Source: The Congress of South African Trade Unions
Title: Cosatu: Vavi: Address by the general secretary, at the friends of Cuba society anniversary, Johannesburg
Cde Chairperson and Secretary of FOCUS,
COSATU leaders present here today,
Fraternal organisations and guests,
COSATU warmly thanks the leadership of FOCUS for inviting us to this important gathering of internationalists. There can be no greater honour than an invitation to talk about the Cuban revolution, which has inspired generations of revolutionaries across the globe.
Our own revolution would not have not come so soon had it not been the unequalled contribution of the Cuban fighters. Our own victory against the mighty apartheid regime can be traced to the 1987/8 battle of Cuito Cuanavale. The Cuban revolutionaries took our struggle as theirs. For this we are forever grateful. Today it is our responsibility to make the Cuban people’s struggles ours, not because it’s pay-back time but because we have learnt through their example to be internationalists and humanists.
The history of Cuba is the history of a proud people, of resistance, profound socio-economic achievements and outstanding internationalism, driven by the desire to change the world in the interests of all humanity. In the Cuban people, the oppressed, anywhere in the world, have a trustworthy friend and ally, who seek no glories, no narrow material gains, but a total commitment to liberate the human race from oppression.
This was well captured by former South African Ambassador to Cuba, currently Ambassador to Italy, Comrade Thenjiwe Mtintso, in December 2005 when she said: “Today, South Africa has many newly found friends. Yesterday these friends referred to our leaders and our combatants as terrorists and hounded us from their countries while supporting apartheid… these very friends today want us to denounce and isolate Cuba. Our answer is very simple: It is the blood of Cuban martyrs… and not of these friends… that run deep in the African soil and nurtures the tree of freedom in our country”
On this great occasion of the anniversary of the 26th July movement, we are proud to salute the legendary struggles waged by these finest sons and daughters of the Cuban revolution, which reverberated throughout the colonised world in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The 26th July movement got its name from the attack by the revolutionary forces of Cuba on the Moncada army barracks in Santiago de Cuba on 26th July 1953. The movement was re-organised in Mexico in 1955 by exiled revolutionaries, including Fidel and his brother Raul Castro and that very special son of the world and internationalist par excellence who was born in the Argentina, Ernesto Che Guevara.
They constituted it as a very disciplined guerrilla force to overthrow the oppressive regime and surrogate of US imperialism in the form of the Batista regime.
On 2nd December 1956 a group of 82 men landed in Cuba, in the Granma, from Veracruz, ready to lead the revolution. They suffered heavy casualties. Of the 82 on Granma, only 12 eventually regrouped in the Sierra Maestra mountains, where they again faced the Cuban army. This was the beginning of the Cuban revolution, which continued for the next two years, until January 1959 when Batista fled Cuba on New Year’s eve as the revolutionary forces marched into Havana.
The 26th July movement became the nucleus of the present Communist Party of Cuba, after several reconfigurations. At one stage it became the United Party of the Cuban Socialist Revolution, until it became the Communist Party of Cuba in 1965. It was then that the US moved to attack the revolution directly. The flag of the 26th July movement is still on the shoulder of the Cuban military uniform, and continues to be a symbol of the Cuban revolution.
The Cuban revolution followed in the great footprints of a rich tradition of anti-imperialist resistance which has bequeathed a lasting legacy. In the words of Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa Delgado on 8th January 2009 at the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the entry of Fidel Castro into Havana, “This marvellous people, the Cuban people, a heroic people, has taught the world that revolution has a destiny!”
The history of Cuba offers such inspirational examples that we could count them for the whole day, explaining how a tiny, not naturally well endowed island, surrounded by a giant of global imperialism, the US, could make such giant strides. It still contributes massively to the liberation and improvement of the lives of millions the world over, through practical acts of solidarity, training of doctors from poor countries and all the possible material and human support it can offer.
When the Moncada garrison was assaulted, the life expectancy rate was only 59 years and today it is 78 years. South Africa’s is 48 or 52 years in terms of other reports of the WHO, and Swaziland’s 33 years.
On 1st January 1961 Cuba launched the Literacy Campaign and on 22nd December the same year, Cuba was declared an illiteracy-free country. Cuba has increased by more than eleven-fold the number of doctors, from 6, 286 in 1958 to 72, 416 in 2007, one for every 155 inhabitants. In South Africa we have one doctor for every 2000 inhabitants on average, but in the public sector one doctor serves up to 6000 patients because 70% of doctors are working for the private sector.
Cuba has the highest number of doctors per capita in the world, which has benefited the whole of Latin America and the developing world in general. Cuba has also proudly proclaimed that “of the millions of children in the world who die annually from malnutrition, none of them is Cuban”.
The case of the Cuban Five exposes US imperialism’s desperate attempts to destroy the Cuban revolution. Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero, Ramon Labanino, Fernando Gonzalez and Rene Gonzalez were convicted in Miami of conspiracy to commit espionage and other acts in the US. They were in the US to observe and infiltrate counter-revolutionary Cuban-American groups.
The five comrades appealed their convictions, backed by international criticism of lack of fairness in their trial. A three-judge panel of the 11th US circuit court of Appeals in Atlanta overturned their convictions in 2005, citing the prejudices of Miami’s anti-Castro Cubans, but the full bench later reversed the bid for a new trial and reinstated the original convictions. In 2009 the US Supreme court refused to review the case.
