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Castro &. La Revolucion. The Million Dollar Question:. So… H ow does an isolated, rag-tag band of less than 20 revolutionaries—probably fewer than the number of kids in this classroom—succeed in their revolution?. Cuba’s Perpetual State of Servitude.

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Castro &

La Revolucion

the million dollar question
The Million Dollar Question:


How does an isolated, rag-tag band of less than 20 revolutionaries—probably fewer than the number of kids in this classroom—succeed in their revolution?

cuba s perpetual state of servitude
Cuba’s Perpetual State of Servitude
  • To say that Cuba stood under strong influence from the United States is an understatement:
  • USA had helped Cuba achieve independence from the Spanish in 1898 but had remained a powerful influence(think Platt Amendment)
  • Cuba was an independent nation but this was a stability often achieved with American troops and American dollars
us domination in the cuban economy
US Domination in the Cuban Economy
  • USA held controlling stake in all Cuban industries
  • Owning:

-Half of the land

-3/5 of the railway system

-The electricity production industry

-The telephone system

This sort of domination did not result in an efficient countryand bred great resentment in Cuba over the decades…


Seasonal unemployment created instability:

  • 8% unemployment during the five-month sugar harvest
  • 30% rest of year—so 1 in 4 were unemployed half the year
  • Trade unions were inactive
  • Havana was a rich and swanky place, full of corrupt government officials

This scenario created an undercurrent of unrest leaving no reliable democratic system in Cuba.

  • FulgencioBatista, who had been at the forefront of Cuban politics won power in 1940 and seized it again illegally in 1952, ruling as dictator. (There had been more than 9 presidents b/w Gerardo Machado and Batista ‘40)
  • Batista did not introduce reforms
  • His regime was corrupt and brutal
  • Peaceful revolution did not seem possible
fidel enters the stage
Fidel Enters the Stage
  • Middle-class Fidel Castro, a trained lawyer, was a leading exponent of this revolutionary view.
  • Before he came to power he was aliberal nationalist—not a socialist or communist
  • Wanted to end corruption and Batista regime
  • Hoped to introduce limited land reforms for every peasant to receive land.
  • On July 26th, 1953, Fidel, Raul and a band of at least 130 insurrectionaries attacked the Moncada Barracks:
    • -60 were killed—the rest were captured
    • -Fidel avoided execution because one of his old classmates recognized him
la historia me absolvera
La Historia Me Absolvera
  • After serving 2 years in prison (where he authored his book La Historia Me Absolvera) he was released and fled to Mexico
  • I warn you, I am just beginning! If there is in your hearts a vestige of love for your country, love for humanity, love for justice, listen carefully... I know that the regime will try to suppress the truth by all possible means; I know that there will be a conspiracy to bury me in oblivion. But my voice will not be stifled – it will rise from my breast even when I feel most alone, and my heart will give it all the fire that callous cowards deny it... Condemn me. It does not matter. History will absolve me.
castro s five revolutionary principles
Castro’s Five Revolutionary Principles:
  • The reinstatement of the 1940 Cuban Constitution
  • The reformation of land rights
  • The right of industrial workers to a 30% share of company profits.

