How was the Cuban revolution financed

Latin America

Michael Zeuske

To person

Prof. Dr. Michael Zeuske, born in Halle / Saale in 1952. Historian. Professor of Iberian and Latin American History at the University of Kings. His publications include "Island of Extreme. Cuba in the 20th Century", Zurich 2004; "Black Caribbean. Slaves, Slavery Cultures and Emancipation", Zurich 2004; "Little History of Cuba", Munich 2007.

His name is associated with Cuba: Fidel Castro. For almost 50 years he has dominated the country's domestic and foreign policy, first as Minister, then as President. But Cuba is facing major upheavals, and it is doubted that the "eternal guerrilla" can cope with them.

Venezoelans demonstrate against US President Bush on the occasion of his trip to South America. (& copy AP)
Cuba is the only country in the world that has a head of government who, although ill, has been in power from 1959 to the present day - at the beginning of 2008 it will be 49 years! Cuba's politics has been largely determined by two personalities since 1959: Fidel Castro (born officially 13 August 1926 or 1927 in Birán, Oriente), 1959 to 1976 as Prime Minister, 1976 to 2006 as President, and his younger brother Raúl Castro Ruz (b June 3, 1931 in Birán, Oriente).

On February 24, 2008, Raúl Castro (here on a photo from 2007) was elected head of state and head of government by parliament, replacing his brother Fidel. (& copy AP)
Fidel Castro's biography is known through innumerable books. Raúl Castro's political life is less well known: early on as a member of the Partido Socialista Popular (PSP, the old communist party), the younger Castro became army minister after the guerrilla victory in early 1959 (since October 16, 1959: Ministerio de las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias - Minfar), since 1962 Deputy Prime Minister (and since Ernesto Che Guevara's retirement (1960) in 1965 Second Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, PCC - Partido Comunista Cubano), since 1976 First Vice-President of the Council of State and the Council of Ministers. Raúl Castro is now a four-star army general; Since 1989 he has been in control of the Ministry of the Army (Minfar) as well as the Ministry of the Interior (Ministerio del Interior - Minint, since 1961, the current Minister of the Interior, Abelardo Colomé Ibarra, is General of the Army and a member of the Politburo) and has been interim President of the State Office since August 2006. and Council of Ministers on behalf of his brother.

The sick Fidel Castro in October 2006. In the meantime he has passed power on the Caribbean island to his brother Raul. (& copy AP)
This "long duration" of the hard core of the Cuban government, the environment of which has, however, been rejuvenated in the last ten years, was certainly primarily due to the brothers Fidel and Raúl Castros themselves. Fidel Castro is one of the most important politicians of the 20th century; Raúl Castro worked in the background until 2006. Above all, however, this structure of the Cuban government is the result of the blockade imposed on Cuba by the Eisenhower administration in 1960 (and its tightening in the Helms-Burton Act of 1996 as well as other activities of the US administration) and the historical result of the interplay of different things Elements of globalization since around 1800, its effects on the people who were deported to Cuba or came as migrants in the course of this globalization, the strong social hierarchization due to the early penetration of merciless free trade capitalism and the struggles of Cuban middle classes, intellectuals, peasants, free Colored and former slaves against Spanish, American or other foreign domination. History is never dead, most of the time it has not even passed. The traditional elites of Cuba, especially the upper classes of the largest cities of Havana and Matanzas, have been promoting the development of ultra-modern and highly technological sugar production with mass slavery since the end of the 18th century, which almost led to independent industrialization "without factory industry" in Cuba if Cuba hadn't been a colony of Spain and thus the "milking cow" of an old and rather unfashionable empire. At the same time, this empire secured the basic military-political prerequisites for a colonial system of oppression in which only the slavery economy could function. The sugar industry, which was highly modern in its time, led to high profits as well as luxury for the relatively small upper classes and high per capita earnings for the freelance workers in sugar production. But it could only be maintained with the massive deportation of unfree labor from Africa and the massive misery migration of poor agricultural workers from Spain, especially from Galicia and the Canary Islands as well as from the Caribbean. Since 1820 this supply was done through Atlantic slave smuggling, with which gigantic profits could be made because of the international slave trade ban. Havana became the world capital of sugar. Cuban sugar, which has been financed in an efficient factory complex with capital from slave smuggling since the beginning of the 19th century and produced and sold for the open world market, was a quality product in demand worldwide (refined white sugar). The elites of sugar and slavery as well as the slave trade formed a cosmopolitan group that organized colonial rule between Madrid in Spain and Havana in Cuba after Spain had its continental mainland colonies such as Mexico, Venezuela, New Granada, Spain in the protracted wars of independence between 1810 and 1830. Argentina and Peru had lost. However, the crown in Spain had only granted the Creole oligarchies of Cuba (especially Havana) extensive freedom in economic matters during the wars, about which even Alexander von Humboldt deceived himself in his famous "Essay on the Island of Cuba" (1826) would have.

After 1837 there was an alliance between Spanish liberals and Spanish merchants, mainly from slave smuggling (negreros), which led to the formation of an extremely conservative, but free-trading (i.e. basically liberal), ultramontane, imperial and racist colonial oligarchy in the Cubans (in this case that means elites born in Cuba) only played the role of junior partners. The traditional urban oligarchies of Cuba, which have now been booted out, in turn - and this is a basic feature of Cuban history to this day - overestimated their strategic positions in sugar and their strength based on sugar wealth and slavery as well as their modernity. They took up the concept of the nation - under colonial conditions - and tried it against conservative "new" Spanish-Cuban merchant oligarchies, including many extremely wealthy Negreros, but at the same time against the mass of people who were deported to the island from Africa and against the poor Spanish migrants on which they also depended as cheap labor. The Spanish merchants, financiers and Negreros took over the sugar production because of indebtedness and pushed the old Cuban oligarchies more and more from the center of this society. This together formed such an explosive mixture in the middle of the 19th century that Spain could not for a year between 1825 and 1898 let the island rule by captains general, basically military dictators with special powers, especially since the slaves themselves ( Uprisings, strikes, cimarronaje, own cultural forms such as syncretistic religions). Since the 1860s there was a general crisis in this society. This colonial crisis culminated between 1868 and 1898 in a series of protracted colonial, liberation and civil wars among leaders from the Cuban middle classes at the head of real armies of former slaves and Cuban peasants (guajiros). The entangled fighting finally ended in 1898 when the USA intervened in the conflict between Cubans and Spaniards and channeled state and nation building in Cuba to the extent that the old elites, who had succeeded in continuously modernizing the sugar industry, also preserved like the structures of large land ownership (latifundia). The formation of a modern, transrassial nation in Cuba had made amazing progress in the liberation army, but could only come into play on the lower levels of the political system under the control of the USA (which occupied Cuba from 1899 to 1902 and from 1906 to 1909). in connection with the client relationships that were also formed during the war. With this, Cuba came into existence as a belated nation, at the same time with an extremely efficient economic (agrarian) and globalized base and a conservative, but very cosmopolitan and modernization-oriented upper class as an independent nation, which of course was under the control of the Platt Amendment and US American proconsuls and had a peasantry and poor urban population who saw themselves cheated out of a victory and fair agrarian reforms for the first 57 years of Cuba as a republic.