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.
About the Author
Samuel Farber is professor of political science at Brooklyn College and author of three previous books, including Revolution and Reaction in Cuba, 1933-1960: A Political Sociology from Machado to Castro.
What People are Saying About This
[An] interesting and polemical book. . . . [Farber] studies carefully, sometimes with illuminating detail, the first two years of the revolutionary process. . . . Students of Cuba, Latin America, the Cold War, and inter-American relations will benefit greatly from it.American Historical Review
This is an excellent book. It is a first-rate synthesis and interpretation of the Cuban revolutionary experienceboth the rebellion against the Batista regime and the consolidation of power in 1959-60. It is intelligent, well written, and well organized. It draws thoughtfully and well from prior scholarship on the Cuban revolution. The use of primary sources enriches the book at key points. It is a major contribution to the field of Cuban studies.Jorge Dominguez, Harvard University
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This an outstanding book that justifiably attacks the Cuban Revolutionary leaders and their willingness to stop at nothing to gain power. Farber is on track, this revolution was a disaster for us and we were better off under Batista. This is a must-read for anyone in exile and provides hope that someday we will get our land back and retake democratic power and work with corporations cooperatively. Workers in Cuba have it too good today. Thank you Dr. Farber for a wonderful book! I didn't expect this from you.
This book claims to be based on new archival material now available, which provides evidence of the democratic and transparent nature of the Cuban State. Just like capitalism offers a range of permutations so does socialism and democracy. This book examines power struggles during the formative years of the Cuban revolution. Social revolutions are not reversible by a group of cronies operating in leadership positions while they may have some influence over the course of the transformation, Cuba's experience must be put into context from the initial colonization, emergence as an entrepot of Spain and then U.S and the revolutionary years. The survival of Cuban Communism, as Richard Gott observes, is not through repression but a general appreciation for equality and what may be called democracy, Cuban style. This book does not provide an adequate explanation as to why the socialist ideals and support for the government outlasted the fall of the USSR and the special period.
I found this book to be definitively a third-camp socialist effort to criticize the enormous achievement of Cuba's revolution. The Cuban Revolution, contrary to this author's assertions, was not exclusively driven by amiable workers and peasants but by institutional and global political forces that do not seem to be given ample recognition. Yes, the Cuban Revolution is set by contradictory forces, but, without question, advanced the cause of equality. The third camp position, I think is inimical to the long-term interests of workers and peasants, as it stresses the failures rather than the successes of the revolutionary process. Here we have an island nation where indignation for the ancient regime reached to the highest levels, even land owners. But the basis of the revolution lies in the peasantry and working classes eyeing a possible alternative route. The Cuban Revolution was not advanced by Stalinist USSR but by popular insurrection. Well, no doubt, while many criticized Batista, few were bold enough to wage an all out struggle that would go on to benefit all but the most rapacious comprador class that cozied up to the U.S. Almost anyone could criticize ossification of the bureaucracy and the one-party state that emerged both in response to U.S. imperialism and the class and racial inequality that reduced the nation to limping along without any sense of human dignity. Ironically, Farber is more comfortable taking aim at the revolutionaries, who indeed made errors, rather than the extant system that benefited the few at the expense of the rich. The revolution is clearly an inevitable historical occurrence that emerges from the workers and peasants. To criticize some of the failures without taking into account the rise of global capitalism and the attendant U.S. staunch opposition to the regime is a travesty. Rather than nuance and careful detail, Farber resorts to familiar generalizaion and anti-Cuban rhetoric. Even the author agrees that the Cuban revolution opened tremendous opportunity for the emergence of an egalitarian state. However, with the U.S. 90 miles off the coast, imposing an economic boycott, and threatening invasion it is no wonder that the regime had to take protective action. Unfortuantely this came at risk of alienating many workers and peasants. Today, Cuba is still a poor country by bourgeois standards, but it has better health care, education, and even housing than its northern neighbhor. In the period following the collapse of the USSR, the country has refused to succomb to pressure that it eliminate social programs. To be sure the country has difficulties--socialism is not perfected in Cuba--nor it will be without a fairer distribution of global resources. Ironically Cuba under Fidel is a whipping boy for Sam Farber, even as it is for Pat Robertson. Surely, we want more democracy but, not the form that exists in Florida, where the poor and black people do not have a chance to vote and the system is dominated by a comprador bourgeois class that wants to take away our dignity and wants the system to collapse to resume collecting rent on their property. Why does Farber provide a sweeping critique without understanding that without socialism there is no democracy, inverting Poulantzas' position that socialism requires democracy. Yes, but most Cubans that decided to stay and fight for a fuller democracy believe that they already have one, imperfect as it is. Rather than cutting and running, they are staying and actively participating in public life through neighborhood and worker committees.