Transcribed by machines.
Brian Powers (BP)
Hi, everybody, thanks for tuning in to a Revolution Radio Special Report. You can hear the Cuban music going on in the background. And that is because in just a moment, I’m going to be interviewing the Cuban Revolution podcaster and historian, Nick Ramos, Nick joined me, with Christian Perez, my co host, and we did a great interview, I loved it.
One thing you may notice is that there wasn’t a live stream element to this, it wasn’t on YouTube or Facebook. And the reason for that is, our internet connection up here has been doing very, very poorly. And I tell you what, I did kind of miss it. Honestly, I love being with an audience and seeing the comments and we bring those comments into the programming and I feel that it adds something but the truth is the lag has been killing us. And I wasn’t really able to participate in the last few live streams. So rather than struggle through a live stream, the quite honestly would be distracting. We are recording our revolution radio, special reports, editing that junk out of it and bringing to you, honestly, what’s just a better product and a better podcast.
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Thank you so much. And now without further delay, let’s talk about Castro Battista and the Cuban Revolution with Nick rims. Thank you everybody for tuning into this revolution radio special report. Today I’m really excited to have somebody I’m a fan of and yesterday we just did a live show on the @IDAVOX report with Darrell and Chris, you were there with Margaret Kimberly from the Black Agenda Report. And I’m a fan of Margaret. I love her writing. I love Black Agenda Report. And so being able to interview somebody you’re a fan of is really cool. And today I have with me, Nick Ramos. He’s doing a podcast on the Cuban Revolution, which is one of my favorite times in history.
I’ve expressed positive views of Fidel Castro many times on my Facebook page and on show, Nick comes out with his podcast, even though he does have his own personal views comes out like a historian. And that to me has has helped round you know, my own personal politics around my view of both Castro and the Cuban Revolution. Joining me also is co host Christian Perez So thanks for joining me, Chris. Let’s jump right into it.
Nick, let me hear about your background. I know that you were born in Cuba, and you came in to the United States when you’re about nine years old. Where did you first wind up in the United States? And where did you go from?
Nick Ramos (NR) 4:13
I wound up where the Cubans go, Miami. So yeah, I first. I first I grew up in Miami until I was about 17. And then I left to college to New York. And I’ve been in New York ever since. So I’ve been thoroughly steeped in Cuban culture. I lived there for nine years and then Miami is just you know, Cuba north. So that’s where I come from.
Did you study history like as a young man or is this something you just did out of personal study?
So I did I did study history in undergrad although, you know, my career is not a historian at all. I’m not a historian but I did you know do the rudimentary historian thing and undergrad. I mostly read Plenty of history of listen to plenty of history podcasts and that type of thing. So, uh, right as I’m about to finish college, I think in my senior year, I figured, you know, other people are doing it. The Cuba story is out there. Nobody’s telling it. And it sort of seems like a pressing issue that a lot of people want to hear about. There’s this whole cult of Mystique around Cuba and Castro. Even before Castro, there was a cult of mystique about Cuba and the United States and around the world. So I figured you know, who better to tell this story, then then someone who is actually cute?
Christian Perez (CP) 5:37
What are your personal political views? And how have they, you know, influenced you in terms of creating this cast? You know, what, what, what drew you to create this podcast in the first place? We know Cuba is a controversial topic. Castro is a controversial human being. This is a topic that’s going to draw eyes, what pulled you in initially?
Alright, so I think those are two questions. Number one, what are my personal political views? And number two, what pulled me in, um, and one of my personal political, political views is something I’ve been playing footsie with, with the audience for quite a long time. Because the second you come out as anything, one group of people are inherently not going to want to listen.
CP- Yes, the way it goes.
NR-Yeah. So I would say that my political views are varied. I’m not a particularly ideological person. That said, I do have, you know, basic beliefs and you know, the social welfare state, and that type of thing, like I believe in so social democracy in one way or another, and I deviate in a few places. I’m not a Marxist, but I’m also not very gung ho about capitalism, I just think that, you know, in different contexts, and in different times different policies work. That’s, so I’m very non ideological. And I think that comes through in the podcast, because both Marxists listen to it. And they seem very much into it. And they seem to want to talk to me and get their takes. But also, you know, very right wing people, including, I think a couple I used to work in the bush administration actually listened to it, and then they messaged me and little debates about what Cuba was like in the 40s in the 50s. And we go back and forth about that, and I also go back and forth of the Marxists. But but generally I try to be non ideological about it. I try to read as many sources as I can, um, there are a ton of sources both in Spanish and in English, and put it together in a way which tries to do. The history justice, I would say,
I’ve never heard anybody say, myth. That Castro, meh,
You love him or hate him, He’s the savior of communism, he stands up imperialism, an anti racist hero, or you hate them, and he’s a communist dictator, who, you know, people had to flee.
What makes him so polarizing? I mean, what about his personality drives people so far to either end of the spectrum?
