Efforts to make abortion illegal do not stop at the U.S. border. The threat to a woman’s right to choose is gaining ground in Canada, at least partly as a result of the right wing offensive in Trump’s America.
The so-called March for Life held its annual event on May 9 with rallies in Toronto and Ottawa. At the Toronto gathering, Niagara West MPP Sam Oosterhoff declared his intention to “fight to make abortion unthinkable in our lifetime.” A number of Conservative MPs attended the Ottawa rally, openly displaying their support for the anti-choice movement. Later, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer publicly disavowed any plan to reopen the abortion debate. While that may seem somewhat reassuring, both Ford and Scheer owe much politically to the support of the same social conservatives who organize anti-choice actions and who wish to see women’s rights reversed. This, combined with Conservative attacks on women and workers, makes it hard to believe what those Tory leaders say.
Restrictions on access to abortion force women to resort to back-alley, unsafe abortions, particularly those women who cannot afford to travel or to seek private care.
Working class organizations have won important gains over the decades, including maternity leave and pay equity. However, genuine freedom for working women is incomplete and impossible without the power of every woman to make decisions over her own body that only full reproductive justice can provide. That must include access to free, safe and legal abortion; freedom from forced sterilization; and material support to raise children, free from state seizure and interference. The struggle continues to realize abortion access in rural and remote areas, and for a universal pharmacare programme that includes access to all forms of contraceptives and the abortion pill.
Socialist Action/Ligue pour l’Action socialiste across the Canadian state stands in proud continuity with the fight for abortion rights, going back to the inception of the movement over fifty years ago, the defense of the Morgentaler clinics, and the defeat of this country’s anti-choice laws. Our predecessor organization, the League for Socialist Action/Ligue Socialiste Ouvriere, together with Henry Morgentaler, played a leading role in that. SA is firmly socialist-feminist. It is committed to building the autonomous women’s movement. SA is devoted to the proposition that there can be no women’s liberation without socialism, and no socialism without women’s liberation.
On May 15, the most restrictive abortion law in the United States was signed into law in Alabama by Governor Kay Ivey. The Alabama Human Life Protection Act, which passed the Alabama Senate 25-6, makes abortion illegal at all stages of pregnancy and makes no exception for rape or incest. The bill seeks to make abortion illegal in Alabama in all cases but health threat to the mother, fatal fetal anomalies, and ectopic pregnancies. Under the law, abortion providers could face up to 99 years in prison.
The author, Socialist Action’s Vice Presidential candidate Heather Bradford, on a pro-choice picket line in Duluth.
This draconian law follows a wave of anti-abortion legislation across the United States aimed at overturning Roe v. Wade. In 2019, Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, and Mississippi have passed “heartbeat bills,” which outlaw abortion at six to eight weeks. At the time of writing, six-week abortion bans are moving forward in the respective legislative bodies of South Carolina, West Virginia, and Louisiana. Many abortion seekers may not be aware that they are pregnant at six weeks and would have little time to make an appointment or raise the funds to obtain an abortion.
In this sense, heartbeat bills functionally outlaw abortion. “Heartbeat” itself is a misnomer as at this stage of development, an embryo has not developed a cardiovascular system. Rather, a group of cells generates rhythmic electrical pulses, which is more technically known as fetal pole cardiac activity. Of course, a tactic of the anti-choice movement has long been to warp fetal development to infanticize embryos and fetuses. Thus far, about 30 anti-abortion laws have been passed in the United States this year.
Attacks on abortion access are nothing new, but the latest abortion restrictions are bolder and represent a concerted effort to use the court system to overturn or at least chip away Roe v. Wade. Since 1973, over 1900 abortion restrictions have been passed. About ⅓ of these have been passed since 2011. These restrictions have included mandatory waiting periods, restrictions on state funding, no requirement for insurance to cover abortion, state mandated counseling, parental consent laws, gestational limits, and hospital requirements.
The barrage of laws against abortion access has been accompanied by the proliferation of crisis pregnancy centers that pose as health clinics and are designed to confuse and outright lie to abortion seekers by providing false information and “pro-life” propaganda. There are 2300-3500 crisis pregnancy centers spread across the United States but only 1800 abortion clinics. In 2018, the Supreme Court upheld the right of these fake clinics to provide false information and false advertising when it ruled that California’s Freedom, Accountability, Care and Transparency Act (FACT) violated the First Amendment.
