On the 17 January 2009, almost 250 people gathered at Bolivar Hall, the Venezuelan embassy, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution. The meeting, organised by Rock around the Blockade, can only be described as a resounding success.
The panel of speakers was vibrant and the audience more so, both providing discussion points that could have continued for hours. We were honoured to have representatives from the Cuban, Venezuelan and Bolivian embassies. Rafael Sardinas from the Cuban Embassy spoke of the triumph of the revolution and its gains in the face of US terrorism. Williams Suarez from the Venezuelan Embassy and Ruben Vidaurre from the Bolivian Embassy both spoke of developments of Latin America and the inspiration that Cuba provides. It was very significant to be in Bolivar Hall, with Venezuelan and Bolivian comrades, both of whose countries have taken the principled lead and cut all ties with the Zionist State of Israel. In fact, the topic of Palestine was brought up by almost all speakers, Neeva Shanti speaking on behalf of the Revolutionary Communist Group. Diego Almeida, from the Movement of Ecuadorians in the UK, and Jeremy Dear, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists and speaking on behalf of Justice for Colombia. It was clear that many people arrived after having gone to the rally for Palestine in Trafalgar Square that afternoon, and when the floor was opened to the audience for discussion, the brutal, racist, occupation of Palestine was raised with speakers expressing their condemnation of Britain and US’ political and military support of the Israeli State.
Diego Almeida gave a moving and informative history of the Ecuadorian peoples and described the problems they had been having with the corrupt leadership the country had had up until the recent election of Rafael Correa. Jeremy Dear spoke of the serious situation in Colombia, where 1,000s of people are ‘disappeared’, simply for being in trade unions or for taking a stand against the brutality of the government. He talked about the fact that the media is always criticising Cuba with this idea that Cubans have no right or capacity in which to express themselves, but asked us, how many Cubans have been ‘disappeared’ in revolutionary Cuba? The answer is none – compared to 3,000 in Colombia over the last few years, while the media demonises Cuba and holds Colombia up as a beacon of democracy in the region.
Helen Yaffe, author of the soon-to-be released Che Guevara: The Economics of Revolution, gave an energetic speech dispelling many of the myths about Cuba which are regularly propagated by the media and put the recent changes in context of the political and economic situation in Cuba. Hannah Caller spoke about the incredible achievements of Cuba in the field of health and education, and that their quest for universal healthcare includes the internationalist role of Cuban medical teams abroad. Despite the hardship and isolation of the Special Period, not one hospital or school was closed.
One thing was clear to every person by the end of the day, the struggle of the Cuban people is to be celebrated and held up as an aspiration for humanity. Appeals were made throughout the day that it is the responsibility of each and every one of us to become active. The choice for humanity is socialism or barbarism.
The day was rounded off with a beautiful performance by Cuban classical guitarist Ahmed Dickinson.
Viva Cuba socialista!
Long live Palestine!