The Origins of the Cuban Revolution Reconsidered

The Origins of the Cuban Revolution Reconsidered

The Origins of the Cuban Revolution Reconsidered

The Origins of the Cuban Revolution Reconsidered

Synopsis

Analyzing the crucial period of the Cuban Revolution from 1959 to 1961, Samuel Farber challenges dominant scholarly and popular views of the revolution's sources, shape, and historical trajectory. Unlike many observers, who treat Cuba's revolutionary leaders as having merely reacted to U. S. policies or domestic socioeconomic conditions, Farber shows that revolutionary leaders, while acting under serious constraints, were nevertheless autonomous agents pursuing their own independent ideological visions, although not necessarily according to a master plan.

Exploring how historical conflicts between U. S. and Cuban interests colored the reactions of both nations' leaders after the overthrow of Fulgencio Batista, Farber argues that the structure of Cuba's economy and politics in the first half of the twentieth century made the island ripe for radical social and economic change, and the ascendant Soviet Union was on hand to provide early assistance. Taking advantage of recently declassified U. S. and Soviet documents as well as biographical and narrative literature from Cuba, Farber focuses on three key years to explain how the Cuban rebellion rapidly evolved from a multiclass, antidictatorial movement into a full-fledged social revolution.

Excerpt

Almost half a century after its triumph, the rapid evolution of the Cuban Revolution from a multiclass antidictatorial political movement to “socialist revolution,” as Fidel Castro officially declared in April 1961, remains a puzzle. Why did it occur? What was the revolution's true character? Experts, observers, and even those intimately involved have put forth conflicting answers.

This is an opportune time to reassess the course taken by the Cuban Revolution. The inevitable passing of Fidel Castro from the scene is likely to open a substantial process of change in Cuban Communism as it is presently constituted. That process in turn will foster a need for ideological legitimation and encourage a reexamination of Cuban history, particularly the history of the revolution. The various ideological and political currents contending for hegemony in the Cuban transition are certain to find an echo in the differing historical interpretations of the Cuban Revolution that are likely to emerge. A variety of existing trends will feed these currents: the ideological change if not deterioration that the Castro regime has experienced since the early 1990s; the growth of Cuban neoliberal economic thought, which has found an echo in such places as the publications of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy headquartered in Washington, D.C.; and the Cuban hard Right's longstanding tendency to praise if not idealize the prerevolutionary Cuban republic, a tendency that is now being echoed by newer center to centerright publications such as the influential Encuentro de la Cultura Cubana The alternative perspective presented in this work of historical synthesis will challenge the conventional views common among both supporters and opponents of the present Cuban government and will contribute to a broad discussion and reevaluation of Cuba's recent history.

This reassessment has been stimulated and greatly facilitated by new information that has recently become available. This includes the U.S.

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