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The People in Revolution

The People in Revolution

by Ricardo Alberto Pérez

The Cuban Revolution was born from a very special epic that had come into being after several years of struggle, of the difficult conditions in which these struggles took place and, especially, because of the appearance of a leader who was able to bring together several political forces and popular sectors that would work for the same aim: to overthrow the dictatorship and establish a government that would be radical enough to put an end to that dark period of submission to the United States that brought immense benefits to the national oligarchy.

So, on the first of January of 1959, with Fidel Castro at the helm, the people took on the political process as their own and identified themselves as the main actor within the revolutionary process. Without the people’s total commitment and their being convinced of having chosen the right path, the Revolution would have been paralyzed. For that reason, the history of this Revolution is filled with moving, admirable events.

At every step of the way, with every decision made by the new government as it headed for profound transformations, the people’s actions were to exert decisive weight. There is a key issue that helps us understand how this immense majority behaved regarding the revolutionary government: many historians have defined it as a feeling of enthusiasm generated at the moment of seeing utopia transformed into reality.

A fundamental aspect characterizing this intense embrace between citizens and State was the widely popular nature of the first measures undertaken by the government. Add to that the leaders’ good sense in incorporating the people, with no discrimination whatsoever, as the principal actors in these new tasks. The areas having the greatest impact included the implementation of agrarian reform and the eradication of illiteracy. The first of these resulted in a changed prospect for Cuba’s rural areas: landless peasants now had the possibility of growing crops, feeling useful and abandoning forever the ignorance with which they had been saddled for decades, thereby providing their families with futures where they could finally feel themselves to be people with rights.

The second task generated one of the most beautiful events that have ever occurred in Cuba, in fact, in the entire continent: the Literacy Campaign. A broad spectrum of the population joined this campaign, including the very young, full of the spirit that plunged them wholeheartedly into something they all interpreted as their duty.

Many urban workers took on agricultural work whenever they were needed, thus consolidating the concept of voluntary work which had been so fervently advocated by Che. These workers went out into the fields in massive numbers to take part in planting or helping to clear the land. Year after year, the sugarcane harvest was a prioritized goal because of how vital this crop was to bolstering the Cuban economy. Men and women, professionals from all sectors, intellectuals, executives and peasants all worked side by side to achieve every objective that was set.

I also remember that when new houses were needed, the workers themselves created the movement known as micro-brigades, setting out to solve the housing shortage in Cuba. Both men and women left their regular jobs for a period of time to work on construction crews to build the much-needed houses.

Very early on the people understood that they had to become the guardians and defenders of the conquests that they were just starting to enjoy when the principal enemies of these conquests, the bourgeoisie and the US Government, began to make themselves felt. In the first place, the National Revolutionary Militia was organized, made up of a great number of the population, with weapons in their hands. These militiamen and women played a decisive role in the battles at Playa Giron/Bay of Pigs and also in the fight against counterrevolutionary groups in the Escambray Mountains and elsewhere in the country.

During the tense days of the October Crisis, most Cubans showed exemplary steadfastness, something Commander Che Guevara defined as the attitude of a “great Maceo,” an attribute reflecting the patriotism and courage of the great Mambi warrior.

From the beginning and right up to the present, mobilizations on historic dates or at rallies confirming revolutionary spirit in the face of all sorts of contingencies have provided the greatest moral support for the process. For many years, the most important element of these mass demonstrations have been the complicity that has been established between the multitude and the intense speeches by Fidel Castro.

Analyzing the mass participation in other areas of national life on the basis of changes facilitated by the Revolution, talented people appeared all over the country to start weaving the fabric of exploits in the areas of sports, culture and scientific research. These exploits have been sustained for over five decades, despite well-known economic difficulties. One concrete example in culture was the birth and growth of the solid Movement of Amateur Artists, a phenomenon that contributed much to the spiritual wellbeing of Cuba.

The leading role played by Cuban women is also a stimulating feature that deserves to be spotlighted. Their special contributions have been very important to this revolutionary path we are taking, enriching the creative arsenal that has emerged from this Island.