Revolution in cuba an essay on understanding

This is partially excused by the complexity of his dual aim: first, to recapitulate the critique made by Guevara of the use of market mechanisms such as private material incentives in the transition to socialism; secondly, to elucidate the economic path Guevara proposed to take, which was characterized by the use of careful planning, rigorous accounting and collective moral incentives to foster both economic productivity and socialist solidarity.

Although Guevara devoted attention to these themes throughout the post-revolutionary period, they reached their fullest elaboration during the debate within Cuba and global Marxism over whether Cuba should adopt market mechanisms in order to achieve economic growth. While he acknowledged that such forms would persist, he rejected the idea of their necessity or utility and called instead for planning to be the primary method of establishing equilibrium in the new society. Planning would employ the instrument of money as a measure of value in accounting and as a medium of circulation, but toward the attainment of socially determined needs rather than individual profit Guevara proposed that rewards for surpassing norms and penalties for inferior performance, whenever possible, be accorded through moral inspiration and peer recognition rather than individual financial measures.

Collective incentives might mean that entire workplaces would be awarded new lunchrooms or on-site childcare to acknowledge special achievement. Such points might appear arcane and abstract, but they have a precise and pointed contemporary relevance. Long buried in dust on library shelves, the Cuban economic debate of the early s took on a renewed meaning in the mids when Mikhail Gorbachev initiated perestroika in the Soviet Union. Capitalist methods of economic growth might bring temporary results, Guevara maintained, but private material incentives were inescapably degrading, alienating, exploitative and counterproductive.

Socialism as envisioned by Che Guevara could not be built on the acquisitive model of the consumer society. Holding firm to the model of the single-party state, Castro resurrected the memory of Guevara against the Soviet reforms of the mids.


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The latter desire presents difficulties, for Tablada wants to say both that Guevara was an original thinker on the transition period and that his central points were expressed by Marx and Lenin. One proposition must give way to the other. As a result, he commits a serious historical distortion.

Although Tablada manages to summon requisite quotations from Fidel Castro to serve his purpose, he must overlook various turns taken by the Cuban leader over the years. Thus the pride of place held by Carlos Tablada as official chronicler.


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David Deutschmann, Sydney: Pathfinder, , is now available. The experience of the past few years should give us pause. If perestroika was not the road to a humanist socialism, neither may one expect socialism to be accomplished simply through budgetary planning and moral incentives.

Although Guevara exhibited a leadership style antithetical to the nomenklatura of Eastern Europe, though his thought was professedly egalitarian, though his emphasis upon action and solidarity and consciousness supplies us with important moral resources for the reinvigoration of international socialism, it must be underscored that he did not recognize the need for democratic participation within socialism. That the Marxism of Guevara was otherwise internationalist, revolutionary and humanist can no longer obscure or excuse such traits.

Fidel Castro - Wikipedia

Calls for planning, however inspired, do not suffice. Automatically the question arises: Who controls the plan? Cuba: A Journey, which might ten or twenty years ago have been dismissed as a Cold War polemic, cannot escape our attentions As a principled critic of human rights abuse throughout Latin America, Jacobo Timerman—the Jewish publisher whose powerful Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number New York- Vintage, recounted his two years of imprisonment and torture at the hands of the Argentinean military in the late s—speaks with considerable authority.

In , he interviewed Che Guevara briefly in Buenos Aires.

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In an evocative and introspective manner, Timerman recounts a journey he took to the island in the summer of It was his first trip to Cuba; Timerman had declined repeatedly prior official invitations on the principle that journalistic objectivity is incompatible with state sponsorship. In , however, he decided to undertake an independent trip. Steering clear of government guides, declining to interview Fidel Castro, traveling well beyond the perimeters of Havana, Timerman set out to explore Cuban society at its roots. The sight was not pretty. He goes so far as to identify Castro with Joseph Stalin, as madmen who fantasize about omniscience and omnipotence.

The mental capacities of Castro and Stalin, whether aberrant or sterling, have little bearing on the far more important question of the structural character of their states. Unlike Stalin, Fidel Castro led a popular revolution to power. Unlike the monstrous regimes of Stalin and Pol Pot, repression in revolutionary Cuba has never reached the dimension of mass terror. His disregard for basic standards of historical analogy is laid bare in his conclusion, where he preposterously equates Fidel Castro with Adolph Hitler.

