World Leaders

July 12, 1957 – Castro Releases the Sierra Maestra Manifesto

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Comandancia de la Plata Sierra Maestra – Castro’s rebel hideout in the Sierra Maestra mountains near Santo Domingo

On July 12, 1957, Castro issued the Sierra Maestra Manifesto, named for the mountain refuge of his M-26-7 front.  Countering the recommendations of The Manifesto of the Five created by a coalition of five other opposition groups hostile to Batista, Castro argued against negotiation or political compromise with the current regime.  He agreed that it was time for all opposition to Batista to unite; their disunity had been fostered and exploited by the regime’s tyranny and deceptions.  He stated clearly that, contrary to the assertions of the Manifesto of the Five, revolutionary violence would not lead to totalitarianism or revenge.  In fact, he asserted, there was no hope for honest elections if the rebels forces were taken out of the picture.

Castro maintained that the Sierra Maestra rebels wanted “free elections, a democratic regime, a constitutional government.  It is because they deprived us of those rights that we have fought since March 10.  We are here because we want them more than anyone else. . . .  We are fighting for the beautiful ideal of a free, democratic, and just Cuba.”  The manifesto spelled out eight points which included calls for: free elections; an impartial provisional government; Batista’s resignation; a unified civic-revolutionary front (all opposition parties working together); no international mediation in Cuba’s affairs; no military junta to rule Cuba; an apolitical military establishment; immediate freedom for political, civil, and military prisoners; freedom of information, the press, and guarantees of individual rights; suppression of embezzlement; creation of career civil service; free elections within labor unions; campaigns against illiteracy and civic rights education for all; agrarian reform; stabilization of the currency; and job creation.

Two points needed emphasis, Castro declared.  First, a provisional leader must be named who was capable of uniting Cuba behind the “ideal of freedom”, who would meet the conditions of “impartiality, integrity, capability, and decency” and, second, all civic organizations must back this leader to avoid partisan compromise and ensure “absolutely clean and impartial elections.”

Castro also maintained that revolution was not inevitable; the crisis in Cuba could be averted by following his manifesto’s agenda.  “We hope,” he concluded, “that our appeal will be heard and that a real solution will halt the spilling of Cuban blood and will bring an era of peace and freedom.”

Image Credit: Anagoria/Wikimedia Creative Commons

July 8, 1957 – Plan for New, Revolutionary Cuban Government Reported by New York Times

Eduardo Chibas

1948 Presidential election poster for candidate Eduardo Chibas

On July 8, 1957, an article by New York Times reporter R. Hart Phillips disclosed plans by Fidel Castro and other leaders opposed to President Fulgencio Batista to form a revolutionary Cuban regime.  The “Cuban Government Under Arms”, a name recalling Carlos Manuel de Cepedes’s 1868 struggle against Spanish rule, would be a coalition headed by Raul Chibas, brother of the late Eduardo Chibas, founder of the Partido Ortodoxo, of which Castro had been an early member.  The party had hoped to take control of Cuba’s corrupt government in 1952 elections, but Batista’s coup usurped power before the elections could be held.  At that time, the opposition splintered into various groups.  Announcement of the formation of a coalition government was welcome news to citizens hopeful for an end to Batista’s unpopular reign.

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Emblem of the Partido Ortodoxos

At this time, Castro and his forces were still in the mountains of Oriente, Cuba’s easternmost province, near Santiago de Cuba, which was a center of support for Castro’s M-26-7 .  Several opposition leaders, sons of earlier figures in Cuba’s resistance to Batista, were reported to have joined him there.  Formation of the new government was said to be dependent on an insurgent attack to secure Santiago.  Batista had been pouring troops into Santiago de Cuba for weeks.  The New York Times reporter believed “it is apparent that some dramatic move is in the works”.

Images Credit: ecured.cu

July 3, 1957 – Khrushchev Ousts Molotov, Malenkov, and Kaganovich

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The coffin of Joseph Stalin is carried by (on the near side, front to back) Premier Georgi Malenkov, General Vassily Stalin, Vyacheslav Molotov, Marshal Nikolai Bulganin, and Lazar Kaganovich. 1953

On July  3, 1957, Nikita Khrushchev took control of the Soviet Union with the ouster of three hard-line Stalin loyalists whose failed coup attempt earlier in the year sealed their fate.  Vyacheslav Molotov, Georgi Malenkov, and Lazar Kaganovich were opposed to Khrushchev’s policies of reform, including easing repression and censorship, releasing millions of Stalin’s political prisoners, promoting economic reforms and increased international trade, and allowing cultural exchanges and sports competitions with non-Communist countries.