Successive US administrations have worked consistently to overthrow the mighty Cuban revolution, desperately spreading misinformation about the revolution and its achievements in an attempt to restore the rule of capital. Research institutions, that seek to provide a rationale for invading and undermining the Cuban people’s revolution, are spread all over the world, concentrated in the US, the epicentre of anti-Cuban destabilisation.
On 2nd January 1961, the USA unilaterally broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba, citing the proclamation of the socialist nature of the revolution as the reason. This laid the basis for the constant aggression that has characterised the US’s relationship with Cuba.
In 1961 John F. Kennedy launched the Bay of Pigs invasion into Cuba, which began with the bombardments of 15th April 1961. According to Granma International, “the Bay of Pigs invasion involved a young and promising CIA Official, who took care of recruiting the majority of the mercenaries enlisted in Florida and subsequently transferred to Central America for training and their subsequent departure for Cuba. That young official, who later became the Director of the CIA and later still, was President of the US - George W. Bush”.
Fidel’s outstanding foresight was to be proven when he ordered that the invasion was to be liquidated in 72 hours, because if that were not to be done, the beachhead of counter-revolution would be consolidated, creating favourable possibilities for the puppet government, already formed and headed by Miro Cardona, waiting in a US military base in Florida.
Failure to defeat the revolution led to the US influencing the puppet Organisation of American States to expel Cuba, in January, 1962. All Latin American countries, with the exception of Mexico, broke off diplomatic ties. The Organisationa of American States said that Cuba’s system is “incompatible with its democratic system”. At that time however most of the regimes were run by corrupt despots who were mere puppets of Washington.
Another massive invasion was planned for 1962, but it could not take place thanks to the Soviet nuclear rockets in Cuba. This was confirmed by declassified US secret documents.
This was just one of many efforts to destabilise the Cuban revolution. Luis Posada was a US-sponsored terrorist whom the US government refused to hand over to Cuba and Venezuela for his crimes in bombing airplanes and killing innocent people on behalf of the US.
The tendency of the US to establish well resourced stations to focus on particular countries resulted in one CIA centre in Florida directing activities against Cuba, starting with Bay of Pigs and then Operation Mongoose. It grew to have about 179 armed counterrevolutionary bands of different sizes operating all over Cuba. One by one the Cuban leadership dealt with them until they were all defeated.
Amongst the most cynical examples of the US’s desperation to destroy the revolution was its formation of the Coordination of United Revolutionary Organisations, managed by the CIA to unify all the terrorist groups funded by the US to sabotage the Cuban economy and its people.
It also committed serious acts of aggression, including the sabotage of a Cuban civilian aircraft resulting in the deaths of 73 innocent people by Luis Posada Carriles. On 10th October 1959 a twin-engine aircraft machine-gunned the streets of Havana, causing massive deaths and injuries, while on the 22nd, a passenger train in Las Vegas province was attacked by another plane.
According to Jean-Guy Allard, “as early as December, 1959 Colonel J.C. King, then CIA Chief of hemispheric affairs, in a secret memo to the agency’s director, Allen Dulles, specifically recommended the elimination of Fidel Castro.
Addressing the youth at the University of Havana on 17th November 2005, Fidel Castro said: “this country can destroy itself; this revolution can destroy itself; those that cannot destroy it are the enemies; it is us who can destroy it, and that would be our fault”.
Building the global campaign to free the Cuban Five is of utmost importance for all revolutionaries.
Cuba stands out as a beacon of hope for humanity in a world of growing inequalities, savagery and capitalist crisis. Its health system in the midst of economic difficulties still afford its people the most decent health care and services compared to countries with far bigger GDPs.
Its achievements are deliberately kept out of the media, so as to hide from millions of working people the world over, these great successes of a revolution which has inspired millions into action against injustice, inequality and the destruction of our environment for narrow profit interests.
It has kept alive, during the most difficult days, the hope of an alternative to the rule of capital. As we struggle, we face daily the overwhelming propaganda of the bourgeoisie that says there is no hope. We know however that hidden somewhere far from the big cameras of commercial media are the great achievements humanity has made in Cuba’s struggle for equality, justice and dignity for all.
Why is that, even our own media here in South Africa, does not expose our people to the great achievements of the Cuban revolution and other such experiences that demonstrates the availability of alternatives to capitalism and the tyranny of the market?
We call on every one of us to do more to expose the facts about Cuba and the jailed heroes in the US. These are our comrades and they have refused to sacrifice their country’s interests for their own narrow immediate personal comforts. They are exemplary revolutionaries. Some are not even allowed to see their wives and families, further pointing to the inhumane system of the US security establishment.
Dear comrades our message must ring clear:
1. The Cuban Five cadres must be realised now, or at least be granted fair hearing
2. The right of Cuba to defend itself must be sacrosanct
3. The US embargo against Cuba and on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Cuba must cease immediately
4. The people of Cuba and any other country must be free to choose their own path of development, free from neo-liberalism and the savagery of the market
5. All media must expose the people to the great achievements of the Cuban and other successful revolutions all over the world
With these few words, dear comrades, COSATU salutes FOCUS for its consistency in raising this matter and call upon all activists of the movement, to take up the challenge of actively engaging in this important front and terrain of struggle.
Forward to the legendary victories of the 26th July movement!
Province Or State