FERNÁNDEZ, Frank. Cuba, the Anarchists & Liberty - 3 -

3. The Second Republic

CubaFERNANDEZ, FrankBATISTA, Fulgencio (1901-1973)


Presentation by Sam DOLGOFF


1. Colonial Times and Separatism

2. The First Republic

The Cuban constitution of 1940, marked the beginning of a new republican era. It was the first attempt in Cuban history to contend with social issues by governmental action, and represented an effort to correct errors and omissions under earlier regimes. A modern and progressive document, this Cuban Magna-Carta represented an effort of two generations, from all social classes and spheres of national life. A number of problems, present in this difficult period of our history were dealt with in great detail: political, social, agrarian, civic and labour related. The 1940 Constitution was without doubt a well-conceived document: all that was left to do was to set it to practice.

During the first years of the 1940’s, the libertarians had organised through the ALC. The basis for their popular support were the remnants of the unions that so strongly functioned before the mid-1920’s. The anarchists retained a good reputation among the working class, because of their spirit of combat and sacrifice based on their selfless, revolutionary and uncorrupted past. They developed fresh cadres of militants through the newly founded Libertarian Youths (Juventudes Libertarias), with the intention of recovering terrain lost to the Communists in the unions and among students. Further, although the constitution of 1940 recognised the eight-hour day and the worker’s right to strike, it also severely regulated these activities. This situation forced the anarcho-syndicalists within the CTC to create militant action groups in order to defend or negotiate their demands.

Batista was elected President and maintained his alliance with the Communist Party, who, receiving ministerial posts, money and media for propaganda among the Cuban people. They addressed Batista with considerable flattery, as "the messenger of prosperity", and collaborated with him at the party and union levels (through the official Communist electoral organisation as well as through the CTC union federation controlled from the top by them) thus betraying, once more the true goals of libertarian and revolutionary unionism.

Cuba’s next President, Ramon Grau San Martin, won the elections and assumed power in 1944. The people expected radical changes since his government was expected to be social-democratic. However, Grau kept the Communists in their posts and only one significant change took place in the Cuban union movement. On May Day 1947 Grau, forced by the Cold War, expelled the marxists from their hierarchical posts within the CTC. But notwithstanding U.S. pressure, Grau left the Communist Party intact. The anarchists used this opportunity to call for free elections in almost all the unions; hence a number of their most respected comrades were elected in the CTC in different posts. Because of their prestige and dedication, the anarcho-syndicalists effectively led a number of trade unions: transport, food workers and construction. They were also able to sustain militant action groups in almost all the CTC unions. In those years, the anarchists also set up peasants associations, based on the poorest, landless, moneyless peasants. These organising efforts were more effective in the north coast province of Camaguey, an old anarchist bastion, and the coffee plantations in the southern province of Oriente, where for many years anarchists had founded and supported free agricultural collectives.

Carlos Prio Socarras assumed the presidency in 1948 and followed similar policies of tolerance in social and labour relations similar to those of Grau. In 1949 the anarchists within the CTC manoeuvred with kindred elements to create a new, separate trade union federation, the General Confederation of Workers (Confederacion General de Trabajadores or CGT). The idea, following an old anarchist tradition, was to create a workers’ organisation independent from the governmentally supervised CTC; however, this attempt failed due to pressure exercised by the presidency through the Ministry of Labour, which categorically opposed it, because of the growing influence of anarcho-syndicalist ideas. In 1950, Prio outlawed the Communist Party, then known as the Popular Socialist Party, (Partido Socialista Popular, PSP). Hence, once again the Communists sought an alliance with Batista.

In March 1952 Batista, violating the constitutional system of Cuba, led a coup d’etat. The Communists took this opportunity to try to penetrate the official bureaucracy. However, they could not recover their lost influence. The Cold War was at its apogee and Batista had to be prudent with his Marxist allies. In order to fill the power vacuum among the oppositional forces, now in full retreat, Fidel Castro, an obscure electoralist politician of bourgeois origins and Jesuistic education, with a group of young revolutionaries, attacked the Moncada barracks in Santiago de Cuba. This action was a bloody failure; their "revolutionary" program was merely a middle class one, with reformist characteristics and social-democratic content. Castro and his comrades were put in prison, and after having been pardoned, in a few months left for Mexico. The opposition to Batista became violent and, as expected, Batista retaliated in a brutal fashion.

By the end of 1956 there was definite polarisation between Batista and the opposition. The anarchist ALC decided to form an alliance with the democratic opposition forces, against the dictator. In that year, Castro landed in the Oriente province and in the following year, he launched a small guerrilla war from the mountains of that province. In the more important cities of the island, Castro’s July 26th Movement, his political front, won followers who carried out provocative acts, followed by the usual government repression. By the end of 1958 Batista had lost the political war and could no longer contain the rebels by force. Castro became politically stronger and won over the rest of the opposition. His social and political program was still as it was before: social justice and reform, based on the return of the Constitution of 1940, which Batista effectively nullified. The Communists, who previously had openly backed and collaborated with Batista and even attacked Castro, changed their position and made an alliance with Castro in August 1958. Finally, on December 31, 1958, Batista fled Cuba and a new historical cycle began for the Cuban people.


4. Castroism and Exile [The end.]