Fulgencio Batista, who himself rose to power during a 1933 coup, was facing coup attempts against his own rule in the 1950s. A young lawyer, Fidel Castro, accused the dictator of corruption and tyranny and challenged Batista’s rule in Cuban courts in 1952. His arguments rejected by the Batista controlled court, Castro became convinced that no legal recourse was available and armed revolution was necessary. On July 26, 1953, Castro and his supporters attacked the Moncada Barracks in Santiago; the attack failed and many of the rebels, including Castro and his brother Raul were arrested. At his trial, Castro spoke in his own defense for nearly four hours, delivering what would become his famous “history will absolve me” speech. He was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment, but Batista freed Castro and the other Moncada rebels in 1955 under political pressure. Castro and his followers went into exile in Mexico, where they met other revolutionaries like Che Guevara and reorganized their rebellion as the “July 26 Movement.” In December 1956, the July 26 Movement sailed back to Cuba and made their way to the Sierra Maestra mountains where, over the next three years, they carried out guerrilla attacks against Batista’s government forces. The popularity of the revolution among rural peasants, as well as an arms embargo from the United States severely weakened Batista’s forces. On New Years’ Eve, 1958, Che Guevara led a rebel force to the city of Santa Clara and captured it. Upon hearing of the fall of Santa Clara, Batista fled to the Domincan Republic on New Years’ Day. Castro arrived in the capital city of Havana on January 8, 1959, where he would rule Cuba until 2008 before passing rule over to his brother Raul.
Victorious Fidel Castro and the July 26 Revolutionaries in 1959
Source: Castro Internet Archive. “History will absolve me”, retrieved 27 August 2012 from http://www.marxists.org
Never has a lawyer had to practice his profession under such difficult conditions; never has such a number of overwhelming irregularities been committed against an accused man. In this case, counsel and defendant are one and the same. As attorney he has not even been able to take a look at the indictment. As accused, for the past seventy-six days he has been locked away in solitary confinement, held totally and absolutely incommunicado, in violation of every human and legal right….
You have publicly called this case the most significant in the history of the Republic. If you sincerely believed this, you should not have allowed your authority to be stained and degraded. The first court session was September 21st. Among one hundred machine guns and bayonets, scandalously invading the hall of justice, more than a hundred people were seated in the prisoner’s dock. The great majority had nothing to do with what had happened. They had been under preventive arrest for many days, suffering all kinds of insults and abuses in the chambers of the repressive units. But the rest of the accused, the minority, were brave and determined, ready to proudly confirm their part in the battle for freedom, ready to offer an example of unprecedented self-sacrifice and to wrench from the jail’s claws those who in deliberate bad faith had been included in the trial. Those who had met in combat confronted one another again. Once again, with the cause of justice on our side, we would wage the terrible battle of truth against infamy! Surely the regime was not prepared for the moral catastrophe in store for it! ….
Honorable Judges: Why such interest in silencing me? Why is every type of argument foregone in order to avoid presenting any target whatsoever against which I might direct my own brief? Is it that they lack any legal, moral or political basis on which to put forth a serious formulation of the question? Are they that afraid of the truth? Do they hope that I, too, will speak for only two minutes and that I will not touch upon the points which have caused certain people sleepless nights since July 26th? Since the prosecutor’s petition was restricted to the mere reading of five lines of an article of the Social Defense Code, might they suppose that I too would limit myself to those same lines and circle round them like some slave turning a millstone? I shall by no means accept such a gag, for in this trial there is much more than the freedom of a single individual at stake. Fundamental matters of principle are being debated here, the right of men to be free is on trial, the very foundations of our existence as a civilized and democratic nation are in the balance. When this trial is over, I do not want to have to reproach myself for any principle left undefended, for any truth left unsaid, for any crime not denounced….
I warn you, I am just beginning! If there is in your hearts a vestige of love for your country, love for humanity, love for justice, listen carefully. I know that I will be silenced for many years; I know that the regime will try to suppress the truth by all possible means; I know that there will be a conspiracy to bury me in oblivion. But my voice will not be stifled – it will rise from my breast even when I feel most alone, and my heart will give it all the fire that callous cowards deny it.
From a shack in the mountains on Monday, July 27th, I listened to the dictator’s voice on the air while there were still 18 of our men in arms against the government. Those who have never experienced similar moments will never know that kind of bitterness and indignation. While the long-cherished hopes of freeing our people lay in ruins about us we heard those crushed hopes gloated over by a tyrant more vicious, more arrogant than ever. The endless stream of lies and slanders, poured forth in his crude, odious, repulsive language, may only be compared to the endless stream of clean young blood which had flowed since the previous night – with his knowledge, consent, complicity and approval – being spilled by the most inhuman gang of assassins it is possible to imagine. To have believed him for a single moment would have sufficed to fill a man of conscience with remorse and shame for the rest of his life. At that time I could not even hope to brand his miserable forehead with the mark of truth which condemns him for the rest of his days and for all time to come. Already a circle of more than a thousand men, armed with weapons more powerful than ours and with peremptory orders to bring in our bodies, was closing in around us. Now that the truth is coming out, now that speaking before you I am carrying out the mission I set for myself, I may die peacefully and content. So I shall not mince my words about those savage murderers.
I must pause to consider the facts for a moment. The government itself said the attack showed such precision and perfection that it must have been planned by military strategists. Nothing could have been farther from the truth! The plan was drawn up by a group of young men, none of whom had any military experience at all. I will reveal their names, omitting two who are neither dead nor in prison: Abel Santamaría, José Luis Tasende, Renato Guitart Rosell, Pedro Miret, Jesús Montané and myself. Half of them are dead, and in tribute to their memory I can say that although they were not military experts they had enough patriotism to have given, had we not been at such a great disadvantage, a good beating to that entire lot of generals together, those generals of the 10th of March who are neither soldiers nor patriots. Much more difficult than the planning of the attack was our organizing, training, mobilizing and arming men under this repressive regime with its millions of dollars spent on espionage, bribery and information services. Nevertheless, all this was carried out by those men and many others like them with incredible seriousness, discretion and discipline. Still more praiseworthy is the fact that they gave this task everything they had; ultimately, their very lives….
My purpose is not to bore the court with epic narratives. All that I have said is essential for a more precise understanding of what is yet to come.
Let me mention two important facts that facilitate an objective judgement of our attitude. First: we could have taken over the regiment simply by seizing all the high ranking officers in their homes. This possibility was rejected for the very humane reason that we wished to avoid scenes of tragedy and struggle in the presence of their families. Second: we decided not to take any radio station over until the Army camp was in our power. This attitude, unusually magnanimous and considerate, spared the citizens a great deal of bloodshed. With only ten men I could have seized a radio station and called the people to revolt. There is no questioning the people’s will to fight. I had a recording of Eduardo Chibás’ last message over the CMQ radio network, and patriotic poems and battle hymns capable of moving the least sensitive, especially with the sounds of live battle in their ears. But I did not want to use them although our situation was desperate.
The regime has emphatically repeated that our Movement did not have popular support. I have never heard an assertion so naive, and at the same time so full of bad faith. The regime seeks to show submission and cowardice on the part of the people. They all but claim that the people support the dictatorship; they do not know how offensive this is to the brave Orientales. Santiago thought our attack was only a local disturbance between two factions of soldiers; not until many hours later did they realize what had really happened. Who can doubt the valor, civic pride and limitless courage of the rebel and patriotic people of Santiago de Cuba? If Moncada had fallen into our hands, even the women of Santiago de Cuba would have risen in arms. Many were the rifles loaded for our fighters by the nurses at the Civilian Hospital. They fought alongside us. That is something we will never forget.
It was never our intention to engage the soldiers of the regiment in combat. We wanted to seize control of them and their weapons in a surprise attack, arouse the people and call the soldiers to abandon the odious flag of the tyranny and to embrace the banner of freedom; to defend the supreme interests of the nation and not the petty interests of a small clique; to turn their guns around and fire on the people’s enemies and not on the people, among whom are their own sons and fathers; to unite with the people as the brothers that they are instead of opposing the people as the enemies the government tries to make of them; to march behind the only beautiful ideal worthy of sacrificing one’s life – the greatness and happiness of one’s country. To those who doubt that many soldiers would have followed us, I ask: What Cuban does not cherish glory? What heart is not set aflame by the promise of freedom?
The Navy did not fight against us, and it would undoubtedly have come over to our side later on. It is well known that that branch of the Armed Forces is the least dominated by the Dictatorship and that there is a very intense civic conscience among its members. But, as to the rest of the national armed forces, would they have fought against a people in revolt? I declare that they would not! A soldier is made of flesh and blood; he thinks, observes, feels. He is susceptible to the opinions, beliefs, sympathies and antipathies of the people. If you ask his opinion, he may tell you he cannot express it; but that does not mean he has no opinion. He is affected by exactly the same problems that affect other citizens – subsistence, rent, the education of his children, their future, etc. Everything of this kind is an inevitable point of contact between him and the people and everything of this kind relates him to the present and future situation of the society in which he lives. It is foolish to imagine that the salary a soldier receives from the State – a modest enough salary at that – should resolve the vital problems imposed on him by his needs, duties and feelings as a member of his community.
This brief explanation has been necessary because it is basic to a consideration to which few people, until now, have paid any attention – soldiers have a deep respect for the feelings of the majority of the people! During the Machado regime, in the same proportion as popular antipathy increased, the loyalty of the Army visibly decreased. This was so true that a group of women almost succeeded in subverting Camp Columbia. But this is proven even more clearly by a recent development. While Grau San Martín’s regime was able to preserve its maximum popularity among the people, unscrupulous ex-officers and power-hungry civilians attempted innumerable conspiracies in the Army, although none of them found a following in the rank and file.
The March 10th coup took place at the moment when the civil government’s prestige had dwindled to its lowest ebb, a circumstance of which Batista and his clique took advantage. Why did they not strike their blow after the first of June? Simply because, had they waited for the majority of the nation to express its will at the polls, the troops would not have responded to the conspiracy!
Consequently, a second assertion can be made: the Army has never revolted against a regime with a popular majority behind it. These are historic truths, and if Batista insists on remaining in power at all costs against the will of the majority of Cubans, his end will be more tragic than that of Gerardo Machado.
