Conceptualising Cuban socialism

Cuba's National Assembly of People's Power

On 1 June 2017, an extraordinary session of Cuba’s National Assembly of Peoples’ Power approved important documents which define the character, objectives and strategy of Cuban socialism into the post-Castro era. Since 2011, a programme of ‘updating’ the Cuban economic and social system has been underway, and these documents aim to establish the parameters within which those developments will take place. Helen Yaffe reports.

Such measures are imperative given the greater space being opened up for market relations: private ownership and business, self-employment and foreign investment. Establishing social welfare and national development priorities will be essential to prevent market forces asserting a capitalist logic over Cuban development. Raul Castro will step down as President of the Council of State in February 2018,1 and the Cuban leadership is working to strengthen the institutional basis of socialism to help safeguard its future when Cuba is no longer led by the ‘historic generation’ who carried out the Revolution.

 

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Socialist Cuba: old obstacles and new challenges

mariel port
Cuba's Mariel port

On 25 and 26 March the first National Cuba Conference to be held in the United States since 1979 took place at Fordham Law School in New York. The conference demanded the full normalisation of US-Cuba relations; the elimination of the US blockade, the return of US-occupied territory in Guantanamo and an end to US regime change programmes. These are essential demands for the international movement in solidarity with socialist Cuba at this complex juncture; with the possibility of renewed aggression from the new Trump administration, and with the challenges faced both in its process of economic restructuring and the pending transition to a post-Castro era. Helen Yaffe reports.

 

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Cuban socialism not up for negotiation in the post-Fidel, Trump era

KeniaSerrano PhotoVirgilioPonce
Kenia Serrano, Photo by Virgilio Ponce

Interview with Kenia Serrano, President of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), by Helen Yaffe, Havana, 4 January 2017

Helen Yaffe: Why has the United States changed its strategic focus towards Cuba?

Kenia Serrano: The United States came under international pressure from different states, including Latin American and Caribbean countries. Fundamentally those countries recognised Cuba’s contribution to the development of their people; training human resources in different sectors; medical education; engineers; teachers; or developing literacy campaigns. Cuba does this without seeking anything in exchange, based on principles, our commitment to internationalism. This has made an important contribution in those countries, which don’t have political, economic or social systems similar to Cuba’s socialist system. From within those countries a strong consensus has grown in favour of Cuba’s reincorporation into the structure of the Americas.

The United States was isolated from the world, not only from Latin America and the Caribbean which it has always considered its ‘back yard’, but also in its policy of the blockade, its policy of terrorism, its policy of pressure which, as well as the blockade, was expressed by the precondition that Cuba should change its political system before the United States would re-establish relations. This is something that characterised the US approach for more than 50 years. As a country suffering directly the impact of the global crisis of the economic system, the United States needed to renew its influence in Latin America and the Caribbean. It had lost space and influence with the victory of different progressive processes in the region. This was after a stage of savage neoliberalism that favoured the United States but then created the conditions for important progressive changes that occurred in Venezuela, in Brazil, in the ALBA countries – Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua, also in Argentina.

 

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Defending Cuban culture, defending Cuban socialism

(Alfredo Guevara, Director General of the ICAIC with Che)

Review: To Defend the Revolution is to Defend Culture: The Cultural Policy of the Cuban Revolution

Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt

PM Press, 2015, 398pp, £17.99

This book assesses what Gordon-Nesbitt calls revolutionary Cuba’s ‘Marxist-humanist’ cultural policy, ‘the most ambitious reconciliation of art and society to have taken place [in the world] to date’. She describes the conscious democratisation and radical rethinking of the role of the arts by revolutionary Cubans from the triumph of the Revolution in 1959 onwards, without idealising her subject matter.

Its publication coincides with the escalation of further US attempts to foster regime change in socialist Cuba by a combination of increasing cultural influence and financial investment, having failed to bring this about via its 56-year economic blockade. The US State Department agrees some $30m to be spent every year on ‘democracy development’ programmes, in Cuba, such as those developed by USAID and NED (see FRFI 239 and 241).

 

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Fidel Castro: 1926-2016

Fidel pointing

‘I am a Marxist-Leninist and I shall be a Marxist-Leninist until the day I die.’ – Fidel Castro after the defeat of the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961.

