This is the first critical, in-depth study of the anarchist movement in Cuba in the three decades after the republic’s independence from Spain in 1898. Kirwin Shaffer shows that anarchists played a significant—until now little-known—role among Cuban leftists in shaping issues of health, education, immigration, the environment, and working-class internationalism. They also criticized the state of racial politics, cultural practices, and the conditions of children and women on the island.
In the chaotic new country, members of the anarchist movement reinterpreted the War for Independence and the revolutionary ideas of patriot José Martí, embarking on a nationwide debate with the larger Cuban establishment about what it meant to be “Cuban.” To counter the dominant culture, the anarchists created their own initiatives—schools, health institutes, vegetarian restaurants, theater and fiction writing groups, and occasional calls for nudism—and as a result they challenged both the existing elite and the occupying U.S. military forces.
Shaffer also focuses on what anarchists did to prepare the masses for a social revolution. While many of the Cuban anarchists' ideals flowed from Europe, their programs, criticisms, and literature reflected the specifics of Cuban reality and appealed to Cuba’s popular classes. Using theories of working-class internationalism, countercultures, popular culture, and social movements, Shaffer analyzes archival records, pamphlets, newspapers, and novels, showing how the anarchist movement in republican Cuba helped shape the country’s early leftist revolutionary agenda.
Shaffer’s portrait of the conflict between anarchists and their enemies illuminates the multiple forces that pervaded life on the island in the twentieth century, until the rise of the Gerardo Machado dictatorship in the 1920s. This important book places anarchism in its rightful historical role as a vital current within Cuban radical political culture.
About the Author
Kirwin Shaffer is professor of Latin American studies at Pennsylvania State University–Berks College. He has authored or edited several books on anarchist culture and networks in Cuba and the Caribbean Basin from the 1890s to 1920s, including Black Flag Boricuas: Anarchism, Antiauthoritarianism, and the Left in Puerto Rico, 1897–1921 and In Defiance of Boundaries: Anarchism in Latin American History.
What People Are Saying
“A brilliantly written and carefully organized study of anarchism in Cuba during the first decades after the country’s independence in 1902. Based on a wide range of documents from archives in Cuba and the United States, Shaffer provides a detailed analysis of political events and ideas of the nation in early twentieth-century Cuba.” New West Indian Guide
“Shaffer considers the different strands and at times internal conflicts that characterized anarchism in Cuba in the early decades of the twentieth century. He does a fine job of showing how Cuban anarchists operated in a larger cultural milieu that extended beyond the workplace and union hall, how they adapted the principal tenets of international anarchism to their own reality and put forth their own version of cubanidad, and, ultimately, how they played a vital yet often overlooked role in the development of the island’s revolutionary tradition.” The Americas: A Quarterly Review of Inter-American Cultural History
“Drawing on a wide range of archival materials, Shaffer builds a detailed picture of the anarchist movement’s contribution to a leftist revolutionary agenda in republican Cuba, and its part within the complex interaction of different political and social forces that was taking place there at the beginning of the last century.” British Bulletin of Publications
“These essays provide a vivid picture of the transnational nature of the anarcho-syndicalist/anarchist movement.” Anarcho-Syndicalist Review
“Anarchist Cuba is a comprehensive account of a group of people often overlooked in Cuban history, and Shaffer has provided the reader with a sense of what life was like for anarchists.” Journal of Latin American Studies