Last weekend, the CPGB-ML held its 2015 summer celebration of internationalism and BBQ. THe meeting was attended by over 100 of our members and supporters, and was addressed by representatives from the Cuban, DPR Korean and Venezuelan Embassies, who brought greetings from their governments and people, and updated comrades present on the latest developments in their struggles, and the contemporary situation in their countries.
Each of these countries, stands on the front line of the anti-imperialist struggle, and delivers a message of solidarity from their anti-imperialist, progressive and socialist movements, peoples and governments.
British workers have much to learn from the workers of these countries about how to build and maintain a movement for social emancipation.
This report from Cuba by our party’s recent delegation will bring fresh inspiration to all those struggling against imperialism. Not only can we win, but a bright and dignified future awaits us on the other side of the revolution.
At the end of June¬¬, the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) hosted a delegation of CPGB-ML comrades, led by our chairman Harpal Brar and vice-chairman and international secretary Ella Rule.
The exchange was characterised by a spirit of sincere friendship between the working people of Britain and Cuba and true comradeship between CPGB-ML delegates and our Cuban hosts, borne of a remarkable harmony of outlook and realisation of our common interests and destinies.
We were privileged to meet members of the PCC’s central committee and delegates of the National Assembly of People’s Power (the Cuban people’s parliament), including Ramon Pez Ferro, who was the youngest member of Fidel Castro’s company when it stormed the Moncada barracks on 26 July 1953.
It was this attack on the Moncada barracks, challenging the corrupt rule of US puppet Fulgencio Batista, that served as a call to arms to Cuba’s finest revolutionary youth and gave rise to the July 26 Movement (M 26-7). That movement went on to overthrew the brutal Batista dictatorship on 1 January 1959 and laid the foundations of the modern socialist state of Cuba.
We met leaders of the youth movement (CJC), women’s federation and trade unions, as well as health workers and cooperative farmers. All told us of their current struggle to build a productive and efficient socialist economy, to improve the material conditions of the Cuban people and to safeguard the gains of the revolution.
The delegates presented our Cuban hosts with literature – issues of Lalkar and Proletarian, pamphlets, and books – which was warmly received and has been placed in the national libraries of the Cuban parliament, as well as in the libraries of the PCC central committee, the Federation of Trade Unions, and the women’s and youth organisations.
Much has been written recently of Raul Castro’s introduction of market reforms to Cuba; the ‘deregulation’ of the Cuban labour market and the hundreds of thousands of workers who are consequently entering the private sector. Many commentators tell us to expect the impending collapse of Cuban socialism.
It was therefore of special value to visit Cuba at this crucial time, following the sixth party congress of the PCC in 2011, while its decisions are in the process of implementation.
Che Guevara famously wrote that “the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality … Our vanguard revolutionaries must idealise this love of the people, of the most sacred causes, and make it one and indivisible.” (‘Socialism and man in Cuba’, Marcha, 12 March 1965)
We found both the historic leadership and Cuba’s new generation of leaders to be talented and hard-working, self-disciplined and incorruptible people, who lead by example and common consent, in the spirit of Che’s precept.
Meeting with the central committee of the PCC
Comrade Oscar Martínez Cordovés, deputy head of the department of international relations of the CC, welcomed the CPGB-ML’s visit enthusiastically, and noted that “You are visiting Cuba at a very interesting time … This year we commemorated, among other things, the fiftieth anniversary of the missile crisis, which as you know brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. This event is closely linked with US imperialism’s ongoing attempts to strangle Cuba.
“Today the danger of war is far greater than in 1962. The international situation is extremely complex and unstable. The economic crisis in the eurozone typifies this instability. The EU project was designed to merge and safeguard the interests of European finance capital …
“In Europe, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank are overturning national sovereignty and determining the policies to be followed.
“You are visiting Cuba at a time when we have been outlining the main problems on which we need to focus: how to build our economy in the current international and national situation.
“Cuba is a small island of 12 million people and limited national resources, which has been subjected to a strict economic blockade by the most powerful country on earth, sitting just 90 miles from our shores. Under these circumstances, how do we strengthen socialism?
