Even though some anarchists"”whether or not involved in the violent opposition"”had gone into exile as early as mid 1960, it wasn't until the summer of 1961 that a collective exodus began to the U.S. This wasn't the first time that Cuba's anarchists had found refuge in that country. Since the late 19th century, Key West, Tampa, and New York had been the places chosen by persecuted Cuban libertarians, because they offered the best opportunities of earning a living, and because the Florida cities were near enough to Cuba to continue the political struggle. During the Machado and Batista dictatorships, exiled anarchists had gone to these cities; and the Cuban anarchists had contacts with anarchist groups in other U.S. cities.
The U.S. immigration laws had stiffened against anarchists in the 1920s, and these laws were still in force in the early 1960s"”as many would-be political refugees unjustly denied entrance will remember. But the Immigration and Naturalization Service made an exception for the Cuban anarchists fleeing the Castro dictatorship, evidently believing that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," and that the Cuban anarchists were therefore potential allies. What is certain is that the U.S. authorities asked almost all of the new refugees about their political affiliations, that the Cuban libertarians were truthful about the matter, and that they were permitted entrance to and residency in the United States. It's also true that, as in other times, it was unusual to encounter a Cuban exile who thought of remaining in the U.S. for very long. All of the recently arrived, including the libertarians, were convinced that the return to Cuba was near and they planned their anti-Castro strategy accordingly.
In the summer of 1961, the Movimiento Libertario Cubano en el Exilio (MCLE) was formally constituted in New York by the not very numerous exiles in that city. At the same time, another libertarian group was organizing itself in Miami; this group included Claudio MartÃnez, Abelardo Iglesias, and Rolando Pi-era, and was known as the DelegaciÃ³n General (of the MLCE). The New York section (of the MLCE) was composed almost entirely of members of the Sindicato GastronÃ³mico, including Juan R. Ãlvarez, Floreal and Omar Diéguez, Bartolo GarcÃa, Fernando GÃ³mez, Manuel RodrÃguez, and Juan Fidalgo. Fidalgo established, through GÃ³mez, the first contacts with the exiled Spanish anarchists of the Club Aurora in Boston. At the time, another group of Spanish libertarian exiles in New York existed, centering around the long-running anarchist magazine, Cultura Proletaria; the Cubans also established good relations with this group.
But without doubt, the primary source of solidarity and cooperation for the newly arrived Cubans was the New York-based anarchist Libertarian League, led by Sam Dolgoff and Russell Blackwell. Blackwell had been a combatant in the Spanish Civil War and held notable responsibility in the American anarchist movement despite, or perhaps because of, his Trotskyist past. Sam Dolgoff in those years was one of the most respected figures in North American anarchism, and after a long revolutionary career also had considerable influence in the American left. Always at his side"”and at times in front"”was his compa-era, Esther Dolgoff, who had also been involved in class-based anarchist politics since her youth. Another notable member of this group was Abe Bluestein, who also maintained close relations with the Cubans. In 1954, this group had founded the Libertarian League, which had as its organ the newsletter titled Views & Comments. (Dick Ellington, mentioned in the footnote below, was a member of the group that produced this newsletter.) Without the collaboration of the members of the Libertarian League, the task of the Cuban anarchist exiles would have been much harder.
Already in this period collections were being taken among anarchists in the U.S., Mexico, Chile, Argentina, and almost all of Europe for the purpose of helping endangered Cuban anarchists and/or their families obtain visas and passage out of the country. The conditions of life in these years for the enemies of the regime were indescribable; they were suffering in the worst political prisons ever known in Cuba. They had to adapt themselves to inhuman conditions and suffered torment on a daily basis at the hands of their jailers"” Cubans like themselves, who were engaging in cruelty in the name of "socialism." The desire to escape from this great dungeon that Cuba had become was an obsession for almost all Cubans.
The donations in August 1961 totaled $2088 (equivalent to about $11,600 today), and provoked the Gaona explosion (the DDG [Documento de Gaona], which denounced the exiled anarchists) in November. These funds, according to the bookkeeping records of Claudio MartÃnez, treasurer of the MLCE, came from many different places. For example, the comrades at Freie Arbeiter Stimme, the Yiddish anarchist paper in New York, contributed $425. Six hundred one dollars came from the SIA in Argentina. And many individuals also contributed, including AgustÃn Souchy and one Dutch anarchist, who stated that his donation was made for humanitarian reasons and that his sympathies remained with the Cuban Revolution. (This was typical of European anarchist confusion in regard to the Cuban anarchists and the Castro government.)
This collection brought more than 66 compa-eros and family members to the U.S. at the same time as the Cuban anarchists in exile began a campaign to unmask the marxist-leninist regime afflicting Cuba. But to the astonishment of the Cuban anarchists, after initial success the financial appeal, which should have been further supported by those familiar with the Cuban problem, encountered difficulties. There were two principle reasons for the diminishing contributions: 1) the unexpected damage that the DDG document was doing in countries such as México, Venezuela, and Argentina; and 2) not all of the recently arrived Cubans in the U.S. responded to the appeals. In the face of this, by mid 1962 the MLCE had established a system of dues of $2 per month per member, which covered the most pressing costs, among them aid to recently arrived comrades and the campaign for Cuban political prisoners. And there were a number of these.
Cuba's anarchists suffered the same punishment as other Cubans accused of "counter-revolutionary" crimes. The abuse, maltreatment, and even torture of Cuba's political prisoners over the last four decades is well documented by Amnesty International and other human rights groups. In quality, this abuse was worse than that meted out to political prisoners in most other countries, as is indicated by the testimony of Marcelo Salinas (imprisoned in 1917-1918 in the U.S., Spain, and Cuba), Abelardo Iglesias (imprisoned in France in 1939), and Casto MoscÃº (imprisoned in Cuba in 1933). In such cases, if the accused accepted his sentence without too much protest and didn't make trouble in prison, the authorities generally freed the prisoner in the end, without abusing him too much physically.
