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    1994 Loading a truck to send on Pastors for Peace Friendshipment 3

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    2010 Canadian-American-Cuban solidarity at Blaine, WA.

  • 3

    2010 Friendshipment 21 Send-off in Seattle

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    2013 Blaine Peace Park welcome to Friendshipment 24

united casino

Cuba Solidarity in Seattle, Part 1: the early 60s

by Tom Warner
May 27, 2010

Tom WarnerIt was 1960. And I had been a merchant seaman not long before, plying the many seas and witnessing that most of the world was a colony of some European country or the United States – and the conditions of these people were just horrible.

I saw rail thin barely clad workers in Iran baking in the searing sun and too many with a strange ailment called “elephantitus” which involved super swelling of parts of the body. We were told not to eat ashore because of the danger of dysentery – but it occurred to me that the residents HAD to eat ashore – and were probably only too glad to have food.

To a lesser extent I saw the racism of the Belgians toward the Africans in the Congo. It was much the same all over Africa and Latin America (I never got to Asia but it was the same there.) And I wondered why these people didn’t make a union and get themselves some decent working conditions.

I rejoiced as the colonial coloration of the map began to change from the replica of the color of the “mother country” to independent nations all over the world.

The folks were finally making some kind of unions and changing their condition, I thought.

Fidel in New YorkThen Fidel and Che came down from the Sierra Maestra and declared the Triumph. Right next door! And then it became quite clear that the United States would not countenance an independent Cuba right on its door step. Vice President Nixon did not like what Fidel had to say when he came to New York and Fidel moved out of the swank part of town and stayed in Harlem where he was surrounded by thousands of admirers.

A bunch of prominent people formed a new group called the Fair Play For Cuba Committee and we got one going here in Seattle. Clara Frazer, who later became one of the founders of Radical Women was the head of it and my life companion at that time was the secretary. I still have the Rolodex of the two letter and four number telephones of the members of that day.

As with any new and dynamic group, there were factions in FPCC and there were drop outs when Cuba nationalized US holdings and when Cuba developed a fraternal relationship with the Soviet Union – and other divisions based on ideology. Clara did not like the de facto leadership of FPCC at one point and when he came to Seattle he was featured as TV Lee instead of V. T. Lee, for instance.

About this time Leslie (secretary of FPCC – Seattle) and I headed off to a leftie conference in New York City and while we were there we naturally dropped in to the office of V. T. Lee and national FPCC and picked up many hundreds of pamphlets to deliver on our return trip. It was kind of a honeymoon so we didn’t mind taking a circuitous route. We were going to drop some off in Chicago and some in Los Angeles and up the coast toward Seattle.

Russian ship KasimovWe had barely gotten started when the Cuba/US missile crisis erupted. In every gas station and restaurant that we used, every TV station or radio was tuned on to the news of this stand off. Russian ships were headed toward Cuba with regular cargo from the East Block – like fruit jams and tractors and wheat and stuff – probably. And the island was blockaded by a huge armada of US naval war vessels that were dedicated not to let them pass. And they kept steaming westward toward Cuba. Both countries had nuclear weapons and most reasonable people were VERY concerned that their last days were being experienced.

We got to Chicago and delivered a portion of our literature to a nice Cuban couple and I remember that the anti Cuban press was chanting about how chicken was being rationed in Cuba now. These folks told us that the only time that their family had chicken in Cuba was on Christmas. The pre revolutionary rationing was economic and unforgiving.

So then we headed south – away from the chilly fall weather and since we had a delivery in Los Angeles, we figured that we would at least be warm on the trip. Meanwhile, the Soviet ships continued steaming westward and the sabers kept rattling.

Marcus GarveyWhen we got across from the town of Matamoros MX, we thought that we would peek in. I had never been to Mexico. We drove across and found a cheap hotel and peeked around this little border town and I popped into a bookstore that had a book in English that caught my eye, It had a picture of a Black man with an admiral looking hat on and it was about Marcus Garvey and was called Black Messiah. It was actually a thesis done by a white college student about the Garvey Movement and Marcus Garvey.

