This article originally appeared on the Fourth International website here.
– End the imperialist economic blockade of Cuba now!
– For a free and sovereign Cuba
– Down with imperialist interference in Cuba!
– For socialist democracy in Cuba!
On July 11 we witnessed protests driven by the tremendous shortages that Cuba has been suffering since Trump placed it on the list of terrorist countries, cutting off remittances from the US to the island, worsened by the pandemic and the loss of income from tourism.
This is taking place on an island that has to import a large part of what it consumes, without any international support (the enormous difficulties that Venezuela is going through have also had a negative impact on Cuba), something that in some respects is reminiscent of the worst times of the “special period”. This blockade also impedes the production of Covid-19 vaccines for Cubans, and this despite the aid that Cuba has given to other countries during the pandemic.
This is compounded by a deep-seated malaise on the island: social differentiation has greatly increased over the last thirty years, while the government has sought to attract foreign investment, the tourism sector has developed, allowing for an increase in private initiative employing wage labour. In a situation of scarcity of goods, unequal access to US dollars has further amplified inequalities, which have nevertheless remained much lower than in countries that have restored capitalism, such as China, Vietnam and the former Eastern European bloc. A large local capitalist sector able to exploit wage labour has not developed in Cuba. The local capitalist sector is certainly growing, but not to the same extent as the countries mentioned above. The 2019 amendments to the constitution made it clear that there are still legal barriers to the free development of the capitalist sector, in particular the limitation on the number of wage earners the local capitalist sector can hire.
In addition to the worrying effects of increasing inequality, the blockade and the increase in domestic production to meet the needs of the population; there is the development of evangelical religious sects that put pressure on the government to limit, for example, the full recognition of LGBTQI+ rights.
It is also worth mentioning the activity of new generations, closely connected to global social networks, in the midst of which a new generation of artists developed, who do not feel at all concerned by the legacy of the revolution. At the same time, an important part of the previous generation that participated directly in the revolutionary process of the 1960s and 70s is dying out.
This cocktail is exploding in a context in which the government has very little room for manoeuvre to mitigate the short-term effects of scarcity and great resistance to opening a democratic decision-making process that would re-engage the new generations (the constituent process was an attempt in this direction, but it has clearly been insufficient). By favouring bureaucratic methods, the government is making no effort to increase workers’ participation, in particular for the development of workers’ control in enterprises and citizens’ control in society.
This explains the recourse to repression and mobilization of the sectors that remain loyal to the government, in order to stop the protests and try to recover at least a certain amount of tourist income during the summer season, which would give them room for improvement in order to combat certain aspects of popular disaffection. President Miguel Díaz Canel’s speech on Sunday 11 July, following the wave of protests that have affected more than a dozen cities across the country from east to west, is not an adequate response to the situation. Although Díaz Canel acknowledged that a large part of the demonstrators were genuinely concerned about the hardships of life, he did not make any self-criticism of his handling of the situation and only emphasized the manipulations of the counterrevolutionary sector – which is clearly in favour of US intervention – which must be condemned. The government’s call to revolutionaries to mobilize on the streets in response to the threats of the counterrevolutionaries risks provoking clashes and increased repression.
We cannot separate the protests in Cuba from what is happening in other Latin American countries where the high cost of living aggravated by the pandemic and ultra-liberal measures, is, with different motivations, behind social outbursts like the recent Colombian movement, or those in Ecuador and Chile in 2019. The pandemic has undoubtedly exacerbated all social contradictions internationally and in Latin America in particular, leading to growing social exclusion and increasing inequalities. Despite exemplary health care in many respects, Cuba is also unable to escape the most perverse economic and social effects of the global crisis and the pandemic. However, rising social resistances in Latin America, in confronting imperialism’s economic and political plans for the region, work in favour of breaking Cuba’s isolation and maintaining its political independence.
Unfortunately, important sectors of the left do not make any critical analysis of the situation in Cuba, the deterioration of its political system and the despair of the younger generations. On the contrary, we see in many countries an uncritical closing of ranks in which everything is a conspiracy of imperialism, where the legitimacy of popular mobilization is not recognized and is attributed exclusively to “agents of imperialism”. It is obvious that imperialism seeks to interpret the meaning of social protests in its interests in the different international conflicts of an increasingly convulsive world, particularly in a country that stands as an example of sovereign resistance for the whole region… And that it does so increasingly by intense campaigns on social networks, through which it tries to steer social discontent from the outside, in order to channel it towards the bringing down of the Cuban government. But to say that it is all the product of the interference of the great powers is far removed from the complex and contradictory reality. In addition, this response dismisses the participation of the popular sectors in social conflicts, as if everything were a chess game to which the people are never invited and where they are considered to be a kind of minors incapable of recognizing and defending their own interests.
Although the situation is complex and contradictory, we of the Fourth International, which from the earliest times has unconditionally supported the Cuban Revolution, defend some fundamental ideas:
-First, we condemn and demand an immediate end to the illegal and inhuman blockade to which the Cuban people are subjected.
– We call for solidarity mobilizations to alleviate the situation of shortage of basic products suffered by the island and to oppose the blockade decreed by the USA.
-We demand that the Biden Administration remove Cuba from its list of countries that harbour and favour terrorism, which is essential, for obvious reasons, to alleviate the country’s economic situation. We reject the threats of intervention with which Biden seeks to encourage the Cuban ultra-right abroad and the most reactionary Republican sectors.
