Cuban health workers vow to face down the genocidal US blockade

Solidarity aims must move on from the charitable aid mentality and work for the destruction of the imperialist system.

Much is presented in Western corporate media regarding the parlous state of Cuba – its economy, food shortages, the flow of skilled, especially young workers overseas, shortages of every conceivable commodity – fuel, cement, medicines, educational materials etc. – that is essential to the building of a civilised life.  Little is said of the cause of this economic genocide. The cause is simply the illegal, criminal and ongoing US embargo, which for over 65 years has attempted to suffocate socialism, independence and national aspirations in Cuba.  The economics of genocide is exactly what the USA applies to Cuba. There may not be overt military intervention at this moment, but the attempted destruction and extinction of the people is without question.

For one who has been a regular visitor to Cuba since the end of the ‘special period’ in the late 1990s to the present day of Joe Biden’s presidency (which has built on every previous US regime’s attacks on the Caribbean nation), participation in ongoing blockade breaching, ensuring solidarity and support from British workers to Cuban workers and their trade unions has been the order of the day – an honourable order of the day carried out not for plaudits, medals or kudos, but simply because Cuba’s survival as a socialist beacon is essential to us all. Much has been done worldwide by innumerable trade unions to support Cuba, but we need to go beyond a mindset of providing aid.

Cuba’s health union: 50 years of service to the people

This author, having been one of the foreign guests to the recent national conference of the National Union of Health Workers (SNTS – Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Salud), celebrating the 50th anniversary of the founding of the union, a union which represents over 500,000 health workers, it was a pleasure to see working-class democracy in action.  No factionalism. No pursuit of diversion or sectional pettiness. No elevation of a part over the whole. But frank and sharp debate and discussion over how to resolve the chronic shortages (brought about by the blockade).  How to enhance medical staff’s wages to prevent either underemployment or migration overseas. How to strengthen the innovation and invention so essential to circumventing the blockade and keeping the full range of medical provision from polyclinics to world-class hospital provision functioning. How to ensure that the health workers continue being a cadre force within the wider community, keeping not only the community physically well but ideologically strong. How to learn the lessons of the Covid plague and its impact on health provision structures, both positive and negative.

Besides all this, there was discussion of the need to enhance Cuban medicinal (vaccines and medicines) and production innovation to circumvent critical shortages that have been brought about by the blockade and the actions of pharmaceutical monopolies worldwide. The need to strengthen political education was also highlighted – being the best doctor is commendable, but being the best doctor with political clarity is better still.

And the call to strengthen recruitment to the Cuban Communist Party was reinforced, coupled with renewed emphasis on ensuring that the revolution’s historical legacy is guaranteed by unbreakable bonds with present and future generations of Cuban people.

The conference was themed around unity and compromise in the service of the health of the people, and this was clearly demonstrated in the enthusiasm of the delegates (approximately 2,000 of them), the election of a new national executive (predominantly women), and the significant presence of younger workers throughout.

A British guest addressing the first day of the conference, attended by core workplace cadres and leaders from Cuba’s health sector, made the simple point that “All the expressions of solidarity and cheering from afar are really pious and patronising. If British workers really want to demonstrate solidarity with Cuba then delivering the British revolution has to be the only task.” A point well received by the audience.

A genocidal blockade

The evil and insidious nature of the blockade is demonstrated clearly by the shortages of vehicle fuel. A four-hour mile-long queue (orderly and polite) for fuel is the norm right now, as are rolling power cuts in homes around the country.

The sheer viciousness of the US mindset is evident in its blocking of the purchase of software for scanners used in the treatment of cancer and its buying and closing of companies that used to provide basic health materials such as syringes to Cuba.

Being blocked from the world capitalist banking system makes taking care of the Cuban people ever more difficult, circuitous and challenging, since the country has to purchase all such goods with hard foreign currency not credit. The resulting rationing of food has put the basic family shopping basket under siege.

Black marketeers and spivs have resurrected themselves as a result of this crisis. While they are challenged daily by the National Revolutionary Police, shortages of essential goods and the drip feed of remittances from Cuban exiles in the USA feed this canker. The blocking of tourist ships and the limiting of flights by the USA has similarly impacted on the resurrection of the economy.

The outrageous decision by former US president Donald Trump and maintained by the regime of Joe Biden to put and keep Cuba on the illegal USA list of alleged ‘State Sponsors of Terrorism’ has further crippled Cuba’s commerce worldwide. Cuba was placed on this ‘list’ after hosting peace talks between the combatants in Colombia, which it did at the request of the USA, the United Nations and other third-party peace brokers. Just one more example of US duplicity and treachery.

Likewise, the decision by Spain to welcome any Cuban (and effectively any Latin American citizen from what was the 19th century Spanish empire) whose grandparents originated from Spain as a Spanish citizen has exacerbated migration. In effect, Spain has adopted a policy aimed at stealing the brightest young people from Cuba to fill the labour shortages it is experiencing as a result of internal migration within the European Union.

Meanwhile, all that is honourable, valiant, inspirational, decent and precious in the human condition is reflected in Cuba’s internal building of socialism for the Cuban people, and by its international humanitarian mission of health and education provision to the world.

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