The newsletter of Rock around the Blockade March/April 2004 Founded by Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!
Who struggles for humanity and who destabilises the region? On 1 February The Wall Street Journal published an article entitled ‘Venezuela and Cuba strengthen links and US fears anti-trade influence’. It states concerns about the leaders of Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia co-operating in actions that threaten stability in Latin America. The article quotes notorious terrorists in the Bush administration, like the special envoy from the White House for Western Hemisphere, Otto Reich, who said ‘Certainly we see the Cuba-Venezuela axis deepening and growing, which is not hopeful for the promotion of democracy and human rights’. But what are these ‘diabolic’ plans referred to? Both the Cuban and the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela are building societies that prioritise the satisfaction of social needs over the ‘commercial equilibrium’. Therefore they are trying to develop a revolutionary trade that has a positive impact on the working class and that challenges the priorities of capitalism. In October 2000, Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez signed the Agreement of Bilateral Cooperation that helps the Cubans confront the criminal US blockade, providing the country with 53,000 barrels of oil a day. Apart from money, Cuba pay back with services, training and advice, focusing on the areas of education and health care. These are some of the projects the Cubans are involved with in Venezuela ● Mission Robinson: The Literacy Campaign started on 1st July, 2003 targeting 1,202,550 Venezuelan illiter-
ates, involving 113,296 national volunteers. It uses Cuban technical advice and its internationally recognised educational method known as ‘Yes, I can’. After huge success the second phase of the plan began on 28 October. ● Popular Pharmacies: In 2003, 200 new pharmacies were built in the popular markets for the benefit of 1.2 million citizens. Cuba has supplied the Venezuelan Ministry of Health with medicines valued at $40 million in the last three years. ● Inside the Neighbourhood: This programme provides health care to poor areas traditionally excluded from this basic service. It began on 16 April 2003 with 53 Cuban doctors working in rural or depressed areas, virtually for free. Today there are 10,169 Cuban professionals
involved, of whom 9,757 are doctors in general medicine and the remaining 412 dentists, with an average of 10 years practice, many with experience from other internationalist missions. Sport training: Dozens of Cuban sport trainers work with local athletes. As a result Venezuela has notably increased its scores in the Pan American Games, having a positive effect on the population in terms of sympathy and friendship towards the blockaded island. Latin American School of Medical Sciences: Over 350 Venezuelans every year are enrolled to study medicine or sports training in Havana. They are offered free education, food and accommodation during their degree. Tourist Planning: Cubans advise on ways to plan and improve sustainable tourism in the departments of Falcon, Bolivar and Merida. Training professionals: Last year Cubans updated the qualifications of 116 civil servants for Student Care and Development. Seventeen community representatives were trained in methods of collective participation and almost a hundred in improving quality of education in
rural areas. Also the Cuban Institute for Tropical Agriculture Research is to train and update 15 to 20 Venezuelan specialists in fungi and viruses affecting crops. ● Communication: An agreement has been made between the Venezuelan Technologies of Information National Centre and the Cuban COPEXTEL to develop programs on health and education, research on communication technologies and equipment for community radio. The commitment of revolutionary Cuba to Venezuela is indisputable. As a result of this the Bolivarian government last year invested nearly ten times as much in vaccines as they did in 1999. The nationalised oil company PDVSA is to spend $1,200 million from its budget on social programs, mainly housing and literacy. This is what the US fears and calls ‘destabilisation’. Non-profit based co-operation agreements South–South are a threat to the whole imperialist system, as fighting poverty, illness and illiteracy amongst popular classes will boost support for revolutionary initiatives and governments throughout the region. Cuba and Venezuela are continued on page 2
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The FTAA would give the US unlimited access to Latin America
Cuba struggles for humanity
Cuba leads opposit to US annexation p
continued from page 1 leading the continental struggle against the Free Trade Area of Americas. They are creating an alternative, the Latin American Bolivarian Congress of the Peoples, based on indigenous and women’s rights, anti-imperialism and a participatory democracy, where hundreds of social movements take part. To try and destroy this progress, reactionary oligarchy and right wing terrorists from Venezuela and the United States create an environment of artificial hysteria to promote foreign direct intervention. Political gangsters from Miami and Madrid sent mercenaries to Cuba and organised two coups in Venezuela last year. The CIA is bribing Venezuelan trade unionists, media owners and big businessmen. They meet at the US Embassy in Caracas to plan campaigns, actions and riots. Who struggles for humanity and who destabilises the region?
