Posts tagged REVOLUTION
Posts tagged REVOLUTION
It is no great secret that the American political system, despite its democratic auspices, is a mechanism for the rule of an elite minority. The past thirty years in particular have seen many brazen examples of this, highlighted by an unprecedented expansion of the gap between rich and poor as social welfare spending was cut to make way for ever greater tax breaks for the wealthy. However, while the corruption of our system has been exposed repeatedly by thousands of different observers, the modern political climate holds new developments. As our politicians squabble on the national stage it becomes clear that along with misrepresenting us, these elites are increasingly incapable of effectively governing the country. A division has emerged within the ruling class that makes their hold on power increasingly tenuous, creating opportunities for the people to seek a radically different future.
After four years, the promises of President Obama’s campaign seem almost cruel when placed alongside his actions in office. Instead of a break with the past, Obama has pursued policies remarkably akin to those of his predecessors, most ironically George Bush. Guantanamo Bay remains open while an interventionist foreign policy continues to cause thousands of deaths globally. Our economy continues to be weak, the “recovery” largely jobless; tax rates on the wealthy are at historic lows; health care reform passed only as a broken shadow of itself; and our freedoms have been limited by the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in ways that the authors of the Patriot Act could only dream of. There can be little argument that Obama has fallen far short of his promises from the campaign trail.
It is difficult to question a system to which there is no conceivable alternative. We have grown up in an America without a political left, and so, as we watch our system crumble under the weight of inequality, we don’t know what to do about it. We vote for the ‘other’ people, the ones who didn’t visibly have a hand in getting us to our current situation, or the ones who make the best excuses and offer the vaguest promises. Looking to Europe and Canada, we see a few things that look right—a free or inexpensive college education and health care for every citizen. Conservatives cry “Socialism! Marxism!” and even educated people reply to queries about socialism and communism with, “It didn’t work in the USSR; just look at what happened!” What do you say to that? We would like to know too. We have been listening to critiques of socialism our whole lives, whether we knew it or not, and now we’re going to try to formulate responses to these critiques. In this edition of The Harbinger, we’re going to articulate what it is that we are against, and respond to one of the most common criticisms of communism that we encounter.
We were anti-capitalists long before we knew what the term meant. Growing up watching relatives work awful jobs for very little pay while their employers made exorbitant amounts of money instilled in us a desire to see things change in the worker-employer relationship. For a time, voting Democrat seemed like the best way to address this. However, the past three years of American politics have convinced us that a more fundamental change is necessary. Democrats and Republicans alike are uninterested in seeing full employment, the resurgence of labor unions, or a decrease in CEO pay. These conditions can only be realized by the fall of capitalism.
The path to becoming an anti-capitalist begins with realizing that there is a doctrine of accepted assumptions about how finance, economics, and politics in America function. The process of questioning these assumptions begins differently for everybody—cynicism, disillusionment, voracious reading of history, perhaps a rebellious streak. Noticing that we mistook an unrecognized or unquestioned belief for a fact is a difficult process, made harder still by an aversion to asking what might seem like a stupid question. How is the value of anything determined? What exactly is “capital”? What does, and what should, distinguish private from public property? Like any good question, the answers lead only to more questions. We would like to explore the assumptions about capitalism that we grew up with and the alternatives to capitalism, and learn how to effectively make a case against capitalism.
As we observe the one-year anniversaries of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, we hear more news everyday about the ongoing protests throughout the Middle East, Europe, and even the United States. For the past year and a half, we have been witness to a resurgence of revolutionary sentiment worldwide. It is not a movement of any individual group or nationality bent against localized injustices; it is a revolution of the immense majority against the worldwide rule of an extreme minority. Instead of seeing each battle against injustice as an isolated struggle, we are increasingly seeing the connections between them. Today, a link of solidarity exists between protesters all over the world in a way not felt in decades. We are waking to the fact that we are not fighting individual rulers or policies but a common system of oppression and degradation.
