Claude Julien is the justly renowned correspondent of Le Monde for the Western Hemisphere. His first-hand account of the Cuban revolution covers the period from early 1958, when Castro was only a thorn in Batista’s flesh, to late 1960, when he had become a fixation in the American mind. This defines the scope of the work: it is but a journalistic account, and it covers its subject only in part.
But within these limitations the book discharges its purpose quite well: it retells the main events of the period and it offers a reasonable interpretation thereof. Julien’s thesis—not an indisputable one, of course—is that the Cuban revolution, being unduly pressed by the American government to choose between alignment with Russia or alignment with the United States, was forbidden neutralism, the only policy under which Cuba could have simultaneously achieved her economic emancipation from and maintained friendly ties with the United States. The author accounts, in turn, for this American policy by the executive and legislative powers’ inability to adapt themselves rapidly to changing world conditions.
The book is noteworthy in two respects. First, it pays attention to the internal conditions, particularly those created by the Catholic Church, which tended to reinforce the American pressures. Second, though it does reach conclusions and evaluations, it is sufficiently detached and cool-headed to merit the scholar’s attention. Its concern, clearly, is to try to understand—a rare finality in a subject in which most writers have contented themselves with trying to fix the blame.