But that wasn't the case in Castro's Cuba. One major difference between the Castro regime and its predecessors was the sheer number of political prisoners. The Cuban writer Juan Clark notes: "According to a number of estimates, the highest number of political prisoners was 60,000 during the 1960s. Amnesty International estimates that by the mid 1970s the total number released was approximately 20,000." Of course, at the beginning of the Castro regime, there weren't enough prisons to house these huge numbers of political prisoners, so Castro embarked on a prison-construction campaign.
Curiously, according to political prisoners freed in the decade 1970-1980, the population of political prisoners in the "socialist" Cuban gulags came overwhelmingly from working class and campesino backgrounds. There should be no dispute about this, given the mass of evidence: the Castro regime persecuted its proletarian and campesino enemies far more vigorously than its capitalist enemies. Many anarchists suffered greatly under this policy.
The testimony of the anarchist former political prisoners Luis LinsuaÃn (originally condemned to death for attempting to assassinate RaÃºl Castro), Placido Méndez, and Isidro MoscÃº, all of whom served between 15 and 20 years imprisonment, outlines the abuses suffered by Castro's political foes. In the first years after the revolution, when the number of political prisoners far outstripped available prison space, prisoners lived in very cramped conditions. The treatment in Castro's prisons was (and apparently still is) brutal. Those slow to respond to orders were impelled to do so by being beaten with clubs or jabbed with bayonets. Prisoners were also forced to work in quarries or sugar cane fields, or to do other hard physical labor. The authorities also instituted a system imported from the USSR, under which prisoners who studied and attended classes on marxism-leninism received better treatment than those who resisted this carrot-and-stick system.
Those who refused to participate in this were labeled as dangerous "intransigents" by the authorities. These prisoners were so harassed that many resorted to hunger strikes and ended up in prison hospitals. Many of these, as well as other political prisoners"”basically anyone accused of "antisocial conduct""”ended up buried in what in the U.S. would be called "the hole": extremely small cells, little bigger than a coffin, in which prisoners were held for days or even weeks.
On an individual note, we should mention the cases of Suria LinsuaÃn (sister of Luis, mentioned above) and Carmelina Casanova. The first of these was condemned for "counterrevolutionary" crimes to 30 years in the Guanajay and América Libre prisons. She completed five years imprisonment between 1964 and 1969, and was released from the prison hospital only when she was on the brink of death. Carmelina Casanova was also sentenced to 30 years imprisonment. Her crime was hiding anti-Castro militants. She completed eight years of her sentence before being released, and then fled to Miami, her health broken. She died shortly after her arrival. These are but two examples; at the minimum, hundreds of other anarchists suffered political imprisonment and mistreatment.
While aiding other libertarian political prisoners, the MLCE agitated to mobilize international anarchist opinion in order to save the life of Luis LinsuaÃn. But, almost unbelievably, certain sectors of international anarchism refused to accept that the "Cuban Revolution" (that is, the Cuban government) had become a totalitarian system that persecuted, imprisoned, and shot their Cuban comrades. The Cuban libertarians restated the anarchist ethical reasons for opposing the regime that persecuted them, and also supplied proof of the persecution.
But Gaona's disinformation "Clarification" document had begun to circulate in almost all of the anarchist milieus to which its authors had access, and was also being touted by agencies at the service of international marxism from Moscow to Sydney. In reply, in 1962 members of the MLCE initiated a propaganda campaign with the publication of the BoletÃn de InformaciÃ³n Libertaria (BIL), receiving support from Views & Comments in New York and the FederaciÃ³n Libertaria Argentina's organ, AcciÃ³n Libertaria. The Argentine anarchists, like those in the U.S., responded from the first to the calls of the Cuban anarchists, and never deserted them in the difficult years to come.
The confusion in the anarchist camp regarding the Cuban situation was fomented by the Castro government's propaganda apparatus, which had enormous resources, talent, imagination, and great political ability. It replied to the exiled anarchists' attacks precisely in that ideological territory which marxism had manipulated so successfully during the Spanish Civil War. The international left consisted of a number of political, social, and even religious groups that constantly attacked capitalism, militarism, the ruling class, and organized religion. The entrance of the "socialist" Castro regime into this political war zone was a very effective tactic in maintaining international sympathy for the regime and for keeping it in power. This was an especially powerful tactic in combination with the Castro regime's extremely sophisticated methods of repression; and these two factors are the principal reasons for that regime's durability.
In this propaganda war, the Castro regime of course used Gaona's "Clarification" document to the fullest, even in the remotest parts of the planet, to "prove" that the anarchists' charges"”which they deceitfully labeled "anti-Cuban," deliberately confusing the country with the political system"”were in fact the product of ex-anarchists in the pay of the worst capitalist elements. They called the Cuban anarchists "CIA agents, go-betweens, drug traffickers, Batista supporters," and many other epithets common to marxist propaganda. But above all they circulated the DDG in all of the libertarian milieus to which they had access, in this manner creating confusion first and doubt later in regard to the MLCE.
Of course, one would have expected this maneuver. What really surprised the Cuban anarchists was the reaction to it in the anarchist world. From the beginning the Cubans had believed in the justness of their cause. After supplying proof of their persecution in Cuba and receiving the solidarity of the American and Argentinian anarchists, they assumed"”erroneously as it turned out"”that, given the justness of their charges against Castroism, the rest of the world's anarchists would naturally and spontaneously rally to their aid, as they had to the Spanish anarchist victims of Franco. But this didn't happen. Doubts were raised in anarchist groups in Mexico, Venezuela, Uruguay, France, and Italy. Initially, these doubts were comprehensible in relation to the revolutionary process that was coming to a head in Cuba"”especially so given that the same Cuban anarchists who were now in exile and attacking Castro had initially supported the revolutionary system.
