Hardly had Fidel Castro taken over the government of Cuba after the flight of the dictator, Batista, than he was invited to the United States and Canada by various clubs and organisations, where he was received with enthusiasm and adulation. Here in Montreal it was the Junior Chamber of Commerce which invited him, arranged the reception, and organized a "ball of toys" and a tag day in the city's streets for his country. While all these gullible people were busy lavishing their praise and hommage on the victorious young revolutionary chief, back in his own country, men, more interested in making the "pearl of the Antilles" a springboard for the Communists at the back door of North America than in collecting toys for Cuban children, were swiftly and efficiently seizing the most important posts and taking control of the most important forces in that country.
This, of course, is the time-honoured procedure of the Communists — to take advantage of any turmoil or disturbance, whether it be a strike, a war or a revolution, in order to insinuate themselves into positions which will give them greater striking power.
Relations, a publication of the Jesuits in Montreal, under an editorial in its June issue, wrote:
"Fidel Castro came to Montreal and left without having made one significant statement. In answer to a journalist who asked him about Communist influence in Cuba, the libertador replied that he had not assumed power for the purpose of persecuting the Communists. This answer was hardly to the point; there's a difference between persecuting the Communists and abandoning key positions to them. The reporter, perhaps dazzled, perhaps just not thinking, omitted to ask the important question.
"Everyone knows that Fidel Castro accepted the collaboration of the Communists, a collaboration which was not genuinely a collaboration since they, the Communists, do not have the same end in view as The Movement of July 26. Furthermore, the very day after the glorious march to the capital, affairs began to deteriorate."
Now, there must be some good reason for the alarm over the new situation in Cuba, a reason founded on facts. For, after all, Castro's victory over Batista was generally hailed with joy, at first, not only by the Cuban people but also by its leaders, including the Catholic hierarchy. This was probably due in part to the excesses of the deposed dictator. Unfortunately, the faults of Batista do not automatically confer virtue on his successor.
An American, Catholic newspaperman, Richard Pattee, was anxious to see for himself what was going on in Cuba; he wanted to sample Cuban sentiment himself, and to hear with his own ears the comments of the religious leaders on the change in government. His report appeared in Columbia, the official publication of the Knights of Columbus. Pattee's report said that the general impression given was one favorable to the new regime; he said that he could see no indication of Communist infiltration into the government. He said that he could have wished, however, like an archbishop to whom he spoke, that Castro would moderate the severity of his reprisals and show a little more mercy towards those whom he called "Batista's collaborator's. There was also some question in his mind if Castro, still young, still given to inflammatory elocution, still more experienced in revolution than in government, would be able to carry out the heavy new tasks laid on his shoulders.
However, Pattee's visit took place on January, and while the Communists don't waste any time exploiting a situation, they are clever at dissimulating their activities, which probably accounts for Pattee's not having noticed Communist infiltration into the Castro administration.
Another Catholic reporter, Dale Francis, came back from his first visit to Cuba with the same favorable impression. However, he later went back, and in the March 22 issue of The Sunday Visitor, he changed his attitude completely, stating frankly that in Cuba there was more fear, more restrictions today than there were under the Batista regime; and he stated that the Communists were rapidly taking over the key posts.
In Moscow, where they have detailed information on every incident in the advance or retreat of Communist groups in all countries, the Communist weekly, Temps Nouveaux, published in seven languages, stated in a February issue:
"The bloody dictatorship of Batista, supported by the United States, made the Popular Socialist Party of Cuba illegal. That was yesterday. Today the Batista regime no longer exists, while the Popular Socialist Party, at the head of the workers' class, is energetically at work." (As quoted in Relations)
This Popular Socialist Party is the Communist party of Cuba. And, in fact, it has taken the leadership of the working class and is moving swiftly.
Is Fidel Castro himself a Communist? Up to the present, most commentators are in agreement that he is not actually a member of the Communist party. However, it is well to keep in mind that the Communists often make use of a leader who is not an active member of the party; this tends to lessen opposition.
Once the party has attained its objective it has no difficulty either to oblige the leader to go all the way with the party or to get rid of him and substitute in his place a loyal party member.
As are the majority of Cubans, Fidel Castro is a Catholic, nominally, at least. A lawyer by profession, he made his studies under the Jesuit Fathers, but this has had little influence on his conduct. (Voltaire was also educated in a Jesuit college, but this did not prevent him from becoming the standardbearer of atheism in France.) Fidel Castro does not practice any form of religion, Catholic or other, neither in his private nor public life. He has been divorced from his wife who is now Mrs. Mirita Diza de Dunez (Tablet, January 10, 1959)
Right from his student days, Fidel Castro manifested a tendency to become mixed up in revolutionary activities. He was director of a Communist circle.
