By Nicolas Mottas.
It was 26th of July 1953 when a group of around 160 rebels, under the leadership of 26 years-old lawyer Fidel Castro, tried an armed attack on the Moncada barracks, at Santiago de Cuba. The aim was to give a first message of resistance against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. The attack was not successful. Sixty-one rebels were killed while the rest -- including Castro -- were captured and imprisoned by the regime's authorities. However, the 26th of July 1953 remained in Cuban history as the day when the trigger of the following revolution was pulled. The revolutionary 'Movement of the 26th of July' (Movimiento 26 de Julio) took it's name from that day and a few years later led the army of Fidel, Che, Raul and Camilo to the thriumph against the corrupted, pro-imperialist regime of Batista.
This years anniversary of the 26th of July 1953 attack gives the opportunity of writing some thoughts, as well as evidence, regarding the revolution that took place at the island of Jose Marti. Especially in today's historical circumstances and given the targeted distortions and defamations which are unleashed against Cuba and Cuban people.
Historically, very few revolutions have been so deliberately distorted and misinterpreted as the 1959 Cuban Revolution has. The multiple enemies of Revolution and Castroism have invented hundreds of arguments in order to blemish the political, social and cultural values which, 53 year now, have been established in the island. That consists an effort which started just after the overthrow of the corrupted, and supported by Washington, dictatorship of Batista on January 1959. The confiscation of the property held by the monopolies and the Cuban bourgeoise, the agrarian reform and the socialization of the means of production which took place in the first half of the 1960s were an unexpected, big victory for the working class internationally.
Having the support of the Soviet Union, the government of Fidel managed to establish, for at least three consecutive decades, a functional economic system, upgrading significantly on the same time the sectors of Health and Education and, furthermore, eliminating the illiteration rates existing in the pro-revolutionary period. Of course, the accomplishments of the Revolution were -- and continue to be -- a "thorn in the eye" of the capitalist superpower as well as of the various anti-communists, either conservative or neoliberal ones.
As it is known, during the period of Batista's dictatorship, Cuba was a huge plant of sugar production and casino-tourism, mainly for upper-class americans. The authority established by the "July 26th Movement" not only sweeped the privileges of the greedy cuban bourgeoise but also cut the "umbilical cord" of the country's financial oligarchy with US imperialism. That had as a result the change of power in a class level, with the emergence of the country's daily people (workers, farmers, youth) as protagonists in the social reality of Cuba.
During the Revolution's first five years the consumption of meat and textile was doubled (the products became accessible to all the citizens), the housing prices were rapidly decreased, the abandoned luxurious mansions of those who left Cuba became home of about 80,000 students from the rural areas and the expensive cars of the self-exiled counter-revolutionaries were given to former servants in order to start working as taxi drivers.
In order to comment on the achievements of the Cuban Revolution we must see the conditions existed before 1959. The reality is that before the takeover of Havana by the rebel forces, the island was no more than a small colony of Washington. Almost all products were imported from the United States as an exchange for the opening of the US market to the sugar production. The "indigenous" population had to obtain the basic goods (including the meat market) from the external (imported) sources indicated by the colonial regime.
The notorious United Fruit Co, the US-based monopoly of fruit trade, was a powerful company which was bringing huge profits to it's owners by exploting the land of Cuban people. All -- without exceptions -- the suppliers of electricity and telephone were companies based in the United States, as well as the companies providing pharmaceutical material, clothing, automobiles and transportation (buses, ships, aircrafts). Cuban workers were forced to live a life by consuming imported american products which were provided in higher prices than in the US, being in fact slaves of a, tied by imperialism, oligarchy.
Today, 53 years after the Revolution, the (quality) level of public sectors including Health, Education and Housing is much higher than in many capitalist countries in Latin America. The literacy rate is almost 98%, education is accessible to all citizens without exceptions while the Cuban national health system (free for all) is justifiably regarded one of the best in the world. Some indicative data speak by themselves:
In 2007, the average life expectancy rate in Cuba was 78.26 years, having increasing trend. For the same year, the rate in the US was 77.99 years. (World Bank).
In 2010, infant mortality rate in the island was 4.7 for ever 1000 births, less than any country in the whole continent, including the US.
