By Joseph Hansen
This pamphlet consists of a series of articles, writ-
ten in defense of the Cuban Revolution, which ap-
peared in the Militant from May 9 to August 22. 1960.
116 University Place
New York 3. N. Y.
In their plush skyscraper offices at 444 Madison Ave-
nue, high above Manhattan's famous street of hucksters,
the editors and executives of one of the country's most
widely circulated magazines were planning their April 25
issue. To anyone but these cynics, the problem might have
seemed tough. Where should they turn the crystal ball?
What was the most important, spot in the world news?
Newsweek's top forecasters didn't take long to decide.
Cuba, of course. The tiny, poverty-stricken island of Cuba
down there in the Caribbean just ninety miles from Florida.
This is the startling prediction they put as No. 1 item
in "The Periscope," that fast-reading dish of inside dope
that keeps you "Ahead of the News":
"STATE DEPARTMENT — Will Castro sever relations
with the U.S. soon? This is highly possible — maybe on May
Day. Another possibility for May Day, when 1.5 million highly
volatile Cubans will be on the streets: A violent showdown
between Castro and the growing opposition to his regime.
Still another possibility, according to well-placed diplomats:
That Castro will unveil a number of Red-built MIG jet
fighters said to have arrived on a Czech freighter recently."
Was the prediction accurate? An honest question like
that is good for a laugh at 444 Madison Avenue. That was
no prediction; it was bait for the suckers.
Some relations were severed all right. On April 28
Guatemala severed diplomatic relations with Cuba. United
Fruit, a giant Wall Street monopoly, dominates Guatemala;
United Fruit also has large holdings in Cuba; United Fruit
doesn't like Castro.
Was there a "violent showdown" in Cuba May 1? No.
Instead some 1,200,000 farm and city workers paraded in
every city and town to demonstrate their solidarity and
their support of the government they put in power through
a popular revolution like our revolution of 1776.
Did Castro "unveil a number of Red-built MIG jet
fighters"? All Castro did was "unveil" another school April
29, a school converted from a military barracks.
But if you had read Newsweek's "prediction" without
stopping to think, would you have felt favorably impressed
by the Castro government? Would you have felt like visit-
Let's sample something a little less slick. Not a "pre-
UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS
diction" hand-tooled by the Madison Avenue craftsmen,
but a rough-talking editorial from the Sarasota, Florida,
Herald Tribune. It was inserted in the April 29 Congres-
sional Record by Senator Russell B. Long, who represents
Louisiana's sugar-cane barons:
"The Cuban regime has failed to honor its international
agreements, has brutalized its own citizens, and is not worthy
of the diplomatic recognition the U.S. Government has
extended . . .
"Castro has turned Cuba into an armed camp, with even
children and parents drilling in the streets. He has spent
millions of dollars for war materials in. Europe, and is even
now concluding a deal with Communist Poland to obtain
Russian-built jet aircraft.
"How long are we going to continue to subsidize this
dictatorship with millions of dollars in payment for sugar at
prices above the world market? How long are we going to
continue to lend prestige to this strutting megalomaniac by
extending formal diplomatic recognition?"
The propaganda has a deadly familiar ring. It is the
language used to create a hated image in your mind — the
image of The Enemy. The calculation is that if enough
loaded words like these are fed to the public, and the
public is not [given a chance to hear the intended victim,
then everybody will agree that The Enemy should be
CRUSHED— even if it's a little country like Cuba.
Why are the billionaire monopolists, the Madison Ave-
nue hucksters and' the Southern, racists so concerned over
Cuba? Why do they want to break off diplomatic relations
and smash the new government?
The truth is that the Cuban revolution wounded them
where it hurts most — in the pocketbook. They are afraid
the Cuban example will spread throughout Latin America.
They fear it will help strengthen the struggle for Negro
equality in the United States.
A favorite theme of the capitalist press is that the new
Cuban government is doing everything it can to "provoke"
the United States.
Here we are in the U.S., an easy-going people like the
Swiss, inclined to mind our own business, anxious just
to get by and live in peace, not bothering anybody; and
then, for no good reason at all, this big, paranoiac country
of Cuba, a militaristic nation armed to the teeth, suddenly
starts pushing us around, like it was trying to start some-
thing. Most ominous of all, according to this way of report-
ing recent developments, the Cubans began screaming sub*
versive anti-American sentiments at us. That, of course,
proves the existence of a sinister plot, the ultimate aim of
which is to move in on our country and take us over.
If you visit Cuba, you get a different impression. It's
a small narrow island that would reach from San Fran-
cisco to about Salt Lake City. In area it's no bigger than
Pennsylvania. They guess that the census now being taken
will show about six and a half million people.
Although the countryside is a lush tropical green, the
people are poor. Here's how Robert Taber, in the Jan. 23
Nation, succinctly described their situation before the
revolution that overthrew the Batista dictatorship.
"Cuba's illiteracy rate was one of the highest in the hemis-
phere, 33,5 per cent. A million Cuban women and children
had never worn shoes. Half a million campesinos had never
tasted milk, or meat. More than a million had never had
even the most rudimentary medical care. Thousands of
guajiros in the Sierra Maestra were as isolated from the rest
of the nation as though they lived on an island in the Pacific,
without roads, communications, or any contact with the out-
To go to Cuba and talk with these people , is highly
educational. They are most friendly. In fact they are eager
for Americans to visit Cuba. If you ask them about their
revolution they will go out of their way to explain it to
you, for they are as proud of it as we are of our revolution
of 1776. In fact you'll find much in common, for they like
to cite us as one of their examples. From Patrick Henry's
famous words they even chose the main slogan of their
revolution: "Liberty or Death!"
But you had better brace yourself for a shock if you
haven't done a little reading about Cuba before landing in
Havana. They think that in its attitude toward struggles
for independence the USA has changed considerably since
1776. They look at the United States today the way our
revolutionary forefathers looked at Tory England. Instead
of acting as a good neighbor, America, they are convinced,
has done them great damage. It has forced their economy
into abnormal shape, siphoned off their wealth, and saddled
them with oppressive regimes.
They do not blame the American people. Their experi-
ence is that the ordinary American is a well-meaning,
favorably disposed person; unfortunately he doesn't know
much about Cuba or any other Latin-American -country
and he is inclined to accept as gospel whatever he reads in
the newspapers. The Cubans blame the financiers and
monopolists, who, in contrast to the working man, study
Latin America assiduously and are very alert to economics
and politics below the Rio Grande.
Why U.S. Sent Troops
One of the things that rankle with the Cubans is a
long-standing tendency in Washington to look at their
country as a prize to be taken like the Louisiana Purchase
or Texas, California, and the other parts of the West which
we seized from Mexico. They can quote declarations going
back as far as Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams on
the advisability of eventually grabbing Cuba. They cite
proposals of statesmen of the Southern slavocracy to wrest
Cuba from Spain and make it another slave state.
Cuba's struggle for independence from Spain began
in 1868. It is the conviction of the Cubans that this struggle
could have been won rather rapidly had aid been forthcom-
ing from America. Instead, Washington's policy was to
prevent Cuba from gaining her independence, the reason-
ing being that it was better to let the declining Spanish
empire retain rule until the "fruit" became "ripe" where-
upon it could be expected to drop into the waiting Ameri-
Cuba's freedom fighters continued to battle against
the Spanish tyranny. By 1898 victory was in their hands.
However, in January of that year President McKinley
began open preparations for war on Spain. At the end of
the month, the U.S. battleship "Maine" was sent to Havana
harbor. On February 15 it blew up with a loss of 266 lives.
The true cause of the explosion was never determined, but
the suspicion remains that it was a cloak-and-dagger opera-
tion hatched in Washington.
In any case, utilizing the explosion as a pretext, Con-
gress voted $50,000,000 "for the national defense" and on
March 25 declared that a state of war had existed with
Spain for four days.
American troops were landed in Cuba under the pro-
claimed aim of aiding the Cuban struggle for independence.
The Spanish- American War was short. Spain signed a peace
treaty on December 10 ceding the Philippines, Guam and
Puerto Rico outright to the United States and relinquishing
Cuba. But American troops did not leave the island. They
stayed four years as an army of occupation.
Among the things this army did was to prevent the
Cubans from forming a government of their own free
choice. The Wall Street interests sought to annex Cuba
However, public clamor rose in the United States against
such a brazen move. The Democratic party, in striking
contrast to its present-day, bipartisan, "me too" attitude,
made an issue in the 1900 elections of "Republican" imper-
ialism. "Imperialism," whether Republican or Democratic,
was an accurate label for America's new role in world
Today, to expose the hypocrisy of State Department
propaganda, the Cubans remind Americans of that army
of occupation. "You demand that the Castro government
hold immediate elections," they say. "But when your army
occupied our country, you prevented elections from being
held for four years."
President McKinley sent American troops to intervene
in the civil war in Cuba in 1898 ostensibly to aid the inde-
pendence movement. His real reason was to make Cuba
safe for American investments. That was why the troops
were kept there for four years. By the time they were ready
to leave, Cuba was safe for the Almighty Dollar.
By 1959 private American capital investments were
listed at around $850,000,000. This does not sound like very
much compared, say, to the some $2,000,000,000 which the
Pentagon and State Department are reputed to take out of
the public till each year for nothing but world-wide spying.
But America's financial sharks are noted for their excep-
tionally strong parental instincts. They suffer agonies if the
smallest investment is endangered; they will fight feroci-
ously to protect it from harm; and they are fabled for their
solicitude in providing it with human flesh, bones and
nerves so that it will prosper and grow.
Thus a half century after the American troops were
withdrawn, at least 40% of the sugar production in Cuba
was held by U.S. corporations. About 90% of the island's
mineral wealth was in the hands of Americans and 80% of
public utilities. Cuba's oil resources were completely owned
by American and British corporations. The biggest cattle
ranches were likewise listed in the investment portfolios
of American coupon clippers.
How much wealth was funneled from Cuba into Ameri-
can bank accounts since Cuba fell into Wall Street's orbit
is not known. At present the Cuban government has been
opening the books of the big corporations to try to get an
idea. When the facts are made public, they should make
Even worse than the exhausting drain of profits wrung
from the toil of the Cuban workers and campesinos, were
the pernicious effects on the structure of the economy. Cuba
became a one-crop country.
This does not mean much to American workers when
they first hear about it. "So what?" they ask.
World's Sugar Bowl
If we had a world-wide, integrated economy run ac-
cording to scientific plan, a small country would very likely
find it advantageous to concentrate on what its resources,
climate and skills best enable it to produce. Bolivia's tin,
Venezuela's oil and Cuba's sugar might then be regarded
as the most important contributions to the satisfaction of
humanity's material needs that could be produced in these
countries for some time to come. Under capitalism, how-
ever, a one-crop economy compounds and intensifies the
ordinary evils of this antiquated way of producing our
basic necessities. The life of an entire nation becomes sub-
ject, sometimes to a disastrous degree, to the vagaries of
the market and to the whim and calculations of a handful
of ruthless, profit-minded monopolists.
In Cuba, sugar customarily accounted for two-thirds
of the national income and 80% of exports. Property hold-
ings became so concentrated that until the agrarian reform
of a year ago, 75% of all the cultivated land was held by
some 8% of the country's property owners. About 700,000
peasants held no land at all.
Taber summarizes figures indicating the situation fac-
ing the working class as follows:
"Of the total Cuban labor force of 2,204,000, some 361,000
persons were wholly unemployed throughout 1957; 150,000
were employed only part of the time; 154,000 were engaged
in ucremunerated labor — e.g., as domestic servants, working
for their meals and lodgings. Of 1,539,000 Cubans gainfully
employed, 954,000 earned less than $75 a month in a nation
where the peso was on a par with the dollar and had even
less purchasing power in Havana than in New York."
