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A Hidden History of the Cuban Revolution: How the Working Class Shaped the Guerillas' Victory

A Hidden History of the Cuban Revolution: How the Working Class Shaped the Guerillas’ Victory

Forthcoming in February 2016

Millions of words have been written about the Cuban Revolution, which, to both its supporters and detractors, is almost universally understood as being won by a small band of guerillas. In this unique and stimulating book, Stephen Cushion turns the conventional wisdom on its head, and argues that the Cuban working class played a much more decisive role in the Revolution’s outcome than previously understood. Although the working class was well-organized in the 1950s, it is believed to have been too influenced by corrupt trade union leaders, the Partido Socialist Popular, and a tradition of making primarily economic demands to have offered much support to the guerillas. Cushion contends that the opposite is true, and that significant portions of the Cuban working class launched an underground movement in tandem with the guerillas operating in the mountains.… | more |

Monthly Review, December 2014 (Volume 66, Number 7)

December 2014 (Volume 66, Number 7)

Notes from the Editors

In 1832, when the global cholera pandemic was approaching Manchester—as a young Frederick Engels was later to recount in The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845)—“a universal terror seized the bourgeoisie of the city. People remembered the unwholesome dwellings of the poor, and trembled before the certainty that each of these slums would become a centre for the plague, whence it would spread desolation in all directions through the houses of the propertied class.” As a result, Engels noted, various official inquiries were commissioned into the condition of the poor. But little was done in the end to combat the social factors that facilitated the spread of the disease.… One can see an analogous situation today in the growing concern that has materialized in the United States and other wealthy nations over the Ebola epidemic in Africa.… | more |

Our Feminist Poet on Che

Margaret Randall, Che on My Mind (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013), 160 pages, $19.95, paperback.

If you have not been thinking about Che, now you will. Our gifted poet, feminist author, and revolutionary thinker has given us a spare and ethical meditation on the lingering life and death of Ernesto Che Guevara. With infinite care and honesty, Margaret Randall circles deeper and more fully into the liberation ideas and actions that she, and our era, were inspired by and sought—as manifest in the young doctor from Argentina who joined the revolutionary struggle for a liberated Cuba, encouraged and supported rebel forces across the continents of South America and Africa, embodied the hope and anti-imperialism of the third world project, and improbably initiated and fought guerilla armed conflict in the Congo and then Bolivia, where he was killed.… | more |

Celia Sánchez and the Cuban Revolution

Nothing makes me more hopeful than discovering another human being to admire. My wonder at the life of Celia Sánchez, a revolutionary Cuban woman virtually unknown to Americans, has left me almost speechless. In hindsight, loving and admiring her was bound to happen, once I knew her story. Like Frida Kahlo, Zora Neale Hurston, Rosa Luxemburg, Agnes Smedley, Fannie Lou Hamer, Josephine Baker, Harriet Tubman, or Aung San Suu Kyi, Celia Sánchez was that extraordinary expression of life that can, every so often, give humanity a very good name.… | more |

“Fidel Castro is dying” by Fidel Castro

In the following message, Fidel Castro ridicules the most recent “Fidel Castro is dying” lies of the global imperialist media. He also explains his decision to cease publishing his “Reflections” – a modest assessment that there are other more important matters to occupy the Cuban press. Nonetheless, shall maintain the complete “Reflections” blog as an historically unparalleled instance of honest comment on world events as they occurred, by the leading political figure of our time.… | more |

Deng Xiaoping

He professed to be a wise man, and in fact he was. But he made a little mistake.

“Cuba must be punished”, he said one day. Our country had never even pronounced his name.

It was an absolutely unwarranted offence.

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Fidel Castro Ruz

June 14, 2012

1:40 p.m.

Alberto Juantorena

His prestige is gaining strength as an example of Cuba´s great sporting figures. His age and health portray him as the ideal prototype to preside over the Cuban Olympic Committee.

Such predictions seem to be right!

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Fidel Castro Ruz

June 13, 2012

1:55 p.m.

