Really a Revolution?

Really a Revolution?


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My First Attempt At Debunking A Really Long Article About The French Revolution.

Hello all, I've been here for a while, and I think Iɽ like to try my hand at a topic I've constantly asked about. Specifically, the French Revolution, and even more specifically, Maximilien Robespierre. The article I'll be speaking of is titled "Why Robespierre Chose Terror." Its a long one, so this will require multiple threads, I'm not sure if this will need 5 or 50 threads, it is a very long article. Please go easy on me, this is the first time I've ever done this.

The American attitude toward the French Revolution has been generally favorable—naturally enough for a nation itself born in revolution. But as revolutions go, the French one in 1789 was among the worst. True, in the name of liberty, equality, and fraternity, it overthrew a corrupt regime. Yet what these fine ideals led to was, first, the Terror and mass murder in France, and then Napoleon and his wars, which took hundreds of thousands of lives in Europe and Russia. After this pointless slaughter came the restoration of the same corrupt regime that the Revolution overthrew. Aside from immense suffering, the upheaval achieved nothing.

Leading the betrayal of the Revolution’s initial ideals and its transformation into a murderous ideological tyranny was Maximilien Robespierre, a monster who set up a system expressly aimed at killing thousands of innocents. He knew exactly what he was doing, meant to do it, and believed he was right to do it. He is the prototype of a particularly odious kind of evildoer: the ideologue who believes that reason and morality are on the side of his butcheries. Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and Pol Pot are of the same mold. They are the characteristic scourges of humanity in modern times, but Robespierre has a good claim to being the first. Understanding his motives and rationale deepens our understanding of the worst horrors of the recent past and those that may lurk in the future.

I would have to disagree with these assumptions. From what I've seen, most Americans don't really have a good view of the French Revolution, at least in popular understanding. Most of them tend to just conjure up images of angry mobs and dumb, uncaring aristocrats, or angry mobs killing dumb, uncaring aristocrats. Hardly a very favorable view of the revolution. Secondly, why would you say it achieved nothing? The Bourbon restoration may have been a victory of reaction, but it hardly came back the same. The seigneurial system was abolished, the metric system was created, a much more effective system of local, small scale justice, The Justices of the Peace, was established, the Divine Rights of Kings was put under test and found lacking. I could go on, but those are the only ones I can think of in short order, and to talk about everything the Revolution changed, that would take an entire book, maybe two volumes or so.

I'm not sure that Robespierre's aim in the Terror was to kill innocent people. Hell, the guy opposed the war and the death penalty at the start, but circumstances like the Vendee rebellion, the Federalist Rebellion, getting invaded on all fronts by Spain, Prussia, Austria, and Britain forced harsh measures. Yes, he believed he was in the right with the Terror, he cannot be excused from that, but the guy was hardly calling for more terror, he was against extremists like Carrier, Fouche, Tallien, Hebert, and others from their indiscriminate murders.

I'm not gonna touch on comparing Robespierre with latter day dictators. That is a subject I have no idea how to approach, or what to even say about it, so I'll keep my mouth shut about that.

Historians distinguish three phases of the French Revolution. The last, the Terror, ran roughly during 1793–94. It began with the fall of the moderate Girondins and the radical Jacobins’ accession to power. As the Jacobins gained control of the Committee of Public Safety, which in turn controlled the legislature (the Convention), the disputes among their factions sharpened. After an interregnum of shared power, Robespierre became dictator, and the Terror started in earnest. It took the form of the arrest, show trial, and execution of thousands of people, including the leaders of the Girondins and the opposing Jacobin factions, who were suspected of opposing—actively or passively, actually or potentially—the policies Robespierre dictated.

Robespierre’s constituency outside the Convention was the mob, roaming the streets of Paris, the center of the Revolution. Large parts of France were hardly involved for most people, life went on during the Revolution much as before. The mob in Paris consisted largely of destitute sans-culottes (“without knee breeches”), who maintained themselves by a mixture of crime, prostitution, begging, and odd jobs. Robespierre and his followers incited them to action whenever political expediency called for it. But even when unincited, having nothing better to do, they formed the crowd that watched the public executions, jeered and abused those about to die, rejoiced at the severed heads, adulated the leaders temporarily in power, and cursed them after they fell. Like flies, they were everywhere as the Revolution went on its bloody way. Their enraged, expectant buzzing formed the ghastly background of the slaughter of the innocents.

The dividing of the eras of the Revolution is actually pretty contentious with historians. There's a bit of a debate whether or not the revolution ended with the Thermidor Reaction, during the coup of 18 Brumaire, or maybe even Napoleon's coronation. I would say that it didn't begin with the fall of the Girondins, who weren't really moderate, or very competent people, I would say it began with the internal rebellion, foreign invasion, and sans-culottes demanding harsher and more punitive measures to defend the revolution. He also got it the other way around, the Convention controlled the Committee. The Convention chose the members of the Committee of Public Safety, and had monthly elections on whether or not they kept their seats. The Jacobins, or more specifically, the Montagnards, never actually controlled the National Convention, they had to rely on the support of the Plain, who were the actual majority in the Convention. Also, the execution of the other factions weren't because they disagreed with policy, though that did play a role in it. There were a variety of reasons for it, but I'll just name the ones I can think of for now. The Girondins mostly got in trouble because of their connection with Charlotte Corday, whom assassinated Marat and made a martyr out of him, with one quipping that she at least thought them how to die. The Enrages got it because they were much too radical, they were causing mayhem, while also fanning religious tensions with their dechristianization policies. The Dantonist got in trouble because of a scandal involving the Dantonist Fabre dɾglantine and the East India Company which indicted many, many members of that faction. Also, obligatory mention that Robespierre did not dictate policy, he wasn't dictator and shared it with 11 other men.

This is my opinion, but this seems rather dehumanizing, patronizing, oversimplified, and snobby all at the same time. This guy is describing them like they're locusts, or puppets. People who had legit grievances and emotions are just being compared to flies and portrayed as bored, immoral psychopaths controlled by the Committee. The sans-culottes weren't just made up of the poor and desperate, though they certainly were noticeable, it was also made up of the urban workers, artisans and small business owners, hardly just a jeering, filthy mob.

Historical distance and revolutionary rhetoric must not be allowed to obscure the Terror’s savagery. The descriptions that follow are only a few among many that could be given. Stanley Loomis writes in Paris in the Terror that, in the September massacres of 1792, “the bloody work went on for five . . . days and nights. On the morning of the third, the prison of La Force was entered and here took place the murder of the Princesse de Lamballe. . . . The frenzy of the crazed and drunken murderers appears to have reached its highest pitch at La Force. Cannibalism, disembowelment and acts of indescribable ferocity took place here. The Princess . . . refused to swear her hatred of the King and Queen and was duly handed over to the mob. She was dispatched with a pike thrust, her still beating heart was ripped from her body and devoured, her legs and arms were severed from her body and shot through cannon. The horrors that were then perpetrated on her disemboweled torso are indescribable. . . . It has been loosely assumed . . . that most of the other victims were, like herself, aristocrats—an assumption that for some curious reason is often supposed to mitigate these crimes. Very few victims were, in fact, of the former nobility—less than thirty out of the fifteen hundred who were killed.”

What Robespierre had unloosed were the most depraved urges of society’s dregs. The resulting anarchy temporarily served his purpose, much as the Kristallnacht served Hitler’s, the purges Stalin’s, and the cultural revolution Mao’s. Each perpetrated the terror to frighten opponents into abject submission and establish himself more firmly in power.

Having secured Paris, in 1793 Robespierre appointed commissioners to enforce his interpretation of the Revolution outside the capital. In the city of Lyon, writes Simon Schama in Citizens, the guillotine began its work, but it was found to be “a messy and inconvenient way of disposing of the political garbage. . . . A number of the condemned, then, were executed in mass shootings. . . . [A]s many as sixty prisoners were tied in a line by ropes and shot at with cannon. Those who were not killed outright by the fire were finished off with sabers, bayonets, and rifles. . . . By the time that the killings . . . had finished, one thousand nine hundred and five people had met their end.” The commissioner in Nantes “supplemented the guillotine with . . . ‘vertical deportations.’ . . . Holes were punched in the sides of . . . barges. . . . Prisoners were put in with their hands and feet tied and the boats pushed into the center of the river. . . . [The] victims helplessly watched the water rise about them. . . . [P]risoners were stripped of their clothes and belongings . . . [Y]oung men and women [were] tied naked together in the boats. Estimates of those who perished in this manner vary greatly, but there were certainly no fewer than two thousand.”

In the Vendéan massacre, recounts Schama, “Every atrocity the time could imagine was meted out to the defenseless population. Women were routinely raped, children killed, both mutilated. . . . At Gonnord . . . two hundred old people, along with mothers and children, [were forced] to kneel in front of a large pit they had dug they were then shot so as to tumble into their own grave. . . . Thirty children and two women were buried alive when earth was shoveled onto the pit.” In Paris, Loomis writes, Robespierre ordered the kangaroo court, known as the Revolutionary Tribunal, to be “as active as crime itself and conclude every case within twenty-four hours.” “The victims were shepherded to the courtroom in the morning and, no matter how many of them there might be, their fate was settled by no later than two in the afternoon of that same day. By three o’clock their hair had been cut, their hands bound and they were in the death carts on their way to the scaffold.” “Between June 10 and July 27 [1793] . . . 1,366 victims perished.” Most of these people were innocent of any crime and were unable to defend themselves against accusations of which they were not even informed.

This all seems very sensationalist, and rather extreme. Plus, those elipses seem to be hiding some texts that might disprove it. Princess de Lamballe's death was, by all accounts, rather terrible , but this seems a bit much. Some say she had her stomach ripped out, some say she had been bludgeoned to death, but her death most probably did not involve cannons and having heart ripped out while still beating.

The atrocities at Lyon and the Vendee, I cannot lie or excuse anyone, yes, that shit happened. It was committed by monsters, meaning Fouche, who was representative on mission for Lyon, and Carrier, the representative on mission for the Vendee. This is an undeniable horror of the revolution, but this was not celebrated. People everywhere were horrified at what they did, and when they could, members of the Committee recalled them and tried to have them punished, but Carrier was protected by Hebert, and Fouche was protected by Barras. Plus, Robespierre wasn't the one to send out these guys, the National Convention was responsible for doing that.

Also, the Revolutionary Tribunal, despite its reputation as a kangaroo court, did not mean you were guaranteed to be sent to the guillotine. About half of the people sent to the tribunal were acquitted, and even under the law of 22 Prairial, about a quarter were let go.

I'm also not so sure of using Simon Schama's Citizens as a primary source. That book is mostly a work of popular history, and while very well written, is riddled with inaccuracies, is controversial in the academia, and has been regularly accused of being overtly negative against the revolution.

Also, dregs of society? This all seems very snobby and hateful against the working poor people with grievances, and putting comparison between the sans-culottes with Stalin and Hitler? Why the hell would you do that?

These atrocities were not unfortunate excesses unintended by Robespierre and his henchmen but the predictable consequences of the ideology that divided the world into “friends” and less-than-human “enemies.” The ideology was the repository of the true and the good, the key to the welfare of humanity. Its enemies had to be exterminated without mercy because they stood in the way. As the ideologues saw it, the future of mankind was a high enough stake to justify any deed that served their purpose. As Loomis puts it, “[A]ll who played a role in the drama . . . believed themselves motivated by patriotic and altruistic impulses. All . . . were able to value their good intentions more highly than human life. . . . There is no crime, no murder, no massacre that cannot be justified, provided it be committed in the name of an Ideal.”

The ideal, however, was simply what Robespierre said it was. And the law was what Robespierre and his followers willed it to be. They changed it at will and determined whether its application in a particular case was just. The justification of monstrous actions by appealing to a passionately held ideal, elevated as the standard of reason and morality, is a characteristic feature of political ideologies in power. For the Communists, it was a classless society for the Nazis, racial purity for Islamic terrorists, their interpretation of the Koran. The shared feature is that the ideal, according to its true believers, is immune from rational or moral criticism, because it determines what is reasonable and moral.

Norman Hampson notes in his biography of Robespierre that “the revolutionary tribunal . . . had become an undiscriminating murder machine. . . . Imaginary . . . plots and absurd charges were everyday events.” As Robespierre put it, “Let us recognize that there is a conspiracy against public liberty. . . . What is the remedy? To punish the traitors.” Hampson writes: “Robespierre took the attitude that clemency . . . was a form of sentimental self-indulgence that would have to be paid for in blood.” He declared: “There are only two parties in France: the people and its enemies. We must exterminate those miserable villains who are eternally conspiring against the rights of man. . . . [W]e must exterminate all our enemies.”

Robespierre, recounts Schama, “rejoiced that ‘a river of blood would now divide France from its enemies.’ ”

The result of this climate of hysteria was Robespierre’s Decree of the 22nd Prairial. It “expressed in principle the views of the whole Committee [of Public Safety],” writes J. M. Thompson in his biography of Robespierre. “The Committee was fanatical enough to approve, and the Convention powerful enough to enforce, as a New Model of Republican justice . . . a law which denied to prisoners the help of counsel, made it possible for the court to dispense with witnesses, and allowed no sentence except acquittal or execution a law which, at the same time, defined crimes against the state in such wide terms that the slightest indiscretion might bring one within the article of death. To any right-minded or merciful man such procedure must seem a travesty of justice.”

Empowered by this model republican justice, the Revolutionary Tribunal sent to death 1,258 people in nine weeks, as many as during the preceding 14 months. “The inescapable fact” about Robespierre, notes Hampson, is that “under a judicial system which he initiated and helped to direct . . . a government of which he was, perhaps, the most influential member, perpetrated the worst enormities of the Terror. . . . [N]o defence is possible for the wholesale massacres . . . in which . . . an average rate of thirty-six [persons] a day were sent to the guillotine.”

Robespierre “became as incapable of distinguishing right from wrong—not to say cruelty from humanity—as a blind man is of distinguishing night from day.” Let us now try to understand his frame of mind.

This is just me, but I find drawing a connection and giving a comparison between late 18th century France to modern day ideologies like Communism and Fascism to be very distasteful.

Okay first, the river of blood quote is taken out of context and attributed to the wrong guy. Robespierre did not say that, Danton did. What he meant by river of blood was a theoretical one separating the sans-culottes from the emigres.

On the other quotes by Robespierre, I really can't seem to find the original source. All of them are bandied around by authors who don't like him, but I can't find when he actually said that. Were they all just taken out of context? Were these quotes mistranslated from its original French?

