Hal Draper's polemic on Cuba, 1961

Submitted by AWL on 17 June, 2014 - 7:06

Hal Draper's polemic on Cuba, May 1961, from the pamphlet published in May 1961 by him.

Max Shachtman's speech in Berkeley on April 18, in which he case out for the victory of the counter-revolutionary invasion of Cuba, makes a valuable document for discussion and study.

Its centre of interest is not merely the Cuban question, important as that is especially at this writing when the U.S. say be moving toward some form of more direct intervention. Its centre of interest, from a longer-term point of view, is the methodology of its argumentation in favour of what was, in fact, predominantly an operation of American imperialism.

In a world where the danger of the Big War, the war between the two rival camps of imperialist powers, looms, the approach to the Cuban events given by Shachtman is a preview, or small working model, of one kind of line which socialists will meet when the pressure is on to reconcile them to support of the Western camp.

This, of course, is no problem for those who have already decided in their own minds that that is where they stand. The problem exists for those socialists, never plentiful and today somewhat reduced, who maintain their political opposition to both war camps and refuse to support American imperialism out of a justified hatred of Stalinist totalitarianism, as they refuse to whitewash Stalinist imperialism out of inveterate hatred for capitalism. These are the "Third Camp socialists." Shachtman's speech invites examination from that standpoint.

This Third Camp socialist tendency is, on the whole, resolutely and princlpledly hostile to any "softness on Stalinlsm." This la not an easy stance to maintain in the American political climate, where the high-pitched atmosphere of anti-Communist agitation from all sides tends to push in either one of two directions: either you get The Shakes in horrified reaction to the dangers of Kremlin domination and embrace the protection of Washington and the NATO alliance (the vast majority, of course); or you react against the official din with theories about the progressiveness or peaceableness of the Russian despots, illusions of their imminent democratisation , or other forms of sympathy for the rival camp in the world struggle. We are here interested, of course, in the pressure from the first aide, resulting in the malady referred to as the Shakes. It is also sometimes known by the ungainly name of "Stalinophobia."

This term does not derogate legitimate and justified fear of the real horrors of Stalinist domination and terror. I share those fears as much as any friend or ex-friend of mine who has been stampeded by these fears into announcing "I choose the West." If a man finds himself apparently trapped between a raging fire on the one aide and a collapsing stairway on the other, he does not prove that he is more sensitive to danger than you are if he hurls himself out of the nearest window. It would be advisable to keep your head and look for a third way out.

The distinctive characteristic of the Shakes is not its anti-Stalinism or anti-Communism; in this respect, personally, I yield to no one. The distinctive characteristic of the Shakes as a political malady is that it tends to subordinate to anti-Communism all other political considerations.

Obviously this political disease is to Third Camp socialism what the boll weevil is to cotton. In the field of civil liberties it induces well-intentioned people who want to be democrats to countenance witch-hunt assaults on the rights of Communists and others, as they make their choice (as they see it) between anti-Communism and civil-llbertarianism.

When a man is the victim of the Shakes, it is the dangers (including the real dangers) of Stalinism which are alone in focus before his eyes. Everything else, to one extent or another, blurs out in the background, and this is the picture of the world which becomes the only real one for him.

To continue the political-malady metaphor: Shachtman's speech should be regarded as a live-virus vaccine. Delivered on the second day of the invasion itself, before much if any information had come out, it had an appreciable Impact on many among its hearers. Then in the next couple of days the gory details of the CIA control of the invasion case out. This sort of thing can be an invaluable experience. In a way it was as if the 1914 socialists who had been swept away by the social-patriotic mood were immediately presented with the secret treaties ... This is an obviously exaggerated comparison but perhaps it is suggestive.

In any case, the following comments are made with this therapeutic value in mind, and not as a rounded discussion of the Cuban invasion itself, which would require a good deal more apace.

First of all, what was the position which Shachtman presented in this speech? These are passages in which he seems to be talking about a "neutral" position or "not taking sides," as he does near the end of his summary speech. This may be his recommendation to those who want to oppose the invasion, as the context may show; but whatever the point of this kind of talk, he left no possible question about his stand in three carefully formulated passages on the subject at the end of his presentation.

"My sympathies - I don't even want to begin to conceal my sympathies - are primarily with" (he explained) two out of the three tendencies described as constituting the invaders' forces. We need hardly stress that is Shachtman's language such a declaration of "sympathy" in a political statement, not a sentimental one.

