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FERNÁNDEZ, Frank. Cuba, the Anarchists & Liberty - 1 -
1. Presentation by Sam Dolgoff. - Introduction.- Colonial Times and Separatism
Article published on 7 May 2006
last modification on 6 May 2006

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Sydney: Monty Miller Press, 1987.

1857-1970s:Cuba - The Anarchists and Liberty - Frank Fernandez

A pamphlet written in 1987 by Frank Fernandez, with introduction by Sam Dolgoff, about the Cuban anarchist and workers’ movements from the mid 1800s up until the mid 1970s. It was a precursor to his more detailed 2001 book, Cuban Anarchism: The history of a movement [1]

First published in Spanish by Guangara Libertaria, Miami 1987

First English edition Monty Miller Press, Sydney 1987

This edition 1989 ASP, London.

Summary

Presentation by Sam DOLGOFF

Introduction

1. Colonial Times and Separatism

2. The First Republic

3. The Second Republic

4. Castroism and Exile

In this little essay our esteemed comrade Frank Fernandez traces the influence of anarchist ideas on the Cuban people, the development of the Cuban labour movement traces back to at least the middle of the 19th Century, Anarchism was not a small and isolated sect. It was a real people’s mass movement. The anarchist movement and the labour movement were inseparable. They grew up together. A history of the Cuban people is not worth reading If it does not include the history of anarchist struggles for the free society.

Although brief, this essay reveals information which I did not have in my book about the Cuban Revolution [’The Cuban Revolution’ by Sam Dolgoff (200 pages), not yet available in electronic form, but it can be ordered from AK Press. An author search on ’Dolgoff’ in their catalog should find it. They also carry this pamphlet. -Greg] and would have gladly included in the chapter "ANARCHISM IN CUBA". I refer for example, to the influence of the tobacco workers in the WORKERS ALLIANCE in Tampa and Key West, Florida during the great strikes. I am glad to note that comrade Fernandez points out that while anarchists took a very active part in Jose Marti’s movement for independence of Cuba, they did "not renounce their ideals of liberty and social justice".

Our comrade Fernandez rightfully deplores the anti-anarchist and pro-Castro sentiment of many sections of the anarchist movement who learned nothing from the disastrous degeneration of the Russian Revolution into a totalitarian dictatorship. They ignored appeals for elementary solidarity with our embattled, oppressed anarchist comrades and workers in Cuba. While there has been, as the author points out, "a certain change in the pro-Castro sentiment In the 1970s", Augustin Souchy, whom I met in 1976 or 1977 while he toured the U.S. for the CNT-FAI, informed me that total ignorance of Cuban affairs and history and pro-Castro sentiment still existed in many anarchist groupings. And this reminds me of anarchists who are very enthusiastic about the false "Nicaraguan Revolution" which follows the pattern set by the Castro counter-revolution.

Thus far there is no really thorough and reliable history of anarchism in Cuba. In writing such a book our comrade is making a very great contribution to our movement. We wish him all success in this difficult, but necessary task. The Cuban anarcho-syndicalist movement has in a century and a half of struggle written a glorious, indelible page in the history of the revolutionary movement, from which new generations of militants will continue to draw inspiration.

Sam Dolgoff,
New York, Autumn 1986

Introduction

This work is a brief overview of the influence libertarian ideas have had upon the Cuban people. We believe that we have the duty to faithfully report the annals of the Cuban anarchists, who for more than a century have struggled and sacrificed in defence of liberty and for the interest of the most downtrodden classes in our society. The accomplishments of the Cuban anarchists were of decisive importance in social and union struggles. We will briefly review the actions of a group of men and women, who, totally without resources, without aid or protection, forgotten and persecuted, not only influenced the history of the working class and campesinos, but also the history of the entire Cuban people. They certainly were the forerunners of the Cuban proletariat.

1. Colonial Times and Separatism
The Ideas of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon made him one of the most important thinkers of the nineteenth century; his economic theories had a great impact in Europe, and exercised a decisive influence on Cuban anarchism. Proudhon, without a doubt the foremost modern anarchist theoretician, has a following among progressive artisans and workers on the island. In 1857 the first mutualist (Proudhonian) Society was founded in Cuba. However, it was only when Saturnine Martinez founded the weekly La Aurora in 1865 that the ideas of Proudhon really took root. The first "free associations" of cigar-makers, typesetters, wage-labourers and artisans, what we consider an incipient Cuban proletariat, were organised in that period. Cuba is indebted to Proudhon for, among other things, the creation of regional centres, schools, health facilities and mutual aid associations.

The first Cuban attempt to break from Spain, which ended in defeat, was the Ten Years War (1868-1878), Some anarchist elements from the tobacco industry participated. In the case of Vincente Garcia and Salvador Cisneros Betancourt, both sympathisers of Proudhon’s federalism, they took an important role in the direction of the war. These events received inspiration and solidarity from certain Spanish comrades persecuted in Europe for their revolutionary ideas and who found refuge on the island.

During these years anarchist thought had taken a decisive influence among the workers and peasants of France, Italy, Spain and Russia. The most prominent organiser and advocate was another important figure of the time: Mikhail Bakunin. Despite his death in 1876, his ideas and arguments circulated and penetrated Europe with surprising vigour. The foundation of the Socialist Revolutionary Alliance (1864), the International Socialist Democratic Alliance (1868) and a Declaration of Principles written by Bakunin, influenced the more revolutionary elements in Cuba, which had already absorbed the concepts of Proudhon on labour organisation and the new ideas of Bakunin gradually displaced that of Proudhon’s upon the working class. The Cuban workers were beginning to develop class consciousness.

