Friday, 29 April 2011

RATB Reports: 50th Anniversary of the Bay of Pigs victory, Manchester, UK

written for RATB by Charles Chinweizu, 23 April 2011.

Over 50 people gathered in Manchester, UK on 17 April 2011, for a meeting about the 50th anniversary of the victory over the US-backed Bay of Pigs aggression against and invasion of Cuba. The first shot in this invasion was fired by a CIA operative and one-third of the invaders were ex-Batista soldiers.

Fernando León Jacomino, Rafael Sardiña Gonzalez and Robert Claridge from RATB, spoke from the platform. Jacomino, a poet and theatre critic was prominent in the Union of Young Communists (UJC), and is now a member of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) and was for six years the vice-president of the Cuban Book Institute. Gonzalez is a Counsellor at the Cuban Embassy in London. Dr. Par Kumaraswami, a co-director of the Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS) at the University of Manchester translated for Jacomino.

Claridge representing RATB, put the meeting in the appropriate context of what Cuban socialism means for us today, here in Britain, where we face a massive assault on working class conditions, by the British ruling class who, unable to resolve their financial and economic crisis, are making the working class pay.

l-r: Par Kumaraswami, Fernando León Jacomino, Louis, Rafael Sardiña Gonzalez and Robert Claridge

For a more detailed report see below...

Fernando León Jacomino
Jacomino was not born during Playa Girón but his parents were heavily involved in the 1961 literacy campaign (most who supported the Revolution were illiterate and so it was a priority of the Revolution to eradicate illiteracy). Jacomino contextualised the Playa Girón as part of a concerted effort on the part of the US to destroy the Revolution before it could consolidate, and was actually an attack on all aspects of Cuban life.

However Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs) played a major part in radicalising the Revolution. Days later during the burial ceremony for the victims of the bombing of Santiago airport, Fidel declared the socialist nature of the revolution. In that April 1961 speech, Fidel Castro explained that Cuba was in a constant state of alert because of attacks launched from the US. Fidel attacked the imperialist press and how they reported the attack on Cuba: they invented propaganda about Cuba, saying Cuban pilots 'searching for freedom', were bombing Cuba in Cuban planes. This propaganda sought to amplify and use popular discontent with the Revolution which was already existed for those who were unprepared for the socialist nature of the revolution. The imperialists had used surprise attacks and propaganda to attack Cuba for 50 years 'till this day. Jacomino said there were many mythyfied visions of Cuba, which bore no relation to reality, which created a fragmented vision of Cuba outside the island, and which made Cuba seem unique in the world. Cuba was not unique and shouldn't be seen as such, but had the same problems as other countries. In 1961 the priority for Cuba was national sovereignty, now with a more powerful US, increased aggression and hostility, the priority was more complicated.

According to Jacomino, Cuba was constantly rejuvenating its Revolution and how it related to other countries in Latin America. In the 1990s due to the problems associated with the Special Period [following the collapse of the USSR], there were many questions and doubts about the revolutionary process in Cuba. In the 2000s, it was about rebuilding that confidence in the Revolution under completely different conditions. Now Cuba has to put in place a more efficient way of running its economy in a way it hasn't had to do in the past, in an international context of global capitalist recession, rising prices, etc. Cuba must enter a period of economic efficiency while maintaining social provision/welfare - a difficult process. Cubans having survived the period of 1990s-2000s, now wanted standards of living to rise at a basic level, increasing expectations that are difficult for the Cuban government to meet.

Cubans were inconfomula - they had the right to disagree, to question and to find their own ideas, something the US often mistook for 'dissidence'. Jacomino recommended Raul Castro's Central Report to the 6th PCC Congress prior to which over 8m Cubans participated in preliminary discussions. the political direction of the Revolution was a priority for most Cubans, something which he took heart from and was proud of. improved housing and living conditions was probably fifth on the list. Jacomino has hope for the future of the Revolution, and knows that Cubans would find the way forward. Cuban culture and cultural movements were the cultural expressions of the events and problems of the Revolution.

During the questions and discussion session, Jacomino spoke about the effects of the US blockade and the right-wing cultural hegemony on Cuban culture. The ideological marginalisation of Cuba, such as Cuba's son musical genre compared to Brazilian samba, makes Cuba's cultural impact small. One instructive example being a comparison between the Cuban bands Buena Vista Social Club and Los Van Van.

