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(en) Cuban anarchism: the history of a movement by Frank Fernandez - Chapter 4 : Castroism and Confrontation (1959-1961) I. (1/2)

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>(http://www.illegalvoices.org/apoc/books/cuban/front.html)
Date Sun, 22 Feb 2004 06:53:59 +0100 (CET)

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Cuba’s anarchists had actively participated in the struggle against the
Batista dictatorship. Some had fought as guerrillas in the eastern mountains
and in those of Escambray in the center of the island; others had taken
part in the urban struggle. Their purposes were the same as those of the
majority of the Cuban people: to oust the military dictatorship and to
end political corruption. In addition to considering these ends desirable
in and of themselves, the anarchists believed they would provide a wider
space in which to work in the ideological, social, and labor fields. No
one expected a radical change in the socioeconomic structure of the country.

The previously mentioned 1956 pamphlet, Proyecciones Libertarias, which
attacked Batista, also characterized Castro as someone who merited “no
confidence whatsoever,” because “he [didn’t] respect promises and only
fought for power.” It was for this reason that the anarchists established
frequent clandestine contacts with other revolutionary groups, especially
the Directorio Revolucionario, although there were also contacts with
libertarian elements such as Gilberto Lima within M26J. Many of these
meetings were held secretly at the ALC* offices at Calle Jesús María 103
for the purposes of coordination of sabotage activities and of facilitating
the distribution of opposition propaganda.

Upon the triumph of the revolution, Castro had become the indisputable
leader of the revolutionary process, largely as a result of an incorrect
evaluation by Batista’s political opposition, which regarded Castro as
a necessary, temporary, and controllable evil.

If the libertarians were uneasy about Castro, the rest of the political
opposition, the Cuban capitalist elite, and the U.S. embassy expected
to manipulate him. For their part, the majority of the Cuban people supported
Castro without reserve in the midst of unprecedented jubilation. It appeared
to them that they were at the portal of paradise, when in reality it was
the antechamber of the inferno.

Due to the apparent refusal of Castro to lead, a “revolutionary government”
was created with his support, the purpose of which was to “settle accounts”
with the criminals of the former government. “Revolutionary Tribunals”
were established which issued summary judgments in response to “popular
demand.” These tribunals handed down lengthy prison terms and death sentences,
thus reestablishing the death penalty (which had been abolished by the
Constitution of 1940), but this time for political crimes.

The leaders of the new revolutionary government understood the importance
of the Cuban working class, which was simultaneously organized under and
made superfluous by the political groups and reformists who controlled
the CTC. They had learned this lesson through one notable failure. In
April 1958, M26J had ordered a general strike in Havana, but it was badly
organized, and the coordination with other revolutionary groups was also
bad. As a result, the strike roundly failed, which served to demonstrate
that M26J had essentially no base in the unions or among the working class.

Given this experience, upon taking power one of the first goals of Castro’s
“revolutionary” government was taking control of the CTC (which they quickly
renamed the CTCR-CTC Revolucionaria).

In the first days of January 1959-using the excuse of purging the CTC
of collaborators with the old regime-the new government arbitrarily expelled
all of the leading anarchosyndicalists from the gastronomic, transport,
construction, electrical utility, and other unions of the confederation.
Some of these individuals had actively opposed the dictatorship, and others
had suffered prison and exile. Three outstanding libertarian militants
who fell victim to this purge were Santiago Cobo, from the transport workers’
union, Casto Moscú, from the gastronomic workers’ union, and Abelardo
Iglesias, from the construction workers’ union. In all three cases rank-and-file
fellow workers came forward to defend them; if they hadn’t done this,
Cobo, Moscú, and Iglesias would have ended up in prison. This purge gravely
affected the already weakened libertarians, even though the anarchosyndicalist
movement retained its prestige among the Cuban proletariat.

But the purge was not comprehensive. The new regime couldn’t eliminate
wholesale the many union leaders who had remained neutral in the conflict
between Castro and Batista. There still remained within the CTCR leaders
who had the backing of Cuba’s workers, and others who had been forced
to go into exile under Batista’s dictatorship.

