May 7, 2005

When the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, many feared for revolutionary Cuba. Overnight, Cuba lost 75% of its international trade. By 1994, the Cuban economy had shrunk by at least one third, and the Cuban people as a whole saw a significant decline in their standard of living. Although this led to another rafter crisis in 1994, the revolutionary, democratic and socialist government headed by comandante Fidel Castro assured its people that Cuba would endure, and that the gains of the revolution would not be taken away, even as it became impossible at that point to make big advances in building socialism.

In response to this crisis, progressives in the United States, including our party, stepped up action in solidarity with Cuba. All over the country, collectives were created to oppose the efforts of the United States to destroy Cuba. The National Network on Cuba (NNOC) was organized, with our full participation, to coordinate these local efforts.

During the Clinton administration, the Toricelli and Helms-Burton Acts designed to strengthen the four decades long US economic blockade, were signed. In 1999, the crisis over the repatriation of the Cuban child Elian Gonzalez was used by the right wing and especially its Cuban exile sector to try to make propaganda points against Cuba. The effort backfired, as the media interest in the Cuban child opened an opportunity for opponents of the blockade to speak to the American people about what is really going on in Cuba.

From 2001 on, the Bush administration, heavily intertwined with right wing Cuban exile interests, has tried to sharply increase the pressure on Cuba, and to get the American public to see Cuba as somehow involved with ‘terrorism’.

But the Cuban economic crisis bottomed out around 1994. Ten years later, Cuba has recuperated much of the lost ground. Trade with the USSR and Eastern Europe has been replaced by commercial relationships with many other countries, especially China and the European Union, and also with US farmers. Cuba is so far from being — as the Bush administration claims — diplomatically isolated, that for the 13 th consecutive year, the United Nations General Assembly has condemned the US blockade of Cuba by lopsided margins: In November of last year, only four countries voted against the resolution condemning the blockade, while 179 voted for it and one abstained.

Cuba participates in numerous UN specialized agencies and other international bodies, in which its interventions are widely respected and its suggestions frequently followed by countries with very different economic and political systems. Although Cuba has been kept out of the Organization of American States by US pressure, it belongs to the WTO and other regional and international bodies. The coming to power of left-of-center governments in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and especially Venezuela has been of great importance for the survival of the Cuban revolution. Also, Cuba’s denunciation of imperialism and neo-liberalism has increased the esteem in which the socialist island is regarded by the popular masses in all of Latin America and the Caribbean. This esteem is enhanced by the great appreciation of Cuban foreign solidarity aid, in the form of provision of doctors, nurses and teachers, in numerous poor countries the world round. In the recent crisis in Haiti, involving a US invasion, violent disturbances and a deadly hurricane, Cuban doctors continued to provide up to 75% of the medical services to that country’s population, and were not withdrawn in spite of extreme danger to themselves.

Due to U.S. pressure, Cuba does not get financial support from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. However, Cuba has survived without this, and as a bonus finds that it is not pressured to conform to the onerous conditions ‘help’ from these agencies entail.

The United States continues to attempt to stir up conflict between Cuba and other countries, but these efforts continue to fail. The past year saw a mini-crisis between Cuba and Mexico’s right wing government. But the crisis blew over and full diplomatic relations are now restored. A similar flap between Cuba and Peru has now died down. The anti-Cuban government of Mireya Moscoso in Panama was ousted by the voters. Overall, the mood in Latin America, among governments as well as the masses, is turning in Cuba’s favor. A sign of this is the Mexican proposal for changes in the way the United Nations Commission on Human Rights operates. In previous years, the United States manipulated this body to bring about annual condemnations of Cuba. The Mexican proposal is aimed at preventing that in the future. And all eyes are on the election of a new Secretary General of the Organization of American States, with the United States supporting the right-wing former president of El Salvador, Flores, while other countries promote either foreign minister Derbez of Mexico or foreign minister Insulza of Chile. An Insulza win will be seen as a rebuff to US policy in the region, including the anti-Cuba campaign.

