By Alejandro Bodart and Vicente Gaynor
Thousands of Cubans took to the streets on Sunday, July 11, protesting the lack of food, medicines and the prolonged power outages in the midst of a deep economic crisis, aggravated by the pandemic and the savage blockade of US imperialism. The regime responded with a brutal repression, dispersing the demonstrations with clubs, tear gas and hundreds of arrests. President Miguel Díaz-Canel called the protests “actions of political destabilization” promoted by Washington and called on his followers to take to the streets to confront them.
Of course, imperialism tries to take advantage of the mobilization and its permanent intervention finds expression in some slogans and posters that have been seen, such as “Down with communism” or “Homeland and Life”, in reference to the song composed by Cuban expat musicians in Miami. But it is false that imperialism is the driving force behind the massive and widespread mobilization that we are witnessing. It is an authentic and spontaneous response of the Cuban working people against the bureaucratic oppression and the anger against the austerity that the regime has been applying that caused this uprising of historical characteristics. The blockade that the United States has maintained against Cuba for decades plays a very important role in the hardships that are experienced on the island. But it has been the policies of capitalist restoration and the savage austerity measures of the regime itself in recent years that has deteriorated living conditions to the point of becoming unbearable for the majority of the population.
The restoration process has been accelerating in the last decade, since Raúl Castro´s reforms that implied the sacking of 600,000 public employees between 2010 and 2014, the entry of private activity in branches such as hotels and transport, the 2014 law of investments that authorized the entry of companies with 100% foreign capital and the concession to private producers of a third of the state lands, among other measures, crowned by the constitutional reform of 2018 that granted constitutional recognition to the private ownership of the means of production and foreign investment. The growing capitalist opening has intensified Cuba´s economic dependence on dollars that enter through tourism, which is why the retraction caused by the pandemic dealt a severe blow to the island’s economy.
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And the Cuban government responded in the style of the best capitalist governments: applying austerity on the people. In December, Díaz-Canel and Raúl Castro announced a unification of the exchange rate that meant a 2400% devaluation. On January 1, the anniversary of the revolution, a package of measures to “suppress unnecessary gratuities” came into force, drastically reducing social and public policies. The deepening of the economic crisis has generated a combination of inflation, shortages of food and other basic goods and long blackouts during the hottest days of summer, at the same time that the Covid pandemic has reached a peak, exceeding 6000 daily infections. This disaster, together with the accumulated anger against the single party regime´s authoritarianism is what has led thousands of Cubans across the island to take to the streets desperately to demand a response to the hunger and hardships they are suffering. “We’re going through really tough times,” said dance teacher Miranda Lazara, “We need a system change.” Another protester said, “I’m here because of hunger, because there are no medicines, because of the power cuts, because there is a lack of everything.”
Of course, the United States will try to take advantage of the Cuban people´s legitimate anger, as it does everywhere around the world against the governments with which it confronts. It is essential to oppose any interference by imperialism and denounce the cynicism of the world’s leading dealer of austerity and violator of human rights. But that does not mean we should support the Cuban government and regime, which has embarked on a capitalist restoration like China´s, with one adjustment after another and unbridled repression against its people when they protest in defense of their rights.
Imperialism will be strengthened in Cuba to the degree in which the government continues to disappoint its people and revolutionaries fail to offer themselves as an alternative to the restoration and the lack of freedom for workers to decide their fate. Imperialism will try to take advantage of the situation to advance its agenda. It is also possible that the regime, appearing as the only alternative to imperialism, can defeat the mobilizations, imposing a more severe repression and austerity, as we have seen in Nicaragua and Venezuela. We are betting that the mobilization can turn left and advance towards a political revolution that recovers a socialist course and installs a regime of workers’ democracy in Cuba. For this to happen, it is essential for revolutionaries to support the legitimate demands of the Cuban people, and the leftist militants who are at the head of them and are being repressed and imprisoned by the regime.
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In fact, no CIA agents have been arrested, but rather socialist activists like Frank García Hernández, a Marxist historian and member of the Comunistas Blog, Maikel González Vivero, an LGBT+ activist and director of the magazine Tremenda Nota, and Antonio Pérez Fernández, a student who had already been arrested for carrying a sign that said “socialism yes, repression no.” Surely, if she were alive, our dear comrade and friend Celia Hart would have also been arrested. As part of the International Socialist League we oppose all imperialist interference, we defend Cuba´s independence unconditionally and we fight to defeat the criminal US blockade. At the same time, we support the right of the Cuban people to demonstrate in defense of their legitimate claims and against the austerity and capitalist restoration imposed by the government and the bureaucratic regime. We demand the immediate liberation of those imprisoned for demonstrating and we defend their demand for the democratic freedoms that the regime denies them.
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