The US is attempting to subjugate the whole of Latin America through the imposition of the so-called Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). The FTAA would give the United States unlimited access to Latin American markets without Latin American countries having the right to defend themselves against unequal trade by using trade barriers or tariffs. US multinationals would have the freedom to privatise any Latin American public sector assets they care to buy. There would be little control on foreign investments. Foreign companies would gain patent and intellectual property rights to anything they took over. Laws aimed at protecting workers rights or the environment would have to be scrapped if they stood in the way of US multinational expansion. The FTAA is a recipe for rising unemployment, the impoverishment of peasants and small farmers and the degradation of the environment. In the 1990s the United States, Canada and Mexico collaborated in a smaller scale version of FTAA called the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It was claimed that half a million new manufacturing jobs were created in Mexico. However, at the same time 1.3 million jobs were lost in agriculture. Hundreds of thousands of Mexican farmers went bankrupt as subsidised grain and beef from the US and Canada flooded the Mexican market. Furthermore a large proportion of the new jobs in manufacturing were in the border ‘maquiladoras’ which simply assemble and return components made in the US without paying profits or taxes to the host country. Wages there are lower than before the NAFTA. Pastor Valle-Garay of York University (US), writing in the Cuban newspaper Granma, described maquiladoras as places where ‘US companies do whatever they like without the interference of unions or regulations to protect the environment or health of their workers. Men, women and children are cruelly exploited and, taking advantage of the poverty reigning in the host countries, are converted into American scrap, cheap and disposable labour subject to the whims of supervisors who abuse them physically, economically and often sexually’. Many of the maquiladoras are now closing because of lack of demand for their products. Millions of ‘illegal’
Mexican migrants seek work in the United States. Three quarters of the Mexican people now live in poverty. The people of Latin America, however, are fighting back and at the head of that struggle is Cuba, the only country to be excluded by the US from the FTAA proposals. Over two years ago, at the Sao Paulo Forum held in Havana, the Cubans were warning delegates from other Latin American countries about the dangerous consequences of the FTAA. That meeting agreed to launch campaigns to inform the people of what the FTAA was trying to do and to mobilise them to oppose it. Since then the Latin American people have achieved some great victories. Massive demonstrations of the poor at the Cancun meeting of the World Trade Organisation gave backbone to oppressed countries to stand out against imperialist demands. The Americas Summit in Monterrey, hastily convened in January by President Bush (again Cuba wasn’t invited), saw further big popular demonstrations. Several Latin American governments, most notably Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela, stood firm against US demands and plan to create trade treaties among themselves as an alternative to the FTAA. The United States is also worried by rising popular and revolutionary antiimperialist movements in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Colombia. It has now had to adopt a more softly
softly approach, the so-called ‘FTAA lite’. It is trying to bring in the FTAA through the back door by striking separate agreements with individual and regional governments. However, the Latin American movements against FTAA are not being fooled. At the Third Hemispheric Forum of Struggle Against FTAA, held in Havana last January, delegates agreed to redouble their efforts to defeat the FTAA before the US deadline for imposition in 2005. Their final declaration ‘inspired by the revolt of the Bolivian people’ called on the Latin American people to ● Exert pressure on national congresses to put them on the side of their peoples in the fight in defence of national sovereignty ● Mobilise on 24 April against multilateral financial institutions and the external debt
How sociali everyone b Capitalism regards workers as just so much labour power to be hired or fired. Redundancy is a cruel business – one minute you are in work, the next your life is in tatters. If you are over 50 you are likely to find yourself on the scrap heap. If you fight back to try and save your job, as the miners did in the 1980s, you’ll be confronted by the full force of the state machine. In 2002 the Cuban government planned a major restructuring of the sugar industry. This they felt was essential because the world price for sugar had fallen by half and many Cuban sugar mills were operating at a loss. The plan was massive - to close 70 of the island’s 155 sugar mills and eliminate over a quarter of the 420,000 jobs directly involved in the industry. The
tion plans ● Conduct simultaneous actions with the 29 August protests against the re-election of Bush on the occasion of the Republican Convention ● Build a great continental day of struggle as our central action on the first day of the ministerial meeting on the FTAA scheduled in Brazil in 2004 In addition, understanding the link between imperialist economic and military oppression, delegates called for demonstrations alongside all those in the world on 20 March demanding the end to the occupation of Iraq and to stop US war and aggression. The declaration ended ‘Our America is not for sale! Neither war nor free trade! Together let us build the other America that is possible!’