On 25 November, Fidel Castro Ruz, Commander in Chief of the Cuban Revolution, died aged 90. The Revolutionary Communist Group pays tribute to this great revolutionary communist and sends condolences to his family, the Cuban people and those millions of people from every region of the world who claimed Fidel as their own.

The news comes three months after Fidel’s 90th birthday was celebrated in Cuba and internationally. As we said at that time: ‘His longevity is a source of comfort and pride.’ Fidel risked his life on the front line in Cuba’s revolutionary armed struggle against the Batista dictatorship in the 1950s, he faced hundreds of assassination attempts and acts of terrorism over the subsequent 50 years, and he pulled through a grave illness which took him to death’s door in 2006. And yet, he died a natural death in peace in Havana, having seen off nine hostile US Presidents. Cuba faces many challenges today, with economic changes underway and the restoration of diplomatic relations with the United States, but the revolutionary society built under Fidel’s leadership remains solid, as does the political commitment to the path of socialist development he led it down following the Revolution of 1959.

 

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Cuban revolutionary scientific advances continue

cim researcher holding vaccine super

Despite the US blockade and other attempts to undermine the socialist revolution, Cuba has continued its phenomenal scientific and medical progress. ELAM, Cuba’s Latin American School of Medicine, is now the world’s biggest medical school and has graduated over 25,000 doctors from low-income backgrounds, from 84 countries mainly in Latin America, Asia and Africa, to serve in disadvantaged, neglected communities. Cuba continues to develop innovative biotechnology products to improve the quality of life of Cubans and other people around the world. Cuban biotechnology products are exported to more than 50 countries and earn Cuba over $300 million annually. Charles Chinweizu reports.

Cuban biotech

By 2012, Cuba had produced 33 different vaccines, 33 anti-cancer drugs, 18 products to treat cardiovascular disease and seven to treat other diseases (Baden, Davis, Wilkinson, 2015, http://bit.ly/1OpOfLh). In December 2012 Cuba’s biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries were merged into a single 100% state-owned entity BioCubaFarma, to combine and focus efforts to improve Cuban health and generate exportable good and services. Cuba has developed a raft of innovative unique drugs. It is the first country to develop two therapeutic vaccines against lung cancer, a disease that causes 1.3 million deaths globally each year: CimavaxEGF and Racotumomab (Vaxira) were developed at the Center for Molecular Immunology (CIM) in Havana in 2008 and 2013 respectively. 5,000 patients worldwide have been treated with CimaVaxEGF which has no known side effects and costs the Cuban government $1 per shot to manufacture. It is for those in advanced stages who’ve already been treated with chemotherapy. CimaVaxEGF prolongs life for up to five years, something almost unthinkable for those in advanced stages of lung cancer, whose normal survival rate does not exceed 18 months. Heberferon for the treatment of skin cancer, is another scientific breakthrough developed by the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB) in Havana. In Cuba skin cancer is on the rise. In April 2015, the UN’s World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) awarded a Gold Medal for Cuba’s Itolizumab, a monoclonal antibody for the treatment of psoriasis, a chronic inflammatory skin disease affecting 125 million people globally. It was Cuba’s tenth WIPO Gold Medal.

 

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Cuba vs the US blockade

cuba blockade

In mid-September 2016, US President Obama extended the Trading With the Enemy Act, the principal law that sustains the unilateral blockade against Cuba. Almost two years since announcing the intention to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba and ‘normalise’ relations, Obama’s fine words about ending an ‘updated and failed policy’ ring hollow. His administration has taken only small, strategic steps to dismantle the apparatus of hostility against Cuba. The objective of US policy remains regime change. A vote in the US Congress is necessary to lift the blockade, but Obama could use his executive powers decisively to virtually dismantle the blockade.

 

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Cuban workers in the Revolution

A Hidden History of the Cuban Revolution

A Hidden History of the Cuban Revolution: How the Working Class Shaped the Guerrillas’ Victory

Steve Cushion

Monthly Review Press, 2016, 272pp, £18.99

This important work highlights the essential role played by the Cuban working class in the insurrectionary war against the Batista dictatorship in 1950s Cuba. From shop stewards and trade union officials to clandestine networks of militants organised into revolutionary workers’ sections by the Movement of the 26th July (M-26-7), Cushion demonstrates that without the contribution of working-class forms of struggle the Cuban Revolution would not have succeeded. He shows how workers organised despite threats of unemployment and violent repression through solidarity strikes in industries including sugar, textiles, transport, banking and electricity. Sugar workers burned fields; telephone workers cut wires as they walked out on strike; and telephone operators listened in on police conversations to support the armed struggle.

