Despite the triumph represented by Machado's overthrow, the situation after his fall was unfavorable to Cuba's anarchists. Their most dedicated leaders and activists had been victims of governmental murder or had been deported. As a result, when there was a coup d'etat on September 4, 1933 against the provisional government backed by the U.S. embassy, the anarchists were surprised and unprepared"”in what could be called a "preorganized" state.
The new "authentic" revolutionary government, as it called itself, was leftist with nationalist overtones. Its principal figures were RamÃ³n Grau San MartÃn and Antonio Guiteras. It was tied to the military men who had carried out the coup"”privates, corporals and sergeants from humble backgrounds, and with all manner of social ideas"”whose leading figure was Fulgencio Batista. This new government, the first of its kind on the island, defied the U.S. embassy and enacted laws benefitting the public; it also removed the Platt Amendment from the Cuban Constitution.
As could have been expected, the provisional government lasted only about 100 days. Given its "nationalism without a nation," its removal of the Platt Amendment from the Cuban Constitution, its decree mandating state intervention in the yankee-owned electrical and telephone utilities, and its passage of an eight-hour workday law, its downfall was no surprise. Nonetheless, it managed to damage Cuba's anarchists by passing the "50% law," which forced owners to reserve at least half their jobs for Cubans. This forced many Spanish anarchists to leave the island and return to their homeland, where a tragic civil war would shortly take place.
Thus, Cuba's anarchists found themselves gravely weakened at a pivotal point in history, while at the same time the Communists manipulated the cause of the working class with success, despite the setback of the August "error." They violently attacked the anarchists physically, while at the same time attacking them verbally with gross calumnies. These tactics would bear fruit in the following year; and the Communists would repeat them with even greater success in 1960.
The Communists accused Cuba's libertarians of being "yankee agents," as well as "associating and allying with ex-Machadistas, bosses, and even fascist elements," which at the time found some sympathy in Cuba. But despite the great damage caused by Machado, the losses under the "50% law," and the incessant Communist attacks, Cuba's anarchists entered this new stage with a vigor and resistance that was astonishing. They increased their propaganda work among Cuba's youth, and a second generation of Cubans rallied to anarchist banners in the unions and other labor organizations.
At the end of 1933, with the aid of the U.S. embassy and the support of Cuba's bourgeoisie, the by-then colonel Batista became the "strong man" of Cuba. Searching for allies among the revolutionary opposition, some young anarchists affiliated themselves with the socialist organization Joven Cuba (Young Cuba), led by the revolutionary and archenemy of the Communists, Antonio Guiteras, who had now fallen from power.
Again, Cuba's anarchists and the Cuban working class faced repression. In March 1935, Batista defeated a general strike called and later aborted by the PCC. And soon the PCC would adopt Moscow's "popular front" line, ally itself with the government, and follow "the democratic paces of Colonel Batista."
Batista attempted to legitimize his dictatorship through the electoral process. He had no political backing beyond the police and armed forces, and this wasn't sufficient for political credibility. The PCC came to his rescue. It offered him a deal putting all of the machinery of Cuban and international Communism at his service, and it promised to deliver votes in the coming elections. Batista badly needed this electoral support.
For the anarchists, the political situation hadn't changed much. Since the fall of Machado the authorities had exercised an iron control over the labor activities of the anarchosyndicalists. They vigorously censored the anarchosyndicalist press, and destroyed materials coming from the exterior, with the curious exception of the magazine Cultura Proletaria"”founded in the 1920s by the already elderly Pedro Esteve, and published in New York by a group of Spanish anarchist exiles including Frank GonzÃ¡lez and Marcelino GarcÃa"”which at times published news of the persecution of Cuba's anarchists. According to Helio Nardo, a witness to the events of these years, "After the failure of the general strike of March 1935, we found ourselves under brutal repression . . . Thousands of opponents [of the Batista government] found themselves in jail. All of the towns . . . came to be under military control."