At the same time, and since the 1970s, there has been an effort to defund Planned Parenthood by blocking Title X funds that have assisted low-income patients in obtaining contraceptives and other reproductive health services. The decades of attacks on abortion access was heralded by the Hyde Amendment, which was passed in 1976 with bipartisan support and barred the use of federal funds for abortion services. The truth of the matter is that the pro-choice movement has been fighting a losing battle for over 40 years.
A boycott of Alabama?
There have been a number of responses in reaction to the recent restrictions on abortion. Some activists have called for an economic boycott of Alabama and other states with strict abortion restrictions. A disturbing sentiment that sometimes accompanies the call for a boycott is that the people of Alabama are backwards, uneducated, and even incestuous.
While boycotting can be an effective tactic, it is important to remember that many people in Alabama are not supportive of the new abortion law. In a 2018 survey of likely Alabama voters, Planned Parenthood found that 65% of respondents felt abortion should be legal in cases of rape and incest. The law does not represent the sentiments of many Alabama voters, even those who are pro-life.
Marches against the bill were held in Montgomery, Birmingham, Muscle Shoals, and Huntsville. Rather than boycotting the state of Alabama or denigrating the state as backwards, the efforts of pro-choice organizers should be recognized and the potential acknowledged for educating the more conservative populace of the state on this issue.
A quarter of the children in Alabama live in poverty. The state has the second highest infant mortality rate in the country and is the sixth poorest state in the country. It is ranked 50th in education, 46th in health care, and 45th in crime and corrections. The people of Alabama need solidarity, not shame. Rather than boycott the state, which already lacks infrastructure and is marked by racism and poverty, it would be more useful to boycott corporations that actively support or donate to the pro-life movement, such as My Pillow, Hobby Lobby, Curves, Gold’s Gym, and Electric Mirror.
Another reaction to the recent ban is to wait for the courts to overturn the restrictions. Activists are reminded that abortion remains legal, all three of Alabama’s abortion clinics plan to stay open, and that these new laws will be tied up in litigation before they can be enacted.
The narrative goes that the Supreme Court is not eager to overturn Roe v. Wade outright and that other restrictive abortion laws have been struck down elsewhere. For instance, a 2013 heartbeat bill in North Dakota was struck down as unconstitutional. Six-week bans were also struck down in Iowa and Kentucky.
However, there are a number of flaws with this perspective. First, it is disempowering, and it is difficult to build a movement around waiting for court decisions. Second, this perspective grants legitimacy to the court system. The presidential nomination of and lifetime tenure of Supreme Court justices and federal judges is fundamentally undemocratic. The feudal nature of these courts should be questioned and challenged.
This has lent itself to a cultish following of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is viewed as a liberatory figure who must never retire (or die), lest abortion rights be overturned once and for all. The centrist justice is celebrated for her support of women’s rights, but her critique of Kaepernick’s taking a knee (which she apologized for), ruling against paying overtime to Amazon workers, support of warrantless searches in Samson v. California, and failure to condemn solitary confinement within the prison system in Davis v. Ayala mar her record.
Finally, it is important to remember that Roe v. Wade was approved on the premise that abortion is a matter of privacy. The courts have never framed abortion rights as fundamental to ending the oppression of women or gender minorities. Abortion legality has always had a shaky foundation.
Democrats’ shaky support for reproductive justice
Some activists look to the Democratic Party to protect abortion rights, framing this as a matter of electing more Democrats into office. Already, potential presidential nominees have issued statements about abortion, ranging from Kamala Harris’ remarks in a February 2019 interview that abortion should be a decision between a woman, physician, priest, and spouse to Bernie Sander’s statement that abortion is health care and would be covered by his plan for Medicare for All.
Yet, the track record of Democrats on the issue of abortion is part of the reason why we find ourselves with so many restrictions today. Of the 24 candidates vying for the presidency, only 11 mention prioritizing reproductive rights on their websites. It was Bill Clinton who said that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare in 1992, which was echoed by Hillary Clinton in her 2008 election campaign.
