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Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, freedom fighter

By the Marxist Workers School of South Africa, 15 December 2013

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the first democratic-elected president of the Republic of South Africa, revolutionary and freedom fighter, commander-in-chief of Umkhonto weSizwe, political prisoner, statesman and beloved father of the nation, died on the 5 December 2013.

South Africa is in mourning. Africa mourns, and, indeed, hundreds of millions of people around the world are mourning.

How did a political prisoner of 27 years, classified as a terrorist not only by the apartheid state but by all western powers, become so loved that a young woman in Brooklyn, New Jersey, when interviewed on TV remarked: “Mandela is the only state president who will be missed”?

The question is, what does Nelson Mandela personify, and what does he stand for which makes him tower above others?

To understand who Mandela was, we need to go back deep into the dark days of Apartheid, when the National Party came to power.

Within the ANC, a conservative leadership had taken control, which had no strategy to counter the offensive of white capital and its National Party state structure. Within the ANC Youth League, a new and more radical leadership formed itself around Walter Sisulu, Nelson Mandela and Robert Sobukwe.

These young revolutionaries were inspired by the anti-colonial struggle gripping Africa at the time; they were inspired by the ant-imperialist struggles throughout the oppressed world; they reached out to the progressive white community; and they recognised the Indian and Coloured communities in South Africa as part of the oppressed and formed an alliance with representative organisations from those communities in a common struggle for freedom and democracy.

Most importantly, instead of debating the plight of our oppressed people in small circles, they went to the masses, organising them around such concrete issues as education, living conditions and political repression.

Through effective mobilisation, they not only frustrated some of the repressive measures of the apartheid system but eventually took over the leadership of the ANC itself.

The movement grew to become such a formidable force that the Apartheid government was unable to control and subdue it. In desperation, the state resorted to mass killings like the Sharpeville massacre.

The response of the people was to redouble their efforts of resistance and to stage even more mass protests. The regime then responded by banning the ANC, PAC and other political parties. All political activities, public gatherings and demonstrations were banned.

Nelson Mandela, together with Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Govern Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Andrew Mlangeni, Billy Nair, Dennis Goldberg, Rusty Bernstein and others took the historical decision to go underground so as to continue the political struggle of the ANC.

They also formed a military wing of the movement called Umkhonto weSizwe – the Spear of the Nation – in order to confront reactionary and fascist state violence with revolutionary people’s violence. The armed struggle was born.

It is this historic and principled decision, in a situation in which all doors had been closed to peaceful protest, to call for mass mobilisation and armed struggle in order to defeat the enemy that made Mandela a true leader.

He became the first commander-in-chief of Umkhonto weSizwe. After his arrest, which the CIA was instrumental in bringing about, Mandela and nine other ANC leaders were put on trial.

Like Comrade Georgi Dimitrov, who used his trial by the German fascist state to expose Nazi fascism to the whole world, Mandela used his own trial to expose the racist nature of the apartheid system and to defend democratic and anti-racist principles. He closed his defence with the now famous statement:

During my lifetime, I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

This statement reflected the aspirations of millions of oppressed black working men and women throughout South Africa. His refusal to bow under pressure, torture and repression was a reflection of the steadfastness of our people. Mandela was one with our people.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labour. He went on to break stones together with other political prisoners under the hot African sun from dawn to dusk for many, many years.

The apartheid state, in accordance with its cruel nature, took those stones from Robben Island and used them to build monuments, court houses and many other symbols of its tyrannical rule and for the glory of the apartheid system.

Mandela did not once complain about his fate. Instead, he was at the forefront of organising the struggle for better conditions within the prison, demanding proper medical care for prisoners, the right to read newspapers and books, and the right of political prisoners to study.

Above all, and from his first day behind bars, he spearheaded the struggle of political prisoners to be treated with dignity.

As a result of these struggles, a number of political prisoners in the 1970s and 80s left Robben Island highly educated. By 1994, many were ready to take up positions in the newly-formed democratic South Africa.

In 1984/85 the struggle intensified. The underground structures of the ANC, the labour movement and the United Democratic Front developed into a mass movement, and South Africa became ungovernable.

The apartheid state approached Mandela and offered him and all other imprisoned leaders the chance to walk out of prison on the condition that they renounce the armed struggle.

This strategy, most certainly under the recommendation of US and British advisors, was aimed at dividing the ANC into exiled and internal wings, and then at setting one faction against the other.
Mandela refused to comply, however. Instead, he issued a statement confirming his unconditional support for the armed struggle and reaffirmed the unity of the ANC under the leadership of Oliver Tambo. He further stated that he would walk out of prison with no conditions attached or he would not walk out at all.

The apartheid strategy to divide the ANC collapsed. It was this principled stand that earned Mandela the respect of the entire movement. Four years later, when Oliver Tambo had just suffered a stroke, all political prisoners were released and Nelson Mandela emerged from prison as the unquestioned leader of the ANC and of the entire democratic mass movement against apartheid.

During the Kempton Park negotiations, he emerged, even before being inaugurated as the first democratically-elected president of South Africa, as a statesmen overshadowing the last apartheid president to such an extent that at the end of negotiations de Klerk was reduced to an ordinary member at the negotiating table.

Mandela exposed de Klerk as a man without integrity in full view of the entire nation when he caught him back-stabbing and double-dealing.

Just before the 1994 elections, ANC security found out that de Klerk and a number of army officers in the South African defence force were planning a military coup d’état.

Mandela understood that the South African Defence Force was still loyal to the arch-racist PW Botha, who had been the apartheid president before de Klerk. He travelled directly to Botha’s residence and, during an extremely heated encounter, insisted that Botha call off the coup, warning that if it went ahead he would call for an all-out war of armed resistance.

Botha backed down and called off the coup, and Mandela helped South Africa avoid what could have been one of the most brutal and barbaric civil wars of the 20th century. This moment was the end of de Klerk’s political life, and Mandela will be remembered for generations to come as the leader who rose up to the occasion, avoiding bloodshed and genocide and ushering in the first democratic government in the history of our country.

Mandela was able to talk with authority, to threaten PW Botha and stand his ground because the entire resistance movement stood as one man behind him, determined and disciplined.

No sooner had Nelson Mandela been inaugurated as the state president than the imperialist countries, especially the United States, escalated their pressure on him to distance himself from socialist Cuba and its leader Comrade Fidel Castro, to distance himself from Libya and its leader Muammar Gaddafi, and to distance himself from supporting the national-liberation struggle of the Palestinian people and the chairman of the PLO, Yasser Arafat.

Nelson Mandela stood firm and held his ground, however. He declared that Cuba and Libya, Fidel and Gaddafi, had supported the anti-Apartheid struggle throughout our darkest years. There was a bond of friendship between our people born out of a common struggle, he said; we will not betray our friends.

On the issue of Palestine, Mandela declared that the struggle of the Palestinian people for national liberation against zionism was a just struggle. We will stand shoulder to shoulder with the Palestinian people and their just struggle, he confirmed.

Ultimately, imperialism had to give up its pressure. Every confrontation with Mandela exposed the reactionary role and intentions of imperialism. Intellectually, the occupants of the White House and Downing Street were no match for Mandela and his integrity!

In the build-up to the Nato invasion of Iraq, Mandela openly confronted the United States, exposing its bloodthirsty and inhuman plans and condemning the invasion as a crime against humanity!

Obama, in his typically hypocritical speech at Johannesburg’s FNB stadium, where the world met to mourn the passing of Comrade Nelson, declared that Mandela had taught him to be a “better man”.

Perhaps this would have been more convincing if, as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the United States of America, Obama had done something to stop the endless slaughter of men, women and children in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Somalia.

Perhaps he could start by ending the torture and sodomising of political prisoners, dismantle the US’s secret torture prisons and close the Guantánamo Bay concentration camp.

