How a Great Power Falls Apart
Decline Is Invisible From the Inside
Fidel Castro's prestige at home and abroad continues to decline. In the comparatively near future the Cuban people may be confronted with real political choices and the United States may once again have to deal with the question of relations with Cuba.
As Ambassador to Cuba in 1959 and 1960, the first two years of the Castro régime, I witnessed the spectacle of Cuba's takeover by a personal dictatorship which eventually became Communist-oriented. I believe that the Cuban people have as great a capacity as any through trial and error to run their own affairs. The opportunities for the Cubans to demonstrate this capacity have in the past been curtailed by the special relationship of their government with that of the United States and by the wide fluctuations of the sugar market on which their economy depends.
The enlargement of these opportunities for responsible self-government should be a major sequel to the liberation of the island from the phenomenally gifted, erratic and unscrupulous autocrat who "freed his country from American imperialism" only to reduce it to a satellite of Moscow (now that the Peking alternative has disappeared).
From the outbreak of our war with Spain in 1898 to the suspension of our quota for Cuban sugar in 1960, the United States exercised a major influence on the economic and political development of Cuba. Judgment of that influence is broadly divided between traditional and revisionist schools of thought. The former holds that the United States consistently played a benevolent role, showering moral and material benefits on an often unappreciative, ungrateful and sometimes badly behaved small neighbor, and views our policy, especially in the earlier years of the relationship, as extraordinarily enlightened in comparison with that of the predatory powers of Europe in other areas. To the revisionists, on the other hand, Cuba has been, during much of her history and especially since 1898, the hapless victim of materialistic, imperialistic exploitation by the Colossus of the North. In the fashion of conventional wisdoms, each of these views over the years has incorporated a fair number of fallacies and myths.
In the traditional view, United States military intervention was the deciding factor in the independence of Cuba. At a sizable cost in blood and treasure, the United States freed an oppressed and mistreated people from a harsh, backward tyranny and set it on the road to self-government. In contrast, the thesis of the revisionists in its extreme form is that the Cuban uprising of 1895 was the final episode in a purely Cuban struggle for independence begun nearly thirty years earlier. Not until the victory of the insurgents appeared both certain and imminent did the United States intervene militarily, snatching their triumph from the Cuban patriots and using the four-year military occupation to transfer power in the island to reactionary groups. Called by our representatives "the better elements," many of these groups had coöperated with the Spanish régime and were now disposed to coöperate with us in saddling Cuba with a semi-colonial status and in exploiting her people.
In like manner, other major episodes in the relations between the two countries have been contrastingly interpreted. In Cuba, the revisionist school grew steadily in acceptance and was much favored by Castro and his followers: their vicious distortions of fact and of American motivations were and are notorious.
The traditionalists and the revisionists agree on one point: that the influence of the United States in Cuba or the threat of it-whether as a generous benefactor and wise counselor or as a neo-colonialist exploiter- has limited the ability of the Cubans to make their own decisions in many matters theoretically the exclusive concern of a sovereign state. Dependence upon the United States, coupled with dependence upon the vagaries of the sugar market, has worked over the years to frustrate the growth of a full sense of responsibility in the Cuban leadership and of a popular belief in the possibility of such responsibility. The island mentality was conditioned by a conviction that the fate of Cuba, in the larger sense, was not in Cuban hands.
From 1902 to 1934 our influence was exercised according to what was known as the Platt Amendment, a statement of our view of the relations that should prevail between the United States and the newly independent republic, and one that was incorporated at our direction into the Cuban constitution of 1902. Among other things, it gave us the right to intervene when we thought it desirable to do so for the preservation of Cuban independence and the maintenance of a government adequate for the protection of life, property and individual liberty.
