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The Meaning of the Second Cuban Revolution: A Commentary

Updated on April 18, 2016
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The first step is to know what you do not know. The second step is to ask the right questions. I reserve the right to lean on my ignorance.



I'd like to say a word about the second Cuban Revolution, which culminated on January 1, 1959. Indeed, I call it the "second" Cuban Revolution because that is what it is; and it was necessitated by the failure of the first Cuban Revolution of 1898.

When I say that the first Cuban Revolution "failed," I mean to say that, although that revolution did accomplish, in a shallow way, its nominal goal of severing Cuba from its European master, Spain---the social justice that should have been unleashed because of it, did not happen. The reason it did not happen is because this first Cuban Revolution was assisted by the United States.

That is the broad thesis I am going to defend. There are implications which follow from my thesis. We will cross that bridge when we come to it. But if you will permit me, I would like to provide some necessary preliminaries.

1. We must start at the beginning. Various Western European nations installed and operated colonies in the so-called "New World," over here in the Western Hemisphere.

2. In general we're talking about England, Spain, Portugal, France, and Holland.

3. Those colonies were operated differently due to differences in geography, demographics, philosophy, and the amount of available labor power that these Western European countries had already, within their national borders.

4. These differences, which resulted in differences in the organization and administration of these colonies---in turn, resulted in differing patterns of "race relations" in these colonies.

5. For our purposes, we are focusing on the English colonies in mainland North America and the Spanish colonies in the Caribbean and Latin America broadly, but Cuba specifically.

How should we see the second Cuban Revolution of January 1, 1959? In the United States of America, whether the perspective comes from the left, right, or center, I find it to be too narrow. I want to broaden it by bringing in just a little race and class analysis. I'm talking about the contrasting histories of black-white race and class relations in the United States and Cuba.

With a commitment to a race-class analysis as a frame, there are a few things we need to keep in mind about Cuba, in order to be able to even begin to fairly assess the second Cuban Revolution.

1. Cuba is a Caribbean country.

2. Far more, multiple times more African slaves were taken to the Caribbean and Latin America than were ever delivered to North America. In fact, the scholar Dr. Gerald Horne tells us that more people of African descent actually live in Brazil, than anywhere on Earth outside of Nigeria, because of the process of the Atlantic Slave Trade.

3. Africans tended to outnumber Europeans in the Caribbean on average of something like ten-to-one. In North American the reverse was true, with Africans making up by far the numerical minority.

4. The reason for this is that England had surplus labor (the first forced labor regime was indentured servitude or "white slavery" of poor British citizens) but Spain did not (their first captive labor forces were made up indigenous peoples).

5. Because of these differences in geography and demographics, the Europeans in the Caribbean (and to a certain extent Latin America as well) had to incorporate some of the Africans into the power structure; with the aim of creating a kind of "middle management" layer to protect themselves from the ire of the very blacks they had captured and transported to the Caribbean (and Latin America).

6. This resulted in a layer of free mixed race, or so--called "colored," or "mulatto" people, along with some free blacks. This means that the association of blackness with enslavement would never become as automatic and total as it would in North America., with its "one drop rule" business.

7. In the mainland of North America, Europeans vastly outnumbered Africans. For this reason the European colonists had no need to incorporate Africans into their power structure to protect their security.

I think we need to have some specifics on the differences between the pattern of black-white relations, as established in the English North American colonies and by the Spanish and Portuguese in the rest of the Western Hemisphere.

8. For one thing, the historians John Hope Franklin and Alfred A. Moss, Jr., would have us know that in Brazil, for example, blacks were given many opportunities for advancement. Moreover, free blacks enjoyed the same privileges under the law as whites (1).

9. The Catholic Church played a significant role in the Latin American colonies. Priests often accompanied explorers and were usually present when the settlers came. It was the priests who insisted upon the Catholicization and baptism of the slaves (2).

a. Owners were not allowed to work their slaves on Sundays and on the approximately 30 feast days during the year (3).

b. Slaves were married in the church (4).

c. There was no law against the slaves learning how to read the catechism, and thus the whole world of reading, in the European way, was opened up to the slaves (5).

d. In the British colonies slaves could not enter into any kind of binding agreement. The owners permission was the only prerequisite for marriage (6).

e. Although many slaveholders in the British colonies encouraged the slaves to be religious and to attend church regularly, the discipline of the Anglican Church encouraged but did not require slave owners to tend to the spiritual needs of slaves (7).

f. The British colonial authorities generally discouraged the very idea of slaves learning to read and write. Some British colonies straightforwardly forbade such activity (8).

g. Blacks enjoyed a higher level of esteem in Latin America than in the British possessions. This helps to explain why many more Spaniards and Portuguese than Britons Intermarried with blacks (9).

h. There were relatively few Spanish and Portuguese women in the New World. Choices were limited. But even so, there was generally no stigma attached to interracial relationships, which were legitimized in the church (10).

i. In contrast, interracial relations in the British colonies were generally clandestine and without the benefit of clergy (11).

j. I think it is also worth recalling that in the year 711, Spain had been conquered by a people darker than themselves, the Moors. The Moors were finally kicked out of the country in 1492. We're talking about a conquest led by Muslim Arabs with accompanying contingents of African warriors. That rich stew of Islamic, Arabic, and African influences revitalized Spanish culture.