At the same time, according to Nardo, difficulties were arising between the previous generation and the younger generation of anarchists. He recalls, " . . . the impossibility of reaching an understanding with the older militants entrenched in 'grupismo' (FGAC)" "”here Nardo refers to those anarchists who had survived Machado's repression, the "50% law," and the military authoritarianism of Batista's early days. This "led to the founding in Havana of the Juventud Libertaria de Cuba" (Libertarian Youth of Cuba). Nardo recalls that its founders included Gustavo LÃ³pez, Floreal Barreras, Luis Dulzaides, Miguel Rivas, Julio AyÃ³n Morgan, Teodoro Fabel, Abelardo Barroso, Modesto Barbeito, José FernÃ¡ndez MartÃ, and one young anarchist with the curious name Gerardo Machado. He also recalls that the meetings of this group were "rigorously clandestine."
For his part, Luis Dulzaides recorded his youthful impressions decades later. He stated that he joined Juventud Libertaria through FernÃ¡ndez MartÃ, and that he came to know "the highest figures of militant Cuban anarchism." Domingo DÃaz, a pharmacist from Arroyo Arenas, near Havana, recalls that he came to know Venancio TurÃ³n, an old railway worker and a founder of the CNOC, as well as "Rafael Serra, a black tobacco worker who remained as a relic of the heroic times of the libertarian proletariat," and finally, Marcelo Salinas, one of the most prominent Cuban intellectuals of his generation.
At the outbreak of the Spanish revolution and civil war in July 1936, Cuba's anarchists rallied to the defense of the Spanish revolutionaries, and to further their aims founded the Solidaridad Internacional Antifascista (SIA) in Havana, whose members worked zealously to send money and arms to their Spanish comrades in the ConfederaciÃ³n Nacional del Trabajo/FederaciÃ³n Anarquista Ibérica (CNT/FAI). Considering the depressed economic situation in Cuba, the aid they sent to their Spanish comrades was considerable. It's also fitting to mention the direct participation of Cuba's anarchists in the military struggle against Spanish fascism. With some of their members forced to leave Cuba by the "50% law," entire mixed families of Cuban/Spanish anarchists fought in the ranks of the CNT/FAI, among them Abelardo Iglesias, Manuel de la Mata, and Cosme Paules. A number of Cuban anarchists also went directly to Spain to fight. These included Adolfo Cami-o, Gustavo Malagamba, José PendÃ¡s, Humberto Monteagudo, Pedro Fajardo Boheras, Julio Constantino Cavarrocas, and many others.
With the defeat of the Spanish Republic in 1939, many of the surviving Cuban anarchists returned to Cuba, as did many Spanish anarchists who sailed from France and Spain with Cuban passports obtained with the help of libertarian elements with friends in the Cuban Ministry of State. At this time, Cuba's anarchists began to collect funds to aid ex-combatants in need; when these people arrived in Cuba, they received a generous welcome from their Cuban comrades. There were cases of arriving anarchists being detained by the immigration authorities, who were then released after Cuban anarchists intervened on their behalf. As Paulino Diez notes in his memoirs, Cuba served as a trampoline for Spanish anarchists in the diaspora"”it was a jumping off point for them on their journeys to cities throughout the Americas, from Chicago to Buenos Aires.
At the end of the 1930s, Batista was a military man lacking a popular base. So he decided to create a political coalition with the help of the Partido Comunista Cubano. And the PCC entered into a pact with Batista. In exchange for its services and its support in the next presidential election, the PCC was handed the recently created ConfederaciÃ³n de Trabajadores de Cuba (CTC"”Cuban Confederation of Workers), which had been created by the government and by its electoral allies in the Comisiones Obreras (CO"”Laborers' [or Workers'] Commissions). The CTC was designed to be the largest, most centralized labor organization in Cuba, one that would combine all existing social factions, including a dues-paying anarchist minority. One major difference between the CTC and the previous umbrella labor organization, the CNOC, was that the CNOC had been designed to be nonsectarian and non- (or anti-) political, while the CTC was designed from the start to be a tool in sectarian politics, and had been placed under the control of the PCC by Batista. Thus, for the first time in Cuba, there was a marriage of unionism and the state.
