The newsletter of Rock around the Blockade May/June 2005 Founded by Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!
Real democracy in Cuba
Nominations for delegates to the Cuban Municipal Assemblies began on 24 February. From then until 24 March, over 41,500 public assemblies were held in approximately 15,000 districts to select 32,640 candidates. Of the candidates nominated, 80% were educated to intermediate and higher levels, 28% were women and 23% were young people aged 16 to 35. Cuban people propose their representatives (anyone over 16) and the nomination of candidates starts in the local neighbourhoods themselves. Over 84% of the eligible population took part. The biographies of the candidates, on A4 paper with a small photo, were posted in public places on 27 March. This is the only publicity prior to the elections and means that people have all the necessary information regarding the candidates to help them cast an informed vote. Every person born in Cuba is automatically on the electoral roll when they reach 16. Voting is voluntary, free and by secret ballot. There is no law that obliges anyone to go to the polls. The Communist Party does not stand candidates. Members of the Communist Party exercise their right to vote as citizens. Elections for the Municipal Assemblies of People’s Power took place on Sunday 17 April. 15,112 delegates were elected. These local government delegates will also comprise almost 50 percent of candidates for nominations to the Cuban national parliament. The media’s only role in the elections is to remind people of their right to vote for the candidate who will best represent them over the next two and a half years. The community updated and equipped the voting stations, the neighbours protected the premises from the early hours and the ballots were stamped in front of the
May Day in Cuba
first voters to arrive. Pioneers, young Cubans aged 8 to 12 years, guard the ballot boxes at the 25,500 polling stations across the country. ‘Pioneers are part of this society and we have the duty to participate in this process,’ said Joaquinito one of those who were on duty in Havana. If elected members of any assembly in Cuba do not fulfill their functions or are not working with the population to confront the problems they may be removed from office by the peo-
ple before the end of their term. Those who are elected do not move home, do not receive privileges and do not charge a penny for their work as representatives. The individual delegate is a citizen able and effective at working collectively with the community in common tasks and problems. ‘You only need to look at these peaceful elections in a free country, where there are no police, no political sergeants in the electoral districts, no stealing of votes, no bribery. Here it isn’t money that counts but the per-
son’s merit, his or her values’ pointed out Carlos Vega an 80 year old veteran of the struggle against Batista. Cubans know their history. In 1900, only men who could read and write and had $250 in personal property - about 7% of the population and all white- could vote. Women only took part in elections from 1936. The US intervention in the Cuban electoral process continued until the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959. The April elections are the first to take place since the Bush administration announced the report of the Commission for Assistance for a Free Cuba. This openly annexationist plan signed by President Bush in May 2004 proclaims the establishment of democratic institutions. The concrete measures include creating and strengthening a democratic electoral system for the drafting and reform of electoral laws and the training of electoral officials in matters of registering voters, in keeping electoral censuses and in voting procedures. Such arrogant declarations, ignoring the present democratic nature of Cuban elections indicates the US aims to wipe out the Cuban electoral system based on the participation of all the people and replace it with US style elections catering for the interests of a rich elite. In the US, the 2004 electoral battle cost over $3.9 billion. All the presidential and vice-presidential candidates of the two main parties, Bush, Kerry, Cheney and Edwards, are millionaires. It has been revealed that the same companies financed the Republican and the Democratic candidate, showing that both the parties represent the interests of large capital. Many continued on page 2
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Real democracy in Cuba continued from page 1 poor, black and Hispanic people were disenfranchised in the last US elections. Campaigns had to be set up to get people registered, and, in some States, such as Ohio, there is no record of how many people voted or for whom they voted. In Britain too, the charade of bourgeois democracy has shown itself in the general election. Millions of pounds were spent on advertising billboards, catchy slogans, television party political broadcasts and well paid campaign leaders. The parties chose the topics that they thought would swing it for them: who could be the toughest on crime, the harshest on immigrants and asylum seekers, the fastest to deport those whom we are told have no right to be here, the most effective at fighting the so-called terrorist threat, the best at