In 1948 there was bloody uprising in Bogota, the capital of Columbia. It was obviously, engineered by the Communists to embarrass the then American Secretary of Foreign Affairs, George Marshall, who was at that time presiding over the Pan-American Conference. By a coincidence, probably contrived by the Communists, a conference of the International Union of Students, controlled from Moscow, was held in the same city during the same days as the Pan-American conference. Fidel Castro, then a student, attended this conference. And it was he who, with del Pino, directed the pillage of April 3 which followed upon the assasination of the Liberal chief, Jeorge Eliecer.
Furthermore, Fidel Castro has ambitions to seed revolutions and raise the peoples of other Latin-American republics against those governments which he doesn't like. At least that is the understanding he gave in his speeches the day after his victory against Batista. And if Castro denied having anything to do with the invasion of Panama it wasn't because he was giving up the principle or plans of such invasions; it was simply because the invasion of Panama proved to be such a colossal failure.
Now, let's have a look at Castro's entourage — the men who immediately surround him, his friends, officials and supporters. If all decisions come from him they are taken only after he has consulted with this entourage. And it is actively pro-Communist, working towards Communism.
In first place is his brother Raoul, younger than Fidel, but to whom Fidel has entrusted very important offices. Raoul besides being very intelligent is also very ambitious. If Fidel is the shining demagogue, Raoul is a fervent believer in dictatorship and he demands the exercise of dictatorship without pity, remorse or any consideration whatsoever for the moral law. If Fidel should vanish from the scene it is Raoul who would take his place.
Raoul denies that he is a Communist; but no one places any credence in this denial. It is very difficult to find in him any characteristic which is not Communist. He likes the Communists and admits it. He admires the Communist country's which he has visited. He even underwent training in Moscow.
Ernest Che Guevara is another close colleague of Castro. He is not a Cuban as he comes from Argentine. His fatherland however, is wherever revolution takes place. He has no interest whatsoever in the Cuban people. He is, above all, a soldier of fortune, an adventurer. Now that the battle is over in Cuba he is looking elsewhere for the fires of insurrection. With his headquarters in the Cuban province of Oriente he is organizing the Movimiento Revolucionario del Caribe. The purpose of the Caribbean Revolutionary Movement is to foment and aid, militarily, other revolutions in the Antilles and Central America. He gets his recruits from among the men who fought against Batista and from the Caribbean Legion stationed at Costa Rica. It is worth noting that Castro's army at the end of last December counted no more than 1000 Cubans of the 3000 total. The other two-thirds came from various countries of South America and from Spain; with regards to these latter, most of them were veterans of the Spanish Civil War, having fought against Franco, on the side of the Communists.
Another Guevara (Alfredo) is a notorious Communist and it is he who directs the courses in Marxist indoctrination which each soldier is obliged to undergo.
Alfred Bayo is a veteran of the Communist brigades which fought in the Spanish civil war. He trained the men of Castro's guerilla armies in Mexico.
Armando Hart of the radical left-wing, a professed free-thinker, is the Minister of Education in Castro's government.
The Minister of Labor is Manuel Fernandez. Although he is not a member of the Communist party, Fernandez has made Communist penetration easy, so that they are in a position to dominate the unions.
In Cuba the Communist Party is known as Partido Socialista Popular (PSP). The PSP is directed by Dr. Juan Marmello who has had to spend many years of his life either in exile or in hiding. This veteran of the Communist party is in complete charge of all foreign relations. In February he was in Caracas, the capital of Venezuala and the center of all the revolutionary plotting. He then left for Moscow where he spent a week, returning immediately, no doubt with orders for future activities.
The organization of the Communist party has been pushed forward with all possible speed since Castro came to power. This organization has gone forward so speedily that it is impossible to give an exact figure for the number of its members. But according to the Intelligence Digest, a periodical of information published in London, the number must be quite considerable since the party employs 700 full-time workers. The financing is done by Moscow, the money coming by way of Venezuela where it is managed by Machado. In the month of January alone the amount of these funds reached the staggering sum of 940,000 American dollars.
Until Castro took over power the unions were directed by Batista's men. The picture then changed very quickly. It is common knowledge that in no matter what country, the unions are the coveted field of the Communists. And in Cuba they did not waste a moment rushing in to seize the key posts.
The most notorious labor chieftan in Cuba is Lazaro Pena. Under his leadership the Communists are seizing all the command posts in the unions. Out of 80 worker's unions on the island, the Communist control 14; and these are 14 important unions such as that of transportation, of the docks, of printing. The Catholics, under the Young Catholic Workers organization, control, also, 14, but these are artisans unions without the same weight as the heavy industry unions controlled by the Communists. Control of the remaining unions is divided half and half between both sides. (The report from which this information is taken is of May and no doubt the Communist have consolidated still more territory by this time.)
The media of information are quite clearly becoming the tools of the Communists.