Perhaps he could start by removing the US’s armed forces from close to 100 countries around the world and instead behave like the representative of a civilised country amongst civilised countries.

Perhaps he could start by ending the barbaric 60-year economic boycott against socialist Cuba and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – two countries that pose absolutely no threat to the United States.

Perhaps he could start by destroying the biggest arsenal of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons in the world – namely, the weapons of mass destruction of the United States.

US imperialism has inflicted mass murder and genocide, committed war crimes and launched barbaric military invasions against the peoples of Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, Libya and Syria. In the last 50 years alone, it has installed brutal military juntas all over Latin America, Africa and Asia.

George Bush, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama have nothing in common with Mandela the revolutionary, with Mandela the statesman, or with Mandela the man, who more than once put his own life on the line to avoid bloodshed and civil war.

The heads of all western imperialist countries were present at Mandela’s funeral. Not because they share any of his noble values, but because all of them are in desperate need to be seen to be ‘close’ to Mandela – the only president in the world who is admired and respected by the masses in the imperialist countries.

This is especially true following the criminal invasion of Iraq in 2003, justified by imperialist leaders on the basis of ‘evidence’ of Iraq’s weapon of mass destruction that turned out to be complete fabricated.

It is especially true following the introduction of the ‘no-fly zone’ in Libya, which was justified by the imperialists as being necessary in order to ‘save peaceful demonstrators’. Twenty-four hours later, the world’s people watched in horror as Nato forces launched terror-bombing raids that paved the way for a counter-revolution to destroy all the social, political and economic achievements of the Libyan revolution since the overthrow of feudalism 40 years ago – inflicting terror and genocide against black Libyans in the process.

Moreover, the imperialists organised and coordinated the barbaric slaughter of the popular leader of the Libyan revolution, Muammar Gaddafi, and of thousands of other Libyan revolutionaries.

And since then, in the last two years, the world has witnessed how US, British and French imperialism has organised and financed the counter-revolution in Syria. The routine slaughtering of hundreds of thousands of people, and the destruction of entire states has once again become the order of the day.

Millions of ordinary people around the world, including in the imperialist countries, are aware of these crimes committed in the name of freedom and democracy. The leaders of the so-called ‘Free World’ have been exposed as war criminals, as brutal oppressors and shameless warmongers.

In order to save at least a bit of their damaged image, and driven by sheer desperation as their war crimes are catching up with them, they huddled around Mandela’s body, mumbling phrases about ‘forgiveness’ and becoming a ‘better person’. But Mandela will not exonerate them of their crimes and their victims will neither forget nor forgive them.

Progressive and revolutionary forces around the world should expose these imperialist leaders as opportunists, liars and charlatans. They have nothing in common with Mandela, and we should make sure that they do not succeed in driving a wedge between the real Mandela and the anti-colonial, anti-apartheid and anti-imperialist struggles of our people in South Africa, Africa and the world.

The desperate efforts of our exploiters and oppressors to define who Mandela was, what he stood for and what values he represented, using cinema, TV, radio and print, is nothing but cultural imperialism at its worst.

The aim of this propaganda is to colonise our minds, weaken our resolve, split the anti-imperialist struggles of Africa and open the gates for a full-scale economic and military recolonisation of our continent.

Needless to say, all their reactionary plans will ultimately fail. Africa will not be recolonised either by US or EU imperialism.

Long live the revolutionary spirit of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela!

Let Mandela’s revolutionary life, his discipline, commitment and his loyalty to the oppressed be an inspiration to future generations of liberation fighters!

Our long walk to freedom will continue until oppression and exploitation, war and hunger, ignorance and poverty are a thing of the past. To this end, let us celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela, defend his revolutionary legacy in the face of distortions and lies and intensify the struggle against imperialism! There is no better way we can honour this outstanding son of the African soil!

Long live Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela!

Poem: Tata Madiba, we are ONE with you!

Remembering Nelson Mandela

Reflections by Comrade Fidel: The Empire and the Right to Life of Human Beings

That’s terrific! So I exclaimed when I read down to the last line about the revelations of the famous journalist Seymour Hersh, printed in Democracy Now! and collected as one of the 25 most censored news items in the United States.

The material is entitled “The War Crimes of Stanley McChrystal, U.S. General” and it was included in Project Censored, put together by a university in California, including the essential paragraphs from those revelations.

Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal, named the commander responsible for the war in Afghanistan by Obama in May of 2009, had earlier been the head of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) reporting to Dick Cheney [Bush’s vice president]. Most of Gen. McChrystal’s 33-year military career is being kept classified [in other words, secret], including his services between 2003 and 2008 as commander of JSOC, the highly secret elite unit that for years the Pentagon refused to acknowledge its existence. JSOC is a special unit, of ‘black’ operations of the Navy Seals (Marines Special Forces) and Delta Force [secret army soldiers for special operations, formally called ‘Special Forces Operational Division-Delta (SFOD-D), while the Pentagon calls it the Combat Applications Group].

“Pulitzer Prize-winning Seymour Hersh said the Bush administration ran an “executive assassination ring” that reported directly to Vice President Dick Cheney and that Congress never felt any concern to investigate. JSOC teams used to travel to different countries, without even speaking to the ambassador or the CIA Station Head, with a list of people they were looking for, finding them, killing them and leaving. There was a current list of people marked as targets, drawn up by Vice President Cheney’s office […] There were assassinations in dozens of countries in the Middle East and in Latin America, Hersh stated : ‘There’s an executive order, signed by Jerry Ford, President Ford, in the ’70s, forbidding such action. It’s not only contrary—it’s illegal, it’s immoral, it’s counterproductive.’

JSOC was also implicated in war crimes, including the torture of prisoners in secret ‘ghost’ detention centres. Camp Nama in Iraq, operated by JSOC under McChrystal, was one of such `ghost` facilities hidden from the Red Cross International Committee (CICR) and accused of some of the worst acts of torture.”

They officially installed the Major General at Fort Braga, North Carolina, but he was “a frequent visitor to Camp Nama and at other special forces bases in Iraq and Afghanistan where the forces under his command were based”.

Next we deal with a point of special interest, when such facts came into conflict with officials who, in fulfilling their functions, were obliged to commit deeds that put them in open violation of the law and implied serious crimes.

“An interrogator at Camp Nama known as Jeff described locking prisoners in shipping containers for 24 hours at a time in extreme heat; exposing them to extreme cold with periodic soaking in cold water; bombardment with bright lights and loud music; sleep deprivation; and severe beatings.”

Immediately we are dealing with flagrant violations of international principles and covenants signed by the United States. Cuban readers will remember the story told in the two pieces where I wrote about our relations with the International Red Cross, to which we returned a great number of prisoners from the enemy army that had fallen into our hands during our defence of the Sierra Maestra and the later strategic counter-offensive against the Cuban army, trained and supplied by the U.S. Never was any prisoner mistreated and none of the wounded was ever denied immediate care. That very same institution, headquartered in Switzerland, could testify to those facts.

“The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is the international body charged under international law with monitoring compliance with the Geneva Conventions, and it, therefore, has the right to inspect all facilities where people are detained in a country that is at war or under military occupation.”

“In the explanation why no other press had covered this story, Hersh stated: ‘My colleagues at the press corps often don’t follow up, not because they don’t want to but because they don’t know who to call. If I’m writing something on the Joint Special Operations Command, which is an ostensibly classified unit, how do they find it out? The government will tell them everything I write is wrong or that they can’t comment. It’s easy for those stories to be dismissed. I do think the relationship with JSOC is changing under Obama. It’s more under control now.’.”

…the decision of the Obama Administration to appoint Gen. McChrystal as the new commander in charge of the war in Afghanistan and the prolongation of military jurisdiction for U.S. prisoners in its war on terrorism, held in the Guantanamo Bay prison, are unfortunately examples of how the Obama Administration continues walking in Bush`s footsteps.

