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..) the subsequent U.S. occupation of the island tied its economy ever closed to the United States as U.S. military governors promulgated laws giving U.S. firms concessionary access to the Cuban market. By the late 1920s U.S. firms controlled 75% of the sugar industry and most of the mines, railroads, and public utilities." (Leogrande and Thomas, 2002, 325-6)
The economic dependence on the United States and in particular the high degree of American control over the Cuban industry and natural resources determined a massive reaction even at the social level. For the public in Cuba, the massive U.S. presence represented the symbol of the colonial rule identified with the previous Spanish rule. From this point-of-view after the gaining of independence, in Cuba a certain sense of opposition towards the U.S. was created. At the same time, one of the most obvious areas of the social aspect which saw the increased influence of the U.S. was the American attempt to reconsider the colonies and their social structure. In this sense, they tried to substitute most of the Spanish names and ways of organization not with local ones but rather with the ones familiar to the American side.
As part of the war reconstruction effort, the Cuban government often appealed to the United States to provide resources to rebuild the society. In this sense, "well-financed North American syndicates and land companies retained teams of attorneys, foreign and Cuban, and descended on local communities to press new claims to title, challenge existing property deeds and boundaries, assess new land values and taxes, and inaugurate judicial surveys" (Deere, 1998, 9). These attempts not only influenced the way in which economic affairs would be further conducted in the benefit of the U.S., but also it established the framework for a social organization that did not come at the initiative of the Cuban government but rather as an American suggestion.
Sources of the Revolution
By the early decades of the 20th century the issue of the American presence in Cuba came to be seen as a problem in most of the areas of activity. There are several causes that are related to this matter which can be considered to be determinant for the revolution.
On the one hand, there was the increasing nationalist spirit. The Cuban nation had never established itself as a truly independent country throughout its history. The influence of the Spanish and then of the Americans had left the native societies of the Cuban island lacking any sense of national identity. In this sense, it is considered that there was a need for a revolution in a country from which "African- influenced culture was almost entirely excluded" (Moore,, 2) at the same time however, this emancipation attitude must be seen even from the perspective of the changes that were taking place at the time of the revolution, in the 50s and 60s. Therefore, after the Second World War the colonial powers realized that the nationalist flagellum would eventually destroy their grip on the colonies and they came to consider giving their independence. The case of Great Britain and France are relevant in this sense. However, Cuba was not officially a colony; still the pressure of the American side was felt just as intense.
There was also the economic fact which played a key role in reconsidering the needs and desires of the Cuban people and its economy, a shift in perspective which set in question the need for the U.S.'s support or monopoly. However, this was a longer process, as "the 1920s was a period of tremendous upheaval and unrest in Cuba (...). The island experienced a severe depression after World War I. Unemployment and poverty was exacerbated first by the dramatic deflation of world sugar prices in 1920s, then by the U.S. stock market crash of 1929" (Moore,, 3).
The result of the economic backlash also led to serious social struggles. In this sense, "material desperation among Cuba's agriculturalists and urban working classes led to a constant succession of strikes and activism that disrupted what remained of the economy" (Moore, 3). These social movements also reflected a new direction for the perspective on the role of the Cuban worker and on the economic philosophy of the country.
Another essential issue that offered a positive environment for the revolution was the wider context of the Cold War. In fact, the influence of the communist ideas came to be felt even before the end of the war. However, it was after the end of the conflagration that the situation of the workers, of the common people, but most importantly, of the political system that in most cases in Cuba was related to the United States. Therefore communism played a crucial role and the Cuban Revolution represented yet another step in the process of the export of the communist revolutions throughout the world (Hobsbawm, 1996) and at the same time it promoted the Marxist beliefs related to the issue of social equality and the class struggle. In the conditions of the Cuban society, these elements catered their needs to rebel against the regime and to adhere to Castro's urge for overthrowing the regime in power at the time of Fulgencio Batista.
Finally, it is precisely the Batista regime that played a major part in the eruption of the revolution. In this sense, he was one of the strongest supporters of the U.S.'s presence in Cuba because it allowed him to control the legal power, despite the fact that the means through which this was acquired by Batista were as well violent ones. However, the simple fact that the U.S. had encouraged a regime that supported corruption and misappropriation of funds represented a negative image in the face of the society which came to support more and more the revolutionary spirit of people such as Castro or Che Guevara.
The view from the United States
The initial response to the series of attempts from Castro to get the power from Batista was positive in terms of the American side. This was largely due to the fact that the acting president in the 50s had fallen on the path of the authoritarian rule and in the end was even determined to contact the Soviet Union. This was the result of the constant pressures made by the United States to reduce the level of control on the population, on the economy, and in the end on the political scene in Cuba. The Batista regime had come to be considered as one of the most authoritarian regimes in the region and of the world. He came to deny its citizens their basic rights, he proclaimed himself president for life, and ended up nationalizing parts of the Cuban industry. From this perspective, the event of a revolution appeared to be a good resolution of the growing tensions between the U.S. And Cuba.
The revolution and the American intervention
There is a particular element which must be taken into account when considering the Cuban Revolution from a wider perspective. The contribution of Che Guevara was an essential factor in determining the revolutionary image of the events led by Fidel Castro. In this sense, at the time, the war in Vietnam was already an issue known worldwide and it was viewed as a fight against the remains of the colonial rule, in the beginning of the French power and afterwards of the American one.
From this historical perspective, it must be pointed out that Che Guevara often used the rhetoric of a war of liberation in the description of the revolution. In his view, it was more than liberation from the rule of Batista; it was an attempt to reconsider the relationship with the United States and with the world at large. More precisely, "Ernesto "Che" Guevara in the 1960s he called on revolutionaries to create "two, three Vietnams" in order to confront and weaken the United States and its allies" (Dominguez, 1997, 1). Therefore it can be said that aside from the main ideas related to the issues of the Marxist revolution on which the discourse of all major parts in the revolution were based, there was also a certain sense of independence not from a general superior force, but a practical one that had exercised its power and authority for decades on the Cuban soil.
The revolution in itself followed a series of steps. In 1953 Castro made the first attempt to eliminate Batista from power; however the 26th of July Movement's leader was imprisoned. However, the action of Batista only transformed him into a martyr and allowed him the possibility to increase his popularity. Therefore, aware of this eventuality, Batista released him two years later. Following a series of consecutive attempts to over through Batista from power, in the end, on January 1, 1959, he eventually resigned and Fidel Castro became the leader of a free yet communist Cuba.
The first reactions…[continue]
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