During the last years, 1,390,000 patients from 32 countries had their vision improved or fully restored in 59 ophalmology centers operating under the support of the Cuban and Venezuelan governments.
The centralized, state control of economy has let Cuba to constantly develop the national health system, even after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the hardening of the US economic blockade. From 1990 to 2003, the number of doctors in Cuba increased by 76%, of dentists by 46% and nurses by 16%. During the same period, the population coverage of the social institution of "family doctor" was increased by 52.2%, touching a rate of 99.2% in 2003.
In November 2008, Cuba had more than 70,000 doctors. From them, approximately 17,600 were sent to 75 different countries in order to offer their services there. In 27 countries (including African countries such as Ghana, Botswana, Namimbia etc.) Cuba has supplied medical personnel which offers high quality services. In Timor Leste, for example, it is estimated that between 2003 and 2008, the Cuban medical mission saved 11,400 people contributing significantly to the fall of birth mortality rate.
The high solidarity feeling among Cuban people is undoubted. The first Cuban medical team was sent in 1960 to the then devastated by an earthquake Chile. From 1960 to 1980 the Cuban government immediately sent medical aid to 16 countries which had been facing natural disasters or conflicts. On August 2005, after the disastrous hurricane Katrina in the United States, the Castro government volunteered to sent a team of doctors to the state of Louisianna. The proposal was turned down by the Bush administration. During the same year, on October 2005, Cuba sent the largest number of specialized medical personnel (2,500 men and women) to Pakistan, shortly after the earthquake. Moreover, the Cuban government offered 1,000 scholarships to Pakistani students from poor families who desired to study medicine.
The 99.8% of Cubans over the age of 15 know how to read and write (UNESCO). That consists the highest rate of literacy in Latin America and one of the highest internationally.
During 2010, one million young Cubans were graduated from the country's universities.
The role of woman in society is upgraded. Fourty-three percent (43%) of the seats at the country's parliament are held by females, while 65% of the labor force in technical sectors are women.
Despite the relatively small size of the country (11 million), Cuba is a significant power in sports. For example, in the Pan-American Games of 2011 held in Mexico, the country was terminated second with 58 golden medals.
On the above we should add the fact that any citizen, indifferently of sex, race or ethnicity, can find a job, without facing the terrible situation of unemployment that bedevils many "developed" capitalist countries of the West.
Undoubtely, nobody can say that the Revolution solved all the problems. There are existing problems which constantly changing and need new and more sophisticated solutions. It is also clear that by the standards of Cuba's northern neighbour (where approximately 50 million people have no social security), Fidel's country is indeed a relatively poor place. But here, we should ask the following: Under what conditions does Cuba and Cuban people try to live and develop for more than four decades?
The answer is straightforward. From the establishment of the Revolution and until today, the Cuban people are facing a multi-dimensional enmity which aims in the collapse of this small, but resistant, socialist nation, just a few miles south of Florida. The inhuman embargo (economic blockade) that has been imposed by the US government consisted -- and consists -- the forefront of a multi-dimensional, unethical war that Imperialism has declared to Castro's government. It is estimated that, in economic terms, 8 hours of economic blockade equals with 140 school buildings' renovations. Three days of blockade equals with 100 tones of pharmaceutical material.
The war against the Castro government and the Cuban people became more relentless after the Soviet Union's collapse in the beginning of 1990s. Someone could expect the gradual dissolution of socialism in the island. However, Cuba managed not only to stay firm, but also to progress under especially adverse circumstances. That consists the unambiguous and undoubted vindication of Fidel Castro. A leader who History herself (to which he pleaded in his famous speech) absolved many times in the past: When the revolutionary army of the July 26th Movement was thriumphantly entering Havana thus ousting Batista from the government. When the Cuban army fought successfully against the CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion. When the revolutionary spirit of this small and proud country became a source of inspiration for class and independence-oriented movement of other nations (in Vietnam, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Angola, Algeria).
Fidel finally absolved by History, as he himself had predicated. Nobody can know how the process would be if the attack on the Moncada Barracks, on the eve of the 26th July 1953, had never happened. What is sure is that this action was enough in order to pull the triger of revolution. A Revolution which has factual evidence of success and which inspired, inspire and will continue to inspire all those who are "realists and ask for the impossible".* This is the english translation of the original article published at "Sierra Maestra" Greek blog, 26 July 2012.