To Defend the Revolution Is to Defend Culture: A Publishers Weekly Review

To Defend the Revolution Is to Defend Culture: The Cultural Policy of the Cuban Revolution

Publishers Weekly
December 2015

In this thorough study based on years of meticulous research, Gordon-Nesbitt, of the Manchester School of Art (U.K.), comprehensively examines policies related to art, film, literature, and other cultural spheres during the Cuban revolution. Gordon-Nesbitt, who is generally sympathetic to “the Cuban experiment,” argues that after decades of “cultural dependency,” the creation of original cultural institutions was considered by Cuba’s revolutionary leaders to be as crucial to the country’s transformation as political and economic changes. A wildly successful literacy campaign and various other efforts were pursued to reduce disparities between rural and urban areas and to extend and democratize cultural participation. Despite internal splits, a uniquely Cuban approach that was “at once anti elitist and anti dogmatic” was pursued in rejection of both Western capitalist and orthodox Soviet models. Eventually, though, what are known as the “Five Grey Years” of 1971–1976 witnessed the temporary triumph of Soviet cultural models, representing “a bleak and treacherous period for cultural policy, characterized by dogmatism and mediocrity.” This immensely detailed and extensively documented academic work will have little appeal to lay readers, but will be much appreciated by Cuba specialists and scholars of art and culture. Photos.

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