Teofilo Stevenson

Stevenson has left us. The news arrived yesterday after 4:00 p.m. No other amateur boxer shone so much in the history of that sport. He could have achieved another two Olympic titles had it not  been for certain duties that the principles of internationalism imposed on the Revolution. No money in the world would have been enough to bribe Stevenson.

Glory be to his memory forever!

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Fidel Castro Ruz

June 12, 2012

3:15 p.m.

An Honest Clarification

Some days ago, on May 28, the violent battle waged at El Uvero was commemorated with well deserved references. An elemental duty forces me to clarify the facts.

During those weeks, Manuel Piñeiro, “Red Beard”, as the leopard, who never changes its spots, as the saying goes, managed to send to Santiago de Cuba a truckload of weapons that had a connection to the attack against the Presidential Palace by the Revolutionary Directorate. Somehow he had managed to take hold of them. Frank País, who was the national actions chief of our “26 of July Movement”, sent a significant part of that cargo to the troublesome zone of the Sierra Maestra, where our incipient Rebel Army was rising alive from its ashes.

That learning period had been extremely tough. Step by step we started to gain our first victories, through which we were able to increase our strength in weapons and men without suffering any casualty. We were also forced to cope with the dangerous treason perpetrated by Eutimio Guerra, who had been a rebel peasant until the moment when he yielded to the bountiful offers made by the enemy. Despite all obstacles and with the support of the men and means sent by Frank we began to create the first guerrilla detachment with a vanguard that was headed by Camilo; a rearguard that was commanded by Efigenio Ameijeiras; the centre forces made up by small platoons and the General Command. We already had a group of seasoned fighters who had conveniently adapted to the conditions of the theatre of operations when we received a significant cache of weapons that were rescued by “Red Beard” and had been conveyed to us hidden inside some barrels filled with thick grease.

Was it correct, from the military and revolutionary points of view, to attack the entrenched and well armed garrison close to the seashore, in the same place used to ship the timber extracted from that area? Why did we do so?

It so happened that at that time, on the month of May, the “Corynthia” expedition had already landed, headed by Calixto Sánchez White. A strong feeling of solidarity made us launch the attack against the military garrison at El Uvero.

In full honesty I should say that the decision adopted, leaving out the merit of the solidarity it entailed wasn’t in the least correct. Our role, which prevailed over any other goal, just as had been the case throughout our entire revolutionary life, was not in accordance with that decision.

I remember the first gunshot I made with the telescopic sight rifle that I had, aiming to the radio communication equipment of the garrison. After that shot, tens of bullets were fired against the enemy command post. That was why the adversary did not know that its garrison was under attack. Thus, at least for three hours neither bombs nor shells were shot against us, something that usually happened, without exception, hardly 20 minutes after the beginning of every battle. Without the presence of these factors, it was quite likely that this decision, which was only inspired by solidarity, would have reduced our troops of almost one hundred veterans, in which case we would have had to go through the same hazardous journey all over again, something that would have been for us the best case scenario.

It was under such circumstances that Almeida was shot in the chest; he was spared from a far more serious wound thanks to something made of metal that he was carrying in his pocket, as he remembered. Guillermo García, wearing a helmet he found for himself in the first combat, waged a hard-fought battle with the defender of a fort made of thick logs. Che, who was shooting with a machine gun that usually got jammed, left his position in order to engage those who were fighting Almeida. And Raúl moved on with his small platoon to fight the soldiers who entrenched themselves among the piles of logs that were ready for shipment. All this happened before the fighter bombers came into the scene. Julio Díaz, a courageous fighter who was shooting with a tripod, could not advance any further. He was lying by my side with a deadly gunshot in his forehead.

Is there a better understanding now about what happened on May 28, 1957, 55 years ago?

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Fidel Castro Ruz

June 1st, 2012

4:36 p.m.

Difficult times for humanity

The world is increasingly misinformed amidst the chaos of events unfolding at pace never before imagined.

Those of us who have lived a few more years and are avidly interested in information can testify to the extent of ignorance with which we confront events.

While a growing number of people on the planet lack shelter, bread, water, health, education and employment, the Earth’s wealth is being misspent and wasted on weapons and interminable fratricidal wars, an abominable, ever-expanding global practice – increasingly highly developed.

