Much is said about Castro's (and the Cuban revolution's) "communist credentials".
The facts are clear and simple: the Cuban revolution was overwhelmingly a nationalist and anti-corruption movement. It was not a communist revolution (as the quotes from Che and Castro below clearly show). The communists (formerly allies of Batista) sided with Castro in his "coup" to remove all other leaders of the revolution stealing the success of the ant-Batista revolution. Many of the former anti-Batista movement took up arms again (in vain) against Castro to defend their ideals in the "Escambrey" revolt. While the Cuban regime has tried to "play down" this revolt one only has to visit the "museum of the banditism" in Trinidad to see how widespread and forceful this second effort to recoup the revolutionary gains was. In a determined attempt to praise itself the Cuban government actually acknowledges the extent of the anti-Castro revolt.
Cuba was the third developed nation in the Americas. In certain indicators of development it beat European nations like Spain, Portugal and even Belgium in the early 1950's.
"Armando Hart, a member of Castro's innermost ruling group, made the extremely significant observation that:
. . . it is certain that capitalism had attained high levels of organization, efficiency and production that declined after the
Revolution. . . (Juventud Rebelde, November 2, 1969; quoted by Rene Dumont, Is Cuba Socialist?)
Paul A. Baran, an ardent pro-Castroite in the equally ardent Monthly Review pamphlet, Reflections on the Cuban Revolution (1961) substantiates what every economist, as well as amateurs like Castro, has been saying:
...the Cuban Revolution was born with a silver spoon in its mouth. .
.the world renowned French agronomist, Rene Dumont, has estimated that if properly cultivated as intensively as South China, Cuba could feed fifty million people. . . the Cuban Revolution is spared the painful, but ineluctable compulsion that has beset preceding socialist revolutions: the necessity to force tightening of people's belts in order to lay the foundations for a better tomorrow. . .(p. 23)
Theodore Draper quotes Anial Escalante, (before he was purged by Castro) one of the leading communists, who admitted that:
...in reality, Cuba was not one of the countries with the lowest standard of living of the masses in America, but on the contrary, one of the highest standards of living, and it was here where the first great . . . democratic social revolution of the continent burst forth. . . If the historical development had been dictated by the false axiom [revolutions come first in poorest countries] the revolution should have been first produced in Haiti, Colombia or even Chile, countries of greater poverty for the masses than the Cuba of 1958. . . (quoted in Draper's Castro's Revolution: Myths and Realities; New York, 1962,
see: Anarchists Archive - Dolgoff
Sam Dolgoff books at Amazon.com
Castro himself admitted that there was no hunger in Cuba:
Cuba, the "Pearl of the Antilles," though by no means a paradise, was not, as many believe, an economically backward country. Castro himself admitted that while there was poverty, there was no economic crisis
and no hunger in Cuba before the Revolution. (See Maurice Halperin: The Rise and Fall of Fidel Castro, University of California, 1972, pgs. 24, 25, 37)
From this other Socialist website the developed status of Cuba before Castro (and the immediate effects of his take-over) are clear:
"Firstly Cuba was already relatively developed before 1959, probably third in Latin America. Secondly, Cuba compares well but not is not markedly better than examples of capitalist countries on a similar level, like Taiwan and Costa Rica. Thirdly, since the withdrawal of the Russian subsidy there has been a terrible decline in living standards.
Cuba's annual growth figure of 4% over the first thirty years, even if it is credible, which I doubt, does not reveal the whole picture. Cuba fell from third place in Latin America to fifteenth for GDP per capita between 1952 and 1981, and the growth figures that were achieved did not arise from increases in productivity. The economy shrank from the mid-1980's and plummeted 35% between 1989-93, back to 1970's levels. GDP per head is now lower than Jamaica. From 1963 Cuba became a sugar monoculture within the Soviet empire. But the real crisis in Cuban agriculture is shown by the fact that half the food for Havana (three million people) is currently produced by the army, which owns just 4% of the land."
