“We can speak with our heads held high, and with very clear voices, in all the congresses and councils where our brothers of the world meet. When the Cuban Revolution speaks, it may make mistakes, but it will never tell a lie. In every place where it speaks, the Cuban Revolution expresses the truths that its sons and daughters have learned, and it does so openly to its friends and its enemies alike. It never throws stones from behind corners; it never gives advice containing daggers cloaked in velvet. We are subject to attacks. We are attacked a great deal because of what we are. But we are attacked much, much more because we show to each nation of the Americas what is possible.”Ernesto Che Guevara, Speech to the First Latin American Youth Congress
For more than 60 years the Cuban Revolution has been an electrifying force on the youth and the oppressed peoples of the world. There are few more inspiring examples of the invincibility of working people united, a people who, against almost insurmountable odds, defeated a dictator, created working class state power and defeated the mightiest empire in the capitalist world to defend what they had won.
For more than six decades the Cuban people have worked to build their revolution, to create a new Socialist society, free from the exploitation of humans by humans. But every minute of every day, the revolution has been on guard against the United States, just 90 miles across the Florida Straits, devising ever crueller and more elaborate schemes to destroy the revolution.
Today and for all those years, Cuba has stood as a bastion of democracy, human rights, solidarity and anti-imperialism in the Americas and a beacon to oppressed peoples around the world. The achievements of the revolution for the working people of Cuba and the world speak for themselves.
In all the revolutionary struggles of the Cuban people, past and present, the youth have always played a leading and dynamic role. From those “82 youths [who] made the difficult crossing of the Gulf of Mexico in 1956 in a leaky boat to reach the shores of the Sierra Maestra” to liberate the island to the hundreds of thousands of Cuban young communists working to build Socialism today.
Despite the longest and cruellest blockade in history, the gains of the Cuban Revolution for working people have been stunning. After almost eradicating illiteracy in less than a year following the revolution, today Cuba maintains a world leading education system, a free universal right for all at all levels. Cuba’s legendary healthcare system has produced one of the highest average life expectancies in the Americas and countless vaccines and medical treatments used around the world. Workers rights in Cuba are among the most advanced in the world, with working people participating in and directing the economy at all levels. Women and minorities in Cuba enjoy rights and levels of equality unimaginable in capitalist countries. Cuba’s system of grassroots democracy and mass participation offers a far more meaningful and direct form of popular power than any bourgeois parliament.
But the Cuban Revolution has never been an insular or inward looking force. As well as providing an inspiration and an example to the world, Cuba has been the model of working class internationalism. Cubans say “solidarity is sharing what you have, not what you have left” and they translate this into practice. Cuba doctors have been the first on the scene responding to countless international disasters. Over the decades Cuban medical brigades have performed countless humanitarian feats, from restoring sight to hundreds of thousands in the Americas to fighting Ebola in West Africa. Cuban forces were fundamental to the defeat of the South African dictatorship in Angola, shattering the myth of white invincibility and, in the view of Nelson Mandela, playing a fundamental role in the downfall of the whole apartheid regime. The examples of Cuban internationalism are as numerous and varied as they are utterly inspiring, a glimpse of the real humanity that is possible through Socialism.
Even today, through the hard months and years of the COVID pandemic and international economic shock, the Revolution has not failed to deliver for the Cuban people who hold it dear and make it possible, nor has Cuba “failed in the reliance other nations of the world have placed on them”. Throughout the pandemic, despite all the risks and difficulties, Cuba has prioritised life and livelihoods, meaning far fewer COVID infections and deaths than even the most advanced capitalist countries and also working to maintain livelihoods and services for working people. Cuban scientists, under all the intensive constraints of the blockade developed one of the initial vaccines, Soberana, which has been administered to Cubans and exported to countries around the world, truly a testament to Cuban achievements in science, education and healthcare. Cuban doctors and medical brigades have travelled the world fighting the pandemic during the darkest days, including Europe, most famously to Italy, at a time when the European Union was prepared to leave the Italian people to their fate.
By contrast, for the imperialist powers and the United States in particular, the pandemic is yet another opportunity to be exploited. The USA sought to weaponise the pandemic itself, using the spread of disease and access to medical supplies to attack and undermine Cuba’s popular and democratic government. The US government immediately seized the chance to tighten the blockade on all fronts and to specifically embargo key medical supplies, such as ventilators to prevent care to COVID patients and syringes to stall Cuba’s vaccination programme. Acts and crimes which, building on a six decade campaign, are nothing short of genocidal.
Like all countries, Cuba suffered economic shock and difficulties as a result of the pandemic, lockdowns, the curtailing of most economic activity and the ending of tourism. The Trump regime sought to exploit the situation to attack Cuban Socialism at this critical juncture by expanding and intensifying the blockade on all fronts and by introducing new measures. These measures remain in place under Biden. As intended, in addition to the pandemic, the intensification of the longstanding blockade had its intended effect, resulting in severe economic hardship for the Cuban people, despite the best efforts of the Cuban government.