 

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History has absolved Fidel Castro - Happy 90th birthday!

Fidel Castro

On 13 August, Cuba will celebrate Fidel Castro’s 90th birthday; his longevity is a source of comfort and pride. The Revolutionary Communist Group pays tribute to this great revolutionary communist. Fidel’s genius has been his ability to meet the need for tactical steps, responding to the day’s urgencies, without losing sight of the strategic direction – the revolutionary principles – that have driven the revolution. Equally important has been the ‘wonderful quality’ that Che Guevara noted: his capacity to establish direct contact with the masses, always communicating, explaining, motivating and responding to the Cuban people.

As a young anti-corruption lawyer, Fidel understood that the brutal military coup that returned Batista to power in Cuba in 1952 signalled the impossibility of a peaceful constitutional path to reform in Cuba. Together with his brother Raul and others, he launched the 26 July Movement, named after the day of simultaneous attacks on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago and the Bayamo Barracks in Oriente by 160 young militants.

 

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Cuban Communists in Congress: Change within a socialist framework

Since diplomatic relations were re-established with the United States, Havana has become the place to be for pop stars, politicians, film makers and the fashion industry. President Obama visited Cuba, followed swiftly by British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond, and French President François Hollande. The US blockade is being chipped away, with the first licence granted for a US company – a small tractor manufacturer – to set up in Cuba. Major developments are underway: the Mariel Special Development Zone and the new Investment Law are channelling foreign capital into Cuba; tens of thousands of workers have transferred from state to private or co-operative sector employment; Cubans are permitted to sell their homes and cars on an open market; and the economic and social Guidelines approved in 2011 and updated in 2016 have reduced state control of the economy. In this dynamic context, in April 2016, the Cuban Communist Party (CCP) held its 7th Congress. Its focus was to consolidate the process of changes formalised by the ‘Guidelines for Economic and Social Policy’ approved in the CCP’s 6th Party Congress in 2011. Helen Yaffe reports.

Guidelines for ‘updating the economy’

In the months preceding the 6th Party Congress, nearly nine million Cubans participated in grassroots debates about the draft Guidelines. This formidable democratic process legitimised the Guidelines, which serve as the template for ‘updating the Cuban model’; to improve economic efficiency and productive capacity within a socialist framework. Numerous measures have been introduced in the last five years. These include: 2012 New Labour Code (debated in 7,000 workplace meetings by two million workers); establishing non-agricultural co-operatives (now around 400 with 20,000 workers); permitting market exchanges of privately-owned houses and cars (for Cuban citizens only); permitting direct commercial relations between the non-state sector and state sector entities; opening the Mariel ‘super port’ and Special Development Zone (FRFI 238); 2014 New Investment Law to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) (FRFI 240).

 

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Eventbrite confiscates funds to send a piano to Cuba

On 12 March 2016, British-based Cuban pianist Eralys Fernández held a classical music benefit concert, with support from our association Cubans in the UK, as part of a fundraising project to donate a piano to a music school in Havana. The concert title was: A piano for CubaFundraising Classical Music Concert. To sell tickets we opened an account with www.eventbrite.co.uk, selling 36 tickets at £10 each. While Eventbrite is a US company this website is based in the UK, so its status is not clear to its customers.

Following the concert, Eventbrite informed us that:  ‘We were contacted by our bank to let us know that the pay-out we initiated on 17 March 2016 for £360 has been temporarily held’. They wanted to know of ‘any direct or indirect benefit to Cuba or a Cuban in this transaction’. This is blatant discrimination against Cuban people living in Britain, to be denied access to services or products based on our ethnicity or national origin. A month later, Eventbrite confirmed that the ticket money was withheld ‘pursuant to US Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Asset Controls (OFAC) regulations and sanctions program’ – in other words the US blockade. ‘In order to have the funds released’, advised Eventbrite, ‘you will need to obtain a license from the US Treasury Department’. Why should we, as British citizens of Cuban origin, apply for a licence from a US institution? There are no sanctions against Cuba in Britain.

 

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Free Ana Belen Montes!