Despite the purge, the libertarian publications Solidaridad Gastronómica
and El Libertario initially adopted a favorable, but cautious and expectant,
attitude toward the new revolutionary government. However, the national
council of the ALC issued a manifesto in which it “expounded on . . .
and passed judgment on the triumphant Cuban revolution.” After explaining
the libertarian opposition to the past dictatorship, the manifesto analyzed
the present and near future, declaring that the “revolutionary” institutional
changes did not merit enthusiasm, and that one should have no illusions
about them. It stated, with a certain irony, that its authors were “sure
that for some time at least we’ll enjoy public liberties sufficient to
guarantee the opportunity of publishing propaganda.” It went on with a
well-aimed attack against “state centralism,” saying that it would lead
to an “authoritarian order,” and it then made reference to the penetration
of the Catholic Church and the Communist Party in the “revolutionary”
process. It concluded with a reference to the workers’ movement, where
it noted the emphasis of the PCC on “reclaiming the hegemony which . .
. it enjoyed during the other era of Batista’s domination,” even though
it predicted that this would not occur. The manifesto ended on a note
of optimism: “The panorama, despite all, is encouraging.”

For its part, and taking a similar tack, Solidaridad Gastronómica on February
15, 1959 published another manifesto to Cuba’s workers and the people
in general in which it warned that a revolutionary government was an impossibility,
and that “[in order] that rights and liberties are respected and exercised
. . . it’s necessary that union elections be called . . . and that [workers’]
assemblies begin to function.” It later noted that the decision of relieving
past officers of their duties “must absolutely be that of the workers
themselves . . . since to do this in any other way would be to fall into
the procedures of the past . . . We’ll combat this.” Unfortunately, this
manifesto didn’t resonate in the Cuban working class.

In its March 15, 1959 issue, Solidaridad Gastronómica bitterly condemned
“the dictatorial proceedings [of the CTCR] . . . agreements and mandates
handed down from the top that impose measures, dismiss and install [union]
directors.” The paper also accused “elements . . . in the assemblies who
are not members of the unions” of “raising their arms in favor of orders
of the [new] directors.” Among other abnormalities it cited the following:
“On occasions the assembly halls have been filled with armed militia men,
which constitutes a blatant form of coercion and lack of respect for regulatory
precepts,” and which shows that the marxists “will resort to any type
of proceeding to maintain their control of the unions.” As is obvious
in hindsight, the battle to liberate the unions was lost despite the denunciations
of the anarchosyndicalists.

The opposition to anarchosyndicalism emanated directly from M26J and was
instigated by the PCC elements which had infiltrated it and had in an
almost military manner quickly taken control of all of the unions on the
island. They said that they had done this as a temporary measure in order
to purge the corrupt elements left in the unions from the Batista dictatorship,
and that their domination would last only until there were new union elections.
But as has so often been the case in Cuba, the “temporary” became permanent.

But where did the M26J elements who took over the unions come from? It
was well known that M26J had never had a real base in the unions, had
not had even the general sympathy of the workers, and didn’t have working
class leadership.

The “revolutionary” union directors came in a majority of cases from two
antagonistic camps. One camp was the syndicalist Comisiones Obreras (the
reformist Workers’ Commissions), which tied itself to electoral politics
and whose members had been enemies of the Batista regime; the Comisiones
Obreras belonged to the Partido del Pueblo Ortodoxo and to the Partido
Revolucionario Cubano Auténtico. The Comisiones had been founded in the
late 1940s, and both parties had been well known from the founding of
the CTC in 1939. They shared a visceral and profound anti-Communism. The
other camp was the PCC. The former engaged in cynical opportunism and
lent itself to any type of state manipulation. The latter was extremely
dangerous, and despite its muddy past received even in the very early
stages official support from the highest levels of government. Both sides
hated the other, and they were preparing for an open struggle for hegemony
in the proletarian sector; but instead, as we’ll see later, this whole
affair ended in an amalgamation disastrous to the Cuban workers’ movement.

