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17 December 2016

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Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution

Reports of activities of DSM/ERC branches commemorating the death of Fidel Castro

Following the death of Fidel Castro at the age of 90 on November 25, 2016, there has been a renewed attempt to denigrate Fidel Castro and consequently the Cuban revolution and socialist ideas in general by pro-capitalist western media. There has been an attempt to cast Castro in the light of a dictator and tyrant, who oppressed his people, while little or no light is being shed on the enormous, in spite of the limitations, social gains of the Cuban Revolution, and the role that Castro – and Che Guevara – played in this. In Nigeria, little attempt has been paid by the media to the heroic and symbolic role the Cuban Revolution played in anti-imperialist struggle globally, especially in Africa. Meanwhile, for millions of young and old, who have followed international and global politics for a while, Fidel Castro remains a heroic figure, an anti-imperialist revolutionary, albeit one with weaknesses and who was wrong on some issues.

While British ruling class, after destroying the future of millions of youths, is committed millions of pounds to 'celebrate' and maintain the last vestige of feudalism – the Queen Elizabeth-led British monarchy – Castro, even in death, is being celebrated for his role in the liberation and emancipation of millions of people from the clutches of imperialist stranglehold. Indeed, Castro used early part of his life for the emancipation of Cuba and laying the basis for the radicalization of a new layer of youth in search of social justice. Fidel along with the late Che Ernesto Guevara led the armed struggle for the liberation of Cuba. The eventual success of the armed struggle (itself a product of the inability of the Cuban capitalism under Batista to allow democratic rights) – after a series of setbacks – led, after conflicts developed with both the local capitalists and their imperialist backers, to a break with capitalism, the first to take place in Latin America. This allowed tremendous developments in health, education and other sectors. However the top-down methods of the Cuban leadership, along with the absence of the effective democratic control over the leadership and society as a whole, meant that Cuba while not capitalist was not directly run by working and poor people.

Of course, Cuba needs democracy but not the "free market democracy" that has led to misery for the working poor. Cuba needs genuine socialist democracy where the huge gains of the nationalized economy will be realized by the collective leadership of the working people. There is need for a socialist multi-party democracy from local to national level in Cuba and the ability of the people to determine and discuss every government policy alongside firm action against privilege. This will mean forming communes at local levels linked up at regional and national levels. This will radicalize the working poor and youths of the world, and deepen the growing movements for change globally. It is not for the capitalist apologists to teach Cuba about democracy because the history of capitalism is that of subjugation of the people. Despite millions that protested around the world against invasion of Iraq, the US along with the willing allies, still went ahead to plunge the world into another misery that has lasted for more than a decade.

Thus, the real task before the working class activists from Nigeria to Kenya, Venezuela, Georgia, Pakistan and the rest of the world is to build genuine working people's political platforms that will wrest power from the hands of the capitalist class and enthrone a genuine socialist society. Socialists acknowledge Castro's leading role in the Cuban revolution and defend him from the attacks of the supporters of capitalism but without being blind to the weaknesses of the revolution and the attempts to re-introduce capitalism into the island. This is why, alongside celebrating the Cuban Revolution there is the need to understand its context and why an internationalized struggle of the working people and youth is necessary for moving humanity forward.

It was for this reason that members of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) – Nigeria's affiliate of the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI) – organized and participated in a number of activities across the country.

Over 100 attends "African Vigil for Fidel" in Lagos

H.T Soweto

The Amilcar Cabral Ideological School (ACIS-M) and the Centre for Popular Education (CEPED) organized a vigil on December 3, 2016. Over a hundred activists drawn from the left movements and trade unions were in attendance. The vigil held overnight at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos. Highlight of activities at the vigil included signing of solidarity register, singing of the Internationale, screening of two documentaries on the Cuban revolution, musicals, citation on Fidel Castro, tribute and poetry and an African spiritual burial for Fidel.

About 12 members of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) branches in Ajegunle and Agege intervened in the programme. Comrades set up a stall at the event and sold N1, 800 worth of our paper and other publications. DSM Acting General Secretary, comrade Dagga Tolar spoke on the platform and also performed a poem in tribute to Fidel. Unfortunately, there was very little debate allowed at the event which robbed it of the opportunity of allowing a new generation to learn the real history of the Cuban revolution and drawing vital lessons for struggles today.

Abuja "Night of Tribute" for Fidel Castro

By Daniel, DSM/ERC Abuja

Members of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC), FCT, Abuja and Friends of Cuba jointly organized "A Night of Tribute" For Late Fidel Castro. About fifteen people drawn from different organizations and the media attended the event. The programme held on December 3, 2016 at the national secretariat of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) at No. 42, Adetokunbo Ademola, Wuse 2, Abuja. The event started around after six in the evening with solidarity songs led by Daniel Akande who also moderated the discussion.

Dimeji Macaulay fielding questions from journalists about Fidel Castro - photo DSM

Dimeji Macaulay fielding questions from journalists about Fidel Castro - photo DSM   (Click to enlarge)

The programme started with comrade Dimeji Macaulay introducing what the programme is all about, and why activists and genuine change seekers should unite in fighting for a better society and draw lessons from Cuba under the leadership of Fidel Castro and what is possible if our society's resources are democratically managed and controlled by the people instead of been mismanaged and siphoned. He urged comrades present to reunite in fight against capitalism and imperialism. Quoting Leon Trotsky, Macaulay emphasized that socialism needs democracy the same way the human body needs oxygen. Without democratic control of society it will end in dictator and tyranny. This is one of the central lessons of Cuba today.

