bolivar_hall_8_06_10_3On Tuesday 8 June 2010 Bolivar Hall, London was packed  for the big-screen premier of the new Rock around the Blockade (RATB) documentary Cuba: Defending Socialism, Resisting Imperialism.
The event began with introductions from the producers, Anthony Bairstow and Ethesham Haque, activists in RATB, who explained that most of the filming was done during a solidarity brigade to Cuba in spring 2009.
With just one camera, they returned to London with over 20 hours of footage and edited it into a 50-minute documentary which provides a snapshot of contemporary Cuba and the challenges faced by the socialist Revolution. The narrative comes from the Cubans they interviewed - an organic farmer, a state farmer, a lawyer, an economist, and a speech therapist. There is also an interview with a young Trinidadian studying for free at the International School of Sports of Physical Sciences in Havana.

cuban_5_action_12.09.09p1c5On Saturday 12th September 2009 members of Rock around the Blockade in Newcastle held a demonstration as part of the international call for solidarity with the Cuban 5 to demand their freedom.

The demonstration was at Grey’s Monument in Newcastle city centre where we had placards and banners of the five Cuban heroes calling for their immediate release, an information stall and speeches about the case of the Cuban 5, about rendition flights Britain has been involved in and the ‘war on terror’ which is used by imperialist countries like Britain and the US when they want to terrorise Muslim communities to justify their actions in the Middle East and to attack progressive governments like that of Cuba, all the while self-confessed terrorist Louis Pasada Carriles walks free on US soil. There was also a speech about ALBA and the coup in Honduras and how the gains and example of the Cuban revolution are acting as a beacon of inspiration to the working class internationally and sparking off socialist movements in Latin America.

rafael_correa_and_helen_yaffeBuilding socialism for the 21st century in Ecuador

In April 2009, Rafael Correa was elected to his second term as President of Ecuador with 51% of the vote. This gave him a mandate to continue and deepen the programme of reforms and structural changes initiated since he first became president in November 2006. In three years Correa’s government has introduced an unprecedented social and economic programme of reforms – the Citizens’ Revolution – to reverse the poverty and exploitation suffered by the majority of the population in a country which has been ravaged by neo-liberalism. Correa has announced that Ecuador is building socialism for the 21st century and joined the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA).

dayschool2On Saturday 1st November 2008, RATB supported a dayschool organised by the LSE Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! Student Society on the subject of 'Che Guevara, Cuba and Socialism in Latin America'. Attendees heard in-depth analyses of the revolutionary processes in Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador.

closeguantanamoOn Monday 11 January 2010 the London Guantánamo Campaign held a demonstration outside the US Embassy in London to mark 8 years of the Guantánamo Bay torture camp. A vigil by protesters in orange jumpsuits and black hoods was followed by an hour of speeches demanding the closure of the camp and justice for all detainees.

Nicki Jameson spoke at the demonstration on behalf of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! She pointed out that the US presence at Guantánamo Bay is an illegal occupation of Cuban territory dating back to the 1903 Cuban-American Treaty, which was signed under threat of military action.

Despite Barack Obama’s pledge to close the camp by 22 January 2010, this deadline will not be met. Just under 200 prisoners are still held there. Of these around 50 have been cleared but will not be released until the US can find countries to accept them. There may be sufficient evidence to try around 25 in the US, but much of this evidence was obtained using torture.

It is not clear why the US are still holding the approximately 120 remaining detainees. One of the speakers, journalist Andy Worthington, suggested that in Shaker Aamer's case it may well be that his release would be too embarrassing for the US government because of his extensive knowledge about what has happened at Guantánamo.

cuban5report1On Saturday 6th June activists from Rock around the Blockade and the Revolutionary Communist Group hosted a demonstration at Grey’s Monument, Newcastle in solidarity with the Cuban 5 and to demand their release. This action was called in response to the Cuban call for an international day of action to free the 5, because the Court of Appeals is making a decision this month as to whether or not if they will hear their case.  

We were there for 5 hours telling people about the case of the Cuban 5, handing out leaflets, with placards and banners reading ‘Free the Cuban 5! End the Illegal US Blockade!’

One question which is asked often is ‘Who are the Cuban 5, and what’s it got to do with us in Britain?’

cuba5_1On Saturday 12 September 2009, to mark the 11th anniversary of the incarceration of the Cuban 5, over 60 people protested in a busy shopping street in the Angel, near central London , to demand the release of the Cuban 5, as part of an international day of action.

The event was called by Rock around the Blockade (RATB), a campaign in solidarity with socialist Cuba and against the US blockade, to demand the immediate release of the five Cuban heroes. Under the title Break the Chains: Free the Cuban 5, Free all Political Prisoners of Imperialism, the rally highlighted the use as a torture camp of Guantanamo Bay , in illegally occupied Cuba , to hold prisoners of the imperialist ‘war on terror’. Speakers also exposed the situation of refugees and asylum seekers in Britain , thousands of whom are daily detained and deported under Britain ’s racist immigrations laws. Detainees include nearly 500 children currently incarcerated.

cuba_solidarity_campaign_csc_minutes_17_jan_09On 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 ( Now we have proof that this campaign exists.

Following the opening session at the Latin America 2008 conference held on Saturday the 6th of December in the TUC Congress House, Rob Miller, Director of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, expelled two ticket holders for handing out leaflets for a Rock around the Blockade event in six weeks time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution. In an act of hostility and further evidence that Miller regards the RATB as 'competition', he personally summonsed five security guards and threatened to call the police on our activists for the palpable crime of campaigning in solidarity for the Cuban Revolution. With CSC staff member Natasha Hickman at his side, Miller pulled £20 out of his own wallet as a refund for the tickets bought.