At this time, in the mid and late 1960s, there's no doubt that the DDG was doing its damage. The MLCE knew of it, but did little to combat it, assuming that no one would pay attention to such calumnies and fallacies. The MLCE strategy was to attack Castroism as the only political enemy. In hindsight, this was an error in judgment. In these years, there was a convergence in the charges made by the MLCE against Castroism and the charges made by the U.S. State Department against it. This was taken advantage of by the Castroites who charged that the Cuban libertarians were "following the imperialist political line."
No one has ever denied the coincidence of the charges made; this was, and to a point still is, a fact. But anyone familiar with the history of anarchism and its partisans will recognize that at different times and places anarchists have made charges against governments similar to those made by the capitalist class, the Communist Party, and even the Vatican. When there's a common enemy, one makes common cause with others, no matter how little one's ideas coincide with theirs. But it's one thing to make charges similar to those of non-anarchist forces and entirely another to place oneself under their command. In the Cuban case, the Cuban anarchists always maintained their independence. As well, one should ask who opposed Castro first? It's undeniable that the Cuban anarchists opposed Castro before the U.S. government did.
While the Cuban regime's calumnies proliferated, confusion spread and the polemic escalated. AgustÃn Souchy's Testimonios sobre la RevoluciÃ³n Cubana and the anti-Castro Manifiesto de los Anarquistas de Chile circulated slowly in Latin America, and there were some defenders of the Cuban libertarian cause, including Edgar Rodrigues in Brazil and Ricardo Mestre in Mexico. Still, the Boletin de InformaciÃ³n Libertaria (BIL) expressed surprise at the small amount of solidarity expressed by some anarchist sectors, and attributed it to "lack of true and exact information" about the Cuban situation. Already by 1962 the BIL reported a certain "declared hostility" in some anarchist media and an "incomprehension" in others.
At this time, the polemic concerning the Cuban Revolution intensified alarmingly. Writing about this useless rhetorical dispute 20 years later, Alfredo GÃ³mez quotes Jacobo Prince (who wrote the introduction to Souchy's Testimonios pamphlet): "Jacobo Prince . . . in a letter of December 5, 1961 emphasized that 'the fact that the most violent attacks against the Castro regime come from reactionary sectors augments the confusion and makes necessary considerable civil courage to attack the myth of this revolution.'" It's understandable that the anarchist media suspected the enemies of Castroism, among whom one found the Cuban compa-eros, but it's difficult to understand why they doubted the word of their exiled Cuban comrades, given that there was no evidence against them save the DDG, which should have been obvious to anyone reading it as a lying, malignant piece of disinformation.
The care with which anarchists had to treat the Cuban matter was well demonstrated in Venezuela and Mexico. According to Alfredo GÃ³mez, the Grupo Malatesta in Venezuela "in the course of a campaign for the liberation of L.M. LinsuaÃn [condemned to death for his attempt on RaÃºl Castro] . . . had to be very careful to 'clarify' and to explain exactly what the anarchists wanted . . . and to demonstrate that they weren't reactionaries." Later, in regard to Tierra y Libertad, the anarchist organ in Mexico, GÃ²mez relates that this publication "had to explain that its criticism of the Castro regime did not imply the acceptance of the pre-revolutionary structures." In both these cases, we can see that doubts and confusion prevailed in both Caracas and Mexico City. But in the end the campaign to save LinsuaÃn's life was successful, though he was still sentenced to 30 years imprisonment.
In Havana, in late 1961, Castro declared that he had been "a marxist-leninist [his] entire life." And other compa-eros who had escaped the emerging tyranny began to arrive in Miami. Santiago Cobo César, who had occupied positions of responsibility in the SecretarÃa de la FederaciÃ³n Nacional de Transporte, one of the largest and most important unions on the island, arrived in Miami via Venezuela, where he had been given political asylum. Once in Miami, he plunged into working with the MLCE with the energy that had characterized him since his youth.
Another exile, Manuel Ferro, already of retirement age, recommenced his libertarian activism which had begun in the 1920s. Ferro was a lucid anarchist writer who had numerous international contacts, and he didn't delay in undertaking the long task, as difficult as it was fruitful, of attempting to shed some light within the shadows of incomprehension that were engulfing the libertarian world at this time in regard to Cuba.
In the company of his old Italian friend Enrico Arrigoni, and urged on by him, Ferro commenced "to write several articles about the Cuban reality" which, with the help of Arrigoni's translations, were published in the anarchist press of France, Italy, Mexico, and Argentina. According to Ferro, "In the majority of our milieus [these articles] were received with displeasure," owing to the "enthusiasm" with which the Cuban Revolution had been received in them. But in other cases anarchists rallied to the Cuban libertarian cause. Reconstruir ("To Reconstruct") in Buenos Aires, whose publishing house, Colectivo, fully identified with the Cuban anarchists, published all of Ferro's works.
In regard to Europe, Ferro (who signed his articles "Justo Muriel"), regularly sent his pieces to the exiled Spanish anarchist leadership, which at this time resided in Toulouse, France. His friend Federica Montseny only published three. She explained, with the cynical sincerity born of long political experience, "It's not popular to attack Castro in Europe." In reply, Ferro noted that "Neither is it popular to attack Franco in Miami."
The intellectual activity of Ferro and of Abelardo Iglesias, among other Cuban anarchists, was unceasing in the early and mid 1960s. For example, in 30 short dictums, such as the following, published in AcciÃ³n Libertaria in Buenos Aires as "RevoluciÃ³n y ContrarevoluciÃ³n," Iglesias clarified the abysmal differences between the marxist and anarchist conceptions of revolution :
To expropriate capitalist enterprises, handing them over to the workers and technicians, THIS IS REVOLUTION. But to convert them into state monopolies in which the only right of the producer is to obey, THIS IS COUNTERREVOLUTION.
