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THE ECONOMIC WEEKLY

The

Some

SPECIAL

Cuban

Revolution

Whys

and

Wherefores

NUMBER

JULY

Andrew Guilder Frank

1961

 

Did

the

Cuban

Revolution

grow

out

of

the

dictatorial

repression

of

Batista

?

Yes,

certainly,

but

the

repression

of

Batista

generated

no

more

cause

for

revolt

than

that

of

Trujillo

in

the

Dominican

Republic

ot

Jimenez

in

Venezuela,

 
 

Is

it

a

movement

to

liberate

Cuba

from

American

domination

of

its

economy ?

Undoubtedly,

but

other

Carribean

countries,

like

Guatemala

and

Honduras,

are

no

less

famed

for

American

influence

in

their

economic

life.

 

Does

the

Cuban

Revolution

represent

a

battle

against

poverty,

hunger

disease

and

illiteracy

?

Cer-

tainly',

but

poverty

in

Haiti

is

much

more

severe

than

in

Cuba.

Indeed

per

capita

income

in

Cuba-

is

higher

than

almost

anywhere

else

in

Latin

America.

 
 

The

absence

of

indigenous

Indians

perhaps

facilitates

the

success

of

the

Revolution,

but

Costa

Rica

similarly

has

no

Indians,

nor

does

Uruguay.

 

The

author

does

not

attempt

to

describe

or

explain

the

Cuban

Revolution

exhaustively.

He

merely

wants

to

expose

for

inspection

the

background

and

the

sources

of

the

developments

that

Cuba

and

the

world

now

witness.

 
 

He

leaves

it

to

the

understanding

and

research

of

others

to

explore

the

many

questions

only

raised

here.

CUBANS

proclaim

themselves

the

revolution and Guatemala one

invoking the charisma of Fidel, an

 

first free

country

in

Latin

which took a different form.

exhaustive causative explanation

of

America.

 

What

do

 

they

mean?

 

Does

the

Cuban

Revolution

re-

the Cuban Revolution may not be

Why

did

the

revolution

which

is

present

a

battle

against

poverty,

possible. At any rate. I cannot

developing

in

Cuba

take

place

pre-

against

hunger,

disease

and

illitera-

provide one.

cisely

there

and

not

elsewhere?

cy

?

Certainly.

But

poverty

in

Historical Source

 

W

h y

does

the

Cuban

Revolution

Hait i

is

much

more

severe

than

 

take

the

for m

it

does

rather

than

in

Cuba.

Indeed, per capita

income

However

a

Iess

ambitious

expla-

the

form,

for

instance,

of

our

of

in

Culm

is

higher

than

almost

any-

nation

should

not

be

beyond

our

the

Latin

American

revolutions

where

else

in

Latin

America.

Ma r

reach,

Every

resolution

is

a

reac-

which

preceded

it

?

be

it

is

this

very

relative

wealth

tion

to

the

past,

and

that

past

is

   

which

has

given

Cuba

the

ability

certainly

open

to

our

inspection.

Several

causes

of

the

Cuban

Re-

and

the

strength

to

make

so

far-

Indeed,

today's

revolution

is

a

pro-

volution

immediately

suggest

them-

reaching

a

revolution.

But

such

duct

as

well

of

past

reactions,

that

solves,

but

none

of

them

singly

or

resources

are

available

in

concen-

is.

of

earlier

 

revolutionary

at-

in

combination

appear

to

offer

a

trated

for m

also

in

the

Rio

Montevideo

Janeiro

de

tempts.

By

looking

at

the

earlier at-

satisfactory

explanation

of

the

of

the

tempts

to

deal

wit h

similar

time

and

place

of

the

Revolution.

Uruguay

or

and Sao Paula regions of Brazil.

problems,

particularly

by

prior

re-

D i d

the

Revolution

grow

out of

the

 

volutions

in

Latin

America,

we

dictatorial

repression

of

Batista ?

The

absence

of

indigenous

should

be

able

to

suggest

how

some

Yes.

certainly

it

did.

But

the

re-

Indians probably

facilitates

 

the

alternative

forms

of

the

Cuban

Re-

pression

of

Batista

generated

no

success

of

the

Cuban

Revolution.

volution

may

have

come

to

be

more

cause,

for

revolt

than

that

of

But

Cost

a

Rica

similarly

has

no

excluded.

Furthermore,

no

revolu-

Trujill o in

the Dominican

Republic

Indians,

nor

does

Uruguay.

