By Murray Andrews first published in Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 226 April/May 2012
‘ALBA, and especially CELAC, are the only things that may save Latin America.’ Orlando Borrego
On the brigade, it was made abundantly clear to us that internationalism is at the core of the revolution. The clearest illustration of this is Cuba’s central role in the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) and the Community for Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) – two regional organisations that aim to act as a counterweight to US imperialist control in the region.
CELAC: a new weapon against imperialism
CELAC was founded in December 2011 to provide a regional strategy for the coordination of Latin American and Caribbean states from which the US and Canada are expressly excluded. CELAC brings together 33 nations comprising some 591 million people. Orlando Borrego, a former comrade of Che Guevara’s and an important economist, told us that regional coordination on this scale will make it possible for Latin American and Caribbean countries to develop their economies beyond the export of primary materials, weakening the stranglehold of US imperialism. For this reason he described CELAC as ‘the most modern and revolutionary project in Latin America’.
ALBA – ‘Our Latin America’
Since its formation in 2004, ALBA has been key to the building of links between the Cuban revolution and the mass movements developing across Latin America, most importantly in revolutionary Venezuela. Cuba’s socialist internationalism has been at the centre of this from the outset, with Cuba sending thousands of teachers and medical staff to Venezuela in exchange for 53,000 barrels of oil a day at under market prices. One family doctor we met in rural Havana had been on an internationalist brigade to Venezuela between 2003-2006, helping set up free health care projects in poor areas as part of Mision Barrio Adentro.
Jesus Garcia of the Institute of Philosophy in Havana explained that ALBA projects have enabled the development of key industries within Cuba, such as joint ventures between Venezuelan and Cuban state enterprises. These transactions are not based on profit, but on promoting development and regional solidarity. He stressed that this integration is not simply economic, but also political; by creating links with state-owned – rather than private – enterprises in Venezuela, it ensures that Cuba is much closer to their revolutionary process.
We had first-hand experience of this political closeness in Havana, where brigadistas shared a hotel with a delegation of Venezuelan workers from PDVAL Comunal, an enterprise nationalised four years ago to produce gas as ‘a right, not for profit’. These workers were in Cuba for two months to study socialist organisation in gas cylinder factories. As Rachel, one of the brigadistas, put it:
‘Listening to the gas workers was to hear the process of changing society and consciousness in the immediate period in Latin America. They told us about the changes happening in Venezuela. They resisted opposition everyday, including internal sabotage in their workplace; they were clear of the commitment and hard work needed, and the results that this, along with solidarity, could bring to creating socialism. To be in a room full of people working in workplaces, communities, unions and people’s militias, and who work for the progress of humanity and care about the working classes around the world, helped make real what the fight for socialism really means. The workers had learnt to read and write through missions led or helped by Cubans in their country, and it was only because of this that they could fight for change. Their deep and direct understanding of ALBA, ‘our Latin America’, and their international solidarity, was moving and inspiring. We all understood – our struggles were part of the same fight, and it is with mutual solidarity that we must continue the struggle in the streets of Britain, the heart of imperialism.’
‘Cuba proves that no society can be equal and based on true principles of justice unless it liberates itself from the oppressive clutches of capitalism and imperialism and begins a struggle to build socialism. People in Britain must support Cuba in condemning the brutal US blockade of their country and letting people know of their ongoing revolution. A victory for Cuba is a victory for poor and oppressed people worldwide!’ Domi, brigadista