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Julia Sweig shatters the mythology surrounding the Cuban Revolution in a compelling revisionist history that reconsiders the revolutionary roles of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara and restores to a central position the leadership of the Cuban urban underground, the Llano. Granted unprecedented access to the classified records of Castro's 26th of July Movement's underground operatives--the only scholar inside or outside of Cuba allowed access to the complete collection in the Cuban Council of State's Office of Historic Affairs--she details the ideological, political, and strategic debates between Castro's mountain-based guerrilla movement and the urban revolutionaries in Havana, Santiago, and other cities.
In a close study of the fifteen months from November 1956 to July 1958, when the urban underground leadership was dominant, Sweig examines the debate between the two groups over whether to wage guerrilla warfare in the countryside or armed insurrection in the cities, and is the first to document the extent of Castro's cooperation with the Llano. She unveils the essential role of the urban underground, led by such figures as Frank País, Armando Hart, Haydée Santamaria, Enrique Oltuski, and Faustino Pérez, in controlling critical decisions on tactics, strategy, allocation of resources, and relations with opposition forces, political parties, Cuban exiles, even the United States--contradicting the standard view of Castro as the primary decision maker during the revolution.
In revealing the true relationship between Castro and the urban underground, Sweig redefines the history of the Cuban Revolution, offering guideposts for understanding Cuban politics in the 1960s and raising intriguing questions for the future transition of power in Cuba.
In this book, Julia E. Sweig attempts to debunk one of the many pillars of the mythology surrounding the Revolution, namely that Fidel Castro, his brother Raúl, Ernesto "Che" Guevara, and a few other guerilla fighters stationed in the Sierra Maestra were the primary force that brought down Batista and had a dominant influence over revolutionary activities beyond the Sierra Maestra, including the urban settings
The picture produced by this book is one in which 26th of July leaders, operating outside the Sierra Maestra, played protagonist roles within the insurrection and that much of the initiative and many of the key actions emerged from the llano (lowlands)
[S]he supports this thesis with documentary sources heretofore unavailable to scholars. The bulk of the documentary evidence sustaining the book consists of hundreds of documents housed at the Cuban Council of State's Office of Historic Affairs, which the Cuban government made available to Sweig while keeping the archive's doors closed to other researchers. This valuable and fascinating collection of documents allowed the author to paint a well-documented and nuanced perspective on llano sierra relations as well as how the leaders of the 26th of July Movement related to other anti-Batista figures
Sweig's book is an important and useful contribution for the understanding of the struggle against Batista.
— Luis Martínez-Fernández
Using original documentary sources from Cuban government archives, Sweig shows how the largely middle-class Cubans in the urban underground laid the groundwork for Castro's Rebel Army victory...Sweig claims that the full history of the revolution has yet to be written, but her book makes an impressive contribution to this effort by painting a new and more realistic picture of the process that produced Castro's Cuba.
— Susan Kaufman Purcell
The sheer volume of material she was able to review is astounding.
— Mark Falcoff
This is not a military history, but it is the best book ever written about Fidel Castro's revolutionary movement...Unlike the great body of preexisting literature on the subject, Sweig's work is thoroughly professional and based primarily on archival sources in Cuba, to which she had unprecedented and almost unrestricted access...Written with style, insight, and clarity, Julia Sweig's landmark study, now available in paperback, cannot be ignored by any serious student of the Cuban Revolution.
— Neill Macaulay
In a thoughtfully argued and carefully researched book, Sweig...provides what will almost certainly be the standard account of the Cuban insurrection for years to come. Using a wide range of archival records and manuscript sources, including important Cuban materials, Sweig successfully explores the complex and often contradictory relations between the Ilano and the sierra. She pays attention more to similarities than to differences and, by emphasizing collaboration and coordination, provides a coherent and cogent explanation of the astonishing success of Castro's movement. Keenly aware of the larger historical context which gives her tale meaning, Sweig shows how Castro held together the disparate elements of his often-fractious movement while providing considerable insight into his personality and the politics that often divided his followers.
— Louis A. Pérez
Julia Sweig's book, the result of eight years of research with access to newly declassified documents, exposes the myth that the Cuban revolution was imposed by a dozen middle-class, bearded rebels in the mountains and challenges three pieces of conventional wisdom...This book is vital for anyone interested in understanding the Cuban revolution, and it destroys the arguments of those British Trotskyists who deny its working class character.
— Helen Yaffe
List of Maps and Illustrations
Introduction: History, Mythology, and Revolution
1. "Tactics in Politics and Tactics in Revolution Are Not the Same"
2. The Sierra Manifesto
3. "We Had to Act a Bit Dictatorially"
4. Defining Opposition Unity on the Ground
5. Fear and Loathing in Miami
6. Taming the Politiqueros in Exile
7. With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies?
8. Total War?
9. The Golden Age of the Llano
10. The Arms Race
11. Politics and Popular Insurrection
12. "Bordering on Chaos"
13. Picking up the Pieces
14. Unity: "Like a Magic Word"
15. The Pact of Caracas
16. Hasta La Victoria!
Epilogue: Transitions Then and Now
About the Research