Tag Archives: Cuba

Cuba-Canada relations: A look at diplomacy from below

A review by Barry Weisleder of Other Diplomacies, Other Ties: Cuba and Canada in the Shadow of the U.S., Luis Rene Fernandez Tabio, Cynthia Wright, and Lana Wylie, ed., 363 pages, University of Toronto Press, 2018.

In the wake of Ottawa’s vocal support for the latest U.S.-backed attempt at a coup d’état in Venezuela, studies on foreign relations take on a profound sense of urgency.

Setting aside the cumbersome title, this book’s 12 chapters, produced by historians based both in Canada and Cuba, cover the subject of relations with Cuba thoroughly, even with some duplication. Convenient summaries conclude every segment.

For me, the chapter on Cuba’s pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal was particularly riveting. I remember visiting that World’s Fair, titled “Man and His World – Terre des Hommes”, and that unique pavilion. I and dozens of my fellow junior high school students were chaperoned from Toronto by our teachers. I recall the building’s futuristic cube structure, the huge, austere black and white photos, and the evocative, radical slogans on the walls: a combination that blew my then-apolitical mind.

The book puts in context a moment of world social upheaval, shaped by the revolutions in Cuba and Algeria; the example of Che Guevara, soon to be assassinated; and the multiple revolts of 1968, from France to Italy to Prague to the Tet Offensive in Vietnam.

“Other Diplomacies” reminds us that defending a revolution is harder than making one. Exploiting the contradictions, however relative and small, between the imperialist powers is a high priority. Its examination of Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker’s differences with Washington over Cuba, not to mention whether to accept nuclear weapons on Canada’s territory, shows an autonomy that arises from a different relationship of class forces.

The fact that Canada and Mexico did not break diplomatic relations with revolutionary Cuba, unlike all the other countries of the western hemisphere in the 1960s, provided an important lifeline to the first workers’ republic west of Europe. The impact endures. Canada remains Cuba’s fourth biggest partner in trade. 1.3 million Canadian tourists visit Cuba every year. Sherritt International, the Canadian-based nickel extractor, is still the largest corporate investor in the island.

These and other features of the relationship are at least partly a product of a relatively more class-independent workers’ movement in the Canadian state, including Quebec, and the efforts of at least three generations of socialists and Cuba solidarity activists north of the U.S. border.  The Fair Play for Cuba Committees, on both sides of the divide, well deserve the recognition afforded by the book.

Diplomats as spies, and mass media scribes as shameless propagandists for a corporate agenda, continue to ply their trades. Educational and cultural exchanges continue to make inroads against anti-communist bias. Cuba is embraced by a world that has received its generous gifts of top-notch medical care and disaster relief aid. Washington remains powerful, but more politically isolated than ever, its economy in decline, its military apparatus strained by chronic overreach.

Following the 60th anniversary of the overthrow of the made-in-USA Fulgencio Batista dictatorship, Cuba’s leadership and people are wrestling with choices, the need to strike a balance of economic development, social equality and Poder Popular (people’s power), yearning for, anticipating, the next revolutions that will quicken the pace to world socialist transformation.

Not by conventional diplomacy, such transformations will certainly be informed by the “Other Diplomacies” that animate working class solidarity.

A version of this article originally appeared at https://johnriddell.wordpress.com

Moncada Commemoration: Affirming History,  Independence and the Cause of Peace and Justice

by Isaac Saney, National Spokesperson, Canadian Network On Cuba

On July 26, 1953, a group of courageous young men and women — led by Fidel Castro — attacked the Moncada Barracks in the city of Santiago de Cuba, and the Carlos Manuel de Cespedes Barracks in Bayamo, in an attempt to overthrow the U.S. supported puppet dictator Fulgencio Batista. As the island’s second largest military garrison, the Moncada Barracks was critical to Batista’s military control of southern Cuba. The goal was to seize the weapons and distribute them to the people and spark a national uprising that would not only overthrow the Batista dictatorship but also establish Cuba’s independence and sovereignty. This heroic act is annually commemorated all over Cuba as the beginning of the movement and struggle that laid the foundation of the Cuban Revolution. 

This year’s commemorations are imbued with a particular poignancy;  it is the first without the physical presence of the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro. Fidel epitomized the unbending commitment to Justice, Dignity and Independence that has characterized Cuba since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution.  Fidel’s living legacy continues in the work of the Cuban Revolution. Fidel’s example and fidelity to principle continue to inspire the Cuban people, who continue on the path of independence, self-determination and human dignity. 

