The Ambassador in Cuba (Norweb) to the Secretary of State

No. 1356

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s secret circular airgram of February 19, 194639 providing an appraisal by our Embassy at Moscow of the attitude of the U.S.S.R. toward Spain as a field of Communist activity, and indicating that one of the reasons for Communist political interest in gaining eventual control in Spain is that it would afford a direct channel of influence to the Latin American countries independent of the United States or of any other powerful American nation. Reference is likewise made to the comments of our Embassy at Madrid on this subject (as summarized in the March 12, 1946 issue of the Weekly Report on the Other American Republics). In view of the information in these reports, the Department may be interested, at this time, in this attempt to estimate the significance of the Communist Party in Cuba.

This despatch includes a summary that begins with the next paragraph, after which there are comments on: The Communist Party Name, the Partido Socialista Popular, which is freely interchangeable with the term Communist in Cuba; The Question of Whether Direct Coordination of Communist Party Activities has been Renewed since Dissolution of the Comintern, with an expression of the view that the Party in Cuba now seems to be sufficiently strong so that little or no guidance is necessary beyond the sort of information that comes from Moscow in regular AP and UP news despatches; The Question of the Possible Effectiveness of Spain as a Direct Channel of Communist Influence to Cuba, with an expression of the view that the effect through that channel would probably not be outstanding in Cuba; and three sections, providing more facts and comments on the numbered subjects in the summary. Translations of Cuban Communist [Page 720] Party programs are enclosed, and the final page is a brief Table of Contents of the despatch.40

Strength: [Here follows paragraph on the strength of the Communist Party in Cuba.]
Possible Influence during Next Few Years on Specific and Material United States Interests in Cuba. The immediate interests of the United States and United States citizens in Cuba are already influenced by the general program of the Communist Party, which encourages and prods the nationalistic inclinations of the Auténtico41 Administration leaders and the public. While, from the Communist viewpoint, this policy may be intended more for long-term weakening of the bonds between the United States and Cuba, it already seems to be having the effect of encouraging high Government officials to delay or avoid concessions to the United States, and reciprocal exchanges with the United States, if they do not appear to the Cubans immediately vital to their self-interest. The Department has seen evidence of this in such negotiations as those pertaining to possible continued use of the Military Aviation Bases in Cuba, and the many old debt and claim questions on which the Cuban authorities have persistently delayed action.
As indicated in very recent pronouncements of its policies concerning certain specific United States interests, the Communist Party in Cuba advocates unqualifiedly the division of large tracts of land throughout the country and their distribution to poor farmers, which would of course affect sugar, tobacco and cattle lands held by United States citizens as well as Cubans (and probably action in this respect would affect properties of United States citizens first, because of concurrent “anti-foreign” and “anti-imperialist” propaganda and feeling). The Party advocates that Cuban sugar all be refined in Cuba (which would affect large sugar refining interests in the United States). The Party approves and advocates Cuban Government intervention of any companies which do not comply with the Administration’s interpretation of social legislation and official provisions, along the lines of the recent intervention of the Havana Electric Company (which asserted that it could not raise wages because its fares do not provide enough revenue).
The Secretary General of the Party has announced that there is a difference of opinion in the Party as to whether all foreign companies should be nationalized. He said publicly, at the Third National Assembly of the Party in January 1946, that while the Party “naturally” aspires to shake off the “yoke and oppression” of the foreign firms, he [Page 721] personally believes immediate action should be confined to nationalizing public utilities and services whose contracts expire, or who do not comply with the terms and conditions in their contracts. (This program would eventually mean nationalization of the Compañía Cubana de Electricidad, the Cuban Telephone Company, and foreign-owned railroads, and later all large foreign companies.) The Communist Party in Cuba has recently repudiated the Browder42 thesis that labor and capital can formulate long-term working arrangements, and has reverted to the thesis that unqualified class struggle is essential to the virility of the Party. This Party principle should of course lead to labor conflicts with American management as well as Cuban management in Cuba.
Possible Influence on Long-Term United States Interests in Cuba. While the Communist Party advocates, in general terms, warm relations between Cuba and the United States, even the wording used tends to lead away from such relations. For example: “We will fight for those relations; but these Cuban interests are opposed to having our relations with the United States those of a country submitted to its oppressors, to their being relations based upon the open or covert imposition of conditions favorable to our exploitation and contrary to our progress.” In general, it appears that the possible long-term influence of the Communist Party on the interests of the United States in Cuba may occur along the following lines: (a) persistent and continual effort to discredit the United States and its ideals and objectives and to disillusion the people of Cuba concerning our motives, thus weakening the bonds of solidarity and friendship with the United States; (b) a large-scale voluntary advertising of the U.S.S.R., taking its side unqualifiedly in every argument; (c) direct aid to the Russian Government representative when necessary, and possible development of public support for the U.S.S.R. in future important issues that may arise, even to the point of specifically urging the American Republics to withhold their support from the United States in the event (however remote) of war with the U.S.S.R.; and (d) possible eventual creation of a system of State Capitalism in Cuba which might likewise weaken support for the private capitalism and private enterprise system of the United States in tri-Power or bi-Power discussions, and which might promote similar change in our own system in the United States.

