Cheddi Jagan 1961

Why Did Castro Succeed?


Source: Ceddi Jagan - Guyana's Hero;
First Published: Thunder, 29 April 1961;


THE fighting is over. The Cuban Revolution has survived its first major attack. To what extent was the US involved? Was this an affair a la Guatemala?

In 1954 when Guatemala was attacked, US Government denied involvement. Time Magazine, however, in its Latin American edition, on August 8 said that the US Central Intelligence Agency had supported the army which overthrew the Arbenz Government. The exact quote was: “. . . . with the US Central Intelligence Agency as a silent partner, a Guatemalan colonel named Carlos Castillo Armas launched his counter-revolutionary invasion of the Red-dominated country.”

The US Government said that it is not directly involved in Cuba. However, it has expressed sympathy for the counter-revolutionary forces. These forces seem to get a lot of money in the US. Also they can operate openly and freely in Miami and elsewhere.

Compare treatment that Castro got when he was in exile from 1955 to 1957; he was hounded and, even in Mexico, his training ground for his handful of revolutionaries had to be completely secret and changed from time to time because of government raids. New York Times exposed the training of the anti-Castro rebels in Guatemala. Time Magazine blew up what was happening in Miami. No wonder Fidel Castro has pointed the accusing finger at the US Government. History will judge.

Why did Castro succeed and Arbenz fail? Let’s hear what Arbenz himself had to say. Last May he gave an interview in Havana to US newspaperman, Lyle Stuart:

Stuart: One criticism of the Castro regime has been that the people are whipped up too much to prepare for an invasion. But they say that one weakness of your regime is that your people were not sufficiently alerted against an invasion possibility. Do you believe there is substance in that?

Arbenz: In the few days that I have been in Cuba I observed that the Cuban people are not frightened by a possible aggression and that they are ready to defend their revolution. They will defend it even at a cost of their lives. The error of the Guatemalan situation was that our country’s defence was all in the hands of the army and many agents of the United States infiltrated the army. Also, the Guatemalan people were not armed as the Cuban people are.

Stuart: Do you think that the people would have fought?

Arbenz: I am absolutely sure that they would have fought until the end. The army which had the support of the people, betrayed the people.

There you have it – the difference between the Guatemalan and Cuban situations. In Guatemala, after Arbenz won the elections, he maintained the old army and its top brass military leaders, and did not arm the people. When the invasion took place, the military betrayed the Government. The people, particularly the peasants, were prepared to fight. Land reform had helped them. United Fruit Company land holdings were broken up and given to the farmers. Unfortunately, the farmers were not armed or trained.

Fidel Castro, no doubt, learned from the mistake made by the Arbenz regime. He disbanded the regular Cuban Army. Its place was taken by his own Rebel Army. And he called for volunteers. These militiamen – farmers, workers, teachers, shop- clerks, civil servants – were trained and guns put into their hands. These are the people who have defended their revolution and repulsed the attackers.

Caught napping

The attackers have been caught napping. They have fooled themselves with their own propaganda. The capitalist press blazed headlines about anti-Castro defections and internal rebellion in Cuba. Castro was a dictator; he was holding the people by force and terror. Such were the lies spread. Any objective observer could have seen that 90 percent of the Cuban people were supporting the Revolutionary Government. As Josť Miro Torres, son of the counter- revolutionary leader put it: I walked for 26 miles and at every turn there was a militiaman.”

Last May Day, Fidel hit back at all these lies and propaganda. Answering the charge from the USA about being undemocratic he shouted back that the real test of democracy was to put guns in the hands of the farmers, the workers, the clerks. He challenged the US Government to do as he did, to arm the Negroes who constituted a majority in the South. That, he said would be a time test of American democracy and the real freedom of the Negro people.

Let the Tellos and Ishmaels in our country take note. Are the ordinary people slaves – according to our so-called trade union leaders – who have wiped out the invaders? Why didn’t they use the guns given to them against Castro if their rights and freedoms were suppressed?

Imperialism is dying. It used force to overthrow several democratic regimes – the Callegos Betancourt Government in 1948, the Mosadeq Government in Iran in 1951, the PPP Government in 1953, the Arbenz Government in 1954. The turning point came in 1956. Then we saw the attack on Egypt failed. Fidel Castro is lucky. He has not only the people of Cuba on his side. History is on his side. 1961 is a world of difference from 1951. The reactionary imperialist forces will fight back. But the hand-writing is on the wall. The death knell of imperialism is sounding on all fronts.

To sum up in the words a liberal American, Dr. Shapiro, Assistant Professor of History at Michigan State University: “Some day we are going to have to recognise the permanent nature of the social revolution that has taken place in Cuba, just as we eventually came to terms with similar upheavals in Mexico and the USSR. Meanwhile, one can only echo the sentiment expressed to me by a number of Cubans: ‘Que nos dejan en paz!’ – ‘If they would only leave us alone’!”