Marc Becker's Home Page


Trip Reports
Find on

Revolutionary Cuba 

Angelina RojasTruman State University Spring Break trip to Cuba
March 10-18, 2018

Angelina Rojas, history of Cuban left (March 12)

José Martí, spent part of his life in US. Was known for his involvement with labor struggles. Consolidated his sense of a need for a revolutionary movement. Launched revolutionary movement. Build unity. Other people he worked with. Carlos Manillo (sp) 1925 founded PCC. Gerardo Machado becomes president & becomes Cuba's first dictator (1925). Historical contradictions: PCC & dictatorship at same time. Machado was a general in independence movement, which is why he became president. Cuba becomes republic in 1902 after approval of a 1901 constitution & the creation of the Platt Amendment that said US has right to occupy Cuba. Moderated republic because of US control—begin of neo-colonial situation that started with this form of control. Same system applied to other countries, eg PR. Martí: Cuba & PR 2 wings of same bird, but other wing was not able to achieve independence.

1925: popular sectors started to org, to face new problems of neocolonialism because we emerged out of slavery. Different type of relationship btwn workers & capitalists, except for cigar workers who had a different type of relations. Ship builders, etc, but those were minor. During establishment of capitalist system in Cuba: WWI & Bolshevik rev. The implementation of a capitalist system, and the response to that system with creation of workers organizations. Example of system where workers can succeed. 1917: first worker orgs. 1923: creation of communist group in Havana, protest of the 13–denounce the situation of intellectuals. Founded Julio Antonio Mella founded university student federation. First organized workers, students, intellectuals. Create concept of unity & workers’ struggle. 1925: found nat'l confederation of workers, PCC, & several intellectual orgs, anti-imperialist league, popular university José Martí. Intellectuals give classes to workers & students to understand world situation.

Start organizing against Machado who launched admin by killing & torturing people who opposed him. Was so bad that it led to popular revolution, overthrown in 1933 by general strike. Led to a lot of different struggles, repression, destruction of organizations. 1937-1938 thx to beginning of WWII changed policy of Roosevelt that was reflected in dependent countries & in their democratic governance. WWII US needed a peaceful & democratic & unified LA in face of conflict.

Similar policy in Comintern. 1935 VII CI congress change strategy, shift from class-against-class & worker struggle and moved from struggle of workers against bourgeois to workers for democracy to stop advance of fascism. Characteristic of CI policy during WWII. Didn't lose worker classist notion, but struggle had different perspective. Continue worker struggle in way that didn't affect unified struggle against fascism. US paid for products (tobacco & sugar), and workers asked for higher salaries & gained that to try not to stop production.

More than 1k cubans participated in Spanish civil war, & solidarity with Lázaro Cárdenas govt in Mexico. Served to build unity. Not only communists but also orthodox & authentic parties, contributed to unity among masses. Situation ended up with cold war policy in 1947, and we can see that in labor movement. First act of cold war was to destroy unified labor movement—ideological & political. Only country that maintains unified labor movement. Military & policy repression of union building, target directors, and impose leaders loyal to govt (Grau & Prio). Main leader was Euseio Fallo (sp) Munalismo (sp?) subjected himself to US interests. Nazar Peña (sp) captain of working class against capital, began to reorg movement. Sees as continuation of struggle for independence of Cuban independence from US control. Continues until triumph of Cuban revolution. Real workers began to assume leadership of movement. Lots of leaders killed, including Jesús Menendez who had traveled to US to stop attacks on workers. Lobbied US congress 1947 (gym next door is named after him). Had meeting w ag ministry on return, but confronted July 27, 1947 (day Angelina was born, murdered 1948 by Grau army. in the first yrs of revolution.

In the first years of the revolution did not share idea of armed revolution, but rather based on mass movement. PCC began to understand importance of revolution, and began to support rev with base in popular movements. Workers movement support for Granma landing, including general strike.

In 1960s, MLK was known & protests in favor of him, but couldn't create center like this. But could now because of things that we have learned. (Carol: MlK called commie cuz of positive things he said about Fidel).

