In a time of global crisis, Cuba represents a unique reality for women. Understanding that sexual equality is necessarily bound with economic and political equality, women's emancipation is crucial to the ongoing process of revolution. The huge grassroots political involvement of the people, and the planned economy driven by their needs, means that society actively works to challenge sexism and inequality. Accordingly, Cuba stands out in The World Economic Forum's study on gender disparity and economics - despite its small economy and the blockade which attempts to strangle development, its women rank highly in health, education, political and economic equality. The index shows Cuba's gender disparity has improved; Britain, despite its imperialist wealth, is only four places above Cuba, and has fallen in ranking.
Overwhelming opposition to the US blockade of Cuba was shown at the United Nations General Assembly on 25 October 2011. This is the 20th consecutive year that the Cuban resolution condemning the US blockade has won support at the UN. The resolution on The Necessity of Ending the Economic, Commercial and Financial Blockade Imposed by the United States of America against Cuba was backed by the votes of 186 UN member states. Only the US and ‘its inseparable ally in genocidal actions’, Israel, opposed the resolution. Three Pacific island countries abstained. Despite worldwide opposition, the US, as a member of the UN Security Council, will veto the vote and continue its brutal blockade against the Cuban people. While attempts to isolate Cuba from the international stage have failed, the negative impact of US policies and the blockade on Cuban living standards is in no doubt. The blockade, which has been tightened in recent years, is estimated to have caused a total $975 billion in damage to the island at present gold prices.
On Saturday 8 October, the British campaign in solidarity with socialist Cuba, Rock around the Blockade (RATB), joined demonstrators at an anti-war assembly in Trafalgar Square, central London, on the 10th anniversary of the illegal occupation of Afghanistan. Under the slogan ‘Free the Five’, RATB explained how the case of the Cuban Five, who were working to prevent US-based terrorism against the Cuban people and the Revolution, exposed the utter hypocrisy of the so-called ‘war on terrorism’ - the pretext under which the imperialist countries fought to secure their geostrategic and economic interests.
The RATB stall received plenty of support and interest and handed out hundreds of statements with information about the unjust ‘supervised release’ of Rene Gonzalez, one of the Cuban Five, the previous day. Cuba has a heroic history of resistance to imperialism, surviving economic and military aggression to create a society which prioritises the welfare of its citizens with exceptional human development indicators.
FRFI 223 October/November 2011
Photo: Ernesto Freire Cazañas
Since the mid-2000s, Cuba’s revolutionary government has introduced numerous measures to recover from the economic crisis of the 1990s and improve the efficiency of Cuban socialism. This process has intensified since 2008 to deal with economic and financial problems aggravated by the international crisis. Among these policies are changes to the employment structure. In September 2010, the Cuban Trade Union Confederation (CTC) announced plans to transfer one million unproductive state sector workers into alternative employment between 2011 and 2015; half of them by March 2011. Alternative employment includes understaffed areas of the state sector, cooperatives and self-employment. These changes were further detailed in the Guidelines of the Economic and Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution, distributed and debated nationwide from November 2010, modified according to popular demand at the Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (CCP) (see FRFI 221) in April 2011 and approved in the National Assembly in July.
A recent study by Save the Children ranking the reach and effectiveness of health workers across the world proved an embarrassment for the UK and the US in 14th and 15th place - trailing behind Cuba in 8th position. The study attempted to rank the best countries to be a sick child in, tracking the proportion of children who receive regular vaccinations, and mothers who have access to life-saving emergency care at birth.
We, participants in the 1er. Foro Nuestra América "Realidad, Identidad, Cultura, Ottawa, Canada, held today, October 8, 2011 take notice of the following facts:
The Cuban Five, Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and Rene González, were arrested in 1998 in Miami, Florida. They were infiltrating terrorist groups there who had wrecked havoc against the Cuban people for many decades. The sole purpose of the five Cubans was to expose the terrorist activities to the American authorities in order to stop the murder and destruction against Cubans and Cuban property. The goal of the Cubans was also to contribute towards ending the danger to American lives because of the extremist and reckless activities carried out by the terrorists from their base in the south of Florida.
On Friday 7 October, Rene Gonzalez, one of the Cuban Five incarcerated in United States since 1998 for combating terrorism against Cuba, faces a ‘supervised release’ under life-threatening conditions. In 2001, Rene was sentenced to 15 years in prison charged with conspiracy to act as a non-registered foreign agent. He had already spent 33 months in ‘preventative custody’, including 17 months in isolation in ‘the hole’.
Rock around the Blockade – events in Britain in solidarity with the Cuban 5 – September 2011
On Saturday 10 September, as part of the international days of action for the Cuban 5, on the 13th anniversary of their incarceration in US gaols, members and supporters of Rock around the Blockade in Britain, supported by the Revolutionary Communist Group, held street rallies in four cities: in Glasgow by Donald Dewar Statue, in Newcastle at Grey’s Monument, in Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens and in Trafalgar Square in London.
Thursday 30th June was the start of the annual 5-day Marxism event, organised by the Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP), which I attended for the first time.
Having signed up for membership of the SWP in early March of this year, I was convinced by many friendly and enthusiastic fellow members that ‘this year would be the biggest and best ever and not to be missed!’. It certainly was the largest attended in over a decade (approximately 4,500 people according to the SWP) but I for one was left underwhelmed.