But there was at least one favorable development under Batista. The Constitution of 1940 marked the birth of a new republic. For the first time in Cuban history, a constitutional document considered the social problem, and its authors tried to correct the errors and omissions of the constitution of the First Republic. Notably, it rescinded the Platt Amendment, though U.S. political, social, economic, and cultural influence over Cuba would continue until 1960.
Modern and progressive, this Cuban Magna Carta was the work of two generations of Cubans. Members of all social classes and all spheres of life had contributed to it. It considered in minute detail all of the problems that had come and all that its authors thought would come"”social, political, agrarian, and labor problems from the previous convulsive decades of Cuban history. The 1940 Constitution was intended as an instrument of social-democratic reform, and all that remained was to put it to the test by putting it into practice.
The surviving sectors of the revolutionary anarchist movement of the 1920-1940 period, now working in the SIA and the FGAC, reinforced by those Cuban militants and Spanish anarchists fleeing now-fascist Spain, agreed at the beginning of the decade to hold an assembly with the purpose of regrouping the libertarian forces inside a single organization. The guarantees of the 1940 Constitution permitted them to legally create an organization of this type, and it was thus that they agreed to dissolve the two principal Cuban anarchist organizations, the SIA and FGAC, and create a new, unified group, the AsociaciÃ³n Libertaria de Cuba (ALC), a sizable organization with a membership in the thousands.
Over 100 delegates"”both Cubans and Spanish exiles"”met at the small Mordazo ranch, home of Juan NÃ¡poles and his compa-era Maria, in the Palatino barrio on the outskirts of Havana. They chose Domingo DÃaz as Secretary General and Abelardo Barroso as Organizational Secretary of the new group. They also agreed to aid the Spanish exiles who were constantly arriving on the island; to take responsibility for the continuation of the libertarian publication Rumbos ("Paths"), which had appeared sporadically during the final years of the 1930s; and to call the "Primer Congreso Nacional Libertario" in 1944.
The large number of cenetistas (members of the Spanish anarchosyndicalist CNT) who arrived in Havana in the years following the Spanish civil war were attended to as well as was possible by their Cuban comrades. However, the generalized unemployment in Cuba in the early 1940s obliged the great majority of these compa-eros to emigrate to countries such as Panama, Mexico, and Venezuela, which, of course, weakened the ALC. Nonetheless, the ALC published for some time a new propaganda organ called Rumbos Nuevos ("New Paths") under the editorship of Marcelo Salinas. Contributors included Domingo Alonso and Claudio MartÃnez. As well, the ALC did carry out its plan for the Primer Congreso Nacional Libertario in 1944. It was held at the Plasterers Union hall in Havana, was facilitated by Manuel Pis, of that union, and elected as Secretary General Gerardo Machado and as Organizational Secretary, once again, Abelardo Barroso.
During the early years of the 1940s, the ALC libertarians dedicated themselves to organizing in the labor field. Given their history of work in the Cuban labor movement"”and their primary role in it until the middle of the 1920s"”Cuba's anarchists still had a lot of popular backing, as well as a reputation for honor, combativeness, and sacrifice, all based on a long and clean revolutionary history. The ALC began creating teams of militants from the recently formed Juventudes Libertarias (JL), with the goal of regaining the ground lost to the Communists and reformists. They founded "action groups" among both students and workers through the JL. These were propaganda groups of high school students and young anarchist workers who dedicated themselves to distributing anarchist books, pamphlets, papers and magazines in schools and workplaces.
Meanwhile, the Constitution of 1940 had enshrined the eight-hour day, which had been decreed in 1933"”thus one of the utopian visions from the pages of El Productor in 1888 was finally fulfilled. At the same time, the Constitution regulated the right to strike, but still recognized it as a right. This situation, and the political infiltration inside the CTC, obliged the anarchosyndicalists within the CTC to create pressure groups, with the object of challenging the inertia, bureaucracy, and the frank collaboration of the PCC and CO with the Cuban government.
