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Fair Play for Cuba Committee

Four Canadians Who Saw Cuba (1963)

A pamphlet published by the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in March 1963.


A Report by Four Canadians on Cuba As They Saw It

The American State Department has stepped up efforts to tighten its curtain of silence and distortion around the Cuban Revolution. The American people are not allowed to visit Cuba except by special permission of the U.S. State Department. Canadians and others are finding it increasingly difficult to visit Cuba because of the open F.B.I. interference in Mexico, one of the few countries outside the Soviet Bloc which permits flights to Havana.

The reason for this "Iron Curtain", we are told, is to prevent the Cubans from exporting trained guerrilla fighters, from exporting revolution and subversion to Latin America and elsewhere. Such an "explanation" is designed, we believe, to hide the real purpose of this criminal game of isolation. At the moment the U.S. State Department is working overtime to prevent the Latin American people from visiting Cuba. Why? Because anyone looking at Cuba cannot help but contrast the situation in his own country with that which now prevails inside Cuba. To see Cuba is to get a glimpse at the future of America and to see that it works.

The people of Canada, the U.S. and Latin America have a right to know what is going on in Cuba and the daily press cannot be relied on for information. The Fair Play for Cuba Committee of Canada has strained its financial resources to make this pamphlet available. The results, we believe, have been worth the effort. We hope you will agree.

VERNEL OLSON,
Chairman, Fair Play for Cuba Committee


THE MEMBER OF THE BC LEGISLATURE

Cedric Cox whose trip to Cuba roused national attention was there from January 1st of this year for 18 days. He has represented the Burnaby constituency in the BC legislature, since 1957. He is a card carrying member of the Mine Mill and Smelter Workers Union in which he played an active role and is chairman of the, Vancouver Chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. He is married to a daughter of that pioneer of the West Coast labor and socialist movement, Ernest Winch.

THE ONTARIO' PUBLIC SCHOOL PRINCIPAL

John Glenn principal of the public school in Coboconk, Ontario. He spent part of the summer of 1962 in Cuba where he made a special effort to study the educational system there. He is a member of the provincial council of the Ontario New Democratic Party. He has taught for six years.

THE MANITOBA UNIONIST & JOURNALIST

Charles Biesicks last Cuban trip was in the summer of 1962. He has for sometime been a close student of developments both there and Latin America and has spoken on the subject many times to Winnipeg area audiences besides writing at length in his regular column in the Prairie New Democrat Commonwealth, of which he is a co-editor. He was editor, prior to its fusion with the Saskatchewan paper, of the Manitoba CCF Commonwealth, and has been long active in railway workers' union circles.

THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO STUDENT

Dick Fidler is in his second year in Political Science and Economics at the University of Toronto. He is a former member of the Ontario Provincial Council of the New Democratic Party and vice-president of the York East NDP. He is chairman of the University of Toronto Student Committee on Cuban Affairs. He visited Cuba as a guest at the ceremonies marking the Fourth Anniversary of the Revolution from January 2 to January 30 of this year.


Cedric Cox

A portion of a speech delivered to over 500 persons who rallied to a meeting called by the Oil and Chemical Workers Union and the Burnaby constituency association of the NDP

I am so filled with emotion tonight I could just about cry with joy. Three days ago I almost wept with sorrow when I had to leave the people of Cuba. The people of Cuba are a very enthusiastic and happy people and when you realize it is quite possible they may be destroyed you will understand why I cried. The people I met in Cuba were good people, just like you people here in Burnaby. They are human beings who enjoy living, who enjoy their families and who want to live in peace.

But before I start to tell you about Cuba, I first want to thank all those who supported me when I asked them whether I should go to Cuba. I also would like to thank Mr. and Mrs. Kornisoff who offered to address this meeting if by any chance the Mexican government delayed my return. I'll have something more to say about that a little later on. (Applause) I would also like to thank Sam Shannon who was my first campaign manager, along with the Oil Workers, for doing such a fine job in organizing this meeting. There is no harder worker in Burnaby than Sam. (Applause) In fact, you don't realize just how happy I am tonight to see you here. (Audience "We're glad to see you" Applause).

While I was down in Cuba the Toronto Globe and Mail sent a reporter around to interview me. He brought along a bunch of clippings. One of the clippings he showed me read: I have been an embarrassment to the NDP-CCF for years. (Laughter) Well, friends, maybe I have. I'll tell you what is behind this so-called embarrassment. If going to Russia to find out the truth about the people of Russia is an embarrassment, well then I am an embarrassment to the party. If belonging to the Mine, Mill & Smelter Workers is an embarrassment, that's too bad. I helped organize the Mine, Mill & Smelter Workers, and I am still a member. If that's an embarrassment it's unfortunate. (Applause) And I might say friends that there is no political party and no person going to tell me what I am going to say to my union and when I am going to say it.

I am a trade unionist and a union man and I feel I have the same right as any other union man to speak out when I want to speak out. (Applause) As for this trip to Cuba I was invited by the Cuban Ambassador at Ottawa. When I received their wire it said I had to reply within three hours. There wasn't time to call a meeting of our NDP Constituency club. I phoned various people who I knew supported me and asked them to make as many enquiries as they could as to whether I should go. Within two hours, Ron Irvine, Sam Shannon, Martin Amiable and others throughout the riding told me that I had a lot of support and to go. A few days later Bob Strachan asked me if I would reconsider. I told Bob that I would reconsider. But I would again take it up with the people who I had previously asked whether I should go. (Remarks from audience. In response to remarks from the audience: "Bob is still our leader") These same people in Burnaby told me you have received an invitation to go to Cuba, we are the people who elected you, who nominated you, we want you to go and bring back the story. And I went to Cuba with the approval of the majority of the people who I know support me here in Burnaby. Not only did I ask members of the NDP, I phoned my own local doctor and businessmen who I know. They thought it was a golden opportunity to get into Cuba so soon after the crisis.

I might say that I am the first elected representative of Canada who has visited Cuba, they told me. That may be a crime, coming from Canada, but the British Labor Party was represented by three MP's and one of the executive of the party. All of their trips were paid for by the Cuban government. (Applause) In fact, every socialist party which spoke up during the crisis was asked to send a representative. I met members from the Socialist Party of Norway, Sweden, Holland, Greece, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and Mexico. And all of these people told me that they belonged to the socialist party of their country, and all of them also told me that their expenses were being paid. Now this may be a crime accepting a trip that is paid for by somebody else, but I know that your elected representatives couldn't afford to travel very far if they had to pay their own way, and the world today is so small that if you are going to understand the problems of people, you have to go and visit these people.

My main interest in going to Cuba was not to meet Fidel Castro, because I didn't meet him. My main interest was to go to Cuba to find out for myself, to meet and to talk with the Cuban people. By doing this I think I am working towards the road to peace. If the people in the province of British Columbia can understand the Cuban people a little better after I have finished speaking tonight we are that much closer to peace, and I think we all want that. (Applause)

I have another invitation to take a tour. And today I have been invited to Montreal to address the Sir George Williams University. I don't know whether I will be criticized or not. I imagine from letters and telegrams I have been receiving that I will be kept quite busy this coming spring .. .

Well, now I am going to tell you about my trip to Cuba. I left here on New Year's Day by CPA jet to Mexico. I was in Mexico City in exactly four hours after I left Vancouver. I had a landing permit from the Mexican Ambassador here in the city of Vancouver for which I paid $3.00. I told him that I was returning from Cuba at the end of the month so I wanted to have a permit that was good for a month. The gentleman said that's fine. He gave it to me. So I got off the plane in Mexico City that day, I got a taxi and I went into the city of Mexico for three hours. It was all lit up. It is a beautiful city all decorated. I have never seen a city so well decorated with Christmas Tree lights. It is really a beautiful city. I went back to catch our plane at the airport which was supposed to leave at 2 o'clock. But 2 o'clock came and went, and the Cuban plane still hadn't arrived.

After going to Cuba I know now that they meant Cuban time. We waited around until 6 o'clock in the morning when the Cuban plane came in and picked us up. But before we got to this plane we were intimidated by the Mexican officials. We had to show our passports and tickets and as we did it some stooges of the CIA took our pictures.

