Hands Off Cuba!
For an Immediate End to the Sanctions and Blockade!
Statement by the Central Committee of Workers’ Voice/La Voz de los Trabajadores
What is Happening in Cuba?
On July 11th there were popular demonstrations in several cities in Cuba. They began in the town of San Antonio de los Baños and in a few hours they spread throughout the island. Most of the protestors were ordinary Cubans, layers of the Cuban working class that are suffering tremendously from the Covid-19 health crisis (especially the lack of vaccines and overcrowding of medical centers), the social and economic crisis aggravated by the recent monetary reforms (the “Day Zero” policy has caused a huge devaluation of the Cuban peso), and the recurrent electricity cuts.
Around the same time, the hashtags #SOSCuba y #SOSMatanza began to trend on Twitter. There is evidence, which has been reported by news outlets sympathetic to the Cuban regime, suggesting that a Twitter campaign promoting these slogans was started outside of Cuba, and has largely been amplified by bots and non-Cuban accounts. The nature of social networks is that they allow for slogans to be easily reappropriated and confused. This can take the form of reactionary opportunists trying to derail and profit from genuine protest by parroting related slogans, or the other way around. Regardless of the dynamics of international social media, people in Cuba have been mobilizing to give voice to their deep sense of social desperation.
The fact that these mobilizations were not controlled and led by “counter-revolutionary” and “pro-imperialist” forces as the Diaz-Canel government claims, (unfortunately as do groups like the PSL here in the U.S.), is obvious from a review of the different independent news sources. In the spontaneous protests, there was participation both by “middle class” sectors who were already critical of the regime, such as artists and intellectuals, and also many young workers and layers of the working class that are neither uniformly for nor against the regime. We have even seen participation in the protests by sectors of the socialist Left who believe that Cuba is in some ways socialist but who are critical of the regime. Known pro-regime artists and intellectuals, such as jazz pianist Chucho Valdés or composer Leo Brouwer, came out in support of the detainees publicly breaking with the false claims made by the government that the protests were purely caused by outside CIA agitators and that there was no repression whatsoever against the protests. In fact, the President Diaz-Canel himself had to concede for the first time that “maybe” in the streets, there were some “confused revolutionaries.”
These protests, aside from being legitimate expressions of discontent motivated by real material and political concerns of the Cuban people, are just the manifestation of something we had already know: that the measures of capitalist restoration carried in the last 30 years by the Castroist dictatorial regime, having accelerated in the last 10 years, have eroded the already weak social base of the Cuban state. Half a million public workers had been laid off through successive “restructuring” policies, and foreign capital is steadily penetrating the island through many “Joint Ventures” which pay poverty wages. Many Cubans are today “self-employed” and living off the informal economy generated by tourism, and thus very vulnerable to economic crisis and now the pandemic, which has cut off this important source of revenue.
But we also know that the presence of pro-imperialist forces in the country is real and that there are sectors attempting to destabilize the regime linked either to the Miami Cuban bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie, to U.S. big corporations, or to the U.S. government. Because Cuba has for quite some time been “open for business”, the one-party regime has links and deals with foreign corporations and many countries have developed growing economic interests and investments in the island such as Spain, Canada, Russia, China, and Brazil. They are all competing for a potential market, they all want their share of the cake and to either oust the developing bourgeoisie, who is now operating as the necessary “intermediary,” or to do business with them and get a bigger share of the cake (i.e. increase their opportunities for profit off of the exploited labor of Cubans.)
The Cuban people thus have the right to protest and fight for their social, political and economic rights, and in their struggle for real national sovereignty, for living wages and political freedom they will have to oppose both their national government and bourgeois sectors tied to the military, and the foreign capitalist interests who are trying to benefit from the capitalist restoration.
The U.S. Blockade and the Role of the Biden Administration
According to a United Nations agency report, the brutal U.S. financial and trade embargo on Cuba has cost the country’s economy $130 billion over nearly six decades,the same figure estimated by the Cuban government. The fact is that Cuba has to resort to more costly imports instead of being able to trade with its neighboring countries. This creates an additional source of inflation for essential goods the Cuban people need.
In addition, there are many obstacles for Cuban immigrants in the U.S. to send remittances back to their families in their home country. There are 2.4 million U.S. residents and/or citizens born in Cuba, most of them second generation immigrants with no ties whatsoever to the Miami Cuban bourgeoisie. After Trump’s drastic sanctions which reversed Obama’s timid loosening of the blockade, more than 400 Western Union (WU) agencies had to close in Cuba. WU claims that it sends $2.4 million daily to Cuba, an average of $900 million to $1.5 billion a year. Just to get a sense of the magnitude of these remittances, the total annual exports from Cuba in 2020 were $2.4 billion. These criminal sanctions left Cuban immigrants, who were desperate to send money to support their families back home, in the hands of scammers and the black market. This all happened in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, the worst international health crisis in more than a century, and its contingent economic crisis, and they have not been reversed by the Biden administration, despite its claims to be so concerned about the welfare of the Cuban people. In 1992, The U.N. approved a resolution demanding that the U.S. lift the embargo and sanctions, a demand with which no U.S. administration has complied, whether Democratic or Republican.
Instead of immediately lifting all these sanctions, allowing remittances, medicine and direct economic aid and solidarity from working people to flow into the island, the Biden administration continues enforcing Trump’s criminal policy on Cuba. The rhetoric of supporting “freedom” and “universal rights” of the Cuban people is obviously hollow. For Cuban-Americans and U.S. workers are denied the democratic right to provide material support to their relatives and fellow brothers and sisters.