Batista had been elected president with the aid and backing of the PCC. For this the PCC received ministerial posts, money, means of propaganda, and state protection. In return, the PCC conferred upon Batista pompous titles such as "the messenger of prosperity," and put at his service not only the propagandistic services of the party, but also the CTC, controlled from the heights by PCC elements. They had in effect converted the CTC into a political work force while thriving in the shadow of state power"”thus once again betraying the true origins and principles of syndicalism in Cuba. For this, the Cuban anarchists conferred upon them the title, "frente crapular" ("debauched front" or "evil front""”a reference to the Communist "popular front" ["frente popular"] strategy of the 1930s).
RamÃ³n Grau San MartÃn, the candidate of the so-called Partido Revolucionario Cubano Auténtico (PRCA) which had arisen in 1933, won the election and assumed power in 1944. The people expected substantial change from the new, freely elected, social democratic government. However, Grau San MartÃn allowed the Communists to remain in their posts.
The only important change in the Cuban workers' situation occurred on May Day in 1947, at the start of the Cold War, when the Cuban government, under noticeable U.S. pressure, expelled the Communists from their posts in the CTC. This decision served as proof that despite the deletion of the Platt Amendment from the Cuban Constitution, those who had removed it still folded under pressure from the U.S. State Department.
There was a libertarian renewal in these years. A number of small anarchist information and propaganda bulletins appeared in Havana under the auspices of the FederaciÃ³n de Juventudes Libertarias de Cuba (FJLC"”Federation of Libertarian Youths of Cuba), and a monthly "bulletin of the subdelegation of the CNT of Spain," under the direction of V. Velasco and C. Trigo also appeared. Both the FJLC and CNT publications listed their address as that of the ALC at Calle JesÃºs MarÃa 310, Havana. As well, the government decision to purge the stalinist representatives inside the CTC left the door wide open for the anarchosyndicalists. They took advantage of the free elections in the various trades that made up the CTC, and managed to elect several responsible compa-eros to posts in prominent unions.
The prestige and well-earned reputation for honesty of Cuba's anarchosyndicalists gave them effective control of several important unions, such as the transport workers, culinary workers, construction workers, and electric utility workers, and allowed them to form pressure groups inside almost all of the other unions that composed the CTC at the time. Cuban anarchists in the interior of the island also created the Asociaciones Campesinas at this time, for the purpose of organizing the poorest, landless campesinos. These efforts bore their greatest fruits in the province of Camagüey, the old libertarian bastion, and in the port of Nuevitas and the southern coffee zone in the province of Oriente in the Baracoa-Guantanamo mountain range, where for many years anarchists had founded and maintained free agricultural collectives.
In 1948, the Cuban anarchists held another national congress. It was well attended, with 155 delegates present. The pamphlet Memorias del II Congreso Libertario records that on, "February 21, at 9 p.m., and with a great crowd filling . . . the halls of the FederaciÃ³n Nacional de Plantas Eléctricas . . . at Paseo de MartÃ 615 . . . the Second National Libertarian Congress, convoked by the Libertarian Association of Cuba, commenced." The congress was opened by the words of the old friend of the Cuban libertarians, AgustÃn Souchy, who in those years represented the AIT (AsociaciÃ³n Internacional de Trabajadores/ International Workers Association, the anarchosyndicalist international federation). Marcelo Salinas, Modesto Barbeito and Helio Nardo also spoke. The Congress held a plenary session the following day, with Rafael Sierra presiding, and with Vicente Alea acting as provisional secretary. It created four Work Commissions: Organization, under the leadership of Modesto Barbeito and Helio Nardo; Propaganda, under N. SuÃ¡rez and Manuel GonzÃ¡lez; Finance, under Manuel Castillo and Vicente Alea; and Other Matters, under Antonio LandriÃ¡n and Suria LinsuaÃn.
