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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