By July 1959, the Cuban state was totally in the hands of Castro and his
close advisers, almost all of whom had come directly from the armed struggle
against Batista. The presence of the PCC was already notable among the
leading government figures, notably in Fidel’s brother Raúl and in Ernesto
Guevara, both of whom were openly marxist-leninist. Such a glaring fact
provoked a reaction in Cuba’s political climate, which had been characterized
by anti-Communism. The anarchists had noted the influence of the PCC and
were greatly alarmed, because they understood that the PCC’s influence
in the governmental and union spheres would lead to a mortal blow to both
anarchism and workers’ autonomy sooner or later. Their nightmares would
shortly become reality. For his part, Castro publicly declared that he
had no relationship with the PCC, but that he had Communists in his government,
just as he had anti-Communists in it.

The situation of these last turned critical in the final days of 1959.
Halfway through the year the political adversaries of Castro had already
begun to take note of the growing PCC influence, and began a timid opposition
campaign-which they understood as their right and duty-against what they
called “the Communist infiltration of the government.” The response was
draconian. They were labeled seditious “enemies of the revolution” and
“agents of Yankee imperialism.” Treated as such, they were jailed or forced
into exile.

The first victim of this Machiavellian maneuvering was Manuel Urrutía.
Urrutía, a former judge in Santiago de Cuba, and an M26J sympathizer and
anti-Communist, was named by M26J as de facto president of the revolutionary
government following Batista’s overthrow. Pressed by the ministers in
his own government (including Fidel Castro) to name Castro as “máximo
lider de la Revolución” (“maximum leader of the revolution”), Urrutía
refused. He was then forced to resign and seek asylum in a foreign embassy
following false accusations of corruption.

A worse fate awaited one of his closest political allies and a member
of his cabinet. Humberto Sorí Marín, the former commander of the rebel
army, the author of the agrarian reform law, and an anti-Communist, was
jailed under the accusation of “conspiring against the revolution” and
was executed in April 1961. Another ex-rebel commander also met an unkind
fate. Hubert Matos, former military chief of the Camagüey district, complained
to Castro himself about “Communist infiltration” in the ranks of the armed
forces. He was then accused of sedition and later of treason for the crime
of having resigned his rank and his post. He was sentenced to 20 years
in prison, and served 16.

Then there was the case of Pedro Luis Díaz Lanz, head of the rebel air
force. Preoccupied with the evident Communist influence within the Fuerzas
Armadas Revolucionarias, Díaz Lanz discovered a marxist indoctrination
center at a ranch near Havana called “El Cortijo” (“The Farmhouse”). He
complained about this to Castro. In response, Castro forbade him from
making this news public. Díaz Lanz became ever more disturbed by the increasing
power of the PCC in both the armed forces and government, and resigned
his post. He managed to escape to Miami before meeting a fate similar
to those of Sorí Marín and Matos.

The reaction of parts of the opposition to this governmental repression
was violent-sabotage and a few bombings. These clandestine actions were
carried out by various political organizations, which at first were anti-Communist
and in the end were anti-Castro. Almost all of these groups had been involved
in the armed struggle against Batista and had been affiliated with M26J;
they chose direct action because of the undeniable and growing marxist
influence at the highest levels of the government. They sabotaged electric
utilities, burned several shops and department stores, set off bombs in
public places, and collected arms and explosives to send to guerrillas
operating in the Escambray Mountains and also in the Sierra de los Órganos
(despite there being as yet no united guerrilla front).

Castro’s response to all this was predictable: he reestablished the “Revolutionary
Tribunals” which handed down sentences of death by firing squad to anyone
accused of “subversive acts.” Thus commenced a long period of terror and

Meanwhile the international anarchist community was mourning the loss
of Camilo Cienfuegos, the valiant veteran of the armed struggle, whose
disappearance remained shrouded in mystery. Camilo was one of the children
of Ramón Cienfuegos, a Cuban worker who had participated in the anarchist
movement during the 1920s. He worked with the SIA and participated in
the founding of the ALC, but according to Casto Moscú, “We never saw him
again until Camilo became a national hero.” The disappearance of Camilo
was lamented by nearly the entire Cuban people, and also abroad by many
libertarians who considered him an anarchist (though the truth is that
he was never a member of the Cuban anarchist movement). Nonetheless, half
the anarchist world cried over the loss of this revolutionary hero as
if he had been another Durruti. This is hardly surprising given that the
Cuban government occupied itself (principally in Europe) with repeating
to the point of fatigue that Comandante Camilo Cienfuegos was a libertarian
militant, for the purpose of gaining support for the Castro regime within
the international anarchist movement. The myth has persisted among libertarians
to this day: Saint Camilo, the Anarchist.