I have a right to express an opinion about the Armed Forces because I defended them when everyone else was silent. And I did this neither as a conspirator, nor from any kind of personal interest – for we then enjoyed full constitutional prerogatives. I was prompted only by humane instincts and civic duty. In those days, the newspaper Alerta was one of the most widely read because of its position on national political matters. In its pages I campaigned against the forced labor to which the soldiers were subjected on the private estates of high civil personages and military officers. On March 3rd, 1952 I supplied the Courts with data, photographs, films and other proof denouncing this state of affairs. I also pointed out in those articles that it was elementary decency to increase army salaries. I should like to know who else raised his voice on that occasion to protest against all this injustice done to the soldiers. Certainly not Batista and company, living well-protected on their luxurious estates, surrounded by all kinds of security measures, while I ran a thousand risks with neither bodyguards nor arms.
Just as I defended the soldiers then, now – when all others are once more silent – I tell them that they allowed themselves to be miserably deceived; and to the deception and shame of March 10th they have added the disgrace, the thousand times greater disgrace, of the fearful and unjustifiable crimes of Santiago de Cuba. From that time since, the uniform of the Army is splattered with blood. And as last year I told the people and cried out before the Courts that soldiers were working as slaves on private estates, today I make the bitter charge that there are soldiers stained from head to toe with the blood of the Cuban youths they have tortured and slain. And I say as well that if the Army serves the Republic, defends the nation, respects the people and protects the citizenry then it is only fair that the soldier should earn at least a hundred pesos a month. But if the soldiers slay and oppress the people, betray the nation and defend only the interests of one small group, then the Army deserves not a cent of the Republic’s money and Camp Columbia should be converted into a school with ten thousand orphans living there instead of soldiers.
I want to be just above all else, so I can’t blame all the soldiers for the shameful crimes that stain a few evil and treacherous Army men. But every honorable and upstanding soldier who loves his career and his uniform is dutybound to demand and to fight for the cleansing of this guilt, to avenge this betrayal and to see the guilty punished. Otherwise the soldier’s uniform will forever be a mark of infamy instead of a source of pride.
Of course the March 10th regime had no choice but to remove the soldiers from the private estates. But it did so only to put them to work as doormen, chauffeurs, servants and bodyguards for the whole rabble of petty politicians who make up the party of the Dictatorship. Every fourth or fifth rank official considers himself entitled to the services of a soldier to drive his car and to watch over him as if he were constantly afraid of receiving the kick in the pants he so justly deserves.
If they had been at all interested in promoting real reforms, why did the regime not confiscate the estates and the millions of men like Genovevo Pérez Dámera, who acquired their fortunes by exploiting soldiers, driving them like slaves and misappropriating the funds of the Armed Forces? But no: Genovevo Pérez and others like him no doubt still have soldiers protecting them on their estates because the March 10th generals, deep in their hearts, aspire to the same future and can’t allow that kind of precedent to be set.
The 10th of March was a miserable deception, yes … After Batista and his band of corrupt and disreputable politicians had failed in their electoral plan, they took advantage of the Army’s discontent and used it to climb to power on the backs of the soldiers. And I know there are many Army men who are disgusted because they have been disappointed. At first their pay was raised, but later, through deductions and reductions of every kind, it was lowered again. Many of the old elements, who had drifted away from the Armed Forces, returned to the ranks and blocked the way of young, capable and valuable men who might otherwise have advanced. Good soldiers have been neglected while the most scandalous nepotism prevails. Many decent military men are now asking themselves what need that Armed Forces had to assume the tremendous historical responsibility of destroying our Constitution merely to put a group of immoral men in power, men of bad reputation, corrupt, politically degenerate beyond redemption, who could never again have occupied a political post had it not been at bayonet-point; and they weren’t even the ones with the bayonets in their hands …
On the other hand, the soldiers endure a worse tyranny than the civilians. They are under constant surveillance and not one of them enjoys the slightest security in his job. Any unjustified suspicion, any gossip, any intrigue, or denunciation, is sufficient to bring transfer, dishonorable discharge or imprisonment. Did not Tabernilla, in a memorandum, forbid them to talk with anyone opposed to the government, that is to say, with ninety-nine percent of the people? … What a lack of confidence! … Not even the vestal virgins of Rome had to abide by such a rule! As for the much publicized little houses for enlisted men, there aren’t 300 on the whole Island; yet with what has been spent on tanks, guns and other weaponry every soldier might have a place to live. Batista isn’t concerned with taking care of the Army, but that the Army take care of him! He increases the Army’s power of oppression and killing but does not improve living conditions for the soldiers. Triple guard duty, constant confinement to barracks, continuous anxiety, the enmity of the people, uncertainty about the future – this is what has been given to the soldier. In other words: ‘Die for the regime, soldier, give it your sweat and blood. We shall dedicate a speech to you and award you a posthumous promotion (when it no longer matters) and afterwards … we shall go on living luxuriously, making ourselves rich. Kill, abuse, oppress the people. When the people get tired and all this comes to an end, you can pay for our crimes while we go abroad and live like kings. And if one day we return, don’t you or your children knock on the doors of our mansions, for we shall be millionaires and millionaires do not mingle with the poor. Kill, soldier, oppress the people, die for the regime, give your sweat and blood …’
But if blind to this sad truth, a minority of soldiers had decided to fight the people, the people who were going to liberate them from tyranny, victory still would have gone to the people. The Honorable Prosecutor was very interested in knowing our chances for success. These chances were based on considerations of technical, military and social order. They have tried to establish the myth that modern arms render the people helpless in overthrowing tyrants. Military parades and the pompous display of machines of war are used to perpetuate this myth and to create a complex of absolute impotence in the people. But no weaponry, no violence can vanquish the people once they are determined to win back their rights. Both past and present are full of examples. The most recent is the revolt in Bolivia, where miners with dynamite sticks smashed and defeated regular army regiments.
Fortunately, we Cubans need not look for examples abroad. No example is as inspiring as that of our own land. During the war of 1895 there were nearly half a million armed Spanish soldiers in Cuba, many more than the Dictator counts upon today to hold back a population five times greater. The arms of the Spaniards were, incomparably, both more up to date and more powerful than those of our mambises. Often the Spaniards were equipped with field artillery and the infantry used breechloaders similar to those still in use by the infantry of today….
I stated that the second consideration on which we based our chances for success was one of social order. Why were we sure of the people’s support? When we speak of the people we are not talking about those who live in comfort, the conservative elements of the nation, who welcome any repressive regime, any dictatorship, any despotism, prostrating themselves before the masters of the moment until they grind their foreheads into the ground. When we speak of struggle and we mention the people we mean the vast unredeemed masses, those to whom everyone makes promises and who are deceived by all; we mean the people who yearn for a better, more dignified and more just nation; who are moved by ancestral aspirations to justice, for they have suffered injustice and mockery generation after generation; those who long for great and wise changes in all aspects of their life; people who, to attain those changes, are ready to give even the very last breath they have when they believe in something or in someone, especially when they believe in themselves. The first condition of sincerity and good faith in any endeavor is to do precisely what nobody else ever does, that is, to speak with absolute clarity, without fear. The demagogues and professional politicians who manage to perform the miracle of being right about everything and of pleasing everyone are, necessarily, deceiving everyone about everything. The revolutionaries must proclaim their ideas courageously, define their principles and express their intentions so that no one is deceived, neither friend nor foe.
In terms of struggle, when we talk about people we’re talking about the six hundred thousand Cubans without work, who want to earn their daily bread honestly without having to emigrate from their homeland in search of a livelihood; the five hundred thousand farm laborers who live in miserable shacks, who work four months of the year and starve the rest, sharing their misery with their children, who don’t have an inch of land to till and whose existence would move any heart not made of stone; the four hundred thousand industrial workers and laborers whose retirement funds have been embezzled, whose benefits are being taken away, whose homes are wretched quarters, whose salaries pass from the hands of the boss to those of the moneylender, whose future is a pay reduction and dismissal, whose life is endless work and whose only rest is the tomb; the one hundred thousand small farmers who live and die working land that is not theirs, looking at it with the sadness of Moses gazing at the promised land, to die without ever owning it, who like feudal serfs have to pay for the use of their parcel of land by giving up a portion of its produce, who cannot love it, improve it, beautify it nor plant a cedar or an orange tree on it because they never know when a sheriff will come with the rural guard to evict them from it; the thirty thousand teachers and professors who are so devoted, dedicated and so necessary to the better destiny of future generations and who are so badly treated and paid; the twenty thousand small business men weighed down by debts, ruined by the crisis and harangued by a plague of grafting and venal officials; the ten thousand young professional people: doctors, engineers, lawyers, veterinarians, school teachers, dentists, pharmacists, newspapermen, painters, sculptors, etc., who finish school with their degrees anxious to work and full of hope, only to find themselves at a dead end, all doors closed to them, and where no ears hear their clamor or supplication. These are the people, the ones who know misfortune and, therefore, are capable of fighting with limitless courage! To these people whose desperate roads through life have been paved with the bricks of betrayal and false promises, we were not going to say: ‘We will give you …’ but rather: ‘Here it is, now fight for it with everything you have, so that liberty and happiness may be yours!’
The five revolutionary laws that would have been proclaimed immediately after the capture of the Moncada Barracks and would have been broadcast to the nation by radio must be included in the indictment. It is possible that Colonel Chaviano may deliberately have destroyed these documents, but even if he has I remember them.
The first revolutionary law would have returned power to the people and proclaimed the 1940 Constitution the Supreme Law of the State until such time as the people should decide to modify or change it. And in order to effect its implementation and punish those who violated it – there being no electoral organization to carry this out – the revolutionary movement, as the circumstantial incarnation of this sovereignty, the only source of legitimate power, would have assumed all the faculties inherent therein, except that of modifying the Constitution itself: in other words, it would have assumed the legislative, executive and judicial powers.
This attitude could not be clearer nor more free of vacillation and sterile charlatanry. A government acclaimed by the mass of rebel people would be vested with every power, everything necessary in order to proceed with the effective implementation of popular will and real justice. From that moment, the Judicial Power – which since March 10th had placed itself against and outside the Constitution – would cease to exist and we would proceed to its immediate and total reform before it would once again assume the power granted it by the Supreme Law of the Republic. Without these previous measures, a return to legality by putting its custody back into the hands that have crippled the system so dishonorably would constitute a fraud, a deceit, one more betrayal.
The second revolutionary law would give non-mortgageable and non-transferable ownership of the land to all tenant and subtenant farmers, lessees, share croppers and squatters who hold parcels of five caballerías of land or less, and the State would indemnify the former owners on the basis of the rental which they would have received for these parcels over a period of ten years.
The third revolutionary law would have granted workers and employees the right to share 30% of the profits of all the large industrial, mercantile and mining enterprises, including the sugar mills. The strictly agricultural enterprises would be exempt in consideration of other agrarian laws which would be put into effect.
The fourth revolutionary law would have granted all sugar planters the right to share 55% of sugar production and a minimum quota of forty thousand arrobas for all small tenant farmers who have been established for three years or more.
