Cuba under blockade: Fighting sanctions and building solidarity - report from TUC Congress

Campaign News | Monday, 18 September 2023

Alex Gordon, Lisa Osborne, Bárbara Montalvo Álvarez, Sarah Woolley, Gawain Little and Simon Dubbins

Alex Gordon, Lisa Osborne, Bárbara Montalvo Álvarez, Sarah Woolley, Gawain Little and Simon Dubbins

In his first public speech as Chair of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign at our fringe meeting at TUC, Kevin Courtney condemned the US government’s designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism and described it as ‘Kafka-eque’. Sarah Woolley, General Secretary of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) chaired the meeting, which featured a report back from this year’s Young Trade Unionists’ May Day Brigade and speeches from Alex Gordon (RMT), Gawain Little (GFTU), Simon Dubbins (Unite) and Barbara Montalvo Alvarez, the Cuban Ambassador to the UK.

On the 50th anniversary of the US-backed coup d’etat in Chile, which led to the overthrow and death of the democratically elected socialist President Salvador Allende, Simon Dubbins spoke of the shared values between Allende’s project and the Cuban revolution – shared values that provoked the same hostility from the United States. Simon also recounted Cuba’s long history of internationalist action and stressed the importance of strengthening the solidarity in the trade union movement as the blockade intensifies.

Lisa Osborne, a lawyer at Thompson’s Solicitors, shared her experiences on our Young Trade Unionists’ May Day Brigade earlier this year. “The trip has changed me as a person”, she told the fringe. “I came home from Cuba with a renewed determination to stand up to injustice and to struggle to end the blockade.”

President of the RMT Alex Gordon sent greetings of solidarity to the Cuban people from his union and described some of the examples of practical work that the RMT had done over the years with CSC. From the RMT Cuba Garden Party, to supporting affiliation drives, to fundraising for braille machines, Alex said his union had been proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Cuban people as they continue to struggle against the injustice of the blockade.

Her Excellency Barbara Montalvo Alvarez detailed the numerous difficulties that Cuba has had to confront in the past few years, whist also dealing with the “suffocating effects of the economic war against Cuba.” Despite the hardships, what the blockade has not been able to stop “is solidarity with Cuba”, she told attendees. “It is with deep and heartfelt gratitude and appreciation, that I mention the solidarity we have received from British trade unions”, Barbara said. Paying special tribute to CSC chair Kevin Courtney for his work on Cuba as Joint General-Secretary of the NEU, the Ambassador told attendees that Cuba had recently received the two shipping containers of school supplies made possible by the Viva la Educación appeal. “To all trade unions & people who contributed to Viva appeal, I express our massive thanks.”

GFTU General Secretary Gawain Little triumphed the Cuban education system in his speech, having visited the country on a number of NEU and CSC delegations. Contrasting Cuba’s successes with the UK, he highlighted that “as we look at our own schools literally crumbling and our education system failing, seeing a country [Cuba] that truly values education was inspiring.” He encouraged all trade unions to send their members on delegations with CSC so they can see the real Cuba for themselves.

Closing the meeting, Kevin Courtney decried the bullying nature of the US government and its hypocrisy as it continues its campaign of economic war against Cuba. While the US has attempted to overthrow the Cuban government and allow terrorist attacks against Cuba to be organised from its shores, Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism is justified on the basis of hosting ELN guerrillas in Havana in internationally recognised peace talks. However, “in the CSC, we believe in the self-determination of the Cuban people”, he said, calling on all trade unionists to show their solidarity with Cuba and to support the work of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign by joining as members, to get their unions affiliated and visiting Cuba on one of our delegations.

You can join CSC as a member here.

You can affiliate your branch here.

You find out more about the CSC’s tours and delegations to Cuba here.

CSC Chair Kevin Courtney

CSC Chair Kevin Courtney

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