Fidel Castro has remarked that many have written about the Cuban revolution except the revolutionaries who made it. Diario de la revolución cubana is of interest as Carlos Franqui was one of those revolutionaries and because of the wealth of information and eyewitness accounts the book contains. Diario is a narrative of the Cuban insurrection (1952-1958) and Franqui, having been a member of the urban sector of the 26th of July movement, its representative abroad, and director of the rebel radio in the Sierra Maestra, is uniquely qualified to speak on the subject. From the Batista coup of 1952 to his overthrow in 1958, the formation of the revolutionary movement and all of the important events of the insurrection are discussed by most of the important leaders of the 26th of July. For example, when narrating the attack on the Moneada Barracks in 1953, Franqui uses the recollections of the participants as they have appeared in Cuban publications or as told to him in personal interviews or through private letters exchanged among the revolutionaries. There is a great deal of private correspondence published here for the first time including many letters by Castro himself. The insurrection thus comes alive through those directly involved in the process, revealing their hopes, frustrations, and disagreements over revolutionary strategy.

Students of the Cuban revolution will find new insights into almost every aspect of the insurrection process. For example, the tone of the letters written by Frank País to Castro during the months that followed the landing of the Granma reveals País as the man who held the overall strings of the 26th of July movement. The urban segment of the 26th responded to País, and the rural guerrillas depended on him for the logistical assistance delivered during the crucial months in 1956, following the landing of the Granma. Further, País’ letters of June-July 1957 on the reorganization of the movement and political strategy reveal his power position within the movement. Was he in control, then, as has been speculated? In my opinion, the evidence presented leaves no doubt on the key power position of País. For years País’ fiancée had charged Fidel Castro had given away the hideout of País that led to his assassination by Batista’s henchmen.

In reading through the correspondence, one gets a grasp of the evolving conflict between the sierra and llano to which Che Guevara frequently refers to in his writing. For Guevara, the sierra bore the brunt of the struggle, and, in fact, his experience in Bolivia attempted to show how the foco could, by itself, create the revolution. But anyone who reads Franqui will realize the key role the llano played at all stages of the insurrection. Certainly this misunderstanding of the Cuban experience was one of the factors which led to Che’s debacle in the late 1960s.

The negotiations that led to the Sierra Maestra Manifesto, the Miami Pact, and the general strike of 1958, all of which were controversial turning points in the insurrection, are discussed utilizing a wealth of materials. The official military bulletins issued by Batista’s high command during the final months of the dictatorship add new evidence to the demoralization and ineffectiveness of the Cuban armed forces.

Franqui’s contribution is a substantial one to the historiography of the revolution. His method of presentation makes the process come alive through the voice of the participants. The leaders emerge as romantics, idealists, opportunists—trying to influence the movement with their conception of the “right strategy.” Out of this clash emerged the revolutionary victory of December 1958.