Maurice Zeitlin and Robert Scheer have written a readable, informative introduction to the Cuban Revolution which should be especially useful to the general reader. Although both men visited Cuba, their book is based upon a variety of published sources, and is not an impressionistic work. As they explain in the preface; “the visits did, however, help to give us a ‘feel’ for the process we were describing and to verify the conclusions reached.” These conclusions do not fit the usual press interpretations, but they are well founded and based upon an understanding of historical change. The authors present the Revolution as a process, with its roots in the past, and its future course as subject to change Thus, they do not write about conspiracies, “betrayed revolutions,” or inevitable developments.
The first two chapters present in capsule form the historical background of Cuban society and U. S.-Cuban relations. These chapters prepare the foundation for the next seven chapters which discuss the development of the Revolution to 1962. The basic theme presented is summarized in a quotation from the sociologist Robert K. Merton concerning the “self-fulfilling prophecy.” According to Merton, such an interpretation of conditions is “in the beginning, a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the originally false conception come true.” Zeitlin and Scheer portray the actions of the United States government as stemming from such a false definition. An almost paranoiac fear of radical revolution and Communist influence constituted the “self-fulfilling prophecy,” as the United States pursued a policy which helped to push the Cubans into the Soviet bloc. This point will be argued by historians for years to come, but these authors do present a logical argument for their position. The internal factors involved, and the basic tendency of true revolutions to gravitate to the left, are not given sufficient attention. This would have involved a much longer book, however, and the authors point out in the preface that their study is offered as, “a tentative exploration of our failure in Cuba and as a contribution to the reappraisal of our relations with her.”
The authors believe that it is still possible for the United States to regain the friendship of Cuba, and they cite a number of positive steps which could be taken to accomplish this objective. They indicate the problems involved in such action. These include the opposition of the Communists and the biased journalistic coverage in the U. S. press (which is analyzed in an excellent appendix). It can be hoped that wide dissemination of this book will help to correct the latter factor.