Harassed by the CIA in Mexico

This is nothing but intimidation because Canada is at war with no one. Cuba is at war with no one. I didn't know that it was a crime to go to Cuba. Yet they were taking all our pictures. I told some of the Canadian delegates who were on the plane that I admired the courage of the women going to Cuba. There were a number of women going from the Latin American countries. I said that these women will be lucky if they get back home after their pictures have been taken.

Well, anyway, we got on the plane and went to Cuba. It took us three hours. When we arrived at the airport they told us: Leave your baggage. We will take everything to the hotel for you. We have buses waiting here for you. You have missed the parade but if you rush you will hear Fidel speak. So we missed the parade but we got into the grandstand in Revolution Square five minutes before Fidel started to speak.

Now when I left here, according to the American press, most people were out for Castro's blood and at the first opportunity they were going to kill him. I expected to find everybody there with horns and everybody booing, you know. Instead of that, what do I find? And I will have my pictures to prove it in a week or so when they are developed providing they all come out, of course. I found here in this Revolution Square between three quarters of a million and a million people. At least one third of these people would be members of the militia, all armed. It would have been quite easy for a saboteur to be among them with a revolver. Nobody would have paid any attention to him because walking around the streets of Cuba are young girls carrying their revolvers and the fellows are carrying their revolvers. It would have been quite easy for somebody to have a revolver there and have taken a pot-shot at Fidel. But no, nobody took a pot-shot at Fidel.

Fidel started his speech, "Distinguished visitors, workers, campesinos, students, citizens all Mr. Kennedy would say that I am speaking to the captive people of Cuba. Are you people captives?" "No! Fidel. We are not captives. We love you Fidel!" Three quarters of a million people yelling this. Well, right away I could see it was a different story five minutes after arriving in Revolution Square. Well, Fidel went on with his speech for about two hours before closing. Then they sang the Internationale three verses of the Internationale.

I have movie pictures which I hope come out maybe the local television will want to use them (Laughter) where the whole crowd are moving in a mass like this while they are singing the Internationale. They didn't look like people who were ready to kill Fidel. They looked to me like people who were very happy that they have established a new social order in Cuba. (Applause) After the singing of the Internationale, Castro returns to the microphones as if he had forgotten something: "What are we going to call this year", he asks "The Year of Organization."

Now it has been said that Castro is a communist. He may be. I don't know. I am quite sure he knows a lot about Marx and Lenin. I do know that he is establishing a new social order in Cuba. I also know that he decisively broke with the Secretary of the Communist Party, Anibal Escalante, and he did not go into a back room to do so. When he denounced Escalante he did so openly, before the people of Cuba while being interviewed by a panel of newspapermen heard over all the radio and TV stations of Cuba.

He dropped the axe on the secretary of the CP because he and others had been turning the new party "into a yoke, a straight-jacket".

This to me is proof that Fidel Castro is running Cuba. He is running his own social order. It's not the Communist Party that is running it. The men of the 26th of July Movement are still in control of the revolution in Cuba ...

I am quite sure that if the Americans would remove the embargo and get off their backs, give them a chance to trade with the world, that within ten years Cuba would be a paradise. (Applause) Cuba is one of the richest pieces of land in the world. It can feed over fifty million people. The population today is seven million. Konni Zilliacus, when we were speaking to a Cuban official, said "Don't I wish we had this piece of land over in Great Britain. We haven't enough land in Great Britain to feed ten per cent of our people. We have to depend on other people for food." He said: "You people are fortunate. In a few short years you will not only be able to feed all of your people, but you will be able to export to most of the world." Cuba is a land where they are assured of three crops a year.

Since the Americans have left, the Cubans have found one of the largest deposits of nickel ore in the world. Cuba is rich in nickel, it's rich in chromium, rich in magnesium, they have found 400 million tons of iron ore. This island is a very rich island. But that is not why the Americans want Cuba.

The Americans are not at all concerned about the wealth of Cuba or the people of Cuba. What they are concerned about are the ideas that are implanted in the minds of the people of Cuba and these ideas have now spread out to all of Latin America. They can drop bombs on Cuba, they can kill every Cuban if they want, but they will not kill the ideas that are implanted in the minds of the Latin Americans now. (Applause) These are impressions, mind you, I am not a mind reader. I was only down there a short while but these are my impressions after talking to people.

Now I suppose I ought to start telling you a little bit about the life of the Cuban people. Before the revolution, 35 % of the working force of Cuba was permanently unemployed. How they lived, managed to survive, I don't know. They lived in bohios, which are little grass huts, mud and grass, or maybe some lumber and grass. Dirt floors. They slept on the ground. 35 % of the population lived like this. Today there are 10% unemployed. This vast improvement took place within four years.

I went to a state farm, one of the largest poultry farms I have ever seen. I saw the new village cities that are being built for these people, people who lived in bohios, now living in new modern homes, pre-fabricated, concrete homes, lovely homes, with completely modern bathrooms. Something that they are not used to it's going to take a lot of education just to show these people how to live in these homes. But Castro is building them and these homes don't cost them a cent while they work on the state farm. They pay no rent. That is one of the privileges of working on the state farm. Now they don't get paid much working on the state farm. They get around $100 a month. But remember before they got nothing. They didn't even know where their next meal was coming from. They never worked. Now they are raising chickens and ducks. This farm I was on raises ducks also.

For the first time in the history of Cuba they are producing ducks and on the 6th of January they processed 80,000 ducks for the celebration. The sixth of January is their Feast of the Wise Men exchange gifts day. I think we call it "little Christmas".

Well anyway, on the morning of the 6th of January, there was a knock at my door. I got out of bed and went to the door and a man, who said he was Santa Claus, handed me a book of records of the Second Declaration of Havana and an ashtray. Every guest in the hotel got this treat, so it shows they do believe in Santa Claus. The night before I had been out shopping and I enquired what the line-ups were for. They said everybody was buying gifts for exchange day I saw hundreds of bicycles being bought for children. In Cuba today people have lots of money but the shelves are very bare.

But now I want to tell you more about this state farm. The people on this farm had lived in bohios as I said before. They had nothing. No schooling, couldn't read or write, didn't even know where their meals were coming from. Now they have jobs, they have homes, they have schools and they have hospitals. For the first time in the history of Cuba people in the country have all this. Before, what facilities there were of this kind were all concentrated in the cities. We went to a dairy farm and there the situation was quite similar. Except that people who know very little about dairying are trying to operate it. They need the help of Michael Kornisoff down there. That's the man they need down in Cuba a man who's won the first prize in Canada for five years in a row teaching them how to do it . .

From this state farm I went to a mining camp in Pinar del Rio by the name of Matahambre. Now it's quite a story the way we got to this camp. We had been touring through this province, and we stayed at a hotel called Bonelis for the night. We were told to be sure to be up at 8:30 in the morning as the bus would be ready between 9 and 10 to take us to Matahambre, because, the miners have invited us for lunch. Well, along came 10 o'clock and no bus. Then they told us that the bus had broken down and would be along in an hour. But of course, knowing this was Cuban time, we thought we would be lucky if we were out of here by noon. As it was, we did not get out until 3 two hours later than the time that our lunch was scheduled for at Matahambre. So we started off for Matahambre. We got there at 8 o'clock at night. Now I can just imagine all this happening in a mining camp in British Columbia. The miners' wives would have the meal all prepared. The miners would have been there at 1 o'clock in the afternoon. And if the guests hadn't shown up by 3, and certainly by 5 o'clock, they would have said they're not coming and thrown in the sponge. But we arrived there at 8 o'clock at night and they pinned corsages on the women in our party, handed each of us a bottle of beer and a sandwich, and said "In half an hour the banquet will be ready." (Laughter)

The Enthusiasm of the People

Now, here's another thing, we lost six hours that morning. Well, these Cuban people are determined people. They're just as determined in showing you the country as they are in winning the revolution. They weren't going to let us lose six hours, so at 10:30 at night we climbed in the bus again at Matahambre. Well, I thought, I'm going to get back to that hotel and get a good sleep anyway. But no sooner did we get seated in the bus than they said: "We're going to take you to our new copper refinery." We got to the copper refinery. Here we were touring a copper refinery at midnight.

So they made sure they showed us everything there was to see, anyway. They don't waste a minute. If you lose time in the morning they make sure you make it up by night. Well, the next day we started back for Havana. This was just a two and a half day trip. And on the way back we stopped at another state farm.

This state farm is producing tomatoes. Now you may think what's so significant about producing tomatoes? We produce tomatoes here in Canada. But in Cuba they have never produced a tomato before. Most of their green stuffs and tomatoes came from the United States. U.S. mining corporations and fruit companies there were only in Cuba to exploit the people. They weren't in there for anything else. United States Fruit was interested in the bananas, in the papayas and all the natural fruits growing on the land, and the sugar cane. They weren't interested in letting the people plant tomatoes and greens so that they could have a decent standard of living. No. The Cubans had to buy all this from Miami. They brought it over and the Cubans had to buy it from them. But, now they're growing all their own green stuffs.

The beds on this tomato farm are about four feet wide and they stretch, oh, for a couple of hundred yards in length. There are about six buildings the size of this one here, all of concrete. The plants are embedded in pebbles, just small rocks inside these buildings. The farm is a plant it's a fertilizing plant with water. And through these pebbles, circulating steadily, is fertilized water. That's all there is. No earth in these beds at all. The plants are growing in rock and water, fertilized water. They get anywhere from three to five crops a year off the plants.

Before very long if we can establish a situation where the people of Cuba can work in peace, Cuba will be exporting tomatoes to all the rest of the world. Now when I said Cuba can be a paradise in ten years, it really can be a paradise in ten years. You must realize at the present time, right now, about a third of the population of Cuba is in arms, in the militia, and in the army. They are having to work to till the soil with one hand, point the other with a revolver in it in the direction of Uncle Sam. That's exactly how they're having to work now. (Applause)

Facing the Threat of Invasion

Every day, right on the horizon off the shore of Cuba, you see the Oxford cruising back and forth. The Oxford has been there for eight months, intimidating the people of Cuba, letting them know that Big Brother is out there watching. That's exactly how the people of Cuba are being intimidated, having to live under the threat of invasion, not knowing if it's coming today or tomorrow. They know that the battleship is out there. They can see it every day. They know there's Guantanamo Bay at the southern end of the island out of which US forces can start pouring any day. Yet these people are progressing, and progressing a lot faster than we here in Canada. (Applause)

In Cuba they have a complete comprehensive medical plan. Since the revolution they have built over 100 hospitals. There are hospitals in Cuba in districts where they never thought they would have hospitals in the next hundred years. Under Batista, under that type of government, they never would have had them. Before, people in the rural areas, if they ever took sick or died, they would have to be brought into the city. The hospitals are not big hospitals they're small. But in the city of Havana itself I saw three brand-new hospitals. I went through one that was just completed last year. Beautifully new hospitals for a population of just over six million people. We talk here, we hear Eric Martin talk about British Columbia's hospital expansion. Well he should go down to Cuba and see what these people are doing. (Applause)

I went through new housing projects, beautiful, beautiful apartment suites. With three and four bedrooms absolutely modern as modern as any apartment building you'll find here in the city of Vancouver. What rent did they pay? Ten per cent of their salary. After twenty years it is theirs they don't pay anything after that. If by any chance you happen to be renting an older house that was built before 1945, you pay ten per cent of your salary for five years and then it's yours and you don't pay any more it's yours. If it's a house that was built in 1950 you pay ten per cent of your salary and in seven and a half years it's yours you do not pay any more on it. If it's a new one you pay for twenty years and then it's yours.

Where does all the money come from? They have one tax 11.9 percent of your salary goes to taxes. This is the only tax there is. But don't forget this, do not forget that this country is a socialist country. All of the profits attained from these copper mines, all of the profits that come from the oil and everything else is now going into the government's hands. They are not going into the pockets of the United Fruit Company. They are going into the government's hands. They are not going over to Miami. Castro is working the mines himself. Castro is exporting the ore to Poland, selling the copper ore throughout the world. He's getting the money himself. This is what you can do in a socialist country.

The people are not being exploited and neither is the country. For a hundred years before this they were being exploited by the United States. The mines of Matahambre are fifty years old and all that the miners got out of it was wages. The government got nothing. The United States just went in and said they wanted it. You will recall all the criticism of the nationalization of the oil refineries in Cuba. Castro wasn't anxious to expropriate them. He was willing to buy them out. He had made an arrangement with Venezuela to get oil at a cheaper price than Standard Oil was selling it to them. Standard Oil declared they wouldn't supply the tankers to go to Venezuela to bring in this oil. So Castro said, "In that case", he said, "I'll bring in oil from Russia. We don't need to use your tankers." Then Standard Oil said, "Well you can bring in all the oil you want to from Russia, but we won't refine it!" "Oh you won't, eh!" said Castro. Twenty four hours later Standard Oil and, the rest of them were out of there. (Applause)

The United Fruit said "Oh, those people living in the bohios. They don't know anything about growing fruit, or looking after fruit." Well, they may not know anything about it but by God there's a lot of fruit down there. You can eat a lot of it. And as I say, let's have a peaceful economy in Cuba and we'll have a paradise. We will be able to eat Cuban fruit then.

A revolution has taken place in Cuba and it is still in revolution. Every day there's a threat. Yet under this revolution, gasoline for your car there is 32 per gallon. What is it in Vancouver? We workers of British Columbia are paying 10 a gallon more and we've got our own oil here in British Columbia.

What are the wages there? An electrician's wages are $300 a month, that's for linesmen. For the inside electrician? Well the only concession the linesman gets is that he works for six hours a day, a five day week. The inside electrician works eight hours a day. So he gets a concession of two hours a day for the risk of having to work on high tension wires. That's a good differential. He gets the same pay but he's home much more. I think that's a good deal. I would much sooner that we in BC had that, than what we have today all these differences in rates of pay.

Electricians are one of the most needed tradesmen in the country because they have to look after all of the electric systems. The whole country is on a thermal-electric system. The electricians were offered two weeks more holidays than anyone else gets making in all six weeks with pay a year. They turned it down. They said that they're building a free Cuba, that they did not want to build a Cuba with different classes of people. They wanted Cuba, when it was finished, to be one class. (Applause)

The Struggle for Equality

Now if you want, I can give you miners' rates of pay too. It is the same as the Matahambre miners' rates of pay before the revolution. Then, they were 10 to 15 dollars. Now they are 10 to 12 dollars a $3 cut. The union voted a $3 cut. Why did they vote for a $3 cut? One of the reasons is that the previous owners had exploited the mine, and left it unsafe. The miners put the suggestion to Fidel Castro that if he would put the mine in safe order they were willing to work for less wages. Fidel Castro put the mine in safe working order so that now there's less chance of accidents. The men are much happier going into a mine, knowing that it's a safe mine, than they were going into one not knowing whether it was safe or not. Of course, now the miners get their month's holiday with pay. If you work 11 months, you will get one month off with pay. If you work 3 months you get one week. If you work six months you get 2 weeks. If you work nine months you get 3 weeks. That is what everybody working in Cuba gets as their holiday. If you are a miner and get injured you get 100% of your pay as compensation for the first year. If your injury is such that it takes longer than a year for you to get back on the job your compensation is reduced to 70% of your previous wages plus 5 % for every child, not in excess of 100%. That is better than any contract in the province of British Columbia or anywhere else in Canada.

Silicosis? If you have silicosis you get 100% compensation for the rest of your life. Much better than we have right here in Canada. You can do this in a socialist regime. But you can not do this in a capitalist regime where the capitalists control the purse strings. You can only do it where the people themselves control the economy of the country. (Applause)

Now I am going to go back to the housing situation again. I went to another project where the people had never worked before, never had a job and had lived in bohios. Now they are living in completely new homes. What the government did was to supply the materials. Then they paid the men to build their own homes. Put them to work for the first time in their life. These people have homes. They had a bohio before, but now they have a decent home to live in and have some money in their pockets, after building their homes. They've got farms started up and they can work on these farms. They're much better off than they ever were before. Whether there'll ever come a time when they're employed one hundred per cent of the year I don't know. A lot of these people have been able to get by before and I do not know that they are worrying too much whether they work the full year or not. That is why I think the holiday scale is based on three, six, and nine months. Many of these people are not interested in working too long just as long as they can get by.

