C. Wright Mills and the Cuban Revolution: An Exercise in the Art of Sociological Imagination

By A. Javier Treviño | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX

Fellow-Traveling with Fidel

In the foreword to Listen, Yankee Mills states that he spent three and a half days traveling with Fidel Castro and five or six days with René C. Vallejo. Though he had never met either of these two men prior to his visit to Cuba on August 8–24, 1960, nor any of the other top government officials with whom he spoke, most of them were already familiar with Mills’s reputation, or at least with The Power Elite, the most controversial book he had written to date.

The Power Elite is a social-psychological study of stratification focusing on a tripartite ruling stratum in the United States. Its central theme is that, as the institutional means of decision, information, and power became more centralized, and as the public became more politically uninformed, there had arisen a national group made up of a governing triumvirate—a power elite— with tiers and ranges of wealth and power of which the North American people knew very little. According to Mills, the power elite was constituted of “those political, economic, and military circles which as an intricate set of overlapping cliques share decisions having at least national consequences. In so far as national events are decided, the power elite are those who decide them.”1

In November of 1958, while still in the Sierra Maestra, Castro had read and discussed Mills’s book with his band of guerilla fighters. According to Jules Dubois, Chicago Tribune reporter and major critic of Mills and Castro, while in the mountains Castro had read and carefully annotated his personal copy of The Power Elite and presumably showed it to a friend (whom Dubois does not identify) and remarked: “If the American consul should visit me here I hide this book under the bed, no?” Again, according to Dubois, writing in late 1960, many of the book’s “opinions have been used, without attribution, by Castro time and again in his speeches and in his controlled press.”2

However all this may be, the Cubans clearly had grave concerns about what the Washington administration, the U.S. corporations, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff had in store for their country. But could they have identified the specific actors, those particular members of the power elite, which they feared had and could have intervened, militarily and economically, in

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