The Platt Amendment was an expression of the thinking embodied in the Roosevelt Corollary of the Monroe Doctrine. We believed that because certain Caribbean countries were inept in handling their affairs and because predatory imperialisms were ready to take advantage of this ineptness we must assume broad contingent responsibilities toward them. We believed that by acting as a sort of benevolent policeman we would encourage the investment (largely American) needed in those countries to promote their well-being and ours. And we had the generous if mistaken belief that the threat of our restraining hand and, if necessary, the hand itself would develop the capacity of these countries for self-government, and accelerate their progress toward political maturity.
Since the termination of our military occupation, the inauguration of a Cuban government and commercial reciprocity with the United States on a preferential basis were all contingent on the acceptance of the Platt Amendment, the Cubans reluctantly accepted it. Elihu Root, then Secretary of War, sweetened the pill by stating that the Amendment would not be interpreted as a charter for constant interference in Cuban affairs but would be invoked only if the Cubans themselves created the unhappy conditions contemplated therein. After our intervention from 1906 to 1908, however, the United States, anxious to avoid any further intervention on a formal scale, decided to nip in the bud any activity or project on the part of the Cubans which could possibly make invocation of the Amendment necessary. This policy, involving a generally well-intentioned but irksome interference in many Cuban matters, came to full flower in the efforts of General Crowder in the early twenties to furnish Cuba with a set of laws and institutions, the latter preferably to be operated by Cubans enjoying the General's confidence. The General's industry and good intentions are beyond praise, nor can the existence of the ills he hoped to cure be denied, but it can be concluded, in hindsight, that all this was hardly a nation-building exercise.
As the twenties wore to a close, the policy of intervention in the Caribbean area came more and more to be questioned both in view of the unsatisfactory results being achieved and because extra-continental imperialisms were not at the time plausible threats. For these reasons, as well as to conciliate Latin American opinion, we abjured intervention under any circumstances and laid the foundations of the Good Neighbor Policy.
In the case of Cuba, the change to the new policy was incomplete. Overproduction of sugar during the worldwide depression of the early thirties brought a catastrophic drop in prices and demand, accentuated by the Hawley-Smoot tariff of 1930 which helped stimulate the production of cane sugar under the American flag at Cuba's expense. The resulting severe economic and social distress, in conjunction with the intolerable conditions created by the wholesale terrorism and counter-terrorism of the opponents and supporters of the Machado régime, put Cuba close to the top of the agenda of the New Deal administration. As Ambassador in 1933, Sumner Welles acted as mediator of the political struggle, but the new government on which he secured agreement lasted only three weeks, giving way to a military and civilian movement of revolutionary renovation headed by Sergeant Batista and Professor Grau San Martin. Fearing the extremism of some elements in the Grau government, we refused to recognize it and, after a few months, persuaded Batista to withdraw his vital support from it. Our success in getting rid of Grau resulted from Cuba's desperate need to participate as favorably as possible in our sugar program and to secure a reciprocal tariff agreement.
Our judgment about Grau may or may not have been sound. When he became President a decade later, he disconcerted both those who had believed in him and those who had feared him in 1934. The point here, however, is that in the last year of the Platt Amendment and only a few months after the adoption of the Good Neighbor Policy, the United States, through the exercise of its superior power, critically affected the course of Cuban political life. The elimination of the Amendment a few months later left many Cubans-even those who favored our action-skeptical as to the completeness of the island's independence. Our supporters appeared to owe the defense of their interests to our intervention-an unfortunate precedent.
The new American sugar program replaced competition under a protective tariff with a system whereby the executive branch fixed the total amount of sugar put on the American market. The level was designed to produce reasonable prices for all concerned, the consumers included. Within this total, quotas were allotted to the various producing areas, domestic and foreign, in accordance with laws passed by Congress at periodic intervals. Thus Cuba's share in our market did not rest upon a contractual basis but was dependent on the will of Congress. Cuts were made from time to time in the Cuban quota for the benefit of domestic areas or even of other foreign areas. The need for Cuba to avoid actions or attitudes which might put her in a bad light with Congress at quota time was a fact of life generally understood.