The Second Congress closed on February 24 with a series of dictums, which were published later in the year as a pamphlet. The pamphlet contemplated the creation of a libertarian society in Cuba, and appealed to all economic, industrial, union and agricultural levels on the island. The passage of the years has shown how important to Cuban anarchism this document was. It sketched the situation in those uncertain years of Constitution and Republic with a sure hand; it attacked Cuban anarchism's perpetual enemy, the stalinist PCC; it outlined the danger of the Catholic Church's influence; it declared itself anticapitalist and, above all, anti-imperialist, attacking both the U.S. and the USSR as "foreign powers," thus appealing a bit to then-fashionable Cuban nationalism.
Among the ambitious points on which the delegates had reached agreement, and which covered almost all aspects of social and economic life in Cuba, was one that stated the necessity of having an effective and regularly appearing propaganda organ. They chose the gastronomic workers' monthly publication Solidaridad GastronÃ³mica, which already existed, and the Congress agreed to make it the official organ of the ALC. It would have a long life in Cuban proletarian culture.
Solidaridad GastronÃ³mica's first issue appeared on December 22, 1949, as a four-page newspaper printed on newsprint and priced at five centavos. It was billed as "the organ of orientation and combat." Its staff included José M. Fuentes CandÃ³n as director, Domingo Alonso and Jorge Jorge as administrators, and Claudio MartÃnez, Casto MoscÃº, Juan R. Alvarez, José Rodriguez and Roberto Cabanellas as editors. It appeared monthly in this format until February 1951, when its size increased to six pages; in December 1954 its size increased again to eight pages, and it began to be printed on better paper. In July 1956 its size increased again to 12 pages"”the size at which it would remain until its final issue in December 1960. One hundred twenty-five issues were printed in all, and its circulation was in the 1000-1500 copy range. Even though it was published by gastronomical workers and was the organ of their federation, it reached a broader audience and its writers included the most outstanding Cuban exponents of anarchist ideas. In addition to news and analysis, it contained a book section edited by Domingo Alonso, which dealt with books on various libertarian topics. Solidaridad GastronÃ³mica was one of the last independent publications shut down by the Castro government.
Carlos PrÃo SocarrÃ¡s assumed the Cuban presidency in 1948, and followed the same tolerant path as Grau in the social and labor fields. So, the anarchists were still free to organize and to propagate libertarian ideas. In 1949 the anarchists within the CTC, along with other sympathetic elements, tried and failed to create a new labor central, the ConfederaciÃ³n General de Trabajadores (CGT). The idea was to create a workers' organization independent of the CTC and its political influence and electoral participation; this was very much in line with the traditional anarchosyndicalist position (such as that of the CNOC) which totally rejects unions functioning as political instruments of the state. According to Helio Nardo, one of the survivors of the attempt to untie labor from the CTC, "The idea of creating a second labor central was the result of belief in a non-political/non-electoral syndicalism, [a project] on which I worked intensely along with Abelardo Iglesias and Modesto Barbeito." With the support of Ãngel Cofi-o, a representative of the electrical workers, and Vicente Rubiera from the telephone workers, the Comité Obrero Nacional Independiente (CONI) was formed. Nardo notes that it ". . . had a daily radio program on RHC Blue Chain," and that "for the broadcast we would write daily in the hall of the ALC." Despite all of the opposition to this new step toward syndicalism free of political pressure, "it came into being . . . with the name ConfederaciÃ³n General de Trabajadores (CGT) . . . with its offices in the Calle Ãguila."
The Tercer (Third) Congreso Nacional Libertario was held on the 11th and 12th of March 1950. It's object was reorganization, to take orienting positions within Cuban unionism, and to attempt to point the Cuban workers' movement in a healthier direction. The Congress agreed "to struggle against the control of the workers movement by bureaucrats . . . politicians, cults, religionists, etc. . . . and to expound the true significance of syndicalism, which must be apolitical, revolutionary and federalist," in this manner combating the existing syndicalism which was "tyrannical, converted in fact into an agency of the state."
The Third Congress ended by calling upon workers to repudiate the CTC as an organization "supported by the stalinist and false workers' allies faction, without a trace of revolutionary ideas, spirit, or practice . . . [and] dominated by dictatorial political parties and a corrupt leadership." The Congress also dedicated itself "to actively working with the workers of the CGT, the only legitimate workers organization with syndicalist tendencies and the one most sensitive to the true needs of the workers."