On Robespierre's mindset, we are really digging into some real psychoanalysis. I'm not sure on how to approach this, but I'll try to go about it the best I can. Robespierre, without doubt was supportive of the Law of 22 Prairial, and that is his sin. The man back then was consistently sick and in bed for some very critical moments, alongside him being mentally and physically exhausted from all the work he had done, so we have to note that. In his absence, it was being applied in a very brutal manner, and even then, about a quarter of them were let go, as I wrote above.

Liberty or Death by Peter McPhee

Robespierre: A Revolutionary Life by Peter McPhee

Glory and Terror: seven deaths under the French Revolution by Antoine de Baecque

Marie-Antoinette: the journey by Antonia Fraser

Twelve Who Ruled by R.R Palmer

Choosing Terror: Virtue, Friendship, and Authenticity in the French Revolution by Marisa Linton


The Iranian Revolution: A Brief History and Analysis

The Iranian Revolution of 1979 was a pivotal moment in revolutionary history. A multiclass opposition overthrew an autocratic ruler, leading to the establishment of a theocratic state. This outcome contrasts sharply with other modern revolutionary movements, which have been fought in the name of nationalism or socialism and which have concluded with the transfer of power to a secular, modernizing intelligentsia. The causes of the Iranian Revolution are numerous, with many different groups in the opposition claiming different grievances and hoping for different outcomes. However, by the height of the revolution, they had all mobilized behind the calls for freedom, justice, and liberty espoused by the cleric Ayatollah Khomeini. ‘Fourth Generation’ theories are effective in explaining the sources of revolutionary grievances held by the Iranian people and how the opposition successfully mobilized. One theory in particular, George Katsiaficas’s “Eros Effect,” explains why and how an opposition of such diverse groups with varied claims managed to consolidate, mobilize, and enable the establishment of a theocratic regime.

The Iranian Revolution has been called a “revolution for every theory”, and indeed many scholars have tried to analyze it through various theoretical lens (Parsa 3). It featured an organized alliance of opposition groups, each with their own distinct grievances and revolutionary goals. That revolutionary discontent was incited by numerous factors makes it difficult to pinpoint a single root cause, thereby limiting the capacity for ‘Third Generation’ revolution theories to adequately analyze it. However, elements of the ‘Fourth Generation’ of theories help provide context to the revolutionary discontent which erupted between 1977 and 1979. Of particular importance are critiques of state intervention and consolidation in the economy and theories about solidarity movements. These theories help explain why so much of Iranian society became dissatisfied with the Shah’s regime, and how the collective organization and action which toppled his regime came into being.

One particular theory of the ‘Fourth Generation,’ George Katsiaficas’s “Eros Effect,” lends itself well to an analysis of the Iranian Revolution. The “Eros Effect” refers to the transcendental qualities of social movements. As basic assumptions about the nature and structure of government and society begin to vanish, a new way of life and imagining politics begins (Katsiaficas 1). As more people begin to recognize the collapse of the old ways of life and the possibility for new ways emerges, they initiatively mobilize for action (Katsiaficas 8). Between 1977 and 1979, as the Shah’s state began to collapse under the pressure of the opposition, a growing number of Iranians began to associate with the calls for a re-imagined political and social reality being put forth by revolutionary leaders such as Ayatollah Khomeini. Recognizing the possibility for a new way of life, the masses mobilized and joined the opposition, eventually providing enough revolutionary momentum to topple the Shah.

The Iranian Revolution occurred between 1977 and 1979, beginning with a series of demonstrations and ending with the overthrow of the Shah. However, the causes of revolutionary discontent can be traced back decades, and must first be analyzed. Poor living conditions during the Shah’s rule and events such as the 1963 rebellion contributed heavily to the widespread disillusionment which would erupt in 1977. Serious issues such as abject poverty, wealth inequality, high taxes, and rising interest rates plagued most in Iran following World War Two and were already a source of discontent (Keddie 120) In 1953, a coup d’état backed by the United States deposed the democratically elected, nationalist government of Mohammad Mosaddegh. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, whose father ruled Iran leading up to World War Two but was deposed by the Soviets, was instated as Shah.

Quickly, the Shah and those around him were determined to ally with the West and try to develop the Iranian economy along Western lines (Keddie 135). Mosaddegh’s overthrown was a source of much opposition throughout Iran. When overthrown, he was in the process of nationalizing the oil industry, a highly popular and heavily supported move, and was beginning to address structural issues within Iranian society. The coup organized against him and the Shah’s subsequent courting of the West drew nationalistic ire from many. The government was seen as being a pawn of the West, which was unfairly exploiting Iran (Keddie 135). Throughout the early 1960s, elections to the parliament were rigged, stirring popular discontent. In 1961, strikes were threatened across Iran, and in Tehran schoolteachers demonstrated in front of the parliament building demanding higher pay. Violence broke out during the strike, and two teachers were killed. As the situation intensified, rumors began circulating of a possible military coup or serious royal concessions. To stabilize the situation, the Shah asked Ali Amini, a member of the independent opposition, to form a government. Amini agreed, but only if parliament was suspended (Keddie 142).

Amini’s opposition to past governments under the Shah gave him some credibility with opposition groups, and the suspension of parliament at first pleased the opposition. However, he felt that strong government and the seriously needed land reform was only possible during a period of rule without elections, and the Shah agreed. When new elections weren’t called, Amini began to be seen as ruling by decree, dissipating most support he controlled. Demonstrations were held, and in July 1961 a demonstration resulted in the arrest of several leaders of an oppositional group called the National Front, and strong restrictions were placed on National Front political activities (Keddie 144). In November, a royal decree allowing the government to legislate by decree without a parliament brought further pro-election agitation. In January 1962, a major riot by Tehran University students, using National Front slogans, was brutally suppressed by the police and the army. The government arrested numerous rightist opposition figures in response (Keddie 144).

In January, Amini devoted himself seriously to implementing a land-reform decree. However, he resigned in July when the Shah refused to reduce the army budget. The new prime minister, an old time friend of the Shah, met with National Front leaders. Their requests for free elections and other freedoms were refused. In response, the National Front created a new unified central council December of 1962 and began open attacks on the shah. Most of the council and many National Front leaders were arrested shortly thereafter. The Shah announced the major land reform in 1963, calling for a national plebiscite on a combined six-point reform program. It included land reform, sale of government-owned factories to finance the land reform, a new election law including woman suffrage, the nationalization of forests, a national literacy corps, and a plan to give workers a share of industrial profits. The program, called the “White Revolution,” was passed overwhelmingly by the public in January, though rumors circulated about vote rigging (Keddie 145).

A large opposition movement led by the ulama rose in response to the “White Revolution”. The ulama is the religious establishment in Iran, a group of clerics with great influence over society and which had historically been tied to the landowning elite class. While leading ulama in Iran had been relatively pro-Shah since Mosaddeq’s overthrow because they feared the rise in secularist and communist power under Mosaddeq, the economic and political crisis of the past years had increased open opposition to the regime and to its subservience to Western groups (Keddie 146). Most of the clergy opposed the reforms. The majority opposed land reform, as land belonging to mosques and religious institutions was slated to be confiscated. Others opposed the vote for women (Parsa 192). Among the ulama opposition, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeinin had emerged as a key antigovernment spokesman. From his pulpit in Qum he expressed uncompromising opposition to the Shah’s absolutism and foreign influence, denouncing the United States as “an enemy of Islam in all its policies, this hostility being particularly apparent in its support for Israel and the nature of its influence in Iran” (Esposito 20). He denounced the reform as an attack on Islam and the clergy.

The “White Revolution” became a source of dissent for other groups, as well. Land reform undercut landlord political power to benefit the central government but produced large numbers of independent farmers and landless laborers with no feelings of loyalty to the Shah. While their support towards the increasingly corrupt government withered, their loyalty to the clergy, seen as more concerned about the fate of the people, increased. The reform’s economic ‘trickle-down’ strategy further concentrated money in the hands of the top elites instead of distributing it throughout society, thereby exacerbating the wealth inequalities in Iran. The government reduced credit to the bazaars, which had been experiencing bankruptcy on a widening-scale (Parsa 50). Instead of increasing stability and class loyalty to the Shah, the “White Revolution” united the people against him.

In March of 1963, Khomeini’s madrasa was attacked by government forces and he was arrested. Released after a short period of detention, he resumed his denunciations of the government and its policies. He was arrested again on June 4th, an important Shiite holiday, after delivering a scathing criticism of the regime. Upon hearing the news, religious processions in Tehran turned into violent demonstrations (Keddie 147). These demonstrations spread to the university and to other cities around Tehran and were only suppressed after several days, with loss of life in the hundreds. Khomeini was released in August, but later circulated pamphlets strongly denunciating the parliament when it passed a bill granting diplomatic immunity to American military personnel and advisers and agreed to a $200 million loan from the US for military purchases. As a result, Khomeini was exiled to Turkey in 1964 and went to Iraq in 1965. It was from here that he taught and spoke, with his words being distributed and spread into Iran through writings or cassettes (Keddie 148).

The rebellion in 1963 failed because of the weakness of opposition organizations from the repression that followed the 1953 coup. Participants in the action consisted primarily of segments of bazaars, or marketplaces, and the urban poor. Students did not join the demonstrators, and, more importantly, white-collar employees, professionals, and industrial workers did not go on strike. In the face of a weak and disorganized opposition, the regime was able to crush it and demobilize the regime’s opponents (Parsa 51). Still, the rebellion was an important harbinger of things to come. It demonstrated that collective action could be taken against the Shah, and that serious discontent was beginning to surface in parts of Iranian society. It revealed to members of the opposition that more effort needed to be placed on solidarity and the consolidation of their movements. After these riots, there was to be deeper cooperation between religious and nationalist opponents of the Shah both within Iran and among students and exiles abroad (Parsa 50). However, the rebellion also increased repression within Iran, and many oppositional groups were driven underground or into exile. This would be of enormous importance later, because it left the mosques and bazaars as the only organizations through which the opposition could organize and mobilize in the Iranian Revolution.

Of greater importance, however, is that the rebellion began Khomeini’s unwavering criticism of the regime. Exile rendered Khomeini more invulnerable to repression. Throughout his time in exile, he continued to issue political statements and give speeches on political matters. He began sending great numbers of letter to the clergy and Iranian students which attacked the Shah’s dictatorship, the government’s violation of Islamic principles, and the imperialist pillage of Iranian national resources. He refused to accept the inevitability of the existing situation and consistently called for the monarchy’s overthrow (Parsa 217). This would propel him to a position of prominence and leadership during the Revolution. He successful projected himself as a progressive and open-minded revolutionary during exile, making him attractive to sections and groups in Iranian society who might otherwise equate him with reactionary clergymen (Irfani 162). As he represented popular unity, members of the opposition began to align and organize themselves behind his movement. This would have vital importance during the mobilization and collective actions of the revolution.

Through the analytical lens of Katsiaficas’s “Eros Effect” theory, the rebellion of 1963 also has significant importance. Katsiaficas writes that, “the eros effect postulates that popular movements spontaneously internalize new levels of activity which previous episodes of revolutionary struggle already developed, thereby explaining why newly emergent movements have continually identified with their predecessors” (Katsiaficas 8). The revolution in 1979 continued the struggle that began in 1963, drawing largely off the same popular grievances which had incited it. The movement in 1979 drew from organizational alliances that formed during the 1963 rebellion between the secular and religious opposition, and put into practice revolutionary methods such as protests, demonstrations, and religious processions that were unsuccessfully attempted in 1963. Participants in the 1979 revolution saw themselves continuing the struggle which had failed a decade earlier.

In the years between 1963 and 1977, the regime embarked upon a policy of rapid economic development through state intervention in capital allocation and accumulation. While Iran’s GDP grew at impressive rates, housing shortages and considerable social and economic equalities grew because of rushed development programs (Parsa 54). Agriculture was neglected, resulting in a deterioration of conditions for the peasantry. Inflation threatened portions of the working and middle classes dependent on fixed income. Housing policies jeopardized the working class and shantytown dwellers. Allocation policies paid little attention to less developed regions and regional inequalities were magnified as a result. Meanwhile, the upper class controlled a disproportionate amount of the state’s wealth (Parsa 85). Opponents of the regime proclaimed that the Shah’s reforms and economic policies benefited mainly the rich without making necessary structural changes to Iranian society (Keddie 149).

State intervention into the economy was a major cause of the 1979 revolution, and has thus been a focus of scholarly analysis. States with control over the economy become the primary vehicle for distributing wealth, and are often the major wealth holder. As such, they affect all aspects of social and economic life. In the case of Iran, state-sponsored development policies adversely affected the working classes and eventually polarized the population (Parsa 21). The state limited and politicized market and economic issues, making it vulnerable to attack by adversely affected classes and groups that have consolidated their forces and that are able to seize state power (Parsa 13). Given the subordination of market forces and the entire private sector to the state, the Shah could not avoid being blamed for adverse policies and conditions. The contradictions in Iranian society and the poor conditions most Iranians lived in were seen as his fault. As such, the wide array of grievances held by different sections of the Iranian population could be consolidated and targeted against the state. Meanwhile, economic organizations and actors, such as the bazaars, could mobilize against the state and the Shah as a response to their economic policies. This would later set in motion the widespread mobilization that would eventually topple the Shah.

Other events during these years also contributed to growing popular discontent. Using oil revenue brought in by the oil boom, the Shah began purchasing massive amounts of up-to-date and sophisticated military equipment from abroad. The allocation of these funds towards the military, instead of towards resolving the problems in Iranian society, was a source of opposition to the regime (Keddie 164). Foreign contractors took over key positions in the economy, further contributing to the opposition’s nationalist sentiments. To celebrate the mythical 2,5000th anniversary of the Persian monarchy, the Shah put on a massive and opulent celebration. The discrepancy between the seemingly unlimited wealth of the Shah and the poverty of most of his subjects revealed to most the contradictions in Iranian society (Keddie 167). In 1975, the Shah announced that all legal political parties would be merged into a single party. Membership was required of most government and university employees. This greatly disturbed the liberal bourgeois elements of society, which saw it as a further erosion of political liberties (Keddie 166). Also in 1975, a Family Protection Law was passed which introduced a number of reforms in marriage, divorce, and family law, which had until then been strictly based on Islamic law. This greatly upset the religious community, and alienated much of the moderate ulama which had still supported the regime (Keddie 167).

Long years of economic malaise and repressed desires for political freedom had set the stage for potential turmoil. In early 1977, spurred by Jimmy Carter’s campaign promises of championing the cause of universal human rights and cutting back arms sales to Third World countries, members of the old opposition began to speak out against the regime’s alleged wrongdoings (Amuzegar 242). Throughout the spring, opposition voices became louder and more poignant. Still, until the end of 1977, the opposition’s campaigns against the regime took a largely nonviolent format. (Amuzegar 245).

