The Russian Revolution Changed The World Forever

ussr-soviet-day

Stephen Millies

Ninety-six years ago on Nov. 7, 1917, workers and peasants overthrew the capitalist government in Russia.

Two million soldiers in the Russian army had died in World War I. Russia was ruled by the cruel Czar Nicholas II.

Like the United States, the Russian Empire was a big prison of oppressed nationalities. Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Poles, Ukrainians, Georgians, Finns, Armenians and other peoples were denied self-determination.

Russian peasants and workers were also oppressed. Many had been serfs, a sort of land slavery. Serf families couldn’t be broken up and sold like cattle, as African slaves were in the U.S., but they could be worked to death. Thirty thousand serfs died building St. Petersburg, the former Russian capital.

Serfdom was abolished in 1861, two years after John Brown’s raid at Harper’s Ferry. The outbreak of the U.S. Civil War may have influenced the czar to get rid of serfdom before the serfs got rid of him.

Lenin and the Bolsheviks

By 1914, serfdom was gone, but 30,000 big landlords still ruled the countryside. The vast majority of people were peasants who couldn’t read or write. Women had no rights.

Foreign capital poured into Russia, grabbing huge profits from long workdays in the factories. Striking workers were shot down.

Oppression breeds revolution. V.I. Lenin was the greatest leader of Russia’s revolution. He built a communist party commonly known as the Bolsheviks.

Lenin was 17 when his older brother Alexander was hanged in 1887 for trying to assassinate Czar Alexander III. That’s the same age Black revolutionary Jonathan Jackson was in 1970, when he was killed trying to free his older brother George Jackson and other political prisoners.

Lenin studied the teachings of Karl Marx. Lenin taught that workers had to be imbued with Marx’s revolutionary knowledge and determination to win.

Soviets vs. pogroms

The first Russian Revolution broke out in 1905. Workers went on strike, shutting down factories and railroads. Peasants burned the gentry’s mansions. Czarism was on the ropes.

Workers formed councils called soviets. These councils had no formal legislative power, but they had great authority among the workers, peasants and soldiers.

European banks poured in loans to save czarist tyranny. The 1905 Revolution was defeated. The czar was able to pit peasant soldiers against workers and even other peasants, just as billionaires divide poor and working people in the U.S. today with racism and anti-immigrant bigotry.

Mass lynchings called pogroms killed Jewish people, just as the Ku Klux Klan did to African Americans here.

The Bolsheviks fought pogroms with guns in hand. Lenin waged war on racism. He enriched Marxism by teaching that workers in the big capitalist countries had to support revolts in the colonies.

“What emotion, enthusiasm, clear- sightedness and confidence it instilled into me!” was how Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh described Lenin’s “Theses on the National and Colonial Questions.”

Peace, land and bread

Sick of war and hunger, women textile workers in Petersburg went on strike on March 8, 1917, International Working Women’s Day. The holiday commemorates a 1908 march of women garment workers in New York City.

Five days later, czarism was overthrown. Workers, peasants and soldiers made that revolution, but capitalists controlled the new government.

For the next eight months Lenin’s Bolsheviks won millions of poor people to socialist revolution by demanding bread, peace and land. Despite Lenin and other leaders being forced underground, Bolsheviks won majorities in the soviets that sprung up everywhere.

These soviets overthrew capitalist politician Alexander Kerensky on Nov. 7 (Oct. 25 by the old Russian calendar). Many peoples, not just Russians, rose up to break their chains.

Peasants threw out their landlords. Bolsheviks exposed secret treaties among the imperialists that divided up colonies. This revolutionary energy helped overthrow Germany’s kaiser and end World War I in 1918.

Capitalist governments, including the U.S., then waged war against the Soviets on a dozen fronts. But the Red Army, organized and led by another Bolshevik leader, Leon Trotsky, was victorious.

The 73-year war

Following Lenin’s death the enormous difficulties involved in trying to build socialism in a very underdeveloped country, encircled by imperialism, led to struggles in the party and then to backward steps. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin purged Bolshevik opponents while making concessions to careerists and increasing inequality.

Nevertheless, at the same time the Soviet Union launched the first and biggest affirmative action program in history. Every person had the right to education in their own language. The Soviet five-year plans created the world’s second-biggest economy. Everyone had a job.

But the Soviet Union remained the target of world capitalism. German big capital handed power to Adolph Hitler’s Nazi Party so the Nazis could crush the German working class. German imperialism invaded the Soviet Union in 1941.

With Stalin leading the government, the Soviet Union defeated Hitler, but nearly 26 million Soviet people died in World War II. The Red Army liberated all of Eastern Europe from Nazi rule, including the extermination camp at Auschwitz.

The Pentagon spent $5.5 trillion on nuclear weapons aimed at the Soviet Union. This relentless pressure undermined socialist solidarity and finally led to the downfall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Despite this tremendous defeat, the lessons of the October Revolution will live forever.

Russian Revolution Still a Shining Example

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Eugene Puryear

(Originally posted in Nov. 2009 and updated slightly.)