In considering measures which our own Government might take in the light of these possible developments, it seems that (e) the cause of private capitalism and private enterprise in the United States would [Page 722] probably be advanced by greater internal improvement in the United States than in the U.S.S.R., by strengthening our own direct relations with Russia, and by perfecting the UNO, in contrast to probable ineffectiveness of any attempt to influence Communist development by our direct relations with Cuba. Also, a strong system of inter-American cooperation might do much to prevent weakening of relations with Cuba because of Communist influence.

The Communist Party Name

[Here follow comments on the Communist Party name.]

Question of Whether Direct Coordination of Communist Party Activities has been Renewed since Dissolution of the Comintern.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

If the Communist Party in Cuba is receiving any direct instructions from a central point, presumably Moscow, logic suggests that they are not transmitted through the Legation of the U.S.S.R. in Habana. This impression comes, first, from the assumption that the Government of the U.S.S.R. would not take a totally unnecessary chance, in this way, of creating a new cause for immediate friction with the United States. Specific indications of changes in clearly-understood Party tactics, could much more safely, and equally effectively, be communicated orally through occasional interchanges of visits of Communist leaders between various countries. For example, William Z. Foster of the Communist Party in the United States took part in the Third National Assembly of the PSP in Habana from January 24 to 28, 1946 and quite openly contributed to the changing of a major policy of the Party in Cuba—the abandonment of the Browder thesis that Communism and Capitalism could come to a practical long-term working arrangement. By the same token, the President of the Communist Party in Cuba, Juan Marinello, is about to go to the United States for a brief visit “in his capacity of First Vice President of the Cuban Senate and member of the Committee of the Senate for Aid to the Spanish Republic”.

It seems apparent that the Government of the U.S.S.R. has made every effort to avoid giving the impression that the Russian Legation in Habana has been used as a direct coordinating instrument. In the first place, though diplomatic relations were formally established between Cuba and the Soviet Union on October 16, 1942, it was six months before Maxim Litvinov presented his credentials as Minister on April 9, 1943. He then stayed only a few days in Cuba and Dimitri I. Zaikin, a Russian Vice Consul then in New York, was assigned to Habana as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim. The present nominal Soviet [Page 723] Minister, Andrei Gromyko, likewise stayed in Cuba only very briefly when he presented his credentials on December 22, 1943. Zaikin, a former engineer from Leningrad, gives the impression of being of only moderate intelligence and somewhat slow-witted. One’s first impulse is, of course, to suspect that this is a pose, but repeated conversations and impressions indicate that these manifestations are too consistent to be anything but genuine. When the energetic “cultural” activities of the Press Attaché of the Soviet Legation, Mrs. Nora P. Chegodaeva, began to attract noteworthy attention she was transferred away.

The Communist Parties throughout the world recognized, at the time of the public dissolution of the Comintern, that economic, sociological and political circumstances in various countries of the world differ sufficiently so that only highly general central directives can be issued by persons who are not intimately acquainted with the day to day conditions of a particular country such as Cuba. This logical conclusion—consistent with the strategy of Communism to adapt itself to local “progressive” or “radical” currents—makes it seem all the more unlikely that the amount of direction that would need to come from abroad would require anything but oral and highly personal communications. In fact, the Party line and technique are now well enough known, even automatic enough with Cuban Communist leaders, so they probably need no directives other than newspaper reports and radio speeches from Moscow.

One aspect of this very Party line, in fact, tends to make direct and publicly-known relationship with Moscow more difficult: that is, the nationalistic tendencies which the Communists encourage in Cuba and which also have the effect of building up potential resentment against possible signs of Soviet influence over the Communist Party in Cuba.

Question of Possible Effectiveness of Spain as a Direct Channel of Communist Influence to Cuba

[Here follow comments on this subject.]

1) Strength: [Here follow additional facts and comments on the strength of the Communist Party in Cuba.]

