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A Hidden History of the Cuban Revolution: How the Working Class Shaped the Guerrillas’ Victory


Millions of words have been written about the Cuban Revolution, which, to both its supporters and detractors, is almost universally understood as being won by a small band of guerrillas. In this unique and stimulating book, Stephen Cushion turns the conventional wisdom on its head, and argues that the Cuban working class played a much more decisive role in the Revolution’s outcome than previously understood. Although the working class was well-organized in the 1950s, it is believed to have been too influenced by corrupt trade union leaders, the Partido Socialist Popular, and a tradition of making primarily economic demands to have offered much support to the guerrillas. Cushion contends that the opposite is true, and that significant portions of the Cuban working class launched an underground movement in tandem with the guerrillas operating in the mountains.

Developed during five research trips to Cuba under the auspices of the Institute of Cuban History in Havana, this book analyzes a wealth of leaflets, pamphlets, clandestine newspapers, and other agitational material from the 1950s that has never before been systematically examined, along with many interviews with participants themselves. Cushion uncovers widespread militant activity, from illegal strikes to sabotage to armed conflict with the state, all of which culminated in two revolutionary workers’ congresses and the largest general strike in Cuban history. He argues that these efforts helped clinch the victory of the revolution, and thus presents a fresh and provocative take on the place of the working class in Cuban history.

Steve Cushion is a retired university lecturer with a PhD in Caribbean Labor History who lives in the East End of London. For twenty years, he worked as a bus driver in London, and has been an active socialist and trade unionist all his adult life. He is currently adviser to the Museum of Labor History on the digitization of their archives.

A veritable tour de force in archival and oral history documenting 1950s Cuban worker activism, and in the process, compelling us to revisit the nature and extent of the role of labour in the Cuban Revolution then, and now.

—Professor Emerita Jean Stubbs, author, Tobacco on the Periphery: A Case Study in Cuban Labour History and Cuba: The Test of Time

Cushion has written an extraordinarily rich and detailed history of working class militancy in pre-revolutionary Cuba. A Hidden History of the Cuban Revolution shows that the Cuban working class played an important, even decisive, role in the pre-revolutionary period and in the overthrow of the Batista dictatorship in 1959. Our understanding of the making of the Cuban revolution will be permanently shaped by this inspiring and compelling history.

—Dr Leo Zeilig, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London, author, Voices of Liberation: Frantz Fanon

It is paradoxical that, despite the victory of a popular revolution in Cuba on the 1st January 1959, practically nothing has been written about the participation of workers in these events. With this book, Dr Steve Cushion has given us a new approach to our view of the contribution of organised labour to the evolutionary cause, both through their strikes and their participation in the armed struggle.
An important merit of the book is his use of a large number of primary sources, the result of considerable research by the author. The scientific rigour employed by Dr Cushion has produced an unprejudiced and wide ranging study which enriches the historiography of this crucial period in the process of Cuban national liberation.

—Dra Angelina Rojas Blaquier, Institute of Cuban History, Havana, author, Primer Partido Comunista de Cuba

Steve Cushion’s book is a valuable contribution to the history of organised labour in Cuba and to the history of the Cuban Revolution. Drawing on extensive archival research, most notably in provincial archives and personal collections, A Hidden History of the Cuban Revolution sheds new light on the role of workers in the revolutionary process and provides fresh material to help us rethink the character of the Revolution. This study will be required reading for scholars of the Cuban revolution and will be of significant interest to historians interested in comparative perspectives on the role of organised labour in processes of radical political change.

—Dr Paulo Drinot, University College London, editor, Che’s Travels: The Making of a Revolutionary in 1950s Latin America

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SKU: mrp5816 Categories: , , , Tag:

Publication Date: February 2016

Number of Pages: 272

Paperback ISBN: 9781583675816

Cloth ISBN: 9781583675823

eBook ISBN: 9781583675830