My point is this: Because of that fact, the Spanish and Portuguese had little psychological room to lie to themselves about the blacks. They could not really tell themselves that blacks were inferior to themselves. The Iberians had seen firsthand what the Africans could do.

England had not had such a direct experience with Africans. Therefore they had more psychological room to lie to themselves about blacks.

10. My larger point is this: Because of all of the factors I have just enumerated, far more of a sense of black-white brotherhood and sisterhood had been fostered in the Caribbean and Latin American colonies---even under a regime of "white" supremacy and slavery---than had been the case in the United States of America.

11. In the Caribbean colonies: When the moment of Revolution came, when push came to shove, as it were, and "at the end of the day," those person of mixed race, the so-called "coloreds," tended to identify and cast their lot with the blacks.

12. Because of the advantageous circumstances of geography and demographics, slave revolts in the Caribbean tended to be successful and ultimately, successfully culminate in the abolition of slavery by force of arms.

13. Because of the advantageous circumstances of geography and demographics, in the Caribbean, the abolition of slavery by force of arms, tended to simultaneously mean national liberation from the European patron countries. That is to say, slave revolt and national liberation tended to by synonymous, intertwined, and codependent projects.

14. Given the relatively progressive (as compared to the United States) race relations that had obtained, even under a regime of "white" supremacy and slavery in the Caribbean and Latin America---we would expect that successful abolition of slavery by force of arms/national liberation would result in a deepening and broadening of social justice.

15. Because of circumstances of geography and demographics, in North America, black slave revolts---though numerous and bloody---were not ultimately successful in liberating themselves or abolishing slavery by their own force of arms.

16. Because of circumstances of geography and demographics, in North America, national liberation from Britain diverged from the liberation interests of the black slaves.

17. This North American divergence of the project of national liberation from the liberation interests of black slaves, is, perhaps, best reflected in the year 1804. That is the year then-President of the United States Thomas Jefferson refused to recognize the newly liberated Haiti (12). In fact, the United States would not extend diplomatic recognition to Haiti until 1862 (13).

18. There is some debate as to whether England had actually ever imposed the institution of slavery on its colonies. We will not get involved in that discussion.

The thing we can say for certain is that Britain had been moving toward the abolition of slavery in the 1770s, while the North American colonies were clearly not. The Somerset case of June 1772 has rich implications.

James Somerset was a Boston slave, who had been transported to England by his owner, Charles Stewart, in 1770. Somerset escaped but he was recaptured two years later. He was ordered to be sold into slavery in Jamaica. British abolitionists, led by Granville Sharp, won a suit to prevent Somerset from being taken from England (14).

The British court, under London's Lord Chief Justice Mansfield ruled that Somerset could not be forced to return to slavery in the colonies. Many people thought that Britain had abolished slavery, then and there. Some American slaves were aware of the decision and acted on it, walking off their plantations (15).

19. There are two things to say about the Somerset decision of June 1772.

  • First, English law, as interpreted by the high court, had declared England to be free soil for escaped slaves.
  • Second, the country of England, North America's colonial master, as spoken for by its judiciary, refused to extradite a fugitive slave back to North America.

This refusal to "extradite" is big.

For example, when the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) hunts down a fugitive all over the world, he might end up in a country that does not have the death penalty. This country will refuse to extradite the fugitive back to the United States, unless said country can get assurances from the United States, that those authorities will not seek the death penalty for this particular fugitive.

Do you follow me?

These non-death penalty countries do this because, for them, to send a fugitive to his death in another country, would be a violation of their own political philosophy, public policy, and everything they believe in and stand for. It would be, to them, as if they had gone against their own public policy and executed the suspect themselves.

Therefore, I think we can interpret the Somerset decision as a strong signal of London's disapproval of their North American colonists' "labor practices," in the 1770s.

20. When colonists revolt against constituted authority, the former are severing themselves from accountability to the legal system of the latter, among other things.

21. When Haiti, for example, revolted against France, the former severed itself from accountability to the legal system of France, which had imposed African slavery upon Haiti.

22. When the North American colonies revolted against England (1776-1783), the former severed itself from accountability to the legal system of the latter---which was moving in the direction of abolition of slavery, among other things.

23. Now then, I---the person writing this---am not personally prepared to say that the American rebels broke off from Britain to preserve slavery---as Dr. Gerald Horne is: [The Counter Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America. NYU Press, 2014]---but one thing is undeniable. Social justice took a step back, to say the least, after the American Revolution.

