Leadership in the Cuban Revolution: The Unseen Story
by Antoni Kapcia
(Zed Books, £16.99)
NOTWITHSTANDING his immense historical importance, nearly all of the literature on Cuba focuses on the personality and role of Fidel Castro, an interpretation that has prevented both a deeper political understanding of the revolution’s structures of governance and the wide cast of other important players.
In this meticulously researched book Antoni Kapcia offers a magisterial vision and a welcome rebuttal to all those who personify the revolution in one man and refuse to recognise a sustainable and collective leadership grounded both in the people and history of Cuba.
Besides the obvious contribution from the triumvirate of Fidel, Raul Castro and Che Guevara, each decade has seen numerous important leaders making significant differences to the outcome of debates, the line of march and to the constantly evolving processes of decision-making.
Kapcia shows clearly how Cuba’s has always been a revolution in motion, totally removed from the myth of one man’s personal control or whim.
It is true that “los galacticos” of the revolution are the many guerillas who participated in the Moncada attack, the Granma landing and the Sierra campaign. That experience forged an esprit de corps in the survivors that was the main passport to trust and high influence in future government.
Those not part of those experiences — including those in the communist Popular Socialist Party (PSP) party — had to earn their spurs in the “eyes of most rebels and some among the wider population,” Kapcia writes.
It is always assumed that because the communist party became the only one in Cuba that the PSP was one of the drivers of the island’s destiny. Yet what Kapcia makes clear is that the situation was much more complex than this. The various different political actors in the many concentric circles that rippled out from the core changed their influence and positions over time and in the light of historical circumstances.
As well as analysing in wonderful detail all the different phases of the revolution, the role of Cuban mass organisations and individual players of influence in them, Kapcia insightfully interprets their various roles within a wider process of Cuban state and nation building.
Demonstrating how Cuba was a nation before the revolution but not a nation state, he explains how the thinking, particularities and survival instinct of the leadership came from an overwhelming desire for national unity.
Old and new leaders are all guided by a revolutionary spirit encompassing a burning desire for independence, hardened further by an isolation born of invasions, a 50-year-plus blockade and other hostile actions.
Kapcia concludes that what Cuba has undergone is an unusual and even unique process of revolutionary corporatism.
This is not a quick read as it is not an “easy” story.
Yet it is a rich and indispensable one if you want to really understand Cuba and its government.
The cover I do not like but the book I do love.
This review first appeared in Cuba Si. Copies of the book are available from the Cuba Solidarity Campaign shop at £19.79 including p&p, cuba-solidarity.org.uk or by phone: (020) 7490-5715.