Below is an excerpt from Cuba and the Coming American Revolution by Jack Barnes, national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party. The Spanish edition of the book is one of Pathfinder’s Books of the Month for December. In the excerpt Barnes describes the defeat of the U.S.-sponsored invasion of Cuba in April 1961, and efforts of communist youth in the U.S. to get out the truth about Washington’s actions and the Cuban Revolution. Copyright © 2001 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.
BY JACK BARNES
On the morning of April 18, 1961, readers of daily newspapers across the United States woke up to front-page headlines proclaiming, “Rebels Near Havana, Invade Four Provinces.”
Many radio stations blared an Associated Press news dispatch reporting that “Cuban rebel forces” had landed within thirty-eight miles of Havana and at numerous other points on the island. Citing a press release from the “Cuban Revolutionary Council,” the dispatch said that much of the Cuban militia had already defected to the invading forces and “in the next few hours” the deciding battle for the country would be fought. “Rebel” forces were “in control of the Isle of Pines and had freed some 10,000 political prisoners held there.”
Most Americans took the story as good coin, expecting to soon hear that the “pro-Communist dictator” Fidel Castro had been ousted.
Around the country, however, in dozens of cities and on a number of college campuses, there were pockets of individuals who knew from the beginning that every word of the AP story was a lie. We had been carrying out an intensive educational campaign for weeks to counter the Kennedy administration’s mendacious disinformation efforts. We were getting ready for the invasion we knew was coming, preparing to act here in the Yankee heartland side by side with the Cuban people the moment it was launched. Between April 17 and April 19, as the battle was being fought in Cuba, we confidently took to the streets, organized speak-outs, posted marked-up newspaper clippings a couple times a day, and went on the radio asserting that, all press reports to the contrary, the U.S. government-organized and -financed invasion was being defeated, not winning.
As we had been doing for months, we pointed to the immense popularity of the revolution among the Cuban people in response to the measures the new government was organizing them to take. The Mafia-run gambling dens and brothels, a national shame, had been shut down. Land had been distributed to more than 100,000 tenant farmers, sharecroppers, and squatters. House and apartment rents, as well as electricity and telephone rates, had been slashed. Racial discrimination was outlawed and equal access not only made law but also enforced. The best public beaches, which had been previously off limits to Blacks, had been opened to all. A nationwide campaign to eliminate illiteracy had been launched—part of a broader extension of public education to the countryside, among the poor, and for women. Popular militias had formed in factories, other workplaces, schools, neighborhoods, and towns across the island, as Cubans demanded arms and military training to defend their new conquests.
The huge money-gouging U.S. monopolies had been nationalized, as well as the major landed, commercial, and industrial property holdings of the wealthy Cuban families who had been the social and political base of the Batista dictatorship.
Through more than two years of popular mobilization, the workers and farmers of Cuba had begun transforming not only their country but themselves. It was precisely for this reason, we explained, that Cubans could, and would, fight to the death to defend their revolution—and do so successfully.
Only thirty-six hours after the initial AP stories made headlines across the United States, the counterrevolutionary “rebel forces”—who had landed not thirty-eight miles from Havana or on the Isle of Pines, but near the Bay of Pigs on the southern coast of the island—had been ignominiously routed at Playa Girón by Cuba’s popular militias, Revolutionary National Police, Revolutionary Air Force, and Rebel Army. Not only the decisiveness, but also the speed of the April defeat was stunning. …
The shock of the very first military defeat of U.S. imperialism in the Americas began to register in Washington, and among its defenders in pressrooms, factories, and schools across the country. In the weeks that followed, as bitter and self-serving recriminations among organizers of the invasion spilled out, more and more information about the U.S.-run military operation and the social background of the individual Cuban “freedom fighters” began to make its way into the mainstream press in the United States.
As these facts became known, supporters of the Cuban Revolution took full advantage of them to spread the truth, point to the accuracy of what we had been arguing for months, and underline the sober exactitude of the speeches and statements of leaders of the Cuban Revolution over the previous two years. …
This political battle that began more than forty years ago was one that changed the lives of a substantial number of young people in the United States. It transformed the communist movement here in a way that paralleled the profound changes taking place in Cuba and elsewhere around the world.
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