In response to:
Castro's Revolution from the September 30, 1965 issue
To the Editors:
Mr. Halperin accepts unquestioningly Draper’s projection of himself as a man “familiar with all the intricacies of Marxist doctrine and communist theory and practice” [Sept. 30, 1965]. Yet in his first New Leader article on Cuba Draper showed himself ignorant enough to contend that the present Chinese leadership derived from the Comintern, which from 1919 to 1943 was tightly controlled by and wholly dependent on the Russian Communists” (p. 25). But anyone with even the most perfunctory knowledge of Chinese Communism and the Rise of Mao (Benjamin Schwartz) knows Mao’s rise to power in the 1930s was independent of unplanned in, and “uncontrolled” by Moscow. If Draper found someone he disagreed with making a blunder of such magnitude he probably would dismiss the person’s entire output as uninformed.
Mr. Halperin discusses the various myths that Draper allegedly destroyed in his first book, but what about the myth he created, the one of the middleclass revolution? The second book is a basic departure from the first. Draper used that myth of the middle-class revolution to develop the notion of the revolution betrayed and justify US action against Castro. Didn’t Halperin even notice how Draper had to twist and turn in the second book to hold on to his foolish view of the revolution betrayed once he had abandoned the theory of the middle-class revolution which had been its original underpinning?
Halperin rightly dismisses those who in 1961 wrongly considered “Castro a country bumpkin voluntarily tying himself up and delivering himself to the communists in a sack.” But that is a perfect description of Draper! He wrote in his first book (p. 182) that “the real power in Cuba will undoubtedly remain with the Communist cadres…Fidel is hardly the type to run the Party, and his nominal leadership would only be symbolic.” Draper didn’t disprove the myth “that Castro is a naive idealist who unfortunately allowed the revolution to be taken out of his hands by the skilled political technicians of the Cuban communist party” as Halperin claims; he propounded that myth!
Is it accurate to consider Guevara a member of some inner policy making group because he was “able to predict [policies] months before they were officially announced”? What is at least as likely is that Guevara, who in the first 9 months of power commanded one fortress, traveled around the world for trade offers and returned to Cuba to, as Draper wrote, an unimportant post, was largely ignored until ten months of reality convinced Fidel that Che’s basic outlook might be right, that Fidel’s easy optimism and reliance on large sections of the middle class might be wrong. Tad Szulc and others have made this argument. Draper first contended that Guevara “has a habit of saying today what Castro will say tomorrow.” But when he rewrote his original articles for his first book on Cuba he changed this to (p. 3) Guevara “had the habit of saying one day what Castro would say weeks or months later.” But Draper never seriously considered what might have occurred in those intervening months which led Castro to begin to look favorably on Guevara’s views. Draper simply has been too interested in white-washing the USA to get to the truth of the matter. Thus he could say of the US response to Fidel’s spring 1959 trip to the USA which seems to have committed Vice President Nixon to the need to overthrow Fidel, that Eisenhower “decided to send a new ambassador to Havana, Philip W. Bonsal, with instructions of a conciliatory nature.” Actually of course Bonsal had presented his credentials in Havana long before Fidel’s trip. Draper’s cheer-leading gets in the way of his history.
Halperin rightly criticizes those “outside observers” who “consistently overestimated” the role and strength of the Cuban Communists in the revolutionary alliance. But surely Draper qualifies as one of these erring observers. In his first book Draper wrote of Fidel’s “subservience to the [Cuban] Communists” (p. 91). Draper never agreed with those such as Andres Suarez who carefully delineated Fidel’s maneuvering to preserve his independence. Indeed Draper wrote a vicious attack on Prof. W. A. Williams who dared suggest that it was useful to speak of old and new communists and not to see the old-style ones in total control. Draper rather continually talked of the “virtually complete symbiosis that has taken place between the Communists and the top Fidelistas.” He did this in that section of his first book titled “The Fusion” and although he has abandoned much of this view in his second book, he still twists and squirms to hang on to this idea of fusion. For Draper virtually anything is better than admitting he is mortal and could be wrong on basic points. Considering his communist background and the ugly way he has pounced on the errors of others, it is understandable that Draper can’t admit his own mistakes.
Halperin praises Draper for seeing Castro as a leader who “establishes a direct, personal, almost mystical relationship with the masses that frees him from dependence on classes.” But isn’t this just about what Herbert Matthews talked of in his notion of Castro’s ruling by television, a view Draper cruelly attacked in his days of the middle-class revolution? And doesn’t Halperin see that Castro’s present view of Cuba being communist because the other communist nations accept it in the family, but unique, among other reasons, because of the lack of organization, is a repudiation of Draper’s original idea propounded in his first book, that communism was the forced industrialization of the peasantry and that Cuba was a member of a family which included such countries as Egypt?
I won’t go on with this list. I wanted to point out that Draper made his name as a Cuban expert by defending views he has now abandoned, that in actuality Draper has been and continues to be one of the worst guides to the nature of the Cuban revolution.