I don't want you to take my word for it. John Hope Franklin and Alfred A. Moss, Jr., say this:

"When the delegates to the Constitutional Convention returned to their homes in September 1787, they could look back on three months of political and economic wire-pulling that was to check effectively the trend toward social upheaval. Perhaps in no area had there been greater success than in the matter of checking the antislavery movement. Quakers and other groups could view the new document as devoid of guarantees of human liberties, and zealous reformers could regard the Constitution as a victory for reaction; but their objections were silenced by the effective organization for ratification that was in operation even before the convention had adjourned. The fathers of the Constitution were dedicated to the proposition that 'government should rest upon the dominion of property.' For the Southern fathers this meant slaves, just as surely as it meant commerce and industry for the Northern fathers. In the protection of this property the Constitution had given recognition to the institution of human slavery, and it was to take seventy-five years to undo that which was accomplished in Philadelphia in 1787" (16).

The First Cuban Revolution of 1898

Briefly, let's just review the most salient points about the U.S.-assisted Cuban Revolution against Spain.

Here goes...

The Maine was an American warship that lay at anchor in Havana for three weeks. On February 15, 1898, at night, "she" was blown up. More than 250 sailors lost their lives. All and sundry were encouraged, by an excitable news media. Then President of the United States William McKinley turned aside various offers of the new prime minister of Spain Praxedes Sagasta to resolve the Cuban conflict peacefully (17).

On April 11 McKinley asked Congress for authorization to militarily intervene in Cuba. On April 25 the U.S. Congress declared the United States to be at war against Spain over Cuba (18).

The Teller Amendment: This statute promised Cuban revolutionaries that once Spain had been defeated and ousted from the island, U.S. troops would leave (19).

On August 12 diplomats from Spain and the United States met at the White House to sign a protocol of peace that ended the war. But instead of leaving, the United States colonized Cuba. Suddenly American politicians were claiming that the Teller Amendment had not been binding because it had been approved 'in a moment of impulsive but mistaken generosity' (20).

The New York Times editorialized that America had a 'higher obligation' than strict adherence to the hasty promises to the Cubans; and that America must become 'permanent possessors of Cuba if the Cubans prove altogether incapable of self-government' (21).

What does self-government mean?

Why did the United States even bother? What did America get out of it?

Author Stephen Kinzer has mentioned something about the need to protect American business interests in Cuba---which amounted to more than $50 million (that's 1898-early 1900s money!), mostly in the form of agriculture (22).

Now then, let us try to figure out what the New York Times meant by "self-government." But first let me say this: Slavery was ended by Spain's royal decree in 1886.

I think I know what you're thinking: Well, I guess that "geography and demographics" formula of yours has failed. America ended slavery well before Cuba did, with the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863.

And so on and so forth.

A few things on that.

A. There is a difference between the nominal end of something and its effective end. That is to say, "there's the rules and then there's what people do."

B. Although slavery nominally ended in the United States in 1863, with the Civil War and all that. But it is also very well known that slavery in the United States effectively continued on until World War Two. That's World War Two!

C. As you may know, there was a ten-year period, or so, of Reconstruction. But after that black enslavement effectively continued in the South, in the form of sharecropping, in the form of convict leasing, and in the form of debt peonage until World War Two (23).

D. The formula might work in reverse, so to speak, in the opposite direction. That is to say, a thing might effectively end quite a while before its nominal cessation. I have not researched this specific question, but for all we know, the 1886 royal Spanish decree ending slavery, might have merely been the "nominal" capstone to a practice that had "effectively" come to a conclusion a long time before.

E. Just because slavery was nominally ended in Cuba in 1886, that does not mean that everything is A-Okay. There is likely an unjust social power structure in place, which facilitated the implementation of slavery and had benefitted from it. This power structure, likely, would have accumulated tremendous multigenerational advantage. There is probably a tremendous, structural inequality of income and wealth, for example.

And just because slavery has been nominally ended, you probably have a working class that's used to being treated like dirt, even if there are allegedly free.

F. Therefore, I would expect that the First Cuban Revolution---left to its own devices---would have been an important first step in unleashing the social justice necessary to begin to correct the structural situation.

Are you with me?

We are in pursuit of the meaning of the term "self-government," as the New York Times, in 1898, used it in application to the Cubans.

If the United States intended to teach Cuba "self-government," then we should probably understand that America was holding itself up as a model. That is to say, America was imploring Cuba to follow its example.

If that is the case, then it follows that it is fair to ask: What kind of country was the United States in 1898?

