28th May 16:56
'Conflict between U.S. imperialism and Cuba remains central to world politics'
'Conflict between U.S. imperialism and Cuba remains central to world politics'
Pathfinder Press president speaks at Sarah Lawrence College in N.Y.
http://www.themilitant.com and http://www.pathfinderpress.com
BY MARTÍN KOPPEL
BRONXVILLE, New York--"The conflict between U.S. imperialism and Cuba
remains central to world politics as it has been for almost half a
century," said Mary-Alice Waters, addressing students at a May 1
seminar at Sarah Lawrence College.
That might seem strange, she said, because Cuba is a relatively small
country, in no conceivable way an economic or military "threat" to the
Yankee colossus. But the reason is simple. "It’s because of Cuba’s
socialist revolution and its example," Waters said.
"Washington will never--can never--f****ve the Cuban people, who today
are celebrating and continuing to defend their socialist course. That
course began more than 40 years ago by taking billions of dollars worth
of land and factories away from the wealthy ruling families of the
United States and their Cuban counterparts, establishing a new ruling
class--the working class--and a new social order. Productive property
is no longer privately owned and economic and social priorities are
decided on the basis of meeting the needs of the majority, of working
people, including aid to those who are fighting for national liberation
and socialism in other parts of the world. Social solidarity, not the
dog-eat-dog reality of capitalism, increasingly became the hallmark of
social relations in this new Cuba."
That is why, she emphasized, the U.S. rulers have carried out a
relentless drive for the past 44 years to overthrow the Cuban
Revolution. The current threats and provocations against Cuba are but
one more piece of that history.
Waters, president of Pathfinder Press and editor of the Marxist
magazine New International, had been invited to speak at a seminar that
was part of a course on the Cuban Revolution, taught by history
professor Matilde Zimmermann. She was introduced by María Elena García,
a professor of Latin American anthropology. Some 20 students from the
two classes attended the presentation and joined in the hour-long
discussion that followed.
Students taking the course had read a number of books, ranging from
Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959-1976, by
Piero Gleijeses, to *** and Revolution: Women in Socialist Cuba, by
Lois Smith and Alfred Padula. Among them were Pathfinder titles,
including several edited by Waters such as Episodes of the Cuban
Revolutionary War by Ernesto Che Guevara; Che Guevara Speaks; Making
History: Interviews with Four Generals of Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed
Forces; and October 1962: The ‘Missile’ Crisis as Seen from Cuba, by
Tomás Diez Acosta, as well as the section titled "Renewal or Death:
Cuba’s Rectification Process," contained in issue no. 6 of New
The topic Waters was asked to speak on was "Cuba in the world in the
1980s and ‘90s: From the ‘Three Giants’ to the Special Period."
"It’s important to always begin with the fact that Cuba is part of the
world," Waters pointed out. "The fate of the Cuban Revolution has not
and will not be decided solely or even primarily in Cuba. Victories and
defeats of revolutions and struggles elsewhere weigh heavily in the
She described the impact that the victories of the popular revolutions
in Grenada and Nicaragua in 1979 had in the world, and particularly in
Cuba. "We’re no longer alone" was the cry of celebration. Cuban
president Fidel Castro described the revolutions in Nicaragua, Grenada,
and Cuba as "three giants rising up to defend their independence,
sovereignty, and justice, on the very threshold of imperialism."
Rectification process, Special Period
The revolutionary advances in Nicaragua and Grenada were a powerful
boost to Cuban workers and farmers, Waters noted. "There was suddenly
more oxygen in the air," she said. Those victories, together with the
revolutionary struggles advancing in southern Africa, were decisive in
allowing the leadership of the Communist Party of Cuba in the mid-1980s
to begin the political battle that became known as the rectification
"It was in fact a revolutionary renewal," Waters stated, "a
revitalization of the working-class methods of struggle, mass
mobilization and voluntary labor, that are the heart and soul of any
genuine popular revolution in the modern epoch." Rectification was a
political reorientation away from the economic and social planning
policies modeled on those used in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe
at the time, policies that benefited a privileged social layer of
administrative personnel. Such policies, which had become predominant
in Cuba from the early 1970s on, had led to increasing political
demoralization and demobilization among working people, manifested in
everything from declining morale and productivity to increased cases of
flagrant mismanagement and corruption.
Waters quoted Cuban president Fidel Castro’s observation that prior to
launching the rectification process, Cuba had for a number of years
been heading, not toward socialism or communism, but toward "a system
worse than capitalism." The construction of socialism is not "a
question of mechanisms," he said. "It is a political task, a
She pointed to the voluntary labor "minibrigades" that became a social
movement at the heart of the rectification process. Through such
collective, voluntary efforts, for example, working people were able to
begin to confront the shortage of child-care centers needed by working
women. They built more than 110 such facilities in Havana within two
years, in contrast to the two built in 1980-85. Thousands of
apartments, medical facilities, schools, and other social priorities
were built the same way.
The rectification process was gaining momentum when the Stalinist
regimes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe crumbled at the
beginning of the 1990s. In a matter of months, Cuba lost the lion’s
share of its trade--trade at preferential terms--and economic aid, and
rectification ground to a halt in face of crushing shortages of basic
products. The Cuban government was forced to organize a retreat,
allowing the circulation and use of the dollar, promoting tourism and
foreign investment on the island as ways to obtain the hard currency
needed to meet the country’s priorities. A tightened U.S. trade embargo
increased the difficulties.
