[Marxism] Notes on the Che Guevara conference in Vancouver, Canada

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Sat Jun 21 10:11:55 MDT 2008

Some weeks ago I was invited to participate in a conference held
here in Vancouver, B.C., Canada to mark the 80th birthday of Che
Guevara. Here are a few personal notes to supplement the detailed
comments already presented on the CubaNews list by Tamara Hansen,
the coordinator of the sponsoring group, Vancouver Communities in
Solidarity with Cuba. I won't repeat what she said since it can be 
read here. It's quite detailed and has photographs, by the way:

It was a quite successful event, in my view. Attendance exceeded
projections for the main speaker, Dalhousie University professor
Isaac Saney who flew all the way from the other side of Canada
(Halifax) to give an exciting and enthusiastic presentation about Che
and the current state of the Cuban Revolution. Isaac Saney's remarks
were particularly well-received. Hopefully he will be write about
the points he discussed. There was an almost full house with over a
hundred present for the Friday night session. Even more than that
came and went during the sessions on Saturday which went from 
early in the morning past midnight with dance education, home-
prepared food, and dancing wrapping up the day's activities.

Saturday featured a series of films, workshops and numerous
presentations, including remarks on two panels by young Cubans who
came to the event: Irma Gonzalez, a member of the Union of Young
Communists at the University of Havana, where she is studying
psychology. Jairo Rodriguez, who is an officer of the University
Students Federation (FEU) in Havana also spoke. For Rodriguez,
who is also an accomplished guitarist and singer, this was his
first time outside of Cuba. Samira Amndan, diplomatic attache
of the Venezuelan Embassy in Ottawa also spoke. The gathering was
opened up by an indiginous Canadian woman in a special ceremony
which politically conscious people here use to express their own
solidarity with indiginous peoples and their struggles.

The two Cuban visitors were welcomed with the greatest of enthusiasm,
which they also returned to their hosts and the audience. These young
people (He's 26, she had her 24th birthday on Sunday), weren't like
what you might be expecting of visiting dignataries. They also picked
up chairs, participated in the cleaning up of the meeting hall
afterwards, and stayed, not in any fancy hotels, but in the homes of
conference organizers. Samira Amndan, the Venezuelan diplomatic
attache, a woman in her late 20s with an extensive left political
history going back to before the Chavez administration, just had a
baby four months ago, but she didn't hesitate to pick up cooking
implements and prepare a Venezuelan dish to share with some of the
conference activists.

The gathering also drew a raft of activists from left organizations
and tendencies, most of whom participated in the animated political
discussions which followed the presentations which were given. 

Ali Yerevani, Political Editor of the Canadian magazine called
FIRE THIS TIME, gave a presentation about what he described as
the sense of self-satisfaction which he sees infecting too many
on the Canadian political left. Members of the audience joined in
discussing his points as many were interested in the issues he
raised an how the political left could make itself an effective
force for social and political progress in the country. Yerevani
is a most interesting man, with a long history going back to
Iran where he got involved in politics before the Iranian
Revolution of 1979. He's lived abroad since then, including a
stint in Europe, another in the United States where he was in
the Socialist Workers Party for some years, and here in Canada
where he has lived for about a decade.

The day after the conference, many of those present went out to
support the border crossing by the Pastors for Peace Caravan to 
Cuba which crossed over from Canada to the U.S. on Sunday.

During the following week the Cuban visitors participated in print
and electronic media interviews, and took a long ride (over four
hours, each way), to the small city of Comox Valley on Vancouver
island) to make a presentation and take questions from a local group,
the Comox Valley Friends of Cuba.

The Canadian activists also took the Cuban visitors to see many of
the sights. Among these: a giant outdoor "car-free" festival at
which all sorts of vendors had tables, as well as political and
social activist groups of many types. Local tourist attractions
were taken in, including parks, a snow-capped mountain top at
which people hiked, a gigantic supermarket, and even the local
branch of Wal-Mart at which they picked up some consumer goods
to take home. They also were driven around to see some of the
highs and lows of local life, including Skid Row and the large
homeless population which congregates there. During their week
in the area, with one exception at the street fair, all their
meals were prepared by activists at home. I like to cook so
prepared three different meals for groups of 15-20.

Hopefully I didn't forget any major details, but it's been quite
an enjoyable time here in Vancouver, where I'm going to hang out
for awhile longer. Oh, I did a short radio interview one morning
as well on the local Co-Op radio station, which is something like
Pacifica and other non-commercial stations in the United States.

The weather here is a bit nippy, which makes me appreciate even
more the distance from Los Angeles, where I'm told the weather
is sweltering this week.

Unsurprisingly, anything involving the Cuban Revolution and Che
Guevara naturally evoke controversy, including on the political left.
Here's a sample of some of what passes for discussion and debate in
some circles in the Vancouver area. Not very much light is shed there
and a bit of that old-fashioned red-baiting which some on the left
like to engage in rather than argue about politics.

Check it out for yourself, if you care to:

Walter Lippmann
Vancouver, B.C., Canada

     Los Angeles, California
     Editor-in-Chief, CubaNews
     "Cuba - Un Paraíso bajo el bloqueo"

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