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

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>(http://www.illegalvoices.org/apoc/books/cuban/front.html)
Date Sun, 22 Feb 2004 06:54:28 +0100 (CET)

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On January 25, 1960, the ALC held a national assembly. Its accords included
a call to “support the Cuban Revolution” because of “its indisputable
benefit to the people,” its delivery of “more social justice and enjoyment
of liberty.” Nonetheless, in the same paragraph it expressed the ALC’s
“total rejection of all types of imperialism, totalitarianism, and dictatorships,
the world over.” The accords also included a call for support of and solidarity
with “el compañero Casto Moscú . . . [in the face of ] sectarian attacks
and calumnies.” The ALC delegates also elected a new national council,
with José Rodriguez González as Secretary General. Others named to positions
of responsibility included Rolando Piñera Pardo, Bernardo Moreno, Manuel
Gaona, Marcelo Álvarez, and Omar Dieguez.

Later that year, just before falling victim to “revolutionary” censorship,
Solidaridad Gastronómica, the ALC journal, published its final issue.
That issue, of December 15, 1960, contained a front page article commemorating
Durruti’s death during the defense of Madrid. In it, Solidaridad noted,
“A dictatorship can originate in the politics of class domination.” An
editorial in the same issue stated:

A collective dictatorship . . . of the working class, or to use the terminology
of the day, a people’s dictatorship, would be a contradiction in terms,
given that the characteristic of all dictatorships, including “peoples’”
or “proletarian,” is the placing of power in the hands of a few persons-not
its sharing by the populace. Dictators have absolute dominion not only
over the oppressed political and social classes, but above all over the
members of the supposed dominant class. The day will never come when there
is a dictatorship of workers or proletarians, campesinos and students
. . . or whatever you want to call it . . . The power of dictators falls
upon all . . . not only upon industrialists, landowners, and plantation
owners . . . but also upon the proletariat and the people in general-and
also upon those “revolutionaries” who do not directly participate in the
exercise of power.

As for non-Cuban anarchist analyses of the situation, the German libertarian
Agustín Souchy journeyed to Havana in the summer of 1960. Souchy had been
invited by the government to study the situation of Cuban agriculture
and to issue his opinions on it, and many anarchists were enthusiastic
about his visit. The German writer was warmly greeted by Cuba’s anarchists
on August 15, 1960.

Souchy was a student of agriculture and had written a widely known (in
Europe) pamphlet, The Israeli Cooperatives, about the organization of
the kibbutzim. This was the reason that the Cuban government had invited
him to visit Cuba-it expected something similar from him; it hoped that
he would write an endorsement of its gigantic agrarian program which would,
among other things, be useful as propaganda in the anarchist media and
among libertarian Cubans.

This didn’t happen. Souchy traveled the island with his eyes wide open,
and his analysis of the situation couldn’t have been more pessimistic.
He concluded that Cuba was going too near the Soviet model, and that the
lack of individual freedom and individual initiative could lead to nothing
but centralism in the agricultural sector, as was already notable in the
rest of the economy. His analysis was issued in a pamphlet titled Testimonios
sobre la Revolución Cubana, which was published without going through
official censorship. Three days after Souchy left the island, the entire
print run of the pamphlet was seized and destroyed by the Castro government,
on the suggestion of the PCC leadership. Fortunately, this attempt at
suppression was only partially successful, as the anarchist publisher
Editorial Reconstruir in Buenos Aires issued a new printing of the work
in December 1960, with a new prologue by Jacobo Prince.

In this same summer of 1960, convinced that Castro inclined more each
day toward a marxist-leninist government which would asphyxiate freedom
of expression, communication, association, and even movement, the majority
in the ALC agreed to issue its Declaración de Principios under another
name. This document was signed by the Grupo de Sindicalistas Libertarios
and was endorsed by the Agrupación Sindicalista Libertaria in June. The
reason for using this name was to avoid reprisals against members of the
ALC. This document is vital in understanding the situation of the Cuban
anarchists at this time. Its objectives included informing the Cuban people
of the political and social situation, accusing the government of fomenting
disaster, and engaging the PCC-many of whose members were already occupying
important positions in the government-in debate.

