Jorge Martin

50th Anniversary of the Cuban Revolution: Successful Event in Minneapolis

Cuba Event PosterThe Workers’ International League held its first National Marxist School over the weekend of June 13th and 14th. As part of the School, a public event was organized jointly with Hands Off Venezuela, to discuss the 50th Anniversary of the Cuban Revolution and the lessons for Latin America. Over 60 people attended the event, which was held at the United Labor Centre in Minneapolis, and nearly $100 in donations were raised to help develop the Hands Off Venezuela campaign. The event featured two main speakers, Jorge Martín, International Secretary of the Hands Off Venezuela Campaign and regular presenter at the Havana Book Fair in Cuba, and August Nimtz, a professor at the University of Minnesota and member of the Minnesota Cuba Committee. The discussion was facilitated by Sonia Arevalo of the MN FMLN rank and file committee “Combatiente Anonimo.”

Professor Nimtz opened the meeting by raising the issue of the continued political attacks of the US courts against the Cuban Five. He went on to address the history of the aggressive policies the US and other imperialist nations have carried out against Cuba. In speaking about the history of the revolution, he also emphasized the inheritance of an underdeveloped nation by the Cuban masses. The Cuban revolution has to be analysed not in isolation but as part of the process of world revolution, he said, and therefore, the best way to help it is to advance revolution in our own countries.

Jorge Martin, who spoke nearly a year ago in the same hall at an event about the Venezuelan Revolution, drew out the important point that the two revolutions are intimately linked and that in the final analysis, the only real guarantee for the survival of the Cuban Revolution is the victory of the world socialist revolution.

Jorge MartinJorge contrasted the euphoria of the capitalists at the fall of the USSR, and recent propaganda campaigns claiming that the Cuban Revolution was in vain, against the basic facts and figures resulting from the the expropriation of capitalism on the island. For example, there has been an 15-year increase in life expectancy since the 1959 revolution, bringing the average up from 62 years to 77.7 years. This is a figure comparable to the advanced capitalists nations (including the US, where it is also 77.9), but which in the Caribbean stands far above all others, for example in Haiti where 59 years is the average life expectancy today. He quoted an early achievement of the revolution, the expansion of those who are literate to 99.8 percent. Again, compare this to capitalist nations in the region, such as Brazil, with a significantly larger economy ,yet with still only a 86 percent literacy rate. He also pointed out at the statistics for infant mortality where Cuba scores better than even the US itself, as well as the fact that in Cuba there is free health care for all, not to mention free education at all levels.

Jorge also showed that when Cuba was forced to abandon its sugar production, rather than abandon its workers to unemployment and poverty, all the workers received free higher education to learn new skills and guaranteed employment. By looking at these gains, balanced against the conditions the masses face in capitalists countries, it was pointed out that the revolution was indeed very much worth it! Fifty years since the Cuban revolution, there is reason to celebrate and also reason to learn from it, particularly the fact that only by abolishing capitalism can the problems of the masses begin to be addressed. This is a clear lesson for the Venezuelan revolution, Jorge stressed.

Returning to his initial point, Jorge showed how in 2003 – 2004 a life line was extended to Cuba by way of the opening up of the Venezuelan Revolution, which at that time managed to get control over the state-owned oil company PDVSA. Cuba, with its nationalized health care system, provides 20,000 doctors and nurses to Venezuela, usually to the poorest areas treating people who had previously never been seen by a health care provider. In exchange, Venezuela provides Cuba with oil. He re-emphasized that internationalism is crucial to defending and extending both revolutions. He also explained that Cuba still faces many economic problems, as the price of nickel, Cuba’s main export, has collapsed and is 60 percent lower this year than it had been for years, resulting in a forecast loss of $1 billion of income for 2009. In addition, Venezuela’s economy has been hit by the drop in the price of oil over the last period. Several tropical storms have also battered Cuba, resulting in tremendous amounts of damage. However, as Jorge pointed out, the human cost of the storms were low – compared to many Caribbean nations, or as he explained, even in the Gulf Coast region in the US, due to the government’s efforts to protect and move every citizen, appliance, and even livestock to safety.


Jorge also referred to the speech made by Fidel Castro to the youth of Cuba in November 2005 which explained that the main danger facing the revolution was not a external military threat, as that threat has been insulated against by the gains of the revolution. Rather, the main threats come from within: bureaucracy, corruption, the new rich. Jorge said this perspective was correct, but that there is optimism for the revolution, as there is a healthy debate in Cuba as how to maintain the gains of the revolution, particularly as the Latin American revolution advances at the same time as the crisis of capitalism deepens. Jorge refered to a discussion held during the 2008 Havana Book Fair where Communist writers and intellectuals explained that there is no interest in returning to the period known as the “five grey years” (1971-1976) when there was Stalinist censorship in the field of arts and culture. Cuban writer Desiderio Navarro made it clear that Stalinism in the end leads to capitalist restoration and that in order to defend socialism one had to opposed both Stalinism and the “Chinese way” since both ended up in capitalism.

August and SoniaBoth August and Jorge made the point in closing their presentations that the best way to defend the Cuban Revolution is to begin to prepare the forces of revolution in our own countries. This was the aim of the WIL’s National Marxist School and our public event on the Cuban Revolution. There is no better time than the present to begin to build the forces of revolutionary Marxism. We are happy to say that many of those who attended the event left contact info in order to get involved in future events and many bought copies of Socialist Appeal as well the many pamphlets and other political materials the WIL has available. The past 50 years has provided the working class with many lessons. The Cuban Revolution continues to serve as a positive example of what is possible when capitalism is done away with and the foundations of socialism are established!

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