Was Moncada Necessary? / 14ymedio, Fernando Damaso

Moncada Barracks
Moncada Barracks

A great deal has been written about the assault on Moncado Barracks in Santiago de Cuba and the Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Barracks in Bayamo on 26 July 1953. At times, with great exaggeration. Some, forgetting the differences in times and objectives, as compared with the Cry of Yara in 1868 or that of Baire in 1895, which started our war of Independence.

About the assault on the Moncada barracks in Santiago de Cuba and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes in Bayamo on 26 July 1953 much has been written.Sometimes exaggerated. Some, forgetting the differences in epochs and objectives, as compared with the 1868 Cry of Yara, or the Cry of Baire in l895, which kicked off our war of independence.

In response to the events of 1953, traditional Cuban political sectors reacted with surprise. They were used to solving national problems through dialogue and peaceful means, and suddenly armed struggle makes its appearance as a method of fighting against tyranny. Even some of those who would later become traveling companions of the revolutionaries, described the act as a putsch, although later they retracted. Others, less dogmatic and more dialectical, saw in the action a path for its principle organizers to rapidly achieve political prominence and popular support.

There is no doubt that the event became, as noted during the celebration of its eighth anniversary, “the little engine that helped to start the great motor.” The deaths in combat and the murders, the trial of the surviving attackers, their imprisonment, the development of a program document and its clandestine spread among different sectors of society, the campaign for amnesty, and the resulting release of everyone, created that the conditions that later served as a base for the disembarkment from the yacht Granma on 2 December 1956, the guerrilla struggle on different fronts from 31 December 1958, and the triumph of the Revolution on 1 January 1959.

Over the years, and with the knowledge gained from those involved in the action, the event has been the object of several interpretations and evaluations

The assaults on both barracks, there is no doubt, constituted a heroic act of the Cuban youth involved, in honor of the centenary of the birth of José Marti, whom we call the Apostle. Over the years, and with the knowledge gained from those involved in the action–from their telling of it or writing about it–the event has been the object of several interpretations and evaluations, taking into account everything that happened afterwards.

Some believe that it was not necessary and that with political pressure and public opinion, the ouster of Batista could have been accomplished and democracy restored in the country, this without the high-cost paid in the lives at that time, and also the cost in lives and material losses of all kinds which we have continued to pay ever since.

Others believe that it was essential and that the attacks on the barracks were just. Although, subsequently, many of the plans that formed a part of the original platform have been proved unworkable, at that time they were accepted and supported by the majority of Cubans, regardless of the social class to which they belonged.

There are also those who, despite everything, continue to be in total agreement with what happened before and what has happened since.

The Moncada attack, although still present for its living protagonists and the generations that have accompanied them for years, recede in time more and more for new generations. Young people see it as an event of the past, more a part of history than of their daily lives. Lives that are full of contradictions, dissatisfactions, problems and needs of all kinds, both material and spiritual, unresolved and without real prospects of resolution. If that event is to continue to be relevant, it needs to address these events in the day-to-day lives of every Cuban.