‘We can’t afford to be spectators’ – Assata Shakur defends the Cuban Revolution Former Black Panther Assata Shakur, framed for the shooting of a police officer in the United States in 1973 and sentenced to life plus 30 years by an all-white jury, escaped from jail in 1979 and eventually made her way to Cuba, where she has lived in exile since 1984. She has spoken and written frankly about Cuba over the years, extolling the virtues of a socialist society that has created the conditions where it becomes possible for racism and sexism to be eradicated. In January, Final Call, newspaper of the Nation of Islam, published an interview with this inspiring revolutionary in which she robustly defends the achievements of the Cuban Revolution against the lies and hypocrisy of the US. This is some of what Assata had to say. ‘When I was in the Black Panther Party, they called us terrorists. How dare they call us terrorists when we were being terrorised? Terror was a constant part of my life. We lived under police terror. To see Cuba called a terrorist country is an insult to reality. If peo-
ist redundancies made better off land released from sugar production could then be used for other agriculture and the remaining sugar mills could be upgraded to provide sugar for domestic consumption and for profitable export. How did socialist Cuba handle this radical shake-up of what had been their major industry? They proceeded from two principles – first that no worker would be abandoned, left to fend for themselves and second that the workers and communities affected by the reorganisation would come out of the process better off, discovering they had benefited from it. Every worker whose job was to be eliminated was offered the alternatives of another job, or training for a new job or the opportunity to study as work! In every case, whatever the worker chose, includ-
ing the option to study, he or she was guaranteed for life at least 100% of the wages they had been earning as a sugar worker. In the Battle of Ideas study as work is regarded not as a soft option but as a crucial element in developing the human capital of the Cuban people in order to build socialism. The new schools, based near the ex-sugar complexes, many of them refurbished by the workers themselves, run courses at all levels and are open to all ages. They will eventually become university centres offering higher education courses for the exsugar workers. In a typical example of re-organisation, at the Camilo Cienfuegos complex 30 miles east of Havana, around 40% chose jobs in the new agricultural enterprise, around 20% took jobs in other sugar
ple come to Cuba, they’ll see a reality unlike what they’re told in America. The US government invents lies like Cuba is a terrorist country to give a pretext to destroy it. The people in the US have to struggle against a system of organised lies. When President Carter was here they said Cuba was involved in biotechnology to create bio-terrorism, but now they backtrack and say it isn’t so. They lied and they continue to lie about Cuba.’ Assata contrasts the Cuban way of life with the degradation, racism, fear and doubt engendered by a society like the US. ‘Living in Cuba means being appreciated by society, not deprecienterprises and around 35% chose study-as-work. A few took other jobs or early retirement. Excellent as this outcome might seem to workers in Britain it was not simply a benevolent act imposed on the Cuban workers by the government. The process was carried out in close discussion and collaboration between them. At the Camilo Cienfuegos complex eight months of negotiations were held including five rounds of workers’ assemblies. Other mass organisations such as the local Committees for the Defence of the Revolution (CDRs) were also involved to consider the effects of the changes on the local community. Nationally 7,850 assemblies involving more than 900,000 workers were organised. Then commissions, whose members were approved by the work force, met with each worker individually to discuss which of the options they wanted to pursue. They met as many times as necessary, sometimes on six or more occasions, until the
ated by society. Who are these people that dare to say “no” to America? Who are these 11 million revolutionaries that resist in the face of the powerful country in the world? Cubans feel they have power. No matter who they are. They see themselves as part of a world. They identify with oppressed people all over the world. We believe we’re free, but we’re not. Our world vision is tainted. We are oppressed people in the US and don’t even know it. Our problem is that we want to belong to a society that wants to oppress us. We want to be the plantation owner. In Cuba, we want to change the plantation to a collective farm.’ Finally, Assata talks of her own politicisation as an awakening and calls on others, particularly black people in the US, to join the struggle. ‘I realised that I wasn’t just a Coloured girl. I was part of a whole world that wanted a better life. My life has been active. I’m not a spectator. We can’t afford to be spectators while our lives deteriorate. We have to truly love our people and make that love stronger.’