I mean, it was a bipolar world for many years. I think that’s that’s where we can start. So any country that has a large check cell population in another country that fled for some reason, whether it be ideological, or economic, is going to have opinions about the homeland. They fled. So starting off, you have an enclave politically powerful enclave in Miami. That is just going to hate Castro. From the beginning, all at the same time, Castro was a pretty loud guy. Like he he ubo for as small and as isolated as a nation it is at every single turn. It had opinions on international matters, right? Had opinions in Africa it fought in Angola, it had opinions about South Africa had opinions on Korea it had opinions about Latin America overall Castro would be very loud and talk a lot during any type of like pan black Latin American Pan American conferences. So Castro spoke about a lot of issues and he was the master of the media right like when he came to the United States and he decided to stay at a hotel in Harlem Um, and so through doing this…
If you remember also it was the only place that allowed him a place to stay he wasn’t allowed to leave New York Island Yeah,
And I think last minute like the hotel wasn’t even going to take them or something like that fun story behind it. But But um, you know, if you’re not removed from from the conflict of capitalism, versus communism. And if you’re removed from the cold war and those things you don’t really feel strongly about them. And if you’re also removed from from the Miami enclave, then a lot of what you know about Castro is just simply the stances he took internationally, just simply him supporting the Palestinian people or things like that. And because of that, I think a lot of people give them credit. Whereas, you know, if you are invested into the War of the ideologies, or if you did flee Cuba, he is going to be Satan to you. So it’s also important that he was around for a really long time, right? Like Castro outlived Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Ford, both Bush’s Clinton and almost a Obama, you know, so when you when you’ve been around that long, and you’ve been in charge that long, and you’ve been loud for as long as he was, you’re gonna get some pretty strong feelings about you
Castro’s background, pre revolutionary, um, was, he was a rich, dude. I mean, you went over his father’s estates in Cuba , which were calculated in square miles. And you painted a picture of Castro as a young man riding around a horse with a shotgun and kind of enjoying the the pursuits of a wealthy young men. But he gets into college and becomes radicalized. So as he gets older, how much does he play off that background? Because he’s not a from the, from the, you know, plantation or from the fields, fighting up through the ranks to lead the proletariat, he was with a politically connected wealthy family, Did he make a lot of effort to kind of play that down as he grew into his role as the country’s leader or you just kind of put it out there, that is who he was
A he didn’t play it up or down, right? Like it’s just he wasn’t he was Castro was new money for most for most of his life, until he became an active revolutionary. He was supported by his father, like his father gave him today, hundreds of 1000s of dollars for his honeymoon, to just travel around. And in the United States, this is something that of course, Castro doesn’t dwell on. Castro doesn’t dwell on his upbringing, right? He He’s sort of the figure by which the proletariat can be can achieve their liberation. Very much so. So it doesn’t play up anything, just as I’m sure you know. I believe Lennon had his family was what do you what do you call it? They were like minor royalty or something like that. A key very minor, though. And yeah, Lenny never played that up, either. You know, he was who he was. And the revolution was going to be fulfilled through him. So yeah, that’s now Castro was vastly, you know, way more money than Vladimir Lenin ever had. But yeah, you know, He neither plays it down, nor nor talks about it. It’s just, it’s just something that exists people, you know, he knew he was wealthy, and they didn’t really hold it against them. And that’s about it. There’s actually not a lot of thought about Katherine being wealthy, the only people that, you know, really did dislike Castro’s wealth, I think were the people he was fighting against in the 50s, who didn’t view him as sort of, you know, a class trader, right? Like, here’s this kid is the best education in the island. He’s University of Havana lawyer, he should be one of us, he should be in our administration, and at the very least, should just be playing, you know, he should just be behaving normally. Because he’s going to come to power eventually. There’s an idea that whether Castro wants it or not, he is the next political generation. And so he should just play along. But he refuses to do that. So no, the the poorer classes in Cuba never held as well against them.
Unknown Speaker 14:05
Can you talk about the effect that the Haitian Revolution had on the history in Cuba?