“There is a lot of talk about Cuba at present: whether Cuba is going in a Vietnamese way or a Chinese way? In fact, we are following our own method of development along an untrodden path …
“In the lead-up to the sixth party congress we held extensive discussion among the masses to ascertain their needs and aspirations, and it became clear to us that above all we needed to strengthen our economy. This is our most basic requirement to fulfil all our needs and internationalist duties.
“We seek to develop a socialist economic model that is efficient, sustainable and gives us the real possibility of safeguarding our social programmes and the gains of our people. The PCC seeks to undertake the political and ideological work necessary to achieve this goal.
A socialist planned economy is the chosen model of the Cuban people
“After extensive consideration of several models, the sixth party congress reaffirmed that our economic model of development should be a socialist model characterised by planning, and not by the market. We are clear that social property should remain the principal element of production. In addition, we have cooperative production undertaken by individuals who lease social property, and individual workers who work on their own account …
“The 1976 constitution guarantees the right of every citizen to employment, and we wish to preserve that right. But we have created too many unnecessary and unproductive roles, which has inflated the state payroll burden. We need to reduce unproductive expenditure on unnecessary salaries and reallocate workers in order to increase productivity and strengthen our economy.
“The IMF would solve this problem immediately with ‘shock therapy’ – by turning workers out into the street. That is capitalism. Under socialism we cannot do this. We must reorientate and redeploy unproductive workers into productive sectors where our economy really needs them. The principal sector where we need more workers is in agriculture, in order to produce more of our food requirements domestically and reduce imports.
“We also want to reduce our expenditure on the service sector and stop providing all services, some of which can better be provided by individual workers – such as barber shops and beauty parlours.
Increasing productivity is the focus of the sixth congress of the PCC
“Our principle problem consists of low labour-productivity …
“Although we are a small island, we have enough land to produce all our food needs. However, we are producing just 30-40 percent of our food requirements at present. Since making these decisions, we are already seeing improvements in our economy, and have been able to reduce some imports.”
Comrade Harpal Brar, in discussion with Comrade Oscar, said: “We completely agree with you that socialism cannot be built unless there is a high productivity of labour. If we cannot produce more productively than capitalism then socialism has no future. That is clear from the days of Marx and I think everybody is clear about that.
“But again, production has a purpose. Under socialism, production is to satisfy the needs of the people. If productivity rises but it ceases to have any connection with the needs of the people, then there is no point having production. American capitalism is able to produce, although this may seem unbelievable, more productively than the Chinese and many others, but their production is not for ordinary people, which is why there are 40 million people in the USA who have no health cover and 15-20 percent of the US population go hungry. There is no reason for America to go hungry.
“You have told us that you need to increase productivity, but in increasing productivity, you’re not forgetting the needs of the Cuban people … I’d like to thank the Communist Party of Cuba for inviting us and giving us the opportunity to listen to you face to face …
“We support Cuba. But we don’t do it as a favour to you. It is our proletarian internationalist duty. If Cuba is successful – to the same extent we are successful as well. If we are successful in building a strong movement in our country, this is of some help to Cuban communists and other socialist countries. So we really very much hope that you are able to combine Bolshevik zeal with American efficiency!
Cuban socialism a beacon of hope
“We hope you make tremendous progress. Cuba has surprised the whole world by holding on to its socialism … As soon as the Soviet Union collapsed, imperialists were waiting like vultures, asking ‘When is Cuba going to collapse?’, ‘When are China, Vietnam and north Korea going to fall down?’ They have been waiting for a very long time – and I hope they will wait forever!
“Cuba exercises on the world stage an influence disproportionate to its size, its population or resources. This is because of its selfless help to other people, both in the fields of medicine and education, as well as in armed combat.
“You have sent soldiers to defend liberation movements in Africa, and you have given all kinds of help, and Cubans are known in those areas. Even muslim fundamentalists in Pakistan actually appreciate what Cuba does. When the earthquake hit Kashmir, Cuban doctors provided immediate unconditional help. That is the kind of help that needs to be given – not what the Americans gave to Haiti, where they come to loot the people, conduct espionage, and sabotage any progressive movement.
