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System or siege? Samuel Farber misses the main cause of Cuba's problems

Cuba since the revolution of 1959: a critical assessment
By Samuel Farber
Haymarket Books, Chicago, 2011

Review by Chris Slee

June 13, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Samuel Farber was born in Cuba, but moved to the United States in 1958. He is an emeritus professor of political science at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, and has been involved in the socialist movement for over 50 years. He has written extensively on Cuba, from a point of view highly critical of the Cuban government. His views are promoted by sections of the US left, in particular the International Socialist Organization. While many of his criticisms have some validity, in my view he downplays the achievements of the Cuban revolution, and underestimates the impact of the US blockade in causing the problems and difficulties that Cuba faces.

Eyewitness Cuba: March Against Homophobia celebrates new outlook

Dancing at March Against Homophobia, Cienfuegos, Cuba, May 17, 2012. Photo by Don Fitz.

[See also "Rainbow Cuba: the sexual revolution within the revolution".]

By Don Fitz and Jacquelyn Omotalade, Cienfuegos, Cuba

May 28, 2012 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- “This discussion has changed my mind about homosexuality. Now I understand what my lesbian friend went through. When she graduated from medical school in Cuba, she cried. She told me that she could live her life the way she wanted to when she was in Cuba. But now she would return to Honduras as a doctor and would have to hide her lifestyle, hide who she is”.

These were the words of a young woman wearing the medical school bata (white shirt) who identified herself as Honduran. The Honduran medical student spoke at an open forum that was part of the International Day Against Homophobia (May 17, 2012) in Cienfuegos, Cuba. The forum featured Mariela Castro, who is director of the National Sex Education Center and daughter of Cuba’s President Raul Castro.

Sri Lanka: Crimes against humanity with the West’s complicity

By Ron Ridenour

May 25, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The US-UK axis is quite adroit at launching aggressive wars against governments and peoples who do not buckle under. Today’s method of domination is often linked with media propaganda about doing the right thing for “human rights”.

In the case of its ally Sri Lanka, it did not need to send troops to win the war against the Tamils’ struggle for liberation. The Western powers have provided Sri Lankan governments and military with weaponry, war intelligence and training to win the long war against Tamil nationhood. But, after the mutual victory, the axis has also criticised the current government for having committed excesses.

While China and Russia also militarily and economically assisted Sri Lankan governments in avoiding federalism for the two peoples: majority Sinhalese and minority Tamils, they did so without the hyperbole of “protecting human rights”. Unfortunately, Cuba and its associates in the eight Latin American ALBA countries (Bolivarian Alliance of the peoples of the Americas) got caught up in the geopolitical game by supporting Sinhalese chauvinism politically but without funds and weapons.

Complexities of constructing the socialist alternative

[For more articles by and about Michael Lebowitz, click HERE.]

By Steve Ellner

April 2012 – Science & Society, submitted to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal by the author -- Michael Lebowitz has drawn on the diverse experiences that led to the failure of socialism in the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and elsewhere, and those in Venezuela where he has resided for nearly a decade, to bolster his thesis on the need to place the transformation of values at the centre of socialist construction.

Tamil rights: Surprise but uneven changes in voting at the UN Human Rights Council

By Ron Ridenour

March 22, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The UN Human Rights Council voted today to criticise the Sri Lankan government for “not adequately address[ing] serious allegations of violations of international law” when conducting its final phases of war against the guerrilla army Liberation Tigers for Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which ended, May 18, 2009, with massive government-caused bloodbaths.

The resolution called upon Sri Lanka to implement its own findings and recommendations made in the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), but extended that call to “initiate credible and independent actions to ensure justice, equity, accountability and reconciliation for all Sri Lankans” (“independent action” is not defined).

Furthermore, with 24 countries in favour, 15 against and eight abstentions, the resolution “encourages” the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to offer the Sri Lanka government “advice and technical assistance” in implementing the LLRC recommendations, and to make a report on the provision at the 22nd HRC session, a year from now.

