Workers Vanguard, Mid-July 1960
by Ross Dowson
Just 18 months ago the struggle of the Cuban people led by Fidel Castro and the July 26 movement had the approval, a cautious approval, it is true, of the Canadian press. Today this tiny island off the Florida coast, only slightly larger than Newfoundland, with a population about equal to that of Ontario, is depicted as the gravest threat, not only to the most powerful nation the United States of America, but to the entire "free" world, including Canada.
Today the big business press is waging vicious propaganda war against the Cuban revolution. The Toronto Star recently carried an editorial cartoon depicting bearded, Fidelists, their arms laden with wrist watches like common looters, armed to the teeth with grenades, knives, and burp guns, marching tourists into Cuban hotels at pistol point. Another cartoon depicted a kindly, aged Uncle Sam, with a gigantic murderous knife sticking out between his shoulder blades, labeled—Cuba. The editors of the Globe and Mail recently urged that Canada "call our ambassador home from Cuba ... we can thus show our distaste for Mr. Castro’s behavior."
Philip Deane, the Globe and Mail’s Washington correspondent quite frankly reported in his July 2 column that "Washington will try to strengthen the opponents of Premier Fidel Castro by a combination of political and economic pressures." Washington has taken to openly aiding counterrevolutionary forces in another country, he writes, because "these are not the Guatemala days when the invasion of that country was carefully arranged and financed by Central Intelligence Agency."
"Washington will now make the pressures worse, by cutting the sugar imports, by other indirect economic pressures," because, he writes, it sees "the seeds of Castro’s potential downfall ... in these two facts—popular resentment against shortages and Catholic opposition."
What is behind the campaign against Cuba that has reached such vicious and petty lengths as to bring to his knees that redoubtable fighter Joe Louis, and force him to dissociate himself from a business deal to encourage tourists to spend their vacation in Cuba? What has happened in Cuba in the past 18 months to provoke such cynical open identification with subversive counterrevolutionary forces against the government of tiny Cuba, by the ruling circles of both the US and Canada?
When Castro came to power, Cuba had an illiteracy rate of 33.5 per cent. A million Cubans had never worn shoes. Half a million had never tasted milk or meat. More than a million had never known medical care. In a year and a half 1,392 cooperatives have been set up. They have received agricultural machinery and implements costing 20 million dollars from the National Institute of Agrarian Reform. Tens of thousands of housing units have been completed and 6,000 new classrooms were set up in the first eight months. Student enrolment has grown from 660,000 in 1958 to over one million in 1959. Electricity and telephone rates have been cut by a third and a half respectively, and medicines by one fifth. Rents have been cut in half.
There is no race prejudice in Cuba, as many American Negro visitors have testified. There is no hostility to the American people. Star correspondent Garry Baker, in reply to a question from revolutionary leader Che Guevara, "had to admit," though looking like an Americano, "that I had received nothing but friendship and help from the Cuban people since I arrived."
Cuba is the most free country in the world—10,000 times more free than the dollar democracies of capitalism and the totalitarian regimes of the Soviet bloc! All propaganda about armed "barbuda" spies notwithstanding, the masses are solidly with Castro, writes Halcro Ferguson in the Globe and Mail, June 25. Cuba, according to Ferguson, "is not a dictatorship as it is understood in Europe. Within a revolutionary context (a proviso which cannot be too strongly emphasized) it is a remarkably free country."
"Havana’s oldest and most conservative daily, El Diario de la Marina," according to Ferguson, "is unhappy about the present regime and loses no opportunity of quoting criticism from abroad and reporting defections of Cuban officials abroad." Then he adds an observation which perhaps throws some light on what he means by his proviso. "Each of these stories is followed by an insert in heavy type; ‘Explanation; This cable is published at the wish of the owners in the exercise of free speech ... But the local branch of the printers’ union, also in legitimate exercise of this right, states that it ... constitutes an attack on the revolution.'"
The new head of the Cuban Embassy at Ottawa, Luis Baralt, put it this way in his claim that 95 per cent of the people are solidly in support of Castro—the Revolutionary Government armed "the whole population" and "if they do not support him, they have the means to overthrow him."