  • Well, we have already established that effective slavery went on in the South until World War Two, well after its nominal end with the Emancipation Proclamation, and all that.
  • I, frankly, consider the period of the 1870s to the 1930s---what economist Paul Krugman calls the "Long Gilded Age"---nothing less than the re-enslavement of the white working class.
  • This sixty some year period is when you had white women working in places we would easily call "sweat shops" today. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire is a notorious catastrophe of March 25, 1911.
  • As you well know, you had ten-year-old white children working in factories; and twelve-year-old white children working in coal mines, and so forth.
  • By the way, I read an interesting little snippet on Wikipedia. The article is called "Child Labor Laws in the United States." It seems that one of the factors that helped bring child labor to an end in the United States, is the fact that during the Great Depression, adults became so desperate for work that they were willing to work for children's wages.
  • This 1870s-1930s was the period of capitalist and industrial explosion in the United States. It had happened a century before in England. One of the things industrialists like Henry Ford and others did was to create "model villages," were the Christian nuclear family lifestyle was enforced. I would call this development the recreation of the slave cabin.
  • During this period, certain sectors of white workers, at least, were forced to work without wages. That is to say, they were "paid" in "company scrip," that could only be redeemed at company stores.
  • Another Wikipedia article ("Company Scrip") informs us of the latest case of this kind of thing. That would be in September of 2008. Quoting: "On September 4, 2008 the Mexican Supreme Court of Justice ruled that Wal-Mart de Mexico, the Mexican subsidiary of Wal-Mart, must cease paying its employees in part with vouchers redeemable only at Wal-Mart stores."
  • 1898 was the time when the burgeoning "one percent" was basically about to enter its golden age of robber baron-hood with breathtaking and unprecedented corporate consolidation
  • We hardly need mention the massive, appalling, and shocking levels of violence the white working class were subjected to during this period. You went on strike during this period, and you were putting your life in jeopardy.
  • And of course, I should have mentioned, in connection with my first bullet point, that this period was the height of Jim Crow segregation.

So then, the above is a very brief, general outline of the United States, the country that proposed to teach Cuba "self-government."

So the situation in the United States in the year 1898 can be summed up like this: Euro-American "one percenter" domination of a social jungle.

It follows, then, that the United States intended to make Cuba into a Euro-Cuban/Euro-Caribbean "one percenter" dominated social jungle.

But why?

Well, we speak all the time of "black solidarity," "Chicano solidarity," "Indian solidarity," "Muslim solidarity," and so forth.

What about "white" solidarity in the non-Ku Klux Klan sense. Non.

Well, you have to remember that this Western Hemisphere is the place where English, Scottish, Irish, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Protestant, Catholics, etc., came and left all of that baggage behind to become more simply "white" and "Christian."

Why do I say "baggage"?

If you are the "white-"skinned ruler of a country of 99.5 percent white-skinned people like yourself, how do you tell who's "with you" and who's "against you."

The answer is that you use a religious litmus test of some kind.

However, when you come to the so-called New World, not only do you no longer need to do that---you had better knock it off. That is to say, that if you hold on to that religious litmus test for loyalty, in the New World with its "racial" diversity," you will put yourself at a strategic disadvantage---as the Indian, blacks, and poor whites join together to eat you alive.

Instead, you bolster your side's numbers by convincing poor white-skinned folks that your commonality lies in your basic European and Christian heritage---denomination doesn't matter.

So, a "white," Euro-American "one percent" elite, seeing that its fellow Euro-descended, wannabe one percenters, in Cuba, seem to be having a hard time; so the former determines that it shall lend assistance.

You see, because of differences in geography and demographics, the "one percenters" in Cuba could never assert themselves on their own, the way their counterparts in the United States had been able to.

Does that make sense?

Now, there are four matters I want to raise and dispose of in rapid succession: 1) What about the Cuban exiles from Castro's Cuba?; 2) What about the communism thing?; 3) What about the lack of democracy in Cuba?; 4) What about the lack of press freedom in Castro's Cuba?

First of all, let's understand the claim I am making.

There was a popular Cuban revolution to throw off Spain's colonial mastery of the island in 1898.

The purposes of this popular Cuban revolution were contradicted by the assistance of the United States, a country we have shown to be a scene of Euro-American one percenter domination of a social jungle, and a country that set out to teach Cuba "self-government."

The Cuban (and U.S.-assisted) revolution of 1898 did succeed in severing the island from Spain's authority. However, I am claiming that this first Cuban revolution was a "failure," because the assistance of the United States facilitated an internal counter revolution of the wannabe Euro-Cuban one percenters---so that they too could become the elite masters of a social jungle.

*By the way, let me offer a recommended reading: Klein, Naomi. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. This book helps you understand how the one percent profit not in spite of social disaster, but because of it.*

Therefore, I am making the claim that the second Cuban Revolution of January 1, 1959 was necessary to try to undo the conservative reactionary counter revolution of 1898.

The Second Cuban Revolution of January 1, 1959 was necessary to try to unleash the social justice that should have been unleashed with the first revolution of 1898---and would have if not for U.S. assistance/interference.

Are you still with me?


Let's start with an easy one.

What about the communism thing?

There has always been ambiguity about that. Let me offer an alternative perspective. I'm not saying I'm right; I could be wrong. But anyway, I hope its something to think about.

Remember all those Africans I told you about, that were transported to the Caribbean during the Atlantic Slave Trade years?

Well, because of the factors of geography and demographics I have been talking about, we would expect those Africans that were sent to the Caribbean and Latin American colonies, to have retained more of their African cultural character than those taken to North America.

That African cultural character was collectivist. Private property did not have prominence in this social philosophy, as it did with European society. Incidentally, the concept of private property, as we understand it today, is not that old---only about three hundred years.

Basically, I think this African collectivism was "close enough" as far as American intelligence analysts were concerned. That's all. Intellectual sloppiness.

What about the lack of a free press in Castro's Cuba?