He then added "My hopes for their success - and I hope for their success" (enunciating the last six words deliberately) - balanced by "fears" of right-wing influence. Finally, he trusted that the elements with whom he sympathised would be effective in breaking the back of the Castro tyranny as they had been effective in breaking the Batista regime. Spoken as his friends, or friends of his friends, were fighting on the beach of the pigs, there was little possibility of misunderstanding.


Was this the trouble: that Shachtman unfortunately did not know what later came out about the CIA domination and sponsorship of the counter-revolutionary council and its invasion? One should like to think so; and of course only Shachtman can say whether, on the basis of what we all know now, he wishes to repudiate his Berkeley line. It would be an honourable thing to do. But there are at least two difficulties in the way of such a supposition:

(1) After all, as the N.Y. Times and other sources kept emphasizing as they recounted the story, the main outlines of the situation had been an "open secret" on an amazingly big scale even before the invasion.

It Is true that the failure of the operation brought an outpouring of circumstantial details, such as the locking up of the Cardona council by the CIA, but obviously these fantastic corroborations of the general state of affairs are only frosting on the cake. They underline only the exceptional crudeness, openness and therefore transparency of the domination which the overlords exercised over their vassals in this whole affair. The N.Y. Times, Time magazine , the Sat. Eve. Post, Wall Street Journal, Nation, and other sources had already revealed much; so much, that at the Berkeley meeting where Shachtman spoke a number of people who took the floor to dissociate themselves from him already stated quite confidently that the invasion was controlled, dominated, planned, financed, and mounted by the CIA.

If Shachtman was more in the dark on this matter, it is a cause for wonder.

(2) But as a matter of fact Shachtman's speech la peppered with references to special sources of inside information on and personal contact with knowledgeable supporters of the counter-revolutionary council.

He has gotten his information, he says, "from informed people, and not from superficial or trivial journalistic articles." He has checked on the credentials of his Cuban informants, he knows all about them. He discussed with them such problems as how to get arms, an indication perhaps of sufficient intimacy to warrant also discussing such other matters as were indeed an "open secret" elsewhere, i.e., not a secret at all. It would be distressing to find that, after all that, Shachtman had been "taken in." by his friends of the invasion council, on whom he put his personal cachet.

The alternative is to accept that he knew at least as much as had already been printed in the press, if not a good deal more, about the CIA domination of the operation, and that this character of the affair did not deter his, as the invaders were striking, from advocating socialist support to the enterprise.

As with more important people in Washington, the trouble would not seen to be a "failure in Intelligence work" (information) but a failure in politics.


Is everything in Shachtman's speech wrong or untrue? Just the contrary. It is juster to consider it a virtuoso performance in taking indubitable political propositions and truths and weaving them into a tissue that might hold water, as an apologia for the invasion. Otherwise, of course, it could have had no impact at all under the circumstances.

There is nothing wrong with that method in itself. You and I do it all the time when we try to draw conclusions on new problems from an examination of old ones. The sidewalk barker also does it when he seeks to get your head nodding in agreement with him on something, like the sinfulness of sin, and then pulls out the snake-oil while your head is still bobbing.

Thus, to the lengthy and copious denunciations of Stalinism which featured Shachtman's long address (the lengthiest of all was a good percentage of the presentation and is not reprinted here), we must say amen. After an hour or so of such agitation, he had quite convinced his listeners that they should not favour Communist Party control of Cuba. When in his summary he came out again four-square against the victory of the CP. in Cuba, and added, "I may be hanged for that....politically....people say not agree with me; that's how I as," we looked around the hall to spot the miscreants who would hang him for this virtuous sentiment but they were hidden.

His description of the operation of the CP. in the Spanish war, and application to the aims and opportunities of the CP. in Cuba, was more serious educationally. The same was true to earlier sections of his presentation not reprinted here.

So the problem is not whether this or that point woven in by Shachtman is valid in itself, but whether it Justified support of this invasion. This is not at all the same thing.

In the Korean war, It would have been easy (let us say) to denounce the North Korean attack and Stalinist crimes in the land, using nothing but solid and unanswerable charges, but whether this added up to support of the U.S.-South Korean side was quite another matter. Even if one added that one's sympathies were with the left wing of the pro-war camp.

