Council Fellow Julia Sweig Debunks the Mythology Surrounding the Birth of the Cuban Revolution

Council Fellow Julia Sweig Debunks the Mythology Surrounding the Birth of the Cuban Revolution

May 21, 2002 9:49 am (EST)

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Inside the Cuban Revolution

Council Fellow Julia Sweig Debunks the Mythology Surrounding the Birth of the Cuban Revolution

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In her new book, 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.

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Inside the Cuban Revolution covers the fifteen months of the Cuban insurrection (early 1957 to mid-1958), when the urban underground leadership was the dominant force within the 26th of July Movement and Castro did not yet have the political and military initiative. Sweig reveals the essential role of the urban underground, which skillfully controlled critical tactical and strategic decisions, the allocation of resources, and relations with opposition forces, including political parties, Cuban exiles, even the United States—contradicting the standard view of Castro as the primary decision maker during the revolution. After he took power, Castro incorporated these survival strategies, forging a coalition of increasingly diverse constituencies at home and abroad which allowed him to survive, and even thrive, in the decades after the collapse of his Soviet benefactors. Sweig concludes that the roots of Fidelismo may be broader and deeper than many expect.


“In this brilliantly researched tour de force, Julia Sweig adds a new dimension to our understanding of the way Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba.”


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“This book is both compelling and groundbreaking. It seamlessly combines great storytelling, investigative journalism, and first-rate analysis in a work that scholars and policymakers— indeed, anyone interested in Cuba— will find a must read. With Inside the Cuban Revolution Julia Sweig guarantees the world will never look at Cuba or Fidel Castro the same way again.”

—CHRISTOPHER DODD, Member, U.S. Senate (D-CT)


“After so many books on the Cuban Revolution, it might seem impossible to shed new light on one of the key moments in the twentieth century. Yet Julia Sweig manages to do so in this remarkable tour de force. Using documents only recently made available to her by the Cuban authorities, she challenges several myths about the nature of the Cuban Revolution and in the process provides a nuanced and very readable account of the rise to power of Fidel Castro.”

—VICTOR BULMER-THOMAS, Director, Royal Institute of International Affairs


“Inside the Cuban Revolution confirms what many had long suspected: the ’official story’ of twelve bearded, daring guerrillas bringing down a hideous dictatorship never happened. Without the urban underground there would have been no victory. In this important book, Julia Sweig sets the record straight and raises fundamental questions about revolutionary movements in Latin America since 1959.”

—JORGE G. CASTAÑEDA, Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Mexico

Julia Sweig is Senior Fellow and Deputy Director of the Latin America Program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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