Ana Belen Montes

With the Cuban Five safely reunited on Cuban soil (see FRFI 243), the international Cuba solidarity movement is now campaigning for the freedom of Ana Belen Montes, another political prisoner incarcerated in the US for defending Cuba from US attack.

Formerly a senior analyst at the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Montes was arrested by the FBI in September 2001, three years after the Cuban Five’s arrest, on charges of spying for the Cuban intelligence services, and imprisoned the following year. After pleading guilty, her death sentence for ‘high treason’ was commuted to a 25-year prison sentence without parole in a maximum security prison, to be followed by five years’ probation. She has served nearly 15 years and is currently being held at a Federal Medical Centre, on the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, despite not being ill.

Montes is the daughter of a US army doctor and has two siblings working for the FBI. She rose to be the DIA’s top Cuba analyst, having joined the agency in 1985. She attended meetings of the US National Security Council, met with top politicians in the US and abroad and was awarded a Certificate of Distinction from then-CIA director George Tenet before it was discovered that she had been voluntarily informing the Cuban state of planned US aggression against Cuba and other countries for several years. She did this because of her own conscience and for the benefit of the Cuban people. She received no payment from the Cuban state for doing so.

 

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President Obama visits Cuba

On 20 March 2016, US President Barack Obama arrived in Havana seeking to consolidate his legacy following the historic announcement of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba 15 months earlier. Cuba says it has conceded nothing in return for this rapprochement, but it does stand to gain significantly through the gradual dismantling of the US blockade. The US administration hopes to exploit this opportunity to drown Cuban socialism in a flood of capital and capitalist ideology. As Gerardo Hernandez of the Cuban Five warns: ‘They want to destroy us with their bear hug.’ The Cubans are no fools; they do not trust imperialism. James Bell and Helen Yaffe report.

Obama was the first US President to visit the island since Calvin Coolidge went in 1928 to offer his support for Cuban dictator General Gerardo Machado. A few months later, the Great Crash of 1929 brought US capitalism to its knees. The subsequent collapse in the Cuban sugar industry and resistance to Machado’s increasing repression led to Cuba’s democratic revolution of 1933. Why did Obama visit Cuba? Not to promote ‘human rights’, for which he has shown disdain throughout his mandate. It was to recoup lost economic opportunities for US capital, to assuage political pressure from Latin American states that reject failed US policies to isolate Cuba, and because he believes that ‘engagement’ offers a better strategy to undermine Cuban socialism than the isolation of the past half century (see FRFI 243).

 

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Cuba: still under siege

On 6 January, the US State Department announced the allocation of an additional $5.6m to ‘democracy development’ programmes in Cuba in 2016 – on top of $30m already allocated. In the unfolding saga of international relations between Cuba and the US, one thing is clear. The objectives of US imperialism in Cuba remain the same: subvert, distort and destroy socialism. James Bell reports.

The US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour (DRL) described its intention thus: ‘DRL programmes in Cuba aim to strengthen the capacity of on-island, independent civil society to further the rights and interests of Cuban citizens’. The main barriers to this, it states, are: ‘the limitations imposed by the Cuban government on citizens’ civil, political, labour and religious rights’. This is hogwash. Cuba has a vibrant system of citizens’ democracy; its trade unions are legally independent and financially autonomous. In 2012, the country updated its labour code only after a draft of the new code was debated in nearly 7,000 local meetings by over two million workers. Article 8 of the Cuban constitution states: ‘The State recognises, respects, and guarantees religious freedom.’ The DRL’s statement is an attempt to bolster the longstanding myth that Cuba is an undemocratic dictatorship. In reality, it is a confirmation that the US will continue attempting to undermine Cuban socialism.

 

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20 years of solidarity with Cuba

In December 2015, Rock around the Blockade (RATB) celebrates the 20th anniversary of its first solidarity brigade to Cuba. RATB was set up by the Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG) in 1995 to support socialist Cuba. Active solidarity with Cuba has distinguished the RCG from the majority of the British ‘left’, enabling it to raise ‘socialism’ as a viable alternative to capitalism and imperialism and move beyond idealistic sloganeering, to introduce real questions of relations of production, power and democracy. After five years of austerity and with further savage cuts to benefits and public services on the way the need to present a socialist alternative is greater than ever. Helen Yaffe reports.