The fifth revolutionary law would have ordered the confiscation of all holdings and ill-gotten gains of those who had committed frauds during previous regimes, as well as the holdings and ill-gotten gains of all their legates and heirs. To implement this, special courts with full powers would gain access to all records of all corporations registered or operating in this country, in order to investigate concealed funds of illegal origin, and to request that foreign governments extradite persons and attach holdings rightfully belonging to the Cuban people. Half of the property recovered would be used to subsidize retirement funds for workers and the other half would be used for hospitals, asylums and charitable organizations.
Furthermore, it was declared that the Cuban policy in the Americas would be one of close solidarity with the democratic peoples of this continent, and that all those politically persecuted by bloody tyrannies oppressing our sister nations would find generous asylum, brotherhood and bread in the land of Martí; not the persecution, hunger and treason they find today. Cuba should be the bulwark of liberty and not a shameful link in the chain of despotism.
These laws would have been proclaimed immediately. As soon as the upheaval ended and prior to a detailed and far reaching study, they would have been followed by another series of laws and fundamental measures, such as the Agrarian Reform, the Integral Educational Reform, nationalization of the electric power trust and the telephone trust, refund to the people of the illegal and repressive rates these companies have charged, and payment to the treasury of all taxes brazenly evaded in the past.
All these laws and others would be based on the exact compliance of two essential articles of our Constitution: one of them orders the outlawing of large estates, indicating the maximum area of land any one person or entity may own for each type of agricultural enterprise, by adopting measures which would tend to revert the land to the Cubans. The other categorically orders the State to use all means at its disposal to provide employment to all those who lack it and to ensure a decent livelihood to each manual or intellectual laborer. None of these laws can be called unconstitutional. The first popularly elected government would have to respect them, not only because of moral obligations to the nation, but because when people achieve something they have yearned for throughout generations, no force in the world is capable of taking it away again.
The problem of the land, the problem of industrialization, the problem of housing, the problem of unemployment, the problem of education and the problem of the people’s health: these are the six problems we would take immediate steps to solve, along with restoration of civil liberties and political democracy.
This exposition may seem cold and theoretical if one does not know the shocking and tragic conditions of the country with regard to these six problems, along with the most humiliating political oppression….
The nation’s future, the solutions to its problems, cannot continue to depend on the selfish interests of a dozen big businessmen nor on the cold calculations of profits that ten or twelve magnates draw up in their air-conditioned offices. The country cannot continue begging on its knees for miracles from a few golden calves, like the Biblical one destroyed by the prophet’s fury. Golden calves cannot perform miracles of any kind. The problems of the Republic can be solved only if we dedicate ourselves to fight for it with the same energy, honesty and patriotism our liberators had when they founded it. Statesmen like Carlos Saladrigas, whose statesmanship consists of preserving the statu quo and mouthing phrases like ‘absolute freedom of enterprise,’ ‘guarantees to investment capital’ and ‘law of supply and demand,’ will not solve these problems. Those ministers can chat away in a Fifth Avenue mansion until not even the dust of the bones of those whose problems require immediate solution remains. In this present-day world, social problems are not solved by spontaneous generation.
A revolutionary government backed by the people and with the respect of the nation, after cleansing the different institutions of all venal and corrupt officials, would proceed immediately to the country’s industrialization, mobilizing all inactive capital, currently estimated at about 1.5 billion pesos, through the National Bank and the Agricultural and Industrial Development Bank, and submitting this mammoth task to experts and men of absolute competence totally removed from all political machines for study, direction, planning and realization….
Chronicles of our history, down through four and a half centuries, tell us of many acts of cruelty: the slaughter of defenseless Indians by the Spaniards; the plundering and atrocities of pirates along the coast; the barbarities of the Spanish soldiers during our War of Independence; the shooting of prisoners of the Cuban Army by the forces of Weyler; the horrors of the Machado regime, and so on through the bloody crimes of March, 1935. But never has such a sad and bloody page been written in numbers of victims and in the viciousness of the victimizers, as in Santiago de Cuba. Only one man in all these centuries has stained with blood two separate periods of our history and has dug his claws into the flesh of two generations of Cubans. To release this river of blood, he waited for the Centennial of the Apostle, just after the fiftieth anniversary of the Republic, whose people fought for freedom, human rights and happiness at the cost of so many lives. Even greater is his crime and even more condemnable because the man who perpetrated it had already, for eleven long years, lorded over his people – this people who, by such deep-rooted sentiment and tradition, loves freedom and repudiates evil. This man has furthermore never been sincere, loyal, honest or chivalrous for a single minute of his public life….
When the fighting was over, the soldiers descended like savage beasts on Santiago de Cuba and they took the first fury of their frustrations out against the defenseless population. In the middle of a street, and far from the site of the fighting, they shot through the chest an innocent child who was playing by his doorstep. When the father approached to pick him up, they shot him through his head. Without a word they shot ‘Niño’ Cala, who was on his way home with a loaf of bread in his hands. It would be an endless task to relate all the crimes and outrages perpetrated against the civilian population. And if the Army dealt thus with those who had had no part at all in the action, you can imagine the terrible fate of the prisoners who had taken part or who were believed to have taken part. Just as, in this trial, they accused many people not at all involved in our attack, they also killed many prisoners who had no involvement whatsoever. The latter are not included in the statistics of victims released by the regime; those statistics refer exclusively to our men. Some day the total number of victims will be known….
Honorable Judges: I am that humble citizen who one day demanded in vain that the Courts punish the power-hungry men who had violated the law and torn our institutions to shreds. Now that it is I who am accused for attempting to overthrow this illegal regime and to restore the legitimate Constitution of the Republic, I am held incommunicado for 76 days and denied the right to speak to anyone, even to my son; between two heavy machine guns I am led through the city. I am transferred to this hospital to be tried secretly with the greatest severity; and the Prosecutor with the Code in his hand solemnly demands that I be sentenced to 26 years in prison.
You will answer that on the former occasion the Courts failed to act because force prevented them from doing so. Well then, confess, this time force will compel you to condemn me. The first time you were unable to punish the guilty; now you will be compelled to punish the innocent. The maiden of justice twice raped.
And so much talk to justify the unjustifiable, to explain the inexplicable and to reconcile the irreconcilable! The regime has reached the point of asserting that ‘Might makes right’ is the supreme law of the land. In other words, that using tanks and soldiers to take over the presidential palace, the national treasury, and the other government offices, and aiming guns at the heart of the people, entitles them to govern the people! The same argument the Nazis used when they occupied the countries of Europe and installed their puppet governments.
I heartily believe revolution to be the source of legal right; but the nocturnal armed assault of March 10th could never be considered a revolution. In everyday language, as José Ingenieros said, it is common to give the name of revolution to small disorders promoted by a group of dissatisfied persons in order to grab, from those in power, both the political sinecures and the economic advantages. The usual result is no more than a change of hands, the dividing up of jobs and benefits. This is not the criterion of a philosopher, as it cannot be that of a cultured man.
Leaving aside the problem of integral changes in the social system, not even on the surface of the public quagmire were we able to discern the slightest motion that could lessen the rampant putrefaction. The previous regime was guilty of petty politics, theft, pillage, and disrespect for human life; but the present regime has increased political skullduggery five-fold, pillage ten-fold, and a hundred-fold the lack of respect for human life….
Batista’s regime has not set in motion a single nationwide program of betterment for the people. Batista delivered himself into the hands of the great financial interests. Little else could be expected from a man of his mentality – utterly devoid as he is of ideals and of principles, and utterly lacking the faith, confidence and support of the masses. His regime merely brought with it a change of hands and a redistribution of the loot among a new group of friends, relatives, accomplices and parasitic hangers-on that constitute the political retinue of the Dictator. What great shame the people have been forced to endure so that a small group of egoists, altogether indifferent to the needs of their homeland, may find in public life an easy and comfortable modus vivendi….
I have related all this in order to ask you now: Can this state of affairs be called a revolution, capable of formulating law and establishing rights? Is it or is it not legitimate to struggle against this regime? And must there not be a high degree of corruption in the courts of law when these courts imprison citizens who try to rid the country of so much infamy?
Cuba is suffering from a cruel and base despotism. You are well aware that resistance to despots is legitimate. This is a universally recognized principle and our 1940 Constitution expressly makes it a sacred right, in the second paragraph of Article 40: ‘It is legitimate to use adequate resistance to protect previously granted individual rights.’ And even if this prerogative had not been provided by the Supreme Law of the Land, it is a consideration without which one cannot conceive of the existence of a democratic collectivity. Professor Infiesta, in his book on Constitutional Law, differentiates between the political and legal constitutions, and states: ‘Sometimes the Legal Constitution includes constitutional principles which, even without being so classified, would be equally binding solely on the basis of the people’s consent, for example, the principle of majority rule or representation in our democracies.’ The right of insurrection in the face of tyranny is one such principle, and whether or not it be included in the Legal Constitution, it is always binding within a democratic society. The presentation of such a case to a high court is one of the most interesting problems of general law. Duguit has said in his Treatise on Constitutional Law: ‘If an insurrection fails, no court will dare to rule that this unsuccessful insurrection was technically no conspiracy, no transgression against the security of the State, inasmuch as, the government being tyrannical, the intention to overthrow it was legitimate.’ But please take note: Duguit does not state, ‘the court ought not to rule.’ He says, ‘no court will dare to rule.’ More explicitly, he means that no court will dare, that no court will have enough courage to do so, under a tyranny. If the court is courageous and does its duty, then yes, it will dare….
The Constitution is understood to be the basic and supreme law of the nation, to define the country’s political structure, regulate the functioning of its government agencies, and determine the limits of their activities. It must be stable, enduring and, to a certain extent, inflexible. The Statutes fulfill none of these qualifications. To begin with, they harbor a monstrous, shameless, and brazen contradiction in regard to the most vital aspect of all: the integration of the Republican structure and the principle of national sovereignty. Article 1 reads: ‘Cuba is a sovereign and independent State constituted as a democratic Republic.’ Article 2 reads: ‘Sovereignty resides in the will of the people, and all powers derive from this source.’ But then comes Article 118, which reads: ‘The President will be nominated by the Cabinet.’ So it is not the people who choose the President, but rather the Cabinet. And who chooses the Cabinet? Article 120, section 13: ‘The President will be authorized to nominate and reappoint the members of the Cabinet and to replace them when occasion arises.’ So, after all, who nominates whom? Is this not the classical old problem of the chicken and the egg that no one has ever been able to solve?