The Cuban People Need Support, Not Imperialism
It is obvious that the “sympathy” and “support” expressed by the imperialist politicians of the US and Europe and the calls for intervention for the sake of “democracy” and “human rights” parroted by their media outlets are nothing but a flimsy pretense to continue the 60-year-old project of forcing Cuba to bend to the US’s political whims. After all, where were the calls for intervention in Haiti, El Salvador, Colombia, Chile, India, Paraguay, or any of the other countries that have been brought to the brink of collapse by the pandemic and which experienced mass protests. By this logic, why not intervention in the US itself, which was the epicenter of the pandemic for much of 2020? For all of our criticisms of the Cuban government and Communist Party, further economic pressure, let alone an actual military invasion and the imposition of a US-friendly regime, will do nothing to help the island’s working class, and would instead only force it to suffer under harsher exploitation.
Imperialist opportunism aside, we can support the Cuban working class by mobilizing working class solidarity with the Cuban people, through concrete actions of unions, worker centers, immigrants and other community organizations here in the U.S. and all over the world in support of demands that will both put an end to imperialist pressure and protect our comrades in Cuba: an immediate end to the blockade and sanctions, the end to all foreign control of Cuban corporations and economic ventures implemented through a new wave of expropriations and nationalizations that will put the several hundred “mixed corporations” under the control of Cuban workers, and the introduction of workers’ control of production for all the state-owned corporate conglomerates. Finally, we must call for the release of all protestors wrongfully detained for giving voice to their concerns regarding the pandemic and the Cuban economy’s steady march away from socialism.
For An Internationalist, Working Class Way Forward
First, we support the right of the Cuban nation to self-determination. By this we mean that the fate of Cuba must be decided by the Cuban people alone – free of any form of political or military intervention from the U.S., Canda, Spain, Italy or any other country with economic interests in the island.
Second, we express our solidarity with the popular protests: we stand against all repression of working people fighting for their basic human rights, and we defend the democratic rights of the Cuban people, which include free speech, right of assembly, protest and strike. We also demand the immediate release of all the detainees in the recent protests.
In our view it is impossible to be an anti-imperialist today in the United States while giving political support to the Castroist regime headed by Díaz-Canel, for the CCP has been carrying forward a conscious and deliberate policy of capitalist restoration in the past 30 years and has deprived its people of the most basic democratic freedoms since it embraced the stalinist, one-party model.
The Cuban state today is not a workers’ state anymore; its government and regime have changed the nature of the state through successive reforms to allow for the reintroduction of capitalism. These include: changes in property relations allowing the development of “joint ventures” or “mixed corporations” in the 1990s where initially the “state” (read: the military proto-bourgeoisie) ought to retain 49% of shares. This “restriction” was eliminated in the successive 2014 economic reform which allowed foreign assets to own the totality of “mixed companies”, ended the state monopoly on foreign trade, reintroduced private property of the land and small private agricultural businesses, created “free trade” zones where foreign corporations are exempted from paying taxes for the first 12 years, and the restructured of the economy towards the private sector etc. This is why our international organization, the IWL-FI, supports the right of the Cuban people to protest and mobilize against its own bourgeois government.
At the same time, as revolutionary socialist based in the United States, we need to be very clear that both our Cuban comrades and international comrades in solidarity with Cuba must remain independent from the Biden administration and the Cuban bourgeoisie in Miami. No sector of the Democratic or the Republican Party, nor any other layer of the American bourgeoisie will bring any real political freedom or social rights for Cubans, as they are all, in their own various ways looking to further exploit Cuba, its people, as well as the working class of the US and all other countries. This much we know from personal and historical experience.
The fact is that the U.S. has one of the most anti-union and anti-worker legislation of the so-called “advanced democracies,” with only 10% of workers having the right to collective bargaining. The mass mobilizations against racism and police violence following the George Floyd murder in 2020 that were met with brutal repression and empty promises, the ongoing trampling of indigenous people’s land rights, the continuation of legal discrimination against the LGBTQI community here in the U.S. as well as the de facto regression in women’s rights in this country are just a few of the many examples that prove this. The intervention of the U.S. government will bring only more repression and misery.
Only the Cuban people, with the support of the worldwide working class, and independently from any capitalist government or corporate sector, can bring about real workers’ democracy, socialism and human liberation. If the Cuban masses were able to rise up more than 60 years ago, with a revolution that shook the entire American continent, they can do it again today, and we will support and follow their genuine, revolutionary socialist lead. Cuban workers may have nothing to gain from the U.S. bourgeoisie, but they have much to gain from the solidarity of working people here in the U.S. The fight of the Cuban people for dignity, freedom, social welfare, medicine and self-determination is today the fight of the international working class.
In this struggle, our role as revolutionary socialists in the U.S., is to bring about the material conditions that will ensure that the Cuban people, and not a foreign government or foreign corporations, will decide the outcome of this social and economic crisis. We must give material and political support to the Cuban working class when it rises up to fight against poverty, economic exploitation and political repression.
The fight against imperialist policies, however, cannot remain a rhetorical or abstract one, less so during this pandemic. U.S. working class organizations, such as unions and community organizations need to organize actions in support of the right of Cuban to mobilize and freely decide their future, demanding:
- Hands off Cuba! NO to any form of U.S. government intervention in the current crisis!
- For an immediate end to the blockade and all economic sanctions to Cuba!
- Cancel all Cuban foreign debt!
- Send free vaccines and medical supplies to working class organizations in Cuba, no strings attached!