Solidarity. Together we are strong
Latest Cover: Harbinger 7
After almost 4 months of occupation, consensus, and protesting; and after repeated instances of police brutality, tear gas, and over 5,000 arrests; America has a mass movement again. What began with a few hundred protesters in Zuccotti Park has become an uprising capable of changing the foundations of the American political system.
We have shut down ports, occupied Times Square, stood toe to toe with police officers and seen them—for the first time in living memory- back down. Where before our society seemed to drive relentlessly onward, independent of our wishes, we have now experienced the feeling of reaching out and seizing control, if only for a moment. We have learned a lesson from our brothers and sisters in the Middle East, Africa and Europe who helped demonstrate the power of a people united against oppression. It seems that we had forgotten what we were capable of; 2011 has reminded us.
This is not to say that the fight is over. Indeed, this struggle has just begun. Occupy has suffered major setbacks in the form of coordinated government repression, evictions and arrests. The combination of winter and tear gas has forced them from the streets of most major cities, leading some to claim (or perhaps hope) that the movement is dying. Occupy is indeed in a difficult position, it has run into several limitations in its strategy, and needs to forge a new path if it is to continue to grow. Nonetheless, to think that Occupy will simply evaporate is a delusion of the 1%.
The slogan, “You cannot evict an idea,” that greeted the cops attempting to destroy Occupy camps illustrates both the key accomplishment of the movement and the reason it will not disappear in the cold of winter. No matter what the future holds, Occupy has already scored a terrific victory by breaking the taboo of opposing capitalism. A year ago, corporate news outlets and politicians were talking about austerity and the necessity of working class sacrifice. Today, as the American public increasingly begins to leave them behind, they have been forced to address issues of economic justice and social equality. Dramatic shifts like these cannot be undone at a stroke. But if we are to continue this transition, we must progress.
So where does Occupy go from here?
The three greatest strengths of Occupy are its broad message of economic justice, emphasis on radical democracy, and use of direct action. America, perhaps the wealthiest nation in history, is one of the most unequal industrial societies, with the lowest rates of social mobility in the developed world. Society is polarized into two opposing groups: the minority—the capitalists—who control the wealth and rule the society, and the oppressed working majority. Occupy has brought this contradiction of wealth and poverty into the discussion and built a mass movement to oppose the ruling minority. Until the wealth of our society is distributed more equally among those who create it, economic justice will remain at the center of Occupy’s message.
Tactically, radical democracy and direct action are two sides of the same coin. Radical democracy creates a space where people participate directly in making group decisions, while direct action presents a method of enacting these decisions without relying on the bureaucracy of the 1%. Instead of electing a rich person to feign interest in their locality and betray them in Washington, the people opt to create a new democracy truly reflective of their wishes. After decades of attempting to reform a degrading and disempowering system from within, we are now largely refusing to engage with the “accepted channels” for change. This independence must be maintained as the movement moves forward. To endorse a political candidate and fall back into the sinkhole of the two party system is to return once more to the model of politics that has enforced the rule of the 1% for centuries.
While building upon these important ideals, we must also avoid fetishizing the individual practices that brought us here. Though the physical occupation of public spaces remains a great rallying point for the movement, it is the ideas of Occupy that have inspired millions. Our movement should judge its own tactics primarily on whether they serve to combat the hegemony of the 1%. If that means occupying a park, great, but we must be open to a variety of methods for reclaiming physical and mental space in our society. Additionally, in judging these tactics we must be willing and able to change them. If aspects of the consensus process begin to hamper the ability of the group to function effectively and democratically, we should feel free to modify them. This movement is about creating a truly democratic and economically just society, and we should not subordinate our goals to a particular process.
Finally, there has been talk about the need for Occupy to become more moderate, and engage with the traditional American system to become more relatable. This view, while somewhat understandable, is fundamentally flawed. The demand for moderation appears each time a radical movement emerges, the claim being that in order to gain broad acceptance the radicals must temper their goals and join the accepted political framework. For Occupy to do this would spell the end of the movement. Occupy already enjoys broad public support, becoming more ‘moderate’ and allying with aspects of the traditional political system will ultimately degrade this support. The American public already has a political party that claims to seek “change” and then sells them out to corporate interests. A key part of Occupy’s message is that the US political system has been made the servant of the 1% and no longer reflects the will of the people. To conform to and join this corrupt system in a vain attempt to gain its acceptance would negate a key element of the movement. We may fight individual battles for this or that reform, but the aim of the movement must remain a broad transformation of both the economic system and structure or our society.
Instead of seeking merely to improve the conditions of our exploitation, be it with a slightly higher wage or mildly less oppressive legislation, we should struggle to seize control of the economic and political processes which dominate our lives. While we can fight for larger cages, our ultimate aim is and must continue to be their abolition. In a few short months Occupy has cracked capitalism’s monopoly on legitimacy. As the new year dawns, time is on our side; we have at long last seen our chains, we now work to shatter them.
Since the last issue of The Harbinger, the Occupy Wall Street movement has become a national issue. In every major metropolitan area, a “sister occupation” has taken hold in some fashion. The setup of each of the protests is roughly the same: a core group of protesters sets up a visible camp in a public space to provide a constant presence that “occupies,” or reclaims the location for the use of the majority. Larger general assemblies and demonstrations are held on weekends or after work when employed supporters have time to participate. Though there have been severe cases of police brutality in such locations as Boston, on the whole, most of the Occupations, especially those in smaller cities, have had good relations with the police. However, in recent weeks more and more occupations are coming under larger and more violent police intimidation.
At the beginning of the protests, the Occupy Wall Street crowd was made primarily of anti-capitalists, libertarians, and the usual protesters that appear at anti-establishment gatherings. However, due to the severity of the Global Recession, other citizens have joined in the protests: not just young anarchists, but middle aged union men, Democrat white collar professionals, and progressive parents. Despite the fact that this is a socialist zine that you’re reading, it is important not to think of the protesters as a bunch of maniacal, radical leftists as the corporate media often tries to portray them: there are many progressives, liberals, libertarians and even conservatives who have joined the movement, and the socialists and anarchists are but one part of a disaffected populace that wants change.
All Occupy groups are based on direct democracy, where there are as few representatives as possible and everyone has a direct say in the proceedings. These groups draw from Anarchist consensus methods created to ensure that the majority of a group could not drown out a minority, with each protest determining the rules on their own rather than from some central source. However, most protests do share a number of common characteristics, including particular hand symbols and the now famous “Human Microphone.” The use of hand symbols is so that everyone in the group can hear the current speaker but still respond or object to what they are saying. The “Human Microphone,” though, is a recent development: after the NYPD forbade megaphones at the protest, the Occupiers there developed a system in which the people closest to the speaker would repeat what they said, and would then be repeated again further out. Rather than create a ‘cult-like’ mentality, the Human Microphone allows people as a whole to fully control what is said at any meeting: you don’t repeat what the speaker is saying if you don’t like it, and it makes the listener active in the speech itself.
On the whole, there are four major issues that have given rise to the protests. Though all are interconnected and must be solved as a group, each is best understood on its own first.
1.Government is controlled by the rich (the 1% in the OWS vernacular) who use lobbyists, legal bribers, etc. to dictate US law and policy. This makes our laws favor the elite and their profits more than the vast majority.
2.Banks and corporations use these favorable laws to recklessly gamble money and give executives huge bonuses, while shunting all risk onto the populace. We see nothing of these larger profits (adjusted for inflation, average wages have remained relatively flat over the last 25 years– and not just for the working class).
3.This disconnect from both political and economic self-determination has made the USA a country where the voice of the working class and middle class does not matter to the socioeconomic elite– in effect, we have become an elective oligarchy. To prevent the people from realizing this, they use corporate media to divide people on petty social issues and partisan politics. There is a growing feeling of malaise and disconnection from society as a whole in the majority because of this.
