Ariel Mae Lambe
’s new book No Barrier Can Contain It: Cuban Antifascism and the Spanish Civil War
(University of North Carolina Press, 2019) is a history of transnational Cuban activists who mobilized in the mid-1930s to fight fascism both in Cuba and beyond. A wide variety of civic and political groups, including Communists, anarchists, Freemasons, and Afro-Cubans, mobilized to support the Spanish Republican cause, which they connected to their efforts at home to fight persisting colonial structures and strongman politics. Lambe emphasizes the human side of antifascist activism through biographical studies of both well-known and overlooked Cuban figures. Her book shows that the 1930s, often dismissed as an apolitical period in Cuban history, were in fact characterized by vibrant efforts to raise funds, send combat troops, and provide other kinds of aid to Spanish Republicans. Lambe argues that important changes on the island in 1940 – the holding of free elections and the promulgation of a progressive constitution – suggest that Cuban antifascist efforts, though unable to turn the tide of the Spanish Civil War, did have an impact on Cuban domestic politics. In the interview, Lambe reflects on how her work is relevant to the Antifa movement of today.
Rachel Grace Newman is Lecturer in the History of the Global South at Smith College. She has a Ph.D. in History from Columbia University, and she writes about elite migration, education, transnationalism, and youth in twentieth-century Mexico. She is also the author of a book on a binational program for Mexican migrant children. She is on Twitter (@rachelgnew).