– We denounce the international mainstream media campaign that falsely claims that the entire Cuban people are rising up against the government and that the government would respond with great brutality, while the mainstream media have turned a blind eye to the much more violent anti-people repressive forms of repression used in countries like France during the Yellow Vests movement in 2018-2019, in the United States during the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, or in Colombia in 2021, to name but a few examples from a long list.
-We demand that the Cuban authorities respect the democratic right to protest, the development of independent social movements, political pluralism and democratic debate, the only way to prevent the Revolution from ceasing to be an example for the peoples of Latin America and the world.
-We call for the truth about the conditions of detention and repression in order to stop the abuse of force and bring to justice those responsible for cases of abuse.
-We call for the immediate release of those arrested in the 11 July demonstrations, provided that they have not committed actions that have threatened the lives of others.
-We defend a sovereign, independent Cuba with real democratic-popular participation of the workers in the destiny of the island. For a socialist and democratic Cuba.
21 July 2021
Executive Bureau of the Fourth International
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You’ve made no acknowledgement of the roles of actors such as the CIA regime change are the national endowment for democracy in trying to cause dissent and cause a colour revolution. There is plenty of democracy in Cuba but it’s a different type of democracy, there is massive participation of trade unions and local grassroots democratic participation similar to what happens in Venezuela. I I guess that you are an organisation that’s either based in the USA or the UK which means that you’re actually contributing to to what the West and NATO US imperialist powers on what Cuba needs. you’re looking at Cuba through a Western bourgeoisie lens that Cuba needs Western style electoral democracy. You have no right to say what Cuba should and shouldn’t do do they have sovereignty they want to defend the gains of the Revolution and it’s not just the older generation. I’ve visited Cuba twice. Denounce the illegal embargo but don’t do anything more Cuba needs all the help and support it can get at the moment. I would suggest reading the Greyzone or watching their you tube channel
Dave Kellaway replies:
First of all thanks for your contribution we welcome debate between supporters of the Cuban revolution. The current I have been associated all my political life has defended the Cuban revolution from day one. Unlike some sectarian radical currents who did not recognise the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist nature of the revolution. Ernest Mandel, a well know economist and leader of this current went to Cuba and discussed issues with Che Guevara. Our co-thinkers throughout the world mobilised people in solidarity campaigns and against the US blockade. If you read the declaration we have published it clearly denounces the blockade and US attempts to destabilise Cuban society. The demands at the end reinforce this position.
But you have to recognise reality – the thousands who demonstrated on the 11 and 12th July were not all counter revolutionaries manipulated or organised by the US or the CIA. Unless you refuse to accept the veracity of statements and reports on a number of independent websites by participants in the protests. Even some declarations of the Cuban CP leadership have indicated that there were genuine grievances and indeed that there may have been abuses of power by some officers and ‘revolutionary’ counter demonstrators.
Despite the changes made to the constitution a few years ago that supposedly enshrined certain liberties of expression, in practice any political action organised outside the control of the PCC is harassed and not allowed to proceed freely. People were not just demanding basic necessities but were also calling for libertad. Trade unions and community organisations are not independent of the PCC. Yes non party candidates can stand at certain levels but any serious alternative locally and especially nationally is not allowed. It is the same with artistic or cultural expression which is tightly controlled. The 27 N and San isidoro movements last November were not pro US or blockade supporters but despite some early dialogue (a sign that the PCC is not always a single bloc) there movement led to detentions. Today there are hundreds of detainees and little information about what is happening to them. We are not saying it is Stalinist Russia or the corrupt eastern European regimes – people, particularly on an individual basis are prepared to speak up and criticise things – Cuban TV will show that. Neither is the political repression on the same scale as those regimes. Although the government can cut off the internet as it did during the protests it is difficult to control it all the time.
In reality the Cuba people are not neatly divided into revolutionaries who all support the government and counter revolutionaries who are all the protestors. Just read all the reports that are now available on the internet about the variety of currents who are critical of the government – these extend from the Miami restorationists through Christian democrats, liberals, social democrats, catholic groups to Marxists. |n fact it is patronising and a little paternalist of western leftists to refuse to recognise the richness of political culture in Cuba. As though a poor black kid cannot see the difference between wanting a better life and supporting an imperialist intervention.
At the end of the day will it be easier to defend the sovereignty and gains of the revolution by refusing to allow Cubans more rights to organise and express themselves freely or by keeping everything controlled through the PCC led CDRS or trade unions?. I have visited Cuba three times, none of which was through an official solidarity campaign. I speak castellano and travelled the length and breadth of the country with a hired car on two occasions. There is a growing inequality between those who have access to the dollar or MLC and those who don’t. Policies on these issues are not solely driven by the blockade but by politics. People do not die of hunger in Cuba but they eat badly with little variety. Farming is a disaster with fields lying fallow while much food is imported. No one is saying there are easy solutions. These demonstrations do not indicate some sort of golden ready made socialist alternative – far from it. They do represent a cry of alarm (see the Leonardo Padura piece) that needs a better response than just calling on revolutionaries to go and crush them on the streets.
Socialists cannot correctly comment on the great gains in health and education – all of which are internal matters – and yet stay silent on any other problematic realities. As for your comment about the youth and the older people all being on the same line this is something nearly every observer inside Cuba has entirely contradicted.. Anyone under 40 to 50 has lived all their lives under the revolution. Clearly they have a different attitude to those who have lived through the great benefits. One thing is sure, keeping young people from expressing themselves will not help defend the revolution. Inside the PCC there is a big debate about whether and how fast to move to a Vietnam or China transition. I suppose socialists here are supposed to keep silent about all this crucial discussion too if we stick to your approach.