The Sugar Act of 1934 and the reciprocal trade agreement of the same year raised the island from the desperate straits caused by the depression plus our tariff to a level of genteel poverty with sugar income only 50 percent below the average of the twenties instead of the 75 percent of the disaster years (1932 and 1933). World War II produced a new era of prosperity for Cuba, and succeeding crises such as those of Korea and Suez bailed out the Cuban sugar industry and reinforced an attitude of ironic providentialism in the Cuban people. On the world market, wide swings in price and quantity continued to be normal.
Batista's military coup in 1952 and the apathy with which it was received by the masses and all but a few leaders gave evidence of the political bankruptcy which allowed Castro to flourish seven years later. While the constitutional governments of Grau and Prio (1944 to 1952) had enlisted the participation of many representative and devoted Cubans, the administrations themselves were generally regarded as corrupt, especially at the top, and dominated by vicious political gangsterism at lower levels. The people had little faith in their government or in the integrity of their political leaders.
In 1956, a number of distinguished Cubans made an effort to find a constitutional way out for the dictatorship. Their effort, known as the "Civic Dialogue," failed because of the intransigence of Batista and those profiting from his rule. This was the point of no return in the tragic course of Castro's rise to power.
Meanwhile, our representation in Havana was using its not inconsiderable influence primarily in matters of concern to American business interests. These were numerous, important and generally constructive. They had contributed substantially to the economic and social development of the country. Taken as a whole, however, their impact was irritating, stifling and frustrating to the rising sense of Cuban nationalism.
Although Americans no longer controlled more than a third of the Cuban sugar production-the most modern and perhaps the most profitable third-our sugar interests played a major part in the varied and wide-ranging strategy to protect the United States quota. And many American companies owned or controlled vast Cuban cane plantations in spite of a clause in the Cuban constitution which established a policy of separate ownership of mills and plantations.
In addition, American interests dominated many key activities, including telephone and electric light and power companies, which operated in an atmosphere of general public hostility. A major railroad system serving the eastern half of the island was American-controlled. Crude oil was imported, refined and distributed by three large corporations, two American and one Anglo-Dutch. Exploration for oil in Cuba, still one of the great unfulfilled hopes (the Russians have not found any either), was largely carried out by American companies. The active exploitation of Cuba's important nickel resources was in the hands of Americans. Others were prominent in the fields of banking, retail merchandising and manufacturing of many different kinds. The cement plant which supplied the booming construction of Havana was American-owned and operated; so were, to a large extent, the hotels and gambling. Nor was our all-pervasive popular culture- except baseball-pleasing in all its aspects to those seeking the affirmation of indigenous values.
While the Batista government was giving these American interests in general benevolent treatment, and while it was attracting substantial amounts of badly needed private investment, it was itself becoming increasingly alienated from Cuban public opinion. A frenzy of self-enrichment was believed to have seized many of its high officials. Terrorism was met by a savage official counter-terrorism. Though much exaggerated later by the Castro propaganda machine, the number of murders by the Batista security establishment during those bitter years created thousands of deep hatreds-a potent element in the support for Castro. The corruption and the sadism of many Batista henchmen united most Cubans against the régime.
This widespread opposition did not look to the top leadership of Cuba's recent constitutional past. The so-called legitimate opposition which participated in the elections of November 1958 and lost to Batista's nominee was far from filling the need. Because of this vacuum, people's imaginations were captured by Fidel Castro who was conducting small-scale guerrilla operations in the remote fastnesses of eastern Cuba against Batista's armed forces more and more demoralized by the corruption in their midst and by the popular repudiation of the régime they served. The role of the guerrillas in bringing about the fall of the régime has been much exaggerated. However, by early 1958, most of the opposition elements were trying to work with Castro. The Communists were among the last to decide to support him.