Only two dailies make use of paper made out of bagasse — the residue left when the juice is pressed from the sugar cane. The others are the mercy of rising costs and politics. These two privileged papers are Hoy and Revolucion. Hoy is a daily which is quite openly Communist. It was suppressed by Batista, resurrected by a decree of Castro and today it is in first-class shape with a very respectable circulation. The other paper, Revolucion, is the official voice of the government and is under the direction of Carlos Franqui, former editor of Hoy and an established member of the Communist party. So it can be seen that the mass of readers get a good diet of Communist indoctrination.
As for the other papers, those which wish to fight Communism find themselves working under very formidable handicaps. For one thing, paper is rationed. For another, printers belong to a union dominated by the Reds. So these printers simply refuse to print whatever is not well dressed with the Red sauce. In effect the printers' union exercises a censorship over the press.
The same situation exists in the field of radio. The radio is government-controlled and is called Radio Rebelde. This institution is under the guiding light of Violeta Casals, another Communist.
The director of the Institute of National Arts and the president of the National Commission of Arts are both recognized Communists. (This information from the Intelligence Digest).
The execution of "Batista collaborators" caused a certain amount of perturbation in this country, though certain individuals tried to justify them by arguing that the families which had lost members at the hands of Batista would have taken revenge themselves. This sort of an excuse is quite unacceptable in our civilization.
Moreover, these executions were held according to the approved Communist pattern: summary judgement, execution without delay at the edge of a ditch gouged out by a bulldozer, the stricken body rolling over and over into the ditch, while the onlooking crowd boomed and hissed.
The reports of the Cuban government set the number of executions at 500, or slightly more. According to well-informed observers, the number is closer to 3,750.
The word "collaborator" can be applied to anyone who isn't on the side of Castro. Since the population, still under the influence of the exaltation inspired by Castro's victory and the disappearance of Batista, has not as yet learned to guard its tongue, the slightest hint of any criticism of the government can lead and does lead, to arrests. But once arrested, the accused is obliged to prove that he is not a "Batista collaborator"; whereas, in civilized countries, the procedure is for the accuser to prove his accusation.
The director of executions is a certain Herman Marks, born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the United States. This man is certainly no crusader in the cause of justice. He has a very considerable criminal dossier with the American police, having been arrested 32 times. Among the chief accusations brought against him are those of automobile theft, stealing money, housebreaking, assault, driving while drunk, disorderly conduct. This "Captan" Marks has even spent three years in a Wisconsin prison for a moral offence committed with a minor girl.
∗ ∗ ∗
This is not a very glittering picture of Cuba under the regime of Fidel Castro. Could it be because of the infiltration of certain Red elements into the C.B.C. that this institution sympathized openly with Castro's cause, even long before his victory? Socialism would seem to have gotten itself well placed in the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, especially in the French network.
And what is to become of Cuba? Will the reaction against the Communist influence which is already being felt in that country, be sufficient to disperse the Red miasma? Or will this country be the first in our hemisphere to have on openly Communist government?
The French weekly, Aspects de la France, of May 8, after having described the reception given Castro in the United States and his demands for financial aid from the very countries he had been denouncing in his triumphal discourses last January, had this to say:
"Fidel Castro may or may not be, personally, Communist. It is even possibile that he may become actively hostile to Communism. But that is not the question. That which will count is that the political climate created by him and his political movement in Latin America, is definitely favorable to communism. Under such conditions, and American diplomats who are in the know, how can one not be duped in taking the decision to support Fidel Castro? And duped not only with regard to Cuba, but also from Panama right down to Argentine and Chile."
Those who took the initiative in causing Castro to be invited up by the Junior Chamber of Commerce, were certainly duped. Or could it be that their secret aim was to heighten the prestige of this good and faithful servant of Communism here in the New World?
The article in Relations of June ended also by posing several questions:
"Will Fidel Castro give his people, as he promised, a "pure and lasting democracy"? No one since Bolivar has enjoyed such popularity. Behind him all Cuba is marching as it were in a starry dream. It has not yet been crushed under weight of Communism which wishes to destroy his victory and substitute an execrable dictatorship. A breathing space has been granted him. But he will have to stay home and assume the responsibilities of a chief of a democratic government which are certainly not those of a swashbuckling revolutionary; otherwise the Communists, unless he cleans them out, will oust him and make the people long for even the regime of Batista.
"Is it necessary to cry "Long live Castro"! The strongest sentiment that can be summoned up for the Movement of July 26 is one of rather uncertain hope".
As the days pass and the Communist grip on Cuba becomes tighter and tighter, the hope tends to fade while the uncertainty becomes stronger and stronger until it verges on the certainty of despair. The felicitations and flowers heaped upon Castro may eventually become to us what were the flowers and felicitations heaped on Stalin in the last war.