 

 

When we crossed back into the US the customs asked if we had purchased anything we lied and said “No” despite Marcus Garvey. Well! He opened the bonnet on our VW bug and there were hundreds of speeches by Fidel Castro. And this was right in the midst of the missile crisis. But what caused the hairs on the back of his neck to stiffen was not Fidel, but Marcus Garvey. This was the deep South and it was well before the Sit Ins and the Freedom Riders and this Red Neck border guard was so reviled by this thesis on Garvey that he hardly paid attention to the Cuba lit.

After calling headquarters and a very long wait all of our printed matter was returned to us.

And eventually, Kennedy and Kruschev traded missile sites in Cuba for ones in Turkey and the atomic clock was reset from seconds before midnight to a quarter to – or so. And we went on to deliver our Fidelista wisdom io Los Angeles and bring some home to organize Seattle.

(To be continued)

 

*This is the conclusion to a 2010 analysis by the Freedom Socialist Party. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Seattle/Cuba Friendship Committee, and is reproduced here for the purpose of stimulating thought and discussion on the current status of the Cuban Revolution. Link to the complete article is at the bottom. -Webmaster

Imperiled and Defiant - Can the Revolution Survive?

By
Susan Williams, M.D., New York City
Steven Strauss, M.D., Columbia, Maryland
Debbie Brennan, Melbourne, Australia
Stephen Durham, New York City

March, 2010

Conclusion

To the fundamental question of this document—“What is the nature of the Cuban state?”—we answer that it remains a workers state.

Cuba’s economy, despite the setbacks of the Special Period after the Soviet collapse, continues to rest primarily on nationalized, state-owned enterprises. Mechanisms to exercise monopoly of foreign trade and state planning were modified and controls have been loosened, but not relinquished.

At the same time, the encroachment of capitalism has dangerously undermined the foundations of the economy. A workers state is by its very nature transitory and unstable. In intense isolation since the Soviet collapse, subjected to the unrelenting hostility of U.S. imperialism, Cuba’s jeopardy has grown over the past two decades. This danger escalated sharply as the global economic crisis shook the world in 2008-9, bringing the country truly to the brink of a precipice.

While the majority of Cubans continue to support the revolution, complaints about conditions there are rising. Those living at official salary levels don’t starve, but exist at levels of constant struggle and hardship. Participation in the informal economy is nearly ubiquitous, often by means that are at least technically illegal. The desire for change is frustrated by the limitations on any real decision-making power.

Disaffection with the social process is especially strong among Cuban youth, who often must wait years for housing of their own, yearn for access to computers and other consumer goods, see a limited future for themselves, but—thanks to underground, rightwing propaganda—are constantly fed stories of the millions to be made in Miami.

The introduction of exploitation by foreign capital is tearing at Cuba’s social fabric. Gaps in income are widening, with Black Cubans suffering increasingly from the racism that Cuba pledged to end, but which has been mounting in concert with foreign tourism. Prostitution, which had been virtually eliminated, has also re-emerged, as an effect of an increasing reliance on tourism to bring in capital.

The social cost to date is but a small harbinger of the damage that would result from the wholesale re-ascendance of capitalism. When asked five years ago if there was a risk of a capitalist counter-revolution, Celia Hart responded:

“I think there exists a real danger of this, and every sincere revolutionary that I know, fears the same. Although the planned economy in Cuba has a state monopoly of foreign trade, although the means of production are state owned, and the bulk of the joint ventures are controlled by the state, time is running out. Dollarization has already had its negative effects. The management of joint ventures and the officials in foreign trade are at risk of being bought and they are also susceptible to bourgeois ideas. If the exiled Cuban capitalists return and try to usurp the country with the aid of pro-capitalist and pro-imperialist forces, there will be the menace of a counter-revolution and a capitalism of the worst sort. All the achievements of the last 45 years are in danger. For this reason, we have to defend the revolutionary heritage of Lenin, Trotsky and Che Guevara and advance the global revolution.”

Today, the menace is imminent and the need for solutions urgent. What tools lie at hand to fill Hart’s prescription? To answer this, we need to look first at the character of the state apparatus and the goals and program of the leadership at its head.

