The newsletter of Rock around the Blockade September/October 2004 Founded by Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!
Right wing opposition defeated by the masses
Victory for Chavez in Venezuela On 15 August, exactly 190 years after Simon Bolivar swore to dedicate his life to the liberation of Latin America, the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez achieved a decisive and historic victory in the recall referendum. The people ratified their President and the Bolivarian revolutionary process with 58.25% of the votes after an impressive turnout of over 90%. Having won the 1998 election with 56% support that boosted to 59% in 2000, Chavez has now consolidated the strength of the Revolution and demolished imperialist accusations of authoritarianism and lack of democracy. The last six years have seen a profound change in Venezuelan society. Grassroots organisations and social movements have bloomed. Over $1.5 billion from the state-owned oil company have been invested in social projects; 1.2 million people have been taught to read and write; dozens of hospitals have been built and the minimum wage has been raised. Over 11,000 Cubans have been providing free health care in areas where a doctor had previously never been seen. Committees have been organised in the poorest neighbourhoods to teach workers’ rights and provide free prepared food. Student brigades have been involved in the education of the most oppressed sections of the population. Overall there has been a development of a mass movement led by women, black and indigenous peasants. The protagonist role of the
poor threatens the interests of the racist Venezuelan oligarchy and their supporters – US and European imperialism. In continual attempts to overthrow Chavez and destabilise the revolutionary movement these reactionary forces of the rich have engineered coups d’état and industrial lockouts and tried to force the people into submission through starvation and the use of paramilitary gangs. The referen-
dum on the President, a democratic measure Chavez included in the 1999 constitution, is one more unsuccessful attempt to topple the man who speaks out and works for those who have suffered 500 years of colonisation, neo-colonisation and imperialist plunder. In the petition organised by the opposition to call for the referendum there were thousands of irregularities, including the signatures of many who were under age or dead. Nevertheless, Chavez accepted the challenge as an opportunity to strengthen the social base of the revolutionary process, gain support and international legitimacy. However, the Ayacucho Command
that fuses the political and social Bolivarian forces proved not to be strong enough to halt the fraudulent opposition through popular mobilisation. Conscious of the problem, Chavez decided to set the Maisanta Command to struggle for support in what was named the Santa Ines Campaign. This was based on neighbourhood committees (Electoral Battle Units) that informed and agitated to promote maximum participation in the referendum. The ordinary people found in this amazing force from below a tool for struggle and also the chance to develop democratically new cadres from the campaign. As a result people queued to vote from 5 am on the day of the referendum. International observers from 25 countries, including former US President Jimmy Carter and Cesar Gaviria, representing the Carter Centre and the Organisation of American States respectively, witnessed a peaceful and well organised day where ballot boxes or automatic voting machines were open until midnight to ensure everyone’s right to vote. At 4.03 am the next day Venezuela’s National Electoral Council announced the victory, although thousands were already celebrating. People from poor and working class areas where Chavez has widespread support came down to the presidential continued on page 2
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Victory for Chavez in Venezuela continued from page 1 residence with chants, music and fireworks. As expected the opposition ‘categorically refused’ to recognise the result, alleged fraud and demanded a manual count despite Gaviria and Carter’s assurance that the referendum result was ‘fair and trustworthy’. While international governments sent messages of congratulations to the Venezuelan Government, it began an audit of the election in which ironically the hypocritical opposition refused to take part. With international recognition, moral authority and a powerful social base, the Bolivarian government is ready to deepen the process of liberation that has moved from a nationalist and sovereign project into an antiimperialist one. By November there will be 3,000 centres operating in the distribution of prepared food for the poorest sections of the population and three million free books will have been distributed to promote reading especially amongst children and youth. Chavez has announced the government’s intention to reform two key sectors: ● Legal change on media regulations, as the privately-owned anti-government media (400 radio stations, 20 TV channels and 100 newspapers) belongs to the right-wing multimillionaire oligarchy, which uses them openly to lie and promote terrorist subversion. ● United internal security force. While the army is progressive and actively involved in agricultural and housing programmes, the police have proved repressive and even killed protesters during the April 2002 coup attempt. Obviously, the white ruling class and their imperialist backers are unwilling to let the world’s fifth biggest oil producer stay into the hands of the oppressed majority and won’t hesitate to use violence to try and stop the Bolivarian Revolution. Ex-President Carlos Andres Perez, hiding from Venezuelan justice with the help of his friends in the Miami-based 2