Abortion has indeed become “rare,” as access has been curtailed in a legislative death by 1000 cutbacks. Joe Biden voted in favor of partial birth abortion bans in 1999 and 2003 and against federal funding for abortion. Like “heartbeat” bans, “partial birth abortion” is an anti-choice construction, as the medical term is “intact dilation and extraction.”
In 2017, Bernie Sanders unapologetically campaigned for Heath Mello, an Omaha Nebraska mayoral candidate and anti-choice Democrat. Some Democrats, such as Louisiana Gov. John Bel are anti-choice. Bob Casey Jr., Joe Donnelly, and Joe Manchin are “pro-life” Democrat senators who voted for abortion bans at 20 weeks.
While abortion has become increasingly partisan since the late 1980s, voting for Democrats is no guarantee of abortion access. Between 2007 and 2009, Democrats controlled the House and Senate and in 1993-1995 controlled the House, Senate, and presidency. These episodes of majority power did nothing to roll back anti-abortion laws or overturn the Hyde Amendment. Democrats have consistently supported the Hyde Amendment.
Even Barack Obama stated in a 2009 health-reform debate that although he is pro-choice, he did not feel that financing abortions should be part of government funded health care. In the Machiavellian shell game between the two parties of capitalism, electability trumps values; it is ultimately the power of social movements and organized workers that sways the opinions of politicians. Recently, some Democratic candidates have vowed to repeal the Hyde Amendment or defend abortion rights, but this is a function of the success of social movements rather than a sign of courage or conviction.
A response by women worldwide
Boycotting anti-abortion states, depending upon courts, or voting for Democrats will not secure abortion rights. The way forward for the abortion-rights movement is to take cues from mass movements elsewhere in the world.
In October 2016, thousands of women in over 140 cities in Poland protested against legislation that would have punished anyone who terminates a pregnancy with five years in prison and investigate women who had miscarried. In March 2017, Polish women protested wearing black, boycotted classes, and went on strike against the proposed new law and the restrictive abortion laws passed in 1993. This mass mobilization shifted abortion discourse in Poland and forced politicians to quickly retreat from new restrictions. In March 2018, thousands of demonstrators marched against a renewed effort to pass more restrictive abortion laws. Ireland’s movement, Repeal the 8th, likewise mobilized against Ireland’s constitutional ban on abortion.
Inspired by Poland’s Black Protests, activists marched and went on strike on March 8, 2017, in cities across Ireland. About 66.4% of Irish voters voted to legalize abortion in a referendum held on May 25, 2018. Abortion is now legal and free in Ireland due to a movement that was catalyzed by the death of Savita Halappanavar, who died in 2012 because she was denied an abortion while experiencing a miscarriage. The vote to legalize abortion was shocking to some, as Ireland had been a bastion of conservatism regarding abortion; like Poland, the country had strict anti-abortion laws.
Social attitudes can change quickly, which should offer some hope to those who dismiss the Southern United States as impossibly reactionary. Despite the efforts of the hundreds of thousands of participants in the Ni Una Menos movement that has sought to legalize abortion and end gender-based violence, a bill to legalize abortion in Argentina failed by two Senate votes in August 2018. Even in the face of defeat, the protests and strikes continue as well as efforts to build a feminist international. Recently, activists involved in the movement for abortion rights in Argentina protested on the red carpet at the Cannes Film festival at the premiere of “Let it be Law,” a film about their struggle.
A glimpse of the capacity to build such a movement in the United States happened on May 21 with a day of protest actions called Stop the Bans. Thousands mobilized in a day of action that consisted of over 400 protests spread across all 50 states.
The feminist movement must build upon the successful mobilization for the Stop the Bans day of action and continue to show up in mass to put pressure on politicians to support abortion rights. Based upon recent feminist organizing that culminated in the International Women’s Strike, a framework for building a global feminist movement was put forth by Cinzia Arruzza, Tithi Bhattacharya, and Nancy Fraser in “Feminism for the 99%: A Manifesto.” Key ideas from the manifesto include tactics such as mass action and strikes against the conditions of paid and unpaid labor.
The feminist movement must abandon liberal feminist vision of equality under the law and instead fight capitalism head on, including fights against imperialism, mass incarceration, environmental destruction, and austerity.
