Socialist Worker

What was behind the 11 July protests? Greetings for 26 July from Cuban communists

by Comunistas Editorial Board, 25 July 2021
Issue No. 2765

Protests over hardship in Cuba

Protests over hardship in Cuba (Pic: Elserbio00/Wikimedia)


After the 11 July protests that shook Cuba, Comunistas pay tribute to the martyrs of 26 July and analyse the controversial demonstrations. This is a translation of an article originally published in Spanish on the website comunistascuba.org. For the original go here.

Thanks to David Karvala of Marx21.net in the Spanish state for the translation. For Socialist Worker’s coverage and analysis of recent events in Cuba go here and here

This 26 July marks the 68th anniversary of the assault on the Moncada barracks and 15 days since the protests that shook Cuba on 11 July.

They are far from being similar historical events, however, the counter-revolution is trying to manipulate them. According to the right, the 11 July protests would be the true day of the national rebellion and not the 1953 assault on the Moncada barracks.

However, beyond the distortions and ideological visions, the truth is that 11 July will remain an historic day. It is worrying that the Cuban government is trying to minimise and criminalise that day’s protests.

This may work as short term political propaganda. But if our leaders really believe that the protests were the exclusive product of the counter-revolution, they will not have understood what happened on 11 July.

This possible negation of the truth is very dangerous for Cuban society. To ignore the fact that those who joined the protests on 11 July came from the sector that was hardest hit economically, is to head for something similar in a few months.

It is true that the counterrevolution played an effective propaganda role. It is true that the US wants the Communist Party to fall in Cuba. It is true that the blockade has a negative impact. But the spontaneity of the masses on 11 July had its causes much closer to the everyday life of the working class. These include shortages, mismanagement and neglect of economically vulnerable neighbourhoods.

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Back the protests in Cuba, but beware US imperialism
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It will take a lot of work for the Cuban government to correct the terrible shortages that Cuba suffers. But the crisis is not only economic but also political and this together with the factor of hunger is very dangerous.

There is so much mistrust between the people and the party leadership that the silent majority do not read the official press. And the official press only reports on those who came out to defend the government and suffered violence.

Both the official and private press have manipulated and distorted the events of 11 July to the point of rendering them unrecognisable. Suddenly, for some, the 11 July acts of vandalism were reprehensible and for others a national uprising against the “dictatorship”. Both of these simplistic versions erase the complexity that arises from the hungry masses. The events of 11 July had the political legitimacy of social protest and also included reprehensible acts of vandalism.

Cuba is not a dictatorship, but the rights of many citizens who went out to demonstrate were violated. It is true that the terrible word “disappeared” has been manipulated. But hundreds of detainees were unable to communicate with their families for days, and their whereabouts were unknown.

It is true that Cuba is a socialist state of law, but in more than a few summary trials the established legal processes have been violated. And prison sentences of almost one year have been handed down for the mere fact of having been in the demonstration.

It is true that all this can serve to intimidate and prevent new protests. But if another 11 July occurs, the protesters will come out bringing all the anger that these abuses produced. Pressure and intimidation can stop protests, but they increase the division between the Government and the Cuban people.

Victory 

To reproduce the argument that the thousands of protesters on 11 July were counter-revolutionaries is to give the counter-revolution a victory that does not belong to it. To reproduce the argument that the 11 July demonstrations were prepared by the counter-revolution is to cede to the right a capacity for organisation and mobilisation that it does not have.

Only from a critical, Marxist analysis can one understand what happened on 11 July. The uncritical position only isolates the government from society and strengthens counter-revolutionary political propaganda. It is urgent for the Cuban government to analyse what it has done wrong and to explain this publicly.

The masses are tired of hearing how everything is blamed on Yankee imperialism. The majority want to hear the government carrying out a profound self-criticism, recognising that 11 July is largely a product of its mistakes. Such a gesture would grant significant political legitimacy to the leadership — but the bureaucracy’s closed off arrogance impedes that.

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The silent majority increasingly differentiate between Fidel Castro and the current government. They see the former commander-in-chief as someone who would have resolved the economic crisis alongside the people and not the current leadership of the country. They see it as distant and alien to their realities. This is another worrying crack in the government’s political legitimacy.

Beyond the arrests that occurred on 11 July and the subsequent summary trials, other measures of administrative retaliation such as sackings and political sanctions have begun to be taken. They being taken against those who only participated in the protests or even spoke of having participated.

This situation has also served to purge those intellectuals — even some who are Marxists — who are uncomfortable with the official discourse. It is no longer enough to criticise from within the established order. But now you can only criticise when this is authorised and about what is authorised.

On the basis of the spectre of 11 July, the opportunists will unleash purges and political cannibalism. If something pays the price, it will be the socialist ideal, which more and more sectors of the working class will continue to associate with censorship and repression. But let us always remember that Stalinism in its different versions are just counter-revolutionary deformations of the communist ideal.

A good part of the violence suffered on 11 July would have been avoided if the Cuban government had legalised the right to peaceful demonstration. The call to the streets by Cuban president Miguel Díaz Canel served to mobilise hundreds of Communists, but it has also been widely rejected.

The fact is that many of those who came out to defend the government understood it literally as an “order to fight”. Dozens of them carried clubs that had evidently been prepared in advance for similar situations. They were all made in the same colour, the same size, and to the same design.

But repressing violence is the job of the police and similar bodies. It should not be a matter of preparing clubs and giving them to civilians who can act knowing they have the backing of the law, even if they exercise violence beyond all legality.

Let the full weight of the law fall on those who carried out acts of vandalism, or worse still, who tried to kill. But not on those who exercised their right to protest, which is not legislated in Cuba, but is legitimate.

Down with the counter-revolution!

Long live the working class!

Long live freedom!

Long live 26 July!

Homeland or Death!

Towards Communism!

May the 26 July march guide our struggle!


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