“Cuba is doing exceptionally well and we want to thank you.”
Achievements in health in Cuba; defying the US blockade
Visiting Hermanos Ameijerias hospital in Havana, the delegation toured the modern facility and discussed Cuba’s health system with Dr Gonzalo Estévez Torra, epidemiologist and medical director. He explained that the Cuban model of health is based on our own NHS primary-care system, but with an emphasis, like the Soviet Union, on preventative as well as curative medicine. “At the primary and polyclinic level in the provinces, 80 percent of Cuba’s health needs are met,” he said.
“Health care is free of charge to the population. The government also offers a great deal of medical aid abroad. This is very expensive for the Cuban state. The American blockade denies us access to medicine and equipment we could otherwise buy cheaply locally. Because of this, Cuba has been forced to develop its own medical technology and pharmaceuticals industries.
“Cuba now produces 70 percent of the drugs we consume. When we need a medicine, we often have to source it in Europe or Asia, but if equipment has an American component then the US applies its sanctions, preventing us from buying it …
“Today, we are vaccinating our children against 18 diseases. Eleven of these vaccines are produced in Cuba. This is our response to the blockade. We have become more self-sufficient and even export some of our medicines – for example a uniquely chemically-synthesised vaccine against haemophilus influenza.
“Life expectancy of Cuban men is 76 years and of Cuban women is 80. We have an infant mortality of fewer than 5 per 1,000 live births. These figures are better than those of the USA. Free public health is for all Cubans regardless of race, gender, religion or economic status.”
The achievements of the Cuban health system are inspirational, especially when one remembers the position of pre-revolutionary Cuba, where only a handful of doctors practiced, and almost all of them resided in Havana, tending exclusively to the tiny parasitical class of US businessmen and their local stooges.
Comparing Cuba’s healthcare indices to the vast majority of Caribbean, Latin-American or oppressed countries today tells an even more stark story. Even in comparison to the health systems of the richest imperialist nations, Cuba’s achievements are enviable.
Comrade Ranjeet, a delegate and also a healthcare worker in Britain, commented that “In our country we have a national health system which was introduced in the 1940s, but for the last 30 years there has been a growing pressure to divide it up and privatise it, to turn it into something much like the US health system.
“For a long time the NHS was considered the envy of the western world. Our health indices are similar to Cuba’s, but it costs 5-6 times as much to produce them. The NHS costs about £100-110bn per year to run – although funding is currently being cut [by some 20 percent]. But much of that finance ends up in the hands of private pharmaceutical multinationals, medical technology companies and now also PFI contractors and financial consortia. Private companies make a huge amount from that ‘public’ money.
“Cuba shows that through rational planning, and with nationalisation of pharmaceutical and medical technology companies, it is possible to provide very good health care for all, efficiently and cheaply… In Britain, at the current rate of ‘reform’, our NHS system will not exist for very many decades longer.”
People’s Power National Assembly
Meeting Comrade Ramon Pez Ferro, president of the commission of international relations at the People’s Power National Assembly (PPNA), Comrade Harpal told him that:
“We are here to express solidarity with the Cuban people, and to say that there are two Britains; the Britain of the working class and progressive people and the Britain of the ruling class … We represent the finest elements of the British working class in coming to be with you. We wish to state unequivocally that the hostile propaganda levelled at you is the work not of the working people of Britain, but of the British ruling class.”
Comrade Ferro replied, saying: “I agree with you when you say there are two Britains – of the workers and capitalists. In that regard, I think we can achieve something. We have [held parliamentary exchanges with] Britain. British parliamentary groups have expressed solidarity with Cuba on issues such as the Miami Five. All of this has achieved some results – although limited.
“In Britain there are important non-parliamentary solidarity movements and organisations, and these and British trade unions have expressed their solidarity with Cuba. For us it is very important to receive groups such as yours and those I have mentioned.
“Cuba is a victim of the US propaganda campaign that slanders the reality of our daily life. This type of campaign is also very much alive in Europe and Great Britain. The US state department has approved an additional twenty million dollars of funding for mobile-phone propaganda and misinformation campaigns, as well as financing dissident groups to wage campaigns of destabilisation and subversion in our country.