2) Possible Influence during Next Few Years on Specific and Material United States Interests in Cuba. It seems probable that the most important Communist influence on specific and material United States interests in Cuba during the next few years will come from mutual encouragement of the nationalist spirit between the left-of-center element in the President’s Partido Revolucionario Cubano (Auténtico) and the Partido Socialista Popular. The Communist. Party is eager to “egg on” the PRC in its nationalistic inclinations, in conformity with the PRC slogan during the Presidential elections of June 1, 1944, “Cuba for the Cubans”. The nationalism of the Administration [Page 724] itself, which can have a far-reaching effect on the interests of American business (and on our Government, in such matters as the military aviation bases), seems to be due to a series of factors, such as the following: (a) resentment of the fact that foreigners control very important segments of Cuban commerce and industry, including over half of the sugar production, and that they make whatever proprietor profits are realized from such operations; (b) a natural swing of the pendulum away from foreign political control, as a result of abrogation of the Platt Amendment and the munificence of the Good Neighbor Policy; (c) the world-wide popularity of nationalism in practice while internationalism continues to be largely a theory even in the actions of its most important advocates; (d) vestiges of a specific feeling that the support of United States business interests and our Government made it possible for Machado43 to stay in power for eight years before his Government fell; and (e) very possibly, a feeling of personal resentment on the part of President Grau that lack of official recognition by our Government in 1933 made it impossible for him to stay in office as President at that time. With this background, President Grau’s marked amenability to the suggestions of Ambassador Braden between his election as President on June 1, 1944 and his inauguration on October 10, 1944, may have been due, at least in part, to fears that his Government would suffer in some way from our displeasure.

Illustrative of the affinity between the current stated programs of the Grau Administration and the PSP, it was pointed out in section 38 of the “Resolution on the First Point of the Order of the Day” at the PSP Assembly in January 1946, that “… [President Grau] has not yet initiated the program which should be the core of the policy of the Partido Revolucionario Cubano—whose postulates are anti-imperialism, nationalism and socialism …”

Therefore, with respect to such matters as the distribution of foreign-owned lands in Cuba, the Communists have the principle established for them in Article 90 of the Cuban Constitution of 1940 which provides for “… doing away” with “large landholdings” and the restrictive limitation of acquisition and possession of land by foreign persons and companies. In the light of this precedent, the Administration could hardly object to the following statement of the Secretary General of the PSP in January 1946:

“… And the farmers will not be able to live in better houses, will not be able to rid themselves of parasites, will not be able to have more civilized living conditions, as long as an end is not made of the [Page 725] feudalistic possession of land, as long as the rental system is not eliminated, as long as there is not undertaken the division of the big holdings and the distribution of the lands to the farmers.”

So far, the Party has not emphasized greatly its belief that all Cuban sugar should be refined in Cuba, but an allusion was made to this in the same statement of the Secretary General of the PSP, as follows:

“… Our program—is one for all those who want to fight to assure us a market for our crops of from four to five million tons of sugar, refining it ourselves, and for avoiding the closing of our mines which would paralyze industries such as trucking, tobacco, boxes, diamonds, etc. …”

With respect to Government intervention of business firms—with its tendency toward State capitalism—the Secretary General said in the same report:

“… In the face of objections of the powerful enterprises that have attempted to create a national crisis by definitely refusing to comply with the social laws and official provisions, the Government has been applying firmly the policy of intervention (Industrial Slaughter-house, Havana Electric, Workshops of Confections).

“… we must support the measures adopted by Dr. Grau in politico-social matters: increases in salaries, intervention of firms, prohibition of dislodging of farmers …”

Further accentuating this tendency toward State capitalism, the following detailed comments of the Secretary General concerning “nationalization” of public utilities and large firms may be of interest to the Department:

“… Some of the comrades, in discussion, have demanded that there be included in this program a general policy of nationalization. Others, that there be demanded only nationalization of the Public Services. I believe that our immediate Program can very well demand the review of all concessions granted to Public Service firms and the nationalization of all those whose concessions have expired and those which may not have complied with the terms and conditions fixed in them.

“I do not believe that we should raise in this immediate program a general demand for the nationalization of the large foreign firms. We aspire, naturally, to our own, national, economy, to shake off the yoke and oppression of firms that exploit our people, deforming and feudalizing our economy; but at the same time we favor under definite conditions, and with certain guarantees, the investment of foreign capital which, under a really national government, would be able to aid in the progress of the country. This should be taken into consideration in our immediate program, and I believe that a general policy of nationalization would sow confusion without really advancing at present the task of our liberation …”

[Page 726]

This qualified statement could hardly be called an encouragement to new foreign investment. In fact it may be pertinent to note that 25 of the 161 sugar mills in Cuba are now understood to be “for sale”, although this might be at least partly the result of the owners’ belief that the end of the present sugar bonanza may be approaching.