One day eighteen hoodlums got together. Their plan was to assault the Republic and loot its 350 million pesos annual budget. Behind peoples’ backs and with great treachery, they succeeded in their purpose. ‘Now what do we do next?’ they wondered. One of them said to the rest: ‘You name me Prime Minister, and I’ll make you generals.’ When this was done, he rounded up a group of 20 men and told them: ‘I will make you my Cabinet if you make me President.’ In this way they named each other generals, ministers and president, and then took over the treasury and the Republic.
What is more, it was not simply a matter of usurping sovereignty at a given moment in order to name a Cabinet, Generals and a President. This man ascribed to himself, through these Statutes, not only absolute control of the nation, but also the power of life and death over every citizen – control, in fact, over the very existence of the nation. Because of this, I maintain that the position of the Court of Social and Constitutional Rights is not only treacherous, vile, cowardly and repugnant, but also absurd.
The Statutes contain an article which has not received much attention, but which gives us the key to this situation and is the one from which we shall derive decisive conclusions. I refer specifically to the modifying clause included in Article 257, which reads: ‘This constitutional law is open to reform by the Cabinet with a two-thirds quorum vote.’ This is where mockery reaches its climax. Not only did they exercise sovereignty in order to impose a Constitution upon a people without that people’s consent, and to install a regime which concentrates all power in their own hands, but also, through Article 257, they assume the most essential attribute of sovereignty: the power to change the Basic and Supreme Law of the Land. And they have already changed it several times since March 10th. Yet, with the greatest gall, they assert in Article 2 that sovereignty resides in the will of the people and that the people are the source of all power. Since these changes may be brought about by a vote of two-thirds of the Cabinet and the Cabinet is named by the President, then the right to make and break Cuba is in the hands of one man, a man who is, furthermore, the most unworthy of all the creatures ever to be born in this land. Was this then accepted by the Court of Social and Constitutional Rights? And is all that derives from it valid and legal? Very well, you shall see what was accepted: ‘This constitutional law is open to reform by the Cabinet with a two-thirds quorum vote.’ Such a power recognizes no limits. Under its aegis, any article, any chapter, any section, even the whole law may be modified. For example, Article 1, which I have just mentioned, says that Cuba is a sovereign and independent State constituted as a democratic Republic, ‘although today it is in fact a bloody dictatorship.’ Article 3 reads: ‘The national boundaries include the island of Cuba, the Isle of Pines, and the neighboring keys …’ and so on. Batista and his Cabinet under the provisions of Article 257 can modify all these other articles. They can say that Cuba is no longer a Republic but a hereditary monarchy and he, Batista, can anoint himself king. He can dismember the national territory and sell a province to a foreign country as Napoleon did with Louisiana. He may suspend the right to life itself, and like Herod, order the decapitation of newborn children. All these measures would be legal and you would have to incarcerate all those who opposed them, just as you now intend to do with me. I have put forth extreme examples to show how sad and humiliating our present situation is. To think that all these absolute powers are in the hands of men truly capable of selling our country along with all its citizens!
As the Court of Social and Constitutional Rights has accepted this state of affairs, what more are they waiting for? They may as well hang up their judicial robes. It is a fundamental principle of general law that there can be no constitutional status where the constitutional and legislative powers reside in the same body. When the Cabinet makes the laws, the decrees and the rules – and at the same time has the power to change the Constitution in a moment of time – then I ask you: why do we need a Court of Social and Constitutional Rights? The ruling in favor of this Statute is irrational, inconceivable, illogical and totally contrary to the Republican laws that you, Honorable Judges, swore to uphold. When the Court of Social and Constitutional Rights supported Batista’s Statutes against the Constitution, the Supreme Law of the Land was not abolished but rather the Court of Social and Constitutional Rights placed itself outside the Constitution, renounced its autonomy and committed legal suicide. May it rest in peace!
The right to rebel, established in Article 40 of the Constitution, is still valid. Was it established to function while the Republic was enjoying normal conditions? No. This provision is to the Constitution what a lifeboat is to a ship at sea. The lifeboat is only launched when the ship has been torpedoed by enemies laying wait along its course. With our Constitution betrayed and the people deprived of all their prerogatives, there was only one way open: one right which no power may abolish. The right to resist oppression and injustice. If any doubt remains, there is an article of the Social Defense Code which the Honorable Prosecutor would have done well not to forget. It reads, and I quote: ‘The appointed or elected government authorities that fail to resist sedition with all available means will be liable to a sentence of interdiction of from six to eight years.’ The judges of our nation were under the obligation to resist Batista’s treacherous military coup of the 10th of March. It is understandable that when no one has observed the law and when nobody else has done his duty, those who have observed the law and have done their duty should be sent to prison.
You will not be able to deny that the regime forced upon the nation is unworthy of Cuba’s history. In his book, The Spirit of Laws, which is the foundation of the modern division of governmental power, Montesquieu makes a distinction between three types of government according to their basic nature: ‘The Republican form wherein the whole people or a portion thereof has sovereign power; the Monarchical form where only one man governs, but in accordance with fixed and well-defined laws; and the Despotic form where one man without regard for laws nor rules acts as he pleases, regarding only his own will or whim.’ And then he adds: ‘A man whose five senses constantly tell him that he is everything and that the rest of humanity is nothing is bound to be lazy, ignorant and sensuous.’ ‘As virtue is necessary to democracy, and honor to a monarchy, fear is of the essence to a despotic regime, where virtue is not needed and honor would be dangerous.’
The right of rebellion against tyranny, Honorable Judges, has been recognized from the most ancient times to the present day by men of all creeds, ideas and doctrines…. [recounts numerous historical examples from political philosophers on the right to rebel]
I believe I have sufficiently justified my point of view. I have called forth more reasons than the Honorable Prosecutor called forth to ask that I be condemned to 26 years in prison. All these reasons support men who struggle for the freedom and happiness of the people. None support those who oppress the people, revile them, and rob them heartlessly. Therefore I have been able to call forth many reasons and he could not adduce even one. How can Batista’s presence in power be justified when he gained it against the will of the people and by violating the laws of the Republic through the use of treachery and force? How could anyone call legitimate a regime of blood, oppression and ignominy? How could anyone call revolutionary a regime which has gathered the most backward men, methods and ideas of public life around it? How can anyone consider legally valid the high treason of a Court whose duty was to defend the Constitution? With what right do the Courts send to prison citizens who have tried to redeem their country by giving their own blood, their own lives? All this is monstrous to the eyes of the nation and to the principles of true justice!
Still there is one argument more powerful than all the others. We are Cubans and to be Cuban implies a duty; not to fulfill that duty is a crime, is treason. We are proud of the history of our country; we learned it in school and have grown up hearing of freedom, justice and human rights. We were taught to venerate the glorious example of our heroes and martyrs. Céspedes, Agramonte, Maceo, Gómez and Martí were the first names engraved in our minds. We were taught that the Titan once said that liberty is not begged for but won with the blade of a machete. We were taught that for the guidance of Cuba’s free citizens, the Apostle wrote in his book The Golden Age: ‘The man who abides by unjust laws and permits any man to trample and mistreat the country in which he was born is not an honorable man … In the world there must be a certain degree of honor just as there must be a certain amount of light. When there are many men without honor, there are always others who bear in themselves the honor of many men. These are the men who rebel with great force against those who steal the people’s freedom, that is to say, against those who steal honor itself. In those men thousands more are contained, an entire people is contained, human dignity is contained …’ We were taught that the 10th of October and the 24th of February are glorious anniversaries of national rejoicing because they mark days on which Cubans rebelled against the yoke of infamous tyranny. We were taught to cherish and defend the beloved flag of the lone star, and to sing every afternoon the verses of our National Anthem: ‘To live in chains is to live in disgrace and in opprobrium,’ and ‘to die for one’s homeland is to live forever!’ All this we learned and will never forget, even though today in our land there is murder and prison for the men who practice the ideas taught to them since the cradle. We were born in a free country that our parents bequeathed to us, and the Island will first sink into the sea before we consent to be the slaves of anyone….
I know that imprisonment will be harder for me than it has ever been for anyone, filled with cowardly threats and hideous cruelty. 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.
Source: Armando Hart. 2004. Inside the Cuban revolutionary underground: 1952-58. New York: Pathfinder. (pp. 78-81)
I am writing this document with the blood of my dead brothers. They are the only motivation for it. More than liberty and life itself for us, we demand justice for them. The justice we call for at this moment is not the building of a monument to the heroes and martyrs who fell in combat or were murdered after the battle. Nor is it the creation of tomb to allow the remains that lie spread over the fields of Oriente – in places that are often known only to their murderers – to rest together in peace. One cannot even speak of peace for the dead in this oppressed land. Posterity, which is always more generous to the righteous, will erect symbols to their memory, and the generations of tomorrow will, at the appropriate time, render due tribute to those who saved the honor of the homeland in this hour of infinite shame.
Why has there been no courageous denunciation of the atrocious tortures and the mass, barbaric, and insane murders that snuffed out the lives of seventy young prisoners on July 26-29, 1953? That is an unavoidable duty for those living today; not to fulfill that duty is a stain that will never be erased. The history of Cuba knows of no similar massacre – either during the colonial period or the republic. I understand that terror may have paralyzed hearts for a long time. But it is no longer possible to put up with the total shroud of silence that cowardice has cast over these frightful crimes. Crimes of such low and brutal hatred are the response of an unspeakable tyranny that has gorged its vengeance against the natural and rebellious act by the enslaved sons of Cuba’s heroic people, against its purest, most generous and idealistic. To keep enduring this would be shameful complicity, as revolting as the crime itself. The tyrant is probably licking his chops in satisfaction at the ferocity of the henchmen who defend him, and at the terror they inspire among the enemies who fight them.
The truth is known. All Cuba knows it. All Oriente knows it. All the people speak of it in low voices. On the other hand, the people also know that the despicable charges made against us of having treated the soldiers inhumanely are completely false. During the trial the government could not back up a single one of its assertions. The twenty soldiers who were taken prisoner at the beginning, and the thirty wounded during the battle – to whom we did not direct even a single offensive word – went there to give testimony. The forensic surgeons, legal experts, and even the witnesses for the prosecution did the job of demolishing the government’s account. Some gave testimony with remarkable honest. Evidence was given that our weapons had been acquired in Cuba, that we had no connection to old-time politicians, that we had not stabbed anyone, and that there had been only one victim at the Military Hospital, a patient who was wounded while looking out a window. In an unheard-of admission, the prosecutor himself was forced to recognize, in his closing statement, “the honorable and humane conduct of the assailants.”