Sure. So since its foundation, Cuba was a very, for hundreds of years, um, was a very irrelevant dialect. You know, it was basically a port, where gold would go from Mexico and South America would stop in Havana, and they would take it to Spain, there really wasn’t much capital in Cuba, there wasn’t much interest in expanding anything. And that’s until the Haitian Revolution, like you said, the Haitian Revolution, what it does is it burns up some domain, and it burns up the biggest sugar plantations in the world. And all of a sudden, within the course of a year, the biggest sugar producing country in the world goes up in flames. Um, and so a lot suddenly, it’s an open market. It’s open season. Now a lot of the people who had text medical expertise in Haiti, they flee and they come to Cuba. And and the Spanish realize like, hey, the market is up for the taking, what we need to do is we need to copy the Haitian model and begin bringing in slaves in mass. So after the Haitian Revolution, the Spanish Empire takes advantage of the lack of Haiti to bring in more slaves in Cuba had ever seen, I think in in in a couple of years, Cuba was inundated with more slaves and had existed there for hundreds of years. And within 2030 years, Cuba is producing a huge amount of sugar, and in that century becomes the biggest sugar producing country in the world. And that legacy, you know, extends all the way up until the 1950s. Another interesting thing that the Haitian Revolution does in Cuba is it delays emancipation, because all of a sudden the Spanish Empire can point to, to the Cuban liberals, right? So the Cuban liberals are living comfortably on the island. But well, not necessarily comfortably, but they want more rights. They want to liberalize they want to have their own shade, they want their parliament. And so the Spanish Empire gets to say, Okay, if you want those things, you’re also might have to deal with a Haitian style revolution. Is this what you want? And the Cuban liberals answer to that is you know, well, better the devil I know that the devil I don’t know. So for a while they stick with the Spanish Empire, just because the Spanish Empire offers protections against their slaves. It actually takes quite a long time to emancipate in Cuba, Cuba emancipates later than the United States. Um, but those were the two big impacts and Cuba as a politically relevant sugar producing island to the extent that it was would not exist without the Haitian Revolution
Can you give a picture of Cuba was like before the revolution because, you know, I mean, most Americans it’s usually the propaganda get off the news or maybe anybody saw the Godfather, but what was like before the revolution because, I mean, revolutions come from strength, right? There’s there’s, there’s, you know, quest about sovereignty questions about legitimacy. Battista was definitely not the best of individuals, not the best of theirs. But can you give Can you paint a picture of what Cuba was like leading up to the revolution?
Sure. And I actually think you made a very important point, which is that revolutions don’t come from anywhere (Nowhere implied). Right? Well, one of the things I was trying to combat with the podcast is this idea that you know, Cuba was not this Wonderland before Castro came along. And it certainly wasn’t because, you know, you don’t go from a wonderland to having someone rule a country for 70 years. wonderlands don’t create revolutions. Exactly. wonderlands You know, it doesn’t come from a vacuum Castro is a figure of his time in place.
So I think it’s important to differentiate, as you said, with pre revolutionary Cuba. Let’s put aside a lot of time, and let’s just begin in 1940. Actually, let’s begin in 1933. In 1933, a sort of quasi revolutionary government made up of students and and a teacher essentially come to power through an alliance with Battista Sargent. They can’t rule but he still eventually betrays them with the help of the United States, and kicks them out. And during the 30s, he rules very brutally, including large suppressions of the labor movement. During the 30s, he kicks them out and then rules through puppet presents.
At the end of the 30s Battista does a turn, he does a populist turn, because he himself, you know, being coming from a far humbler background on Castro, right, like Battista was homeless for a bit Chinese, black, he’s
He was definitely more ethnically diverse than Castro, at least.
He was, the Afro Cuban population saw themselves in Um, so he does a populist turn, because Battista is always very politically savvy, and he realizes that he cannot roll Cuba is a strong man, actually, Cuba before the revolution could not be ruled from the right, in the Cuban right, is not a particularly important movement. It only really takes off after the revolution. Um, and so he makes a populist turn, sort of those a Bill Clinton esque triangulation, where he allies himself with both the communists and the more conservative parties, and he wins in 1940. And in 1940, you get the 1940 Constitution, which is like a deeply progressive document, has labor rights has, you know, like rights that the United States has even half now has stuff like eventual land redistribution, which they never passed because they weren’t particularly interested in right like a constitution. It is only works if you actually do what’s on it. So a lot of the stuff in the constitution wasn’t getting done and it took like 10 years to do it. And even by the time Battista does this coup in 1952, which is 12 years after its passage, like land reform still hadn’t been done. So but he still wins the presidency, does four years, his candidate is beaten, and then those guys that progressive or populist movement that he overthrew in 1933, come back. And that’s the identical period. They’re called the authentics. So what I’m describing right now is Cuba’s democratic experiment, the Second Republic of Cuba, which is a briefly lived period between 1940 and 1952, where Cuba has actual democracy. And it has freedom of speech. And sure, you know, it’s blurred here and there, but it has civil rights is freedom of speech, the party’s ruling, it broadly proclaimed to rule for the people. It’s a broadly progressive place where, you know, the sugar economy’s like, very tightly controlled by the government. It has labor movements, it has official labor parties that are preferred by the state, it has a communist party that gets you know, 7% of votes sometimes.
So it is it is a democracy that is trying to self improve, right. It’s trying to match what it wrote down in 1940, much as the United States is constantly trying to live up to the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, right? Like those are aspirational. So was the 1940 constitution was aspirational.