The Buena Vista Social Club were excellent musicians, but they had been manipulated by the capitalist market; an image of Cuba with a car from the '50s is more palatable than a contemporary image, i.e., one associated with the Revolution. The Buena Vista Social Club won a [tropical Latin] Grammy award in 1998, attracted German film director Wim Wenders, toured the US and Europe and won many awards. 15 years later they are still a visible, strong brand worldwide. However, with the exception of Omara Portuondo, none of the Buena Vista Social Club musicians were significant musicians in Cuba at the time of their success. Los Van Van on the other hand, whose musical arrangement is more complex and who also won the same Grammy in 2000, have never made it in the US, because all the orchestra musicians were trained under the Revolution. All the Buena Vista Social Club musicians had a cultural impact in the US before the Revolution, hence the Buena Vista Social Club musicians were presented as great musicians who were being marginalised by Cuba.

We were constantly sold the idea that 'it was more important to bark like a dog than to have a dialogue'; we are sold the idea that it is more important to have a means of free individual expression than to have a means by which those ideas can circulate. It was very important that young people visit Cuba and meet up with people of their own age to get a better idea of what Cuba was like.

On the question of Obama and his empty promises, such as closing Guantanamo [torture camp], Jacomino said all Cubans saw Guantanamo as an attack on Cuban national sovereignty - this was due to the Revolution which encouraged people to think 'with their own minds'. Cubans were not surprised by Obama's failures. Cubans are Fidelistas, that is to say when Obama was elected Cubans immediately thought 'what would Fidel think about Obama?' Fidel, aware of this, said at the time that Obama should be given the benefit of the doubt, given his background and his meteoric rise to power. However, Fidel warned Cubans to be aware that Obama's hands were tied due to the limited possibility for change in the US due to the 'corporate nature of government' of the US. Cubans, said Jacomino, had historically welcomed the Democrats and were sure nothing could be worse than Bush. No fundamental change was possible in the US as along as hostility to Cuba exists, whether the leader was black, white or Chinese, Jacomino concluded.

Rafael Sardiña Gonzalez
Comrade Rafael was very proud to be here speaking today and spoke about the Playa Girón Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, concentrating on a few fact and details which emerged 2-3 years ago from the former CIA station chief in Miami during the invasion. Cuba had no idea where the invasion would take place but there were only three possible points for the aggressors to land: the Island of Youth, Playa Girón or Trinidad in the centre. Fidel sent Che, Juan Almeida and Raul to these areas to organise the defence. The invasion was defeated in 72 h but would have been defeated in 36 h had Cuba not sent 10 battalions to Havana Province in anticipation. In the event, Playa Girón was chosen as the point of invasion due to its narrow roads and swampy terrain where it would be difficult for infantry troops to move. Unknown until a few years ago, a COINTEL commando, Commando 40 was set up by the CIA. Commando 40 included terrorist Luis Posada Carriles who never disembarked himself. Commando 40 waited for a beach head to be established before they could land. They had a list of all revolutionaries in Playa Girón and their role was to kill them all, and to put in place former Batista soldiers in order to prevent a power vacuum developing.

The invasion was masterminded by Eisenhower but carried out by Kennedy (JFK). 'How could Eisenhower a veteran of WWII, mastermind a plan like that?' Fidel had wondered. Because he had no real power or control, just like Obama; the military were the ones in real control, said Rafael.

On US terrorist Posada Carriles, Rafael said he was 'a very dangerous guy, his hands full of blood', but living freely in Miami after being set free recently by Judge Cardone, 'a judge for life appointed by George Bush'. He was dangerous because he never got his hands dirty but sent people to do his dirty work, he was a good organiser with all the resources of the CIA and the Miami mafia at his disposal. Carriles was now thinking about how to bring democracy to Cuba!

Rafael reminded the audience about Fidel's April 1961 speech and the declaration of the socialist character of the Revolution. Rafael said, ‘It had been said that Cuba depended on the USSR and that when the USSR fell Cuba could not survive; these were all false. We have demonstrated that Cuban socialism has its roots in the hearts and minds of every Cuban.’

During the questions and discussion session, a question was asked about the uprisings in north Africa. Jacomio reminded the audience that at no time during the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings was it mentioned that an invasion of Libya was being planned. Now the focus of 'news' was Libya and there is no information about subsequent political developments in Tunisia and Egypt. In other words, the imperialist media doesn't want us to be informed about events, but only to give us what information they want us to ‘consume’.

Rafael added, ‘Gaddafi is a dictator, a terrorist. He was friend of Italy and of Sarkozy. He gave Sarkozy money for his election campaign. He was close to the imperialists, but who are the leaders of the Libyan resistance? The former leader of the interior [Mustafa Abdul Jalil, former Justice Minister] and Musa Kusa, the former head of intelligence who may know a lot about the Lockerbie bombing! These are the leaders of the resistance? Libya was removed from the US list of states that sponsor terrorism, but Cuba is on that black list! It is madness!’