Nov. 7 marks the 96th anniversary of the 1917 Russian Revolution. While the revolution itself could be considered a more drawn-out process, Nov. 7 stands as its most outstanding date. When the majority of workers, peasants and soldiers took over state and governmental power, for the first time in the history of class society a country was not controlled and governed by a tiny group of monarchists, capitalists or other exploiting class.

Just six months before, all actors in the political drama had considered it impossible for such a revolution to occur so soon.

Prior to the revolution, the Russian Empire—roughly the same territory later covered by the Soviet Union—was ruled by the czar, or emperor. The czar had absolute power. He ruled both through the Russian Orthodox Church, which created a religious veneer for the regime, and by virtue of his hereditary position as the richest and most central of a group of feudal princes who divided the land amongst themselves.

Small in number, they had tied the vast majority of the country, some four-fifths of the population, to the land like feudal serfs. Although serfdom was formally abolished in 1861, serf-like conditions continued well into the 20th century. Along with the feudal remnants of the 17th century, a section of the nobility wished not only to emulate Europe but also to establish the place of the ruling classes of Russia alongside those of Britain, France and Germany—that is, the most powerful capitalist countries of Europe. That meant Russia also had to develop capitalist industry.

The czar, however, was aware that popular forces led by the capitalist class had overthrown the absolute monarchs in Western Europe. He therefore sought to control the process and preserve the aristocratic class. Capitalism in Russia thus developed in its own peculiar and somewhat “deformed” way. As a proportion of the economy, industry remained relatively small. However, in technique it matched the advanced nations of Western Europe, and indeed foreign, mostly British and French, investors owned most of Russian industry.

The workers were drawn from the peasantry, closely connecting the two laboring classes. Many of Russia’s new capitalists were also landowners and part of the nobility. Illiteracy, poverty, hunger, disease and poor housing ravaged the lives of both the workers and the peasants, in sharp distinction to the great wealth and high living of the czar and aristocracy.

Elements of the new capitalist class in Russia, however, chafed under the czar, as did many of the intelligentsia. Both sectors resented and felt oppressed by the czar’s absolute power. These pressures accompanied the demands of the workers and peasants for more economic and political rights.

War lays basis for revolution

When Russia followed France and England into the First World War, social tensions inside the empire became exacerbated. By 1917, war had wreaked a terrible toll. The brunt of the hundreds of thousands of deaths was borne by the peasants, who were forcibly conscripted. Hunger, disease and poor living conditions ravaged the rank-and-file soldiers just as the rest of the exploited classes.

It was under these pressures that the czar’s regime finally fell. On International Women’s Day, Feb. 23, 1917, on the Gregorian calendar, women textile workers launched a strike in Petrograd, the capital of Russia. Over five days, the textile workers’ strike grew into a general strike, and the army split, with rank-and-file soldiers coming over to the side of the workers.

It took five days for the czar’s government in Petrograd to fall, and some months for the monarchy to be swept away in various parts of the country. Parties representing the capitalists, petty capitalist elements and, purportedly, the peasantry, formed a provisional government.

The reformist socialists—the Mensheviks—and the peasant-based Social Revolutionary Party supported the provisional government. The Mensheviks justified their support for the new bourgeois government by arguing that the revolution would have to pass through a separate “bourgeois” stage where a capitalist republic would be established, with formal democratic rights, as a prerequisite for a socialist revolution. Until their central leader, Vladimir I. Lenin, returned from forced exile in April 1917, the Bolshevik Party, too, gave support to the new regime.

The provisional government, however, was very fragile. The weak Russian capitalist class, totally dependent on Anglo-French imperialism, could not end Russia’s involvement in the war. Prostrate before the Western imperialists, and with little to no independent social base, forces of the provisional government began to move closer to monarchist elements scheming to return to power.

Meanwhile, the workers and peasants had created their own structures of power—soviets. The soviets, or councils, were mass democratic organs based in the factories, districts and military units, as well in some parts of the countryside.

Thus, a type of “dual power” arose. On the one hand, the precarious provisional government was besieged on all sides, unable to end the war or meet the workers’ and peasants’ other social and economic demands. And on the other, the soviets of soldiers, workers and peasants potentially represented the interests of the toiling, exploited masses, who continued to clamor for relief from the jaws of war and poverty.

In April 1917, Bolshevik leader Lenin arrived in Petrograd and grasped the situation immediately. He understood that the nascent Russian capitalist class could not end the war and would not touch the great landed estates or capitalist industry, leaving all the demands of the masses unmet. He argued that instead the soviets of soldiers’, workers’, and peasants’ deputies should take power in their own name.

Rather than depend on the provisional government to provide “Land, Peace, and Bread,” they should gather all the power in the organs of the working masses, demanding and achieving “All Power to the Soviets.” When Lenin first produced his famous April Theses, only a small minority of the party’s Central Committee supported his position. But the force of his arguments and the unfolding of events soon won over the Bolshevik leaders and rapidly growing rank-and-file membership.