There is of course ample precedent in many countries for a program of nationalizing public services—such as the trend toward public-owned light and power systems in the United States—and even nationalizing major industries—such as the coal industry in England. The past experience of our Government indicates, however, that the Cubans would undoubtedly ascribe less importance to the corollary precedent of prompt and equitable compensation.

With respect to the prospects of future difficulties between management and labor in Cuba, the Secretary General made the following comments in connection with repudiation of the Browder thesis:

“… Can we accept, in the conditions of Cuba, the concept of a long peace between the classes? No. On the contrary, we affirm in the very pamphlet in which we refer to the meeting between the CTC and the Association of Industrialists that ‘as long as contradictions of class exist, as long as there exists an antagonistic class within capitalist society such as the proletariat and such as the capitalists with respect to the workers, the struggle of classes is inevitable and cannot cease definitively.’ ”

Illustrative of the local Communist concepts, a Party worker asserted to an officer of this Embassy that the high standard of living enjoyed by workers in the United States was illusory because the high wages were made possible only by the very low wages which the same American firms pay Latin American workers they are exploiting!

3) Possible Influence on Long-Term United States Interests in Cuba. Although the PSP, in its official and public pronouncements, frequently refers to the necessity for friendly relations between Cuba and the United States, the phraseology is usually so qualified that the effect seems to be largely cancelled out, or even counter-productive. For example, in the very long “Resolution on the First Point of the Order of the Day” at the Third National Assembly in January 1946, Article 55 was entitled “True ‘Good Neighborliness’” and stated (in translation):

“55. The struggle of our country to maintain its economic level, requires a democratic attitude and true “Good Neighborliness” on the part of the Government of the United States and, above all, the friendly collaboration of the North American workers and people.

“The policy of “The Good Neighbor” inaugurated by President Roosevelt, even though it was maintained within the framework of imperialist relations, signified a positive advance in the relations between the United States and Latin America, despite all the inconsequential [Page 727] activities and vacillations shown by the Roosevelt Government itself in its application.

“The imperialists are exerting pressure, not without success, on the Truman Government to twist this policy, which was the result of the democratic spirit of the American masses as much as it was of the active struggle of our peoples.

“The Partido Socialista Popular asks the establishment of a democratic policy and a true “Good Neighborliness” on the part of the United States, as well as a friendly and dignified attitude on the part of Cuba, in the relations of the two countries, which is the interests of the two peoples. The Partido Socialista Popular hopes that the North American workers and progressive forces—unions, Communist Party, popular organizations—will exert themselves to bring about the establishment of such relations with our country.”

a) Efforts to Discredit the United States. Accompanying such semi-friendly indications, there seem invariably to be sufficient other statements which tend to undermine the prestige of the United States, so that the sum total effect is definitely a depreciatory one. In this same “Resolution”, the following assertions were included:

“26. The relative position of the American imperialists has been strengthened with the defeat of their German and Japanese rivals, with the tremendous development of the productive capacity of the United States and the preponderant position that they occupy in world affairs.

“Due to this, the decisive imperialist forces of the United States are intensifying their effort to extend their control, by initiating an ‘American century’, by extending their monopolistic power over Latin America; they are doing everything possible to avoid the democratization of Europe under Governments that are authentically popular, they are obstructing the democratic unification and independent development of China and encouraging an anti-Soviet policy, designed to reestablish ‘the cordon sanitaire’.

“Because of these efforts of the American monopolists to extend their world control, the rivalries between England and the United States have become more sharp and apparent, despite all the talk about an Anglo-American bloc, despite the mutual anti-Soviet campaigns that are carried on in the two countries.”

“… 27 … In the United States the imperialists are regrouping themselves more rapidly than anywhere else, with a view to an openly aggressive policy for world domination, and they are making important advances in their desire to control the Government which is today under the democratic-capitalist leadership of Truman, who has made considerable concessions to them, departing visibly from the peace policy delineated by Roosevelt.”

“… 29 … The North American imperialists and trusts openly sabotage the maintenance of relations of cordiality and mutual respect between the United States and Cuba. They are working openly to prevent our economic development and for the maintenance of the old and backward colonial system of monoculture, or large landholdings and the production of primary materials, in order to keep us away [Page 728] from direct commerce with Latin America and with the rest of the world, in order to reinforce their monopolistic control over our country.”

