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So Clinton has signed the Helms/Burton bill, citing Cuba’s ‘scorn for international law’. What a joke. In the course of its endeavours to keep the world safe for democracy the US has broken international law more times than I’ve had hot dinners and done it with impunity.
When the International Court of Justice in the Hague in 1986 found the US guilty on eight separate counts of gross intervention in the affairs of a sovereign state (Nicaragua) and asked it to make reparation for all injury caused, the US simply told it to bugger off, asserting that its actions were outside the province of any international court.
Even the poor old United Nations has condemned the US trade embargo of Cuba by an overwhelming majority for three years running (1993-5: 88-4, 101-2 and 117-3) and been totally ignored by the convicted party. This is perhaps why the British, Canadian and Mexican governments don’t propose a motion to the Security Council condemning this further legislation which sets out to prevent free trade between Cuba and the rest of the world in terms which are in blatant breach of the UN Charter and the aforesaid International Law. They’ve probably worked out that it would be like farting ‘Annie Laurie’ down a keyhole, as we used to say in the good old days. Be that as it may, the truth is plain: this is an exercise of arrogant power which stinks.
The most astonishing thing about Cuba is quite simply that it has survived. After over 35 years of the most ruthless economic violence, 35 years of unremitting and virulent hostility from the US, Cuba remains an independent sovereign state. This is a quite remarkable achievement. Not many states have remained independent or ‘sovereign’ for long in the US ‘backyard’. Here are three short extracts from Duncan Green’s book Silent Revolution. This is the first:
‘10,000 delegates of the World Bank sat down to dinner. The dinner was catered by Ridgewells at $200 per person. Guests began with crab cakes, caviar, creme fraiche, smoked salmon and mini beef wellingtons. The fish course was lobster with corn rounds followed by citrus sorbet. The entree was duck with lime sauce served with artichoke bottoms filled with baby carrots. A hearts of palm salad was offered accompanied by sage cheese souffles with a port wine dressing. Dessert was a German chocolate turnip sauced with raspberry coulis, ice cream bon bons and flaming coffee royale.’The wine list isn’t mentioned.
Here is the second extract:
‘The tiny adobe house is crammed with gnarled Bolivian mining women in patched shawls and battered felt hats, whose calloused hands work breaking up rocks on the surface in search of scraps of tin ore. The paths between the miners’ huts are strewn with plastic bags and human excrement, dried black in the sun.’
This is a Bolivian woman speaking:
‘In the old days women used to stay at home because the men had work. Now we have to work. Many of our children have been abandoned. Their fathers have left and there’s no love left in us when we get home late from work. We leave food for them. They play in the streets. There are always accidents and no doctors. 1 feel like a slave in my own country. We get up at 4am and at 11 at night we are still working. I have vomited blood for weeks at a time and still had to keep working.’
No doubt after dinner the World Bank delegates discussed the Bolivian economy and made their recommendations.
This monstrous inequality is precisely what inspired the Cuban revolution. The revolution set out to correct such grotesque polarisation and was determined to ensure that the Cuban people never have to endure such degradation again.
It understood that recognition of and respect for human dignity were crucial obligations which devolved upon a civilised society. Its achievements are remarkable. It constructed a health service which can hardly be rivalled and established an extraordinary level of literacy. All this the US found to be abominable Marxist-Leninist subversion and naturally set out to destroy it. It has failed. And it must be true to say that Cuba could never have survived unless it possessed a formidable centre of pride, faith and solidarity.
There is the question of human rights. I myself don’t believe in the relativity of human rights. I don’t believe that ‘local conditions’, as it were, or a specific cultural disposition can justify suppression of dissent or the individual conscience. In Cuba I have always understood harsh treatment of dissenting voices as stemming from a ‘siege situation’ imposed upon it from outside. And I believe that to a certain extent that is true. But equally, apologists for Israeli actions have also stressed a siege situation brought about by external threat. Mordechai Vanunu is a dissent ing voice in Israel and was sentenced to 18 years solitary confinement for disclosing Israel’s nuclear capacity to the world.
I am a trustee of the Vanunu estate and a defender of his right to speak. I must therefore logically defend, for example, Maria Elena Cruz Vareia’s right to speak also. Socialism must be about active and participatory debate.
However, the wrinkled moral frown of the US has always been good for a laugh. ‘We deplore etc, etc the violations of human rights in such and such a country.’ In their own country one and a half million people are in jail, 3,000 are on Death Row, nearly 50 million live under the poverty line, effectively disenfranchised, there is a huge black underclass, abused and condemned, 38 states practise the death penalty, corruption is vibrant and active at all levels of the hierarchy, police brutality is systematic, heavily racist, lethal. Human rights, where are you?
There exists today widespread propaganda which asserts that socialism is dead. But if to be a socialist is to be a person convinced that the words ‘the common good’ and ‘social justice’ actually mean something; if to be a socialist is to be outraged at the contempt in which millions and millions of people are held by those in power, by ‘market forces’, by international financial institutions; if to be a socialist is to be a person determined to do everything in his or her power to alleviate these unforgivably degraded lives, then socialism can never be dead because these aspirations will never die.
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
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Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Nick Dowson looks at the new wave of co-ops and community groups where people are building their own truly affordable homes
The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
Labour’s NEC has started to empower party members – but we still have a mountain to climb
The crunch executive meeting ahead of Labour conference agreed some welcome changes, writes Michael Calderbank, but there is still much further to go
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going
A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism
Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase
Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields
Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton
Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi
A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain
Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank
Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded
West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens
Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age
Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today
The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics
Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.
Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making
Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services
With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle
Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune
Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali
To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi
Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun
Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh
With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament