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FERNÁNDEZ, Frank. Cuba, the Anarchists & Liberty - 4 -
4. Castroism and Exile
Article published on 5 May 2006
last modification on 25 April 2015

by r-c.
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Previous chapters:

Presentation by Sam DOLGOFF


1. Colonial Times and Separatism

2. The First Republic

3. The Second Republic

4. Castroism and Exile

The anarchists participated in the struggle against Batista. Some in the guerrilla forces in Oriente province and in the Sierra del Escambray in Las Villas province, others in the urban struggle. Their objective, along with that of the rest of the Cuban people, was to liquidate the Batista dictatorship. However, they never fully trusted Castro. By 1956, they already saw in Castro a potential dictator, head of a top-down organisation with totalitarian traits, whose image was closer to that of Hitler than of Durruti. Castro, according to the ill-conceived evaluation of the democratic opposition, was a temporary yet necessary evil; a product of the confusion, fragmentation and even cowardice that existed within the opposition to Batista. The anarchists perceived Castro and his revolution differently from the political elite of the time, who hoped to manipulate the victor. At the beginning of 1959, with the excuse of purging from the CTC union federation those elements that collabourated with Batista, the new "revolutionary" government arbitrarily removed from office anarcho-syndicalists and social democrats who were oriented toward the working class movement. Many of them, in fact had been previously persecuted and jailed by Batista.

The libertarians, even though dislodged from the CTC (now called "revolutionary"), maintained their prestige with the working class. In a congress organised by the government at the end of 1959 the union elements within the 26th of July Movement, through their Secretary General, David Salvador, and allied this time with the Communist Party and its members within the union central, delivered the organisation once again to the government, this time represented by the "maximum leader of the revolution", Fidel Castro and all this according to the best "democratic tradition".

Castro, anxious to retain power at all costs, allied his regime with the Soviet Union, making Cuba one big sugar plantation for the profit of the Russians. The benefits, rights and demands that through more than a century of struggles, the Cuban workers had won at the price of their blood, ended as Marx once said, in "the rubbish heap of history". The omnipresent and despotic State became the only employer and social leader. In 1961, the old political, economic and social order collapsed completely and the island became a factory and a Leninist dominion.

Early in 1960, the anarchists rejected Castro, and adopted a combative attitude toward the government. Ultimately, their publications, El Libertario and Solidaridad Gastronómica, were suppressed. The only recourse was to go underground, and then into exile.

The underground resistance process had two stages. The first commenced with the clandestine publication of Nuestra Palabra Semanal (Our Weekly Message), organ of the Movement for Trade Union Action, (Movimiento de Accion Sindical. MAS), with the purpose of general information for the workers and the people. The struggle was tougher than it had been against Batista and the repression was much harsher. Unfortunately, the leadership of this new civil struggle was in the hands of the U.S. and the Cuban bourgeoisie, which had few things in common with libertarians. The U.S. was not genuinely interested in overthrowing the Castro regime and proved forever reluctant while the bourgeoisie lacked the preparation and vocation for a revolutionary enterprise of such a magnitude and caliber, but both groups were powerful and had plenty of resources. The Cuban people did not accept communism and a large number became involved in the struggle against the regime. The anarchists failed on all fronts despite their work among the proletarians and peasants, carried out with much personal sacrifice.

The second stage was that of exile, either through a sympathetic embassy or illegally. In 1961 the Cuban Libertarian Movement (Movimiento Libertario Cubano; MLC) was founded in the United States, where those shipwrecked by Castro’s hurricane were regrouped, and maintained contact with the remains of the ALC in Cuba. They were few, but their labour was important for the cause of Cuban freedom. This was a period of intense work and sacrifice: propaganda, collection of money to rescue people from the island, and direct action against the Stalinist dictatorship. The 1960s were dedicated to the struggle, based entirely on personal efforts. El Gastronomico (The Food Worker) began publication in Miami and there was concerted effort made to convince the rest of the anarchist world that Castro was not really a revolutionary, as so many saw him, but a corrupt despot. The Cuban anarchists had to work hard and be patient. Manifestos, articles, essays, pamphlets, letters were necessary; they launched appeals to old friendships, to the fraternal comrades of the past, with whom difficult moments had been shared. They issued statements in Spain, France, Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela, Panama, Chile, England, the United States, in half the world, but all in vain, for those who answered and showed solidarity were few, some because of conviction, others because of ideological affinity. Anarchists around the world either did not understand the situation or did not want to understand it; the efforts of the Cuban anarchists became a dialogue with the deaf.

In the mid-1970’s changes began to take place in the anarchist world, one began to ascertain changes in the world’s anti-authoritarian milieu, less in favour of the Cuban libertarians but rather toward disenchantment with Castro’s revolution. Suddenly Castro was seen as a Communist dictator who oppressed his people. But it was too little too late; much precious and important time had been lost. Many anarchists were exiled, valuable comrades had been sacrificed, some had become frustrated, others remained alone on the island, and still others rotted in jails. The lack of international solidarity with the Cuban anarchists was notorious as "anarchism’s bad conscience", as was later said.

This phenomenon, comparable only with what happened to the Russian anarchists in relation to the Bolsheviks in 1917 and with East European comrades in post WWII Europe, was based on a neglect of these historical precedents, and did a lot of damage and cost dearly. Lack of solidarity and ideological understanding, however, did not stop the Cuban anarchists in their struggle for freedom. In its history of more than half a century of persecutions, assassinations, deportations and imprisonments, it had never suffered a defeat with the power and magnitude of that brought by Castro. Communism has apparently won; however, Cuban anarchists today do not accept it. In the past twenty-eight years we have kept our banner high and our ideals unchanged, without ever renouncing the desire to set our people free from the despot that oppresses them.

Cuba and the anarchists have a long history of the pursuit of freedom. The early labour struggles, the important contributions to Cuban independence from Spain, their protest against U.S. interventions, their critical attitudes toward social problems during the two republics, their spirit of combat and sacrifice against the dictatorships and disorders of Machado, Batista and Castro. Finally, the unbreakable faith that unites us in the present sinister moment of our destiny, serve as a powerful spur to continue the struggle until the end.

Miami, February 1987.


Sam Dolgoff

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