These are graphic figures; but they fail to indicate the
plight of the 500,000 sugar workers in Cuba's main industry.
Employment for them existed each year only during the
four months of the harvest. The other eight months were
known as the "dead time."
For an American worker to grasp the meaning of that,
he would have to recall in all its vividness the great depres-
sion of the thirties. That was a "dead time" in the richest
country in the world, when it seemed hopeless to find work
and millions found themselves reduced to beggary.
In poverty-stricken Cuba, eight months out of each
year counted as a major depression for the bulk of the
working people. The misery, suffering and hopelessness
they experienced make for bleak reading. It is must read-
ing, however, if you want to understand the reasons for
the sensitivity of the Cubans to what happens in Washing-
ton and the counting houses of Manhattan.
They ate malanga, which is something like a straight
potato diet. Sugar cane was a second staple. Thus they
grew up stunted and subject to vitamin deficiency diseases.
They lived in huts called bohlos. No floor, just the bare
earth. A roof made of thatch from the royal palm, much
appreciated by all kinds of insects.
Their clothes, more often than not, were patched rags.
They went barefoot although this is hazardous in
They went without dental care, losing their teeth when
they were still young. And they went without medical care.
As for education, some 2,000,000 Cubans could neither
read nor write.
Tens of thousands of fertile acres, growing to weeds,
were available for cultivation, but feudal-minded landlords
barred this. Cuba's long-suffering victims of chronic hun-
ger, malnutrition and abysmal poverty had to avoid tres-
passing on land that really belonged to the people as a
whole. To heighten their bitterness, Wall Street's propa-
gandists made sure that they heard all about the "free
world" and its wonders, particularly the prosperous
"American Way of Life."
The American propagandists need not have rubbed it
in. The Cuban masses were well prepared to desire a change
in their way of life.
Uncle Sam as "Big Brother"
American domination of Cuba can be divided into five
First came the period of direct military rule over the
island under General John R. Brooke and later Major
General Leonard Wood. The aim of U.S. military occupa-
tion was to make the country safe for American invest-
ments. This included such progressive things as stamping
but yellow fever and introducing modern sanitation, but
these measures were linked with a major political objec-
tive: to block the Cuban independence fighters from gov-
ernment office and to set up a structure of rule best suited
to guarantee high profits.
By May 20, 1902, when the army of occupation was
withdrawn, Cuba was well prepared for penetration of the
dollar. Elections had been supervised by the American
military forces, the candidates thoroughly screened. The
constitution had been processed under General Wood's
vigilant eye. As a final guarantee, an amendment to the
constitution, fathered by Senator Orville H. Piatt of Con-
necticut, had been forced down the throat of the new
This notorious appendix obliged the Cubans to ratify
everything done by the military occupation, forbade any
government loans that could not be paid off through an
excess above current revenues, forbade any foreign treaties
not approved by Washington, gave the U.S. the right to
intervene in Cuba's internal affairs whenever necessary to
maintain "a government adequate for the protection of life,
property and individual liberty," and finally, to make
everything doubly sure, gave the U.S. the right to buy or
lease lands necessary for military bases.
Under the latter clause, American troops have been
stationed in Cuba ever since. These have been supple-
mented from time to time by the landing of marines to
maintain the kind of government favored by Wall Street.
In the second stage of American domination the Wall
Street locusts settled on highly profitable economic con-
cessions and contracts.
Under the administration (1909-13) of Jose Miguel
Gomez, a typical Latin-American caudillo, or military chief,
the third stage of American economic domination opened.
This was the period of the sugar barons, who converted
Cuba to a one-crop economy. They consolidated their
position under President Mario G. Menocal, an employee
of the Cuban- American Sugar Company, who stole a second
term and remained in office under the protection of U.S.
marines until 1922.
During Menocal's second term a new stage of Amer-
ican domination opened. The Morgan gang, National City
Bank, the Royal Bank of Canada, and Chase National Bank
became the real rulers of Cuba and they rapidly brought
the sugar industry under their control. They entrenched
themselves under Alfredo Zayas, who stole the 1921 elec-
tions, and Gerardo Machado (elected 1925, overthrown
Finally we come to the Batista period, which lasted
with interruptions from 1933 to 1959. We will consider
Carleton Beals, in his book "The Crime of Cuba," de-
scribes the first four stages in considerable detail. He
summarizes the economic side as follows:
"1900 to 1917 marks the gradual infiltration of American
capital, the pace ever quickening toward the end of the span.
1917 to 1922 marks a virtual tidal wave of American capital
investment. Those years also mark the beginning of bankers'
control over sugar and other resources. By the 1922 crisis
J. P. Morgan and Company, Chase National Bank, National
City Bank, and allied Canadian institutions moved into domi-
nance, ever expanding their equities in the industrial and
agricultural enterprises. 1922 to 1933 marks the definite con-
solidation of bankers' control. Through the Electric Bond and
Share Company and the International Telephone and Tele-
graph Company, close to the house of Morgan, public utilities
were gathered into the fold. Most railroads, not in English
hands, are controlled by the Tarafa-Woodin-Rubens-Lakin-
Rockefeller combination, closely harmonized with the Ameri-
can Car and Foundry Company and the National City Bank.
Cubans own far less of the wealth of their country than in
Beals indicates the extent of American domination of
Cuba by 1933 as follows:
"One-third of Cuba's territory, nearly 90 percent of the
cultivated lands of the island, is owned or controlled by long-
time leases by Americans or American corporations. The
remainder is largely mortgaged to American banks and
creditors. Eighty percent of the sugar industry belongs to
citizens of the United States; the rest is controlled chiefly
by American creditors. Cuba's second industry — tobacco —
is also mostly American. Nearly all the banks, railroads,
street-car lines, electric plants, telephone systems and other
public utilities are owned by capital from the United States."
Subservient to Washington to begin with, Cuba's gov-
ernments came increasingly into the service of American
imperialism. Shocking poverty and lack of economic
opportunity helped foster the growing corruption of public
office. Once behind a government desk, the average Cuban
official immediately went to work to sweeten up his own
bank account at the expense of the public treasury. In this
he was abetted by the American ambassadors, for they were
there, among other things, to facilitate plunder of the
Cuban treasury, in the form of loans, by Manhattan's
Regime of the "Sawed-off Shotgun"
As public dissatisfaction and unrest mounted over this
state of affairs, Cuba's military forces grew in size, venality
and ferocity. This tendency, deliberately fostered by Wall
Street and the State Department, reached its culmination
in the government of Gerardo Machado. His became
known as the regime of the "Sawed-Off Shotgun." He
smashed the trade unions, murdering their leaders. He
butchered politically minded students, finally closing down
the University of Havana and many lesser schools. He
suppressed all opposition, jailing, torturing and killing
any who dared to hint lack of enthusiasm about the way
he ran things. Professional criminals, preferably mur-
derers, became candidates for his gangs of killers, both
official and unofficial, and he put his armed henchmen
in control of the most ordinary civic institutions to pre-
vent them from becoming centers of resistance.
Resistance mounted, nevertheless. The dictator, rely-
ing on the backing of the U.S. government, refused to give
an inch. He swore that no power would dislodge him from
office. On May 20, 1930, reviewing his troops, he declared
that "before resigning the Presidency of the Republic, I
will drown the island in blood."
Among those who joined conspicuously in the applause
was Ambassador Harry F. Guggenheim of Anaconda
Copper, the American Smelting and Refining Company, and
the New York banks interested in Cuban sugar.
Ruling as a political servant of America's top financial
interests, Dictator Gerardo Machado brought Cuba's army
to peak strength. Since the country has no land frontiers
to dispute over, the desire to have a big military machine
appeared irrational to many Cubans. However, from the
viewpoint of the cold-eyed men who survey this world
from the countinghouses of Manhattan, nothing is more
reasonable than a disciplined body of killers, armed with
modern weapons, to protect the source of your profits.
The Cuban people did not yet grasp the full meaning
of this murderous force, bristling with arms, which had
been put together under the political guidance of the
State Department and trained under American officers.
They saw Machado, not the military institution, as the
prime source of the terror inflicted upon them. And it must
be recognized that Machado did all he could in a personal
way to deserve the nationwide fear, bitterness and hatred
turned in his direction.
The people acted as people will under tyranny. Some
tried short cuts, venting their feelings in individual heroic
— if ineffective — acts, such as exploding bombs and
killing the worst public officials in suicidal gestures of
despair. The students began organizing more effective po-
litical protest demonstrations. Spontaneous strikes broke
out. The Communist party, although it had been outlawed
since 1925, gained recruits from all sides. A Havana bus
strike spread like a chain reaction throughout the island.
"This general strike is a marvelous thing," the wife of the
New York Times correspondent wrote in her diary August
6, 1933. "An entire nation folds its arms and quits work."
Sumner Welles had arrived as American ambassador
in May. He began his work by urging Machado to resign.
But the dictator took a stubborn attitude. The culmination
of Welles' intervention was action by the military staff.
For the first time in Cuba, the army displayed the power
it had gained. The top brass informed Machado, who had
built the military institution into a main instrument of rule,
that his usefulness as president had ended. They advised
him to resign within twenty-four hours.
Machado decided that the advice was good. On August
12 he took a "leave of absence" and left for the U.S., bullets
whistling past his plane as it rose from the field.
On August 14 Carlos Manuel de Cespedes was sworn
in. The conservative son of an illustrious leader in Cuba's
struggle for independence from Spain, he had proved his
docility by serving in Machado's cabinet. He was the choice
of Sumner Welles.
But the concession of putting the name "Cespedes" in
office did not halt the developing revolutionary movement.
The people were in the streets by this time hunting down
the worst government gunmen and executioners. The
strikes continued. Workers took possession of plantations,
mills and factories. In places they elected shop committees.
As the news came over the ticker tapes, the Wall Street
UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS
operators deduced what might come next. They could lose
their Cuban holdings. In those circles that is a fate worse
than death. Where could a new strong man be found in a
Batista's "Junta" Takes Over
On September 5 a "Revolutionary Junta" under the
leadership of one Fulgencio Batista y Zaldivar seized
power. The Junta represented principally the lower officer
caste in the army; but Batista shrewdly involved the lead-
ers of the radical student forces. The Junta appointed five
commissioners to form a new government and Batista went
to see Sumner Welles.
The students pressed hard for Dr. Ramon Grau San
Martin, a member of the commission of five, to be named
president. Welles didn't like the university professor, whom
Machado had imprisoned on the Isle of Pines. Obviously
a leftist egghead.
But the pressure was so great that Batista kicked out
Cespedes and named Grau to the job September 10. Wash-
ington refused to recognize the new government and re-
called Welles. On December 18 Jefferson Caffrey arrived
in Havana as "special representative" of President Roose-
velt. Apparently some of FDR's famous "charm" had
rubbed off on Caffrey. Things began to happen. On January
15, 1934, on Batista's order, Grau resigned.
Batista made Carlos Hevia president. That was only a
tactical step aimed at confusing political opposition groups.
Hevia lasted exactly two days. On January 18 Batista put
in Carlos Mendieta. This was the candidate Washington
wanted. In face of protests from the Cuban students at
having to swallow this reactionary, Roosevelt recognized
the new government January 23. Batista then moved
swiftly to smash the protest demonstrations and to arrest
Some observers have concluded that this opening stage
of Batista's rise to power was nothing but pure chaos. They
are wrong. The revolutionary pressure had risen high.
Batista gave the appearance of bending with it. He did
this until its strength was down and his own base was firm,
then he moved against it.
