FW: The latest from Havana

Barry Stoller bstoller at utopia2000.org
Thu May 3 17:54:42 MDT 2001

Granma. 3 May 2001. 18th CTC Congress: FTAA deepens neoliberalism.

In his closing speech at the 18th Congress of the Central Organization
of Cuban Trade Unions (CTC), President Fidel Castro made an analysis of
the situations faced by workers of the world today, comparing them with
what is happening in Cuba, where "there is a just socialist society" and
"unity and consensus" exists.

The Cuban head of state and government utilized international news
agency summaries referring to May Day activities in various countries,
presenting a panorama of poverty, unemployment, fundamental human rights
violations and democracies with police violence.

"For Latin America," he affirmed, "the date has arrived with little
reason to celebrate and many protests on account of high unemployment
rates, against globalization and the Free Trade Area of the Americas

The examples he gave included Chile, with 8.8% unemployment, where the
cables reported workers demonstrating for "decent jobs, respectable
wages and democratic reforms," and Uruguay, with 14.1% unemployment.

"That system has no prospects," Fidel stated, "because it is a society
where persons are considered excess, hence it could be seen as a savage

Continuing with news agency cables, he added that in Nicaragua workers
were to march against government corruption and loss of social security
and, in El Salvador, to reject unjust government measures.

They are examples, he said, of what is happening in those countries that
"cheerfully promote the FTAA, and which are going to be worse off

He also referred to Europe, where a Berlin court banned a protest march
by extremists of the "radical left," while 9,000 police protected a
march of 1,500 members of the neo-Nazi party; in London, where Tony
Blair demonstrated his total support for the police who mobilized 6,000
officers and warned that they would use rubber bullets; while in Paris
the issues were to be globalization, unemployment and the defense of the

"Now it’s clear why Cuban workers are authorized to come together and
march. You are not radicals, nor leftist extremists; you are extreme
revolutionaries," Fidel commented.

The president emphasized that you could bet a $1 million or the $10
million USD that the country has spent on new plans for social and
cultural development to find "one photo or any film footage of [Cuban]
workers repressed by SWAT teams delivering blows, with tear gas, water
cannon or rubber bullets."

Explaining why that could be the case, he stated that in Cuba there is a
socialist and just Revolution, with unity and consensus, which could
never be led by force of arms. "That’s stupidity, totally illogical."

He also went into the repercussions of the comments made by Judge
Baltasar Garzón to the Dominican newspaper Listín Diario, and his reply
in which—among other aspects—Fidel warned of the dangers resulting from
the manipulation by powerful nations of the principle of

"In my view, in the case of Pinochet, the Spanish judge was seeking
promotion. I don’t believe that he was inspired by a sense of justice,
and he applied Spanish laws of an extraterritorial nature."

Fidel observed the potential danger of U.S. or North Atlantic Treaty
Organization (NATO) judges assuming the right to put anyone in the world
on trial. He added that that would be insane.

After reiterating his reflection that Pinochet’s arrest in London was
just from the ethical point of view, he stated that it was questionable
legally and, in political terms, it created problems within the Chilean
process. "We defend the thesis that Pinochet should be tried and
sanctioned in Chile."

Fidel also noted that Cuban likewise defends the thesis of establishing
an international court for judging war crimes, under the supervision of
the UN General Assembly, "the genuinely democratic body of that
institution," and never under the jurisdiction of the Security Council,
given its veto power.

Later on, he referred to a statement by James Wolfensohn, president of
the World Bank, in which he praised and appreciated Cuba’s advances in
terms of education and health care, although things gave gone beyond
that on the island; for example in sports, the quality of education,
social security and the protection of children.

"I am talking of the fruits of the labors of a country that has tried to
create a just society," he affirmed and stated that "in this Revolution,
reality has surpassed dreams," although it is far from being perfect.

The president subsequently made an analysis of the class nature of the
Cuban state and the role of the working class, referring to the theories
of Marx and Lenin which, he noted, were grafted onto the body of the
ideas of José Martí who, "at the end of the 19th century, wrote things
that have absolute validity today," and who was "the first person to
define the United States as imperialist."

After reflecting on the definition of the dictatorship of the
proletariat and the immense support for the Revolution since 1959, he
dwelt on Cuban democracy, in which, he said, the secret lies in
nominations, given that it is the masses who present proposals for
public office, and where decisions affecting the people are previously
discussed and reached by consensus, demonstrated throughout the 40 years
of Revolution.

Fidel concluded that the CTC Congress has been a reflection of the
long-fought battle for national sovereignty and genuine independence
which is continued in the battle of ideas being waged today.

The 18th CTC Congress was attended by 1,675 delegates—in representation
of 3.1 million Cuban workers—accompanied by 600 representatives of 180
trade union organizations in other countries.

The sessions discussed the report presented by Ross which affirms that
the draft debated prior to Congress by all Cuban workers was a
"veritable program of ideas, aimed at strengthening the positions of the
Revolution and promoting its economic and social development."

The document also notes that the issues most fervently discussed by
workers related to prices, social assistance and security, improvements
in incentive systems, and housing repairs and construction.

Ross insisted on the need for fuller discussion on food production, a
problem which, he noted, is far from being solved, and called for
continuing a vigorous struggle against poor labor and social ethics,
various forms of theft and diverting of resources, cases of corruption
and nepotism on the part of certain officials, the increase of a
social-climbing and opportunistic mentality, indifference and the
mistaken psychology that any means of solving our problems are

This speech led to discussions in which President Fidel Castro played an
active part, particularly on issues such as education, commenting on the
impact of the use of audiovisual media in schools, the scope of computer
teaching and taking it to remote schools.

"That is proof of the massive difference existing between the human
rights concept held by a heap of hypocrites and those existing in Cuba.
There are millions of children lacking schools in the world and here we
are concerned about a pupil living on a mountain peak. Nobody can say
that we are inventing things because we are being accused; we have spent
40 years charging others because nobody is concerned about human

Fidel covered the subject of health, when during the special period not
one doctor’s office was closed down, and guaranteed that by the end of
this year, there should be no lack of essential medicines because, with
resources obtained, the country is in a position to acquire the raw
materials to produce them.

[N.B.] Given women workers’ comments on their difficulties with day-care
centers (21 closed throughout the country and 11 of those in the
capital), the president proposed to extend maternity leave to one year
with pay, instead of the previous six-month period of paid leave.

Fidel also referred to the various programs related to the training of
teachers, social workers and school repairs in Havana. "Nothing is
attained," he stated, "if we aren’t motivated; there are solutions
because we have the people, we have the masses, we have unity."

In a moment of reflection on the FTAA, a U.S. annexationist treaty which
someone could sign without any consultation with the people, and with
which, as he warned, the United States is already beginning to decide on
political themes like demanding representative democracy in those
countries, he added: "Our country has attained much more democracy,
infinitely more popular participation."

The U.S. Congress approved a statement on the FTAA which expresses,
among other points, that it is a project which, put into practice, would
mean extending neoliberalism, and which is an attempt to block the
much-needed integration of Latin America and the Caribbean, since the
agreements reject all aspects of such integration.

Moreover, the plenary session approved the 21 resolutions discussed in
the work commissions, including those on the Cuban labor movement and
the defense and values of the Revolution; workers and the defense of the
socialist homeland; a condemnation of the U.S. blockade; socialist
emulation; youth; and programs for the 1,400,000 Cubans who are retired
and receiving pensions.

During the final session of the 18th CTC Congress (April 28-30), the 17
members elected to the CTC Secretariat were presented, as were the 70 on
the National Committee, and Pedro Ross Leal was ratified as general


Barry Stoller


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