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Anarchism in Cuba


Anarchism in Cuba

Anarchism as a social movement in Cuba held great influence with the working classes during the 19th and early 20th century. The movement was particularly strong following the abolition of slavery in 1886, until it was repressed first in 1925 by President Gerardo Machado,[1] and finally by Fidel Castro's Marxist-Leninism government following the Cuban revolution in the late 1950s. Cuban anarchism mainly took the form of anarcho-collectivism based on the works of Mikhail Bakunin and, later, anarcho-syndicalism. The Latin American labor and by extension the Cuban labor movement itself was at first more influenced by anarchism than Marxism.[2]


  • History 1
    • Colonial era 1.1
      • Early development of the movement 1.1.1
      • Strengthening organization and action 1.1.2
      • Government response and the War of Independence 1.1.3
    • The early 20th century 1.2
      • Repression and syndicalist activity 1.2.1
      • Reorganization after the departure of López and the Spaniards 1.2.2
    • Post-revolutionary period 1.3
      • 1960–1961 1.3.1
      • Exile 1.3.2
  • See also 2
  • References 3
  • Sources 4
  • External links 5


Colonial era

In the mid-19th century, Cuban society was highly stratified, consisting of a Spanish creole ruling class of tobacco, sugar, and coffee plantation owners, a middle class of black and Spanish plantation workers, and an underclass of black slaves. The upper echelons of society were also deeply divided between the creoles and Spaniards (known as peninsulares), with the Spaniards benefiting greatly from the colonial regime.[3] Cuba was a colony of Spain, although there were movements for independence, integration into the U.S., and integration with Spain. The roots of anarchism were first seen in 1857, when a Proudhonian mutualist society was founded.[4][5] After being introduced to the ideas of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon by José de Jesus Márquez, Saturnino Martínez (an Asturian immigrant to Cuba) founded the periodical La Aurora in 1865. Directed at tobacco workers, it included the earliest advocation of cooperative societies in Cuba.[5] By the Ten Years War, the insurgents against Spain included expatriates from the Paris Commune, and others influenced by Proudhon, including Salvador Cisneros Betancourt and Vicente García.[5]

Early development of the movement

By the 1880s, the first explicitly anarchist influence had manifested when José C. Campos established links between Cuba and anarcho-communists.[3]

El Boletín del Gremio de Obreros, and for the first explicitly anarchist periodical in Cuba, El Obrero, which was founded in 1883 by republican-democrats but quickly turned into a mouthpiece for anarchists when Roig San Martín took over as editor. He then founded El Productor in 1887. In addition to San Martín, El Productor had writers in the Cuban cities of Santiago de Las Vegas and Guanabacoa, and the cities of Tampa and Key West in Florida, and published reprinted articles from the French-language Le Revolté and Barcelona's La Acracia.[5]

Founded in 1885, the Círculo de Trabajadores organization concentrated on educational and cultural activities, hosting a secular school for 500 poor students and meetings for workers' groups. The next year, leaders of the Círculo (with Enrique Creci at the head) formed an aid committee to raise funds for the legal troubles of eight Chicago anarchists who had been charged with murder in connection with the

  • Cuban Libertarian Movement (Movimiento Libertario Cubano)
  • Cuban Anarchism: The History of a Movement by Frank Fernández
  • by Sam DolgoffThe Cuban Revolution entry at the Anarchy Archives
  • Anarchism and Countercultural Politics in Early Twentieth-Century Cuba. By KIRWIN R. SHAFFER
  • Women and Anarchism in Cuba by Kirwin Shaffer

External links

  • Matthews, Herbert L. (1975). Revolution in Cuba. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. p. 223.  
  • Casanovas, Joan (1998). Bread Or Bullets: Urban Labor and Spanish Colonialism in Cuba, 1850–1898. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.  
  • Fernández, Frank (2001). Cuban Anarchism: The History of a Movement. See Sharp Press.  
  • Thomas, Hugh (1971). Cuba: The Pursuit of Freedom. Da Capo Press. 
  • Shaffer, Kirwin R. (October 2003). "Freedom Teaching: Anarchism and Education in Early Republican Cuba, 1898–1925". The Americas 60 (2): 151–183.  
  • Barrio, Hilda & Jenkins, Gareth (2003). The Che Handbook. St. Martin's Press.  