During that period he had demonstrated his ability to
control the army in the interests of American capitalism. At
the same time, he had shown that he was genuinely popular
among the majority of the professional officer caste and
even the ranks of the army — he was a talented demagogue.
His replacement of one president after another demonstrated
his tactical suppleness and his ability to confuse and break
up the civilian political opposition. In Wall Street's balance
sheet he was evidently not only willing to play ball but was
well qualified. No one else in Cuba came near him as a
Something else had been proved. The military machine
was now so powerful in Cuba, and in such skilled and
understanding hands, that it was obviously no longer
necessary for American imperialism to use direct interven-
tion. The crude use of marines had become outmoded.
This provided a promising opportunity to prove the
sincerity of Roosevelt's "Good Neighbor Policy." The Demo-
cratic chief now gave Batista a powerful assist. He granted
a concession. To show that American capitalism had re-
formed and could now be counted on to behave as a big
brother who would never again use a club on small chil-
dren, Roosevelt agreed to a new treaty annulling the hated
Piatt Amendment. This was signed on May 29, 1934.
The rejoicing at this concession was great in Cuba, but
somewhat premature. Batista, the enigmatic maker and
unmaker of presidents, was busy polishing up the army,
oiling its special privileges, adjusting the placement of
henchmen, tuning up his military-political machine.
In 1935 a great strike wave hit Cuba. To push back the
workers, Mendieta suspended constitutional law and de-
clared a state of siege in Havana. These acts conferred still
more dictatorial power to Batista.
Cuba's new strong man felt so well entrenched that
he decided he could afford to stage a normal election. A
genuine democratic facade, ending the "provisional" gov-
ernment, would have a lot of advantages. Just before the
election Mendieta suddenly resigned. But Batista simply
appointed Jose A. Barnet as the fifth provisional president
since the fall of Machado.
On January 10, 1936, in what appeared to be a fairly
honest election (women voted in Cuba for the first time),
Dr. Miguel Mariano Gomez y Arias won a majority. He
was sworn in May 20.
But he didn't last long. Gomez tried to trim Batista's
power. He dismissed 3,000 government employees who owed
their posts to the dictator. That was a move Batista had not
written in his book. Maybe this democracy stuff was going
a bit too far after all. He had Gomez impeached. On Decem-
ber 22 the trial began. Within two days the president had
been found guilty and removed from office.
A Senate committee told Vice-President Federico
Laredo Bru that he was now it. Laredo proved to be a more
satisfactory occupant of the president's swivel chair.
Batista's main base of power was the army. So long
as that base remained seemingly impregnable, however,
and the class struggle was not acute, he sought to clothe
his rule in at least the forms of democracy.
In preparation for assuming the presidency himself, he
had a constitution drawn up that even recognized the right
of the people to revolt against a despotic government. He
had already managed to give his brass a "New Deal" shine,
achieving this partly by cultivating Roosevelt's friendly
patronage and partly by legislation that could be read as
An expensive campaign helped give Batista the ma-
jority of the votes in the 1940 election. Under his presi-
dency the war boom that ended the depression in the
United States also gave Cuba a measure of prosperity and
the class struggle became relatively quiescent.
In the 1944 elections, Batista decided to run a puppet^
Carlos Saladrigas. The opposition ran Grau San Martin.
The Cubans took the election seriously and Grau won by
a landslide. He took office October 10 amid celebrations
from one end of the island to the other. The hope was that
Grau would now convert the forms of democracy into
genuine substance. Batista's departure to live in Florida
seemed to make this hope even more realistic.
Grau did do a few startling things such as seizing the
American-owned Havana Electric Railway; but his regime
quickly settled down to the main preoccupation of bour-
geois politicians in Cuba — self-enrichment. Fraud and
corruption flourished as before.
The sinister army, too, remained as before. Grau dis-
missed some of the most notorious Batista supporters among
the officer caste but he altered nothing essential. As the
decisive means of rule, the military machine remained
Upon the outbreak of the cold war in 1946 and the
launching of the witch hunt shortly thereafter in the
United States, Grau veered from "New Dealisrn" to "anti-
Communism." In 1947, the same year that Truman decreed
the infamous "Loyalty Oath," the Cubap president ap-
pointed Carlos Prio Socarras as Minister of Labor. Pjrij)
initiated repressive measures against the Communist party
and then in 1948 campaigned for the presidency on an
"anti-Communist" platform. His victory on such a plat-
form was ominous for the future of Cuban politics. Even
more ominous was the victory of Batista as a senator
although he still lived in Florida.
Truman's "anti-Communism" paved the way in the
United States for the rise to prominence of the fascist-
minded Senator McCarthy and the worst wave of witch-
hunting in the history of the country. In Cuba the "anti-
Communism" of Prio Socarras paved the way for Batista's
return to power and a regime worse than anything yet seen.
Batista was running as a poor third in the presidential
elections in 1952. When polls indicated that Ignacio Agra-
monte of the Ortodoxo party was quite certain to win on
election day June 1, Batista moved. He got together the
key officers in the army. With their support he announced
March 10 that he had taken power in order to forestall a
coup d'etat by Prio Socarras.
The incumbent president took refuge in the Mexican
Embassy as Batista declared over the radio, "I have been
forced to carry out this coup because of my love for the
people." Besides this love, he said he also had in mind
"to save the country from chaotic conditions which en-
dangered lives and property." He suspended all consti-
tutional guarantees and canceled the June elections, thus
making himself absolute dictator. At the same time he
announced that if the United States were attacked by or
involved in a war with the Soviet Union, Washington could
count on his support. He also promised, naturally, to pro-
tect American investments. In a couple of weeks, March
27 to be exact, he received U.S. recognition and on April
3 he broke off diplomatic relations with the USSR.
Thus began the bloodiest chapter in Cuba's unhappy
history. The total number of victims in the next seven
years is estimated at around 20,000.
But business, especially American business, never had
it so good in Cuba. Batista, in addition, initiated the most
ambitious construction program in all Latin America, in-
cluding highways, tunnels, office buildings, apartment
houses, hospitals and orphanages.
"Havana was the chief beneficiary of this face lifting,"
writes Dickey Chapelle. "But two out of three Cubans live in
small towns or as squatters beside sugar and coffee plantations.
The outpouring of capital and cement did not reach their
earth-floored huts. They still ate less than their stomachs
craved, their roads remained potholed and flooded, their
school buildings jerry-built or in disrepair, their hospitals only
"Soon it became commonly accepted that at least one dollar
out of every five spent in the country's building boom was
lining the personal pocket of a Batista henchman. The dictator
himself piled up a fortune estimated at 300 million dollars.
A minister of the treasury, debt-ridden when he took office,
became a multimillionaire in a matter of weeks. Hundreds
of other fortunes — large and small — were made as the
government steadily robbed the people. (One senator, Rolando
Masferrer, maintained a private army of more than 1000 men.)"
Robert Taber cites an authoritative estimate that Out
of a public-works budget of $800 million, the graft came
close to $500 million.
How the Wall Street financiers made out in this rain
of dollars is indicated by Carleton Beals in a recent issue
"In 1957, immediately after the brutal murder of one of
the finest men in Cuban public life, Pelayo Cuervo (on orders
of Detective Chief Orlando Piedra after personal consulta-
tion with Batista). Ambassador Arthur Gardner, accompanied
by American Embassy economic advisers and officials of the
Cuban Telephone Company (subsidiary of I.T. & T.) entered
the National Palace, which was still stained with the blood
of unsuccessful revolt, to sign a new contract raising telephone
rates. According to documents found in the office of Edmund
Chester, Batista's public relations adviser, this arrangement
was achieved by the persuasive outlay of three million dol-
lars. Our latest ambassador, Philip W. Bonsai, was for years
a top official of this same telephone company."
Little was overlooked that might serve to line a pocket
with pesos. According to an authoritative Cuban estimate
in 1958, nearly 27,000 persons lived on the take from
.. gambling, and 11,500 on prostitution. Havana swarmed
with American tourists attracted by the daiquiris, the
gambling casinos and lurid burlesque shows. Ten thou-
sand slot machines were under the personal control of
Batista's brother-in-law. In similar fashion Havana's
parking meters were operated by the family of the mayor.
Batista could maintain himself in power only by the
most brutal force. To supplement the army and the
police, he shaped his secret service (SIM) along the lines
of Hitler's Gestapo. As under Machado, sadistic murderers
were recruited from the underworld to serve as profes-
sional butchers in uniform. Political opposition was met
with the submachine gun. Virtually every police station
had its torture room.
"On my desk before me are two signed statements docu-
menting the terrorism," writes Dickey Chapelle. "One is from
a 50-year-old schoolteacher, mother of three children. The
Havana police thought she knew where rebel arms were
hidden. They arrested her in the middle of the night, and she
tells how she was violated with a soldering iron in Havana's
XII District police station on February 24, 1958. A physician's
certificate confirms her assertion."
This instance was not exceptional. The police often
gouged out eyes and castrated their victims before bashing
in their heads. The bodies were commonly thrown in the
streets or dumped in wells. Dickey Chapelle reports a
"One rebel told me he had searched for the remains of
his father among 92 bodies piled at a Havana street inter-
section one morning. 'He was one of the last I looked at,' he
Ruby Hart Phillips, Havana correspondent of the New
York Times, reports a case in her book "Cuba, Island of
Paradox," which vividly indicates what Batista's henchmen
were like. Nine Cuban youths had taken political asylum
in the Haitian Embassy where, according to international
law, they could not be touched. While the Haitian am-
bassador was out to lunch, General Salas Canizares, Chief
of the National Police, raided the embassy and shot down
all the young political exiles. One of them, dying, man-
aged to draw a pistol and shoot the police chief in the
lower abdomen. Cuba's head cop was taken to the hospital.
"Ernestina Otero rushed out to Camp Columbia Hospital
where she knew the General would be taken," continues Mrs.
Phillips. Ernestina was ordered out. "But instead of leaving,
she slipped into a small room adjacent to another operating
room. Then she heard the siren of an ambulance. There was a
window in the little room which permitted her to look into
the operating room. It was the type of glass through which one
can see without being seen from the other side. She watched
as two boys were brought in, still alive, although riddled
with bullets. They were dumped onto the operating tables
like bags of flour. One lifted his head, stared around, then
dropped back. The other was moving his lips. He lifted his
hand and let it fall back. An officer came in. He consulted with
one of the orderlies 'Get a doctor for them,' he said. Just
then Captain Moryon, an aide of Colonel Salas Canizares,
burst in. He looked at the two wounded men, then shouted,
f Never mind the doctor.' He grabbed a knife from a table
covered with instruments and cut the throats of both boys,
Ernestina said she would never forget the scene? '
The July 26 Movement
Americans acquainted to the least degree with the
history of their own country should have no difficulty
understanding why the Cuban people revolted against the
Batista dictatorship. The rebel spirit that : animated the
Boston Tea Party, the encampment at Valley Forgey the
type of fighting seen at Concord and Lexington, inspired
comparable actions in Cuba of the 1950's.
The Cuban revolutionaries felt kinship to the rebels
of 1775-83 but their immediate models were their own
countrymen who opened the struggle for independence
from Spain in 1868 and carried it on for thirty years. Today's
revolutionaries felt themselves to be the direct heirs of
this cause, among other reasons because Batista was not
just a Cuban dictator but the representative of a new
foreign oppressor — the United States. This may sound
strange to Americans who have not studied the role of
our country in Cuba; but it happens to be the fact.
