On 6 December 2008, two activists from London Rock around the Blockade (RATB) were thrown out of a conference on Latin America organised by the Cuba Solidarity Campaign (CSC). Their crime? Handing out fliers advertising an RATB rally in London 17 January 2009 organised to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution. RATB had requested a stall at the Latin America conference but CSC Director Rob Miller had personally refused. When he and fellow CSC Executive Committee member Natasha Hickman saw the RATB comrades publicising our event, they insisted that they leave immediately, threatened to call the police and summoned security officers to enforce their decision. Subsequently we published a statement on the RATB website which condemned this as an act of sectarianism.
This was not the first incident of its kind. Indeed, for a long time RATB has suspected the CSC of waging a campaign to undermine our activities, including, for instance, telling local CSC branches not to participate in or support RATB’s 2008 Cubans Are Coming speaking tour with Che Guevara’s deputy Orlando Borrego, Jesus Garcia and Yoselin Rufin (www.cubansarecoming.org). Now we have proof that this campaign exists.
The minutes of the 17 January meeting of the CSC Executive Committee (EC), which have been given to us, refer to the RATB website statement which they say, ‘attacked CSC and CSC staff’, and state:
‘RATB sponsoring event in celebration of 50th anniversary of Cuban revolution – Officers had taken view that we draw our concerns to the [Cuban] Embassy about this group and request affiliates not to sponsor the event or participate and ask Justice for Colombia with whom CSC works to withdraw their endorsement. Officers also meeting with RMT on the matter. Ongoing correspondence/discussion with NUJ on this.
The RMT trade union had sponsored RATB’s 2008 speaking tour and the 26th July celebration the following summer, and had also agreed to support our 50th anniversary rally in January 2009.
The CSC officers were confident that the CSC Executive Committee would endorse the sectarian conspiracy, and the minutes register no dissent. Fortunately, in the interests of solidarity with Cuba, the RATB event was a great success, despite RMT general secretary Bob Crow pulling out. Throughout the day more than 250 people came along to the Venezuelan Embassy’s Bolivar Hall. The audience included many who had come direct from an action in Trafalgar Square in support of the people of Gaza. They were able to listen to representatives from the Cuban, Venezuelan and Bolivian embassies, NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear speaking on behalf of Justice for Colombia, a representative from MERU (the Movement of Ecuadorians in Britain), another from the Revolutionary Communist Group and speakers from Rock around the Blockade. For all the participants it was an event of the highest political level, a fitting tribute to the Cuban people on the 50th anniversary of their revolution. (see the report)
For those who question why RATB does not work within the CSC, these minutes speak for themselves: CSC officers act as if they have exclusive rights to promote Cuba solidarity.
Unlike the CSC, RATB campaigns openly and democratically; we support all activities in solidarity with Cuba regardless of who calls them. We will continue to support CSC events when they are held, but we will also continue to campaign independently in support of Cuban socialism. The deepening crisis will force imperialism to intensify its efforts to subvert and destroy the Cuban revolution. RATB sees the lessons and example of Cuban socialism as vital for building a new working class movement in this country, and we will continue to build solidarity with Cuba regardless of the efforts of the officers of the CSC.