Why did the Cuban Revolution not crumble, as many at the time
predicted, Waters asked? Among the factors she pointed to was the prior
strengthening of the revolution, the revolutionary confidence gained by
Cuba’s working people, through the rectification process. In
confronting the widening social inequalities, the undermining of social
solidarity, and other challenges of the Special Period, the Cuban
leadership has drawn on this strength.
Today in Cuba, the several-year-old campaign called the Battle of Ideas
is based on the same revolutionary methods, mobilizing thousands of
youth to transform the education system, "opening the universities to
thousands of working-class youth who would otherwise be on the margins
of society without real prospects for study and work," she said.
Waters also talked about the latest U.S. government attacks and
provocations against Cuba, and the imperialist propaganda campaign to
brand Cuba as a repressive dictatorship because of the arrests, trials,
and convictions of 75 opponents of the revolution a month ago. Also in
early April, three men convicted as ringleaders of an armed hijacking
of a ferry off the coast of Havana--one of a string of recent violent
hijackings--were given the death penalty and summarily executed.
After the presentation, students asked questions ranging from topics
such as the economic impact of the decline in tourism in Cuba over the
past two years to the relation between the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq
and Washington’s increased aggressiveness toward Cuba, changing
attitudes in Cuba toward social questions such as women’s rights and
affirmative action for Blacks and mestizos, and the case of the five
Cuban revolutionaries framed up and imprisoned in the United States.
Many of the questions were on the events of the last month that Waters
had referred to.
Discussion on recent trials in Cuba
During the discussion, Waters pointed out that in the recent trials 75
individuals were convicted not for expressing ideas, but for acts in
collaboration with a hostile state power, Washington, in its campaign
to overthrow the Cuban government. The so-called Helms-Burton law in
1996, she noted, makes the removal of Fidel Castro and Raúl Castro from
the government a precondition for lifting the U.S. economic embargo
The trials and convictions, she said, can only be understood in the
context of the unremitting efforts by Washington to overturn the
revolution and reestablish capitalism in Cuba. The stepped-up
provocations, openly organized through the U.S. Interests Section in
Havana, include the funneling of millions of dollars, authorized under
the Helms-Burton and similar laws, to finance the activities of these
Likewise, she explained, the accelerating number of armed hijackings of
Cuban planes and boats in recent months has been fostered by
Washington’s policy of limiting visas to Cubans applying to immigrate
to the United States while at the same time granting residency to any
Cuban who arrives on U.S. shores, regardless of any crimes they may
have committed to get there, and refusing to prosecute hijackers.
In response to a comment questioning the sentences, including the use
of the death penalty against three of the ferry hijackers, Waters said
that, under the cir***stances, she supported the Cuban Council of
State’s decision to go forward with the execution of the convicted
Hijacking a plane or a boat endangers the lives of every single man,
woman, and child on board, she noted. Taking decisive action to stop
the acceleration of such actions was both necessary and widely
supported in Cuba, Waters added. She called attention to Cuban
president Fidel Castro’s recent TV address in which he noted that Cuba
had effectively had a moratorium on executions in death penalty cases
since the year 2000. (See Castro’s remarks on the death penalty to the
Havana May Day rally in the article on page 11).
In response to another question, Waters said that the imperialist
rulers are always probing ways to attack revolutionary Cuba, and
Washington’s current propaganda campaign and threats of imposing new
restrictions on travel and money sent to family members in Cuba is
intended to prepare the ground for further measures to punish the Cuban
people. Launching a military assault against the island is a totally
different matter, however, because of the strength of the revolution,
its military preparedness, and its mass popular character, Waters
stated. "Every Cuban is trained and ready to take up arms," she noted,
and the U.S. rulers are aware that, unlike their invasion of Iraq, any
assault on Cuba would lead to enormous U.S. casualties--casualties they
cannot assume will be accepted by the American people. "That has stayed
their hand for more than four decades."
Students show interest in Cuba-U.S. Youth Exchange
Following the May 1 class at Sarah Lawrence, students stayed around to
continue the discussion and browse through Pathfinder literature. One
remarked that she appreciated the quality of the Pathfinder books and
pamphlets she had studied for the class. "Pathfinder is great--I like
their glossaries and the indexes and photos," said one student, "they
helped me get more out of the readings."
Among those attending the seminar were three young people from New York
who are organizing to participate in the upcoming Cuba-U.S. Youth
Exchange, a visit to the island during the last week of July sponsored
by Cuban youth organizations. They passed out literature on the
Exchange and made a brief presentation to those attending the seminar.
Several interested students met with them after the class to find out
more about the trip, and decided to organize a meeting a week later to
involve more students and student groups at Sarah Lawrence.--M.K.
Third Cuba-U.S. Youth Exchange July 24-31
Young people from across the United States will be traveling to Cuba in
July to participate in the Third Cuba-U.S. Youth Exchange. They will
meet with youth in that country, exchange ideas with them, and see
firsthand the truth about the socialist revolution. They will take part
in the 50th anniversary celebration of the assault on Moncada, which
launched the revolutionary war that brought down a U.S.-backed
dictatorship. The project is hosted by the Union of Young Communists,
Federation of University Students, and other youth organizations in
To find out more, contact: email@example.com