By Miguel Angel Hernandez, PSL leader from Venezuela. 22 October 2021.
The Cuban organisation, Archipielago, founded last July in the wake of the protests, had called for a March for Change, against violence, in favour of democracy, human rights, and freedom for political prisoners, to be held on 20 November. However, the government of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) carried out the Moncada military exercises on the 18th and 19th of that month and declared the 20th to be National Defence Day. This ruse aimed to militarise Cuban major cities and to obstruct the marches.
In response, the Archipelago group brought forward the planned demonstrations in Havana and other cities to 15 November. However, the repressive, one-party government denied permission for the demonstrations, claiming that the demonstrations would be a “provocation with destabilising purposes”. And not recognising “legitimacy in the reasons given for the march”.
From the International Workers’ Unity-Fourth International (IWU-FI), as revolutionary socialists, we repudiate this ban and its justification, similar to those of any capitalist government that accuses any popular mobilisation of being “destabilising”. We may have differences with the organisers, but we recognise their right to protest. This may be no one in Cuba.
On 11 July, thousands of people came out spontaneously in Havana and other cities in the country to protest against the austerity package that the Diaz Canel government has been applying since January, which has deepened hunger, poverty and inequality in the country. In response, the Cuban government repressed and denounced the demonstrations as “paid for and encouraged by imperialism”. On that day, the poorest popular sectors and the youth took to the streets because they could no longer stand poverty and the profound deterioration of their standard of living.
The Archipielago platform is an organisation headed by the playwright Yunior Garcia, arrested during the July demonstrations. This is a broad and diverse organisation, with a predominance of sectors linked to the Cuban centre right. Although we disagree with their political positions, from the IWU-FI we vindicate the right all Cubans have to protest and mobilise for their demands.
In Cuba, young people and workers, especially women workers, have many reasons to march and protest. Both for democratic freedoms and for the serious social crisis they are suffering. We reject that the government continues to use the argument of the imperialist blockade to curtail democratic freedoms, outlaw the right to strike and criminalise popular protest.
Of course, the blockade and the most recent sanctions imposed by US imperialism also affect the Cuban social crisis. This same blockade we rejected and fought against together with the peoples of the world, is not, however, the fundamental cause of the dramatic social situation suffered by the Cuban working people.
There is no socialism in Cuba. For years, the government has been restoring a “Cuban-style” capitalism. The Cuban people have had enough with the fact that while the workers earn poverty wages of $15 a month, exploited by transnationals or by the government through joint ventures with private capital, the leaders of the Cuban Communist Party, the military, officials of the regime and the new bourgeoisie live with great luxuries and privileges, with access to dollars and to the Free Convertible Currency Stores (MLC), where they even buy imported products.
From the IWU-FI, we demand the right of the Cuban working people to mobilise for democratic freedoms and against the government’s austerity plan.
The Cuban left, critic of the regime, has the responsibility to organise itself and to coordinate all the groups and individuals who continue to demand socialism, to fight for a new socialist revolution and against the dictatorial one-party regime.
We are for the workers and people’s mobilisation to put an end to the wages of 15 and 20 dollars for a living wage. For the elimination of the aberrant Free Convertible Currency Stores, which perpetuate inequality. No more special salaries and privileges for the officials of the regime and the PCC. No to capitalist enterprises, mixed or private. For the re-establishment of all these enterprises under workers’ control.
Full freedoms for the Cuban people and workers. Freedom for political prisoners. For the right to dissent and protest; for the right to strike, for the freedom and autonomy of trade unions, student and popular organisations.
No more one-party rule for the free organisation of political parties. Freedom of expression and information; free use of the internet and social networks. No more censorship, full freedom in art and culture; full academic autonomy in universities.
For a new centralised economic planning with workers’ and popular democracy to reverse capitalist restoration. For the recovery of the monopoly of foreign trade. Increased investment in health and education.
To fight for a government of the workers and the people, for real socialism with workers’ and popular democracy. For this, it is necessary to build a revolutionary political alternative. In this task, the critical left has a great responsibility