After serving as Ambassador in Bolivia, I spent two weeks in Washington on my way to Cuba in February of 1959, examining material on the political beliefs and affiliations of Castro and his principal followers. On the basis of abundant though contradictory evidence, I concluded that Castro was not then a Communist, though some of his group, including his brother Raul, had Communist ties. It was clear that support for the new régime was widespread throughout Cuban society, and it seemed to me that many elements of that society, dominated by a relatively prosperous middle class with strong leanings toward the constitutional system then advocated by Castro himself, had far brighter prospects than the Communists eventually to control the government. The field of action of the new leaders would, I thought, be bounded by the nature of this community.
This diagnosis soon had to be modified. It failed to allow for the phenomenal personality and unprecedented charisma of Fidel Castro. It did not foresee the dearth of any acceptable leadership through which non- Communist elements might exert their influence. Indeed, many such elements abandoned the struggle and the country early in the game. Nor did the diagnosis take into account the use Castro was to make of sectors of the population hitherto vegetating outside the mainstream of Cuban development- the 15 to 20 percent of the people of working age unemployed or underemployed, the frustrated intellectuals who controlled the students, the subsistence farmers. From all these Castro drew his strength and they followed him as though he were indeed a redeemer. Castro was further helped at the outset by the attitudes of many people who, though not pro-Communist and certainly not anti-American, welcomed actions aimed at reducing American influence in the island as a reassertion of Cuban nationalism.
Castro turned out to be a cruel and extreme consequence of two factors: the shortcomings of Cuban society and of the Cuban-American relationship. Without him, the revolution made inevitable by Batista's excesses and by the politico-social failures of two generations would have been comparatively moderate. We soon learned that Castro was far more than an adventurer or a guerrilla leader, that he was perhaps the greatest demagogue ever to have appeared anywhere in Latin America. He had a power to persuade with words quite independent of the intrinsic worth of the particular notions he might be advancing at the moment. As Theodore Draper makes plain in his works on Castroism, ideas are for Castro little more than servants of his lust for power. The same masses who in 1959 roared their approval of his democratic and then of his humanistic pronouncements shouted themselves hoarse approving his Marxism in 1961.
Through all Castro's gyrations, the only constant has been his determination to free Cuba from American influence (which he equates with domination) even at the eventual cost of submitting his country to the Soviet Union. It was not Castro's predilection for Communism but his pathological hatred of the American power structure as he believed it to be operative in Cuba, together with his discovery of the impotence of Cuba's supposedly influential classes, that led him eventually into the Communist camp. Only from that base, he thought, could he achieve his goal of eliminating American influence.
In early 1959, our government was aware of the almost unanimous support which Castro enjoyed in Cuba and of the hopeful attitude which he inspired in many of our own forward-looking people. Its attitude, therefore, was one of watchful waiting. In this period I saw Castro a number of times and had contacts with all the members of his cabinet, which then represented a variety of political and economic views. I made every effort in these contacts, and in talking with newspaper and magazine editors and many other influential citizens, to convey the good will of the people and the government of the United States. I stressed their satisfaction that the people of Cuba were recovering control of their destiny, and their conviction that relations between the two countries were mutually advantageous. However, I said, our government was willing to discuss any proposals for changes which the new régime might wish to advance. The actual and potential value of the American investment was stressed in an awareness of the régime's intention to investigate certain situations about which public opinion was exercised.
This effort, aimed at establishing a basis of coöperation and understanding with Castro and his followers, seemed to be making some progress with Cuban public opinion when it was interrupted by Castro's trip to the United States at the invitation of an association of American editors. The visit, which began in mid-April, proved a heady diet for Castro's voracious ego and may have given him a warped notion of the state of American public opinion. Our government strove to make a success of the visit, although it was not official. Castro was cordially received in Washington by the Secretary of State and by the Vice President. His party of over fifty included his top advisers in the economic field. We assumed these were disposed to discuss current economic relations and problems with us, but though we demonstrated our willingness to meet them halfway, we met a blank wall. There is reason to believe Castro forbade them to engage in any substantive conversations.
