(COLD WAR: 1953-60 – continued)
In March, 1954, Secretary of State Dulles attended a meeting of the Organization of American States in Venezuela and had asked for a strong resolution against "intervention" in Latin America by "international Communism." Fulgencio Batista, President of Cuba, had tolerated the communists and between 1952 and 1954 he had had a couple of communists in his cabinet representing labor. Cuba's Communist Party was one of the largest in Latin America, with a membership of around 17,000 in a population of about 6 million. And that year Batista outlawed the party.
In what was described as preventing a communist takeover, the Eisenhower administration ordered the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on a mission – Operation PBFORTUNE – to overthrew the democratically elected government of Jacobo Arbenz. The Eisenhower administration thought that Arbenz was not a communist himself but was too close to communists. His wife was believed to be a communist. Also, Arbenz was pushing land reform that the U.S. company United Fruit disliked. There was bloodshed. But, thanks to the CIA agent Howard Hunt, Arbenz and his wife were able to flee to Mexico.
An Argentinian doctor in Guatemala at the time, Ernesto "Che" Guevara, witnessed the overthrow and acquired a loathing of United States imperialism.
In the U.S., communism was still thought of as a monolithic movement, making Chinese or American communists agents of Moscow. The Republicans trumped Democrat legislation to outlaw the Communist Party with its own version, leading to the Communist Control Act, signed by Eisenhower in August 1954. This made it a federal crime for a communist to run for public office. And Eisenhower submitted a bill to Congress called the Loss of Citizenship Act, which allowed the government to revoke the citizenship of anyone who had joined the Communist Party. People were free to function politically as anti-communists, but a new line was being drawn on political freedom – as in the Soviet Union, where people could not function politically in favor of free enterprise.
Liberal-leftist intellectuals were also a concern to impassioned Americans. Eisenhower's Postmaster General, Arthur Sumerfield, a former Chevrolet dealer with an eighth-grade education, boasted that the Eisenhower administration was getting rid of the "egg heads." Eisenhower was also concerned about America's foremost nuclear scientist, Robert Oppenheimer. Not wanting to take chances, he wanted a wall between Oppenheimer and anything secret or top secret. Oppenheimer had been proper in his handling of secrets, but he was removed from the government's atomic energy and defense programs.
In Eisenhower's State of the Union speech in 1954, he boasted of having dismissed twenty-two hundred "security risks" from government employment. The actual number was fewer than one hundred: homosexuals, alcoholics, people who did not pay their bills and some who were considered mentally disturbed.
John Foster Dulles, meanwhile, was pushing ahead with his strategies. He managed to put together an alliance of sorts among nations involved in Southeast Asia: the Philippines, Thailand, Pakistan, New Zealand, Australia and Britain. It was called the South East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) and was signed in Manila on September 8. Members were to consult with one another and to unite against an aggressor if they could unanimously agree on who that aggressor was.
Pessimism, meanwhile, abounded regarding resistance to the spread of communism. Eisenhower's ambassador to Italy, Clare Booth Luce – wife of the conservative founder of Time, Life and Fortune magazines – wrote that the U.S. was probably going to lose the war against communism. Western Europe, she complained, was becoming neutralist, Italy was on the verge of surrendering to communism, and by 1959, she predicted, half of the nations in NATO would be under Soviet control.
Copyright © 2001-2011 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.