Also see the video: Cuba Memoria Sindical
Where were the communists during the Cuban revolution? If we believe Fidel Castro not on the side of the revolution:
In the course of the guerrilla struggle in the Sierra Maestra mountains, he (Castro) delivered another speech which, once again, stresses his distance from the Communists:
"What right does Senor Batista have to speak of Communism? After all, in the elections of 1940 he was the candidate of the Communist Party ... his portrait hung next to Blas Roca's and Lazaro Pena's; and half a dozen ministers and confidants of his are leading members of the CP."
H.M. Enzenburger, Raids and Reconstructions, London, 1976, p.200.
A version of the facts confirmed in this (Marxist) source:
In November 1940, the communists supported Batista's candidates in the elections to the Constituent Assembly. In return for their support, Batista allowed the communists to organize and control the government sponsored union, Cuban Confederation of Labor (CTC Confederacion de Trabajadores de Cuba) The first Secretary General of the CTC was Lazaro Pena--who, ironically, enough, held the same post in the Castro regime. In exchange for these favors the communists guaranteed Batista labor peace.
(also see the video: Cuba Memoria Sindical) In line with the Communist Party's "Popular Front Against Fascism" policy, the alliance of the Communist Party with the Batista was officially consumated when the Party joined the Batista government. The Communist Party leaders Carlos Rafael Rodriguez and Juan Marinello (who now hold high posts in the Castro government) became Ministers Without Portfolio in Batista's Cabinet. To illustrate the intimate connections between the communists and Batista, we quote from a letter of Batista to Blas Roca, Secretary of the Communist Party:
With respect to your letter which our mutual friend, Dr. Carlos Rafael Rodriguez, Minister Without Portfolio, passed to me, I am happy to again express my firm unshakeable confidence in the loyal cooperation the People's Socialist Party [the then official name of the Communist Party of Cuba] its leaders and members have given and continue to give myself and my government. . .
Believe me, as always, Your very affectionate and cordial friend,
In the electoral campaign the Communist candidates won ten seats in the Cuban parliament and more than a hundred posts in the Municipal councils.
In line with their pro-Batista policy the communists joined Batista in condemning Fidel Castro's attack on the Moncada Barracks (July 1953 -- the anniversary of the attack is a national holiday in Castro Cuba)
. . . the life of the People's Socialist Party (communist). . . has been to combat . . . and unmask the putschists and adventurous activities of the bourgeois opposition as being against the interests of the people. . . (reported in Daily Worker, U.S organ of the Communist Party, August 10, 1953)
Throughout the Batista period the communists pursued two parallel policies: overtly they criticized Batista and covertly they cooperated with him.
See: (with internal links added) http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_Archives/bright/dolgoff/cubanrevolution/chapter6.html
Time line: (from a website on dissident communists in Cuba)
May 1940 The official communists support Batista in the Presidential elections.
July 1942 Batista declares war on the Axis powers and appeals to political parties in Cuba to form a Government of National Unity. The official communists join Batista’s cabinet.
The PSP (Partido Socialista Popular - Cuban Communist party at the time) supported Batista until July 20th 1958 (when the Pacto de Caracas, the agreement between July 26 movement and Partido Socialista Popular was signed)
See: Jorge Garcia Montes and Antonio Alonso Avila. Historia del Partido
Comunista de Cuba. Ediciones Universal, Miami 1970 e.g. pp. 440, 453, 492,
501, 504, 536.
The notorious BRAC (Buro de Repression de Actividades Comunistas) (see "Repuesta" pp. 57-64) was not effective against overt and covert communists but apparently used communist contacts to provide high level X-4 information (e.g. "Repuesta" p. 132) on disaffected officials of the Cuban army and non-Castro resistance that was almost without exception co-opted.
The veteran Cuba-watcher Ruby Phillips of the New York Times speculated, from sources unnamed, that one of the reasons why BRAC made few arrests of Communists in early 1958 was that the Communists had struck a deal with Batista: If they refrained from supporting Castro, Batista would stop harassing them.