The lead off was taken by comrade Babatunde Oluajo (Sankara). He spoke on the topic: "The struggle for socialism: What is to be done? Is Cuba a case study?" Comrade Sankara explained the lessons that Nigerian Marxists must learn from the revolutionary struggle led by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. According to him, Cuba is clear evidence that if the resources of the society are collectively owned and managed by the poor and the working people, the society can be much better for everybody. He made mentioned that the average life expectancy of a Cuban is 81 for women and 80 for men. All the social services in Cuba are in excellence condition, the education sector, roads, and health care sector etc., all these are in good condition, although there are still problems in the housing sector. These tremendous achievements, despite an economic blockade by the United States for over 50 years now, are made possible on the basis of the planned economy.

Babatunde Sankara leading the Abuja discussion - photo DSM

Babatunde Sankara leading the Abuja discussion - photo DSM   (Click to enlarge)

The achievement of the planned economy in Cuba compared to the inequality and underdevelopment that continue to ravage neo-colonial countries that embrace the capitalist free market paradigm is there for all to see. For instance, Nigeria is a capitalist country but virtually nothing is working in Nigeria today. All the social programmes in Nigeria are at a backward state, the rate of maternal morbidity, and maternal mortality is bad. Our education system is poor.

But it is not correct to paint Cuba as if its heaven on earth. Lack of workers democracy in Cuba has led to tremendous waste and inability for the planned economy to fully develop society. There is evidence of corruption and privileges for the bureaucracy while cases of human rights abuses and authoritarianism cannot be ignored. We Trotskyites believe that workers must be involved in the day to day running of the Cuban economy as a step to defend sovereignty of their country from imperialism. Just as we argued in the case of the former Soviet Union and other deformed workers states in Eastern Europe, we continue to call for a political revolution of the Cuban working people to disband the bureaucracy and put in place a health regime of workers democracy that can ensure that all Cubans have a say in the running of their society. This is the best way forward for Cuba as capitalist restoration, which US and world imperialism is now seriously hoping for with the death of Fidel, would lead to a complete regression for Cubans economically and socially. In short, Fidel Castro has shown to the world that socialism is possible.

The head of Revolutionary Council of Nigeria People, Pharmacist Okenwa Enyiribe, read from a prepared speech tilted "Our Freedom is coming". He expressed worries about the deplorable condition of things in Nigeria and how Nigeria situation as became worse and unbearable for the people. He placed emphasis on how corruption has eaten deep into Nigeria and that this is a social danger that we must rise up and fight. To him Fidel Castro is patriot and a nationalist. His legacy will live for long time in the history of mankind. He called on small groups to come together and become large in pursuit of social transformation.

A young artist and activist, Omo Awe from the University of Abuja also performed some poetry to give his tribute to Fidel Castro. In his performance he laid emphasis on the oppression around the world. A film documentary of Fidel Castro was shown for thirty minutes and the programme came to an end with renewed commitment in all to continue the struggle for social transformation.

NLC and TUC Pays Tribute to Fidel Castro

By Dimeji Macaulay, DSM Abuja

On 8, December, 2016, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Civil Society Coalition organized a tribute for Fidel Castro. About fifty people were present. Various leading members of trade unions and popular human rights activists spoke about the life and death of Fidel Castro and how he did his very possible best for Cuba, Africa and the world.

Unfortunately, the tribute was governed by labour bureaucracy that did not allow members of the audience to speak or raise issues that are contentious or critical about Fidel Castro's regime.

70 attends Successful Public Meeting at Lagos State University (LASU)

By YNA Omomeewa, ERC LASU

Members of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) organized a public meeting to discuss Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution on Thursday 9 December, 2016. The meeting held at the Faculty of Law reading room, about 70 students made up of members and sympathizers attended the meeting. The meeting started around 12 noon and in attendance was the ERC National Coordinator Comrade Hassan Taiwo Soweto as well as Mr. Ejiro and Opeyemi (two youth activists). Also we had present at the meeting some past and present LASU students union executives.

Cross section of the LASU audience - photo DSM

Cross section of the LASU audience - photo DSM   (Click to enlarge)

The meeting was a very robust one as the political discussion was centered on "Fidel Castro and Cuba Revolution: A Socialist perspective towards solving Nigeria's economic crisis". The meeting was moderated by Comrade IBS Duroorike. Comrade YNA Omomeewa gave the welcome speech and also whet the appetite of the audience on the topic for discussion. The lead off was given by comrade Soweto. He gave an overwhelming perspective. He was able to link the Cuban revolution to Nigeria by analyzing the strength and weakness of Cuban revolution and he finally drew conclusion on how revolution is possible in Nigeria. Comrade Ejiro and Comrade Opeyemi presentations followed suit respectively. The presentation of the speakers brought about massive reactions, comments, questions and contributions from students present compared to past public meetings of the ERC LASU. This indeed attests to the fact that the level of consciousness of LASUITES is on the increase.

Soweto leading the LASU discussion - photo DSM

Soweto leading the LASU discussion - photo DSM   (Click to enlarge)

The contributions of the former LASUSU PRO and a one-time presidential aspirant Fatai Adebanjo D Erudite and Akintola Fatai (also a former LASUSU PRO) gave an insightful thought to the discussion. All questions were properly covered by a robust sum-up by HT Soweto. Many of the students present at the meeting resolved to join ERC LASU in the struggle for quality education and a better society. Therefore they were given membership forms to fill. The ERC LASU Coordinator, Comrade Aasim Dhikrullah gave the closing remarks. At the end of the meeting, we were able to raise struggle fund of N630 and sold N300 worth of Socialist Democracy (SD) and pamphlets. The meeting was brought to close by after 3pm with solidarity songs.