Rock Creek Free Press revealed in June 2010 that Seymour Hersh, taking part in the Global Research Journalism Conference in Geneva, criticized President Obama in April of 2010 and denounced that US forces were carrying out executions on the battlefield.

“Those captured in Afghanistan are being executed on the battlefield”, Hersh stated

By this point, the story comes in contact with highly current reality: the continuity of a policy by the president that succeeded the delirious W. Bush, inventor of the war waged to get power over the most important gas and oil resources in the world in a region inhabited by more than 2.5 billion people, by virtue of acts committed against the people of the United States by an organization of men who were recruited and armed by the CIA to fight in Afghanistan against Soviet soldiers and who continue to enjoy the backing of the closest U.S. allies.

The complex and unpredictable area whose resources are being disputed goes from Iraq and the Middle East right up to the remote limits of the Chinese region of Xinjiang, going through Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, and the former Soviet republics of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazajstan, Kirguistan and Tayikistan, capable of supplying the gas and oil for the growing economy of the Peoples` Republic of China and industrialized Europe. The population of Afghanistan, as well as a part of Pakistan, a country with 170 million inhabitants and possessing nuclear weapons, is the victim of the unmanned Yankee airplane attacks that are massacring the civilian population.

Among the 25 most censured news items by the great media, selected by Sonoma State University of California, as it has been doing for 34 years, one of them, corresponding to the 2009-2010 period, was “The War Crimes of General Stanley McChrystal”; and another two are related with our island: “The Media Ignores Cuban Medical Aid in Haitian Earthquake” and “Prisoners in Guantanamo are Still Being Brutalized”. A fourth state: “Obama Reduces Social Spending and Increases the Military”.

Our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodríguez, was politically responsible for the Cuban Medical Mission sent to Pakistan when the destructive earthquake battered the simple nature of that country`s north-eastern region where extensive areas inhabited by the same ethnic group, with the same culture and traditions were arbitrarily split up by English colonialism into countries that later fell under the aegis of the Yankees.

In his speech yesterday, on October 26th, at UN headquarters, he demonstrated how excellently well-informed he is about the international situation of our complicated world.

His brilliant speech and the Resolution approved by that body, because of its great importance, require a Reflection that I propose to write.

Fidel Castro Ruz
October 27, 2010
9:16 p.m.

Fidel: We send doctors, not soldiers

Reflections by Comrade Fidel

http://www.cuba.cu/gobierno/reflexiones/2010/ing/f230110i.html

In my Reflection of 14 January, two days after the catastrophe in Haiti, which destroyed that neighboring sister nation, I wrote:

“In the area of healthcare and others the Haitian people has received the cooperation of Cuba, even though this is a small and blockaded country. Approximately 400 doctors and healthcare workers are helping the Haitian people free of charge. Our doctors are working every day at 227 of the 237 communes of that country.

“On the other hand, no less than 400 young Haitians have been graduated as medical doctors in our country. They will now work alongside the reinforcement that traveled there yesterday to save lives in that critical situation. Thus, up to one thousand doctors and healthcare personnel can be mobilized without any special effort; and most are already there willing to cooperate with any other State that wishes to save Haitian lives and rehabilitate the injured.

“The head of our medical brigade has informed that ‘the situation is difficult but we are already saving lives’.”

Hour after hour, day and night, the Cuban health professionals have started to work nonstop in the few facilities that were able to stand, in tents, and out in the parks or open-air spaces, since the population feared new aftershocks.

The situation was far more serious than was originally thought. Tens of thousands of injured were clamoring for help in the streets of Port-au-Prince; innumerable persons laid, dead or alive, under the rubbled clay or adobe used in the construction of the houses where the overwhelming majority of the population lived.

Buildings, even the most solid, collapsed. Besides, it was necessary to look for the Haitian doctors who had graduated at the Latin American Medicine School throughout all the destroyed neighborhoods. Many of them were affected, either directly or indirectly, by the tragedy.

Some UN officials were trapped in their dormitories and tens of lives were lost, including the lives of several chiefs of MINUSTAH, a UN contingent. The fate of hundreds of other members of its staff was unknown.

Haiti’s presidential palace crumbled. Many public facilities, including several hospitals, were left in ruins.

The catastrophe shocked the whole world, which was able to see what was going on through the images aired by the main international TV networks. Governments from everywhere in the planet announced they would be sending rescue experts, food, medicines, equipment and other resources.

In conformity with the position publicly announced by Cuba, medical staff from different countries – namely Spain, Mexico, and Colombia, among others - worked very hard alongside our doctors at the facilities they had improvised. Organisations such as PAHO and other friendly countries like Venezuela and other nations supplied medicines and other resources. The impeccable behavior of Cuban professionals and their leaders was absolutely void of chauvinism and remained out of the limelight.

Cuba, just as it had done under similar circumstances, when Hurricane Katrina caused huge devastation in the city of New Orleans and the lives of thousands of American citizens were in danger, offered to send a full medical brigade to cooperate with the people of the United States, a country that, as is well known, has vast resources.

But at that moment what was needed were trained and well-equipped doctors to save lives. Given New Orleans geographical location, more than one thousand doctors of the ‘Henry Reeve’ contingent mobilised and readied to leave for that city at any time of the day or the night, carrying with them the necessary medicines and equipment. It never crossed our mind that the president of that nation would reject the offer and let a number of Americans that could have been saved to die.

The mistake made by that government was perhaps the inability to understand that the people of Cuba do not see in the American people an enemy; it does not blame it for the aggressions our homeland has suffered.

Nor was that government capable of understanding that our country does not need to beg for favors or forgiveness of those who, for half a century now, have been trying, to no avail, to bring us to our knees.

Our country, also in the case of Haiti, immediately responded to the US authorities requests to fly over the eastern part of Cuba as well as other facilities they needed to deliver assistance, as quickly as possible, to the American and Haitian citizens who had been affected by the earthquake.

Such have been the principles characterising the ethical behavior of our people. Together with its equanimity and firmness, these have been the ever-present features of our foreign policy. And this is known only too well by whoever have been our adversaries in the international arena.

Cuba will firmly stand by the opinion that the tragedy that has taken place in Haiti, the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, is a challenge to the richest and more powerful countries of the world.

Haiti is a net product of the colonial, capitalist and imperialist system imposed on the world. Haiti’s slavery and subsequent poverty were imposed from abroad. That terrible earthquake occurred after the Copenhagen Summit, where the most elemental rights of 192 UN member States were trampled upon.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, a competition has unleashed in Haiti to hastily and illegally adopt boys and girls. Unicef has been forced to adopt preventive measures against the uprooting of many children, which will deprive their close relatives from their rights.

There are more than one hundred thousand deadly victims. A high number of citizens have lost their arms or legs, or have suffered fractures requiring rehabilitation that would enable them to work or manage their own.

Eighty percent of the country needs to be rebuilt. Haiti requires an economy that is developed enough to meet its needs according to its productive capacity. The reconstruction of Europe or Japan, which was based on the productive capacity and the technical level of the population, was a relatively simple task as compared to the effort that needs to be made in Haiti.

There, as well as in most of Africa and elsewhere in the Third World, it is indispensable to create the conditions for a sustainable development. In only 40 years’ time, humanity will be made of more than nine billion inhabitants, and right now is faced with the challenge of a climate change that scientists accept as an inescapable reality.

In the midst of the Haitian tragedy, without anybody knowing how and why, thousands of US marines, 82nd Airborne Division troops and other military forces have occupied Haiti. Worse still is the fact that neither the United Nations Organisation nor the US government have offered an explanation to the world’s public opinion about this relocation of troops.

Several governments have complained that their aircraft have not been allowed to land in order to deliver the human and technical resources that have been sent to Haiti.