On Castro's return from his travels at the beginning of May, I met him at the airport and suggested an early renewal of our contacts. Although Castro agreed cordially, five weeks elapsed before the next interview and it was largely devoted to the agrarian reform law which had meanwhile been promulgated. I was surprised to note in a recent lecture by Senator Fulbright a reference to a statement purportedly made by Castro to an American newspaperman to the effect that "the American reaction to the agrarian reform of May 1959 made me realize that there was no chance of reaching an accommodation with the United States." The American reaction was friendly and understanding. Our legitimate preoccupation with the compensation of our citizens was reflected in discussions with Cuban officials over a period of months, during which the possibility of long- term bonds was contemplated. But the law was never really implemented. Most of the confiscations and other arbitrary actions of the Cuban authorities regarding the agricultural property of foreigners and Cubans had no sanction in the law.
Raul Roa was appointed foreign minister in June. He was far closer to Castro than was his distinguished predecessor, Roberto Agramonte, a man of principle. There followed an exchange of views in depth on all phases of Cuban-American relations, the climax of which was a five-hour interview with Castro at Roa's apartment the evening of September 5-after a number of implausible postponements. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. I reiterated the understanding sympathy of our government with the desires of the Cuban people for reform and renovation and went so far as to anticipate some of the elements of our more liberal policies toward Latin America of a year or two later. I described American economic interests in Cuba in terms of their potential for the progress of the Cuban economy and drew Castro's attention to the arbitrary treatment to which some of them had already been subjected. I endeavored to dispel a myth recounted to Castro with regard to one of these American enterprises. Referring to the rising tempo of vicious anti-American propaganda, I mentioned some of the outrageous statements being made by Ché Guevara in the course of his world travels. As many people before and since, I had the impression that Castro had given a polite and appreciative hearing to my views on subjects deserving mutual discussion and accommodation. Castro said something to the effect that I was perhaps giving too much importance to the propaganda excesses of young people working in an atmosphere of revolutionary enthusiasm not yet tempered by experience. The interview left me in a moderately hopeful mood- soon to be destroyed by Castro's actions and words of the next few weeks.
During this period Castro must have come to realize how frail were the obstacles to his achieving complete power in Cuba. There were conspiracies against him, including one with Trajillo's support; he overcame them easily. He had some setbacks when expeditions which he organized and sent out from Cuba to destroy the governments of the Dominican Republic and of Nicaragua proved fiascoes involving (particularly in the Dominican case) considerable loss of life. But he must have been consoled in part for these failures when he noted how gingerly his interventions were treated by an inter-American community supposedly devoted to the principle of nonintervention. Its attitude was symptomatic of the state of the continent's conscience at the time-an asset for Castro.
Also during these months, the issue of Communism came into sharper focus. Castro had often expressed opposition to Communism, but he gratefully exploited the red herring supplied by those in Cuba and in the United States to whom any proposal for a change in the status quo is prima facie made in Moscow. The remaining miasma of McCarthyism also served him well. Soon it became anathema for Cuban revolutionaries to express anti-Communist sentiments. Castro fired the head of his air force over this issue and, after a typical mob-man?uvre, eliminated, on the grounds of anti-Communism, the President whom he himself had picked. The final showdown on the issue came in October with the arrest of Huber Matos, one of the rebel army's important leaders.
In the same week that Matos was arrested, an incident occurred which seemed finally to dash any hopes of establishing useful relations. A plane piloted by the former head of the Castro air force evaded the vigilance of our authorities in Florida (regrettably not the only such case) and dropped anti-Castro leaflets over Havana where trigger-happy antiaircraft units opened fire on it. Their missiles came down in busy Havana streets killing two or three and wounding over forty people. Responsibility for the careless shooting devolved equally upon our authorities, in that the plane left Florida illegally, and the Cuban army. The government, after a fleeting moment of honesty in a soon-suppressed communiqué describing what had actually happened, lashed itself into a towering artificial passion over the alleged bombing of Havana with American connivance. A pamphlet put out by the foreign office described the incident as another Pearl Harbor. At the end of the week, Castro, addressing a mammoth gathering on this imaginary bombing, bellowed, shook his fist and foamed at the mouth to the roaring applause of the mob.