The impact of the international environment on a country’s domestic conditions, and revolutionary movements, has often been studied by scholars of revolution. The interaction between the international environment and a country experiencing a revolutionary moment may spark, impede, or assist the outcome of that moment. Jack Goldstone, in his analysis on ‘Fourth Generation’ theories, noted that often “it is the absence of intervention or the withdrawal (or threatened withdrawal) of ongoing support for a regime that allows a revolutionary movement to grow” (Goldstone 7). This was clearly the case in the beginning stages of the Iranian Revolution. Carter’s concern for global human rights spread the perception that support for the Shah was diminishing and inspired intellectuals and other members of the opposition to begin calling into question the Shah’s regime. Though the opposition was at this stage peaceful and limited, it brought again to the surface the discontent and grievances harbored by the Iranian people for decades. The stage was being set for a more violent and widespread uprising.

In mid-1977, to combat growing inflation, the Shah appointed Jamshid Amuzegar as prime minister, and a deflationary program was launched immediately (Keddie 164). As part of the program, bazaaris faced fines, banishment, and prison sentences for profiteering and price violations. This measure did much damage to private entrepreneur’s confidence, the country’s investment climate, and the bazaars waning loyalty to the regime. The deflationary program also brought a sudden growth in unemployment, especially among the unskilled and skilled. The combination of inflation, shortages, large income-distribution inequalities, and other sources of dissent contributed to an ever growing popular discontent (Keddie 164).

The deflationary program set in motion the mobilization of Iranian society which would eventually topple the Shah. At this point, the theory of collective action must be addressed, as it lends itself well to an analysis of the build up towards revolution. Collective action such as mobilization, demonstrations, and protests result from the pursuit of common interests by adversely affected groups (Parsa 13). For such action to take place, victimized groups must identify an entity responsible for their suffering. In the case of Iran, the Shah became that target. Groups seek out organizations in existence for mobilization, as they can provide ready-made networks and channels of communication to coordinate various protest activities. Conflict is likely to escalate when a group has appropriate resources for broadcasting the government’s use of violence and sustaining mobilization and collective action (Parsa 24). In countries were high levels of social and economic inequalities exist, such as pre-revolution Iran, the majority of the population experiences a common condition of exploitation and injustice. They thus find it easier to form alliances and consolidate against the ruling minority (Parsa 25).

The policies instituted in the deflationary program set the stage for intense conflict between the state and the bazaars. They reduced divisions in the bazaar and, combined with a slight reduction in repression, allowed mobilization to occur. After all, most bazaaris were free of ties to the government, which might have made them hesitate to join a really revolutionary movement (Keddie 227). The bazaars began to mobilize in late 1977. As a more traditional segment of society, members of the bazaar were closely tied to the ulama, and their struggles were soon channeled through the mosque because government repression left no other option for mobilization (Parsa 29). From this point forth, the bazaars and the mosques provided key organizational and financial support to the anti-regime demonstrations and strikes which would occur through 1978 and 1979. Regime suppression against the nationalist and leftist opposition had made those groups ineffective and unable to mobilize the population (Parsa 216). As Parsa noted, groups turn to organizations that are able to provide ready-made networks and channels of communication. This was available in the form of the bazaar and the mosque. Mosques provided a national network for mobilization and a safe place for gathering and, through sermons and religious processions, communication. That the opposition coordinated and mobilized through these organizations would have a serious influence on the character and outcome of the revolution.

In early 1978, an article was posted in the newspaper Ettela’at entitled “Iran and Red and Black Colonialism,” which called into question Ayatollah Khomeini’s nationality, character, and patriotism. The article angered the militant clergy and leftist armed guerrilla supporters, and in response they organized street demonstrations set to occur in Qum on January 8th through their mosques and the bazaars. These demonstrations turned violent, with security forces shooting into the crowd, and several people were killed. Condemnations of the Qum killings came from the entire Shiite hierarchy, including much of the silent, moderate majority of clergy. In no previous political rebellion against the government was the religious establishment so closely unified. The Qum incident thus began to unify the fragmented clerical factions, preventing potential splits which might have undermined the consolidation of opposition (Amuzegar 248). For followers of Khomeinin, it provided a magnificent opportunity to unify city and village mullahs across the country in defense of Islam. For university students, intellectuals, and the secular opposition, Qum demonstrated the people’s readiness to risk their lives in opposition to the Shah’s rule. For undecided moderates, the incident demonstrated the regime’s vulnerability to a nationwide rebellion and undermined the Shah’s legitimacy (Amuzegar 249). However, the incident at Qum and mobilization through the mosques and bazaars also swung the initiative in protest movements from the secular forces to the religious led opposition. By this point, the religious opposition appealed to far larger numbers than did the secular liberals (Keddie 225).

According to the Shiite customs, memorial services are held forty days after a person’s death. The ulama and bazaar leadership, sensing their new power and the grievances of their constituency, used the forty-day ritual to organize massive demonstrations. The forty-day interval gave the organizations a much-needed hiatus to regroup forces, spread the word orally, bring people together almost automatically without the need to argue about date and place, and to utilize ritual emotion to intensify opposition to the regime (Keddie 226). On February 18, memorial services began in various different cities throughout the country and quickly turned into protests against the Shah and in support of Khomeini. In most cities the protests were peaceful and ended by police, but in the city Tabriz, a full riot broke out after a protester was shot dead. Crowds rampaged through the city setting on fire anything considered un-Islamic, and attacked and burned state buildings, banks, and a Rastakhiz party hall (Amuzegar 248). The Tabriz incident was the first well-planned and efficient defiance of the regime, demonstrating the government’s total lack of preparation to face a hostile crowd. The opposition, by attacking symbols of affluence as sinful and immoral, added a crucial religious motive to its objectives of fairness, justice, and freedom. A firm alliance was forged between the clergy and the radical left for the first time (Amuzegar 248). The incident also demonstrated the growing role of young males, especially students organized by the ulama, in the opposition.

As mentioned, the incident at Qum and popular mobilization through the bazaars and mosques gave the revolutionary initiative to the religious opposition. In turn, Ayatollah Khomeini’s influence and popularity grew. For the urban poor, Khomeini and his words were supreme guides, and his lectures were widely distributed through the bazaars of the major cities. As revolutionary enthusiasm and activity grew, Khomeini’s refusal to make any compromise with the monarchy and his implication that problems could be solved by a return to Islamic ways had increasing appeal to the masses (Keddie 232). Members of the moderate clergy who argued for reform began to align with him, as they were bound to lose influence to his more uncompromising positions during a revolutionary moment (Irfani 162). With the rapid pace that the revolutionary movement was undertaking action, no political organization was capable of assuming leadership. Only the clergymen, given their national organizational networks, direct contact with people, and the uncompromising leadership of Khomeini, appeared to present the only possible avenue for leading the movement.

As such, Khomeini soon took on the character of a national revolutionary leader. His successful blending of politics and religion in an anti-imperialist and anti-dictatorial framework made his leadership attractive and acceptable to the various sections of society. His calls for a new society built around Islamic principles coupled with “freedom, liberty, and justice” became the new way of life many Iranians imagined would emerge from the revolution. Goldstone pointed out numerous methods through which elites could become associated with the character of a revolution. He stated that elites must create a protest identity and protest grievances, which need to be seen “not merely as miserable conditions but as a direct result of the injustice and the moral and political failings of the state, in sharp contrast to the virtue and justice of the opposition” (Goldstone 15). Khomeini succeeded in this through his persistent and unwavering attacks on the Shah and his calls for a just Islamic state brought about by the opposition’s efforts. Additionally, elites must link up with popular mobilization through the organizations coordinating and supporting that mobilization (Goldstone 13). Khomeini succeeded in this because of his ties to the mosque and its ties to the bazaar, which allowed his rhetoric and ideas to be spread throughout the dissatisfied and oppositional elements of Iranian society.

On August 19th, in the city of Abadan, four arsonists barred the door of the Cinema Rex movie theater and set it ablaze. Khomeini immediately blamed the Shah and SAVAK, the Shah’s secret police, for setting the fire in an attempt to frame the opposition. The protest movement immediately expanded in size, and tens of thousands of people from all parts of Iranian society took to the streets shouting “Burn the Shah!” and “The Shah is the guilty one!” Anger over the fire reinvigorated the revolutionary movement, and created a massive anti-Shah sentiment among the protesters (Amuzegar 251). In the face of vast protests, the Shah replaced Amuzegar as prime minister with Jafar Sharif-Emami. His government then began instituting a series of concessions, abolishing the hated Rastakhiz Party, legalizing political parties and releasing hundreds of political prisoners, increasing freedom of expression, curtailing SAVAK’s powers, closing down casinos and nightclubs, and abolishing the imperial calendar. Still, these concessions failed to appease the opposition, and slogans shouted by demonstrators became openly political and pointedly anti-shah (Keddie 231).

Sharif-Emami’s proclamation of reform and reduced repression greatly expanded popular mobilization and collective action. The liberalization policy allowed the Pahlavi’s’ three traditional enemies – the liberal intellectuals, the fundamentalist Shiite clergy, and the radical left – to openly lambast the regime from their own vantage points, and unite in opposition. The partial lifting of restrictions on public speeches, and reduced censorship on printed materials, allowed both religious and secular dissenters to gradually step up their activities. The mosque network of distribution and communication began to openly pass cassettes of Khomeini’s anti-Shah sermons to the people and to mobilize the bazaars’ source of manpower and wealth. The opening of prisons and release of Marxist guerillas gave the freed dissidents a chance to regroup and lead the mass movements. Guerillas played a key role in bullying members of the bazaar into supporting the revolution, and old communist party members freed began to reorganize labor strikes and in the capitals industrial work places (Parsa 225).

On September 8th, the Shah adopted a hard line approach to the demonstrations. He declared martial law in Tehran and other major cities throughout the country. Street demonstrations were banned, arrest warrants were issued for prominent opposition leaders, and a night-time curfew was established. During a massive demonstration in Tehran, a crowd that reached Jaleh Square was gunned down by security forces. In other parts of the capital, protesters set up barricades and threw Molotov cocktails at troops (Keddie 232). The incident, which would be known as “Black Friday,” gave Islamic fundamentalists a new opportunity to call for nationwide sympathy and support. Khomeini called for strikes and work stoppages in the public and private sectors. From this point on, urban industrial workers, white-collar professionals, and civil servants gradually filled the oppositions ranks. By now, the mosque had become the revolution’s domestic rallying point. Demonstrations, marches, strikes, and other activities were planned and supervised by the clergy (Amuzegar 252).

The role repression plays in exacerbating or suppressing a revolutionary movement is enormous. Goldstone writes that “repression that is not strong enough to suppress opponents, or that is so diffuse and erratic that innocents are persecuted, or that is aimed at groups that the public considers representative and justified in their protest, can quickly undermine perceptions of the regime’s effectiveness and justice” (Goldstone 23). The SAVAK’s repression of opposition movements throughout the Shah’s reign undermined the regime’s legitimacy and eroded popular support. As the revolution picked up, the military’s inability to repress the growing demonstrations revealed a weakness in the regime, inciting more segments of the population to mobilize. Acts of repression, such as the “Black Friday” and the Cinema Rex fire, allowed the opposition to paint the regime as unjust and gave a greater moral legitimacy to the opposition. After all, as Goldstone points out, “when the regime is judged to be losing support and capable of being overthrown, protestors may bear great risks, and great regime violence may simply further persuade people that the regime has got to go” (Goldstone 23). Violence against protestors failed to suppress further mobilization if anything, it persuaded more people to join the opposition.

Throughout the fall the industrial and salaried working classes entered into the mass protest movement. These groups had little choice but to join forces with Khomeini, who had taken on a role as a revolutionary leader (Keddie 232). By November, the vast majority of Iranians had mobilized and developed at least some degree of organization and networks to bring about social change. Encouraged by the scale of the opposition, students and the younger generation began to organize to counter government-supported assaults. As people became increasingly fearless, enthusiastic, and aroused, even in the face of death in demonstrations, and as total opposition to the regime spread to new classes of people, massive political-economic strikes began against the Shah. On September 9th, 700 workers at Tehran’s main oil refinery went on strike, and on September 11th the same occurred when refineries in 5 other cities joined the strike. The economy was paralyzed, and leftist, liberal, and religious groups encouraged the strikes. The return of members of the opposition from abroad and the revival of protest encouraged open activity by guerilla groups. Meanwhile, grassroots organizations of Khomeini supporters began to grow, publishing newspapers, pamphlets, and posters that helped spread his revolutionary ideas (Keddie 233).

On November 6th, the Shah sacked Sharif-Emami and appointed a military government headed by General Azhari, imposing martial law throughout the country. In response, workers in major factories remained on strike or returned to work to organize and coordinate their striking efforts. The mobilization of the bazaars, industrial workers, and white-collar employees and the disruption of important social functions indicated the existence of broad-based opposition. Protests and demonstrations grew in size and frequency across the country (Parsa 224). In December, oil workers went on strike, declaring their opposition to the monarchy and support for Ayatollah Khomeini. The bazaars went into indefinite shutdown to protest the imposition of martial law. Neighborhood self-defense groups formed in many cities to fight off hooligans and strike back at armed forces. During this period, numerous actions were directed specifically against agents of state repression, with the result that many military personnel and police officers were assassinated (Parsa 232). On some occasions, groups of protestors challenged the army in direct confrontations. Young people and students, often organized by the clergy, took control of many cities, forming governments of their own (Parsa 236).

By late December and into early January of 1979, the vast majority of Iranian society had mobilized against the Shah. As a result, the economic and political institutions which had sustained the state were completely immobilized. On December 11th over a million people filled the streets of to demand the removal of the Shah and the return of Khomeini. The Shah desperately searched for members of the liberal opposition to fill the role of prime minister, hoping that a final attempt at reform and conciliation would save his regime (Keddie 237). Dr. Shapour Bakhtair, a long time opposition leader, accepted the post on the condition that the Shah leaves Iran indefinitely. He promptly dissolved SAVAK, freed political prisoners, ordered the army to allow mass demonstrations, promised free elections, and invited Khomeini and other revolutionaries into a government of “national unity”. However, Bakhtair was expelled by opposition groups as a ‘traitor’ to the revolution (Keddie 238). Meanwhile, on January 16, 1979, the Shah and the empress left Iran.

