Theses Doctoral

Cuban Antifascism and the Spanish Civil War: Transnational Activism, Networks, and Solidarity in the 1930s

Lambe, Ariel

This dissertation shows that during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) diverse Cubans organized to support the Spanish Second Republic, overcoming differences to coalesce around a movement they defined as antifascism. Hundreds of Cuban volunteers--more than from any other Latin American country--traveled to Spain to fight for the Republic in both the International Brigades and the regular Republican forces, to provide medical care, and to serve in other support roles; children, women, and men back home worked together to raise substantial monetary and material aid for Spanish children during the war; and longstanding groups on the island including black associations, Freemasons, anarchists, and the Communist Party leveraged organizational and publishing resources to raise awareness, garner support, fund, and otherwise assist the cause. The dissertation studies Cuban antifascist individuals, campaigns, organizations, and networks operating transnationally to help the Spanish Republic, contextualizing these efforts in Cuba's internal struggles of the 1930s. It argues that both transnational solidarity and domestic concerns defined Cuban antifascism. First, Cubans confronting crises of democracy at home and in Spain believed fascism threatened them directly. Citing examples in Ethiopia, China, Europe, and Latin America, Cuban antifascists--like many others--feared a worldwide menace posed by fascism's spread. Second, despite their recent anticolonial struggle against Spain, Cubans cared deeply about its fate for reasons of personal, familial, and cultural affinity. They interpreted the Republic as a "new" Spain representative of liberation and the Nationalists as seeking return to the "old" Spain of colonial oppression. Third, pro-Republican Cubans defined antifascism in Cuban terms. People of many different backgrounds and views united around a definition of antifascism closely related to their shared domestic political goals: freedom from strongman governance, independence from neocolonial control, and attainment of economic and social justice. Radical, moderate, and even largely nonpolitical individuals and groups in Cuba found in antifascism and support for the Spanish Republic a rallying cry with broad appeal that allowed them to strengthen solidarity at home and abroad. Cubans defined antifascism in both negative and positive terms, as a movement against fascism but also toward unity, democracy, sovereignty, and justice.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Piccato, Pablo A.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 7, 2014