The United States has declared war against the Cuban people for more than 60 years. Terrorist designations, sanctions and military threats create great suffering in that nation.
BAR contributing editor Ajamu Baraka presented these remarks at a recent International People’s Tribunal on US Imperialism on Cuba .
Testimony from Ajamu Baraka:
The International People’s Tribunal on U.S. Imperialism
June 10, 2023
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a Rogue State as “a nation or state regarded as breaking international law and posing a threat to the security of other nations.” This simple and neat definition not only perfectly captures the character of the relationship between Cuba and the United States, but also the character of U.S. policies toward the nations and peoples of our region and the world since its ascendancy as a global power at the end of the second imperialist war in 1945. And what was the driving interest for much of U.S. policies during the period since 1945? To prevent authentic decolonization in the Global South by incorporating emerging nations into its orbit of control.
This geostrategic objective informed the U.S. response to the Revolution in Cuba. As the U.S. consolidated as a global imperialist power at the end of the 1950s and early 1960s, there were two aspects to its foreign policy: first, its use of subversion and military power as its main instrument of hegemonic control; and secondly, its irrational fear of communism shaped the two aspects of U.S. foreign policy at the end of the decade of the 1950s and early 1960s.
The dialectical relationship of these two aspects, especially if we understand that it is the fear of communism that primarily shapes U.S. policies, explains the heavy-handed, and often counterproductive deployment of institutional and military violence by the U.S. state during this period. In the case of Cuba and other examples, the range of potentially coercive measures that might have been utilized to mitigate against what the U.S. might have defined as an uncontrollable radicalization caused by the Cuban revolution, was forestalled by the decisions made by policymakers in the U.S. to attack the revolution.
That story of subversion and violence is well documented and has been covered extensively today.
In my short remarks, I would like to share an analysis of the meaning of Cuba from the perspective of the radical, anti-colonial, anti-imperialist African revolutionary movement based in the territory known as the United States of America.
First point: We are clear: the hegemonic subversion emanating from the leading global imperialist power from the U.S. will not cease until there is a dramatic shift in the international balance of forces globally away from the U.S. and European colonial powers, but particularly in our region.
The inclusion of Cuba on a list of so-called terrorist states constructed by the number one terrorist state on the planet is a rational and unsurprising development. From the perspective of U.S. imperialism, the survival of the Cuban revolution represents an existential threat. The role that Cuba played as a guarantor state in the initial round of peace talks between the National Liberation Army (ELN) of Colombia and the Colombian state that resulted in the Trump administration placing Cuba back on its infamous list, reveals the objective interests and intentions of imperialism. Even when the U.S. took Cuba off the list and pretended to be involved in a process of reconciliation, the objective was then as it is now – the subversion and ultimate destruction of the Cuba project. The only difference is the strategy deployed.
Second point: Democracy
Every nation, state and peoples have the right to determine for themselves how they approach the issue of democracy and governance. Socialist democracy will not and should not look anything like the phony, process oriented, narrow bourgeois democracies in the U.S. and throughout the capitalist world.
If Cuba had not developed forms of democracy suitable for the challenges of socialist construction within the context of a hostile global environment, it would not have survived. From the Committees in Defense of the Revolution to the workers formations, including the workers’ Parliament during the special period, the democratic participation of the masses took shape based on the evolving material and ideological conditions of the revolution. Those particular constructions of popular power ensured the relative stabilization of the economy under an alternative regime of social production and distribution that survived the ongoing embargo and the abandonment of socialism in the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc that created the special period.
Not only did Cuba survive, it did so with dignity, maintaining its commitment to “People(s)-Centered Human Rights” that saw a continuation of Cuba’s “high life expectancy, low infant mortality and universal access to health and education.”
Democracy emanates from the people; in fact, it is the sovereignty of the people. When more than 75% of the voting population participates in choosing the National Assembly this year, the comparison to U.S. turnout is stark. It also reveals the absurdity of the U.S. passing legislation like the Helms-Burton Act that demands that Cuba conduct its’ democratic processes in alignment with the false propaganda that the U.S. is a democracy, a falsity empirically documented in 2014.
For the U.S to demand that Cuba develop a system that guarantees “the rights of the Cuban people to express themselves freely,” when the private sector and state collude in the U.S. to restrict the free access to information, is as ridiculous as their demand that Cuba hold free and fair elections when in the U.S. only the rich really determine who runs and who wins elections.
Point three: People(s)-Centered Human rights (PCHRs)
Despite the more than 60 years of attempts to undermine the revolution, the commitment to ensure that the basic human rights of the Cuban people to have access to healthcare, food, education, and housing never wavered. Social justice, participatory democracy, and self-determination, the principles of PCHRs that combine civil and political rights and economic, social, and cultural rights in a framework of collective and individual rights differentiates the PCHRs frame from the liberal, legalistic, state-centered, individualistic Western, bourgeois human rights framework.
A clear example is the fact that Cuba “spends only four per cent per person of U.S. health costs,” but has the same average life expectancy, and lower infant mortality, is another example of why the U.S. wants to see this model of PCHRs erased. Compare that to the plight of Africans in the U.S. who just experienced a genocidal assault during the covid pandemic that resulted in tens of thousands of African Americans dying because we did not having access to adequate healthcare, that compounded the persistent health conditions we suffer in our communities because of colonialist neglect and the industrial targeting of our communities.
Point Four: Race and White Supremacy
“The Cuban people hold a special place in the hearts of the peoples of Africa. The Cuban internationalists have made a contribution to African independence, freedom and justice, unparalleled for its principled and selfless character…Cubans came to our region as doctors, teachers, soldiers, agricultural experts, but never as colonizers. They have shared the same trenches with us in the struggle against colonialism, underdevelopment, and apartheid.”