On Nov. 7 (Oct. 25 according to the old Russian calendar) the workers, peasants and soldiers rose again, and it was these two slogans that drew them over to the Bolsheviks, giving the revolutionary communists leadership of the soviets. Under that leadership, the workers in alliance with the peasantry deposed the provisional government and assumed total control through the soviets.

This “October Revolution” reverberated all around the world. In China, where Marxism had no history, small circles of revolutionaries began to discuss the ideas of communism. Among them was Mao Tse-tung who urged the Chinese people to “Arise and Imitate” the great popular unity of the October rising. Two years later, in May 1920, Mao and the few other communists formed the Chinese Communist Party, which went on to lead the great Chinese Revolution of 1949.

Over time, when at the peak of its power, U.S. imperialism, along with its imperialist allies, succeeded in dividing the world communist movement and containing the Russian Revolution, leading to the overthrow of the Soviet Union and to other major working-class defeats.

Millions have looked to the Russian Revolution for inspiration, however, because it continues to stand as a shining example of how the majority of society, its exploited and oppressed masses, can under the leadership of a revolutionary party take power in their own hands, mold it in their favor and take a giant leap toward wiping away all vestiges of exploitation.

With capitalism entering an era of deepening crisis, and U.S. imperialism in apparently irreversible decline, the beacon of the October Revolution shines brighter than ever.

Communists Worldwide Oppose Attacks on Syria

Source

We, the communist and workers’ parties, express our solidarity with the Syrian people and denounce the military attack against Syria which is being prepared by the imperialists of the USA, NATO and the EU together with their allies in order to promote their interests in the region.

We reject the pretexts of the imperialists which, as was demonstrated, were also used in the war against Iraq and in the other imperialist wars against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Libya.

We call on the working class, the peoples all over the world to oppose and condemn the new imperialist war, to demand that the governments of their countries have no involvement in and do not support the criminal military offensive.

29/8/2013

  1. Communist Party of Albania
  2. Algerian Party For Democracy And Socialism
  3. Communist Party of Australia
  4. Communist Party of Azerbaidjan
  5. Democratic, Progressive Tribune, Bahrain
  6. Communist Party of Bangladesh
  7. Communist Party Of Belarus
  8. Communist Party of Workers of Belarus
  9. Workers’ Party of Belgium
  10. Communist Party of Belgium (Wallonia-Brussels)
  11. Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia
  12. Communist Party of Brazil
  13. Brazilian Communist Party
  14. Communist Party of Britain
  15. New Communist Party of Britain
  16. Communist Party of Canada
  17. Communist Party of Chile
  18. Communist Party of Cuba
  19. The Progressive Party of the Working People – AKEL, Cyprus
  20. Communist Party of Denmark
  21. Communist Party in Denmark
  22. Danish Communist Party
  23. Communist Party of Finland
  24. Communist Workers’ Party of Finland
  25. Pole of Communist Revival, France
  26. URCF (France)
  27. Galician People’s Union, Spain
  28. Unified Communist Party of Georgia
  29. German Communist Party (DKP)
  30. Communist Party of Greece
  31. Hungarian Workers’ Party
  32. Tudeh Party of Iran
  33. Communist Party of Ireland
  34. The Workers Party of Ireland
  35. Communist Party of Israel
  36. Party of the Italian Communists
  37. Communists People’s Left-Communist Party, Italy
  38. Activist Group Shiso-Undo, Japan
  39. Jordanian Communist Party
  40. Socialist Party of Latvia
  41. Socialist People’s Front of Lithuania
  42. Communist Party of Luxembourg
  43. Communist Party of Malta
  44. Communist Party of Mexico
  45. Partido Socialista APN, Mexico
  46. People’s Resistance, Moldova
  47. New Communist Party of the Netherlands
  48. Communist Party of Norway
  49. Communist Party of Pakistan
  50. Palestinian Communist Party
  51. Palestinian People’s Party
  52. Philippine Communist Party [PKP-1930]
  53. Communist Party of Poland
  54. Portuguese Communist Party
  55. Communist Party of the Russian Federation
  56. Communist Workers’ Party of Russia
  57. Communist Party of Soviet Union
  58. New Communist Party of Yugoslavia
  59. Communist Party of Slovakia
  60. Communist Party of Spain
  61. Communist Party of the People of Spain
  62. Sudanese Communist Party
  63. Communist Party, Sweden
  64. Communist Party of Sweden
  65. Communist Party of Southern Switzerland (federate to Swiss Labour Party)
  66. Syrian Communist Party
  67. Syrian Communist Party [Unified]
  68. Communist Party of Tadjikistan
  69. Communist Party of Turkey
  70. Labour Party of Turkey (EMEP)
  71. Communist Party of Ukraine
  72. Union of Communists of Ukraine
  73. Communist Party of Venezuela
  74. Party for Socialism and Liberation (USA)
  75. CPUSA
  76. Freedom Road Socialist Organization (USA)
  77. Workers World Party (USA)

Communists at Forefront of Struggle to Defend Syria’s Sovereignty

“We cannot imagine any future in Syria but a victorious one. We have no other choice but victory.”