  1. ^ Matthews, Herbert L., Revolution in Cuba, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1975, p. 223
  2. ^ Dolgoff, Sam (1977). " The Cuban Revolution: A Critical Perspective", pp. 1. Montréal: Black Rose Books. ISBN 0-919618-36-7 OCLC 3629307
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Casanovas, Joan. Bread, or Bullets!: urban labor and Spanish colonialism in Cuba, 1850-1898, University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, 1998.
  4. ^  
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab Fernández, Frank, Cuban Anarchism: The History of a Movement, See Sharp Press.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Thomas, Hugh, Cuba: The Pursuit of Freedom, Da Capo Press, 1971.
  7. ^ a b c Shaffer, Kirwin R. "Freedom Teaching: Anarchism and Education in Early Republican Cuba, 1898-1925." The Americas Oct. 2003, pp. 151-183
  8. ^ Barrio (2003), p.132
  9. ^ Fernández 2001, p. 101
  10. ^ "ALB interviews the Cuban Libertarian Movement". A Las Barricadas.  


See also

Despite the denunciations from the anarchist organizations and periodicals around the world, opinion began to change in 1976, when Sam Dolgoff published his book The Cuban Revolution: A Critical Perspective.[1] As well, in 1979, the MLCE began publishing a new magazine titled Guángara Libertaria, reprinting Alfredo Gómez' article The Cuban Anarchists, or the Bad Conscience of Anarchism. In 1980, the MLCE and Guángara Libertaria supported the mass evacuation of Cubans from Cuba after many Cuban dissidents occupied the Peruvian embassy in Havana. Many of those who left Cuba at this time joined the editorial collective of Guángara. By 1985, the collective had correspondents around the world, including Mexico, Hawaii, Spain, and Venezuela. The magazine reached a press run of 5000 copies in 1987, making it the largest circulation anarchist periodical in the U.S. However, in 1992, the collective ceased publication of GL, though many of its members continued to publish writings.[5] By 2008, the MLCE was structured as an affinity group and coordinating network for Cuban anarchists of diverse tendencies.[10]

While Cubans exiled in the U.S. were trying to raise money to support anarchists imprisoned in Cuba, the MLCE was being denounced by French Anarchist Federation, and the Movimiento Libertario Español.[5]

Beginning in mid–1960, but greatly accelerating in the summer of 1961, great numbers of Cuban anarchists migrated to the United States. That summer, in New York, the Movimiento Libertario Cubano en el Exilio (Cuban Anarchist Movement in Exile [MLCE]) was formed by some of these exiles, making contact with Spanish anarchists exiled following the Spanish Civil War, who were also living in New York. They also made contact with Sam Dolgoff and the New York-based Libertarian League. Very quickly, donations to exiled Cuban anarchists were collected from around the world. However, donations soon dried up following the publishing of the Gaona manifesto, as many anarchists in other countries were swayed by the arguments in the document. In response to the widespread effect of the manifesto, the MLCE issued the Boletín de Información Libertaria with support from the Libertarian League, and the paper of the Federación Libertaria Argentina (FLA).[5] Among many others, the FLA printed an essay by Abelardo Iglesias titled Revolución y Contrarevolución which stated the differences the Cuban anarchists saw between Marxist and anarchist revolution: "To expropriate capitalist enterprises, handing them over to the workers and technicians, THIS IS REVOLUTION. But to convert them into state monopolies in which the only right of the producer is to obey, THIS IS COUNTER-REVOLUTION."[9]

Cover of the Winter 1990 issue of Guángara Libertaria.


Following these actions, many anarchists chose to go underground, resorting to "clandestine direct action" as their only means of struggle. According to Cuban anarchist Casto Moscú, "An infinity of manifestos were written denouncing the false postulates of the Castro revolution and calling the populace to oppose it... plans were put into effect to sabotage the basic things sustaining the state."[5] After Manuel Gaona Sousa, one of the founders of the ALC and a former anarchist, issued a manifesto in support of the government, declaring all those opposing the government to be "traitors", Moscú and another anarchist, Manuel González were arrested in Havana. When they were freed, they both immediately went to the Mexican Embassy, where they were accepted. Both eventually made their way from Mexico to Miami, Florida, where they would reunite with many of their Cuban associates.[5]

