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Date Mon, 19 May 2014 13:00:48 +0300

A member of Manchester Anarchist Federation visited Cuba earlier this month and reports on the events and background to this years International Workers Day celebrations. ---- More than 100,000 attended this years May Day demonstration in Revolution Square to mark International Workers Day and the Cuban revolutions 56th year. Among them an ‘international brigade’ of young British trade unionists and assorted socialists and solidarity wishers from across the globe. ---- Whilst undoubtedly a popular public holiday here, most Cubans are encouraged, and many compelled (school students for example) to celebrate the achievements of ‘socialism’ – I say most, as unlike other May Day demonstrations around the world, embattled workers and those seeking solidarity in their struggles are explicitly discouraged from making their existence known.

The ever present green uniformed political police of the ‘revolution’ busied themselves in the days before making house calls to dissidents with interrogations and threats to prevent the spectacle of unity of ‘tropical Stalinism’ being stained by protests against it’s ugly reality.

This May Day while Raul Castro lectured on the “people’s unity as the sole guaranty…” in front of sincere internationalists (alongside uniformed VIP’s from that other great socialist democracy North Korea), some Cuban workers brought that spectacle to a halt in Cuba’s second city of Santiago de Cuba on the Islands east coast.Four men and a woman were beaten and arrested and summary trials held 5-7th of May before a closed political court.

Their crime? Carrying placards complaining of poor (slum) housing, low wages and high prices of non rationed foodstuffs. Additionally they publicised the increasing number of ‘political’ sackings and consequent impoverishment of their comrades and co-workers for daring to complain about their living and working conditions.

Few here in Cuba know about this, not least because the nationally live televising of the Islands ‘socialist’ celebrations came to an abrupt halt from Santiago when the protesters paused in front of the cameras to broadcast their slogans and refused to move.

Charged with ‘Public Disorder’ and ‘Enemy Propaganda’ they were threatened with exemplary sentences of up to 5 years but were released a week after arrest with a reprimand. These are not, as the state argued, the bribed conspiratorial agents of capital and US imperialism, but poor, ordinary Cuban workers living on 10 Cuc (£6) a month, while Communist Party officials enrich themselves in Cuba’s state managed ‘opening’ of the market, attempting to copy the Chinese road to ‘socialism’, moving from state to mixed capitalist economy.

The arrest of these Cuban workers was a certainty. Just a month ago they succeeded a gaining a public meeting forum once a week on a Tuesday morning in the City’s square under the Cuban constitution – thanks to a human rights activist and former law teacher from the university – himself sacked (and since unable to work) five years ago for defending the rights of lesbians and gay men.

After 3 successful public meetings on the hardships and grievances of Cuban workers, they too were visited by the political police. The May Day arrests followed two days later.

Cuba’s survival and the achievements in health and education despite the half century of punitive and criminal blockade by its giant US neighbour are not in doubt and Cubans are justly proud of their innate sense of social solidarity. Their solidarity demands ours in place of the rose tinted romantic fantasy of a socialist paradise that continues to beguile many British workers and trade unionists, whose own struggles at home have more in common with these Cuban workers than with the Stalinist dictatorship.
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