4.Also, high unemployment fits in there somewhere.
The Occupy movement is, essentially, a rediscovery of each other as political entities outside of corporate or party-authorized social gatherings. As a whole, the majority of the country – the 99% – must find a solution to these problems not dictated to us by the ones who benefit from this status quo.
As there are several hundred Occupy demonstrations in the United States alone, a summary of the last month will inevitably be incomplete. However, we will attempt to give a list of notable events and overall trends in the various movements.
New York: On October 2, 700 people were arrested for traffic violations while marching across the Brooklyn Bridge. Many of the protesters maintain that they were deliberately redirected towards the bridge by the NYPD, while other observers say there was a communication failure on both sides of the police action. On October 15, 23 people who were closing accounts at CitiBank as a group were detained by the police. There have been unconfirmed reports that there were undercover police who acted as instigators in the incident. On October 16, appx. 6,000 demonstrators marched through Times Square.
East Coast: On October 10th, Occupy Boston was deliberately crushed by the city. In a stunning display of police action, the first to be arrested after beatings there were US Veterans. The entire camp was thrown into garbage trucks afterwards. A jar filled with toxic chemicals was thrown into the Occupy Portland (Maine) camp at 4 AM on October 23, though nobody was harmed. The thrower has not been found. On October 24, state and local police refused to do a crackdown on Occupy Albany ordered by Governor Cuomo (D) and the Mayor of Albany. Philadelphia has had one of the more peaceful relationships between the protesters and the police. On November 15th, after a week of national police crackdowns, the Occupy New York camp was raided. in the early hours of the morning police shut down the subways and Brooklyn bridge, gave the protesters 20 minutes to clear out, and then marched into the camp. Protesters have since relocated to Foley park, and remain adamant commitment to the movement.
Midwest: Despite some repression by police, Chicago was the first of the protests to successfully march in the financial district. Cincinnati’s occupation initially had major difficulties as there were no publicly owned parks to set up tents in.
West Coast: Occupy LA has had one of the most friendly police presences in the country: however, ABC news created a false alarm that clouded October 26. On October 25, Oakland was the first protest to be attacked with rubber bullets, tear gas, and flash/bang grenades. A recent veteran was severely injured in the attacks. The first general, city-wide strike in the United States since 1937 was held in Oakland in response to the police brutality, and in the evening a foreclosed community center was occupied by more radical elements of the protests. They were then attacked by the police. Another veteran was harmed in Oakland by State troopers this week as well. Oakland has been given widespread international attention too: a solidarity protest was held at the American Embassy in Egypt, among many others.
South and Southwest: Despite being in the heart of conservative territory, there have been several successful Occupation movements in Texas as well as Arizona. Occupy Atlanta, GA has had a continuous, large, presence since near the beginning of the movement, but is now under threat of expulsion. On November 6 their assembly went to neighborhoods to prevent foreclosures from happening. Occupy Nashville was attacked by SWAT teams on October 28. A curfew law was created by the state legislature that was enforced only on the protesters despite applying to all social gatherings, and judges in the State Courts of Tennessee have suspended it for now.
Police have increasingly begun to crack down on protests nationwide, claiming that the settlements are anything from dangerous to unsanitary. The real reason is all too clear, as it has grown, the occupy movement has become a credible threat to the power structure. Now we begin to see more clearly the true nature of the American state, suppressing peaceful protesters to protect the interests of an elite minority. The American government has learned nothing from the Arab spring, and think that they can simply force us back into obedience, but we know that their is no suppressing an idea who’s time has come. For every camp they destroy, let 3 more spring up; for every protester arrested let 10 stand up to take their place. Our time is now.