Social Reproduction theory grounds the tasks of building a global anti-capitalist feminist movement. Understanding social reproduction theory (SRT) is vital to combating anti-abortion laws in the context of capitalism. SRT posits that capitalism does not reproduce the labor power required to perpetuate itself. In other words, capitalism produces goods and services, but doesn’t in itself produce workers and due to profit motive (wherein profit is derived from surplus value of labor), capitalism does little to provide for the upkeep of workers. Thus, women are tasked with supporting the continuation of capitalism through biological reproduction, the care of non-laborers such as children, elderly, or people with illnesses, and unpaid household labor such as cooking and cleaning.
When women can control their biological reproduction through birth control or abortion, they are denying capitalism the reproduction of a future labor force. Lack of bodily autonomy enforces the traditional family and gender roles, thereby further enforcing social reproduction. At the same time, the drive for profit always works to erode or deny social provisioning such as paid maternity leave, free day care, socialized health care, or other social benefits that the United States lacks, but encourages or supports reproduction. This creates a contradiction wherein birth is mandated but not supported.
It is little wonder that the war against abortion access has intensified in the last decade, following the world economic crisis that erupted in 2008. Abortion became legal in the United States in the same era as our waning hegemony and the accompanying age of neoliberalism that promotes austerity and the movement of industrial production to the low wage “developing” world. Women’s bodies are punished into ameliorating the crisis of capitalism.
The United States was founded upon the subjugation and destruction of bodies through slavery and genocide. Reproduction is controlled in the name of national interests, which is itself a guise for the overarching interest of amassing wealth for an elite few. At times, this has meant the forced sterilization of Native Americans, Puerto Ricans, Blacks, low-income women, and women with disabilities. In the interest of population control, birth control was first tested on women with mental illness without their consent, and later on Puerto Rican women.
Today, the rhetoric of walls and criminal immigrants is used to control some populations while the limits on abortion access are used to control another. A part of this continuum of control is violence and oppression of trans and non-binary people, whose existence challenges the gender binary and traditional family structures that have so long been the cornerstone of social reproduction. Trans and non-binary people are denied reproductive justice too.
The struggle for abortion access, as part of the larger movement for a feminism for the 99% must also be a struggle against racism, transphobia, ableism, and for the liberation of all bodies long subjugated by capitalism.
The author, Heather Bradford, is the Socialist Action candidate for vice president of the United States in 2020.
It is disturbing, but not surprising, that your organization is targeted by right wing goons, including demented characters associated with the white nationalist yellow vests in Canada and Nazi sympathizer Faith Goldy.
We too have been threatened by an individual or group called firstname.lastname@example.org and by another lunatic who defaced a sidewalk in front of an SA member’s home in Toronto.
Threats from fascists need to be taken seriously, no matter how few the culprit perpetrators may be.
Fascism is a capitalist disease, fomented by the system in its deepening crisis. It should be met with militant solidarity from across the workers’ movement. Socialist Action offers its solidarity in action, and without equivocation.
In the face of the danger from the far right, the working class and the left should set aside political differences and close ranks to form an anti-fascist united front.
On May 6 to 8, 2019 the first International Academic Conference examining the life and ideas of the great Ukrainian revolutionary and leader of the Russian revolution Lev Davidovitch Bronstein, now universally known as Leon Trotsky, was held in Havana, Cuba. The Conference was organized by the Juan Marinelo Cultural Center in conjunction with the Cuban Institute of Philosophy, and was hosted by the Casa Benito Juarez in Old Havana.
Sponsoring organizations included the Trotsky House and Museum in Mexico City, the Editions Carlos Marx, of Mexico, and the Center for the Study Investigation and Publication of the Thoughts of Leon Trotsky, in Mexico City and Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The site of the conference was surprising given the past animosity of sections of the leadership of the Cuban Communist Party towards Trotskyism and the Cuban Trotskyists. The opening statement of the conference organizers included an apology to the Cuban Trotskyists who were unjustifiably jailed by the government in the late 1960’s.
The changing attitude towards Trotsky and his ideas was expressed most clearly in the personal testimony and the political evolution of the sparkplug behind the conference, Frank Garcia Hernandez (FG) a teacher and graduate student in sociology, whose doctoral thesis is on Trotskyism in Cuba.
The interview was conducted by Rob Lyons (RL) who is the Socialist Action – Canada international solidarity coordinator, based in Costa Rica, and who attended the conference.
