As mentioned in my last blog post, this week I will be sharing my research on the development of Communism in the context of Cuba. Over the last two weeks, I learned the overall historical background of the introduction, proliferation, and application of Communist ideals in Cuba under the leadership of Fidel Castro. Similar to my last post, I will first discuss in-depth my findings and then offer my reflection and a snapshot of my upcoming plan.
Cuba in the beginning of 1950s could be characterized by widespread corruption. Despite seemingly equipped prosperous economy, Cuba under the repressive regime of Fulgencio Batista was highly dependent on the United States. Batista was simply an “American puppet” who stashed money away for his interest and suppressed opposing voices(Tkacik). As a result, Cuba became the source of imported sugar, rum, cigars, and professional sportsmen for the U.S. while gang violence, poverty, gun crime, and unequal distribution of educational resources were dominating Cuban society(Service 342). Among the radicals who plotted against Batista’s rule rose a young revolutionary leader of a violent coup, Fidel Castro. Although Castro’s first attempt to attack the Moncada army barracks failed, he gained the platform to put forth his revolution and introduce his ideals with publicity.Castro then fled to Mexico and began organizing a rebel army with Che Guevara and his brother Raúl Castro. Castro’s force encountered initial failures but soon gained popularity among the peasant population because of its insistence on improved treatment of rural inhabitants. It is important to note that Castro and Raúl’s programme for a reformed Cuba at the time was vaguely outlined by a cleansed system advocating for land reform, educational advance, and democracy.
Castro himself denied having any allegiance to Communism in inventing such a system(Service 343). As Castro gained more support throughout Cuba and the U.S. cut off arms shipments to Batista’s force, Batista’s troops began to crumble. On January 1, 1959, Castro led his followers to Havana and declared the end of the Cuban Revolution.
The relationship between the U.S. and Cuba deteriorated in a confusing period after Cuba’s successful revolution. Castro did not immediately lean towards principles of Communism, but rather adopted an anti-capitalist approach to eliminate corruption. He implemented an agrarian reform, and redistributed income from the upper and middle class to lower class. His intention to modernize the Cuban economy resulted in the transfer of private property to communally ownership that largely benefited the poor.
However, Castro himself avoided anti-imperialist or communist discourse and expected economic aid form the U.S. when he visited Washington in March of 1959. But U.S.’s refusal to grant financial assistance to Cuba triggered Castro’s anger towards the U.S.(Service 344 ). Infiltration of Communist ideologies in Cuba began with a Soviet delegation’s visit to Havana. Castro admired the Soviet’s efforts countering the Americans, and impressed the visitors that he was an avid Marxist-Leninist(Service 345). In order to preserve further development of Cuba under his leadership, Castro was convinced that Soviet support would shield his country from American attacks. The gradual assimilation of the Soviet model and turning towards a socialist society grew evident when Castro applied the one-party system, strict regulations in economy, and supervision over political dissidents and media to Cuba. The U.S.-Cuban relationship was further strained by the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 when Khrushchëv agreed to install nuclear missiles on Cuba to deter American aggression. A reinforced U.S. embargo on Cuba led Castro to strengthen ties with the Soviets and promote trades of cane sugar and Soviet oil.
However, the fall of the Soviet Union in 1980s left Cuba ended subsidy for Cuban sugar and import of oil. In absence of his patron, Castro struggled to alter his Cuban model with recession from the Communist society. Castro therefore allowed limited return of properties to private enterprises and legalized small-scale business activities that encouraged return of private industries. His plan, however, forbade any political reforms. Accordingly, Castro gripped tightly onto his power with a one-party government and strict censorship in the nation(Service 346).
I found it interesting that Fidel Castro’s revolution against Batista was not originally inspired by Communist ideals. It was not until the American refusal to support Castro’s envisaged Cuba that he swung to the Soviet Union and oriented his revolution with a Marxist-Leninist perspective and assimilation of Soviet-style society. Cuba is the first instance of a country which applied communism after its leader has seized control. Because of the over-reliance on Soviet Union induced by the U.S. blockade, Cuba experienced a period of uncertainty in remodeling its societal structures when the Soviet Union collapsed. As Cuba shifted its pursuit of a cleansed government to self-determination along the path of Communization, Castro’s role changed from a revolutionary to a advocate and practitioner of Communist principles. I wonder if Castro believed that the development of revolutionary Cuba under his leadership indeed won the fundamental struggle that he envisioned when determining to overthrow the corrupt Batista rule. Castro might be both a nationalist and a Communist, freeing Cuba from Imperialist powers while using Communist ideologies as the approach.
This week’s research on the development of Communism in Cuba has inspired me to explore people’s living conditions in era of Cuban Revolution and its turn towards Communism. It was challenging to me at first to pinpoint one specific perspective in which I will analyze narratives. Fortunately, Teacher Margaret suggested that I examine stories of Cuban expatriates living in the U.S. because of accessible resources and a unique lens through which the Communist Cuba would be seen. An introduction to my next blog post would be this story about several Cuban-American families troubled by conflicting views towards Cuba as a result of generation gaps. The article is a clear representation of an important issue within the Cuban émigré community today in the U.S. I would love to share further research regarding reasons behind family members’ disagreement of visits to Cuba and my new insights gained from learning the Cuban Revolution through this perspective!
Krueger, Alyson. “The Cuban-American Generation Gap.” The New York Times, 16 Aug. 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/18/fashion/cuban-american-parents-children-travel.html. Accessed 9 Oct. 2018.
Service, Robert. Comrades!: A History of World Communism. Cambridge, Harvard University, 2007.
Tkacik, Michael. “Cuba and the United States: Revolution, Nationalism and Enemies Next Door.” History Behind the Headlines: The Origins of Conflicts Worldwide, edited by Sonia G. Benson, et al., vol. 1, Gale, 2001, pp. 89-102. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX3410600018/GVRL?u=west66701&sid=GVRL&xid=6d93e855. Accessed 3 Oct. 2018.
Getty Images. 1957 Fidel Castro. The Washington Post, 26 Nov. 2016, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/fidel-castro-cuban-dictator-dies-at-90/2016/11/26/f37bf3bc-b399-11e6-be1c-8cec35b1ad25_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.080db65b0c4d. Accessed 9 Oct. 2018.
Portrait of Fidel Castro. This Day in Quotes, Subtropic Productions, 16 Oct. 2009, http://www.thisdayinquotes.com/2009/10/castro-said-history-will-absolve-me-but.html. Accessed 9 Oct. 2018.
Wei, Nina. Art of Cuban Revolutionaries in a Local Community in Havana. 2017.
—. Fidel Castro and Che Guevara’s Monument in Santa Clara. 2017.
—. Skyline of Havana. 2017.