Interview with Beverley Keene Jubilee South (Argentina) by Revolutionary Communist group delegation to the Anti-Imperialist conference of solidarity, for democracy against neoliberalism, Havana, Cuba November 2019
Please could you tell us more about Jubilee South and its demands?
Jubilee South is a movement with networks across Latin America and the Caribbean. We first came together 20 years ago, in 1999, in the midst of the global Jubilee 2000 movement that was looking for debt cancellation for the poorest countries. In Latin America and the Caribbean we became very interested and become part of the movement. However, we said at the time that the problem is not that we can't pay the debt, the basic problem that we face is that we don't owe the debt. As Fidel said, in the 1985 Havana Conference, debt is a problem that impacts all of us- the more we pay the more we owe, there's no end to it.
Despite the genocidal US blockade that costs Cuba $12m per day, they have built solidarity and mutual assistance, training over 29,750 doctors from 105 countries free of charge at the Latin American School of Medicine. During the events of the anti-imperialist conference of solidarity for democracy against neo-liberalism, students from around the globe performed songs, dances, played instruments and recited poetry. Our delegation made contact with Alwandze Dlamini, a medical student from Swaziland training to be a doctor at ELAM, who kindly allowed us to publish his poem.
English | Spanish
ELAM is a multicultural school
In which we find people from each and every region of the world
People of different religions, beliefs, cultures, ways of thinking,
if we join the colours it would be a rainbow.
But ELAM is the rainbow in my life
The rainbow in the world
When countries faced the darkness in their lives,
ELAM The iris, inside of the crisis caused mydriasis (dilation of the pupil)
It opened, permitting the entrance of light, that can create more light
Giving hope to the countries with needs
Forming doctors that see the sick as patients
and not objects or opportunities for business
For that reason, I don't have a problem with going to a very remote area
RATB brigade 2019 - Havana University Cuba
By Elias FB - Brigadista April 2019
At the University of Havana, we had an exchange with the University Student Federation (Federacion Estudiantil Universitaria, FEU). The FEU represents the interests of university students in various platforms. Cuba’s parliament has representatives elected from amongst the FEU, and during our exchange the students discussed the new constitution’s draft in local FEU meetings.
In Cuba, education is a right rather than a privilege. Everyone can access universities and efforts are made to eradicate inequality between regions and institutions.
Cuban higher education is free, while students’ right to housing and other basic needs are guaranteed. Students also receive a small allowance so that they don’t have to work while studying. Foreign students with scholarships such as those at the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) are entitled to those same rights.
Britain today has some of the highest quality social care available anywhere in the world: homes run by Berkeley Care Group include a chauffeur-driven Mercedes for days out, well-equipped gyms and all-day bistro bars. Berkeley, however, caters fort less than 200 people and charges between £1,300 and £1,800 per week. The opulence of Berkeley and luxury providers like it is sharply limited to those who can afford to pay. Meanwhile, Age UK’s most recent figures estimate that in Britain, 1.4 million older people have an unmet care need. This is up 20% in the last two years, and more than 54,000 people have died in those two years waiting for a care package. And what crime have these people committed to be condemned to such a fate? Simply not being able to afford to pay in a care system where, ultimately, despite the guiding role of the state in the sector, profit reigns. Such pronounced inequality in social care could not stand in more stark contrast to the system of social care provision in socialist Cuba, to which RATB sent its fourteenth solidarity brigade in April.
by Ria O’ Grady
The triumph of the 1959 Cuban revolution overthrew the existing property relations in Cuba. In May of that year the new revolutionary government introduced its first Agrarian Reforms, expropriating idle and foreign owned, largely US, land to redistribute among those working it. Historically land had been reserved for the upper-class and imperialists, who had turned Cuba into a sugar-producing colony. The result was the loss of 90% of Cuba’s forests; destruction of ecology from monoculture and a reliance on imports. Further reforms subsequent to those in 1959 have solidified the process of worker ownership of land. Now in socialist Cuba any individual can apply for access to idle land, on the condition that they use it to produce, with a proportion of that produce going to the state to redistribute among society.