To what extent does the state apparatus flow from the needs and defend the foundations of the workers state? The early days of the revolution established the key elements of a workers state, destroying and replacing the Batista army and governmental institutions. But it was also marred from the outset with a growing bureaucracy, the overwhelming bulk of decision-making power being preempted by Castro’s circle and government functionaries rather than put in the hands of the people. There have been modifications, such as direct voting in the national elections and organized public discussion, but not a fundamental change. Workers’ control of production and full democracy have never existed.

Similarly, state institutions have been created, and dissolved over the years reflecting the conflicts within the economy. The pattern is that these changes are tailored to carry out policies set by the ruling strata in economic and social policy as shifts have occurred either toward or away from centralization, opening doors to foreign capital or tightening the restrictions, or expanding formal democracy, though never creating true organs of workers’ power.

The Cuban Communist Party leadership has been portrayed by the Left over an entire spectrum from faultless Leninist revolutionaries to blatant capitalist restorationists. Their real nature is complex and often contradictory, and their record stretches from heroism to breaches of workers democracy and international solidarity.

Some Left critics, writers for LIT-CI for example, conclude that despite the PCC’s claims that their aim is to build socialism, the fact that they put in place the legal basis for bourgeois property relations and ending the monopoly of foreign trade proves that the PCC’s true intent is to restore capitalism.

But is this an accurate assessment? At the outset of the Special Period, the central PCC leadership warned that economic reforms were necessary but dangerous, and instigated steps meant to contain the influence of foreign capital, safeguard social advances, stop corruption for private gain, and ameliorate economic inequities. Now, new economic modifications are simply being put in place as a solution. Clearly there are advocates for “the Chinese path” within Cuba; others reject the "Chinese path" label but promote essentially the same mechanisms. Still, this pro-capitalist sector has not been given free rein, and most Cubans seem to favor ongoing controls on the extent to which foreign capital is allowed to impact society.

It is significant that the PCC has shown that it can respond to proposals and pressures from the mass organizations and the sentiment of the people. Contradictorily, even as Raúl appears to be tightening the reins of control from above, there appears to be some growing room for discussion of left perspectives. As long as this remains true, as long as the PCC cadre remain a living, responsive force, and not a frozen, impervious monolith, it would be a dangerous mistake and terrible disservice to the Cuban people to call for overthrowing the Cuban Communist Party.

Move toward a revolutionary course!

We believe that the best defense of the workers state lies in relying on the Cuban people themselves. All who passionately defend the Cuban Revolution should support those in Cuba who advocate the following: shifting the locus of political power from the bureaucracy to democratic organs of workers’ power; the institution of workers’ control and the right to strike at the point of production, in the factories, service industries and farms; democratization of the army and the right to elect officers; and real autonomy of the mass organizations.

On the economic front, we support those who advocate defending and strengthening the nationalized economy by reversing growing privatization, tightening the monopoly of foreign trade, and strengthening centralized planning under the direction of workers and peasants councils.

We also call on the PCC to immediately guarantee full freedom of speech and association to left critics and an end to all forms of political repression against pro-revolutionary, anti-capitalist forces within the regime or the party. The right of PCC members to form tendencies in order to discuss the crucial issues facing the country should also be enacted.

On the international front, we believe the Cuban people have a key role to play in insisting on foreign policies that put support for international revolutionary struggles above Cuba’s diplomatic relations with capitalist states seeking to crush or co-opt the world socialist movement.

There are some in Cuba who believe that the enormous respect accorded to Fidel means that anything that could be seen as a challenge to his leadership should be kept under wraps, and that when it comes, his death will create opportunities for raising new ideas. The problem in postponing this struggle until then is that it may be too late. The Miami vultures are waiting for his death as their chance to pounce. The time to prepare the best defense of the Cuban Revolution and its people is now.

Bringing Trotsky in from the cold is a critical part of this preparation. As he and Lenin made so clear when they were leading Russia—itself an embattled, isolated country like Cuba—there is no way to create a single socialist haven in a capitalist world, a fact substantiated by the collapse of the USSR. Without a world community of workers states, it is an illusion that any country, least of all a small isolated island, can achieve a workers democracy on its own.

And if socialism can not be built in one country, it means that a large portion of Cuba’s fate rests in the hands of the international working class and socialists organizing in the U.S. and other industrialized countries. We have work to do.

