Castro Convertible

The United States, Cuba, and Castro

by William Appleman Williams
Monthly Review Press, 179 pp., $3.25

A type of tic-tac-toe game has gone on in American intellectual circles for the last two years. It consists of trying to show whether Fidel Castro was pushed toward Russia by United States policy or marched there himself through natural desire. The stakes are greater than seem apparent at first glance. If Castro was a Communist from the start or evolved into one because he was partial to Communism—as such distinguished writers as Nathaniel Weyl, Daniel James, and Theodore Draper have stated—America is absolved of blame for the Cuban mess. On the other hand, if United States policy pushed Castro to embrace Communism as a last resort, and against his own democratic instincts, then America is directly responsible for creating a Communist state in the Western Hemisphere and the American leaders involved must be condemned in the eyes of history.

William Appleman Williams, Professor of American History at the University of Wisconsin, has put the blame directly on our country. His book, The United States, Cuba, and Castro, is a passionate appeal for a change of diplomatic direction in the United States policy, for a reversal of those trends which he believes forced Castro to Communism and which today are leading us to make the same mistakes elsewhere. Specifically, the author feels we should re-establish direct communication with Castro to negotiate “on sugar and compensation for American property owners and toward formal recognition.”

The genesis of Professor Williams’s book is an attempt to answer and refute the main arguments propounded by Theodore Draper in Castro’s Revolution: Myths and Realities.1 Mr. Draper took up what he called the three myths of the Cuban Revolution and then pointed out the reality of each. The first myth was that America forced Castro to embrace Russia. The second myth was that the Cuban revolt was proletarian and peasant in origin. The third was that Castro pushed through the kind of Revolution he had originally desired. The realities according to Draper, to the contrary, were that American policy “was not the causative, operative factor”; that the Cuban upheaval “was essentially a middle class revolution”; and that “the revolution Castro promised was unquestionably betrayed.” Professor Williams deliberately chooses to combat Draper on his own terms, as he admits, “because of the considerable reputation and influence Draper has accumulated as an interpreter of the Revolution.”

There is no question that Professor Williams is on strong ground when he points out that it is impossible to discuss Cuba apart from United States policy. No scientist can theorize about the moon without taking into account the relation of the moon to the earth. And Cuba was a satellite of America up to 1959. By putting aside these relations extending over sixty years, as well as the American machinations that occurred right through the last years of Batista and into the Castro era, Draper refuses to acknowledge the tremendous pressures pushing Castro leftward. One has only to read The Fourth Floor, American Ambassador Earl E. T. Smith’s account of…

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