In late November, the cabinet was reorganized in a manner precluding any further possibility of rational dialogue between our two governments. Exchanges of statements continued on both sides, our aim being to demonstrate the degree to which we had shown patience, understanding and moderation in the face of hostility, prevarication and provocation, while Castro's purpose was to promote the beleaguered-citadel mentality which he had found so favorable to the extension of his authority.
In the circumstances, it became incumbent upon us to work out the policy we would now follow. A statement of our position, which I assisted in drafting, was issued from the White House toward the end of January 1960. It made the following points: (1) a reiteration of the United States's commitment to non-intervention in accordance with our treaty obligations; (2) the determination of the United States to do all in its power to prevent the use of its territory for the preparation of illegal acts against Cuba, although it was recognized that Cuban territory had been the point of departure for the launching of invasions against other countries; (3) the concern of the United States at the unfounded accusations directed against it by the Cuban authorities and its regret that its efforts to establish a basis of confidence and understanding had not been reciprocated; (4) a recognition of the sovereign right of the Cubans to engage in domestic reforms with due regard for their obligations under international law; (5) a determination on the part of the United States to defend the rights of its citizens in Cuba as provided under international law after they had exhausted their remedies under Cuban law.
This policy implied continued moderation and restraint on our part, denying Castro the chance to make political capital out of alleged American economic aggression. It could have slowed down the Soviet involvement in the Cuban economy, an involvement, in my judgment, more ardently desired at that time by Castro and Guevara than by Moscow. It would have given the Soviets the opportunity to counsel moderation instead of being forced either to act or to let Castro fall. And even if the policy had failed to prevent Castro's move into the Soviet orbit, it would have gained sympathy and support for our Cuban policy in inter-American and international public opinion by relieving us of responsibility for precipitating events or destroying existing ties. Further, it would have created more favorable conditions for local opposition to crystallize. And considering the state of disorganization and confusion then existing in the Cuban government, it was not Micawberish to hope that if events were not precipitated something might well turn up to alter the situation before Castro consolidated his security controls.
This policy lasted but a few weeks. Factors leading to its abandonment included continued provocation from the Cubans, the visit of Mikoyan to Havana in February (invading what had so long been an almost exclusively American sphere of influence), and perhaps the rising pressures of an election year in our own country. The proverbial straw may have been Castro's outrageous allegation that we were responsible for the explosion and loss of life on a French munitions ship in Havana harbor early in March. According to reports published in later years, it was in that same month that our government decided to train and equip Cuban nationals for armed action against the Castro government, a decision wholly inconsistent with the policy we had announced only two months earlier.
It is worth emphasizing that the January policy had been a considerable embarrassment to the Castro régime. On the other hand, our new policy, which accelerated the break-up of the ties between the two countries, was, I believe, welcomed by Castro and Guevara. We did not force them into the arms of the Soviets but we were, in my judgment, unwisely coöperative in removing the obstacles in their chosen path.
The first crisis provoked by our new policy involved a Cuban demand in May that the American and British oil refineries process about a million tons of Soviet crude oil in the balance of the year, instead of the Venezuelan oil they had been using. (This million tons was about 40 percent of total needs.) The companies had been most tolerant in letting the government accumulate large foreign-exchange arrears covering crude oil already supplied; but they questioned the government's right under Cuban law to order them to refine the Soviet oil. For its part, the government wished to increase its purchases from the Soviet Union and questioned the prices charged by the companies for the crude oil they supplied. The companies would probably have reluctantly gone along with the government's request, seeking remedies through the courts and eventually, if necessary, through channels provided under international law. However, early in June, I was informed by an oil company executive in Havana that he had a couple of days earlier attended a meeting of representatives of the companies in the office of the Secretary of the Treasury in Washington, at which the Secretary had strongly urged the companies to refuse to refine the Soviet crude oil. The companies accepted this recommendation.