However, it was also just a deeply corrupt place. Like we’re talking like the education ministry, becoming basically a billionaire from stealing money that’s supposed to be going going to rural schools, and then using that to fund local street gangs, the fire on the Congress, we’re talking about a president getting taken to court for stealing a bunch of money from the pension fund and from the education funds, and then all of his court documents one night just gets stolen a bunch of armed men come in, go into the courthouse and take away every single document that he was being charged with. We’re talking student gangsters recruiting from the university and making little street gangs and then they get the jobs like chief police training, or like Sheriff of this town, massive amounts of plundering massive over promising and under delivering it and, and people got sick of being lied to. It sort of led to a massive dissatisfaction with a political movement.
That by 1952 was was really turning to a boil because the one guy that promised to to end this the one guy who promised to put Cuba on the right track, who was Castro’s mentor, even though he didn’t like Castro at shoe bus, he shoots himself on radio, he kills himself. Um, and so 1952 This party is expected to win call the Orthodox party, and Battista throws his coop and he essentially kills the Constitution. So this period of briefly lived corrupt but true democracy is replaced with Battista is Sham democracy where you can’t get out of line where constitutional rights should be given and withdrawn, or clearly the ballot boxes were going to be stuffed at any chance. Um, and also the economy begins diversifying away from sugar to tourism. By 1955 1956. Cuba is a huge place for tourism and casinos and gambling In fact, back in 1933, so even when Battista was just a little Sergeant starting out as COO, this guy called Meyer Lansky, through an associate flew to Cuba and gave Battista millions of dollars in 1933. And that investment he made in 1933 only came to fruition in the 1950s when potestas finally empowers a dictator. So in the post war American world where people are traveling they’re going on vacation, Cuba becomes a very attractive spot so Cuba now has sugar Cuba has tourism and those were the main two things and also has you know, trade and its other small industries like like mining, um, but but teamsters plays was deeply unfree. And people played along with it at the beginning, because the political parties were sort of defunct and corrupt and shitty, and they played with it. But eventually resentment starts boiling up and Battista pushing back in election, him not being able to come to a deal with the opposition. And as more and more people protest this but he still cracks down he becomes more violent and that essentially becomes a snowball you know, you oppose myth II stuff, but he opposes you, but he’s to kill someone in your family. All the sudden you know, your brothers and your sisters are revolutionary. And they’re joining a million other movements and Castro’s movement is just one of many that opposed Battista.
The story of the Cuban Revolution is not the story of Fidel Castro, although he wins at the end because the outlasts everybody. It’s a story of a bunch of different movements that eventually all come together with Fidel is the most important figure, but that happens very, very late. So it was a corrupt place. I mean, but we still have all the money he could apologies, but he stole all the money he could he killed. I mean, far more people and Castro has killed in his entire regime in just the time he was ruling. And there’s a reason why why Battista is still like a dirty word in Miami. Like, despite the fact that the first wave of people come in were Battista supporters and stuff like that. Like he’s still just despised in the Cuban community. Not as much as Castro, but no one thinks he’s a good guy.
What is the role that the United States played in Batista’s Cuba? Right? I mean, so again, revolutions don’t just happen in a vacuum. The United States has always had its hand Latin American heirs. What was the role that the United States American elite the American government had in pre Castro?
Well, America had a very heavy role in in the first 30 years, as I’m sure you know, a lot of listeners will know, there was something called the Platt Amendment, which said that the United States could intervene for whatever reason it want. This lasted 34 years, 35 years, Battista actually got rid of it. But by that time, you know, it was the 30s in him in the United States had a very good relationship throughout the 1930s. He was the most internationally recognized Cuban, and he had a good relationship with the ambassadors. But he still kept on having a good relationship with the United States in the Second World War, because he helped the Second World War quite I mean, as much as Cuba could. But you know, like any Germans, the one the only German spy to be executed in South America in World War Two was executed in Cuba. You know, Cuba had submarines it had like a brief submarine skirmish, they cooperated. So a good relationship. He was always very tight with us businessmen, also. And so by 1950s, when when the kiss who succeeds and it succeeds without us help, the United States isn’t really sure what to do at the beginning. Some people like it, some people don’t.
One of the people that is probity usto was one of Roosevelt’s kids. A Teddy Roosevelt’s kids think I forget his name. Um, but he flies down to Cuba and then he goes back up to the United States to lobby for the Cuban government and the United States in 32 days after all, like a lot of countries have already given recognition, including the UK says, Alright, fine, the teachers in charge, and then that relationship proves so lucrative to the United States, especially in the Cold War, because what Battista does right away is at the beginning, he doesn’t overplay his hand. But as more and more people take up arms against him and rebel, he starts associating them with communists right away Battista starts
That old gimmick, yeah
The classic gimme right just commie smear your enemies
What American interests will Cuba at the time? I mean we’re talking through companies sugar companies gambling companies like what I mean America just all of itself and other countries affairs.