Cuban-American mafia said ‘We Venezuelans have to end Chavez through violence, we have no other choice’. The US government is funnelling millions of dollars through the National Endowment for Democracy and other organisations to the Venezuelan reactionaries and their Miami mafia terrorist protégés. The US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemispheric Affairs, Roger Noriega, promoter of death squads in Central America and bombs in Cuba, stated recently ’We have invested a lot of money in this process because we have confidence in the civil society which is the pillar of democracy’. The Venezuelan people now understand what this so-called capitalist democracy is all about. Both candidates for the US Presidency, Bush and Kerry, have expressed the need to increase pressure on their ‘backyard’ in the coming period in order to maintain their longterm strategy in the Middle East. The resistance of the Cuban Revolution and the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela are examples of independence and social change that could prove very dangerous for US imperialist interests in Latin America. Bush’s latest measures against Cuba (see Viva Cuba bulletin 33) could be followed by more support for the undemocratic Venezuelan opposition. There is only one way forward for Venezuela. To defend itself against imperialism it will have to forge political unity of all the forces committed to the Revolution, develop urgent campaigns of political and ideological education, unite popular militias with the Armed Forces, to implement quickly reforms that will benefit the poor and to deepen the links with other revolutionary movements in the continent. Cuba represents the most solid support for the Bolivarian Revolution. Both revolutions look beyond their borders, to fulfil Bolivar and Che Guevara’s dream of a united America free of colonialism, slavery, plunder, and imperialist
Britain’s middle class ‘revolutionaries’ are pa
We must defen ‘Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful’ (Paolo Freire, Brazilian revolutionary). The significance of this quote can be seen in Britain today when looking at the relationship that the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) has with the solidarity movement for Cuba. The SWP do not support Cuba: they do not campaign to give political or material support to the Revolution. They do not even write about Cuba regularly (in fact barely at all) in their weekly publication Socialist Worker, which means that they keep their readership ignorant of the developments in Cuba. In fact, they have a spokesperson for Cuba in the name of Mike Gonzalez who is regularly given public platforms from which he denigrates the Cuban Revolution, lies about the history of Cuba and even about the current situation in Cuba (see Socialist Review July/August 2004 in which Gonzalez says that Fidel Castro is not elected – this is a lie). Now the SWP have a new book, Che Guevara and the Cuban Revolution, written by Mike Gonzalez, available in most bookshops.
n this book, Mike Gonzalez and the SWP attempt to portray Che Guevara as a middle class man who knew little about Marxism and an idealist who laid too much emphasis on moral incentives. In a degrading manner worthy only of a counter-revolutionary, Gonzalez describes Che Guevara as a man whose contact with the working people was little more than sexual liaisons with women workers (pages 16-17). The book reduces the Revolution to what Gonzalez calls the ‘command model’ whereby the participation of the masses especially the urban underground movement was marginalised and Gonzalez has the gall to state, with no reference whatsoever, that the July 26 Movement received money from the CIA.* Since the triumph of the Revolution in Cuba in 1959, the bourgeois media in the imperialist countries has been involved in regular and usually baseless criticism of Cuba. This is predictable, as Cuba provides an example of an alternative society, based on cooperation not competition, providing for human need and allowing each individual to meet their greatest potential, as opposed to capitalist societies based on exploitation and ignorance, where individual greed is encouraged, the profit motive reigns supreme and where the rich prosper at the expense of the poor. However, when the SWP, the biggest organisation in Britain calling themselves socialist, takes on the same role as the capitalists, progressive people, revolutionaries and all those with a conscience about the future of humanity must take a stand. It is for this reason that members of Rock around the Blockade felt compelled to make an
intervention at the SWP’s annual Marxism conference in July. We listened to Mike Gonzalez talking about his book, not mentioning Cuba or any of the gains of the Revolution, never apologetic for his lies or confabulations, for fifty minutes. We had a speaker by the name of ‘Chris Bacardi’, chosen to speak from the floor. Then we got up and put a banner on stage. It read: ‘The oppressed people of the world support socialist Cuba – why doesn’t the SWP?’ We cannot allow Mike Gonzalez to spread his lies unopposed. New people coming in to left wing politics in Britain must be inspired by the example of Cuba, not turned against their Revolution. The explanation for the SWP’s reactionary position can be found in the their ongoing ties to the Labour Party and British imperialism. Their view of socialism is only a prettified capitalism. They are unwilling to challenge the basis of capitalist relations and therefore need to find excuses for why the Cuban Revolution is not socialist, leading them to a position where they cannot even allow themselves to recognise the advances for humanity that the last 45 years in Cuba have achieved. Ten million children die needlessly every year due to imperialist plunder of the oppressed nations; of the 600 million disabled people worldwide less than 3% receive any attention; in the US, there are 44 million people who have no medical insurance; in Britain today one in five families on low income do not have enough money for food. In Cuba, they are working towards a society that ‘leaves no child behind’. For instance, the school for autistic children in Havana has a ratio of
art of the attack on Cuba
Defiant message from Miami 5 At the time of writing the Miami 5 are still awaiting the outcome of their appeal against their brutal and unjust imprisonment in US jails. The five Cubans were given long terms on trumped up charges after trying to gather information in the United States to prevent further terrorist attacks by the Miami mafia on Cuba. In another act of defiance, one of the Five, Gerardo Hernandez, sent the following message to the Cuban people from Lompoc prison on the occasion of the anniversary of the Moncada attack. ‘To all of the Cuban People I send you a warm revolutionary embrace from Antonio, Rene, Fernando, Ramon and myself on one of our most important anniversary, July 26. The attack on the Moncada 51 years ago was the opening salvo of the revolutionary process that survives and flourishes to this day. Perhaps at no other time has July 26 meant more to us. The tightening of the blockade by the recent new measures and the slanders that we, the Cuban people, have had to endure, only makes this date a time for us to renew our determination to remain free. I can say for myself and my four brothers that we have never been prouder to be Cuban than we are today. From these prison cells you should always know that when we see you standing up strong we are standing right along with you Hasta La Victoria Siempre.’