— Nelson Mandela
The African radical approach to the question of race is not abstract. We are not interested in what is in peoples’ heads and we are not concerned about whether or not someone likes us or not. We are committed to confronting the power of institutional white power in its present expression of colonial/capitalist monopoly domination.
We recognize that white supremacist ideology has been an effective weapon to both rationalize European colonial/capitalist oppression and confuse and divide colonial subjects and the working class.
Furthermore, we recognize that Western radical thought had inadequate theoretical frames for understanding all of the complex expressions of white supremacy that led to political errors in Cuba and in other revolutionary projects. Yet, while detractors of the Cuba project will attempt to weaponize the ongoing struggle against racism and racialization in Cuba, African revolutionaries who stand with Cuba assert that it is only through practice that race, and white supremacy will be defeated.
From the very beginning of the revolutionary process in Cuba, elements of the U.S. Black Liberation Movement were in an intimate relationship with the process. In the first months of the seizure of power in 1959, African Americans revolutionaries, journalists, labor leaders, congresspersons traveled to Cuba. Africans in the U.S. were informed about the events in Cuba and esthetically welcome the revolution.
When Fidel Castro traveled to New York to attend the United Nation, the U.S. administration violated its host agreements by attempting to deny Castro access to official hotels. But Black Harlem responded positively to the Cuba delegation and encouraged the delegation to stay in Harlem at the Hotel Teresa where the delegation met with various African leaders, including the famous meeting of Fidel Castro and Malcom X.
Those close relationships continued. Cuba granted political asylum to a number of members of our movement in the U.S. including Black Liberation Army member Assata Shakur in 1984.
We point to the concrete commitment to defeating structures of white supremacy born by the Cuban people shedding their blood for Africa.
Cuba’s extensive and decisive role in the struggle against the apartheid regime in South Africa is marginalized in the dominant western discourse and narratives. Its critical contribution is not only frequently ignored, but also treated almost as if it had never occurred. However, for our struggle, we will never forget and struggle to remind new generations of Africans of the sacrifices made by Cuba in the cause for African liberation. We informed them of Operación Carlota in response to a direct and urgent request from the government of Angola and its significance as a pivotal element in the defeat of South African military forces that represented a major development in the southern African anti-colonial and national liberation struggle.
Operación Carlota lasted more than 15-years with over 330,000 Cubans serving and thousands making the ultimate sacrifice for African liberation.
That for us is how you demonstrate your commitment to the elimination of race and the structures of white supremacy!
Conclusion: What Must be the Verdict of this peoples’ Tribunal?
The overwhelming evidence over the next few days will affirm that Cuba, and by extension our region and the world, continues to be subjected to the organized gangsterism of the U.S./EU/NATO Axis of Domination.
But we also understand that a guilty verdict will not defeat imperialism. A wise individual once said material force can only be defeated by material force.
We cannot avoid the inevitable struggle that must be waged if we are to defeat the gangsters to the North. The U.S. has not hidden their strategy of confrontation, subversion, and direct military intervention.
The objective to reassert U.S. dominance in our region requires the subversion and control of the leading left projects in the region – Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba.
There is absolutely no commitment to upholding the principle of national sovereignty and the equality of states by the U.S. because the United States believes that our region is in its “front-yard” and the politics and economies of the governments in our region should be defined by Washington.
How do we defeat the embargo? Defeat U.S. imperialism, push the U.S. out of our region, Shut Down SOUTHCOM, complete the anti-colonial war for national liberation.
This is why the Black Alliance for Peace is building a campaign with organizations from across the region to make real the call by the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) that was made in Havana, Cuba in 2014 to make our region a Zone of Peace.
We aim to build awareness about the idea of a “Zone of Peace” across the Americas.
Quote from declaration:
“Building up the Zone of Peace means prioritizing People(s)-Centered Human Rights
(PCHRs) in the Americas by observing the principles of national sovereignty, equal
rights and self-determination of peoples. This requires ending the foreign military
presence and bases, as well as all structures and practices of regional militarization.
Other aspects of the Zone of Peace include exposing the lie of benevolent and
democracy-driven “humanitarianism” that fuels the soft-power imperialist projects of the
United States and NATO, as well as the Core Group, the United Nations, United States
Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Organization of American States
(OAS). Democracy and “human rights” as dictated by the West must be understood as no
more than ideological props.”
“…among millions of people in the global South and among the colonized and exploited working classes in global North countries, Cuba and its project will be defended and the call and struggle for socialism will continue. We see the choice. It has always been between the barbarism of the colonial-capitalist North and human freedom and transformation emerging from the South.
For nationally oppressed and exploited African peoples in the United States, we stand with the people of the South, where revolution is emerging. We will defend Cuba, support Venezuela, demand that North Korea’s sovereignty be respected, struggle against global militarization, and oppose U.S. and Western imperialism without equivocation, apology, or hesitation. We are clear on the enemy because we have seen it up close and personal since 1492.”
That is why today we still say:
All Power to the People
And in our revolutionary principles, no matter the subversive power directed at us, we continue to say there will be
No Compromise, No Retreat
*Featured Image: At the National Network On Cuba 2022 Fall Meeting, Cuba’s Ambassador to the United Nations Yuri Gala López explains how State Sponsors of Terrorism designation intensifies the U.S. blockade. (Photo: Bill Hackwell)
Ajamu Baraka is Chairman of the Coordinating Committee of the Black Alliance for Peace and an editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report. Baraka serves on the Executive Committee of the U.S. Peace Council and leadership body of the U.S. based United National Anti-War Coalition (UNAC) and the Steering Committee of the Black is Back Coalition.