When CIA headquarters official Lyman B. Kirkpatrick, Jr., visited Batista in 1957 on a mission to strengthen BRAC, the Cuban president, to Kirkpatrick's shock, brought in a photographer to snap pictures that showed
up in the next day's Havana newspapers. "Thus I found myself being used to bolster a shaky and increasingly unpopular regime," Kirkpatrick lamented. As he learned the next year, BRAC was almost entirely targeting M-26-7 and using violence in interrogations, "despite our constant protests."(31)
See: Contesting Castro, by Thomas G. Paterson
Missing from the insurrection against the dictator were the Communists and their followers (the lower working classes and unions). Samuel Farber writes that "The old Communist Party had little that could attract the new generations of young rebels, while the older liberal anti-Batista elements would not even consider cooperation [with the Communists]...this Communist weakness had some significant consequences, not the least being that it contributed to the inability of the working class to take a leadership role in the revolutions against Batista... they probably figured that Batista, like most other dictators in Latin America, would eventually be succeeded by some more liberal regime. If such a compromise solution was going to be found, the Party wanted to ensure that it would be in the strongest possible bargaining position."
The Communists docility and dangerous co-existence with Batista included several painful episodes in the struggle against the tyrant, such as the Party's boycott of anti-Batista demonstrations and their siding with
Batista's police against a group of organized demonstrators as early as November 19, 1955. In reaction to the Hubert Matthews interview of Castro, the Communist Party publicly rejected Castro by stating their "radical
disagreement with the tactics and plans of Fidel Castro." Finally there was the infamous event known as "The Humboldt Seven" crime, which was to poison relations between Castro and the Communists well into the 1960's and culminated with executions and arrests of several Party members in the early 1960's.
On March 13, 1957, the militant student group known as Directorio Revolucionario attacked the presidential palace and nearly killed Batista (who was saved by a dud hand grenade and incredible luck). The immediate
reprisals by the Havana police and other armed factions was ferocious, and Lieutenant Colonel Esteban Ventura Novo achieved fame by the bloody terror in which he engulfed the capital in the manhunt for student leaders. Among the many detained during the days of terror were several Communist students, one of which betrayed the location of the rebel safe house. The apartment was located at number seven Humboldt Street, hence the name of the episode.
Surrounded by Havana policemen, four rebel students surrendered, and Ventura immediately killed them. The traitor, a Communist student named Marcos Rodriguez, for reasons unknown to this day, was subsequently protected by powerful Party leaders Joaquin Ordoqui and Edith Garcia Buchaca. The Rodriguez trial in 1964 led to his execution and the subsequent arrests of Ordoqui and Buchaca. I will discuss the event in more detail later in this article.
Communist students and leaders had been against the attack on the presidential palace all along, and remained staunchly against Castro's insurgency throughout its first year. Juan Marinello, as guerrillas fought in the mountains and students died on the streets of Havana, wrote to Herbert Matthews in 1957 that "there's no need for a popular insurrection," and that 26 of July Movement "is following mistaken tactics... for that reason we do not approve of its tactics." Their reasoning was clear: Moscow did not yet approve of Castro and they were playing for evolution (like the 1930's and 1940's) rather than a violent course.
An even more serious confrontation between the Communist Party and Castro was soon to take place. On April 9, 1957, and using his new rebel radio station, Castro called for a general strike against Batista in an effort to
bring down the dictator. For various reasons, the strike failed, and at least 100 Cubans were killed that day and several hundred arrested. Soon Castro charged that the Communists had "sabotaged the strike to promote the
downfall of the [26 of July] Movement." Later, Castro was to say in an interview to Look magazine that "the Cuban Communists...have never opposed Batista, for whom they have seemed to feel a closer friendship."
The Communists would soon be caught between Batista and the anti-Batista forces. Meanwhile, the dictator closed down all opposition newspapers (Hoy, however, was allowed to remain open), terrorized editors and students, broke relations with the Soviet Union, and outlawed the Communist Party (but not its daily newspaper). The Communists entered a period of dangerous coexistence with the dictator; Fidel Castro entered a period of war and Cuba was with him.
