Report from the RCG delegation to the Anti-Imperialist conference of solidarity, for democracy against neoliberalism. Havana, Cuba 1-3 November 2019.
It was a gathering of resistance. Over 1330 representatives of 789 social movements and organisations from 86 countries focusing on a clear message – to fight in solidarity against all those resisting imperialism and neo-liberalism around the globe. More than that, it was a resounding declaration of solidarity with socialist Cuba, to defy the tightening of the US blockade and the US offensive on all socialist movements across Latin America. To defend Cuba is to defend humanity, it is to defend access to healthcare, education, the environment and basic dignity.
Our delegation from imperialist Britain –which invades, occupies and plunders oppressed countries around the globe, whilst imposing austerity on the working class at home-went to Havana to raise the banner of Cuban socialism and its achievements, to salute the steadfast resistance against destabilisation in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba. We went to celebrate the resistance of the popular uprisings against neoliberal governments in Haiti, Honduras, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina and Brazil which illustrate that the right-wing cannot impose its brutal austerity and violence unchecked. We went to denounce the coup underway in Bolivia. Moreover, we went to strengthen our links with all those worldwide committed to defending Socialist Cuba, ALBA and the revolutionary movements in Latin America that are a beacon of hope; inspiring those fighting against capitalism and imperialism, for liberty and international equality.
‘May the fist rise! May the hand rise! May the people of Latin America rise!’
The conference, organised by the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), Cuba's Workers Central (CTC), the Cuban Chapter of Social Movements and the Continental Journey for Democracy and Against Neoliberalism, opened with Fernando Gonzalez Lort, head of ICAP, and one of the five Cuban heroes unjustly imprisoned in the US for foiling a terrorist plot against Cuba.
Highlighting the hypocrisy of successive governments in failing to overthrow the Cuban revolution for over 60 years he demanded global condemnation of the US blockade, especially the activation of Helms-Burton Title 3 and declared ‘There’s no better platform than this space, to ratify that Cuba will never give in, nor betray its principles, nor it’s solidarity with the rest of the world’
Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, minister of foreign affairs took the floor, highlighting Cuba’s impressive contribution to international solidarity and highlighting the key popular struggles that define the global anti-imperialist movement today
Margarita Ramirez Jaen, Cuban Communist Party member from Amistur, ICAP’s travel agency explained that it was important to gather delegates from all over the world to Cuba in this moment, to build solidarity with the Cuban socialist system and defend Cuba against the blockade
There followed three days of intense discussion, anti-imperialist tribunes, fiery speeches and proposals for action. Participants were clear, as Gail Walker, director of the US solidarity group ‘Pastors for Peace’ emphasised ‘an attack on Cuba is an attack on all of us standing for justice’ whilst Karin Nansen, president of the Friends of the Earth – Latin America and the Caribbean argued ‘we are living through an intense period of attacks on humanity and on ecological diversity…the internationalist solidarity, held up by the Cuban people is essential…capitalists are turning nature into merchandise and attempts are being made to paint capitalism green and turn nature into a commodity…we must wage a battle of ideas to not allow this happen’ and a Ghanaian medical student stressed ‘some of us learned in Cuba, grew up in Cuba, were raised in Cuba. Cuba is not alone, the world is with Cuba and will stand with Cuba’
Our delegate Ria Aibhilín was invited to speak from the panel in the thematic commission on youth struggles. She explained ‘We are currently very involved in the movement against climate change, dominated by young people, who understand the urgency of the crisis and the need to act now… In every city where we are active, our comrades have been involved in these struggles, bringing anti-imperialist demands, calling for socialism and holding up the example of the most sustainably developed society on the planet – socialist Cuba! We organise under the slogan ‘climate change is a war! of the rich against the poor!’ bringing anti-imperialist politics to the forefront of the struggle.
Rich imperialist countries, like Britain, are driving environmental destruction and global warming as they exploit poorer countries around the world. They plunder the natural resources of the poorer nations, their oil, their mineral and their land. They bribe a tiny layer within those poorer countries to hand over resources at rock bottom price. This is a new form of colonialism. There can be no solution to the climate crisis or its impact without a complete change in the relationship between rich and poor countries, otherwise countries will continue to be looted for the minerals and raw materials to mass produce electric cars and solar panels for ‘eco-friendly’ consumerism, the anarchy and wastefulness of capitalist production will continue and this will just be green imperialism. This requires a challenge to the existing system of imperialist exploitation. None of the existing parliamentary parties in Britain will commit to this and we see no parliamentary route to socialism in our country. The words of Fidel at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio have informed our demands: Abolish the so-called third world debt which facilitates the continued looting of poorer countries. Force the monopolies to hand back their ill-gotten gains from land and raw materials stolen from poor countries.’
