The Third International after Lenin

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Is Cuba racist? So say Ruby Dee Davis, Prof. Cornel West, and Rev. Jeremiah Wright among others

Defend the Cuban Revolution!


The recent statement by a group of prominent African Americans condemning the Cuban Revolution’s “racism” is an assault on the conquest of power by the working class in Cuba, and the effective wielding of that power for more than 50 years in the interests of working people. It is also an assault on the fight of workers in this country to replace the dictatorship of capital—and all of the exploitation and discrimination it perpetuates—through the working class taking power and establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat.

With the deepening world capitalist crisis, the pressure of the imperialist encirclement of Cuba is growing. Some former “friends” of Cuba are running for cover. The Militant has been a defender of the Cuban Revolution since its opening days, and joins with others who are beginning to counter this latest assault on workers power in Cuba.

The message of the declaration against Cuba is clear: Look at what 50 years of a socialist revolution gets you. A few may benefit, but blacks still face high unemployment, repression because of the color of their skin, more are in prison, and few are promoted to positions of responsibility. It is better to stick with a ‘democratic’ capitalism.

This assault is part and parcel of the 51-year-long campaign by Washington—through economic and political pressure, through lies and distortions, and through military action—to isolate and defeat the Cuban Revolution. But since the triumph of working people there in 1959, the revolution has been overwhelmingly supported by the workers and farmers of Cuba, including by those of African descent, who today make up the majority of the population.

The new book Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power explains that the “revolutionary conquest of state power by a politically class-conscious and organized vanguard of the working class—millions strong—is necessary” and “provides working people the mightiest weapon possible to wage the ongoing battle to end Black oppression and every form of exploitation and human degradation inherited from millennia of class-divided society.”

This dictatorship of the proletariat is the instrument Cuban toilers have used to uproot the foundations of race discrimination and make tremendous gains since the opening days of the revolution. Among the first acts of Cuba’s revolutionary government was to end the Jim Crow-style system of segregation, not simply by decree, but enforced by the mobilization of armed militias of workers and peasants. Programs like the elimination of illiteracy, extending health care to everyone, and giving peasants land disproportionately benefited the black population.

Despite these gains, some of the vestiges of the centuries-long legacy of chattel slavery and capitalist oppression remain. Blacks are still subject to some of the deep-rooted prejudices held over from class society. In the face of the world’s worst economic crisis in living memory, these inequalities can become more pronounced. The Cuban government has stood out in its efforts to mobilize resources, both human and material, to minimize the impact of the world depression on the lives of working people, and at the same time extend international solidarity to workers abroad, as they are doing in Haiti today.

As Cuba’s revolutionary leadership faces the historic challenges of maintaining the gains working people have achieved, now is the time to step up the defense of the only living, fighting dictatorship of the proletariat that exists.

Above all it is the example that Cuba provides for working people in the United States and other capitalist countries that the U.S. rulers fear, and the signers of the declaration against Cuba hope to curb. Cuba is the only living example working people have today that shows how the road to workers power is the way forward for combating racism and all other forms of oppression and exploitation bred by the capitalist system. And whatever remains to be done in this fight, the Cuban working class is armed, as nowhere else in the world, to advance this struggle.

Latest attack on Cuba falsifies
history of fight against racism

(front page)


A declaration signed by a number of prominent African Americans claiming the Cuban government has fostered a “racial system” and perpetuated discrimination has opened a new assault on Cuba’s socialist revolution. Supporters of the Cuban Revolution in this country have begun responding to this attack, which is seen as part of the U.S. government’s five-decades-long campaign to overturn Cuba’s working-class revolution.

Titled “Acting On Our Conscience: A Declaration of African-American Support for the Civil Rights Struggle in Cuba,” the November 30 statement was signed by a group of 60 academics, artists, professionals, and others. Signers include actress Ruby Dee Davis, Prof. Cornel West, and Rev. Jeremiah Wright. An article reporting on the statement appeared on the front page of the December 2 Miami Herald. It was run together in that same issue with an opinion piece by Carlos Moore, a longtime opponent of the Cuban Revolution, who is credited with initiating the declaration.

The statement claims the Cuban government is carrying out “unwarranted and brutal harassment of black citizens in Cuba who are defending their civil rights.” It cites an October appeal by Brazilian professor Abdias Nascimento that calls for the release of Darsi Ferrer, another longtime opponent of the Cuban Revolution who has been incarcerated since last July.

Ferrer, an Afro-Cuban doctor, operated the so-called Center for Health and Human Rights, to put “an end to the boastful myth about the successes of the government in the field of health,” as he said in a 2006 letter to Marc Masferrer, a well-known right-wing opponent of the Cuban Revolution. Masferrer quotes Ferrer as saying, “I call on all Cubans to bury this regime.”

Carlos Moore is an Afro-Cuban writer who turned against the revolution. He left Cuba in 1963. His book Castro, the Blacks, and Africa, published in 1988 with a grant from the Ford Foundation, charges that the 1959 Cuban Revolution “was essentially a victory of the anti-imperialist segment of the white Cuban middle class.”

His latest book Pichón contains pictures of Moore with Malcolm X, the U.S. Black rights fighter Robert F. Williams, and even Fidel Castro. Moore suggests that Malcolm X was a backer of his views. But he doesn’t cite a single statement by Malcolm, who was an outspoken supporter of the Cuban Revolution, to support that.

Two online petitions are being circulated that counter the claims of Moore and others who align themselves with the imperialist campaign against Cuba. These include “In Solidarity with the Real Anti-Racist Movement in Cuba,” which can be found at; and “Declaration of African American Activists, Intellectuals and Artists in Continued Solidarity with the Cuban Revolution,” which can be found at

Record of Cuban Revolution
The real record of the Cuban Revolution is an example of how racism and all forms of exploitation and oppression can be confronted when the working class wields the instrument of state power.

Cuba’s prerevolutionary history was marked by a legacy of imperialist domination. It was one of the last countries to abolish slavery, which existed on the island until 1886. The U.S.-backed government of Fulgencio Batista, until its downfall, maintained a system of Jim Crow-style racist segregation.

In January 1959 working people in Cuba toppled the Batista dictatorship and established a revolutionary government. Many blacks in Cuba—which is a country whose majority today is of African descent—were prominent leaders of the revolution and blacks overwhelmingly supported the overthrow of capitalism and the working class taking power.

The revolution immediately began combating racism by outlawing discrimination and segregation. Distinctions based on race were erased from the constitution. And more importantly, the revolutionary government saw to the swift implementation and enforcement of the law through workers’ and peasants’ militias.

The revolutionary Cuban government’s record of combating racism is also exemplified in its internationalist mission to Angola, where 375,000 volunteer troops helped defeat the invading South African apartheid forces between 1975 and 1991. At a speech in Cuba in July 1991 Nelson Mandela described the victory over the South African army as “a turning point in the struggle to free the continent and our country from the scourge of apartheid!”

By eliminating the source of institutionalized racism—capitalism—the Cuban Revolution opened the door to unprecedented gains by blacks and their fuller integration into all aspects of society, even though many deep-rooted prejudices remained.

“We can’t leave it to chance to correct historical injustices,” said Fidel Castro at the Third Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba in 1986. “It has to be the work of the party; we have to straighten out what history has twisted.”

The decision of the Communist Party of Cuba in 2007 to establish a commission to commemorate the Independent Party of Color in Cuba, a chapter of Cuban history in the fight against racism that was drowned in blood in 1912, is an example of how the revolutionary leadership continues to advance the discussion of how to confront the challenge of combating the legacy of racism today.

The recent attacks on Cuba for “racism” come in the context of a deepening world depression, which exacerbates inequalities and places major challenges before the leadership of the Cuban Revolution. The record of the revolution over 50 years has been, and continues to be, to address these challenges.

At a recent session of the Cuban National Assembly of People’s Power, President Raúl Castro reaffirmed the government’s commitment to eradicating the legacy of racism. “I personally believe it’s a disgrace how insufficiently we have advanced in this,” Castro said. “I will use all my influence to make sure these harmful prejudices keep giving ground until they are eliminated for good, and that women and blacks are promoted to leadership positions at all levels on account of their merits and professional training.”

Cuban doctors in Haiti
respond rapidly to crisis

Cuban doctors already stationed in Haiti when the January 12 earthquake struck were the first to begin treating the injured. The response of Cuba’s revolutionary government, which rapidly boosted its medical personnel in Haiti in the wake of the disaster, stands in sharp contrast to the callous indifference of Washington, the governments of other wealthy nations, the United Nations, and various aid groups.

After the earthquake Cuban medical personnel reopened three hospitals in Port-au-Prince, set up field hospitals—including one in the courtyard of the Cuban volunteers’ living quarters near the National Palace—and converted an eye clinic into a medical center to treat injuries.

Some 60 medical specialists in natural disasters arrived from Cuba the day after the earthquake to reinforce the effort under way by 344 Cuban medical volunteers. On January 16, 32 Haitian doctors who graduated from medical school in Cuba arrived to join the contingent. The Cuban government has also flown in 10 tons of medical supplies.

CNN reporter Steve Kastenbaum tried to find functioning hospitals in Port-au-Prince. In a January 17 broadcast he noted that La Paz Hospital, operated by the Cubans, is one of “the few places ordinary Haitians can turn to” to get urgent care. “It’s amazing to see,” Kastenbaum said, they’re treating “six to seven hundred patients a day.” The Cuban doctors keep three operating rooms running 24 hours a day, he noted.

The discipline, efficiency, and solidarity demonstrated by the Cubans inspired some Chilean and Spanish medical workers to ask to join the Cuban teams.

CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta was present, on the other hand, when Belgian doctors and nurses abandoned 25 patients overnight in a mobile hospital, including three who had just undergone surgery, after hearing rumors of rioting in the area. The Belgians took their supplies with them. One Haitian nurse refused to leave. The Belgian medical personnel only returned the next day when the United Nations agreed to provide security.

A team of 267 from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention arrived in Haiti January 15 but sat at the airport for two days because they were waiting for military “escorts” to take them into the city.

Cuban medical aid to Haiti goes back to 1998, when Cuban volunteers arrived to treat victims of Hurricane George. Since then more than 3,000 Cuban volunteers have helped provide medical care under an agreement with the Haitian government.

The Cubans repaired broken medical equipment, opened up health centers, immunized more than 370,000 people, arranged for eye operations for more than 41,000 patients, and helped lower the infant mortality rate in many parts of the country.

Since 1999 Cuba has trained 544 Haitians as doctors at Cuban medical schools. According to the daily Juventud Rebelde, some 200 Haitian graduates of these schools are working with the Cuban volunteers in Haiti to treat quake victims.

Gonzalo Estévez Torres, a leader of the Cuban medical brigade in Port-au-Prince, told Juventud Rebelde that many Haitians are still in shock from the earthquake. The brigade will be working with the Haitian doctors graduated in Cuba to prepare people for the problems they will face in the weeks ahead.

1 comment:

  1. Ron Walters, one of the 59 Black figures from the United States who signed that letter attacking Cuba as racist, has taken the matter a good deal further.

    He wrote a lengthy commentary posted to the blog of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund some weeks ago. I responded, defending Cuba, and providing some comments and links to Cuban written documentation about racism on the island.

    Some others have responded as well, so others interested may find that discussion informative.

    Here it is: