[News] Defeating Terrorism - Guerrilla Warfare in Cuba

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Feb 11 14:44:54 EST 2015

February 11, 2015


*Defeating Terrorism*

  Guerrilla Warfare in Cuba


    “We have found, then, that we wish for the end, and deliberate and
    decide about what promotes it; hence the actions concerned with what
    promotes the end will express a decision and will be voluntary.” –

Guerrilla warfare may be categorically different from terrorism, but 
definition alone does not make the two mutually exclusive. This is vital 
to acknowledge, as actors may use guerrilla tactics and terrorism in 
tandem to determine their desired political outcome. For the Cuban 
Revolution, however, such was not the case. This revolutionary struggle 
for liberation, which ousted Cuba’s unconstitutional Batista 
dictatorship of the 1950s, did not resort to the terrorism that the 
illegal dictatorship deployed against innocent Cubans for political 
sway. No. By engaging in guerrilla warfare, the Cuban people and their 
revolutionary vanguard did much more than simply refusing to succumb to 
the terrorism that repressed the island under Batista. By way of 
guerrilla warfare and tactics, Cuba’s 1959 Revolution, and its Marxist 
revolutionaries, defeated terrorism in Cuba.

*Momentum, Size, and Legitimacy*

The prospect of legitimacy is key to understanding how the Cuban 
Revolution defeated state-sponsored terrorism in the late 1950s. 
Additionally, it is important to distinguish the desired end of the 
revolutionary guerrillas in their asymmetrical war with Batista’s army 
of conventional size. Simon Reid-Henry notes in his book Fidel and Che: 
A Revolutionary Friendship that Fidel Castro specifically wanted to 
reinstate the Constitution of 1940. That is, he sought to reestablish 
constitutional authority in Cuba. But terrorism (and torture) had no 
place in the praxis of Castro’s or Cuba’s guerrilla vanguard.

Guerrilla tactics, in fact, are the response to an army that insurgents 
do not yet outmatch, or even rival in size. These tactics correspond to 
a desired momentum, and, as Ernesto “Che” Guevara disseminates in his 
book Guerrilla Warfare, this momentum was necessary to develop an army 
of conventional size. Such size would allow Cuba’s revolutionary 
guerrillas to wage a complete war, one in which their effectiveness 
would no longer be determined by an unwavering prudence when dealing 
with Batista forces.

Momentum and legitimacy – two elemental aspects of the Cuban 
Revolution’s guerrilla warfare – also come up in Merle Kling’s article 
entitled “Cuba: A Case Study of a Successful Attempt to Seize Political 
Power by the Application of Unconventional Warfare”. Kling observes,

“The form of violence resorted to by Fidel Castro and his followers was 
guerrilla warfare. In contrast with the traditional coup d’état of 
Latin-American politics, the Cuban revolution led by Castro involved 
protracted military warfare and sweeping social, economic, and political 

Deeming the success of the Cuban Revolution an “attempt” propelled by 
“unconventional warfare,” Kling proposes a definition of war not 
specifically embodied or heeded by a conventional army, or a military of 
conventional size. Che adds that a conventional army (like Batista’s) is 
also one of certain technological, sizeable, and formidable prowess 
substantiated specifically in arms. Furthermore, Batista’s army was not 
on the side of “sweeping social economic, and political changes” in 
Cuba, but rather, anathema to it all.

*Grass-Roots Insurrection*

Other episodes of guerrilla warfare age Cuba’s 1959 Revolution quite a 
bit. For instance, Ramón M. Barquín, in his book Las Luchas Guerrilleras 
En Cuba: De La Colonia a La Sierra Maestra, treats guerrilla warfare 
during the Spanish Civil War. In his book entitled Insurgency & 
Terrorism: Inside Modern Revolutionary Warfare, Bard E. O’Neill recounts 
how terrorism accompanied guerrilla tactics to reach revolutionary ends 
in China’s Maoist revolution. In all, guerrilla tactics and strategies 
differ as much as their political underpinnings do.

Although guerrilla warfare facilitated the demise of Batista’s 
terrorism, it is nonetheless important to recall that Cuban 
revolutionaries did not fight for terrorism but against it all along. 
And the success of the Cuban Revolution rested in large part on the 
guerrilla vanguard’s successful development of a protracted military 
campaign. Che himself observes that, so long as the end guides the means 
in guerrilla warfare, then fomenting a larger army captures the essence 
of guerrilla warfare. This was certainly the case in the Cuban 
Revolution, when the popular forces grew large enough to fight en masse 
against the Batista regime’s conventional military powers.

John Pustay further contextualizes the guerrillas’ approach to fomenting 
a successful protracted military in Cuba to reach their political end. 
He observes, “Castro, Guevara…were forced to form guerrilla insurgency 
units by drawing upon recruitment resources at the grass-roots level. 
They had to start essentially from nothing and build a revolutionary 
force to achieve victory…” Cuba’s guerrilla forces depended on the 
growth of a “grass-roots” military recruitment to wage increasingly 
efficient guerrilla warfare against a US-backed Batista and his army. 
Electing to use terrorism for the sake of gaining political power would 
only work against the guerrillas and their objectives.