First of all, it has been reported by Great Britain's paper of record, The Guardian, that the American Central Intelligence Agency may have tried to kill Fidel Castro as many as sixty-hundred-thirty-eight times (638) (24).

Secondly, Carl Bernstein---of the Watergate-exposing Woodward & Bernstein fame---has reported to us, in no uncertain terms, that CIA media manipulation has been an integral component of the Agency's efforts to gain intelligence on and overturn foreign regimes.

I'm quoting from one of his articles: "The CIA And The Media."

"The Agency's special relationship with the so-called 'majors' in publishing and broadcasting enabled the CIA to post some of its most valuable operatives abroad without exposure for more than two decades. In most instances, Agency files show, officials at the highest levels of the CIA (usually director or deputy director) dealt personally with a single designated individual in the top management of the cooperating news organization. The aid furnished often took two forms: providing jobs and credentials ('journalistic cover' in Agency parlance) for CIA operatives about to be posted in foreign capitals; and lending the Agency the undercover services of reporters already on staff, including some of the best-known correspondents in the business" (25).

Still quoting:

"In the field, journalists were used to help recruit and handle foreigners as agents; to acquire and evaluate information, and to plant false information with officials of foreign governments. Many signed secrecy agreements, pledging never to divulge anything about their dealings with the Agency; some signed employment contracts., some were assigned case officers and treated with unusual deference. Others had less structured relationships with the Agency, even though they performed similar tasks: they were briefed by CIA personnel before trips abroad, debriefed afterward, and used as intermediaries with foreign agents. Appropriately, the CIA uses the term 'reporting' to describe much of what cooperating journalists did for the Agency" (26).

Okay, a few things on that:

  • One, there goes the whole skeptical, hold-their-feet-to-the-fire, keeper of the public trust, "Fifth Estate," speaking truth to power thing because of Mr. Bernstein's remarkable revelation that the American press had been embedded with the Central Intelligence Agency for more than twenty years.
  • Two, and I shudder to even think this: But wouldn't it be a catastrophic scandal if it were to come out that the American press could be implicated in even one of the six-hundred-thirty-eight attempts to assassinate a foreign head of state, namely, Fidel Castro of Cuba?
  • Three: If foreign governments are severe with their press corps, it is because those countries have objectively experienced the international press (especially American) as an invasive, subversive malignancy; and they wish to safeguard their media systems from further insidious foreign contamination. We who live in the United States and Western Europe do not know what it is like for a foreign power to attempt to conquer us, overthrow our governments, and use our own media systems against us in order to turn public opinion against the very governments that the foreign powers are trying to overthrow. Since this is the case, we cannot really judge the leadership of those countries---that have at one time or another been targeted by the CIA, MI5, KGB, whatever---who feel like they need to exercise enhanced vigilance.

What about the Cuban exiles? What kind of people would have fled Fidel Castro's Cuba?

1. News media people, who I have already referenced, who could not understand and/or were displeased with the regime's necessary vigilance policy.

2. Robber Baron-style capitalists (and their middle class imitators). Remember, the First Cuban Revolution of 1898, was assisted by the United States, who set out to teach the new island nation all about "self-government." As I have previously mentioned, in 1898 the American-based robber barons were about to enter their golden age of robber baron-hood through breathtaking and unprecedented corporate consolidation---which, as you know, was more often than not on the wrong side of U.S. antitrust law, not that it was enforced very often or very vigorously.

*If you like, I would be happy to explain what I mean by "middle class imitators" in the comments section.
3. Formerly privileged blacks and mixed race, so-called "coloreds" or "mulattoes." Now, you will recall that I told you guys before, that for reasons of geography and demographics, those Europeans that installed colonies in the Caribbean, found it necessary to incorporate some of the Africans in order to form a protective "middle management" layer. Those free blacks and free "coloreds" obviously occupied a higher social rung than the Africans that were enslaved. Also, in some cases, in the Caribbean, legislation was passed giving the free "colored" full equality with whites.

Now then, it is a fact of human history, that whenever the territories came under conquest, the local elites tended to more or less play ball, as long as their customary privileges and prerogatives were respected.

Castro's revolution would have threatened to dilute those customary privileges and prerogatives. As you can see, this is an instance of overlapping of race and class.

4. The Italian-American Mafia. The Mob. The Outfit. The Arm. Cosa Nostra. "Men of Honor." I know you have some associations, in your mind, about the Mob in connection with theories concerning the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and all that. That is not what I am talking about!

You know that the Mob were always interested in expanding their hospitality and gaming businesses. I am not talking about that. That is to say, gambling and "entertainment" was only a tiny part of it.

What I am talking about is the systematic attempt of the American Mafia to literally colonize the island nation of Cuba. Their purpose was to do no less than to create the national headquarters of a literal global criminal empire---with Cuba itself as a literal Cosa Nostra state---that could operate with actual legal impunity, backed by official sanction of the bribed cooperation of the regime of Fulgencio Batista Zaldivar: Batista!

This is a still largely untold story, one for which a lot more research and writing needs to be done. I will just recommend two books to you, should you care to read further about the full extent of what the American Mafia were trying to do in Cuba, in the 1950s.