Some countries, for their part, have announced they would be sending an additional number of troops and military equipment. In my view, such events will complicate and create chaos in international cooperation, which is already in itself complex. It is necessary to seriously discuss this issue. The UN should be entrusted with the leading role it deserves in these so delicate matters.

Our country is accomplishing a strictly humanitarian mission. To the extent of its possibilities, it will contribute the human and material resources at its disposal. The will of our people, which takes pride in its medical doctors and cooperation workers who provide vital services, is huge, and will rise to the occasion.

Any significant cooperation that is offered to our country will not be rejected, but its acceptance will fully depend on the importance and transcendence of the assistance that is requested from the human resources of our homeland.

It is only fair to state that, up until this moment, our modest aircrafts and the important human resources that Cuba has made available to the Haitian people have arrived at their destination without any difficulty whatsoever.

We send doctors, not soldiers!

Fidel Castro Ruz

23 January 2010, 5.30pm

Reflections by Comrade Fidel: Haiti

Two days ago, close to 6 in the evening Cuba time, already dark in Haiti due to its geographical location, the TV channels started carrying news that a violent earthquake, –of 7.3 intensity in the Richter scale—had severely shaken Port au Prince. The seismic phenomenon had originated at a tectonic fault in the sea only 9.4 miles from the Haitian capital, a city where 80% of the population lives in fragile houses built with clay and adobe.

The news continued almost uninterrupted for hours. There were no images but it was said that many stouter constructions like public buildings, hospitals, schools and other facilities had also collapsed. I have read that a 7.3 earthquake equals the energy released by the explosion of 400,000 tons of TNT.

The descriptions were dramatic. In the streets, the wounded cried for medical help surrounded by ruins and their families buried under the debris. But, for many hours no one could broadcast any image.

The news took us all by surprise. Rather often we had heard news of hurricanes and large floods in Haiti but we did not know that our neighbor was threatened by a major earthquake. It surfaced now that 200 years ago a major earthquake had hit that city, which at the time was certainly inhabited by a few thousand people.

At midnight there was still no estimate of the number of victims. Senior UN officials and various Heads of Government spoke of the impressive event and announced that they would be sending rescue brigades. Since MINUSTAH –UN international forces– are deployed there some Defense ministers spoke of the possibility of casualties among their personnel.

Actually, it was yesterday morning that sad news started flowing in on the high number of human casualties in the population and even such institutions as the United Nations reported that some of their buildings in that country had collapsed; a word that usually does not say much but that could mean a lot under the circumstances.

For hours increasingly dramatic news of the situation in that country continued to flow uninterrupted with reports of different numbers of deadly victims that depending on which version fluctuated between 30 thousand and 100 thousand. The images are appalling. Obviously, the catastrophic event has been widely reported all over the world and many governments, sincerely moved, are making efforts to cooperate to the extent of their capabilities.

A lot of people are sincerely touched by the tragedy, especially natural unassuming people but perhaps few stop to think on why Haiti is such a poor country and why almost 50 percent of its population depends of family remittances. And in this context, would it not be proper to also analyze the reality leading to the current situation of Haiti and its huge suffering?

It is amazing that no one says a word on the fact that Haiti was the first country where 400 thousand Africans, enslaved and brought to this land by Europeans, rebelled against 30 thousand white owners of sugarcane and coffee plantations and succeeded in making the first great social revolution in our hemisphere. Pages of insurmountable glory were then written there where Napoleon’s most outstanding general tasted defeat. Haiti is a complete product of colonialism and imperialism, of more than a century of using its human resources in the hardest labors, of military interventions and the extraction of its wealth.

Such a historic oblivion would not be so grave if it were not because Haiti is an embarrassment in our times, in a world where the exploitation and plundering of the overwhelming majority of people on the planet prevail.

Billions of people in Latin America, Africa and Asia endure similar privation although probably not all of them in such high proportion as Haiti.

No place on earth should be affected by such situations, even though there are tens of thousands of towns and villages in similar and sometimes worse conditions resulting from an unfair economic and political international order imposed worldwide. The world population is not only threatened by natural catastrophes like that of Haiti that is but a pale example of what can happen to the planet with climate change; an issue that was the target of mockery, scorn and deception in Copenhagen.

It is fair to say to every country and institution that have sustained the loss of citizens or members to the natural catastrophe in Haiti that we do not doubt that at this point they will make the greatest effort to save human lives and to alleviate the pain of that long-suffering people. They cannot be blamed for the natural phenomenon that has taken place there even though we disagree with the policy pursued towards Haiti.

But, I must say that I feel it’s high time to seek true and real solutions for that fraternal people.

In the area of health care and others the Haitian people has received the cooperation of Cuba, even though this is a small and blockaded country. Approximately 400 doctors and healthcare workers are helping the Haitian people free of charge. Our doctors are working every day at 227 of the 337 communes of that country. On the other hand, no less than 400 young Haitians have been graduated as medical doctors in our country.

They will now work alongside the reinforcement that traveled there yesterday to save lives in that critical situation. Thus, up to one thousand doctors and healthcare personnel can be mobilized without any special effort; and most are already there willing to cooperate with any other State that wishes to save Haitian lives and rehabilitate the injured.

Another high number of Haitian youths are studying medicine in Cuba.

We also cooperate with the Haitian people in other areas within our capabilities. However, there is no other form of cooperation worthy of the definition but that of struggling in the field of ideas and political action to put an end to the endless tragedy endured by a great number of nations like Haiti.

The head of our medical brigade has informed that “the situation is difficult but we are already saving lives”. He said this in a brief message sent a few hours after arriving in Port au Prince yesterday with an additional group of doctors.

Late at night he said that the Cuban doctors and the Haitian doctors graduated at the ELAM (Latin American Medical School) were being deployed in the country. At Port au Prince they had cared for over one thousand patients while urgently commissioning a hospital that had not collapsed and using tents where necessary. They were also preparing to rapidly set up other first-aid centers.

We take wholesome pride in the cooperation that at this tragic hour the Cuban doctors and the young Haitian doctors trained in Cuba are giving their brothers and sisters in Haiti!

Fidel Castro Ruz
14 January 2010, 8.25pm

Letter to Communist Party of Cuba

Esteemed Comrade Fidel Castro Ruz
Esteemed Comrade Raul Castro Ruz
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba
Havana
Cuba

Dear Comrades

It is with the greatest joy and the warmest and most militant feelings of solidarity that we wholeheartedly offer you our congratulations and best wishes on the 50th anniversary of the historic triumph of the Cuban revolution.

The victory of the Cuban revolution half a century ago, and its triumphant subsequent consolidation and development, is a matter of the utmost importance not only for the Cuban people, but for the whole of the Caribbean, the whole of Latin America, Africa and Asia, the whole of the international working class, the global socialist cause and the international communist movement.

In advancing to nationwide victory, the heroic revolutionaries, led by Fidel and Che, not only liberated the Cuban people – for the first time the Great October Socialist Revolution had been extended to the western hemisphere. As the great Korean revolutionary leader Comrade Kim Il Sung observed in 1968:

“The Cuban revolution is the first socialist revolutionary victory in Latin America, and it is a continuation, in Latin America, of the Great October Revolution. With the triumph of the Cuban revolution, the red banner of socialism now flies high over Latin America, which was regarded until quite recently as the hereditary estate of US imperialism; thus the socialist camp has been extended to the western hemisphere and has grown much stronger. Today the Republic of Cuba, marching firmly at the forefront of the Latin American revolution, is the beacon of hope for the fighting people of Latin America and it casts its victorious beam along the road of struggle. The triumph of the Cuban revolution shook the US imperialist colonial system to its very foundations in the western hemisphere and has thrown the whole of Latin America into revolutionary turbulence, dramatically arousing the people to join in the dedicated struggle for independence and freedom. Indeed, the triumph of the Cuban revolution marked the beginning of the disintegration of the system of US imperialist colonial rule in Latin America; it sternly judged and sentenced to destruction that imperialism which had exploited and oppressed the people in this area for so long.”

