Cuban Anarchism

Contrary to popular knowledge, Cuba has had a significant anarchist and libertarian socialist history, much like China, though less than Spain.

Right now, all the information I have is from 2 messages from a couple of anarchist comerades. Andrew also gave me an Article on Cuba from Worker Soliderity Number 40, published by the Worker Soliderity Movement, a libertarian communist organization from Ireland.

Both messages are replies to Douglas John Potts (

Date: Wed, 23 Aug 1995 16:41:23 +0100 (BST)
From: Andrew Flood (
Subject: Re: Cuba Arguement.

A good anarchist historical source is Sam Dolgoff's 'The Cuban Revolution'. Its good both on the pre-revoultionary period and BTW anarchists were the biggest force up till the late 20's and still significant during the revoloution and also on the years that followed this.

For a more recent stuff there is a good article in the first issue of Analysis (now folded).

>Does anyone know of good examples of the shortcomings of the regime,
>especially from the earlier period. Also wasn`t there an anarchist
>movement in Cuba that was wiped out.

There may still be as many as 30 anarchist prisoners in Cuba (according to a S. American anarchist I met in Spain, I'm unclear whether they are political or punks). They certainly imprisoned and murdered a few in the immediate aftermath of the revolution.

A couple of akward questions to ask

..How come Cuba has a sugar shortage
..How come Cuba with virtually no serious crime has one of the highest prison rates in the Carrabean
..Likewise why does standard police equipment include not only a gun but also mace and a cattle prod.

Cuba may be a lot more benevolent then either Stalin Russia or the other dictatorships of Central America but its no workers paradise.

Also BTW I'd be careful to emphasis that you are against the US blockade.

Date: Wed, 23 Aug 95 11:29:00 -0600
From: (Greg Alt)
Subject: Re: Cuba Arguement.

>examples from Cuba. I don`t know a great deal about Cuba apart from that
>it`s pretty Stalinist, and not the kind of system I`d use for a model.
>Does anyone know of good examples of the shortcomings of the regime,
>especially from the earlier period. Also wasn`t there an anarchist
>movement in Cuba that was wiped out.

I had the same question when I was in San Fransisco in June, so I stopped by Bound Together books and asked them if they had any good books that exposed Cuba.

There is/was an anarchist movement in pretty much every country in the world. I have NEVER heard about a Cuban anarchist movement. Either there isn't one (possible), or our good buddy Castro wiped it out. Or all the anarchists saw how wonderful and perfect the worker's paradise was and decided that strong governments really are good (not possible).

They pointed out two books (well, a book and a pamphlet):
Cuba - The Anarchists and Liberty (15 page pamphlet) by Frank Fernandez
The Cuban Revolution - a Critical Perspective (200 page book) by Sam Dolgoff

EDITORS NOTE: Here is a 3rd Book:
Cuban Anarchism: the history of a movement by Frank Fernandez

I recommend both. Now, let's see if I can think of anything specific...

Well, the one thing that sticks in my mind is how the Communist Party was given control of the Unions under Batista and acted as a counter-revolutionary force. After the revolution, many of the people that were in power under Batista were put back in the same positions.

Here's a quote from a document entitled "The Anarchists and the Revolution --
From the Libertarian Association of Cuba to the International Anarchist Movement. Havana, June, 1959"

The Communist Party of Cuba is just as dangerous for the revolution as are the extreme nationalists and upper echelons of the Church. Fortunately, their influence is limited because they are discredited by their association with Batista and their servility to the Russian totalitarian dictatorship. Hiding behind the banner of liberalism, patriotism, mutual tolerance and the coexistence of all anti-Batista forces, they have been able to infiltrate a number of organizations and some sectors of the labor movement. Though small in number, the Communists are skillful connivers, well-organized and totally unscrupulous; their counterrevolutionary potential must not be underestimated.
It is sad to read this, because we see several things that we've seen so many times... The optimism that the authoritarians will fail reminds me of what Bakunin wrote at the end of "Marxism, Freedom, and the State". The talk of the Communists being small in numbers but devious reminds me of what the anarchists in Spain said before Stalin started sending money/weapons to the Communist Party.

Here's another quote from January 18, 1959, soon after the revolution. It's from a Manifesto from the Libertarian Association of Cuba:

We are alarmed that the allegedly "temporary" administrations of the unions and their officials are being installed without consultation or agreement of the membership or of the various organizations that made the Revolution... In the midst of the revolutionary turmoil, we do not expect everything, including the labor organizations, to function normally in so short a time. But it is our duty, and the duty of all workers, by militant action, to see to it that the democratic procedures, the freedoms, and the rights gained by us with the triumph of the Revolution are respected...
So, just a few weeks after the revolution, and the government had already "temporarily" taken over the labor organizations.

Dolgoff's book quotes from a list of a handful of anarchists imprisoned under Castro, all of them fought against Batista, all of them were imprisoned for "counter-revolutionary activities". Some of them had trials some didn't. One of them was tortured into "confessing". The sentences mentioned ranged from 10 years to 30 years.

At the back of the book, there are some good quotes from the constitution. (you might suggest asking the local consulate for a copy)

Article 66: Starting from the local, municipal and provincial Assemblies of People's Power, the Council of Ministers and the Council of State, supreme power is ultimately personified in a single dictator: The President of the Council of State.
And that President of Council of State is Fidel Castro, who happens to be mentioned by name in the constitution in at least one place.

Here are some pieces of the chronology from the back of the book:

Jan 1, 1959   Batista flees.

Jan 4         Castro appoints a "provisional government" without consulting
              with other anti-Batista groups.  Armed Student Directorio seizes
              and refuses to evacuate the Presidential Palace and the
              university of Havana.

Jan 10        Habeas corpus suspended.  Capital punishment decreed.

Feb 16        Castro appoints himself Premier.

April 5       Censorship of press, radio, television etc. begins.
              Strikes prohibited.

May 8         Castro government assumes unlimited power.

May 17        Agrarian Reform Law (National Institute of Agrarian Reform--INRA)
              passed.  Law 43: "...the INRA will appoint administrators and the
              workers will accept all orders and decrees dictated by INRA..."

June 9        Resolution 6, gives Castro unlimited power to spend public funds
              without being accountable to anyone.

July 7        Article 25 of Fundamental Law further extends death penalty for
              "acts hostile to the regime."

(I'm skipping a lot of stuff here...)

June 3, 1960  Death Penalty decreed for misappropriation of funds.

October       "...a strike is a counter-revolutionary act in a socialst
              republic..." (Castro).  "...The destiny of the unions is to
              disappear..." (Che Guevera). "...the Minister of Labor can take
              control of any union or federation of unions, dismiss officials
              and appoint others..." (law 647)

There's a lot more stuff in there, but I think you get the idea... There are other things like forcing everyone to give up their guns (even though during the revolution Castro talked about how even the cats should be armed). Then there is stuff about how they export a bunch of sugar to various communist countries and it gets rationed in Cuba. Essentially, Cuba ends up being Cuba, Inc. the (state) capitalist company that provides sugar for the Soviet Union, while the workers are denied any right to do or say anything about it.

There's stuff about the "volunteer" program that we hear about so much. We are supposed to believe that everyone loves the government so much that they volunteer to do dozens of hours of work in addition to their full-time job without any extra pay. When in reality, they would get fired and/or jailed if they didn't "volunteer". And there is stuff about the huge demonstration Castro likes so much, where attendence is mandatory, all buses leaving Havana are diverted to bring people to Havana. All movie theaters, etc are shut down, all TV and radio stations cancel everything to broadcast announcements about the demonstrations.

Nowadays, Castro is a capitalist and wears expensive Italian suits, or so I hear. I mentioned this to a Socialist Workers Party member who told me that "you gotta have dollars, these days". Some communist.


Thanks to: Andrew Flood and Greg Alt

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