On the other side, where were our wounded? There were only five. Ninety dead and five wounded? Can one conceive of such a proportion in any war? What became of the rest? Where are the combatants who were arrested on July 26, 27, 28 and 29? Santiago de Cuba knows the answer very well. The wounded were dragged away from private hospitals, even from the operating tables, and finished off instantly, at times even before leaving the hospital. Two wounded prisoners entered an elevator alive with their guards and came out dead. Those at the Military Hospital were injected with air and camphor in their veins. One of them, the engineering student Pedro Miret, survived this deadly procedure and told everything. Only five – I repeat five – were left alive!…
As to the prisoners, the entrance to the Moncada garrison might well have displayed the inscription appearing on the threshold of Dante’s inferno: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” Thirty were murdered the first night. The order arrived at 3:00 p.m. with Gen. Martin Diaz Tamayo, who said “it was shameful for the army to have had three times as many losses as the assailants in the battle, and that ten dead were required for every soldier killed.” This order came out of a meeting of Batista with [Francisco Tabernilla, [Manuel] Ugalde Carrillo, and other military leaders. To smooth away legal difficulties, the Council of MInisters that very Sunday evening suspended a number of provisions, including Article 26 of the Statutes, which establish a guard’s responsibility for the life of an arrested person. The order was carried out with horrible cruelty. When the dead were buried they lacked yes, teeth, testicles, and their killers deprived them even of their clothes, which they later showed without any shame. Scenes of indescribably courage took place among the tortured….
In the outskirts of Santiago de Cuba, forces led by Major Perez Chaumont murdered twenty-one combatants who were unarmed and scattered. Many of them were compelled to dig their own graves….
I hope that one day, in a Free Homeland, the heroic bones of our comrades will be brought together from the fields of indomitable Oriente and buried together as martyrs of the Centennial in one great tomb beside that of the Apostle. Their epitaph will be a phrase by Marti: “No martyr dies in vain, no idea is lost in the blowin gof the wind. It is moved farther or brought closer, but its passage always remains in one’s memory.” …
We are twenty-seven Cubans suffering imprisonment on the Isle of Pines, but our banner flies high because we still have strength to die, and we still have fists to fight with.
Forward, to the conquest of freedom!
Dr. Fidel Castro Ruz
Isle of Pines
December 12, 1953
Source: Armando Hart. 2004. Inside the Cuban revolutionary underground: 1952-58. New York: Pathfinder. (pp. 118-122).
Senor Don Cosme de la Torriente
President of the Society of Friends of the Republic
I will not be at your side when you receive this letter, as I have been forced to leave my homeland by a campaign of hatred, cowardly provocation, and tenacious persecution. This campaign was unleashed against the political prisoners as soon as we left the cells where they had kept us in solitary confinement for two years. It ended up by depriving us completely of the right to appear in any type of public event, radio or television program, or to express our thoughts orally or in writing. Finally, they closed down the last newspaper that gave space to our opinions, solely because we spoke the truth without deception and wanted what our people most deserve. When I left Cuba, I said to my fellow countrymen – and swore to myself – that either we would not return from a trip as bitter as that I was about to embark on, or else we would do so with the tyranny beheaded at our feet.
I nevertheless consider it necessary and useful to send you this letter on behalf of my comrades in struggle and ideas….
What we wish is to set forth our views, not force them on anyone. They are the views of thousands of Cuban émigrés who have had to abandon their homeland due to oppression and hunger. They are the views of a hundred thousand fighters who today group themselves under the banners of the July 26 Revolutionary Movement. Let our point of view be heard. Let the people hear it. Let the people decide….
[Y]ou requested a meeting with the dictator to find an honorable and bloodless way out of the shameful Cuban situation. Yet he responded to you with the same arrogant and odious tone, saying you were just another oppositionist, and he would receive you only to discuss the conditions in which limited elections would take place in 1956 and general elections in 1958, i.e., under his own onerous conditions.
This senseless answer was the latest link in a chain of humiliations the people have been suffering for four years. The cup of political patience overflowed, producing the miracle of the mass rally that is being witnessed tonight with the participation of all sectors in Cuba, including our underground revolutionary organization.
This fact changes completely the national picture.
It is now the people – who at the bottom have felt tremendous humiliation as a result of the this situation – who have the floor.
It is now the people who must set the terms. And once the people have had to go into the streets, Senor Don Cosme, they can no longer be satisfied with a simple promise of general elections presided over by Batista himself. Exercising a usurped power, he offers guarantees to no one. Perhaps the people would have accepted such a promise two months ago when they were divided and disoriented, when it was so senselessly denied them by the dictator. Now it is too late. Now the people are united. Now all advantages are on their side, and they will not resign themselves to so little. The giant that has stood up does not want only crumbs; he demands all the rights that have been snatched from him.
What the giant wants is punishment for those who murdered our comrades at Moncada…and many other valiant Cubans….
I am one of those Cubans, Senor Don Cosme, who cannot put out of their mind the infamous, unforeseen, and treacherous way in which Batista snatched from the republic its democratic institutions in the dark, wee hours of the morning on March 10. I am one of those Cubans seriously concerned about what guarantees the country has that similar actions will not happen again in the future. I am one of those Cubans who ask themselves if those crimes that wound the homeland will go unpunished. I am one of those Cubans who ask themselves whether a disastrous precedent is at stake for the future of the Cuban nation: the very idea that a group of ambitious men could engage in plots during an hour of misfortune for the homeland, conspire in the shadows against it, stab the republic in the back with the very saber the republic placed in their hands to guard it, govern it afterwards at their whim, dispose capriciously of the nation’s honor, of the lives of its citizens, and of the public wealth – and that in the final hour, when the time comes to settle accounts, it’s not even demanded that they resign their posts, not to mention returning everything they have stolen and receive punishment for their crimes.
The nation’s honor demands that we start by demanding Batista resign. One has to be blind not to see that the opportunity has arrived to call for this. Batista’s resignation and the transfer of power to an illustrious veteran of the War of Independence who has served his country with patriotism for sixty years inside and outside Cuba, would be accepted without resistance by the armed forces. The would moreover see in it the opportunity to free themselves from disaster.
And if Batista refused to resign, placing himself in opposition to the interests and tranquility of six million Cubans, it would suffice for the Society of Friends of the Republic – with the enormous prestige it has acquired and the unanimous support of the entire country evidenced in today’s rally – to declare civic resistance and the nonpayment of taxes, causing the regime to collapse in a week, because it would not even have enough to pay the forces supporting it. The Society of Friends of the Republic should not renounce the glory it deserves at this hour. The Society of Friends of the Republic should be firm.
To accept any other formula, with general elections presided over by Batista, would not be a solution, because the people would not believe in it. The people cannot believe in it after the barracks coup of March 10, just eighty days before the general elections, or following the shameful intimidation of November 1. Batista respects and fears a people united. But if the people are divided again into electoral groups, Batista would not have the slightest scruple in betraying them once again.
That is our opinion, Senor Don Cosme.
The only thing left to say is that we trust in your, in your tireless patriotism, your irreproachable austerity, and your unshakable firmness.
Dr. Fidel Castro
Source: Armando Hart. 2004. Inside the Cuban revolutionary underground: 1952-58. New York: Pathfinder. (pp. 123-124).
On April 4, 1956, an important sector of the army, under the command of Colonel Barquin, Major Borbonet, and others, was about to carry out a revolutionary coup against the dictatorship. Interpreting the feeling of the majority of their comrades-in-arms, they planned to return the people’s rights and liberties.
The were aspiring only to general elections with real guarantees, to the imposition of legality, and to constitutional normalcy.
They wanted civilians such as us to know that the majority of the military is not responsible for the fact that a group of murderers is enjoying power. They wanted brotherhood between civilian and soldier, genuine harmony among Cubans. Men who had become officers through merit and personal effort risked their lives and military careers for these ideals. For these principles, those who truly represent the Cuban military today endure prison on the Isle of Pines.
The Civic Resistance Movement agrees on the following to commemorate this date:
1. To declare April 4 as the Day of National Brotherhood.
2. To request that each citizen send a friend of his in the military a letter signed “A friend.” A sample letter will be distributed by our organization.
3. That we all put up signs on city walls reading, “Long live free Cuba!”
4. That the Civic Resistance Movement address a letter to soldiers.
5. To strongly urge every civilian to fraternize with military friends and make known to them that we do not fight against them, but against those who rely on the soldiers and military discipline to maintain the abnormal situation and the dictatorship.
Act in harmony with this slogan:
“April 4 – Day of National Brotherhood!”
Civic Resistance Movement
Source: Armando Hart. 2004. Inside the Cuban revolutionary underground: 1952-58. New York: Pathfinder. (pp.124-130).
By an imperative, collective necessary, a new generation has arisen to confront the revolutionary frustration that led us to the disaster of March 10, 1952. On that date a gang of common criminals seized power and destroyed the public order of the republic. The July 26 Movement, which spoke the language of facts, is a categorical response to the March coup. The Movement’s origin and aims, which we will present in these pages, reveal to us how Cuban youth have become unwilling to put up with the status quo that made possible the resounding collapse of our hollow political democracy. For this reason our aim is to become the revolutionary instrument of this new generation.
For the July 26 Movement, only those who aim at something more than simply toppling the dictatorship are capable of really eliminating [????] and progress. It has not been possible to have ideas completely govern individual conduct. The ideas of the Cuban nation, in modern times, are still maintained as a great collective hunger. They are a desire that is scattered. That is, while they exist in the realm of sentiment, emotion, and will, they have nevertheless not been definitively accepted intellectually. When the democratic and socialist idea is spelled out to its final consequence, all action will be directed along this road. At that point a group of men will emerge whose strength lies in their unbreakable unity, men who are united by the same principles and ideas, not by the doctrine of “everyone to destroy,” as Antonio Guiteras formulated it in his political testament as he analyzed the causes of the revolutionary defeat. That group will be “the team of men capable of leading Cuba toward its higher destin” that Eduardo Chibas spoke of. The July 26 Movement aspires to find, discipline, and organize that team of men. And its organ of public guidance, Aldabonazo, has the mission of discovering revolutionary ideas and elaborating them. We are not heading to battle without ideas, because war without ideas is a crime, while war with ideas is revolution.
The heroic deed of the Moncada garrison and Bayamo is the unifying factor of our scattered national will. Eighty revolutionary martyrs offer us, through their example and sacrifice, a point of convergence that illuminates the country’s future. The most beautiful lesson of that gesture was not only the courage and selflessness displayed by those brave men. It was also their conviction of the importance, transcendence, and power of their example – not to mention their discretion and organizational capacity enabling them to reach the stage of combat. Only a total identification with revolution could write into history the rebel date of July 26, 1953. Cuba must find itself both by looking to the history of the mambises and patriots; and by looking to our generation, with the living example of a legion of contemporary martyrs.
