[News] The July 26th Movement and the Gains of the Cuban Revolution

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jul 26 12:24:30 EDT 2010

Commemorate the July 26th Movement and the Gains of the Cuban Revolution

Today marks the 57th anniversary of the historic 
attacks on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Cespedes Barracks in Cuba.

On July 26, 1953, the Cuban revolutionary forces 
launched two attacks against the Batista Regime, 
one against the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de 
Cuba and the other against the Carlos Manuel de 
Cespedes Barracks in the city of Bayamo. The 
Moncada Barracks was the military center of the 
Batista regime in the south and its second largest and most powerful garrison.

The attacks were executed by a new organization 
that was created in the mid-1952, under the 
leadership of Fidel Castro and Abel Santamaría. 
It was a clandestine revolutionary organization, 
as yet unnamed, made up of young workers, 
students, employed persons, artisans, campesinos 
from different parts of the island. It had around 
1,500 members and the organization affiliated 
itself with previous revolutionary Cuban figures 
such as Eduardo Chibás and José Martí. About 120 
youths were part of these attacks, approximately 
70 of whom were massacred during or after the 
event. Others, including Fidel, were subsequently 
arrested, tortured, tried and/or executed. Many, 
including Fidel, were released after an amnesty 
in May 1955. This amnesty was the result of the 
mass mobilization of Cubans in support of the 
imprisoned rebels. For example, starting in 1955, 
mothers of some prisoners and other Cuban women 
organized a campaign to free the imprisoned 
rebels. Civil society, including editors, 
intellectuals and even political leaders, issued 
a public appeal demanding “liberty for the 
political prisoners.” That year, the Cuban 
Congress passed a bill granting general amnesty 
to political prisoners. After being signed by 
Batista, the imprisoned rebels were freed.

In response to the attacks, Batista’s regime 
escalated its repression of the progressive 
forces as never before, launching mass arrests of 
any deemed suspicious, imposing extensive 
censorship and suspending constitutional rights. 
In other words, the reaction of the Batista 
regime was to immediately and viciously 
criminalize the youth for their aspirations for a 
better world. They were attacked as violent, 
troublemakers and slandered. Batista’s regime 
knew very well that though the forces were 
defeated, it would inspire the Cuban youth and 
revolutionaries, all those who wanted a new Cuba, 
to see the possibility of it, to think bravely and defiantly.

It is also important to put these events in a 
broader historical context for Cuba. For 
centuries, the Cuban people fought for their 
liberation from the yoke of colonialism. This 
struggle was waged by a population predominantly 
made up of the descendents of African slaves 
brought into Cuba after the indigenous population 
was wiped out, and mulattos. This history 
showcases many amazing fighters and leaders still 
venerated in Cuba and around the world today such 
as Jose Marti. As the 1800s came to a close, the 
revolutionary Cuban forces were ever nearing 
their dream of liberation and dignity. A Republic 
was established through these efforts. Yet the 
U.S., the new rising Empire, would not stand for 
this. Through aggressive policies and coups 
d’état, the Batista regime was brought into power 
with its unprecedented servility to the U.S. and 
its interests, undermining the Republic and its 
Constitution. In this context emerged what is 
called the Centenary Generation, the generation 
led by Fidel Castro, synthesizing 50 years of 
struggle against servile U.S. governments in 
Cuba. At that time, the youth were at the 
forefront of the struggle, and the University of 
Havana became one of the centers of opposition to 
the government. Thus, the July 26 attacks were a 
continuation of a long history of struggle in 
Cuba, and were a link in a long chain that led to the 1959 Revolution.

Though the battle was lost that day, it made it 
possible for the war to be won, to liberate Cuba 
from U.S. dictate and establish a people’s 
government. Thus, the significance is that of 
taking a stand. The Cuban people planted their 
flag and said to all those willing, here is the 
battle, here is where to follow. Today, the 
Barracks are now a school and the Museum of the 
Revolution. The date on which the attack took 
place, July 26, 1953, was adopted as the name of 
the revolutionary July 26th Movement which 
eventually took power in 1959. When Fidel was 
arrested after the attacks, he defended himself 
in the court. His four-hour defence was recorded 
by the court and became the platform for the July 26th Movement.

Some passages of his defense entitled “History Will Absolve Me”:

 Fundamental matters of principle are being 
debated here, the right of [people] men to be 
free is on trial, the very foundations of our 
existence as a civilized and democratic nation are in the balance.

“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.

“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.”


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