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The 60th Anniversary of the attack on Moncada Army Barracks

THE 60th anniversary of a heroic action that encouraged the mass struggle that led to the victory of the Cuban Revolution and still remains as a permanent inspiration for the Cuban people in its daily work and bravery is being celebrated this year.

On July 26, 1953, some 150 men and women led by Fidel Castro and Abel Santamaria, launched assaults on the Moncada army barracks in Santiago de Cuba (the headquarters of Batista´s military dictatorship in the East and the second most important military garrison in the country) and the nearby Bayamo garrison. They were students, workers, young professionals, teachers, artists, clerks. Some were poor, a few were rich, and most of them were sheltered sons and daughters of middle class families. The majority worked in Spartan clandestinity, a few with the knowledge and silent admiration of their trembling parents.

They were led and inspired by an articulate twenty-six year old rookie lawyer, himself the son of a wealthy planter and educated in one of the Havana’s exclusive Roman Catholic schools. His had been the only voice which dared condemn publicly Batista’s military coup d’état of 1952, three months before national elections. In fact, four days after the coup and ten days before the United States officially recognised the dictator, that lone voice went on record at one of Cuba’s highest civil courts, indicting the tyrant and asking for a public trial. His name was Fidel Castro Ruz.

They sold their books and jewelry, they took extra jobs and mortgaged their cars, properties, businesses, until they raised fifteen thousand dollars with which to purchase guns and uniforms. They had no outside help, no offers of support from powerful individuals, organisations, or foreign land. So meager was their arsenal that when time came for the uprising many anxious and well-trained partisans had to be left behind for lack of weapons. (“If only we had had twenty more hand grenades…!”)

The attacks failed and dozens of rebels were murdered after capture and horribly tortured, or were jailed. Fidel escaped to the nearby Sierra Maestra Mountains. He was later captured and put on trial, where he defended himself, delivered his “History will absolve me” speech and convincingly claimed that José Marti, Cuban National Hero, was the mastermind and could not die in the year of his Centenary.

As in every revolution, the price was high. Half of the rebels died, not in combat, but under torture. Their captors were eager to pin the blame for the aborted insurrection on some high official or foreign instigator. The irate tyranny could not conceive that the near-defeat it suffered had been inflicted by a group of ill-equipped youthful civilians with no ties whatsoever to disgruntled politicians, army chiefs, or an exotic ideology. There simply was nothing to confess to, and the truth was too compromising for the government, too indicative of oppression and discontent to be admitted.

After being held incommunicado for 76 days, denied the use of books and legal papers and counsel, aided only by a privileged memory, the novice young leader gave a devastating dissertation in which he reviewed the human and legal rights of men to rebel against tyrannical lords, from the struggles of Oliver Cromwell against Charles I, to the American and the French Revolutions. He quoted from the Rights of Man and the American Declaration of Independence, from the writings of Rousseau, Milton, Balzac, Locke, Saint Thomas Aquinas, José Martí… Turning against his captors he indicted them for abetting the inhumanity and corruption of the dictatorship. He reviewed Cuba’s chronic social injustices and economic ills; 33 percent illiteracy, 30 percent unemployment, the majority of the people living in hovels, sustaining themselves on a diet of roots and rice, unable to give their children shoes, medical care, a hope, a skill, a future.

In the presence of the 100 soldiers guarding him in that courtroom, Fidel Castro accused Batista of a reign of terror and illegality which left the people no other course to liberation than a civilian uprising. And instead of asking for an acquittal, he closed his defense by demanding to be sent to join his brother-rebels already serving jail terms in the Isle of Pines prison, ending with these prophetic words; “Sentence me, it does not matter. History will absolve me.”

They won, on their terms. Shortly after an amnesty achieved under peoples pressure, they went into self-imposed exile in Mexico, there to reorganise and begin training for another try. But the action paved the way for a revolutionary war led by the July 26 Movement, culminating in a popular insurrection that toppled the US-supported Batista dictatorship on January 1, 1959.

Cuban workers and farmers took power out of the hands of the wealthy elite and its US imperialist backers, established a government of their own, and began to transform society for the benefit of the vast majority. For more than five decades, the Cuban people have defended their socialist revolution against the economic and political war and other aggressions by eleven successive US Administrations.

The Barracks are now a school and a Museum of the Revolution.

Join in the celebrations to highlight what the Cuban Revolution means today and why it remains an example for working people – and all oppressed and exploited humanity – around the world, including the United States itself. The most outstanding example is the Cuban Five Heroes who in September 12 will be still languishing in US jails for the only crime to expose terrorism in defense not only of Cuba, Latin America but the American people too.

Down with US blockade!!!!

Free the Cuban Five Anti-terrorists immediately!!!!

Long live the Cuban Revolution forever!!!!

( Courtesy: Peoples democracy)