I went to the old Batista camp Camp Columbia. It used to be a military camp. Today there are thousands of school children being educated, ten thousand school children being educated and housed out in the country As for these schools children who never had an opportunity to be educated before can now read and write. One of the criticisms I have heard is yes but they are not educated by qualified school teachers! No, there are not enough school teachers in Cuba. That's granted. They are sending their high school and junior high school students into districts to teach these children and I say what is wrong with sending a high school student to start to teach adults or anybody else if they can't read or write? A high school student can pass on the knowledge to them can at least get them to lift a pen and write a name and read a little. You don't have to be a school teacher to get them started. As this regime progresses they will have school teachers. All the districts will have school teachers.

I am very proud to say that British Columbia is doing its part. I ran into a British Columbia school teacher. She is down there to help the Revolution working in Cuba. I ran into a doctor who quit the clinic at Trail. He's down there doing his part helping the revolution. He said Trail has a good standard of living. He told me he thinks it is more humanitarian to come to Cuba and help the people who really need help. I think a lot of praise should go to men like that. (Applause)

In the next part of my talk I will answer the question: was there anything bad that you ran into? I would not say I ran into anything really bad, but I did come across people who did not support the government. I didn't meet anyone who I would say was a counter-revolutionary. But I did run into a fair number of people who are not at all happy about the Castro regime. They are not happy because they have been hurt.

One man I spoke to he had twelve apartment blocks before Castro took eleven of them and left him with one. (Laughter) He knows full well that within a few short years all that he is going to have of that one is his own suite because the apartment was built around 1950. This man will be able to collect rent for only seven and a half years at 10% of the tenants' salaries and then he is going to lose all of the suites except the one he lives in. So you can't blame the man for being mad, he has lost eleven apartments already and he is going to lose the twelfth one before long. This is part of the revolution in that revolutionary state. Well that's it Cuba's got such people. They just won't back the revolution. They were the ones who were bucking it and have to suffer the consequences.

I ran into a man who owned a store before. What is he doing now? He is black-marketing money. I took all of my badges off and nobody knew who I was. I was just smart enough to keep my identification ticket in my pocket in case I was picked up otherwise they would have taken me some place and I wouldn't have returned. But I was told to wander if I wanted to see things. That's the way to see things wander, mix with the people, so I did. I was walking down the street when I was approached. The former store-owner wanted to find out if I wanted to exchange any money. I asked what is the rate, what will you give me? He said twelve to one. For every American dollar he would give me twelve pesos. Some people say that's nothing. I got twelve to one in Mexico City. That's the going rate in Mexico City. But Castro, I have got to admire the man, he's got his peso at the same value as the American dollar. One peso for one American dollar.

Castro, every time he speaks to them, he lets them know, "This is your country". He takes every problem to them. Whenever he has a problem he holds a mass meeting and asks them "What should we do? We are in trouble here. This is your country. We need help. What should we do?"

They go out picking chupa beans. Are they glad to sweat! Boy it's just pouring off them. They're glad to see how many things they can do in a day, because it's their country they're doing it for.

Sugar cane how do they get the workers to go out in the fields to cut sugar cane? I went to the annual meeting of the Electrical Workers. Lazaro Pena I think that is his name is the head of the trade union movement in Cuba. During Batista's time he was imprisoned and exiled. He was there at the Electrical workers' meeting to make an appeal to them, to the locals, to get so many volunteer workers. He asked them how many were going to volunteer because a week before they had started cutting cane. Every local representative came up and said so many men have volunteered for so many days to go into the sugar fields. When they go this is completely voluntary. They don't get paid for it. They just take their machete and they go to work.

You will say well, how do they live? How does the factory where they usually work keep going? The men who remain back in the factory who were normally going home at the end of an eight hour shift they put in extra hours to take care of the job that their companero has gone out into the fields to do. The pay for those extra hours they're putting in goes into the pocket of their companero for cutting the sugar cane. That's the way they're cutting the sugar a real cooperative effort. (Applause) And the sugar cane is being cut.

Can you imagine us doing that here? Working for a capitalist boss! Are you going to go and volunteer to do something for a capitalist boss? No! But if the country is yours and you are being educated to the fact that the country is yours you're willing to do anything for it like these people are willing to work for it and willing to die for it. And they don't mind telling you that. They'll tell you that they are going to die in the streets before they'll let the Americans take over. And I believe them! (Applause)

I went through a sugar mill and met the workers. All these men had come from another job to work in the sugar mill while the sugar season is on. The men back at their plant are having to work that much harder to take care of the plant and handle the jobs that they were doing. There is a real cooperative spirit something that I have never seen before in my life. I've seen other people cooperate but I've never seen them cooperate like these people.

Support the Castro Regime

I only wish that more of us could visit Cuba, because you have to go down there to see, you have to go down there to talk to these people to get the real feel of the situation. When you talk to them you realize just how far-fetched the stories in our papers are. In some ways we all know they are because you'll read a story about Cuba on one page and on the next page there is a conflicting story. You don't know who to believe. These impressions are my impressions of what I think of Cuba. I think the people of Cuba are very happy. I think that close to 75 % of the people are backing Fidel Castro, about 20% are sitting on the fence and about 5% are absolutely opposed.

Now I did run into a man working right in the Riviera Hotel who was opposed to the regime working right there and the people he is working with kid him about it. They ask him, why? He says because before he used to be able to get a lot of tips and he liked working for the capitalist boss. But when the crisis came, this man joined the militia.

I asked him, "Why did you join the militia if you don't believe m the regime? I would have thought you would have been happy to step aside and let somebody else fill in." He said, "The only reason I did, Mr. Cox, is I remember the old regime. Under the old regime," he said, "I couldn't take my wife for a walk down the street. Some American `gangster' would come along and grab my wife and I couldn't put up a fight at all. If I did anything, the Batista police would grab me as though I were the criminal, not the American. Today", he said, "I can walk down the streets of Cuba and my wife is safe. My wife is safe in Cuba even if she is walking down the street by herself" And that is the truth.

In Cuba there is close to two million people under arms, not all at one time. They all have to do their stint. But close to two million people have arms. They keep them in their homes but every so many days they are on duty with them. You meet girls everywhere carrying revolvers and if they haven't a revolver they have a machine gun. Can you just imagine any fellow going up to a girl and (rest of sentence drowned out by laughter). You'd think twice, boy. You'd think twice. (Voice from audience, referring to a new device being used by Vancouver police to break up picket lines "What about police dogs?") I didn't see any they may have them but I didn't see any.

In the time of Batista, Havana was known as the brothel of North America. There were more red light districts in Havana than in any other city in the whole Western Hemisphere. There was one area alone five square blocks filled with girls from the age of nine years and up, where American millionaires could come over and have a good time. An American millionaire would go to Cuba and have a good time with a native over there but when he went home he wouldn't even let the same type of native ride in the same bus with him. That's the type of American who used to go to Cuba. (Loud applause)

Well what's happened to these girls? There are two rehabilitation centers in Cuba for these girls. They are being taught to read and write many of them didn't even know how to read and write. They are very pretty girls. Under the old regime when a farmer had a very pretty daughter and he knew he couldn't feed her because he didn't have a job, he would take her into the city and sell her to these houses to let the American millionaires and gangsters play with her. Do you know the ages of these girls in these rehabilitation centers? The youngest is thirteen and the oldest is forty five now. There's the proof that nine year old girls were in these houses four years ago. And I think a lot of credit should go to Fidel Castro for cleaning this rat's nest out of Cuba. (Loud long applause)

Well I'm not going to say much more, other than I am very happy that I went to Cuba. The Cuban people are determined to build an independent Cuba and if we as Canadians will only help, by trying to force our government to trade more with them, force our government, force the British government, to ignore United States policy make the United States see the light, make them realize that the people of Cuba are still human beings and that they have a right to their own way of life, a right to look at the sun the same as you and I. If we can only do that for the Cuban people, ten years from now you will be happy to go to this paradise. It will be a paradise if the American State Department will only give them the opportunity. The Cuban people are my friends. The ones I met I loved. I'm telling you right now it just about broke my heart to leave them knowing full well I may never see them again or have the opportunity to see them again in fact they may even be killed in a war. I only hope that with my visit to Cuba, and I intend to travel and do a lot of talking about my trip, I hope that I can convince a lot of people in Canada that the Cubans are not our enemies, that the Cubans are our friends, and they deserve the same privileges and rights as you and I. Thank you. (Ovation, whistling cheering, loud applause).


