The Cuban revolution was won by only a few hundred revolutionaries. But to run a state, especially an undemocratic one, you need to have control over the monopoly on violence.

But enforcing a monopoly on violence in a country with several million people can not be done by just a few hundred revolutionaries, so Castro must have gained control over the military and police rather quickly.

It seems unlikely to me that the military and police would just unquestionably accept Castro's authority, especially when he quickly stopped all process towards public elections. So I wonder how he gained this control, but I have not been able to find any sources on this.

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    "It seems unlikely to me that the military and police would just unquestionably accept Castro's authority" - this is the problematic sentence. In your question you assert something doubtful and request explanation. The revolution was very popular among the populance and Castro was the leader of the revolution. You can compare him to other revolutionary leaders, such as George Washington. – Anixx Nov 14 '13 at 19:23
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    @Anixx: In what way is that sentence problematic? You imply that the military and police actually supported Castro. But if they did they would have joined the revolution. They did not, instead they fought it. Hence, there is nothing problematic with my standpoint that I find it unlikely that they would just unquestionably have accepted Castro's authority. – Lennart Regebro Nov 14 '13 at 19:43
  • so your question is how Castro won the fight against police? – Anixx Nov 14 '13 at 19:47
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    No, @Anixx. My question is the one I stated above, in the question. If you don't understand it, feel free to expand on what you find unclear and I will attempt to explain. – Lennart Regebro Nov 14 '13 at 20:07
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    @LennartRegebro I dont really have a good answer, but its reasonable to assume that there were various factions within the Batista regime, some of which might have been more favorable to cooperation with Castro or at least not determined to keep Batista 'in power' at any cost. – Mario Elocio Nov 14 '13 at 22:49

Batista had already started losing control of the military months prior to Granma's landing. In early April 1956, recently promoted General Ramón Barquín lead a coup to remove Batista from power. The coup failed, and Batista purged the military of Barquín's supporters, and hundreds of officers were hastily replaced by less experienced ones. This would prove crucial to the success of the initial stages of the revolution, as the army failed to contain Castro's forces (that grew out of the 12-20 survivors from Granma's landing) repeatedly.

Batista could have ended the revolution days after it started. Instead he chose to spend the next couple of years antagonizing the populace. His military ineptness, and his erratic and more often than not quite brutal behavior lost him any popular support he may once had. Castro's forces didn't grow significantly during this time, but his movement's popularity exploded. In March 1958, Batista had gone so far that he lost his most important ally: the US. An arms embargo led to further deterioration of the Cuban army, which was heavily reliant on US arms.

A couple of months later, Batista made his worst decision since the start of the revolution: Operation Verano. Ignoring the fact that his army was rotting from the inside, he decided to move against Castro with a force that may have been about 40 times larger than Castro's, but half of them were new recruits. To make matters worst, Batista divided operational control between Generals Eulogio Cantillo and Alberto del Rio Chaviano. The embarrassing failure of a 12,000 strong force against 300-400 rebels further demoralized the military. A few key officers (e.g. Jose F. Quevedo) even switched sides, and at this point Batista's army, while still vastly superior in numbers, didn't really seem like a formidable adversary for Castro.

By the time he fled, Batista had managed to completely lose the confidence of most his officers and deprive his army of its main source of arms. When he fled he also took with him most of the remaining loyalist officers and ministers, and millions of US dollars. Almost everyone that could have resisted Castro after he assumed powered was either off the island or severely lacking in resources. Castro finished the job securing his position by imprisoning or executing whomever was left that could potentially resist him.

However, even without key pre-revolutionary figures to lead them, significant resources or even popular support, a group of Batista loyalists continued opposing Castro. The War Against the Bandits (the Escambray Rebellion) lasted for six years, and it wasn't until it was over that Castro gained complete control.

