In This Review

Inside the Cuban Revolution: Fidel Castro and the Urban Underground
Inside the Cuban Revolution: Fidel Castro and the Urban Underground
By Julia E. Sweig
Harvard University Press, 2002, 320 pp

The romantic image of the Cuban Revolution owes much to Ernesto "Che" Guevara, who played up the role of Fidel Castro's rural guerrilla fighters in toppling Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. Inside the Cuban Revolution shifts the emphasis to the urban opposition between 1957 and mid-1958. During this period, Sweig writes, Castro's rebels were just finding their bearings and ranked as only one of several opposition forces. 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 also points out that Cuban exiles played an aggressive role in the 1950s, shipping weapons to anti-Batista forces in Cuba. Sweig convincingly argues that only after the failure of a general strike in April 1958 did Castro take control of the opposition movement. The lessons Castro learned from those events strongly influenced his strategy after 1959: forging tactical alliances at home and cultivating public opinion abroad, astutely using the press, fostering divisions among the exile community, and using sympathetic individuals within the United States to help shape U.S. policies toward Cuba. 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.