Cuban Revolution

(1959)
   Having led a guerrilla war against the regime of President Fulgencio Batista, Fidel Castro came to power through a coup in 1959 and set about transforming Cuba along Marxist lines. Castro had first led an attempted attack on the Batista regime on 26 July 1953. He and 118 other rebels laid siege on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba, only to be met with fierce reprisals. On capture Castro was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment, but saw his sentence quashed after 11 months when Batista pardoned him as part of an amnesty decree to abet his reelection as Cuban president. Exiled in Mexico, Castro formed the 26th of July Movement, a gathering of guerrilla troops who shared the common aim of deposing the repressive Batista, one of whom was ErnestoCheGuevara. On 2 December 1956 82 members of the movement set sail for Cuba onboard the yacht Grandma aiming to bring down the Batista government. On arrival they were met by the brutality of the president’s troops, with 70 July 26th members perishing and the remaining 12 fleeing to take refuge in the Sierra Maestro Mountains in Cuba’s Oriente Province. However, the three most important figures in the group, Castro, his brother Raúl and Guevara, were among the survivors, and used the retreat into the mountains to recruit and train members for a future guerrilla insurrection, while carrying out sporadic attacks on the Batista government. The government’s response was to attack towns and villages perceived to be pro-Castro, an undertaking that served only to increase the rebels’ popularity among the population. Castro mustered considerable rural support from the peasantry, while in Cuba’s urban areas Frank Pais led the offensive against Batista. After months of guerrilla warfare, on 17 March 1958 Castro declared total war on the Batista regime, prompting the besieged president to launch Operation Verano toward the end of May. The operation saw 17 battalions, tanks, planes and naval vessels besiege the rebel base in the Sierra Maestro Mountains to no avail, as the outnumbered rebels held firm and employed their regional expertise to drive Batista’s troops away. Lacking knowledge of how to fight against guerrilla tactics, the Cuban army was regularly caught in disarray with surrender and desertion routine.
   Sensing that the government troops were on the back foot, Castro’s rebels plotted an offensive of their own. They quickly formed into two groups, with the first led by Castro and his brother Raúl heading for the east of the island and Santiago de Cuba, and the second, under the command of Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos, bearing westwards for Havana. Guevara’s company, having emerged victorious from a crucial battle in Santa Clara, met little resistance in Havana, and by Christmas 1958 the city was under the occupation of Castro’s men. Having effortlessly taken Santiago, Castro himself began the journey to Havana, arriving shortly after new year 1959 to declare the victory of the revolution. Batista, meanwhile, was hurriedly seeking exile in the Dominican Republic and then Spain, buoyed by several hundred million dollars gained through dubious means. As prime minister from 1959, and president from 1976, Castro and his Communist Party of Cuba sought to apply Marxist concepts to transform Cuba’s political, social and economic landscape. Much to the annoyance of the United States which duly meted out sanctions on Cuba, he embarked upon a program to nationalize all foreignowned property on the island, and improve literacy and healthcare. Cuba moved ever closer to the Soviet Union, resulting most famously in the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Though the human rights record of the Castro government has been criticized in some quarters, Cuba nonetheless stands out as one of few states to have applied Marxist ideas with some success over a sustained period with little threat to the regime’s continued existence.

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.

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