After two weeks of intensive meetings, interviews and visits, our 16 brigadistas have returned ready to report-back their experiences – raising socialist Cuba as a viable alternative to the imperialist barbarism and austerity unleashed by the British state.
Between the 20 April and 4 May, Rock around the Blockade sent its 13th solidarity brigade to Cuba, marking 20 years of collaboration with the Union of Young Communists. We visited cultural centres such as the Casa de Las Americas and the Hermanos Saiz association, learning about the development of youth and politics through art and music. We met with elected delegates of the municipal and provincial assemblies, learning about Cuba’s extensive system of participatory democracy exemplified in April’s municipal elections. We visited CENESEX, the national centre of sex education-meeting with Mariela Castro who informed us of the huge leaps Cuba has taken in fighting for LGBTI rights.
We were shown around the ‘Cerro’ neighbourhood by a local Committee for the Defence of the Revolution (CDR) who proudly showed us Cuba’s renowned system of family doctors and nursery centres. We spoke to people across the generations, from young primary school pioneers to participants of a grandparents association. We visited the world famous Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) which trains thousands of doctors from hundreds of countries without charge, marking a cornerstone in Cuba’s commitment to internationalism and meeting human needs. We visited a tobacco factory and a farm, speaking to workers and farmers striving to increase Cuba’s productivity in order to benefit the whole nation.
We held meetings with key political and economic researchers and leaders including Noel Carrillo from the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, Jesus Garcia, from the Institute of Philosophy, Carlos Akira US-Cuba relations expert from Havana University’s Centre of US studies, and Hugo Pons from the National Cuban Association of Economists and Accountants. We were extremely excited and inspired to meet and interview Kenia Serrano, President of the Cuban institute of friendship with the peoples (ICAP) and vice-president Fernando Gonzalez, one of the five Cuban heroes unjustly imprisoned for over 16 years for defending their country against terrorist acts.
Whilst on Mayday of course, we participated in celebrations for International workers day, joining over one million Cubans at Revolution Square in central Havana alongside President Raul Castro and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
As part of our continuing contribution to breaking the crippling US blockade against Cuba, this year we raised funds to take over £1000 of ballet shoes, clothes and boxing equipment to the National School of Ballet and the National Boxing Academy, supporting Cuba’s outstanding commitment to democratising sport and culture.
From 9 May the brigadistas will be sharing their experiences at a series of meetings across Britain, (Eyewitness accounts from the Cuba Vive 2015 Brigade) giving eyewitness accounts of the achievements and challenges facing the Cuban revolution. Our website will also feature a series of articles written by the brigadistas, detailing the key themes and concepts emerging from the trip.
Whilst the British ruling class invests, invades, occupies and plunders oppressed countries around the globe, imposing austerity on the working class at home, Cuba’s internationalist commitment to healthcare and education shows that socialism is the only viable alternative to capitalism. Despite the challenges and difficulties imposed by the US blockade and special period, Cuba remains a beacon of anti-imperialist solidarity and socialism. The brigadistas return with a message of hope for all those who are currently fighting against capitalism and imperialism, for liberty and international equality.
As UJC activist Yusdaguy Larduet Lopez emphasised, the words of Che Guevara are more relevant than ever:
‘In the face of all the dangers, the threats and aggressions, the blockades, the sabotage, all the divisionists, all those powers who try to restrain us, we must show once more our people's capacity to make their own history.
We must all be united, compañeros, firm in our faith, firmer than ever today, though perhaps not so firm as we shall be tomorrow, to go forward always with our eyes on the future, with our feet on the ground, building each step, and making sure of each step we take, so that we will never give up one inch of what we have won, of what we have built, of what is ours: socialism!
Patria o Muerte! Venceremos!’
(Speech to MayDay, Havana 1963)
Don't miss your opportunity to hear the brigadistas speak at a meeting near you and see unique photos and video footage.
No meeting near you? Get in touch if you want us to speak at your college, community centre or workplace.
Another world is possible! Viva Cuba Socialista!