John Glenn

An article that appeared in the Educational Courier, Nov, Dec. 1962 official publication of the Public School Men Teachers and the Federation of Women Teachers Associations of Ontario.

On July 26, which is a national holiday in Cuba, I visited Arbalio Raminez Institute. This is a school on the level of our collegiate institutes. When I arrived the students were just finishing a rally to celebrate this holiday. Here I met Dr. Manuel Barrecios, a history teacher, and three students, Dulce Guzman, Maritza Corrales and Rosalia Plesencia. I was able to arrange an interview with Dr. Barrecios using Maritza and Rosalia as interpreters. In this interview we covered the field of education in Cuba.

GLENN: What were the conditions of the public elementary and secondary schools in comparison to private and parochial schools of the same level?

BARRECIOS: Before the revolution in Cuba there were more private and parochial schools than there were public schools. In the cities there were some elementary schools but rurally there were none. In the non-public schools there was segregation. The public secondary school situation was worse. Less than 5 per cent finished secondary school. There was only 1 university for 7 million people.

Since the revolution we have built and are still building more public elementary and secondary schools. We have built 2 more universities.

GLENN: In Canada we have read of many professors and teachers leaving Cuba. Will you comment on this?

BARRECIOS: This occurred mainly at the secondary and university level. Teachers in these private schools were very highly paid. Their standard of living was close to that of the rich Cubans. Hence teaching became a very profitable business rather than a profession.

GLENN: What has the attitude of western nations been towards assisting Cuban people to train in various fields?

BARRECIOS: In most cases it has only been verbal. They have offered no money or means of transportation. At present we are receiving aid from socialist countries who are teaching trades, not politics or culture.

GLENN: What is the status of the teacher in the community?

BARRECIOS: The teacher is part of the community. They are highly esteemed. They are able to put forth their ideas for education.

GLENN: What is the Cuban government's attitude towards religious education in the schools?

BARRECIOS: We feel that religion is the work of the churches. Religion can be practised much better there than in a school.

GLENN: How is the curriculum determined?

BARRECIOS: Here we take a scientific position. We plan our curriculum so as to provide interest. Therefore students will demand further investigation and knowledge.

GLENN: What role do various groups in the community play in planning this curriculum?

BARRECIOS: At the present there is very little participation because before the revolution adults were poorly educated. However, we hope that, because adults in the future will be better educated, there will be greater participation.

GLENN: What is the role of the students in running the school such as curriculum and administration? Do they have any say in the every-day life of education?

BARRECIOS: In administration the teachers put forth suggestions for the students to accept or decline. The students do the same for the teaching staff. As for curriculum it is planned for the future when all will have a great interest for learning.

GLENN: Are the student councils and journals under any censorship board or overseer who is not a member of the student body?

BARRECIOS: There is a member of the teaching staff available to advise and assist in their projects. The final decision is left to the students.

GLENN: Who determines the qualifications necessary to become a lawyer, a teacher and a doctor?

BARRECIOS: The students and professors determine the necessary and useful subjects for each field of work.

GLENN: What are the qualifications necessary to become an elementary school teacher and a secondary school teacher?

BARRECIOS: An elementary teacher must graduate from secondary school and complete a 2 year intensive course at teachers college. This is necessary because of the immense number of new elementary schools. In the future we plan a 4 year course. At present they receive a certificate.

For secondary school the teacher requires a 4 year degree course at university.

GLENN: How does a teacher go about applying for a position?

BARRECIOS: The teacher goes to the National Syndicate of Education. This group handles employment of teachers and caretakers.

GLENN: How are wages established for teachers?

BARRECIOS: This is determined by the ministry of education and the National Syndicate of Education. The pay for teachers at present is very good. We are planning a wage scale for the future. Also teachers receive overtime for extra work.

GLENN: Can a teacher take part in politics?

BARRECIOS: This is all voluntary. If he or she is interested they can run or take part in political seminars.

GLENN: How are examinations used in Cuba to determine promotion?

BARRECIOS: We have several examinations which account for so many points. We are working towards the eventual elimination of examinations. We also take into consideration the student's character and conduct.

GLENN: How do you determine what field of study a person will study in university?

BARRECIOS: The student has complete liberty to choose which field he or she wishes to enter. The teacher acts as an advisor and guide. Before entering university he enters a 3 month indoctrination course which determines whether the student is really able or desires to take this course.

GLENN: Are there day nurseries for children of farm and factory workers?

BARRECIOS: Yes we have built many and we are building more.

GLENN: What qualifications do the teachers for these nurseries have?

BARRECIOS: They are kindergarten teachers and trained primary specialists.

GLENN: Do students have the opportunity to work in various fields such as factories and laboratories to gain a more practical and social experience?

BARRECIOS: At the present we are visiting these places, we are planning to go more intensively in the future. At present we are assisting in sugar, coffee and cotton harvesting.

GLENN: Do sports and athletics give all Cubans a chance to participate?

BARRECIOS: In Cuba we have as many teams as needed for those who wished to play.

GLENN: What is your opinion of corporal punishment in Cuban schools?

BARRECIOS: We feel that as socialists we should not do this. We should endeavour to help and guide students. It is necessary to do this in certain countries because their system does not stimulate a desire for education.

GLENN: What is the opinion of sex education in Cuba?

BARRECIOS: We have a course planned which has 5 Encyclopedia Britannica films. All teachers are able to help or render assistance to students with problems. Each school has a psychologist.

GLENN: What, in your opinion, is the chief difficulty facing education in Latin America?

BARRECIOS: The situation of education in Latin America is similar in various degrees to that of Cuba prior to the revolution. So by explaining the Cuban situation you will get an insight into other countries of Latin America. In Cuba there were very few schools. Forty per cent of the children in urban centres and 12-1/2% in rural sectors attended schools. Illiteracy was rampant. There were few teachers because of the shortage of schools. Teachers in public schools were poorly treated. The salaries were so poor that many found it impossible to continue. Thus they had to seek other kinds of employment. There was hardly enough material because money that was allotted for education mostly went for graft for senior and secondary government officials.


After my interview with Dr. Barrecios, I was invited to dinner with them at the school cafeteria.

After a very nice dinner, I visited their dormitories. The rooms housed 4 students each and had large bookshelves and a large table for studying. The highlight of my visit was being shown Batista's home, which is now used as an administrative building.

The students seemed very eager for education. Some seemed very old for their grade level. When I inquired I found out that these girls and boys returned to school after the revolution because before they found it necessary to work after a few years of schooling. The students in their spare time held rallies, parties, gardening or beautifying the dormitories with revolutionary and educational murals.

Dr. Barrecios stated that they were drawing from all philosophies of education; however the philosophy of the progressive American educationalist, John Dewey, seemed the most dominant.


Charles Biesick

With permission of the author and the Prairie New Democrat where it appeared on December 12, 1962.

It is necessary to face the issue and
dare to speak the truth about Cuba.

Never before in history has the world been in such urgent need of men and women with courage to speak up for what they believe is right regardless of what effect it may have in elections. And in the long run if there is to be a long run elections will be won by parties and people who dare to face issues and dare to speak the truth as they see it.

In the tragic long-drawn-out crisis between Cuba and the U.S. every writer and intellectual worthy of the name from J. B. McGeachy on the Conservative right to those on the far left have roundly condemned the action of the U.S. and have spoken in favor of Cuba's rights as a sovereign nation. If we in the New Democratic Party didn't have the courage to speak up for what we think is right we wouldn't deserve to win a single vote in any election. It did not lose Tommy Douglas the recent by-election because he spoke out in favor of Cuba. J. S. Woodsworth, the founder of the CCF, never hesitated to speak his mind in either commending or criticizing any aspect of the Soviet Union nor did he hesitate in opposing Canada's entry into the war. Yet the people elected him for over twenty years as the representative of Winnipeg North Centre.

Had Mr. Woodsworth been one of these namby-pamby opportunist politicians without principles, courage or conviction, whose stand on any issue is determined by whether or not it will win some votes, it is doubtful if he would have remained in public life for so long. Certainly he would not have attained the stature and reputation of being Canada's most respected politician.