Amidst international media speculation about his health, on 5 July 2011, President Chavez address Venezuelans from Miraflores Presidential Palace, Caracas as part of a civic-military parade to mark 200 years of Independence from Spanish colonialism. Chavez had returned from Cuba the previous day, following an emergency operation to remove a pelvic abscess and small tumour discovered by Cuban doctors whilst he was on a tour of Latin American countries promoting further regional integration. Chavez has now returned to Cuba for further treatment.
An engaging new music video against the US blockade on Cuba has been released by the UK rapper Lowkey. The song Too Much recognises Cuba’s achievements as a defiant force against anti-imperialism despite US aggression and the blockade.
The track, and its' video filmed in Cuba, focuses on capitalism and its perverse obsession with material things, most obviously money, over human values and the physical and emotional well being of people in society. The video shows life in Cuba, where although people are still affected by the crisis of capitalism, a new socialist society is being built which puts humanity at its centre.
RATB North East report
On Saturday 23 July Rock Around the Blockade North East held a lively street celebration for the anniversary of the 26 July attack on the Moncada Barracks in 1953, which marked the beginning of the Cuban Revolution.
“ I swear to you that we will win this battle...we'll win it together. The battle for life, the homeland and the revolution!”
With these words, Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, addressed 100,000 Venezuelans from Miraflores presidential palace, Caracas as part of a civic-military parade to mark 200 years of Independence from Spanish rule. His return to Venezuela muffled frenzied media speculation surrounding his health and ability to lead the Bolivarian Revolution, for now.
Here is my unprinted response to the whole-page article about recent developments in Cuba which appeared in the Financial Times, 25 April 2011:
With typical journalistic hyperbole you claim that changes to the employment structure in Cuba amount to ‘a structural adjustment so harsh it would make even advocates of the “shock therapy” meted out in the former Soviet bloc wince’ (John Rathbone and Marc Frank, ‘Cuba Libre?’ 25 April 2011). You are mistaken.
RATB commemorates the 50 anniversary of Cuba's victory at the Bay of Pigs and the declaration of socialism
On Friday 6 May Rock Around the Blockade (RATB) packed Bolivar Hall in London for an event to commemorate the Cuban victory against the US-backed invasion at Bay of Pigs (Playa Giron) in April 1961 and the declaration by Fidel Castro of the socialist character of the Cuban Revolution.
The event opened with live music from Peruvian singer Betty Rhaza and Chilean guitarist Fernando Vergara playing revolutionary songs dedicated to Camilo Torres and Che Guevara. They were followed by an impressive range of speakers covering many different aspects of the anniversary.
Photo: Reuters Pictures
Employees at a tobacco factory vote during a debate on new guidelines for the Cuban economy
The Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (CCP) took place in Havana between the 16 and 19 April 2011, marking the 50th anniversary of two historic events: the declaration of the socialist character of the Cuban Revolution on 16 April 1961 and the defeat of the Bay of Pigs invasion by CIA-trained Cuban exiles, within 72 hours, on the 19 April 1961.
The principal function of the Congress was to discuss, amend and approve the Draft Guidelines of the Economic and Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution and then to oversee their implementation. Distributed nationally in early November 2010, these guidelines contained 291 proposals for consolidating or amending social and economic policy in twelve broad categories:
Photos: Carlos Serpa Maceira (top) and Moises Rodriguez (bottom) are congratulated in their respective areas by neighbours who have just watched the television programme Pawns of Imperialism on Saturday 26 February.
The spontaneous demonstration which broke out on Saturday night in Nueva Gerona, capital of Cuba’s Island of Youth, was not the anti-regime uprising for which the US government, bourgeois media, and the internal opposition hopelessly craves. Instead it was a celebration of the revolutionary commitment shown by local resident Carlos Serpa Maceira, as neighbours welcomed him back into the arms of his people.
This new pamphlet, produced by Rock around the Blockade, collects together a series of articles from
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! that marked the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution in 2009.
The articles analyse different aspects of the development of socialism in Cuba: from health and education, to economic management and Cuba’s trade and cooperation agreements with progressive Latin American and Caribbean governments.
The pamphlet is free to download here and we encourage you to share it widely.
On 30 September, a police strike in Ecuador escalated into an attempted coup d’etat as President Rafael Correa was surrounded and trapped in a hospital for 12 hours in the capital Quito. Tens of thousands of Ecuadorians poured into the street to block attempts to overthrow the democratically elected government, defending the Presidential Palace and facing tear gas and missiles thrown by police who had sealed off the area around the hospital where a defiant Correa was refusing to negotiate or surrender.
Correa was first elected President in November 2006. After introducing a new progressive constitution and changes to the system of political representation, he was re-elected in April 2009, with 51% of the vote, giving him a mandate to continue and deepen the unprecedented social and economic programme of reforms – the Citizens’ Revolution – to reverse the poverty and exploitation suffered by the majority of the population in a country which has been ravaged by neo-liberalism. Correa has announced that Ecuador is building socialism for the 21st century and joined the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), the regional trade and cooperation bloc set up by Cuba and Venezuela in 2004.