Cuba's alternative to privatisation

[For more analysis and discussion on the changes in Cuba, click HERE.]

By Marce Cameron

March 11, 2012 -- Green Left Weekly/Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Cuban President Raul Castro has urged the Caribbean nation's citizens to contribute to a free and frank debate on the future of Cuba’s socialist project.

For the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), the aim of this debate is twofold: to strive for consensus on a new Cuban model of socialist development and to empower Cuba’s working people to implement what has been decided.

In other words, to advance a socialist renewal process in the face of entrenched opposition from within the administrative apparatus.

It is first and foremost a debate about the economy. A draft policy document, the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines, was submitted to a national debate for three months before to its adoption by the Sixth PCC Congress in April last year.

The core principles and objectives of the draft were conserved, but the final version of the Guidelines was substantially modified on the basis of this public debate.

How Cuba mobilises to defeat public health emergencies

Medical students in Cuba.

[Read more about Cuba's health-care system HERE.]

By Don Fitz

February 8, 2012 -- Submitted to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal by the author, having first appeared at BlackAgendaReport.com -- “I’m on pesquizaje”, my daughter Rebecca told me. “All of the third, fourth and fifth year medical students at Allende have our classes suspended. We are going door-to-door looking for symptoms of dengue fever and checking for standing water.”[1]

As a fourth year medical student at Cuba’s ELAM (Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina, Latin American School of Medicine in Havana), she is assigned to Salvadore Allende Hospital in Havana. It handles most of the city’s dengue cases. Although she has done health canvassing before, this is the first time she has had classes cancelled to do it. It is very unusual for an outbreak of dengue fever, a mosquito-borne illness, to occur this late in the season. She remembers most outbreaks happening in autumn, being over before December, and certainly not going into January–February.

The paradox of Cuban agriculture

By Miguel A. Altieri and Fernando R. Funes-Monzote

January 8, 2012 -- Monthly Review -- When Cuba faced the shock of lost trade relations with the Soviet bloc in the early 1990s, food production initially collapsed due to the loss of imported fertilisers, pesticides, tractors, parts and petroleum. The situation was so bad that Cuba posted the worst growth in per capita food production in all of Latin America and the Caribbean. But the island rapidly re-oriented its agriculture to depend less on imported synthetic chemical inputsand became a world-class case of ecological agriculture.1

This was such a successful turnaround that Cuba rebounded to show the best food production performance in Latin America and the Caribbean over the following period, a remarkable annual growth rate of 4.2 per cent per capita from 1996 through 2005, a period in which the regional average was zero per cent.2

Workers’ governments and socialist strategy — a discussion

"The FSLN government in Nicaragua immediately after the fall of the Somoza dictatorship may qualify as a workers' government" -- David Camfield.

January 17, 2012 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- A discussion is taking place at John Riddell's website on the demand for a workers' government and issues raised in the article by Riddell, "A ‘workers’ government’ as a step toward socialism". Below are article-length responses from David Camfield and Nathan Rao, a comment by Tim K, and a response by John Riddell.

Workers’ governments and the crisis of politics

By David Camfield, an editor of New Socialist Webzine

January 10, 2012 -- John Riddell is right that, “The Comintern’s decisions on governmental policy were rooted in a political environment that no longer exists.”

Cuba: Interview with Mariela Castro, director of the National Centre for Sex Education (CENESEX)

By Bernard Duraud for the French newspaper L’Humanité, published December 9. Published in Spanish on the Cubadebate website, December 14. Translation by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews, edited by Marce Cameron for Cuba's Socialist Renewal.

[See also "Rainbow Cuba: the sexual revolution within the revolution".]

* * *

The daughter of Cuba's President Raul Castro and the late Vilma Espin, a key figure in the Cuban Revolution, Mariela Castro Espin, director of Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX), is a tireless campaigner for the rights of gays, lesbians and transsexuals, who have suffered discrimination for a long time. She is the initiator of important changes that concern them.