From: Is Cuba socialist? a debate on a Socialist website in the UK
There are four main arguments that Cuba is some kind of socialism: all of them are without foundation. The first argument is that Cuba is socialist because the revolution was led by people who now call themselves Communists. Yet you only have to look at the July 26th movement before 1959 to see that is wrong. Their programme was for the restoration of the 1940 Constitution, in other words for a bourgeois-democratic republic. They said in their manifesto that nationalisation was a "cumbersome instrument" and that Cuba would be "a loyal ally" of their Northern neighbour. Castro himself said in an interview in 1970 that, "In 1959 there was no class consciousness, only class instinct, which is not the same thing", and referred to the revolution in the early months of 1959 as neither capitalist nor socialist but "olive green". The Castroites labelled the Communist Party "totalitarian". They were certainly no mass party. There were 81 fighters on the Granma; only 300 at the battle of Santa Clara; and around 1500 overall. In terms of composition, the July 26th movement was a mixture of middle class leaders like Castro, some workers and youth, but mostly class elements. In no sense, by its programme, size or composition was it a mass socialist party.
Some commentators have said that the socialist element was provided by the involvement of the Communist Party, which by the fifties was called the Popular Socialist Party, the PSP. Although they had been in the previous period the largest and most influential Communist Party in Latin America, they were also the most cravenly opportunist, and the most Stalinist, following every twist and turn in Russian foreign policy and adapting to their Cuban milieu. They were sectarian in opposing the general strike in 1933 which brought down the dictator Machado. Later their popular front strategy led them to gain two ministers under Batista after forming an alliance with him after 1938. They spoke of having a "positive attitude towards the progressive endeavours" of Batista in his first period in power. Even into the fifties, though the CP had been repressed by their former ally, they referred to the July 26th movement as "putschists and sterile". Although they came to some understanding with Castro from 1957 and sent cadres to fight with the guerrillas, they were still formally calling for a bourgeois government to replace Batista into the middle of 1958, only months before Castro took power. This was hardly the programme or actions of a revolutionary socialist party that sought to lead the working class to power.
Finally, look at the manner of the seizure of power. After a two year guerrilla campaign, in the major battle of the war at Santa Clara in the last days of 1958, only 6 guerrillas and 300 soldiers died. Batista himself fled. There was not even a battle for the capital, Havana. There were no Soviets, few factory committees or occupations. The last general strike in April 1958 was a failure, and there were no organs of dual power. The workers were largely passive. The general strike in the first week of January 1959 was a public holiday. Batista's rule had already collapsed. No one in 1959, not even Castro or Guevara, said the revolution was socialist, and the revolution was not led by conscious socialists, whatever Fidel's later protestations. The 26th July movement stood for mild reforms, which could not be achieved because of Batista's dictatorship and the domination of American imperialism, hence the necessity of guerrilla war. The new government in 1959 was a petty bourgeois government, but one which ruled a country with a peculiar class structure and American hegemony. It was not socialist. To argue it was socialist in hindsight is to reach the absurd conclusion that a socialist revolution can be made without the active agency of the working class or without a conscious Marxist party.
From the International Socialist Review:
Cuba had been run by dictator Fulgencio Batista since 1934. His regime was corrupt and brutal. Although fully supported by the U.S., Batista was hated by everyone except for his immediate collaborators and hangers-on. In the late 1950s, this regime had no true left opposition. Gangsters ran the unions. The Communist Party (CP)-known at the time as the Popular Socialist Party (PSP)-was, like other Communist Parties of the 1930s, a useful instrument of Stalin's foreign policy. However, the PSP had decomposed far more than the average CP. It was linked to the Batista regime to such an extent that Castro could say,
What right does Señor Batista have to speak of Communism? After all, in the elections of 1940 he was the candidate of the Communist Party.his portrait hung next to [Communist leaders] Blas Roca's and Lazaro Peña's; and half a dozen ministers and confidants of his are leading members of the CP.(10)
The opposition to Batista that existed in the cities was overwhelmingly middle class, organized around the Instituciones Cívicas. Another component of the opposition was the student movement-also middle-class oriented.
Although it would be a mistake to say that workers did not participate in opposition activity, their participation was not independent. Instead of putting forward their own class demands, workers were participants in a movement that was united in its shared hatred of Batista's regime.