Such was the way the Leonor Perez agricultural cooperative, named after the Cuban revolutionary Jose Marti’s mother, was founded in La Lisa municipality, Havana province. We visited the co-operative on our brigade to learn more about Cuba’s commitment to environmental sustainability. The cooperative is one of four in the municipality and 88 in the province, providing to over 2,000 institutions and organisations across Cuba. It spans 179 hectares and is made up of 255 associates, grouping together local farms and farm workers. The main focus is on producing diverse crops, milk and livestock, though they also produce medicinal plants. Though the co-operative can sell its surpluses through private farmers markets, the primary function is to satisfy the needs of the state.
Jose Marti, the 19th Century Cuban national independence hero and revolutionary thinker said that ‘To be educated is to be free’. The importance of education has always been at the heart of the Cuban revolution – the 26 July Movement revolutionary programme declared: ‘We believe that true democracy can be attained only with citizens who are free, equal, educated and have dignified and productive jobs.’ From January 1959, the revolutionary government took steps to create a free and more productive education system. The 1960 literacy campaign recruited 300,000 young Cuban volunteers to live in the poorest rural areas teaching peasants and rural workers to read and write. Within a year every Cuban had achieved basic literacy. 37 schools were built in the first year of the revolution, compared to one school built in the previous 57 years. Free universal education up to and including university is a central pillar of Cuban socialism today, from specialist schools to support children with disabilities to far-flung solar-powered mountain schools teaching one or two children, education is for all.
Our brigade volunteered at a construction site in Guanabacoa, Havana that was working to rebuild over 8,000 homes destroyed by a tornado in January. Astoundingly, by the time of our visit in April, over 80% of the homes had already been rebuilt and the aim is to complete the rebuilding process by November! Where is the equivalent process for Grenfell? Plans for the new homes were made by the Ministry of construction in consultation with the community. Volunteer labour brigades are guided and trained by professional workers whilst municipalities are supported to produce whatever building materials they can. We saw first-hand, how recovered materials were being reused in building, whilst other workers produced cement.
In April 2019, Rock around the Blockade sent its 14th solidarity brigade to Cuba, celebrating 60 years of the socialist revolution. Our visit coincided with the inauguration of Cuba’s new constitution, supported by 86% of voters, produced by an outstanding exercise in participatory democracy in which 8.9 million Cubans took part. In our visits and exchanges, Cubans from every walk of life shone with determination to resist the US’s attacks on socialism and continue to construct a sustainable socialist society.
At a visit to a music school named after the Cuban composer Guillermo Tomás Bouffartigue, we learned about the exemplary education system in Cuba and how it is used to supply Cuba’s youth with musical education.
The school accepts any child that shows a particular aptitude toward music, an approach replicated throughout Cuba’s specialist art schools. The school is free for all, and children are provided with musical instruments and everything they need except for copy books and pens. There is a widespread effort to ensure that children with the dedication and talent are given a good musical education no matter where they live on the island. There are four such schools in Havana Province and the students undertake their usual school studies in the mornings and practice music in the afternoons.
We can contrast this with the level of access to musical education in Britain, where arts departments and facilities have been facing cuts as a result of austerity and a fifth of schools don’t offer music as a subject for 14-16-year olds. In capitalist Britain, a high standard of musical education is offered to a privileged minority of pupils and those outside of this circle face an uphill battle to access arts education, even if they can prove their ability.
In socialist Cuba, access to art and culture are seen as basic rights. Monica Maestri the principal of Guillermo Tomás, emphasised ‘the school responds to the revolutionary message of equal opportunities and possibilities for all’. This is despite the illegal US blockade which costs Cuba an estimated $12 million a day!
Collaborating with the ‘Send a piano to Cuba’ project, Rock around the Blockade donated £1000 of musical instruments and equipment to the Guillermo Tomas music school. The extra-territorial tentacles of the blockade froze ‘Piano to Cuba’ funds through Eventbrite and Stripe, so we were determined to deliver piano hammers for the restoration of a Grand Piano.