If and when the Big War comes, there will doubtless be plenty of room for this mode of recruitment to support of the war: we will be agitated not with lies but with the real crimes and dangers of the Stalinist enemy, or rather with the latter as well as the former, provided the government does not lack propagandists sophisticated enough to know how this is done. If the Big War had been ready to break out in 1956 and had been triggered off by the Hungarian Revolution - say, with intervention by Washington presumably to back the Hungarians - we can all imagine clearly, with a shudder, how easy the speeches would have flowed along these lines, and what an impact they would have had... The point here is simply this: Denunciations of the crimes and dangers of Stalinist control are fine in themselves, and I'm in favour of lots of it; but when they get pointed toward justification of operations of American imperialism against this enemy-of-our-enemy, then it is a good idea to take a closer look before getting carried away.

Unless, of course, you have already come to the conscientious conclusion that the only realistic hope in this wretched world of stopping the advance of Communist power is to "choose the West," with whatever radical reservations.

Now let us look at the method, or debaters' mechanism, by which Shachtman works up his argument in support of an invasion which is "planned, coordinated and directed" by the CIA (as the N.T. Times put it). We should get well acquainted with it.

What's your objections to it (he asks in effect)? Do you object because they took arms from the U.S.? But so did the Resistance take arms from the imperialists, and you advised them to. Do you object because they used U.S. ships to invade? But the "Irish revolutionists" landed from German submarines (he claims). Do you object because they took advantage of U.S. interests to train outside of Cuba? But so did Castro's men train outside of Cuba; and then there are the same "Irish revolutionists," etc.

Do you object because there are reactionary elements, unpleasant elements, in the coalition? So how about Mikolajczyk...etc., etc.

The pattern is to fish out a "historical precedent" for any single aspect of the CIA operation, taken separately.

It is the question of "taking arms" that he works over, particularly, and keeps returning to. This is so because he feels the firmest ground here. The question of "taking arms" has a long history in the record of revolutions and class struggles.

On this score Shachtman recalls something "out of my chequered past. I had no objection, nor did my friends, during the war...when the Resistance movement started... to their taking arms from the imperialists, for the Resistance movement. It wasn't a socialist movement, at least by our standards, politically confused, a little bit unpleasant elements so to speak, and so on; but we said, Go ahead, get eras where you can."

Shachtman is here recalling the position of the Independent Socialist League (see the New International for Feb. 1943). If I pursue this recollection a little more, it is to show that the political question involved was a little more complex and difficult than is remembered by the Shachtman of today, who la volubly against "easy answers."

For the ISL, the problem of the relationship between the Resistance movement and the imperialists was a political question of which the question of "taking arms" was only one facet. For the ISL the meaning of "taking arms" from the imperialists depended in any given case precisely on the relationship between the movement and the imperialists, not the other way round. Of course, "taking arms" (or money, etc.) is not good or bad in itself; this is ABC. The decisive question to be examined is the real independence of the movement from the imperialists in this relationship.

A movement which is independent - which means uncontrolled, undominated, free to act in accordance with its own decisions, not a creature of the other's power - can think in terms of utilising antagonisms among others, and come to a practical arrangement, freely, on one thing or another with any one of them. In such a context, "taking arms" is a practical arrangement , not a political relationship.

The ISL resolution which Shachtman appeals to repeatedly stressed the fundamental premise of the independence of the movement from the Imperialists.

Here are some samples: "The imperialists seek to convert these movements into obedient, disciplined auxiliaries to the Anglo-American armed forces. The achievement of this aim would mean the corruption of the movement, in as such as it would be deprived of any independence of the program or movement, would cease to be a popular democratic movement, and become a sere instrument of the imperialist powers. Not only that, but it would cease to be a movement for genuine national freedom..."

Could anything have been stated more clearly? The ISL based its position on the view that, by and large, the Resistance movements in practice were Independent of and not under the control of, say, De Gaulle or his emissaries at this time. This was our answer to those misguided French friends who refused to have anything to do with the Resistance forces on the ground that they were only appendages to one side in the imperialist war. I think we were right, but that's beside the point. The point is that we believed this independence to be a fact in 1942, and took our position in this belief. This was the crux which would have had to be refuted before we changed our mind.

But, we warned, the imperialists wanted to control and dominate this movement, as everybody knew. If they succeeded, we warned, this movement would cease to be what it is now. It would cease to be a "popular democratic movement"; it would become an "instrument" of one of the sides in the war; it would no longer be "a movement for genuine national freedom." That which the imperialists would have liked to make of the Resistance movement in 1942, and which we specifically warned against, was precisely that which characterised the Cardona coalition council from its beginning: this was the "open secret" of 1961.

