After a successful meeting with academics and students at the University of Nottingham we drove to Forest Fields, a vibrant working class area on the other side of the city. The venue was the Sumac Centre, an independent social centre that uses its space for community projects as well as serving up vegetarian food, free internet access and lots of tea. This weekend there is also a meeing of the Earth First! network there, dicusssing and preparing for campaigns around climate change, as well as a group of people serving up delicious carribean food!
Around 30 people turned up, and the relaxed setting allowed us to dispense formal presentations and move straight on to questions from the audience. The first questioner cited the coverage of Cuba in the British Press, and the constant references to repression, and asked Yoselin if she felt she was living in a free society. She replied emphatically yes, refererring to her own experience as a member of the Federation of University Students (FEU) and the Union of Young Communists (UJC). She explained that the FEU participates in the day to day running of universities in Cuba, and all of the mass organisations in Cuba are represented in the Cuban National Assembly. The following discussion highlighted an important difference between political activism in Cuba in comparison with Britain: the latter often consists of campaigning against laws thare are imposed from above, without the particpation of ordinary citizens. In Cuba this is less common because new laws are introduced only after democratic consultation with all sectors of society. Other questions raised issues such as how tourism has affected Cuba, the effects of the US blockade and the United States' 'Track Two' policy. 'Track Two' is designed to encourage illegal immigration from Cuba, at the same time as obstructing legal immigration. Jesus Garcia highlighted the case of Posada Carilles, a self-confessed terrorist who is now walking free in Miami because the US authorities don't want to put him on trial, a clear example of the hypocrisy of the War on Terror.
Importantly, several speakers from the floor urged people not to think of this meeting as a historical or intellectual exercise, but to meditate upon the necessity of using the example of Cuba to build a socialist movement here. Jesus Garcia closed by talking about the importance of international solidarity with Cuba, which has isolated the United States and its aggression against Cuba: for the past 17 years the UN General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly (only four countries voting with the US) to condemn the economic blockade of Cuba, but each year the US government arrogantly ignores the will of the international community.
Rock around the Blockade thanks the Sumac Centre collective for giving us a space to hold such a vibrant meeting. Hopefully those who came to the meeting will join the campaign and start to organise alongside others in solidarity with Cuba.