Source

The following is an interview with Adel Omar, from the foreign bureau of the Syrian Communist Party-Bakdash. The interview was conducted following an international peace conference held in Istanbul and Antakya, Turkey, April 25-28 and was published in the May issue of the Communist Party of Turkey’s monthly publication. The translation from Turkish is by Liberation News.

Can you describe the position of the Syrian Communist Party toward the imperialist aggression against Syria?

First and foremost, as the Syrian Communist Party, we believe that the course of events in Syria is neither a revolution nor a civil war. It is very clear that what has been taking place in Syria has been in accordance with the imperialist plans. It is not possible for us to define a process where NATO has been involved as a revolution. Besides, it is not the case that different sectors of the people of Syria are fighting one another. On the contrary, our people are resisting the imperialist forces together.

It is true that the people of Syria have demands and needs that need to be met, but the way to achieve this is not through destroying everything that belongs to the state of Syria. At the moment, our country is under attack, and achieving unity among the people to defend our homeland is what needs to be done first. At this point, we think it is especially crucial for the government to respond to the demands and the needs of the people. In order to be able to establish a solid resistance front against the imperialist attack, we believe a top priority for the government is to provide for the basic needs of the people, including food and medicine. Only then can the struggle of the people against imperialism be unrelenting.

It can be said that the Assad government partially backed off from its neoliberal tendencies once the imperialist attack against Syria got going. What does the Syrian Communist Party think of the policies of the Assad government? Do you think that the recent changes in their policies are satisfactory?

When we evaluate the 10-year period before the aggression toward Syria, we see that the Syrian government made grave mistakes in the economic area. By choosing neoliberal economic policies, it opened the Syrian market to foreign imports, especially Turkish and Qatari products. As a result, hundreds of factories and workshops shut down and millions of workers lost their jobs.

In fact, there was not a substantial change in these neoliberal policies when the imperialist intervention started. As the Syrian CP, we think that the adoption of these neoliberal economic policies was a fatal mistake. We believe that the solution needs to start by putting an end to these policies.

In addition, a war is going on in Syria. We are facing multifaceted and serious problems. It is important to realize that it is not only the Syrian army that is resisting against the imperialist-backed foreign forces. Ordinary Syrians are also fighting. It would not have been possible for the army to resist for two years against such an assault otherwise.

With this in mind, it is critical that the government support the people through economic policies in order for the popular resistance to be able to survive. But, unfortunately, it is difficult to say that the government realizes this fact even now. They more or less continue with the neoliberal policies. As the Syrian CP, we believe the biggest risk factor for the Syrian resistance is the economy.

Do the terrorist groups operating under the umbrella of the so-called Free Syrian Army target the Syrian Communist Party or similar groups of the resistance?

Yes, of course, and this is not an exceptional situation. The terrorist groups were behind a series of attacks targeting us including the bombing of our central office in Damascus. When they attacked our central office, they were not able to score a direct hit, but the building next to us was heavily damaged.

In Aleppo, the terrorist groups attacking the area of Sheikh Maksoud, which is mainly Kurdish, have primarily targeted the homes of Communist Party members. Unfortunately, three female comrades were murdered in these attacks. There are many other members who were targeted but were saved by luck since they were not home at the time of these attacks.

We are going through a war that though difficult and serious at times cannot be taken lightly. But we are determined to continue with our struggle. To begin with, in imperialist attacks toward a homeland, history shows us that the communists have primary responsibility for resisting and organizing this resistance. As Syrian communists, the duty to struggle for our homeland lies first and foremost on our shoulders. This is our responsibility.

Secondly, we cannot imagine any future in Syria but a victorious one. We have no other choice but victory. With that in mind, you can be sure that we will do our utmost to keep up our end. It is only natural that such determination would be targeted by the terrorists. It is normal.

Are there any communists or left forces that are in dialogue, or stand in solidarity, with you in the other Arab countries that have been subjected to imperialist attacks?

To answer the question frankly, even if there are diplomatic relations that go on at a particular level, it is difficult to say that there is solidarity among us. When our situation in Syria is taken into account, I can say that we need an attitude of solidarity that is more than a “message of goodwill” by this or that party.

To give you a concrete example, we need concrete steps of solidarity like the recent conference in Istanbul that was organized by the Peace Association of Turkey and our comrades of the Communist Party of Turkey. We valued this undertaking immensely. This is why I have been here in Turkey for days. Given the reality that people living in other parts of the world do not have access to honest news about Syria, the conference in Istanbul gave us a great opportunity to tell what is really going on in Syria, to put this on the agenda of the international movements in the right way, to achieve a clarity of approach and to move forward together. This is very valuable.

It is clear that similar conferences need to be held in other cities around the world. Forums of this sort not only help increase the support and understanding of the struggle of the people of Syria, but they also energize us. I need to say that in the struggle we are waging in Syria, we have been left alone. There are 22 Arab countries, and no events in solidarity with the Syrian people have been organized in the capitals of these countries. Yet we have been resisting for two years and we will continue until the end.

