written for RATB by Michael MacGregor, 14 April 2011.
On Sunday 10 April, 50 people gathered in Glasgow’s city centre to discuss, debate and educate each other about Cuba’s decisive defeat of US-backed counterrevolution at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961. While the majority of the audience were born well after that historic moment, the vitality and solid achievements of Cuba’s socialist revolution were upheld and applauded as central to today’s unfolding battle against the cuts. Speaker after speaker, from the platform and the floor, made the real connections between Cuba’s socialism and internationalism and the struggles of the here and now. Helen Yaffe, author of 'Che Guevara: the Economics of Revolution', laid out the scale and continuity of the attacks on Cuba since the Revolution of 1959. She demonstrated that the form but not the purpose of these attacks have changed. The United States government first employed a method well tested and effective in Latin America and the rest of the world – right up to today!
This ‘Track One’ strategy of direct military intervention led to the attempted invasion of Cuba on 15 April 1961. Crushingly repelled by the Cuban people, it marked the point at which socialism was openly declared. What the Revolution then has had to face for nearly 50 years was the United States ‘Track Two’ plan which continues and has been strengthened in recent years. This is based on the illegal blockade of Cuba which has crippled Cuba’s economic development, costing billions of dollars and which is annually condemned by the overwhelming majority of countries at the United Nations, leaving the US and Israel in ignominious isolation.
'Track Two' also involves the financing of so-called opposition groups in Cuba whereby the multinational media and imperialist diplomats promote a picture of Cuba as some sort of undemocratic failed state just ripe for western intervention and a regime of free market neo-liberalism. This approach, which is fully endorsed by the Obama regime in the US, is as doomed to failure as the Bay of Pigs invasion. Because, as US secret intelligence files from the last five decades and including the latest WikiLeaks, show, there has never been any significant opposition to the Cuban Revolution amongst its people.
The Socialist Revolution declared in 1961 at the Bay of Pigs - what the Cubans call Playa Girón - has delivered. It has delivered what 30 years of neo-liberalism in Latin America and throughout the world has itself failed to deliver. The results of neo-liberalism was to increase the number of Latin Americans living in poverty from 136 million to 200 million during the 1980s alone, and to transfer $100 billion of assets from state into private (mainly foreign) hands in the 1990s. Over these two decades, GDP per capita growth was just 0.45% per year, demonstrating that privatisation, austerity measures and the rolling back of the state led to stagnation and poverty, not growth and prosperity. The rule of the market, of the banks and multinationals, of imperialism, has only further impoverished millions and the Cubans know this and will not accept the arguments or guns and bombs of its ghoulish protagonists.
Despite the US blockade and without neo-liberalist economics, Cuban socialism has fed, cared for, educated and raised its people to a level of cultural and sporting achievement that is an example to the oppressed of this world and its progressive peoples.
This is an example which must be upheld by socialists and anti-imperialists and made known and popular in the present battles. The US has never stopped fearing that Cuba’s example is being followed and it is the all-powerful US that has singularly failed to prevent this development. Latin America, from Venezuela to the Caribbean, is burying the failed and bloody experiment of naked national and class exploitation known as neo-liberalism.
People spoke too of Cuba’s major role in the defeat of colonial regimes in Africa - from Algeria to Angola - and of how the 300,000 Cubans who fought there contributed to the eventual defeat of racist apartheid in South Africa. From internationalist soldiers fighting real humanitarian wars then to the tens of thousands of Cuban doctors and medical staff working in poor countries around the world now, Cuba’s successful struggle for survival in the context of the United States brutal blockade was recognised over and over as an incredible but inarguable reality. Statistics, accounts and powerful comparisons evidenced what is being gained under socialism in Cuba.
The present reality of the cuts in developed, imperialist Britain made a stark and shocking contrast. During the difficulties of Cuba’s Special Period from 1991, which meant an effective collapse of its economy, Fidel Castro made the point that not one school, day centre, old peoples home or hospital had closed and that the unemployed had not been abandoned. This is precisely the opposite of what is going on right now in Scotland, England and Wales and in capitalist countries around the world. Contributors cited the new Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (FRFI) pamphlet - No Cuts -Full Stop! as an essential tool in arming the new anti-cuts movement with the arguments to defend the working class and point out the way to socialism. The hall erupted in applause to approve the warning made that we cannot allow this movement to be led by a Labour party which was carrying out those savage, inhuman cuts in local councils.
On the platform was Dominic O’Hara from the Glasgow Defence Campaign (GDC) and a supporter of FRFI. O’Hara is on trial after participating in student demonstrations in Glasgow against education cuts, and the GDC has been established to oppose political policing and defend democratic rights in Glasgow. O’Hara directly linked Cuba's social welfare provision to the current cuts in capitalist Britain. O’Hara challenged the criticisms made of Cuba’s human rights record as false and hypocritical. Democratic rights to organise and protest were seriously under attack from the state and its thuggish police, and we needed to go out onto the streets, go out to the people and organise, he declared.
Fidel’s condemnation of the brutal and repressive apparatus of capitalist states in defending injustice and privilege was raised and the complete absence of such measures in socialist Cuba proudly asserted. The working people and peasantry of this small island defeated - wiped out in 72 hours! - the sons of millionaire land owners, sugar barons and bankers armed by US multinationals, at the Bay of Pigs 50 years ago. Fidel Castro called this victory the first defeat of imperialism in the Western Hemisphere. The declaration of socialist revolution made by Cuba at that critical life or death moment brought about its welfare state of free education, health care and human solidarity. That declaration echoes through the decades to those organising to fight today’s battles here.
Venceremos! We Shall Win!
Long Live Socialist Cuba! No Cuts - Full Stop!