“In order to attain their ends, contrary to the interests of Cuba and to the national interest of the United States itself, such elements support the Falangists, the reactionaries, and large importing firms and feudal proprietors of the large estates.”

“30. Even during the course of the war, and despite frankly pro-Axis slant, such elements were protected by the American Department of State which invited Maestri, notorious pro-Fascist, to visit the United States, and who honored Pepin Rivero, principal spokesman for Falangism, granting him the Cabot Prize.

“Despite the exigencies and needs of the war, such American imperialist elements and reactionary elements of Cuba, succeeded in obstructing the military participation of our people in the war and the development of an independent production and the creation of a Merchant Marine.

“31. During the war and at present, agents of the G–Men, the American political police, instead of pursuing Nazi, Fascist and Japanese spies and saboteurs, are intervening in the domestic policies of our country and are making active and provocative anti-Soviet and anti-Communist propaganda.”

Many of these assertions have been reported to the Department, as most of them have been reiterated time after time in the speeches and publications of the PSP. A variety of other accusations is included in the same Resolution, …

It is easy to perceive that this gradual “whittling away” at the character and motives of the United States, combined with ardent encouragement of nationalism, has already created an atmosphere in which officials of the Cuban Government hesitate to respond to important requests of our Government because a response might receive adverse publicity in Cuba and unfavorably influence voters. This may eventually go further and have a deleterious effect upon inter-American solidarity and cooperation. At the same time, it works in conjunction with warm advertising of Russia, toward the eventual possibility of a change in the balance of prestige in world councils.

b) Large-scale voluntary advertising of the U.S.S.R. This publicity is conducted untiringly in the publications and speeches of the PSP—both in direct terms and through unqualified support of the acts and motives of Russia in any Russian discussion with the “imperialist” countries. As an example of direct eulogy, the following is a translation from the Report of Blas Roca, Secretary General of the PSP, at the Third National Assembly in January 1946:

“… The sentiments of our people are those of enormous affection and great admiration for the Soviet Union, the powerful country which, despite all auguries and all the hopes of the reactionaries of the world, raised, with the unbreakable stone wall of its courage and [Page 729] decision, the barrier against which there were broken all the Nazi efforts to dominate the world, to submerge liberty, to establish the slavery of men.

“The sentiments of the Cuban people are those of admiration and affection for the men who contributed eminently to forge, with their suffering, with their labor, and with their blood, the victory of the United Nations over their enemies, for the men such as the genial leader Stalin, such as Zhukov and Rokosowski.

“The sentiments of the Cuban people are those of admiration and affection for the great State which united the peoples of its multiple nationalities, knew how to shake off, in a great revolution, the ominous yoke of the decrepit Czarist tyranny and Russian capitalism, and how to construct, through years of penury and limitless sacrifice, an advanced country with a powerful socialist economy, with gigantic factories, admirable communities, and creative schools, in the most backward territory of Europe.

“The interests of our Country dictate the maintenance of cordial and friendly relations with the Soviet Union, one of the Three Great Allies that forged the Victory and are forging the peace, since good relations with the Soviet Union can only bring benefits for us, and by expanding those relations we can obtain a market for our products and provisions for our needs. …”

At the same time, the PSP publicity system advocates the Russian point of view in every controversial issue—such as the recent discussions concerning Iran and about Manchuria. For the better-informed readers and listeners, the publicity is too unqualified to be very convincing, but this technique is undoubtedly in conformity with the most effective propaganda principles. Besides the word-of-mouth publicity between members of the Party, the regular publicity organs include a well-managed newspaper, Hoy, with over 28,000 daily circulation and almost 47,000 on Sunday, a well-managed radio station, CMX or Mil Diez, a monthly publication Fundamentos with 12,500 circulation, and a weekly magazine Tiempo published by the dissident and original anti-Browder group which nevertheless supports Soviet policy unqualifiedly.