Castro's July 26th Movement was made up for the most part of intellectuals, students, professionals and a limited number of peasants. Not only were its members mostly middle class, but its politics were decidedly middle class, too. It emphasized modest land reform and the development of Cuban capitalism without the obstructions of big business or imperialism. The guerrilla movement began its life in 1953 with an attack on the Moncada Barracks. In 1956, it re-launched its guerrilla struggle when it took to the Sierra Maestra mountains. The guerrilla strategy was one that explicitly rejected workers as the main revolutionary force. Che Guevara-who later became the worldwide symbol of guerrilla struggle-considered Cuban workers to be complacent and bought off by the system. In fact, he considered the cities an obstacle in the struggle:
It is more difficult to prepare guerrilla bands in those countries that have undergone a concentration of population in great centers and have
developed light and medium industry. The ideological influence of the cities inhibits the guerrilla struggle.11
In the first year of the revolution, Guevara explicitly denied its class character:
"The Cuban revolution is not a class revolution, but a liberation movement that has overthrown a dictatorial, tyrannical government."12
10 Quoted in H. M. Enzenburguer, Raids and Reconstructions: Essays on Politics, Crime, and Culture (London: Pluto Press, 1976), p. 200.
11 Quoted in T. Cliff, Deflected Permanent Revolution (London: Bookmarks,1986), pp. 14-15. Originally in C. Guevara, "Cuba: Exceptional Case?"Monthly Review (NY), July/August 1961, pp. 65-66.
12 Che Guevara Speaks: Selected Speeches and Writings, G. Lavan ed. (New York: Pathfinder, 1967), p. 13.
Corroboration of Che's statements:
The Cuban Revolution was carried through by a radical petty-bourgeois nationalist group whose primary social base was a petty-bourgeois class--the peasantry. (In passing it is important to note that Che Guevara has specifically repudiated the Hansen-Sweezy thesis that the 26th of July Movement based itself on the rural proletariat in its earlier stages. He noted that in the mountains no such proletariat existed and that the organization based itself on the local peasantry.)
The Cuban Revolution
A Critical Perspective
by Sam Dolgoff
The Character of the Cuban Revolution
A Non-Social Revolution
The myth, induced by the revolutionary euphoria of the pro-Castro left, that a genuine social-revolution took place in Cuba, is based on a number of major fallacies. Among them is the idea that a social revolution can take place in a small semi-developed island, a country with a population of about eight million, totally dependent for the uninterrupted flow of vital supplies upon either of the great super-powers, Russia or the U.S. They assume falsely that these voracious powers will not take advantage of Cuba's situation to promote their own selfish interests. There can be no more convincing evidence of this tragic impossibility than Castro's sycophantic attitude toward his benefactor, the Soviet Union, going so far as to applaud Russia's invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, a crime certainly on a par with the military coup in Chile, which Castro rightfully condemned. To assume, furthermore, that the Cuban social revolution can be miraculously achieved without simultaneous uprisings in Latin America and elsewhere, is both naive and irresponsible.
Nationalization Versus Socialism
To equate nationalization of the economy and social services instituted from above by the decree "revolutionary government" or a caudillo, with true socialism is a dangerous illusion. Nationalization and similar measures, under the name of "welfareism," are common. They are widespread, and in many cases deep-going programs, instituted by democratic "welfare" states or "benevolent" dictators as an antidote to revolution, and are by no means equtvalent to socialism.
Russia and Cuba: Two Revolutions Compared
Another fallacy about the nature of the Cuban Revolution can perhaps be best illustrated by contrasting the early stages of the Russian Revolution of 1917 with the Cuban events. Analogies between the Russian and Cuban Revolutions--like analogies in general--fail to take into account certain important differences:
Czarism was OVERTHROWN by the spontaneous revolts of the peasant and proletarian masses only after a prolonged and bloody civil war.
In Cuba, the Batista regime COLLAPSED WITHOUT A STRUGGLE for lack of popular support. There were no peasant revolts. No general strikes. Theodor Draper (and many other observers) argues persuasively that since there were at least "500,000 agricultural workers in Cuba" there could not have been many peasants in a
. . . guerrilla force that never amounted to more than a thousand. . . there was nothing comparable in Cuba to the classic peasant revolution led by Zapata in Mexico in 1910. . . there was no national peasant uprising. Outside the immediate vicinity of the guerrilla forces, revolutionary activity, in the country as a whole, was largely a middle class phenomenon, with some working class support, but without working class organizations...(Castroism: Theory and Practice; New York, 1965, p. 74-75) [This takes on added significance when we consider that the unions comprised ONE MILLION out of a total population of about six million when the Revolution began, Jan. 1, 1959.]