Among our immediate objectives in the U.S. should be building a movement capable of ending the blockade and stopping any and all forms of U.S. incursion against Cuba, whether economic, diplomatic, overtly military, covertly CIA or under-the-table funding for reactionary forces. President Obama has painted himself as “opening doors” to the island nation, but we have to be absolutely clear that he is no friend of revolutionary Cuba. He represents the ruling sector that believes unrestricted remittances and a flood of consumer goods can achieve what open political hostility and the blockade have not.

Ultimately, Cuba can only survive as part of a world economic system engaged in building socialism. This means the greatest onus is on those of us in other nations—especially the U.S.—to make revolutions on our soil. This will be the greatest act of solidarity of all.

The complete article can be read here:

http://www.socialism.com/drupal-6.8/?q=node/1266

 

IRS spook looks at IFCO

 

January 9, 2014

The Seattle-Cuba Friendship Committee has been working with the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO) for 23 years. This important New-York based solidarity group has been the organizer of the annual Pastors for Peace Friendshipment Caravans to Cuba that we have participated in since 1991.
For more than two years, IFCO, a faith-based, social justice agency, has been the victim of political persecution and an aggressive harassment campaign by the Internal Revenue Service. Now the IRS is attempting to strip IFCO of their tax-exempt, non-profit organization status: 501(c)(3). Please visit the IFCO website and read about the IRS attack, and help them fight the campaign by contacting our Congressional Representative Jim McDermott and also by making a direct, secure financial contribution to IFCO for their legal expenses:

www.ifconews

 

by Dr. Angela Gilliam

On the very day that President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law, I was preparing to leave Cuba to return home to the United States. I had traveled there as part of the March 13-23, 2010 Women’s Research Delegation to Cuba (Theme: Women’s Rights, Racial Justice, and Social Welfare) and to research the relationship between Cuban health care delivery policies and human rights, a subject that I now see as inextricably connected.

My first contact with Cuban health care policies came in 1976 in Guinea Bissau, when my then five year old daughter’s life was saved by a Cuban volunteer doctor. Who knows how or where exactly she contracted the dreaded malaria? All I know is that if a Cuban volunteer doctor had not come to the entrance of the closed Bissau hospital one Sunday morning at dawn, I might have lost her.

Since that time, I have made it my business to learn more about Cuban health care. The volunteer program has grown immensely and there are now not only doctors who travel to serve in other countries, but also to teach people on the ground and to help them set up medical schools and hospitals in their own countries.

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of Cuban medical service is the emergency hurricane and natural crisis training that is a part of medical education. When former President Bush rejected the Cuban government’s offer of emergency medical support during the Katrina Hurricane, subsequent indications were that this assistance from Cuba could have saved lives. When the recent earthquake hit Haiti, 400 Haitian doctors trained in Cuba joined 350 other Cuban medical personnel to provide immediate disaster relief.

On this trip to Cuba, I visited the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) which has over 130 students from the United States along with more than 10,000 students from 50 other countries, all of whom commit to working in underserved communities when they finish their studies. Both the Educational Commission on Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) and the California State Medical Board, which has the most stringent vetting process of all 50 states, have recognized ELAM as a legitimate institution of medical training, clearing the path for US ELAM students to complete their residencies in the US after graduation. In an impromptu chat with some of those students, more than one mentioned the support they receive.

In addition, I tried to learn as much as I could about new medical research done in Cuba around diabetes because that runs in my family. Indeed, I wish I could have brought back some HEBERPROT-B, a medication that aids in healing deep diabetic ulcers. There are other breakthroughs brought on by new medical research there, especially at the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology. I am glad that Cubans are working on vaccinations against breast cancer, and remembering friends who have died from this disease, hearing about the new anti-oxidant medication VIMANG—a cream and pills used with radiation therapy to protect the woman’s breast—warmed my heart.

The blockade against trade with Cuba has made joint medical research projects such as those between Johns Hopkins University personnel and a few investigators in Cuba difficult. We have much to learn from the Cuban people. An argument could be made that patient protection and access to affordable medical innovation anywhere is a basic human right. Even for us in the United States.

 

Angela Gilliam is Faculty Emerita at The Evergreen State College
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