Internally, the Cuban government and the Communist Party of Cuba began, even before the collapse of the Soviet Union, a process of reorganization of economic and political life designed to keep Cuba socialist and free. Public participation in the legislatures at all levels was increased. Trade unions were revitalized and their democratic characteristics strengthened. Methods of farming and other kinds of production have been made more environmentally friendly and, at the same time, more efficient and productive. A new biomedical sector has developed, which, with tourism, has compensated for a long-term decline in sugar production. Cuban nickel exports are booming.

And in recent months, the Cuban government has announced the discovery of significant oil reserves in its coastal waters. Though the amount is not enormous, the quality of the oil is better than what Cuba had been producing (lower sulfur content) and there are also hopes that yet more undersea deposits might be found. Cuba may soon be able to shift a large proportion of its petroleum usage away from expensive imports and onto its own production, freeing up foreign exchange and other resources for dealing with other aspects of the Cuban economy. And capitalists in the United States, already divided along the lines of those who want to trade with Cuba (e.g. agribusiness) and those who want to destroy Cuba, will see more voices raised for an end to the blockade so that US based companies can get in on the oil deal also.

The Cuban government and Communist Party have made good on their promise not to allow the gains of the Cuban Revolution to be destroyed. In 2004, Cuba’s infant mortality rate dropped to 5.8 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, while the US rate actually rose from 6.8 to 7. Thus in the Western Hemisphere, only Canada (rate 5) does better than Cuba in protecting the lives of newborn infants. Other Cuban health statistics are similar, and Cuba differs from its Caribbean neighbors in the small number of people who have lost their lives in recent hurricanes. In Cuba, more students graduate from high school and enter college than in any other Latin American country. There are more doctors per capita, a higher literacy rate and radically higher scores on standardized student achievement tests. And we can not omit mentioning the constant Cuban superlatives in the field of sport. All this is in the teeth of a vicious blockade imposed and tightened for 44 years by the richest and most powerful country in the world, only 100 miles from Cuba’s shore!

Though imperialism blames all these successes on Fidel Castro, it is clear that in addition to his outstanding leadership, Cuba’s survival is made possible by its socialist system, which motivates and mobilizes all sectors of its population in every endeavor. Cuba is a living rebuke not only to imperialism and capitalism, but to those who have drawn the erroneous conclusion from events elsewhere that socialism and communism are impossible dreams and that dog-eat-dog capitalism will be with us forever. IMPERIALISM MENACES CUBA

Imperialism has to work to destroy the Cuban Revolution, because revolutionary Cuba is an organizing center in opposition to imperialist plans, and an example and inspiration to the poor and working people of the world that socialism is the only viable option for the future. Often we are tempted to blame the administration’s ‘irrational’ Cuba policy on the noxious influence of the Miami exiles or other extreme reactionary circles. We must sometimes remind ourselves that when Bush says that Cuba is a ‘threat’, he means not that Cuba threatens the American people, but that Cuba’s influence and example are threats to imperialism. In this, he is right, and this reveals a coldly rational side to US Cuba policy.

Imperialism uses two tactics to undermine and destroy the Cuban Revolution:

* Direct confrontation, attacking Cuba by every means from economic harassment to invasion. Into this category we can put the Bay of Pigs invasion, Operation Mongoose (the CIA program of terrorism in Cuba in the 1960s), and the restrictions on trade with, and travel to, Cuba. This tactic relies mostly on the idea that if the United States damages the Cuban economy sufficiently, the social gains of the Revolution will be eroded to the point that the Cuban people will become unsatisfied, causing the collapse of socialism. Imperialism hopes to create disorder and then use it as a pretext for invasion.

* To increase interaction between Cuba and the outside world in the hope that the Cuban people will come to admire the material conditions of the capitalist countries which will fatally weaken popular support for the revolution. Such a tactic would encourage trade and travel instead of forbidding and restricting them. It takes note of the fact that Cuba’s development of tourism has created some social ills, especially increa economic inequality in the island. Imperialist proponents of this tactic hope that engagement of Cuba with the capitalist world will destroy the fabric of socialist society in Cuba, which they think is what brought about the demise of the USSR and Eastern European socialism. Liberal politicians who work to end the US blockade of Cuba usually do it not to help Cuban socialism to survive, but because they think that this is the better way of bringing Cuba back into the capitalist fold. This is also the principal tactic used by the European ruling classes.

The Bush administration has opted for the first tactic, that of confrontation. This comes as no surprise, given the extremism of the Bushies themselves and the long term connections of Bush, his family and his closest associates with the reactionary exiles. It was elucidated by Bush in 2003, with the creation of the so called ‘Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba’. Policy documents of the Bush administration clearly show plans not only to overthrow the Cuban government, but to dismantle its proudest institutional accomplishments, including the health care and educational systems.

Specific methods which the US is using against Cuba include:

* Sharply reducing the amount of money Cuban Americans can send to their relatives, and also the number of times Cuban-Americans can visit their relatives on the island, to once every three years even if there are family health emergencies.

* Greatly restricting academic and other travel by US persons not of Cuban background to Cuba, and trying to restrict the ability of Cubans to publish articles in US based scientific journals.

* Increasing support for Miami Cuban exiles. Though the influential Miami exile community (which has its tentacles in other states, especially New Jersey) was originally in large part a creation of past US administrations, it should not be underestimated as a force in its own right. It had influence with past administrations, Republican and Democrat, and has influence with some sectors of the Democratic Party today. But it is especially close to the Bush administration. President Bush’s brother Jeb is governor of Florida, a position he gained in great measure due to the support of the right wing Cuban-Americans. This sector was heavily involved in the theft of the 2000 presidential elections. In May, 2003, President Bush dined with the Cuban exile leadership in Hiahleah Florida, in a crowd which included several known right wing terrorists, including people involved with the bombing of a Cuban airliner in 1976 and the killing of former Chilean foreign minister Orlando Letelier and his American associate, Ronnie Moffit, in the middle of Washington DC in the same year. Indeed, the involvement of the Bush interests with elements of the Cuban exile community with known terrorist backgrounds is so great and so blatant that it gives the lie to all the president’s promises to seek out terrorism wherever it skulks.

* A possible return to the methods of the 1960s with the organization of terrorist attacks within Cuba, using Cuban exiles or other non-governmental entities to do the dirty work. Implicit in the idea of preemptive war is that the United States, as ‘the only superpower’ and the chief repository of Christian virtue in a sinful world, has the right to send in agents not only to gather intelligence, but also to carry out violent acts. Journalist Seymour Hersh has written that there may already be US ‘special operations’ personnel in Iran, acting as spotters to identify targets for bombing. If Iran, why not Cuba?

* Attacks on Venezuela because of that country’s important role in supporting Cuba. Although the Bolivarian Revolution of president Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is in some ways very different from the Cuban Revolution, Chavez has openly declared himself as a socialist, and is thwarting U.S. efforts not only on Cuba but also on the Free Trade Area of the Americas. Cuba has signed and is implementing important economic agreements with Venezuela. Venezuela is helping Cuba by providing oil at favorable prices, in exchange for which Cuba has lent Venezuela the services of tens of thousands of personnel, including deservedly well- regarded teachers and health care personnel. Both the right wing in Venezuela (which controls most of the media there, and includes many reactionary Cuban exiles) and the US government have used the relationship with Cuba as a pretext to represent Venezuela as antidemocratic and perhaps supportive of terrorism. To his credit, president Chavez has stood his ground, letting both his internal and external enemies know in no uncertain terms, that he will not budge on the Cuba issue. For the moment Chavez is firmly in power, but the doctrine of ‘preemptive war’ puts Venezuela in the cross-hairs too.

* Invasion of Cuba is not ruled out, and is certainly hinted at in the ‘preemptive war’ sabre-rattling by the Bush administration. At the moment, this is probably not imminent, because Cuba has been careful to give the United States no pretexts for attack, and because the U.S. military is bogged down elsewhere — in Iraq. The Cuban government has given notice that it will fight to the death against any US attack, and if the CIA has any assets in Cuba at all, it can advise the president that to attack Cuba is to stick his hands into a hornet’s nest. But will the triumphalist Bush administration heed such a warning?

PRIORITY TASKS OF CUBA SOLIDARITY Living in ‘the belly of the beast’, we have a unique responsibility to stop the U.S. government from destroying the Cuban Revolution. Cuba solidarity is a matter of the highest importance.

The major challenge of people working in the field of Cuba solidarity is that defense of the Cuba does not have a large, easily aroused and mobilized natural constituency in this country. On the other hand, anti-Cuban policies have a constituency of some size in the Cuban exile community and allied right-wing sectors.

The struggle to change U.S. policy toward Cuba is not an issue with ‘legs’–it does not move forward on its own power, at least right now. Such issues need to be integrated with others if they are to advance.

In fact the Cuba issue can be related to two other issues which have ‘legs’, have natural constituencies of tens of millions, namely the movement against corporate globalization and the peace movement.

The link between the anti-corporate globalization movement and Cuba is the FTAA, the Free Trade Area of the Americas. This is NAFTA for the hemisphere, and fighting against it is a very wide coalition in which organized labor plays the most important role. Discussions with activists in the anti-globalization movement reveal that Cuba’s role in criticizing neo-liberal economics and corporate globalization is not widely known. In fact, the Cuban opposition to projects like the FTAA is one of the most important reasons why imperialism wants to destroy socialist Cuba.

It is important that this gap in information be corrected, by an educational campaign. In the ranks of the anti-globalization forces, there are elements who don’t agree with the Cuban Revolution, and who are thus resistant to linking the two issues. These include liberals who are afraid to be associated with the issue of Cuba and therefore are quick to denounce Cuba’s (imaginary) ‘atrocious human rights record’, and libertarian ultras who don’t like Cuba because it is a well organized socialist state and not a sandbox for the infantile left. Both groups are manipulated by the right; e.g. in 2003 when the Cuban government arrested some people who had accepted US financial support to work for the overthrow of the Revolution, a number of important figures on the left made the mistake of lending their names to a denunciatory open letter. The influence of these forces can be countered and overcome by a well organized educational campaign.

The link between the Cuba issue and the peace movement becomes more evident every day. The threat of the Bush administration to use ‘preemptive warfare’ is clearly a threat to Cuba also. The United States used the issue of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ as a pretext to attack Iraq. The fact that there were no such weapons, made no difference. The United States has also accused Cuba of trying to develop biological weapons. This accusation has been exposed as fraudulent, but it will be brought up again as needed.

To get tens of millions of Americans involved in opposing the invasion of Iraq, it was not necessary to make them love Saddam Hussein or approve of his bloodthirsty methods of government. Therefore, if war with Cuba looms, it should not be necessary to convince everybody to support the Cuban Revolution as we do, in order to mobilize millions in an effective coalition to prevent the US from bombing and invading Cuba. In fact, to demand that everyone we work with in preventing an invasion of Cuba be an admirer of Cuban socialism would narrow the base of the movement and thus constitute a sectarian mistake. But this does not mean that there will not be a massive amount of work for us to do. Hundreds of thousands marched to prevent the Iraq invasion, and we were not able to stop it. We need to work even harder to block a military attack on Cuba.

For our work in the peace movement, the task is similar to the one in the anti-globalization movement: To educate the millions who are involved in the peace movement about the danger that Cuba could be a target of preemptive warfare. We should bring the Cuba issue into all appropriate structures, deliberations and activities of the peace movement, especially but not exclusively within United For Peace and Justice, with a goal of educating the movement overall about the intentions of imperialism toward Cuba. In the peace movement also, there are both liberal and ultra-leftist elements who will not want the Cuba issue linked in, but a patient effort can overcome such opposition. We need to urgently point out that with the left turn in many Latin American countries, especially but not only Venezuela, there is a very real and immediate danger of an armed U.S intervention in the Americas, as has already happened in Haiti. In the next couple of years, leftists are likely to come to power in Mexico, Nicaragua, Bolivia and other countries of the region, expanding a bloc of left-and center-left governments, friendly to Cuba. Imperialism will be very reluctant to allow the balance of power in its ‘back yard’ to shift so radically without offering opposition, and especially with the ultra-right in the saddle, sudden violent action may be expected and must be prepared for.

