Challenging the Cold War Before Vietnam: “Ban the Bomb! Fair Play for Cuba!”

  • Van Gosse


While 1955 was an auspicious time for black protest, there were few positive signs for peace activists. That year marked the height of the Cold War, when public dissent over foreign policy seemed impossible. In 1953, the Korean War had ended in a truce, with no clear victor. In 1954, the United States’s key European ally France was driven out of its colony in Vietnam by nationalist Communists led by Ho Chi Minh. In those same two years, the CIA overthrew democratic, mildly leftist governments in Guatemala and Iran, replacing them with right-wing dictatorships. Fighting “the International Communist Conspiracy” seemed like a holy war, where any means were justified. In this atmosphere, no one could have predicted how a drive by scientists and pacifists to de-escalate the superpowers’ nuclear confrontation, and a popular revolution on an island only ninety miles from Florida, would capture much of the public’s imagination.


Civil Disobedience Fair Play Peace Movement Cuban Revolution Cuban Missile Crisis 
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A Selected Bibliography

  1. Any study of the peace movement during the Cold War must depart from Lawrence Wittner’s impressive scholarship, in The Struggle Against the Bomb: One World Or NoneA History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement Through 1953 (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1993) and The Struggle Against the Bomb: Resisting the Bomb—A History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement, 1954–1970 (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1998).Google Scholar
  2. Milton S. Katz, Ban the Bomb: A History of SANE, the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (New York: Praeger, 1986) opens up the world of liberal peace activism.Google Scholar
  3. Amy Swerdlow, Women Strike for Peace: Traditional Motherhood and Radical Politics in the 1960s (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993) empathically examines a particular strain within the reviving movement. Again, Isserman, If I Had a Hammer, is important, because of his treatment of Liberation and the Committee for Non-Violent Action.Google Scholar
  4. Other than Richard Welch’s anecdotal Response to Revolution: The United States and the Cuban Revolution, 1959–1961 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985), no one had studied the Fair Play for Cuba Committee before my Where the Boys Are: Cuba, Cold War America and the Making of a New Left (London: Verso, 1993). My study also places considerable empha-sis on the popular cultural response in the United States to Castro in 1957–1958 and the longer history of solidarity with Latin American revolution.Google Scholar

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© Van Gosse 2005

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  • Van Gosse

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