Young folk chant to the leader; only the
old folk pray; tired machinery falters; but
in the rural co-ops, the peasantry lives as never before IN the streets or Havana. large troops of young boys and girls march to their monotonous song "Uno-dos-trescuatro-Ei-del-Cas-tro". This incessant sound of marching feet has now become part of everyday life in Castro's Cuba.
Students and workers drill daily, are taught unquestioning loyalty to Castro. The marchers can be seen and heard at almost any hour, lustily counting the cadence as they swing briskly through the streets, parks and plazas of Cuban towns and cities.
But the churches in the villages are officially closed. And what, in this country. in former days seemed almost impossible, happens now. Since Castro came to power, more than half-a-million marriages have been contracted by civil ceremony only. and not in church.
Arriving in Cuba to find myself the only Western journalist in the country, apart from a resident American radio-commentator. I spent I() days in Havana and two weeks touring the provinces. And my first impression of Havana was that reports of the city's deterioration under revolutionary rule were exaggerated. The avenues are still beautiful, the streets still filled with cars. But after a few days the truth came out.
There has been no construction in Havana in three years. Industrial and farm properties have been nationalised without cornpensation. Private homes have been seized and turned over to the Militia leaders and the Communist advisers from the Iron Curtain countries. Savings have been confiscated. Religious liberty is a hoax.
Men and women are being recruited into a people's Militia,
trained by rebel veterans. Boys Join a Juvenile Patrol as "revolutionaries" at the age of seven. This organisation now numbers 100,000. Goal: 500,000.
The aim of the Castro regime: total mobilization.
THE visitor is intended to form the impression that freedom of worship exists in Cuba, but in fact that freedom is limited. In the first place not enough churches are allowed to remain open to cope with the mass of worshippers. I was told that Havana has thirty working churches, but several of the smaller towns have only one.
Religious activity in Cuba is permitted within the formula "freedom of religious worship and freedom of anti-religious propaganda". This leaves the church at liberty in the realm of liturgy, but restricts religious activities outside the services. Religious instruction is forbidden. Recently, the Church has been under fire in the press for breaking the law by running social clubs and even (surprisingly enough) agriculturalschools.
Even freedom of religious worship is in effect restricted to the old and the young. If you want a successful Cuban career, don't make a habit of going to church. During the services the churches often have someone posted outside to look for foreigners, who arc escorted to a vantage point. Otherwise they might not even be able to get inside, for the churches are filled to capacity. Late-corners press around the porches without being able to hear what is going on.
One Sunday I attended Mass at the Cathedral in Havana. The Mass had not begun. but the church was already full. Most worshippers were middle-aged or old women, poorly dressed and with kerchiefs on their heads. Some older women wore hoods of drab, coarse cloth. Perhaps a quarter of the congregation were men, again middle-aged or old.
There were some children, but the fifteen-to-forty age group was hardly represented at all. I was not surprised for I knew that youngsters by the thousand are brought into Havana from the countryside to be educated to defend the revolution. They arc given weapons and uniforms, attention and flattery, told they are the hope of the future.
My hotel constantly housed hundreds of children, from under 10 up to those in their late teens. The lobby was filled with boys and girls looking at Communist exhibits, listening to Communist lectures. Out in the streets, youngsters were always parading. Schoolrooms are filled with Communist propaganda. Cuban children have been shipped in groups behind the Iron Curtain for education.
This has frightened parents to the point of desperation. I was told that when the word gets out that a shipment is planned, adults often give up their hard-won seats on refugee-flights to Miami so the children can get to safety in the United States.
ON the wall of the Capitol in Havana is a poster with Castro's picture on it, and this legend: "The revolution can guarantee people six fundamental things—clothes, shoes, food, medicine. education and recreation."
Of these six promises Castro has made good only on the last two and they are concentrated along Communist lines. In everything else, this is a land of shortages. Clothing stores in Havana and in rural villages have bits of haphazard stock scattered on otherwise empty shelves. Some cloth has come in from Communist countries. but Cubans complain it is too heavy for this climate, and it doesn't wear well. Shoe-store windows very often display only models that arc not available inside. I looked for a well-known cold remedy in the drugstores of five towns and I couldn't find it.
One worker in Havana told me that before the revolution his family ate meat twice a day, on the average. Now they have it four times a month . . . if they're lucky. Fish, chicken and duck are sold on the black market. The supply of fruits and vegetables is erratic and prices are three times what they were a year ago. Butter and lard are almost impossible to find.
In a market in downtown Havana I spotted canned pork from Red China, mustard from Poland, oats from Russia, canned meat from Bulgaria and Hungarian pimentos. There was also Russian canned meat. A Cuban said he was afraid of it. It might be horsemeat.
The stiff restrictions merely confirm the hunger and foodshortages that foreign correspondents have reported for months. Housewives queue up at 3 a.m. to begin a day-long, often fierce battle for what little food is available. The shelves of supermarkets are nearly empty except
for canned I iliivS, inseeticides,
sss s • tr. sugar and bottles of Russian Vodka and Bulgarian and Albanian wines.
There is almost no coffee, little milk, no ham or bacon. The few eggs available are usually imported. sometimes from as far away as Egypt, and three out of ten are rotten.
6 Comrades' my friend Mgr. Luigi Centoz. the Nuncio in Cuba and now Vice-Chamberlain in Rome. said to me, "The only thing we have in abundance is propaganda".
There is plenty of that, and it's more and more Red. The Cornmunist hammer and sickle has now been emblazoned on Castro's red-and-black revolutionary flag. Wallposters hail the Cuban people as "Marxist-Leninists" and quote the slogans of Red-China's Mao Tse-tung. The londspeakers at the airport of I lavana blare the "Internationale", the Communist anthem. "Comrade" has become the standard salutation everywhere. Havana is so filled with Communist technicians and advisers that many of the signs and posters are printed in Russian to help them find their way about the city. The Cubans themselves are so accustomed to the Iron-Curtain visitors that those who spotted me as a foreigner often called me "Comrade Russian" or "Comrade Czech".
The big hotels are overrun with Russians, Poles, East Germans, Chinese. Flulgarians and Hungarians. When you walk through the lobbies you feel as though you were attending a Communist rally in Moscow.
The once-fashionable countryclub districts have been confiscated to house foreign Communists, and the officers of Castro's Militia. Miles of luxurious beach homes east of Havana are occupied by Communist advisers. On a 15-mile drive from the countryside to his home in Havana I had a long talk with Mgr. Centoz. "In the 20th century, the problem of God has become the problem of atheism. History has
always had its non-believers", Mgr. Centoz argued, "but today's antiGod attitude is entirely new. It is not simply a will to disregard, refuse and reject God; it is a new will actively to oppose God.
"Marx and his heirs", Mgr. Ccntoz noted, "were not deceived by the vacuous slogan that religion is a purely private affair. They had the genius to see that religion, even in the form of private faith, is the most public of public affairs. No fool is to be permitted to say in the privacy of his heart: God is here. Such a man would fail the revolution."
On the way home, Mgr. Centoz had to run ten checks. Each time, the Militia on the highway opened the bonnet of his car and looked for guns in the engine. They looked under the seal, in the trunk, everywhere.
"They take pictures too", said my friend, of people going to church, going into certain offices, even just on the street. Recently, a wounded saboteur was making his confession to a priest from his hospital bed — he later learned that a microphone hidden in the mattress had recorded everything."
THE reason for existence of the Cuban peasant under the old order was simply to be exploited. for the benefit of the others. Beyond that, no one — neither his employer nor the Church. nor the state—thought enough about him even to attempt to instill in him the ruling ideologies and values of Cuban society. It will be readily seen that this was an almost perfect formula for making revolutionaries.
But there is an additional factor tending to revolutionize the Cuban peasantry, namely, the existence in the countryside of a highly developed industrial proletariat composed of the workers in the 161 sugar mills which are located in the middle of cane-growing areas all over the island,
In the back country I visited some of the best of the state and co-operative farms. For this we must look somewhat more closely at the new co-operative which is taking the place of the old latifundium as the basic Cuban agricultural enterprise. In no case of which I have knowledge has a co-operative yet achieved anything like its final form—physically, economically, socially, or legally. There is as yet no official or accepted theory of the co-operative.
The co-operative members are landless workers who bring with them into the co-operative nothing but a few personal belongings. They have been living in scattered bohzos. Now they are building, or helping to build attractive new houses for themselves. . . The new dwellings are grouped together around a school and the people's store. After school hours the school will be used for various community purposes. A tobacco co-operative I visited in Pinar del Rio will soon have about 120 families: this is probably larger than average. A cattle co-operative I visited in Camay has 90 families.
The state owns the land a appoints managers. Co-operat members receive wages tw and three times higher than wl they used to live on. Part of profits at the end of the year : supposed to be divided ann them.
Whatever the theory, and matter how it turns out in p tice, the co-operative represen jump of centuries in living s dards for the poor, illiterate, I; less, outcast guajiros, and a increase of constructive activit rural areas that were formerly most backward and stagnant of Cuba. •
THE upper class is so against the regime. The mi class is sharply divided. There waverers among the urban era. Defections, fights, chz and counter-charges, manifest all give the impression that regime is about to collapse. B isn't. Its real support all a has been in the rebel army, the peasantry from which army is drawn. The tremen achievements of agrarian re. have strengthened the bond tween the regime and the santry, and it is stronger ever today, Industry is limping as it to convert to equipment and t parts from Communist countries, much of it shoddy third rate, tending to break easily. The U.S. and Anglo-L oil refineries seized by Casts( now operating at half capacit Russian crude oils. Wooden are used for repairs in sugar Only now is the Soviet conl lion to Cuba really being pi an acid test.
Topic of conversation: "Is tro on the way out?"
Communist leaders are said to be talking of Castro "superstructure", primarily o as a symbol. More and more, trained and disciplined corn ists as Bias Roca, Carlos ft Rodriguez and President Dr valdo Dorticeis Torrado an coming the dominant fij Roca, the most influential munist on this island, told "We will imprison anyone rises up against our revolutic AT SOME POINT, IF HAPS NOT TOO FAR AW DR. CASTRO MAY KICKED UPSTAIRS TO JOB THAT IS ALL PRESI AND NO POWER . . .
You don't have to be in H long to realize that the munist take-over of Cuba i slapdash, temporary oper The men working with Castr pear highly competent, wi tremendously clear vision of goals. At the moment, their is recognition that they bele the Western Hemisphere. I body of importance considei Communist system here p nent.
The communists themselvi supremely confident that are here to stay