Close
Close

Laurence Whitehead

Laurence Whitehead is an official fellow in politics at Nuffield College, Oxford and co-editor of the Journal of Latin American Studies.

Furibundo de la Serna

Laurence Whitehead, 2 November 1995

Ernesto Guevara de la Serna found what his life was for in July 1955, in Mexico City. It was there, at the age of 27, that he met Raúl Castro, who introduced him to his older brother, Fidel. The Argentine doctor joined a motley band of Cuban expeditionaries in the near-suicidal landing (or sinking) of the Granma in a mangrove swamp at the eastern end of the island. The survivors took to the hills and, with the support of the peasants of the Sierra Maestra (as chronicled in Guevara’s Passages from the Revolutionary War and elaborated in his subsequent foco theory of guerrilla warfare), they toppled the pro-American dictator Batista.

Cuba Down at Heel

Laurence Whitehead, 8 June 1995

Even after 35 years, the simplest questions about Cuban politics remain almost beyond the reach of objective analysis. Is the Castro regime a tyranny which can only perpetuate itself by resort to repression, as the Cuban-American community in Miami and elsewhere insists? Or does it persist, despite the disintegration of the Soviet bloc and the deepening economic crisis, essentially because it incarnates a national identity struggling for survival against the engulfing pressure of US political, economic and cultural expansionism? Is the regime doomed to collapse, with only the ruthlessness of the Jefe Máximo to delay the inevitable? Or has it so transformed Cuban society that the next generation are bound to construct their future largely on the foundations laid down by the Revolution?

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Read More

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences