In his address to the court on October 16, 1953 (see “Fidel: ‘History will absolve me’” 9/4/2014), Fidel Castro maintained that if the assault had succeeded, the revolutionaries would have had the support of the people. He described the people in the following terms.
“When we speak of the people we do not mean the comfortable and conservative sectors of the nation, who welcome any regime of oppression, any dictatorship, any despotism, prostrating themselves before the master of the moment until they grind their foreheads into the ground. We understand by people, when we are speaking of struggle, to mean the vast unredeemed masses, to whom all make promises and who are deceived and betrayed by all; who yearn for a better, more dignified and more just nation; who are moved by ancestral aspirations of justice, having suffered injustice and mockery generation after generation; and who long for significant and sound transformations in all aspects of life, and who, to attain them, are ready to give even the very last breath of their lives, when they believe in something or in someone, and above all when they believe sufficiently in themselves” (Castro 2014:29; 2007:26-27).
Fidel maintained that if the Moncada garrison had been successfully taken, five revolutionary laws would have been immediately broadcast by radio. (1) The re-establishment of the Constitution of 1940, with the executive, legislative, and judicial functions assumed by the revolutionary government, in order that the government would be able to implement the popular will and true justice, until these governmental structures, presently distorted by dictatorship and corruption, can be restored legitimately. (2) The ceding of land to tenant farmers, sharecroppers, and squatters who occupy parcels of land of five caballerías or less, with compensation for the former owners. (3) The granting of the right of workers and employees in commercial, industrial, and commercial enterprises to 30% of the profits. (4) The granting of the right of tenant farmers to 55% of the yield of sugar production, and a guarantee to small tenant farmers of their participation in the sugar commerce. (5) The confiscation of property that was fraudulently obtained as a result of government corruption, with the establishment of special tribunals with full powers to investigate and to solicit the extradition of persons from foreign governments (2014:32-33; 2007:28-29).
Fidel further explained that these five revolutionary laws would have been proclaimed immediately, and they would have been followed by other laws, in which the specific measures would be based on previous study. These further laws would include such areas as agrarian reform, the integral reform of education, the nationalization of (US-owned) electric and telephone companies, the return to the people of the excessive money that these companies have collected through high rates, and the payment to the government of taxes that have been evaded (2014:33; 2007:29-30).
Fidel explained the structural roots of the social problems of Cuba. Cuba is an agricultural country, an exporter of raw materials and an importer of manufactured goods; it has limited industrial capacity. More than half of the productive land is foreign-owned. Eighty-five percent of small farmers pay rent, and many peasant families do not have land to use for the production of food for their families. These economic conditions generate inadequate housing, low levels of education, and high levels of employment (2014:34-36).
The solution to these problems, Fidel maintained, cannot be based in strategies that protect the interests of the economic and financial elite. A revolutionary government would ignore such interests and would act decisively in defense of the needs of the people. It would mobilize capital to develop industry; distribute land to peasants; stimulate the development of agricultural cooperatives; establish limits to the amount of land that can be owned by an agricultural enterprise, expropriating the excess acreage; reduce rents; expand and reform the educational system (2014:34-41).
In formulating a program for the next stage of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro did not mention US imperialism, nor did he cite Marxist thinkers or mention Lenin or the Russian Revolution. Jesus Arobelya writes of “History will absolve me:”
“Although some historians consider it a manifesto less radical than that of the Joven Cuba de Guiteras in 1935, in which the anti-imperialist and socialist ends of the revolution were clearly expressed, the key to the genius of Fidel Castro lies precisely in his explaining the anti-neocolonial project on the basis of a unifying proposal, avoiding ideological prejudices that would have limited its reach” (2008:121).
Fidel’s capacity to develop an effective strategy of popular education, moving from practice to theory, was a consequence of his unusual capacity to think both theoretically and concretely, which will be the subject of our next post.
An English translation of “History will absolve me” can be found in Fidel Castro Reader (Deutschmann and Shnookal 2007).
Arboleya, Jesús. 2008. La Revolución del Otro Mundo: Un análisis histórico de la Revolución Cubana. La Habana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales.
Castro, Fidel. 2007. “La historia me absolverá” in Fidel Castro: Selección de documentos, entrevistas y artículos (1952-56). La Habana: Editora Política.
__________. 2014. History Will Absolve Me: Speech at the Court of Appeals of Santiago de Cuba, October 16, 1953. La Habana: Editora Política.
Deutschmann, David and Deborah Shnookal, Eds. 2007. Fidel Castro Reader. Melbourne, Australia: Ocean Press.
Key words: Third World, revolution, colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism, democracy, national liberation, sovereignty, self-determination, socialism, Marxism, Leninism, Cuba, Latin America, world-system, world-economy, development, underdevelopment, colonial, neocolonial, blog Third World perspective, Cuban Revolution, neocolonial republic, Fidel, Moncada