 

tion

can

change

everything.

Para-

or

that

of

Jimenez

in

Venezuela ;

Maybe

it

is

less

the

absence

of

doxically, a

revolution

must rely on

yet

the

Dominican

Republic

has

Indiana

than

the

presence

of

a

well-entrenched

social

forms,

such

witnessed

no

revolution

at

all,

and

middle

class

and

of

a

pool

of

as

paternalism

in

Cuba,

to

effect

a

Venezeula

one

which

has

taken

a

potential

intellectual

leadership

radical

change

in

other

forms

of

form

quite

different

from

the

which

has

facilitated

the

Cuban

social

relations.

Thus,

a

study

of

Cuban Revolution.

 

Revolution.

But

Brazil,

Argentina,

social

and

cultural

forms which did

 

Is the Cuban Revolution a move-

and

Chile

have

similar

sources

of

and

did

not

exist

in

the

Cuba

of

ment to liberate Cuba from Ameri-

potential

leadership;

and

there

is

ol d

should

yield

some

indications

can

domination

of

its

economy

in

evidence

that

in

Mexico,

which

of

the

revolutionary

possibilities

the fields of sugar, public utilities,

witnessed

its

own

revolution fifty

for

the

Cuba

of

tomorrow.

The

and large parts of commerce? Un-

years

ago,

it

is

precisely

the

mid-

present

paper,

then,

is

an

attempt

doubtedly. But other Carribean

dle

class

which

is

the

source of the

to

explore

these

three

sources

of

countries, like Guatemala and Hon-

increasing

conservatism

which

explanation

of

the

Cuban

Revolu-

duras, are no less famed for Ame-

militate

against

the

extension

of

tion

:

the

historical

source

of

the

rican influence in their economic

economic

development

into

 

the

revolution,

alternative

solutions- to

life , Honduras has witnessed no

Mexican

countryside.

Thus,

withou t

Latin

 

American

problems which

1101

SPECIAL

NUMBER

JULY

1961

THE ECONOMIC WEEKLY

have

been

found

wanting,

and

the

consular

report

of

1878

notes

that

old

regime

and

after

the

temporary

socio-cultural

forms

which

deter-

"commercially

Cuba

has

become

a

ruin

of

the

second

war

has

again

mine

not

only

the

revolutionary

dependency

of

the

United

States

disappeared,

the

time

is

ripe

for

a

necessities,

but

also

the revolution-

although

politically

it

remains

a

renewed

dictatorship

of

the

Ma-

ary possibilities.

In

pursuing these

dependency

of

Spain."

By

1895

chado

type.

After

years

of

varying

explorations,

we

should

not

how-

Cuba

is

ready

to

wage

a

full

scale

amounts

of

influence,

 

Batista

takes

ever expect

to

find

important ans-

revolutionary

war

of

independence

power

in

the

coup

of

Marc h

10,

wers

as

instead

we

find

important

new questions.

 

The

history

of

Latin

America

might

be

summed

up

by

saying

that

the

Spanish

came

to

exploit

and

their

successors

remained

to

exploit.

The

main

social

features

of

large

parts

of

Latin

America

were

well

known

:

the

consolida-

tion

of

agricultural

lands

under

latifundisla

ownership,

 

the

role

of

the

church

in

keeping

people

quiet

and

of

the

army

if

they

were

not,

the

role

of

the

rising

middle

classes

based

in

commerce

and

the

profes-

sions

which

account

for

the

very

one-sided

 

economic

development

that

does

occur,

the

alliance

of

American

capital

with

all

these

groups,

that

are

the

the

right-wing

capstone

dictatorships

the

which

ties

social

fabric

together

by

force

and

terror.

Probably

more

than

total

mass

poverty

and

ignorance,

it

has

been

the

exclusion

of

the

vast

ma-

jority

of

Latin

Americans

from

the

against

Spain.

Three

years

later,

in

1952.

In

the

years

of

his

power,

1808,

the

United

States

enters

the

he

kills

and

often

tortures

twenty

war

against

Spain

on

the

side

of

thousand

people.

As

a

nutshell

in-

Cuba.