Also in these years the exiled Cubans made their first contacts with the long-established Italian-American anarchists, almost all of whom were already retired in Tampa and Miami. These elderly militants sustained a publication in New York called L'Adunata dei Refrattari ("The Reunion of the Refractory") which in these years dedicated itself to defending Castroism or the Cuban Revolution, since to its editors, the same as to the government in Havana, the two were identical. This confusion persisted, and a debate ensued not only with the MLCE but also with the Libertarian League.
Ferro and Arrigoni began a campaign in Italy itself, with the idea of taking the bull by the horns. They turned to the most important Italian anarchist periodical, Umanita Nova ("New Humanity"), the official publication of the Federazione Anarchica Italiana, with the idea of counterbalancing the undeniable influence of L'Adunata in the Italian-American anarchist community, and more especially of responding to a series of pro-Cuban Revolution articles published in that weekly by Armando Borghi. Umanita Nova refused to publish Ferro's articles (translated by Arrigoni), saying that they didn't want to create a polemic. At that point Arrigoni accused them of being in the pay of the Communists, and they eventually published Ferro's responses to Borghi. A few months later, Borghi"”ignoring the points raised by Ferro"”published a new defense of Castroism in L'Adunata, but Umanita Nova refused to publish Ferro's response to it.
In Cuba at this time there were still a few anarchists suffering in silence the despotism of the Castro regime. Guerra, Sierra, and Salinas, who were all elderly veterans of the struggles of the 1920s and 1930s, were abandoned to their fate despite the efforts of their compa-eros in exile to aid them in obtaining the necessities of life. The first two of these had signed Gaona's "Clarification" document against their will, as they admitted in private. Salinas, who had refused to be an accomplice to this crime, was forced by the government to go into a type of internal exile in Santiago de las Vegas, from which place he would later go into actual exile in Miami. Another veteran anarchist, Modesto Barbeito, would die shortly, a victim of frustration and ill health.
During these years there were many anarchists imprisoned for "counterrevolutionary activities," such as Antonio Dagas, a Spaniard who belonged to the CNT delegation in Cuba, who was imprisoned in the sinister La Caba-a prison in Havana. Alberto GarcÃa, the Secretary of the FederaciÃ³n de Trabajadores Médicos, was condemned to 30 years imprisonment. Sandalio Torres, accused of "conspiracy against the powers of the state," was sentenced to 10 years in prison for refusing to make false conspiracy charges against other anarchists.
Another member of the CNT delegation among the anarchists in Cuba was Salvador GarcÃa, who eventually obtained asylum in Mexico. Upon his arrival, he made contact with other exiled Spaniards, such as Ricardo Mestre, Fidel MirÃ³, Domingo Rojas, Ismael Viadu, and Marcos AlcÃ³n, all of whom sympathized with the MLCE. After his arrival, Tierra y Libertad published the testimony of GarcÃa, which not only affirmed that persecution of libertarians was taking place in Cuba, but also endorsed the opinions of the MLCE. Later, in 1962, the always-supportive Reconstruir would publish GarcÃa's account in Argentina.
At about the same time, the Comité Pro-Libertarios Presos (Committee for Libertarian Prisoners) was created in Miami to collect funds to help alleviate the hardships of the compa-eros suffering in Castro's prisons.
In the middle of 1963, Abelardo Iglesias finished writing a booklet of nearly 100 pages titled RevoluciÃ³n y dictadura en Cuba ("Revolution and Dictatorship in Cuba"), which with a prologue by Jacobo Prince was published in Buenos Aires in October. Iglesias, as Prince noted, had written with characteristic sincerity a document "with the authority of exemplary militance over a period of 30 years, and which sees [the Cuban] people subjected to a new dictatorship." RevoluciÃ³n y dictadura, a calm denunciation of Castro, offered a description of Cuban society beneath the "revolutionary" regime. It ended with some conclusions about the subordination of Cuban foreign policy to the Kremlin, and about what the author considered "the correct tactic" against the new dictatorship: "revolutionary war."
Meanwhile in New York in 1964, the Libertarian League under Sam Dolgoff's leadership was continuing its propaganda campaign against the Castro government, and also organizing public demonstrations against it. At this time, a controversy arose between Dolgoff and Dave Dellinger, the pacifist writer, upon Dellinger's return from Cuba after the May Day celebrations in Havana (the trip being paid for by the Castro regime)"”with, of course, the obligatory military parades, Soviet slogans, and The International as background music.
Following his return, Dellinger wrote a pro-Castro piece which was published in the "anarcho-pacifist" magazine, Liberation, edited by David Wieck. Members of the Libertarian League and some Cuban anarchists publicly protested in front of Liberation's editorial offices, accusing Dellinger and Wieck of being "apologists for the Castro regime." Long-time American anarchist Mike Hargis recalls, "While most of the left in the U.S., including some erstwhile anarchists, like the pacifists David Thoreau Wieck and David Dellinger, joined in denunciation of the MLCE (Cuban Libertarian Movement in Exile) as CIA stooges, the Libertarian League and the IWW came to their defense publishing the statements and manifestos of the MLCE in Views & Comments and publicly challenging Castro's leftist apologists for their willful blindness."
That blindness allowed Castro's persecution of Cuba's anarchists to go unchallenged by foreign leftists, including anarchists. The persecution of the anarchists was intense in the 1961-1972 period. It's difficult to know exactly how many libertarians were jailed, for as little as a few days or over 20 years, as in the case of Cuco SÃ¡nchez, a baker from the city of Holguin in Oriente Province, who was imprisoned for many long years in the CÃ¡rcel de Boniato in Santiago de Cuba. Another who suffered was the already elderly JesÃºs Iglesias (no relation to Abelardo) who was sentenced to 20 years and served time on the Isle of Pines and in the Combinado del Este prison near Havana. When he was released he had no family and no place to live. He eventually moved to Guanabacoa, where he died in poverty. At present"”because the anarchist movement was relatively weak when Castro came to power, and because a great many Cuban anarchists fled into exile"”there are no more than 400 anarchists left in Cuba, of whom perhaps 100 were political prisoners at one time or another.
