Scottish members of Rock Around the Blockade (RATB) and Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (FRFI) have been bringing the inspiring message of the Cuban Revolution to Glasgow and Dundee with a series of fundraising events. In a year which has seen the release of the Cuban 5, Cuban doctors leading the global fight against Ebola and new victories in the fight against the US blockade, the message is clear...socialism is fighting fit and here to stay!
Raising funds for this year’s RATB solidarity brigade to Cuba, which will be bringing boxing gloves and ballet shoes to the island, over 60 people gathered in Glasgow on 28 January to celebrate the cultural achievements of the revolution. The Rebel Cinema event presented a screening of the first two parts of the legendary 1964 Soviet-Cuban film Soy Cuba (I am Cuba), a snapshot of a country on the edge of rebellion, where parasitic wealth existed side by side with grinding poverty, dominated by US interests.
Rock Around the Blockade (RATB) is a campaign of the Revolutionary Communist Group in solidarity with socialist Cuba, which uses its example as part of the struggle for socialism and against imperialism here in Britain and worldwide. This month RATB celebrates its 20th anniversary.
The US blockade has cost the Cuban economy an estimated $1.126 trillion since 1961. For 23 consecutive years the UN General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly to condemn the blockade, with 191 out of 193 nations voting against it this year. On 11 September this year, in contradiction to hypocritical US rhetoric about 'normalising relations', President Obama signed a document to extend Cuba's designation as an 'enemy' under the 'Trading with the Enemy Act' for another year.
RATB uses PayPal to process payments and donations via our website,www.ratb.org.uk The funds raised from merchandise sold go towards our activities in Britain. RATB organises political and educational discussions, film showings, street rallies and cultural celebrations, about Cuban socialism.
Without warning or communication, PayPal has blocked our account, for the second time in two years.
On Tuesday 14 February 2012, the year of the London Olympics, the Rock around the Blockade brigadistas visited a Cuban Institute for Sport and Recreation (INDER) project at Ho Chi Mihn Park, Havana and presented the project with £650 of material aid including footballs, volleyballs, basketballs, football nets, bibs and gloves. This was to assist an INDER run 'Project for Life', which involves physical activity in all communities, in the open air, countrywide. The project offers activities for everyone, from babies to elderly people. It has specialist sections and classes for pregnant women and post-birth women, as well as for children with disabilities, among many more. The project takes advantage of the natural environment and works with the people of the community to run the park. It works with other organisations in the community including schools, older person’s homes and the Cuban Women’s Federation (FMC). The project runs every weekday with classes including Tai Chi, aerobics, baby massage and team games. Some teachers are paid, but lots of people volunteer with their time and specialist skills, leading different classes. In addition, INDER pays teachers to organise optional activities in the park at weekends for children, this includes football, basketball and other sports.
The following day on Wednesday 15 February, the brigadistas visited the Institute of Oncology and Radiology (INOR) in a hospital in central Havana. The brigade presented a donation of £150 worth children’s toys and art materials to the children’s cancer ward which has a specialist school and play room for its 19 child patients. The impact of the inhumane US blockade is strongly felt. Dr Reno, the head paediatrician explained to Rock Around the Blockade ‘When the socialist bloc fell the US policy was crueller – there were 10 years where children’s healthcare deteriorated in Cuba in the special period. There was an increase in mortality rate especially in children under 4 years old. Now the US is further tightening the blockade and is systematically buying up companies which supply Cuba including Dabur (an Indian Pharmaceutical company) and others in Europe. These in particular affect access to medical equipment and surgical materials in Cuba. Elizabeth Alvarez Velasquez, the International Department representative explained ‘we need anything and everything; we even have shortages of Lumbar Puncture needles. Basic equipment shortages are still a problem so we have to make do’. Dr Reno reflected that the impact of the blockade has had its positives as it has forced Cuba to develop research. 'We are strong politically and we are glad we are not alone. You are always welcome here'. 'Cuba demonstrates from a human political point of view that we are a country that, despite a limit on our resources, we help people everywhere'.
The Revolutionary Communist Group, which founded Rock Around the Blockade in 1995, is delighted to recieve this message:
Many thanks for your letter of congratulation from The Revolutionary Communist Group in support of The Cuban Revolution. I take this opportunity to convey to all of you in the Party this message from our Cuban Communist Party.
In Comradership, Jorge Luis, Cuban Embassy
MESSAGE TO PARTIES AND POLITICAL AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS AND FORCES IN THE WORLD
Following the news of the release of the Cuban 5 and renewed diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba, Owen Jones published a 'Comment is Free' piece in the Guardian on 18 December 2014. Entitled 'The US embargo is disappearing, so too, must Cuba's dictatorship' Jones launches a virulent attack on Cuba. Rock Around the Blockade replies:
What free press should socialist Cuba aspire to Mr Jones? The 'free press' that dictated the outcome of the Scottish referendum here. 38 national newspapers agin us...and yet we still voted in our million and a half plus for independence.
