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Vol. 75/No. 16      April 25, 2011

What 1961 Cuban victory teaches
(editorial / feature)

On April 19, 1961, two years after taking political power through a mass revolutionary upsurge, the workers and peasants of Cuba smashed an invasion organized by Washington at the Bay of Pigs, puncturing the myth that U.S. imperialism is invincible. Fifty years later, the lesson of that 1961 defeat remains true—even an army backed by all the firepower and technology the richest capitalist class on earth can deploy is no match for working people who have transformed themselves in the course of uprooting the system of class exploitation by landlords, factory owners, and bankers.

The invasion was well-planned by the Pentagon and CIA. But “they failed to measure the moral relationship of forces,” said Ernesto “Che” Guevara, a central leader of the Cuban Revolution, in a speech shortly after the U.S. rulers’ fiasco. What Washington’s invaders ran into when they landed were militias of peasants who had won title to land for the first time in their lives. Armed sugarcane workers, who for the first time were guaranteed a livelihood and schools for themselves and their children. Soldiers steeled in the revolutionary war that brought down the U.S. puppet Fulgencio Batista, who were determined that the propertied classes whose interests Batista served would never again hold power on the island.

The invaders, on the other hand, were the sons of the former landlords, gambling casino owners, big bankers, and privileged professional classes. In his May 8, 1961, speech, Che recounted that when Fidel Castro asked the captured mercenaries who among them had ever cut sugarcane, only one raised his hand. “They don’t know what a canefield is,” said Che. “They don’t know what hunger is… . They don’t know what it means to be an unemployed worker.”

And they certainly didn’t have the political morale to fight to the death the way Cuban working people did.

One of the mercenaries who didn’t get captured was Luis Posada Carriles. He never made it to Cuba, since the invasion was crushed before his unit could even set sail. Nonetheless, Posada went on to become a highly prized CIA operative, directly employed by the agency until the mid-1970s. He is wanted for a long string of deadly attacks against Cuba. But he has never been charged in a U.S. court of law in connection with any of the multiple deaths he was responsible for. Nor has Washington honored requests by Cuban and Venezuelan authorities for his extradition to stand trial.

Instead, in a calculated insult to the people of Cuba, Posada was charged with lying to U.S. immigration officials. On April 8 a U.S. court acquitted him of even this charge. A statement by the Cuban government pointed out that Posada still freely walks U.S. streets while five Cuban revolutionaries—Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González, and René González—remain imprisoned on frame-up charges because they were monitoring the activities in South Florida of violent mercenaries like Posada.

Fifty years after its first military defeat in the Americas at the Bay of Pigs, Washington still relies on the class forces represented by Posada to try to maintain its foothold south of the border and around the world. Meanwhile, the Cuban Revolution, which relies on the power of a mobilized working class and peasantry, remains undefeated and stands as an example to working people the world over of how to fight the capitalist exploiters and win.
Related articles:
U.S. court sets free anti-Cuba mercenary
Fighting in Yankee heartland alongside Cuba
As Cuban toilers routed invaders at Bay of Pigs, Washington’s lies unraveled  
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