A. English, T.J. Havana Nocturne: How The Mob Owned Cuba---And Then Lost It To The Revolution. This book tells the story in a way that gives the initiative to the Mob primarily.

B. Cirules, Enrique. The Mafia in Havana: A Caribbean Mob Story. This book, at least shares the initiative with the U.S. government intelligence agencies and big banks; and suggests that the effort to implant the Mob in Cuba may have stretched back to the 1920s.

There's more I could say about this but let's move on to something else.

What about the lack of democracy in Fidel Castro's Cuba? That is another thing we have always heard so much about.

A few things.

  1. I do not know.
  2. I do not know because I---the person writing this---have never even been to Cuba.
  3. But I would venture to say that even people who have been to Cuba, even people who have studied the situation professionally for their various news organizations, do not know.
  4. I say that it is likely that most of us are unable to gauge the level of democracy that had obtained in Castro's Cuba, because we are all, for the most part, conditioned to see democracy as one thing; we say that democracy is comprised of x,y, and z, and if these structures are not visible, then there is no democracy.
  5. That is to say, what we want to see is "representative democracy," elections supported by a foundation of what we call "civil society," and all that.

First of all, what is democracy?

If you will permit me, to save time, I shall supply a definition. Democracy is the state of affairs in which the public has participatory authority in shaping their present and their future, for themselves, their families, and their communities (one thinks of the movement for American Indian self-determination, for example).

In a true democracy there should be no force on Earth that should be allowed to thwart the public will, as expressed by a majority assertion---so long as this public will does not conflict with certain, existential rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

This public will cannot be allowed to interfere with the right to BE. That is to say, for example, the public must not be allowed to carry through motion to, say, have all blue-haired people in Texas drowned in the Atlantic Ocean.

But this "participatory authority," I mentioned, in my opinion, must extend to the workplace, where we make our livelihoods. If not, the people lack a vital tool needed to really control their lives and thus shape their own present and future, as well as that of their families, and communities.

Finally, in order for the people to truly have the power to shape their present and future, for themselves, their families, and their communities, they must have participatory authority as to the disposition of their country in relation to the rest of the world.

One more point I would like to make is this: In this kind of democracy, public policy is not driven by the transitory, fickle nature of "public opinion," but by public work. Institutional structures must be created to allow the public to gain competence in various areas of public policy, and thus come to informed judgments about the nature of various problems and their remedies.

Such a system requires elected representatives. But they should, perhaps, be elected by the issue. They should have participated in the public work, in the committees that judged and decided on certain issues...

Just a proposal. Let's move on.

The question is: What about the lack of democracy in Castro's Cuba? The short answer is: We do not know that there was a lack of democracy in Castro's Cuba.

For our purposes, there are at least two broad kinds of democracy: genuine economic and social democracy, in which people have concrete, actual control of their own lives and livelihoods; and formal, representative political democracy, in which people, frankly, vote for heroes and saviors.

Now, if you look at the labor history in countries that are considered democracies, a very fair argument can be made that as the public lost economic and social democracy, they got representative political democracy as a consolation prize.

For example, in an article titled, "Education and the Structural Crisis of Capital," sociology professor John Bellamy Foster writes:

"In nineteenth century capitalism, workers were in a position to retain within their own ranks the knowledge of how the work was done, and therefore exercised a considerable degree of control over the labor process. Hence, control of the labor process by owners and managers was often more formal than real. As corporations and their workforces and factories got bigger with the rise of monopoly capitalism, however, it became possible to extend the division of labor, and therefore to exercise greater top-down managerial control. This took the form of the new system of scientific management, or 'Taylorism,' within concentrated industry. Control of the conception of the labor process was systematically removed from the workers and monopolized by management. Henceforth, according to this managerial logic, workers were merely to execute command from above, with their every movement governed down to the smallest detail" (27).

Let me ask you this: If you keep in mind the fact that it was after the rise of monopoly capitalism that we got the explosion of "representation," do you think that the American working class enjoyed more democracy before or after the advent of monopoly capitalism?

While you're thinking about that, let me ask you this: If you have cause to pause, at all, than can you actually say whether or not there was a "lack of democracy" in Castro's Cuba?

I'll just leave that as a question.

We're almost done, I promise!

You can read on Wikipedia all about how Castro's Cuba launched military support of the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola, against U.S.-backed interventions by then-Apartheid South Africa and Zaire. By the end of 1975, Cuba had 25,000 troops in there. The article is titled "Cuban Intervention in Angola."

You can read in the London Telegraph all about how Castro's Cuba took a leading role in helping fight Ebola. The article by Colin Freeman is titled: "Cuban Doctors Take Leading Role in Fighting Ebola." The tag line just beneath reads: "After the UK, Cuba has sent the largest number of doctors to Sierra Leone to fight Ebola" (28).

Question: Why did the administration of the "white" Cuban, Fidel Castro, do such things for black Africa?

Answer: Because of the commitment of the authentically revolutionary Cuban government to black liberation.

Question: Why was the government of the "white" Cuban, Fidel Castro, so committed to black liberation?

