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New Left Review 17, September-October 2002

Victoria Brittain on Piero Gleijeses, Conflicting Missions. The remarkable record of Cuban assistance to African insurgencies, in Belgian, French and Portuguese colonial zones alike.



From the outset, the Cuban revolution was determined to assert its independence. The island’s foreign policy was shaped by a dual impulse: a revolutionary desire to multiply the fronts of resistance to imperialism, and a shrewd calculation that only the spread of insurgency would ensure Cuba’s survival. A robust internationalism, part of Cuba’s radical heritage since José Martí, was its foundation—as expressed in the Second Declaration of Havana, or Che Guevara’s statement in 1965 that ‘a victory by any country over imperialism is our victory; just as any country’s defeat is a defeat for all of us.’ In the early 1960s Cuba encouraged and in many cases armed foco groups across Latin America—in Venezuela, Argentina, Peru, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras and the Dominican Republic—often alarming local Communist Parties. Such an assault on the Monroe doctrine provoked unease in the USSR, which had long since arrived at a strategy of ‘peaceful coexistence’ with the West—accepting the demarcations agreed at Yalta and manoeuvring only cautiously in the Third World. China, unpredictable in its Cold War affiliations, was a further player on a multi-polar world stage.

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Victoria Brittain, ‘Cuba in Africa’, NLR 17: £3

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