one teacher/trained adult to one child; the literacy rate in Cuba exceeds that in most European countries and the US; infant mortality in Cuba is lower than that of the US; life expectancy is 76 years in Cuba and there is universal free health care and education. There are 20,000 Cuban health workers assisting in 64 other poor countries. Shame on the SWP for their reactionary position! But they cannot deceive all their members for ever. A recent letter in Socialist Worker (July 2004) said ‘I don’t feel that a simple ‘state capitalism’ explanation for events in Cuba is sufficient. I was part of a study tour to Cuba recently looking at its health services. I found no evidence of a governing bureaucracy living off Cuban society. I heard no reports of oppression by secret police. There was a clear commitment to the ideals of the revolution from officials, taxi drivers, casual acquaintances, hotel staff and musicians – a “spirit of Cuba” identified by many other visitors to the country. We need a review of our analysis of what has occurred in Cuba since 1959 and perhaps a more sophisticated look at the
Cuban Revolution’. The SWP leadership will face new challenges. Will they concoct more and more deceitful lies to maintain their reactionary position? With the recent referendum triumph of the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela (see this issue) over the imperialist forces and Venezuela standing with Cuba against increasing US hostility, there is the real possibility of a direct US attack on Cuba. We must defend Cuba. As Lenin said, those who wait for a pure revolution will not live long enough to see one. We ignore the Cuban Revolution at our peril. Long live socialism! Defend Cuba! End the US blockade and all aggression towards Cuba!
*Fuller discussion of this book appears in Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no.180 August/September 2004, available from BCM Box 5909, London WC1N 3XX – price 50p plus postage. See also www.rcgfrfi.easynet.co.uk.
A Cuban revolutionary’s view of the SWP A member of Rock around the Blockade recently sent a copy of the SWP newspaper, Socialist Worker, which contained a review of Mike Gonzalez’s book on Che to Gerardo Hernandez, one of the Miami 5, the five Cuban revolutionaries serving unjust prison sentences in the United States. The RATB member asked for Gerardo’s views on Socialist Worker. Here is his response. 'Regarding the article about Che, which is a comment about Mike Gonzalez's book, I wonder whether Mr Gonzalez has ever been in Cuba, because he demonstrates a total lack of knowledge of what was (and is) going on there. Since the 60s powerful interests tried to destroy Che's image. When he became an icon and those interests realised they could do nothing to destroy his revolutionary example, then they tried the only thing left: to try to separate Che from the Cuban Revolution and from Fidel, revising history, even though history on this case is well documented. Of course, I do not know who Mr. Gonzalez is, and he is entitled to his opinions, despite the fact that they're coincident with and helpful to those powerful interests I mentioned. Thank you again for sending the newspaper'.
Events LONDON Friday 10 September Rebel Music club night – Hip hop, break beats and reggae – raising money for the 2005 sound system for Cuban youth. 9pm to 3am at Electrowerkz, Torrens Street, EC1, behind the Angel Tube station. £3 before 10pm, £5 after 10pm.
Wednesday 6 October Around the anniversary of Che Guevara's death in combat: Meeting and discussion on the writings of Che Guevara. In conjunction with FRFI LSE society. At 7pm in Room S75, St Clement's Building, London School of Economics, Houghton Street, WC2.
