Yesterday, July 11, 2021, Cubans in several cities took to the streets to protest lack of health care, lack of food, and to demand freedom. Where should socialists stand on these protests and the Cuban government?
First, international socialists like myself, in a variety of organizations or independently, have always supported the right of the Cuban people to self-determination. We believe that the United States should, to use an old slogan, keep its hands off of Cuba.
We have opposed the U.S. embargo and its extension through the Helms-Burton Act because, even though food and medicine have not generally been included in the embargo, we recognize that the reduction in trade adversely affects the Cuban people.
Second, we stand opposed to any U.S. military intervention in Cuba or to any U.S.-subsidized operation by other states or actors.
Third, we have supported the right of Americans and Cubans to freely travel to each other’s countries and oppose restrictions on travel to Cuba.
Altogether, this constitutes an anti-imperialist position.
At the same time, as international socialists, we support the right of the Cuban people to engage in free speech, to assemble together to protest, and to demonstrate on any issue that they choose. Certainly, when the health system fails and when food is not available, we support their right to make demands on their government to rectify those situations, just as we could in any other country.
We also support the Cubans’ right to demand changes in their government. Cubans, we have always believed, should have the right if they wish to challenge the ruling Communist Party that has held power now for more than sixty years and to organize new political parties. We also support their right to organize independent labor unions of their own choice, unions not controlled by the Communist Party and the government.
We therefore oppose today the Cuban government’s repression of the demonstrations. We call for the release of those who have been taken prisoner. We also condemn Cuban President Díaz-Canel statement: “the order to battle is given: revolutionaries, take to the streets.,” which is a call for either vigilante violence or organized political attacks on protestors.
International socialists should support the Cuban people’s right to protest and oppose the Cuban government’s repression. We should attempt to identify within any new movement the genuinely democratic and socialist currents that wish to bring about a democratic socialist society, a democratic government overseeing a collectively owned and managed economy.
If we do identify democratic socialists in Cuba, we should support them and collaborate with them. But in any case, even if we can identify no democratic socialists within the movement at this point, we support the people’s right to make their voices heard.
simple thank you, as a cuban and as an international socialist is a relieve to see not everyone is either a pig that thinks cuba is all the problem and the us is inocent, or a tankie that thinks cuba is a socialist paradise of freedom from authoritarians. Really thank you for this.
You’re welcome, Marcos. And thank you for your kind words.
Dan, when did “demoratic socialists” become our special concern? You know full well that, as international socialists, so-called democratic socialists are nothing more than social democrats whose history we know.
David, I think it is obvious here that I use the term “democratic socialists” to mean socialists who believe in democracy, not Social Democrats.
Actually, an “anti-imperialist” position requires a more nuanced understanding of imperialism in the 21 century, which I believe the author completely lacks. What is happening in Cuba is no different from what has been happening in Venezuela and Nicaragua under chavismo and sandinismo, a new form of media-driven US imperialism. Hybrid war, lawfare, or a Gene Sharp soft coup attempt, whatever you call it the author seems unable to resist not just supporting it, but also legitimizing it as a naturally-occurring uprising of the Cuban people. This article is apology of US imperialism, and nothing more.
Camilo, I have been an opponent of U.S. imperialism all of my life, since I was a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War, against the U.S. attack on Granada, against the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Years ago, when I was living in Mexico I helped to organize a demonstration in defense of Cuba from a feared attack by the Cuban rightwing Brothers to the rescue. I still oppose U.S. imperialism. I discussed my own views of Cuba over 60 years here: https://newpol.org/cuba-personal-reflection/
You are right though, that what is happening in Cuba resembles what is happening is like what’s going on in Nicaragua and Venezuela. The United States, of course, has brought tremendous economic economic pressure all three countries, but in all three dictatorship with their bureaucratic and corrupt systems (each one different), when the people have no way to affect politics, because there is no democracy, then one gets social outbursts. The governments’ opponents, having been unable to organize in their own countries, will be tempted to turn to the United States, a tendency we should criticize. Unfortunately, all three countries have also given socialism a bad name. And we sadly have no international socialist movement than can support the people and offer a socialist alternative. We should meanwhile oppose U.S. imperialism and support democratic movements and any genuine socialist tendencies that appear in those countries.
In countries whose governments the US fiercely opposes, the US will often opportunistically offer statements of support to any protest movement. In the case of Cuba the Miami based hard right Batista-loyalist Cuban expats will do this too. This will happen whether the protest movement is one the US would endorse taking power (as in Venezuela), but also when there’s a movement they probably don’t want taking power (as in Iran 2009)
One of the worst imaginable situations is one where Cubans angry at recent austerity look for solidarity abroad, and only find it from the US establishment and the Miami expat hard right, and the denial of this solidarity by the left drives people into the right’s arms.
This could have happened in Hong Kong, where some demonstrations featured very contradictory symbols – one rally had some people wearing Trump MAGA hats, and others waving Catalan flags. Demonstrations are a battle of ideas, and if the Western left sides with the regime we help the Miami expat hard right and the US loyalists win the battle.
Lo que está pasando en cuba no es más de lo que ya está pasando por años en Venezuela, Nicaragua y otros países, nuestra america latina está llena de políticos corruptos, es hora de revisar nuestros conceptos de libertades de los pueblos de america, el capitalismo los enamoró y la corrupción mantiene en una lánguida pobreza a los pueblos
I helped draft this call 7 years ago. The arguments are relevant here.
(And how can so called Marxists not see the difference between protests from below by ordinary working people –in Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, or anywhere else– and an organised bourgeois right wing movement like that of Guaido in Venezuela?)
Aside from your token US “hands off of Cuba”, how’s the rest of your statement different from what the US gov+media have been saying about July 11? Really. If you remove the first 4-5 paragraphs and start reading from “at the same time….” there is no difference. I lie. You go further blaming the CPC! Add context and objective conditions to your thinking, please.
If we exclude the parts where he criticises US imperialism, the piece includes no criticisms of US imperialism! Good point.
And I’d be very interested to see where the US gov+media have been saying this about July 11:
“We should attempt to identify within any new movement the genuinely democratic and socialist currents that wish to bring about a democratic socialist society, a democratic government overseeing a collectively owned and managed economy.”