Cuba’s Day of National Rebellion
Resistance, Resilience and Renewal:
Cuba Commemorates Moncada
July 26, 2022, marks the 69th anniversary of the act that is annually celebrated all over Cuba as the beginning of the movement and struggle that paved the way for the Cuban Revolution. On that day, Cuba’s rebels — led by Fidel Castro — rose up against the U.S.-supported dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista.
On July 26, 1953, a group of courageous young men and women attacked the Moncada Barracks in the city of Santiago de Cuba, and the Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Barracks in Bayamo, in an attempt to overthrow the U.S. supported puppet dictator Fulgencio Batista. As the island’s second largest military garrison, the Moncada Barracks was critical to Batista’s military control of southern Cuba. The goal was to seize the weapons and distribute them to the people and spark a national uprising that would not only overthrow the Batista dictatorship but also establish Cuba’s independence and sovereignty. This heroic act is annually commemorated all over Cuba as the beginning of the movement and struggle that laid the foundation of the Cuban Revolution.
The attacks were carried out by an organization that was created in 1952, under the leadership of Fidel Castro and Abel Santamaria, and comprised of young workers, students, artisans, peasants, and landless farmers. It had around 1,500 members and affiliated itself with historic Cuban national liberation figures such as José Martí and Antonio Maceo. Around 120 youths were part of the attacks, approximately 70 of whom were killed, with many being tortured and executed after the attack. The survivors, including Fidel Castro, were subsequently put on trial, and given lengthy prison sentences. Most, including Fidel Castro, were released after an amnesty in May 1955. This amnesty was the result of the mass mobilization of Cubans in support of the imprisoned rebels. Under the leadership of Fidel Castro, the July 26th Movement galvanized Cubans, ultimately leading to the victory of the Cuban Revolution on January 1, 1959.
The Cuban Revolution is a culmination of the struggles for national independence and social justice, embodied in the indigenous resistance to Spanish colonization, in African rebellions against slavery, reaching a crescendo on October 10, 1868 when Carlos Manuel de Céspedes launched the first war for independence, carried forward and deepened by José Martí and Antonio Maceo, and revived periodically throughout the 20th century when Cuba languished under U.S. hegemony, with Moncada a crucial signpost.
The Cuban Revolution is, therefore, the crystallization and consummation of the historical aspirations of the Cuban people, manifested time and time again in their re-affirmation and determination to defend, strengthen and perfect the revolutionary project.
However, the empire has never accepted the verdict of the Cuban people; it has waged an unceasing economic war and campaign of destabilization aimed at restoring U.S. imperialism’s domination and tutelage.
This year’s Moncada celebrations and commemorations occur a little over one year after the failed U.S.-financed and organized effort to overthrow Cuba’s government by taking advantage of the amplification of serious challenges and difficulties faced by the Cuban nation due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the intensification of the unrelenting U.S. economic war.
The July 11, 2021, protests in Cuba were maliciously manipulated by reactionary politicians and the monopoly media in various deliberate ways to discredit the Cuban Revolution and create a climate of disinformation and confusion to justify further aggressions against the island nation. However, overwhelmingly, the international community and the world solidarity movement with Cuba united rejecting Washington’s economic war and destabilization campaign. The U.S. state department failed miserably in pressuring countries in the Americas and across the world to join its ignominious and scurrilous attacks and manoeuvres against Cuba. The latest debacle at the Summit of the Americas not only underscored its failure to isolate Cuba but the estrangement of the U.S. from the region as many countries either stayed away in protest against Cuba’s exclusion or sent lower-level delegations, with one participant after another calling for an end to U.S. hostilities against the heroic island nation.
Nevertheless, the U.S. remains intransigent. Since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the U.S. has waged an unceasing assault, both military and economic, against the Cuban people, organizing an invasion, assassinations, terrorist attacks against civilians and systematic economic sabotage. Many of these acts were directly launched from and/or planned in the United States. These acts of terror against Cuba include the 1976 bombing of a civilian Cuban airliner that claimed the lives of 73 people and the 1997 Havana hotel bombings, which claimed the life of Fabio Di Celmo, a young Montrealer of Italian origin. As a point of fact, 3,478 Cubans have been killed and 2,099 injured, because of these terrorist acts.
The objective of the U.S. strategy is the negation and extinguishment of Cuba’s right to self-determination, sovereignty, and independence: to reimpose U.S. domination, hegemony, and tutelage.
The malign goal is to starve the Cuban people into submission by suffocating the economy for the purpose of generating shortages, hardships and exacerbating social inequalities that the Cuban Revolution has been working resolutely to eliminate in order to lead to Washington’s longed-for massive social unrest that would then serve as a pretext to intervene in Cuba.