At the end of 1959, the Tenth National Congress of the Confederación de
Trabajadores de Cuba Revolucionaria (CTCR, the renamed CTC) was convened.
A majority of the delegates accepted the goal of “Humanism,” a type of
philosophy which had been outlined at the beginning of the year as a means
of distancing the CTCR from the traditional capitalist and Communist Cold
War camps. The slogans of this Cuban Humanism were “Bread with Liberty”
and “Liberty without Terror.” The Cubans, with typical creativity, had
invented a new socio-political system in order to give some type of ideological
explanation for the new regime. David Salvador, leader of the M26J faction,
feigned and functioned as the most daring champion of this new Cuban “Humanism.”
For its part, the PCC, which was well represented in this Congress, though
in the minority, called up the musty slogan, “Unity.”

On November 23, the Congress found itself totally divided over the matters
of making agreements and of electing representatives. Confusion reigned,
owing to the inability of the various opposing sectors to reach agreements.
There were 2854 delegates at the Congress, of which the Communists only
influenced 265. With that few delegates, it was impossible for them to
control the Congress. But they had the backing of the revolutionary government
and its new Minister of Labor, Augusto Martínez Sánchez, commander of
the army and an intimate of Raúl Castro, the number two man in the new
Cuban hierarchy (and just incidentally the number one man’s brother).

The marxists then proposed the creation of a single list of candidates
that would assume direction of the CTCR. That is to say, they proposed
that control of the CTCR be put in the hands of a committee in which they
(the PCC) would have equal representation with M26J and the anti-Communist
unionists. Given their small representation within the union movement,
this maneuver couldn’t have been more cynical. Much to the surprise of
Martínez Sánchez and Raúl Castro, both the independent unionists and the
M26J faction rejected this proposal, with the M26J delegates whistling
and shouting down their own leaders.

In light of the obvious paralysis created by the divisions in the Congress,
Castro himself showed up and explained the importance of “defending the
revolution,” for which it was necessary that there be “truly revolutionary
directors” supported by all the delegates of the Congress. He proposed
that the CTCR leader be David Salvador, leader of the M26J contingent.
The only faction that should prevail is “the party of the fatherland,”
said Castro. And effectively, as in the “good times” of the Cuban republic,
as much as many wanted to forget them, the government of the day nominated
the Secretary General of the CTCR. Salvador was then elected and given
the task of designating a new “national directorate.” Castro’s nomination
of Salvador in effect made him a governmental appendage, if not a government
minister. On November 25, the Congress ended. The CTCR was now in the
hands of the “independent” unionists who followed the government line.

It was logical that the syndicalist representatives of the M26J who opposed
PCC control of the Congress and the CTCR, after listening to the instructions
from their maximum leader, Fidel, about control of the organization, would
mutely accept the government imposition of Salvador. This was for the
simple reason that the orders coming from above indicated that they either
comply or end up in jail. As the slogan of the day put it, “Fatherland
or Death! We Will Win!” In this manner, a century of struggle by Cuban
workers against the abuses of the bosses ended with the “Congress of the
melons” (olive-green on the outside, the color of M26J’s army uniforms,
and red on the inside, the color of the PCC). The struggle against the
individual bosses had ended, and in a few months the Cuban state would
be the one and only boss-and a boss which controlled (and castrated) the
only organization capable of defending workers’ rights against it.

The 10th Congress marked the end of a nearly century-long history of workers’
struggles, of strikes, of work stoppages that had begun with the first
workers’ associations in 1865. Twenty years later these associations became
militant unions in the incipient Cuban anarchosyndicalist movement, with
their tobacco strikes, demonstrations, congresses, free schools, newspapers,
and other activities. Until a few months after the founding of the CNOC
(at the time, frankly anarchosyndicalist) in 1925, the Cuban workers’
movement aimed toward apoliticism and against the participation of the
movement’s leaders in elections or political office.