Welcome to another year of the Harbinger. We’ve managed to stay alive and even grow a little stronger, despite the best prayers of conservative FBI informants everywhere. We thought we’d start this semester off with an short explanation of some of the values and ideas that guide us as Anti-Capitalists, allowing us to set right some false assumptions the power structure, and Fox news in particular, has helped cultivate.
Our group, The Student Socialist Union is a multi-tendency leftist organization. We embrace the common ideals of Socialism, Communism, and Anarchy in an effort to build a united front against capitalism. The enemy is too strong for us to be caught up in sectarian bickering: only through coordinated action can we hope to seize our future back from those who seek to sell it for a better bottom line.
Socialism is not the boogie man that the right likes to build it into, but a centuries old ideology of liberation and equality. It encompasses a wide variety of theories all based around the idea that in this modern age, with the vast wealth that our society produces, there is no longer any need for hunger, homelessness, or major inequalities. We believe that the means of production, that is the factories, land and machinery used to produce commercial goods, should be held in common among the people that work and utilize them. Wealth is created through group action, and should be divided amongst the group, not hoarded by an individual. State Socialism, Communism, and Anarchism are extremely dynamic and varied theories, what follows are mere sketches of the ideas entailed in each.
Socialism, as a term is the most general of these ideologies, and has been used to refer to everything from the Labour party in Britain to the Bolsheviks in Revolutionary Russia. The basic idea of socialism is that the majority of the population to take control of government, be it through democratic or revolutionary means, and administer the means of production through the state. This is usually done through a workers party which represents the will of the people, and administers the state in their interests. Socialists governments generally launch a broad platform of educational, medical, housing, and other social programs, also bringing major industries and utilities under the control of the government, and by extension the people.
Communists believe in a radical reorganization of society to create a truly democratic way of life. Generally they believe in worker’s control of the means of production; economic democracy, meaning decisions of what and how much to produce are made by the community; and the end of private property. Some communists see socialism as but the first step on the road to a communist society. They see using the state to redistribute wealth and create the structure of the future society: organizing communes and planning the economy. Others believe that communism should be brought about from the grass roots by expropriation, and localized organizations of working people who come together to create national and international economic organizations.
Finally, Anarchists believe that inequality and oppression are caused by coercive , force based authority. It is a common misconception that anarchists don’t believe in any sort of organization. This is false. Anarchists believe in voluntary democratic organization who’s decisions are enforced by the community, without professional police or army. They believe the people should overthrow the state without taking power, decentralizing decision making to the local level and administering the economy through trade and regional economic unions. Generally Anarchists seek a communist future without resorting to state authority to create it.
It is the goal of our group to find the unities within these ideologies, namely their opposition to capitalist exploitation and sham democracy, belief in worker control of their own lives and jobs, and a more equitable distribution of wealth. We must stand together to oppose the corrupt immoral system of global capital, and fight in concert for a truly better tomorrow.
On January 25, 2011, a series of protests, strikes, and riots began that eventually resulted in the resignation of long-reigning Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. As these events unfolded, the Western news media struggled to explain the cause of this phenomenon. While journalists credited things such as twitter and speeches by Barack Obama for the sudden manifestation of pro-democracy sentiment among the Egyptian people, virtually all of these narratives ignored the important role played by Egyptian activists and organizers, especially in the labor movement.
Egypt has a long history of labor militancy that begins around the turn of the twentieth century, during which trade unions helped organize actions against British colonial control over Egypt. Under the regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser (1954-1970), the role of unions in Egypt changed drastically. Previously centers of opposition and radicalism, the trade unions came under the control of the state, which created the Egyptian Trade Union Federation in 1957. This Federation, which was, until the 2011 Revolution, the only such organization in Egypt, was controlled by the ruling National Democratic Party and has opposed workers’ agitation against government policies.