This was unambiguously articulated by Lester D. Mallory, Vice Secretary of State, and an architect of U.S. Cuba policy. He wrote in a now-declassified U.S. State Department April 6, 1960, memorandum:
“The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation, and overthrow of government.”
But what is it that Washington seeks to destroy? What is the society that the U.S. government is so zealously committed to undermining?
Cuba is a society where universal education and health care, housing, food, and access to culture are fundamental human rights, and the state — within its limited resources — does its utmost to transform these aspirations into reality.
Indeed, in Cuba there are no homeless children roaming the streets eking out an existence in a dog-eat-dog society where everyone fends for themselves, so characteristic and defining of profit-driven and capital-centred societies.
This commitment is affirmed and ratified by and through Cuba’s system of popular power which provides consequential, concrete, and meaningful input into decision-making by the citizenry. Through mass participation and consultation these historical aspirations are expressed in a political consensus to defend, strengthen, and perfect the revolutionary project.
Cuba is the country that despite worldwide attacks on fundamental human rights has created a final draft of a new family code that will be voted on in a September 25, 2022, referendum. The code is guided by José Martí’s dictum, “with all and for the good of all,” guaranteeing respect for family diversity and defending the rights of all.
Cuba is also the country that has a vibrant biotechnology sector as its own highly effective vaccines and treatments against the corona virus have abundantly demonstrated. Indeed, Cuba’s successful vaccines are a direct challenge to the West’s monopoly over this vital medical technology, especially as these vaccines continue receiving international recognition.
Cuba is one of the most prescient and powerful voices in both word and deed as humanity faces an ecological catastrophe, developing a 100-year plan to address the ravages of climate change by 2100. Indeed, in 2006, the World Wildlife Fund designated Cuba as the only country with sustainable development.
Besieged by the empire, the heroic island nation has made invaluable contributions to the well-being of the world’s nations and peoples, having established an unparalleled legacy of internationalism and humanitarianism.
More than 400,000 Cuban medical personnel have served in 164 countries fighting disease.
More than 2,000 Cubans gave their lives in the struggles to liberate Africa from the scourge of colonialism and the racist apartheid South African state. As Nelson Mandela emphasized: “The Cuban people hold a special place in the hearts of the people of Africa. The Cuban internationalists have made a contribution to African independence, freedom, and justice, unparalleled for its principled and selfless character.”
It is internationalist Cuba which has selflessly dispatched tens of thousands of medical personnel to dozens of countries across the world to fight disease, be it Ebola or COVID-19.
What Cuba has done nationally and internationally is no small feat. Its impressive achievements have occurred amid an all-sided brutal aggression by Washington.
Commemorations of Moncada Day in Cuba and internationally reflect the ties that exist between Cuba and the world. The peoples of the world admire the courageous and rebellious spirit embodied in Moncada; a spirit that today is so powerfully manifested in Cuba’s steadfastness against the efforts of the empire to destroy the island’s independence. As Cuba’s President, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez poignantly and repeatedly underscored, “We will not surrender the sovereignty of our country.”
While the Moncada attack failed in fulfilling its immediate objective, it was central to the Cuban people’s struggle for national affirmation and social emancipation. Cubans have always placed Moncada in a broad historical context, viewing it as a crucial link in the century-long striving of Cuba to free itself from Spanish colonial domination and U.S. tutelage, and then, establish authentic independence. At his trial Fidel Castro delivered a speech that eventually became the manifesto of the movement to overthrow the Batista tyranny. It was published as La Historia Me Absolvera (History Will Absolve Me) and laid out the national and social goals of the revolutionary movement that eventually triumphed on January 1, 1959. Today, the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Cespedes barracks, now a school and a museum, stand as concrete symbols of that successful struggle.
Although that first battle was lost, the Revolution ultimately prevailed on January 1, 1959.
Since the Cuban people embarked on the road paved by Moncada, Cuba has refuted and continues to refute the colonialist mentality and practice of foisting on independent countries imperial arrangements and dictates that they resoundingly reject. The Cuban Revolution has refused to renounce its right to self-determination, independence and sovereignty, principles forged in the crucible of Moncada.
Isaac Saney is a Cuba specialist at Dalhousie University, and the author of Cuba: A Revolution In Motion and the forthcoming, Cuba, Africa, and Apartheid’s End: Africa’s Children Return. From 2008-2022, he served as co-chair and national spokesperson of the Canadian Network On Cuba, with which he now serves in an advisory capacity.
Video: Cuba’s Central Celebration of Moncada Day in Cienfugeos, July 26, 2022