transformer: What do you think of this article Robert? I don’t trust right wing sources but how literate was Cuba back in 1959?
That website is falsely named. It is not an “intellectual” website dedicated to the intellect and the pursuit of knowledge. Sure, it is an erudite, bright, and educated website, but the only intellectuals it appeals to are hard rightwingers. It’s basically the philosophy of your average American conservative Republican. Those sites are run by ideologues, and they are not very honest.
I will try to take apart this argument as best as I can, but if you Google these questions, there are many leftwing websites who offer far better rejoinders than I offer here, especially with more facts, figures, and dates.
That argument is not good because there was vast poverty in the countryside along with terrible health and dental care. There was vast inequality in Cuba. There was quite a bit of wealth in the cities, particularly in Havana, but the conditions in the countryside were awful, pure 3rd World.
To give an example, I believe that there may have been no doctors in Cuba outside of Havana. All of the doctors and dentists lived in Havana serving people with money for cash so they could make a lot of money. The Mafia owned Cuba, and Havana was a sleazefest full of criminals, gangsters, and prostitutes.
Blacks had essentially no rights at all. They actually lived under a strict Jim Crow-like segregation that was as bad as what existed in the South. The Blacks in Cuba were fucked.
The whole country was owned by foreign, mostly US, interests, including the sugar cane and tobacco fields, the cigar and nickel industries and the casinos and bars. A few country-sellers latched onto the large US corporations that ran everything in Cuba and got their fair share of the loot.
But the Cuban people as a whole, meaning the Cuban state, barely saw a nickel of profits from any of those foreign-owned fields and industries. There also was little or no trickle down effect from the foreign-owned industry. Most Cubans felt that Cuba had once more become a colony of the US. After all, it was more or less owned by US companies, right?
Cuba used to be a colony of the US. We stole it from the Spanish after the Spanish American War. US rule was not popular. Jose Marti is known as the liberator of Cuba. He led an insurrection in 1898 in which Cuba gained its freedom. The Philippines was also rebelling at this time.
But after the US left, in 1911, a new law was passed called the Platt (?) Amendment that basically said that the US still ruled Cuba and had a right to intervene in Cuba’s affairs anytime it wanted to.
Even the most rightwing anti-Castro Cubans are not particularly pro-US, and if you bring up that amendment, they’ve all heard of it, and they act angry about. After all, most anti-Castro types are Cuban nationalists. Cubans are very nationalistic and proud people. That amendment remained in place until Castro won the revolution in 1959.
Batista’s army collapsed without even much of a fight because at one point in the revolution, even the middle classes in the cities went over to Castro. When the middle class supports a revolution, you are out of power. Previously the middle class had probably been mostly neutral.
Batista was also horribly corrupt and no one was happy about that. As Castro overran Havana, Batista and his government flew out to the US on airplanes. The US lifted them out. There are still quite a few pro-Batista Cubans in the Cuban community in Cuba. That’s why the Cuban exiles are not popular in Cuba.
A lot of Cubans in the countryside were not literate. Even schooling was bad out there. And Castro did run a literacy program that got the country to 99% literacy very quickly.
Castro was middle or even upper-class himself. He was Galician of almost pure Spanish blood (Cuba is full of Galicians). He had just graduated from law school, and he was in fact an attorney. So he was a very smart guy.
Che was actually a physician! He graduated from medical school in Argentina and was granted a license to practice medicine. I’m not sure if he ever actually practiced medicine. He was also a very smart guy.
Che took a motorcycle tour around Latin America, and he was appalled at the poverty he saw there. He had grown up in Buenos Aires in a moneyed family, and this was a hidden secret about the continent for him. A book called The Motorcycle Diaries was later published using the notes he took as he traveled around South America.
He became radicalized by his bike tour. He heard about the Revolution in Cuba, and he went there to help them out pure idealism with stars in his eyes. Che was also White like Castro and came from old Buenos Aires money. He probably had Italian and Spanish blood at the least, like most Argentines.
He married in Cuba and had a couple of kids before he was murdered by the CIA in a hospital in Bolivia in 1967 after being arrested in the nation for rebellion. He was very good to his wife and young children. The wife and children are still alive. You can even go see his son if you go to Cuba and have the right connections.
His wife and kids remember him very fondly. Che was a selfless and altruistic man. There is a slogan in Cuba: “Be like Che.” It is very popular. It means to be selfless and idealistic and sacrifice for others, to not be selfish and greedy. The slogan is popular among university students in particular. If you go to Cuba, you will hear Cuban university students, male and female, saying that their philosophy is to “be like Che.”
There must have been something wrong with the Batista system because a lot of university students, teachers, etc. took part in the early demonstrations against Batista. At some point, the Left went to the mountains and took up arms.
Either before or after, Batista ran death squads that rampaged through Cuba’s cities, murdering teachers, students, and the unarmed Left in general. They murdered thousands of defenseless and unarmed Cubans this way.
The army would not even fight for Batista. That’s how corrupt he was. In fact, many of the anti-Castro Cubans fought with Castro in the mountains to get rid of Batista, but they turned on him when he went Communist. They felt betrayed. I don’t mind these exiles so much. I have spoken with some of their children. At least they fought with Castro. But they tend to be very bitter. They think they got double-crossed and backstabbed by Castro.
Castro was originally simply a social democrat, and the initial revolutionary program was a social democratic one.
However, it was a very nationalistic revolution, and they started seizing foreign-owned businesses very quickly. The Cubans offered to pay off the owners for the market value of the businesses over a 30-year period. That offer it still in effect. 100% of the people and corporations who got their property taken turned down that offer, possibly out of pride and certainly out of ideology.
So their businesses didn’t really get confiscated. Castro offered to pay full value for them, but these stubborn reactionaries turned down the offer. It’s their own damn fault they lost their businesses.
The seizing of the foreign-owned property went on for a couple of years and was extremely popular among the extremely nationalistic Cubans. So you can see that Castro’s revolution, like Mao’s and Ho’s, was also and perhaps primarily a nationalist revolution.
Castro went to New York soon after he took power, and he was greeted with large crowds of cheering supporters. Castro talked about how much he loved America and Americans. I believe he was sincere. A lot of the US ruling class – the rich and corporations – were very suspicious of Castro from the start. They didn’t trust him. They didn’t hate him. They were just very leery of him.
Castro asked for US support and aid to help rebuild the country, but the US had turned hostile by then due to the business confiscations and refused to give him a nickel. This went on for a couple of years with each side getting more hardened until Castro finally turned to the USSR in desperation in 1961 for support since the US was flipping him off.
Castro’s argument was that he tried to have a relationship with the US, and we told him to go to Hell, so we forced him into the arms of the Soviets. He sealed an alliance with the USSR in 1961. The US promptly imposed a cruel embargo on Cuba which has been there ever since.
The embargo’s official justification was to cause so much poverty and misery in Cuba that the people would rise up and overthrow Castro. Here it is 60 years later, and we still give the exact same reason for the embargo. If the embargo is intended to cause the people to overthrow Castro, when is it going to start working? So far it’s been 60 years of utter failure, but we keep chasing the White Whale.
Over the next year, Castro grew increasingly radical, and by 1962, he abandoned social democracy, his originally ideology, and took up Marxism-Leninism. After Castro went Communist, a lot of his old comrades turned against him along with many others who were not happy with his turn to the hard Left. These contras took up arms, formed guerrilla bands in the mountains, and waged a brutal civil war that went on until 1970.
Yes, the Cuban government executed 10,000 people between 1959-1970, but almost all were for “rebellion,” typically armed rebellion. There have hardly been any executions since.
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