The attacks were carried out by an organization that was created in 1952, under the leadership of Fidel Castro and Abel Santamaria, and comprised of young workers, students, artisans, peasants and landless farmers. It had around 1,500 members and affiliated itself with historic Cuban national liberation figures such as José Martí and Antonio Maceo. Around 120 youths were part of the attacks, approximately 70 of whom were killed, with many being tortured and executed after the attack. The survivors, including Fidel Castro, were subsequently put on trial and given lengthy prison sentences. Most, including Fidel Castro, were released after an amnesty in May 1955. This amnesty was the result of the mass mobilization of Cubans in support of the imprisoned rebels. Under the leadership of Fidel Castro, the July 26th Movement galvanized Cubans, ultimately leading to the victory of the Cuban Revolution on January 1, 1959.

The Moncada Barracks shortly after the July 26, 1953 attack. The barracks have been converted into a school
and Museum of the Revolution where the bullet holes shown here can be seen to this day.

While the Moncada attack failed in fulfilling its immediate objective, it was central to the Cuban people’s struggle for national affirmation and social emancipation. Cubans have always placed Moncada in a broad historical context, viewing it as a crucial link in the century-long striving of Cuba to free itself from Spanish colonial domination and U.S. tutelage, and then, establish authentic independence. At his trial Fidel Castro delivered a speech that eventually became the manifesto of the movement to overthrow the Batista tyranny. It was published as La Historia Me Absolvera (History Will Absolve Me) and laid out the national and social goals of the revolutionary movement that eventually triumphed on January 1, 1959. Today, the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Cespedes barracks, now a school and a museum, stand as concrete symbols of that successful struggle.

Canadian commemorations of Moncada Day are a reflection of the ties that exist between Cuba and Canada. Canadians admire the courageous and rebellious spirit embodied in Moncada; a spirit that today is so powerfully manifested in Cuba’s steadfastness against the efforts of the empire to destroy the island’s independence. Canadians irrespective of their political or ideological positions, stand in favour of building relations with Cuba based on mutual respect and equality, relations which uphold Cuba’s right to self-determination and sovereignty. Having traveled to Cuba in the hundreds of thousands and having witnessed Cuban reality for themselves, Canadians have come away with a profound respect and admiration for the Cuban people and their efforts to build and defend a society centred on independence, justice and human dignity.

Raúl and Fidel in the Sierra Maestra during the Cuban Revolutionary War

Since the Cuban people embarked on the road paved by Moncada, Cuba has refuted and continues to refute the colonialist mentality and practice of foisting on independent countries imperial arrangements and dictates that they resoundingly reject. The Cuban Revolution has refused to renounce its right to self-determination and the principles, principles forged in the crucible of Moncada.

In the years that have flashed by since Moncada, the Cuban people have shown what is possible to achieve when one defends genuine independence and self-determination. The example of Cuba assumes even greater significance as the 21st century unfolds, fraught with grave dangers that threaten the well being of the peoples of the world. In the midst of these profound challenges, Cuba refutes those who argue that relations among the world’s nations and peoples are — and can only be — determined by self-interest, the pursuit of power and wealth. As Cuba continues on the path of social justice, human dignity and international solidarity, the Cuban Revolution continues to be an inspiration to humanity. Cuba demonstrates that it is possible to build relations based on genuine solidarity and social love; it is a living example of the alternatives that permit people to realize their deepest aspirations, and that another better world is possible.  History has given its judgment, vindicating the attack on the Moncada Barracks!

Long Live the Martyrs of Moncada!
Long Live the Cuban Revolution!

Toronto SA forum “Cuba’s Victory! Cuba’s Future”

Over forty people braved severe cold to make their way to the Socialist Action public forum on Cuba held at OISE U of Toronto on February 20, featuring Cuba’s Consul General Javier Domokos Ruiz and this writer.
A lively discussion with audience members explored issues of Washington-Havana diplomatic relations, economic reform in Cuba, fair trade, socialist democracy, Canadian foreign policy, the Harper government’s expanded police powers bill, ISIS, and the imperial wars of intervention in the Mid-East and Asia.

