On July 11, Cubans in the small town of San Antonio de los Baños took to the streets to demand essentials like access to Covid vaccinations and an end to electrical blackouts. Their demonstrations are connected to the waves of resistance cresting all over the hemisphere as people from Bogotá to Philadelphia rise up to fight for their lives.
The protests in Cuba included a mix of both ordinary civilians desperate for basic necessities and others influenced by the anti-communist propaganda of the U.S. government and right-wing Cuban exiles in Miami. They take place in the context of 60 years of U.S. government attempts to overthrow the heroic 1959 Cuban Revolution, including an unrelenting economic blockade which has cost Cuba billions in lost revenues and often made it impossible to access medical supplies, food, and technology.
The Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) condemns U.S. intervention and defends the goals of the Cuban Revolution while supporting the survival demands of the protesters. We call on the Cuban government to release all political prisoners immediately and respect the rights of its people to demonstrate for change. FSP especially supports the efforts of genuine socialists in Cuba who are pressing for workers’ democracy and against the return of capitalism to the island.
Repression is not the answer
As social media transmitted images of the action across the island, marchers turned out in over 30 cities. They protested shortages of food, water and medical services while calling for political freedom and an end to state repression.
As the rallies gathered strength, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel traveled to San Antonio to appeal for calm. He was answered by empty water bottles thrown in his direction. On his return to Havana, Díaz-Canel called the protesters counterrevolutionaries and paid agents. He mandated members of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) to turn out to crush the protests.
Meanwhile, demonstrators, many of them young, unleashed pent-up frustrations and disillusionment with their leaders. Havana, the capital city, was flooded by groups from outlying areas. One participant reported that when confronted by police, protesters raised their hands in the air to show they were not armed or aggressive. Some implored the police to join them.
Because the government cut internet service, it’s hard to determine how many people were arrested, but they number at least 170, some of whom were subsequently released. They included Marxists and a gay journal editor, as reported by Communistas Cuba. Eyewitness reports and videos have shown some peaceful protests being met by police use of pepper spray and strong-arm tactics, causing injuries and at least one death.
The country’s leaders should be calling on the power and the ingenuity of the people to find solutions for the enormous social, economic, and health crises at hand. Instead, the regime is upping security measures, deploying heavily armed riot police, and inducting college students into the military. Government workers have been ordered into the streets to support the regime, and those chanting unauthorized slogans are facing prison sentences.
If the government continues on the path of repression, it will only push more Cubans to look for relief from reactionary groups such as #SOSCuba in Miami.
Uncle Sam’s long reach and the need for an international solution
FSP has consistently condemned U.S. attempts to sabotage the Cuban Revolution through military attacks, clandestine assassination attempts, CIA maneuvers, and economic blockades. FSP demands that the U.S. government lift its crippling sanctions, call off the CIA and pull the military out of Guantánamo Bay.
U.S. hostility derives from the fact that Cuban revolutionaries didn’t stop at overthrowing the cruel Batista dictatorship but moved ahead to usher in the hemisphere’s first workers’ state.
The new workers’ state relied heavily on economic and political support from the Soviet Union, which was also a workers’ state, though it was by then under the grip of Stalin’s anti-democratic bureaucracy. The top-down methods of the Soviet leadership clique strongly influenced the Cuban Communist Party, as did its politics, including the false notion that socialism could be built in one country.
Cuba boldly resisted the U.S. attacks but, without the spread of successful revolutions against capitalism in this hemisphere, its leaders regressed into a bunker defense mode. Over time, the hostile U.S. actions and Cuba’s isolation, especially after the fall of the Soviet Union, created drastic shortfalls in basic goods. These became a rationale for PCC leaders to reintroduce capitalist measures step by step. Their bureaucratic control allowed them to allocate the scarce resources in a way that benefited them personally while increasing inequality among the population, which has hit Black and female Cubans hardest. Given this disparity, these groups are bearing the brunt of the hardships caused by the current shortages.
PCC leaders are now overseeing the dramatic erosion of everything Cuba’s workers and peasants fought for six decades ago. Their crackdown against people suffering from economic crisis and a global pandemic is another step in that process of betrayal.
Like U.S. presidents before him, Joe Biden encourages unrest in Cuba and feigns concern for the difficulties facing the average Cuban, while bolstering right-wing forces in Miami who are directing money and media into building an anti-communist movement on the island. He has refused to lift U.S. sanctions tightened by Trump. Washington’s endgame is to turn Cuba back into a playground for rich Yankees and a place to sell their wares. This cannot be allowed to succeed.
Politically and economically, no nation is an island. What Cuba’s people require are international solidarity and collaboration. Their ability to improve their lives, as is true for any group of workers and oppressed people in the Americas or across the world, depends on revolutionary alliances across borders.
Statement issued by the Freedom Socialist Party