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299. Memorandum From Benjamin Stephansky of the Office of Inter-American Regional Political Affairs to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Snow)1

SUBJECT

  • May Day in Cuba

It is no occasion for rejoicing that Fidel Castro will not celebrate May Day in Havana.

[Page 498]

From various sources we have pieced together the following components of the May 1 pageant planned by the CTC in Havana:

1.
The CTC May Day planning committee is reportedly a seven-man committee, two of whom are prominent Communists—Lazaro Peña and Ursinio Rojas.
2.
The speakers program consisted of six pieces of oratory before Fidel bowed out: Fidel, three 26 of July labor leaders, one Autentico and one Communist.
3.
Organizations from all ideological persuasions from all of Latin America have been invited to send representatives. Communist organizations have been invited and will be represented; and there may well be some prominent Communist labor figures from Europe and other areas.
4.
This morning’s Times and Post carry a most disturbing piece on a “workers militia” which will parade on May Day—a militia, according to Che Guevara (as reported in the Times), designed “to defend the revolution so that the enemies of the revolution will know that when they wish to come here they will not only find the Army but also the workers armed to defend this revolution of the people”.

Che Guevara, on the same TV program on which he explained the nature of the workers’ militia, also was reported as stating that he believed the Communists “were capable of working honorably with other groups for national unity”. He called them “revolutionists”, implying, of course, a blood relationship, therefore, with the 26 of July revolutionists. Guevara also reportedly stated he favored diplomatic relations with Soviet Russia. His reasoning, reportedly, was that if Cuba maintained diplomatic relations with such of its “enemies” as the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua, it was logical to have diplomatic relations with a country that combats these enemies.

The May Day show in Havana, thus, promises to have a real Communist flavor—by its planning, its invitees, its oratory and the workers militia. It offers a most respectable forum—a July 26 revolutionary forum—for the Communists to peddle their “national unity,” “friends of the people,” “friends of the revolution,” and “friends of labor” line.

To return to Fidel Castro, now, and the possible significance of his missing this May Day show. There are one of two possible interpretations:

1.
If Fidel means what he said here about Communism and intends to do something about it, an appearance on May 1 would (a) tend to lend his prestige to a show which is friendly to Communism; or (b) place him in the position of risking his popularity at a show rigged against any anti-Communist declaration. He could feel, perhaps rightly, that this was not the time or place to take on the Communists.
2.
Another interpretation is, however, that Fidel didn’t mean what he said here and that he is building, or permitting that there be built in Cuba an Arbenz-type regime, but avoiding Arbenz’s mistakes of too open a relationship with Communism because of Cuba’s geographic [Page 499]proximity to the U.S. and its economic dependence on the U.S. If Fidel doesn’t want, this soon after his U.S. visit, to be placed in the position of showing his real colors, then it is wise to avoid an appearance at the kind of May 1 demonstration at which he would have to say things which would contradict the things he stated here.

You pays your money and takes your choice. The whole business smells bad. Continent-wise, there will be a labor show in Cuba demonstrating the harmonious coexistence between 26 of July labor and Communist labor; and witnessing this show will be a hodge-podge of Communist and non-Communist labor leaders to “take the hint”.

Addendum: Latest dope received by ’phone: There may be no oratory at the May 1 shindig. Net result: Suspicions unchanged.

  1. Source: Department of State, ARA Special Assistant Files: Lot 62 D 24, Cuba 1959. Confidential. Drafted by Stephansky.