Behind the State Department's opposition to Castro,
and on the bankruptcy of the Alliance for Peace Program

Not since the days of Hitler has the world witnessed such a flag-rant disregard of international law and morality. In its quest for its own security the United States is apparently ready to disregard the sovereignty of any nation.

And security in the view of the US administration seems to mean security for US investments. Cuba obviously had no nuclear weapons when Castro came to power; still the US even then regarded this little nation as a threat to its security. Whether or not Cuba now has missile bases on its territory we have only the word of the US government to go by. But Cuba certainly did not have missile bases or any offensive weapons when the US supported that ill-fated invasion of the island. But still the US felt its security threatened.

The precise point at that time at which the US felt its security threatened by Cuba was when the Castro government launched its program of land reform and the nationalization of industry. This threatened the security of US investors in Cuba and aroused the US government to resort to all sorts of shameful harassing actions against this small nation, culminating in the breaking off of diplomatic relations. And now the drastic war-like action: a military blockade.

In his lamentably weak defence of President Kennedy's action Adlai Stevenson at the United Nations said the US is not opposed to the Castro regime because it came to power through revolution because that is the way the United States came into being. The US was not opposed to the Castro regime because it is a dictatorship; the US has recognized and dealt with many dictators. Nor, said he, was the US opposed to Castro because of his attempts to establish socialism. This last statement is obviously false and Mr. Stevenson must know it is false. The rupture between Cuba and the US came when the Cuban regime nationalized industries owned by US investors.

Hernan Santa Cruz of Chile, head of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, a few weeks ago provided us with a few vital figures. He declared that of the 192 million people in Latin America, 80 million are illiterate. Fourteen million children of school age do not attend school for lack of schoolrooms and teachers; a hundred million suffer from starvation.

Yet, according to official figures, during the period 1956-61, US investors in the Latin American countries made a profit of 3,479 million dollars.

The US government made up of millionaires and wealthy investors is determined to maintain the status quo in Latin America. It regards all the nations in this hemisphere as its special preserve to have and to hold in subjection in perpetuity by force of arms if necessary. Whether a government comes to power through elections or by revolution the US is determined to thwart every effort at reforms which would seriously impinge on U. S. interests. In dealing with this aspect, Adlai Stevenson denied that the US administration is opposed to reforms in Latin America and he made frequent mention of the Alliance for Progress Program launched by President Kennedy almost two years ago. He regarded this as a shining example of reforms carried out and favored by the U.S. But what are the results of this program up to date?

A massive report running to 484 pages prepared by the UN and the Organization of American States sums up the results in two words: "relative stagnation."

Articles appearing in Newsweek (Aug. 27) Business Week (Sept. 22) Saturday Review (Aug. 18) and the Washington Post among others clearly indicate with facts and statistics that achievements of the Alliance program have been practically nil and that the position of most Latin Americans today is actually worse than it was before this program was launched.

A CBC commentator said Adlai Stevenson's speech at the UN seemed to be divorced from reality. Anyone who at this stage touts the Alliance program as an outstanding example of United States efforts and desires for reform in Latin America is certainly up in the clouds.

Perhaps there is an air of unreality to this article dealing with these prosaic economic facts during this frightening and exciting week when the US has brought the world to the brink of a nuclear war. But it is important in the midst of this crisis that we bear in mind the fact that the US Cuban crisis was brought about by the United States' opposition to the economic and social reforms initiated in Cuba by the Castro regime.

The question before the United Nations should be this: Has the United States the right to dictate to other countries what kind of governments they can have and what kind of economic reforms they can carry out? Has the United States the right to condemn millions of people in Latin America to a life of misery and poverty? Has the United States the right to protect investments of US citizens in foreign countries by force of arms? Has the United States the right to regard all the Latin American states as coming under the jurisdiction of the US government? Are the rights of US investors and their desire for profit more sacred than the desire of the people of Latin America for a decent life?

A Conservative MP in Canada has branded the US action in Cuba as unprovoked aggression, which it obviously is and should be treated as such.


Dick Fidler

Reflections on the Revolution in Cuba
after spending the month of January 1963 there

"Our people may be killed, but never destroyed. If one day the Yankee imperialists, using all their forces and resources, decide to destroy this country, the most they could say would be: 'We have destroyed it, but we have not defeated it!'

"And we know that danger hangs over us, but we also know that a whole continent remains, that a whole world remains, and we are not only Cubans, we are Latin Americans! And we are not only Latin Americans, we are human beings who live on the planet Earth, and what is important is the victory of all mankind. We know that by resisting the imperialists, by holding firm before the Yankee imperialists, we are defending the rights of mankind."

Dr. Fidel Castro, January 15, 1963.

As I listened to Fidel Castro address these powerful and inspiring words to the applauding delegates of the Congress of American Women in Havana, it occurred to me that they were a concise expression of what I felt to be the most impressive and significant characteristic of the Cuban Revolution its internationalism. For the Cubans do not regard their revolution as an isolated national phenomenon: rather, they see it as part of a broader movement the struggle against poverty and exploitation and for peace and social justice in Latin America and throughout the world; a movement the whole of which is greater than any one of its parts, and which, they are sure, will eventually triumph, even if they themselves should be physically exterminated.

While the people evince a strong (and wholly understandable) sentiment of patriotism, there is certainly no concept of "socialism in one country" in contemporary Cuba. The Cubans see the real and permanent defence and development of their revolution in the extension of socialist revolutions in Latin America and the world, and corresponding setbacks to "Yankee imperialism", which they regard, with great justice from their own experience, as the serious threat to world peace. Thus, armed with the example of their own revolution, they exhort the people of Latin America to follow them in the overthrow of corrupt regimes and the institution of a new social order. Even their tourist policy reflects this international orientation my hotel was filled with guests of the government from almost every nation of the world, and representing many different political views (including four British Labour Party M.P.s).

From this international perspective, which is central to the whole political philosophy of Castro and the top Cuban leadership, there follows what appears to be an intransigence and commitment to revolutionary principles which is probably unique in this cynical world. As the Cubans themselves put it: "If Mr. Kennedy doesn't like socialism 90 miles from home, he can move."

And after spending a month in that country, I can testify with certainty that they are not going to surrender any of their revolutionary principles or enthusiasm, under any circumstances. In the aftermath of the Crisis, it seems to me that Castro's words reflect the consciousness of the whole nation: "We want peace without renouncing our position as revolutionaries, without renouncing the revolution." The visitor to Cuba today cannot help being impressed with the extraordinarily high morale and courage of the people.

This morale was vividly demonstrated during the recent Caribbean crisis when, with the factories and offices half-empty owing to the mobilization of the militia, production was continued at near normal levels. At the same time, according to Canadians I spoke to in Havana, there was no sign of any panic or hysteria everyone went calmly and competently about his work, despite the knowledge that each day could be his last. Seen from the Cuban context, "Our people may be killed but never destroyed" is not a demagogic phrase, but simply a statement of fact a fact which may, by the way, contain certain implications for Canadians who do not understand and are hostile to Cuba. The Cuban revolutionaries will die, if necessary, for the defence of their revolution and the preservation of its underlying principles.

Fighting the Impact of the Embargo

Although the commercial embargo instituted by the NATO governments and their Western allies is undoubtedly hurting Cuba, it is not by any means bringing the country to its knees. In fact, I was surprised to see to what extent the Cubans have been able to carry on economically, through Soviet bloc aid and, in many instances, by sheer improvisation. For example, I was interested in the number of automobiles on the roads throughout the country Havana has some of the worst traffic jams I have ever seen. Many of the cars are quite decrepit, owing to the shortage or downright absence of spare parts. When a car breaks down completely, it is stripped by the resourceful Cubans of every useable part in order to repair those still running. As one man cheerfully remarked to me, while he crawled out from underneath his broken-down taxi, "In ten years, we won't have any cars, but we'll have the best damn mechanics in the world."

One of the rather "disarming" (if I may use the word) characteristics of the Cubans is their honesty, and the openness with which they approach every question and problem. There is no attempt made to cover up or apologize for discrepancies or difficulties, where they exist. (This attitude extends even to the point of publishing, in the impressive results of the campaign against illiteracy a statistic of those who "refused to learn") As one Cuban said to me:

"Lies are designed to disguise social contradictions. The revolution bares these contradictions and brings the masses into action on a grand scale it is truth itself. The closer the connection between the leaders and the masses, the less tendency there is to distort reality."