promising new make-overs in the provision of health and education. The election was an ugly battle between equally racist, imperialist, capitalist parties. All that they proposed were variations on tinkering with a system that remains one based on exploitation at home and abroad, with benefits for a tiny minority at the expense of the majority. In the general election in Britain, a 60% turnout would be considered good. Ricardo Alarcon, president of the National Assembly of People’s Power, pointed out that ‘the privilege of exercising civil and political rights is a dream for the vast majority of humanity and deserves a responsible attitude on the part of the Cuban people’. In Cuba, on 17 April, 99.6% of Cuban electors cast their votes. Ideologically committed to defending the building of a socialist society, alongside the practical preparations to defend their Revolution, the Cubans maintain a transparent and genuinely democratic electoral procedure. 2
Human rights and imperialist wrongs in Geneva ‘With our morale higher than ever, Cuba will redouble its struggle in the defence of justice, right and ethics to advance the attainment, by all the citizens of this planet, of the enjoyment of full human rights.’ (Cuban press statement, April 2005) n 15 April, at the 61st session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission (HRC), the imperialist countries narrowly forced through a motion criticising Cuba for socalled ‘human rights abuses’. The motion, proposed by the United States and co-sponsored by the countries of the European Union, including Britain, was passed by 21 votes to 17, with 15 countries abstaining. For 18 years, the United States has attempted to use the HRC to condemn Cuba, either directly or by proxy. Earlier this year, true to form, the US State Department published a report castigating Cuba for alleged human rights abuses, focusing in particular on the US-funded ‘dissidents’ jailed by Cuba in 2003. Unable, this year, to find a proxy to present the motion among its client states in Latin America despite the millions of dollars of bribes on offer, the US was forced to put its own name to the motion – ably abetted by its fawning European allies. This is the same European Union that had earlier categorically refused to co-sponsor the motion put forward by Cuba, urging a UNHCR investigation into ‘the massive, flagrant and systemic human rights violations still committed against over 500 prisoners at the naval base that the United States, against the will of the Cuban people, keeps in the harbour of Guantanamo’. Small wonder that Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Roque roundly condemned the double standards and hypocrisy of the Human Rights Commission as a ‘court of inquisition’, where the poor countries of the world are to be judged by the rich countries that have exploited them – while those same rich countries enjoy impunity before the commission’.
US torture camp in Guantanamo Bay
Given the evidence of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, how can the US even sit as a member of the Human Rights Commission, let alone seek to judge Cuba? Why is there a motion against Cuba – where there are no disappearances, no torture and no extrajudicial executions – and not against the United States? As Roque argued, such double standards make a travesty of the process. The hypocrisy goes further, for it is rooted in the fundamentally unjust division of the world into rich and poor nations, the oppressor and the oppressed, that denies the vast majority of humanity the most basic human rights. Roque continued: ‘There will be no real enjoyment of human rights for as long as we fail to achieve social justice in the relations among countries and within countries themselves. ‘For a small group of nations represented here – the United States and other developed allies – the right to peace has already been achieved. They will always be the attackers and never the ones under attack. Their peace rests on military power. They have also achieved economic development, based on the pillage of the wealth of other poor countries that were former colonies…however, in those developed countries, the unem-
ployed, the immigrants and the impoverished do not enjoy the rights guaranteed by the rich… Do the children of the rich go to the unjust and illegal war in Iraq?…None of the 1,500 American youths killed in that war was the son of a millionaire or a minister. The poor die there defending the interests of the rich.’ Meanwhile, the poor countries of the world have no right to peace: they can be bombed or invaded on the pretext of ‘fighting terrorism’ at a moment’s notice. They have no right to economic development: the world economic system imposed on them prevents it. They have no right to health, nor to education, nor to culture. All they have is the right to be dependent countries. The defence of human rights starts, as Cuba has proved, with building a different kind of society, for without equality and without social justice there cannot be human rights for all. ‘That is what we Cubans learned a long time ago, and for that reason we built a different country…We are a dangerous example; we are a symbol that only in a just and friendly society – that is, a socialist society – can there be enjoyment of all rights for all citizens’.
