Antoni Kapcia

 

On his book Cuba in Revolution: A History Since the Fifties

Cover Interview of March 31, 2009

A close-up

I would recommend a prospective reader to start with the final chapter, on Fidel.  The rest of the book tends to ignore him.  Deliberately.  I have always resisted the tendency to focus on the personality of Fidel, to see everything as stemming from or controlled by him.  In my view, that tendency not only makes no sense as historiography or as political science, but also distorts our view of the deeper reality.  Put simply, one of the reasons why we never seem to understand Cuba is that we are all victims of ‘Fidel-centrism’, a viewpoint perpetuated by politicians—especially US presidents—and by a media intent on ‘big stories’ or fascinated by ‘great men’.

That said, however, to ignore Fidel would be stupid.  Therefore, once the book was almost ready, and Fidel took the momentous decision to stand down and not seek re-election as president (in January 2008), it was an obvious epilogue to write to an otherwise largely ‘Fidel-free’ study.  The result was, I would like to think, one of the best chapters of the book.  I was able to distil all that I wanted to say about Fidel’s politics, his role and his contribution, without perpetuating ‘Fidel-centrism’ and without losing the importance of the deeper structures of the whole process.

If there is another section to which I would direct readers, I suppose that it might be the chapter ‘Thinking the Revolution’, where I tackle the tricky and often misunderstood question of the process’s underlying ideology, looking at its nationalist roots and elements, the nature of its Marxism and the values which make it up.