Cuba-RATB Round-up / FRFI 157 October / November 2000

 FRFI 157 October / November 2000

A s just seven days of a limited fuel blockade threatened to bring Britain to a standstill, with the National Health Service put on a red alert and much industry nearly brought to a halt, it is worth remembering how Cuba has managed to organise and survive for more than ten years of both a total economic and political blockade by the United States and the end of its fuel supplies with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Its health and education services have continued to flourish, food supplies, though limited, have continued to be supplied to everyone through rationing, and gradually the economic crisis has been overcome. It proved once again the superiority of socialist planning and collective organisation as opposed to market madness and `just-in-time' capitalist production. As Rock around the Blockade has always argued, Cuba shows socialists the way forward.

Solidarity is international!

In August, following the return of Elian Gonzalez to Cuba, a televised round-table discussion in Cuba discussed the impact of the US blockade and international solidarity with Cuba. Rock around the Blockade activist Helen Yaffe took part in the debate by phone-in, a debate later published by Cuba's youth newspaper, Juventud Rebelde. She described the work Rock around the Blockade carries out in solidarity with Cuba and against the illegal United States blockade, focusing in particular on the Boycott Bacardi campaign - and the shameful `sweetheart deal' recently signed between Bacardi and Britain's National Union of Students. Meanwhile, in September, the Australian newspaper Green Left Weekly carried a page on the work of Rock around the Blockade, including the Boycott Bacardi campaign. And, from 21-26 September, four members of Rock around the Blockade were in Prague, complete with Boycott Bacardi banners and leaflets, to spread the word about the fight against this corporate vampire and its vicious campaign against socialist Cuba. Since then we have heard from communists in Austria (see letters, p15) who are now eager to set up their own Boycott Bacardi campaign in defence of Cuba.


Getting the message out in Britain

Back in Britain, our solidarity work continues with stalls at freshers' fairs around the country, getting students involved in a campaign against the NUS-Bacardi deal. At the university in Cardiff, the Cuba Vive society signed up another 35 members. Stalls have also been held at North Lincolnshire College and the University of Lincolnshire and Humberside, both in Lincoln, and activists were out campaigning at Trent University and the University of Nottingham at the end of September/beginning of October. This follows an active summer for Rock around the Blockade in the Midlands, with stalls in Lincoln, Birmingham and Nottingham and an active presence at Nottingham's Green Festival. For details of future Rock around the Blockade and Boycott Bacardi events in the Midlands, tel: 0780 3939 713. 
 
In the Northwest, comrades have also been taking the Boycott Bacardi campaign out onto the streets, holding stalls in Manchester city centre and at various local festivals. They were able to use the media spotlight on Cuba during the time of the kidnapping of Elian Gonzales to show the connection between events in Miami and the Boycott Bacardi campaign, highlighting Bacardi's role in supporting the ultra-right Miami terrorists. A successful stall and coconut shy - now an annual event - raised £150 for the campaign, with people queueing up to throw a `missile' at likenesses of Tony Blair and Jack Straw! In August, comrades brought the Boycott Bacardi campaign to a week of Cuban culture at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, culminating in a carnival at which sales of handmade Che pendants and T-shirts raised £100. Hundreds queued up for our leaflets at our stall at the D-Percussion urban music festival in Castlefield and we raised a further £50.

 

In Preston at the University of Central Lancashire, the Rock around the Blockade student society is up and running again, with a stall in the Foster Building every Wednesday afternoon, as well as petitioning against the NUS-Bacardi deal outside the Students' Union. 

In London, a fantastic Carnival Night at the end of August raised nearly £400 for the campaign with its great mix of hip hop, break beats, old skool and funk and further nights are planned for October and November - call 020 7837 1688 for details. We took a stall to the fringes of the Labour Party conference at the end of September and flogged T-shirts on the streets of Camden, north London, to raise even more funds - plans for future work include publishing a pamphlet on Cuba, organising a speaking tour with a representative from Cuba's Union of Young Communists and, of course, continuing to support our mobile disco in Guantanamo (see p11 for report). We've also been taking the Boycott Bacardi message round the universities of central London. London's next campaign meeting, with updates on Cuba and more activities, is on Wednesday 18 October, Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, WC1 (nearest tube Holborn). You can also get more information from our website: www.ratb.org.uk or tel 020 7837 1688 - so get involved, get active. 

Cardiff University Cuba Vive society gets off to a flying start

Before a Cuba Vive society could be established last year in Cardiff University, we had to go through a long battle with anti-Cuba Student Union officials. At one point, they banned Cuba Vive promoters from the Union building. In the end, our resilience paid off, and the Union eventually recognised the new society. 
 
Things were different at this year's freshers' fair. People were already asking questions about Cuba as we were assembling the stall. Within the first two hours, over 15 people had left their names. It was not just the blockade that was the focus of discussion; people wanted to know more about Bacardi and the reasons for our boycott campaign. It was good to see that many of those who left their details were also interested in general Marxist-Leninist ideas. This trend was also noted at the society''s meetings towards the end of last year. This is not surprising, because as soon as you understand why US imperialism maintains its blockade of Cuba, it is easy to understand that it is capitalism that is the cause of the suffering of the workers of the world. 

As always, there were those who, under the banner of socialism tried to promote quite the opposite views. The SWP, the master of this, also had a stall. Their table was overfilled with colourful but colourless papers, according to which the Labour Party would be more socialist than Cuba. Students with little or no political experience who saw the Che Guevara poster at our stall after visiting the SWP's, commented that they expected the SWP to relate to Cuba and Che differently. 

We now hope to get more than 50 members, and the society is heading into the new academic year with confidence and enthusiasm. Our e-mail address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.