The first RATB brigade travelled to Cuba with over 30 brigadistas in December 1995 in the midst of Cuba’s ‘Special Period’. The Special Period began in 1991 with the severe economic crisis following the disintegration of the socialist bloc and consequent collapse in Cuba’s foreign trade. By 1993 Cuba’s international trade and gross investment had fallen by 80% and GDP had plummeted by 35%. Cuba’s crisis was exacerbated by punitive US laws tightening the blockade. The result was critical scarcities of hydrocarbon energy resources, fertilisers, food imports, medicines, cement, equipment and other resources in every sector. Calorific intake decreased by nearly 40%, industries closed and unemployment rose.

 

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PayPal blocks RATB's account (again) - Smash the US blockade of Cuba!

paypal us blockade of cuba

Rock Around the Blockade (RATB) is a campaign of the Revolutionary Communist Group in solidarity with socialist Cuba, which uses its example as part of the struggle for socialism and against imperialism here in Britain and worldwide. This month RATB celebrates its 20th anniversary.

The US blockade has cost the Cuban economy an estimated $1.126 trillion since 1961. For 23 consecutive years the UN General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly to condemn the blockade, with 191 out of 193 nations voting against it this year. On 11 September this year, in contradiction to hypocritical US rhetoric about 'normalising relations', President Obama signed a document to extend Cuba's designation as an 'enemy' under the 'Trading with the Enemy Act' for another year.

RATB uses PayPal to process payments and donations via our website, www.ratb.org.uk The funds raised from merchandise sold go towards our activities in Britain. RATB organises political and educational discussions, film showings, street rallies and cultural celebrations, about Cuban socialism.

Without warning or communication, PayPal has blocked our account, for the second time in two years.

 

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Cuba dictates terms for normalisation, as US loosens trade restrictions

We are beginning a new, long and complex stage on the way to the normalisation of ties, which will require finding solutions to problems that have been accumulated over five decades

Raul Castro, July 2014

Two contradictory steps taken by the US administration on 11 September exposed the hypocrisy and cynicism of its new position on Cuba. First, a US government delegation sat down with its Cuban counterparts in Havana for the first ‘bilateral commission’ to advance the process of rapprochement between the two countries. Second, President Obama signed a document to extend Cuba’s designation as an enemy under the Trading with the Enemy Act for another year. The Act dates back to the First World War (1917), and Cuba was initially included by President Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. An ‘enemy’ is defined as a country at war with the US. Cuba is the only country listed since North Korea was removed from the list in 2008. Andrew George reports.

 

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Pope Francis visits Cuba

On 19 September, Pope Francis arrived in Cuba for a four-day, three-city tour. The visit marks the third papal visit to Cuba in just 17 years, ‘a remarkable record for any country, much less one with such a small observantly Catholic community’ (Washington Post, 19 September). It is particularly significant given Pope Francis’ role since 2013 in facilitating secret negotiations between Cuba and the US which led to the re-establishment of diplomatic relations. During 18-months of secret talks, the Pope sent personal letters to Obama and Castro and hosted high-level meetings at the Vatican.

 

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Diplomatic relations restored between Cuba and the US

On 20 July, seven months after Cuba and the United States announced plans to restore diplomatic relations, embassies were opened in Havana and Washington. They were closed 54 years ago, in 1961. In 1977, ‘Interest Sections’ were opened up to function as substitute embassies but with fewer staff and functions. The restoration of embassy status, along with the removal of Cuba from the state sponsors of terrorism list in May 2015, marks the official re-establishment of diplomatic relations.

 

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Cuba first with meningitis B vaccine

Scientist Concepcion Campa Huergo led Cuban efforts to produce a Men B vaccine

From 1 September 2015 all babies in the UK will for the first time be offered a new meningitis B (MenB) vaccine called Bexsero, as part of the routine NHS childhood vaccination programme. According to the NHS Choices website, this ‘makes England [sic] the first country in the world to offer a national, routine and publicly funded MenB vaccination programme’. However, 27 years ago, socialist Cuba’s Finlay Institute, under the personal direction of revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, developed a MenB vaccine also as part of its national immunisation programme. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he was proud Britain ‘will be the first country in the world to have a nationwide MenB vaccination programme’ (The Guardian, 29 March 2015). So who was the ‘first’ country to the MenB vaccine, Britain next September or Cuba in 1988? Charles Chinweizu explains.