This is how we should work organizationally on Cuba solidarity. This method will give us the best opportunity to reach millions, and not continue with the pattern of ‘the left talking to the left’ that has sometimes characterized Cuba solidarity work in the past. This does not entail abandoning viable organizations that have been doing concentrated work on Cuba solidarity, such as the Venceremos Brigade, the NNOC, Pastors for Peace, US-Cuba Labor Exchange, etc. It entails trying to link these and other structures and campaigns with the wider peace and social justice movements, so as to exponentially expand the number of people we are able to talk to about Cuba. In the search for possible allies on the Cuba issue, we should leave no stone unturned.

Many religious bodies, including the National Council of Churches, the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church and others, have already weighed in with important statements and, in some cases, organizing support on the Cuba issue. We should be willing to do further outreach to religious congregations who have not yet spoken out on Cuba, as well as coordinating with those who have.

The Cuba trips organized by the U.S.-Cuba Labor Exchange, based in Detroit, are valuable and should be supported. However, there is much more to do on the labor front. We should study the way that U.S. Labor Against the War in Iraq has developed its strategies, and work in parallel to that. It is not premature to discuss a campaign of union resolutions denouncing the refusal of the Bush administration to continue the Clinton administration’s policy of allowing Cuban unionists to visit here and meet with our unionists. This can serve as a mechanism for moving wider and wider sectors of U.S. labor against the blockade.

Campus activities on Cuba can also be increased. Currently, Cuban student leaders, who have often spoken on U.S. campuses in the past, are blocked from visiting by the Bush administration. We should get student organizations such as the National Student Association and others more actively involved in protesting this ban.

The specific demands we should be promoting area:

* End the blockade and the ban on travel to Cuba. This necessarily entails legislative work, for the blockade and travel ban are entrenched through specific pieces of legislation such as the Toricelli and Helms-Burton Bills, which the Bush administration is certainly not going to voluntarily stop enforcing (though Bush and Clinton before him have exercised their authority to waive, on an annual basis, the part of the Helms-Burton bill that would allow U.S. persons whose property in Cuba was nationalized to sue foreign companies that do business with Cuba involving their former property). Every year for the past several years, liberal and moderate Democrats, supported by some farm state Republicans, have presented legislation in both houses of Congress to end the blockade and the travel sanctions. Last year and the year before, this legislation passed, but was killed off by the Republican leadership in Congress, making it unnecessary for George Bush to exercise his threat to veto it. It will be introduced into Congress again this year, and should be the focus of a major mass educational and lobbying effort, in which our party and press should play a leading part. In Cuba related coalitions around the country, we will have to deal with the fact that the ultra-left agitates against any kind of legislative lobbying work. We have to make clear that legislative work is essential to destroying the legal framework on which the US economic blockade is based, and neutralize the influence of the ultras on this matter. Likewise, electoral work is vitally important. Nobody thinks that John Kerry is a booster of the Cuban Revolution, but obviously the reelection of Bush and the increased Republican majorities in Congress are a setback to efforts to end the blockade and change US Cuba policy. The Bush administration, with its exceptionally close relationship to the most irresponsible reactionaries in the Cuban exile community, needs to be opposed in the electoral field. In the 2006 mid-term elections, we need to make a maximum effort to defeat the supporters of the blockade and support candidates with more reasonable stances on Cuba.