A country with human resources and qualities such as ours cannot continue living in the hands of irresponsible and improvising opportunists of the lowest moral character. The world is advancing in the field of science, and technology makes bigger strides every day. Yet we ourselves are not walking to the tune of the times, since we have not succeeded in bringing together all honest, capable, bold, and talented men and putting them at the service of the country. Such men exist, but they’re separated, far apart from one another, as if some centrifugal and malignant force were preventing their total unification. It is in the unity of these men – genuine representatives of the people of Cuba – that national unity and true democracy lie.
On the basis of its ideological position, the July 26 Revolutionary Movement for ten months has dedicated itself to publicly proclaiming the need for revolutionary action, and to constructing a powerful underground organization that gathers together and interprets the ideas of the Cuban nation, and the immediate needs of the people.
This strategy has delivered the revolution from small circles oc combatants and placed it in the hands of the people. All Cubans have the possibility of participating: not only those who take up arms, but also those prepared to leave work, to contribute financially to buy the rifles, or to extend help to the revolution a thousand different ways. Large sectors of the population have, for a number of years, felt cut off from the struggle for freedom. The July 26 Movement, with a popular strategy and with insurrectional tactics, is incorporating these sectors into the revolution.
Since revolutionary language has begun to be spoken publicly, large and important gains have been made. The government is staggering in face of the latest mass conspiracy.
In these few months, the March regime has entered its definitive crisis. The crisis has reached the armed forces, undermining internal discipline and breaking its “monolithic unity.” on the one hand the tanquista elements terrified by their unsustainable situation, aligned themselves with the forces of gangsterism and established contact with the Dominican satrap Rafael Leonidas Trujillo. The two most negative forces in our society – tanquismo on a military level and gangsterism on a civic level – appear joined together in sinister and insane plots.
On the other hand, the young officers of the army, in face of the imminent crisis and imbued with the democratic and civic teachings of the Higher Academy of War, silently and laboriously prepared a strricly military coup d’etat, but one whose aims were undoubtedly democratic and civic-minded. We say this taking full responsibility for our words, and with the moral authority of being the only the only organization consciously preparing civilians to make a revolution and that is totally separate and apart from the aborted military movement. No one has a right to question the good faith and patriotism of these military men, just as no one has the moral authority to criticize the military institutes for trying to topple the dictatorship. At the same time, no one has a right to wait for the regime to fall through action by forces within the military alone. Men such as the conspirators of April 3 are our brothers in ideas within the army. The words spoken at the court-martial by one of them, that “they did not want soldiers and civilians to look at each other as enemies but as brothers,” are, as accurately stated by the central leader of the July 26 Movement Fidel Castro, “the most beautiful words spoken by a Cuban soldier since the end of the War of Independence.”
With joy the people have seen how false is the boast by the dictatorship’s cheerleaders that the entire army is with them. Within the military institutes, the seed of rebellion has already been planted, and that seed will sprout again when civic action makes itself felt.
All this has created an increasingly violent situation in the country. In this same issue, we present news of the most recent events in Santiago de Cuba and Matanzas, the military occupation of the Universities of Oriente and Havana, the murder of civilians, the tortures suffered by many companeros, and a whole series of grave events that are putting the country on “the brink of an abyss,” to use a phrase by a political commentator. We are in the midst of a terrible revolutionary conclusion that, with a sense of responsibility, we foretold some time ago. We have been led to this conclusion by the incapacity of the political leaders on the one hand, and the intransigence of the government on the other. The economic crisis, aggravated by smuggling, illegal gambling, scandalous embezzlement of the public treasure, and the precipitous fall of business activity due to the most recent events, has already brought us to the inevitable edge of collapse. To try and avoid war at this time, to halt the uncontainable force of the people, is an unpardonable crime. Those who try to do so – who continue talking about peace while the regime has destroyed every possibility for conciliation, every possibility for an understanding even with those who do not want revolution – will have to answer for their crime.
The people have taken their road, and the July 26 Movement is now guiding them. The fulfillment of our program is guaranteed, because the revolution is already a reality, and, as Marti said, “the people are the only leader of revolutions.”
In bringing out the first issue of our underground newspaper, we issue a fraternal call to all revolutionary groups and sectors to join the July 26 Revolutionary Movement in an organized fashion. We call on all honest men of the country to make a supreme effort, as the popular classes have already been doing, by contributing funds to the definitive triumph of the Cuban Revolution – a revolution that is not the work of one or another group, but of the entire people.
Source: Armando Hart. 2004. Inside the Cuban revolutionary underground: 1952-58. New York: Pathfinder. (pp. 131-134).
Mr. Adolfo Ruiz Cortines
Honorable President of the United States of Mexico:
In the interests of good relations between your government and the people of Cuba, the student and revolutionary organizations of Cuba consider it extremely useful to send you this message spelling out the thinking of hundreds of thousands of Cubans who have watched with great concern the arrest of several of our compatriots in Mexico City. Noteworthy among them is Dr. Fidel Castro Ruz, leader of the July 26 Revolutionary Movement and a pillar of Cuban youth. We cannot address you through diplomatic channels, since we deny legitimacy to the government set up by the military uprising of March 10, 1952. We are therefore doing so b y way of an open letter, so the peoples of Mexico and Cuba can become familiar with our views. They will ultimately be the best judge of a question that creates such anger among us….
Cuba, Honorable Mr. President, is on the verge of revolution that will transform the social and political order and will lay the foundations of a socialist and revolutionary democracy. We represent the vanguard of that revolution. Due to circumstances that can no longer be denied, we have the patriotic duty to lead the people during this uncertain moment when the government has driven them into a seeming blind alley. We don’t need to explain to you the reasons we have taken this route….
In Cuba there are political, social, economic, cultural, and even economic reasons that lead us to take the unavoidable road of violence. By doing so we are doing nothing else but following the example of MExico, among others. Neither you nor your government – which arose during the stage of the Mexican Revolution’s institutionalization – can ignore the fact that Fidel Castro and his arrested comrades are fulfilling the same duty as the men who in 1910 made possible the overthrow of Porfirio Diaz’s one-man regime. How great is the resemblance between that regime, in its origins and policies, and the one endured today by our homeland! At the time of the fall of President Lerdo de Tejada, Jose Marti – who was then in Mexico – prophetically stated that the Aztec people had thirty years of tyranny ahead of them. Indeed, up until 1910 it was not possible to break the ring of plutocratic interests that kept in power those who forgot the people, drowning the Mexican impulse. Your government – the offspring of that revolution – should not deny us the right to prevent a recurrence in our land of what we today observe in the sister land of Santo Domingo, wehre to the disgrace of the Americas an oppressive system has been in power for more than thirty years. We must not permit the thirty-year regime of a Juan Vicente Gomez and so many other cases, such as those of Rosas in Argentina, Francia in Paraguay, and Ubico in Guatemala. We would be betraying the history of the Americas if we stopped this fight, just as you would have betrayed in forty years ago had you chosen the easy and comfortable option of accommodation. Accommodation! That, Mr. President, is what has caused so much harm to the Americas and particularly to Cuba.
We know only too well that in international practice, where so many different interests come into play, it is necessary to view these problems from a different angle. But international practice cannot pass over the reasons that brought you to the head of the Mexican state, i.e., democracy, the people, and the law.
We are not going to demand that Mexico side with us, because we know the international commitments it must fulfill. We are not request that your government adopt the same stance as taken by Eloy Alfaro, president of Ecuador, who [in 1895] officially recognized Cuba’s independence in the very midst of war. That would be a heroic act, and heroic acts, while laudable, cannot be demanded. What we want from you is understanding.
A Mexican newspaper stated that Fidel Castro had turned his asylum into a lair. It is understandable that those who have not known liberty may hold that opinion. But those who have been able to study our history and learn the principles that took our liberators to war have no moral justification for such nonsense. If the attitude of our fellow countrymen is to be judged. Mr. President, this should be done bearing in mind that they are not holed up in a lair, but are selfless fighters for Cuba’s freedom.
No serious evidence has been submitted that they violated Mexican laws. Press dispatches reporting the news are filled with contradictions, such as the report that Fidel Castro left Cuba several months ago with a passport obtained by various communist leaders. The truth is that he departed for exile in July 1955 with a Cuban passport, in broad daylight and in public, after the doors of all newspapers and radio programs had been closed to him by government decree and repression had been unleashed against him and his friends. Yet these companeros are still being held in prison with no other explanation than the fantastic accusations, which no one believes, of ties to communist organizations preparing to assassinate Batista.
No, Honorable Mr. President. Your obligation is to feel yourself together with your people and with us, and for that reason we respectfully request you to act in this case.
No arguments can make you remain with arms folded in face of such violations of Latin America’s norms of life. Or is it perhaps, to latin America’s disgrace, that once more “the full dignity of man” – placed by Jose Marti at the very center of Latin American political thought – is to be ignored?
Mexico, which set an example for the world by sending the intruding Prince Maximilian of Austria to the firing squad, cannot allow the tyrant of a sister land to intrude in its domestic policy….
As the magazine Bohemia put it – one of the loftiest voices of the continent – all of America is attentively watching Mexico’s actions.
The decision is in your hands, Mr. President. Save the prestige of the Mexican Revolution, which some have attempted to cast aspersion on. The brother peoples of the continent have their eyes focused on the Aztec capital. From there, the scene of so many struggles for Mexico’s redemption, a word must come forth to end this irritating incident. And that word must be freedom.
Yours in revolution,
Armando Hart Davalos
Source: Armando Hart. 2004. Inside the Cuban revolutionary underground: 1952-58. New York: Pathfinder. (pp. 207-209).
The regime’s appeals and guarantees to Cuban students are motivated by its urgent need to present a facade of normalcy. This is a desperate effort by the government to recover from the discredit into which it has sunk as a result of the terror and abuses it has carried out across the country. Students are summoned to class at a time when the dictator – petulant, ostentatious, and arrogant as always – refuses to abolish censorship and dares to scold the Cuban press corps, with utterly no shame. It is none other than the colonels who invaded what has traditionally been the civilian sector of education and began issuing orders. The class schedules have been decided in the garrisons. Under the pressure of threats, the teaching staff, humiliated and with its functions trampled on, issues unfortunate calls to class that lack only the title “Military Order Number X.” Unscrupulous politicians have gotten their relatives and their kowtowing supports to take admission exams in an attempt to artificially create a student body.
But constitutional guarantees remain suspended, and there is no reduction in the terror’s viciousness. The calls to class are made energetically, as an ultimatum, exposing their origin. An attempt is being made to bring youth into the classrooms through the common denominator of military vigilance and regulation. The troops are quartered and have erected barricades at the very doors of the campus. The idea seems to be to create docile students, in accordance with official interests….