worker was satisfied. If the worker was ill the commission met him or her in their home. In the end just five out of 100,000 workers appealed to the national union asking for their cases to be reviewed. Such a process could never happen in Britain. Not only because of the way capitalism regards workers but also because there isn’t the organisational base in society to carry it through - the mass organisations of all the people working together for the benefit of everyone and the country as a whole. Only when the individual profit motive is removed and socialist attitudes prevail can such problems as industrial restructuring be turned into victories for everyone and not just for the fat cats.
Some of the details for this article were taken from The Militant Vol.68/No.6. You can read the full article on their website. 3
Events LONDON Saturday 20 March – national march Join RATB on the antiimperialist contingent with Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! Phone 020 7837 1688 for details of meeting point
Fund raising for Cuba
Cuba stall with petitioning and leafletting Saturday 27 March 12-2 Phone 020 7837 1688 to confirm venue Public meeting at London School of Economics, Houghton Street WC2 Wednesday 21 April at 7pm in room H102 Justice for political prisoners! Free the Miami 5! We are on the streets every Saturday around the country with petitions and information, leaflets etc, so email us for details of the stall closest to you and come along.
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tionship with the Union of Young Communists in Cuba (UJC) as well as the work in support of the Palestinian people by Victory to the Intifada. A comrade recently returned from Venezuela showed a short inspiring video shot during a march and rally to celebrate the second anniversary of the successful return of Chavez after the coup. Revolutionary poetry inspired by Che Guevara was performed and a young singer gave a beautiful rendition of Tracy Chapman’s
In early February, Rock around the Blockade in London held a very successful fundraising evening with political speeches, poetry, rap, live music and video footage. We were honored to have Manuel Rubido from the Cuban embassy in London who spoke about the Miami 5 and their struggle for justice and against the US blockade and illegal interference in Cuban affairs. We heard speeches about the work of Rock around the Blockade, our material aid for Cuba and our rela-
London meeting against the FTAA ter world and that the FTAA being offered by the US does nothing to benefit the people and everything to benefit the large US multinationals (see article in this issue of Viva Cuba). The meeting in London aimed to make the link on the between the struggle for socialism in Cuba, the struggle against imperialism and the FTAA as part of that and the relevance of
In February, London Rock around the Blockade members held a meeting about the FTAA and the struggles going on in Latin America to block its advance. This meeting came just after the third Hemispheric Forum of Struggle against the FTAA held in Havana where 1,230 participants from 32 countries came together and concluded that there will be many alternatives for a bet-
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the triumph of the Revolution in Cuba to Latin American struggles. The Cuban Revolution must remain central to our work in Britain against capitalism and imperialism as it is a living example of what is possible when imperialism is defeated and a society is run in the interests of those who live in it.
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song, Revolution. A Spanish singer songwriter played revolutionary songs on the guitar and rap artists made the link between the struggle for socialism in Cuba and the fight against racism and poverty in this country and the struggle for justice for the Palestinians. Thank you to all participants who made the evening such a success and all money raised is going towards Rock around the Blockade’s project with the UJC to send a sound system to Cuba in 2005 for political and recreational use.
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Rock around the Blockade has initiated a Cuba e-mail group. The service circulates up to the minute news, articles and speeches from and about Cuba and related events. Group members can post their own items and comments. All members of RATB are invited to join the e.mail group. For more information go to www.groups.yahoo.com/ group/Viva_Cuba or contact RATB.