“This is a direct continuation of the war of destabilisation that the US has never ceased waging against Cuba since the revolution of 1959. It is part of the general and comprehensive policy of US imperialism – and not only against Cuba. It is aimed against all progressive movements. The methods change, but the objectives remain the same.
“They used to threaten Cuba with force. Today they use direct force against the peoples of the world, as well as all their other methods of economic and political destabilisation. They have absolutely no moral or ethical standards.
“For several years we have seen a change of the political situation in our continent. The previous subservient governments, subordinate to the USA, have been replaced in many cases by independent governments that pursue the interests of the Latin-American people. Anti-imperialist resistance has strengthened.
“These governments are all facing the same treatment that Cuba is facing. This was the same policy used against Honduras, and in Venezuela. There also, president Chávez faced a military coup d’état, and was kidnapped by airborne US forces. It was only the courageous actions of the people that prevented its success and obliged imperialism and its local agents to turn their helicopters around, to spare Chávez and return him to the presidency.
“In Ecuador, there was an uprising of the police, putting in danger the life of president Rafael Correa. In Bolivia now there is a very difficult situation, using the same methods – an uprising of a group within the police force, on a spurious pretext.
“Around the world, similar situations can be found: the US-sponsored ‘free army’ in Syria; the US-sponsored ‘colour revolutions’ in Iran and other places; the overthrow of Gaddafi; Afghanistan; Iraq: the USA is seeking, through its policy of force, to control the world in order to dominate its economy and monopolise its wealth.
“That is why it is so important the world’s progressive forces, our movements, identify more and more and get closer and closer. It is only through unity of our peoples that we can oppose imperialism, and prevent it from dominating the peoples of the world.
“Blockade and sanctions are the greatest violations of human rights that it is possible to commit; for these modern-day acts of siege warfare impose privations on the whole population – the elderly, children, pregnant women, the sick and disabled.
“Even in the USA, the overwhelming majority of public opinion is against the blockade, but they pay no attention to the will of their people. Every year at the UN general assembly, a resolution is passed demanding the lifting of the blockade against Cuba. They do so because it is unilateral and illegal, and cannot be accepted even from the purely economic or trading perspective of bourgeois countries.
“Today, Cuba gives exemplary solidarity to the peoples of the world; it is a shining example of how to give security and protection to one’s people. We have experienced difficult and complex circumstances, but there is no family without food, clothing, shelter, culture, education, health care. Despite difficulties resulting form being a poor nation without great wealth of natural resources, and being subjected to 50 years of blockade, our policy of equity and justice has demonstrated that we can give an improved life to the people under socialism.”
No material privilege for leaders of the revolution
In stark contrast to the British parliamentary system, which systematically divorces our MPs from workers, Comrade Ferro told us “I am an MP, and my standard of living as such is the same as the Cuban workers. I give this example because we are here in the PPNA. The same applies to a minister or any other political leader in the country; they enjoy no privilege due to the position they occupy.”
Growing the rural economy
As Cuba’s current economic plan is designed to promote agricultural production, the delegation went to the municipality of Guira de Melena, in Artemisa provence, to visit the ‘1st May’ cooperative farm.
The cooperative has a total area of 774 hectares, of which 602 are under cultivation. Thirty-eight of the participating farms, totalling 236 hectares, are newly cultivated.
The 1 May cooperative is divided into 92 farms with some communal areas. The leading body of the cooperative is the assembly, which has 246 members (187 men and 59 women at present). The assembly elects a managing board of nine people to conduct day-to-day affairs of the cooperative, two of whom are currently women. The board elects a president, to lead the affairs of the cooperative between assemblies, and must present accounts at these meetings.
Bright green crops of sugarcane, banana, yam and cereals sprout from the farm’s deep red, ferrous-rich soil, nourished by the plentiful and often tempestuous rains, under the tropical embrace of the Caribbean sun. Pigs, chickens and rabbits were penned near the farmers’ cottage where we ate. We were treated to a sumptuous lunch of beef and salad sandwiches, tropical fruits and juices, mixed (on occasion) with a little Havana Club rum.
