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

No. 4177

Sir: I have the honor to enclose a report32 which brings up to date my impressions of the Communist movement in Cuba and the position of the Communist Party.

This report may seem to the Department to be repetitious, presenting an old picture in no particularly new light. If this is so, it is because the Cuban political scene is per se repetitious; and in again summarizing the play of forces and the vacillation of personalities, it is my intention to stress the almost unvarying monotony of the theme current to such reports, almost any month of any recent year.

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One reason for this is, I believe, that in the plethora of political parties and intra-party groups one can only with difficulty find any real principles to which men have committed their public careers, any concrete or far-sighted program which would warrant their control of public affairs and the public purse. The slogan “Cubanidad” was at best a formless rallying-cry, and the great expectations which seemed justified in the beginning of the present administration have faded into a weary general acceptance of “Plus ça change …” We have now the familiar spectacle of the same people jockeying for place and power, first in one alignment and then another. The combinations and re-combinations change, but the main participants seldom, and I am unable to recall a significant or plausible public statement of any principles involved in these shifts. To invoke principles might indeed have been too cynical.

There is one group which can, however, conjure up a more solid symbolism and some form of apologia for its actions: the Communist Party, which, perhaps because it is not called upon to implement it, can produce the clearest blue-print of them all. Perhaps it is this factor which gives the Party its value as a makeweight in the political scales, for while its active membership may not be as large nor as influential as claimed, its voice is loud and insistent and there is in Cuba no countervailing party voice that can match its public pronouncements in evoking the good will and the good hopes of the politically immature masses. (The President, and also Senator Chibás, speak with authority to a wide audience: but I am referring to the influence of parties, not the impact of personalities—and in any case the voice of the President no longer seems to reach his people from Sinai.)

The attached report will show that the situation which obtained when President Grau was a candidate in 1944 is again crystallizing. The leaders, in “choosing sides” for the game, may not wish to give the nod to the Communists, but cannot ignore them. While the old associations, between the President and the Party are on the wane, they have used each other in the past and, having ridden each other’s tiger, each now wonders how best to dismount. I have on several occasions in informal conversation made an appeal to Grau’s broader statesmanship (as in the talk reported on page 2 of the enclosure), pointing out that the Communist movement is a world-wide phenomenon with no real nationalist allegiance, in which we may all be engulfed unless action so concerted on its part is met with equally concerted action among ourselves. Others, I know, made similar representations as to the danger of his course, and the cumulative effect of this pressure—plus the impact of the East-West cleavage—is becoming manifest in his attitude. I believe, however, that it is his personal disenchantment with the Party on local political issues that has made him receptive to any idea of a break.

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As the enclosed report indicates, there is no way of judging at this time to what extent the split in the ranks of Labor will reduce the effectiveness of the Communist Party; but though this may be lessened, it will not be negligible, and the status of the Party will be better revealed when we can see into what part of the Cuban political jigsaw it next fits itself. There will be many factors: whether the opposition can unite, whether an honest election will and can be staged, what the political climate is elsewhere in the world. One of the more controlling factors, however, will be the price of sugar. Some continued measure of prosperity will have as much effect as the slogans of any party—if not more; and this again is one of the great repetitions in the Cuban scene.

Respectfully yours,

R. Henry Norweb
  1. Not printed.