The eight points of the Declaración attacked “the state in all its forms”:
1) it defined, in accord with libertarian ideas, the functions of unions
and federations in regard to their true economic roles; 2) it declared
that the land should belong “to those who work it”; 3) it backed “cooperative
and collective work” in contrast to the agricultural centralism of the
government’s Agrarian Reform law; 4) it called for the free and collective
education of children; 5) it inveighed against “noxious” nationalism,
militarism, and imperialism, opposing fully the militarization of the
people; 6) it attacked “bureaucratic centralism” and weighed forth in
favor of federalism; 7) it proposed individual liberty as a means of obtaining
collective liberty; and 8) it declared that the Cuban Revolution was,
like the sea, “for everyone,” and energetically denounced “the authoritarian
tendencies that surge in the breast of the revolution.”

This was one of the first direct attacks against the regime’s ideological
viewpoint. The response wasn’t long in coming. In August 1960, the organ
of the PCC, Hoy (“Today”), under the signature of Secretary General Blas
Roca, the most prominent leader in the Communist camp, responded to the
Declaración in ad hominem manner, repeating the same libels as the PCC
had used in 1934, and adding the dangerous accusation that the authors
of the Declaración were “agents of the Yankee State Department.” According
to one of the authors of the Declaración, Abelardo Iglesias, “in the end,
the ex-friend of Batista, Blas Roca, answered us in [Hoy’s] Sunday supplement,
showering us with insults.”

It’s most significant that an attack on the Castro government was answered
by one of the highest leaders in the PCC rather than by a government official.
In the summer of 1960, any doubts that existed about the government’s
direction began to fade. From this moment, anarchists who were enemies
of the regime had to engage in clandestine operations. They attempted
to have a 50-page pamphlet printed in reply to the PCC and Blas Roca,
but, according to Iglesias, “we couldn’t get our printers-already terrorized
by the dictatorship -to print it. Neither could we manage a clandestine

The most combative elements among the Cuban anarchists had few options
left at their disposal. After the response to the Declaración, they knew
that they would be harried by the government, as would be any other Cubans
opposed to the “revolutionary” process. In those days an accusation of
being “counterrevolutionary” meant a trip to jail or to the firing squad.
So, with other means cut off, they went underground and resorted to clandestine
direct action.

Their reasons are as valid today as they were then. As we have seen, anarchosyndicalism
within the Cuban unions and federations had been suppressed. Freedom of
the press had been suspended, and it was dangerous to have opinions contrary
to those of the government. To attack the government verbally was an attack
against the homeland. And the regime’s politico-economic policies were
quickly leading to the Sovietization of Cuba, with all its negative consequences.

The regime was conducting this economic campaign with rigor, and had gone
after all of the big businesses, ranches, sugar mills, tobacco fields,
etc. In other words, it was confiscating all of the national wealth that
until this time had been in the hands of the big bourgeoisie, national
capitalism, and U.S./Cuban banking. The anarchists didn’t criticize these
“nationalization” measures. What they opposed was state ownership/dictatorship
over all of Cuba’s wealth.

What was left for Cuba’s anarchists was to choose either the hard path
of exile or that of clandestine struggle. As Casto Moscú would explain,
“We were convinced that all of our efforts and those of our people had
gone for nothing, and that we had arrived at a worse, more menacing situation
than all of the ills we had already combatted.” Facing this totalitarian
situation, the great majority of Cuba’s anarchists decided to rebel. They
initiated an armed struggle that was condemned from the start to failure.

Among nonviolent anarchist opposition activities at this time was the
clandestine bulletin, MAS (Movimiento de Acción Sindical), which circulated
throughout the island and overseas. MAS featured in its few monthly editions
(August–December 1960) attack without quarter against the PCC and its
followers in general and against Castro in particular. As for the situation
in Cuba at this time, Casto Moscú states: “An infinity of manifestos were
written denouncing the false postulates of the Castro revolution and calling
the populace to oppose it. Many meetings were held to debate matters and
to raise awareness,” and “plans were put into effect to sabotage the basic
things sustaining the state.”

The methods included armed struggle. Moscú relates: “I participated in
efforts to support guerrilla insurgencies in different parts of the country.”
In particular, two important operations took place in the same zone, the
Sierra Occidental, in which operations were difficult because the mountains
aren’t very high, they’re narrow, and they’re near Havana: “There was
direct contact with the guerrilla band commanded by Captain Pedro Sánchez
in San Cristobal; since some of our compañeros participated actively in
this band . . . they were supplied with arms . . . We also did everything
we could to support the guerrilla band commanded by Francisco Robaina
(known as ‘Machete’) that operated in the same range.” At least one anarchist
fighter in these bands, Augusto Sánchez, was executed by the government
without trial after being taken prisoner. The government considered the
guerrillas “bandits” and had very little respect for the lives of those
who surrendered.