Labor activists did, however, manage to play a role in politics independent of the state-controlled Federation. In 1977, the government of Anwar Sadat announced a plan to end subsidies of basic commodities such as flour and rice. This move was part of a years-long process of liberalizing the Egyptian economy and dismantling the elements of a welfare state created under Nasser. The reaction of the Egyptian people to the news of the impending cancellation of food subsidies was immediate and outraged. Led in part by labor militants, people across Egypt marched and rioted for two days against Sadat’s decision, eventually resulting in the policy being retracted.
More recently, the last ten years has seen a rising tide of labor activity in Egypt. On April 6, 2008, Egyptian textile workers called for a general strike in support of their demand for a raise in the minimum wage. When police prevented the strike from taking place, a demonstration took place in the textile-producing city of El-Mahalla El-Kubra, also attacked by security forces. The April 6th Youth Movement, the group which initiated many of the January 25 protests, took its name from the date of this attempted strike and protest.
When the pro-democracy movement in Tunisia succeeded in ousting president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, it was a great inspiration to others with similar goals. Egypt, with its growing labor movement and well-organized opposition, was a logical place for the next revolution to take place. On January 30, the sixth day of protests, the Federation of Egyptian Trade Unions, an independent organization, was created in opposition to the government-run federation. This new federation called for a general strike in support of the movement against Mubarak’s government. Demonstrations took place for several weeks, and more and more workers joined the strike, eventually leading to Mubarak stepping down on February 11. Although Mubarak is gone, the struggle must continue if it is to achieve justice for the workers of Egypt. Even though it remains to be seen what the outcome of the revolution will be, it certainly demonstrates the power of labor, and popular movements in general, to bringing about dramatic change. And it continues to serve as an inspiration to activists and revolutionaries around the world, including those who are participating in the struggles currently taking place in Libya, Yemen, and Bahrain. On February 20, Egyptian labor leader Kemal Abbas issued a statement of solidarity with workers’ struggles around the world, in particular, addressing those in Wisconsin who are resisting the governor’s attack on the pay and collective bargaining rights of state employees. Speaking for the workers of Egypt, Abbas declared, “We want you to know that we stand on your side. Stand firm and don’t waiver. Don’t give up on your rights. Victory always belongs to the people who stand firm and demand their just rights.”
By: Jack Hagen
On March 10, 2011, Wisconsin lawmakers headed by Republican Governor, Scott Walker, and, by association, the Republican Party, made a direct assault upon the working class by voting to pass a union busting bill that strips workers of their collective bargaining rights. While they attempt to justify their actions with the balancing the state budget, the passing of this bill strikes a blow against the working class of Wisconsin, preventing them from effectively fighting for their rights. The passing of the bill also sets a dangerous precedent that lawmakers in other states are using to forward a platform of union busting legislation. An article on the bill’s passing in the Huffington Post describes the potential spread of this disturbing oppressive trend.
“Walker’s plan has touched off a national debate over labor rights for public employees and its implementation would be a key victory for Republicans, many of whom have targeted unions amid efforts to slash government spending. Similar bargaining restrictions are making their way through Ohio’s Legislature and several other states are debating measures to curb union rights in smaller doses.”
It seems as though this may be the first of many clashes between the working class and the pro-corporate, if not outrightly corporate-controlled, US government. This must be stopped NOW. The battle is not lost until the people give up fighting. Workers must unite, regardless of what lies lawmakers sign off on.
Collective bargaining rights are one of the few things standing between the working class and complete oppressive rule by corporate or government entities. While our political system aspires to a democracy, our economic structure operates as a dictatorship. The average individual worker has no say about the condition in which they work and the compensation they receive. At best, their grievances and requests are tossed in a box and ignored with numerous others. At worst, workers can be punished for voicing their opinions. Only together can workers pose a significant threat to the profits so incessantly sought by the rich elite and demand humane working conditions and compensation equitable to their labor. Individuals can be fired and replaced, it is much more difficult, however, to replace the entirety of a workforce. Not only are there more people to replace, but a significant ideological message would be sent by a corporation or government entity tossing all of its employees aside in the name of profit. Even more threatening than the specific things, like pension, lost in the passing of the Wisconsin bill, is the foundational platform created, from which future anti-union and anti-working class campaigns can be waged. The key to preventing this oppression from spreading from Wisconsin is in the name itself, unity. Workers, all workers, regardless of industry or other forms of social division, i.e. race, gender, etc., must band together to protect themselves against oppression from the rich few.