* Expand US trade with Cuba. Far from undermining Cuba, this will undermine the blockade. Since 2002, Cuba has bought a billion dollars worth of agricultural exports from the United States, and is interested in buying more. But current US law prohibits Cuba from buying US products except for cash beforehand. We must fight to change the law to allow Cuba normal credit procedures for these agricultural purchases. There are various kinds of farmers’ organizations, with a variety of political orientations, that actively advocate more trade with Cuba and have visited the island to promote it. We should support and encourage this tendency.

* End the pernicious wet-foot, dry-foot policy, whereby the United States refuses visas to Cubans wishing to immigrate here legally, but encourages them to set out in rickety boats and risk the open sea on the knowledge that if they make it to US shores, they will be allowed to stay.

* Severely punish persons who hijack airplanes and boats in Cuba in order to bring them to the United States, and return such seized vessels to Cuba immediately.

* Free the five. This refers to five Cuban citizens who have been given long prison sentences as a result of their work to detect and denounce anti-Cuba terrorist activities in the exile community of South Florida. The trial of the five was a travesty of justice. The five are currently appealing their sentences, and this effort needs our support, both in terms of fundraising and educating the American public about the case. A key element of this educational effort is to expose to greater public scrutiny the terroristic nature of many of the exile organizations, and the relationship of these terroristic circles to many US politicians, including the Governor of Florida and the President of the United States.

* Improve mass outreach to educate the U.S. public on Cuba. Since the ‘other side’ on the Cuba issue have massive financial resources to back their lying propaganda efforts, we have our work cut out for us. We have to function as a collective truth squad, calling the media on their false representations of Cuban reality. We need to get onto talk shows on radio and television, write op-ed columns in the press, and get all sectors of the press (including the labor, community and alternative media) to get interested in the Cuba issue and cover it accurately. The US Cuba Labor Exchange, based in Detroit, has done valuable pioneering work in getting US and Cuban trade unionists to meet each other; this effort needs to be expanded and duplicated in all parts of the country. An effort needs to be mounted to get unions to pass resolutions denouncing the blockade and travel restrictions, and calling for an end to them. During the last years of the Clinton administration, it was possible to invite Cuban trade unionists to visit the United States, but the Bush administration has put a stop to this; we must fight to reverse this. Beyond labor, we need to make as many links as we can with other mass sectors and other types of organizations: African American, Latino and other minority, women’s and gay-lesbian organizations, environmentalists, professional societies, sports and culture groupings, and many others come to mind. It is essential, also, that we find a way to counter the excessive control the right wing Cuban exiles exercise over Spanish-language press and media in the United States, by fully using Nuestro Mundo and by expanding the number of sources of progressive information on Cuba in Spanish (and in other languages).

* Improve the organizational infrastructure for Cuba work. The National Network on Cuba is an important coordinating structure, in which our Party is represented and active. The Latin American Working Group (LAWG) is a key coordinator of legislative work. The U.S. Cuba Labor Exchange, IFCO-Pastors for Peace and the Venceremos Brigade all do important work on the Cuba issue, and should continue to be supported. But all of these national entities presuppose the existence of local committees and coalitions all over the country, to do face to face work with the mass of the public to educate them on the Cuba issue. In some areas, strong local collectives exist; in others, they are weak or absent. It should be a priority task for our party to strengthen such collectives where they exist and create them where they do not, always remembering that collectives working on the Cuba issue should not work in isolation but should join up with labor, African-American and other minority, anti-globalization, peace and justice, etc. forces in their areas.

* Be ready to mobilize against a direct, violent, U.S. intervention in Cuba.


Related Party Voices Articles

For democracy. For equality. For socialism. For a sustainable future and a world that puts people before profits. Join the Communist Party USA today.

Join Now

We are a political party of the working class, for the working class, with no corporate sponsors or billionaire backers. Join the generations of workers whose generosity and solidarity sustains the fight for justice.

Donate Now

CPUSA Mailbag

If you have any questions related to CPUSA, you can ask our experts
  • QHow does the CPUSA feel about the current American foreign...
  • AThanks for a great question, Conlan.  CPUSA stands for peace and international solidarity, and has a long history of involvement...
Read More
Ask a question
See all Answer