Papers from the Cultural Congress of Havana

Collection Ref No.:

GB 2904 CCH

Date range:



The following material was collected by John La Rose during his visit to Cuba to attend the Cultural Congress of Havana.
The collection is split into material sent to John before the Congress, and material collected during and after the Congress. The bulk of the collection contains extracts of the papers delivered during the Congress (divided by Commission).
There are also some newspapers, mainly Gramma collected by John that relate to the Congress along with other leaflets from cultural organisations in Havana.

Admin history:

On the 4-11 January 1968 the Cultural Congress of Havana was held in Cuba as "a meeting of intellectuals from all the world to discuss problems of Asia, Africa and Latin America." This year was also designated as the Cuban 'Year of the Heroic Guerrilla'.
The Congress gathered together over 400 intellectuals: artists, writers, economists, scientists, sociologists, technicians, athletes, musicians, philosophers, doctors, film-makers, ethnologists, journalists and numerous other 'intellectual workers' from over 70 countries to discuss issues faced by Asia, Africa and South America.  
Over 150 papers were presented on the theme of 'Colonialism and Neo-colonialism in the Cultural Development of Peoples' with topics covered by 5 commissions: 
Culture and National Independence
The Integral Growth of Man
The Responsibility of Intellectuals with Respect to the Problems of the Underdeveloped World
Culture and Mass Media
Problems of Artistic Creation and of Scientific and Technical Work
All sessions took place at the Hotel Habana Libre and each delegate had the opportunity to take part in the Commission of their choice in addition to attending various official Congress function. The delegates were also given the chance to investigate the transformation, particularly cultural, of Cuba since the revolution of 1959.
The opening speech was made by Dr Osvaldo Torrado (President of the PCC) and each Commission set their own resolution. The final resolution of the Congress was on the topic of Vietnam, with the closing speech made by Fidel Castro.
John La Rose, Andrew Salkey and C.L.R. James attended the Congress. They received an invitation after two Cuban writers, Pablo Armando Fernandez and Edmundo Desnoes attended an informal Caribbean Artists Movement (CAM) meeting at the home of Orlando Patterson in 1967. 
They arrived a week before it started and stayed on afterwards. C.L.R. James celebrated his 67th birthday (on the 4th January) during the Congress, which was marked by a special lunch for 40 guests including Aimé Césaire and René Déspestre and a delegation from the American Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
La Rose, Salkey and James attended Commission Three: The Responsibility of Intellectuals with Respect to the Problems of the Underdeveloped World and challenged the basic assumptions of the Congress, with James arguing that all intellectuals should be discouraged. La Rose proposed that the term 'Latin America' should be abolished where it was applied to a cultural definition of peoples in the South American continent, Central America and the Caribbean.
La Rose also criticised the omission of English speaking members of the Caribbean as the 'Third World' had been defined as 'Asia, Africa and Latin America.' At a later meeting La Rose argued that the delegates who gathered to discuss the problems faced by the Third World were not representative of the countries which were being discussed.
During the Congress La Rose sought out a group of young Afro-Cuban writers, film-makers and socio-ethnological researchers who were interested in the Caribbean. These young Cubans were not invited to attend the Congress but were given a chance to put their points of view forward at a special forum some weeks earlier. 
La Rose and Salkey organised an 'informal' session in a down-town theatre to discuss the issue that he had put forward in Commission Three. Chaired by La Rose, the session was attended by amongst others Aimé Césaire and C.L.R. James along with Cubans Rogelio Martinez Furé and Nancy Morejón.
The Congress became the focus of two public sessions of CAM, held on 5 April and 4 May 1968, particularly as Cuba held a special interest since the Revolution in 1959. The first session included talks from C.L.R. James and John La Rose who discussed their observations of the Congress from their own personal and political points of view. The second session was led by Irving Teitelbaum, a British human rights lawyer and Andrew Salkey.
Compiled using 'The Caribbean Artists Movement 1966-1972: A Literary and Cultural History' by Anne Walmsley, 1992; 'Congres Culturel de la Havane, published by the Instituto del Libro, Janvier 1968 and 'Voices of National Liberation' by Irwin Silber [ed], 1970.

Custodial History:

Gifted to the George Padmore Institute by John La Rose. Found within briefcase owned by John La Rose, which he took to the Congress.