In Russia, the masses made the social revolution BEFORE the establishment of the Bolshevik government. Lenin climbed to power by voicing the demands of, and legalizing the social revolutionary DEEDS of the workers and peasants: "All Power to the Soviets," "The Land to the Peasants," "The Factories to the Workers," etc. In Cuba, Castro, for fear of losing popular support, carefully avoided a social-revolutionary platform--assuming that he had one. Unlike Lenin, he came to power because he promised to put into effect the bourgeois-democratic program.
History is full of unexpected twists and turns. Ironically enough, these two different revolutions had similar results: Both Lenin and Castro betrayed their respective revolutions, instituted totalitarian regimes and ruled by decree from above.
The well-known anarcho-syndicalist writer and activist, Augustin Souchy, makes a cogent comparison between the Spanish Revolution (1936-1939) and the Cuban Revolution (both of which he personally witnessed):
. . . while in Spain, the confiscation of the land and the organization of the collectives was initiated and carried through, by the peasants themselves; in Cuba, social-economic transformation was initiated, not by the people, but by Castro and his comrades-in-arms. It is this distinction that accounts for the different development of the two revolutions; Spain, mass revolution from the bottom up; Cuba, revolution from the top down by decree . . . (see Cuba. An Eyewitness Report, below)
Which brings to mind the celebrated phrase of the "Apostle" of Cuban independence Jose Marti: "To Change the Master Is Not To Be Free."
Revolution the Latin American Way
The Cuban Revolution draws its specific character from a variety of sources. While not a Latin American "palace revolution" which produced no deep seated social changes, it nevertheless relates to the tradition of miltarism and bogus paternalism of Latin American "Caudillismo," the "Man on Horseback." "Caudillismo"--"right" or "left," "revolutionary" or "reactionary"--is a chronic affliction in Latin America since the wars for independence initiated by Simon Bolivar in 1810. The "revolutionary caudillo" Juan Peron of Argentina, catapulted to power by "leftist" army officers, was deposed by "rightist" military officers. Maurice Halperin calls attention to the ". . . expropriation of vast properties in Peru in 1968 and in Bolivia in 1969 by the very generals who had destroyed Cuban supported guerrilla uprisings in their respective countries. . . " (The Rise and Fall of Fidel Castro; University of California, 1972, p. 118)
The militarization of Cuban society by a revolutionary dictatorship headed by the "Caudillo" of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro follows, in general, the Latin American pattern. Like other revolutionary Latin American "Caudillos, " Castro would come to power only on the basis of programs designed to win the indispensable support of the masses. Edwin Lieuwen marshalls impressive evidence:
. . . In Chile in 1924, Major Carlos Ibanez established a military dictatorship [that] was notably successful in combining authoritarian rule with policies aimed at meeting popular demands for greater social justice. Successful but short lived revolutions took place during 1936 under the leadership of radical young officers inspired by ideas of social reform and authoritarian nationalism. . In Bolivia a clique of radical young officers came to power. Major David Toro and Colonel German Busch successfully headed regimes that had social revolution as their goals. . . they catered to
the downtrodden and pledged to build a new nation. Toro and Busch based their dictatorial regimes on attempts to win mass support ... (Arms and Politics in Latin America; New York, 1961, pgs. 60, 62, 78, 79)
When in 1968, a "revolutionary" military Junta seized power in Peru, the new military government proclaimed the fundamental principle underlying all "radical" military regimes":
. . . the final aim of the State, being the welfare of the nation; and the armed forces being the instrument which the State uses to impose its policies, therefore, . . . in order to arrive at collective prosperity, the armed forces have the mission to watch over the social welfare, the final aim of the State... (quoted, Modes of Political Change in Latin America, ed. Paul Sigmund, New York, 1970, p. 201)
Dr. Carlos Delgado, Director of the Information Bureau of the Revolutionary Government of Peru, after stressing that the revolution was " . . . initiated from above" by decree, boasted that the dictatorship in "...the last four and a half years" accomplished more for the betterment of the people than in the "whole epoch of Republican rule." The revolution was hailed, boasted Delgado, even by the French Marxist thinker, Henri Lefebvre, as one of the most important historical events of the contemporary world..." (see Reconstruir, anarchist bi-monthly, Buenos Aires, Nov.-Dec. 1974)