More socialist developments as Cuba grows stronger Increasing confidence in the progress of the Cuban economy and the development of socialism in the country has been marked by a series of measures over the past few weeks. Most significant have been a 7% revaluation of the Cuban peso followed by an 8% revaluation of the Cuban convertible peso against the dollar and other hard currencies, the first time such a decision has been possible for a blockaded and Third World country. The moves will improve the standard of living for the vast majority of Cubans and mark a further reduction in the acquisitive power of the US dollar within the national economy. Speaking of the day when the role of the dollar will be entirely eradicated, Fidel said ‘we will then have scaled to a place of honour high above the road of the Revolution towards the most just and humane society in the world, the most socialist and almost communist that has ever existed in the world’. Big increases in state pensions that are in the grip of one of the have also been announced, with worst droughts on record. In a proportionately larger increases move to improve fuel efficiency for those on the lowest incomes. 12.5 items of more efficient The quantity and quality of cooking equipment are to be disgoods available to all Cuban tributed to Cuban families and families for purchase in Cuban electricity generation and distripesos (as opposed to luxury bution equipment is to be updatgoods) are to be improved. ed. Government savings will Special supplies are being sent to enable better supplies of basic the Eastern regions of the island hygiene materials such as soap
and toothpaste to be made available. Problems of short measures at shops and markets are to be tackled by increasing the supply of packaged goods. Any further corruption in the sale and distribution of goods and materials is to be tackled, not by the heavy handed use of the law, but by relying on the people to combat manifestations and confront the apathy and lack of controls within some cadres. Emphasising the socialist ideas underlying these measures, Fidel said that those who contribute most according to their abilities should receive according to their work but that this principle must be defended within a spirit of social justice and assistance for those who need it. ‘Because if anyone has a need and cannot resolve it, they should not be left without food because of their situation; if someone has a problem, some accident or illness we have to
help them, because it’s for this reason we belong to a species with a capacity to think, a sensitive species. We cannot fall into that repugnant principle of "sort yourself out the best you can". Fidel said he increasingly feels attracted by the ideas of Marx, Engels and Lenin and that their ideas are advancing over enormous obstacles; obstacles that perhaps were not imagined by the creators of Marxism and Leninism. ‘This is what brought us to this point’ he said, ‘and from now on we will see how it is going to help us better because we are now enjoying all the benefits and possibilities of having a socialist regime, not measured in terms of automobiles, but through real possibilities of doing things for the wellbeing of our people, and in part also, for the wellbeing of humanity’. ‘Our success is something helpful’ he continued, ‘Our battle against this powerful and seemingly unstoppable empire is showing people that “They can do it!” as the slogan for the literacy campaign in Venezuela goes. And we can also say: “We can do it”, and we are demonstrating that we can do it!’
