De Luna, Gabriel
In 1952, the year before the Cuban Revolution, Fulgencio Batista returned to politics and ran for President against two others, Roberto Agramonte, who was favored to win, and Carlos Hevia. Batista, who had long been involved in politics and military in the previous decade, organized a coup d’etat against the current outgoing administration of Carlos Prio Socarras and cancelled the elections. He then appointed himself as the President. Batista used the wealth Cuba had at the time to enrich his own fortunes and allowed foreign influence to take a substantial share of economic resources(1). Batista had also begun a totalitarian regime removing opposition voices going as far as employing secret police to arrest, torture, and execute Communist supporters while receiving financial support from the United States (2)(3).
The impetus for the eventual revolution was the level of oppression that began to weigh on the poor and agrarian population who saw the severe levels of wealth inequality between them and the elite of the administration and American influence. Fidel Castro believed this government was not to be a legitimate one and began plans to overthrow the Batista regime. A band of rebels trained locally by Fidel and Raul Castro attacked the Moncada military barracks, signifying the beginning of armed social conflict. Though the initial assault was mostly a failure, Fidel Castro, while jailed and tried, was able to distribute his highly influential manifesto “History Will Absolve Me”, detailing his demands for a fair government and socioeconomic equality, based on Communism. Sentenced to 15 years in prison, he and others were released after immense political protestation against the Batista administration two years later. This led to increased conflict between government and rebel forces culminating in guerrilla warfare. The rebel forces were eventually successful in 1959 in toppling the Batista government as the people sided with the Communists in hope of structural and economic change.
The immediate effect of the Cuban Revolution was the ousting of a totalitarian regime corrupted by foreign influence. Batista was very much in favor of Capitalism as the economic model for his country, though entrenched with mafia deals and divesting natural resources to American companies (3). The leaders of the revolution, the Castro brothers and Che Guevara, used Marxist-Communism as their ideological guide in determining what a fair government looked like. Thus, in implementing their Communist ideals, redistribution of wealth, nationalization of resources, and seizures of private properties took place (4). The Cuban government nationalized holdings of the Roman Catholic Church and formally institutionalized itself as an atheist state. Furthermore, the new Cuban government’s relationship with the United States changed dramatically. No longer an economic satellite for the United States, the Cuban government now represented a real ideological threat nearby. This new lack of American investment, redistribution of wealth, and military tension changed the social reality for Cuban citizens drastically. Though the ideologies and socioeconomic structures have changed, there was still an active element of authoritarianism with government endorsed censorship of pro-western ideals, further bolstered by the Bay of Pigs Invasion.
Image Source: https://libcom.org/history/cuban-revolution-critical-perspective-sam-dolgoff
1. T. J. English, William Morrow, Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba and Then Lost It to the Revolution, p. 15
2. Conflict, Order, and Peace in the Americas, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, 1978, p. 121
3. Senator John F. Kennedy at Democratic Dinner, Cincinnati, Ohio, October 6, 1960, Transcript: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=25660
4.Mario Lazo, . American Policy Failures in Cuba – Dagger in the Heart. Twin Circle Publishing Co. 1970: New York. p. 198