4. The right of sugar workers to receive a % of company profits.

5. The confiscation of holdings of those found guilty of fraud or corruption under previous administrative powers.

the july 26 movement
The July 26 Movement
  • In Mexico, Fidel only grew in his conviction to overthrow Batista
  • Here he encountered Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara and became persuaded of the merits of guerilla warfare tactics
  • Fidel made his first contact with the Russian KGB, though it was largely uneventful and also receives monetary and personnel support from Cubans living in the U.S.
  • The revolutionaries began their military training under the leadership of a Spanish Civil War veteran, Alberto Bayo
  • And in November of 1956 set out for Cuba aboard the yacht, Granma
la sierra maestra
La Sierra Maestra
  • Most of the revolutionary force is killed or captured by Batista but 18 survive and retreat to la Sierra Maestra
    • including Fidel, Raul, Che and Camilo Cienfuegos
  • Tactical intentions are to overthrow Batista through guerrilla warfare and sabotage in the cities
  • Rebels soon controlled mountain areas to the north and east
  • Are popular with the people due to the implementation of Castro’s land reforms
  • Batista responds with characteristic cruelty against the uprising, unleashing brutality against the campesinos in support of Fidel
the myth of castro grows
The Myth of Castro Grows
  • Batista’s tactics only glorify the legend of La Revolucion
  • Playing directly into Castro’s hand, the oppression merely popularises the struggle
  • Even the middle-class saw Castro as an alternative to brutal Batista
  • Morale of Batista’s army crumbled after an embarrassing series of defeats to Castro’s forces in the Operation Verano summer of 1958
  • The USA, embarrassed, withdrew all arms supplies from Batista
  • CheGuevara’s forces brilliantly gain control of the island’s main road
  • Santa Clara is taken by Che and CamiloCienfuego
  • Fulgencio Batista fled from Cuba on January 1st, 1959; a new, liberal government was set up under Fidel Castro.
transition to power
Transition to Power
  • Fulgencio Batista fled from Cuba to Dominican Republic on January 1st, 1959 with an amassed fortune of over 300 million in US dollars
  • On Jan. 8th, Castro’s forces rolled into Havana behind a leader who claimed: “Power does not interest me, and I will not take it”
  • Castro immediately set up his regime and began pitting himself against US interests
us cuba relations
US-Cuba Relations
  • The deterioration in relations was gradual
  • Initially, Castro was thought to be a social democrat—the reality was that he was a radical NATIONALIST
  • But he outraged the USA by nationalizing American-owned estates and factories
  • President Eisenhower reacted by threatening to stop importing Cuba’s goods
  • This, of course, forces Cuba to sign a trade agreement with Russia
us cuba relations1
US-Cuba Relations
  • July 1960:
    • USA stopped import of Cuban goods
    • USSR promised to buy Cuban sugar
    • Cuba confiscated all remaining American property
    • Relations between USA and Cuba worsened, but USSR relations with Cuba improved
    • USA broke off diplomatic relations with the two countries
    • Russiabegan supplying economic aid to Cuba
crisis in cuba
Crisis in Cuba
  • The new President, JFK, was virulently anti-communist and approves a scheme proposed by Batista supporters— the BAY of PIGS fiasco of April 1961
  • At this point, Castro declares Cuba a SOCIALIST STATE
  • Then, of course, the Cuban Missile Crisis occurs in October of 1962
  • At this point, JFK decides that he wants nothing further to do with Castro
  • Kennedy is assassinated a year later in Nov. 1963
implementation of the agenda
Implementation of the Agenda
  • Domestically, Castro is faced with the usual bevy of problems: corruption, unemployment, poverty…
  • But, thenew government is enthusiastic and dedicated:
  • During his first ten years Castro totally reformed Cuba:
    • Collective farms were introduced
    • Factories and businesses were nationalized
    • Attempts were made to modernize sugar production and increase output
    • New industries were introduced to relieve heavy reliance on sugar (paper plants, textiles)
early successes
Early Successes
  • As is always the case in a totalitarian state, the achievements of the government come at a great price
  • Rights are secured for women and Negroes (homosexuals were sent to work camps and executed in the thousands)
  • Touring cinemas, theaters and art expeditions circulate
  • Castro continues preaching the gospel of Cuban socialism
  • Nearly all children begin to receive some education—approx. 50% before 1959
  • Infrastructure improves—along with a growing sense of UNITY
  • After the first decade, the gov’t seemed to be popular with most people
  • Governments failures:
    • The inability to diversify industrial and agricultural output was the most serious failure.
    • This made Cuba more dependent on sugar and Russia
    • In the 1970’s sugar production diminished, worsened by a series of devastating fungus infections (1980’s)
    • This plunged the country into a economic crisis:
      • Increased immigration to the USA
      • Food was rationed
      • Economy heavily subsidized by USSR
  • After a promising start, the regime began to falter…
odds ends
Odds & Ends
  • Camilo Cienfuegos’ plane crashed on his way to Havana one night in October 1959—seems to have been a genuine accident
  • Castro survived dozens of assassination attempts by the CIA and anti-Castro Cubans
    • Fabian Escalante, Castro’s chief bodyguard, estimated that 638 attempts had been made against Castro
    • Including an exploding cigar, a fungus-infested scuba suit, a jar of poisonous facial cream, pills, etc.

If surviving assassination attempts were an Olympic event,

I would win the gold medal.


  • Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara:
    • Took various positions in Castro’s government
    • Wrote a book on the guerrilla warfare, which had big impact on Latin America
    • Wanted to see the eradication of money and human selfishness
    • By 1965 he became frustrated with government responsibilities
    • Left Cuba to organize revolutions in the Congo and elsewhere (there is no evidence of problems b/w Che & Fidel)
    • Was killed by Bolivian troops 1967
che s new man
Che’s New Man
  • Man truly achieves his full human condition when he produces without being compelled by the physical necessity of selling himself as a commodity.
  • -from ‘Man and Socialism in Cuba’