*Batista, US-Backed Terrorism*

Australian philosopher Jenny Teichman defines terrorism in her book 
Pacifism and the Just War: A Study in Applied Philosophy. She says it is 
“both a method of governing, or of fighting, and a means to a specific 
kind of end, namely, some political end or other.” To qualify terrorism 
further, Teichman considers other definitive qualities of terrorism, 
such as “the use of force or threats as a means of enforcing a political 
policy,” and “the use of terror-inspiring threats as a means of 
governing or as a way of coercing a government or community.” 
Notwithstanding an apt definition, Batista and his underlings were 
unequivocally guilty of terrorism during their unconstitutional rule. 
The Batista regime employed terrorism to squelch the insurrectionary 
efforts of the guerrillas, and terrorism was Batista’s “method of 
governing,” which he liberally circulated to maintain political rule.

Lyman B. Kirkpatrick, Jr., a former inspector general and executive 
director America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), writes,

“As the terrorism of the opposition increased, the brutality of the 
police and military intelligence people became more horrible. I was told 
that the Bohemia, then one of the most popular picture-news weeklies in 
Cuba and widely circulated in Latin America, had been trying secretly to 
keep a tally of those tortured to death or executed by the police, and 
now estimated that as many as ten a week were killed in Havana alone.”

Kirkpatrick also admits in his book The Real CIA that the Batista 
government worked closely with the CIA, and that it received assistance 
from the US to help carry out its goals. Throughout this dictatorial and 
terroristic process of despotic oppression, Batista not only terrorized 
and tortured Cubans, but he also incarcerated his opponents and amassed 
a fortune for his cronies and himself.

Oddly enough, some observe that faulting Batista incurs problems, 
especially because of his unconstitutional illegitimacy as dictator. 
Does Batista’s questionable legitimacy mystify his historic role as an 
occupying enemy force in Cuba? As Robert Whitney agrees in his article 
“The Architect of the Cuban State: Fulgencio Batista and Populism in 
Cuba, 1937-1940”, Batista was indeed emboldened by both the suspension 
of Cuba’s 1940 Constitution and his military control. He had Uncle Sam 
in his corner for a time. But despite issues of constitutionality, the 
dictatorship assumed a governmental status, and it is nonetheless 
culpable for the numerous acts of torture, terrorism, and murder that it 

*Winning the War on Terror*

In two articles – “Terror and Guerrilla Warfare in Latin America, 
1956-1970” and “Guerrillas and Revolution in Latin America: A 
Comparative Study of Insurgents and Regimes since 1956” – Timothy P. 
Wickham-Crowley proffers that much of the Batista government’s terrorism 
“took place as the torture of urban…innocent victims, and peasants,” and 
that survivors “who lived to tell such tales can relate grisly stories.” 
Haydée Santamaría, a Cuban heroine, guerrilla and politician, was shown 
her brother’s plucked eyeball in an effort to make her inform. Whereas 
the Batista regime tortured for information, or terrorized for popular 
control, revolutionary guerrilla forces barred such despicable actions.

In his article “Che Guevara and Contemporary Revolutionary Movements”, 
James Petras notes, “[Che] forbade his comrades to use torture to secure 
information. He argued that the use of torture would defeat the purpose 
of the revolution, which was to abolish inhumane treatment, and would 
corrupt the revolutionaries practicing it…” Indeed, obviating terrorism 
in the war against Batista was as much an ethical choice as a practical 
one. Revolutionary forces sought to topple the terrorist regime, not to 
fashion a new one.

Che writes that a fundamental character of guerrilla warfare “is the 
treatment of the people in the zone.” He instructs that guerrilla 
conduct “toward the civil population should be governed by great respect 
for all the customs and traditions of the people of the zone, in order 
to demonstrate effectively, through deeds, the moral superiority of the 
guerrilla fighter over the oppressing soldier.” On a similar note, the 
“treatment of the enemy is similarly important,” and guerrillas must 
extend “the greatest clemency possible toward the enemy soldiers who go 
into battle performing…their military duty.” Not only abstention from 
terrorism and torture, it turns out, but also magnanimity would prove 
elemental to the revolutionary victory over terrorism in 1950s Cuba.

*A Guerrilla Victory*

Michael L. Gross states in his book Moral Dilemmas of Modern War: 
Torture Assassination and Blackmail in an Age of Asymmetrical Conflict, 
that “no justification of guerrilla warfare allows guerrillas to 
unnecessarily harm enemy combatants or intentionally harm innocent 
civilians.” For this reason, there are policies in place that protect 
the rights of guerrilla organizations, even as they engage in combat 
under international law. Terrorists, or terrorist regimes like 
Batista’s, do not enjoy this protection or legal recognition. 
Furthermore, Teichman claims that “it must be possible to draw lines in 
practice between different kinds of violence…” Thus, distinguishing the 
guerrilla warfare and tactics of Cuba’s revolutionaries from the 
state-sponsored (and US-backed) terrorism of the Batista regime proves 
something more. Wickham-Crowley agrees, the guerrillas’ military victory 
over Batista forces also shone light on the moral victory they achieved 
against terrorism on the island. The revolutionaries of Cuba utilized 
guerrilla warfare, rejected terrorism, fought against it, and the Cuban 
people emerged victorious.

*/Mateo Pimentel /*/lives on the Mexican-US border. You can follow him 
on Twitter @mateo_pimentel. /

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://freedomarchives.org/pipermail/news_freedomarchives.org/attachments/20150211/3cd9675d/attachment.html>

More information about the News mailing list