Where the imperialists in 1942 were trying to throw a lasso over the Resistance forces, it was the CIA which had scotch-taped the Cardona council together in the first place.

Where the imperialists in 1942 were trying to get the Resistance groups to listen to directives taken to them by emissaries, the Cardona council members were not even allowed to watch "their" own men being trained by the U.S.'s operatives.

Where the 1942 imperialists sought to "corrupt" the Resistance groups, the CIA did not have to corrupt the Cardona council: that council and the invasion was its creation, its creature, from beginning to end.

Consider the enormity of the difference between these two cases - the light-years between, politically speaking - where Shachtman now sees only the fact that both "took arms." What the ISL resolution was about was not the detail about taking arms but the analysis of the independence of the movement as a sine qua non of its progressive significance.


In another place, the ISL resolution refers to Mikhailovich's Resistance groups in Yugoslavia, as an example of the bad kind of development:

"How disastrous the domination of the popular movement of resistance by the imperialists can be, is beginning to be illustrated by the consolidation of the control of the Serbian reactionaries, represented by Mikhailovich, over the fighting forces who simply wanted an end to German tyranny and not the restoration of Greater Serbian national oppression of other people."

This is given as an example of the Resistance movement that had been taken over by imperialist reaction action, in our then opinion. This is discussed again later in the resolution as one of many examples of the great complexity of the situation. (Shachtman's complaint that the revolutionary socialist goes in for easy, simple formulas is a recent discovery on his part, though not unknown previously.)

The point about the nature of the Mikhailovich movement is made again, and the resolution adds: "It is not accidental that this movement [rather than the Partisans] is given official aid and recognition by Anglo-American imperialism." Note that here the Mikhailovich movement is not deemed reactionary because it took arms from the Anglo-American imperialists; the relation is viewed just the other way round--the comment on the Anglo-American arms policy in Yugoslavia is made after the political character of the Mikhailovich movement has been judged on other grounds, rightly or wrongly.

Now does this mean there were no good, honest, progressive, revolutionary elements in the Mikhailovich camp? To ask is to answer. Suppose a Comrade S. came along and told us: "I have just had lunch with a brace of stout working-class fighters in the Mikhailovich movement, genuine Yugoslav nationalists everyone of them, with records you can check on - I saw them with my own eyes, and I give you my personal assurance..."

You would have to reply: "These stout working-class fighters, who must be all you say they are because I have unquestioning confidence in your political judgement - are they in control of this movement, do they or their friends and similars lead it, do they or the likes of them decisively determine its political character? or are they its captives, its window-dressing, do they themselves suffer from lamentable illusions about the movement they're in, like so many other good people elsewhere? This we will have to decide for ourselves on the basis of everything we know about this movement, including its public politics and activities, and not on the basis of private inside information about the bonafides of these friends of yours, whom we do not know."

More on this later; but here we want to point out that the ISL resolution which Shachtman recalled to our memory was not at all indifferent to the political and social nature of the leadership of the movement. It was of the opinion that "in Europe, as in the colonies, the struggle for national independence can be assured against degeneration into a subordinate, an auxiliary, an integral part of the imperialist war - thus depriving it of its progressive significance - only under the leadership of the proletariat." (This, says the resolution, applies to degeneration through take-over by the Stalinist apparatus and by the imperialists.) On the other hand, it says, Anglo-American imperialism is "determined from the very beginning to insure itself against the victory of the people by imposing upon them such tried and true conservatives and reactionaries as are today represented in the various governments in exile and national committees in exile..." (emphasis added). Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.

But in imposing the control of conservatives and reactionaries on the movement, it should not be supposed that intelligent imperialists must want to drive out all those Stout Working-Class Fighter types whom we have been meeting. Not in the least; not as long as these latter have no decisive control over the course of the movement and as long as they have lunch with good friends whom they can assure of their bona-fides with the utmost sincerity. There are few movements which can do without a left wing of one sort or another; it would leave then positively naked.


The Cuban invasion is not the first such operation that had its left wing of "good people."

For a specialist in selected and stuffed historical precedents, the most interesting period should be that of the imperialist interventions against the Russian Revolution. Of course, these interventions were directed against a socialist regime, and there is no analogy there with the Cuban affair. All we are interested in at this point is the phenomenon of left wings of "good people" (Stout Working-Class Fighters, etc.) in reactionary-dominated movements.