Continue reading Toronto SA forum “Cuba’s Victory! Cuba’s Future”

Celia Sanchez, Heroine of the Cuban Revolution

a book review by Judy Koch

Published in December 2013 (Monthly Review Press, New York, 441 pages), this is a biography of Celia Sanchez, written by Nancy Stout.
Celia Sanchez was one of the few female leaders of the Cuban Revolution. Little has been written about Cuba’s female leaders. Celia had a close relationship with Fidel Castro. Fidel understood and appreciated that Celia’s great political and revolutionary strength lay in her organizational capacity, as well as her sacrifice and commitment. She was the first female guerrilla — mostly unknown to North Americans. Award-winning author Alice Walker states in the foreword that Celia Sanchez was the extraordinary expression of a life that can give humanity a very good name. She is the medicine for sick societies.

556Born on May 9, 1920, she had seven siblings. Her mother died when Celia was six. She suffered anxiety from this loss. Her father was a country doctor, who Celia helped in his clinic. Everyday she would talk to his patients, to find out why they came. He was consulted about family matters, heard confessions, and sometimes acted as a marriage broker. He did not expect all patients to pay. Celia did that work for fifteen years. She managed his accounts and soon organized his life completely. He also had a taste for history and a library of many books. He was a political activist who wanted a better future for all Cubans.
Celia liked outdoor activities, deep sea fishing, picnics and flowers. Every Christmas she bought toys in bulk to give to children of poor parents. This helped to provide a cover for all the revolutionary things that she did. She was very secretive. She liked sewing and learned how to make patterns.
Her lover, Salvador Sadurni, died on June 9, 1937 when she was 16. After that she was inoculated against love.
Celia worked with Frank Pais before he died. She said up a network of people to plan the return of Fidel to Cuba. She was also assigned to get Fidel’s men out of the region after they landed. She talked to local farmers, most of whom were against Batista. She was told to select people who did not know each other. They were given basic military training. She played a key role in the landing of the Gramna boat on Cuba’s shore. As a result Batista ordered her capture – dead or alive. Her escape was aided by the fact that she was the granddaughter of Juan Sanchez Barro, one of the richest men in Cuba. Also, Celia had been a beauty Queen. As a result, upper class people offered to hide her.
_57173680_dscf4354Celia founded an induction center to help assemble, train and house the new recruits to the rebel army. She also found an inconspicuous way to get them food. She was preparing to go into the mountains with the guerrillas when Frank Pais got arrested. She had to take over Frank’s work. Still Celia was the first woman inducted into the rebel army. She considered her time in the Sierra Maestra to be the best time of her life.
Celia and Fidel worked closely together long before they ever met. When they met they became inseparable until the day of her death. celiassanchezmetwapenThey had a thriving revolutionary partnership, both devoting their lives to freeing the Cuban people. Celia kept records of almost everything those around her did during the revolution. She said that being a guerrilla was the best time of her life. She began to take care of Fidel in the manner written below. She prepared his coffee, made sure his uniform was clean and tidy, and his boots cleaned and repaired. She was also responsible for making sure that the rebels had enough food. She set up a telephone system so that Fidel could communicate to the front from his headquarters, and set up a chain of couriers.
One of their accomplishments was adopting many orphaned children and raising them. together. She helped develop Cuban cigars, especially the Cohiba. She founded the Coppelia Ice Cream Park, the Convention Center and the Lenin Park. She established an official residence for all five members of the rebel junta, Fidel, Che, Camilo and Raul as well as herself. She began working on her archives. She established hotels all over Cuba. In 1969 she concentrated in giving Cubans footwear. She figured out a way to protect gays and lesbians. She died from lung cancer on January 11, 1980. Fidel cried at her funeral.
The author talked to many people who knew Celia, both family and friends, to get an overall account of what she was like and her accomplishments. She was definitely a daughter of the Cuban Revolution. All people interested in changing the world should read this book as it shows how this can be done.

New Economic Policies in Cuba: Towards Socialism or Capitalism?


Toronto Socialist Action presents a public forum

New Economic Policies in Cuba — Towards Socialism or Capitalism?

Special guest speaker:

Javier Domokos Ruiz
Consul General of Cuba in Toronto

An open Q & A, and discussion period will follow the presentation.

Tuesday, May 28 7 p.m.

OISE, 252 Bloor St. West, Room 2-212
(above the St. George Subway Station)

Everyone is welcome. $4 donation requested, or PWYC.

For more information, e-mail: socialistactioncanada@gmail.com
visit the SA web site at: www.socialistaction.ca or call 647-728-9143 or 416-461-6942Image