On February 1, 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini was greeted back into Iran by a crowd of several million Iranians. He immediately made clear his fierce rejection of Bakhtiar’s government and, on February 4th, appointed Mehdi Bazargan as the “real” prime minister. As Khomeini’s movement gained momentum, soldiers began to defect to his side. On the evening of February 9th, units of the elite Imperial Guard tried to suppress a Tehran rebellion of pro-revolutionary air force cadets. Revolutionaries and rebel soldiers gained the upper hand and began to take over police stations and military installations, distributing arms to the public. The final collapse of the provisional non-Islamist government came on February 11th when the Supreme Military Council declared itself neutral in the political crisis. Without the armed forces support, the Bakhtair government collapsed, and Khomeini forces took the reins of power (Amuzegar 291).

Revolutionary scholars have long pointed to the actions of the armed forces as playing a key role in the success or failure of a revolution, and this is decidedly true in the case of Iran. The downfall of the Shah’s regime was sealed when top military commanders caved in (Amuzegar 292). Had they more forcefully repressed the demonstrations, or had played a heavier hand during the political struggle between Bakhtair and Khomeini, the outcome of the revolution may have been different. The dissolution of the armed forces can be attributed to the formation of the broad national coalition and disruption of the social order, which paralyzed the military (Parsa 247). The violence targeted against the regime by self-defense groups and other oppositional groups weakened the military, undermining its ability to keep order. The military came into close contact with the popular movement through 1978, and revolutionary ideas began to spread throughout its ranks. Soldiers became increasingly unreliable and insubordinate as a result, with widespread desertions and organized groups of soldiers making attacks against their commanding officers (Parsa 248). The desertion of the Shah shattered army moral and cohesion, and as overwhelming popular attacks against personnel, buildings, and munitions grew the army was rendered ineffective (Parsa 248). Various factors thus played into the weakening of the armed forces, resulting in their ineffectiveness as a tool of repression or stability. There is enormous importance to the military’s impotence in the final months of the revolution. It was not until opposition centrists were absolutely assured that the Shah was not prepared to use force, and that military was ineffective, that they openly supported Khomeini’s movement (Amuzegar 294).

The Iranian Revolution lends itself well to analysis by Katsiaficas’s “Eros Effect” theory. The theory postulates that, as basic assumptions about the nature and structure of government and society begin to vanish, a new way of life and imagining politics begins. People are intuitively driven to mobilize. The revolution began in 1977 with criticisms aimed against the Shah. The discontent harbored by the Iranian people for decades was therefore brought to the surface, but the limited scale of the opposition meant that the “basic assumptions about the nature and structure of government” did not disappear. As such, participation in the rebellion was limited. When the bazaars mobilized, however, their deep connection to the mosque meant that Khomeini’s calls for freedom, justice, liberty, and an Islamic state were widely spread and accepted. He presented a new way to imagine life and politics for the people of Iran, an integral part of Katsiaficas’s theory. The free and just society he proposed was, for most Iranians, a far better alternative than the status quo. As such, the scale of the opposition and demonstrations grew and the stability of the state began to collapse. As Katsiaficas’s theory describes, basic assumptions about society and government began to vanish as more and more people joined the opposition and the regime began to crumble. By the end of the revolution, most sectors of Iranian society had mobilized. They represented a diverse array of backgrounds, held a wide array of different ideologies and beliefs, and had different grievances against the Shah’s regime. However, they were all unified in their mobilization against the Shah because the possibility of a reimagined way of life and politics seemed attainable. Furthermore, when the revolution succeeded, they accepted Khomeini’s leadership because of their hopes that his reimagining of politics might come true.

Goldstone writes that “the state itself may create or reinforce a sense of oppositional identity by labeling a group as its enemies or by acting against the group, thus demonstrating that the group is now outside the protection and justice of the state. Members then are forced to look to the group for justice and protection. The protest group, in other words, gains commitment through manifesting the same qualities that are expected from the state, namely justice and effectiveness” (Goldstone 27). This analysis also plays into the “Eros Effect” theory. The opposition represented the potential for a new way of life and politics for the people of Iran, but became targeted by the regime. People either had the option to mobilize and face repression, or passively wait the revolution out and risk continuing the status quo. As Katsiaficas points out, people were driven to mobilize because of the promise of a reimagined way of life. As they joined the opposition, they needed to look to it for protection and justice. This is what enabled such a broad coalition of diverse groups with diverse grievances to become a single, unified opposition. This, in turn, further supported Khomeini’s movement, as Khomeini had become the spokesperson for justice in the opposition.

The decade of Khomeini’s rule was marked by the ever-growing power of his followers and the elimination, often by violence despite resistance, of opposition groups. Enforcement of ideological and behavioral controls on the population were increased, and widespread desires for greater freedom and social equality were not fulfilled (Keddie 241). In the years following the revolution, Khomeini built up powerful clerical institutions, despite the initial appointment of a secular government. In effect, his movement took power away from what had been a multiparty revolution and led to the establishment of a theocratic state. Conflicts continued after the revolution with the establishment of the Islamic Republic. Various groups and classes mobilized to advance their interests and gain what they had demanded during the revolutionary conflict. However, they failed to consolidate their opposition because of divergent interests (Parsa 312). Divisions erupted within every social class and among political organizations, further preventing the formation of coalitions and the consolidation of opposition. They lacked access to channels of communication and support, such as the mosque, which had been so vital to the mobilization against the Shah. Unlike the struggle against the monarchy, repression on the part of Khomeini’s Islamic Republic Party, the main Islamist political party formed by Khomeini after the revolution, did not lead to the escalation of conflict. Instead, in the absence of consolidation, it was able to defeat its opponents (Parsa 313).

Goldstone notes that “after a revolution, its supporters often divide and fall out among themselves, and once they attain absolute power, many leaders are blinded by it. Thus it is no surprise that revolutions often fail to achieve their prerevolutionary aims” (Goldstone 19). This was decidedly the case in Iran, and the consolidation of power by Khomeini can also be analyzed by the “Eros Effect” theory. The Shah was toppled because of a unified opposition imagining a new way of life espoused by Khomeini, one of liberty, justice, and freedom. However, once Khomeini attained power, these ‘new ways of life’ were manifested in a conservative, Islamic regime, something that many groups in the opposition did not want. For many who supported Khomeini, their revolutionary aims were not achieved. However, there was no alternative way of imagining life or politics that emerged like what happened against the Shah. No single group or individual was able to convey such a reimagining as effectively as Khomeini had. As a result, the opposition failed to consolidate and many segments of the population, despite their opposition to the new regime, were not intuitively driven to mobilize. Khomeini was therefore allowed to consolidate his rule without impediment.

The Iranian Revolution succeeded because various groups from all parts of Iranian society, including but not limited to the ulama, the bazaars, the urban poor, the working class, and white-collar professionals, mobilized in widespread opposition to the Shahs rule. As more people mobilized, the state was immobilized and began to waver and then crumble. Ayatollah Khomeini, having become the leader of the revolution, was propelled into a position of power and presided over the creation of a theocratic state. These events can be well explained by the “Eros Effect” theory. Decades of malaise and repression had bred discontent among the people of Iran, and they hoped for a new way of life and politics. They found this in Khomeini’s attacks on the Shah, his calls for the overthrow of monarchy, and the establishment of a new state based on the principles of justice, freedom, and liberty. As Katsiaficas theorized, once mobilization began in 1977 through the mosque and bazaar, people intuitively joined the opposition. The possibility for a reimagined way of life became realistically attainable. As the state began to crumble under the weight of the opposition, previously held assumptions about society and government vanished. More people joined the revolution. By 1979, the opposition was too heavy for the regime, and the Shah fled Iran. The revolution had succeeded, and the people called to Khomeini to institute the reimagined way of life and politics they had fought for. He was now in the perfect position to establish the Islamic Republic of Iran.


End the Great American Myth: Secession, Not Revolution

I remember the 1970’s driving around New York City with my family during the holidays like they were yesterday.

Back then the talk in the front seat of the car between my parents was New York City’s bankruptcy. My dad, NYPD at the time, was as much a part of this as anyone since the Police pension fund helped bail out the city government back then.

The West Side Highway fell down and because of that I grew up with a fear of heights and, especially bridges. I really hated taking the back way (New Jersey) into Staten Island. The mere mention of the Outer Bridge crossing would nearly put me into a panic attack.

I remember thinking then, “If these people can’t pay the bills now, what’s it going to be in ten or twenty years?” Sure, I was a naive ten or eleven at the time and had no idea about capital flight, but the sentiment was sound.

Even then the Emperor was naked to this child’s eyes. This was Rome near the end and the Sword of Damocles hung over the heads of my generation in ways we could barely articulate.

So, for me, the idea of the U.S. breaking up into its component parts has been a constant companion most of my adult life. And, as a libertarian, I always think in terms of secession first, rather than revolution. It sits on my shoulder whispering in my ear the truth of what’s in front of us.

We’ve reached a very important moment in world history. It is that moment where the promises of classical liberalism are failing in the face of a creeping totalitarian nightmare.

America as mythology has always stood as the ‘shining house on the hill’ for this enlightened idea that the wishes of the individual pursuing his bliss creates the community and culture which lifts the world out of a Hobbesian State of Nature.

But America as Mythology and America as Reality are two vastly different rough beasts. And it is that difference between them that is being exploited today by The Davos Crowd to set the process in motion for their next victory.

Brandon Smith at Alt-Market brought up the trap conservatives are being led into today in his recent article. He argues, quite persuasively, that the ‘right’ is being radicalized into thinking about an armed civil war to fight the corporatist left-wing useful idiots in an orgy of violence.

To be clear, what I believe is happening is that conservatives are being prodded and provoked, not to separate and organize but to centralize. I think they want us to support actions like martial law which would be considered totalitarian. Conservatives, the only stalwart defenders of civil liberties, using military suppression and abandoning the Bill of Rights to maintain political power? That is a dream come true for the globalists in the long term. And despite people’s faith in Trump, there are far too many banking elites and globalists within his cabinet to ensure that such power will not be abused or used against us later.

Nothing would give Klaus Schwab and The Davos Crowd more pleasure than turning us into them — willing to use indiscriminate violence to push otherwise humble and decent people into crazed killers and repudiate their inherent meekness, their inherent desire to pursue their bliss, allowing everyone else that same courtesy.

But, leftism as practiced today, is aggressive. It is rapacious and rests on the idea that no one can exist outside their preferred outcome lest anyone see their world for the nightmare it truly is.

Secession is not only not an option, it is expressly verboten.

I’ve made the argument that violence, not secession, is one very possible outcome of where the current political divide is taking us. Brandon uses the situation in Germany in the 1920s/30s as his historical guide. In short, Fascism rose to meet the violence of the Communists with the old monied elite providing the means for the conflict.

The parallels to today are striking. In November’s issue of Gold Goats ‘n Guns I likened the rising frustration of the American right to that of the Fremen Jihad of Frank Herbert’s classic Dune.

When you marginalize the tens of millions of people who produce the goods which sustain their false reality, when you remove their ability to speak their mind and make their voices heard, when you insult them, berate them, hector them and beat them then you will bear the consequences when the sleeper awakens, in Herbert’s words.

This isn’t a threat or an open letter of defiance. This is an observation of what always comes next. These people know that they have been lied to, their children spiritually separated from them. The election was a cruel joke meant to rub our noses in their complete power over us. You can
see it every day on Twitter.

What comes next will benothing short of a Fremenesque jihad by the 70+ million people who voted for Donald Trump. If his allies prove the systematic thievery of the election it will fuel a simmering anger to boiling over into a near-religious frenzy.

Because these are people who still believe in the Mythology of America, they are very susceptible to this programming. That mythology is worth fighting for in their minds.

Brandon Smith, however, is making a finer point which I tend to agree with. And that is that secession, not revolution, is always the better option rather than the pre-packaged violent one which the oligarchs always seem to prepare for us.

To broaden Brandon’s point, I want to challenge the precepts of that American mythology in the hope we can avoid the kind of religious war that is brewing.

There are two wars which bear most of the weight of that mythology — The American Revolution and the U.S. Civil War.

The first one is the good war. It is the foundation of the mythology. We know the narrative: brave colonials fought a war of independence, a war of secession, from the evil English. It brought forth the Founding Fathers, the Declaration of Independence and all the symbology of our shared American identity.

That mythology, while simplistic, held a core truth, that there are some things worth fighting for, when pushed to an extreme.

However, was 1770’s America that extreme a place? Was war the only practical outcome? Or was it the dream of those men whose tolerance for tyranny shallower than the norm. In other words, could America have seceded more peacefully in ten or twenty years’ time?

Viewed that way, this was a war of secession that the English and the Colonies didn’t have to fight. There may have been an equitable way out of conflict. But the colonies chose war just as much as the Crown did if we’re being honest with ourselves.

The Civil War, on the other hand, is supposed to be the shameful one. And from the Mythology side it truly is. Lincoln’s war can only be characterized as a war to prevent secession in the same way that Crown fought to prevent the colonies from seceding.

The mythology states this was the war we had to fight to prevent slavery’s survival into the 20th century. But, was it that? Slavery may have been a dividing line to stoke the passions but it wasn’t the big factor driving the states apart, the Tariff of Abomination was.

Again, if we’re being honest with ourselves wasn’t Lincoln’s war where the ideals of the American Revolution – a compact between the sovereign states – were finally betrayed?

Aren’t we reaping the whirlwind of that war today with a Supreme Court who believes it has the power to ignore interstate grievances because none of the justices, even Thomas and Alito, believe in the compact of equals today?

Remember, the South was more than willing to leave in peace. And any reasons Lincoln had for fighting the war over the seizure of Federal property, i.e. the proximate cause for the events at Fort Sumter, could have been worked out, again, equitably as gentlemen, rather than through the butchering of 600,000 Americans over four years.

From the Mythology Lincoln is the Great Uniter and Buchanan, his predecessor, the Worst President in History simply because he refused to either bail out the railroad banks in 1857 or prevent the South’s secession in 1860.

What if the mythology of America today has these two wars backwards? What if all the conservatives mourning the Constitution today thanks to a feckless Supreme Court and treasonous Congress have it all wrong? What if the America they mourn the death of today died in 1865 not 2020?

Would that America still be worth finally fighting a bloody civil war for? Because that’s what The Davos Crowd is daring Donald Trump to do.

What if the better response is to do what the South tried to do and failed.

Simply walk away and say, “No more.”

Because fighting the bloody war of all against all, becoming raving fascists rising up to stop the rapacious (and economically backwards) communists in the process is always the wrong option.

Secession is always an option. Opting out of the hyper-collectivizing impulses of in-group/out-group bias is always the right choice. They want us to throw the first punch, to lash out, fire first out of fear, c.f. Fort Sumter, to justify their brutality afterwards.

But, as I said in the quote above, the states with the grievances today are the ones that produce the wealth of this fiction known as the U.S. It’s where the food is grown, the electricity generated, the goods produced and people aren’t shitting in the streets.