In the summer of that year, the German anarchist Augustin Souchy was invited by the Castro government to survey the agrarian sector. He was not impressed with what he found, and declared in his pamphlet Testimonios sobre la Revolución Cubana that the system was too close to the Soviet model. Three days after Souchy departed Cuba, the entire print run was seized by the government, and destroyed. However, an Argentinian anarchist publisher republished the pamphlet the following December.[5] Around the same time, the ALC, alarmed at the movement of the Castro government towards a Marxist-Leninist form of rule, issued a declaration, under the name Grupo de Sindicalistas Libertarios to prevent reaction against the ALC's membership. The document declared opposition to the centralism, authoritarian tendencies, and militarism of the new government. After a denunciation of the document by the Secretary General of the Partido Comunista Cubano (PCC), anarchists failed in their search for a printer who would publish a reaction to the denunciation. The publication El Libertario published its last edition that summer.[5]

In the first days after taking power, Castro expelled known anarcho-syndicalists from the Confederacíon de Trabajadores de Cuba (Cuban Workers Confederation, CTC). Because of this, and a general suspicion towards governments, the ALC's national council issued a manifesto denouncing the Castro government and its actions. The periodical Solidaridad Gastronómica also announced their displeasure with the government, saying that it was impossible for a government to be "revolutionary".[5] In January 1960, the ALC convened an assembly, calling for support of the Cuban Revolution, while also declaring opposition to totalitarianism and dictatorships. By the end of the year, the group's journal (Solidaridad Gastronómica) would be shut down by the government. The final issue of the journal commemorated the death of Spanish anarchist Buenaventura Durruti, and contained an editorial declaring that "dictatorships of the proletariat" were impossible, opining that no dictatorship could be of the proletariat, only dominate it.[5]


Post-revolutionary period

[8] "on account of the audacity of his blows, his tenacity, his intelligence, and unequalled devotion. Camilo practiced loyalty like a religion."Che Guevara, an anarchist from a Spanish family who fled the civil war, who was chosen to fight by Camilo Cienfuegos A key figure of the 26th of July Movement was [5], which led to Batista's fleeing Cuba on the last day of 1958.26th of July Movement was once again in power after a successful coup d'état. Many anarchists joined guerrilla groups fighting the Batista government, including that of Fidel Castro's Fulgencio Batista By the mid-1950s, [5] With the rights guaranteed by the

With López gone, control of the CNOC was now fought over by anarchists and Communists.[6] By 1930-1, CNOC had been taken over by the Communists, with anarchists being turned over to the police, still under the control of Machado. Many of the Spanish anarchists involved decided to go back to Spain.[6] Following the new government's passage of a law dictating that at least half of an employer's employees be Cuban-born, a large number of Cuba's Spanish-born anarchists were forced by economic necessity to return to Spain, which greatly diminished the clout of the anarchist movement in Cuba.[5] However, soon the Juventud Libertaria (Libertarian Youth) was founded by a younger generation of anarchists, and by 1936, after the start of the Spanish Civil War, Cuban anarchists had founded the Solidaridad Internacional Antifascista (SIA), to help send money and arms to the CNT and FAI. Many Cuban-born anarchists went to Spain to join the fight, alongside many Spanish-born anarchists exiled from Cuba.[5]

A modern impression of one of the flags of Fidel Castro's 26th of July Movement, an anti-Batista organization which recruited many Cuban anarchists in the 1950s.

Reorganization after the departure of López and the Spaniards

[6] followed by a second arrest in July 1926. He was "disappeared" at this point, only to have his body found in 1933, after the fall of the Machado government.[5] Alfredo López, then secretary-general of the CNOC, was arrested first in October 1925, and encouraged to join the government,[6] Many strikes occurred in the fall of 1925, and the government, once again under the leadership of Machado, was quick to suppress the labor movement. Several labor leaders were shot, and several hundred Spanish anarchists were deported in one month. Machado stated "You are right - I don't know what anarchism is, what socialism is, what communism is. For me they are all the same. All bad patriots."[6] At this time, the anarcho-syndicalists were still at the head of the labor movement in Cuba. However, despite the maritime, railway, restaurant and tobacco industries being controlled by organized anarchists, it wasn't until 1925 that a major anarchist federation was successfully organized by workers. Similar to the