Answer: Because of the greater sense of black-white solidarity that had been fostered, even under the circumstances of Spanish colonial white supremacy and slavery, due to the fact that the Spanish colonials had needed to incorporate some of the Africans to form a protective middle management layer. This black-white Cuban solidarity was strengthened because of the social justice that was unleashed by the authentic Cuban Revolution of January 1, 1959.

There's more I could say. But I won't because you have suffered enough.

Thank you very much for reading!

Addendum: added 4/18/2016

I'm sorry, but I feel compelled to add a piece of vital information. I cannot avoid it because it goes directly to the kind of people who would have become enemies of the Castro regime---or any regime actually devoted to social justice. It goes to the kind of people who would have fled Castro's Cuba.

First of all, one can surmise, from All-Knowing Wikipedia, that Spain ruled Cuba from, say, the late 1490's/early 1500s until 1898.

Secondly, as we have already discussed, Cuba won its independence from Spain, in a 1895-1898 war, with U.S. assistance/interference.

Third, recall that the United States---as we have previously discussed---took over and colonized the island, with the aim of teaching the Cubans "self-government."

Fourth, Cuba gained its formal independence in 1902.

Again, you can read all of this on Wikipedia, I want to note that the term used in Wikipedia is formal independence. Does that mean that Cuba was informally "dependent" upon the United States for some time after 1902?

You can read, on Wikipedia, all about something known as the "Negro Rebellion" of 1912 in Cuba. In Spanish, its Levantamiento Armado de los Independientes de Color, or, in English, "The Armed Uprising of the Independents of Color." It is also known as the Little Race War, the War of 1912, or simply The Twelve.

The Wikipedia article, "Negro Rebellion," tells us that the War of 1912 was "an armed conflict for several weeks during 1912 in Cuba between Afro-Cuban rebels and the armed forces of Cuba and the United States."

One thing we can take away immediately is the fact that there seems to be some, continuing "informal' relationship between the United States and Cuba---at least certain sectors---at least for a decade after Cuba's "formal" independence.

Remember, the mission of the United States, in 1898, had been to teach the Cubans "self-government."

Other perspectives describe this "armed conflict" as a massacre, the "The 1912 Massacre of AfroCubans" (29).

Elsewhere we can read that 86,000 Afro-Cubans, alone, gave their lives in the 1895-1898 struggle for independence (30). Compare that to the 58,000 total citizenry the United States lost in the Vietnam War of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Indeed, some perspectives view the subsequent "armed conflict," as "in reality, an outburst of white racism against Afro-Cubans" (31). Returning to Wikipedia again ("Negro Rebellion"), we learn that the Afro-Cubans suffered an additional 3,000-6,000 casualties, both combatants and non-combatants.

Addendum: added 4/18/2016 (continued)

There is something we have to straighten out. I believe I know what you're thinking: How can the "Negro Rebellion" of 1912 be an "outburst of white racism against Afro-Cubans," if, as you have been saying, a greater sense of 'black-white brotherhood and sisterhood' had been fostered in Cuba and the Caribbean, in general, than in the United States?

Answer: You must remember the class component. You must remember the race-class dynamics of Cuba. You must remember that race and class, everywhere, always overlaps and interconnects.

Remember, I have been saying that due to circumstances of geography and demographics, the Europeans that set up colonies in the Caribbean had to incorporate some of the Africans into a self-protective middle management layer. These free blacks and so-called "coloreds," mixed race people were "middle management," above the blacks that were actually enslaved.

I have also said that due to circumstances of geography and demographics, the Euro-Cuban landed elite minority could not assert themselves, on their own to become the one percenter dominators of a social jungle, the way that the Euro-American landed elite minority could and did.

If the Euro-Cuban landed elite minority were to have any hope of duplicating the fortunes of their class colleagues to the north, they would have to have help.

What we're looking at, then, with this race war of 1912 is: the massacre of working class Afro-Cubans by middle management-level or elite-level Afro-Cuban soldiers, "colored" soldiers, and "white" Cuban soldiers.

I think we can assume that elite-level, ruling class, "white," Euro-Cubans gave the orders and directed the mass lynching.

Now, you must understand that the January 1, 1959 revolution and regime of the "white" Cuban, Fidel Castro, was a Cuban Working Class Movement. This is true even though Mr. Castro had been born into the "white" wealthy Cuban elite. You must understand that he was every bit as much a "traitor to his class," as Franklin Delano Roosevelt was accused of being due to his championing of the New Deal reform program.

Understand that Castro was not a "traitor" to his "race," because what I said about a greater sense of black-white brotherhood and sisterhood in the Caribbean is true.

Addendum: added 4/18/2016 (continued)

We might also note that Castro's predecessor, Fulgencio Batista Zaldivar was a "traitor to his class" in a different way. He is known to have been born to decidedly more humble circumstances than Fidel Castro.

But while Castro would devote himself to the proletariat, Batista would go on to serve the interests of elite wealth and power.

Now, we have previously seen some indication of the Castro regime's commitment to black liberation in Africa.