Khrushchev spent years building his power base; he recruited Marshall Georgy Zhukov and groomed Leonid Brezhnev for the day when he could take the reigns of the Soviet Union in his hands.  He waited for Stalin to die, then slowly built his coalition.  In 1956, Khrushchev denounced Stalin in a speech which angered his pro-Stalin enemies in the ruling presidium  A year later, Molotov, Malenkov and Kaganovich believed they had enough votes to remove Nikita from the government.  They were wrong.  Zhukov, Breszhnev, and a host of other carefully positioned and cultivated men within the communist hierarchy threw their support behind Khrushchev.  Nikita was reaffirmed as First Secretary and his adversaries were voted off the presidium and demoted to minor government positions.

The United States looked favorably on Khrushchev, at least in the beginning.  Seen as much more moderate than the Stalinist hard-liners, Nikita’s purge of the presidium was welcome news to US officials hoping for a thaw in the Cold War.

July 2, 1957 – Sen. John F Kennedy’s Controversial Speech: “Imperialism – The Enemy of Freedom”

John F Kennedy Speech

Sen. John F. Kennedy, D-Massachusetts

On July 2, 1957, John F Kennedy, the very junior United States senator from Massachusetts, upset almost everyone in the Washington, DC power elite – including his own Democratic party – with a speech to the assembled Senate on the folly of modern-day imperialism.  The immediate context for his speech, “Imperialism – The Enemy of Freedom,” was France’s ongoing repression of revolutionary forces in their colony of Algeria.  But Kennedy looked beyond North Africa to the Middle East and the Arab world.  How, he asked, could the United States best promote change and prevent Communism in this region?  Not with military force and a Cold War “us against them” mentality, he maintained.  He proposed that advocates for freedom in the Arab world would likely be as opposed to Western military interventions as to Communist takeovers.  He began his speech with the following statement:

“Mr. President, the most powerful single force in the world today is neither communism nor capitalism, neither the H-bomb not the guided missile – it is man’s eternal desire to be free and independent.  The great enemy of that tremendous force of freedom is called, for want of a more precise term, imperialism – and today that means Soviet imperialism and, whether we like it or not, and though they are not to be equated, Western imperialism.

“Thus the single most important test of American policy today is how we meet the challenge of imperialism, what we do to further man’s desire to be free.   On this test more than any other, this Nation shall be ethically judged by the uncommitted millions in Asia and Africa, and anxiously watched by the still hopeful lovers of freedom behind the Iron Curtain.  If we fail to meet the challenge of either Soviet or Western imperialism, then no amount of foreign aid, no aggrandizement of armaments, no new pacts or doctrines or high-level conferences can prevent further setbacks to our course and to our security.”

Kennedy pointed out that the Western nations’ stated policies of commitment to freedom clashed with our actions repressing Algerian desire for self-rule.  Our hypocritical stance, he believed, has “furnished powerful ammunition to anti-Western propagandists throughout Asia and the Middle East.”  He reminded the Senate of our nation’s revolutionary beginnings, and our dependence on French foreign aid to champion our cause with the British.  He contrasted terrorism and political revolution in this way:

” Terrorism must be combated, not condoned, it is said; it is not right to ‘negotiate with murderers’ . . . . The fever chart of every successful revolution . . . reveals a rising temperature of terrorism and counterterrorism; but this does not of itself invalidate the legitimate goals that fired the original revolution.  Most political revolutions – including our own – have been buoyed by outside aid in men, weapons, and ideas.  Instead of abandoning African nationalism to the anti-Western agitators and Soviet agents who hope to capture its leadership, the United States, a product of political revolution, must redouble its efforts to earn the respect and friendship of nationalist leaders.”

Negative reactions – furor and consternation – followed Kennedy’s speech, along with a flood of mail.  Widely covered by the press, this speech brought more mail to his Senate office than any other Kennedy delivered as a member of that body.  Historians see it as a key event on his road to the presidency.

Image Credit: The Boston Globe

June 14, 1957 – Happy 11th Birthday, Donald Trump!

Donald Trump at Paul Onish Bar Mitzvah Age 12

Donald Trump, age 12 (second from left), attending a friend’s bar mitzvah.

On June 14, 1957, Donald John Trump of Queens, New York celebrated his eleventh birthday with his parents, Fred and Mary Anne, and his brothers and sisters, Maryanne, Fred Jr., Elizabeth, and Robert. Donald was a bright but somewhat troublesome student at Kew-Forest School in Jamaica, Queens. Little did he know it, but he was only two years away from shipping off to New York Military Academy, a private boarding school.

In his 1987 memoir co-written with Tony Schwartz , The Art of the Deal, Donald recounts one incident that contributed to his “troublesome” reputation. In second grade, he recalls, “I actually gave a teacher a black eye – I punched my music teacher because I didn’t think he knew anything about music and I almost got expelled. I’m not proud of that, but it’s clear evidence that even early on I had a tendency to stand up and make my opinions known in a very forceful way. The difference now is that I use my brain instead of my fists.”