How have the events in Syria affected your organizing? Do you think that there are new opportunities for strengthening the party?

History shows us that struggles against imperialism and fascism increase the value and respectability of the communist parties in the eyes of the people. This was the case for the Soviets in their defense of the motherland, and the same in Greece or France. Communists were at the forefront, organizing the resistance of the people for the defense of their motherland. This is the case for us as well.

If we consider our position in Syria, the Syrian Communist Party is a strong organization with more than a quarter of a million members. This was already the case before the attacks. In this regard, the Syrian society is an organized one. With this in mind, instead of whether we are getting stronger during the crisis, it would be more meaningful to talk about our role in keeping the resistance going as much as it has.

As the cadres and members of the Syrian Communist Party, we are aware of the responsibilities on our shoulders. We appreciate the value of life very much, but we are also acting with the consciousness that we may have to be the first ones to face death for the future of our country. The people of Syria are very dignified. If they have been able to keep the resistance up for two years, our party has a share in this. I have to say that the fact that we are among the people, not simply with them, has played a very important role for the resistance.

Source: http://www.pslweb.org/liberationnews/news/communists-defend-syrian-sovereignty.html

Cuba’s Impeccable Human Rights Record

“Few Governments Have Done as Much For Their People as Cuba”

Granma Internacional

The Cuban Foreign Affairs Ministry submitted, on April 23, its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to the United Nations Human Rights Council, to be reviewed by the UN on May 1 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The document reports on the situation in Cuba, its legal framework and the human rights programs available for the benefit of all. At its center are the recommendations accepted by Cuba in 2009, in the first round of the UPR, a process with which all 193 UN member states are required to comply, according to Vice Minister Abelardo Moreno.

Many state, government and civil organizations contributed in drafting the report, Moreno added during a videoconference with Geneva, also attended by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marcelino Medina, and representatives from the diplomatic delegation which will present the report before the UN.

“The main violation of human rights in Cuba is the economic, trade and financial blockade imposed by the United States, which is an act of genocide,” expressed the Deputy Minister. However, he said, the country has succeeded in fulfilling a large number of Millennium Development Goals and scores highly in terms of human development.

“Few governments have done so much for their people as Cuba, since the triumph of the Revolution in 1959, despite enormous obstacles,” he added after condemning the media campaigns which ignore or distort the country’s achievements, causing a negative impact on the Human Rights Council. Moreno also criticized terrorism promoted, organized and led by the United States, the recruiting of agents who attempt to destroy the Cuban constitutional system, acting contrary to the people’s right to self-determination, national security and integrity.

The Cuban UPR report, which was distributed to the press, highlights many achievements including in the areas of education, health, culture, sports, food, social security, religious freedom, treatment of prisoners, and gender equality.

***

Granma Internacional

Cuba is honored to present its second National Report to the Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism. It does so proud of its humanistic work and its achievements in guaranteeing the exercise of all human rights for all its citizens.

The economic, political and media blockade imposed by the United States, which Cuba has resisted, undefeated, for more than 50 years, is a massive, flagrant and systematic violation of human rights which provokes damage, shortages and suffering, but it has not detained the country’s equal opportunities, equity in the distribution of wealth, or social justice.

Persistent efforts on the part of the United States to impose a “regime change” on Cuba are a serious violation of the nation’s right to self-determination. These efforts have been unable to prevent the active, democratic and direct participation of its citizens in the construction of constitutional order, in government decisions and in the election of its authorities.

Before this Council is a country without homeless persons or people deprived of dignity, in which no child lacks an education of quality, the sick enjoy sterling medical attention and the elderly social protection. A nation in which the rights of workers, farmers, intellectuals and students are protected by law. A country with citizens’ security, without organized crime, or drugs. Before this Council is a united people, with profound social cohesion. A state in which no one has been executed without trial, tortured or disappeared, and there are no kidnappings or secret prisons.

This exercise coincides with International Workers’ Day, joyfully celebrated in Cuba’s plazas and streets by millions of compatriots and hundreds of friends from all over the world. They do so as free women and men, in defense of rights that have been won. They are not masses of justly angry people, workers on strike, students besieged by education costs and debt, immigrants persecuted by self-interest, racism and xenophobia. We offer our solidarity to all those fighting – everywhere on the planet – for human rights for all, for peace, for development, for the survival of humanity, threatened by colossal military arsenals and climate change.

Mr. President:

This report is the result of a wide-ranging and participative consultation process which involved countless government institutions, Parliament, civil society organizations and other relevant institutions.

The follow up on the recommendations accepted in the first UPR cycle was the principal objective of the work of the National Group, which coordinated the process and prepared the report.

From Cuba’s first presentation to this mechanism in 2009 through today, significant changes have taken place in the economy and society. Advances have been made in the institutional perfection process, greater citizens’ participation and control as a fundamental aspect of our democracy, and the undertaking to achieve sustainable development with social justice has been maintained.

Cuba remains committed to its irrevocable decision to advance its socialist, national, original, democratic and freely participative socialist development.