There’s always got to be interest in both so like what type interested American elites have Cuba
Sugar was gigantic the you know the American fruit companies were all very very heavily invested there and there were a significant amount of Cuban land so like
Chiquita bananas dole And United Fruit Company
Nick has a podcast where he talks about all of this in many many episodes, and I did want to break in just here for a minute to make sure people know how to find you man. So I know I find you on Spotify. I like Spotify, although there’s a lot of other apps out there for so um, the name of your podcast is the history of the Cuban Revolution and tell people where they can find it if they want to hear like all this and even more detail.
Sure, you can find it on Spotify. You can find it on Apple podcasts, you can find it wherever you get your podcasts. You can also go to my website, which is thinkabouthistory.podbean.com it’s very easy to find, just look up history of the Cuban Revolution podcast on Google and you’re going to see it Mine’s The only one about about the thing.
Also, The Havana electricity actually was a monopoly owned by an American company. So to get electricity in Havana, you needed to go through an American company, mines were American owned a lot of the casinos, you know, a significant amount of the industry. However, I do have to say that by 1955, human capital was becoming a junior partner. Whereas Cuban capital had been entirely subservient to American capital for all of the Republic by 1955, Cuban capital was catching up.
I know you said that the Cuban Revolution is is a lot more than Castro. But he does come out ahead. I think the story that I was most familiar with, that most people hear is that Castro got on a boat with like, 80 people and toppled the government. And for a beginner who knows the Cuban Revolution. That’s kind of the whole story. He tried it before and failed, and got a whole bunch of people killed, and then tried it again. So can you just briefly tell us what happened on the raid at the Moncada Narracks and how come it didn’t stop him from continuing the revolution?
I mean, that’s the essential Castro story, right? He was a force of nature, like the man would not be stopped. Um, so yeah, he just gets a bunch of people together, like 100 and 100 dudes, and buys like a bunch of shoddy weapons, and says, we’re going to attack the second largest barracks in Cuba, we’re going to take him by surprise One morning, after they’re all drunk from partying at the carnival. Um, and then after we do that, we’re just going to take weapons and go into the countryside and started there. And then people will rise up around Cuba. Now he’s like, 27 or 28, when he’s doing this, and so he like train cells get some together, he actually brings them there without even telling them what they were going to do the night before. He’s like, oh, by the way, we’re going to go to war with soldiers. And like, right away, the plan fails is just in every spectacular way, like, cars get lost or or chicken out on the way, the centuries catch them. And he has to run away into the countryside, and the army kills executes a bunch of the prisoners. So they throw him in jail, they throw him in jail for 15 years, the maximum sentence under the Cuban penal code or whatever is 20. m. And, you know, at this point, like the movement has significantly stalled, right?
Castro was always viewed as a wild man who had a promising political future, but still a wild man, I get this point, every political parties, like we were not sure we want anything to do with this guy. Like, this, this, this looks bad. And you know, now that he’s in jail, what can he do? So from jail, you know, he reads, he writes, the usual thing, you know, when you’re in jail, you can do two things you can read, and you can work out. Um, and so he does a lot more of the first one, the second one, he’s eventually saved by this mass campaign, which is sort of, it’s a very middle class campaign, I would say it’s a, I think the word that might be used is bourgeois morality, or something like that, um, he’s saved by a very middle class campaign of like, Alright, these are our kids, they’re locked up, they’re locked up for several years, you know, they sort of had a good cause, because a lot of the people still around in Cuba, like at some point had been a revolutionary in the 1930s. Like, people still remember the 1930s they remember fighting the teesta. And a lot of these people are like sworn enemies. You know, here’s this guy, cream of the crop from extremely rich family, like what are we doing throwing this guy in jail. And so when Battista feels a little bit more comfortable, in his position, he feels are giving clemency and he’s lobbying for a year by mothers and by a bunch of, you know, like, nice society, to just like, Hey, give give these guys a break, right? Like they said, what they did this, they say what they did, and everybody in Cuba knows that they sort of have a point, you did overthrow the Constitution, right? And so when he feels better in his role, he relents, and he lets Castro go, and everybody go, however, that might not have even been his intention, because there are claims that when he like Castro go from jail, he actually had a car ready with bullet holes in it, ready to kill Castro? And to just claim that like, Oh, well, actually, he got into a shootout with the police.
So he was essentially maybe planning to whack Castro. But Castro is sort of wise to this and he doesn’t plan. Jail does not slow him down, like jail doesn’t make him into a good boy, despite the pleadings of like everybody for him to calm down. He’s like, if I stay here in Cuba, I’m just gonna get locked up or killed. I got to go to Mexico and just do what I did last time, but better, um, and he actually does it. And he does it perhaps a little bit worse. But it just works out that time. The the confluence the the events that come to such a point where he could do it a little, he could get away with it that time, let’s say.