According to Moscú, in addition to Augusto Sánchez, the following “compañeros
combatientes” were murdered by the Castro government: Rolando Tamargo,
Sebastián Aguilar, Jr. and Ventura Suárez were shot; Eusebio Otero was
found dead in his cell; Raúl Negrin, harassed beyond endurance, set himself
on fire. Many others were arrested and sent to prison, among them Modesto
Piñeiro, Floreal Barrera, Suria Linsuaín, Manuel González, José Aceña,
Isidro Moscú, Norberto Torres, Sicinio Torres, José Mandado Marcos, Plácido
Méndez, and Luis Linsuaín, these last two being officials in the Rebel
Army. Francisco Aguirre died in prison; Victoriano Hernández, sick and
blind because of prison tortures, killed himself; and José Álvarez Micheltorena
died a few weeks after getting out of prison.

The situation of Cuba’s libertarians grew more tense with each passing
day. The failed Bay of Pigs invasion, in Playa Giron, south of Matanzas
Province, on the 17th of April 1961-an adventure as well financed as it
was badly planned by the CIA-gave the government the excuse it needed
to totally liquidate the internal opposition, which of course included
the anarchists, and to consolidate its power.

On May Day, 1961, Castro declared his government “socialist” -in practice,
stalinist. This presented the libertarians both inside and outside of
Cuba with an ethical dilemma: the regime demanded the most decided allegiance
of its sympathizers and militants, and didn’t recognize abstention or
a neutral position. This meant that one either slept with criminals or
died of insomnia, that is, one either supported the regime, went into
exile, or went into the cemetery.

In previous epochs, there were other routes. In the 19th century, one
could either opt for the separatist forces or keep out of the independence
question. When Machado or Batista were in power, the libertarians could
declare themselves anti-political or pass over to the opposition groups
with the most affinity for anarchist ideals-left revolutionaries or liberal
or social-democratic political groups. But the Third Republic, presided
over by a budding dictator, offered only four alternatives: placing oneself
under the dictator’s control; prison; the firing squad; or exile.

A few months after Fidel Castro declared himself a marxist-leninist, an
event without parallel in the history of Cuban anarchism occurred. Manuel
Gaona Sousa, an old railroad worker from the times of Enrique Varona and
the CNOC, a libertarian militant his entire life and a founder of the
ALC, and in the first years of Castroism the ALC’s Secretary of Relations-and
hence the person dealing with overseas anarchist media and organizations-betrayed
both his ideals and his comrades. In a document titled A Clarification
and a Declaration of the Cuban Libertarians, dated and signed in Marianao
on November 24, 1961, Gaona denounced the Cuban anarchists who didn’t
share his enthusiasm for the Castro revolution.

After the first confrontations with the most stalinist sectors of the
PCC, it was understood in the ALC that the regime, on its way to totalitarianism,
would not permit the existence of an anarchist organization, or even the
propagation of anarchist ideas. The PCC wanted to settle accounts with
the anarchists. For his part, Gaona preferred to save his own skin by
settling in the enemy camp, leaving his former comrades to fend for themselves.

In all lands and all latitudes there have always been those who have embraced
and then rejected libertarian ideas. In this, Gaona was not unusual. The
renunciation of anarchism by prominent anarchists was nothing new; persons
with equal or more responsibility than Gaona in Cuban anarchist organizations
had done it, exchanging their social opinions for Cuban electoral politics.
For example, Enrique Messonier crossed over to the Partido Liberal in
1901; Antonio Penichet to the Partido Auténtico at the beginning of the
1930s; and Helio Nardo to the Partido Ortodoxo at the end of the 1940s.
These acts were never considered traitorous by the majority of libertarian
militants. They simply believed that these ex-compañeros had the right
to choose their own political destiny, and those who switched allegiances
were never anathematized. Besides, they hadn’t drastically changed their
basic positions, and they hadn’t associated themselves with parties of
the extreme right or with other totalitarian or religious parties. This
wasn’t the case with Gaona. He not only allied himself with the reactionary
forces governing Cuba, but he also threatened to denounce as “agents of
imperialism” former comrades who didn’t share his pseudo-revolutionary
posture to the recently formed Committees for the Defense of the Revolution-which,
of course, would have meant prison or the firing squad for anyone he denounced.