There is an umbilical connection between militarism and the State, fully compatible with, and indispensable to, all varieties of State "socialism"--or more accurately State Capitalism. George Pendle (and other observers) with respect to Peron's social and welfare programs initiated to woo mass support concludes that:
...Peron's National Institute of Social Security...converted Argentina to one of the most advanced countries in South America. . . it was not surprising that the majority of workers preferred Peron to their traditional leaders...they felt that Peron accomplished more for them in a few years than the Socialist Party achieved in decades...(Argentina; Oxford University Press, London, 1965, pas. 97, 99)
. . . In Havana Premier Fidel Castro proclaimed three days of mourning and Cuban officials termed Peron's death a blow to all Latin America. . .(New York Times, July 2, 1974) This cynical proclamation was not made solely for tactical reasons, but in recognition of the affinity between the Castro and Peron regimes. As early as 1961, there were already informal contacts between Che Guevara and Angel Borlenghi "... a number two man in Peron's government and his Minister of the Interior for eight years ... Che told Borlenghi that there's no question about it that Peron was the most advanced embodiment of political and economic reform in Argentina ... and under Che's guidance a rapport was established between the Cuban Revolution and the Peronist movement ... Che has in his possession a letter from Peron expressing admiration for Castro and the Cuban Revolution and Che had raised the question of inviting Peron to settle in Havana . . . " (quoted by Halperin, from Ricardo Rojo's work, My Friend Che; ibid. p. 329-330)
Herbert Matthews supplements Rojo's revelations:...the Argentine journalist Jorge Massetti who went into the Sierra Maestra in 1958, became friends with Guevara. He was trained for guerrilla warfare in the Sierra Maestra and in 1964 was killed in a guerrilla raid in Argentina . . . Massetti was credited with convincing Guevara that Peronism approximated his own ideas. Hilda Gadea--Guevara's first wife--wrote that for Ernesto Guevara, the fall of Peron Sept. 1955 was a heavy blow. Che and Massetti blamed it,...'on North American Imperialists'...(ibid. p. 258)
[Carmelo Mesa-Lago notes the connection between State Socialism and militarism. Castro enthusiastically hailed] " . . . the Peruvian Social Revolution as a progressive military group playing a revolutionary role. . ." (Cuba in the 1970s: University of New Mexico Press, 1975, p. 11]) In an interview, Castro emphatically maintained that social revolution is compatible with military dictatorship, not only in Peru, but also in Portugal and Panama.
[When the military junta in Peru] took power...the first thing they did was to implement agrarian reform which was MUCH MORE RADICAL than the agrarian reform we initiated in Cuba. It put a much lower limit on the size of properties; organized cooperatives, agricultural communities; . . . they also pushed in other fields--in the field of education, social development, industrialization. . . We must also see the example of Portugal where the military played a decisive role in political change. . .and are on their way to finding solutions. . . we have Peru and Panama--where the military are acting as catalysts in favor of the revolution. . . (Castro quoted by Frank and Kirby Jones, With Fidel; New York, 1975, p. 195-196)
[The evidence sustains Donald Druze's conclusion that] . . . the programs of modern 'caudillos' embodies so many features of centralism and National Socialism, that it almost inevitably blends into communism...(Latin America: An interpretive History; New York, 1972, p. 570)
Militarism flourishes in Cuba as in Latin America. Castro projected militarism to a degree unequalled by his predecessor, Batista: total domination of social, economic and political life. In the Spring of 1959, a few months after the Revolution of January 1st, Castro, who appointed himself the "Lider Maximo" ("Caudillo") of the Revolution and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, promised to cut the size of the army in half and ultimately to disband and replace it by civilian militias and police. "The last thing I am," said Castro, "is a military man . . . ours is a country without generals and colonels. . . "
Within a year after the disintegration of the Batista Army, Castro turned Cuba into a thoroughly militarized state, with the most formidable armed force of any in Latin America. For the first time in Cuban history, compulsory military service was instituted. Now, Cuba has adopted the traditional hierarchical ranking system of conventional armies. The Cuban army differs in no essential respect from the armies of both "capitalist" and "socialist" imperialist powers.