At any rate, at the beginning of 1965 at a congress of the FederaciÃ³n Anarquista Uruguaya (FAU) celebrated in Montevideo, the growing fractionalization of the Southern Cone anarchists in regard to Cuba became clear. A majority of the members of the FAU, with some exceptions such as Luce Fabbri, didn't hide their sympathies for the Castro regime. For their part the Argentine delegation, invited to represent the FederaciÃ³n Libertaria Argentina, opposed this position. This polemic ended by splitting the FAU into pro- and anti-Castro factions, with the pro-Castro majority"”according to the article "Living My Life," by Luce Fabbri, published years later in the Italian anarchist review, Rivista Anarchica"”ending up either in exile in Sweden or in the ranks of the urban guerrilla group, the Tupamaros. This group achieved nothing positive. It provoked the downfall of Uruguay's democratic government and its replacement by a military regime, while at the same time providing that regime with the perfect pretext for the institution of massive repression, extrajudicial executions, and routine torture of political prisoners.
In view of the confusion surrounding the Cuban situation among the world's anarchists, the Federazione Anarchica Italiana organized a conference in Bologna to clarify things; this conference was held from March 27 through March 29, 1965, and a delegate from the MLCE was invited to present the position of the Cuban libertarians. The Cubans collected funds and sent Abelardo Iglesias as their representative, because Iglesias had experience with this type of discussion and was well able to express the MLCE's viewpoint.
After visiting in Toulouse and Paris with other veterans of the Spanish Revolution, Iglesias traveled to Bologna where he successfully presented the MLCE's arguments against Castro. The Federazione Anarchica Italiana (FAIT) energetically condemned Castroism"” noting that Castro had substituted vassalage to the Soviet Union in place of vassalage to the United States"”and offered the MLCE its full support in the struggle against Castro-Communism. It also pledged to support the campaign against the political executions taking place in Cuba. The congress ended by calling for all of the Italian anarchist periodicals"”Umanita Nova, L'Agitazione del Sud, Semo Anarchico, Volanta, and others"”to publish its accords. In addition to the FAIT, the FederaciÃ³n Libertaria Argentina, the FederaciÃ³n Libertaria Mexicana, the Libertarian League (U.S.), the Anarchist Federation of London, the Sveriges Arbetares Central-Organisation (Swedish Central Workers' Organization"”SAC), and the Movimiento Libertario Espa-ol signed the accords.
After the Bologna congress, Iglesias returned to Toulouse where he presented the MLCE position at the congress of the French Anarchist Federation. That congress condemned the "marxist-leninist counterrevolution" that had subverted the Cuban Revolution, denouncing the Castro regime as being as bad as a fascist dictatorship or one in the pay of the U.S. The French federation promised support for the anarchists in Cuban jails and to let French working people know about the fate of their Cuban brothers in the pages of the most important French anarchist paper, Le Monde Libertaire.
Upon returning to the U.S., it appeared that Iglesias had not only won the long and vitriolic debate with Castro's sympathizers, but had also managed to prod almost all of the federations and libertarian groups in Europe and Latin America into condemning the system imposed by Castro"”a double victory. This wasn't the case. The Castroite penetration of anarchist milieus"”or better, the self-deception of a great many in those milieus"”had established the idea of the necessity of a "permanent revolution" in Latin America and Africa. Any criticism of the Castro regime was seen as a criticism of this new political adventure emanating from Havana, which was bringing to a head the world socialist revolution. To this totalitarian mindset, anyone who wasn't behind Castroism and third-worldism was an enemy of the people and of humanity. Sadly, the majority of anarchist groups in Europe and in Latin America (as in Uruguay, Peru, Chile, and Venezuela) passed over into the camp of the Cuban Revolution"”now always capitalized"”and forgot about the MLCE and the Cuban anarchists.
The factionalism the marxists hoped to foment (through the DDG document and other pieces of disinformation) had come to pass. According to Alfredo GÃ³mez, "The Cuban anarchists . . . have lived in impressive solitude, abandoned . . . by the anarchists of the rest of the world who identify themselves with the Cuban Communist Party." But despite all, the Cuban anarchists in the MLCE continued their campaigns for the political prisoners in Cuban jails and against the Castro regime.
In 1967, Marcelo Salinas, already in his late 70s and fatigued by his sufferings on the island, arrived in Miami. Salinas could have signed the DDG and thus ensured himself an honored place as a leading intellectual in Castro's Cuba. But he refused to sign, and instead chose at his advanced age to go into exile, an exile among rightist and conservative elements who had no appreciation of him or his works. But once in exile he continued his libertarian efforts by writing articles for the anarchist press and by speaking at conferences.
He was already known abroad through his extensive personal correspondence of 50 years, and through writing for Reconstruir in Buenos Aires. Once in exile, his activities complemented those of Ferro and Iglesias. He continued his work until his death in 1976 at the age of 87. With the passing of Marcelo Salinas, the MLCE not only lost a dedicated comrade who had been active in the anarchist movement for 70 years, but Cuba lost in this thin figure one of the most well-rounded intellectuals of his generation. He was a dramatist, poet, novelist, essayist, and story teller; in sum, he was an enlightened autodidact who was an intellectual force of the first order both inside and outside of Cuba.