Over five decades of socialist revolution and construction, the Cuban working class and people, under the leadership of the Communist Party and Comrade Fidel, have overcome one difficulty after another, including the decades-long, illegal US embargo and blockade, the Special Period occasioned by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the European socialist countries due to revisionist betrayal, repeated armed aggression by US imperialism and its lackeys, and repeated natural disasters, to build a genuine socialist homeland. Today, despite all adverse circumstances and challenges, Socialist Cuba provides all her people with food, clothing and shelter. Cuba’s achievements in healthcare and education, in particular, are not only a precious gain of your working class, but also are rightly the envy of the people of the whole world, including, not least, the working people in the United States of America and elsewhere in the imperialist heartlands.

Socialist Cuba has from its very inception been synonymous with internationalism. From Ireland in the North Atlantic to Timor Leste in the South Pacific, no theatre of anti-imperialist struggle has been too small or too far away to be separated from the care and concern of the Cuban revolution. The bequest that the immortal revolutionary Che Guevara left his children not to be indifferent to the plight of a single oppressed person anywhere on earth has truly become an article of faith for your entire people. How fitting, therefore, that your Young Pioneers take as their motto: “Let us be like Che!”

In Africa, from virtually the first day that the patriots of Algeria and Guinea Bissau raised the banner of armed revolution, Cuban internationalists were at their side. Today, thousands of Cuban doctors and medical workers are to be found in nearly every African country, often attending to the needs of the poorest and most marginalised communities. Above all, we can never forget how your intervention in Angola, one of the most glorious pages in the glorious history of proletarian internationalism, not only saved that newly liberated country from apartheid slavery, but also played a decisive role in the ensuing liberation of Namibia and South Africa and the extirpation of that crime against humanity, racist apartheid.

Above all, as Comrade Kim Il Sung observed:

“Consolidation of the triumph of the Cuban revolution is not only an important question on which the life or death, the rise or fall, of the Cuban people depends. It is also a key factor in influencing the general development of the Latin American revolution.”

Today, thanks not least to the example and inspiration of the Cuban revolution, the US imperialist schemes to maintain Latin America as its “backyard” have imploded and lie in tatters. It is not Socialist Cuba but US imperialism that is isolated. Most importantly, with Cuba as the socialist fortress, today you are joined by Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua as countries that are aspiring to socialism and which are taking the first steps towards the socialist transformation of the state and society and the building of a new life for working people. All this is a priceless gain and the greatest defence of your revolution.

Our party attaches the greatest importance to our work to support and defend Socialist Cuba, which we see as an integral part of our own revolutionary work. We highly value our fraternal relations with your party, which have been developing on very good terms during this last year in particular and it is our firm desire and steadfast determination to consolidate them further in this jubilee year of your revolution.

We take this opportunity to extend our special good wishes to Comrade Fidel and to express our ardent hope that he continues to make a full recovery from illness.

Please be assured of our full support and solidarity at all times.

LONG LIVE THE CUBAN REVOLUTION!

Yours fraternally
Harpal Brar, Chairman
Zane Carpenter, General Secretary
Ella Rule, International Secretary

Happy 50th birthday, socialist Cuba!

Fidel and Che

Congratulations to the Cuban Communist Party and the Cuban people on the momentous occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Cuban revolution. Below is an article on the subject from the latest issue of Proletarian.

Cuba special: 50 years of revolution

New Year’s Day is a day for celebrating, not only as it is the dawn of a new calendar year but also as it marks the triumphant day on which the Cuban people ousted the military dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, so ridding themselves of the shackles of capitalism and setting out on the road toward socialism.

This New Year, 2009, is especially significant as it will be the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution. No doubt there will be big celebrations across Cuba, and these are bound to be mirrored around the world by the masses of exploited and oppressed people who recognise the huge achievements brought about by the Cuban revolution and who hold dear the shining example of the Cuban people, who have demonstrated for half a century what working people are capable of when they take power.

A Spanish colony

Cuba spent some 400 years as a Spanish colony, having been ‘discovered’ by Columbus in 1492. During the latter part of the nineteenth century, a fierce anti-colonial struggle developed, lead by José Martí and the Cuban Revolutionary Party.

By 1897, the success of the independence movement seemed within reach, with the Spanish prime minister making the following statement: “After having sent 200,000 men and shed so much blood, we don’t own any more land on the island than what our soldiers are stepping on.” (Quoted in Prof J Cantón Navarro, History of Cuba)

However, just a few months later, in February 1898, the US battleship Maine blew up in Havana Bay and drew the US into a war with the Spanish. It is widely believed that the attack on the battleship was actually instigated by the US in order to pull Spain into a war for the ‘ownership’ of Cuba.

The US were the victors of that war, and so, in 1899, dominion over Cuba was transferred to the US, which granted nominal independence to the island in 1902, but retained economic control until the revolution in 1959.

A US neo-colony

The first half of the 20th century saw Cuba descend into a haven for drugs, prostitution and gambling, as the US ruling class, with the help of the Cuban comprador bourgeoisie, turned the small island into an offshore playground.

Successive Cuban governments showed themselves to be nothing more than puppets of US imperialism, maintaining the status quo and allowing the wealth of the land to be leeched by foreign imperialists while the average Cuban was left to serve the colonisers or starve.

Nevertheless, throughout this period, progressive forces continued to mobilise and struggle against the reactionary governments. The increasing strength of the movement was illustrated on 10 March 1952, when Fulgencio Batista, in a bid to prevent a communist candidate winning the elections, seized power by force.

Batista had been a military man for many years and had served the establishment well, suppressing uprisings during the 1930s and 40s. In 1940, he served a term of four years as elected president, during which time US trade relations increased and Cuba entered the second world war on the side of the allies.

Following the coup d’etat in 1952, Batista ruled Cuba with an iron fist. He abolished the constitution, dismissed the Congress of the Republic and firmly held open the door to US imperialism.

Fidel Castro, then a young revolutionary, denounced the coup and called on all Cubans to fight the dictatorship, warning: “once again there is tyranny, but there will also be men like Mella, Trejo and Guiteras [revolutionaries who had fought Spanish and US forces]. There is oppression in the homeland, but there will be a day of liberty again”. (Quoted in History of Cuba, op cit)

Moncada Barracks

Following this call to fight, Castro got together with a group of other revolutionaries who had fought in previous uprisings, with the intention of carrying out an attack on the military regime and thus providing a catalyst for further uprisings.

The target of this attack was to be the Moncada Barracks, the second-largest barracks in Cuba, located a fair distance from any potential back-up forces, as well as being on the outskirts of Santiago de Cuba, where the independence movement had always been strong.

During the night of 26 July 1953, a group of 131 combatants led in three groups by Fidel Castro, Abel Santamaria and Raúl Castro attacked the barracks. Despite extensive and secretive preparation by Fidel and others, the first attacking column was intercepted by an unscheduled patrol of Batista’s forces, sparking a battle and alerting the rest of the barracks to the attack.

Almost all the combatants were captured, eight being killed in battle while a handful escaped. The following day, a further 50 fighters were executed as a warning to others. The rest were tried, along with others who had been rounded up but had no involvement in the attack.

It was during the Moncada Barracks trial that Fidel gave one of his most famous speeches, now recognised by his final statement: “History will absolve me”. Fidel used the speech to expose the brutality of the Batista regime, the downtrodden existence of the Cuban people and the need to fight for liberty and freedom.

He also outlined five revolutionary laws that would have been proclaimed if the attack had been successful. These laws were to “return power to the people”, “give non-mortgageable and non-transferable ownership of land to all tenants”, “grant workers and employees the right to share 30 percent of the profits of all large industry”, “grant all sugar planters the right to share 55 percent of sugar production”, and to confiscate “all holdings and ill-gotten gains … of previous regimes … Half of the property recovered would be used to subsidise retirement funds for workers and the other half would be used for hospitals, asylums and charitable organisations.”

