Published on 1 June 2015 by www.revolutionarycommunist.org
On our 2015 brigade visit to ICAP, we spoke to Kenia Serrano who, as a member of the UJC in 2002, participated in Rock around the Blockade’s speaking tour across Britain. More recently, in March 2014 and in her current post as President of ICAP, she spoke at RATB’s rally for the Cuban Five in Trafalgar Square, London, which was organised in support of the International Committee of Inquiry into the case of the Cuban Five. Kenia told us:
‘The significance of international solidarity is something that constitutes a principle for the Cuban revolution. To see that people all over the world are in solidarity with the Cuban revolution is something that really constitutes a commitment for us, we are committed to continue in solidarity with other peoples because Cuba has been a recipient of world solidarity actions…
Published on 1 June 2015 by www.revolutionarycommunist.org
On 19 April, just before the brigade arrived in Havana and two weeks before the British general election circus, Cuba held nationwide municipal elections. The Municipal Assemblies of people’s power represent the dynamic base of the revolution. We met with Osmani Castro from Havana’s Provincial Assembly who explained how the process works; ‘In Cuba, nobody is without protection. We have a system of civic protection and social assistance from the state and in this system, the municipal delegate is the core of all decisions large or small. It is up to the delegate to analyse the situation of people who are ill, are alone, or are very old, and ensure these people receive the care and attention they need. So if my house is on fire or hit by a hurricane, I am not alone, I am not going to live under a bridge. Cuba is a safety net. It is the responsibility of the delegate, not personally to solve everything for people, but to gather the community and try to involve them in the process of finding a solution.’
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.
RATB brigade returns from Cuba
Members and supporters of the Revolutionary Communist Group and Rock Around the Blockade returned in May from a two week fact finding and solidarity brigade to Cuba. After spending the first few days in Havana the brigade travelled across Cuba to the easternmost province of Guantanamo before returning to the capital.
Among the places visited in a packed itinerary were primary schools, the international schools of medicine and sports, the school for social workers, a Pioneers Palace, clinics, an orphanage, a nursery, an old people’s home, a chocolate factory that was first opened by Che Guevara and organisations for arts and music. The members of the brigade talked with people, on the streets and in their local organisations; to students, young people, children, journalists, religious believers and workers. They had discussions with members of local Committees for the Defence of the Revolution (CDRs), women’s groups (FMC), with leading members of the Cuban Communist Party and of the Union of Young Communists (UJC), who hosted the brigade.
In Guantanamo the brigade was able to check out the mobile sound system that had been donated by a previous RATB brigade and which was being used two or three times every day to take music and politics to young people in every corner of the province. By contrast they also visited the area overlooking the US naval base where prisoners, many of them young people, are still being held without trial in Camps X Ray and Delta. Back in Havana the brigade took part in the May Day celebrations in Revolution Square and joined over a million Cubans and other revolutionaries from around the world in singing the Internationale. The brigade has come back full of enthusiasm and up-to-the-minute information. On these pages you can read some of their reports and their most vivid impressions. To hear more make sure you get to one of the brigade report-back meetings (details on back page) and visit our website at www.ratb.org.uk.
Defending Socialism in Cuba
by Hannah Caller and Cat Wiener
from Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No.135, February/March 1997
At the end of December, Rock around the Blockade's work over the last year culminated in taking a brigade of 21 young people - the No Pasaran! brigade - to Cuba, taking with us equipment for a mobile disco requested by the Union of Young Communists (UJC) of Ciego de Avila.
Rock around the Blockade was set up in 1995 by the Revolutionary Communist Group to support the defence of socialism and linking work in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution with the goal of building a socialist movement here in Britain.
The special period: economic gains and risks
FRFI 147 February / March 1999
Revolution tightens its grip
Build one, two and many brigades
Children of the revolution
Brigade visits family doctor's clinic
This year's brigade was in Cuba at an exciting time - not only for the opportunity to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Revolution in the small rural community of Fomento, dancing to the beat of the sound system provided by Rock around the Blockade. It was also a time when Cuban communists themselves were reaffirming their commitment to the Revolution and taking measures to protect its gains against the encroachment of capitalist mechanisms. Just before the brigade arrived in Cuba, the Union of Young Communists (UJC) had held its VII Congress, analysing and discussing its role as the vanguard of Cuban youth. Alongside this, measures were being taken by the government to clamp down on crime and antisocial behaviour. The 16 brigadistas picked coffee alongside a contingent of pre-university students, visited schools, an orphanage, family doctors and a children's centre and a committee for the defence of the Revolution (CDR). We were offered constant opportunities to meet and discuss with Cubans the realities of their Revolution. We were overwhelmed by the openness, generosity and revolutionary enthusiasm that we found. As one brigadista says, we return 'rearmed' to fight the battles that confront us here in Britain, inspired by the example of Cuba's socialist state.
1 January 2019 marks 60 years of the Cuban revolution, 60 years of socialist construction, 60 years defying imperialism. The Cuban people have withstood invasion, sabotage, terrorism, biological warfare and a sustained economic blockade at the hands of the world's most powerful economic and military power, the United States. They have given unyielding support to other poor countries. They have built socialist Cuba, a beacon of hope for poor and oppressed people throughout the world. Cuba shows that there is an alternative to poverty, racism and war, an inspiration for working class struggles around the globe, showing that socialism is the only system that can provide for humanity.
In 2019, celebrating the 60th anniversary of the triumph of the Cuban revolution, Rock Around the Blockade will send our 14th solidarity brigade to the island. Young activists from Britain will spend two weeks meeting Cubans from all walks of life, visiting schools, hospitals, factories, community centres, farms; learning about Cuban socialism and holding exchanges with Cuban youth about the reality of living under capitalism in Britain, as austerity bites and the war drive continues.
We will also take a donation of musical instruments and sports equipment, as a political action to break the continued illegal blockade of Cuba that has deprived the island nation of more than $933bn of development capital over almost six decades. The US blockade reaches its tentacles to try and strangle solidarity work in Britain and beyond, with US companies PayPal and Stripe blocking and confiscating funds from several solidarity groups, including seizing funds raised to send a piano to Cuba. Pushing back against this extra-territorial assault on solidarity, we are organising fundraising events up and down the country and ask you to support us as generously as you can.
Cuba is always grateful for the solidarity of our friends in the world who are many and who, like you, inspired by this example, are slowly breaking the blockade every single day. — Julio Pujol Torres, the Counsellor for Political Affairs at the Cuban Embassy to the UK, at the 2019 Cuba Brigade launch
The more we raise, the more material aid we can take with us! Over the years our brigades have coordinated with the Union of Young Communists in Cuba to assess the best forms of material aid to bring; this has included sports equipment, musical instruments, a sound system, ballet shoes, boxing gloves and more.
On our return we will host meetings, with brigadistas reporting back from their experiences, showing photos and film clips and taking the lessons we can learn from Cuban socialism to the streets of Britain. To host a meeting in your area, please contact us on 02078371688.