UN Nomination spells danger for Cuba John Bolton, the man nominated by George Bush for the role of US ambassador to the United Nations, is currently under investigation by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for suppressing intelligence reports which had failed to support Bolton’s political assertions. If John Bolton were to get the role, what would this mean for Cuba, the UN and the rest of the world? The nomination of John Bolton seems a strange one. This man in the past has shown utter contempt for the U.N. stating ‘There is no such thing as the United Nations. There is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only power in the world and that is the United States when it suites our interest and when we can get others to go along’. On another occasion he announced ‘If the UN building in New York lost ten stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference’. For Cuba, there is further concern at Bolton’s nomination, for this is the man who led a campaign to convince the world
of their bio-terrorism capability. In his “Beyond the Axis Of Evil” speech, Bolton claimed Cuba had developed ‘At least a limited biological warfare research development’, and provided ‘Dual use biotechnology’ to other rogue states Iran, Syria and Libya; claims totally rejected by the Cubans, refuted by ex-president Jimmy Carter after a visit to Cuba’s bio-medical research facilities and even denied by Donald Rumsfeld. But Bolton is no stranger to reactionary politics and attacks on Cuba. He took part in the dirty war on Nicaragua, defended the fascist regime of August Pinochet, applauded the bomb-
ing of Yugoslavia and fixed US indemnity from the International Criminal Court. He has worked alongside such anti-Cuban operatives and terrorists as Otto Reich, Felix Rodriguez, the man responsible for Che Guevara’s murder, and Luis Posada Carrilles who organised the destruction of a Cuban airliner in 1976, killing all 73 people on board. Bolton is ‘political heir’ to Jesse Helms, leader of the anti-Cuban mafia in the US Congress until his death a few years ago. Helms once described Bolton as ‘the kind of man with whom I would want to stand at Armageddon, if it should be my lot to be on hand for what is forecast to be the final battle between good and evil in this world’. In February 2003 with the war on Iraq looming, anti-war demos were going on around the world, but in Miami Florida a pro-war demo was called by
another anti-Cuba terrorist, Orlando Bosch. Banners were seen with messages like "Iraq now Cuba Later". With the help of Bolton, groups such as these will spurn more lies to go on the offensive against Cuba. In a huge blow to the US policy of isolating Cuba, the country has this year been nominated by the Latin American and Caribbean group as their representative on the decision making committee of the Human Rights Commission (HRC). One of the main priorities of John Bolton will be to alter policies regarding the HRC, which could mean rather than Cuba having a legitimate voice, they would be excluded, thus further strengthening the use of the commission as a weapon against Cuba. Is this man really fit for a position in the UN? If he is, then not only Cuba, but also the rest of the world should be watching with great caution! 3
RATB in Cuba and Britain Recently Cuba has featured in the national newspapers with regard to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and the US motion against Cuba. Rock around the Blockade members have been involved in writing letters to counter the lies put out in the media and set the record straight. This is an important part of the work of RATB – defending the outstanding achievements of the Cuban Revolution and countering the anti-Cuba, anti-Communist propaganda. As Harold Pinter wrote (13 April), ‘that the country which runs the torture centres at Guantanamo Bay, Bagram and Abu Ghraib … sees fit to criticise Cuba’s human rights record…’ Cuba holds the world’s highest literacy rate, the highest ratio of health workers to population, has an increasingly educated population with ever greater numbers achieving higher and further education, has a democratic electoral system based on mass participation in the election of delegates to represent communities with the right of recall for those not fulfilling their duties and has an
internationalist record of practical and human solidarity and direct help to other nations in need or under attack. However, RATB recognises that letter writing is only part of the battle, and we must take the struggle onto the streets to speak to people about Cuba, about the process of building a different society with the priority and emphasis on solving the problems facing humanity today so that people may live in peace and security. In the rich imperialist countries, many people are cocooned by capitalism and suffer the delusion of reform as a way of improvement. However, the reality for the majority of the world’s people are just two options - socialism or barbarism. That is why the Cuban example is so important and the defence of Cuba is not just about Cuba but about all of us. RATB can therefore be found around the country on street stalls, with petitions and leaflets, giving out information and taking part in discussion. RATB is also raising money for a sound system to take to Cuba as part of our ongoing
work with the Union of Young Communists (UJC) in Cuba. Over the next few months, members and supporters of RATB will be combining political activity with fundraising fervour in the run up to the brigade in July. The sound system is for Caimanera, a town in the east of Cuba very close to the illegally-US-occupied Guantanamo Bay. The UJC plays an important role in the development of Cuba’s young people in taking forward the gains of the Revolution and being part of the ongoing process of building a new society. Even if you are not going on the brigade, you can support the work of RATB and the work of the UJC in Cuba by joining our activities: weekly stalls with petitioning and leafleting, Rebel Music club nights, sponsored events including a bike ride in May, a Latin American live music night and working with RATB for the Workers Beer Company at various events around the country – get in touch for details of events in your area and about our public meetings where debate and discussion is open. If you are not already a
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