All of the food in our meal was produced by the cooperative, and most on the farm itself. The organically-farmed feast was deliciously fresh, naturally sweet and healthy. Shared with the farm workers, at the farmhouse of the principal leaseholder’s family, the meal became an occasion of real social enjoyment, and conversation was animated.
The rural and agricultural workers were visibly healthy, well fed, well clothed, socially engaged, and concerned with their work. Production targets are not some abstract notion to them, but represent real problems to be solved, real challenges to be met, in cooperation and with the benefit of help from state scientific and technical agencies, academics and advisors, who truly work synergistically to achieve the same broad goals: increased but sustainable production, efficiency, self-reliance, dignity.
While 70 percent of Cuba’s land is owned and run by state farms, the new soils being brought under cultivation are for the most part being leased to individuals, who enter into legal agreements with the Cuban state, and must ensure that the land is put to productive use – on penalty of termination of the agreement.
And new farmers are indeed coming back to the countryside from the towns. Despite the individual nature of the lease agreement, this is far from ‘capitalist farming’. All farmhands enjoy similar working conditions and have an input at weekly meetings into planning and overseeing production.
A proportion of the harvest is sold at pre-arranged prices to the state. On the 1st May cooperative, 25 percent of production was disposed of in this way. Beyond this, the cooperative is allowed to sell its remaining crop. Much of it goes in bulk contracts to other enterprises – schools, hospitals, hotels, or offices – and the rest is sold in open markets in local towns and cities.
School for the disabled
Another memorable visit was to the Solidaridad con Panama special school, a school for the disabled where, at no cost to their families, physically and/or mentally disabled children are trained to be able to work independently if at all possible when they reach adulthood.
In a socialist society, if disability means that one worker is somewhat slower than others this is not a fundamental factor, since production is not for profit, and every little bit that each person can contribute by his or her work to society as a whole is valued as a contribution to the common cause.
Despite the overwhelmingly inspiring nature of our visit to the school, it was distressing to note that the happy little children there were in many cases being deprived of equipment they needed to further enrich their lives because of the blockade. It is surely the grossest infringement of human rights to deny a little child with cerebral palsy an electric wheelchair just because some small part is manufactured in the US or by a US company!
However, neither the staff nor the students at the school we visited were prepared to allow these setbacks to daunt their firm determination that all the children should grow up to lead satisfying and fulfilling lives in their socialist society.
Why the blockade – what do they fear?
Speaking at the CPGB-ML’s summer barbecue last year, Comrade Ranjeet asked why it is that small countries like Cuba, with its 11 million population, and north Korea with its 23 million are perceived as such a threat by mighty US imperialism, with its population of 350 million and a greater military arsenal than the rest of the world combined. The answer that he gave has been strikingly confirmed by our delegation’s visit to Cuba: it is the example that Cuba and other socialist countries set to the oppressed of the world, currently suffering under the jackboot of imperialist domination.
These socialist countries are the living proof that nothing is more precious than independence and freedom, and that it is possible to build a bright and dignified future for workers in which they share the fruits of their common labour without being exploited, and without exploiting the labour-power of others.
This is anathema to the US imperialists’ system of domestic wage slavery and its international network of vassal states and puppet dictatorships designed to help America’s corporate elite plunder and pillage the resources of the entire world.
We wish the Cuban people well in their endeavours to strengthen their economy in line with the plans adopted by the PCC’s sixth party congress. If Cuba is successful – to the same extent we are successful as well: may they indeed combine Bolshevik zeal with American efficiency!
Come and hear speeches and contributions from the Venezuelan, Cuban and Korean embassies – and a report back from the CPGB-ML delegation to Havana where Party-to-Party talks were held with the Cuban Communist Party.
This is a social event to celebrate the anniversary of the victory of the Fatherland Liberation War in Korea and the anniversary of the storming of the Moncada Barracks in Cuba.
Followed by cultural performances along with a tasty barbecue and Indian curry!