The hangmen smile “broadly and cordially.” They lie! Their smile is the hissing of serpents. How can an educational climate be created without guarantees? How can Cuban students, forged in the purest traditions of sacrifice and rebellion, as a firm army of freedom, lend themselves to the fraud of a nonexistent normalcy? In the even that young people do go to school,, what will happen when the students, in a demonstration of civic consciousness, wish to comply with the sacred duty of rendering tribute to their dead? It is not necessary to answer these questions. Every Cuban knows the answers. Consequently, a satisfactory climate to attend classes does not exist. Throughout all the eras of our history, Cuban students have proved to be the most sincere and selfless advanced contingent of our society. Their struggle against tyranny, their condemnation of and opposition to the governments of thieves we have endured, their daring and bold conduct in face of the official criminals and licensed barbarians – all this has meant that the pantheon of their martyr and heroes has grown: Ruben Batista, the martyrs of 7 Humboldt Street, Jose A. Echeverria and other students killed on March 13, Rene Fraga, Josue Pais, Jose Tey, Raul Cervantes, and so many others. They are the newly dead, with gravesites fertilized by example, by the inflamed soil of Mt. Turquino, by the bloodstained streets of Havana, Cienfuegos, and Santiago de Cuba. IS it possible a single student forgets this? The youth of Cuba have sworn a commitment to sacrifice for the homeland. And those who gave up promising lives, even perhaps a happy future, who exchanged the book for extreme action with integrity and bravery, call out from the graves or from the lines of combat – in the Sierra or in the city – mandating us to close ranks in the crusade against the tyrant.
We should answer the garrisons’ summons to class with a resounding “NO!” That is our simple answer to the despots.
With Batista there will be no classes!
Freedom or death!
July 26 Revolutionary Movement
Source: Armando Hart. 2004. Inside the Cuban revolutionary underground: 1952-58. New York: Pathfinder. (pp. 210-225).
To the leaders of:
The Cuban Revolutionary Party
The Cuban People’s Party
The Authentic Organization
The Federation of University Students
The Revolutionary Directorate
The Revolutionary Workers Directorate
A moral, patriotic, and even historic duty compels me to address this letter to you, motivated by events and circumstances that have concerned us deeply these last few weeks, which have also been the busiest and most difficult ones since our arrival in Cuba. For it was on Wednesday, November 20, a day when our forces sustained three battles in the space of only six hours (suggesting the sacrifices and efforts that our men here have made, without the slightest aid from other organizations), that we received in our zone of operations the surprising news and the document containing the public and secret terms of the Unity Pact, said to have been signed in Miami by the July 26 Movement and the organizations I am now addressing. Perhaps it was through an irony of fate that the arrival of this document – at a time when arms are what we need – coincided with the strongest offensive the dictatorship has launched against us.
Under the conditions of struggle we face, communications are difficult. Nevertheless, in the very midst of operations, it was necessary to convene the leaders of our organization to discuss this matter, in which not only the prestige but even the historical justification of the July 26 Movement is at stake.
Our men are fighting an enemy incomparably superior in numbers and in weapons. For an entire year they have sustained themselves with nothing but the dignity with which one fights for a cause he truly loves and the conviction that it is a cause worth dying for. They have tasted the bitterness of being forgotten by other compatriots who, possessing all the means to assist them, have systematically – if not criminally – refused to do so. They have seen, at close range, daly sacrifice in its purest and most selfless form. They have experienced the pain of seeing the best among them fall, not knowing who beside them will perish in new and inevitable holocausts to come, fated not to see the day of triumph they so tenaciously worked for, with no other hope or aspiration than that their sacrifice not be in vain. It is not difficult to understand why the news of a widely and deliberately publicized pact, which commits the Movement to a future course without even the courtesy – not to speak of the elementary obligation – of consulting its leaders and combatants, would provoke the ire and indignation of us all….
No matter how desperate our situation in the face of thousands of the dictatorship’s troops mobilized to annihilate us, and perhaps with more determination because of it (since nothing is more humiliating than to accept an onerous condition under trying circumstances), we would never accept the sacrifice of certain principles that are fundamental to our conception of the Cuban Revolution. These principles are contained in the Manifesto of the Sierra Maestra.
To omit from the unity document the explicit declaration that we reject every form of foreign intervention in the internal affairs of Cuba is a sign of lukewarm patriotism and of cowardice, which must be condemned in and of itself.
Declaring that we are opposed to intervention is not simply asking that there be no intervention in support of the revolution, which would undercut our sovereignty and undermine a principle that affects all the peoples of the Americas. It also means opposing all intervention on the side of the dictatorship by supplying the planes, bombs, tanks, and modern weapons that maintain it in power. No one knows this better than we do, not to mention the peasants of the Sierra, who have suffered it in their own flesh and blood.
In short, ending such intervention means achieving the overthrow of the dictatorship. Are we such cowards that we won’t even demand no intervention on the side of Batista? Are we so insincere that we ask in an underhanded way for someone else to pull our chestnuts out of the fire? Are we so halfhearted that we dare not utter a single word on the issue? How then can we call ourselves revolutionaries and subscribe to a unity document with historical pretensions?
The unity document omits the explicit rejection of any kind of military junta as a provisional government of the republic.
The worst thing that could happen to Cuba at the present time would be the replacement of Batista by a military junta, as this would be accompanied by the deceptive illusion tha tthe nation’s problems had been resolved by the dictator’s absence. There are some politicians of the worst strope, including accomplices of the March 10 coup now estranged from it (perhaps for ebing even more tanquista and ambitious), who are considering solutions that only enemies of the country’s progress would look kindly on.
Experience in Latin America has shown that all military juntas tend toward autocracy. The worst of all evils that has gripped this continent is the implantation of military castes in countries with fewer wars that Switzerland and more generals than Prussia. One of our people’s most legitimate aspirations at this crucial hour, when the fate of democracy and the republic will either be saved or ruined for many years to come, is to guard the most precious legacy of our country’s liberators: the tradition of civilian rule. This tradition dates back to the emancipation struggle and was broken the day a uniformed junta first took control of the republic – something never attempted by even the most glorious generals of our independence struggle, either in wartime or in peace.
Are we willing to renounce everything we believe in? Are we to omit such an important declaration of principles out of fear of wounding sensibilities? (This is a fear more imagined than real with regard to honest officers who could support us.) Is it so hard to understand that a timely definition of principles might forestall in time the danger of a military junta that would serve no other purpose than perpetuating the civil war?
We do not hesitate to declare that if a military junta replaces Batista, the July 26 Movement will resolutely continue its struggle for liberation. It is preferable to do battle today than to fall into a new and insurmountable abyss tomorrow. Neither military junta nor a puppet government that would be the toy of the military. The slogan should be: “Civilians, govern with decency and honor. Soldiers, go to your barracks.” And each and everyone, do your duty!
Or are we to wait for the generals of the March 10 coup, to whom Batista will gladly cede power whenever he considers it unsustainable as the best way to guarantee a transition that does the least damage to his interests and those of his cronies? It is astounding how lack of vision, absence of high ideals, and lack of a genuine desire to struggle can blind Cuban politicians!
If one lacks faith in the people, if one lacks confidence in their great reserves of energy and struggle, then one has no right to interfere with their destiny, distorting and misdirecting it during the most heroic and promising moments of the republic’s life. Keep the revolutionary process free of all dirty politicking, all childish ambitions, all lust for personal gain, all attempts to divide up the spoils beforehand. Men are dying in Cuba for something better. Let the politicians become revolutionaries, if that is what they so desire; but don’t turn the revolution into bastard politics. Our people have shed too much blood and made too many sacrifices to deserve such bitter frustration in the future!
Another point that is equally unacceptable to the July 26 Movement is secret provision number 8, which states: “The revolutionary forces are to be incorporated, with their weapons, into the regular armed bodies of the republic.”
In the first place, what is meant by “revolutionary forces”? Are we to grant a badge of membership to every policeman, sailor, soldier, and everyone else who at the final hour comes forward with a weapon in his hand? Are to give a uniform and invest authority to those who today have weapons kept in hiding, in order to take them out on the day of triumph? To those who are standing aside while a handful of compatriots battle the entire forces of the tyranny? Are we to include, in a revolutionary document, the very seed of gangsterism and anarchy, which not very long ago were the shame of the republic?
Our experience in the territory dominated by our forces has taught us that the maintenance of public order is a key question for the country. Events have shown us that as soon as the prevailing order is eliminated, as eries of problems are unleashed and crime, if left unchecked, sprouts up all over. It was the timely application of severe measures, with full public blessing, that put an end to the outbreak of banditry. The local residents, accustomed in the past to viewing agents of authority as enemies of the people, used to offer protection and shelter to those feeling from justice. Now, when they see our soldiers as defenders of their interests, the most complete order prevails; and the best guardians of it are the citizens themselves.
Anarchy is the worst enemy of a revolutionary process. To combat it from now on is a fundamental need. Whoever does not understand this has no concern for the fate of the revolution, and those who have not sacrificed for the revolution, logically enough, do not share this concern. The country needs to know that there will be justice, but under the strictest order. Crime will be punished no matter where it comes from.
The July 26 Movement claims for itself the role of maintaining public order and reorganizing the armed forces of the republic.
1. Because it is the only organization that possesses organized and disciplined militias throughout the country, as well as an army in the field, with twenty victories over the enemy.
2. Because our combatants have demonstrated a spirit of chivalry free of all hatred toward the military, invariably respecting the lives of prisoners, tending their wounded, never torturing an adversary, even when they are known to possess important information. And they have maintained this conduct with an unprecedented equanimity.
3. Because the armed forces must be imbued with the spirit of justice and nobility that the July 26 Movement has instilled in its own soldiers.
4. Because the calmness with which we have acted in this struggle is the best guarantee that honorable military men have nothing to fear from the revolution. They will not be held accountable for those whose deeds and crimes have disgraced the military uniform….
The entire population has risen up. If there were enough weapons, our detachments would not have to guard a single zone. The peasants would not allow a single enemy soldier to pass. The defeats of the dictatorship, which obstinately sends large forces, could be disastrous. Anything I could tell you about the courage of the people here would be too little. The dictatorship takes barbaric reprisals. Its mass murder of peasants compares with the massacres perpetrated by the Nazis in any country of Europe. Each defeat it suffers is paid for by the defenseless population. The communiques issued by the general staff announcing rebel losses are always preceded by a massacre. This has led the people to a state of absolute rebellion. But what is most painful, what makes one’s heart bleed, is to think that no one has sent a single rifle to these people. While peasants here see their homes burned and their families murdered, desperately begging for rifles, there are arms hidden away in Cuba that are not being used, not even to eliminate a single miserable henchman. It seems they are waiting for these weapons to be captured by the police, or for the tranny to fall, or for the rebels to be exterminated.