The sort of advertising and advocacy that the U.S.S.R. obtains from the Communist Party in Cuba approaches that which the U.S.S.R. might receive from a community of Soviet Russian nationality of similar size in Cuba. What the Cuban enthusiasts may lack in patriotic fervor because they are not from Russian soil, they seem to add in enthusiasm because they have never witnessed or felt any of the more discouraging aspects of actual life in Russia. The dimensions of this advertising are such that it seems futile to regard the publicity as the result of present-day mechanical control, management or financing from Moscow or from any other point outside of Cuba. Whatever guidance that may occur through occasional and intermittent—or even frequent and regular—directives would seem to [Page 730] be so secondary to the enthusiasm that has already been generated in Cuba by the Communist idea, that the complete elimination of any direct international communication between Communists would probably have little effect upon the movement. However important it may be considered to know whether such direct communication and guidance exists, it would seem fundamental and very important at this point that we recognize and constantly remember that the strength of Communism lies in (1) the living standard of the people which is just high enough to awaken the hope for much more, (2) the contrasting wealth of a few people in Cuba, many of them foreigners, and (3) the growing appeal of Marxism for the great majority of the population who feel that they have essentially “nothing to lose”. In other words, any organization which presents a thesis competing with Communism might underestimate the strength of Communism if it were to attribute any important part of that strength to direct supervision from Moscow other than that which arrives publicly over press wires and in radio broadcasts.

The international advertising strength of “the Communist idea” probably could not persist for very many years without a basis in actual current accomplishments of the U.S.S.R. Therefore, the eventual effectiveness of Communist advertising in the American Republics will undoubtedly be roughly consistent with the success or eventual failure (or further modifications) of the economic and political system in Russia. There is a widespread feeling now that Russian strength in World War II was a splendid example of the productivity and success of Marxism and Communism, and the Communists of course assume that developments within Russia will be increasingly successful. If this should prove not to be so, in the course of the next 10 or 20 years, it will undoubtedly be the single most important factor in deterring the widespread popularity of Communism or Marxism in the American Republics. By the same token, it seems that our own publicity strength during the same period will depend to a great degree upon the extent to which our own country may improve in the elimination of poverty, ignorance, racial prejudice, and in other ways.

In considering the “free publicity” given to the U.S.S.R., it may be well to note that our own country receives a vastly greater amount of publicity in Cuba—from the many close relationships and press services which fill the pages of the excessive number of newspapers.

There is of course some dissemination of official or semi-official Soviet publicity in Cuba—principally through the Cuban-Soviet Institute of Cultural Interchange established April 6, 1945, the Institute’s monthly publication Cuba and the U.S.S.R., and official publications of the Soviet Legation. Detailed information concerning this [Page 731] information program has been reported to the Department. Although the Soviet Chargé d’Affaires a.i. mentioned to the Cultural Relations Attaché of this Embassy that he “knew little” about the Institute, it may be assumed that he has full knowledge of it and that his Government is financing it in the same way that other Cultural Institutes are financed by the respective Governments. Although the 13 persons comprising the Committee organizing the Cuban-Soviet Institute were all Cuban citizens, it is of interest that four of them were known to be members of the Communist Party.

(c) Possible Direct Aid to Government of U.S.S.R. Consistent with the view mentioned in the preceding paragraphs, it seems likely to the officer drafting this report that any direct communication between the Cuban Communists and the Russian Legation in Habana would probably be the reverse of the popular conception—that is, the PSP might be writing reports and performing other semi-personal chores in Cuba for the Soviet Chargé d’Affaires and his small staff. The principal interest of the U.S.S.R. in Cuba is the Communist Party itself, and any of the PSP leaders could easily supply the Legation with complete reports on that subject and all its ramifications. Likewise, any of the three PSP Senators or seven Members of Congress could quickly write detailed, accurate and authentic political reports that would require a large amount of work by a foreigner—if reports of this nature are of interest to the Kremlin. There are five officers in the Soviet Legation, and there would not seem to be need for much additional staff with approximately 14,000 militant members of the PSP in the country. (Various unverified reports were received by this Embassy in 1943, at the time the Soviet Legation was first established in Habana, indicating that subordinate staff—i.e., the staff not included on the Diplomatic List—was very large. If this was true, it now appears that the U.S.S.R. has decided that such staff was either not necessary or counter-productive—because it might afford a basis for alarm of “foreign interference”—and there is no indication that the subordinate staff is now more than 10 or 15. There has been some speculation as to whether the U.S.S.R. may not consider Mexico City more of a Latin American headquarters or training center than Habana, and therefore may have transferred the surplus staff to that post.)