The food lines may be long in Texas but there’s still food to distribute.

The balance of power in the U.S. today in real terms is reverse of what existed in 1860. Post-Trump America looks a lot different than pre-Lincoln.

Because of that and the reality that the people pulling off this great coup against sanity are some of the most unimpressive leaders in history, the potential for a successful secession is far higher than it was for the Confederacy.

Brandon Smith is right that they invoke the Confederacy to shame conservatives as racists, conflating issues separated by more than 150 years of history. This is why the all-out assault on the history of the war, whitewashing it of any nuance.

Theirs is a mind-virus that grows beyond the ability of the oligarchy to control. And it is truly best to not just walk but run away from such people. Better to let them sink into their own cesspit of ideological rabbit holes while keeping the lines of trade open, if they have anything worth selling, of course.

They will turn on themselves soon enough.

Having grown up a Yankee and matured as a Southerner I’ve seen this descent of the American mythology from both perspectives. The eleven year-old me knew this day would come.

The Mythology of America is just that, mythology, worth using as the basis for the new story rather than a shackle keeping us chained down, staring at the Abyss and despairing at what was lost.

New York was a dream not a fixture in the night sky. God didn’t put his finger on the Empire State Building and spin the world.

Because Texas was too big for it to ever stay in balance, even if he did. And California is one bad day away from Big One which washes it from our memory.

Join my Patreon if you are ready to stop mourning America and start rebuilding something better.

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Was There Really a Teenage, Female Paul Revere?

There are a lot of stories about the American revolution, and many of them are at least partially untrue.

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Paul Revere, for instance, wasn’t the only one on the midnight ride. And Sybil Ludington—the young woman who has gone down in history as a female version of Paul Revere, riding through the surrounding area of what would become New York—may never have ridden at all, at least according to one historian.

If true, Ludington’s story puts Revere’s to shame, writes Valerie DeBenedette for Mental Floss. She “rode twice as far as Revere did, by herself, over bad roads and in an area roamed by outlaws, to raise Patriot troops to fight in the Battle of Danbury and the Battle of Ridgefield in Connecticut,” DeBenedette writes. “And did we mention it was raining?”

Ludington was the daugher of a local militia commander. When Col. Henry Ludington received news that British troops were attacking Danbury, he had to stay to rally the response effort, while the messenger who reached him was unfamiliar with the area. So Ludington mounted off and rode 40 miles, warning people along the way, on this day in 1777.

Although she didn’t get a whole lot in the way of recognition at the time (much like the non-Revere members of the midnight ride), Ludington has since been recognized with a stamp, books and even a board game, DeBenedette writes.

So far, so good. But there’s no reliable historical evidence that Ludington ever rode at all, according to a study published in The New England Quarterly.

The story of her ride originally appeared in an 1880 history of New York City by Martha J. Lamb. Two of Ludington’s grandchildren privately published an account of her ride in 1907, which added to the story.

In this period, Ludington’s story is nowhere to be found in other histories of the New York area during the Revolution, or in books about women’s Revolutionary contributions,  historian Paula D. Hunt  writes in the study. In a time when middle-class white women were eager to highlight their Patriot peers’ role in the Revolution, Ludington’s story is conspicuously absent.

But the story as related by Lamb and the Ludington family got picked up in the twentieth century and has been repeated numerous times, Hunt writes. Its central figure, Sybil Ludington, has changed to meet the times. Ludington has been a patriotic, pro-America youth during the 1950s Communist scares an ahead-of-her-time feminist icon in the 1960s and 1970s and a classroom staple drawing fire from conservative groups on the lookout for left-wing politics in schools.

“Sybil appealed to groups and individuals because her story exemplified values and beliefs they held about America,” Hunt writes. The American Revolution, and its heroes “have continued to be a convenient wagon to which disparate, sometimes opposing factions hitch their agendas.” Ludington’s story, which doesn’t have historical facts to get in the way of interpretation, has given groups from the Daughters of the American Revolution to the Putnam County Golf Course an opportunity to get in on the action of reimagining the Revolution and what it says about America.

“In the end,” she writes, “Sybil Ludington has embodied the possibilities—courage, individuality, loyalty—that Americans of different genders, generations and political persuasions have considered to be the highest aspirations for themselves and for their country. The story of a lone, teenage girl riding for freedom, it seems, is simply too good not to be believed.”

About Kat Eschner

Kat Eschner is a freelance science and culture journalist based in Toronto.


Contents

Corruption in Cuba Edit

The Republic of Cuba at the turn of the 20th Century was largely characterized by a deeply ingrained tradition of corruption where political participation resulted in opportunities for elites to engage in opportunities for wealth accumulation. [25] Cuba's first presidential period under Don Tomas Estrada Palma from 1902 to 1906 was considered to uphold the best standards of administrative integrity in the history of the Republic of Cuba. [26] However, a United States intervention in 1906 resulted in Charles Edward Magoon, an American diplomat, taking over the government until 1909. It has been debated whether Magoon's government condoned or in fact engaged in corrupt practices. Hugh Thomas suggests that while Magoon disapproved of corrupt practices, corruption still persisted under his administration and he undermined the autonomy of the judiciary and their court decisions. [27] Cuba's subsequent president, Jose Miguel Gomez, was the first to become involved in pervasive corruption and government corruption scandals. These scandals involved bribes that were allegedly paid to Cuban officials and legislators under a contract to search the Havana harbour, as well as the payment of fees to government associates and high-level officials. [26] Gomez's successor, Mario Garcia Menocal, wanted to put an end to the corruption scandals and claimed to be committed to administrative integrity as he ran on a slogan of "honesty, peace and work." [26] Despite his intentions, corruption actually intensified under his government from 1913-1921. [27] Instances of fraud became more common while private actors and contractors frequently colluded with public officials and legislators. Charles Edward Chapman attributes the increase of corruption to the sugar boom that occurred in Cuba under the Menocal administration. [28] Furthermore, the emergence of World War One enabled the Cuban government to manipulate sugar prices, the sales of exports and import permits. [26]

Alfredo Zayas succeeded Menocal from 1921–25 and engaged in what Calixto Maso refers to as the most "maximum expression of administrative corruption." [26] Both petty and grand corruption spread to nearly all aspects of public life and the Cuban administration became largely characterized by nepotism as Zayas relied on friends and relatives to illegally gain greater access to wealth. [27] Due to Zaya's previous policies, Gerardo Machado aimed to diminish corruption and improve the public sector's performance under his successive administration from 1925-1933. While he was successfully able to reduce the amounts of low level and petty corruption, grand corruption still largely persisted. Machado embarked on development projects that enabled the persistence of grand corruption through inflated costs and the creation of "large margins" that enabled public officials to appropriate money illegally. [29] Under his government, opportunities for corruption became concentrated into fewer hands with "centralized government purchasing procedures" and the collection of bribes among a smaller number of bureaucrats and administrators. [29] Through the development of real estate infrastructures and the growth of Cuba's tourism industry, Machado's administration was able to use insider information to profit from private sector business deals. [29]

Senator Eduardo Chibás dedicated himself to exposing corruption in the Cuban government, and formed the Partido Ortodoxo in 1947 to further this aim. Argote-Freyre points out that Cuba's population under the Republic had a high tolerance for corruption. Furthermore, Cubans knew and criticized who was corrupt, but admired them for their ability to act as "criminals with impunity." [30] Corrupt officials went beyond members of congress to also include military officials who granted favours to residents and accepted bribes. [30] The establishment of an illegal gambling network within the military enabled army personnel such as Lieutenant Colonel Pedraza and Major Mariné to engage in extensive illegal gambling activities. [30] Mauricio Augusto Font and Alfonso Quiroz, authors of The Cuban Republic and José Martí, say that corruption pervaded in public life under the administrations of Presidents Ramón Grau and Carlos Prío Socarrás. [31] Prío was reported to have stolen over $90 million in public funds, which was equivalent to one fourth of the annual national budget. [32] Prior to the Communist revolution, Cuba was ruled under the elected government of Fulgencio Batista from 1940-1944. Throughout this time period, Batista's support base consisted mainly of corrupt politicians and military officials. Batista himself was able to heavily profit from the regime before coming into power through inflated government contracts and gambling proceeds. [30] In 1942, the British Foreign Office reported that the U.S. State Department was "very worried" about corruption under President Fulgencio Batista, describing the problem as "endemic" and exceeding "anything which had gone on previously." British diplomats believed that corruption was rooted within Cuba's most powerful institutions, with the highest individuals in government and military being heavily involved in gambling and the drug trade. [33] In terms of civil society, Eduardo Saenz Rovner writes that corruption within the Police and government enabled the expansion of criminal organizations in Cuba. [33] Batista refused U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt's offer to send experts to help reform the Cuban Civil Service.

Later in 1952, Batista led a U-S backed military coup against Prío Socarras and ruled until 1965. Under his rule, Batista led a corrupt dictatorship that involved close links with organized crime organizations and the reduction of civil freedoms of Cubans. This period resulted in Bastista engaging in more "sophisticated practices of corruption" at both the administrative and civil society levels. [25] Batista and his administration engaged in profiteering from the lottery as well as illegal gambling. [25] Corruption further flourished in civil society through increasing amounts of police corruption, censorship of the press as well as media, and creating anti-communist campaigns that suppressed opposition with violence, torture and public executions. The former culture of toleration and acceptance towards corruption also dissolved with the dictatorship of Batista. For instance, one citizen wrote that "however corrupt Grau and Prío were, we elected them and therefore allowed them to steal from us. Batista robs us without our permission.” [34] Corruption under Batista further expanded into the economic sector with alliances that he forged with foreign investors and the prevalence of illegal casinos and criminal organizations in the country's capital of Havana. [34]

Politics of Cuba Edit

In the decades following United States' invasion of Cuba in 1898, and formal independence from the U.S. on 20 May 1902, Cuba experienced a period of significant instability, enduring a number of revolts, coups and a period of U.S. military occupation. Fulgencio Batista, a former soldier who had served as the elected president of Cuba from 1940 to 1944, became president for the second time in 1952, after seizing power in a military coup and canceling the 1952 elections. [35] Although Batista had been relatively progressive during his first term, [36] in the 1950s he proved far more dictatorial and indifferent to popular concerns. [37] While Cuba remained plagued by high unemployment and limited water infrastructure, [38] Batista antagonized the population by forming lucrative links to organized crime and allowing American companies to dominate the Cuban economy, especially sugar-cane plantations and other local resources. [38] [39] [40] Although the US armed and politically supported the Batista dictatorship, later US presidents recognized its corruption and the justifiability of removing it. [41]

Opposition Edit

During his first term as president, Batista had not been supported by the Communist Party of Cuba, [36] and during his second term he became strongly anti-communist. [38] [42] Batista developed a rather weak security bridge as an attempt to silence political opponents. In the months following the March 1952 coup, Fidel Castro, then a young lawyer and activist, petitioned for the overthrow of Batista, whom he accused of corruption and tyranny. However, Castro's constitutional arguments were rejected by the Cuban courts. [43] After deciding that the Cuban regime could not be replaced through legal means, Castro resolved to launch an armed revolution. To this end, he and his brother Raúl founded a paramilitary organization known as "The Movement", stockpiling weapons and recruiting around 1,200 followers from Havana's disgruntled working class by the end of 1952. Batista was known as a corrupt leader and constantly pampered himself with exotic foods and elegant women. [44]

Attack on Moncada Barracks Edit

Striking their first blow against the Batista government, Fidel and Raúl Castro gathered 70 [ failed verification ] Movement fighters and planned a multi-pronged attack on several military installations. [45] On 26 July 1953, the rebels attacked the Moncada Barracks in Santiago and the barracks in Bayamo, only to be decisively defeated by government soldiers. [9] It was hoped that the staged attack would spark a nationwide revolt against Batista's government. After an hour of fighting the rebel leader fled to the mountains. [46] The exact number of rebels killed in the battle is debatable however, in his autobiography, Fidel Castro claimed that nine were killed in the fighting, and an additional 56 were executed after being captured by the Batista government. [47] Due to the government's large number of men, Hunt revised the number to be around 60 members taking the opportunity to flee to the mountains along with Castro. [30] Among the dead was Abel Santamaría, Castro's second-in-command, who was imprisoned, tortured, and executed on the same day as the attack. [48]

Imprisonment and emigration Edit

Numerous key Movement revolutionaries, including the Castro brothers, were captured shortly afterwards. In a highly political trial, Fidel spoke for nearly four hours in his defense, ending with the words "Condemn me, it does not matter. History will absolve me." Castro's defense was based on nationalism, the representation and beneficial programs for the non-elite Cubans, and his patriotism and justice for the Cuban community. [49] Fidel was sentenced to 15 years in the Presidio Modelo prison, located on Isla de Pinos, while Raúl was sentenced to 13 years. [50] However, in 1955, under broad political pressure, the Batista government freed all political prisoners in Cuba, including the Moncada attackers. Fidel's Jesuit childhood teachers succeeded in persuading Batista to include Fidel and Raúl in the release. [51]

Soon, the Castro brothers joined with other exiles in Mexico to prepare for the overthrow of Batista, receiving training from Alberto Bayo, a leader of Republican forces in the Spanish Civil War. In June 1955, Fidel met the Argentine revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara, who joined his cause. [51] Raul and Castro's chief advisor Ernesto aided the initiation of Batista's amnesty. [49] The revolutionaries named themselves the "26th of July Movement", in reference to the date of their attack on the Moncada Barracks in 1953. [9]

Student demonstrations Edit

By late 1955, student riots and demonstrations became more common, and unemployment became problematic as new graduates could not find jobs. [52] [53] These protests were dealt with increasing repression. All young people were seen as possible revolutionaries. [54] Due to its continued opposition to the Cuban government and much protest activity taking place on its campus, the University of Havana was temporarily closed on 30 November 1956 (it did not reopen until 1959 under the first revolutionary government). [55]

Attack on Domingo Goicuria barracks Edit

While the Castro brothers and the other 26 July Movement guerrillas were training in Mexico and preparing for their amphibious deployment to Cuba, another revolutionary group followed the example of the Moncada Barracks assault. On 29 April 1956 at 12:50 PM during Sunday mass, an independent guerrilla group of around 100 rebels led by Reynol Garcia attacked the Domingo Goicuria army barracks in Matanzas province. The attack was repelled with ten rebels and three soldiers killed in the fighting, and one rebel summarily executed by the garrison commander. Florida International University historian Miguel A. Brito was in the nearby cathedral when the firefight began. He writes, "That day, the Cuban Revolution began for me and Matanzas." [56] [57]