The chaotic decade of the 1960s was coming to its close. In 1968, Herbert Marcuse in Berkeley preached a marxism close to anarchism, and in Boston Noam Chomsky criticized all the horrors of the North American state; in Paris, the new French philosophers attacked Marx, and in the same city in May of that year a general strike broke out in which students, using anarchist slogans and the black flag, took part; American youths at this time dedicated themselves to stopping the Vietnam War, avoiding the draft (not necessarily in that order), and opening themselves to government repression through the use of illegal drugs; the U.S. was caught up in internal strife, both racial and political; the USSR invaded Czechoslovakia to avoid the kind of marxism Marcuse was preaching in Berkeley; simultaneously in Havana Castro applauded this tragic, totalitarian maneuver; and in China, Mao instituted the violent and despotic "cultural revolution." It was in the latter part of this year that the Federazione Anarchica Italiana called an International Congress of Anarchist Federations.
Known as the Congress of Carrara, it was held from August 30 to September 8, and was widely covered not only by the anarchist media but by the world media. This conference included representatives from virtually all of the Western European countries as well as delegations of Mexicans and exiled Bulgarians. The Swedish SAC, the Centre Internationale pour Recherches sur L'Anarchisme (a Swiss anarchist research group) and the AsociaciÃ³n Internacional de los Trabajadores (the anarchosyndicalist international) participated as observers. This was one of the largest anarchist conferences held in over half a century.
Due to lack of funds, the MLCE was unable to send a delegate, and therefore asked Domingo Rojas, from Mexico, to represent the Cuban anarchists at the conference. The congress hammered out eight points of agreement, and the most discussed was point 3, on the relationship of anarchism and marxism in the Russian, Spanish, and Cuban revolutions.
The conferees didn't have doubts about the sinister actions of the marxists in Russia and Spain, but Cuba was a different matter. With the backdrop of the libertarian disasters in Russia and Spain, the conferees declared that the Castro system was indeed "a dictatorship . . . a satellite of the USSR," etc. But they then concluded with a paragraph that was as out of place as it was contradictory: "Cuba is a more permeable country to the theories . . . of a type of libertarian communism unlike that of the USSR and its satellite countries." In other words, Cuban "scientific socialism" was a different case"”though they didn't explain why"”and there was therefore hope of penetrating the Castro regime in order to get it to modify its statist, totalitarian policies, and to adopt in their place anarchist principles in accord with liberty and justice.
Analyzing this accord 30 years later, it seems pathetic, even considering the time in which it was written. The world's anarchists had lost their perspective on Cuba. The words of this document are an indication of how the Castro regime was winning the propaganda battle on the left with its false "revolutionary" postulates and slogans; it also clearly demonstrates the penetration of Castroite propaganda in the anarchist world in regard to the MLCE. The anarchist media in Europe and Latin America supported the Cuban regime more each day as they abandoned their Cuban compa-eros, the victims of that regime. To this day, with almost no exceptions, they have never publicly admitted this mistake.
It's true that many anarchists in Europe and Latin America were aware of the nature of Castro's dictatorship over the Cuban people and of Castro's persecution of Cuba's anarchists. But it's also true that, with the sole exception of Umanita Nova's publication of Ferro's response to Borghi (and that only under pressure), not a single anarchist periodical in Europe, and very few in Latin America, published a single article acknowledging"”much less condemning"” Castro's dictatorship and political persecutions.
By 1970 the MLCE knew that it had lost the battle. Even though the Cuban anarchists kept up the propaganda fight, they knew they were speaking to the deaf. The bitter words of Abelardo Iglesias in BIL in 1970 are explicit: "those who pick up the Communist accusations don't hesitate in accusing us of being in the service of reaction. [These include] Adunata de Refrattari . . . F[ederaciÃ³n] A[narquista] U[ruguaya] . . . Federazione Anarchica Italiana and its periodical, Umanita Nova . . . Daniel Cohn-Bendit, etc." Iglesias recounted that at Carrara Cohn-Bendit "accused the MLCE of being 'financed by the CIA.'" In another article published later, Alfredo GÃ³mez mentioned that Le Monde Libertaire, the publication of the Federacion Anarchiste Francaise, had published a piece mentioning all current dictatorships "”except that of Cuba. This was "as if the French comrades" considered Cuba an exception and also "considered the Cuban anarchists second-class anarchists, undeserving of their solidarity."
Even in 1975 there still remained much mistrust of Cuba's libertarians in the anarchist world. At the end of that year, the well-designed anarchist magazine Comunidad ("Community"), published in Stockholm by refugees (primarily Uruguayans) from the dictatorships in South America's Southern Cone, printed an article titled, "Libertarian Presence in Latin America," which was later republished in the Spanish anarchist magazine, Bicicleta ("Bicycle") in a special edition dedicated to "Anarchism Throughout the World." In reference to the Cuban anarchists, the article's authors stated that the MLCE was composed of "mere anti-Communists," and that its positions were "clearly regressive." This charge was so ridiculous that the MLCE sent Bicicleta a reply to it partially in jest. This response was originally published in BIL and stated, in part: "In regard to our 'clearly regressive positions,' these have always consisted of opposition to the tyrant of the day, be they in Cuba or anywhere else, no matter what their stripe . . . [no matter] what religion they profess or what political dogma they follow." Curiously, Bicliceta never published the MLCE reply despite the fact that its special edition was headed by the statement that it was intended to "stir up debate . . . to open up debate."
The accusations in the Comunidad/Bicicleta article were typical. The charge in those days was that the MLCE was a reactionary organization with no program beyond anti-Communism. No mention was ever made about why Cuba's anarchists were in exile, and this charge fit neatly with Castro's propaganda which ceaselessly repeated that all of the "counterrevolutionary sectors in Miami" were owned by the capitalists and were engaging in such things as drug trafficking and white slavery. Anyone familiar with the situation would have known that these were outrageous slanders against the MLCE, but anyone depending upon the world's anarchist press for information about Cuba wouldn't have known it.