The success of the defence team, in spite of limitations imposed on them by the court, meant that only 26 were found guilty, and a large proportion of these were given lenient sentences.

Movement of 26 July

Fidel, however, along with several others involved in the attack, was sentenced to 15 years and imprisoned in Isle of Pines. Two years later, following continued protests for their release, and in the face of increasing unrest, Batista granted the release of Castro and the other imprisoned combatants.

On their release, they were greeted with great popular acclaim and determined to continue the work they had started. So, in June 1955, Castro and several other revolutionaries who had attacked the Moncada Barracks held an official meeting and formed the Movement of 26 July (M 26-J).

As M 26-J increased its activity, so too did the repressive measures of the Batista regime. By July, Fidel had decided that, in order to effectively organise, he needed to leave the country and train elsewhere.

Mexico and Guevara

Having relocated to Mexico, Castro and several others set up camp, specifically choosing remote terrain similar to Cuba’s in order to prepare themselves for the next stage of the struggle. It was here that they met Che Guevera.

Che had fled persecution in Guatemala and, having met some of the M 26-J comrades previously, was introduced to Castro and so began his involvement in the preparations for the Cuban revolution.

M 26-J members in Mexico maintained constant communication with the workers’ and peasants’ struggles taking place in Cuba. Fidel wrote manifestos for the movement analysing the struggle and the tasks ahead, which were distributed in Cuba.

While the revolutionaries trained in Mexico, hardships suffered by the Cuban population under Batista increased the support for the goals set out by the M 26-J.

Granma

After a year of mobilising troops and building up the forces both in Mexico and in Cuba, the M 26-J planned coordinated attacks across the country, with the Mexican contingent travelling across the Gulf to reinforce the eastern front.

On 25 November 1956, from the port of Tupax, Mexico, the Granma, only a small boat, carried 82 members of the M 26-J across the Gulf of Mexico, aiming for Cuba’s eastern coast. However, the heavy load on the boat slowed the journey, delaying its landing to 2 December, two days after the attacks of the M 26-J were to be launched.

This proved almost fatal for the insurrection as, despite the forces within Cuba mounting uprisings and making some gains, they had not been the outright victors. The delay of the Granma meant that Batista’s forces were at the boat’s landing site within an hour with all the planes and troops they could muster.

In the face of this military onslaught, and against all odds, the rebels continued towards the mountains of the Sierra Maestra. However, a large part of their contingent was captured and over 20 executed on the spot. The remaining 10 members moved deeper into the mountains and regrouped, ready to continue the fight against the regime.

During the next 24 months, the 10 members of M 26-J in the Sierra Maestra recruited workers and peasants from across the countryside and towns as a fierce war ensued against the regime.

As Fidel recounted on the 40th anniversary of the revolution: “the infallible tactic of attacking the enemy when it was on the move was a key factor [to success]. The art of provoking those forces into moving out of their well-fortified and generally invulnerable positions became one of our commands’ greatest skills.” (Speech made in Céspedes Park, Santiago de Cuba, 1 January 1999)

By December 1958, the rebel army, with Fidel as commander-in-chief, and Che Guevara, Camilio Cienfuegos, Raúl Castro, Juan Alemida and Celia Sánchez as leaders of the columns, led the forces across the country taking city after city and growing in number by the day.

Che Guevara’s Column No. 8, by this time made up of 300 well-armed and experienced troops, was joined on 29 December by 5,000 recruits trained in the Escambray mountains in the battle for Santa Cruz.

This was the dictatorship’s last and most powerful stronghold. The rebels captured enemy positions one by one, cutting off communication and finally taking all government troops prisoner and seizing control of the city.

At 2.00am on 1 January 1959, Batista fled the country, leaving the rebel army victorious. Thus it was, five years, five months and five days after the attack on the Moncada Barracks, that the programme publicised during the Moncada trial for developing a Cuba for the Cuban people was finally put into action.

Soy Cuba – depiction of Cuban life

For a real flavour of this struggle, it is well worth watching the beautifully filmed and choreographed epic Soy Cuba (I am Cuba).

Using the lives of several Cubans, from a farmer forced to sell all his land to the United Fruit Company to a young girl living in a tin shack having to serve opulent US and foreign ‘diplomats’, it shows graphically the disparity between the life of a Cuban and that of the foreign and comprador bourgeoisie under Batista.

The film aptly portrays the struggle in the towns by the students and workers and how this eventually combined with the guerrilla war led by Fidel, Che, Camilo Cienfuegos and the other fighters and the thousands of recruits who joined the guerrillas from the countryside.

The film ends with the triumphant scene of the guerrilla army advancing victoriously towards Havana.

The revolution continues

The revolutionary government began by addressing the poverty, hunger and illiteracy that had plagued the lives of Cubans for the past century.

The sentiment of the five revolutionary laws outlined in Fidel’s ‘History will absolve me’ speech was put into action. In May 1959, under the Agrarian Reform act, Cuba began expropriating land and private property for the benefit of more than 100,000 rural families.

Rental costs were reduced by 50 percent. Social security measures were extended across the entire population.

The revolution embarked upon creating 10,000 classrooms for the 10,000 teachers without jobs to be able to teach the 600,000 children not then in school. They also began training voluntary teachers, who were then sent to wherever they were needed, thus becoming part of the campaign to rid Cuba of illiteracy.

By 1960, the government had nationalised more than $25bn worth of private property in Cuba, and on 6 August 1960, Cuba nationalised all US-owned property, as well as all other foreign-owned property.

This move unsurprisingly brought the wrath of the already fuming imperialist power. The US government seized all Cuban assets abroad and tightened the embargo that it had imposed following the success of the revolution.

Since 1962, the US has maintained a full economic blockade of the country.

Bay of Pigs

Cuba became one of US imperialism’s most hated states, not only because it seized assets previously under the control of US corporations, directly hitting the US economy, but also because of the example it set to all the downtrodden exploited masses in the US and elsewhere of what is possible when power is seized by the working class and peasantry.

Thus it was that the wrath of US imperialism was not only felt economically through the embargo but also militarily.

In 1961, the US staged an attack on the Bay of Pigs in an attempt to oust Fidel and the Communist Party from Cuba. The invasion was defeated, however, through the coordination of the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution (who rounded up all pro-Batista and US forces, preventing them from mobilising a coup within towns), combined with a strong military response led by Fidel.

Economic blockade and subversive attack

Having failed to get rid of socialist Cuba by direct invasion in 1961, US imperialism has not relented and continues to this day in its attempts to undermine the revolution.

This is done through encouraging and financing counterrevolutionary and terrorist activities against Cuba, from backing Luis Posada Carriles, the self-confessed terrorist who has attacked Venezuela and Cuba and now is protected by the US, to funding Hermanos al Rescate (Brothers to the Rescue [!]), a terrorist group created in the US to attack Cuba.

The period from 1959 to 1997 saw “5,780 terrorist actions against Cuba, 804 of them considered as terrorist attacks of significant magnitude, including 78 bombings against the population that caused thousands of victims”. (‘Fifty years of US terrorism against Cuba’, Voltaire.net, 15 December 2005)

This is in addition to the economic blockade that the US has held Cuba under for almost 50 years, which prevents a vast number of goods entering Cuba, from food to medicine, affecting every area of Cuban life. Estimates in 2004 calculated the total direct damage to the economy caused by the blockade at $80bn. (‘The US blockade of Cuba’, Cuba Solidarity Campaign)

In 1992, just after Cuba had lost 85 percent of her trade with the Soviet Union following the latter’s collapse, the US senate tightened the blockade passing the Cuban Democracy Act[!], known as the Torricelli Act. The act, as outlined by Congressmen Torricelli himself, was designed to “wreak havoc on the island”, extending the blockade to countries outside the US and thus preventing the purchase of vital goods by Cuba.

