An important declaration was released in Cuba on Monday, criticising the long prison sentences handed down to those accused of demonstrating last 11 July. The declaration, signed by a range of left wing activists from Cuba and around the world, calls for international solidarity. It also calls for an amnesty for the persons who have been unjustly convicted.
The call explains the background to the spontaneous protests. From the ongoing US policy of aggression and blockade to the inability of the country’s administration to respond to ordinary people’s needs.
The truth is that the Cuban government invests more in luxury hotels than in reactivating food production. Cuban agriculture is in a state of collapse. The austerity program applied at the beginning of 2021 meant that many basic goods are now only available in foreign currency, inaccessible for poorer Cubans.
This explains why the protests occurred especially in poorer neighbourhoods with a high proportion of black people and other oppressed groups. These demonstrators—sick of falling living standards, in a situation worsened by the pandemic— were attacked by police and by pro-government thugs armed with clubs. Up to a thousand protesters were arrested.
Now there are mass trials in which vicious sentences of up to 30 years’ imprisonment are being applied. A young LGBT+ activist who live-streamed the first protest on Facebook was sentenced to six years in prison. Those condemned include some as young as 16 or 17, and trans women who risk being sent to male prisons.
In the face of this, some people on the left remain silent or even justify the repression. And the right hypocritically criticises repression in Cuba—while supporting even harsher measures in other countries.
So the call published on Monday, Solidarity11J, is a welcome and necessary step. The initiative came from activists and groups of the small but growing independent left in Cuba. Their call explicitly distances itself from the pro-US right. It demands a genuine socialist alternative for Cuba, based on equality and democracy, both very scarce under the current system.
The call was signed by five groups and some 50 activists from Cuba, covering a broad range of independent left opinions. There is a notable presence of LGBT+ and Afro descendant activists. These were backed by over 170 signatures from 34 countries around the world.
The international signatories include Alex Callinicos, regular contributor to Socialist Worker and Brid Smith, a member of the Irish Parliament for People Before Profit.
French Marxist philosopher Étienne Balibar, leading philosopher of post-colonial thought Gayatri Spivak and Marxist sociologist and philosopher Michael Löwy are also signatories. So are Maria Carvalho Dantas, socialist activist and MP in the Spanish Congress, and Robert Brenner, editor of the socialist magazine Against the Current. And Vera Lúcia Salgado, candidate for the radical left PSTU at the last Brazilian presidential elections, has also signed.
Cuba has always been under pressure from imperialism, mainly from the US. This call is a reminder that the response to that problem is not allying with another imperialist power; in the end, they all act the same. The real answer is the struggle from below and international solidarity—of which this call is an excellent example. It is now open for more activists and organisations to give support.
Supreme Court attack on Roe v Wade
It comes ahead of a national demo
Joint struggle can create unity