"Communism" a la Castro
Insofar as relations with the communists are concerned, Theodore Draper notes the striking resemblance between the policies of Batista and Castro:
. . . Batista paid off the communists for their support, by among other things, permitting them to set up an official trade union federation, the Confederacion de Trabajadores de Cuba (CTC) with Lazaro Pena as its Secretary-General. In 1961, Castro paid off the communists for their support, by, among other things, permitting Lazaro Pena to come back officially as Secretary General of the CTC...(ibid. p. 204)
If we accept at face value Castro's conversion to "communism," his "communism" embodies the Latin American version of Stalinism, absolute personal dictatorship. But "Caudillos" are not primarily ideologues. They are, above all, political adventurers. In their lust for power, they are not guided by ethical considerations, as they claim. In this respect, there is no essential difference between capitalist states and "revolutionary socialist states." All dictators conceal their true visage behind the facade of a political party, paying lip service to goals supposedly popular with the masses. Castro became a "communist" because he considered that his survival in power depended on cementing cordial relations with his saviors, the "socialist" countries (former enemies) and by extension with Batista's former allies, the domestic "communists." To promote his ends, Castro established relations with Franco Spain and the Vatican. Nor did he hesitate to side with the Arab oil magnates--lords over their impoverished subjects--in the mid-east disputes, or to endorse the Russian invasion of Czecho-Slovakia.
The Real Revolution Is Yet To Come
Albert Camus observed:
. . . the major event of the twentieth century has been the abandonment of the values of liberty on the part of the revolutionary movement, the weakening of Libertarian Socialism, vis-a-vis Caesarist and militaristic socialism. Since then, a great hope has disappeared from the world, to be replaced by a deep sense of emptiness in the hearts of all who yearn for freedom... (Neither victims Nor Executioners)
Whether Castro is working out his own unique brand of "Cuban Socialism" is a relatively minor question. Even if Castro had no connection with the communist movement, his mania for personal power would lead inevitably to the establishment of an "independent" totalitarian regime. What is decisive is that the Cuban Revolution follows the pattern established in this century by the aborted Russian Revolution of 1917. This pattern is the counter-revolution of the State.
By : Julia E. Sweig
Julia Sweig shatters the mythology surrounding the Cuban Revolution in a compelling revisionist history that reconsiders the revolutionary roles of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara and restores to a central position the leadership of the Cuban urban underground, the Llano.
Granted unprecedented access to the classified records of Castro's 26th of July Movement's underground operatives--the only scholar inside or outside of Cuba allowed access to the complete collection in the Cuban Council of State's Office of Historic Affairs--she details the ideological, political, and strategic debates between Castro's mountain-based guerrilla movement and the urban revolutionaries in Havana, Santiago, and other cities.
In a close study of the fifteen months from November 1956 to July 1958, when the urban underground leadership was dominant, Sweig examines the debate between the two groups over whether to wage guerrilla warfare in the countryside or armed insurrection in the cities, and is the first to document the extent of Castro's cooperation with the Llano. She unveils the essential role of the urban underground, led by such figures as Frank País, Armando Hart, Haydée Santamaria, Enrique Oltuski, and Faustino Pérez, in controlling critical decisions on tactics, strategy, allocation of resources, and
relations with opposition forces, political parties, Cuban exiles, even the United States--contradicting the standard view of Castro as the primary decision maker during the revolution.
In revealing the true relationship between Castro and the urban underground, Sweig redefines the history of the Cuban Revolution, offering guideposts for understanding Cuban politics in the 1960s and raising intriguing questions for the future transition of power in Cuba.