Grand May Day Celebrations at Havana
THE May Day celebrations in Havana, Cuba are important not only for the working class of Cuba, but for the entire world. Socialism in Cuba is a driving and inspiring force for the world’s working class. In the early days of the Revolution, the then US president John F Kennedy warned Cuba of dire consequences if they continued with their chosen socialist system and famously reminded them that Cuba was just 100 miles from the USA. Fidel Castro, the founder president of Socialist Cuba gave a befitting reply. ‘You too are at the same distance from Cuba and might face the same consequences’, he said. USA imposed economic blockade and sanctions and tried to isolate Cuba since that day. However, Cuba overcame many of these obstacles in its march towards advancing the lives of its people. Ultimately the present US president had to admit that US policy towards Cuba could not succeed. However, economic blockade continues even to this day. The working class and the people of Cuba thwarted the designs of US imperialism, with the solidarity of world’s working class. It was the US that got isolated in the UNO. I had the chance to represent CITU in the May Day celebrations in Havana this year. It was indeed an inspiring occasion. As early as 6.00 am on the day, lakhs of people gathered at the sprawling Revolutionary Square to witness the celebrations. Two thousand delegates especially from Latin American countries were accommodated in the Pavilion very close by the dais. Since morning till the grand event unveiled, Cuban music and songs enthralled the spectators. The youth danced to the tunes. The whole stadium was filled with a festive mood. At 7.30 am Raul Castro, president of Cuba along with his colleagues in the government, Polit Bureau members and trade union leaders came on to the dais. They were given a standing ovation. The rally was inaugurated with a very spirited and short address by the president of Cuban Trade Unions NICIMENTO. Amidst thunderous applause, he declared that the working class and people of Cuba are committed to socialism and that they were ready to make any sacrifice necessary to save socialism in Cuba. He also warned USA that unless the economic blockade is lifted, the ties with USA cannot be restored to normalcy. He announced that Cubans are determined to thwart the evil designs of US imperialism to destabilise socialism at any cost. The rally continued till 9am. People gave a standing ovation to the leaders and greeted them with great enthusiasm all through the rally. Fidel Castro used to participate in the May Day rallies as president of Cuba till 2006. From beginning to the end, people marched in the rally in the most disciplined manner. Youth marched along with the old with festive fervour. Workers in their different uniforms marched holding aloft their colourful flags and logos. Sugarcane is the important crop of Cuba and Cuba is known as the sugar bowl of the globe. Symbolising this, farmers participated in the rally with sugarcane sticks as big as 15 feet or more. Parents carried their children on their shoulders; doctors and nurses carried light torches on their shoulders. They carried colourful flags, festoons. The whole arena looked like an assembly of lakhs of rainbows. Slogans and songs reverberated in the stadium. Big portraits of Che Guevera and Castro added colour to the event. Unlike our country, not even a single government vehicle was present. There is no government intervention. It was an entirely peoples’ event. The World Trade Union Solidarity conference was held in Havana in the recently constructed National Auditorium with modern facilities, on May 2. Over 1700 delegates from 68 countries representing 269 trade unions attended the conference. I represented CITU in the Indian delegation. Nicimento, general secretary of Cuban Trade Union Federation inaugurated the proceedings. Welcoming the delegates he highlighted the importance and validity of the conference in the current international situation. He said that in the background of neo-liberal policies, US imperialism was resorting to new strategies and tactics to exploit and plunder the working class by speeding up privatisation, contractualisation, depriving welfare measures, and decreasing the wages. The USA tried many tricks to destabilise the Latin American governments of Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador etc which opposed US hegemony. It is aiming to weaken the working class in these countries. The working class has to unitedly oppose these evil designs and reject them. Under thunderous applause, he expressed his gratitude for the solidarity of the world working class movement to get the release of the Cuban Five, from the clutches of the USA. The international affairs in-charge Remendo conducted the proceedings. Representatives of 20 countries, including CITU were given the chance to address the conference. Latin American delegates were allowed to speak first. They explained how the USA was trying to destabilise their governments. But people were trying to thwart these evil designs with determination and commitment. Delegates from all the five continents spoke. The CITU delegate informed the conference about the attacks on the working class that have intensified since the right wing government assumed office in the country. Disinvestment of PSUs was speeded up. Working class struggles are being met with severe repression. It was in this background that the workers of India went on a country wide general strike on September 2, 2015 in which over 150 million workers participated. Again, the joint trade union movement has called for a more massive general strike on the same day this year. Reiterating the solidarity of Indian people towards the Cuban people, he reminded that as solidarity gesture people collected 10,000 tons of wheat for Cuba, when it faced a crisis after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The then Cuban president Fidel Castro acknowledged the gesture by saying that this gave Cuba ten thousand tons of moral courage and confidence to face the crisis. All the speakers condemned the USA occupation of Guantanamo Bay and demanded its immediate evacuation by the US. Minirex, deputy minister of foreign affairs of Cuba said that Obama’s visit to Cuba was only a ploy. The economic blockade still continues. She asserted that relations with the US cannot improve unless the economic blockade is lifted totally. In conclusion, a movie depicting Cuban Revolution was screened. The conference concluded with the rendition of the Cuban National Anthem. BOX: Excerpts from the message by Fidel Castro on December 28, 1992 in response to the solidarity extended by the CPI(M). 10,105 tons of wheat and medicines were sent in the ship, “Caribbean Princes” to Havana. “It is a tremendous moral strength which reminds us constantly that our country is not alone, that our country defends values shared by other peoples in the world”. “The 10,105 tons of wheat plus medications mean much more than a symbol, there are 10,105 tons of solidarity, 10,105 tons of moral support and makes us not only more internationalist, but also more patriot, more revolutionary and more determined to defend our glorious cause”. “Facts speaks for, not words. Inspite of huge wave of propaganda against us, people are reaching favourably. More than 1,000,000 of Indians took part in this solidarity campaign, thousands of workers took part in the transportation of this donation. Feelings of solidarity with Cuba are increasing because people have the instinct to know the truth. They know too well the injustice, oppression and calamities which were caused by colonialism, neo-liberalism, and imperialism. It is as if they had antennas to communicate with us and to know the truth, and to know what these 30 years of heroic struggle against the most powerful empire that has ever existed in the history of mankind, have meant. “They value all those things and we are very grateful. We are grateful forever to all those that help us in difficult times just like we did before with others and we still do. Because as we have said before, foreign students in Cuba still have their scholarships and our physicians still serve in different countries over the world, gratuitously. But today our most important internationalistic mission is to defend our Revolution, Socialism and our independence.