Viewed

in

the

context

of

a

dex

of

the

fortunes

of

Cuba

during

hundred

years

of

U

S

and

Confe-

these

years

past,

one

might

observe

derate

designs

on

Cuba,

combined

that following

the 1895 war of

liber-

with

more

recently

acquired

direct

ation

the

literacy

rate

grew

mar-

economic

interests,

the

Platt

kedly;

during

the

years

of

Ma-

Amendment

of

1902

which

reser-

chado's

dictatorship

the

literacy rate

ves

the

right

to

the

United

States

again

declined;

it

rose

slowly

dur-

to

intervene

at

its

pleasure

in

the

ing

the

years

after

Maehado's

exit

domestic

affairs

of

the

supposedly

and

before

Batista's

entry;

 

and

sovereign

Cuba

need

come

as

no

literacy

declined

again

during

the

surprise,

Cuba,

exhausted

by

its

six

years

of Batista's government.

war

of

liberation

against

Spain,

is

Not

Made

 

in

a

Day

 

faced

with

the

choice

of

outright

 

annexation

by

the

United

States

as

The

current

revolution

in

Cuba

befell

Pierto

Rico

and

the

Phili-

was

not

made

in

a

day.

It

was

ppines

or

presumptive

sovereignty

born

out

of

three

hundred

years

of

with

American

 

intervention.

It

history and

at

least a

hundred

years

chooses

the

latter

and

is

visited

of

prior

revolutionary

activity.

But

by

American

military

intervention

three

times

until

the

repeal

of

the

Piatt

Amendment

in

1933

and

by

other

forms

of

intervention

until

this

day.

even

as

the

revolution

was

born

in

the

decade

 

of

the

1950s it

did

not,

like

Athena,

emerge

full

grown

out

of

Fidel

Castro's

head.

Indeed,

the

forms

which

the

revolution

was

to

take and

still

will

take in

the

future

grew

out

of

its

own

eight-year

his-

tory

in

Cuba

and

the

revolutionary

experience

elsewhere

in

Latin

Am-

erica.

To

understand

even

in

the

most

superficial

sense

the

nature

and

causes

of

the

radicalism

which

characterizes

the

Cuban

Revolution

today,

it

is

necessary

to

examine

the

Revolution

in

the

light

of

this

recent

history

which

has

made

it

what

it

is.

But

as we

do

so,

it

will

again

he

possible

to

do

no

more

than

raise

questions

as

to

how

and

why

certain

circumstances

 

led

to

the

decisions

that

were

taken.

In

a

sense

what

the

followin g

explora-

tion

can

do

is

roughly

to

map

the

road

of

the

revolution

indicating

some

of

the

road

forks

at

which

choices

had

to

be

made

to

guide

it

one

way

or

another.

Much

closer

acquaintance

with

circumstances

of

the

times

woul d

be

neceteary

to

as-

sign

serious

explanations

to

these

choices.

Elections were scheduled for the

spring of 1952. When it became clear that the impending vote would

not

Batista as-

sumed power by a militar y coup on

March 10, 1952. Soon thereafter,

Fidel Castro, then a lawyer, filed a

the courts changing Batista

brief

brin g

in

hi m

into office,

social,

political,

and

economic

bene-

In

the

meantime

the

introduction

fits enjoyed

by

some

people

in

of

railroads

and

electricity

into

these societies

which

has

resulted

in

Cuba

radically

increases

the

dis-

the

many

sporadic

social

upheavals

tance

over

which

sugar

cane

could

ranging

from

changes

in

the

palace

guard

to

full

scale

social

re-

volutions.

 

Structure

of

Latin

American

 

Society

The

Cuban

Revolution

has

its

roots

in

this

general

structure

of

Latin

American

society,

in

this

same

Latin

American

social

move-

ment

to

which

that

social

structure

has

given

risie

(indeed,

in

the

twentieth

century

world

revolution

as

a

whole)

but

it

has

its

own

his-

tory

as

well,

in

the

peculiar

Cuban

conditions

arid

the

long

history

of

revolutionary

and

liberation

move-

merits

which

have

time

and

again

attempted

but

failed

to

alter

sub-

stantially

the

structure

of

Cuban

society.

Nearly

a

century

ago,

in

18'8,

Cuba

revolts

against

Spain.

The

revolution

is

intellectually

 

in-

spired

and

led,

though

it

has

some

measure

of

popular

support.

 

The

revolution fails

and

Spain

retains

its

political

supremacy.

In

the

years

which

follow,

American

capi-

tal

begins

seriously

to

be

invested

in

Cuban

sugar.

Indeed,, a

U

S

bo

transported

and

the

size

of

the

mills

in

which

it

could

be

process-

ed.