Cuba revolution is a process that draws on multiple trends, and emerges with Fidel when there are no other choices except for armed struggle. This was understand by PCC & leader Blas Roca who said PCC didn't sufficiently understand the situation of armed struggle, and criticized self on what was going. Changed course & gave support to guerrilla movement. First action of PCC when rev triumphed was to put as central slogan of party to defend rev & to make sure it advances. This could short time. Party dissolved & entered leadership of party to Fidel, because Fidel had made rev, and therefore had the right to make party. First party to dissolve party & unify with Fidel. until 1965 when party was refounded.

Roca traveled to USSR for congress & Mao criticized PCC decision cuz didn't know what new movement would be. Roca explained why he thought it was justified.

Adam: long time to switch from slavery to capitalism. Angelina: but with industrial development, process was quick, slavery wasn't really feudalism. Plantation owners implemented new technology in slavery in order to maximize production (1880s). Independence war started in 1868 in a sugar mill with Carlos Manuel Cepedes, father of country. Slave owner started revolution by releasing his slaves cuz slave system didn't benefit anyone. Spain at the time was backwards monarchy, but Cuba was too advanced and social and political influences from US. US was a refuge for independence leaders, US was always a safe place for shelter. Cigar companies in southern US had strong influence in Cuba, and contributed to independence movement, links to Martí. Early 1900s Cigar makers association formed in Havana in Cayo Oeste (named after Key West, Cigar movement in Florida). Museum of Cuban workers. A beautiful place worth visiting. Symbol of type of links that people of 2 countries can have. Close to university.

Tee: reeducation camps? AR: no, different process, not like Stalinist repression. What movement demanded. Cuban rev grew out of its own process, to unify people to confront US imperialism.


11yo at triumph of rev 1959. Father collaborated w/ rev. Jan 1, 1959 woke up & father was not in house. Father came in & sat in dining room & started to cry. Father was tall & serious. Soldiers gave us seeds, etc. bigger than what we understood. beautiful.

12 y.o began to study pre-university (HS entrance exams). Oct/Nov 1959 worker & student militia in support of rev. Nov 1959 entered student militia at HS, and began military preparation. No one told me to do so, but I wanted to. mom didn't want to cuz she was too young. had to confront mom. my dad in his job's militia came up w/ solution, and took her to his job's militia. Mother relaxed, and father helped train her. Father worked in TV station. Impacted by rev—Fidel's speeches so emotional, how it was beneficial to everyone. Helps with our formation.

Personal experience: Father's bro: counterrev, took bag of poop & painted door of house. Couldn't understand cuz father was doing something good. Hard fight in first yrs, majority had to face situations like this. Made a stronger revolution. This was our training school. Reaction from US govt & church. Reaction against counter-rev attitude of priests who preached anti-rev message, shelter to Batista people. People stopped going to church as reaction. Church: stealing priests take off your robe & put on your pants, cuz of what they were doing in church—to leave church & join fight. Difficult times.

What were first measures rev took: May 1959 agrarian rev, end latifundia & give land to peasants. Also nationalization & universalization of education. Teachers sent to countryside. Create voluntary teacher organization to teach reading & writing.

Lots of prostitution in Cuba. Prostitutes taken to schools & learned to drive, became taxi drivers, banks, textile workshops—to eliminate prostitution without repression. Now no repression, but still some prostitution (called jiniteros, but at least they are university educated and could do something else but had chose this because of economic pressures).

Women from rural areas taken to workshops to become seamstresses. Not enough: 1961 launched literacy campaign. 13 y.o. 100K young people joined campaign & for a yr went to teach campesinos to read & write & live in their house. Tremendous experience. Maturing experience. No electricity, one TV in shop in town run by generator & everyone went their to watch TV. Happy year. I taught 8 people to read. Lived in house in Remedios (close to Santa Clara). parents only came to visit once, cuz they couldn't . We wrote each other letters. Letter became inspiration for poem published in newspaper. Happy, doing something useful. Learned how to laundry, clean floor, milk cows, ride horse. Exciting parts. But it was an areas of counterrevolutionaries. Once night I came from watching TV, soldier from army accompanied to house & said that there are 3 counterrevs waiting to pass & kidnap. But nothing happened. Taken to house to sleep & peasants went there to finish educational process. Serious threats: teacher killed in neighboring area. To finish work.

Dec 28, 1961: Cuba declared free of illiteracy. Models for others (Bolivia, VZ, etc.)

Fidel said rev was born of culture & ideas. 1959: create nat'l printing company. First book: Don Quijote in a large run so everyone could read it. Not marx or lenin or Martí, but Cervantes.

1962; Bay of Pigs invasion, missile crisis, attacks, attempts to destroy rev. Burned schools, sugar fields. Not maoist or stalinist theories that talk about what Cuban people has faced in last 60 yrs. It's a cuban project, and we've had to construct. We have to defend what we have created. Books & theories can say many things, and practice in other countries might be different, but we've had to defend ourselves, the project we want. This is our project and that's why i'm here even tho i'm retired. What i've done my entire life. One day i defended there, and another day here. Where i'm needed.

Today our country faces a problem w/ Trump. But US policy can't close eyes of those who come to see us. Says Cuba is a dangerous country, but it's a safe country. Can walk in streets w/o problems. No violence (well some, but not extreme). Not compared to others. We've built our own socialism. We have to keep evolving and figuring stuff out. US has made rev more formable. Policies have made us more radical. Rev made out of our traditions, from our independence.

Fidel once said that 1868 revs would have been like us today, and we would have been like them. We have lots of problems to solve, like immigration (like elsewhere). Cubans go to US, but not as many from other countries (Mexico, Asian). Go for economic reasons, it's difficult. Great grand kid 4 y.o. Happy, beautiful black kid, grandson married black girl. That's the rev we created.

Steven Cushion. Didn't want to go home, walked to central Havana. Bus passed by. Street fight. Bus couldn't go forward, but steve walked right thru the fight as if nothing happened. OMG. When bus went forward & didn't even look at fight. You don't know what london is like at night: comparison to violence.

Lee facts: support of family. Idea comes from 4 hr speech to UN (longest), and condition of 3d world country. Said Cuba would be first to eradicate illiteracy. From 23 to 3%. Stayed in Harlem hotel w/ Malcom X. Chinese lanterns for campaign.

Carol: anything you would change? AR: Fidel gave concept of changing everything that should be changed. Leadership should be changed, cuz its very old. Cf Roca's need to deliver party to Fidel. Currently party leaders are giving leadership to younger generation that has different ideas, tho still committed to patria. Singer Silvio Rodríguez: i'll die as I live. Things we can't change. Can't move in computer age. 70 yr technological challenges. Need to move ahead, change is inevitable.

Current govt ends in April, and new generation will take over. Fundamental: it's been a long time since we needed this, and it's been hard to do. Hard to do when Fidel was alive. Much influence in world. Also need internal changes. We are in a critical phase of the rev, and it can be saved by young generation if they are allowed to assume (midlevel) leadership. Has faith in young, cuz had faith in what she did when young. This is the biggest problem rev faces. Fidel: said we can't destroy our own rev.

All parts of rev are related to US. Even PCC 1930s considered US imperialism as an internal phenomenon. Specific characteristics. Acknowledge failure of blockade policies. Cultural exchanges, possibility to take young Cubans to US. Attempt to penetrate Cuba by other means. Even Obama sees blockade as failure. Trump takes step back, and we'll again become biggest anti-imperialists as we did in 1959. We had to applaud Obama, and now to have to confront Trump.

KD: 1959: 90% support rev; still true today? AR: my generation was not present in leadership. Worked hard to build rev, but never was in charge of it. if this had not happened, maybe there wouldn't be so much distance btwn historic & current rev that only knowns blockade. My generation experienced capitalism, and attended school w/o blacks. We were younger, but very loyal & could have participated more & changed some things. We didn't make rev, just helped. 50% of new congress is young.

Voted for Jorge Muñoz of Moncadas, a musical group of university students who has visited US, cuz he is involved in activities. Not cuz of money or status but because of what they do.

| Marc Becker's Home Page | |