Trumps’ military academy experience proved of great value. Academy teachers wouldn’t tolerate disrespect. Donald learned, as he expressed in his memoir, to channel his “aggression into achievement.”

Becoming our nation’s 45th president is quite an achievement.

Happy Birthday, Mr. President!

Image Credit: Chuck Hadad/CNN

June 7, 1957 – Ronald Reagan Commencement Speaker at Eureka College

 

Ronald Reagen GE Theater

On June 7, 1957, future Governor of California and President of the United States Ronald Reagan delivered the commencement address at Eureka College.  Reagan was currently appearing on television as the host of General Electric Theater, a popular weekly drama series.  As part of his contract with GE, Reagan spent ten weeks each year touring company production facilities, speaking a conservative, pro-business message to employee groups up to fourteen times a day.

At Eureka College, Reagan reviewed the history of America’s fight to “make the world safe for democracy and advance the cause of freedom for all men”.  From the Declaration of Independence, to World War I, World War II, and now the Cold War, the United States fought the same battle, he explained.

“And now, today, we find ourselves involved in another struggle, this time called a “cold war”.  This Cold War between great sovereign nations isn’t really a new struggle at all.  It is the oldest struggle of human kind, as old as man himself.  This is a simple struggle between those of us who believe that man has the dignity and sacred right and the ability to choose and shape his own destiny and those who do not so believe.  This irreconcilable conflict is between those who believe in the sanctity of individual freedom and those who believe in the supremacy of the state.”

Reagan’s speeches often championed the conservative ideals of anti-communism, free markets, lower taxes, and limited government.  These themes were featured prominently in the speech that launched Reagan’s political career.  Often called the “Time for Choosing” speech, Reagan delivered it in support of Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign.

Image Credit: CSU Archives/Everett/Alamy

October 22, 1957 – Francois Duvalier Haiti’s New President

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Haitian President Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier in 1965

On October 22, 1957, a second ominous October launch occurred; Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier was sworn in as President of Haiti.  Although Sputnik 1 would fall out of orbit in three months, Duvalier became President for Life, “serving” the unfortunate populace of the Caribbean island nation until his death in 1971.

Born the son of a justice of the peace (father) and a baker (mother), and with a university degree in medicine, Duvalier was the rare educated man in a country where rampant illiteracy and repression of the Afro-Haitian majority by a small, mulatto elite were facts of life.  Rampant and devastating tropical diseases were also facts of life during Duvalier’s early years, and he earned his “Papa Doc” nickname for his work through a United States-sponsored campaign to control the spread of typhus, malaria, and yaws (a destructive bacterial infection of the skin, bones, and joints).  Also, early in his career, Duvalier began pursuing political and spiritual agendas: the negritude movement of Dr. Jean Price-Mars (a literary, Marxist-style movement promoting Afro-Haitian solidarity to fight French colonial racism and domination); and vodou (the island’s syncretic religion combining elements of West African beliefs and practices and Roman Catholicism).

In 1946, Papa Doc began serving as Haiti’s Director of National Public Health under the government of President Dumarsais Estime, but when Estime was ousted in a coup by General Paul Magloire, Duvalier went into hiding until amnesty was declared in 1956.  Magloire’s rule ended in December of that year, and a series of provisional governments controlled Haiti until September 22, 1957, when Papa Doc was elected President over Louis Dejoie, a mulatto landowner and industrialist.  Duvalier’s populist campaign called on Haiti’s rural Afro-Haitian majority to throw off control by the mulatto elite.  After his landslide victory, he exiled Dejoie’s supporters and established a new constitution.

Over the following years, Papa Doc would consolidate his power base in the military, take control of Haiti’s Catholic churches, revise and then ignore the 1957 constitution, commit massive voter fraud to install himself as “President for Life”, use murder and expulsion to repress political opposition, decimate Haiti’s businesses with extortion, bribery, and theft, intimidate educated leaders to abandon the island, misappropriate millions of dollars in international foreign aid, and create a vodou-laced personality cult for himself to further consolidate his power.

Was Papa Doc sane?  A massive heart attack in 1959, possibly due to an insulin overdose (Duvalier suffered from heart disease and adult-onset diabetes), left him unconscious for nine hours.  Associates speculated that his mental health was affected by neurological damage resulting from this period.  Over the following years, Duvalier’s life was increasingly marked by paranoia and delusions.  He once ordered the head of an executed rebel to be delivered to him packed in ice (so that he could commune with the dead man’s spirit), and also portrayed himself as personally chosen by Jesus Christ to lead the Haitian people.