Defining Cuban Antifascism, 1925–41

Friday, January 5, 2018: 8:30 AM
Virginia Suite B (Marriott Wardman Park)
Ariel Mae Lambe, University of Connecticut
Leftist student leader Julio Antonio Mella famously called Cuban president Gerardo Machado a “Tropical Mussolini” in 1925. A prominent activist in the growing unrest against Machado, Mella was important in the development of the idea of “antifascism” as applicable to Cuba’s domestic struggle against strongman rule and neocolonial control. The struggle continued after Mella’s assassination in 1929 and crested in Machado’s overthrow in 1933. There followed a period of intense and often violent conflict over the meaning and legacy of this Revolution of 1933, which culminated in a massive general strike in March 1935 being brutally crushed by Fulgencio Batista. As Batista’s control fell heavy over the island, many Cubans turned to the Italian invasion of Ethiopia (1935) and especially the defense of the Spanish Republic (1936–1939), interpreting these fights as new fields of battle in their own domestic struggle. Between 1935 and 1941, antifascism transformed gradually from the resistance in a domestic political area marked by repression to an officially-sanctioned stance endorsed by Batista himself as Cuba sided with the Allies in World War II. This paper summarizes the development of Cuban antifascism, its relevance to domestic politics, and its transformation over time.
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