The anti-Soviet interventions came in various shapes and sizes. The Archangel government set up in the North by British guns had at its head not a Cardona but the venerable Tchaikowsky, as stout a fighter for the toiling people as Russia produced. The so-called Ufa government was heavily laden with Mensheviks and SRs, all stout working-class fighters.

Even the Kolchak and Denikin forces had their liberal wings, who regularly swore to foreign correspondents that there was no intention to restore the power of the landowners. And so on and so forth.

Now these historical analogies by themselves get us absolutely nowhere; they can be useful and educational only insofar as we clearly understand what question it is we are asking of them. In this case Shachtman sought to impress his audience with his tales of personal acquaintance with certain "good people" in the Cardona coalition. Historical experience advises us that there is a further question to be asked.

He was asked: Why didn't you even raise the question of what weight these good people whom you know have in this Cardona movement? do they have decisive control? any control? etc. ... and in his summary he replied baldly, "I don't know." All he knew was that they were there.

Now even this in itself might have been credible if Shachtman's assurances about his friends were all we had to go on. In view of all that was already known about the relation of the Cardona movement to the U.S., this treatment is - - strange.

In his answer on the "Guatemalan parallel," he satisfied himself very easily with the explanation that he could not support that affair because there were no "good people" involved in the CIA-sponsored coup there. Not even five? not even a pair? Suppose that there had been a wing of honest anti-Stalinist elements who were perturbed by the advances of the Communists in collaboration with Arbenz. For Arbenz did collaborate with the Communists, you know, and gave them power in sectors of his administration - those same devilishly clever Communists who, Shachtman explained, inevitably take over regimes that have no trained, tough opposition forces to stop them. What was there in Guatemala to stop them from taking over the Arbenz regime if the CIA hadn't done its little chore?

And if he had been able to find a few Stout Working-Class Fighters lined up with the invaders in Guatemala, would this have reconciled him to the CIA-organised operation there - an operation that was not executed by the Marines and not by mercenaries, and which therefore was not U.S. intervention by definition - his definition?

Now as a matter of fact, if Shachtman wants to find out about the left wing of "good people" - not antediluvian reactionaries - who supported the coup of Castillo Armas in Guatemala, he need only read Daniel James' Red Design for the Americas: Guatemalan Prelude. The coup got support from "some of the SAMF [railway union] leaders," the Union of Free Workers in Exile (UTLE) who demanded retention of the conquests of the revolution under Arevalo, from progressive student groups, and others who might possibly satisfy Shachtman's requirements for support.

Robert Alexander, in Communism in Latin America, even says that Castillo Armas himself was a liberal, though unfortunately surrounded by less appetising types. Both claim that the CP. of Guatemala was on the very point of seizing all power and turning the country into a totalitarian satellite of Moscow. Both, too, absolve the U. S. of all intervention, with little pretence of taking up the abundant public evidence.

But Shachtman too, we may notice, did not base his reply on Guatemala on the question of U. S. intervention. For Guatemala too this appears to have disappeared from his consideration. He wants only to be shown a left wing in the Castillo Armas invasion, and he would seem to be ready to wish success to it too, retroactively.

This is what is revelatory about hie reply on the Guatemalan parallel.

All this in effect also covers his passing reference to Mikolajczyk in Poland. Of course there were all kinds of elements in the Mikolajczyk movement, as in most others, as there was in the Hungarian revolution, as there will be in every stirring against Stalinist totalitarianism - but we tried to go on the basis of a political analysis of what we conceived to be the primary political character of the movement and its leadership. There is no use discussing this with Shachtman, however, since he is not interested in all that. It is not his method. Him wisdom has reached its limits when he finds that there were unpleasant elements here, unpleasant elements there, unpleasant elements in the Cardona council - everything is the same - so let us get on with the real task of fighting Stalinism.

Mikolajczyk's movement was an independent, home-grown force; it had no resemblance to the Cardona appendage to the CIA. Independence from imperialism is the key. It is also the key to what Shachtman has abandoned.


Toward its conclusion the ISL resolution under discussion restated the basic point again: "In the national movements, the question of their general and specific relationships toward Allied imperialism in the war is of vital importance. It is of the same importance to the revolutionary vanguard. ...the revolutionary and proletarian elements must fight tooth and nail in these movements for the attainment of their complete political and organisational independence from the imperialists powers and from alliances with these powers."(Emphasis added.) This, of course, while you are "taking arms" from them, as long as they are willing to give on these terms.