Granma landing Edit

The yacht Granma departed from Tuxpan, Veracruz, Mexico, on 25 November 1956, carrying the Castro brothers and 80 others including Ernesto "Che" Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos, even though the yacht was only designed to accommodate 12 people with a maximum of 25. On 2 December, [58] it landed in Playa Las Coloradas, in the municipality of Niquero, arriving two days later than planned because the boat was heavily loaded, unlike during the practice sailing runs. [59] This dashed any hopes for a coordinated attack with the llano wing of the Movement. After arriving and exiting the ship, the band of rebels began to make their way into the Sierra Maestra mountains, a range in southeastern Cuba. Three days after the trek began, Batista's army attacked and killed most of the Granma participants – while the exact number is disputed, no more than twenty of the original eighty-two men survived the initial encounters with the Cuban army and escaped into the Sierra Maestra mountains. [60]

The group of survivors included Fidel and Raúl Castro, Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos. The dispersed survivors, alone or in small groups, wandered through the mountains, looking for each other. Eventually, the men would link up again – with the help of peasant sympathizers – and would form the core leadership of the guerrilla army. A number of female revolutionaries, including Celia Sanchez and Haydée Santamaría (the sister of Abel Santamaria), also assisted Fidel Castro's operations in the mountains. [61]

Presidential palace attack Edit

On 13 March 1957, a separate group of revolutionaries – the anticommunist Student Revolutionary Directorate (RD) (Directorio Revolucionario Estudantil, DRE), composed mostly of students – stormed the Presidential Palace in Havana, attempting to assassinate Batista and overthrow the government. The attack ended in utter failure. The RD's leader, student José Antonio Echeverría, died in a shootout with Batista's forces at the Havana radio station he had seized to spread the news of Batista's anticipated death. The handful of survivors included Dr. Humberto Castello (who later became the Inspector General in the Escambray), Rolando Cubela and Faure Chomon (both later Commandantes of the 13 March Movement, centered in the Escambray Mountains of Las Villas Province). [62]

The plan, as explained by Faure Chaumón Mediavilla, was to attack the Presidential Palace by a commando of fifty men and simultaneously support the operation by one hundred men occupying the radio station Radio Reloj at the Radiocentro CMQ Building to announce the death of Batista. The attack on the palace would result in the elimination of Fulgencio Batista, the purpose of taking of Radio Reloj, was to announce the death of Batista and to call for a general strike, to incite the people of Havana to join the armed struggle. The plan to capture of the Presidential Palace by up to fifty men, under the direction of Carlos Gutiérrez Menoyo and Faure Chomón, this command was to be supported by a group of 100 armed men whose function would be to occupy the tallest buildings in the surrounding area of the Presidential Palace (La Tabacalera, the Sevilla Hotel, the Palace of Fine Arts) and, from these positions, support the main command in the attack of the Presidential Palace. However, this secondary support operation was not carried out as the men who were to participate never arrived at the scene of the events because of last-minute hesitation. Although the attackers reached the third floor of the Palace, they did not locate or execute Batista.

Humboldt 7 massacre Edit

The Humboldt 7 massacre occurred on April 20, 1957 at apartment 201 when the National Police led by Lt. Colonel Esteban Ventura Novo assassinated four participants who had survived the Assault on the Presidential Palace and in the seizure of the Radio Reloj station at the Radiocentro CMQ Building.

"A little after 5 PM on Saturday April 20th, the four young men were talking quietly, unaware of what was going on out on the street. They didn’t even suspect that the whole block had been surrounded and that Ventura’s henchmen were secretly making their way up the building’s stairs, at the speed of hyenas looking for blood." [63] Juan Pedro Carbó was additionally sought by police for the assassination of Col. Antonio Blanco Rico, Chief of Batista's secret service. [64] In the midst of an intense police siege, a fatal shadow begins to hover over the events of the day. [65] Marcos Rodríguez Alfonso a.k.a Marquitos, enters into an argument with Fructuoso, Carbó and Machadito Joe Westbrook had not yet arrived. Marquitos, who gave the airs to be a revolutionary, was against the armed struggle to combat the dictatorship, producing in him great resentment. Thus, late in the morning, on April 20, 1957, Marquitos took the great leap towards ignominy and betrayal, and met with the Esteban Ventura of the Havana police, and revealed the location of where the young revolutionaries were, Humboldt 7. [66]

When everything indicated that it was a peaceful afternoon, shortly after 5:00 PM the police forces turned apartment 201 and its surrounding areas into a macabre scene of lead and blood, which Esteban Ventura personally took care of, and numerous hitmen at his command. One by one, unarmed, the combatants were murdered.

After the revolutionary triumph of January 1, 1959, investigations were made to find out the causes of what happened in Humboldt 7. Thus, it was possible to find out what was hidden by the police leaders of the dictatorship, and it was that the informant of the crime of Humboldt 7 had been Marquitos (Marcos Rodríguez Alfonso), who after the corresponding double trial was sentenced by the Supreme Court to the penalty of death by firing squad in March 1964. [67]

Frank País Edit

On June 30, 1957, Frank's younger brother, Josué Pais, was killed by the Santiago police. During the latter part of July 1957, a wave of systematic police searches forced Frank País into hiding in Santiago de Cuba. On July 30 he was in a safe house with Raúl Pujol, despite warnings from other members of the Movement that it was not secure. The Santiago police under Colonel José Salas Cañizares surrounded the building. Frank and Raúl attempted to escape. However, an informant betrayed them as they tried to walk to a waiting getaway car. The police officers drove the two men to the Callejón del Muro (Rampart Lane) and shot them in the back of the head.[9] In defiance of Batista's regime, he was buried in the Santa Ifigenia Cemetery in the olive green uniform and red and black armband of July 26 Movement.

In response to the death of País, the workers of Santiago declared a spontaneous general strike. This strike was the largest popular demonstration in the city up to that point. The mobilization of July 30, 1957 is considered one of the most decisive dates in both the Cuban Revolution and the fall of Batista's dictatorship. This day has been instituted in Cuba as the Day of the Martyrs of the Revolution. The Frank País Second Front, the guerrilla unit led by Raúl Castro in the Sierra Maestra was named for the fallen revolutionary. His childhood home at 226 San Bartolomé Street was turned into The Santiago Frank País García House Museum and designated as a national monument.[5] Also, the international airport in Holguín, Cuba bears his name. [68]

Strengthening insurgency and United States involvement Edit

The United States supplied Cuba with planes, ships, tanks and other tech such as napalm, which was used against the rebels. This would eventually come to an end due to a later arms embargo in 1958. [69]

According to Tad Szulc the United States began funding the 26th of July Movement around October or November 1957 and ending around middle 1958. "No less than $50,000" would be delivered to key leaders of the 26th of July Movement. [70] The purpose being to instill sympathies to the United States amongst the rebels in case the movement succeeded. [71]

While Batista increased troop deployments to the Sierra Maestra region to crush the 26 July guerrillas, the Second National Front of the Escambray kept battalions of the Constitutional Army tied up in the Escambray Mountains region. The Second National Front was led by former Revolutionary Directorate member Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo and the "Yanqui Comandante" William Alexander Morgan. Gutiérrez Menoyo formed and headed the guerrilla band after news had broken out about Castro's landing in the Sierra Maestra, and José Antonio Echeverría had stormed the Havana Radio station. Though Morgan was dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Army, his recreating features from Army basic training made a critical difference in the Second National Front troops battle readiness. [72]

Thereafter, the United States imposed an economic embargo on the Cuban government and recalled its ambassador, weakening the government's mandate further. [73] Batista's support among Cubans began to fade, with former supporters either joining the revolutionaries or distancing themselves from Batista. Once Batista started making drastic decisions concerning Cuba's economy, he began to nationalize U.S oil refineries and other U.S properties. [74] Nonetheless, the Mafia and U.S. businessmen maintained their support for the regime. [75] [76]

Batista's government often resorted to brutal methods to keep Cuba's cities under control. However, in the Sierra Maestra mountains, Castro, aided by Frank País, Ramos Latour, Huber Matos, and many others, staged successful attacks on small garrisons of Batista's troops. Castro was joined by CIA connected Frank Sturgis who offered to train Castro's troops in guerrilla warfare. Castro accepted the offer, but he also had an immediate need for guns and ammunition, so Sturgis became a gunrunner. Sturgis purchased boatloads of weapons and ammunition from CIA weapons expert Samuel Cummings' International Armament Corporation in Alexandria, Virginia. Sturgis opened a training camp in the Sierra Maestra mountains, where he taught Che Guevara and other 26 July Movement rebel soldiers guerrilla warfare.

In addition, poorly armed irregulars known as escopeteros harassed Batista's forces in the foothills and plains of Oriente Province. The escopeteros also provided direct military support to Castro's main forces by protecting supply lines and by sharing intelligence. [77] Ultimately, the mountains came under Castro's control. [78]

In addition to armed resistance, the rebels sought to use propaganda to their advantage. A pirate radio station called Radio Rebelde ("Rebel Radio") was set up in February 1958, allowing Castro and his forces to broadcast their message nationwide within enemy territory. [79] Castro's affiliation with the New York Times journalist Herbert Matthews created a front page-worthy report on anti-communist propaganda. [80] The radio broadcasts were made possible by Carlos Franqui, a previous acquaintance of Castro who subsequently became a Cuban exile in Puerto Rico. [81]

During this time, Castro's forces remained quite small in numbers, sometimes fewer than 200 men, while the Cuban army and police force had a manpower of around 37,000. [82] Even so, nearly every time the Cuban military fought against the revolutionaries, the army was forced to retreat. An arms embargo – imposed on the Cuban government by the United States on 14 March 1958 – contributed significantly to the weakness of Batista's forces. The Cuban air force rapidly deteriorated: it could not repair its airplanes without importing parts from the United States. [83]

Operation Verano Edit

Batista finally responded to Castro's efforts with an attack on the mountains called Operation Verano, known to the rebels as la Ofensiva. The army sent some 12,000 soldiers, half of them untrained recruits, into the mountains, along with his own brother Raul. In a series of small skirmishes, Castro's determined guerrillas defeated the Cuban army. [83] In the Battle of La Plata, which lasted from 11 to 21 July 1958, Castro's forces defeated a 500-man battalion, capturing 240 men while losing just three of their own. [84]

However, the tide nearly turned on 29 July 1958, when Batista's troops almost destroyed Castro's small army of some 300 men at the Battle of Las Mercedes. With his forces pinned down by superior numbers, Castro asked for, and received, a temporary cease-fire on 1 August. Over the next seven days, while fruitless negotiations took place, Castro's forces gradually escaped from the trap. By 8 August, Castro's entire army had escaped back into the mountains, and Operation Verano had effectively ended in failure for the Batista government. [83]

Battle of Las Mercedes Edit

The Battle of Las Mercedes (29 July-8 August 1958) was the last battle which occurred during the course of Operation Verano, the summer offensive of 1958 launched by the Batista Government during the Cuban Revolution. [85]

The battle was a trap, designed by Cuban General Eulogio Cantillo to lure Fidel Castro's guerrillas into a place where they could be surrounded and destroyed. The battle ended with a cease-fire which Castro proposed and which Cantillo accepted. During the cease-fire, Castro's forces escaped back into the hills. The battle, though technically a victory for the Cuban army, left the army dispirited and demoralized. Castro viewed the result as a victory and soon launched his own offensive.

Battalion 17 began its pull back on the 29 July 1958. Castro sent a column of men under René Ramos Latour to ambush the retreating soldiers. They attacked the advance guard and killed some 30 soldiers but then came under attack from previously undetected Cuban forces. Latour called for help and Castro came to the battle scene with his own column of men. Castro's column also came under fire from another group of Cuban soldiers that had secretly advanced up the road from the Estrada Palma Sugar Mill.

As the battle heated up, General Cantillo called up more forces from nearby towns and some 1,500 troops started heading towards the fighting. However, this force was halted by a column under Che Guevara's command. While some critics accuse Che for not coming to the aid of Latour, Major Bockman argues that Che's move here was the correct thing to do. Indeed, he called Che's tactical appreciation of the battle "brilliant".

By the end of July, Castro's troops were fully engaged and in danger of being wiped out by the vastly superior numbers of the Cuban army. He had lost 70 men, including René Latour, and both he and the remains of Latour's column were surrounded. The next day, Castro requested a cease-fire with General Cantillo, even offering to negotiate an end to the war. This offer was accepted by General Cantillo for reasons that remain unclear.

Batista sent a personal representative to negotiate with Castro on the 2 August. The negotiations yielded no result but during the next six nights, Castro's troops managed to slip away unnoticed. On the 8 August when the Cuban army resumed its attack, they found no one to fight.

Castro's remaining forces had escaped back into the mountains, and Operation Verano had effectively ended in failure for the Batista government. [83]

Battle of Yaguajay Edit

In 1958, Fidel Castro ordered his revolutionary army to go on the offensive against the army of Fulgencio Batista. While Castro led one force against Guisa, Masó and other towns, another major offensive was directed at the capture of the city of Santa Clara, the capital of what was then Las Villas Province.

Three columns were sent against Santa Clara under the command of Che Guevara, Jaime Vega, and Camilo Cienfuegos. Vega's column was caught in an ambush and completely destroyed. Guevara's column took up positions around Santa Clara (near Fomento). Cienfuegos's column directly attacked a local army garrison at Yaguajay. Initially numbering just 60 men out of Castro's hardened core of 230, Cienfuegos's group had gained many recruits as it crossed the countryside towards Santa Clara, eventually reaching an estimated strength of 450 to 500 fighters.

The garrison consisted of some 250 men under the command of a Cuban captain of Chinese ancestry, Alfredo Abon Lee. [86] [87] The attack seems to have started around the 19 December.

Convinced that reinforcements would be sent from Santa Clara, Lee put up a determined defense of his post. The guerrillas repeatedly attempted to overpower Lee and his men, but failed each time. By the 26 December Camilo Cienfuegos had become quite frustrated it seemed that Lee could not be overpowered, nor could he be convinced to surrender. In desperation, Cienfuegos tried using a homemade tank against Lee's position.

The "tank" was actually a large tractor encased in iron plates with attached makeshift flamethrowers on top. It, too, proved unsuccessful. Finally, on the 30 December Lee ran out of ammunition and was forced to surrender his force to the guerrillas. [88]

The surrender of the garrison was a major blow to the defenders of the provincial capital of Santa Clara. The next day, the combined forces of Cienfuegos, Guevara, and local revolutionaries under William Alexander Morgan captured the city in a fight of vast confusion. Panicked by news of the defeat at Santa Clara and other losses, Batista fled Cuba the next day.