Our glorious, heroic people, despite the inhumane blockade which has lasted more than half a century, have never lowered their banners; they have struggled and will struggle against the sinister empire. This is to our credit and our modest contribution.

On the other side of our planet, where Seoul, the capital of South Korea, in located, President Barack Obama is attending a Summit addressing nuclear security, to impose policies related to the regulation and use of nuclear weapons.

What is being done there is clearly unfathomable.

Personally, I did not become aware of these realities simply by accident. The experiences I lived through during the 15 years after the triumph of the Revolution – the battle of Girón, the criminal yankee blockade to defeat us through hunger, pirate attacks, the dirty attacks and the nuclear missile crisis of October, 1962 – putting the world on the edge of catastrophic disaster – which led me to the conclusion that Marxists and genuine Christians, many of whom I had known, regardless of their political and religious beliefs, should, and could, struggle for justice and peace among human beings.

This is what I have said, and what I maintain, with no vacillation whatsoever. The reasons I can cite today are absolutely valid and even more important, since all of the events which have taken place over the last 40 years confirm them, today with more justification than ever, since – among Marxists and Christians, Catholic or not; Muslims, Shiite or Sunni; free thinkers, dialectical materialists and thinking people – no one would be in favor of witnessing the premature disappearance of our irreplaceable species, waiting for the complex laws of evolution to produce another one which would resemble ours and be capable of thinking.

With great pleasure I will tomorrow, Wednesday, greet His Excellency Pope Benedict XVI, as I greeted John Paul II, a man who invariably engendered feelings of affection when he came in contact with children and humble citizens among the people.

I therefore decided to request a few minutes within his busy schedule when I heard from our Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez that he would appreciate this simple, modest contact.

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Fidel Castro Ruz

March 27, 2012

8:35 p.m.

The Fruit Which Did Not Fall

CUBA was forced to fight for its existence facing an expansionist power, located a few miles from its coast, and which was proclaiming the annexation of our island, which was destined to fall into its lap like a ripe fruit. We were condemned not to exist as a nation.

Within the glorious legions of patriots who, during the second half of the 19th century, fought against the abhorrent colonial status imposed by Spain over 300 years, José Martí was the man who most clearly perceived such a dramatic destiny. He confirmed it in the last lines that he wrote, the night before the anticipated difficult combat against a battle-hardened and well equipped Spanish column, when he declared that the fundamental objective of his struggle was, “…to prevent the United States from spreading through the Antilles as Cuba gains its independence, and from overpowering with that additional strength our lands of America. Everything that I have done up until now, and everything that I will do, is to this end.”

Without understanding this profound truth one cannot today be either a patriot or a revolutionary.

Without any doubt, the mass media, the monopoly of many technical resources and the substantial funds directed at dehumanizing the masses constitute considerable but not invincible obstacles.

Cuba demonstrated – starting from its position as a colonial yankee trading post, together with the illiteracy and generalized poverty of its people – that it was possible to confront the country which was threatening the definitive absorption of the Cuban nation. Nobody can even affirm that there was a national bourgeoisie opposed to the empire; the bourgeoisie developed in such close proximity to it that, shortly after the triumph, it sent 14,000 totally unprotected children to the United States, although that act was associated with the perfidious lie that parental custody was to be suppressed. This is what history recorded as Operation Peter Pan, described as the largest maneuver of child manipulation for political ends recalled in the Western Hemisphere.

National territory was invaded, barely two years after the revolutionary triumph, by mercenary forces – comprising former Batista soldiers and the sons of landowners and the bourgeoisie – armed and escorted by the United States with warships from its naval fleet, including aircraft carriers with equipment ready to enter into action, and which accompanied the invaders to our island. The defeat and capture of virtually all the mercenaries in less than 72 hours and the destruction of their aircraft operating from bases in Nicaragua and their naval transportation, constituted a humiliating defeat for the empire and its Latin America allies, which had underestimated the Cuban people’s fighting capacity.