Towards the end of 1885 the most prestigious figure in Cuban anarchism came upon the scene in the person of Enrique Roig de San Martin (1843-1889), founder of the weekly El Productor and the new theoretician and organiser of the Cuban proletariat. The strikes which occurred at the end of the 1880’s were all inspired by anarchists and were organised via El Productor. This publication and Roig de San Martin helped to create a revolutionary organisation called the Workers’ Alliance of obvious Bakuninist inspiration.

This Workers’ Alliance was strongly supported in two tobacco industry locations in the United States, Tampa and Key West. In 1887 the first Federation of Tobacco Workers was organised in Havana, this federation had replaced the Union of Tobacco Workers, and it embraced almost all the workers in that industry. Tampa and Key West followed, in these two small American towns its most outstanding activists were Enrique Messonier and Enrique Creci, in addition to anarchist activists such as Leal, Segura and Palomino. In 1889 a general strike was declared in Key West which ended with the triumph of the workers in the first days of 1890. From Havana, the Alliance and the Cuba workers had shown solidarity with the strike, and through El Productor they encouraged and helped orient the strikers even after the death of Roig de San Martin.

Also from the shores of Florida, the Cuban independence movement was preparing for the struggle for independence. Tampa and Key West were genuine strongholds for independence partisans, anarchists and enemies of imperial Spain in general. During those years, Jose Marti, the patriotic apostle of the struggle against the colonial power, recruited followers and militants within the best-organised groups of Cuban émigrés. However the anarchists grouped within the tobacco industry viewed the Cuban problem from a socialist and internationalist point of view, Marti spoke with them and made concessions in the social sphere to them with the purpose of attracting them to the separatist cause. The anarchists, influenced by the persuasive power and eloquence of Marti, began to gather in Marti’s revolutionary clubs and some of the most responsible, such as Creci, Messonier, Rivero y Rivero, Sorondo, Rivera Montessori, Blanco, Blaino, Segura, etc., united behind Marti’s independence movement, without renouncing their ideals of liberty and social justice.

The aid and support given to Marti by the anarchists was enormous both in a moral sense as well as politically and economically. Marti then decided to found a revolutionary party, with a majority of the exiled tobacco workers whose unions were "revolutionary socialist", a euphemistic term adopted by the anarchists of the time especially after the tragic Haymarket events of Chicago, in 1886, when a group of anarchist labour organisers were executed for their supposed involvement in a bombing incident.

May Day 1890 was celebrated by the Workers’ Alliance in Havana with a rally and public act in remembrance of those executed in Chicago in 1886 there was a call for a congress, and in January 1892 the anarchists celebrated the first Cuban Regional Congress. They recommended that the Cuban working class join the ranks of "revolutionary socialism" and take the path of independence as proclaimed by Marti in a final "Manifesto" they wrote a phrase which has passed to history "...it would be absurd for one who aspires to individual freedom to oppose the collective freedom of the people...". The Spanish authorities suspended the congress, closed down the anarchist press, declared illegal the Alliance and deported or imprisoned the better-known congress’s participants.

The war of independence advocated by Marti exploded in Cuba in February 1895. Anarchists joined the struggle for freedom, among them Enrique Creci, who died in combat in 1896. Lamentable for everyone, the promises and social paths promised by Marti disappeared with him, when the apostle of Cuban independence died while fighting Spanish troops in May 1895. The war ended with U.S. intervention in 1898 and the defeat of Spain. Both in exile and in Cuba, the anarchists during this period acted ceaselessly to raise funds, to support the struggle, and in addition, to carry out campaigns in anarchist circles in the U.S. and Europe. Two young Italian anarchists joined the war: Orestes Ferrara and Federico Falco. The assassination of Spanish Prime Minister Canovas del Castillo by the Italian anarchist Angiolillo in 1897 with the direct participation of Emeterio Betances, a Puerto Rican doctor representing the Cuban exiles in Paris, was without doubt one of the most important factors in Spain’s defeat. Canovas declared upon Cuba a war of systematic extermination, "suppress the revolt", he proclaimed, "to the last man and to the last peseta". At the same time he withstood pressure from the U.S. State Department and the N.Y. press. In the heyday of European colonialism and imperialism, Canovas belonged to the same elite of Emperors, Kings and politicians who not only oppressed its own people but also extended their domination to the less advanced world. His influence and reputation was not only among the Vatican, the Austro-Hungarian, the Russian or the German Empire but also in the high circles of power and money in England, France and Italy, who certainly approved Canovas’s repression in Cuba.

The three shots which terminated Canovas’s life also put an end to his criminal tactics in Cuba. His successor, Mateo Sagasta, was a weak and inept politician, without respect or sympathy among his peers either in Spain or in the rest of Europe. His policies of "appeasement" toward the U.S. escalated inexorably the provocations of the new American imperialism. The Spanish empire ceased to exist. Indifference prevailed in Europe.

During the U.S. intervention in 1899, the anarchists fermented a strike in the bricklayers’ guild. It was suppressed violently, even though in the end the strikers obtained some increase in wages. This strike had the complete backing of the weekly !Tierra! edited by Abelardo Saavedra and Adrian del Valle.

Continued:

2. The First Republic

3. The Second Republic

4. Castroism and Exile

Notes :

[1This text was taken and edited slightly for spelling and grammar by libcom.org from http://yelah.rr.nu:8181//index.php/cuba?sida=articles&id=cuba


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