Gaona went further and coerced several elderly anarchists, such as Rafael
Serra and Francisco Bretau, into being accomplices in his betrayal through
a document in which he attempted to “clarify” for overseas anarchists
“an insidious campaign being waged in the libertarian press of your country
. . . against the Cuban Revolution” with the purpose of “collecting money
for the Cuban libertarian prisoners . . . to deliver them and their families
out of the country.” The document railed against what Gaona labeled “a
hoax, irresponsibility, and bad faith” on the part of his ex-comrades
now in exile or taking refuge in some embassy. He then guaranteed in the
first paragraph that there did not exist on the entire island “a single
libertarian comrade who has been detained or persecuted for his ideas.”
And this when Gaona had expelled all the anarchists from the ALC and dissolved
the organization!

The second paragraph of Gaona’s document declared that there didn’t exist
any type of political or religious persecution in Cuba, and then attempted
to identify the Bay of Pigs prisoners with all of the opposition forces
in Cuba, including, of course, the anarchists. To combat this threat,
there existed an “extreme vigilance in the people through the Committees
for the Defense of the Revolution-one on every block-against the terrorists.”
Gaona thus justified the terrorism of the state against the people through
committees of informers that answered to the feared state security agency.
He also implied that any citizen that didn’t back this “revolutionary”
process, these intrusive committees, was a traitor who deserved to be

Gaona then lied outright when he declared that “almost the totality of
libertarian militants in Cuba find themselves integrated into the distinct
‘Organisms of the Cuban Revolution’,” all of which he labeled “mass organizations.”
He then boasted that the “integration” of these militants was the “consequence
of the molding [into reality] . . . of all of the immediate objectives
of our program . . . and the reason for being of the international anarchist
movement and the international workers’ movement.” Here one can grasp
fully the intention and direction of this document. According to Gaona,
the anarchists “integrated” themselves spontaneously into Castro’s despotism
because it embodied the objective of all of their social struggles over
more than a century. He even goes beyond this and says that Castro’s despotism
embodies the true agenda and purpose of all of the world’s anarchists.

Gaona ends with an exhortation to non-Cuban anarchists “to not be surprised
by the bad intentions and false information that you’ll receive from those
. . . at the service, conscious or unconscious, of the Cuban counter-revolution,
who undertake to remain deaf and blind before the realities . . . of the
most progressive, democratic, and humanist Revolution of our continent.”
Finally, he states that it’s necessary to support Castroism and “to take
up arms” in its defense, declaring “traitors and cowards” those who “under
the pretext of differences or sectarian rancor” oppose this beautiful

This document is treated here at length because it will help the reader
better understand its sinister consequences in coming years. Gaona, at
the end of his life, had betrayed his comrades, but even worse, he coerced
five elderly members of the Cuban anarchist movement-some already infirm
octogenerians-into endorsing this monstrous declaration that precisely
negated all libertarian principles, both inside and outside Cuba. Vicente
Alea, Rafael Serra, Francisco Bretau, Andrés Pardo, and Francisco Calle
(“Mata”) signed this document along with 16 others who had little or nothing
to do with Cuban anarchism.

Many libertarians still on the island rejected this bit of infamy and
were thus considered enemies of the revolution; they were sooner or later
forced to abandon their homeland. Among these was one of the most outstanding
Cuban intellectuals, Marcelo Salinas, who, had he put himself at the service
of the dictatorship by signing the Gaona document, would have received
all of the honors and prestige that tyrants can deliver to their lackeys.

While Gaona was betraying his former comrades, two Cuban anarchists, Manuel
González and Casto Moscú, who were involved in the transportation of arms
and propaganda, were detained in Havana. Taken to a jail of the state
security service and fearing that they would be shot-a common fate for
“counterrevolutionaries”-they were put at liberty on the orders of the
department commander, who was familiar with the work of the libertarians
in the labor movement, and who mentioned with pride knowing Serra and
Salinas in times past. González and Moscú wasted little time going directly
from the jail to the Mexican embassy, where they were received almost
without formalities. Both would march into exile via Mexico and would
later reunite with their comrades in Miami.
* 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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