Cuba’s 26th of July Celebration, Never Again

Raul Castro embraces his successor, Miguel Diaz-Canel, on the last July 26th celebrated in Cuba.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 8 July 2020 – As part of the measures related to the pandemic, it has been confirmed that the 67th anniversary of the assault on the Moncada barracks will not be celebrated with massive events. Instead, “activities in accordance with the epidemiological situation, as was done on May 1st – Labor Day – are promoted.” The slogan “Siempre es 26” [the 26th is forever] will be repeated and old and new allegorical songs will be heard, but perhaps most significantly, this will surely be the last July 26th in which Raúl Castro formally appears at the forefront of the decisions in Cuba.

Gone are the days when the 22-year-old fled at full speed down Garzón Street in Santiago de Cuba after tossing his weapons and putting on civilian pants that he carried as a precaution. Realizing that the Moncada barracks operation had failed, he abandoned his position in the Palace of Justice from where he had to cover the assailants’ withdrawal.

At least that was what Raúl Castro himself recounted when he was captured and taken to the Santiago de Cuba Vivac prison. His statements were then published by the newspaper Prensa Universal and later quoted by the journalist Marta Rojas in the Granma newspaper.

The constitutional Army of the Republic had 19 dead and 30 wounded in the assault on the nation’s second military fortress. That the current Army general can boast of not having stained his hands with blood in that action does not exempt him from other accusations referring to later events, but that is another matter.

No historian has revealed the criminal record of Army’s victim. This indicates that those who died on that side of the conflict were not the henchmen of a dictatorship or oligarchs of the exploiting class, but humble men who found in the military profession a worthy way of feeding their families.

We already know what happened next. Tortures, murder of detainees and a thousand other abuses, but the first thing that happened on that fateful day was the 19 soldiers killed by the revolutionary fire.

Whenever I hear a call to overthrow the current dictatorship through arms, I ask myself the same questions. Who will lay out the dead? What would be the chosen fortress? What chance of success could such an action have?

Today nobody is allowed to rent a place under the pretext of raising chickens and then house the fighters there as the “Moncadistas” did at the Siboney farm. It would be impossible to get so many tickets for the same destination or to rent so many rooms in the hotels of a province. Not to mention getting the weapons, the training ahead of time, and ensuring that the secret purpose does not reach the ears of State Security.

Nobody disputes the resounding failure that was that military operation, one that supposedly tried to solve at a stroke the ills accumulated in 50 years of the Republic.

To mitigate the frustration, numerous allegories have been promoted, including that it was “the small engine that served to launch the great engine of the Revolution,” so that in order to fairly evaluate the final success of that action, it would have to be measured by today’s results after 61 years of operation of the metaphorical great engine.

If we were guided by the foundational and programmatic texts of this phenomenon called the Cuban Revolution, it could be generally summarized that its proclaimed primary purposes were freedom, sovereignty and social justice. Free citizens in a sovereign nation where justice reigned could carry out two more tasks, identified as building a socialist system: satisfying the ever-growing needs of the population; and training the “New Man” who should be educated, supportive, honest, civic, free.

The failure did not end at Moncada, because by suppressing the existence of opposition organizations, abolishing the independent press, and bypassing the rule of choosing rulers with the participation of the electors, freedom was torn out by the roots.

Sovereignty has been reduced to discourses since Cuba joined the bloc of socialist countries, allowing the island to become a foreign nuclear base and sending troops to Africa to guarantee the geopolitical interests of the Soviet Union in the Cold War. Today, more than ever, we depend on imports and, “paradoxically,” Washington’s decisions have repercussions more than ever on internal politics and on the daily life of Cubans.

The efforts of social justice were not fulfilled because workers’ wages are not enough to support their families, while a ruling caste lives in opulence. The deplorable current state of hospitals and schools shows that all that scaffolding to support the Health and Education model did not rest on the efficiency of the production system implemented on the Island, but on the subsidy from the socialist camp. When that political fiction was extinguished, it was necessary to return to reality and, consequently, accept social differences as something natural.

Failure has its maximum exponent in the decrease of production and the enjoyment of material goods to the absolute minimums, because state control and planning have ruined the economy. As if that were not enough, that best human being, who was going to star on the public stage, never appeared in this present, which demagogically announced itself as a near bright future.

Hopefully something like what happened on that July 26th 1953 will never happen again.


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