 

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Building solidarity with Cuba – upholding the ideas of Che Guevara

On our visit to ICAP, the brigade spoke to Kenia Serrano who, as a member of the UJC in 2002, participated in Rock around the Blockade’s speaking tour across Britain. More recently, in March 2014 and in her current post as President of ICAP, she spoke at RATB’s rally for the Cuban Five in Trafalgar Square, London, which was organised in support of the International Committee of Inquiry into the case of the Cuban Five. Kenia told us:

‘The significance of international solidarity is something that constitutes a principle for the Cuban revolution. To see that people all over the world are in solidarity with the Cuban revolution is something that really constitutes a commitment for us, we are committed to continue in solidarity with other peoples because Cuba has been a recipient of world solidarity actions…

 

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Socialist Cuba ‘Revolution is permanent change’

Cuba Vive 2015

Eyewitness accounts from the Cuba Vive Brigade 2015

With contributions from all the brigadistas, compiled by Sam McGill

Between 20 April and 5 May, Rock around the Blockade (RATB), the Revolutionary Communist Group’s campaign in support of socialist Cuba, sent its 13th solidarity brigade to Havana for two intensive weeks of exchanges and visits. The Cuba Vive 2015 brigade was there to stand in solidarity with Cuban socialism, gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and achievements of 56 years of revolution and explore the implications of recent changes in Cuban-US relations.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of RATB’s foundation and of our first brigade, which visited Ciego de Avila in 1995. That was one of the worst years of the ‘Special Period’, Cuba’s deep economic crisis resulting from the loss of 35% of its GDP and 85% of its trade following the collapse of the Soviet bloc. All of our brigades have been hosted by the Union of Young Communists (UJC).

 

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Participation and elections in Cuba – a lesson in democracy

Visit to the Committee for the Defence of the Revolution (CDR) in El Cerro, Havana

On 19 April, just before the brigade arrived in Havana and two weeks before the British general election circus, Cuba held nationwide municipal elections. The Municipal Assemblies of people’s power represent the dynamic base of the revolution. We met with Osmani Castro from Havana’s Provincial Assembly who explained how the process works; ‘In Cuba, nobody is without protection. We have a system of civic protection and social assistance from the state and in this system, the municipal delegate is the core of all decisions large or small. It is up to the delegate to analyse the situation of people who are ill, are alone, or are very old, and ensure these people receive the care and attention they need. So if my house is on fire or hit by a hurricane, I am not alone, I am not going to live under a bridge. Cuba is a safety net. It is the responsibility of the delegate, not personally to solve everything for people, but to gather the community and try to involve them in the process of finding a solution.’

 

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Fernando Gonzalez from the Cuban Five meets the brigadistas

Fernando Gonzalez from the Cuban Five meets the brigadistas

During our visit to ICAP we were joined by Fernando Gonzalez, one of the Cuban Five. Rock around the Blockade campaigned for the freedom of the Five throughout their imprisonment, so when Fernando entered the room he was greeted with spontaneous applause; an emotional standing ovation in recognition of the Five’s principled stand throughout a long, harsh, unjust incarceration. Fernando, who is now Vice President at ICAP, said:

‘It’s good to see you, it’s good to have a group of very young people here. There are few things that you miss when you get out of prison; you leave that experience behind and you basically don’t miss anything. If I miss one thing it is receiving your newspaper (Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!), every issue. It’s true! It was very interesting reading every time. Let me tell you something – it is a newspaper that is circulated around the whole prison; many people were interested in what the newspaper had to say because it is a view that is not common in the United States. So much for the freedom of press! Views like the ones expressed in your newspaper you never find in what you call the mainstream media.

 

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I am here to learn from the Revolution

2 May 2015 by Juventud Rebelde written by Enrique Milanes Leon 

Translation by Rock Around the Blockade. Edited by Walter Lippmann

A young communist from Britain, coordinator of the Cuba Vive solidarity brigade, talks to JR about the struggle ‘in the belly of the beast’ and confesses her admiration for the island that gives hope, even in her country.

Samantha explains about the newspaper "Fight Racism, Fight Imperialism". Photo: Calixto N. Llanes

To overcome the 7,493 kilometres that separate London from Havana, for the third time,  young Samantha Cordery had to make sacrifices. She even participated in a 25,000 metre race looking for sponsors who would understand that she was a special competitor, collecting donations because her real "goal" was much further away, in Cuba.