In the early Cuban independence fighters, the revo-
lutionaries of the 1950's found worthy models. Men like
Jose Marti were not just nationalists in the narrow sense
of the word but partisans of the great ideas of freedom and
equality that inspired the American and French revolu-
The young men and women who finally succeeded in
toppling Batista provided new examples of self-sacrifice,
singleness of purpose, energy and heroism which the youth
of the world might well study as they consider taking up
the great causes that move humanity forward, such as
The first important action following Batista's seizure
of powsr was a. raid organized by Fidel Castro on the
Moncada fortress at Santiago on July 26, 1953. It was
something like John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry in
1859. The American abolitionist hoped that his action would
serve as a spark to set off a slave rebellion. The Cuban
rebel counted on a comparable response. The immediate
consequences for the revolutionaries were similarly tragic.
The young Fidel (he was not yet 27) escaped, death only by
sheer accident. Those in his small band of less than 20Q who
did not lose their lives in the attack were hunted down
and implacably slaughtered, some after revolting torture.
A few managed to escape but Castro and other main lead-
ers were sentenced to long terms in the penitentiary on the
Isle of Pines, Castro being condemned to 15 years.
In a certain sense John Brown succeeded in his raid
even though he was hanged. He became an inspiration to
the Northern haters of slavery and, as the battle hymn
declares, his soul went marching on. The Moncada raid had
a similar fate in Cuba; it served to inspire the rebel youth.
When Fidel Castro and his comrades were released under
an amnesty granted to political prisoners in 1955, Havana's
radical-minded students already hailed them as national
Under the title of its closing words, "History will
absolve me!" Castro's five-hour address to the court in his
own self-defense, October 6, 1953, became one of the most
important documents in the movement that finally over-
threw Batista. To this day it is well worth studying as an
indictment of Batista's tyranny and as a passionate defense
of the right of a people to revolt against oppression.
On the legal side, the youthful lawyer based his case
on the constitution of 1940, which recognizes the right of
revolt. Under the same constitution, and the penal Code of
Social Defense, Batista's seizure of power was clearly il-
legal and subject to heavy punishment.
Proceeding along these lines to accuse Batista and
thus turn the defense of the Moncada action into a prosecu-
tion of the criminal regime, Castro appealed to the revolu-
tionary will of the people as the final authority in questions
of government. This was true, he pointed out, even in
ancient times and in the middle ages. Most of his examples,
of course, were taken from modern history. "It is well
known that in England during the eighteenth century two
kings, Charles I and James II, were dethroned for despot-
ism. These acts coincided with the birth of liberal political
philosophy and provided the ideological foundation for a
new social class, which was then struggling to break the
bonds of feudalism."
John Milton, John Locke, Jean Jacques Rousseau,
Thomas Paine, the Declaration of Independence, the French
Declaration of the Rights of Man were among the au-
thorities cited by Castro to prove that "the right to re-
bellion is at the very roots of Cuba's existence as a nation."
As can be-seen, Castro's legal defense did not interfere
with his use of the trial to present his political views. He
and his comrades were performing their duty as citizens,
he said. "We are Cubans and to be Cuban implies a duty.
Not to fulfill that duty is a crime, is treason."
"We are proud of the history of our country," Castro
continued. "We learned history in school and we have grown
up hearing of liberty, justice and human rights.
"We were taught to venerate the glorious example of
our heroes and our martyrs. Cespedes, Agramonte, Maceo,
Gomez and Marti were the first names engraved in our minds.
We were taught .that the titan Maceo had said that liberty is
not begged but is won with the blade of a machete.
"We were taught that for the guidance of Cuba's free
citizens the Apostle [Jose Marti] wi^ote in his 'Book of Gold':
" 'The man who conforms by obeying unjust laws and
permits anybody to trample the country in which he was born,
] the man who so mistreats his country, is not an honorable
" 'In the world there must be a certain degree of decorum
just as there must be a certain amount of light. When there
are many men without decorum, there are always others who
bear in themselves the dignity of many men. These are the
men who rebel with great force against those who steal the
people's freedom — that is to say, against those who steal
human dignity itself.' "
Perhaps the most eloquent section of Castro's speech
before the court was his defense of the martyrs who fell
in the Moncada assault. Castro is not the flowery type of
orator; his eloquence resides in the marshalling of facts
and explanations. In front of the judges assigned to con-
demn him, he described the financial sacrifices these young
people had made to buy guns, the risks they had accepted
to carry out the assault, and the heroism with which they
laid down their lives in the cause of freedom and justice.
In stark contrast to this he described the corruption, foul-
ness and barbarous acts of Batista and'his butchers. It was
an account that could not but stir the youth of Cuba — and
Castro explained exactly what the attack on the fortress
sought to accomplish, exactly how it was organized, who
the leaders were and how they intended to proclaim their
aims over the radio station that was listed for capture.
Today greatest interest attaches to the program he out-
lined. It included "much more than "restoration of public
liberties and political democracy."
It advocated granting land to the smallholders, making
the property "not mortgageable and not transferable." For
the workers Castro proposed "the right to share 30% of
the profits of all the large industrial, mercantile and mining
enterprises, including the sugar mills." Anew revolutionary-
government would order "the confiscation of all holdings
and ill-gotten gains of those who had committed frauds
during previous regimes, as well as the holdings ?nd ill-
gotten gains of all their legatees and heirs." To implement
this, special courts would be given full powers to look into
the records of all corporations.
In addition another series of laws would be promul-
gated such as "the Agrarian Reform, Integral Reform of
Education, nationalization of the Utilities Trust and the
Telephone Trust, refund to the people of the illegal ex-
cessive rates this company has charged, and payment to
the Treasury of all taxes brazenly evaded in the past."
Six Main Problems
The rebel leader outlined in some detail from the
prisoner's docket what he considered to be Cuba's six main
problems: Land, industrialization, housing, unemployment,
education, and health. Here is a section of his speech that
will indicate how he proposed to solve these:
"It is not by statesmen such as Carlos Saladrigas [Ba-
tista's nominee for the presidency in 1944], whose statesman-
ship consists of preserving the status quo and mouthing
phrases like the 'absolute freedom of enterprise,' 'guarantees
to investment capital' and 'the law of supply and demand,'
that we will solve these problems. ... In this present-day
world, social problems are not solved by spontaneous gen-
"A revolutionary government with the backing of the
people and the respect of the nation, after cleaning the various
institutions of all venal and corrupt officials, would proceed
immediately to industrialize the country, mobilizing all in-
active capital, currently estimated at about 1500 million dol-
lars, through the National Bank and the Agricultural, In-
dustrial and Development Bank, and submitting this mam-
moth task to experts and men of absolute competence, com-
pletely removed from all political machinations, for study,
direction, planning and realization.
"After settling the one hundred thousand small farmers
as owners on land which they previously rented, a revolu-
tionary government would proceed immediately to settle
the land problem. First, as the Constitution orders we would
establish the maximum amount of land to be held by each
type of agricultural enterprise and would acquire the ex-
cess acres by: expropriation, recovery of the lands stolen from
the State, improvement of swampland, planting of large
nurseries and reserving zones for reforestation. Secondly, we
would distribute the remaining land among peasant families
with priority given to the larger ones, and would promote
agricultural co-operatives with a single technical, professional
direction in farming and cattle raising. Finally, we would
provide resources, equipment, protection and useful guidance
to the peasants.
"A revolutionary government would solve the housing
problem by cutting all rents in half, by providing tax ex-
emptions on homes inhabited by the owners; by tripling taxes
on rented -homes; by tearing down hovels and replacing them
with modern multiple-dwelling buildings; and by financing
housing all over the island on a scale heretofore unheard of;
with the criterion that, just as each rural family should
possess its own tract of land, each city family should own its
home or apartment. There is plenty of building material and
more than enough manpower to make a decent home for every
Cuban. . . , On the other hand, today there are greater than
ever possibilities of bringing electricity to the remotest corner
of the island. The use of nuclear energy in this field is now a
reality and will greatly reduce the cost of producing electricity.
"With these three projects and reforms, the problem of
unemployment would automatically disappear and the work
to improve public health and to fight against disease would
be made much less difficult.
"Finally, a revolutionary government would undertake
the integral reform of the educational system, bringing it in
line with the foregoing projects with the idea of educating
those generations who will have the privilege of living in a
happy land. . . .
"Where will the money be found for all this? When there
is an end to rife embezzlement of government funds, when
public officials stop taking graft from the large companies
who owe taxes to the State, when the enormous resources of
the country are brought into full use, when we no longer buy
tanks, bombers and guns for this country (which has no
frontiers to defend and where these instruments of war,
now being purchased are used against the people), when there
is more interest in educating the people than in killing them
— then there will be more than enough money.
"Cuba could easily provide for a population three times
as great as it now has, so there is no excuse for the abject
poverty of a single one of its present inhabitants. The markets
should be overflowing with produce, pantries should be full,
all hands should be working. This is not an inconceivable
thought. What is inconceivable is that anyone should go to
bed hungry, that children should die for lack of medical at-
tention; what is inconceivable is that 30% of our farm people
cannot write their names and that 99% of them know nothing
of Cuba's history. What is inconceivable is that the majority
of our rural people are now living in worse circumstances
than were the Indians Columbus discovered living in the
fairest land that human eyes had ever seen.
"To those who would call me a dreamer, I quote the words
of Marti: A true man does not seek the path where advantage
lies, but rather, the path where duty lies, and this is the only
practical man, whose dream of today will be the law of to-
morrow, because he who has looked back on the upheavals of
history and has seen civilizations going up in flames, crying
out in bloody struggle, throughout the centuries, knows that
the future well-being of man, v/ithout exception, lies on. the
side of duty.' "
By 1954 Batista appeared impregnable. His army,
equipped with the latest American weapons and advised
by an American military mission, held the island's political
life in a tight net. Police terror kept the meshes of the net
in good repair. Business was booming and the dictator en-
joyed the full support of Wall Street and the State Depart-
ment. It appeared a propitious time to add some democratic
camouflage. A presidential election, held November 1, was
won handily by Batista after the sole token oppositional
candidate, Dr. Ramon Grau San Martin withdrew in
despair and disgust.
In another step calculated to lower dissatisfaction with
his rule, Batista granted a concession after being sworn in
as president. On May 13, 1955, he signed a bill providing a
general amnesty of political prisoners.
Castro had been approached in prison with an offer of
freedom in return for modifying his opposition to the dic-
tatorship. He refused such a deal, however; and, upon arriv-
ing in Havana May 17, resumed his political attacks on the
But Castro found the avenues for democratic expres-
sion so meager as to be of little consequence. He decided to
go into exile in Mexico in order better to organize an
Learn Guerrilla Warfare
How seripus Castro was in this aim can be gathered
from the fact that one of his first efforts was directed at
overcoming a weakness which he and his followers felt
keenly — their lack of military training. Castro succeeded
in persuading Colonel Alberto Bayo to give a select group
of cadres theoretical and practical training in guerrilla war-
fare. Bayo was well-known in Latin America as an expert
in this field, having served in the Spanish forces that fought
Abd El Krim in Morocco. The colonel became an admirer of
the Moroccan guerrilla fighters and made a study of their
tactics, which he sought, unsuccessfully, to place at the
disposal of the Republican government of Spain in the
civil war against Franco.
Castro himself participated only to a limited degree in
this training. As the main political organizer, he spent the
greater part of his time among refugee circles in Miami,
Key West, Tampa and New York in search of funds and
Cuban refugee circles were divided at the time into
many groups and tendencies. Castro was a member of the
bourgeois-democratic Ortodoxo party, but soon found him-
self embroiled with the leadership over what to him was
the key question — the necessity for serious preparation
and active organization of the armed overthrow of the
Batista dictatorship. Finally on March 19, 1956, disillusioned
with the vacillations and compromises of the Ortodoxo
chieftains on this issue, he announced the formation of the
July 26 Movement as an independent revolutionary organ-
The most noteworthy feature of this political forma-
tion in the" following years was its consistent refusal to
compromise on the basic platform on which it stood —
active organization of a popular uprising against Batista.