RL: Let me say, first of all, that the Conference has caused much commentary in sections of the revolutionary left, especially in the Americas, given the Cuban government’s previous antipathy towards Trotsky and Trotskyism. What motivated you and your co-organizers to swim against this stream? A related question is, of course, in your opinion is there a greater openness to the ideas of Trotsky among the Cuban political vanguard and the Party membership?
FG: First of all, thank you very much for interviewing me.
I send a revolutionary greeting to all the comrades who are reading this article.
When I first read Trotsky’s name, I was 10 years old. It was in a book – not published in Cuba – about flags and shields of the world. I liked them a lot as a child and even today I collect flags. Each country represented brought a brief historical review. The Soviet Union, at the time of publication of the book, still existed, and in its text, I read that Lenin and Trotsky led the October Revolution.
From a young age my uncle had trained me in Marxism. All my family are revolutionary, former members of the July 26 Movement. But the communist was him: a brave militant of the old PSP whom I respected and admired a lot. As you will understand, he had no fondness for Trotsky. Since I was a child, I had read a lot of Soviet Union children’s literature about the October Revolution and, of course, there was no mention of Trotsky. I asked my uncle who that man mentioned in the book of flags was. A traitor, he told me. And I did not question it. My uncle had been tortured almost to death in 1958 by the Batista police for the simple act of spreading communist literature.
After that I continued to admire Stalin. He had defeated fascism and, although in Cuba there was not a good deal of talk about him, neither did it speak badly of him. However, one could read Soviet literature with titles such as The Bolshevik Party Struggle Against Trotskyism. My admiration for Stalin — deepened by my uncle who only criticized him for the cult of personality — mixed with my rejection of Gorbachev and his clique who, in addition to destroying the Soviet Union directed criticism against Stalin. It made me identify Trotskyism with perestroika and, my reaction was that I felt like a Stalinist.
So, I continued thus until my arrival at the University of Havana. There I became friends with Latin American students who were members of the youth sections of their respective communist parties, who also did not have a good opinion of Trotsky, although many did not admire Stalin either. Subsequently, thanks to a Colombian friend – Álvaro Jácome Boada – I discovered the figure of the revolutionary priest Camilo Torres, and later Paulo Freire and Popular Education.
Already in my personal library I had a book by Trotsky: The Revolution Betrayed. This was thanks to the fact that in February of 1998 I met those who are now my friends: the members of the American SWP that come and go, every February, to participate with the Pathfinder publishing house in the International Book Fair of Havana. As in 1998 I was a Stalinist – I had a picture of Stalin in my room – I did not read The Betrayed Revolution until 2012, when I had theoretically completely dismantled Stalinism. Pathfinder followed me, giving away books by Trotsky and James P. Cannon — In defense of Marxism, History of American Trotskyism, etc. — and my interest in Trotsky grew. By that time, I read a book by the Cuban historian Ana Cairo, which mentioned that on September 12, 1933, a party whose name was the Bolshevik Leninist Party (PBL) and that was a Trotskyist had been founded in Cuba. In another book, this time by Cuban researcher Julio César Guanche, he was still talking about Juan Ramón Breá and Sandalio Junco, both founders of the PBL. Both Cairo and Guanche insisted that almost nothing was known about this part of the story and they called for continuing the research that Rafael Soler had begun in 1997 on the PBL. I entered the Juan Marinello Cuban Cultural Research Institute in October of 2012 and began a long investigation on this subject that I have not finished yet.
In November 2016 I decided to teach a postgraduate course on the life and work of Leon Trotsky at the Central University of Las Villas, in Santa Clara. Although I was born and live in Havana, I have very good relations with that city. The course was received with an excellent reception especially by the university students. I had realized that Trotsky was a very necessary and absent piece of Marxism in Cuba and it was an idea that I confirmed while teaching those classes. So, I suggested the idea to my colleague and friend Fernando Martínez Heredia to issue a call from the Cuban Institute of Cultural Research Juan Marinello to organize an international event about the forgotten Bolshevik. But he proposed to do it in November of 2017. He wanted to take advantage of the centenary of the Great October Revolution.
