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Cuba 1959-2019: Six decades of the Revolution

January 1, 2019

Cuba FlagSixty years ago today, the Cuban revolution triumphed in Havana, completing its victory across the island. The butcher Batista and his henchmen were driven from the country, and the Cuban people set about creating a new revolutionary future.

The ongoing vitality, creativity, and internationalism of the Cuban process stands alone in the history of revolutions. On this occasion we are publishing appreciations of Cuba by two prominent defenders of Cuba, Barry Weisleder and Felipe Stuart Courneyeur. – JR

Cuba/Canada: The creative power of cultural exchange

A review of Other Diplomacies, Other Ties: Cuba and Canada in the Shadow of the U.S., Luis Rene Fernandez Tabio, Cynthia Wright, and Lana Wylie, ed., University of Toronto Press, 2018. An expanded version of this text will appear shortly in Socialist Action.

CoverBy Barry Weisleder. Other Diplomacies, Other Ties: Cuba and Canada in the Shadow of the U.S. is a thorough and thought-provoking anthology, presenting the view of historians based in both Cuba and Canada. The book’s 12 chapters cover the subject extensively with little duplication; convenient summaries conclude every segment.

For me, the chapter on Cuba’s pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal World the Expo 67 was particularly riveting. I remember visiting that World’s Fair and that pavilion along with dozens of my fellow junior high school students, chaperoned from Toronto. I recall the futuristic cube structure, the huge, austere black and white photos, and the powerful radical slogans on the walls: a combination that shook my then apolitical mind.

The book puts in context a moment of world social upheaval, shaped by the revolutions in Cuba and Algeria; the example of Che Guevara, soon to be assassinated; and the multiple revolts of 1968, from France to Italy to Prague to the Tet Offensive in Vietnam.

Other Diplomacies reminds us that defending a revolution is harder than making one. It was vital for Cuba to exploit the contradictions, however relative and small, between the imperialist powers. The book presents both a Canadian and a Cuban perspective on Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker’s refusal to capitulate on Washington’s anti-Cuba blockade, not to mention on accepting nuclear weapons on Canada’s territory. This episode displays a degree of autonomy arising from a different relationship of class forces.

The fact that Canada and Mexico did not break diplomatic relations with revolutionary Cuba, unlike all the other countries of the western hemisphere in the 1960s, provided an important lifeline to the first workers’ republic west of the Atlantic. The impact endures. Canada remains Cuba’s fourth biggest partner in trade. Every year, 1.3 million Canadian tourists visit Cuba. Sherritt International, a huge Canadian-based nickel extractor, remains the largest corporate investor in the island.

These and other distinctive features of the Cuba-Canada relationship are at least partly a product of a relatively more class independent workers’ movement in the Canadian state, including Quebec, and the efforts of at least three generations of socialists and Cuba solidarity activists north of the U.S. border. The Fair Play for Cuba Committees, on both sides of the Canada-U.S. divide, well deserve the recognition afforded by the book.

Other Diplomacies portray malevolent forces in Canada: its diplomats roaming the island as spies for Washington; mass media scribes as shameless propagandists for a corporate agenda. They continue to ply their trades. Yet Canadian-based educational and cultural exchanges continue to make inroads against anti-communist bias.

Cuba is embraced by a world that has received its generous gifts of top-notch medical care and disaster relief. Washington remains powerful, but more politically isolated than ever, its economy in decline, its military apparatus strained by chronic overreach.

On the 60th anniversary of the overthrow of the Batista dictatorship, Cuba’s leadership and people are wrestling with choices: the need to strike a balance of economic development, social equality and poder popular (people’s power). They are yearning for and anticipating the next revolutions that will quicken the pace to world socialist transformation.

These changes will come — not by conventional diplomacy — but certainly informed by the “Other Diplomacies” that always animate working class solidarity.

Barry Weisleder is a member of Socialist Action Canada/Ligue pour l’action socialiste.


Cuba: ‘Ever Onward to Victory’

By Felipe Stuart Courneyeur: Six decades ago – on January 2, 1959 – the Cuban people finally succeeded in ousting the U.S. puppet Batista and his gangster lackeys from power. Led by the July 26th movement, the vast majority of Cuba’s workers and farmers, and her students, rose up and began to make their own history in a country they could – at long last – call their own.

I remember how on that day my father and I listened to the English-language North American News Service of Radio Moscow, broadcasting the latest news on the flight of Batista and then the entry of Che Guevara’s forces into the capital, Havana.

Simultaneously, the working class of Havana carried out a general strike and began to occupy their work places and drive off their bosses. The North American media, aside from the New York Times, paid little attention to the armed struggle against the U.S. puppet dictator, and even less to the groundswell of mass resistance by the working class and campesinos (rural farmers and farm laborers and their families).

My personal way of commemorating those events is to send to compas [compañeros] and friends a handful of articles and links about Cuba’s achievements, highlighting the international struggle waged by the Cuban people to advance the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggle and to promote their socialist course as the necessary and only way to escape the barbarism that capitalism has inflicted on humankind.

My selection this year includes, below, a link to the panel presentation I made to the 2017 national convention of the Canada-Cuba Network together with Sandra Rodriguez of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP).

A good way to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the Cuban triumph, if you have the means and the time, is to visit Cuba. It’s a way to combine a good vacation’s R. & R. with political solidarity with America’s only state of the toiling classes – workers, peasants, students, and members of the revolution’s armed forces.

A smaller way is to buy and drink Cuban coffee – we get ours from London Drugs. It is marketed under the label Cubita, in 460 gram nicely designed polished paper bags, and is 100% Arabica.

Every purchase counts towards helping the Cuban people defeat the U.S. embargo against their country and its international trade. And, what’s more, it’s the best coffee on the market!

Happy 2019 everyone — compas all!

Let it be a year we can all chant, with Che and Fidel, Hasta la victoria siempre {Ever onwards to victory}.

Felipe Stuart Courneyeur has dual Nicaraguan-Canadian nationality; he divides his time between the two countries. He is an active member of the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional.

More on Cuba by Felipe Stuart Courneyeur

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