We did not come here to present a completed task, nor do we pretend that the Cuban socialist model should be considered for anyone or everyone. Nor do we accept that there is a unique or universal model of democracy, and far less the imposition of the political system of Western industrialized countries which have entered into crisis. We likewise reject the political manipulation, hypocrisy and double standards frequently present in the debate on human rights issues.

Mr. President:

One of the most significant events since the previous session is the adoption by the National Assembly of People’s Power of the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines, which constitute a body of decisions essential to the updating of the Cuban economic and social model and a government program.

The guidelines were adopted after an extremely wide-ranging popular debate in which millions of Cuban women and men formulated, with total freedom, more than 400,000 amendments modifying two thirds of the draft document, and voted on each one of its 12 chapters. This was a unique experience of citizens’ direct popular consultation in order to reach consensus on government economic, monetary and social policies, in con junction with measures to overcome the effects of the global economic crisis and problems of the Cuban economy without neoliberal austerity formulas, without saving banks at the cost of unjust social cuts.

Cuba has continued strengthening the democratic nature of its institutionality with laws, policies and programs of a popular and participative nature, in accordance with the people’s aspirations.

New regulations have been adopted to expand the legislative base of human rights, such as those related to social security, housing, employment and exclusively self-employed work, the granting of land in usufruct, among others. In parallel, advances are being made in perfecting and updating the country’s legal system, by implementing a number of modifications responding to the needs of Cuban society and the highest international standards in this context.

Outstanding among these amendments is the Migration and Travel Act, which has had a notable impact and has benefited the Cuban nation’s relations with its émigré community, despite constant manipulation of the migration issue.

Mr. President:

The legal system for the protection of human rights in Cuba is not confined to their constitutional drafting. The system is duly developed and implemented in other substantive, procedural regulations, in accordance with rights recognized in the Universal Declaration and other international human rights instruments.

Cuba has made significant advances in the realization of economic, social and cultural rights. Education has is universally accessible and is free of charge at all levels of teaching.

Through its various programs, the Cuban state guarantees every girl, boy and young adult the possibility and right to study within the National Education System and to continue in their education as far as their aptitudes and efforts allow them, with equality of opportunity. The First Vice President of the Council of State and Ministers was invested with the responsibility to protect and supervise children’s rights.

The right to education is assured for every child and young adult with any kind of mental or physical disability through the Special Education Program, in cases where the full integration of differently-abled children in general educational institutions is not possible. Attention is given to these children throughout the country in different forms and at all levels of teaching.

In the most recent UNESCO World Report on the follow-up of Education for All (2012), Cuba appears in 16th place, given its educational development indices. UNESCO recognized Cuba as the Latin American and Caribbean country to direct the highest proportion of its national budget to education.

Under the Martí doctrine of “being educated in order to be free,” Cuba is outstanding in terms of its cultural development, its population’s full access to art and literature, for the preservation and defense of our culture and the enrichment of our spiritual values.

Cuba is equally recognized for its outstanding results and the high quality of its public health system, with universal coverage and free medical attention. With an infant mortality rate of 4.6 per 1,000 live births, Cuba has established indicators higher than those of many industrialized countries. With one doctor for every 137 inhabitants, Cuba is – according to the World Health Organization – the most endowed nation in this sector.

From 2009 through 2011, 19,371 mothers of children with severe disabilities received social security protection, thus giving them the possibility of personally caring for their children.

Attention to older adults is a priority and for that reason, multidisciplinary and cross-sector work is underway to guarantee quality of life for this growing population sector. Life expectancy at birth stands at an average of 78 years. In the next decade, more than 87% of Cubans will have exceeded 60 years of age.

Rights to life, freedom and personal security are sustained by the principle of respect for human dignity and constitute pillars in the conduct of Cuban authorities and the functioning of the entire society.

The five Cuban anti-terrorist fighters who are enduring unjust and long prison terms in the United States lack protection. They were tried without guarantees of due process, in an atmosphere of revenge and hatred, under a slanderous press campaign paid for by the District Attorney’s Office, subjected to prolonged solitary confinement, impediments to their legal defense, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and a number of them have been deprived of visits from their families.

We are deeply concerned at the legal impasse which is sustaining the permanent and atrocious violation of human rights occurring on the illegal Guantánamo Naval Base, Cuban territory usurped by the United States, a center of torture and deaths in custody, where 166 detainees have been held for 10 years, without guarantees, a trial or defense. Currently, 100 of them are on hunger strike, with 17 of these, whose lives are in danger, being force fed through tubes. This prison and military base must be closed and this territory returned to Cuba.

Cuba recognizes, respects and guarantees religious freedoms without discrimination of any kind.

Approximately 400 religions and religious institutions exist in the country.

The freedoms of opinion, expression, access to information and the press are recognized for all citizens. The high educational and cultural level of the people; the social and public nature of communications media; the inexistence of giant for-profit media corporations which in other places impose economic and political interests; the absence of generally stultifying commercial publicity; and the exercise of popular power, all facilitate the material conditions which allow for the enjoyment of these freedoms.

