Mella, Julio Antonio (1905–1929)

views updated

Mella, Julio Antonio (1905–1929)

Julio Antonio Mella (b. 1905; d. 10 January 1929), cofounder and first secretary-general of the Cuban Communist Party. Mella received his early political training in the 1920s as a leader of the movement for university reform. He helped organize the first National Student Congress in 1923, the same year he took part in the famous "Protest of the Thirteen," in which thirteen of Havana's young intellectuals walked out of the Academy of Science when President Alfredo Zayas's minister of justice entered the hall.

Mella was also the editor of Juventud, a student literary journal, and it was his efforts as a student reformer that brought him in contact with Cuban Marxists, especially Carlos Baliño, a supporter of the Bolshevik Revolution. Along with Baliño, Mella cofounded the Cuban Communist Party in 1925 and was elected the party's first secretary-general. After the founding of the party, Mella gave weekly classes in politics for Havana labor unions, and he also led efforts to organize students in opposition to the Cuban dictator Gerardo Machado. Mella was arrested that same year when he led a student strike that shut down the University of Havana. In prison Mella organized a hunger strike that gained international attention.

In 1927 Mella was deported to Mexico, where he continued his work against the Machado regime and where he also served briefly in 1928 as the secretary-general of the Mexican Communist Party. On 10 January 1929, Mella was assassinated in Mexico City. Fidel Castro's government later claimed that Mella was killed by agents of the Machado government. But it is also possible that internal squabbles may have led to Mella's death, since two weeks before his assassination Mella was expelled from the Mexican Communist Party.

See alsoCuba, Political Parties: Communist Party .


Samuel Farber, Revolution and Reaction in Cuba, 1933–1960 (1976).

Louis A. Pérez, Jr., Cuba: Between Reform and Revolution (1988).

Ramón Eduardo Ruiz, Cuba: The Making of a Revolution (1970).

Additional Bibliography

Cabrera, Olga. Mella: Una historia en la política mexicocubana. Guadalajara, Spain: Universidad de Guadalajara, 2002.

Cupull, Adys, and Frolián González. Julio Antonio Mella y Tina Modotti contra el fascismo. Havana, Cuba: Casa Editora Abril, 2005.

                                    Michael Powelson