Samantha is the coordinator of the Cuba Vive brigade and the Rock around the Blockade campaign, and joined the Revolutionary Communist Group in Britain a decade ago. "We are nearly 20 young people and this, our 13th solidarity brigade. Among us are students and unemployed people" – their history reminds us that not all the foreigners who walk our streets are mere tourists; some are more: friends.

 

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Co-operatives to boost productivity

Over the past year the number of approved non-agricultural co-operatives in Cuba has grown to 498. With the aim of increasing productivity and efficiency, these workers’ associations are an important aspect of the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Party and Revolution approved in April 2011.

Whilst agricultural co-operatives have existed throughout the Cuban revolution, the first non-agricultural co-operatives (CNAs) were created by temporary law decree in December 2012. They fall into two main categories, ‘self-effort’ co-operatives established by the initiative of three or more people, and ‘conversions’, where the state is shutting down an enterprise and gives its workers the option to form a co-operative. CNAs can also be formed by the association of two or more co-operatives, whereby, for example, one co-operative organises transportation or adds value to another’s goods and services. With a new General Law of Co-operatives anticipated in 2016, the CNAs will complement the agricultural co-operatives which currently organise 66% of agricultural workers.

 

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Cuba and the US - Breaking bread with the beast

Obama and Raul Castro shook hands at opening of the Americas summit in Panama

Following the historic announcement on 17 December 2014 that Cuba and the US would ‘normalise’ relations, representatives of both countries have met three times.

Prior to these talks in January, US President Obama announced a number of significant measures in relation to Cuba. By contrast, the talks have produced nothing concrete. Cuba has made it clear that the restoration of diplomatic relations must be preceded by several measures, notably the removal of Cuba from the US ‘State Sponsors of Terrorism’ list. The US has publicly stated that the objective of its policy toward Cuba remains regime change. James Bell reports.

 

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The Summit of the Americas: Latin America resists!

Raul Castro and Barack Obama

Between the 10 and 11 April, the much anticipated seventh Summit of the Americas saw US President Obama meet with Cuban President of the Council of State, Raul Castro in Panama City. This was the first such meeting since Cuba’s exclusion from the Organisation of American States (OAS) in 1962. Following the summit the US has conceded to remove Cuba from its heinous list of states sponsors of terrorism, a massive victory for Cuba and tribute to it’s principled stand of negotiation on sovereign terms. However, far from repairing US relations with Latin America, the Obama administration's attack on Venezuela has left it increasingly isolated.

 

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Cuban 5 freed and reunited in Cuba

On 17 December, Raul Castro welcomed Ramon Labañino, Gerardo Hernandez and Antonio Guerrero back onto Cuban soil after 16 years of incarceration in US prisons. They were reunited with Rene Gonzalez and Fernando Gonzalez who were released in 2013 and 2014 respectively. The return of the Cuban 5 is an historic victory for Cuba. It also represents a defeat for the corrupt US justice system and for the right-wing Cuban exile community whose political leverage is weakening.

 

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US opens talks with socialist Cuba

On 21 and 22 January, Cuba and the US held direct talks about restoring diplomatic relations for the first time since 1961. The meeting in Havana took place one month after the historic announcements made simultaneously on 17 December 2014 by Presidents Obama and Raul Castro about a thaw in US–Cuban relations. This included a prisoner swap which finally freed the remaining Cuban anti-terrorist agents imprisoned in the US, known as the Cuban 5. This followed 18 months of secret talks facilitated by Canada and the Vatican. The tactical change by the US administration reflects the failure of its Cuba policy, and economic and strategic developments which put competitive pressure on US capitalists who do not benefit from the blockade. Helen Yaffe reports.

 

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Message from Revolutionary Cuba

The Revolutionary Communist Group, which founded Rock Around the Blockade, a campaign in solidarity with socialist Cuba is delighted to receive this message after the release of the Cuban 5:

Dear Comrades,

Many thanks for your letter of congratulation from The Revolutionary Communist Group in support of The Cuban Revolution. I take this opportunity to convey to all of you in the Party this message from our Cuban Communist Party.

In Comradership, Jorge Luis, Cuban Embassy

MESSAGE TO PARTIES AND POLITICAL AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS AND FORCES IN THE WORLD

 

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