Unfortunately, Martínez Heredia passed away in June 2017. I continued with my research for the master’s thesis that dealt with the history of Cuban Trotskyism. When I finished the master’s degree, in April 2018, and after taking a short break, I decided to prepare this event that just concluded on May 8, 2019, as a tribute to the centenary of the Communist International, the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution and the memory of Antonio Guiteras and Sandalio Junco, both murdered that same May 8, but in different years.
As you see, this event is the fruit. I believe it is more than an historical circumstance. It is the product of a personal theoretical-ideological evolution. It is true that in the 1980s this event would have been impossible in Cuba, it is true that Cuban intellectuals such as Martínez Heredia, Desiderio Navarro, Jorge Fornet, opened a path towards critical Marxism through the Marxist critique that at some point it had closed.
It is also true that, thanks to Commander Fidel, Cuban society has a broad knowledge of Marxism, a strong cultural preparation that makes sure Trotsky does not exist in a vacuum now, and it is true that, for all this, there is in Cuba a positive predisposition towards all heretical Marxism, critical and unorthodox. But I also believe that, without a sense of protagonism, the event arose from a very personal motivation and I know that it took many people by surprise who would never have expected this to happen. But it is also my opinion that after the event itself, even more with the publication of the book that will collect the memories, we will see a ‘before and after’ between the Cuban university researchers and students: the image of Trotsky will be desanctified and demystified.
The idea of bringing Trotsky to Cuba and the studies that exist around him will have been achieved. Mainly thanks to the Cuban working class, who is the one I first thanked when the event was inaugurated, because it was the workers who made this socialist revolution. Among them was that old PSP member who was my uncle.
RL: For me, the highlight of the conference was the sheer breadth of the topics which made it to the agenda, and the overall quality of the research behind them, in most cases. Unfortunately, because the agenda was so crowded, the conference participants were limited in their ability to discuss these ideas and new research in detail. Could you explain some of the obstacles which were presented in organizing the conference, as well as what institutional and political support you received? I know that it was a monumental task to achieve this successful event.
FG: For the event to have been better it should have had 4 days. The tables (panels) would have had extensive debates, which is, along with the translations and the time that was lost due to the translations, the main weak point of the event. But those of us who live in Cuba know that the economic crisis we are facing today, largely because of the imperialist blockade, did not allow us to hold an event that lasted four days. I did not even suggest it to the officials who worked with me, Rodrigo Espina, Elena Socarras, Georgina Alfonso, Miguel Hernandez, Wilder Pérez Varona, Yohanka León: thank you very much. Three days were a feat. That was the main reason, the economic one, for which the Juan Marinello Institute had to seek support at the Institute of Philosophy and the Institute of Philosophy was the main organizing institution because in fact the subject had much more to do with its lines of research than with the Marinello´s Institute. Finally, the event emerged as a winning proposition.
Along with Casa Benito Juárez were three Cuban institutions that were initially involved, then four, if we count the Young Filmmakers Exhibition, the institution that generously provided the room where the documentary about Trotsky The World’s Most Dangerous Man was screened. If it had not been for their good will, we would not have had an event.
And it is true that there were misunderstandings. The main one was the negative predisposition of certain officials towards Trotsky. And it is that when the Soviet Union fell, in Cuba we all knew that Stalin was the abominable character that we know today, but nobody here removed the stigma of traitor from Trotsky.
If we add to this that some Trotskyist groups have been extremely critical of the Revolution, I say that often caused by a mixture of dogmatism and lack of knowledge about the Cuban reality, if we add the first and second factor, we will see that the reaction of some people was normal. And it is feared by some people that some of those groups that I mentioned, came here to try to create Trotskyist political organizations in Cuba. Something that has no chance because nobody in Cuba is interested in doing that.
But the event, due to its strictly academic nature, and because those who came showed great respect for the country where they were, prevented certain unfounded suspicions from happening.
RL: At one of the pre-conference meetings where we discussed the organizing of the future conferences like this, I argued that it was the power of the Cuban revolution which was able to act as the magnetism, as Celia Hart once said, that was able to gather such a fractious group of strong willed individuals in one room. I think it is a testament to the power of the ideals of the revolution, upheld like people like yourselves and your partners, that can motivate more such gatherings. What are your plans and ideas for future academic gatherings of this type? Do you think there can be momentum built by those interested militants and academics, outside and inside Cuba, to hold a similar conference? How can our readers help in meeting the challenges of a second event?