In 1911, following an unsuccessful strike by tobacco workers, bakers, and teamsters, all supported by ¡Tierra!, the new Governmental Secretary, Gerardo Machado had many Spanish anarchists deported and Cuban anarchists jailed. The repressive policies instituted at this time would continue for 20 years.[5] After ¡Tierra! having been shut down in 1915), and the anarchist Centro Obrero (Worker's Center) was forced to close.[5] Following the anarchist Congress of 1920 in Havana, several bombings took place, including that of the Teatro Nacional while Enrico Caruso was performing, earning 15 to 20 times the yearly salary of an average Cuban worker for the single performance. The following year, Menocal lost control of the government to Alfredo Zayas y Alfonso, leading to a proliferation of anarchist activity. The ¡Tierra! group began to publish books and pamphlets, and at least six other regular anarchist periodicals were publishing.[5]

Repression and syndicalist activity

As well, anarchist activists focussed much of their energy towards preparing society for social revolution through education.[7] Anarchists ran schools for children to run counter to the Catholic schools and public schools, believing that religious schools were anathema to their ideas of freedom, and that public schools were too often used to instill ideas of "patriotic nationalism" and discourage free thought in children. In issues of ¡Tierra!, a weekly anarchist newspaper (published from 1899 through 1915, putting out more than 600 issues), writers denounced the public school requirement to pay allegiance to the Cuban flag, and encouraged teaching children that the flag was a symbol of "closed mindedness and divisiveness."[7] Anarchists claimed that students enrolled in such schooling would become "cannon fodder" for a conflict of Liberal and Conservative Party leaders in 1906, which caused the US to intervene and occupy Cuba through 1909.[7] Though anarchists had been running schools since that of the Círculo de Trabajadores, it wasn't until 1906 that the schools began to take on a less traditional flavor. In 1908, anarchists included a manifesto in issues of ¡Tierra! and La Voz del Dependiente, calling for the establishment of schools modeled after Francesc Ferrer's Escuela Moderna (Modern School).

[5] Following the

Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia, a Catalan anarchist whose educational theory inspired the establishment of schools by Cuban anarchists

The early 20th century

During the propaganda of the deed", which carried on into the war of independence. Anarchists placed bombs that blew up bridges and gas pipelines, and contributed to the failed separatist attempt to assassinate the colonial head Captain General Valeriano Weyler in 1896. This led to the government further repressing of anarchists, closing the Sociedad General de Trabajadores (which grew out of the Círculo), mass deportations of activists, and even the forbidding of the lectura in the workplace.[3]

[6] The first

Cover of El Productor commemorating the Haymarket martyrs.

Government response and the War of Independence

[3] as a whole was allowed to reopen the following year by the new administration.Círculo were allowed to remain open, and the Círculo, although the four schools maintained by the Círculo de Trabajadores and the Alianza Obrera closed the manufacturer's union, the Manuel Salamanca y Negrete Just a few months later, in response to a lockout/strike in the tobacco industry, the colonial head [5] The following year, Roig San Martín died at age 46, just days after his release from jail by the Spanish colonial government; his funeral was reportedly attended by 10,000 mourners.[3] that the union saw its membership jump from 3,000 to 5,000 in the subsequent six months, making it the most powerful union in Cuba.Alianza Obrera The outcome of this situation was so favorable to the [5] Soon after the congress, tobacco workers initiated a series of strikes at three factories, one of which lasted through to the end of November. Later, in the summer of 1888, strikes by tobacco workers led to a

The first explicitly anarchist organization, the Alianza Obrera (Workers' Alliance), was founded in 1887. This organization participated along with the Federacíon de Trabajadores de la Habana (Havana Workers' Federation) and El Productor in the first Congreso Obrero de Cuba (Cuban Workers' Congress), which took place on October 1, 1887. The congress was mostly attended by tobacco workers, though not exclusively. It issued a "dictum" encompassing six points: opposition to all vestiges of authority, unity among workers' organizations through a federative pact, complete freedom of action among all groups, mutual cooperation, solidarity among all groups, and the prohibition within the federation of all political and religious doctrines.[5] Satunino Martínez looked disapprovingly on the outcome of the congress, favoring more reformist ideas of organizing. This led to a rivalry between him and Roig San Martín and the splitting of the unions into two camps.[6]

Enrique Roig San Martín.

Strengthening organization and action


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