So I know that he was ultimately I’m sorry that the Cuban I don’t know what to call them the expeditionary force the Revolutionary Army. They were trained the July 26 movement, which by the way Fox’s and attempt to undermine Cuba posted a picture from a rally a couple months back, which was supposed to show Cuban dissidents, but they were waving the 26th of July flag. So it was Fox News and accidentally, I don’t know, played video of vilest and said that they were actually like, a anti communist activists or,
Yeah, I’ve also seen pictures about like, oh, check out the protests in Cuba and they’re actually protests in Miami. So like, you know,
I was gonna say, I know that Castro and the basics of July’s movement and those revolutionaries, the ones that would ultimately, you know, make their journey on the ship the grandma into Cuba, I know that they were trained by exiles from Spain, who had initially fought in the Spanish Civil War. So it was the same, the same ideas, the same mentality and for our fans out there that wants some historical context. If you look at the flag of Catalonia, Barcelona, Barcelona in Independence, it’s a very similar flag to the Cuban import can flag for those of us that don’t know, the Puerto Rican flag or Puerto Rico was always the cultural younger brother of Cuba. So the Puerto Rican flag is very much the the negative image of the Cuban flag I mean, literally in terms of photos, they just swapped out red for blue and then homage to Cuban and Puerto Rican revolutionary movements. The independence movement basically adopted I guess I’ll say the Puerto Rican flag as their as their as their flag. They just switched out the color white for this for the color of gold.
Yeah, Cuba was was awash with Spanish Civil War people, because like I said, during the 30s, Battista sort of kicks out the left, and a lot of those people what they do is, you know, they keep on being loved.
I know, Trujillo brought a bunch of them in in an attempt to, you know, met Horace Ross and it turned to the Dominican Republic whiter. They brought in a lot of they brought in a lot of Jewish refugees, Eastern European white Jews, Ashkenazi Jews and refugees from the Spanish Civil in attempt to make the Dominican Republic whiter. I mean, let’s just be honest about what that was.
Actually one of the guys the guy in charge of Battista paramilitary police was a from the Spanish Civil War he fought he was a you used to be a communist, he fought for anti Franco forces um, and he actually ended You know, he ends up like a hardcore right wing guy fighting Castro. So like it’s it’s inundated with with people who fought in the Spanish Civil War. Now Scarborough’s up hearing news about the Spanish Civil War all the time. Yeah. Yeah,
I started out the interview asking you like about Castro and him being polarizing. Um, because it may seem like a similar question here, but it’s, I’m talking about American politics in their view. And it’s a two part question so i’ll i’ll try to kind of Eeny meeny miney, which way I asked it first, but I know that you mentioned you came to Miami, you know immigrating to Miami. There, the Cubans in Miami are known for pretty much pretty right wing. Um, Donald Trump was pretty popular amongst that demographic. I hailing from the northern part of New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez one for you, no matter the movement, supporting Elian Gonzales remaining in the United States and rose to political fame through that. So Cuban Americans on the right, definitely have their influence on what the wider view of Cuban society is throughout America. Do you think the right makes too much out of Castro being evil in America?
I’d like to so I don’t get killed by my Cuban listeners. I’d like to start the question by saying that I’m not a Castro supporter. Yeah, I’d like to answer that right away because the the hate mail I would get
they’re fading away. Let them hate let them hate this isn’t
I mean, I think we can be honest here. I mean, I could ask you it the other way around first and be honest, as
I’ll get I’ll get to the other way around to I’ll get to the other way around, too. So listen, I think you’re like I think you’re right. Like when you look at the case study of Vietnam, right. Which is same thing, Vietnam. Wait Bigger country, way more Vietnamese people in the United States in Cuba. I think they’re the seventh most, you know, ethnic minority in the United States the biggest. But where does Vietnam So, Vietnam settles in California, California is a blue state. If the enemies people decided to settle in Miami with the numbers they have, today, we would still have a bad relationship with Vietnam. It is it is the fact that American politics has been captured, in my opinion against their best interests by the nascent Cuban right wing that was truly born in the 1950s. Because the point of stress is that before 1959, Cuba could not be ruled from the right what everybody wanted was populism. Everybody wanted labor unions, like you can’t have a country where your workers are unemployed for half the year since the sugar harvest only is for a certain amount of the year and not have a significant labor that does that can’t run. Um, so I think that the Miami right wing has captured American politics for the worst when it comes to Cuba. I think that the United States forced Castro into the Soviet camp in a way. Um, I don’t think Castro wanted to be part of the bigger country, way more Vietnamese people in the United States and Cuba. I think they’re the seventh most, you know, ethnic minority in the United States the biggest. But where does Vietnam So, Vietnam settles in California, California is a blue state. If the enemies people decided to settle in Miami with the numbers they have, today, we would still have a bad relationship with Vietnam. It is it is the fact that American politics has been captured, in my opinion against their best interests by the nascent Cuban right wing that was truly born in the 1950s. Because the point of stress is that before 1959, Cuba could not be ruled from the right what everybody wanted was populism. Everybody wanted labor unions, like you can’t have a country where your workers are unemployed for half the year since the sugar harvest only is for a certain amount of the year and not have a significant labor that does that can’t run. Um, so I think that the Miami right wing has captured American politics for the worst when it comes to Cuba. I think that the United States forced Castro into the Soviet camp in a way. Um, I don’t think Castro wanted to be part of the Soviet Canada.
