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Fidel Castro at the United Nations (1960)

The Mid-October 1960 issue of Workers Vanguard, featured this lengthy report on Fidel Castro's speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations, as well as a front-page editorial on the trade embargo, and a report on plans by B.C. unionists to see Cuba for themselves.

Castro’s Speech at the UN

The Cdn Papers Suppressed

By M. L. Stafford

The bold and honest voice of a people’s revolution rang out in the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 26 when Premier Fidel Castro indicted US policy toward Cuba and set forth his government’s line on national and world affairs. His speech, which startled the delegates to the fifteenth UN Assembly, was given a scant and bowdlerized coverage by the Canadian daily press.

He charged that Washington had "decreed the destruction" of the revolutionary regime on the pretext that it was Communist-dominated. Actually, he maintained, Cuba is being punished because she has defied and dispossessed the foreign monopolists and asserted control over her own economy and resources.

The Cuban leader’s speech was the high point of the first week’s proceedings at this extraordinary gathering of world figures in New York. After President Eisenhower had endorsed the UN as an instrument of peace, a series of governmental heads, beginning with Soviet Premier Khrushchov and culminating with President Nasser of the United Arab Republic, condemned the conduct of the UN forces in the Congo as aiding Belgium and other NATO powers which seek to retain control of the uranium and other valuable resources of that country.

Premier Castro vigorously criticized the UN performance in the Congo and backed Lumumba. He said that Col. Mobutu, who has assumed power there in the name of the army, had been advised and encouraged by US officials just as dictator Col. Batista had been maintained in Cuba under Washington’s patronage.

However, he declared, "we are proud that we can say that today no embassy rules our people. Our country is governed by its people." This won strong applause from all but the imperialist delegates.

Castro alluded to the rude and inhospitable treatment the authorities had given his delegation and the slanderous press campaign which accused the Cuban delegation among other things of staying in a brothel in Harlem. If we had been people susceptible to corruption of this kind, he declared, the imperialists would have been able to buy us off. But they are enraged precisely because they could not.

The Premier explained that Cuba’s difficulties were largely traceable to the unemployment, illiteracy, disease, poverty and misery it had inherited from decades of colonial submission to the US. "The military group that tyrannized our country was built upon the most reactionary sectors of our nation. And, over and above all, was based upon the foreign interests that dominated the economy of our country." American firms owned the best lands, exploited Cuba’s mines and natural resources, ran its public services.

Instead of helping the small nation it had despoiled, the US turned hostile, harboring the criminals who had murdered hundreds of defenseless peasants and tortured prisoners for many years and permitting them to make air flights over Cuba to bomb fields and cities.

The first act of the new regime was to reduce rents by 50 per cent. Although this angered many owners of buildings and apartment houses, the people rushed into the streets, rejoicing. Castro ironically commented that the masses of New York would behave the same way if their exorbitant rents were cut in half.

"What was yesterday a hopeless land, a land of misery and a land of illiterates is gradually becoming one of the most enlightened and advanced and civilized peoples of the continent," he proudly proclaimed. He emphasized that everyone was free to visit Cuba and see its progress with their own eyes. He especially appealed to the citizens of the US to come there since he did not want to identify the US government with the talented and fine American people.

The State Department began to intervene in a frenzied way when the agrarian reform transferred the best and largest lands from the US monopolists to the cooperative farmers. One American company owned 500,000 acres of choice land while hundreds of thousands of peasants went landless, hungry, and jobless.

Washington demanded cash payment on the spot in dollars. We could not do so, said Castro. "We had to choose between an agrarian reform or nothing." When Cuba offered to pay over 20 years in 4½ per cent bonds for the lands, it then became branded as Red. "We had not then even exchanged letters with the Prime Minister of the Soviet Union," affirmed Castro.

At many points, Castro linked Cuba’s struggles in gaining and defending its independence from US imperialism with the problems faced by other colonial countries. He notified his colleagues of Latin America. Africa and Asia that they could expect similar treatment, if they carried out a just agrarian reform or touched the holdings of the monopolists.

Right now Cuba is suffering air assaults, economic aggression and attempted subversion with the aid of war criminals because it dared alienate US monopolistic interests.

He quoted Admiral Burke, head of US Naval Operations, who said in an interview with US News and World Report that, although the base at Guantanamo Bay was not particularly needed to defend the Caribbean, it was required for action "against the small group of hard and fast Communists who are determined to change everything in Cuba."

Castro said his government was considering making a request through proper international channels that U.S. forces be withdrawn from Guantanamo which threatens to become a staging area for aggression against the Cuban people’s revolution.

He expressed "amazement" that the San Jose conference of foreign ministers of American states last month had condemned not US aggression but the Soviet Union which had only offered to aid Cuba in the event of armed attack upon it. However, he charitably remarked, he understood the "dependence" of Latin American nations on the Colossus of the North, although many of those present knew in their hearts he was telling the truth.

Castro strongly defended the right and need of underdeveloped countries to take over their resources from the monopolists without indemnity in order to gain command of their economies and promote their industrial development. We would not even object if the peoples of the highly industrialized countries decided to do the same, he stated.

On the main questions of foreign policy before the General Assembly, he said Cuba wholly supports the Soviet proposals for complete disarmament. "We are 100 per cent on the side of the right of the people of Algeria to independence." He said it was absurd that Communist China should be excluded from the UN while Franco sat there. China should not be prevented by the US from liberating Taiwan.

He expressed the utmost distrust of the UN’s role as a police power. Cuba was opposed, he said, to the establishment of any international police force until there were guarantees that it would not be used to crush revolutions in small countries.

On the key issue of disarmament the Cuba leader said there can be no lasting peace until the imperialists and monopolies which incite wars and profit from them are eliminated. He indicated that the way to world peace would have to pass through the road of revolution against international capitalism. This is a far different conception from the policy of "peaceful coexistence" with capitalism advocated by Khrushchov.

In Cuba, Castro pointed out, his people had not only converted their military fortresses into schools but had stressed the need "to arm our workers to defend ourselves against imperialist attacks and arm our workers, our peasants, our students, our intellectuals, the blacks, the Indians, women, youth and the old and all the oppressed and exploited so that they themselves can defend their rights and their fate."

This was a crucial point, he said, in the declaration of rights adopted by the General Assembly of a million Cubans in Havana before he left for New York. This proclaimed to America and "here to the world the right of the peasants to own their land, the right of the worker to the fruit of his labor, the right of children to education, the right of the sick to be given medical assistance and hospitalization, the right of youth to work, and the right of states to nationalize imperialist monopolies, thus rescuing the national resources and wealth...."

In his memorable four-and-a-half hour speech the Cuban leader gave a brilliant example of how the platform provided by this UN assembly could be utilized to reach out to the minds and hearts of the people of the world on the gravest issues without pulling any punches or kowtowing before the power of Imperialism. In this respect Castro towered over Khrushchov and other spokesmen for the Soviet bloc, who despite their criticisms and complaints, continue to picture the imperialist manipulated UN as an agency which can be relied upon to safeguard world peace and act impartially in the interests of mankind.

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