When the Cuban people stood up
It is an island only 90 miles from the United States that has been invaded, blockaded and is still partially occupied — at Guantanamo Bay — by the most powerful of all the imperialist countries.
Yet for 60 years now, Revolutionary Cuba has survived as a country dedicated to building socialism at home, while at the same time aiding liberation movements and oppressed peoples in other countries.
Cuba has not only survived. It has inspired countless millions in Latin America, Africa and around the world with its resourceful application of revolutionary theory and practice to the problems imposed by imperialist threats and underdevelopment.
The key to the strength of the revolutionary movement that on Jan. 1, 1959, swept away the Batista dictatorship — that notorious gang of torturers and exploiters who had made Cuba a paradise for U.S. millionaires and a hell for campesinos and workers — was that it smashed the old repressive state and set up structures to guarantee rule by the workers and farmers.
Almost immediately, the revolution launched a literacy program, sending high school kids into the countryside to teach the rural poor how to read and write. It soon provided materials for them to build real houses, with running water and electric lights. Sugarcane cutters rejoiced while burning down their dirt-floor, thatch-roofed huts of the old days.
Women and men, Black and white, joined the newly organized people’s militia to defend their revolution against the Yankees and their mercenaries. A revolutionary film industry truthfully chronicled these emotional moments — and didn’t shy away from showing backwardness that had to be overcome, like those who still harbored sexist attitudes booing as militia women paraded by. It was the beginning of the Cuban Communist Party’s consciousness raising on sex and gender issues.
When a counterrevolutionary invasion by U.S.-trained and -funded mercenaries came in April 1961 at the Bay of Pigs, it was defeated in a few days as an armed people mobilized along with the regular military. In the middle of that invasion Fidel Castro, the immortal leader of the revolution, for the first time said in a broadcast to the people that Cuba had made a “socialist revolution” under the very noses of the Yankee imperialists.
The very fact that Fidel would call the revolution socialist during the middle of the invasion was proof that socialism was what the Cuban people wanted and were willing to die for. (This writer was in the packed New York office of the July 26th Movement when Fidel’s speech came over shortwave radio. His words set off an outburst of cheering and berets thrown joyously in the air.)
Cuba captured 1,200 gusanos (counterrevolutionaries) during the invasion and forced the U.S. government to pay reparations in return for their release. Just two weeks after the invasion, Fidel spoke to a huge May Day gathering. His words captured the pride and joy of the Cuban masses in their great victory over imperialism and its lackeys:
“We had a chance today to see genuine results of the revolution on this May Day, so different from the May Days of the past [when] each sector of labor set forth its demands, its aspirations for improvement, to men who could not even accede to those basic demands because they did not govern for the people, for the workers, for the peasants; they governed solely for the privileged, the dominant economic interests. … How different today’s parade has been! … The workers know now that everything the revolution does, everything the government does or can do, has one goal: helping the workers, helping the people.”
And the revolution continues — ¡Viva la revolución cubana, socialista!