2 May 2015 by Juventud Rebelde written by Enrique Milanes Leon
Translation by Rock Around the Blockade. Edited by Walter Lippmann.
A young communist from Britain, coordinator of the Cuba Vive solidarity brigade, talks to JR about the struggle ‘in the belly of the beast’ and confesses her admiration for the island that gives hope, even in her country.
To overcome the 7,493 kilometres that separate London from Havana, for the third time, young Samantha Cordery had to make sacrifices. She even participated in a 25,000 metre race looking for sponsors who would understand that she was a special competitor, collecting donations because her real "goal" was much further away, in Cuba.
Samantha is the coordinator of the Cuba Vive brigade and the Rock around the Blockade campaign, and joined the Revolutionary Communist Group in Britain a decade ago. "We are nearly 20 young people and this, our 13th solidarity brigade. Among us are students and unemployed people" – their history reminds us that not all the foreigners who walk our streets are mere tourists; some are more: friends.
"We initiated the brigades to Cuba in 1995 to help break the blockade. This time we have brought ballet shoes and clothes and boxing equipment to support youth culture and sports on the island. This is solidarity against the blockade, but it we are also here to understand more about the reality of socialism in Cuba, the challenges and difficulties", she reveals.
The Revolutionary Communist Group has an arduous task in Britain: taking the idea of socialism to communities and organising campaigns against privatisation and welfare cuts requires serious activism. Even there, Cuba has its space: "Yours is a major project, always struggling. Socialism is here, in Cuba. It is the alternative we aspire to", Samantha explains.
Members of the group meet, talk, study, call events, knock on doors…but the young woman does not cover up the truth: "Following the fall of the USSR and the government of Margaret Thatcher, the working class suffered many defeats and political consciousness fell. In our country, there are problems, there are people who sleep in the streets, there are people who have absolutely nothing, but most people still have enough and so the movement is not so big. But we organise hundreds of people in many cities throughout the country: Glasgow, Dundee, Liverpool, Newcastle, London, Manchester and Bristol…"
These young people are friends, not tourists. They raised money for the trip –the first to Cuba for most of them– it took the group a whole year.
What response do you get from behind those doors when you ask for donations for Cuba?
It varies. In recent years racism has increased because of austerity and the government blames the immigrants. Reactionary ideas grow in the conscience of some people – not everyone. But in the campaign we say “Cuba has economic problems, nonetheless, people have housing, food, and health and education are free.” We say that not only do we need to struggle against austerity but also for a movement for socialism, because 56 years of resistance in Cuba shows that it can work.’
Samantha is pleased with the intensity of the program: "We have to seize the time!" she smiles, while reviewing the brigade's meetings, with directors of the UJC and their student and youth organisations, with the Combatants’ Association, with the Cuban Workers' Confederation, the Party, a Committee for Defence of the Revolution (CDR), a grandparents group.
"We went to the National Centre for Sexual Education (CENESEX) and had the honour of meeting Mariela Castro, which was very important for us", she notes after a pause. The list of Cubans visited include professors and students at the Latin American School of Medicine, sports people, elected representatives and philosophers.
The Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP) and Casa de la Americas (Americas House) are added. And of course they couldn’t leave out the march on the 1st of May. "All this in two weeks", she says proudly.
On their return, she explained, they would hold meetings in communities to recount the most important aspects of the trip, so that there also "they have this relationship with Cuba.".
How are the brigade and the newspaper Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! linked?
This is part of our work. It is published every two months, it is self-financing, we sell it ourselves in the streets. It has two lines: the domestic reality and resistance in our country –something which the ruling class does not want in our newspapers– and also material about imperialism and its consequences. We analyse the economy from a Marxist perspective: the crisis of capitalism. The main leaders of the Executive Committee publish in it but so do other brigadistas, because this develops them.
What prospects are there for a socialist project like the group in a paradigmatic capitalist power?
It is difficult, very difficult, but we have to do something. We can’t do nothing when our country does such terrible things in the world and when things happen like the Focus E15 campaign, of Jasmin, when mothers and children were left without housing. It will be a huge fight, but we have to do something. With the crisis the ruling class can’t continue in the same way. Something has to change and we must be prepared so that when the movement grows we can project it to the left, otherwise we will have fascism. We are at a crossroads and we have to move left or we will fall into fascism.
Let’s talk about the future. What do you see?
The freedom for the Cuban Five was a huge victory. If the blockade is weakened it will be a great victory for Cuba, although the United States has not changed its objective, only its strategy. This is also quite a dangerous period for Cuba, but the Cubans know this: when I speak to the youth, the grandparents, the people… I know that you are preparing for the struggle and that Cuba will continue its socialist project.
Why Cuba? What do you look for or find here?
"It is a good question. I am here because I am a communist in an imperialist country and I believe that there are alternatives, that we have to struggle all our lives against imperialism, in the belly of the beast. I am here to learn more from the socialist Revolution in Cuba.
"A Cuban who has never been to my country won’t understand what happens, because it is not an issue of money, it is an issue of community. There is it possible for a grandfather to die alone in his home and not be discovered for two weeks. Capitalism destroys community. With resistance we can save it.
"My country drops bombs, wages wars, but Cuba gives solidarity –all over the world!– with doctors, teachers and with help for social causes. In a country like mine, where the ruling class doesn’t want to give anything to anyone, Cuba’s solidarity inspires us.
"When I went to a CDR and I saw people united in socialism, despite the problems of the blockade and of the economy, but united within the Revolution, to grow, to improve… this gave me a lot of hope for the future, also, for my country’.