cuban (the officer giving a quick apology when he heard my accent).

Yes, there is a high literacy rate, and Cubans have, as an average, more years of schooling than any other Latin American country, But they are forbidden to read thousands of books, or foreign papers, and have to ask for permission to the Ministry of the Interior to access the internet. Teachers are allowed to beat students. Ideological compliance is more important than grades, in order to get higher education.
Yes, there is universal health care, and doctors are very good. But there is a constant shortage of medicins. My cousin's wife, a dentist, had to use cleaning gloves. You have a stomach ache, go to a drugstore and find there isn't ANY medicin for your ailment. AIDS patients are secluded (in some sort of concentration camps).
Yes, there is officially no hunger. But there are people who trade their children's milk ration for beer rations (imagine the loss of human values in both sides of the trade), and I know of an Olympic athlete who went, every weekend, to visit his peasant relatives: he carried two big suitcases. They were empty when he went to visit, and full of rice when he went back to Havana.
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Walter Hinteler
Reply Fri 10 Oct, 2003 11:11 am
Today, Bush [was] Putting Squeeze On Fidel, as CBS calls it in their headline.

Whilst the Freedom to Travel Campaign calls for an end of the travel ban for US_Americans to Cuba.
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Reply Fri 10 Oct, 2003 11:26 am
The self-righteous American embargo has actually helped Castro very much. It has hurt both American interests and the Cuban people.

It gives the tyrant a good pretext to explain the both the shortages (which are really due to the economic unfeasability of the regime) and to rally whatever support he can gather against a clearcut "enemy of the Cuban people".

We could not expect some brain work from Bush.
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Reply Mon 20 Oct, 2003 01:08 pm
Well, i only made the statement about peace in Cuba because in the 50 years from 1899 to 1959, every Cuban government fought some sort of insurrection almost constantly. I'm no left-wing apologist for Castro, and i fully understand how bad things are there, both economically and in terms of freedom and political expression.

All i was saying basically, is that after 1959, the bloody insurrections stopped.
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Reply Sat 6 Nov, 2004 01:59 pm
What will happen when Castro proves mortal?
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Reply Sat 6 Nov, 2004 10:36 pm
Thirty years ago the embargo was a necessary way of limiting Cuba's ability to do mischef in the Hemisphere, and of limiting the Soviet's ability to use their client state for purposes dangerous to us.

Today the embargo is superfluous - Cuba has nothing with which to buy our goods, and little of value to export. It remains only because it would be more difficult to remove it than let it continue. True enough, the embargo serves as Castro's excuse, but what does it matter? There is no revolutionary movement in Cuba, and Castro is utterly irrelevant and insignificant, even in the region.

The first generation of Cuban emigrees to the States is now passing from the scene. It has been very successful economically and politically, and very hostile to Castro - a potent political force here. Their children have a somewhat different view, so this may change.

With their Soviet handlers gone, Cuba is no longer a threat to the United States, but it still remains a symbol to some leftists throughout the world. Like global warming, it is a problem, but it isn't worth fixing. The only victims here are the unfortunate Cuban people - as fbaezer has already described.

We can anticipate some real problems when this cruel, dysfunctional regime collapses after the tyrant's death. There will be a flood of refugees; exiles will try to get their property back; struggles for power will erupt; and a population enervated by a generation of socialism and totalitarian control will fall on the mercies of its neighbors. (We have already seen what 40 years of socialism could do to Germans. - Imagine the effect on Cubans)

However I will no longer have to hide my Cohibas in my luggage after every trip to Mexico or SA.
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Reply Mon 8 Nov, 2004 11:34 am
Noddy24 wrote:
What will happen when Castro proves mortal?

"A civil war", says my mother, honestly hoping there will be, such is the political hatred within that generation (and my mother hates both sides). Luckily, that generation is in their eighties (or late seventies, the yournger ones) and will not be followed.

What will happen, then? My opinion:
First, a power struggle within the military. Raúl Castro will try to be heir to his brother, but he was never popular and is the uglier face of the regime. I doubt that he'll succeed.
Cubans will not revolt, I think. Too afraid (and the Cuban way of Communism may yet have real support from about one fourth or one fifth of the population).
Since Cubans -unlike the Chinese- were taugh not to work, a Chinese path of Capitalism with a Communist regime (a perestroika without glasnost) is not feasable.
Then, some type of a collapse. Some sort of implossion. What sort? It depends of the attitude of the US government.

And after that? This is my prediction:
The diaspora will rule over the "islados" (the ones who remained in the island). Which part? I dunno.
The three big foreign influences will be the US, Spain and Mexico. In the medium run, the US influence will be the biggest.
The older refugees will want to go back and have their properties back (actually, like the elephants, all they'd want is to die there).
This will only cause trouble.
The newer generations of the diaspora will not go back to live there. they'll say, in English,: "Daddy, please understand. I am an American, I don't want to go live in Cuba". They'll send a manager on a temporary basis.
Cubans will have a big dissappointment with their regained freedom, because it will not translate soon in the purchasing power they dream of.
Foreign investors will have a big dissappointment will the Cuban work force. They'll find them literate, but little else. The work mystique has been totally lost, and the technological knowledge gap will prove tremendous (they are a good work force for technologies of the seventies, minus the discipline).
Cubans will find out they've been lied to in the educational field, too. They may think they're great mechanical engineers or accountants, but their skills are those of an average mechanical engineer or accountant who graduated decades ago and never was up-to-dated.
Industry will have to be almost totally rebuilt. There will be so many problems disciplining the work force, it may seem meaningless.
Tourism will be a big source of revenues. Casinos will be back. Cuba will be again the adult playground of the elites of the American continent.
Many "islado" Cubans will look with nostalgia at the days when people didn't work, but endlessly lazed at their job, had a secure minimum -vía the rationing book-, could cheat the State in many ways and took for granted the gifts from their exile relatives.
In other words, the poisonous legacy of the Castro regime will last well beyond the death of El Comandante en Jefe.
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