Several attempts were made by leaders of the Autentico and
Ortodoxo parties to get Castro to subordinate his aims to a
common front in which they would have decisive voice. In
each case he refused although he at the same time sought
united action, particularly if it would facilitate getting
material aid for the rebel forces in Cuba.
The year 1956 marked a significant turning point in
Cuban politics. On April 4 a conspiracy between the "Monte
Cristi" group and some lower officers in the army headed
by Colonel Ramon Barquin, was discovered. The officers
were courtmartialed and sentenced to the Isle of Pines. The
conspiracy was of symptomatic importance, revealing that
a section of the officer caste were uneasy over the unpop-
ularity of Batista and thinking of finding a more acceptable
On April 29 a small group attempted, in emulation of
Castro's Moncada raid, to seize the Goicuria army fortress
at Matanzas. The attempt was smashed.
Apparently Castro judged that such actions indicated
a rise in revolutionary sentiment in Cuba. On November 15
he announced his intention to invade the island as the first
step in leading a popular insurrection.
The story of his landing is now well known. On a small.
yacht, the "Granma," capable of holding a couple of dozen
men, Castro set out from Mexico with a force of eighty-two
and all the arms and ammunition that could be put oh
board. An uprising in Santiago was timed for November 30
to divert attention from the landing. The uprising went
through on schedule and was put down. But due to bad
weather and engine trouble, the "Granma" was delayed
until December 2 and the landing was made at an unfavor-
able swampy spot where the arms could not easily be
Batista learned of the landing the same day that it was
made and by December 5 the small "invasion" force was
surrounded. They suffered a heavy defeat, only twelve
men managing to evade the attackers and eventually as-
semble in a safe place in the Sierra Maestras. Batista
claimed, and apparently believed, that Castro had been
killed. For a time it was difficult to obtain evidence to the
contrary. Nevertheless, this small band of twelve was to
swell in ]ess than two years to an army powerful enough to
defeat Batista's well-trained and well-equipped forces and
topple the dictatorship.
The leaders of the July 26 Movement ascribe their final
success principally to their tactics. It must be noted, how-
ever, that the best of tactics are of little avail in the absence
of favorable social and political conditions. These were
quite ripe for revolution as can be judged from the fact
that on July 31, 1957, a spontaneous general strike occurred
in Santiago and spread swiftly throughout the country.
It should be noted, too, that in the political atmosphere
generated under Batista another leadership, much like the
July 26 Movement in composition and coloration, had form-
ed in Havana. This was the Directorio Revolucionario, a
group centered among the university students. Under Jose
Antonio Echevarria, the Directorio staged a raid on the
Presidential Palace March 13, 1957 in an attempt to assas-
sinate Batista. This terroristic action, heroic as it was,
proved crippling; some of the best leaders of the group,
including Echevarria, were killed and Batista only received
a bad scare.
Appeal to Campesinos
As a major tactic, the July 26 Movement sought a base
in the Cuban peasantry. Its main appeals were directed to
the countryside where it hoped to recruit its fighting
forces. The leading slogan was land to the campesinos.
Setting up what was in effect a dual government in the
Sierra Maestras, Castro sought to give an example to the
farmers, sharecroppers and field workers of what they could
expect from the July 26 Movement in contrast to Batista's
regime in Havana. The example was quite convincing, for
the July 26 Movement was a spartan organization that
sought to live according to what it taught. The campesinos
began to support it actively and then to join its guerrilla
forces in increasing numbers. By the summer of 1958 the
point of qualitative change was reached — the guerrilla
bands became large enough to operate as an army in the
Batista, like Chiang Kai-shek, sought to crush the
guerrillas by an ambitious military drive. Like Chiang's
troops, however, the ranks of Batista's army proved recep-
tive to revolutionary appeals and began to join the rebels.
Finally, like the Chinese revolutionary leaders, the Cubans
launched a counterattack that brought them to power.
On the political side, Castro sought from the beginning
to speak for Cuba as a whole. His principal appeal was to
end Batista's bloody, dictatorial rule and put a government
responsible to the people in power. He received some sup-
port from individuals in bourgeois circles but it is worth
observing that the class as a whole did not rally to his
banner. The most powerful ones stuck with Batista. When
the dictatorship was collapsing, a "junta" of generals was
set up that evidently enjoyed the backing of these interests.
They sought to negotiate with Castro, but he refused to
deal with them. Having learned from the experience of the
Guatemalan revolution that failure to break up the old
army is a fatal error, Castro did not intend to walk into that
trap. Out of tactical considerations he took the far-reaching
measure, upon reaching Havana, of breaking up both
Batista's army and Batista's police.
Not even the middle class in the cities appears to have
been enthusiastic over Castro's July 26 Movement. The
upper petty-bourgeois layers that opposed Batista, including
businessmen and manufacturers, tended to support the
Autentico or Ortodoxo parties and a clandestine organiza-
tion, the "Civil Resistance Movement," which included pro-
fessors, teachers and white-collar workers in its ranks. This
Underground action group, centered principally in Havana,
had three sections, propaganda, fund-raising and supplies.
The sections were divided into cells of ten persons, each of
whom sought to enlist another ten persons to form a new
cell. By the beginning of 1958, as the July 26 Movement
grew in weight, the Civic Resistance Movement began to
note a sharp rise in financial contributions. In January
these were $7,000; in March $20,000.
As for the working class, it was caught without an
effective political leadership of its own. The trade unions
were dominated by venal officials holding their posts
through Batista's favor. The Communist party was dis-
credited because of its support to Batista in the past. More-
over it had no independent policy. Like the Communist
party in the United States, its main concern was to advance
the Kremlin's foreign policy of maintaining the status quo.
Consequently the Cuban workers tended to favor the July
26 Movement and to support it actively insofar as they
could without a dynamic leadership and fighting organiza-
tions of their own,
the Papers Say . . ."
If words could destroy, a single day's production of
"hate Cuba" language in the American capitalist press
would suffice to make Havana look like Hiroshima on the
evening of August 6, 1945.
Even the staid newspapers, those that believe a public
image of dignity pays off best, are at the firing line,
bucket in one hand, filth in the other. Here, for instance,
is a sampling of loaded words from a single article by Tad
Szulc, special correspondent of the New York Times, date-
lined from Camaguey, June 20:
"Doubt about the eventual outcome of Cuba's social
revolution is becoming manifest in the island's rich prov-
"... shrinking ranks of those still unquestioningly sup-
porting the Castro regime ..."
"... the revolutionary program is at best in very serious
difficulties and at worst in danger of possible disintegra-
"... the picture is one of mismanagement, economic
deterioration and declining social standards ..."
"... the situation now developing in the provinces ap-
pears to be breeding palpable discontent and fear for the
future, although it has not yet taken the shape of open
What are the facts?
The Castro regime is without the slightest doubt the
most popular government Cuba has ever enjoyed.
To anyone with an open mind who cares to take the
$10 flight from Florida to Havana to see for himself, the
contrast between the propaganda in the American capi-
talist press and the real attitude of the Cuban people could
not be more startling.
But we needn't rely on personal impressions, which
may be colored or one-sided. Facts are available that
speak so emphatically about the popular attitude that even
the most ardent backers of the Batista dictatorship find
them difficult to deny.
What the Polls Show
On June 26, 1960, the Cuban magazine Bohemia pub-
lished a nationwide poll. The rating of the government
can be judged from the following: 81.17% of the popula-
tion considered everything the government was doing
"perfect"; 12.14% thought it was doing well, with qualifica-
tions ranging from "few exceptions" to "both good and
bad"; 0.48% thought it was bad with "few exceptions";
0.17% considered it "extremely bad"; 0.96% answered
"don't know"; and 5.08% said they didn't care to answer.
Those were the figures for the country as a whole. In
the rural areas the response was even more impressive:
89.67% answered "perfect"; 6.61% had some qualifications;
0.14% considered it "extremely bad"; 1.65% didn't know;
and 1.93% didn't care to answer.
The poll included dozens of questions designed to ex-
plore attitudes toward all the many fields of activity in
which the government is engaged, from the agrarian re-
form to international relations. These made it possible to .
get an accurate picture of shifts in sentiment since the
previous poll a year earlier. Here are the conclusions
drawn by Bohemia:
"(1) The Revolutionary Government continues to enjoy
the support of public opinion to a degree unequaled by any
other government in our memory.
"(2) This support has suffered in the year since our last
survey only a. slight decline of 2%. This decline has been
compensated by a slight increase in the intensity of support.
"(3) The source of the decline is in the upper and middle
class. And this is compensated by an increase in the working
"(4) The highly favorable opinion of the Revolutionary
Government is due principally to the measures and actions
undertaken by the Revolutionary Government in defense of
the popular economy.
"(5) Economic motives continue to constitute for our
people the fundamental forces that shape their opinions."
Bohemia's survey was confirmed by another one under
American auspices published August 1. This survey, based
on 1,000 interviews in Havana and other cities and there-
fore reflecting urban sentiment, was made in May under
the direction of the Institute for International Social
Research, of Princeton, N. J., headed by Dr. Lloyd A. Free.
"If this report is at all accurate," Peter Edson was
forced to admit in the rabidly anti-Castro New York
World-Telegram, "it should dispel any hopes that the
Castro regime is about to be overthrown."
"Eighty-six percent of the Cuban people support Fidel
Castro's revolutionary government, finding conditions now
better than they were under the Batista regime overthrown in
1959. Eight percent rate the Castro regime worse than Ba-
tista's. Three percent believe the two about equal. And 3
percent refuse to express an opinion."
Like the Bohemia survey, the Princeton sampling in-
dicated the class division over the new government. Edson
"The eight to 11 percent of the Cubans who oppose the
Castro regime . . . are made up largely of the older, better
educated, middle and upper-income-bracket groups. Eighty
percent of Castro's opposition is concentrated in the Havana
area. In rural Cuba, Castro is supreme ...
"Half of the 86 percent believing conditions in Cuba
today are better than they were under Batista are classified
as 'fervent' Castro supporters. The other half are 'moderate'
Only three out of ten expressed any disapproval of the
Castro government. Of this minority, 25% mentioned "lack
of freedom"; 18% "intervention with private .property and
private enterprise"; 9% "bad foreign policy"; 9% "lack of
democracy and failure to hold elections."
Reasons listed for satisfaction with the Castro govern-
ment included the following:
"Approval of its agrarian reform program,- 26 percent.
Educational reform and campaign against illiteracy, 18 per-
cent. Social justice and concern for workers, farmers and
the poor, 17 percent. Economic progress and concern over
unemployment, 8 percent, Inculcation of nationalism and
patriotism among the people, 6 percent. Safety of the indi-
vidual with an end to killing and physical abuses by the
police, 6 percent."
The statistics speak for themselves. They register
overwhelming approval of the sweeping measures taken
since the revolution toppled the Batista dictatorship.
If these measures are borne in mind it is not difficult
to understand why enthusiasm is so high. Under Batista
Cuba was like a concentration camp. Today the fortresses
that housed the dictator's murderous armed forces have
been torn down or converted into schools. To most Cubans,
this change alone symbolizes what the revolution has ac-
But that was. only the beginning. For the ordinary
person, economic conditions in Cuba in Batista's time were
like those of the great depression of the thirties in the USA.
