The situation in Cuba is grave. Sunday 11 July saw protests with hundreds of people in several of the island’s cities. The international media and the far-right have given much prominence to these demonstrations. What is the character of these rallies: are they legitimate expressions of a popular revolt or are they actions orchestrated by the counterrevolution in Miami? What should the position of socialists be to these events?
The protests began in the town of San Antonio de los Baños in the Artemisa Province, located 26 km from the capital Havana. The initial motives for these rallies were: frequent and prolonged cuts to electricity, lack of basic products, food shortages, declining purchasing power, and lack of democratic freedoms. In addition, there is the pandemic which has only got worse in recent days with the arrival of more contagious variants, at a time when only 15-20% of the population is completely vaccinated. This worsening situation comes despite the enormous effort the country has made to produce vaccines with proven effectiveness against COVID-19. The demonstration in San Antonio therefore had a real and just basis. This fact was recognized by Cuban President Díaz-Canel himself, who went to the town to talk to the rebellious population.
However, this just, spontaneous protest has been appropriated by counterrevolutionary forces organized by the Cuban-American bourgeoisie that resides mainly in Miami, along with sectors of the US far-right with their strong presence on social media networks. An unfortunate consequence of this has been the introduction of US flags to the mobilizations, which they try to give a counterrevolutionary meaning to. What they want of course is the liquidation of Cuba’s sovereignty and its surviving revolutionary conquests, and the resumption of colonial control over the island. It is not by chance that the protests were soon hailed by Joe Biden, the American far-right, and the neo-fascist Bolsonaro. In light of all this, the socialist left cannot hesitate to choose which side of the trench it should be on: that of defending Cuba against imperialist aggression.
How best to defend Cuba?
First, the defense of Cuba requires the broadest international solidarity with the Cuban people, beginning with the demand for an end to the US blockade of the island. The effects of the blockade have only gotten worse under the pandemic, particularly with the drastic reduction in tourism, an important source of income for the country. In a cynical fashion, Biden has declared that the demands of the Cuban people are just, when it is the White House itself that promotes an embargo that has lasted six decades, and has led to endless suffering for a people that it hypocritically claims to support.
The blockade is so immoral and unjust that on June 23, the United Nations voted in favor of a resolution to end the blockade for the 29th time, with 182 votes in favor, only two votes against (the USA and Israel) and three abstentions. Among other things, the US embargo makes all Cuban imports, especially those of food, energy, medicines, and other basic supplies, very difficult and expensive. Given this reality, it is necessary to intensify the international campaign for an end to the blockade, a blockade that has become even more criminal during this pandemic.
Second, in order to break the imperialist siege of Cuba, the task is to support and strengthen mobilizations of the workers and oppressed peoples, to win governments to demonstrate their solidarity with the Cuban people, and to build a political and economic front that opposes the policy of the imperialist recolonization of Latin America. This is fundamental because we know that socialism is not possible in just one country.
Third, the defense of Cuba must be accompanied by criticism of the measures of capitalist economic liberalization that the Cuban government has implemented, which are producing growing social inequality on the island. For example, since 2011 the Cuban government has facilitated the creation of small and medium-sized private businesses, which from 2010 and 2020 have grown from 50,000 to over 500,000. At the same time, due to bureaucratic procedures and lack of incentives, less than 700 cooperatives have been created (1). An economy that grows through the support of private businesses encourages individual rather than collective outcomes, and feeds the social base of the counter-revolution. Another danger is the decision to open up the country to more and more foreign capital (2).
Fourth, the Cuban government must guarantee democratic freedoms, as well as the democratic participation of the people in defining the country’s political direction. This is the only way to build the trust and unity needed to confront the imperialist and counter-revolutionary forces, without further weakening the social base of the revolution.
Bureaucratic control and formal democracy, as expressed in the current institutions, undermine revolutionary energy and bring increasing despair. The defense of Cuba cannot occur through the censorship of cultural movements and the persecution of LGBT and social organizations, intellectuals, and popular leaders who claim allegiance to the Revolution, but who think differently or even oppose government policies. Democratic freedoms for the people to express themselves and to struggle will strengthen the Revolution, not the other way around.
We do not politically support any protest with links to the US and the counterrevolution. But we stand in opposition to the repression and imprisonment of people and leftists who demonstrate in favor of legitimate popular and social demands. Therefore, we repudiate the imprisonment and demand the immediate release of the Cuban historian and Marxist Frank García Hernández, the young socialist University of Havana physics student Leonardo Romero Negrín, the LGBTI activist and Tremenda Nota news site director Maykel González Vivero, and the undergraduate student Marcos Antonio Pérez Fernández. No freedom to the enemies of the revolution, but full freedom to the people to demonstrate for their just demands. This is the only way we can win.
Full solidarity with the Cuban people! No to the imperialist blockade! Defend Socialist Cuba!
(1) Camila Alvarenga, “‘Cuba é um dos países que conteve a pandemia com maior sucesso’, diz Joana Salém” (‘Cuba is one of the countries that has most successfully contained the pandemic,’ says Joana Salém), Opera Mundi website, 4 May 2021, https://operamundi.uol.com.br/20-minutos/69563/cuba-e-um-dos-paises-que-conteve-a-pandemia-com-maior-sucesso-diz-joana-salem.
This article is an English translation of “Solidariedade ao povo cubano. Fim imediato do bloqueio criminoso dos EUA!”, [https://esquerdaonline.com.br/2021/07/14/solidariedade-ao-povo-cubano-fim-imediato-do-bloqueio-criminoso-dos-eua-1/], Esquerda Online (EOL), 14/07/2021.
Translation: Bobby Sparks