Certainly it is true that Fidel himself emphasizes repeatedly the danger of falsifying history. For example, when I was at the University of Havana, the students told me of a very important speech which he made there last March. I was able to obtain an English translation of this (the Cubans publish all of Fidel's speeches which are, in a sense, the best source of information on what is going on in Cuba), and I found the contents very interesting. At a ceremony at the University, commemorating the anniversary of the attack upon the Presidential Palace by a group of students in 1958, the political testament of Jose Antonio Echevarria, the leader of the attack, and a pious Catholic, was read out to the assembled gathering. The person reading it intentionally omitted a religious reference.

When Fidel rose to speak, he referred to this omission, calling it "a symptom, a miserable, cowardly, mutilated tendency of those .. . who have no faith in their ideas."

"What kind of confidence is this in one's ideas? What kind of concept is this of history? And how can history be regarded as something dead, putrefied, motionless? Can such cowardice be called `the dialectical concept of history?' Can such a manner of thinking be called Marxism? Can such a fraud be called Socialism? Can such deceit be called Communism? No!"

And he went on to declare:

"The Revolution must be a school of free thought, the Revolution must be the forge of character and men: the Revolution must have, above all, faith in its own ideas, in the application of its ideas to the reality of history and to the reality of life. The Revolution has to lead men to study, to think, to analyze, in order to have deep convictions, so deep that there is no need for chicanery."

This honesty probably stems from the close contact which obtains between the top leadership of the revolution and the masses of the people. For example, during the time that I was in Cuba, I encountered (quite unexpectedly in every case) four of the original twelve men who, with Castro, began in 1956 the guerilla struggle against Batista. One of the Cuban leaders, Antonio Nunez Jimenez, first director of INRA (the Agrarian Reform Institute) and present head of the Academy of Sciences, would occasionally drive up to my hotel in his ancient Pontiac and, impressive with his black beard and olive green army fatigues, two of his little children clutching his hands, would stroll into the lobby to converse with the guests.

It is a common sight to see Fidel suddenly turn up at a restaurant or school or factory, where he may spend several hours in discussing with the people on any subject whatsoever. Even his formal speeches are more in the nature of long conversations with the people. Cuba is probably the only country in the world where the Prime Minister will spend four hours on television explaining in detail the development of his political thought.

Is there a bureaucracy in the political sense of the term? Has a conservative, parasitic caste imposed itself on the revolution with privileged positions and political and administrative prerogatives and possessing extensive material advantages? I saw no substantial evidence of such a phenomenon. While some of the ministers and other leading figures live in relatively luxurious homes and enjoy chauffeur-driven cars, their children attend the same schools as do other Cubans, and they themselves receive incomes not much higher than the national average. I noticed that Fidel himself lives in a small unpretentious bungalow on the outskirts of Havana.

In the case of some of the most important professions, it was found necessary to pay very high salaries, in order to keep some of the professional people in the country. (Revolutions seem to have a tendency to upset the middle classes most of all.) However, I found that factory administrators, for example, usually receive a salary equal to the wages of the highest-paid skilled worker and no more.

Everywhere in Cuba, there are colorful posters depicting various facets of the revolution and carrying a particular message. One of the most interesting of these, put out by the Ministry of Industries, is entitled "BUROCRATISMO" and it portrays a tiny screw, held by a hand which extends from a mass of paper-clipped memoranda including the requisition form for the screw (dated 5 Oct.) and the final receipt (dated 3 Dec.). The point is obvious, and in this, the Year of Organization, this poster can be expected to be given wide prominence.

Actually, it is not bureaucracy so much as plain disorganization that is a problem in Cuba. It is largely owing to the simple fact that so much has happened in the past four years a complete change in ownership and control of the economy, the withdrawal of a large section of the old professional skilled elements of the middle classes, and the sudden placing of political and economic responsibility in the hands of a young and very inexperienced leadership, which has been forced by the exigencies of the situation to improvise and learn in the course of its experiences the best and most efficient way in which to accomplish its aims.

One of the most impressive achievements of the revolution has been in the field of agriculture. I visited several of the state farms which have superseded the co-operatives and the pre-revolutionary latifundias in the provinces of Pinar del Rio, Matanzas and Havana. They are like great rural factories, the workers living in homogeneous communities and paid in wages. The average farm contains 200 to 500 newly-built homes, of modern architecture (usually pre-fabricated) and original design, with all the latest facilities. There is no charge for rent or utilities such as electricity. Although 70 per cent of the rural population still live in the thatch-roofed huts called "bohios", so I was told, it is planned to have everyone living in a new home within the next few years. Already, an astonishing amount has been accomplished in housing reform.

Under the old regime, 500,000 workers, employed for four months of the year in harvesting sugar cane, were idle for the remaining eight months. Now they have been given permanent employment in other occupations, and the sugar crop is harvested almost entirely by voluntary labour. This is a massive undertaking, carried on chiefly from January to April, and it involves the mobilization of a large part of the population.

The Voluntary Labour Program

This year I witnessed the third "Zafra del Pueblo" (People's Harvest). Many Cubans get a leave of absence from their regular occupation in the cities, and take up residence for several weeks in the various harvest camps in the more remote sections of the island. The fields nearer the cities are generally cleared on the weekends.

On Sundays, in the early hours before dawn, long cavalcades of trucks and buses can be seen weaving through the streets of the cities and out into the nearby countryside, full of young people from the offices and government ministries. On the way, they sing songs and generally enjoy themselves. Arriving just at sunrise at the cane-fields, everyone clambers down from the vehicles, grabs a machete, and the arduous labour of cutting begins. Each field is staked out with flags (usually set up the day before by preliminary crews), and by 12 o'clock, when the heat of the sun necessitates an end to the cutting, a large part of the field is denuded of cane-stalks, which are gathered up into carts to be taken for processing to the nearby sugar-mills. In this, as in so many other activities in Cuba, the enthusiasm and the high degree of participation of the young people is very impressive.

The initial reaction of many North Americans to Castro when he first came to power was a rather puzzled interest compounded with a peculiar admiration for these bearded idealists. Thus it was that such leading intellectuals as Jean Paul Sartre and C. Wright Mills waxed enthusiastic; surely here was the classic and most convincing proof that humanism and, if you wish, romantic idealism, were not dead and still had a role to play in this materialistic world. However, with the radicalization of the revolution, and the socialist, later Marxist, definition of the character of the regime, some who even consider themselves socialists now declare that at some point along the line, Castro betrayed the original aims of the revolution. Much of their confusion stems, I think, from an understandable tendency to impart to the revolution their own philosophy and conceptions which were in essence wholly alien to its logical development.

The original program of the Cuban Revolution would appear to have been essentially reformist. The ideology could have been fairly described as "humanist". Not one of the demands appeared to be, on the face of it, a revolutionary one. Only the agrarian reform threatened to expropriate large-scale private holdings. But in a semi-colonial political and economic structure such as Cuba's, the winning of even minor reforms required a revolution, as the Cubans soon found out. For it was those first simple acts of the revolutionary government the cutting of the rents and electricity rates, and the agrarian reform law that brought the Castro government into initial conflict with both domestic and foreign capital and its interests in the American government. Here the question presented itself in all its crucial importance to give way to the protests of these interests and to seek an accommodation with them, at the cost of thwarting the internal dynamic of the revolution, or to proceed anyway, and to take the consequences? And it is here that the Cuban leadership signified its root differences with all other middle-class leaderships.

The Nature of the Leadership

Rather than endeavoring to hold the revolution back, they took the consequences, and as each step was taken, and the inner logic of the revolution presented new tasks, they met those tasks, constantly going forward, re-evaluating their ideas in the light of their own experiences and observations, and drawing the necessary conclusions. And so it was that the revolution deepened, radicalized, and changed its character from a workers' and farmers' government in a capitalist state, to a Socialist regime in a workers' state.