A well read lad like yersel'- and a proclaimed socialist- should know there is no such thing in any capitalist society- the media are run by rich white men, to paraphrase Michael Moore. But then of course your employer is amongst them. So stop yer liberal sooking and as Fidel has explained to friends of Cuba, try and imagine the difficulties the socialist revolution has faced in its short history...then judge. Cuba in the absence of the corrupt influence of the millionaire media is more free, not less!
Dundee Rock Around the Blockade
Published on 17 December 2014 by www.revolutionarycommunist.org
After 16 unjust years of imprisonment, on 17 December 2014, Ramón Labañino, Gerardo Hernández and Antonio Guerrero, the three remaining members of the Cuban 5, returned to Cuba following their release from US gaols. This is a defeat for the corrupt US justice system and massive victory for Cuba, particularly for anti-terrorist Gerardo Hernandez who was serving two life sentences plus 15 years.
The five Cuban heroes were arrested in 1998 and tried in Miami in 2001, in the midst of a hostile media storm whipped up by journalists in the pay of the US government. Denied a fair trial, they were found guilty of charges ranging from spying to conspiracy to commit murder and endangering the security of the United States. These men had been working to foil the persistent attempts by right-wing counter-revolutionary groups in the United States to commit acts of sabotage and terrorism against Socialist Cuba. These attacks included 78 bombings, 61 hijackings of planes and boats, biological attacks of dengue and swine fever, and 58 attacks from the sea, killing at least 3,478 people in total. The Cuban 5 were guilty of nothing more than peacefully trying to protect their country against terrorism. Their case Illustrates the hypocrisy of the US ‘War on Terror’.
Wednesday 17 December will be recognised for decades to come as a crucial date for Cuban history when, following years of campaigning, the Cuban 5 were finally free. Ramon, Gerardo and Antonio now join Rene Gonzalez and Fernando Hernandez, who served their full sentences and were released in 2011 and 2014 respectively.
At 1pm on 17 December 2014, Cuba President Raul Castro announced the release of the remaining Cuban 5 in return for an unnamed US agent and the humanitarian release of USAID contractor Alan Gross. Below is the transcript of this historic announcement:
From Prensa Latina:
Since my election as President of the State Council and Council of Ministers I have reiterated in many occasions our willingness to hold a respectful dialogue with the United States on the basis of sovereign equality, in order to deal reciprocally with a wide variety of topics without detriment to the national independence and self-determination of our people.
This stance was conveyed to the US Government both publicly and privately by Comrade Fidel on several occasions during our long standing struggle, stating the willingness to discuss and solve our differences without renouncing any of our principles.
The heroic Cuban people, in the wake of serious dangers, aggressions, adversities and sacrifices has proven to be faithful and will continue to be faithful to our ideals of independence and social justice. Strongly united throughout these 56 years of Revolution, we have kept our unswerving loyalty to those who died in defense of our principles since the beginning of our independence wars in 1868.
Today, despite the difficulties, we have embarked on the task of updating our economic model in order to build a prosperous and sustainable Socialism.
As a result of a dialogue at the highest level, which included a phone conversation I had yesterday with President Obama, we have been able to make headway in the solution of some topics of mutual interest for both nations.
As Fidel promised on June 2001, when he said: "They shall return!" Gerardo, Ramon, and Antonio have arrived today to our homeland.
The sun was out in London as members of Rock around the Blockade (RATB) were joined by activists, writers, musicians and academics from around the world to demand freedom for the Cuban Five and to show solidarity with socialist Cuba. The rally was held in support of the International Committee of Inquiry into the Case of the Cuban Five, which took place in London over the previous two days.
Supporting organisations included the US National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, Free the Cuban 5 Committee - Vancouver, The Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), London Guantánamo Campaign, Cubainformación TV, Marcha Patriotica (Colombia), Cuba Solidarity (Barcelona, Dublin, and Copenhagen), Revolutionary Communist Group, Hands Off Venezuela, Cubanos en UK, Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist), MERU Verdadero, Communist League, Movimento Micaela Bastidas (UK), Coordinadora de Cubanos Residentes en Francia, Colectivo entre Amigos (Francia).
On the 16th anniversary of their incarceration in the imperialist gaols of the USA, members and supporters of Rock around the Blockade celebrate the Cuban Revolution and demand the freedom of all the Cuban 5, heroes of the revolution.
For a brief and brilliant introduction to the case of the Cuban 5, watch and share this video produced by Discover the five
The Cuban 5 are five Cuban men unjustly imprisoned in US gaols since 1998. Falsely accused of espionage and in one case murder, they are in fact guilty of nothing more than peacefully trying to prevent terrorist attacks against Cuba being planned from within the US.
During the early 1990s Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, René González, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando González came to Miami from Cuba to monitor right-wing Cuban exile groups. They compiled evidence of attacks against Cuba being planned by these groups. The Cuban authorities gave this information to the FBI, urging them to take action. But instead of arresting those planning the attacks, the five Cuban agents were themselves arrested on 12 September 1998. They were charged with conspiracy to commit espionage and Gerardo Hernandez was also charged with conspiracy to commit murder. In July 2001, after a biased six-month trial in Miami, the Cuban 5 were convicted and sentenced to a combined four life sentences plus 77 years.