It was unfortunate that the attempt to create another union central would fail totally. The idea of creating the CGT independent of the CTC"”and therefore independent of government influence"”ran into formidable obstacles thanks to reformist elements, Communists, and the government. President Prio was well aware of the dangers posed by a new workers confederation under strong anarchist influence, which could not be manipulated by his political party (PRCA), and as was to be expected, he unleashed a propaganda campaign against the CGT in both the Cuban communications media and in the officially approved unions with the aim of derailing the CGT initiative. PrÃo's excuse was opposition to "divisiveness" or "factionalism."
In these years, as a product of the Cold War, PrÃo, motivated by U.S. "suggestions" and by members of his own party, also acted against the Communists. He declared the Partido Socialista Popular (PSP"”the Communists' electoral front) illegal, and closed its communications media. This caused the Cuban stalinists to search for a new alliance with their old friend, Fulgencio Batista.
The Cuban government's fear of Cuba's anarchists at this time was not totally unfounded. Already by the end of the 1940s, the anarchists had regained considerable influence within the Cuban labor movement at the grassroots level. There were anarchist militants scattered across almost the entire island in small groups, functioning at the local level. Anarchist propagandists were also present in every provincial capital in Cuba. Sam Dolgoff, in his book, The Cuban Revolution: A Critical Appraisal, notes: "their sympathizers and their influence was out of all proportion to the number of their members. Anarchosyndicalist groups usually consisted of a few individuals, but larger numbers existed in many local and regional unions, as in other organizations." Some influential anarchists included Casto MoscÃº, Juan R. Ãlvarez, and Bartolo GarcÃa in the FederaciÃ³n de Trabajadores GastronÃ³micos; Francisco Bretau and his brother Roberto in the FederaciÃ³n de Plantas Eléctricas; Santiago Cobo, as Organizational Secretary in the FederaciÃ³n Nacional Obrera de Transporte; and Abelardo Iglesias, the General Secretary of Havana Province in the FederaciÃ³n Nacional de los Trabajadores de la ConstrucciÃ³n.
One should also note the appearance of a new anarchist-oriented periodical in April 1950 in Havana titled Estudios: Mensuario de Cultura ("Studies: Cultural Monthly"). This new periodical reached beyond the sloganeering style that had characterized many previous anarchist publications; Estudios had a modern look as well as modern content "”its socio-cultural text was complemented by numerous photos and drawings and excellent typography. Those responsible for Estudios included its board of directors, Marcelo Salinas, Abelardo Iglesias, and Luis Dulzaides, its administrator, Santiago Velasco, and its publicity director, Roberto Bretau. It had a circulation of 1000 and was financed by the various unions. This large magazine of 52 pages derived much of its modern look from the drawings of the painter José Maria Mijares, which appeared in every issue, and its use of photography (including nudes"”a true novelty at the time).
One other monthly anarchist periodical was also published in Cuba at this time, El Libertario, the organ of the ALC. This periodical had appeared sporadically in newspaper format since the 1940s, and was under the direction of Marcelo Salinas. Its irregular appearance was dictated by finances, and it, along with Solidaridad GastronÃ³mica, was one of the last independent publications shut down by the Castro regime. It was a four-page newspaper priced at five centavos, and its contributors and collaborators included Rolando Pi-era (its administrator), Manuel Gaona Sousa, Casto MoscÃº, Abelardo Iglesias, and from México, Silvia Mistral, and from Sweden, AgustÃn Souchy.
In March 1952, Batista carried out a coup d'etat. The Cuban people received the news with utter indifference, given the moral and administrative corruption of the PrÃo government. A call for a general strike failed totally, and the CTC, under Eusebio Mujal (general secretary of the CTC, and an ex-Communist and ex-Trotskyist who had belonged to the Comisiones Obreras) quickly came to terms with Batista, despite the opposition of the anarchists in the CTC to the imposition of military rule. As an excuse for his conduct, Mujal told union leaders that opposing Batista's coup would have meant the ousting of those who resisted it and their substitution by members of the PCC, backed by Batista's military. For their part, the Communists took advantage of the circumstances to penetrate the CTC bureaucracy, but were unable to regain their once-preponderant influence in the organization. For his part, Batista embraced the Communists as allies, but this time in silence. The Cold War was in full swing and he had to be careful about his stalinist political associates.