This process, of course, did not take place without incident. In the early summer of 1959, the tension between the two tendencies in the top leadership of the regime came to a head with the conflict between the basically pro-capitalist right wing of Miro Cardona and Urrutia (the present leaders of the counter-revolutionary forces in Miami) and the more uninhibited left wing of Castro, Guevara, etc. Finding his hands tied at every step by the former group, Fidel announced his resignation from the government. The effect was instantaneous. As my Cuban interpreter, who had fought in the underground for several years prior to the victory of the 26th of July Movement, put it: "I said to myself, `If Fidel's pulling out, it's back to the bullets'." The people swarmed in the hundreds of thousands, so I was told, to the Presidential Palace and stood in front calling out for the resignation of Miro Cardona and his replacement by Fidel as Premier. In this, the first political crisis, it was clear who had the support of the masses.

Cuba is not the case of a leadership which betrayed its original aims it is the classic example of a leadership which refused to be diverted from its fundamental ideals.

The Cuban Revolution was "the revolution without the party". However, the Cubans are now engaged in forming the united party of the socialist revolution, composed of the Integrated Revolutionary Organizations (ORI) namely, the 26th of July Movement, the Revolutionary Directorate (the student group) and the old Popular Socialist (Communist) Party. I attended a meeting where the membership of this new organization was being selected. All the workers in the particular unit (in this case, my hotel) gathered, from cooks and bellboys to desk clerks and chambermaids.

They nominated from the floor certain individuals whom the nominators regarded as exemplary workers (only the best workers can be members of the new party) and then each nomination was discussed by the workers. If anyone felt a certain person should not have been nominated, he was free to say so and I was surprised at the lack of inhibition with which such debate took place. When someone criticized a nominee for having once turned up for work in an inebriated condition, there was a little hissing among some of the workers at what they obviously considered unfair criticism, but it was clear that they all took their task seriously.

Apparently, there is no organized programmatic discussion taking place around the formation of this projected party. When I asked about this, the response was usually: "The program of the party is the revolution itself." But when I suggested that there might be differing opinions within the context of pro-revolutionary politics, I was assured that political discussion would take place once the party had been formalized. It appeared that the Cubans have the concept of the ORI as a workers' council (Soviet?), composed of exemplary workers, and acting incidentally as a check upon possible bureaucratic tendencies and abuses.

Is the ORI simply the old PSP under a new guise? Far from it! On the 25-man National Committee of the ORI, the PSPers are in the minority. And there is no evidence that old Communists will predominate in the membership of the new party. But more significant still is the attitude of Castro himself towards the Stalinist elements. In a major television speech on March 26th of last year, less than four months after he had announced his adherence to "Marxism-Leninism", Fidel Castro delivered a smashing denunciation of Anibal Escalante, the general secretary of ORI and a leading PSPer, and the whole Stalinist tendency which he represented; a "sectarian" group, which he said, "imagined they had won the revolution in a raffle."

"We were not organizing a party. We were organizing . . . a straitjacket, a yoke, comrades. We were not furthering a free association of revolutionaries, rather we were forming an army of tamed and domesticated revolutionaries.

".... We were creating a mere shell of an organization. How? The masses had not been integrated. We speak here of the Integrated Revolutionary Organizations. It was an organization composed of the . . . former Popular Socialist Party . . .

"Then how were the ORI nuclei formed? I'm going to tell you how. In every province the general secretary of the PSP was made general secretary of the ORI; in every municipality, the general secretary of the PSP was made general secretary of the ORI; in every nucleus the general secretary of the PSP was made general secretary."

I had read this speech before my visit to Cuba, and had speculated about its consequences. I was told that it had a powerful effect there. Not only was there a drastic reorganization of almost every unit of the government, the army, and industry, including even the removal of at least one deputy minister, but the speech signalled the end of the independent existence of the Communists as a disciplined and independent party, and the decisive victory of the "Fidelistas". Every Cuban with whom I discussed political questions, mentioned the "Escalante speech" (as it is called there). It is said that after Fidel's remarks that night, the people came out into the streets, so relieved were they at the turn of events. This was the second political crisis and once again it was clear who had the support of the masses.

Some Cubans to whom I spoke held that the PSP had almost staged a Stalinist "coup d'etat", and that the Party had played an objectively counter-revolutionary role. Whatever the case may have been, it is undeniable that the Communists in Cuba have been very much outdone by Castro and the other 26th of July leaders at every step they have lagged behind the real development of the revolution. When Castro started his struggle in the hills, he was condemned as an "adventurist"; when the 26th of July Movement first took power, the revolution was proclaimed to hold only a "bourgeois democratic" perspective; and even when the Cuban revolution had taken on a clearly socialist definition, Castro was still regarded as some sort of Kerensky who would be replaced eventually by a PSPer.

While today the Cubans recognize the old PSPers as legitimate converts to the revolution and condemn "anti-Communism" as divisive and sectarian, it is significant that, following the Caribbean crisis, they sent Education Minister Armando Hart (an old 26th of July man) to the world Communist movement discussions at the East German Socialist Unity Party Congress, rather than the customary Soviet emissary Blas Roca who, as the former PSP general secretary, is considered to be too soft with Khrushchev.

Part of the explanation of the just-mentioned incident lies in the Cuban reaction to the Soviet Union's original unilateral agreement, at the time when it withdrew the missiles from Cuba, to allow inspection of Cuban territory. Many of us in North America had considered this to be a defeat for Castro, but from the Cuban point of view it would seem to have been the opposite. For the Soviet Union, in the face of the unyielding refusal of the Cubans to allow such inspection, was forced to drop its agreement on inspection and to support Castro's five-point proposal for the solution of the crisis, and the United States never did fulfill its desire to inspect Cuban territory.

Most Cubans think that they have far more right to inspect the United States, for it is the U.S. which is threatening to invade Cuba; and not vice versa: At any rate, it is worth while noting that one of the revolutionary posters most prominent in Cuba during my stay there was a photograph of Patrice Lumumba being beaten by his captors in the UN-supervised Congo, with the pointed caption beneath: "Cuba no es el Congo". I heard Castro declare to almost a million Cubans on January 2nd:

"If the imperialists want us to stop being revolutionaries as a condition for peace, we will not stop being revolutionaries, and we will never lower our banner. We are an example for our sister countries of America ..."

There is a popular saying in Cuba today that the ideology of the revolution is "Marxism-Leninism married to the cha-cha". Certainly it is undeniable that the Cuban brand of socialism is quite different from that of the Soviet bloc countries. Most interesting is the appealing lack of sectarianism in the Cuban approach to political ideas. I noticed that the many bookstores were piled high with Lenin's "Left-Wing Communism, An Infantile Disorder", a classic attack on political sectarianism in all forms, and published in this instance by the Imprenta Nacional de Cuba. Also while the important and far-reaching dispute taking place at present in the world Communist movement has been characterized in some ways by the bureaucratic behavior of the major protagonists such as the Soviet Union's cutting off trade and diplomatic relations with pro-China Albania, and China's demand for the expulsion of Yugoslavia from the Soviet bloc, the Cubans call for "unity on the basis of principles", and pointedly publish side by side on the same page of El Mundo, photographs of the Albanian and Yugoslav trade delegations to Cuba.

There is also an interest in the writings of non-Stalinist theoreticians, particularly among the students. I noticed that the political titles in the University of Havana library included five works by Leon Trotsky, and Djilas' "The New Class".

A Canadian living in Cuba told me that one of the professors urges his students to read Trotsky: "What he has to say is extremely important". A Cuban even told me that a friend of his who is a captain in the G2 (the security police) was telling him to read "The Revolution Betrayed", by the same author.

Actually, Cuba surprises the visitor as much for its freedom and lack of regimentation as for anything else. This freedom is all the more remarkable when one considers that the island is under the constant threat of an invasion. Yet I encountered some counter-revolutionaries who did not seem to feel the least bit inhibited in complaining to me about the "lack of freedom of speech" in Cuba.

Here, nationalization of the means of production, distribution and exchange has produced not an Orwellian nightmare of repression, but what is in effect the most libertarian milieu in the world. Certainly, Cuba is about as far as can be from anyone's conception of the "Police State" of North American propaganda.

In fact, I can scarcely imagine a more free country. One thing for sure it is as free as Canada by all counts. After my month there this year, I can truthfully and gladly report that the Cuban revolution is still going forward, and appears capable of overcoming every problem and obstacle that it may meet.

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