We explain what the Cuban Revolution was, the causes of this event and its leaders. Also, what are its characteristics and consequences.

cuban revolution
The Cuban Revolution was a symbol of the anti-imperialist struggle.

What was the Cuban Revolution?

The Cuban Revolution was one of the most important events in the contemporary political history of Latin America and the Caribbean. It consisted of the uprising against the dictatorial regime of Fulgencio Batista in 1953by a leftist Cuban guerrilla movement called the July 26 Movement, headed by Fidel Castro.

The Cuban Revolution was successful in overthrowing Batista’s pro-American government and installing a new one under democratic premises. Under the influence of the Soviet Unionquickly turned to communism.

constituted a Latin American symbol of the anti-imperialist struggle and the possibility of self-determination of peoples. It happened in a complex and bipolar international context, such as the Cold War.

The Cuban Revolution comprises a diverse series of events. It began with the armed struggle with the rebel communist guerrillas, and culminated in the establishment of the revolutionary government. The same was the Cuban dictatorship, governed almost entirely by the Castro brothers, Fidel and Raúl.

See also: Liberating Revolution

before the revolution

Carlos Prío Socarrás - Cuban Revolution
Popular pressure applauded the candidacy of Carlos Prío Socarrás.

The scenario in Cuba in the years prior to the revolutionary uprising was that of a small and poor nation.

It was a weak republic and allied with the United States.

grew up in the shadow of shady liquor deals and casino gamesto which the great North American mobsters went.

The country was ruled by a corrupt democracywhose management of the State consisted of maintaining order so that an oligarchic elite could enrich itself at the expense of the rest of the people.

The end of this period occurred when popular pressures applauded the candidacy of Carlos Prío Socarrás, of the Authentic party. However, after winning the elections he was removed from office by Fulgencio Batista in 1952.

Batista had been a national hero and president of the Island. But this time he seized power through a coup and installed a military dictatorship through new rigged elections.

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Background of the Cuban Revolution

Batista’s government failed to hide scandalous levels of corruption or its fraudulent origin. Consequently, a fairly radical opposition arose, of which the attempt to take over the Moncada Barracks in 1953 is an important example.

the young lawyer Fidel Castro led a group of young people from the Cuban People’s Party, who called themselves the “Centennial Generation” (due to the birth of José Martí in 1853). They armed themselves and tried to take the aforementioned barracks, failing in the attempt.

The failure implied the loss of many of its memberswho were imprisoned until 1955. Then they were amnestied by the dictatorship that was trying to calm the popular uproar and some other attempts at insurrection.

In the tense atmosphere of the Cold War, the world was forced to take sides between the US (and capitalism) and the USSR (and socialism). Latin America suffered from the control of North American anti-communism and in that sense, Batista had the full support of his neighbors to the north.

Fidel Castro and his brother Raúl assumed the opposite side. They went into exile in post-revolutionary Mexico and organized the July 26 Movement (M-26-7) in 1955. It was a group guided by the thought of José Martí, anti-imperialist and focused on the overthrow of the Cuban dictatorship.

Causes of the Cuban Revolution

Cuban Revolution
The United States had intervened in Cuba’s own emancipation from Spain.

The causes of the Revolution can be summarized as:

  • popular discontent. The corruption of the Batista regime was unparalleled in the history of the island, which translated into the enrichment of an increasingly smaller elite, associated with casinos and the sale of liquor, as well as with North American interests.
  • The overthrow of the Cuban People’s Party. The militants of the “centenary generation” were from the party that won the 1952 elections and was expelled from power by Batista’s military coup. This prompted them to radical actions that would later give rise to the guerrilla.
  • The American intervention in Cuba. The US’s intrusive policies in Cuba dated back decades, since the North American country had intervened in Cuba’s own emancipation from Spain, reserving for itself important quotas of power within its government, directly or indirectly. This engendered anti-American sentiment that pushed certain parties toward communism.

Beginning of the armed struggle

The armed struggle began when Fidel Castro and his revolutionary troops landed in southern Cuba with their ship Granma, on December 2, 1956. They were received by an army of 80,000 men who quickly wreaked havoc in the revolutionary ranks.