East Timor celebrates medical milestone, with Cuba's assistance

By Lisa Zilberpriver 

December 27, 2011 -- SBS (Special Broadcasting Service, Australia) -- Cuba is widely regarded as a world leader in medical outreach programs for developing nations. It began by sending doctors to support Algerian revolutionaries in 1963, and has since extended its programme to encompass more than 100 different countries.

There are more than 30,000 Cuban health workers stationed worldwide. The Cuban government also pays for the education of thousands of students from developing nations at the Latin American School of Medicine.

Tim Anderson is a senior lecturer in political economy at the Univeristy of Sydney. He has closely followed Cuba's medical outreach programs for several years. He hosted an East Timorese graduate of Cuba's program on a visit to Sydney health institutions in October that was organised by the Australia Cuba Friendship Society.

Rainbow Cuba: the sexual revolution within the revolution

March to celebrate LGBTI rights in Havana, May 2009.

By Rachel Evans

December 23, 2011 (updated January 28, 2012) – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- When I was 16, I went to a Cuba solidarity event in my home town. At the end of inspiring speeches about Cuba’s health record, education standards, and the revolution’s policy of sending doctors and teachers to impoverished countries, a rousing “Cuba si! Yankee no!” chant erupted. It was electric. Much better than the fake feeling, singing and dancing we’d experienced in the church hall on Sunday. I was impressed and resolved to visit the country and see the revolution for myself. Years later and having come out of the closet, I decided my trip to Cuba could help prove or dispel the oft-uttered line of Cuba being homophobic.

This work will help put to bed the lies and distortions propagated by the powerful United States (US) propaganda machine: that the Cuban Revolution is undemocratic, homophobic and tyrannical. My visit to and study of Cuba finds that there is no basis to these claims.

Latin America: Summit in Venezuela opens 'new phase in history'

By Federico Fuentes

December 3, 2011 -- Green Left Weekly/Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- A summit of huge importance was held in Venezuela on December 2-3, 2011. Two hundred years after Latin America’s independence fighters first raised the battle cry for a united Latin America, 33 heads of state from across the region came together to form the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).

For Latin America, the summit represented a further step away from its traditional role as the United States’ backyard and its emergence as a player in its own right in international politics.

The importance of this new institution in world politics cannot be overstated. The combined gross domestic product of the countries within CELAC make it the third-largest economic powerhouse in the world. It is also home to the world’s largest oil reserves and the first and third largest global producers of food and energy, respectively.

Interview: Cuba's health-care miracle in Haiti

Dr Jorge Balseiro Estevez, of the Henry Reeve Cuban Internationalist Medical Brigade, interviewed by Roger Annis

October 30, 2011 -- Canada Haiti Action Network -- Dr Jorge Balseiro Estevez is director of the University Hospital of Psychiatry in the city of Camaguey, Cuba. He is a specialist in psychiatry and health administration and auxiliary professor of medical sciences at the university. He is a member of the Henry Reeve Cuban Internationalist Medical Brigade[1] and a director of the brigade’s field hospital in the city of Leogâne, Haiti. Leogane was the epicentre of the earthquake of January 12, 2010.

Estevez was invited to Canada on a speaking tour to some 15 cities across Canada in October and November 2011. The tour was organised by the Canadian Network on Cuba and its local affiliates, with sponsorship from a broad range of trade unions, health professionals and Haiti solidarity groups.

Roger Annis of the Canada Haiti Action Network sat down with Estevez on October 30 in Vancouver for an interview about the Cuban medical mission’s accomplishments in Haiti and the challenges that lie ahead.

Cuba: 'Information on results of the Debate on the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines for the Party and the Revolution'

Introduction by Marce Cameron, translator

November 12, 2011 -- Cuba's Socialist Renewal, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Here is the complete English translation of the booklet Information on the results of the Debate on the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines for the Party and the Revolution, an explanatory document published together with the final version of the guidelines adopted by the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) Congress in April. As far as I'm aware there is no official translation of this document. Please note that this is an unofficial translation.

You can view or download it as a PDF file here, or read it on screen below.

Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam seeks support from Cuba and Latin America

Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran.

By Ron Ridenour

October 4, 2011 -– Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- “We Tamils, inside and outside the island of Sri Lanka, still want an independent state. And because the war crimes and severe brutality of the Mahinda Rajapaksa government against our people has become well known, our cause is being spoken about all over the world”, Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran told me recently in Manhattan, New York.

A positive sign of recognition for Tamil rights is the dramatic Channel 4 UK documentary, Sri Lanka Killing Fields, shown first at a June Human Rights Council session and then worldwide.

Rudrakumaran is prime minister of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE), and a prominent activist in the diaspora. He earned law degrees from the University of Colombo and Southern Methodist University. He later studied and wrote articles about self-determination at Harvard Law School

Camila Piñeiro Harnecker: Cooperatives and socialism in Cuba

September 26, 2011 -- First posted at Cuba's Socialist Renewal, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Cooperatives and Socialism: A Cuban Perspective is a new Cuban book, published in Spanish earlier this year. This important and timely compilation is edited by Camila Piñeiro Harnecker (pictured above). Avid readers of Cuba's Socialist Renewal will recall that I translated and posted a commentary by Camila, titled "Cuba Needs Changes" [also available at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal], back in January. Camila lives in Cuba and has a degree in sustainable development from the University of Berkeley, California. She is a professor at the Centre for Studies on the Cuban

Cuba: Voluntary work abolished -- a step forward?

By Luis Sexto, Havana

September 7, 2011 -- Progreso Weekly -- Voluntary work in Cuba, as a practice on weekdays or Sundays, has been abolished. In view of this action, neither original nor daring, one might suppose that the decision by the Cuban Trade Union Confederation (CTC) to end voluntary work, except in times of disaster or when enterprises face acute needs, has earned the implicit approval of most Cubans.

But to state the opposite, namely that many Cubans are not in agreement, might mean that one dons the mask of someone who is unthinking or opportunistic, or of a dogmatic person who does not understand the society in which they live and the circumstances that surround it.

To deny the decision's importance in the strategy of changes would not be accurate either, in my view. The effects of the measure – adopted during the 87th plenum of the CTC's national council on February 18 – are several. First, we must acknowledge that voluntary work, as it evolved, shortened leisure time for workers and reduced their status as free individuals through union and administrative pressures.

Revolutionary health care in Cuba and Venezuela: Beyond Western 'sickness-based' medicine

Monthly Review Press has kindly given permission to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal to publish an excerpt from Revolutionary Doctors: How Venezuela and Cuba are Changing the World’s Conception of Health Care by Steve Brouwer. You can download the excerpt HERE (PDF), or read it on screen HERE.

Readers of Links are also urged to purchase copies of Revolutionary Doctors. Those in Australia can order copies from Resistance Books; in other parts of the world, please click HERE to order.

Revolutionary Doctors: How Venezuela and Cuba are Changing the World’s Conception of Health Care
By Steve Brouwer
New York, Monthly Review Press, 2011, 245 pp.

Review by Don Fitz

Cuban Five: Judge issues cruel and bizarre ruling

Judge Lenard order's René González to live in Miami on supervised release

[Below the article is a model protest letter; please adapt and send. For more background to the cases of the Cuban Five, click HERE.]

By Jose Pertierra

September 19, 2011 -- Counterpunch via the Australia-Cuba Friendship Society -- On September 16, a US federal district court judge made a bizarre ruling concerning one of the Cuban Five defendants who completes his jail sentence on October 7. Judge Joan Lenard ruled that René Gonzalez, who has already served 13 years in a federal penitentiary for being an unregistered agent of the Cuban government, will be forced for the next three years to live in Miami on what is called “supervised release”.

Gonzalez had asked the court to allow him to return home to Cuba to be with his wife, Olga, and his two daughters, Ivette and Irma. Several years ago, the US Department of State decided to permanently bar Olga from getting a visa to come to the United States. She has been able to visit her husband only once during the last 13 years. A cruel and unusual punishment for any prisoner.

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