Published on 1 June by www.revolutionarycommunist.org
Between 20 April and 5 May, Rock around the Blockade (RATB), the Revolutionary Communist Group’s campaign in support of socialist Cuba, sent its 13th solidarity brigade to Havana for two intensive weeks of exchanges and visits. The Cuba Vive 2015 brigade was there to stand in solidarity with Cuban socialism, gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and achievements of 56 years of revolution and explore the implications of recent changes in Cuban-US relations.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of RATB’s foundation and of our first brigade, which visited Ciego de Avila in 1995. That was one of the worst years of the ‘Special Period’, Cuba’s deep economic crisis resulting from the loss of 35% of its GDP and 85% of its trade following the collapse of the Soviet bloc. All of our brigades have been hosted by the Union of Young Communists (UJC).
For many years, RATB raised thousands of pounds to buy and donate sound systems and disco equipment for Cuban youth. The request for entertainment came from the UJC itself, which explained the importance of young people being able to enjoy themselves during a time of shortages and sacrifices, keeping them engaged with the socialist process at a decisive time for the revolution. It is notable that the economic and social crisis did not transform into a political crisis. This year we donated over £1,000 worth of ballet shoes and boxing gloves for youth training schools. We took the boxing equipment to Havana’s ‘Escuela de Boxeo’ (Boxing School) which trains hundreds of youth across the capital and was the training ground for legendary boxers, Teofilo Stevenson and Felix Savon. We took the ballet shoes to the Cuban National Ballet School, which has produced world famous dancers such as Carlos Acosta, under the guidance of Alicia Alonso. The donation was made in recognition of Cuba’s remarkable achievements in promoting and democratising sport and culture.
During the brigade, we met with a broad range of Cuban society: political, social and cultural organisations, community centres, neighbourhood organisations, academics, family doctors, maternity homes, farms and factories, a children’s home. We met representatives of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), the Confederation of Cuban Workers (CTC), the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), and the National Association of Economists and Accountants. We were privileged to meet Fernando Gonzalez, one of the Cuban Five, five Cubans who were incarcerated in the United States since 1998 for defending Cuba from terrorist attacks – Fernando was released after 16 years; Kenia Serrano, President of the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the People (ICAP); and Mariela Castro, LGBT activist and Director of CENESEX. She is the daughter of President Raul Castro and Vilma Espin, revolutionary fighter and founder of the FMC.
RATB fundraised for a year to help cover the cost of sending 16 activists, many of them unemployed and facing the harsh end of austerity, from campaigns across Britain for social housing, against cuts to children’s services, in defence of the right to protest and in support of Palestine. We took a message of resistance and solidarity, sharing our realities of austerity and inequality in imperialist Britain with Cuban youth, holding our banners high in Revolution Square during the May Day celebrations. The Cuba Vive brigade returns with a renewed commitment to building resistance here in Britain. The Cuban revolution shows that socialism – a system that puts human need before private profit – is a real alternative to capitalist austerity and imperialist barbarism. ‘Un mejor mundo es posible’ – a better world is possible!
Socialist Cuba: ‘Revolution is permanent change’
‘I was born after 1962. When I opened my eyes the blockade existed. We have suffered more than 50 years of blockade, of attacks, deaths, injuries, all these tactics to try and destroy us for wanting to be the owners of our destiny. We know what kind of relations we want with the US; Cuba is not gullible. We will not fall into a trap set by the US government. We will continue to defend our independence, our sovereignty, and our control over our own destiny. We will not allow another country to tell us what to do, even if it means 50 years more blockade.’ Gilda Chacon, National Committee, CTC.