In the last week the Globe and Mail, like the rest of the world press, seized on an incident that took place outside the Havana Cathedral following a mass on July 17, together with garbled reports of a speech by Castro, to make the case that there is religious persecution in Cuba and a developing opposition to the regime which we in some way should be sympathetic to. But inadvertently, in the course of its weekly news roundup on July 23, we learn that the mass called by the Catholic hierarchy was in commemoration of the beginning of the war and in celebration of the victory of fascism in Franco Spain.
Behind the hysteria and lies being whipped up against Cuba is the hatred of capitalist interests who looted the lush Caribbean island for decades and whose power and influence the Castro regime has been seriously curtailing in the interests of the people. Behind the economic blockade and promotion of counterrevolution lies the fear that Cuba’s example will spur other Latin American people to throw off their tyrants and go forward with similar measures for the benefit of the workers and peasants, displeasing to the foreign and native capitalists.
In order to give land to the peasants the Castro regime nationalized some $20 million of the $900 million land holdings of US corporations. Largely due to false reports of conditions in Cuba, hotels have been going to the wall. The National Hotel, owned by a US firm, paid no wages to its staff for 41 days. Some hotels owed for food and services, debts as high as $300,000. Layoffs were taking place. So the government nationalized the hotels.
Now a big hue and cry has arisen that Cuba has become a satellite of the Soviet Union—the US State Department justifies its warlike threats against tiny Cuba in the name of the Monroe Doctrine.
The evidence is Cuba’s willingness to trade with and accept economic aid from the Soviet Union, and innumerable inside reports on Soviet infiltration of the Cuban government. Why shouldn’t Cuba trade with whoever will trade with her, and on whatever terms are satisfactory to her? And in the face of the US State Department’s blockade what alternative faces Cuba? When Castro was forced to sell Cuba’s sugar surplus to the USSR and compelled to accept oil in return, British and US oil interests refused to refine the oil. What alternative did the Castro government have other than to seize the refineries! Or should it see the economy grind to a halt for lack of gasoline and other oil derivatives?
The dangers inherent in Wall Street’s aggressive policies, made in the name of the Monroe Doctrine, have alarmed the Canadian press. "We can see that the Monroe Doctrine would apply if Cuba came under Russian occupation," write the editors of the Globe and Mail. "We do not see that it applies if Cuba maintains close relations with Russia. On the contrary the Monroe Doctrine sustains the right of Cuba to have whatever government it wants—including a Communist government —and to formulate its own trade and foreign policies."
The editors of The Star consider that the US has got itself in a trap and has established "the Soviets in Cuban minds as well as those probably of most Latin Americans—as a staunch champion of this little country." What Eisenhower has said in effect "is that Washington will not permit the emergence of any new revolutionary government that, in its opinion is dominated by international communism. This notion is certain to strike most Latin American countries as absurd and even dangerous."
The Castro government—a pawn of the Kremlin? Che Guevara, president of the National Bank and named more than any other Cuban leader as "a Kremlin man," answered this charge that the US State Department has stuck onto this genuine revolutionary transformation. He told Star reporter Garry Barker: "it is stupid to say that the ideology of one man is able to change the thinking of a whole country." In reply to the suggestion that Russia would attempt to colonize Cuba he replied that Cuba’s sovereignty was the basis and whole spirit of the revolution—"We would fight international Communism with all our power just as we now fight American encroachments upon our soil."
As for the Communist Party itself, it is hardly a factor in the whole situation. It played no role in the revolution whatsoever and in fact supported Batista for many years, and did so almost to the very end.
Of course, like Stalin, Khrushchov seeks political profit in Cuba, Latin America and the rest of the colonial world. He seeks to utilize revolutionary movements in his deals with the big powers. The editors of the Financial Post have already taken the hint from his pose as staunch champion of the Latin American people. In the July 16 Issue they point out the danger to the US that logically flows from its justifications for intervention against governments it calls Communist.
"If the Americans are entitled to liquidate a Red Stronghold in the Caribbean, the Communists have obviously the same right to wipe out American bases in the China Sea or the Middle East. The only answer to these questions," these Bay Street advisers write, "is that the US and the Communist bloc must agree about the governance of the world ..."
But the Cuban people are on the march to govern themselves, not be subject to any agreements between the big powers, and so are the peoples of all of Latin America.
Copyright South Branch Publishing. All