[Marxism] 45 Years--the Bay of Pigs and Its Impact on the Campus in 1961

Brian Shannon brian_shannon at verizon.net
Tue Apr 18 10:21:03 MDT 2006

Jack Barnes's essay introducing "Playa Girón/Bay of Pigs:  
Washington's First Military Defeat in the Americas," (Pathfinder  
2001) describes the impact and interaction of the Cuban Revolution  
with several leading students at Carleton College in Minnesota. Many  
of them had been involved in the usual campus activities: sports,  
including tennis, soccer, bowling, baseball and cross-country;  
student newspaper; theater productions; the campus radio station;  
senior monitors; and other typical student activities.

A few--Barnes, Betsey Stone, and David Wulp (in later years others  
who were freshmen or sophomores at this time)--became members of the  
Socialist Workers Party. There were, however, at least twenty members  
of the campus Fair Play for Cuba Committee. Many more were members of  
the campus Action Party (similar to the better-known SLATE at UC  
Berkeley), and the Challenge Forum series. There were civil rights  
marches, protests against the notorious lies of the right-wing film  
"Operation Abolition."

My only caveat to Barnes's essay is the following passage:

> "The bulletin board in the student union became a battleground.  
> Every day we posted clippings with the latest news reports from the  
> big-business dailies and weeklies, from the Minneapolis Tribune to  
> Newsweek--marked up and annotated to underscore Washington's acts  
> of aggression against Cuba and to expose the fabrications and self- 
> contradictory information emanating from U.S. government sources.  
> We also tacked up speeches by Cuban leaders that we clipped out of  
> the Militant, and we made the unqualified assertion that their  
> assessment of the U.S. rulers' response to the advance of the  
> revolution would soon be proven correct. Opponents of the  
> revolution, from liberals to ultra-right-wingers, would reply by  
> posting articles they thought bolstered their views; we would  
> answer the next day, often using the very same sources to expose  
> their arguments. We were learning a valuable lesson about the  
> existence, and effectiveness, of imperialist disinformation campaigns.
> "No one tried to tear down clippings or halt the debate, however,  
> which we counted as our first victory. We had done what communists  
> in plants and mills across the country were simultaneously doing:  
> we had taken the moral high ground, proving that defenders of Cuba,  
> not our opponents, were the ones pressing for debate, for openness,  
> for reading the press critically and discussing the facts."

There certainly were very few (none?) "communists" in "plants and  
mills across the country" simultaneously engaged taking the "moral  
high ground."

Barnes himself had not formally joined the socialist movement. And  
although Stone and Wulp of his academic class were eventually to join  
the SWP as well, they were less involved than Barnes. In any case,  
they did not play the leadership role that Barnes did. The other  
leaders were not and did not become "communists," although some were  
quite radical for the period. As Barnes relates, two others had also  
been to Cuba the previous summer. Sophomore Dan Styron, to become the  
student body president in two years, had spent several weeks in the  
Soviet Union.

On the other hand, Barnes is quite right to focus on this period of  
interaction of the civil rights, civil liberties, Cuban Revolution  
and antinuclear test period as key to the gathering of new leaders of  
the socialist and communist movements. It was at this time that  
important recruits were also made in Boston, New York, Antioch, Los  
Angeles and Berkeley.

Brian Shannon

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