FG: On Wednesday, May 1st, in Department 301 Aguiar Street, in Old Havana, where the Brazilian researchers invited to the event, Daniel Perseguim. his partner Karina Quintanilha Ferreira and Edson Oliveira, were staying five days before the start of the event, the first coordination meeting was held for the preparation of the 2nd Leon Trotsky International Academic Event. The following Sunday, May 5, the birthday of Karl Marx, we had the second meeting and it happened in El Vedado, in the department of the American researcher Alex Steiner. This was an idea that emerged, at the same time and separately, from the Brazilians researchers Daniel Perseguim — as already mentioned — Morgana Romao and Marcio Lueira. Apparently, according to my friend Daniel Perseguim, who seems to be at the head of a valuable group of Brazilian academics who promote the idea, as he has informed me, the event should be in October 2020 in Sao Paulo.
The first steps are being taken to obtain the necessary financing. This time, although there will be no magnetism that is generated from Cuba and its revolution, this time it seems that there will be no problem in having a greater number of public and exhibitors who want to participate. This is perhaps one of the greatest ideas that could have emerged at the event.
I never thought it was something that was going to happen. When he told me for the first time, I thought it was a good wish, but nothing more. Then he set the date and time. It was the complete afternoon of Workers’ Day, something very symbolic, where they were – in addition to those I have already mentioned – Bryan Palmer, Paul Le Blanc, Clara Figueiredo – all these guests at the event – the Brazilian architect and photographer Gabriel Kogan and the Cubans students Lisbeth Moya González and Eduardo Expósito. In Cuba I was forced to establish a quota: 40 Cubans and 40 foreigners. We could not receive more despite having registered 192 requests only as public.
I tried to prioritize those who brought research: that was the reason why there were panels of 4 or 5 expositors: the idea was that knowledge would reach the Cuban public. The room, those who were present could testify, was only for 80 capacities.
Now the best way they can help the second edition is done is to achieve funds that certain institutions grant for events like these and as soon as the official announcement is launched, everyone could help us a lot in the dissemination. For that, for receiving information, we use the email
‘email@example.com’ is available. Also, I offer mine ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’.
In August of 2020, taking advantage of the commemorations that will occur in the Trotsky House Museum in Mexico, we will have an international coordinating meeting. Before, they will be done via Skype or Hangout.
RL: North American imperialism has increased its pressure on Cuba, and has become more bellicose in its claim to rule over its “patio”, another revival of the Monroe Doctrine. Since the revolution and the establishment of the Fair Play for Cuba Committees, Trotskyists have played a major role in building solidarity with the revolution and have consistently been in the forefront of its defense. I think the pronouncements of a long list of the conference participants testify to that fact.
Do you see a political role for future conferences in helping to re-ignite the solidarity movement? What modalities between the complexity of organizing this conference, the need for solidarity, and the political dynamics at play within Cuba need to be analyzed and reinforced, in your opinion?
FG: The last day of the event in the afternoon, when everything seemed to end, the Canadian comrade Rob Lyon raised his left fist and began to sing ‘La Internacional’. For a moment it seemed that no one would follow the idea, but immediately Juan León Ferrara, the last Cuban Trotskyist, continued it, and then we all followed.
In this lively room, the International was heard, the group singing in Iranian, Indian, Turkish, German, English, Spanish, Russian, French, Portuguese: we lived for a few minutes the feelings that a member of the COMINTERN could feel.
That was the best example that the best solidarity networks can come out of that event. It is beautiful to see how, above theoretical and political differences, this can happen. As long as violence does not mediate between differences, we will all win. It is pure dialectic.
From there, a support network has to emerge for young Cubans who are interested in Marxism and, although they have a good bibliography in Cuba, they want and need more.
We Cubans do not need to have Trotskyist parties in our country, we do not need anything at all. Trotsky was an excellent theorist and an excellent revolutionary, but no bigger than Gramsci could be in theory or Fidel leading a revolution.
He, like the ones I just mentioned, are part of the system of ideas we have called Marxism. And that we do need, more and more new Marxist theory. I was ashamed because I did not know who Helmut Dahmer was, Robert Brenner, I did not know about September Group, John Elster, Erik Olin Wright, Gerard Allan Cohen. Now, thanks to the arrival of Brenner, and although I could not sit down with him to speak for a more than a moment, only words crossed in the corridors, and it hurt me very much how the presence of that great intellectual was wasted – as happened with Helmut Dahmer.