The arrival of the PCC and its opportunistic assault aimed at taking over
the CNOC, in order to put it at the disposition of Machado in 1933 and
Batista in 1939, is a bench mark in the lethal fossilization of the Cuban
workers’ movement.

The control of the CTC by elements affiliated with Eusebio Mujal during
the entire decade of the 1950s was another backward step for workers’
emancipation. But the 10th Congress of the CTCR was the crushing blow.
After it, the Cuban proletariat would be firmly harnessed to the government

At the end of that 10th Congress, Solidaridad Gastronómica commented in
a December 15, 1960 editorial titled “Considerations Concerning the 10th
Congress of the CTCR” that, “It was demonstrated at the Congress that
the marxist señores not only do not represent a force inside the Cuban
workers’ movement, but that the repulsion they inspire in the proletariat
of our country is well known.” Later, the editorial continued: “This underlines
once more the inclination toward total control of the workers’ movement
by the political current that rules the nation.” It ended on a totally
unfounded optimistic note: “The 10th Cuban Workers’ Congress didn’t deliver
leadership of the organization to the Communists, an indisputable proof
that the proletariat can’t be easily fooled.”

The new directorate named by Salvador dedicated itself to “purifying”
the unions and federation of all of the anti-Communist elements who had
resisted the marxists at the Congress. Already by April 1960 this “purification”
had achieved results as satisfactory to the government as to the PCC.

One result was the militarization of the labor force. The CTCR pressured
the unions and federations to create militias. Because union membership
was obligatory in all workplaces, this in effect forced Cuba’s workers
to “voluntarily” militarize themselves.

While this was occurring, David Salvador, pressured by both the “directorate”
he had named and by the Secretary of Labor, Martínez Sánchez, resigned
his post. (Ironically, the English translation of “Salvador” is “Savior.”)
A few weeks later it was filled by PCC member Lázaro Peña. A little after
this, Salvador, the man who had delivered the Cuban working class to Fidel
Castro, was detained on suspicion of “counterrevolutionary activities.”
Shortly after he was released, he went into exile, where he continues
to live in obscurity.

These were difficult times, as in any revolutionary process in which the
people debate among themselves amidst fear, hope, and uncertainty. Matters
were worse for the anarchists than for most other Cubans, as at the start
of the year the official Castro organ, Revolución, had begun a campaign
of anti-anarchist provocation, making accusations that were as veiled
as they were false. The PCC had not only seized control of the unions,
but the government was vilifying the strongest defenders of workers’ rights.

* Acronyms

AIT Asociación Internacional de los Trabajadores
ALC Asociación Libertaria de Cuba
ARS Alianza Revolucionaria Socialista
BIL Boletín de Información Libertaria
CDR Comités en Defensa de la Revolución
CGT Confederación General de Trabajadores
CNOC Confederación Nacional Obrera de Cuba
CNT Confederación Nacional del Trabajo
CO Comisiones Obreras
CONI Comité Obrero Nacional Independiente
CTC Confederación de Trabajadores de Cuba
CTCR Confederación de Trabajadores de Cuba Revolucionaria
DDG Documento de Gaona
FAI Federación Anarquista Ibérica
FAIT Federazione Anarchica Italiana
FAL Fundación Anselmo Lorenzo
FGAC Federación de Grupos Anarquistas de Cuba
FJLC Federación de Juventudes Libertarias de Cuba
FOH Federación Obrera de La Habana
FRE Federación Regional Española
FTC Federación de Trabajadores de Cuba
ISHSS International Society for Historical and Social Studies
IWA International Workingmen’s Association
IWW Industrial Workers of the World
MAS Movimiento de Acción Sindical
MLCE Movimiento Libertario Cubano en el Exilio
M26J Movimiento 26 de Julio
PCC Partido Comunista Cubano
PLA Partido Liberal Autonomista
PRC Partido Revolucionario Cubano
PRCA Partido Revolucionario Cubano Auténtico
PSP Partido Socialista Popular
SGT Sociedad General de Trabajadores
SIA Solidaridad Internacional Antifascista


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