In the face of the termination of oil supplies on the part of the United States, the subsequent total suspension of the historic sugar quota in that country’s market, and the prohibition of trade established over more than 100 years, the USSR responded to each one of these measures by supplying fuel, buying our sugar, trading with our country and finally, supplying the weapons that Cuba could not acquire in other markets.

The idea of a systematic campaign of CIA-organized pirate attacks, sabotage and military actions by armed bands created and supplied by the United States before and after the mercenary attack, and which would culminate in a military invasion of Cuba by this country, gave rise to events which placed the world on the brink of a total nuclear war, which neither of the parties involved nor humanity itself could have survived.

Without any doubt, those events resulted in the removal from the presidency of Nikita Khrushchev, who underestimated his adversary, disregarded opinions presented to him and did not consult with those of us in the front line concerning his final decision. What could have been an important moral victory thus turned into a costly political setback for the USSR. For many years the worst of crimes against Cuba continued and more than a few of them, like the U.S. criminal blockade, are still being committed.

Khrushchev made exceptional gestures to our country. On that occasion, I unhesitatingly criticized the non-consulted agreement with the United States, but it would be ungrateful and unjust not to acknowledge his exceptional solidarity at difficult and decisive moments for our people in their historic battle for independence and revolution in the face of the powerful empire of the United States. I understand that the situation was extremely tense and he did not wish to lose any time when he made the decision to withdraw the missiles and the yankees, very secretly, agreed to give up the invasion.

Despite the decades gone by, already half a century, the Cuban fruit has not fallen into yankee hands.

News reports currently coming in from Spain, France, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Syria, the United Kingdom, the Malvinas and countless other points on the planet are serious, and all of them augur a political and economic disaster as a result of the stupidity of the United States and its allies.

I will confine myself to a few subjects. I must note that, going by what everyone is saying, that the selection of a Republican candidate to aspire to the presidency of this globalized and far-reaching empire is, in its turn – I am serious – the greatest competition of idiocy and ignorance that I have ever heard. As I have things to do, I cannot devote any time to the subject. I already knew it would be like that.

Some news agency cables better illustrate what I wish to analyze, because they demonstrate the incredible cynicism generated by the decadence of the West. One of them, with amazing tranquility, talks of a Cuban political prisoner who, it states, died after a hunger strike lasting 50 days. A journalist with Granma, Juventud Rebelde, radio news or any other revolutionary organ might be mistaken in any interpretation of any subject, but would never fabricate an item of news or invent a lie.

A Granma informative note affirms that there was no hunger strike; the man was an ordinary prisoner sentenced to four years for attacking and injuring his wife in the face; that his own mother in law asked authorities to intervene; family members were kept fully abreast of all procedures used in his medical treatment and were grateful for the effort made by medical specialists who treated him. He received medical attention, as the note states, in the best hospital in the eastern region, as is the case with all citizens. He died from secondary multi-organic failure related to a severe respiratory infection.

The patient had received all the medical attention administered in a country which has one of the finest medical services in the world, provided free of charge in spite of the blockade imposed on our homeland by imperialism. It is simply a duty that is fulfilled in a country where the Revolution is proud of always having respected, for more than 50 years, the principles which give it its invincible strength.

It would be more worthwhile for the Spanish government, given its excellent relations with Washington, to travel to the United States and inform itself as to what is taking place in yankee jails, the ruthless conduct meted out to millions of prisoners, the policy of the electric chair and the horrors perpetrated on detainees in the country’s jails and those who are protesting in its streets.

Yesterday, January 23, a strong Granma editorial titled “Cuba’s truths,” which occupied an entire page of the newspaper, explained in detail the unprecedented shame of the campaign of lies unleashed against our Revolution by certain governments “traditionally committed to anti-Cuba subversion.”

Our people are well aware of the norms which have governed the impeccable conduct of our Revolution since the first battle and which has never been stained over more than half a century. They also know that it can never be pressured or coerced by enemies. Our laws and norms will be respected unfailingly.

It is worth noting this with clarity and frankness. The Spanish government and the shaky European Union, plunged into a profound economic crisis, must know what should guide them. It is pitiful to read news agency reports of the statements of both utilizing their barefaced lies to attack Cuba. First concern yourselves with saving the euro if you can, resolve the chronic unemployment from which young people are increasingly suffering, and respond to the indignados, constantly attacked and beaten by the police.

We are not ignorant of the fact that Spain is now being governed by admirers of Franco, who dispatched members of the Blue Division, together with the Nazi SS and SA, to kill Soviets. Close to 50,000 of them participated in the cruel aggression. In the most cruel and painful operation of that war: the siege of Leningrad, where one million Russian citizens died, the Blue Division was among the forces attempting to strangle the heroic city. The Russian people will never pardon that horrific crime.

The fascist right of Aznar, Rajoy and other servants of the empire, must know something about the 16,000 casualties of their predecessors in the Blue Division and the Iron Crosses which Hitler awarded to officers and soldiers from that division. There is nothing unusual about what the Gestapo police are doing now to the men and women demanding the right to work and bread in the country with the highest unemployment in Europe.

Why are the mass media of the empire lying so barefacedly?

Those who manipulate the media are striving to deceive and dehumanize the world with their crude lies, possibly thinking that it constitutes the principal resource for maintaining the global system of domination and plunder imposed, particularly upon victims in close proximity to the headquarters of the metropolis, the close to 600 million Latin American and Caribbean people living in this hemisphere.

The sister republic of Venezuela has become the fundamental objective of this policy. The reason is obvious. Without Venezuela, the empire would have imposed its Free Trade Treaty on all the peoples of the continent who inhabit it from the south of the United States, a region where the greatest reserves of land, fresh water and minerals of the planet are to be found, as well as large energy resources which, administered in a spirit of solidarity toward other peoples of the world, constitute resources which cannot and must not fall into the hands of transnationals imposing a suicidal and infamous system on them.

For example, it is enough to look at the map to comprehend the criminal dispossession signified by stripping Argentina of a little piece of its territory in the extreme south of the continent. There, the British deployed their decadent military apparatus to murder rookie Argentine recruits wearing summer clothing in the middle of winter. The United States, and its ally Augusto Pinochet, shamelessly supported them. Now, just before the London Olympics, its Prime Minister David Cameron is also proclaiming, as did Margaret Thatcher, his right to use nuclear submarines to kill Argentines. The government of this country is unaware of the fact that the world is changing, and the scorn of our hemisphere and that of the majority of the peoples for the oppressors is increasing every day.

The case of the Malvinas is not the only one. Does anyone know how the conflict in Afghanistan is going to end? Just a few days ago U.S. soldiers desecrated the corpses of Afghani combatants, killed by NATO drone bombings.

Three days ago a European agency reported, “Afghani President Hamid Karzai has given his backing to a negotiated peace with the Taliban, emphasizing that this issue must be resolved by the citizens of his country.” It went on to add, “…the process of peace and reconciliation belongs to the Afghani nation and no country or foreign organization can take away this right from the Afghanis.

For its part, a cable published by our press communicated from Paris, “France today suspended all its training and aid operations in Afghanistan and threatened to expedite the withdrawal of its troops, after an Afghani soldier shot four French soldiers in the Taghab valley, in Kapisa province… Sarkozy instructed Defense Minister Gérard Longuet to travel immediately to Kabul, and indicated the possibility of an early withdrawal of the contingent.”

After the disappearance of the USSR and the socialist bloc, the U.S. government imagined that Cuba would be unable to sustain itself. George W. Bush had already prepared a counterrevolutionary government to govern our country. On the very same day that Bush initiated his criminal war on Iraq, I asked our country’s authorities to end the tolerance afforded the counterrevolutionary capos who, in those days, were hysterically demanding the invasion of Cuba. In real terms, their attitude constituted an act of treason against the homeland.

Bush and his stupidities prevailed for eight years and the Cuban Revolution has already lasted for more than half a century. The ripe fruit has not fallen into the empire’s lap. Cuba will not be one more possession with which the empire spreads through the lands of America. Martí’s blood will not have been spilled in vain.

Tomorrow I will publish another Reflection to complement this one.

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Fidel Castro Ruz

January 24, 2012

7:12 p.m.