Robert Taber, who interviewed Fidel Castro in the Sierra Maestra during his struggle against Batista, is an intelligent, sympathetic observer of the Cuban revolution. He has apparently drawn upon his radio scripts (he once worked for CBS) and his own first-hand knowledge, as well as various secondary sources, to put together a history of the revolution from 1953 to January 1, 1959, with emphasis upon the military aspects. His general thesis is not new. The Castro forces consisting of a small number of guerrilla fighters in the Sierra Maestra made the Batista government appear weaker than it really was. Utilizing a growing mass support, first from the peasants and later from the middle and upper classes, Castro was able to outwit the regular army led by corrupt and sadistic officers. In the face of Castro’s attack, the army retaliated blindly against the civilian population of eastern Cuba as well as against the revolutionary forces. Basically, Castro placed little trust in other anti-Batista groups, especially the exiles, but when necessary, as in the Sierra manifesto of June, 1957, he avowed liberal democratic political principles as a temporary political expedient. Castro placed much hope in the naval unrest which culminated in the abortive Cienfuegos revolt in 1957 but, says Taber, he opposed the calling of the unsuccessful general strike in 1958.

In the main part of the book Taber tells in a smoothly flowing narrative a detailed story of the tactics and strategy of the guerrillas. He gives fascinating glimpses into the lesser-known aspects of the war; for example, he mentions in passing the activities of Lucas Morán, important adviser of the Castros, who organized large peasant meetings in the Sierra Cristal. His description of “Che” Guevara’s march to the Escambray and the subsequent fighting in that area is the most complete version in English this reviewer has seen. The book, not unnaturally in view of Taber’s pro-Castro position, must be used with care. His discussion of the first important Castro victory at Ubero ignores the role of Sotus Romero, the hero of the battle, and makes no mention of the cowardice of Raúl Castro. In this reviewer’s opinion, the author understates the importance of the Second National Front of the Escambray (which role is unmentioned in current official Cuban propaganda) and the Directorio Revolucionario. Not enough diaries and other primary accounts of the war are available as yet for us to place complete trust in Taber’s account. However, those parts of the story which this reviewer knows about through interviews with Cuban exiles seem substantially accurate. There are a few minor factual inaccuracies; the U.S. consul in Santiago in 1958 was Park not Grant Wollam and escopeteros were those equipped with any type of ineffective gun, not just shotguns. The bulk of the volume is a useful and interesting interweaving of the military and political history of the revolution.

In his opening and closing chapters, the author gives a brief interpretation of the historical factors producing the revolution. He believes that “the entire history of Cuba is, in American school books, a complicated lie. One must reach the graduate school level to get a glimmering of the truth.” His last chapter is devoted to the deterioration in U.S.-Cuban relations. The U.S., he believes, has forced Castro into Russian hands and the revolution “has thrown a revealing light on the interlocking relationship of press, government, and business in the U.S. and of the subservience of the first two to the third.” These two chapters reveal more about Taber’s own politics than they do about the revolution.