As the first installment on their promises, the revolutionary
leaders slashed rents, lowered essential food costs, raised
starvation wages and began tackling the unemployment
Then came the agrarian reform. This recovered the
fertile land that had been fenced in by giant American
corporations and feudal-minded Cuban landholders. Land
is now being parcelled out to family farmers. The govern-
ment at the same time initiated a co-operative movement
that holds great promise. Cuba's basic labor force, the
sugar workers, saw a new future opening up — an in-
describably bright future, if it is recalled that - under
Batista normal unemployment lasted eight to nine months
As America's corporate interests sought to counter,
such progressive measures by savage economic and poli-
tical attacks, the Cuban government responded by taking
control of many of their holdings. "Intervention," the
establishment of control, was followed quite frequently
by nationalization. Each time this occurred on a dramatic
scale as in the case of the oil refineries, the island echoed
with shouts of approval.
Intervention and nationalization have gone so far that
all of Cuba's major industries, including the key planta-
tions and sugar mills are now in government hands. Wall
Street investments, rated as high as $1 billion among the
stock gamblers and their Democratic and Republican
spokesmen in government, have reverted to the Cuban
people. At this writing, the only major property still held
by Wall Street is in Cuba's rich mineral resources. These,
however, appear marked for early nationalization.
The beginnings of planned economy were established in
the fall of 1959 during a series of great public demonstra-
tions of approval. The beginnings proved successful. Plan-
ned economy — the first in the Western Hemisphere! — is
now destined to rapid growth in Cuba.
Even if the Cubans find themselves compelled to make
quite a few sacrifices because of the terrible pressures that
the American monopolists can exert, they have already
demonstrated that they will respond with the greatest
determination and heroism.
They have begun to win their way out of the prison
of capitalism and. as the polls show, they see no reason
The Fear of "Communism"
It is difficult to find an article about the Cuban revolu-
tion or even a dispatch from Havana nowadays in the capi-
talist press that does not include wringing of the hands or
frothing at the mouth over the "advance of communism"
under the Castro government. In Cuba, on the other hand,
most of the people you talk with indignantly dismiss the
charge as slander.
Is all that smoke in the press about "communism" just
a Wall Street smudge or is there, perhaps, some fire behind
it? To answer this question, we had best begin by attempt-
ing to discover what is meant by "communism."
To some capitalists, and they happen to be among the
most powerful, any public measure that puts limits to
"free enterprise" signifies "communism." They consider
it "communism," for instance, to prevent them from plund-
ering our natural resources, or from raiding the public
treasury. A lot of Wall Street's clamor about what is going
on in Cuba refers to restrictions of this type.
Among many radicals and even socialists, the term
"communism" refers to something quite different — it means
the antidemocratic practices, including one-party slates,
blood purges, frame-up trials and similar manifestations
of dictatorial rule that have occurred in the Soviet Union
under Stalin and his heirs.
This is also pretty much the popular view. When
ordinary people today express fear of "communism," what
they think of is the lack of democracy and civil liberties
in the Soviet bloc countries. They say quite rightly, "We
don't want concentration camps in America or the cult of
an individual like Stalin." Thus they find it depressing to
hear about Cuba going "communist." Why would the
Cubans want a regime like Stalin's?
Among Marxists, "communism" has still other meanings.
First of all, it is the name of the society toward which all
countries are clearly evolving, a society of complete free-
dom based on a co-operative, planned world economy that
has achieved unlimited abundance and thereby brought
the painful class differences, the wars and depressions and
hatreds of our time to an end. Secondly, it is the name
of the international political movement organized under
the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky in 1919 to fight for
and hasten the inauguration of this abundant communist
society of the future.
In the early twenties and even into the thirties this
was the splendid meaning of the word "communism" and
that was the way most people thought of it, even oppon-
ents — when they considered it honestly.
Clearly enough, the Stalinist displacement of Leninism
brought "communism" into evil repute, converting the
word in the popular mind into the opposite of its real mean-
ing and offering reactionaries an invaluable propaganda
advantage. But all this is another story. For our present
purpose we need consider only two possibilities that people
think of when they ask about Cuba going "communist":
(1) inroads on capitalist property relations; (2) a shift in
government that would give power to Stalinism. The two
possibilities are not at all synonymous or dependent on
Most workers and farmers tend to favor inroads on
capitalism. So let us consider the second possibility
as the one of real concern. Is there anything in the record
of the Cuban Communist party (it has called itself the
"Popular Socialist Party" since 1944) to indicate that it
might seek power in opposition to the July 26 Movement
which led the revolution against Batista?
The communist movement, as Lenin and Trotsky con-
ceived it, began in Cuba in the early twenties in Oriente,
the traditional revolutionary center. Outlawed by dictator
Machado in 1925, the party fought in the underground.
But with the rise of Stalinism, the Cuban Communist party,
like its sister parties throughout the world, was converted
from an expression of Cuban revolutionary protest into an
agency of Soviet foreign policy. With the fall of Machado,
it engaged in wild ultra-leftist adventures typical of the
"Third Period" of Stalinism. (In the United States, by
way of parallel, Franklin D. Roosevelt was labeled a
After Hitler walked into power in Germany, without
a fight from either the Communist party or the Social
Democracy, Stalin shifted to a tactic of the most cynical
class collaboration with what he called the "peace-loving"
powers. Class collaboration, scored since the time of Marx
and Engels as betrayal of the interests of the working class
was given new packaging and labelled the "popular front "
Stalin began to make this turn about the time Rooseveit
recognized the Soviet Union in 1933. One of the services
which Stalin offered Roosevelt in the negotiations leading
up to recognition was help in stemming revolutionary^
unrest in Cuba. That was how the Militant analyzed it as
can be seen from an editorial printed November 25 1933-
th. w U S a Sf y 7^ WeU tUm ° Ut t0 be the Achilles'heel of
the Wall Street monster. The contradictions between its
domination by U.S. imperialism and the life interests of
the masses are at the explosive point there. For many weeks
now the struggle has been blazing into a conflagration which
the whole world could see. The workers on their own Na-
tive have been taking possession of American properties and
ofTcaTio'viSs. 501116 inStSnCeS ' Pr ° Ceeded to the^matlon
"The island is small, but the uprising of its people has an
enormous strategical importance and moral power The Wall
feonfe, o?T ltS r JU f ly regard * with Wehension as tne
I T in £ + ^ A ^ enCa and the con ^ious workers in the
US look to it with sympathy and hope. The U.S bandiS
stand ready to crush the revolt with the brutal force of armed
intervention. The workers and the peoples ought to be
shown the way to unify all their efforts with those of th*
Cuban workers for the frustration of these £gns **
♦i.r* i 6 P i eSGnt instance - Ailed with such great "poten-
tialities the Comintern of Stalin remains as silent Ts the
nL Tno, fh d a M° r StaUn himSelf > the ' best disciple of Len n*
his mouth, as the saying goes, might be filled with water -
^ . i Utter a W ° rd ° f advice > encouragement or lope on
the grandiose events in Cuba. P
liberate p h oLv? n w^ r r nti ° n ' in the Cuban solution a de-
iiDerate policy? Was an express promise to keep 'Hands nff
Cuba a part of the Washington agreement for recognftion^
^iSS^ ^^ — g * «« ^ow?ng
activity on its territory of any organization or group I wWch
has as an aim the overthrow of, or bringing about bv ^Z
of a change in, the political or social orderlf the whofeT
any part of the United States, its territories or possessions.
"This treacherous pledge, which brings the blush of
shame to every revolutionist, does not refer to some territory
on the moon. It refers, directly and concretely, and a! the
present moment, to Cuba.
"In our opinion, and we say it with blunt and brutal
frankness, it was explicitly so discussed and understood in
the negotiations. . . ."
The "Popular Front" in Action
Batista's rule was so bloody, as the Cuban dictator aped
some of the practices of Mussolini and Hitler, that it was
not easy for the leaders of the Communist party to over-
come the revolutionary sentiments of the rank and file and.
get them to support the dictatorship. But by 1938, the
party was following Stalin's "popular front" line as assidu-
ously as its American counterpart which was now, under
Browder's guidance, helping to spread the cult of "FDR."
In August of 1938 the Plenum of the Central Committee of
the Cuban Communist party openly resolved "to take a
more positive stand towards Colonel Batista since he has
ceased to be the center of reaction and now professes
Batista reciprocated by immediately legalizing the
Communist party. Bias Roca, general secretary of the
party, explained the Cuban "popular front" on a visit to
New York: "It must be remembered that Colonel Batista
himself comes of the people. He was a worker, the leader
of the greatest democratic movement we've had."
In 1940 the Communist party was conspicuous in the
coalition that Batista put together around the slogan, "Batis-
ta for president!" On March 6, 1943, the dictator appointed
a Communist party leader, Juan Marinello, to his cabinet
and on March 14 of the following year, he added another,
In the 1944 elections the Communist party supported
Saladrigas, a Batista puppet, for the presidency against the
opposition candidate Dr. Grau San Martin. When Grau
won, the Communist leaders saw that they had made an
error in sticking so faithfully to Batista. However, they
speedily rectified the error. They ran after the bandwagon
of the new president after it was unhitched in the presi-
dential palace. Grau let them climb on the tail board.
With the beginning of the cold war and the opening of
the witch-hunt in the United States, the Grau government
altered its policies to conform with those of Washington.
Batista had utilized the services of the Communist party
principally to keep the trade unions under government
control. Grau's Minister of Labor, Carlos Prio Socarras,
began a government witch-hunt of "communists" in 1947,
the same year that Truman issued his infamous decree
requiring a "loyalty" oath of government employees. Prio
sought to oust trade-union leaders under Communist party
influence and replace them with officials selected from
his own Autentico party. In 1948 he ran for the presidency
and won on an "anti-Communist" plank. In office he
continued the witch-hunt in imitation of Truman.
When Batista seized power again in 1952, he kept up
the Cuban emulation of McCarthyism, breaking off dip-
lomatic relations with the Soviet Union on April 3, 1952,
and outlawing the Communist party on October 31, 1953.
However, the Communist party never suffered, even in the
worst final years of Batista's murderous rule, as did the
July 26 Movement and similar revolutionary-minded
groups. In fact, it appeared that Batista had a working
arrangement under which the Communist party, in return
for a lenient attitude, utilized its positions in the trade
unions to block the working class from militant action.
The Communist leaders, of course, never supported the
July 26 Movement during Batista's terror; in fact, they
Today the Cuban Communist party press is sweet as
molasses toward the July 26 Movement. Whether the
leaders of the "barbudos" find this thick praise very pal-
atable may well be doubted. Certainly it has not served to
rehabilitate the Communist party in the eyes of the Cuban
We are fairly safe in concluding that a party that
could toady up to Stalin and Batista for a quarter of a
century is not exactly the kind that will seriously contend
for power. That the leaders will seek government posts
and special privileges is, of course, to be expected. In that
they remain true to their past record.
"Ripe Fruit" for Kremlin?
At a public meeting sponsored by the Fair Play for
Cuba Committee in New York April 24, Waldo Frank, the
well-known liberal who heads the committee, warned that
Cuba could meet with a tragic fate like that of the Spanish
Republic. A counter-revolutionary movement such as the
one headed by Franco might gain headway under foreign
inspiration and succeed in toppling the new government.
Analyzing the downfall of the elected Spanish government
at the hands of the fascists, Frank recalled that the help
received by the republican government from the Soviet
Union was delayed and grudging. Arms were shipped only
in return for gold, and onerous political strings were
Waldo Frank's main point was to defend Cuba's right
as a sovereign nation to deal with other powers as it sees
fit despite any dangers, real or alleged. He scored the
economic and political pressure placed on Cuba by the
State Department and American monopoly interests and
demonstrated how hypocritical it was of these forces to
denounce the Cuban government for turning in the Soviet
direction for help.