This is not to say that it is always easy to say definitely when a movement is independent and when it has been taken over; it wasn't in the Second World War. For example, was the ISL's estimate of the Mikhailovich movement correct? That doesn't matter right now. The issue for our present purpose is: What is the question you ask, what is the approach you apply? For there is no problem of uncertainty about this question in the case of the Cuba invaders: they were not "taken over" by the U.S.; their council and its invasion operation was set up by the U.S. (Of course, before that, the constituent elements had been taken over by Washington.) All of this applies as well, except doubled in spades, to the case of the "Irish revolutionists" of 1916 as evoked by Shachtman.

Shachtman's history of the Irish uprising of 1916 is in part pure invention. It is not true that the Irish rebels "trained their troops outside of Ireland." These armed bands not only trained in Ireland but did so openly, publicly and legally. The ready reader might get the impression from his reference to "the kaiser's U-boats" that the uprising was made by a band of men who landed from abroad in German submarines (or any other craft). The less malleable historical facts are that a "kaiser's U-boat" (singular) came into the picture when it landed Sir Roger Casement and two companions on the shore, where they were promptly arrested and had nothing to do with the uprising. Nor did the German Consul in Dublin lock up the Sinn Fein leadership while he directed the insurrection. Nor....

But this is ridiculous and does not deserve more attention. The Irish uprising of 1916 was as completely independent of the Germans as the Cuban invasion was completely dominated by the U.S. The sole link, as we have said, is that Irish revolutionists accepted and solicited material aid from any quarter, including Germany as the enemy of their enemy, with absolutely no German strings attached, no German control, no German participation, nor any other slightest resemblance to the CIA-organised putsch against Cuba. To link Connolly and Cardona is no service to the revolutionary tradition.

In dealing with the ISL resolution to which Shachtman appealed, we are not mainly interested in whether he still holds with the political thinking of this document (of which he was the main author, by the way; in many ways the best thing he ever wrote). Obviously he does not. A man has a right to leave off the revolutionary follies of his greener years when he becomes a prudent citizen who finally realises that he is living in this world, as we are told.

But, from an educational point of view, anyone who wants to thread his way through the vexing problem of the relation between the progressive movements of our era and the all-pervading pressure of the rival imperialist camps, should be interested in the rival imperialist camps, should be interested in thinking-through more or less along the lines that we tried to in 1942, whether he reaches similar conclusions or not.

There are many other aspects of the complicated problem taken up there which are not touched on here. It is disconcerting that Shachtman ignores this whole approach, reduces the complexities to the jejune issue of take-arms-or-not - and then reads homilies on his distaste for easy, simple approaches to complex issues.


There is an entirely different side to the question of arms, besides the one we examined above.

Take, for example, the Spanish Civil War. The Loyalist government needed arms badly and was anxious to get them anywhere. We were for that too, of course. The Roosevelt government slapped down an embargo on arms to Spain: We could not get arms even through private channels, denounced that and demanded the removal of the embargo. But we as American socialists never called on the U.S. government to go in for giving arms to the Loyalist government.

We could not make this demand because we could not follow through by supporting its reasonable consequences. We were fighting against the outbreak of the then-looming Second World War. Everyone knew it could break out then and there, between the Western alliance and the fascist bloc, over the body of the Spanish war, just as the First World War was triggered by intervention of the rival powers on Serbia.

We were against U.S. governmental intervention in the Spanish war because we had no faith in its imperialist policy to intervene for our aims or the Spanish revolution's aims; we knew it could intervene only to beard its rival Germany in the Spanish cockpit.

So there was the situation: It was all right for the Spanish Loyalists to seek and take arms anywhere, including from the U.S. government if they could get them, as a practical arrangement based on independence; this we have already discussed. But at the very same time we American socialists refused to demand from this government that it send arms. This attitude was based solidly, not on an attitude toward the Spanish war, but on our attitude toward our own American imperialism.

The situation warn essentially repeated with the Hungarian revolution. It goes without saying that no one would have dreamt of criticising the embattled Hungarian workers for taking arms from any hand that offered them, without exception; so much for the question of "taking arms." But at the same time we as American socialists rejected the demand (which was then being raised mainly by reactionaries, as a matter of fact) that the U.S. Air Force air-drop arms to the revolutionists in Budapest.