Timerman is wholly persuasive, however, when he turns an eye toward the depressing state of political rights inside Cuba. He summons multiple examples that establish without question a pattern of violations of intellectual and political rights inexcusable for any society aspiring to socialism. For Timerman, the solution is obvious: perestroika. Like many social democrats, Timerman was enamored with Gorbachev when he wrote his reflections in He fails analytically to distinguish between perestroika, the market-style restructuring of production, and glasnost, the openness in political and intellectual life also initiated under Gorbachev.

While Timerman makes a compelling case for glasnost and democracy, he cannot answer the critique of market relations so powerfully advanced thirty years ago by Che Guevara. One is tempted to say that Timerman makes a case for the market only by limiting his journey to one island. The record of the market in Latin America is plunder. Privatization would likely result in the reconquest of Cuba by its exiled right-wing bourgeoisie in Miami, the only Cubans with enough money to buy property.

Habel was one of a handful of young French revolutionaries who traveled on a solidarity mission to Cuba at the early date of , when to do so involved breaking a taboo. Without denying the importance of Fidel Castro, Habel avoids the habit of histories of modern Cuba to become portraits of Fidel Castro, whether hagiographic or demonic. Not only does this afford a more complete view of the Cuban revolution after thirty years, but interestingly it affords a more accurate understanding of the rule of Fidel Castro.

Rather than view Cuba as a dinosaur left behind by history, which must adopt perestroika as the alternative to command collectivism, Habel views the process of change unleashed under Gorbachev as a largely retrograde development that is by no means an example for democratic socialism in Cuba.

This problem has not been resolved after thirty years of revolutionary power. The primary fault for low sugar prices, Habel indicates, lies with the advanced capitalist countries, whose protectionist policies artificially reward their domestic sugar producers and promote the development of substitutes and synthetic sweeteners, especially corn syrup. For example, global nickel prices have risen, but Washington prohibits any product containing Cuban nickel from entering its market.

Cuba has nonetheless managed to achieve some industrialization. Agricultural mechanization has fed a spin-off industry in the production of cane-cutting and harvesting machinery, as well as bagasse, a fuel by-product of sugar cane. For the most part, however, Cuba is by no means self-sufficient It is deep in debt, lacking in hard foreign currency: in a pinch. After the departure of Che Guevara in , the first effort of Fidel Castro to direct the Cuban economy was impulsive and voluntarist, reaching its height in his exhortations for a massive ten million ton sugar harvest in The failure to reach that extreme aim brought demoralization and increased absenteeism.

Castro turned toward the Soviet Union for material assistance and an economic model. The s were characterized by planning rather than chaotic whims, but not planning of the type advocated by Che Guevara. Compulsory work was emphasized over volunteer projects, material incentives were employed, and managers were held responsible for the success of individual enterprises. The result was increased income inequality, sectoral tensions, corruption and privileges, bloated bureaucracy, cynicism and an emergent black market, effects that were transparent by the early s.

Some free market reforms, particularly in agriculture, were undertaken to stimulate production, but conditions only worsened. The internal crises of Cuban society required a strategic shift. Habel, however, understands the process with considerably greater subtlety, aided by her interpretation of the internal dynamics of Cuban society. Since the revolutionary triumph, she argues, the Cuban state has been shaped by a struggle between Fidel Castro and his followers on the one hand and, on the other, a heterogeneous bureaucratic apparatus with a backbone of Soviet loyalists.

Fidel Castro, whose relationship with the Soviet Union was punctuated by stormy disagreements at either end of his long period of collaboration from the mids to the mids, has been able to preserve his rule through compromise with the managerial strata and by virtue of his special relationship with the masses. McKinley, having opposed war, hoped to end it quickly at the least possible expenditure of blood and treasure.

The U. Spain had large garrisons in Cuba and the Philippines, but its navy was poorly maintained and much weaker than that of the U. Prewar planning in the U. These measures would bring immediate pressure on Spain and signal American determination. The small army would conduct raids against Cuba and help sustain the Cuban army until a volunteer army could be mobilized for extensive service in Cuba. Spain was forced to accept the U.