It wasn't until 1976 that the atmosphere of suspicion and distrust of the MLCE began to dissipate, with the publication of The Cuban Revolution: A Critical Perspective, by Sam Dolgoff. This book was well distributed in the English-speaking world, from London to Sydney, and had a demolishing impact among the left in general and anarchists in particular. It was the must cutting critique Castroism had received in these years of "revolutionary" adventurism in Latin America, and was the decisive factor in the change in attitude toward the MLCE within world anarchism. The book succeeded beyond the hopes of its author, and was translated into Spanish and later into Swedish. Dolgoff subsequently declared, "I never received a cent for these printings, but I felt happy to be able to propagate my opinions about the MLCE and its struggle against Castro in this book."
At the end of 1979, in the first post-Franco years in Spain, when the anarchist ConfederaciÃ³n Nacional del Trabajo/AsociaciÃ³n Internacional de los Trabajadores (CNT/AIT) could again begin to operate without being persecuted by the government, a celebratory congress was called in Madrid. An MLCE delegate was invited to participate, and he was recognized by a majority of those present, including almost all of the foreign representatives. At this point the MLCE, which at the time was primarily concerned with bettering relations with other sectors of international anarchism, renewed its fraternal ties with the AIT.
A few months later, the Spanish periodical Bicicleta, which in those years was printing anarchist materials, published part of the previously quoted piece by Alfredo GÃ³mez, "The Cuban Anarchists, or the Bad Conscience of Anarchism." This piece was later reprinted by the exiled Bulgarian anarchists in their organ, IZTOK, in Paris, and was still later reprinted by the new magazine of the MLCE in Miami, GuÃ¡ngara Libertaria, in the summer 1981 issue. (See below.) Iglesias followed with an explicatory article in the autumn issue, which further delineated the position of the MLCE in regard to Castro, and above all addressed the anarchist world of the period. He quoted Progreso Alfarache Arrabal (a Spanish anarchist member of the CNT who had fled to Mexico and was member of the editorial group producing Tierra y Libertad). Alfarache commented on the actions and attitudes of many anarchists: "In the Cuban case, the keen instinct for liberty, which is the essence of anarchism, has failed lamentably." One can well regard this article by Iglesias as the termination of this long and damaging affair.
But there were also changes in the world which were affecting the anarchists. A new antiauthoritarian world view had begun to take hold in the 1970s, and in the 1980s Castroism came to be seen by anarchists as it really was (and is)"”a self-aggrandizing dictatorship that didn't represent its people. Although a long but sure repudiation of the Castro regime had begun among the world's anarchists, it was already very late. The Cuban anarchists had been the victims of prejudice and defamation in the anarchist world, in addition to being exiled, thrown in jail, and being consigned to a shadowy solitude.
Despite everything, the Cuban anarchists launched their new quarterly magazine, GuÃ¡ngara Libertaria, in November 1979. It was published in Miami, and its first issue appeared in January 1980. An average issue consisted of 32 8.5"X11" pages printed in black ink on newsprint. GuÃ¡ngara superseded the two existing Cuban anarchist publications, the BIL and El GastronÃ³mico, which were modest bulletins with limited circulation. GuÃ¡ngara was designed to have broader appeal to and wider circulation among the Cuban exile community. This new publication was financed by its staff, subscribers, and members of the MLCE.
The name had been suggested by Abelardo Iglesias, who noted that "for Cubans, it means noise, disorder, and a rough joke. Definitively, bronca (a coarse joke), bulla (a loud argument), and guÃ¡ngara can be taken as synonyms for chaos and disorder." In keeping with this anarchistic spirit, the position of "director" (in effect, managing editor) was abolished and GuÃ¡ngara was collectively managed and edited. The editorial collective included Santiago Cobo, Omar Dieguez, Luis Dulzaides, Frank FernÃ¡ndez, and Casto MoscÃº. The administrative aspects were handled by a collective including José R. Ãlvarez, AgustÃn Castro, Manuel Gonzalez, and Aristides Vazquez.
The content at this time consisted of articles written by the editorial staff as well as those submitted by readers (primarily Cuban and Spanish anarchists) spread throughout the anarchist diaspora in the Americas. Translations from English-language anarchist periodicals also appeared. GuÃ¡ngara included a book review section (edited by Manuel Ferro), portraits of historical anarchist figures, and news and opinion about events in Cuba and in the exile community. During these first years of its existence, GuÃ¡ngara had a press run of 1000 copies and was distributed only in Miami, though it had about 100 subscribers scattered around the globe.
Given the place where the magazine was published, Miami"”home base of the extreme right-wing Cuban exile community"”GuÃ¡ngara's editors knew from the start that they'd have to be careful about how the magazine presented itself. There was a very real danger of physical violence from right-wing elements, and both local and federal authorities were, of course, keeping them under observation. So, for the first few years GuÃ¡ngara was fairly muted in its advocacy of anarchism, billing itself in its subtitle as "The Review of Eclectic Libertarian Thought." It also ran articles by nonanarchists, including social democrats, though of course all such articles still fell in the broad "progressive" vein. All of this led some purist types to charge that GuÃ¡ngara was more "literary" than libertarian.
At about the time of GuÃ¡ngara's appearance in early 1980, Miami was shaken by demonstrations following the occupation of the Peruvian embassy in Havana by Cubans seeking asylum. The MLCE anarchists in Miami participated actively in these demonstrations, while showing their colors, and they organized some of these demonstrations against the Castro dictatorship.
The first signs of an explosion occurred in the early morning hours of April 4, 1980, when a small group of Cubans entered the Peruvian embassy in Havana in search of political asylum. The Peruvian government refused to hand the asylum seekers over to the Cuban government, and in response the Cuban regime recalled the guards watching over the embassy. Then, with the guards withdrawn, a multitude of more than 10,000 people tried to seek asylum at that same embassy.