The immediate reason for this stand was perfectly clear and essentially the same as in the Spanish war: the danger of this course unleashing World War III. We asked those who proposed the air-drop: Are you also prepared to support the Air Force in shooting its way to free airspace over Hungary to execute its mission, or do you turn tail and flee as soon as a Russian plane comes in sight? or do you try to back down at some other point before the Big War starts? Behind this argument was, also, the same, basic, consideration: we do not call upon our own imperialist government to send arms because we have no confidence in the progressiveness of its motives, its execution, its consequences, its politics. The issue is still: our attitude toward our own American imperialism, not anything else.

Now we have the Cuba invasion. Shachtman explains that it is all right for the Cardona council to take arms from the U.S. armed forces; very well, we have seen what other issues are involved there, but still they have the right to take arms from anybody.

But Shachtman himself has a problem a little different from his Cuban friends, as an American socialist. Since he sympathises with the (left wing of the) invasion forces and wishes them success, is he in favour of raising the demand on the U.S. government that it arm or helps to arm his friends? It might seem that this query is answered in advance by the Spanish and Hungarian examples explained above: the answer should be no. But four years ago Shachtman came out against the political position which we had held on the Spanish case and which we took on Hungary. He announced that he now thought it was wrong on Spain, and that he was against applying it to Hungary. At the 1957 ISL convention, the statement on "We do not cell on the U.S. government to send arms to Hungary" was adopted by only a narrow majority against the violent opposition of Shachtman, who wished to strike it out.

If he was unwilling to exclude a call for arms to Hungary, where world war might have been precipitated, it is hard to imagine what scruples would restrain his from calling for arms to his friends in the Cardona council... leaving aside, of course, the fact that Washington does not need to be called on to this purpose.

Now of course the issue is not simply whether Washington should give arms to the counter-revolutionaries. The point is to denounce the U.S.'s hip-deep involvement whether by direct troops or by indirection, of which its giving of arms is only a facet. But is it possible for Shachtman, in view of his position, to oppose any U.S. intervention, including indirect intervention? or will he continue to insist that there was no U.S. intervention - which seems to say, no kind of intervention that he is ready to dissociate himself from?

As in the case of the Spanish and Hungarian cases examined, the underlying issue there is not Cuba but attitude toward our own American imperialism. An was pointed out at the beginning, this is the issue in this entire discussion.


Shachtman's definition of "intervention" by the U.S. is, however, very Pickwickian.

In his Berkeley speech he denied that Washington's participation in the affair amounted to "armed intervention," which he defined as follows: "a force that is not Cuban in any way, which is purely mercenary, which reach the most extreme and obvious form so that even the biggest dunderhead in the world can see it if it sends the U.S. Marines there, let us say."

It is true that if Kennedy sends the US Marines into Cuba, not even the biggest dunderhead will be able to blink the fact that armed intervention has taken place. But if this is the extreme and obvious form, what is the form of U.S. intervention which is more subtle? If even the biggest dunderhead can see that kind, what kind ought to be discernible to socialists?

The actual participation of U.S. armed forces in the training and transportation of the invaders, planning and supply of the attack, radio communication and propaganda broadcasts on behalf of the invasion, and various other services, has been ascertained. But Kennedy, Stevenson et al. deny there was any U.S. intervention since no U.S. troops landed.

Will Shachtman still, today, insist on his denial? This question must be asked because Shachtman presents himself as being against U.S. intervention.

"Hands off Cuba," he says, and this phrase usually means a little more than refraining from sending in the Marines (in uniform). He is not only opposed to intervention but "irreconcilably" opposed to it, he says. This laudable asseveration loses some of its lustre, however, if he denies the reality of intervention as energetically as Adlai Stevenson unless you can show that either the Marines have landed singing Caissons Away or that the invaders are "purely mercenary."


Insofar as Shachtman indicates that the result of the invasion (uncertain as he spoke) would be a reflection of where the Cuban people stood - and unacceptable as is this theory of the invasion as a sort of "plebiscite" - it is possible to wonder what effect the outcome has had on his own perspective.

He sees the inevitable totalitarianisation of the Castro regime as a result of victory. And, to be sure, the Castro regime nay wind up going far in this direction, although I do not think it is inevitable at all. The Castro regime has been and is being pushed into the eras of the CP. and of the Moscow camp and into increasingly antidemocratic forms and practices. What is pushing it?

