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Organised Labour and the Cuban Revolution, 1952-1959

Citation: Cushion, Stephen (2013) Organised Labour and the Cuban Revolution, 1952-1959. ["eprint_fieldopt_thesis_type_phd" not defined] thesis, University of London.


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The standard historiography sees the working class as a passive bystander in the insurrectionary phase of the Cuban revolution, assuming that the real struggle was conducted by a rural guerrilla army. However, an examination of the archival evidence contradicts this view and shows that workers played a much more active role in the defeat of the Batista regime than they are normally given credit for. At the start of the 1950s, Cuba was suffering a crisis in profitability as the world price of sugar declined. This led the employers to conduct a productivity drive backed by the full repressive force of the Cuban state. Going on strike in a dictatorship is a life or death decision and workers need to feel some confidence in their chances of survival and in the possibility of successfully gaining a result that would be in their political and economic interests. Thus, following the defeat of a wave of militantly organised strikes in 1955, significant numbers of working class militants felt of the need for armed support to enable them defend their wages and conditions. Starting from the city of Guantánamo and spreading to cover most of the island, these activists constructed an impressive, clandestine, working class organisation in alliance with the rebel army which, after several failed attempts, proved capable of calling a successful general strike in January 1959. This strike was crucial to the rebel victory. This thesis, based on primary source material found in archives and private collections in Havana, Manzanillo, Guantánamo and Santiago de Cuba, will re-examine working class participation in the Cuban insurrection of the 1950s, concentrating on organised labour rather than the role of individual citizens.

Creators: Cushion, Stephen and
Subjects: History
  • May 2013 (completed)


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