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Scattered, lost and persecuted, they had to go into the Sierra Maestra mountain. There, just over 20 survivors of the initial 82 reorganized to carry out guerrilla raids on enemy positions.

The Batista government spread the false news of Fidel’s death, hoping to silence the episode and turn the page. However, the “barbudos” (so called because of their appearance) established a clandestine radio station, “rebel radio”. From there they summoned the people to an uprising, slowly adding citizens to their ranks.

The international press echoed the guerrilla movement and soon Fidel and his movement enjoyed the sympathy of the Cuban people.

the conquest of power

guerilla cuban revolution
The guerrillas dismantled the Cuban army and assumed itself as the only national military force.

The day January 1, 1959 the Revolutionary troops entered Havana, sealing the defeat of Batista. The dictator had fled the island to the United States, since the fall had been predictable for months.

Once power is taken the guerrillas quickly dismantled the Cuban army and it was assumed as the only national military force. He formed a transitional government with Manuel Urrutia Lleó as President and José Miró Cardona as Prime Minister.

This government contained very different tendencies within it that soon came into conflict. The disagreements were especially expressed around the extreme measures undertaken by the revolutionaries, such as the trials and summary executions, the agrarian reform and the undertaking of a communist model.

Communism

In 1960 the visit of the Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev sealed the turn of the Cuban government towards communism. At that time, the peak of tension in its relations with the US was reached, due to the expropriation of US companies on Cuban soil.

This year Fidel visited the UN and gave a four-hour speech against his enemies in the United States, whom he accused of conspiring to kill him. In 1961 diplomatic relations between both countries were broken.

In April of the year, the United States financed a mission with the objective of retaking power in Cuba by around 1,500 Cuban exiles. It became known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion and culminated in a resounding defeat.

This sealed the enmity between the two governments and promoted the US embargo on Cuba, which became directly dependent on aid from the Soviet Union. According to voices critical of the regime, Cuba was then a communist dictatorship.

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main leaders

Che guevara - Cuban Revolution
Che Guevara was an Argentine communist ally.

the revolution was led mainly by the Castro brothers: Fidel and Raúl, as well as his Argentine communist ally, Ernesto “Che” Guevara. Other important members of the struggle were Camilo Cienfuegos and Huber Matos, both Cubans. However, they did not access positions of power once the revolution was won.

Why is the Cuban Revolution important?

The Cuban Revolution served as an inspiration for other revolutionary movements on different continents. In addition, once established in power and founded the socialist state, collaborated with the revolutionary causes of Africa and America. In some cases she sent armed contingents, as in Angola, Congo and Bolivia.

Furthermore, this revolutionary process established the Cuban communist dictatorship, which still exists intact despite the economic blockade with which the United States has punished it since the mid-20th century. From the adhesion or the critic to the Cuban regime, all the intellectuals of the time and of the later ones can be divided politically, socially and ideologically.

Consequences of the Cuban Revolution

Cuban Revolution
The Batista dictatorship was replaced by the government of Fidel Castro.

The consequences of the Cuban Revolution were:

  • The end of the Batista dictatorship in 1959 and the proclamation of a new government.
  • The gradual transition of Cuba towards a communist government under the command of the guerrillas led by Castro.
  • The declaration of enmity with the United States and Cuba’s alliance with the Soviet Union.
  • Beginning of the US blockade of the island in 1960.

The Cuban “Special Period”

in 1991 the fall of the USSR as protector of the socialist bloc of the world took placeAnd so the Cold War came to an end. This significantly affected Cuba, which was still suffering from the US embargo. It couldn’t trade freely at the same time that its main source of food and funding had just collapsed.

This meant an acute period of crisis in Cuba. The population suffered famine, a contraction of 36% of the GDP, the collapse of transport due to the lack of hydrocarbons and massive emigration in the most desperate way, thus giving rise to the infamous Cuban “rafters”.

References:

  • “Cuban Revolution” on Wikipedia.
  • “The Cuban Revolution” in Universal History.
  • “Cuban Revolution” in Chilean Memory, National Library of Chile.
  • “Historical background of the Cuban Revolution of 1959” in Izquierda Diario.
  • “Cuban Revolution” in The Encyclopaedia Britannica.

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