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.
Come and hear Ben and Igor report back about their experiences in Cuba, reflecting on the RCG's work in campaigns to defend the NHS and combat social cleansing in North London.
Monday 18 May, 7.30 pm
Upstairs at the Oak and Pastor Pub, 86 Junction Road, London N19 5QZ
Nearest tube: Archway
Women in Cuba
4 days after returning from a solidarity trip to Cuba, members of the East London Revolutionary Communist Group will report back on the lives of Cuban women from birth to housing, work and old-age, on this famous socialist island.
Talk and open discussion from South London crew’s findings during their time in Cuba. Debate will also focus on how to bring a movement about in our community.
Sunday 10 May – 3-6pm
Southwyck House Community Centre, Moorland Road, SW9 8TT
(nearest tube: Brixton)
Brigade to Cuba: Report Back Meeting
Saturday 30 May 3pm
Room G8, Dundee University Tower Building
Perth Road, Dundee
Eyewitness Cuba: Forget the General election – it’s a General fraud! Come and hear about the real participatory democracy being built in Cuba today.
Wednesday 20 May 6.30pm
upstairs gallery at Barloco, 22 Leazes Park Road, Newcastle NE1 4PG
Watch this space! As soon as the brigade returns in May we will keep a steady stream of articles, photos, interviews, videos – news and analysis from Socialist Cuba!
More meetings will be confirmed throughout May and June.
Help us spread the word about Cuban socialism and the internationalist alternative it presents to austerity war and despair!
The 13th solidarity brigade of the British campaign Rock around the Blockade will travel to Cuba between late April and early May 2015. The group is collecting funds now to buy material aid for Cuban youth – this time they will take ballet shoes and boxing gloves to training schools. While breaking the US blockade, the donation will contribute towards Cuba’s remarkable achievements in promoting and democratising sport and culture.
Hosted by the Union of Young Communists, the brigadistas will visit a variety of centres, institutions and organisations, meeting political and student leaders and doing agricultural work. They will visit maternity and old peoples’ homes, youth, neighbourhood and cultural groups and research institutes. They will learn about the daily impact of the US blockade, which prevents the Cuban government from buying medicine, food, technology, equipment and resources in every sector, and which has been condemned for 23 consecutive years by the UN General Assembly.
For 55 years, Cuba has maintained and increased its free social provision despite the impact of the US blockade. This presents a contrast with the austerity measures implemented by the British government which are attacking public services, jobs and benefits and causing a return to the poverty, inequality and destitution of the pre-welfare state era. Such differences are also seen in Cuba’s response to the Ebola epidemic. While most of the world tightens border controls and the United States sends 4,000 troops, Cuba is sending nearly 500 medics to West Africa to treat the sick and help stop the disease spreading. Cuba’s medical contribution is greater than the rest of the world’s put together – just as it was in response to the 2010 earthquake which devastated Haiti, when Cuba’s medical contingent treated 40% of the victims. The Cuban Ebola-trained specialists will join some 50,000 Cuban-trained health workers in nearly 70 countries today.
How can a small, blockaded island have such a global impact? Why are Cubans so prepared to assist others around the world? Is this a product of a socialist society? What is socialism like in practice? What about the changes underway in Cuba today?
Through this fraternal exchange, activists on the Cuba Vive brigade will study the achievements and challenges of the Cuban Revolution and socialist construction. What they learn will be discussed with people back in Britain through report back meetings to be organised around the country.
Please contribute towards the Cuba Vive 2015 brigade.
In April 2015 Rock Around The Blockade will be sending a delegation of activists to Cuba to support the country that has been blockaded for more than half a century.
Since the revolution in 1959, the Cuban government has committed itself to levelling the social structure of the country. In addition to delivering free, world class education and healthcare to every single Cuban, the government has also invested heavily in the arts to ensure that culture is available to all, and is not a bourgeois pastime. Recently this involved investing $200,000 to a financially struggling ballet school to transform it into the world renowned Ballet Nacional de Cuba.
However, as a result of the US blockade, these state-funded art and leisure institutions have been faced with shortages of much-needed materials including dance and sports equipment.
And despite the promises of the Obama government in recent months the blockade remains in place, to the detriment of the lives of 11 million Cubans.
That’s why, on the 20th April, a group of 16 activists will be travelling to Cuba to deliver material aid in the form of ballet shoes and boxing gloves.
The brigade will also critique and learn from a country that in the depth of a world crisis continues to be committed to delivering free education, healthcare, culture and sport as a constitutional right for every citizen.
The research we undertake will be presented back in Britain at a series of events as we use the lessons learned in a socialist system are relevant to the working class in Britain, which is currently being brutalised at the hands of an ideologically-driven government that is dismantling and privatising the public sector and welfare state at every opportunity. Cuba has shown time and time again since 1959 that there is an alternative.