He was working with the CIA. He had been working with the CIA revolution.
The CIA had been, you know, was funding him and at the same time, the CIA was playing both sides. I mean, he did I mean, and I know you said his his honeymoon, honeymoon was spent in the United States where he you know, where he put in a prep he learned something like 100 English words a day in order to prep for his honeymoon in New York City. He went to Central Park believe for his honeymoon.
Yeah, it was actually, uh, my girlfriend lives here. She lives like, eight minutes away, or seven minutes away from where Castro honeymooned.
I think answered the question pretty well. And I hope and I hope your fan base forgives you for telling the truth a little bit. That’s the other way around. Hey listen, I’ll skewer my own people here a little bit because on the left Castro’s made out to be as I said, a big hero and, and I personally really loved the dude for what he did post revolution. But I also know he was a bully. He was a thug. You describe him as a student gangster? I mean, he was a tough dude. Does does the left make too much of Castro and his impact on society? Um, I, I’m just gonna ask that question.
my Marxist listeners, which there are a surprising amount.
So you pissed off everyone all at once.
This pod4cast has gone horribly for me. So the answer is, is also also Yes. And it’s very understandable why right, like, when you belong to a group, whether it be any group, whether it be based on political beliefs, whether it would be based on race or gender identity or anything like that. You’re reticent to say anything against your own people. If you are broadly left aligned, you don’t want to say anything about Castro because then it becomes a tool of the right to sort of diminish any political beliefs you might have and talk negatively about you um and and especially with with the defeats the left is taken, you know, the in the Soviet Union lost and not many communist countries around anymore. So So Castro was something they had to cling on. It was it was there one like, oh, check it out. Here’s what’s Cuba doing? Uh, you know, they still seem strident they, they seem to be doing okay.
I think the left definitely gives Castro way too much credit, like having lived on the island, it’s not a nice place to live. You have to exercise a sort of self censorship over yourself. Every single time, um, and just a bunch of things that are not necessary for any type of socialist revolution stuff like, intense, like not free press. Like maybe you can make an argument that in the 1960s, that stuff was needed, because there was an actual counter revolutionary movement after the Cold War in the 2000s. I think you could say you need to weigh less, like what what reason is there that Cubans could not leave the island until 2011. Freedom of travel, there is no good socialist or communist reason for that. I guess they’re not No.
Cuba ultimately is still a poor country. You have the opportunity to leave would leave I mean, if you gave that same opportunity to El Salvadorians, they would leave and see them leaving now.
All right. Yeah, and
I like to see, I like to see that freedom of movement, um, you know, for people, but, but I think there is a different dynamic, you know, when you’re dealing with a country that needs resources to stay in the country in order for the country to survive, you know, whereas our country should be and can take in, you know, a lot more people, you know, so, you know, I get some of the restrictions. I also, you know, throughout history, there’s been very few peaceful revolutions. Yeah, um, and there has always been an element of a need for some kind of, I mean, even as an America’s probably the most guilty of this is of having some authoritarian period, some military period, where you make space for democracy to take, because if you don’t have some kind of control, then you know, you don’t have supplies coming in there, scarcity and violence occurs. So to have some kind of authoritarian period, I guess, you know, with Castro, because he, he stayed in so long, people always make the argument that he was an authoritarian and a dictator for So, you know, for decades on end. But, I mean, I guess from a revolutionary, he’s got a point of view from guy that would like to see our government be moved in a more socialist direction. Um, you know, I’d rather not have to go through that. But there’s just very few details you just got to face if you’re going to talk about rebel solutions, and you’re talking about revolutionary history, you’re going to talk about violence, and you’re going to talk about things that Castro did. I don’t know that what he did, was even close to on par with what some other nations did in the name of colonizing and committing genocide. And I mean, so on and so forth.
I would agree on that point. Like, I think there have been both far worse right wing and left wing governments in Cuba’s, um, it’s just I think we’re I’m going to probably disagree a bit is that I think that the embargo matters a lot. But I think a lot of Cuba’s economic woes are self inflicted, um, it does not have a democracy to explain, the Cuban democratic system would take me like 20 minutes, it is the most convoluted complicated shit out there. And ultimately, the Congress just rubber stamps the opinions of like 2321 people who formed the Council of State, and those guys are like the top rats, and they’re like military men and stuff like that. Um, and, you know, there’s no reason why, you know, the Cubans could weren’t allowed to go on the internet until, like, they couldn’t have a cell phone until, like, 2005, they weren’t allowed to use the internet until, like, 2007, there’s like heavy Internet censorship, they weren’t allowed to own a wireless router, until last year, not that they can really afford it. Um, so like, a bunch of restrictions like this, which are, you know, all extremely ugly, on top of an ugly culture, which is also sort of a culture of snitching. Like, if it was very popular in Cuba, to if people found out you were leaving to the United States, to do acts of repudiation against you at your workplace, or maybe have your house sagged or something like that, um, or if you had a side business,
So for example, my dad was a doctor, and he had a side business, which is that he made butter so late at night, he did, he got like a, like, like a Coca Cola candy, cut it in half, he put a motor in it, and late at night, like one or two, he would make butter, and then his friends and him would sell throughout the streets. He was sort of like the Tony Soprano of Cuban butter. Um, and, and somebody, somebody snitched and like, the cops came to our house, because my dad was like, operating like a three person butter selling thing. Because like butter prices in stores you can always buy and there’s like, no butter and stuff like that. So like, what’s the big deal? And like, a lot of those things are counterproductive. I think that complete nationalization, which is what happened in Cuba in 1967. I don’t think that’s necessarily Marxist. And it certainly wasn’t the 1967. Like that is if you believe in historical materialism. And like the way it’s supposed to be set up full nationalization of even like small businesses like that I don’t think is kosher. And you can see that they don’t think it’s kosher, because they’re bringing it back now, like throughout the 2010s. They’ve done a series of reforms to now allow small businesses and things like that, like Cubans weren’t even allowed to import and export out of the country. And now they’re like, okay, you can import an export, like that. Now, they’re trying to open it up in that sense. But that’s, that’s my two cents on on.
I appreciate it. It certainly didn’t take the course of dialectics that Marx predicted through a democratic bourgeoisie revolution, but I think that’s like a whole nother thing. And just a suggestion. I know you got some more podcasts coming in the future, a podcast explaining the Cuban political system who currently would be awesome and I would love to hear it and I really love the podcast I want to make sure Christian if he got one more question
Nick, what are your favorite sources so other than your cast if I want information on Cuban history leading up to the revolution Cuban history involving the revolution, just that era, basically the 1950s up until the early 1960s What are some of your favorite sources?
One of my favorite sources actually and I think you guys like this is a Marxist historian. He’s His name is Samuel Farber. He’s actually written for jacobin in the past he regularly covered stuff about Cuba for Jacobin um, he he’s he actually lived through it he was in Cuba during during the 40s in the 50s. And then he came to here to New York, he’s very old now he’s in his 90s but I did an interview with him that’s also coming up where he talks about that I think he’s absolutely spot on on a lot of things about Cuba before and I think he’s also spot on a lot of the problems in in the modern political system in the United States is a great guy. Um, so Sam Farber is one and the other one you can’t go wrong with is a guy called Louis Perez. He just extensively written so much about Cuba cover basically everything and his prose is very good too. And then recently, a lady called Ada for air Professor Ada for air from NYU came up with a new book Cuba, American history I hear it’s very good. Um, I haven’t had a chance to read it, although I did use a chapter from it recently. What I’ll say to your listeners is that it’s very hard to find history about Cuba written from a right wing perspective. It’s it’s impossible to do. So those are my recommendations.
I had a professor in college his name was Frank Frank, Frank fr e War II, his family fled but they fled Battista is Cuba and he had written a book on Cuba under batik so Frank Freyr our EY are a check him out he’s got some some good stuff so he’s a professor minds to give him a shout out awesome
Man. This has been a lot of fun I hope we turned some people on to check out your podcast Lawrence mystery read these books. I think you know, regardless of your views on the Cuban Revolution, it’s worth listening. If you’re just a history buff I know that my grandpa he was still around with absolutely love you. Okay, good podcast, boys. Man. You got that you got that addiction down so I really your pleasure to listen to one more time for our audience. Can you remind people how to get in touch with you give us your website and where you’re?
Sure you can reach out to me at Twitter at Nick Ramos underscore one and just Google the podcast history of the Cuban Revolution. And you’ll find it anywhere wherever you get your podcast and thank you for having me on. It’s it’s been a lovely conversation. And I hope I wasn’t too long winded.
I think you did a great job and for all you listening in make sure you check us out www.njrevolutionradio.com we’re on YouTube. We’re on Twitter. We’re on Facebook. Follow us on social media. We’ll be live stream every Tuesday night at 8pm with Darryl Lamont Jenkins, Christian Perez myself doing the IDAVOX report. I think we’re gonna have some music come up soon. I’m not sure when this pod is going to go out. So I won’t say it’s going up. But if you check out one of our social media links at 8pm on Tuesday nights, you’ll see us doing our thing live. But until the next time we have a special report. One more time. Thanks Nick Ross, my co host Christian Perez. This is Brian Powers and I want to remind everybody that the police can quit their jobs. Good night, everybody.