Revolution in the Americas
Graeme S. Mount is a history professor at Laurentian University and
author of Canada’s Enemies: Spies and Spying in the Peaceable Kingdom.
Fernwood deserves applause for its willingness to publish a book dealing
with a non-Canadian topic. Barlow has written a succinct and fascinating
account of radical governments and their fates in Mexico, Cuba, Grenada,
and Central America. His endnotes indicate that he has read widely, if
only from secondary sources, and that well-qualified people advised him.
The most serious defect is that 221 pages, including endnotes (there is
no index), are hardly sufficient for covering the history of 19
countries in anglophone, francophone, and hispanophone parts of the
Caribbean and South America. Indeed, if one subtracts those parts of the
first 31 pages that deal with the Renaissance and Reformation, the
German Peasant War of 1525, the French and American revolutions, and
early modern Spain, the problem becomes more obvious. Barlow has tried
to cover too many years in too many countries in too few pages. A couple
of examples will illustrate the point.
Barlow correctly reports that the British and U.S. governments
preferred that British Guiana (now Guyana) become independent under the
seemingly more moderate Forbes Burnham than under the pro-Soviet Cheddi
Jagan and his People’s Progressive Party (PPP). He explains the manner
in which British and U.S. governments guaranteed that Burnham rather
than Jagan would lead British Guiana to independence. He does not
mention, however, that despite these efforts Burnham showed little
gratitude to his sponsors and established strong ties with Castro’s
Cuba and made a personal visit to North Korea. Moreover, Barlow notes,
“Since 1964 the PPP has become increasingly irrelevant.” However,
Jagan and the PPP had won the Guyanese election of 1992 and were back in
office before this book appeared in print in 1993.
Barlow devotes several pages to an account of Salvador Allende’s
government in Chile, but he does not mention the Nixon administration or
the CIA as factors in Allende’s overthrow. This omission renders the
account less than complete.
This book is too ambitious for its size, but it does provide an
introduction and suggestions for further reading.