On 26th July, 1953, a revolutionary organization led by late Cuban revolutionary, Fidel Castro, attacked the Moncada Barracks, an army base of the then regime based in Santiago, Cuba. After waging a popular revolution, this people’s movement, dubbed the 26th July Movement, finally overthrew the capitalist, America-friendly regime of Fulgencio Batista, on 01st January 1959.

Sometimes known as M-26-7, the 27th of July Movement united forces with other progressive movements to create the United Party of the Socialist Revolution, which became the Communist Party of Cuba (CPC) in 1965.   

Lessons to be learnt from the 26th of July Movement

On this occasion of the 65th anniversary of the launch of the movement, below are lessons to be learnt;

  1. Quantity can be turned into quality

On 08th December 1956, three years after its launch, the 26th of July Movement landed in Cuba from Mexico, where it re-organized itself. The Movement consisted of 82 men, led by brothers Fidel and Raul Castro and medical doctor Dr. Che Guevara. As they landed, in broad daylight, they were attacked by Cuban forces, and were separated into two groups.

Ultimately, only 12 men regrouped at the Sierra Maestra mountainous area. Despite these temporary setbacks, and the attacks from better armed, and quantitatively superior Cuban army, the Cuban socialist revolutionary forces triumphed two years later, in 1959.

To win a battle, numbers are important, but are not the only input towards victory. The Cuban revolutionary forces were able to convert their 82 men into a formidable, qualitative force. Though the 26th of July Movement, one of the laws of Dialectics; The Law of Transformation of Quantity into Quality was realized.

  1. Revolution, and not reform, is necessary to necessary to effect societal changes

Before the socialist revolution, Cuba was in a sorry state. The island was like a brothel used by rich Americans, who exploited the islands’ resources for selfish interests. The people of Cuba were passive spectators in the country of their origin, whilst the Americans and the few wealthy elites wallowed in luxury lives. Typical of a capitalist state, the pre-revolution Cuba was marred with rampant corruption, inefficiency and anti-poor policy positions.

After the socialist revolution, Cuba continues to realize significant achievements, despite the brutal trade embargo imposed by its capitalist, bullying neighbor; USA. Cuba created a centrally planned economy, which saw almost all industry removed from private ownership and run for common good instead of in the pursuance of profit maximization.

One of the strategic highlights of the post-revolution era is Cuba’s massive literacy campaign, which took place from 1st January until 22nd December 1961. Through this campaign, hundreds of thousands of volunteers traversed throughout the country to teach other Cubans how to read and to write. More than half of these volunteers were teenage women. In one year, about 700 000 Cubans became literate.

Today, Cuba boasts a literacy rate of 99.8%, outshining that of the US (99.0%), and Korea (97,9%), amongst others. As a demonstration of the literacy levels in Cuba, Cuban engineers, doctors and other professional are providing specialized skills in USA, South Africa, Venezuela, etc. It was through a revolution, and not reform, that the above qualitative changes could be made. 


As we prepare to close the month of July, I believe we must be inspired by the level of revolutionary discipline, activism and morality as displayed by the 26th of July Movement. As we grapple with the challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment, we must remind ourselves that it is only through revolution, and not reform, that we can realize qualitative changes for the benefit of our people as a whole. The need to accelerate the waging of the National Democratic Revolution is more than heightened. In thinking about the revolution, we must remember the bold revolutionary actions taken by those who led the 26th of July Movement.   


By Tiisetso ‘Afrika’ Makhele, African Marxist and a member of the ANC in Mangaung Region, Free State

Posted in Viewpoints.

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