The right to truthful information, free of charge, should be guaranteed by the state. The democratization of internet, the transference of resources and technology appropriate for social communication, is an urgent need. The technological and content monopoly; the political and military use of networks; linguistic and cultural discrimination must be ended. The digital gap must be closed.

The blockade prevents Cuba from connecting to nearby underwater cables, making services more expensive and access for the population more difficult. It prohibits international providers from supplying Cuba with services, software and technology. Our country is denied, for example, diverse Google services and access to international digital platforms.

Between 2010 and 2013, the United States has, as well, allocated 191.7 million dollars to finance organizations, paid agents, the subversive use of information technology and illegal radio and television broadcasts promoting regime change in Cuba. Additionally, millions more are channeled through special services and private groups. Some U.S. allies participate in this effort.

Mr. President:

In Cuba, equality and non-discriminatory policies are fully guaranteed. Advances in terms of gender equality are outstanding. The Cuban government continues to implement numerous laws, policies and programs directed toward reaffirming these.

The percentage of Cuban women in the National Assembly of People’s Power, our Parliament, has reached 48.86%. Cuba occupies second place on a world scale in terms of the percentage of female parliamentarians. For the first time, two women are now Council of State Vice Presidents, and women constitute 41.9% of this body. A third of our ministries are headed by women.

Institutional racism has been eradicated, ample opportunities for development and concrete benefits are provided for less favored sectors, and we are struggling to assure complete, effective equality of opportunity to sectors historically marginalized and to dysfunctional families. Not yet overcome are certain racial prejudices and stereotypes surviving from slavery during our colonial past and a neocolonial regime which institutionalized racism and racial segregation.

Complementary to government efforts and full protection under the law, a decision was made to assign a Council of State Vice President the task of following up on and supervising the struggle against racism and racial discrimination.

We are proud of our African heritage. We share, in a disinterested fashion, the fate of our African brothers and sisters in their battle against colonialism and apartheid.

Another area in which sustained progress is being made is the struggle against discrimination based on sexual orientation. The National Sexual Education Program has incorporated an ongoing educational strategy promoting respect for all sexual orientations and gender identities, establishing multiple opportunities for exchange based on the principles of equality and non-discrimination.

In relation to the promotion and protection of the rights of disabled persons, we have assured that the majority are able to access education and join the workforce. Support is offered in diverse arenas of social activity.

Mr. President:

Cuba’s penitentiary system is based on the principle of human betterment. Cuba fulfils all precepts of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and prioritizes a preventative focus through a number of social programs, among them those directed toward converting prisons into educational centers.

All inmates are guaranteed medical and dental attention free of charge, under the same conditions as the rest of Cuba’s population. They receive a wage commensurate with the work they perform.

In Cuba, 27,000,095 inmates, approximately half of the total, are studying at different levels in every penal institution in the country. Many of them are additionally learning a trade. This educational system has supported inmates’ reintegration into society and the workforce.

Mr. President:

Despite shortages and difficulties, in a disinterested fashion, our people have shared and share what we have with other nations, offering solidarity to contribute to the realization of human rights of other peoples around the world.

Since 2004, tens of thousands of citizens have regained their sight through Operation Miracle and 2.4 million ophthalmologic surgeries have been performed in 34 Latin American, Caribbean and African countries.

Since 2005, the (Henry Reeve) International Contingent of Doctors Specializing in Disaster and Serious Epidemic Situations has offered medical assistance to more than three million affected persons.

Cooperation with Haiti, a sister Caribbean country in need of resources for reconstruction and development, has been maintained. More than 12,000 Cuban collaborators have worked there.

Beginning in 2004, cooperation has expanded in literacy learning and development through the Cuban programs Yes, I can (UNESCO King Sejong Prize), I can read and write now and Yes, I can do more. As of November, 2012, 6.9 million people had completed the basic Yes I can literacy program and 976,000 had completed Yes, I can do more.

Mr. President:

Cuba maintains a high level of cooperation and interaction within procedures and structures established by the United Nations in terms of human rights, which are universally applicable, on a non-discriminatory basis.

We have always demonstrated out unequivocal openness to dialogue on all issues, with all states, on the basis of mutual respect, sovereign equality and recognition of the right to self-determination.

Cuba has established a positive dialogue with bodies created in accordance with international treaties in the area of human rights.

Since 2009, five National Reports have been prepared; three of which have been presented before the respective committees. Currently in the final stages of revision are Cuba’s Initial Report in accordance with the Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Rights of Children in relation to the sale of children, child prostitution and the use of children in pornography; as well as our Initial Report in compliance with the Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons.

Cuba is a signatory to 42 international human rights treaties and has complied with all of their stipulations. Other human rights instruments, including two Pacts, are being studied by relevant authorities.

Our country maintains cooperative relations with diverse humanitarian and human rights organizations throughout the world, both within our own territory and in the development of collaborative missions internationally.

Mr. President:

We are open to constructive, respectful dialogue which adheres to the facts. We will provide necessary information and clarifications.

Thank you very much.