Given that, one can imagine that his regime (1959-on) would have been the first time the perpetrators of the 1912 mass Afro-Cuban lynching would have been called to account.

Therefore, I would imagine that the Fidel Castro regime would have been interested in bringing to account, the perpetrators of the 1912 mass Afro-Cuban lynching.

1. Let us say that the actual perpetrators---"middle management" Afro-Cubans, elite Afro-Cubans, "white" Cubans, making up the Cuban armed forces---were, say, in their early twenties in 1912. These people would be in their late 50s/early 60s in 1959. If still alive, they would have been still young enough to stand trial and serve prison sentences for what they had done in 1912.

2. Let us say that the Euro-Cuban, "white" ruling class elite, who actually gave the orders and directed the massacre, were, something like, in their early 40s in 1912. These people would have been in their late seventies or early eighties in 1959. Trial and prison should not have been out of the question for these folks, barring serious illness in which case home confinement might suffice.

I believe that it is people like this who would have also been in trouble with Fidel Castro's regime---or any other government dedicated to social justice. It is people like this whom the Castro regime would have pursued, in my opinion. It is people like this who would have fled Castro's Cuba.

Question: Do you think people like this, these type of "refugees" would have told the truth about themselves? Do you think they would have said: (Hi, I've fled Cuba because I took part in the mass lynching of my fellow countrymen in 1912.)?

Or do you think they might have lied, in the same way fleeing Nazis sometimes fabricated their life stories?

I'm done for sure now. Thanks again.


1. Franklin, John Hope & Moss, Jr., Alfred. From Slavery To Freedom: A History of Negro Americans. Alfred A. Knopf, 1988 (sixth edition). (paperback). 51

2. ibid, 52

3. ibid

4. ibid

5. ibid

6. ibid

7. ibid

8. ibid

9. ibid

10. ibid

11. ibid

12. Horton, James Oliver & Horton, Lois E. Slavery And The Making of America. Oxford University Press, 2005. 71

13. (1862, Feb. 5). Recognition of Haytian and Liberian Independence A Step in Advance. (The New York Times). Retrieved April 16, 2016.

14. Horton, James Oliver & Horton, Lois E. Slavery And The Making of America. Oxford University Press, 2005. 56

15. ibid, 56-57

16. Franklin, John Hope & Moss, Jr., Alfred A. From Slavery To Freedom: A History of Negro Americans. Alfred A. Knopf, 1988 (sixth edition). 71

17. Kinzer, Stephen. Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change From Hawaii To Iraq. Times Books (Henry Holt & Company), 2006. 36-37

18. ibid, 38

19. ibid

20. ibid, 39-40

21. ibid, 40

22. ibid, 35-36

23. Blackmon, Douglas A. Slavery By Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II. Doubleday, 2008.

24. Campbell, D. (2006, Aug. 2). 638 Ways to Kill Castro. (The Guardian). Retrieved April 16, 2016.

25. Bernstein, C. (2007). The CIA And The Media. (reprinted from original Rolling Stone article). Retrieved April 16, 2016.

26. ibid

27. Foster, J.B. (2011, July-August). Education and the Structural Crisis of Capital. Retrieved April 16, 2016

28. Freeman, C. (2015, Jan. 29). Cuban Doctors Take Leading Role in Fighting Ebola. (The Telegraph). Retrieved April 16, 2016

29. (1997). El Doce - 1912: The 1912 Massacre of AfroCubans. (AfroCubaWeb). Retrieved April 18, 2016

30. Race War of 1912. ( Retrieved April 18, 2016.

31. ibid.

Further Reading on the history of relations between the United States and Cuba, and their contrasting internal race-class dynamics, see:

Horne, Gerald. Race To Revolution: The United States And Cuba During Slavery And Jim Crow. Monthly Review Press, 2014.


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    • wingedcentaur profile image

      William Thomas 17 months ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

      Thank you, lions44 for visiting and giving my piece here a fair consideration, even though you and I find ourselves "on opposite sides of the political spectrum." I also appreciate you saying that this hub "challenged" you.

      As to your personal view of engagement being better than obstinacy: you're quite right; engagement is always better than stonewalling. Though we obviously disagree about Castro. From my perspective, placed in the historical context I have outlined, he was a true revolutionary hero, and again, like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a "traitor to his class"---in the opposite way Batista was also a traitor to his class.

      I do not know the details of his administration's workings. I'm sure he and it were not perfect. But few things in this life are.

      By the way, has the sainted President Obama shut down Guantanamo yet?

      Take it easy, my friend and thanks again.


    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 17 months ago from Auburn, WA

      Very interesting hub. We're on opposite sides of the political spectrum, but I like hubs that challenge me. That's what makes HP an interesting place.

      I was always in an unusual position when it came to Cuba policy. Some of my closest friends were Cuban exiles and we all leaned right (to say the least), but I supported engagement because I thought it was the quickest way to get rid of Castro. Needless to say I always kept my opinion to myself.

      We disagree on Castro. He was only interested in power. Social justice was secondary. His torture chamber prisons were hardly interested in "justice." I met some of his victims. Any place where people have to risk their life to flee is not a very just society.