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The war began with two American successes. Admiral William Sampson immediately established a blockade of Havana that was soon extended along the north coast of Cuba and eventually to the south side. Sampson then prepared to counter Spanish effort to send naval assistance. Dewey had earlier moved from Japan to Hong Kong to position himself for an attack on the Philippines. When news of this triumph reached Washington, McKinley authorized a modest army expedition to conduct land operations against Manila, a step in keeping with the desire to maintain constant pressure on Spain in the hope of forcing an early end to the war.

Sampson prepared to meet this challenge to American command of the Caribbean Sea. Cervera eventually took his squadron into the harbor at Santiago de Cuba at the opposite end of the island from Havana where the bulk of the Spanish army was concentrated. He ordered the regular army, then being concentrated at Tampa, to move as quickly as possible to Santiago de Cuba. There it would join with the navy in operations intended to eliminate Cervera's forces.

Besides independence for Cuba, he indicated a desire to annex Puerto Rico in lieu of a monetary indemnity and an island in the Marianas chain in the Pacific Ocean. Also the United States sought a port in the Philippines, but made no mention of further acquisitions there. The American message made it clear that the U. Sagasta was not yet ready to admit defeat, which ended the initial American attempt to arrange an early peace.

General Shafter Neil , p. The need to move quickly caused great confusion, but it was a reasonable price to pay for seizing the initiative at the earliest possible moment. The navy escorted his convoy of transports around the eastern end of Cuba to Santiago de Cuba, where he arrived on 20 June. The navy urged a different course, suggesting an attack on the narrow channel connecting the harbor of Santiago de Cuba to the sea.

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An advance near the coast would allow the navy's guns to provide artillery support. Sweeping of mines in the channel and seizure of the batteries in the area would enable the navy to storm the harbor entrance and enter the harbor for an engagement with Cervera's forces. Shafter rejected this proposal, perhaps because of army-navy rivalry. The Spanish commander did not oppose Shafter's landing and offered only slight resistance to his westward movement. Three defensive lines were created west of the city to deal with the American advance.

The first line was centered on the San Juan Heights, but only five hundred troops were assigned to defend the place. The Spanish intended to make their principal defense closer to the city. Shafter's plan of attack, based on inadequate reconnaissance, envisioned two associated operations. One force would attack El Caney, a strong point of the Spanish left to eliminate the possibility of a flank attack on the main American effort, aimed at the San Juan Heights.

After reducing El Caney, the American troops would move into position to the right of the rest of the Fifth Corps for an assault in the San Juan Heights that would carry into the city and force the capitulation of the Spanish garrison. Shafter's orders for the attack were vague, leading some historians to believe that Shafter intended only to seize the heights. The battle of 1 July did not develop as planned.

Lawton's force was detained at El Caney where a Spanish garrison of only five hundred men held off the attackers for many hours. It did not move against the Spanish positions until the early afternoon. Fortunately a section of Gatling guns was able to fire on the summit of San Juan Hill, a bombardment that forced the Spanish defenders to abandon the position to the American force attacking on the left. Another group on the right that included the 1st U. Volunteer Cavalry, commanded that day by Theodore Roosevelt , moved across an adjacent elevation, Kettle Hill.

The Spanish retreated to their second line of defense, and the Fifth Army Corps, exhausted and disorganized, set about entrenching itself on the San Juan Heights.

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Having failed to seize the city, Shafter considered abandoning this position, which was exposed to enemy artillery fire, but mandatory orders from Washington led instead to the inauguration of a siege, soon supported by the arrival of U. General Blanco Neil , p. The partial success of 1 July produced consternation in Havana. Blanco persisted, and on 3 July Cervera made his sortie. Admiral Sampson had just left the blockade, moving east to compose differences with General Shafter.

This movement left Commodore Winfield Scott Schley as the senior officer present during the naval battle. Schley had earned Sampson's distrust because of his earlier failure to blockade Cervera promptly.

This concern was justified when Schley allowed his flagship to make an eccentric turn away from the exiting Spanish ships before assuming its place in the pursuit. Cervera hoped to flee west to Cienfuegos, but four of his five vessels were sunk near the entrance to the channel.

The other ship was overhauled over fifty miles westward where its commander drove it upon the shore to escape sinking. This destruction of Cervera's squadron decided the war, although further fighting occurred elsewhere.