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    This is a good part-answer, as it explains why Castro won the civil war, and explains why most of the military didn't oppose the revolution enough to continue fighting. However, it doesn't explain how Castro gained control over the military, which is the central question. (The answer to that is that he didn't he disbanded it and created a new army ref page 66 ). – Lennart Regebro Nov 17 '13 at 8:47
  • @LennartRegebro Castro disbanded the army, indeed. But disbanding the army is just an order, if the army was in a position to resist, they could have just refused the order. – yannis Nov 17 '13 at 12:11
  • @Yannis Rizos: As I understood it, the rank and file of the Cuban army was pro Castro, or at least not pro Batista, so once Castro removed a few of the top officers, the army was his. And in "reconstituting" it, he would naturally pick the most favorable elements. – Tom Au Nov 17 '13 at 15:19
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    @TomAu The majority of the rank and file of the Cuban army was pro Batista when Batista came to power. Batista, with his at times completely nonsensical behaviour, managed to lose their support in the following years. Or, if you will, Castro managed to make them switch sides. – yannis Nov 17 '13 at 15:23

The army of Fidel Castro won a civil war against the army of Batista. The basic reason is that many of Batista's soldiers, and a number of his lower ranking officers defected to Castro. After he won, Castro maintained his role has head of a reconstituted pro-Castro military, while (initially) ruling through others, such as President Urrutia. As time went on, Castro appointed himself (his brothers, and comrades such as Che Guevara) to more and more positions until they effectively controlled the Cuban government.

As was the case with Hitler, it was a "creeping" dictatorship.

  • That sounds highly plausible. Do you have any sources? – Lennart Regebro Nov 16 '13 at 20:18
  • @LennartRegebro: See the link. – Tom Au Nov 16 '13 at 20:25
  • I'm sorry, I can't see any support there for your claims that the defections from the military were an important reason for them losing the war, nor that the military was reconstituted nor that Castro remained the head of the military. – Lennart Regebro Nov 16 '13 at 20:31
  • @LennartRegebro: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fidel_Castro Second sentence or so, "He served as commander in chief of the armed forces." This was right after the civil war, so he had just merged Batista's army with his own. Under the section "Batista's Fall," it talks about how a whole battalion deserted from Batista to him even though he had only 300 men. It's not easy reading for a non-native English speaker, and I "read between the lines" but those are my conclusions. – Tom Au Nov 16 '13 at 20:35
  • Well, you kicked me in the right direction at least. It is in fact clear that the Cuban army was disbanded in 1959, and that a new army was created in 1960. So that's how he gained control over the Army. Obvious once you know it. :-) – Lennart Regebro Nov 17 '13 at 8:07

Addressing more directly your question.

At the time of the revolution

Police really resisted, but may be weakly. This is because Batista was unpopular and was seen as representing the foreign (US) interests.

After the revolution

Most people would choose to secure and advance their carrier rather than to fight for better implementation of democracy, especially if the fight is accompanied with risk and bloodshed. Deposing Castro would mean implementing another coup.

Yet those who really disliked Castro could leave their positions and join the anti-Communist rebels, a step which some could actually conduct.

In short: if there was no police coup against Batista (who was much more unpopular), why should there be a coup against Castro?

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    Batista was a military dictator. He took power through a military coup. He had the military support. Your assertion that he was unpopular within the military and/or police has no support in reality. You are just speculating, and since you are completely ignorant about both politics and Cuban history, the outcome is is not useful. – Lennart Regebro Nov 15 '13 at 22:11
  • @Lennart Regebro if he was so popular, why they did not save him? And about what popularity do you talk, about high-ranks or the low ranks? – Anixx Nov 16 '13 at 5:52
  • They tried to save him but failed. Duh. And as for your second question, that is in fact (finally) a good one. – Lennart Regebro Nov 16 '13 at 6:19
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    @Lennart Regebro seems they did not try too seriously, do you really think if the army wants they cannot stop 500 men? – Anixx Nov 16 '13 at 6:31
  • Well that's your conjecture. You have no sources to support it. – Lennart Regebro Nov 16 '13 at 6:37

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