There is nothing less noble than the actions of many compatriots. Even now there is still time to correct this and help those who are fighting. As far as we are concerned, from a personal point of view, this is unimportant. No one should worry that we are motivated by self-interest or pride.
Our fate is sealed; no uncertainty torments us. Either we die here to the the last rebel, and whole generation of Cuban youth will perish in the cities; or we triumph against the most incredible obstacles. For us defeat is impossible. The year of sacrifice and heroism that our men have withstood can no longer be easily erased. Our men, firmer than ever, will fight to the last drop of blood.
The defeat will be for those who denied us all assistance; those who made initial commitments but left us on our own. It will be for those, lacking faith in dignity and ideas, who wasted their time and their prestige in shameful dealings with the despot Trujillo. The defeat will be for those having weapons but who cowardly hid them at the hour of battle. It is they, not we, who deceive themselves….
The new government will be guided by the constitution of 1940, will guarantee all rights recognized therein, and will be free of all political partisanship.
The executive branch will assume the legislative functions that the constitution grants to the congress of the republic. It will have as its principal duty to lead the country toward general elections in accordance with the electoral code of 1943 and the constitution of 1940 and to carry out the ten-point minimum program put forward in the Manifesto of the Sierra Maestra.
The Supreme Court will be declared dissolved as a result of its incapacity to resolve the situation of lawlessness created by the coup. This does not preclude that some if its current members may be named to the new body, provided they defended constitutional principles or maintained a firm attitude against crime, arbitrary behavior, and abuse during those years of tyranny.
The president of the republic will decide on the manner of constituting the new Supreme Court, which in turn will proceed to reorganize all the courts and autonomous institutions, removing all those whom it considers to have been clearly complicit with the tyranny. Acting impartially it will remand such individuals to trial when appropriate. In each case new officials will be named in accordance with the law.
Political parties will have only one right during the life of the provisional government: the freedom to defend their program before the people, to mobilize and organize citizens within the broad framework of our constitution, and to participate in the general elections that are called….
These are our conditions, the disinterested conditions of an organization whose sacrifices exceed all others but was not even consulted when its name was put on a unity manifesto it does not subscribe to. If they are rejected, then we will continue the struggle on our own, as we have done up to now, with no weapons other than those we take from the enemy in each battle, with no aid other than that given by the suffering people, with no source of sustenance other than our ideas.
For when all is said and done, it is the July 26 Movement alone that has been carrying out actions throughout the entire country. It is the members of the July 26 Movement alone who have spread rebellion from the wild mountains of Oriente to the western provinces of the country. It is the members of the July 26 Movement alone who are carrying out sabotage, the execution of assassins, the burning of cane fields, and other revolutionary acts. It is the July 26 Movement alone that has been able to organize workers in revolutionary action throughout the nation. It is also the July 26 Movement alone that today can carry out the strategy of strike committees. And it is the July 26 Movement alone that has helped organize the Civic Resistance Movement, which today groups together the civic sectors in almost all the localities of Cuba.
Some may interpret these words as arrogance. HOwever, it is also the July 26 Movement alone that has declared it does not want to participate in the provisional government, and it is the one organization that has put all its moral and material power at the service of the ideal citizen to preside over the necessary provisional period.
Let it be understood that we have renounced any quest for bureaucratic posts or participation in the government. But let it also be known once and for all that the membership of the July 26 Movement does not renounce – and will never renounce – orienting and leading the people from clandestinity, from the Sierra Maestra, or from the graves of our dead. And we do not renounce this, because it is not we but an entire generation that has the moral commitment toward the people of Cuba to fundamentally resolve our great problems.
We are prepared, even if alone, to triumph or die. The struggle will never be as difficult as it was when we were only twelve men; when we did not possess the formidable mass support demonstrated at the time of the death of our unforgettable Frank Pais.
To die with dignity does not require company.
Fidel Castro Ruz
For the National Directorate of the July 26 Movement,
Sierra Maestra, December 15, 1957
Source: “Batista’s Speech” retrieved 27 August 2012 from http://www.latinamericanstudies.org [my translation]
Their Excellencies of the Diplomatic Body;
Glorious members of the Liberation Army;
The Revolution that consolidated the independence of the Republic, confirmed Cuban sovereignty, fortified the economy, amplified the culture and gave better living conditions to the people, celebrates today its 25th anniversary.
The soldier was the fundamental factor in the urgent bolstering of the weak Republican structure. Then, as now, the patriotic zeal of the men in uniform was classified as militant and dictatorial. That great historical event caused a radical change in the rhythm and style of Cuban politics. In 6 years of intense fighting, the Revolution demonstrated its democratic essence and its popular roots. As of September 4, 1933, it can be said that citizenship has been united with political function; there is now freedom of movement and personal responsibility with a most profound understanding of the people and nation. We cannot forget that in that era, the Republic had a budget of 44 million pesos, a national currency with scanty circulation and a very limited national income. The official banks did not exist and the private banks were in their infancy, without any strong organization.
THAT WHICH CUBA IS AND COULD BE
At 25 years, there are, however, dangerous circumstances that have lived in the Republic, as evidenced by the impetuous vitality of the causes that inspired the Septemberist revolution. As we compare what Cuba was and what it is, despite the dangers caused by excesses and follies, the goals that have been achieved show how much can be done in the future, if passions and rivalries don’t poison or corrupt the correct routes of progress and peace. I know that currently there are issues in which public interest is centered and which should be given immediate attention, but the popular mandate that was conferred upon me in the 1954 elections is about to expire, and it is imperative to recount, although briefly, the historical record.
OBLIGATIONS, DISSOLUTION, AND CHAOS
We want to model to the next generation differently from what are now. In the productive liberation movement we had not anticipated these ambitions or military dominance. The armed forces, which are also part of the Cuban family, are those in uniform with very strict obligations, they have suffered the consequences of the country’s march toward dissolution and chaos. That movement took place in order to resurrect the Republic from anarchy, to stop crime, to promote democracy, to develop the discipline of the armed forces, to restore authority and to elevate the condition of the soldier to dignity.
Over the back of the soldier (and we were in the most humble position on the 4th of September) weighed the handover of power, they did not claim the men’s barracks for themselves. As our purposes were very clear, we did not accept the deal to join part of the Government, because we estimated that our anonymity and inexperience should not be entrusted with the national destiny of Cube in these fateful hours. To maintain the structure of government, we had the most thankless and, without doubt, the toughest soldiers: to assume the responsibilities of maintaining the order of the countryside and the cities, to ensure the safety of families and the integrity of institutions, in moments that the nation staggered. Disjointed as was all the country, without laws protecting the citizens and the red flag flying from the mills, Soviet committees threatened the capital and the cities, households lived in distress between looting and arson attacks. While we fought against them, miraculously escaping snares, and our brothers fell over and over in the inevitable skirmishes, many of whom could have taken power for themselves but did not, were preparing to write the black law of the September men, rather than render them recognition and gratitude to the homage they deserved for the service they gave to the Republic with sacrifice and devotion.
To say our goodbye here in the birthplace of the celebrations of our Revolution, in 1944, a few days before handing over the government to a bitter opponent who had won under my Presidency, said that “the Revolution of September dissolved in a cordial and patriotic embrace, the rancor that had amassed during those dreadful times…”
The Revolution had offered before Cuba and the world, within the tragedy of the last world war, the example of unprecedented general elections.
The 10th of March, eight years later, we contemplated with Cuban pain how the gangs had prevailed, all the while there was terrible tuberculosis in the streets, great illiteracy and ignorance, and, instead of more schools, more clinics or hospitals, disorder substituted for law, gangs substituted for political parties, and administrative scandals substituted for public morals. One subaltern politics of resentment and revenge, of instability and intransigence, reigned in Cuba!
BLOODLESS AND DEMOCRATIC MOVEMENT
I will not repeat the unfortunate causes that provoked the 10th of March, nor will I recount what was sacrificed in burnt offering to the national interest, offered to cleanse the history of democratic zeal, of conviction in rooted elections and of compliance with the will of the nation.
In our own platform, we cited names, dates, facts, details and conversations that proved the need for a bloodless and peaceful movement to impede and frustrate the chaotic situation that had provoked the blow prepared for the government then, before we celebrated the next elections.
It is known that that movement was not inspired by my personal ambitions, and that only in the last instance did I accept the provisional Presidency of the Republic; because had we waited, conspiratorial plans against the Government would not have allowed us to fulfill our aspirations of a full electoral process for all without violence.
We could have produced an immediate related political organization, away from the political field that had displaced power and for those who kept the utopian ideals to obtain it. Perhaps we made a grave error, in that we had striven that all might enter the electoral process, there was still a risk that the polls would be favorable to restorationism. The opposition had objected because they were fully aware of their unpopularity in the election; in the same way, it was impossible for the Third Front to win the contest, they especially had nourished false propaganda, the mistake and the negativism of the conduct of the government fell on March 10. To each political formula the concession offered by us to guarantee the continuance of all elections were invariably responded to with violence, arrogance, and terrorism.
CRIME DOES NOT PAY
We celebrated the elections of 1954 under the power and faculties that he Constitution grants to the Superior Electoral Tribunal. I assumed the Presidency of the Republic in 1955. By relating the plans of my government in this period with the program that we have been developing and planning to execute, questions were raised as to whether I can give justification before public opinion or before the judgement of history that disrupting lives, spilling blood, attempting to destroy the economy, seizing homes and being discredited with unfair propaganda abroad, to replace a working productive government with another that is born of violence, crime and terror. Crime doesn’t pay although it views itself with the name of the Revolution!
Liberty rests in respect to right and law, and relies on both. Murder, plunder and rape infringe against the rights of others, mock the law and attack freedom.
INTENSE CRISIS AND PLAN OF WORK
Of the dangerous economic situation that we encountered in 1952, to the finishing of my term as president, there is a very different outcome. Before, the country was on the brink of catastrophe, and we had to use all the recourse of volition and imagination to overcome the situation. We grappled with small partial plans we put in place first and finally, implemented the Plan of Economic and Social Development…
[goes on to describe in detail the implementation and outcomes of the plan, stressing the ways in which Batista’s presidency improved the economic and social conditions of Cuba]
ENTERPRISE AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
For the sake of time, we are describing in short the development of a program in large part already executed and in the process of executing the rest; because we know that to present and spread the plan throughout would require the space of a book.