Far more important than assistance to the Soviet Legation staff is, of course, the influence that could be exerted—should any real occasion arise—by the U.S.S.R. through the three PSP Senators and seven Congressmen and through the large PSP membership and publicity machine. The only specific question of remote direct interest to the U.S.S.R. which has arisen recently in Cuba is the question of United States Military Aviation Bases, and the Communist organs quickly [Page 732] took the first opportunity to make a nationalistic issue out of that question—in an apparent effort to embarrass our Government in conversations with the U.S.S.R. concerning the presence of Russian armed forces in Iran.44

The most important emergency use of the Communist Party organization in Cuba, to the advantage of the U.S.S.R. and to the detriment of our own country, would be of the kind which Juan Arévalo, labor leader, alleges that Bias Roca mentioned to him privately. Arévalo said that Roca expressed the belief that the United States would eventually go to war with the U.S.S.R. and that “… all of Latin America should be apprised of the dangers of capitalist imperialism … in order that when the time comes the United States may get no help and no cooperation from these countries.”

d) Possible eventual creation of a system of State Capitalism in Cuba. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that the Communist Party might eventually become the most powerful political party in Cuba, and that this could happen even as soon as the Presidential elections of 1956. This would probably tend to weaken solidarity in the American Republics. Moreover, it would probably weaken support—in world tri-Power or bi-Power discussions—for the United States and for its system of private capitalism and private enterprise. It might even contribute to promoting change in our own system in the United States.

In considering this possibility, it should of course be borne in mind that any economic system sponsored by a dominant Communist Party in Cuba might be modified greatly in application—even though Blas Roca said publicly, as recently as January 1946, that “The PSP has a firm Marxist Leninist ideology as the basis of its program …” The modifications in actual practice, however, could be sufficient so the average Cuban might not even recognize a difference in his daily life under such a system, as compared with the situation today. The principal measures of a “Communist” Government in Cuba would probably be to nationalize any public services that had not already been nationalized, and possibly to nationalize the principal industries. At the same time, developments in other countries—possibly our own—might conceivably have been such as not to make the Cuban developments especially conspicuous. (As in Russia, where the Communist system seems to involve violence and infringement on personal liberties as did the Czarist system, a “Communist” system in Cuba would probably include any existing defects of the Cuban character. In general, it seems likely that a new economic or political system will adjust to [Page 733] the national and racial characteristics and traditions of the people more than the people will adjust to the system.)

It should be remembered that the Cuban political party that was most successful at the polls on June 1, 1944 (President Grau’s Partido Revolucionario Cubano (Auténtico)), received 771,599 votes or more than six times the votes of the Communists—and that the 151,000 “affiliates” of the PSP are still only one-fifth of that 771,599. And the Communists concede that President Grau’s party has now won 51 percent (!) more adherents through its position of influence. Moreover, the Liberals polled 332,649 votes in 1944, the Demócrata Party 324,410 and the Republicans 270,223. The Communists, therefore, still have formidable numerical competition. The present, and possible future, circumstances that might contribute to eventual dominance of the Communist Party in the Cuban Government are:

The standard of living which seems to be just high enough to inspire demands for more. (It is of interest to note that Cuban exports, per capita, are much higher than those of any other Latin American country except Venezuela, and that Cuban imports, per capita, are higher than those of any other Latin American country except Panama. Although this wealth does not affect the standard of living of everyone in Cuba, it would nevertheless seem to point to the possibility that more interest in Communism may develop in the other American Republics as they approach the economic level of Cuba—that until peoples have at least moderate economic attainments they are too primitive to find appeal in the persuasion of Marxism.);
The contrasting wealth of a few people in Cuba whose purchasing power has been enough to raise considerably the prices of foods and other commodities;
The fundamental weaknesses of other political parties in Cuba—which seem to lack, as parties, any real objective other than winning and holding profitable public offices—as contrasted with the zeal, the specific party program, and the seeming unity and freedom from personal venality of the Communists (the other political parties could not be counted on to combine against a powerful Communist Party, but would probably stay divided as they have in France);
The possibility that the PSP political leaders might be astute enough to align themselves with the winning Presidential candidate in 1948—and again in 1952;
The possibility of a decrease in the sum total prosperity of the Cuban economy as soon as former sugar-supplying countries that were war-ridden become re-established as suppliers;
The irresponsibility, inefficiency and venality of many Cuban officials which afford the Communists an opportunity to shine by contrast (for example, they have been exerting special effort to obtain increasing numbers of subordinate positions for their members in the Ministry of Education, with considerable success, and these positions are strategic from the viewpoint of recruiting new affiliates through the educational system);
The growth of the prestige and power of the U.S.S.R. because of its external success;
The possibility that Soviet productivity may develop to the point where it actually provides the consumers’ goods which, in the minds of the Cuban Communists, are a very important element in the appeal of theoretical Marxism or State Capitalism; and
The tendency of small countries that are very near large countries to develop special friendship with a distant great power as a form of insurance (e.g. Uruguay and the United States).