As

a

result,

the

earlier

small

holdings

of

land

and

little

mills

in-

creasingly

become

consolidated

in-

to

large-scale

latifundisla

holdings

of

land

and

of

large

sugar

centrales

which

reign

over

the

landscape

like

feudal

castles.

As

elsewhere

in

Latin

America

to

this

day,

this

fer-

tile

ground

for

right-wing

dictator-

ships

easily

produces

and

supports

the

dictatorship

 

of

Machado

during

the

nineteen

twenties.

When

this

dictatorship

is

overthrown

in

1931,

the

refor m

movement

which

seeks

to

remove

some

of

the

social,

poli-

tical,

and

economic

sources

of

such

dictatorships

fails,

 

and,

let

it

be

noted,

fails

with

the

aid

and

inter-

vention

of

the

U

S

Department

of

Stat?

and

Embassy

in

the person

of

Sumner

Welles

who

supports

the

conservatives,

and

only

a

moderate

reform

prevails.

 

When

the

effects

of

the

depres-

sion

and

the

decline

of

Cuba's

sugar

fortunes

were

combined

with

the substantial

continuance

of

the

1102

THE ECONOMIC WEEKLY

with several count a of violation of

cation,

and

health,

"along

wit h

the

the

Cuban

Constitution

of

1940.

restoration

of

public

liberties

and

This

brief

represents

Fidel

Castro's

political

democracy."

He

offered

first

public

challenge.

But

as

an

solutions

to

only

two

of

these—

attack

on

the

illegality

of

the

land :

expropriation,

redistribu-

Batista

dictatorship

rather

than

as

tion

and

agricultural

co-operatives;

an

attempt

to

initiate

a

far-reaching

and

housing :

cutting

rents

in

half

social

revolution,

this

first

challenge

and

financing

new

housing.

I

em-

of the

statua-quo

was a

far cry from

phasize

this

revolutionary

docu-

the

revolution

which

Fidel's

name

ment

because

it

is

today

widely

has

become

associated.

This

revolu-

claimed

in

Cuba

that

"History

Wil l

tion

was

to

assume

its

present

form

Absolve

Me "

represents

the

blue-

only

as

a

result

of

many

events

print

of

the

revolution

we

are

now

still

to

come

in

the

six

years

witnessing.

I

suggest

that

this

following.

 

widespread

Cuban

view

is

mistaken.

 

Weapons

for

Legal

Arguments

It

does

not

appear

that

the

form

the

Cuban

Revolution

takes

today

The

1953,

first

Fidel

further

led

125

development

was

in

to

legal

26,

at-

the direction of radicalism

substitute weapons arguments had failed.

where

On

men

July

in

an

was

tion

tion

recourse

moderation

conceived

of

in

in

1953.

the

Examina-

wit h this ques-

on

relative

five immediate

the document

mind

to

emphasis

the

legality,

of

the

tack

on

Fort

Moncada

in

the

hope

laws,

the

failure

to

indicate,

much

of

capturing

the

weapons

and

sup-

less

to spell

out.

any

programme

of

plies

which

might

be

used

in

an

attack

on

the

six

major

problems -

attack

on

the

army,

the

real

source

will,

I

believe,

demonstrate

 

that

of

Batista's

power.

The

attack

was

"History

Wil l

Absolve

Me"

may

unsuccessful.

Most

of

the

attackers

have

contained

some,

goals

and

were killed, not so much in

battle as

directional

signposts,

but

that

it

cer-

after

becoming

prisoners.

Through

tainly

was

not

a

blueprint,

plat-

a

series

of

fortunate

accidents.

form,

or

programme,

written

in

Fidel's

life

was

spared

and

he

was

1953,

of

the

revolution

which

was

brought

to

trial.

Acting

as

his

own

to

take

place

after

1959.

To

say

so

attorney

for

defense,

Fidel

spoke

does

not.

and

is

not

meant;

to

con-

four

hours

in

defense

of

his

attack

demn

either

Fidel's

195 3 position

against

an

unconstitutional

govern-

or

his

I960

action.

It

is

only

to

ment.

His

defense

ended

with

the

say

that

to

find

the

roots

of

today's

words,

"Condemn

me.

I

don't

care.

revolution

we

must

look

a

good

History

will

absolve

me.''

Under

deal

further.

that

title

his

defense

plea

has

be-

Landing

in

Oriente

 

come

famous

as

an

important

docu-

The

next

step

in

the

development

ment

of

the

Revolution.

Most

of

of

the

revolutionary