Every fair-minded person must certainly agree that
the Castro government not only had the right but the
duty to seek aid from other countries in face of Wall
Street's evident aim of strangling the Cuban revolution.
Everyone who really believes in democracy, in equality
among nations and the efforts of oppressed colonial peoples
to achieve independence will support the new government
in the courageous way it has asserted Cuba's sovereignty.
However, Waldo Frank is quite right in indicating that
dangers are involved. The parallel with Spanish experi-
ence is pertinent. But if the causes of the tragedy in Spain
are fully understood there is no reason whatever for Cuba
to suffer a similar fate. The leaders of the Cuban revolu-
tion have already demonstrated their capacity to avoid the
errors that proved fatal in Guatemala; we can expect that
they will demonstrate similar capacity to learn from the
costly experience of the Spanish revolution.
What assured defeat at the hands of Franco was
acceptance of the political strings that Stalin put on aid
sent from the Soviet Union. The Spanish revolutionaries
were under no obligation whatever to agree to these. In
the first place, they had to pay cash on the barrel head for
the arms they received. In the second place, to submit
to political guidance from the Kremlin meant to betray
the political independence of their own movement. Inde-
pendent political action was of decisive importance to the
success of the Spanish revolution; arms from the USSR
Stalin's policy in Spain was to retain capitalist prop-
erty relations, including Spanish possession of the Moroccan
colony. Thus the Spanish republican forces had no effec-
tive appeal that could have disintegrated Franco's forces;
and they had no program of basic social change to inspire
the Spanish workers and peasants. The final consequence
was to assure Franco's victory. This in turn paved the
way for World War II and Hitler's invasion of the Soviet
Union. Stalin's policy proved disastrous to the interests
of the USSR, not to speak of the interests of socialism on
a world scale.
On the surface, the danger of repeating this bleak
course appears considerable. Khrushchev's foreign policy
is essentially the same as Stalin's; he seeks to maintain the
status quo by pawning the interests of revolutionary move-
ments and of small countries in big-power deals. All that
Khrushchev has granted Cuba is a trade pact, one that is
advantageous to the Soviet Union. He is not giving any
handouts. Instead he is obviously seeking political profit
in Cuba, Latin America and the rest of the colonial world.
Can Khrushchev succeed in Cuba in the unfortunate way
Stalin did in Spain?
On close consideration, the possibility of repeating
in Cuba what happened in Spain appears remote. The
Cuban leaders are different from the Spanish revolution-
aries in their tendency to carry things through to the end.
Although they began by seeking only an end to Batista's
dictatorship, they have proved far bolder in upsetting prop-
erty relations, under the demands of political necessity,
than the Spaniards with all their lip service to socialist
and communist ideology. This difference alone can turn
out to be decisive.
In addition, they passed a stern test in which the
Spaniards failed — they won a civil war. This has placed
them in an extremely strong domestic position, for they
came to power after the civil war with the Cuban Franco,
not before. Their resulting strength and confidence are
displayed by a dramatic fact — in the face of the threat
from Wall Street to smash the revolution, they gave guns
to the people, arming the entire population.
Finally, they appear to have realized the importance
of widening the base of their defense to all of Latin Amer-
ica instead of confining it to the small island of Cuba. They
honestly and frankly recognize their military weakness,
their small size, the great difficulties that confront the
Cuban revolution; but they seek to make up for this by
utilizing the revolution as an example to inspire all of
Central and South America.
The international situation is also much more favorable
for the Cuban revolution than the Spanish. In 1936 Mus-
solini, Hitler and the Mikado were riding high, fascism was
on the march and the prestige and power of the Soviet
Union had reached the ebb marked by Stalin's infamous
purges and frame-up trials.
Today the colonial independence movement is sweep-
ing with enormous force, bringing even the most under-
developed nations of Africa into the stream of world poli-
tics. Cuba stands in a fraternity of small powers whose
voices resound out of all proportion to their economic and
World imperialism is far weaker; the British, French,
Dutch and Belgian empires are disintegrating. Japan and
Germany are occupied countries. In contrast, Eastern
Europe and China now stand in the Soviet camp and the
Soviet Union itself has outstripped the Western European
powers and stands second only to the United States.
Besides this, the monolithism of Stalinism has been
broken. Moscow can no longer speak without taking into
account rejoinders or amendments from Belgrade and
Peking which are no doubt carefully studied in Cuba for
independent evaluation. And the revolutionary-socialist
voice of Trotskyism begins to be heard more frequently as
in the student demonstrations in Japan.
With such a relation of forces, the fear that Cuba may
fall like a ripe fruit into the hands of Khrushchev does not
seem well founded. It is more likely that the Cuban ex-
ample will prove to be a fresh source of inspiration to the
Russian workers in their own struggle to win back the
democracy they knew under Lenin and Trotsky.
In Revolutionary Tradition
In observance of France's national holiday commemor-
ating the fall of the Bastille, July 14, 1789, Revolucion, the
newspaper of Cuba's July 26 Movement, paid high tribute
to the great social upheaval that sounded the death knell
of European feudalism. A columnist, "El Jacobino," re-
called the role of the Jacobins in leading the French Rev-
olution and praised the thorough way in which Desmoulins,
Danton and "above all Robespierre, Saint-Just, Hebert and
Marat" carried out the historic mission of their epoch.
El JacoDino describes the major stages of the revolu-
tion — the popular one in which the feudal rubbish was
swept away; and then the stage of reaction:
"With the fall of Robespierre on the ninth of Thermidor
(July 27, 1794), the glorious, Jacobin, popular stage of the
great French Revolution closes. Power passed into the hands
of the industrial and commercial bourgeoisie, who hastened
to elevate to the level of eternal categories the new relations
of economic production, forgetting that the feudal regime
which had just been overthrown was also convinced of the
eternalness of its supremacy and of its despotism over the
The Cuban Revolution, in El Jacobino's opinion, is not
only analogous to the French Revolution; it is in its tradi-
"If the French Revolution did not resolve all the prob-
lems, other revolutions followed in the heritage, such as the
victorious revolution of the Negro slaves of Haiti, the
Revolution of 1848 in Europe, the Paris Commune. But it fell
to the great revolutions of the twentieth century, those in
which the proletariat, the peasants, and other national layers
played a decisive role, to bring into the life of the peoples the
revolutionary principles of the Jacobins of 1792. This is the
case with the Cuban Revolution, brilliant inheritor of the
first French movement of emancipation."
El Jacobino follows this observation with some
thought-provoking remarks on the contrast between the
problems of 1789 and those which the Cuban Revolution
"The mission of the Cuban Revolution is more profound
than that of Jacobinism at the end of the eighteenth century.
The conditions in which it is developing, in an epoch of gen-
eral crisis for Yankee imperialism, lessens the possibility of
a ninth of Thermidor, the possibility of a victory of the coun-
ter-revolution. The Cuban Revolution goes beyond the simple
formal equality of citizens before the law, since with the
support of the great majority of the people, it is carrying out
in depth political and social transformations which will give
an intense impulse to new relations of production serving the
interests of the nation as a whole. The Cuban Revolution
takes on the political and moral characteristics which were
the glory of the French Revolution during the Jacobin period:
revolutionary audacity, unbreakable firmness in defense of
principles, creative energy, incorruptibility, shining faith in
the creative forces of tne popular masses. The Jacobins of
Cuba, the Robespierres, the Marats, the Babeufs of our epoch,
sharing with the people strong national roots, face vigorously
the emigres of the new Coblenzes [places where counter-
revolutionaries mobilize abroad], the threats and aggressions
of American imperialism."
Three great, closely interrelated problems of the
Cuban Revolution are indicated in EI Jacobino's article:
(1) How to defend democracy and extend it. (2) How to
avoid a "Thermidorian" overturn. (3) How to assure
definitive victory to a revolution in a country as small as
Cuba against a hostile power as colossal as the United
That these problems occupy the minds of the revolu-
tionary leaders can be deduced from many indications. But
as men inclined more to action than to theory, whose in-
stinctive reaction to a blow is a counterblow in kind, they
have not clearly articulated the large-scale problems they
In this they are different from the leaders of the 1905
and 1917 upheavals in Russia, who deliberately brought
theory to bear as a most powerful means of advancing and
defending the revolution and mobilizing support for it.
Through theory, the Bolsheviks sought to think problems
through to the end, the better to mold action and direct.it
in the most fruitful way. As the first great leaders of the
revolutions of the twentieth century, the Bolsheviks
thereby demonstrated that they stood on the shoulders of
the leaders of the French Revolution, the Revolution of
1848 and the Paris Commune.
Because of this, it would seem that the theories and
experiences of such men as Lenin and Trotsky would hold
unusual attraction for- the Cuban revolutionaries. Yet
they did not turn in that direction in the beginning and it
remains to be seen to what degree they will search the
writings of these great leaders for deeper insight into their
own revolution and its future course in this epoch of world
On the problem of democracy, for instance, Castro has
put up a sturdy defense against the attack of American
imperialism and its spokesmen. The imperialists who
backed dictator Batista have no right to talk about demo-
cracy in Cuba, Castro points out; nor have they any right
to talk about defects of democracy in other countries while
the Negroes in the South, among other minorities in
America, are denied the most elementary civil rights.
Moreover, the Cuban government has put into effect a most
radical measure of democracy — it has armed the popula-
tion. Right now, a firm base for democracy in Cuba is
being prepared through sweeping economic and social re-
forms, including a nationwide effort to eliminate illiteracy.
Excellent as Castro's stand is, it still remains a defense.
The Bolsheviks went much further. They established
a new type of democracy — proletarian democracy. Against
the charge of Western imperialism that they had ended
parliamentary democracy, the Bolsheviks responded,
"Quite true!" Then they analyzed parliamentary demo-
cracy, showed how narrow it was and how in fact it was
based on the denial of democracy to the great mass of
people. In contrast, the Soviets — councils set up by the
workers and peasants and soldiers — extended democracy
on an unheard of scale; and this new democracy was far
superior to the limited democracy practiced by the capi-
The living example of .a proletarian form of democracy
was a most powerful means of winning support for the
Soviet Union in the difficult early days, not only through-
6ut Europe but in the United States.
That the democratic councils of workers, peasants and
soldiers were later smashed by Stalin in the "Thermidor"
that befell the Bolsheviks does not invalidate their accom-
plishments in this field. It simply shows that the domestic
and international forces of reaction were so strong that
not even proletarian democracy, in the conditions of the
time, could overcome them.
A rebirth of proletarian democracy on Cuban soil
would add powerfully to the defense of the revolution.
Few things would prove more convincing to the American
workers that this revolution opens new, attractive per-
spectives. Elsewhere in the world it would give incom-
parable impulsion to the tendency to emulate the Cuban
The Bolsheviks, ardent students of the French as well
as other revolutions, were well aware from the very be-
ginning that "Thermidorian" reaction threatened their
revolution. They did not foresee its exact form and im-
agined that if it occurred, it would be through a violent
overturn in a brief time. In their opinion this would prove
inevitable if imperialism succeeded in isolating the revolu-
tion. Their policy, consequently, was to do their utmost to
break the imperialist encirclement by extending the rev-
olution; that is, encouraging revolutionary movements like
their own in other lands. As we know today, the political
reaction in the Soviet Union was stretched out, taking the
form of Stalinist degeneration.