Then, in 1996, the US passed the equally inappropriately titled Cuban Liberty and Democracy Solidarity Act, aka the Helms-Burton Act, extending the embargo to penalise any foreign company that trades with Cuba. It also called for more active interference in the running of the country, through funding subversive activity as mentioned above and increasing the use of external radio and TV broadcasts into Cuba from Miami, notably Radio Marti and TV Marti.

The Helms-Burton Act also further restricted the sale of Cuban goods within the US, which for a moment in 1999 was broken following Cuba’s development of a vaccine against meningitis B. After an outbreak in the US, the Treasury Department finally relented and granted a licence in 1999, having refused to do so for over 10 years.

It is in the face of this that the Cuban people, led by the Communist Party of Cuba, have not only survived but made massive strides in improving the standard of living of all Cubans.

A Cuban diplomat at a recent meeting of the UN member states, at which, for the 17th consecutive year, an overwhelming majority of members (96 percent) voted to condemn the US blockade, stated: “[The US] will never be able to bring the Cuban people to their knees. Neither blockades nor hurricanes will be able to take away our spirit. There will be no human or natural force capable of subjugating the Cuban people”. (‘UN General Assembly condemns US economic blockade against Cuba for the 17th consecutive year’, Cuba News Daily, 30 October 2008)

Cuban achievements

The Cuban people enjoy a standard of living incomparable in the western world. Incomparable not because of the material goods they have, as these are undoubtedly limited, but because of the freedoms that they benefit from: the freedom that ensures every Cuban lives under shelter, has the right to universal free education and access to a healthcare system that is not dependant on income. In short, the freedom to live a full life no matter who you are or which family you are born into.

Housing

Decent housing for all is a right guaranteed by the Cuban constitution. Homelessness is unheard of. Housing costs in Cuba have been maintained at a low level, with many either owning their homes outright or paying an average of 10 percent of income towards their homes.

This is in stark contrast to the insecurity of many in Britain, one of the world’s richest countries, where mortgage rates are such that house repossessions have increased by over 45 percent, with estimations of over 45,000 homes being taken back by lenders by the end of the year. (‘Figures from house repossessions soar to 12-year-high’, The Independent, 8 August 2008)

Education

As for education, the initial ambition of the revolution to rid Cuba of illiteracy has long since been achieved, something not all so-called developed countries can lay claim to. Education is taken very seriously, with 10 percent of Cuba’s GDP being spent on providing free, universal education for all.

Education is compulsory to ninth grade, with one teacher for every 36.8 inhabitants, as compared to one teacher for every 802 inhabitants in the UK. (Figures from ‘Eye-witness to socialism: school education in Cuba’, Proletarian, February 2007)

Unlike the increasingly expensive university education that is a privilege rather than a right in the imperialist world, all Cubans can attend any of Cuba’s 47 universities free of charge. Scholarships are also open to less privileged students from Latin America, the Caribbean, and even the US and Europe, many of whom study medicine and are encouraged to return to their homelands after graduation to implement their skills there.

Health

Before the revolution, only 8 percent of the rural population had access to health care, but today Cuba can boast of a system that provides free health care to its entire population, as highlighted in the recent Michael Moore film Sicko.

The doctor to patient ratio in Cuba is higher than any other country, with a doctor for every 169 inhabitants. In Britain, on the other hand, the average doctor has to attend to 600 inhabitants. The effect of this is that general check-ups are far more frequent and monitoring for potential illness or disease is much easier in Cuba.

Consequently, Cuban life expectancy matches that of the US or Britain, and is way above other developing countries, yet for a fraction of the cost, since the emphasis is on preventative medicine and full health, rather than the system only dealing with those who are already sick and in need of expensive treatments.

The advances in medical research and techniques in Cuba have also been astounding. Not least, the meningitis B vaccine previously mentioned, which was developed in the 1980s, despite the blockade severely limiting the medical supplies that are allowed into Cuba owing to the extent of US patents on treatments.

It is to the credit of the well-managed, centrally organised socialist system that it is able to provide treatment and operations for 11.2 million Cubans despite these limited supplies from abroad.

Cuba puts paid to myth of the ‘inefficiencies of public money’ that has been peddled by our bourgeoisie to justify the dismantling of the NHS in Britain. If the will is there, the funding and results can be found.

The difference between Britain and Cuba is not that the doctors and nurses in Britain do not care, but rather that that, in a system where profit is the driving force, corners will be cut wherever possible, whether the company in question is making cars or providing health care. In socialist Cuba, where people come first, health care, education, shelter and security are the focus, and everything else comes second.

Cuban internationalism

The achievements Cuba has made have also benefited hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people across the globe.

During the 1960s and 1970s Cuba gave much-needed political and military support to independence struggles in Africa, not least those of Angola and Namibia. In 1979, Cuba’s military support to the Sandinistas in Nicaragua assisted them in the defeat of Somoza’s dictatorship.

Cuba’s medical expertise has been shared the world over, with over 25,000 doctors sent to 68 countries. This is in stark contrast to the ‘brain drain’ of doctors who are tempted away from third world countries to serve in the NHS in Britain.

Cuba has given support to many afflicted peoples at times of great need. After the south Asian tsunami, Cuba sent teams of medics to give support, as she did also in the aftermath of earthquakes in Pakistan.

It is also well known that after the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2007, Cuba was one of the first countries to offer assistance in the form of 1,500 doctors. The US, despite a severe shortage, never accepted this offer.

In collaboration with Venezuela, the continent-wide Operación Milagro (Operation Miracle) has been underway for three years, treating vast numbers of poor people who have lost, or are losing, their eyesight, by providing free ophthalmology operations. Cuba provides the doctors and expertise while Venezuela provides transportation, accommodation and food, in effect giving sight back to over 6 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean, with the potential for the programme to be extended even further.

As part of ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative for the Americans), Cuba and Venezuela have also agreed to share expertise and goods. Cuba is providing doctors, who work in neighbourhoods across Venezuela as part of Mission Barrio Adentro. In return, Cuba purchases crude oil at reduced rates.

Support socialist Cuba

The developments in Latin America as a whole have been tremendously positive for the small island of Cuba. From the collapse of the USSR in 1991 until recently, Cuba was an isolated socialist country, struggling alone in the Americas against the might of US imperialism just 90 miles to the north, with a host of US puppet regimes to the south.

Now, with Venezuela and Bolivia standing as strong allies, along with several other progressive Latin American countries, Cuba’s position has been strengthened. In addition, the increased trade links with China and Russia will also strengthen Cuba’s presence and stability in the region.

While capitalism is deep in crisis, the example that Cuba sets the working class and oppressed people should be broadcast as widely as possible. Cuba is a country that all progressive people should be proud of. When asked what alternative there is to capitalism, we should outline what the Communist Party of Cuba, supported by the people of Cuba, has been able to achieve in the face of constant imperialist aggression.

The proletariat in the imperialist countries must stand shoulder to shoulder with the Cuban people in their heroic defence of Cuban independence and socialism and against US imperialist bullying, trade blockades and threats of invasion and aggression.

Celebrate New Year’s Day this year with added vigour, remembering what has been achieved in Cuba and what could be achieved by a successful socialist revolution in Britain.

Reflections by comrade Fidel: Swimming Upstream

Following Obama’s speech, on May 23 this year, to the Cuban American National Foundation established by Ronald Reagan, I wrote a reflection entitled “The Empire’s Hypocritical Policy”. It was dated on the 25th of the same month.

In that Reflection I quoted his exact words to the Miami annexationists: “[…] together we will stand up for freedom in Cuba; this is my word and my commitment […] It’s time to let Cuban American money make their families less dependent upon the Castro regime. […] I will maintain the embargo.”