Nothing else but the U.S. itself, together with the operations of its Cuban friends. Shachtman does not deny this, I believe. It is not the Cuban CP that could do this job, devilishly clever as it is in holding out its arms to receive Castro as he gets pushed. It is not Castro himself, because Shachtman agrees he is not a Communist. It is not the Russians who are pulling Castro into their orbit by his shirt-tail. It is the interventionist policy of the U.S., then, that is pushing Cuba toward intensified authoritarianism and a pro-Moscow orientation. By the same token, it is the operations of the CIA's Cuban vassals, and all their supporters.

Strange denouement! It is Shachtman's type of policy which is pushing Castro toward Stalinism, and it is Shachtman who cornea before us crying that we must support this type of policy in order to save Cuba from the horrors of Stalinism! But despite appearances, all is really in order here, for this has been the self-destroying characteristic of American foreign policy in this whole cold war.

So it is not Castro's victory over the invasion that rigidifies the Cuban regime; it is the intensified threat of U.S. intervention, coming after the invasion crisis, proclaimed by Kennedy's club-brandishing speech of April 20.

Try this test in your political imagination: Suppose all threats of intervention were quashed, really quashed, and it was made clear to the Cuban people that they were no longer under the mountainous pressure of the Northern colossus. Suppose, to implement this, the U.S. also ceased to put the economic screws on Cuba and renegotiated its trade and other relations. Suppose it gave Cuba substantial economic and financial aid; etc. All imperialist pressure on the little island is removed: Would it be easier or harder for the "devilishly" clever CP to continue its job of taking over the regime? Would it be easier or harder to convince more and more people, supporters of Castro, that there ought to be elections now? Would it be easier or harder to mobilise sentiment in Cuba for a return to the democratic revolutionary perspective - and to mobilise it both legally and, if necessary, otherwise? If the U.S. offered a real hand of friendship and aid, would the devilish CP. be able to prevent the people from accepting, or even prevent Castro from accepting--without ruining his halo? ... Follow this train of thought along in some detail, and ask: Isn't this the only certain and sure way to stop the devilish Stalinists? I am not saying we American socialists can be sure of bringing this about, but only this: that insofar as we have voices to raise, we raise them to push in this direction, no other.

But is this compatible with maintenance of a line of support for the Cardona outfit or any wing of it? I raise this as a matter of political position.

I do not know whether anything at all is left of the Cardona operation or what the Ray group and the others intend to do now, if they still exist. But for Shachtman the question is: Shall I discuss with my friends, or those whose credentials I have checked, how to do the same job better next time, i.e. how to continue to keep the outside pressure hot on Castro? How reconcile a policy directed to easing the Northern pressure on Cuba, with justification of what the invaders have done and may try to do again, only more effectively? If it is victories that consolidate totalitarianism in Cuba, how can Shachtman justify pressing the U.S. to give Castro some victories - by getting out of Guantanamo, giving economic aid, renewing diplomatic relations, etc.? It is good and a thing of cheer that Shachtman raises these demands, in spite of his unfortunate position; this does him honour. But it points to an entirely different road - the road to the defeat of Stalinism through a reconciliation with the Castro regime, not the road of intervention.

This is particularly the responsibility of U.S. socialists. It may be that if we were Cubans, inside Cuba, we would all be together in a common opposition to the Castro regime; maybe, but that is not the problem which this discussion is trying to solve.

What we can try to work out is how we, as U.S. socialists, can help the perspective of such a democratic revolutionary opposition sentiment in Cuba. From this point of view, if any significant section of American socialism had staggered into the position of supporting the invasion, it would have been a terrible disaster. As it was, the damage was strictly limited.

So what Shachtman must choose now in between the perspective implied by his good demands for a U.S. reconciliation with the Castro regime, and the perspective implied by his support of the invasion.

A good deal more important is the fact that this is how the problem is posed before all socialists. It is only the current form of the worldwide problem before socialism: how to fight for a democratic foreign policy in opposition to Western capitalist imperialism; how to fight for freedom everywhere in opposition to Stalinist imperialism and its agents.

Behind the two views on the Cuban invasion, then, are raised all the problems of a Third Camp opposition to both war blocs as against any kind of critical support to the American (or Western) camp. These problems are many and various, and cannot be discussed here, but if these comments lead into further discussion of the Third Camp approach to world politics, their limited aim has been sufficiently accomplished.

May 5, 1961

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