As ever, this is the situation which the USA government cynically sought to exploit, using paid agitators and mercenaries to provoke riots last summer in some Cuban cities. Their ‘#SOSCuba’ social media campaign, launched by the US government, Miami counterrevolutionaries and internet bots began rolling before the planned disturbances even started. This campaign even had the audacity to use images of supporters of the Revolution as examples of their own brave ‘freedom fighters’. But the response of the Cuban people was resolute. The Cuban people declared the “streets belong to the revolutionaries” and demonstrated it, with the president and working people across the island showing just how strong support for the Revolution is. The US orchestrated counterrevolutionary attempt was over in days.
I recently had the privilege of visiting Cuba as part of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign’s Young Trade Unionists May Day Brigade and for the VII International Seminar for Peace and the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases in Guantánamo. Having been there, I say with confidence that two facts will be apparent to any observer with the eyes to see them.
From conversations in the streets and the neighbourhoods, to Cuba’s world famous May Day celebrations in Plaza Revolución it is clear that the people, united in and with the mass organisations and the Communist Party, are one with the revolution. In few other countries on the planet do people or are people able to say “we” in reference to the collective efforts of the whole people, the whole nation, in such a meaningful way. From the battle for production to the victory over COVID, the people are together.
Cuba’s Guantánamo province, is as close as most civilians can or ever will get to the infamous US naval base and torture facility, which appropriates the name of what would be an otherwise beautiful and tranquil bay. From here, a second fact is palpable. Cuba stands on the frontline between two worlds. Standing in Cuba, the socialist camp, you can see only the outlying tendrils of the illegal US base, the aggressive foothold of another world, a world based on oppression, exploitation, chauvinism, and militarism. This threat, never victorious, has stood for over sixty years and stands today, ever present, and waiting to seize any and every opportunity to crush the Cuban Revolution.
In 2022 Cuba faces a difficult position, still working to recover from the pandemic and the resulting economic shock. The United States continues to intensify the blockade, fund counterrevolutionary and terrorist groups. The ingenuity of the Cuban people and their will to resist, overcome and develop are legendary. In this hour, the Cuban people need the support and solidarity of their friends around the world. The Cuban people have always stood with those fighting for a new world and we must be there with them.
Here in Britain, one of the foremost imperialist countries, one of our primary duties as young people and as Communists is to oppose the imperialism of our ruling and the US government that they support. It is for young people in our country to lead denunciations of the blockade against Cuba, oppose US aggression and provocations and to combat fake news and propaganda against Cuba on social media. For decades the inspiring example of Cuba has won thousands to Socialism in Britain, as part of the battle of ideas taking place around us all of the time. We owe it to the Cuban people to join them in their own struggle against disinformation which, with the spread of social media, has become more and more internationalised. Their fight is our fight.
The importance of organised and material support for the Cuba people cannot be overstated and Britain’s own Cuba Solidarity Campaign carries out invaluable and inspiring work, and has done so for decades. All young socialists, trade unionists and democrats should join the Cuba Solidarity Campaign and support their work across the country. Working to establish local groups across the country and in universities can be an important tool of solidarity and in the battle of ideas.
Equally the Cuban people and the Cuban youth are enthusiastic about the chance for young people from Britain and around the world to come to Cuba and experience the reality of life in their country and Cuba Socialism. From my own time, this is an invaluable experience in political education and in simply understanding in real terms that another world is possible, a world not organised for the profit and on the whims of a tiny minority, to the impoverishment of working people. In Cuba you can see a country where the working people and the youth have taken power into their own hands and the results are clear. This is an experience and an understanding that will serve a lifetime.
If the United States were ever to succeed, if the Cuban Revolution were ever to fall, a black period of reaction would be sure to set in not just in Latin America, where its effects would be profound, but across the whole world, not unlike after the destruction of the Soviet Union. But the Cubans are determined not simply to cling on, but to advance and develop with dignity, towards Socialism.
Technological advance and globalisation mean that the struggles of working people in different lands are interrelated as never before. The youth of Britain fighting for Socialism have much to lose and gain in the fight of the Cuban people but we have more and more profound means of providing internationalist support than ever before. Let us rise to the occasion and rededicate our solidarity to that people, that nation, that nation, that symbol of struggle that have served the working people and the youth of the world so long and so selflessly. Viva Cuba! Venceremos!
“If we work well; if we struggle intelligently; if we keep our unity, firmness, and spirit; if we are able to rise to the occasion; if we never want to fail in the reliance other nations of the world have placed on us, the reliance all revolutionary and progressive people in the world have placed on us, and all the poor people in the world, who see Cuba as a symbol of struggle and resistance-a symbol we cannot abandon, a symbol we cannot destroy, a symbol we cannot betray-we will move forward. We will find solutions to our problems. We will never forget that this is the nation of 1868 and 1895, of Moncada and 5 September, of the mountains and the plains, the underground struggle, the glorious internationalist missions.”Comandante Fidel Castro Ruz, Speech on the 39th Anniversary of the Moncada Barracks
Johnnie Hunter, is the YCL’s General Secretary