On the morning of November 20, 1958, a convoy of the Batista sodiers began its usual journey from Guisa. Shortly after leaving that town, located in the northern foothills of the Sierra Maestra, the rebels attacked the caravan. [1]

Guisa was 12 kilometers from the Command Post of the Zone of Operations, located on the outskirts of the city of Bayamo. Nine days earlier, Fidel Castro had left the La Plata Command, beginning an unstoppable march east with his escort and a small group of combatants. [a]

On November 19 the rebels arrived in Santa Barbara. By that time, there are approximately 230 combatants. Fidel gathers his officers to organize the siege of Guisa, and orders to place a mine on the Monjarás bridge, over the Cupeinicú river. That night the combatants made a camp in Hoyo de Pipa, in the early morning, they took the path that runs between the Heliografo hill and the Mateo Roblejo hill, where they occupy strategic positions. In the meeting on the 20th, the army lost a truck, a bus, and a jeep, six were killed and 17 prisoners, three of them wounded. At around 10:30 am, the military Command Post located in the Zone of Operations in Bayamo sends a reinforcement made up of Co. 32, plus a platoon from Co. L and another platoon from Co. 22. This force is unable to advance for the resistance of the rebels. Fidel orders the mining of another bridge over a tributary of the Cupeinicú River. Hours later the army sends a platoon from Co. 82 and another platoon from Co. 93, supported by a T-17 tank. [89] [b] [90]

Rebel offensive Edit

The enemy soldier in the Cuban example which at present concerns us, is the junior partner of the dictator he is the man who gets the last crumb left by a long line of profiteers that begins in Wall Street and ends with him. He is disposed to defend his privileges, but he is disposed to defend them only to the degree that they are important to him. His salary and his pension are worth some suffering and some dangers, but they are never worth his life. If the price of maintaining them will cost it, he is better off giving them up that is to say, withdrawing from the face of the guerrilla danger.

On 21 August 1958, after the defeat of Batista's Ofensiva, Castro's forces began their own offensive. In the Oriente province (in the area of the present-day provinces of Santiago de Cuba, Granma, Guantánamo and Holguín), [92] Fidel Castro, Raúl Castro and Juan Almeida Bosque directed attacks on four fronts. Descending from the mountains with new weapons captured during the Ofensiva and smuggled in by plane, Castro's forces won a series of initial victories. Castro's major victory at Guisa, and the successful capture of several towns including Maffo, Contramaestre, and Central Oriente, brought the Cauto plains under his control.

Meanwhile, three rebel columns, under the command of Che Guevara, Camilo Cienfuegos and Jaime Vega, proceeded westward toward Santa Clara, the capital of Villa Clara Province. Batista's forces ambushed and destroyed Jaime Vega's column, but the surviving two columns reached the central provinces, where they joined forces with several other resistance groups not under the command of Castro. When Che Guevara's column passed through the province of Las Villas, and specifically through the Escambray Mountains – where the anticommunist Revolutionary Directorate forces (who became known as the 13 March Movement) had been fighting Batista's army for many months – friction developed between the two groups of rebels. Nonetheless, the combined rebel army continued the offensive, and Cienfuegos won a key victory in the Battle of Yaguajay on 30 December 1958, earning him the nickname "The Hero of Yaguajay".

Battle of Santa Clara and Batista's flight Edit

On 31 December 1958, the Battle of Santa Clara took place in a scene of great confusion. The city of Santa Clara fell to the combined forces of Che Guevara, Cienfuegos, and Revolutionary Directorate (RD) rebels led by Comandantes Rolando Cubela, Juan ("El Mejicano") Abrahantes, and William Alexander Morgan. News of these defeats caused Batista to panic. He fled Cuba by air for the Dominican Republic just hours later on 1 January 1959. Comandante William Alexander Morgan, leading RD rebel forces, continued fighting as Batista departed and had captured the city of Cienfuegos by 2 January. [93]

Cuban General Eulogio Cantillo entered Havana's Presidential Palace, proclaimed the Supreme Court judge Carlos Piedra as the new president, and began appointing new members to Batista's old government. [94]

Castro learned of Batista's flight in the morning and immediately started negotiations to take over Santiago de Cuba. On 2 January, the military commander in the city, Colonel Rubido, ordered his soldiers not to fight, and Castro's forces took over the city. The forces of Guevara and Cienfuegos entered Havana at about the same time. They had met no opposition on their journey from Santa Clara to Cuba's capital. Castro himself arrived in Havana on 8 January after a long victory march. His initial choice of president, Manuel Urrutia Lleó, took office on 3 January. [95]

General elections were held in Cuba on 3 November 1958. [96] The three major presidential candidates were Carlos Márquez Sterling of the Partido del Pueblo Libre, Ramón Grau of the Partido Auténtico and Andrés Rivero Agüero of the Coalición Progresista Nacional. There was also a minor party candidate on the ballot, Alberto Salas Amaro for the Union Cubana party. Voter turnout was estimated at about 50% of eligible voters. [97] Although Andrés Rivero Agüero won the presidential election with 70% of the vote, he was unable to take office due to the Cuban Revolution. [98]

Rivero Agüero was due to be sworn-in on 24 February 1959. In a conversation between him and the American ambassador Earl E. T. Smith on 15 November 1958, he called Castro a "sick man" and stated it would be impossible to reach a settlement with him. Rivero Agüero also said that he planned to restore constitutional government and would convene a Constitutional Assembly after taking office. [99]

This was the last competitive election in Cuba, the 1940 Constitution of Cuba, the Congress and the Senate of the Cuban Republic, were quickly dismantled shortly thereafter. The rebels had publicly called for an election boycott, issuing its Total War Manifesto on 12 March 1958, threatening to kill anyone that voted. [100]

Relations with the United States Edit

The Cuban Revolution was a crucial turning point in U.S.-Cuban relations. Although the United States government was initially willing to recognize Castro's new government, [101] it soon came to fear that Communist insurgencies would spread through the nations of Latin America, as they had in Southeast Asia. [102] Meanwhile, Castro's government resented the Americans for providing aid to Batista's government during the revolution. [101] After the revolutionary government nationalized all U.S. property in Cuba in August 1960, the American Eisenhower administration froze all Cuban assets on American soil, severed diplomatic ties and tightened its embargo of Cuba. [11] [16] [103] The Key West–Havana ferry shut down. In 1961, the U.S. government backed an armed counterrevolutionary assault on the Bay of Pigs with the aim of ousting Castro, but the counterrevolutionaries were swiftly defeated by the Cuban military. [102] The U.S. Embargo against Cuba – the longest-lasting single foreign policy in American history [104] – is still in force as of 2020, although it underwent a partial loosening during the Obama Administration, only to be strengthened in 2017 under Trump. [11] The U.S. began efforts to normalize relations with Cuba in the mid-2010s, [13] [105] and formally reopened its embassy in Havana after over half a century in August 2015. [14] The Trump administration has reversed much of the Cuban Thaw by severely restricting travel by US citizens to Cuba and tightening the US government's 62-year-old embargo against the country. [106] [107]

I believe that there is no country in the world, including the African regions, including any and all the countries under colonial domination, where economic colonization, humiliation and exploitation were worse than in Cuba, in part owing to my country's policies during the Batista regime. I believe that we created, built and manufactured the Castro movement out of whole cloth and without realizing it. I believe that the accumulation of these mistakes has jeopardized all of Latin America. The great aim of the Alliance for Progress is to reverse this unfortunate policy. This is one of the most, if not the most, important problems in America foreign policy. I can assure you that I have understood the Cubans. I approved the proclamation which Fidel Castro made in the Sierra Maestra, when he justifiably called for justice and especially yearned to rid Cuba of corruption. I will go even further: to some extent it is as though Batista was the incarnation of a number of sins on the part of the United States. Now we shall have to pay for those sins. In the matter of the Batista regime, I am in agreement with the first Cuban revolutionaries.

Manuel Urrutia Lleó Edit

Manuel Urrutia Lleó (December 8, 1901 – 5 July 1981) was a liberal Cuban lawyer and politician. He campaigned against the Gerardo Machado government and the second presidency of Fulgencio Batista during the 1950s, before serving as president in the first revolutionary government of 1959. Urrutia resigned his position after only seven months, owing to a series of disputes with revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, and emigrated to the United States shortly afterward.

The Cuban Revolution gained victory on January 1, 1959, and Urrutia returned from exile in Venezuela to take up residence in the presidential palace. His new revolutionary government consisted largely of Cuban political veterans and pro-business liberals including José Miró, who was appointed as prime minister. [109]

Once in power, Urrutia swiftly began a program of closing all brothels, gambling outlets and the national lottery, arguing that these had long been a corrupting influence on the state. The measures drew immediate resistance from the large associated workforce. The disapproving Castro, then commander of Cuba's new armed forces, intervened to request a stay of execution until alternative employment could be found. [110]

Disagreements also arose in the new government concerning pay cuts, which were imposed on all public officials on Castro's demand. The disputed cuts included a reduction of the $100,000 a year presidential salary Urrutia had inherited from Batista. [111] By February, following the surprise resignation of Miró, Castro had assumed the role of prime minister this strengthened his power and rendered Urrutia increasingly a figurehead president. [109] As Urrutia's participation in the legislative process declined, other unresolved disputes between the two leaders continued to fester. His belief in the restoration of elections was rejected by Castro, who felt that they would usher in a return to the old discredited system of corrupt parties and fraudulent balloting that had marked the Batista era. [112]

Urrutia was then accused by the Avance newspaper of buying a luxury villa, which was portrayed as a frivolous betrayal of the revolution and led to an outcry from the general public. He denied the allegation issuing a writ against the newspaper in response. The story further increased tensions between the various factions in the government, though Urrutia asserted publicly that he had "absolutely no disagreements" with Fidel Castro. Urrutia attempted to distance the Cuban government (including Castro) from the growing influence of the Communists within the administration, making a series of critical public comments against the latter group. Whilst Castro had not openly declared any affiliation with the Cuban communists, Urrutia had been a declared anti-Communist since they had refused to support the insurrection against Batista, [113] stating in an interview, "If the Cuban people had heeded those words, we would still have Batista with us . and all those other war criminals who are now running away". [112]

Global influence Edit

Castro's victory and post-revolutionary foreign policy had global repercussions as influenced by the expansion of the Soviet Union into Eastern Europe after the 1917 October Revolution. In line with his call for revolution in Latin America and beyond against imperial powers, laid out in his Declarations of Havana, Castro immediately sought to "export" his revolution to other countries in the Caribbean and beyond, sending weapons to Algerian rebels as early as 1960. [20] In the following decades, Cuba became heavily involved in supporting Communist insurgencies and independence movements in many developing countries, sending military aid to insurgents in Ghana, Nicaragua, Yemen and Angola, among others. [20] Castro's intervention in the Angolan Civil War in the 1970s and 1980s was particularly significant, involving as many as 60,000 Cuban soldiers. [20] [115]

Relations with the Soviet Union Edit

Following the American embargo, the Soviet Union became Cuba's main ally. [16] It should be noted, however, that the Soviet Union did not initially want anything to do with Cuba or Latin America until the United States had taken an interest in dismantling Castro’s communist government. [34] At first, many people in the Soviet Union did not know anything about Cuba, and those that did saw Castro as a ‘troublemaker’ and the Cuba Revolution as ‘one big heresy.’ [34] There were three big reasons why the Soviet Union changed their attitudes and finally took interest in the island country. First was the success of the Cuban Revolution, to which Moscow responded with great interest as they understood that if a communist revolution was successful for Cuba, it could be successful elsewhere in Latin America. So from then on the Soviets began looking into foreign affairs in Latin America. Second, after learning about the United State’s aggressive plan to deploy another Guatemala scenario in Cuba, the Soviet opinion quickly changed feet. [34] Third, Soviet leaders saw the Cuban Revolution as first and foremost an anti–North American revolution which of course whet their appetite as this was during the height of the cold war and the Soviet, US battle for global dominance was at its apex. [116]

The Soviets’ attitude of optimism changed to one of concern for the safety of Cuba after it was excluded from the inter-American system at the conference held at Punta del Este in January 1962 by the Organization of American States. [116] This coupled with the threat of a United States invasion of the island was really the turning point for Soviet Concern, the idea was that should Cuba be defeated by the United States it would mean defeat for the Soviet Union and for Marxism-Leninism. If Cuba were to fall, ‘‘other Latin American countries would reject us, claiming that for all our might the Soviet Union had not been able to do anything for Cuba except to make empty protests to the United Nations'' wrote Khrushchev. [116] The Soviet attitude towards Cuba changed to concern for the safety of the island nation because of increased US tensions and threats of invasion making the Soviet-Cuban relationship superficial insofar as it only cared about denying the US power in the region and maintaining Soviet supremacy. [116] All of these events lead up to the two Communist countries quickly developing close military and intelligence ties, which culminated in the stationing of Soviet nuclear weapons in Cuba in 1962, an act which triggered the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962.

The aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis saw embarrassment for the Soviet Union, and many countries including Soviet countries were quick to criticize Moscow’s handling of the situation. In a letter that Khrushchev writes to Castro in January of the following year (1963), after the end of conflict, he talks about wanting to discuss the issues in the two countries' relations. He writes attacking voices from other countries, including socialist ones, blaming the USSR of being opportunistic and self-serving. He explained the decision to withdraw missiles from Cuba, stressing the possibility of advancing Communism through peaceful means. Khrushchev underlined the importance of guaranteeing against an American attack on Cuba and urged Havana to focus on economic, cultural, and technological development to become a shining beacon of socialism in Latin America. In closing he invites Fidel Castro to visit Moscow and discuss the preparations for such a trip. [117]

The following two decades in the 70’s and 80’s were somewhat of an enigma in the sense that the 70’s and 80’s were filled with the most prosperity in Cuba’s history yet the revolutionary government hit full stride in achieving its most organized form and it adopted and enacted several brutal features of socialist regimes from the Eastern Bloc. [ citation needed ] Despite this it seems to be a time of prosperity. [ citation needed ] In 1972 Cuba joined COMECON, officially joining their trade with the Soviet Union’s socialist trade bloc. That along with increased Soviet subsidies, better trade terms, and better, more practical domestic policy led to several years of prosperous growth. This period also sees Cuba strengthening its foreign policy with other communistic anti-US imperial countries like Nicaragua. This period is marked as the Sovietization of the 70’s and 80’s. [118]

Cuba maintained close links to the Soviets until the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991. The end of Soviet economic aid and the loss of its trade partners in the Eastern Bloc led to an economic crisis and period of shortages known as the Special Period in Cuba. [119]

Current day relations with Russia, formerly the Soviet Union, ended in 2002 after the Russian Federation closed an intelligence base in Cuba over budgetary concerns. However, in the last decade, relations have increased in recent years after Russia faced international backlash from the West over the situation in Ukraine in 2014. In retaliation for NATO expansion towards the east, Russia has sought to create these same agreements in Latin America. Russia has specifically sought greater ties with Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Brazil, and Mexico. Currently, these countries maintain close economic ties with the United States. In 2012, Putin decided that Russia focus its military power in Cuba like it had in the past. Putin is quoted saying “Our goal is to expand Russia’s presence on the global arms and military equipment market. This means expanding the number of countries we sell to and expanding the range of goods and services we offer.” [120]

Ideology Edit

At the time of the revolution various sectors of society supported the revolutionary movement from communists to business leaders and the Catholic Church. [121]

The beliefs of Fidel Castro during the revolution have been the subject of much historical debate. Fidel Castro was openly ambiguous about his beliefs at the time. Some orthodox historians argue Castro was a communist from the beginning with a long-term plan however, others have argued he had no strong ideological loyalties. Leslie Dewart has stated that there is no evidence to suggest Castro was ever a communist agent. Levine and Papasotiriou believe Castro believed in little outside of a distaste for American imperialism. While Ana Serra believed it was the publication of "El socialismo y el hombre en Cuba." [122] As evidence for his lack of communist leanings they note his friendly relations with the United States shortly after the revolution and him not joining the Cuban Communist Party during the beginning of his land reforms. [121]

At the time of the revolution the 26th of July Movement involved people of various political persuasions, but most were in agreement and desired the reinstatement of the 1940 Constitution of Cuba and supported the ideals of Jose Marti. Che Guevara commented to Jorge Masetti in an interview during the revolution that "Fidel isn't a communist" also stating "politically you can define Fidel and his movement as 'revolutionary nationalist'. Of course he is anti-American, in the sense that Americans are anti-revolutionaries". [123]

Women's roles Edit

The importance of women's contributions to the Cuban Revolution is reflected in the very accomplishments that allowed the revolution to be successful, from the participation in the Moncada Barracks, to the Mariana Grajales all-women's platoon that served as Fidel Castro's personal security detail. Tete Puebla, second in command of the Mariana Grajales Platoon, has said:

Women in Cuba have always been on the front line of the struggle. At Moncada we had Yeye (Haydee Santamaria) and Melba (Hernandez). With the Granma (yacht) and November 30, we had Celia, Vilma, and many other compañeras. There were many women comrades who were tortured and murdered. From the beginning there were women in the Revolutionary Armed Forces. First they were simple soldiers, later sergeants. Those of us in the Mariana Grajales Platoon were the first officers. The ones who ended the war with officers' ranks stayed in the armed forces. [124]

Before the Mariana Grajales Platoon was established, the revolutionary women of the Sierra Maestra were not organized for combat and primarily helped with cooking, mending clothes, and tending to the sick, frequently acting as couriers, as well as teaching guerrillas to read and write. [125] Haydée Santamaría and Melba Hernandez were the only women who participated in the attack on the Moncada Barracks, afterward acting alongside Natalia Revuelta, and Lidia Castro (Fidel Castro's sister) to form alliances with anti-Batista organizations, as well as the assembly and distribution of "History Will Absolve Me". [126] Celia Sanchez and Vilma Espin were leading strategists and highly skilled combatants who held essential roles throughout the revolution. Tete Puebla, founding member and second in command of the Mariana Grajales Platoon, said of Celia Sanchez, "When you speak of Celia, you've got to speak of Fidel, and vice versa. Celia's ideas touched almost everything in the Sierra. [124]

  • The Cuban Revolution, including Batista's resignation and flight into exile, plays a major role in the plot of the 1974 film The Godfather Part II. [127]
  • The 1987 video gameGuevara, released in the United States as Guerrilla War, features Castro and Guevara fighting in the jungle against the forces of an unnamed dictator. [128][129]
  • The Cuban dissident and exile Reinaldo Arenas wrote about Castro's persecution of homosexuals in his 1992 autobiography Antes Que Anochezca, which became the basis for the 2000 film Before Night Falls. [130] 's 2008 film Che, a two-part biopic about Che Guevara, depicts the rise of Castro's movement and Guevara's role in the Cuban Revolution. [131]
  • The 2013 strategic board gameCuba Libre by US wargaming publisher GMT Games puts players into the roles of the involved parties in the Revolution and lets them reenact the conflict alongside a randomized storyline of the key historical events. [132][133]

There were many foreign presences in Cuba during this time. Esther Brinch was a Danish translator for the Danish government in 1960's Cuba. Brinch's work covered the Cuban Revolution and Cuban Missile Crisis. [134] A collection of Brinch's archival materials is housed at the George Mason University Special Collections Research Center.


We tend to take the American Revolution for granted. It was inevitable. It was a good thing. But here is an interesting research project: Was the American Revolution really necessary?

Most people know that the American Revolutionary War happened because the people of the American Colonies, who considered themselves citizens of the British Empire, grew dissatisfied with the taxes being imposed on them by Britain&rsquos Parliament. Although they didn&rsquot like paying the taxes, they were less concerned about the money than the fact that they had no way of debating them via political process&mdashAmerica had no elected members of Parliament to represent their interests. &ldquoTaxation without representation!&rdquo was the rallying cry of independence-minded American political leaders in the years preceding the Revolutionary War.

Americans believed that, as British subjects, they deserved a voice in the decisions of their government. The &ldquorights of Englishmen&rdquo had been assured by various British constitutional documents, including the Magna Carta of 1215 and Britain&rsquos Bill of Rights of 1689. This fact, when combined with the influence of European philosophers such as John Locke and Voltaire (who had espoused republican and liberalistic ideals of democratic government), caused Americans to become increasingly outraged by the British government, who they considered &ldquotyrannical.&rdquo

The political unrest caused by Parliament&rsquos new taxes has been described as either the cause or the excuse for the Rebellion, depending on the viewpoint of the historian.

So the obvious question becomes: &ldquoIf the American Colonists&rsquo outrage over their lack of representation in Parliament was causing a rebellion, why didn&rsquot the British government diffuse the situation by granting the American Colonies some degree of representation?&rdquo

Good question! After all, Britain&rsquos interest in America was immense. The American Colonies, with almost 3 million people at the time of the Revolutionary War, represented nearly a third of the British Empire&rsquos total population. Fifty percent of British shipping was involved in trade with the Americas. At least one fourth of Great Britain&rsquos manufactured goods were exported to America. The American Colonies&rsquo land mass was over four times larger than that of the British Isles&mdashand the North American continent many times that.

Parliament never gave serious consideration to granting her American Colonies representation. If it had, they could have significantly weakened the colonist&rsquos &ldquotaxation without representation&rdquo argument&mdashand may have delayed or prevented the Revolution. But instead of trying to prevent war by treating the colonists as people with the rights of Englishmen, both Parliament and the King considered them second class citizens, and once the fighting began&mdashmere rebels.

Topics that could be researched in the answer to the question are: British Navigation Acts, British-American trade before the Revolutionary War, Acts of Parliament regarding American Colonies, William Pitt the Elder, King George III and the American colonies, Taxation without representation, rights of Englishmen. A starting point is the Outline of the American Revolution.


However, as the news spread across Germany that the war was lost, shock set in, then the anger Ludendorff and others had feared. So many had suffered so much and been told they were so close to victory that many weren’t satisfied with the new system of government. Germany would move swiftly into revolution.

Sailors at a naval base near Kiel rebelled on October 29, 1918, and as the government lost control of the situation other major naval bases and ports also fell to revolutionaries. The sailors were angry at what was happening and were trying to prevent the suicide attack some naval commanders had ordered to try and recover some honor. News of these revolts spread, and everywhere it went soldiers, sailors and workers joined them in rebelling. Many set up special, soviet style councils to organize themselves, and Bavaria actually expelled their fossil King Ludwig III and Kurt Eisner declared it a socialist republic. The October reforms were soon being rejected as not enough, both by the revolutionaries and the old order who needed a way to manage events.

Max Baden hadn’t wanted to expel the Kaiser and family from the throne, but given that the latter was reluctant to make any other reforms, Baden had no choice, and so it was decided that the Kaiser would be replaced by a left-wing government led by Friedrich Ebert. But the situation at the heart of government was chaos, and first a member of this government - Philipp Scheidemann – declared that Germany was a republic, and then another called it a Soviet Republic. The Kaiser, already in Belgium, decided to accept military advice that his throne was gone, and he exiled himself to Holland. The Empire was over.


Seriously, though, was the American Revolution a Civil War?

On February 18, 2014, Tom Cutterham asked, “Was the American Revolution a Civil War?” According to Cutterham, understanding the Revolution that way might be useful. If we did, he suggested, “we’d better understand the way the modern world—the nexus of state, citizen, and property—was born in and determined by violence.”[1]

Understanding the American Revolution as a civil war is an accepted concept. In 1975, John Shy argued that the Revolution was a civil war. Since then, a number of historians have made similar propositions. More recently, in 2012, Alan Taylor delivered a talk, in New Mexico, titled “The First American Civil War: The Revolution.” There are other instances, too, and they are not hard to find or engage with. I don’t think historians will jettison the civil war framework, either. Indeed, we will be understanding the Revolution as a civil war indefinitely. [2]

Was the American Revolution a “civil war,” though? I mean, seriously? Or, is framing the Revolution as a civil war another way to package the conflict with hopes of making it more appealing?

However packaged, framing the American Revolution as a civil war is hard. It does not fit neatly alongside other “civil wars.” The American Civil War, the English Civil War, and the Spanish Civil War were different conflicts, taking place amid contrasting social, political, and cultural circumstances.

More substantively, though, the difficulties of comparing the American Revolution to these civil wars relates to how we conceptualize the constitutional arrangement of the eighteenth-century British Empire. Were Britain’s North American colonies woven into the Empire’s fabric? Was it an organized political entity in 1775? Was the Empire working?[3] How did Britons view the constitutional crisis? Did people in Aberdeen, Bristol, or London call the Revolution a “civil war”? What about colonists in urban centers, rural hamlets, or in the backcountry? Answers to these questions could differ, sharply, but they would provide a fascinating insight into how the conflict was perceived on both sides of the Atlantic.

Conceptualizing the American Revolution as a civil war, moreover, suggests that there were coherent groups of loyalists and patriots—groups which were in consistent opposition to one another. It didn’t work out that way, though. People changed sides as their wartime circumstances changed. The Revolution wasn’t a simple conflict between loyalists and patriots. Allegiances weren’t always volitional. People didn’t always have the luxury to “choose their own loyalty” under strenuous circumstances, they were forced to make a decision. Put simply, their “loyalty” was often enforced.[4]

The problem of allegiance thus begs the question: Can we really use the term “civil war” to describe a conflict involving (markedly different) people, who were not opposed to changing sides?

Clearly, then, a problem associated with understanding the American Revolution as a civil war relates to definition—what is a “civil war”? And what is a “civil war” vis-à-vis the American Revolution and its participants? How did they understand it? This last question is central. Eighteenth-century words and terms do not hold the same definition(s) or meaning(s) today.

Today, the Oxford English Dictionary defines “civil war” as a “war between the citizens or inhabitants of a single country, state, or community.” This is a good starting point. But we should avoid thorny issues of anachronism associated with labelling colonists citizens of a “country” or “state,” prior to 1776. This would be misleading. Indeed, one might even suggest that labelling colonists “Americans” before 1778, when France recognized the U.S., or 1783, when King George III did, is anachronistic and forward-thinking. With the OED definition, then, focusing on individual communities appears to be the most appropriate option. From this, comparative analyses might be particularly fruitful.[5]

An example. In New York, people changed sides, a lot. In November 1778, nearly every member of a Committee of Safety, in Brookhaven, Suffolk County, took the oath of allegiance to King George III after spending some three years persecuting suspected loyalists. Further, a significant proportion of those in Brookhaven who signed the Continental Association, in 1775, took the oath, as well. Is this a “civil war”?

In contrast, in South Carolina, a bitter conflict endured. It was a divisive conflict communities and families fought each other and neighbors attacked each other based on their beliefs. As one inhabitant put it, “They pursue each other with as much relentless fury as beasts of prey.” According to Rebecca Brannon, “South Carolina experienced a genuine civil war during the American Revolution.”[6]

The American Revolution in New York does not equal American Revolution in South Carolina. They were different conflicts, fought under different social, political, and economic circumstances. So, if historians are to continue using the term “civil war” to describe the Revolution, we need to recognize how people’s allegiances, as well as their constitutional interpretation(s) of the British Empire vis-à-vis colonial legislatures, were rationalized and articulated in different ways, amid different circumstances, across Revolutionary America. The urban Revolution doesn’t equal the rural Revolution or the backcountry Revolution.

In the end, using the “civil war” framework is something that we’re stuck with, especially in teaching situations. (I imagine the question, “Was the American Revolution a civil war?,” is rather popular.) But, it is important to recognize the difficulties of conceptualizing the Revolution this way. So, just because David Armitage said, “Every great revolution is a civil war,” it doesn’t make it so. Indeed, we must remember, at all times, that my American Revolution wasn’t necessarily yours.

[2] John Shy, “The Loyalist Problem in the Lower Hudson Valley: The British Perspective,” in Robert A. East and Jacob Judd, eds., The Loyalist Americans: A Focus on Greater New York (Tarrytown: Sleepy Hollow Restorations, 1975), 3 see also, Jonathan Clark, “The Problem of Allegiance in Revolutionary Poughkeepsie,” in David Hall, John M. Morrin, and Thad W. Tate, eds., Saints and Revolutionaries: Essays on Early American History (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1984), 285–317.

[4] James H. Kettner, “The Development of American Citizenship in the Revolutionary Era: The Idea of Volitional Allegiance,” The American Journal of Legal History 18, no. 3 (July 1974): 208–42, quote at 212 see also Kettner, The Development of American Citizenship, 1608–1870 (Chapel Hill: Published for the Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, by the University of North Carolina Press, 1978).


What It Was Really Like As A Worker In The Industrial Revolution

Much of life today would never have existed without the Industrial Revolution. A time of dramatic innovation, industrialization made us go from a society that farmed and made everything by hand to one where goods could be mass-produced by machinery for a fraction of the cost. People started moving away from their family farms to work in factories near growing cities or in the coal mines that helped fire up all the new innovations that were being used.

But going to work back then was quite different from clocking into the modern office or factory. While there are laws to protect employees from certain conditions today, the industrial era was like a lawless world. Ruthless employers readily took advantage of their employees, overworking them in dangerous environments for the sake of productivity and profits. And eventually, laborers would be forced to fight for their rights. Here's what it was really like as a worker during the Industrial Revolution.


Watch the video: The Score - Revolution Official Audio