History ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 10-16-1970


This is a study of the emergence of military hegemony in twentieth century Cuba, The contours of the Republic's history offers a sharply defined periodization within which to study army ascendancy. More specifically, the island entered nationhood with­out an army; within little more than three decades, the military institution exercised unchallenged national authority. Thirty years later the armed forces collapsed.

The Cuban army emerged initially as a military response to the problem of political instability. In the course of two armed interventions (1898-1902 and 1906-1909), United States military and political administrators saw in the Cuban armed forces an effec­tive agency with which to minimize national disorders potentially pernicious to American strategic and economic interests on the island. In a national con­text, the stability for which Washington designed the army was to insure the political status quo presided over by the generation of independence leaders. Very quickly the army developed into an armed extension of ruling political parties. By the early 1930's, however, because of superior organization and a monopoly on state force, the military itself emerged as the ruling national "party."

Throughout the early 1930's the armed forces grew increasingly alienated from the island's power sectors. Alienation was complete when the sergeants severed the armed institution from the political elite. Henceforth, army leadership was politically and socially afloat, lacking roots of legitimacy in the social, economic, and political sources of power on the island. Not trusting representatives of these traditional sectors to represent and promote the interests of the new officer corps, the former sergeants moved the armed institution closer to the foreign fulcrum of power, making the army increasingly responsive to the needs of American interests as a means to national hegemony. At the same time, the army leadership moved directly into virtually all aspects of national life as a means to undercut the power of the former ruling sectors, The army was reshaped along a quasi-political party line, attempting to build a mass-based rural oriented organization through non-military projects, One result was the emergence of Batista from the military organiza­tion into civil leadership.

Part of the facility in overturning the political order based on a military foundation between 1956 and 1958 lay precisely in this alienation. When Washington withdrew its support of the army, the military establishment found itself virtually isolated.

The peculiar historical evolution of the Cuban army contributed to its destruction in the revolutionary war between 1956 and 1958. The idea of establishing a rural guerrilla foco with which to challenge the politico-military authority of Havana was entirely con­sistent with a tradition of Cuban revolutionary warfare. Because of the peculiar economic, political, and military relationship of the island to the United States, rural insurgency placed an insurmountable strain on the constituted authorities during insurrections. Forced to protect the property and lives of foreigners and suppress the political threat inherent in armed protest, the army was unable to accomplish both without American support.

Level of Degree


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Edwin Lieuwen

Second Committee Member

Troy Floyd

Third Committee Member

Ronald Dolkart

Document Type