Now, thanks to Brenner, we have discovered titles such as Mercaderes and Revolucion, An Introduction to Marx, Classes, The Theory of Karl Marx’s History: A Defense. They were books that we did not even know existed, we had barely heard of analytical Marxism. Thanks to the event we have re-established the necessary contacts with Eric Toussaint and Michael Löwy, we are building links with Tariq Ali. We are trying to contact Slavoj Zizek. Thanks to the event, Alex Callinicos, that great absent theoretician in Cuba, contacted us personally, and thanks to researcher Héctor Puente Sierra, was invited to the event.
The event managed to awaken, among the Cuban students present, a great interest in Trotsky and the new Marxist theory. In Havana there is the student of journalism Lisbeth Moya González, in Santa Clara, with a much more favorable situation to spread the work of Trotsky; there are the compañeras Verde Gil and Ana Isabel, besides the excellent young comrade, student of philology, Yunier Mena Benavides who was an excellent speaker.
They want new books. I ask that you look them up on Facebook and send them literature that is not in digital format. They have created a study group called the Cuban Communist Forum. It is not a political group: it is a circle of study on Marxist theory, because they want to read theoreticians like Daniel Bensaïd, Pierre Broué, Nikos Poulantzas and all the others that I mentioned. Marx and Lenin are not enough, much less Hegel and Feuerbach.
That is the main call I make for the solidarity network to be established: send books.
RL : I know from the reaction of the participants that, with the exception of some of the technical problems, the conference was a success from an academic and, quite frankly, a political viewpoint.
Now that the stress and excitement have worn off a little, what is your analysis? Did you and your co-organizers achieve what you had hoped for? What message would you like to send regarding some of the post-conference commentaries and questions?
FG:I think so. To a large extent we achieved what we thought would be achieved. But [reaching] the Cuban public failed. It was a lack of publicity, a lack of time to advertise correctly. I am consoled that at least the students who were present were activated by the spark of the event. Now in Santa Clara, they ask me every week to bring copies of The Revolution Betrayed. We still have some copies of the ones brought by the comrades of Karl Marx Socialist Studies Center. What also was achieved is that we brought many books to academic institutions such as the very valuable texts by Trotsky, named Latin American Writings, published by the Center for Studies, Research and Publications Leon Trotsky, or Trotsky in the Mirror of History, perhaps by the best researcher of the old Bolshevik in Latin America, Gabriel García. And the idea of the 2nd conference of the International Academic Event Leon Trotsky was born, something unexpected. So far, I have only received congratulations, but I know there were many mistakes, many uncoordinated actions. To those who suffered them, I apologize. Hopefully the next gathering will be better. I hope those who came have understood Cuba.
Always remember that the best way to help is to protect ourselves from all incomprehension, all misunderstandings. As Silvio Rodríguez already said in a beautiful song: “A friend is the one who protects you”.
Note: The above interview is provided courtesy of Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste in the Canadian state.
 PSP (Popular Socialist Party): acronym adopted by the communist party founded in 1925 ascribed to the Communist International. Not to be confused with the current Communist Party of Cuba founded in 1965 as a result of the merger of the July 26 Movement, the March 13 Revolutionary Directorate and the aforementioned Popular Socialist Party.
 Cuban intellectual He founded and directed the journal Critical Thinking of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Havana during the decade of the sixties. From there he spread the theory of a revolutionary Marxism opposed to Soviet manuals. In this magazine he published, among others, Michael Löwy and Ernest Mandel. It gave direct support to the national liberation movements of Latin America. In the decade of the nineties he founded the Antonio Gramsci Chair. From 2011 until his death in June 2017, he directed the Juan Marinello Cuban Cultural Research Institute.
of the decade of the thirties of the last century. He fought against the dictatorship of General Machado, overthrowing him and forming part of the government that would be established in September 1933. He served as prime minister, being the president the reformist Ramón Grau San Martín. Overthrown by the head of the army in a coup d’etat, he passed to the political opposition returning to the armed route. He fell in combat, accompanied by the Venezuelan internationalist fighter Carlos Aponte in 1938, on May 8.