Lee Harvey Oswald and the Fair Play for Cuba Committee
I’m auctioning some political ephemera with an interesting historical association next Sunday. Here is the link.
There are two pamphlets in the auction, both published in the 1960s by the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. The Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC) was an organisation with a raft of well-known writers as supporters, including Allen Ginsberg,Truman Capote and James Baldwin, but the only reason that the name is now remembered is because of its association with Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of John F. Kennedy.
On May 26 1963, Oswald wrote to the headquarters of the campaign in New York, volunteering to establish an office in New Orleans. By November 24 1963, less than 6 months later, both Oswald and Kennedy would be dead.
This is a screen grab of Oswald handing out his ‘Hands off Cuba’ leaflets on June 16 at the Dumaine Street wharf near where the USS Wasp, an aircraft carrier was docked.
And here is the archive footage it’s taken from
This is the first of the pamphlets I am selling. As it was published in 1961, Oswald would certainly have read this one.
The second pamphlet is another typical example of what the Fair Play for Cuba Committee produced, but published after Oswald’s death.
What was Oswald’s interest in the campaign? In ‘Oswald’s Tale: An American Mystery’, Norman Mailer asserts that Oswald’s interest in Cuba represented an attempt to establish his credentials with the Cuban government, presumably to gain Cuban eventual citizenship. Between 1959 and 1962 Oswald had lived in Russia. Now, with a Russian wife and still some belief in Socialism, he wavered between returning to Russia and starting a new life in Cuba.
But, as Edward Epstein, in his book ‘Legend: The Secret World of Lee Harvey Oswald” says:
“The problem for Oswald was getting there. Since it was illegal at the time for a United States citizen to travel to Cuba, he would have to obtain his visa at the Cuban Embassy outside the country, and to do that, he would need some credentials to prove that he was a supporter of the Cuban government. His game in New Orleans involved creating just such a record for himself. Once he got to Havana, he could, no doubt, find contacts and connections with the Castro government. He even, at one point, bragged to Marina that he would become a ‘minister’ in the government”. (Mailer p.552)
And Mailer himself asserts:
“His real purpose, after all, was not to create a functioning branch of the FPCC, but to build as quickly as possible a record that would impress Castro’s officials. So Oswald’s first need was to assemble a dossier of official FPCC letters, to which he could add such documents as handbills and, even more important, news clippings. He would have to select actions that would attract media attention”. (Mailer p.554)
Here is another link below to a long interview with Norman Mailer where he talks about his researches in the KGB archives and how the Russians were just as baffled by Oswald as Americans were to become.
What were Oswald’s motivations? For me, these pamphlets provide a clue. Could the assassination of JFK, only a few months later, have formed part of this same campaign by Oswald to attain some radical credibility in the eyes of those he admired on the Left? Whatever he mistakenly believed, the literature of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee is one of the few pieces of material evidence available that can provide a window into his thinking as he made the decisions that culminated, on November 22, in the death of JFK.