Saturday 9 October On the 37th anniversary of Che Guevara's death in combat, an evening of politics, poetry and music . Phone (020 7837 1688)/email email@example.com to confirm details of venue. All welcome. Performers who wish to take part, please contact us in advance. Saturday stalls from 12 to 2pm take place regularly. Please phone or email (details above) for dates and place.
MIDLANDS For information e.mail firstname.lastname@example.org
NORTH-WEST Phone 07816 547 066
NORTH-EAST Phone 07813 073 846
SCOTLAND Thurs 23 September Video of ‘The Revolution will not be televised’, the inside story of the failed coup to oust Venezuelan President Chavez. Followed by discussion. 7pm Room G7, Dundee University Tower Phone 07779 785 529 or e.mail email@example.com
Fidel Castro counters US slander With the US elections only months away, the Bush administration has been intensifying its attacks on Cuba on a political, economic and ideological level. Most insidious and perhaps most vile have been the allegations, made by President Bush in person but immediately parroted worldwide by the media, that ‘Cuba is today a major destination for sex tourism’. In June, the US administration published a report citing Cuba as one of the ten worst offenders for sex tourism and child pornography. Such propaganda provides a cover for imperialism’s attempts to destroy Cuba. Bush stated that ‘putting an end to human trafficking will be an essential part of his foreign policy’ and that ‘the traffic in human beings brings shame and suffering to our country and we will lead the fight against it’. It was vital, then, that Castro should address such baseless but dangerous slander head-on in his speech marking the 51st anniversary of the attack on the Moncada Barracks on 26 July. A month earlier, he had responded with ‘Epistle Two’ aimed at President Bush, in which he had spelled out the gains of the Cuban Revolution that put to shame conditions in the US. In the 26 July speech, Castro made short shift of George Bush himself, quoting a US psychiatrist, Dr JA Frank, to dismiss Bush as a ‘dry drunk’, a former drinker whose alcoholism has been
‘arrested but not treated’, a fanatical and paranoid religious fundamentalist and an illiterate. Fidel stated that these slanders against Cuba ‘were fabricated in a hurry to justify the atrocious measures taken against Cuban-born people living in the US who have close ties with Cuba’. The savage curtailing of travel to Cuba and the right to send remittances home risks alienating a huge swathe of Cubans living in Miami – vital votes for a president who only won last time by disenfranchising a large section of his opponents. Castro ended by pointing out the hypocrisy of the allegations. ‘What would Mr Bush call the tens of millions of tourists who visit the United States every year where casinos, gambling dens, areas of male and female prostitution and many other activities related to pornography and sex abound, none of which exist in Cuba and all of which are alien to the revolutionary culture of our people? Would he call the US tourist industry sex tourism? ‘However, in the fevered and fundamentalist mind of the allpowerful gentleman in the White House and in those of his most intimate advisors, Cuba must now be “saved” not only from “tyranny”, Cuban children must now be “saved from sexual exploitation and trafficking in persons”. ‘Has no one told him that in Cuba before the triumph of the Revolution in 1959 about 100,000 women were directly or
Yes! I would like to join Rock around the Blockade ❑ Please send me more information on RATB activities. ❑ I would like to join RATB* ❑ I would like a copy of the pamphlet ‘Revolutionary Cuba’ (£2.95 + 80p p&p) Name __________________________________________________________________________________ Address ________________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________________________ Tel _____________________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________E-mail address_________________________________________________________________________________ Donation _____________________________________ *I enclose a cheque/PO payable to Rock around the Blockade for £10 waged/£4 low waged/£2 unwaged (please delete). Please return to Rock around the Blockade, c/o FRFI, BCM Box 5909, London WC1N 3XX.
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indirectly involved in prostitution for reasons of poverty, discrimination and lack of work and that the Revolution educated these women and found them jobs and outlawed the so-called ‘tolerance zones’ which existed in the pseudo-republic and the neo-colony installed by the United States? ‘Has no one told him that Cuban children, whose physical, mental and moral health is the number one priority of the Revolution, are protected by more severe laws than those of the United States and that they all attend school, including more than 50,000 who suffer from mental or physical disabilities and that, without exception, they receive specialised care in special education centres? ‘Has no one told him that infant mortality is lower in Cuba than it is in the United States and that it continues to decrease? ‘Has no one dared to whisper in his ear that Cuba occupies an outstanding and internationally recognised place in education; that health and education services are free and extend to the whole population; that today programmes are underway in education, health and culture that will place Cuba above all the other countries in the world?’ In truth the Cuban Revolution gives every child the opportunity to realise his or her potential, protects them against disease, illiteracy, ignorance and exploitation, gives the lie to the hateful, self-serving slanders of imperialism.
E group Cuba information service 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.