Factors that might tend to discourage the increasing strength of Communism in Cuba are:

A continuing market at remunerative prices for a large Cuban sugar crop with its influence in continuing Cuban comparative prosperity;
The proximity of the United States and resulting multitudinous relationship;
A continuing development of the United States economy at a rate superior to that in the U.S.S.R., which would not only indicate the advantages of a system of private enterprise but would contribute to maintaining a large sugar market in the United States;
The individual Cuban citizens who have established proprietary interests in the public services and industries which the Communists may wish to nationalize;
A deep under-current of admiration for the economic and political development of the United States, some vestiges of sentimental feeling with respect to United States aid in the Cuban War of Independence, and several decades of acquaintance which have shown few instances of intentional or accidental suffering inflicted by Americans;
The Catholic Church; which, however, has probably lost enough popularity in Cuba so that its anti-Communist efforts are considerably vitiated.

e) At the risk of presuming to make comments in a field of policy beyond the scope of one Embassy, it is the Embassy’s impression that the largest factors which will advance or handicap the cause of private capitalism and private enterprise in Cuba, as opposed to Communism or State Capitalism, can be little affected by our policies in direct relations with Cuba. In other words, it would seem that the single most important factor influencing this situation will be the comparison between sociological and economic developments in the United States and the U.S.S.R. Perhaps equal importance lies in the development of our own direct relations with the U.S.S.R. and in the development of the UNO as an effective instrument for international security and justice (and for economic and sociological development). A strong mechanism and tradition of inter-American cooperation and solidarity will probably also be of great importance as a deterrent to the weakening of our relationship with individual American Republics such as Cuba.

[Page 735]

The possibilities of discouraging the growth of Communism in Cuba, by any mechanism in our direct relations with Cuba, do not seem promising. While we may consider it prudent to provide enough economic aid so that the Cubans will not be inspired to turn elsewhere for such assistance, it does not seem likely that our Congress would authorize economic “cooperation” on a large enough scale to have a widespread and impressive effect on living standards. Even if such benefits could be realized, the Communists would label them puny and unworthy of consideration in comparison with the benefits they imagine that Marxism would bring them.

While our publicity program may tell the Cubans about the advantages of the system in the United States, it does not transfer those advantages to Cuba. Moreover, while we are telling them about cultural and scientific advances, an overwhelming multitude of other publicity channels is giving a picture of a cross-section of our daily life which provides the Communists with ample opportunity for depreciatory interpretations and misinterpretations. (Cuba, for example, is already much freer from racial prejudice than the United States, and might easily find more affinity in this respect for the U.S.S.R. than for the United States.)

The use of the United States sugar market as a political weapon would be entirely foreign to our well-established policies. Any threat to withhold the market (when we have the security of other ample sources of supply)—or to withhold United States products from Cuba—in order to influence Cuban politics, would probably be very short-sighted and would only create resentment and lower our prestige—without detracting from the basic appeal of “the Communist idea”.

With all the disposition of President Grau to accept the “collaboration” of the Communists because he covets their votes and finds a certain area of compatibility between their social objectives and his own crusading instincts, there are definite indications that he regards them somewhat charily. He condones repeated public attacks against the ideas of Communism by the Vice President, Raúl de Cárdenas; he maintains in office the Minister of State, Alberto Inocente Alvarez, despite acrid Communist criticism; and very recently Government spokesmen have emphatically denied Moscow press reports that Cuba would take the Military Base “question” to the UNO, indicating a certain impatience—either real or predetermined—with the turn given to this publicity by the Communist press in Cuba and Moscow. Moreover, it seems likely that the strength of the Auténtico Party and the Grau Administration during the remainder of the President’s term [Page 736] may be sufficient, on the whole, so that the strength of the Communists will not show any marked proportional increase. Any specific increase in the strength of the Communist Party, in fact, may be rendered less conspicuous by a relatively greater increase in Auténtico numerical strength at the coming elections. If this occurs—and if larger circumstances such as Soviet prestige and a contrasting economic decline in Cuba favor the Communists—the Communist Party may suddenly come to the public attention as a surprisingly strong and persisting force if the Auténtico party goes the way of other temporary Cuban political combinations in 1948.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Respectfully yours,

R. Henry Norweb
  1. Not printed.
  2. Enclosures not printed.
  3. Partido Revolucionario Cubano (PRC).
  4. Earl Browder, former leader of the Communist movement in the United States.
  5. For documentation on the downfall of the Government of Cuban President Gerardo Machado Morales, August 12, 1933, see Foreign Relations, 1933, vol. v, pp. 270361.
  6. For documentation on the consideration of this issue in the United Nations, see vol. vii, pp. 289 ff.