B.K. Smith Lecture
Tuesday, March 5, 2013 7:30 PM to 9:00 PM
The University of St. Thomas History Department will host Dr. Jonathan C. Brown for the 2013 B.K. Smith Lecture on "Cuba and the Sino-Soviet Dispute." The event is at 7:30 p.m. on March 5 in Jones Hall.
At the height of the Cold War in the 1960s, the Soviet Union, the Peoples’ Republic of China, and revolutionary Cuba would seem to have been steadfast allies in the struggle against what they called “Western Imperialism.”
However, unity of purpose did not characterize the tripartite relationship between these three socialist regimes in the 1960s. The PRC and the USSR developed a long-simmering rivalry that split the socialist countries into two hostile encampments. Cuba, isolated from its allies, attempted to create its own path independent from both the Soviet Union and Communist China.
Why couldn’t Fidel Castro, Nikita Khrushchev, and Mao Zedong get along?
Our understanding of relations between these three socialist regimes comes from Western sources, particularly United States documents. Top secret reports of the CIA and State Department intelligence units have been declassified in the 1990s. This documentation permits us scholars now to investigate some of the official contacts between Cuba, the Peoples Republic of China, and the Soviet Union. Cuban state archives are still closed to researchers, but the Russian and Chinese documents on the Cold War are just now becoming available too, albeit slowly.
Here is what we know so far about the relations between the three communist powers. Cuba as the most recent revolution would have preferred not to align itself to either side in the Sino-Soviet Dispute. At the beginning, Fidel Castro did benefit from the patronage of both the Soviets and the Chinese. But the Nikita Khrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev and Mao Zedong required Cuba to choose sides. Only when Cuba’s concerted efforts to “export revolution” to other countries of Latin America finally ended in failure in 1968 did Fidel Castro decide to make a pragmatic rather than ideological bargain with the USSR.
Brown is a professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin and a distinguished visiting professor at the United States Air Force Academy since 2010.
He has published four single-authored books: “A Socioeconomic History of Argentina, 1776-1860” (1979); Oil and Revolution in Mexico (1993), “Latin America: A Social History of the Colonial Period” (2nd ed., 2005) and “A Brief History of Argentina” (2nd ed., 2009). Three of these books have been translated and published in Latin America. “A Brief History of Argentina” has been translated and published in Chinese. His first book on Argentina, published by Cambridge University Press, won the Bolton Prize.
Brown also edited a collection of essays on workers and populism in Latin America and co-edited books on the Mexican oil industry and on Argentine social history. He is currently writing a book on the Cuban Revolution.
The family and friends of the late Benjamin Kopper Smith established the B.K. Smith Lecture in 1957. The series has brought a series of distinguished scholars to the UST campus to lecture and hold informal discussions with students and faculty. Smith, a welding superintendent for the Pennsylvania Railroad, came to Texas in 1920 and founded the Big Three Welding and Equipment Company, which opened a Houston office in 1925. His contributions to Houston were many and he remained active until his death in 1948, a year after UST was founded.