By BO Staff Writer
Sixty four years ago a group of fearless revolutionaries took siege of the Moncada Barracks in Santiago, Eastern Cuba. They were subsequently defeated having failed to remove the anti people dictator Fulgencio Batista. So begun the 26th of July Movement.
Struggle against imperialist sponsored Batista
Batista, who assumed power in 1933 via a coup and appointing himself President in 1940, was said to have carried out progressive policies during his first tenure. To this end the Cuban Communist Party and the labor unions supported him.
He stepped down in 1944, subsequently lived in the United States for some time, and upon his return to Cuba contested elections for President in 1952. He ultimately, when it became clear that he was going to lose the elections, led a successful coup and became President for the second time. This time he abandoned his radical policies in favor of a pro US imperialist agenda. He was evidently very close to the pro imperialist forces within and outside the country including the “Meyer Lansky wing of the Mafia”. Under his reign the people of Cuba were faced with naked oppression and available for exploitation to the highest imperialist bidder. Moreover thousands were murdered during his second reign. It was in this context that 135 courageous people were recruited by Fidel Castro to conduct the fight on the Moncada Barracks. Their task was to capture the military base, take hold of its arms and use the base to organise an insurrection against the Batista regime. Batista had been in power for nearly 16 months when the plan was set in motion. They were however defeated and 70 out of those who were captured by Batista’s regime were murdered; many were taken to the courts and imprisoned; and many were tortured. Fidel and Raul Castro were each sentenced to a 13 years term of imprisonment.
At his trial Fidel delivered his renowned “History will Absolve Me” speech where he exposed the Batista regime. His closing remarks in court were: “I can not ask freedom for myself while my comrades are already suffering in the ignominious prison of the Isle of Pines. Send me there to join them and to share their fate. It is understandable that honest men should be dead or in prison in a Republic where the President is a criminal and thief…. But I do not fear prison, as I do not fear the fury of the miserable tyrant who took the lives of 70 of my comrades. Condemn me. It does not matter. History will absolve me”.
Upon their early release due to public pressure on the Batista regime, Fidel and Raul went to Mexico from where they organized and returned on board the Granma to remove Batista in Cuba. They were once again defeated and left with just 12 men to carry on the fight. But the movement began to grow steadily due to their unwavering commitment to destroy the Batista system and replace it with a fully responsive one. It eventually adopted the name, “26th of July Movement” in honor of the assault on the Moncada Barracks on 26 July 1953.
Eventually on 1 January 1959, Che Guevara led an armed insurgency and captured the Santa Clara city in Cuba. Batista consequently fled to Portugal where he lived in exile until his death in 1973. Several subsequent attempts sponsored by the United States have been made in vain to reverse the gains of the Cuban Revolution, liquidate socialism and prepare the road for capitalist restoration.
History calls on the revolutionary forces, particularly in South Africa and indeed the whole of Africa, to draw important lessons from the revolutionary legacy of the 26th of July Movement in the fight against the enemy being western imperialism in cahoots with settler white monopoly capital. To this end it must be stated that the best account of the revolutionary legacy of the 26th of July movement was given by Fidel Castro in “Cuba’s achievements and America’s Wars”
The similarities between China and Cuba regarding Chaing yaShek and Batista as indicated by Mao Zedong in his conversation with Che Guevara in November 1960 are along the same lines as that between South Africa and Cuba regarding the anti Zuma pro imperialist forces led by Cyril Ramaphosa and Batista.
In his talk on “Social ideals of the Rebel Army (January 29, 1959)” Che gives a brief outline of the Cuban revolution facilitated by the July the 26th Movement before discussing the subject matter and mentioned something that resonates with us in South Africa where all kinds of opportunism especially in the form of right and so called left movements are calling for the removal of Zuma so as to replace him with a puppet of imperialism, Cyril Ramaphosa, to safeguard their interests. Here’s Che elaborating his experience and emphasing the necessary guiding prerequisite that a coup must be based in principle:
“In Mexico I met several members of the July 26 movement. Those men had very different social ideas prior to sailing on the Granma, prior to the first schism of the July 26 Movement, when it comprised of the entire surviving nucleus of the attack on the Moncada Barracks. I recall an intimate discussion in a Mexican home when I spoke of the need to offer the people of Cuba a revolutionary program and a member of the July 26 Movement who had participated in the Moncada Barracks assault – he fortunately later left the Movement – answered me in a way I shall always remember: “The matter is simple. What we want to accomplish is a coup d’etat. Batista staged a coup and took power in one day. We must carry out another coup to get him out… Batista has given a hundred concessions to the United States and we must give them a hundred and one.” For him the main objective was achieving power. I argued that a coup must be based on principles, for it was important to what we would do once we had taken over government. This was the thinking of a member of the July 26 Movement in its first stage. Those who held these ideas have fortunately for us left our revolutionary movement and taken other paths.”
Long live the legacy of the 26th of July Movement!