Another significant figure appeared in this period: Fidel Castro, a young, Jesuit-educated politician from a bourgeois background, who sought to fill the vacuum of oppositional power created by Batista's coup. On July 26, 1953, Castro and a group of revolutionaries carried out an attack on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba, which ended in bloodshed and with many victims on both sides. Castro was taken prisoner and at his trial, in his defense plea, he outlined a "revolutionary" program that was anything but"”it was simply reformist and basically social democratic. His primary object was to reestablish the Constitution of 1940, which Batista had violated by overthrowing PrÃo. The trial concluded at the end of 1953 with Castro being condemned to 15 years in prison, along with a number of his comrades. He took advantage of the occasion by founding the 26th of July Movement (M26J). After being imprisoned for a few months, Castro was released because of a governmental amnesty, and he left for Mexico.
By this time the opposition to Batista had turned violent, and Batista, as was to be expected, responded brutally to provocations. The political climate was heating up, and the opposition, which embraced non-Castro as well as pro-Castro factions, grew rapidly. Preoccupied by the political situation, in March 1955 the recently named ALC National Council called for a National Libertarian Conference, which was held on April 24th of the same year at an ecological preserve in the town Campo Florido, on the outskirts of Havana. The conference had an agenda of 10 points, the most important of which was National Affairs.
Its report evaluated all of anarchist activities carried out since the Third Congress. It noted that one event was the closing of El Libertario in April 1952 by the Batista regime. It also commented on the current political situation in Cuba, decrying "the restriction of liberty in all its aspects, the surveillance and persecutions . . . the determination demonstrated by the government in going against anything that would significantly better the working class . . . [and] the taxes that increase daily." The report ended by noting that events "force us libertarians . . . to confront the regime with all our forces; we will cooperate with initiatives that tend to return to the country the liberty it is currently denied."
In 1956 Cuba became totally polarized between Batista and his political enemies, including the electoral political parties. This was largely a result of his suspension of the 1940 constitution. The anarchists maintained their anti-dictatorial positions and denounced the disastrous politics of Batista. In this crucial year, the ALC published a pamphlet written by Marcelo Salinas and Casto MoscÃº titled Proyecciones Libertarias ("Libertarian Projections"), which denounced "the evil politics of Batista" while at the same time predicting what would emanate from the Sierras Orientales and Fidel Castro.
Already in 1957 at the 24th National Council of the CTC, Casto MoscÃº denounced the official report of the secretary general of that organization, Eusebio Mujal, which advocated that"”in violation of the accords of the CTC"”the organization undertake electoral party politicking inside the unions. As a result of the change in direction of the CTC, and in compliance with the "accords of our organization," two prominent anarchists resigned their positions in the CTC: Modesto Barbeito (Organizational Secretary) and Abelardo Iglesias (Cultural Secretary).
Despite the difficulties of these dark times, Solidaridad GastronÃ³mica continued publishing monthly. That this periodical appeared in times of censorship and suspension of constitutional rights is a testament to the determination of the Cuban anarchists. Solidaridad GastronÃ³mica could be characterized as both viscerally anti-communist and anti-fascist, and it zealously defended "libertarian socialism." Its directors were Juan R. Ãlvarez, Domingo Alonso, and Manuel GonzÃ¡lez, and its offices remained at the end of the decade at JesÃºs MarÃa 310, the offices of the ALC.
On April 14, 1957, the Conferencia Anarquista de las Américas was celebrated in Montevideo, Uruguay. The ALC sent Casto MoscÃº and José A. Ãlvarez as its representatives. Among other things, this conference denounced all of the dictatorships plaguing Latin America, including the one in Cuba.