I then offered several arguments and unethical examples of the general behavior of the Presidents who preceded the one who would be elected to that position on the November 4 elections. I literally wrote:

“I find myself forced to raise various sensitive questions:

  1. Is it right for the President of the United States to order the assassination of any one person in the world, whatever the pretext may be?
  2. Is it ethical for the President of the United States to order the torture of other human beings?
  3. Should state terrorism be used by a country as powerful as the United States as an instrument to bring about peace on the planet?
  4. Is an Adjustment Act, applied as punishment on only one country, Cuba, in order to destabilize it, good and honorable, even when it costs innocent children and mothers their lives? If it is good, why is this right not automatically granted to Haitians, Dominicans, and other peoples of the Caribbean, and why isn’t the same Act applied to Mexicans and people from Central and South America, who die like flies against the Mexican border wall or in the waters of the Atlantic and the Pacific?
  5. Can the United States do without immigrants, who grow vegetables, fruits, almonds and other delicacies for Americans? Who would sweep their streets, work as servants in their homes or do the worst and lowest-paid jobs?
  6. Are crackdowns on illegal residents fair, even as they affect children born in the United States?
  7. Are the brain-drain and the continuous theft of the best scientific and intellectual minds in poor countries moral and justifiable?
  8. You state, as I pointed out at the beginning of this reflection, that your country had long ago warned European powers that it would not tolerate any intervention in the hemisphere, reiterating that this right be respected while demanding the right to intervene anywhere in the world with the aid of hundreds of military bases and naval, aerial and spatial forces distributed across the planet. I ask: is that the way in which the United States expresses its respect for freedom, democracy and human rights?
  9. Is it fair to stage pre-emptive attacks on sixty or more dark corners of the world, as Bush calls them, whatever the pretext may be?
  10. Is it honorable and sound to invest millions upon millions of dollars in the military industrial complex, to produce weapons that can destroy life on earth several times over?”

I could have included several other issues.

Despite the caustic questions, I was not unkind to the African American candidate. I perceived he had greater capacity and command of the art of politics than his adversaries, not only in the opposing party but in his own, too.

Last week, the American President-elect Barack Obama announced his Economic Recovery Program.

Monday, December 1st, he introduced his National Security and Foreign Policy teams.

“Vice President-elect Biden and I are pleased to announce our national security team […] old conflicts remain unresolved, and newly assertive powers have put strains on the international system. The spread of nuclear weapons raises the peril that the world’s deadliest technology could fall into dangerous hands. Our dependence on foreign oil empowers authoritarian governments and endangers our planet.”

“…our economic power must sustain our military strength, our diplomatic leverage, and our global leadership.”

“We will renew old alliances and forge new and enduring partnerships […] American values are America’s greatest export to the world.”

“…the team that we have assembled here today is uniquely suited to do just that.”

“…these men and women represent all of those elements of American power […] they have served in uniform and as diplomats […] they share my pragmatism about the use of power, and my sense of purpose about America’s role as a leader in the world.”

“I have known Hillary Clinton…,” he says.

I am mindful of the fact that she was President-elect Barack Obama’s rival and the wife of President Clinton, who signed the extraterritorial Torricelli and Helms Burton Acts against Cuba. During the presidential race she committed herself with these laws and with the economic blockade. I am not complaining, I am simply stating it for the record.

“I am proud that she will be our next Secretary of State,” said Obama. “[she] will command respect in every capitol; and who will clearly have the ability to advance our interests around the world. Hillary’s appointment is a sign to friend and foe of the seriousness of my commitment…”

“At a time when we face an unprecedented transition amidst two wars, I have asked Robert Gates to continue as Secretary of Defense…”

“[…] I will be giving Secretary Gates and our military a new mission as soon as I take office: responsibly ending the war in Iraq through a successful transition to Iraqi control.”

It strikes me that Gates is a Republican, not a Democrat. He is the only one who has been Defense Secretary and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, that is, he has occupied these positions under both Democratic and Republican Administrations. Gates, who is aware of his popularity, has said that first made sure that the President-elect was choosing him for as long as necessary.

On the other hand, while Condoleezza Rice was traveling to India and Pakistan under Bush’s instructions to mediate in the tense relations between these two countries, two days ago, the minister of Defense from Brazil gave the green light to a Brazilian company to manufacture MAR-1 missiles, but instead of one a month, as it had been the case until now, it will produce five every month. One hundred of these missiles will be sold to Pakistan at an estimated cost of 85 million euros.

In a public statement, the minister said that “these missiles that can be attached to planes have been designed to locate ground radars. They allow the effective monitoring of both the ground and air space.”

As for Obama, he continued unflappable his Monday statement: “And going forward, we will continue to make the investments necessary to strengthen our military and increase our ground forces to defeat the threats of the 21st century.”

On Janet Napolitano, he indicated: “[she] offers the experience and executive skill that we need in the next Secretary of Homeland Security…”

“Janet assumes this critical role having learned the lessons – some of them painful – of the last several years, from 9/11 to Katrina […] She understands as well as anyone the danger of an insecure border. And she will be a leader who can reform a sprawling Department while safeguarding our homeland.”

This familiar figure had been appointed a District Attorney in Arizona by Clinton in 1993, and then promoted to State Attorney General in 1998. Later on, in 2002, she became a Democratic Party candidate and then governor of that bordering state which is the most common incoming route used by illegal immigrants. She was elected governor in 2006.

About Susan Elizabeth Rice, he said: “Susan knows that the global challenges we face demand global institutions that work… We need the UN to be more effective as a venue for collective action – against terror and proliferation; climate change and genocide; poverty and disease.”

On National Security Advisor James Jones he said: “[…] I am convinced that General James Jones is uniquely suited to be a strong and skilled National Security Advisor. Generations of Joneses have served heroically on the battlefield – from the beaches of Tarawa in World War II, to Foxtrot Ridge in Vietnam. Jim’s Silver Star is a proud part of that legacy […] He has commanded a platoon in battle, served as Supreme Allied Commander in a time of war, (he means NATO and the Gulf War) and worked on behalf of peace in the Middle East.”

“Jim is focused on the threats of today and the future. He understands the connection between energy and national security, and has worked on the frontlines of global instability – from Kosovo to northern Iraq to Afghanistan.”

“He will advise me and work effectively to integrate our efforts

across the government, so that we are effectively using all elements of American power to defeat unconventional threats and promote our values.”
“I am confident that this is the team that we need to make a new beginning for American national security.”

Obama is somebody we can talk to anywhere he wishes since we do not preach violence or war. He should me reminded, though, that the stick and carrot doctrine will have no place in our country.

None of the phrases in his latest speech shows any element of response to the questions I raised last May 25, just six months ago.

I will not say now that Obama is any less smart. On the contrary, he is showing the mental faculties that enabled me to see and compare his capacity with that of his mediocre adversary, John McCain, who was almost rewarded for his “exploits” merely due to the traditions of the American society. If it had not been for the economic crisis, television and the Internet, Obama would not have won the elections against the omnipotent racism. It also helped that he studied first in the University of Columbia, where he graduated in Political Sciences, and then in Harvard where he graduated as a lawyer. This enabled him to become a member of the modestly rich class with only several million dollars. He is certainly not Abraham Lincoln, nor are these times similar to those. That society is today a consumer society where the saving habits have been lost while the spending habit has multiplied.

Somebody had to offer a calm and serene response even though this will have to swim up the powerful stream of hopes raised by Obama in the international public opinion.

I only have two more press dispatches left to analyze. They all carry news from everywhere. I have estimated that only the United States will be spending in this economic crisis over $6 trillion in paper money, an amount that can only be assessed by the rest of the peoples of the world with their sweat and hunger, their suffering and blood.

Our principles are the same as those of Baraguá. The empire should know that our Homeland can be turned to dust but the sovereign rights of the Cuban people are not negotiable.

Fidel Castro Ruz
December 4, 2008
5:28p.m.