Mariela Castro: Socialism & LGBT Rights

mariela-castro

Cuban Revolution Combats Homophobia, Sexism, Racism

LeiLani Dowell

An inspiring and electrifying meeting was held at the Solidarity Center in New York City on April 25 featuring Mariela Castro Espín, the director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX) in Havana, Cuba, and a deputy of the Cuban parliament, the National Assembly of People’s Power. The meeting was sponsored by the International Action Center. Due to security concerns and limited seating, it was an invitations-only meeting.

The multinational, multigenerational crowd — which included members of the LGBTQ+, Latin American, and African-American communities — was moved to tears by the momentous gains in Cuba, described by Castro Espín, in combatting homophobia, transphobia and sexism, as well as racism. Castro Espín stressed that these issues are, above all, class issues, and that her country continues to fight for equality on all levels. She also praised the efforts of the U.S. activists in the crowd, saying she felt very much at home with those at the meeting.  Pro-Cuban revolutionary posters and banners encircled the office.

Comments from the floor showed the depth of respect, love and solidarity for Castro Espín and the Cuban revolution. Lucy Pagoada of Honduras USA Resistencia described how the Cuban revolution served to inspire the resistance in Honduras and throughout Latin America to continue, and the exciting integration and unity of those struggles.

Nieves Ayress from La Peña del Bronx, who survived torture under the fascistic Pinochet regime in Chile during the early 1970s and Marina Diaz, a Guatemalan activist from the May 1 Coalition also paid tribute to Castro and the Cuban revolution.

Black activist, Brenda Stokely, a leader of the Million Worker March Movement, publicly thanked Cuba for providing political asylum to Assata Shakur.

A member of TransJustice, a program of the Audre Lorde Project that fights for the rights of transgender and gender-non-conforming people of color in the U.S., said that CENESEX seemed like a “paradise” for their constituents. Among many projects undertaken in support of the transgender community in Cuba, Castro Espín and CENESEX pushed for legislation allowing transgender people in Cuba to receive hormones and gender reassignment surgeries free of charge. The law was passed in June of 2008.

Solidarity messages were also delivered from Leslie Feinberg, a member of Workers World Party and a world-renowned author and activist for LGBTQ+ rights, and IAC founder and former U.S. attorney general, Ramsey Clark.

Teresa Gutierrez, IAC co-director, urged everyone to “get on the bus” for a June 1st protest in Washington, D.C., in support of the Cuban Five, five Cuban heroes unjustly imprisoned in U.S. federal prisons for attempting to protect their country from terrorist attacks. See thecuban5.org for more information and call 347-201-3728 for $5 round-trip bus tickets from New York to Washington, D.C.

Gutierrez went on to say, “The LGBTQ community here has made great strides and has even won the right of same-sex marriage in some states in the U.S. But what socialist Cuba has done for LGBTQ people has gone much further and is much deeper thanks to the building of socialism there.”

Castro Espín is also a member of the Direct Action Group for Preventing, Confronting, and Combatting AIDS, and director of the journal, Sexología y Sociedad.  She was denied the right to travel to Philadelphia by the U.S. State Department to attend the Equality Forum 2013 Summit, a May 2-5 global LGBTQ+ conference, where she was scheduled to receive an award.

Cuban diplomats are denied the right to travel beyond a 25-mile radius from within New York without permission from the U.S. government, another example of more than 50 years of U.S. government hostility exhibited against the sovereignty of the Cuban Revolution.

The writer, a LGBTQ+ activist, gave a welcoming to Castro Espín at the meeting.

Remembering the Paris Commune

Happy Paris Commune Day

Dave Fryett

On this day, in 1871, the Commune was born, the best 72 days in history. It marks the beginning of what I like to call the Second Revolutionary Period [the first being 1789-1848] which ended by 1945 with capital’s decapitation of the workers’ movement. Thirty thousand Parisians were executed when the Commune was overrun, hundreds of thousands more revolutionaries than that, the cream of proletarian militancy, died at the hands of Franco, Hitler, Mussolini and others in an archipelago of camps stretching from Iberia to the Ukraine.

One might say that such a lengthy funereal procession is nothing to celebrate, but I think that it is fitting that we should commemorate our martyrs. It has indeed been a staggering start for those of us who seek a world free of exploitation and tyranny, but power has had millennia and a whole world in which to hone its ugly craft, we emancipators are just now taking our first baby steps. The defeats, as numbing and catastrophic as they have been, are not what matter. Rather it is the inextinguishable, dull, thumping ache for freedom and justice that we witness daily on this planet to which we should pay heed. That inexhaustible longing, which invariably surfaces whenever the existing order collapses, as happened in Paris in 1871, is the flame which cannot be doused. The bourgeoisie came to power in 1789, just yesterday, and it has been fighting for its survival ever since. It has only narrowly escaped extinction on more than one occasion. In historical terms, it cannot last much longer. However unlikely it may appear at any moment, its fate is sealed.

And it was the Communards of Paris who lead they way. They were the first. So they have my deepest affection, and my inexpressible gratitude.

A brief and unabashedly sentimental look at the Paris Commune of 1871 can be found here.