The Cuban government, informed of the companies' negative decision, took over the refineries. The Soviets were now faced with the necessity of doubling the original million tons of crude oil to be shipped during the rest of the year to meet total Cuban requirements. While this may have strained tanker availabilities, the Soviets accomplished the task in such a manner that the Cuban consumers were hardly aware of any change in the source of supply. The revolution had won a great and stimulating triumph, comparable to that of the Egyptians when they showed they could operate the Suez Canal without Western help. This was probably not the result contemplated by our government.
Early in July, while the outcome of the crude-oil crisis was still in doubt, President Eisenhower, using the discretion granted him by Congress, suspended the balance of the Cuban sugar quota for the year 1960 on the basis that under prevailing conditions Cuba was no longer a reliable supplier to the American market. The implication was clear that as long as conditions remained as they were Cuba would have no more market in the United States. The Soviets took the sugar we had refused. Cuban planters, cane-cutters, sugar-mill hands, dock workers-all those involved in the industry-went to work for the Russian instead of the American consumer. Castro and Guevara doubtless were highly pleased at our decision, the Russians perhaps less so. When my view on this decision was sought shortly before it was made public, I opposed it as nullifying the advantages we had derived from our previous policy. My belief was that if we were to modify the Cuban quota we should have done so only after negotiations with the Cuban government which would have made clear to all concerned the issues involved. I remain convinced that turning over to the Soviet Union the major responsibility for Cuba's sugar economy was a most regrettable step.
Within a month of the suspension of the quota, Castro had in retaliation nationalized the American sugar mills. Within three months he had taken over what was left of American investments and had made great progress in the elimination of private ownership of most productive assets in Cuba, including those of the Cubans themselves. The process was carried out in an atmosphere of heightened zeal and enthusiasm by those who felt that the fate of their movement depended on successfully meeting the challenge we had posed. Otherwise the revolution would have moved at a slower pace and might have met with strong resistance.
The rising revolutionary fervor was further stimulated by the realization during the summer that anti-Castro guerrillas were receiving arms-drops from a source generally assumed to be a United States agency. These guerrilla bands, brave as they were, posed no real threat to the régime. And the urban opposition to Castro was being deprived more and more of the positions of economic power which might have proved useful in furthering underground activity.
In this atmosphere, the break in diplomatic relations came as an anticlimax. It took place in early January 1961 as a result of Castro's demand that we reduce the establishment we were maintaining in Havana (very largely to facilitate the mass exit of Cubans from their homeland) to the level of the by then totally useless Cuban establishment in Washington.
In April 1961, 1,500 brave Cubans-selected, equipped, trained, financed, transported, misled and eventually (the survivors) ransomed by us-landed at the Bay of Pigs as the major element in an enterprise to free their 7,000,000 compatriots from Castro's military and security apparatus of something over 100,000 comparatively well prepared men and women. That fiasco, in conjunction with our replacement by Soviet Russia as Cuba's major economic partner, consolidated Castro's position. After the Bay of Pigs, the régime became so strong internally that even the missile crisis of October 1962, revealing as it did the true relative dimensions of the partners in the Castro-Khrushchev dialogue, failed to shake it.
There will be no resumption of relations between Cuba and the United States as long as Castro is in power. His fall may come either because he is rejected by the long-suffering Cuban people or because he realizes himself that his magic is exhausted. It should not come as a result of outside intervention, although some form of collective international action may be needed to prevent outside intervention on behalf of the régime.
When Castro departs, there should be a rapid change in the nature of the system. Guevara has already disappeared. He was the only other man with even an outside chance of maintaining one-man rule-perhaps that is why he was removed. Castro's brother Raul, his designated successor, is decidedly unmagnetic as a public figure. President Dorticos' talents lie in the fields of administration and backroom politicking.
When change comes, a prime necessity will be for the Cuban government to organize promptly a consultation of national opinion concerning what to eliminate from the Castro heritage and what to keep. It is likely that outside help in this may be requested by a transitional Cuban government and that the request will be addressed to the United Nations, of which Cuba is a member, rather than to the Organization of American States from which she has been suspended. Cuba's eventual return to active membership in the O.A.S. would, of course, be a preferred objective of hemisphere policy.
In this process of change, the role of the Cuban exiles or refugees must be considered. Hopefully, it will be possible at an early stage for most of those who desire to return to their homeland to do so. Among them are some with a part to play in the future of their country and others who have illusions on the subject. But no one outside of Cuba should presume to prejudge their roles. That will have to be left to those who have remained in Cuba and are called upon to decide how their country is to be reorganized. The notion that the passing of Castro is bound to produce an automatic restoration in Cuba of people and institutions identified with earlier times should be rejected.
Sugar was, is and will be the key to the Cuban economy. Up to 1960, Cuban sugar enjoyed a preferential position in the American market that was the envy of other producers. When we eliminated the Cuban quota, the Russians absorbed the three million tons or so that we had been buying. At the same time, we had relatively little difficulty in acquiring replacement supplies both from other foreign countries and at home. Under our present sugar legislation, Cuba could be given, at the time we resume diplomatic relations, a quota equivalent to about one-third of what she had in 1960. This would involve displacing much sugar from Western Hemisphere countries whose sales in our market are valuable assets in pursuing the goals of the Alliance for Progress. Important questions will arise. If there is a change in the Cuban régime, will the Russians continue to need Cuban sugar and will they continue to buy it, especially if the Cubans begin to cut down on imports of Russian goods in favor of traditionally preferred sources of supply? To what extent are we wedded to a system under which Congress, amid intense lobbying, doles out sugar quotas to specific foreign countries?
Without trying to answer these questions, I suggest that the general plight of cane-sugar producers offers a real opportunity for international statesmanship and, because of the role Russia has played in this field since 1960, for coöperation between East and West. Must cane-sugar producers be eternally condemned to a ramshackle system under which they sell a part of their output at protected prices and must then get rid of the balance in an anarchic so-called world market which actually handles but a small fraction of the world's consumption needs? And must they sell at prices which often, as at present, are far below production costs? It would seem possible to apply some of the principles of our own sugar program-now in its fourth decade of successful operation, so far as domestic producers and consumers are concerned-to the organization of a rational and truly worldwide market for cane sugar.
When Castro falls, the claims of the thousands of Cubans and Americans and other foreigners whose assets have been confiscated by his régime will come up for consideration. There can be no easy or automatic solution. A first question will concern the kind of society which the people of liberated Cuba desire to make for themselves. For example, to what extent will they wish to restore private ownership of the means of production in the sugar industry? To what extent will they desire to maintain nationalization in the public utilities field? Similar questions will have to be answered about a wide range of assets in order to determine whether restitution or compensation is to be the rule. The process is apt to be long-drawn-out and it is hard to conceive of any result which will be fully satisfactory both to the claimants and to those responsible for Cuba's future.
Finally, when the United States and the new Cuba come to reëstablish relations, they will presumably find it neither practical nor desirable to restore the old preferential ties. The United States will wish to recognize that the progress of the smaller developing nations, of which Cuba can once more become one of the most promising, depends largely on the extent to which they are able to achieve conscious responsibility for their own destinies. The United States and the other industrialized powers can, through commodity arrangements as well as assistance programs, bring about rational and steady expansion in the economic field. It is my conviction that the restrictions on the freedom of the smaller nations to control their own affairs increase the anarchic nationalism of which they are sometimes guilty. Only when they are truly responsible for their own progress and development can they contemplate making the reciprocal sacrifices of sovereignty required by the regional arrangements which are essential to progress in the modern world.