The Danger of "Thermidor"
Is El Jacobino correct in judging that the chances of
"Thermidor" in Cuba, whatever its form, are rather re-
mote? A lot depends on the course followed by the Cuban
revolutionary leadership. The causes of "Thermidor" in
the Soviet Union were quite complex but included the
exhaustion of the proletariat, the decline in revolutionary
ardor among the peasantry and the isolation of the rev-
olution through the "cordon sanitaire" set up by the im-
It would seem apparent that Cuba, taken by itself, is
not guaranteed against an analogous fate. The peasant,
having won a plot of land, wants to enjoy it; workers can
be worn out by too prolonged sacrifices, especially if
privilege-seeking among official circles should develop to
any significant extent; and Wall Street is obviously follow-
ing the policy of seeking to isolate Cuba, suffocate it
economically and put another puppet government in power.
But the Cubans of 1960 do enjoy a much more favorable
world situation than that faced by the Bolsheviks in
1917-21. The Bolshevik Revolution made possible the
establishment of planned economy and eventually the rise
of the Soviet Union to world power. Assistance — as
already demonstrated — is available today from the Soviet
bloc, and the Cubans have done well to seek it. In addi-
tion, colonial uprisings during the past fifteen years have
helped alter world relations enormously to the disadvan-
tage of the old imperialist powers, including the United
States. The possibility of Cuba obtaining economic and
moral aid from the People's Republic of China is proof
enough of that.
With new revolutions breaking out, such as those now
seething in Africa, it will not be easy for the big corpora-
tions and their political agents in Washington to isolate
and destroy the Cuban revolution at their leisure. One of
the most favorable conditions for the Castro government
is the inspiration provided by these fresh revolutions, which
counteracts the tendency to relax or to become discouraged
over the difficulties imposed by American imperialism.
Despite these pluses, the Cuban Revolution still re-
mains in great danger. The Cuban revolutionary leaders
realize this, as is clear from virtually everything they do
and say. This realization, coupled with their repeated
declarations that they intend to carry things through to the
end, are highly encouraging auguries. But it remains to
be seen how well they understand the ultimate logic of the
Cuban Revolution and how well they will succeed in fitting
their action and theory to that logic.
Defense of the Revolution
The Cuban revolution is an event of major significance
to North as well as South America. Not since the victory
of the Chinese people over dictator Chiang Kai-shek in 1949
have the two continents been so stirred. The rise in fear
among the reactionary property-holding classes is regis-
tered in the preoccupation of the capitalist press and the
State Department over the "menace" that has appeared on
the tiny island in the Caribbean. In contrast, the rise in
hope among the workers and peasants throughout Latin
America is visible in constant trade-union resolutions and
popular demonstrations in support of Cuba. Moreover,
the progress of the political, economic and social overturn
in what Was formerly one of Wall Street's holdings has in-
spired fresh political currents.
But the victory in Havana is not yet definitive. Arrayed
against the Cuban people is the richest oligarchy in the
world — America's billionaire rulers. They are cunning
and ruthless. They have decades of experience in sup-
pressing or diverting popular movements. They have vast
economical, financial, political and military resources. To
succeed against this formidable force requires strong
nerves, the utmost determination and — correct policies.
A great responsibility rests on the leaders of the Cuban
revolution — and not only them, as I shall try to indicate.
To successfully defend the gains made thus far, they
face crucial tests in four areas: (1) Continuation of the
revolution in Cuba. (2) Extension of the revolution into
the rest of Latin America. (3) Connection of the revolution
with the fate of the Soviet bloc, including the tendency
in those lands toward revival of proletarian democracy. (4)
Establishment of solid ties with the most advanced layers
of the American working class.
How well will the Cuban revolutionaries meet these
tests? Some partial answers are already in.
Under attacks from the American monopolists and
their agents in Washington, the Castro government has in-
dicated its capacity to go far in expropriating capitalists as
well as feudalistic landholders. Some of the requisites of
planned economy have been established and the govern-
ment is already operating a considerable sector of industry
in a planned way.
One of the most heartening manifestations has been the
recognition, among the main leaders, that the revolution
could not stand still; that it had to move forward even to
maintain itself. Their acceptance of the need to take con-
tinually more radical measures is an object lesson for
revolutionary-minded forces throughout the world. This
growth in revolutionary consciousness is a good augur for
They have done well, too, in inspiring defense of the
Cuban revolution on the continent. From Mexico to Chile
and Argentina, Cuba has become a key issue in public life.
In all likelihood the next revolution in any of the Latin-
American countries will tend to follow the militant
example of Cuba rather than that of Guatemala where a
compromising attitude toward the old ruling circles and
their armed forces facilitated restoration of reaction.
As victims of exploitation at the hands of Wall Street,
the Latin Americans have much in common. They are also
united by language, by background and culture, and by
similar economic and social problems. Such mutual in-
terests clearly indicate the need to form a United States
of Latin America. The policy of the new Cuban govern-
ment to seek closer solidarity with sister countries in Cen-
tral and South America would gain much greater force if
it were tied in with the explicit goal of a mighty co-oper-
ative federation reaching from the Rio Grande to Pata-
gonia. This perspective, long supported by Trotskyists,
has yet to become part of the political armament of the
July 26 Movement.
Welcome Soviet Help
In respect to ties with the Soviet bloc, the Castro
government has moved largely under compulsion from
the blows rained on Cuba by the White House, Congress
and the State Department. Without economic aid from
the Soviet Union, China and the East European countries,
the Cuban revolution might be speedily suffocated in the
coils of Wall Street. It should be noted that the aid was
not free. It took the form of exchange of commodities and
was therefore of mutual benefit. Coming when it did,
however, this economic aid may well prove to be decisive
in saving the Cuban revolution.
It is unclear as yet what political concessions the
Kremlin may seek from Havana and how the demand might
be handled. So far, the Castro government has demon-
strated a strong tendency to maintain the country's inde-
pendence in relation to pressures from all sources. Che
Guevara has publicly declared that independence will be
defended in relation to the Soviet bloc no matter what the
cost. His declaration undoubtedly reflected the thinking
of most, if not all, the leaders of the Cuban revolution. It
may well turn out, as we have previously indicated, that
the further development of the Cuban revolution will not
strengthen dictatorial rule in the Soviet bloc but, on the
contrary, help to loosen it by further inspiring the forces
working for restoration of proletarian democracy.
Where the Castro leadership has proved weakest is in
its appeals to the American workers and farmers. Cuba's
cause is directly connected with the interests of the work-
ing people in the United States, many of whom are ex-
ploited by the same companies that have bled the island
since the turn of the century. But boldness of policy in
this field has been lacking. Instead the main bid has been
to restore the tourist trade. There is nothing wrong with
this, of course; Cuba has much to offer as a vacation land,
including low cost. But the case for Cuba's revolution and
appeals for help against the common foe located in Man-
hattan and Washington have not been presented with the
needed energy and thoroughness. It is singularly difficult,
for instance, to find even such elementary items as English
translations of the speeches and writings of the Cuban
Perhaps one reason for this is the fact that the Cuban
revolution has not reached the socialist stage where the
international ramifications are clearly seen and followed.
Its appeals have largely been nationalist in character. These
can well serve to arouse the Cuban people for a time to
heroic efforts and can serve as a stirring example to other
countries in Latin America. But they are not sufficient to
deeply move the American working class. Not even the
far-reaching reforms already achieved in Cuba will catch
the imagination of the American workers although the
Cuban fighting spirit may arouse enough sympathy and
admiration to complicate Wall Street's effort to whip up a
warmongering spirit against the small country.
The American workers would be much more inclined
to respond to socialist appeals for international solidarity.
They proved this after World War I when they rallied to
the calls issued by Lenin and Trotsky. In 1919 the workers
in Seattle even staged a general strike to protest American
intervention against the Russian revolution.
It is quite true that the Stalinist bureaucracy succeeded
in dissipating this good will; but the American workers
are certain to respond with enthusiasm to a revolution that
becomes socialist and clearly demonstrates that it is in-
herently opposed to everything dishonest, reactionary and
despotic. And the American working class remains one
of the most powerful forces on this earth.
What You Can Do
Whatever course the Cuban revolutionaries take, poli-
tically Conscious sections of the American labor movement
should do everything in their power to support Cuba's
struggle for freedom from American imperialism.
The Cubans have the right to choose whatever form of
government they want. That's an elementary democratic
right, the very right on which the organizers of our Amer-
ican revolution stood. We are duty bound to support that
right no matter what kind of government the Cubans de-
cide to establish.
Besides that, We have a lot to gain from defending
any revolution that weakens the power of the monopolies
riding on our own backs. The Cuban revolution has
already struck these monopolies some stinging blows and
it is going to deal more. The Cubans are in much the
same position as strikers Who ask us to respect their picket
lines in a tough battle. If they win we will be in much
stronger position in our own battles with the same outfits.
Finally, no matter how well or how poorly the leader-
ship ol the Cuban revolution measures up to its great his-
toric responsibilities, the revolution in its course tends to
be socialist. Whatever help we can rally in the United
States will strengthen that tendency. This has direct bear-
ing on the greatest issues of our time — the struggle for
enduring peace, the struggle to end poverty and insecurity,
the struggle for democracy and a world brotherhood based
on planned economy.
As to what can be done specifically, first of all we can
oppose the shameful policy of the top union bureaucrats
who have been openly backing the State Department in
its campaign against Cuba. Last May the AFL-CIO Execu-
tive Council joined in the "hate Cuba" propaganda, smear-
ing the Castro government with the lying charge that it
was "endangering the peace of the Western Hemisphere."
This from Reuther and Meany, who are still linked with
the foul agents assigned by dictator Batista to run the
Cuban trade unions!
Against the pro-Wall Street policy of the top labor
brass, union militants might well advocate such proposals
as sending a local union delegation to Cuba to check the
facts and report back to the membership.
In some areas union newspapers will publish letters
from members on virtually any topic of labor interest.
That's an avenue through which it is possible to spread
the truth to new circles. If this leads to a debate, all the
better. Nor should the letter columns of the local capitalist
press be overlooked.
Another indicated step is to write the Fair Play for Cuba
Committee, asking for facts and offering aid. The Com-
mittee is headed by Waldo Frank and Carleton Beals,
both of whom are recognized authorities on Latin-Amer-
ican affairs. A weekly news letter is published by the
Committee to provide information and expressions of
opinion by independent-minded Americans. (Address: The
Fair Play for Cuba Committee, 60 East 42nd St., New
York 17, N. Y.)
Other measures to help spread the truth about Cuba
will no doubt occur to many trade-union activists and
members of liberal and minority organizations. Sugges-
tions of this kind can be mailed to the Militant which will
be glad to give them publicity. (The Militant, 116 Univer-
sity Place, New York 3, N. Y.)
In doing our utmost for Cuba, we are only doing our
duty. But it is not just a matter of conscience to help
defend a small weak country that is being bullied by the
United States. What we do to aid the people on this
island ninety miles off the euast of Florida to win emanci-
pation will aid our own struggle for a better world.
BOOKS AND PAMPHLETS
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On Socialism and the Labor Movement
by Leon Trotsky
The Revolution Betrayed paper $2.00 cloth $ 3.00
My Lif£ - 2.45
Stalin's Frame-Up System and the Moscow Trials 1.00
Marxism in the U.S 35
If America Should Go Communist 25
The Socialist Workers Parly (What it is — What it
Stands For) by Joseph Hansen .25
Too Many Babies? by Joseph Hansen 25
The Long View of History by William F. Warde .35
The Irregular Movement of History by William F. Warde 25
Negroes on the March by Daniel Guerin cloth 1.50 paper 1.00
The Struggle For Negro Equality 10
Anti-Negro Prejudice (When it began, How it will end)
by George Breitman 10
Wall Street Enjuicia al Socialismo by James P. Cannon
Su Moral y La Nuestra by Leon Trotsky
116 University Place, New York 3. N. Y.
A WEEKLY NEWSPAPER
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$3 for one year
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