Comprehending the danger involved in this type of protest, and that it could quickly spread, the authorities decided, after a speech by the maximum leader, to permit anyone who wanted to exit the island to do so. Despite the oppressive omnipresence of the government and the willingness of many government supporters to resort to violence, in a few weeks an exodus of gigantic proportions took form. More than a quarter of a million Cubans left their homeland on boats supplied by Cuban exiles in Miami. This spectacle would have international repercussions.
The communications media of the entire world witnessed the largest human stampede in the history of the Americas, a stampede of political (and economic) refugees. This spectacle was a public relations disaster for the Castro regime, despite its skillful disinformation efforts.
Following the Mariel "boatlift," GuÃ¡ngara was reinforced by a number of intellectuals who escaped Cuba via Mariel, among them writers such as BenjamÃn Ferrera, Enrique G. MoratÃ³, Miguel A. SÃ¡nchez, and the Afro-Cuban poet, Esteban Luis CÃ¡rdenas. This helped to create what was in effect a new GuÃ¡ngara collective, which included writers, essayists, historians, and poets, individuals such as Pedro Leyva, Angel Aparicio Laurencio, Benito GarcÃa, Ricardo Pareja, and Sergio Magarolas, among others.
At about the same time, and at Sam Dolgoff's suggestion, GuÃ¡ngara incorporated as a nonprofit under the name International Society for Historical & Social Studies (ISHSS). Various members of the MLCE served on the Society's board. The advantages of this set up were that it allowed GuÃ¡ngara to receive tax-deductible donations and also allowed it to mail its issues at minimal cost within the U.S. Following the ISHSS incorporation, GuÃ¡ngara increased its press run to 3000 copies. This made it one of the largest-circulation anarchist periodicals"”perhaps the largest"”in the U.S.; and it was the only one published in Spanish. During this period of growth, GuÃ¡ngara began to publish translations from French and Italian anarchist publications, and also began to be better received in Miami.
Feeling more confident, GuÃ¡ngara's collective started publishing more explicitly anarchist materials, and moved beyond attacking Castro; GuÃ¡ngara began to also publish attacks on the reactionary exile community and upon the U.S. government. The attacks on the far-right exile leadership focused upon its lack of political imagination, its religious and/or pseudo-democratic orientation, and its very mistaken political and social positions, often based on disinformation planted by Castro's propaganda apparatus. (The purpose of this disinformation was to help ensure that no viable"”that is, democratic and antiauthoritarian"”opposition would emerge in Miami, and so that Castro could thus continue to present the Cuban people with the false choice of his regime or the extremely reactionary Cuban exile leadership.)
By the autumn of 1985, GuÃ¡ngara had a number of new international correspondents: Stephan Baciu in Hawaii, Ricardo Mestre in Mexico, Cosme Paules in Chile, Abraham Guillén in Spain, M.A. SÃ¡nchez in New York, and Victor GarcÃa in Caracas. Both GarcÃa and Guillén were well known among the Spanish anarchists, and their collaboration gave GuÃ¡ngara the international dimension that the MLCE had always sought.
In 1986 the collective produced a large special edition, and by 1987 GuÃ¡ngara's circulation had increased to 5000 copies, making it the largest-circulation anarchist periodical in the U.S. The quality of both its writing and its graphic presentation had improved; and two new writers, Maria Teresa FernÃ¡ndez and Lucy Ibrahim, contributed both translations and poems. GuÃ¡ngara changed its subtitle that year to "A Cry of Liberty in Black & White"; in 1990, it changed it again to "From Liberty, for Liberty"
The downfall of the USSR and its long-overdue relegation to the "dustbin of history" was received with jubilation by GuÃ¡ngara's collective and the rest of the MLCE, and GuÃ¡ngara published an editorial predicting the swift downfall of Castro. (Of course, GuÃ¡ngara was mistaken about this, but it was hardly alone; such predictions were common in the days following the fall of Castro's patron, the USSR.)
In 1992, GuÃ¡ngara published its 50th edition. It included an inventory in which it noted that GuÃ¡ngara had published over 225,000 copies. But by this time GuÃ¡ngara's all-volunteer, entirely unpaid staff was growing weary, and the fall 1992 issue was GuÃ¡ngara's final edition.
It would be an exaggeration to say that GuÃ¡ngara convinced half the world of the evil of Castro's regime. It would equally be an exaggeration to say that it destroyed the ideological base of Castroism. But it would be fair to say that GuÃ¡ngara breached the bulwarks of paid anti-Communism in the exile community, and that it reclaimed the right to disagree. It would also be fair to say that it opened the eyes of many who labored under the burden of pro-Castro, stalinist suppositions.
In the end, one of the most telling indications of the success of GuÃ¡ngara was that it published 54 issues over 13 years, without ever having a cover price or being sold on the newsstand. It was always free to anyone who asked for it, and it was supported solely by the contributions of its collective, its subscribers, and its MLCE supporters. Those who worked on GuÃ¡ngara continue to pursue other projects, such as writing books and contributing to other anarchist publications.
"” "” "”
As one can appreciate, Cuba's anarchists have survived all types of persecutions from the state, instigated by the monied classes and the Cuban Communist Party. It should be equally clear that their ideas were for many years the majority viewpoint within the Cuban workers' movement; they resisted Spanish colonialism, U.S. intervention, the sugar and tobacco magnates, the hacendados and plantation owners, capitalist industrialists, and the first and second republics"”and finally the most despotic, totalitarian regime Cuba has ever known.
In their long history spanning more than a century, Cuba's anarchists"”those who had carried the banners, the writers, the theoreticians, the orators, the union activists, the propagandists, and even the last of the militants"”made blunders and errors, which we must admit and accept. But we can be sure that they maintained the spirit of disinterested struggle for the good of Cuba and its people. Those who survive today are the inheritors of a long tradition of liberty and justice, united by the confidence that this new century will bring the dawn of a better world, a world in which their ideas will finally be put into practice.