At about the same time another revolutionary stage opened at the headquarters of the ALC, a place which was often the site of clandestine meetings. Among those conspiring were openly insurrectionary groups such as the Directorio Revolucionario (Revolutionary Directorate, a social-democratic group) and M26J. The ALC headquarters was raided on a number of occasions by Batista's police, though without much success for their repressive purposes.
Anarchists involved in insurrectional activities included Gilberto Lima and Luis LinsuaÃn, who were part of M26J. The underground movement was divided into zones, and Lima participated in the urban armed struggle in the Havana-Matanzas area, and LinsuaÃn took part in guerrilla activity in the northern part of Oriente Province. Another anarchist, PlÃ¡cido Méndez, was active in the Segundo Frente (Second Front) guerrilla campaign in the Escambray Mountains. These were but a few of the many anarchists participating in armed actions at this time.
The anarchists were, of course, persecuted for their part in the armed struggle. Gilberto Lima was jailed and tortured on several occasions, and Isidro MoscÃº was viciously tortured, almost to death. According to Casto MoscÃº, Isidro was taken prisoner and tortured along with a number of other compa-eros who had been preparing an armed uprising in Pinar del Rio Province. Juan R. Ãlvarez, Roberto Bretau, Luis LinsuaÃn, PlÃ¡cido Méndez, Claudio MartÃnez, and Modesto Barbeito were also arrested, along with many other anarchists. Ãlvarez, Barbeito, and Aquiles Iglesias went into exile after they were released from prison.
By the middle of 1958, the Cuban capitalist elite began to comprehend that Batista and his repressive apparatus were at the point of losing power. This privileged group, along with U.S. interests, felt threatened and no longer considered Batista an ally. So, they decided to support the opposition to Batista. Castro obtained several million dollars from them to buy arms. This money came from big industrialists and big businesses, such as Hermanos Babun Ship Builders, and Bacardi Rum, as a reward for Castro's having resisted Batista in the mountains of Oriente Province for two years. (Batista had ordered a well-calculated "persecution" of Castro, designed not to extinguish the rebellion, but rather to evade its political ends.) At this time, the highest Cuban economic spheres considered Castro as the solution to the then-current crisis, and as a potential ally. He certainly appeared so. His armed uprising, known as "the struggle against the dictatorship" (despite later propaganda), never had a solid campesino base, let alone a proletarian base. It was, rather, in good part the work of capitalism and the Cuban bourgeoisie.
In 1957 and 1958 there were several armed actions: a naval uprising at Cienfuegos, an attack on the GoicurÃa Barracks in Matanzas, a landing on the north coast of Oriente Province, and an attempted assassination of Batista in the so-called "Palace Attack." All of these failed miserably, costing many lives. At the same time, an independent guerrilla uprising occurred in the mountains of Escambray in the central part of Cuba. A number of armed groups were active in the province of Las Villas, especially in the mountainous part of the province. These included the Directorio Revolucionario (Revolutionary Directorate) and the Segundo Frente del Escambray (Second Front of Escambray). Many of those participating were veterans of urban combat seeking refuge in the mountains; there were also many campesinos disaffected from the government, who didn't do much in the way of armed actions, but who kept the government's troops tied up for months. For its part, M26J had nothing to do with these events, and they were publicly and openly repudiated by Fidel Castro.
By the middle of 1958, Batista had lost the political battle and could no longer militarily contain the rebels. Washington turned its back on him and would no longer sell him arms. At the same time, members of the Cuban Communist Party traveled to Castro's camp in the Sierra Maestra and began making deals with like-minded rebels, and later with Castro personally. The bearded leader grew politically stronger every day, and signed a pact in Caracas, Venezuela with all opposition elements, all of whom evidently admired him. Castro's economic, social, and political program continued being the same"” at least he declared it so"”as in 1953: social justice, electoral-political reform, and the re-implementation of the well-respected Constitution of 1940.
Finally, Batista fled Cuba on December 31, 1958. Another historical cycle had begun for Cuba's libertarians.