Our delegate Sheila Rubio, was taken to speak from the floor in the final session focusing on concrete plans for future work. Holding up photos of protests we have initiated at Esso petrol stations she detailed our efforts to engage climate protestors in taking action against Exxon Mobil, the massive oil conglomerate which owns of Esso. Exxon Mobil, responsible for countless violations of the environment are the first multinational corporation to file a case under Helms Burton Title III, thus attacking the Cuban revolution, world leader in sustainable development. Prompting a round of applause, Sheila declared ‘we must link the struggle to defend Cuba with the youth fighting against climate change. To Esso and Exxon Mobil we say “if you blockade Cuba, we will blockade you!”
In stark contrast to the genocidal US blockade, which costs the island a staggering $12 million each and every day, Cuba is committed to the principles of internationalism, and cooperation. From sending troops to support Angola in the fight against South African Apartheid, to restoring sight to over 50,000 cataract patients without charge, at the conference, Cuba’s achievements in international solidarity were emphasised by the students of ELAM, the Latin American School of Medicine. In an old naval base just outside Havana ELAM has graduated over 29,750 doctors from 105 counties, trained completely for free on the proviso that they return to impoverished communities and offer medical attention. Despite the brutal US blockade, ELAM has even trained over 200 US students. We spoke to Steve Singh Gill from California who explained why studying in Cuba was so important to him. ‘Fidel recognised that people in the US were dying because they didn’t have access to medicine…we want to take some of what we are learning back to our countries, the idea of universal healthcare which would be a blessing in our communities’
At the commission at ELAM met with students from Palestine, Syria, Swaziland, Sri Lanka, Mongolia and beyond. ‘The most precious thing that they have given us is humanity…thank you Cuba’
Not only does Cuba train medical students from around the world, it has sent Cuban doctors to over 80 countries to practice medical internationalism, either dispatching brigades to areas struck by natural disasters, completely for free, or engaging in longer term medical cooperation with countries lacking in public healthcare systems. Gail Walker recalled that in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (2005) Cuba offered to send 15,000 doctors to the poor communities, predominantly black and Latino, that were ravaged and left without support. ‘How we wept out of frustration when the US government refused the offer, yet only a few months later a deadly earthquake struck Pakistan and Kashmir so the delegation went there instead.' There are already more than 400,000 health professionals in Cuba who have provided services in 164 countries. At this moment, more than 29,000 are serving vulnerable populations in 65 nations.
How fitting to hold a key commission of the conference in ELAM, the living embodiment of Cuba’s anti-imperialist solidarity.
The final declaration of the conference recognises
‘We are experiencing a new moment in history…The peoples are demonstrating that it is indeed possible to overthrow the imperial offensive which aims to resort to criminalization of social protest, the confinement and displacement of populations, the murder of social and political leaders, feminicide, the persecution of the leaders of progressive governments and the judicialization of politics. Times of hope have opened up. Unity is vital and constitutes our duty; mobilization is the order of the day; organization of the people is the imminent task; and integration is the strategy that will lead us on to victory.’
The central demand calls for
‘Mobilising in permanent actions, intensive, systematic with a high media impact against the escalated aggression of the Yankee Empire as part of the ‘hands off Cuba’ international campaign…demanding the lifting of the blockade on Cuba’ To this end an international day of action has been called for 16 November in which we will be participating.
This came days before the annual UN vote on the US blockade against Cuba which saw 187 countries vote against the US blockade and only US, Israel and Bolsonaro’s Brazil vote in favour. A resounding show of support for Cuba for the 28th year in a row.
Further demands denounced the threats and aggressions against all sovereign governments resisting US and European imperialism. The conference expressed steadfast solidarity with the Chavista movement in Venezuela, and opposed the reactivation of TIAR – The Intern American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance which is reviving the Monroe doctrine and being used to target Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution and their democratically elected president Nicolas Maduro.
The conference demanded Freedom for Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva, former president of Brazil who had been imprisoned on trumped up charges of corruption since 2018. Days after the conference in response to massive mobilisations, Lula was released from prison on 8 November. An immediate victory for anti-imperialist activists and all progressive imprisoned Latin American leaders against the neo-liberal government of imperialist lackey, Jair Bolsonaro.
The resolution denounced the destabilisation and coup attempts underway in Bolivia by US backed, racist forces of the Santa Cruz elite. Ariana Campero Nava, Bolivian ambassador to Cuba spoke to us explaining the current attack on democracy in Bolivia, calling for international support.
Days later, right wing forces marched on La Paz, attacking indigenous activists, burning buildings, threatening to kill Movement for Socialism (MAS) politicians and forcing indigenous President Evo Morales to resign. Internationalist solidarity has never been so urgent. The coup violence in Bolivia mirrors the protracted coup attempts in Nicaragua (2018) and Venezuela (2019).
Other key demands included solidarity with Nicaragua, reiterating the right of its people to live in peace. Supporting the historic demand of Argentina to recover the Malvinas (Falkland Islands) from Britain. Reparations to the Caribbean nations for the repercussions of slavery, indigenous extermination and climate change. Demanding independence for Puerto Rico, a Latin American, Caribbean nation dominated by US colonialism for over a century.
Defending the popular movement in Chile and Ecuador to revolt in the streets against neoliberalism.
Expressing deepest solidarity with Haiti in their struggle for social justice and historic reparations. Supporting the protests and struggle in Honduras. Supporting the right of the Colombian people to live in peace
Standing against imperialist intervention in Africa and the Middle East, against imperialist intervention in Syria. Supporting the historic struggles of the Saharawi and Palestinian people for self determination.
Rejecting all forms of discrimination and violence based on gender, skin colour, sexual orientation, religious belief, defending the struggles of indigenous and aboriginal people.
Standing against the anti-immigrant laws of the US and Europe, against the anti-socialist, anti-communist campaigns. Standing with the global struggle to defend natural resources, biodiversity, food sovereignty and ‘Mother Earth’
The conference resolved to move forward in building anti-imperialist unity amongst the left-wing political forces of the world.
In the closing session, Nicolas Maduro, President of Venezuela, and Miguel Diaz-Canel – President of the Council of State, Cuba addressed the crowd:
Standing firm against the media war, Diaz-Canel then emphasised ‘Cuba has been held under siege by lies and for years separated from its natural environment. With lies they have invaded nations, torn apart peoples, set back entire regions on their path to development.
On behalf of Cuba, we would like to reaffirm that the new generation of Cuban leaders, trained and educated by the historical generation of Fidel and Raúl, are revolutionaries, socialists, faithful to Fidel and Martí. and that we will not yield a millimetre in our positions in favour of independence, sovereignty, and social justice.' Find the full transcript of Diaz-Canel's address to the conference here:
Díaz-Canel: A better world is possible, and urgently necessary! Let us struggle for it!
For his part Nicolas Maduro saluted a renewed ‘anti-neoliberal wave….there is an insurgency of the people against the model of exclusion, privatisation, impoverishment, the individualism of savage neoliberal capitalism of the International Monetary Fund,’
It is clear that the future of Latin America hangs in the balance. On one side are the progressive forces rebelling against neo-liberalism, the continued resistance of Venezuela and Cuba, the movement to Free Lula, the anti-neoliberalist uprisings igniting the continent. On the other side is the ugly racist violence of the right-wing, armed and funded by US and European imperialism, defending the rights of multi-nationals to plunder natural resources by shooting students in the streets and launching racist coup attempts against Bolivia’s indigenous led revolutionary movement. The future of Latin America is decisive for the future of humanity – whether the progressive forces can win out will depend, in part on the strength of the anti-imperialist forces from within Europe and the US themselves. Our task is before us!
So what next? Take action against the blockade!
In addition to supporting solidarity protests against the neo-liberal offensive in Latin America, the Revolutionary Communist Group is committed to continuing our monthly pickets of Esso, against Helms Burton Title III. We will launch solidarity protests in all cities where we are active on 16 November, responding to the call from the conference
See the call to action from Gloria La Riva – from the Party of socialism and liberation in the US:
Tighe Barry from Code Pink, one of the activists arrested for defending the Venezuelan embassy in Washington DC against a take-over by opposition politicians supporting Guaido’s attempted coup, illustrates the kind of solidarity action that can be taken from the belly of the imperialism.
Whilst on 5 November, RCG comrades in London protested against a visit by Luis Almagro, General Secretary of the US backed Organisation of American States and continental architect of aggression against Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia.
This is an urgent rallying call to action
As the comrades from Palestine expressed so clearly
‘when we fight for the struggle of Cuba we are fighting our struggle too- our common enemy is against imperialism; the exploitation of resources to ensure the continuation of their system…Cuba is an inspiring example for liberation movements around the world.’
End the US blockade of Cuba! Hands off Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and all the progressive movements across Latin America and the world!
The people continue to fight! Los Pueblos seguimos en lucha!