One of the most effective tactics used to bust unions is the dissemination of anti-union propaganda, creating a false sense of hostility and conflict between union and non-union workers and the unemployed. Unions gain no benefit from any member of the working class being oppressed, whether they are employed at the time or not. Similarly no individual member of the working class can ultimately benefit from being anti-union, as they are attacking one the few entities in this society that seeks to allow them to be heard. The key to this issue is for all working class people to realize their mutual stake in the battle for collective bargaining rights. While there is no denying that significant conflicts arise between union workers and the rest of the working class, this conflict is a false product of the oppressive capitalist system’s misinformation and distortion of fact. The true enemy is not our brothers and sisters in the picket lines fighting for a better life, but the bosses who would deny those same rights to us.
By Paul Darnell
On December 2, 1956 a boat carrying 82 men landed on the coast of eastern Cuba. By the time they made their way to safety in the Sierra Maestra mountains their number had been reduced to 20. They called themselves the 26th of July Movement and they declared their goal to be the overthrow of the Cuban government. Two years later this had been achieved, as the U.S. backed dictator Fulgencio Batista fled and the rebels took Havana. Although this represented the victory of the Cuban people over the economic interests of American companies that had dominated the island, the character of the revolution was still uncertain. In the following years the revolutionary government came to embraced Marxism and came into greater conflict with the United States, which was determined to crush the revolution through economic methods like the trade embargo and military means such as the Bay of Pigs invasion.
The Cuban people made education and healthcare the cornerstones of their revolution, with a great deal of success. In 1961, 1,000,000 Cubans were mobilized in the literacy campaign known as the “year of education.” In this single year Cuba’s literacy rate was improved from 76% to 96% and has continued to increase. The proportion of children in Cuba attending school has been raised from 55% in 1959 to virtually 100% today. Education is free for all Cubans, as is a healthcare service that is widely acknowledged as being amongst the most advanced in the world and has achieved better average lifespans and infant mortality rates than the United States. Free access to this healthcare system is guaranteed in Cuba’s constitution. Another right guaranteed by the Cuban government is the right to work, a fact which is demonstrated by Cuba’s unemployment rate of 1.6% - significantly below the world average of 8.7% and 9.3% in the U.S.
The achievements of the Cuban Revolution aren’t limited to the island itself, as Cuba has supported revolutionary movements across the globe. This support has at times involved sending weapons and volunteers to places as far away as Angola and Guinea-Bissau to aid revolutionaries fighting against European colonial powers but has had other manifestation as well. When the Sandinista government took power in Nicaragua, Cuba trained Nicaraguan teachers to participate in their own literacy campaign and even sent teachers of its own. While these were important contributions to revolutionary efforts, the most successful aspect of Cuba’s foreign policy has been its “medical internationalism” which brings medical care to places in need at no charge to the patients or host countries. Since 1963, an estimated 130,000 Cuban physicians have volunteered in Cuban medical missions in foreign countries, and in 2008 almost 25% of Cuba’s doctors were working abroad. A large proportion of these doctors are currently working in Venezuela, where they have established 6,000 clinics to serve the poorest areas of the country. Cuba also has a large medical presence in Haiti, where its doctors provide medical care for 80% of the population. One of the most successful Cuban programs is Operation Miracle, which has provided free eye surgery to over 1.3 million people from throughout Latin America. In addition to treating local populations, Cuban doctors have set up medical schools in many of the countries in which they have volunteered. Cuba also operates the Latin American School of Medicine, one of the largest such institutions in the world, which trains international students to become doctors. In 2008 there were over 8,000 students from 28 countries enrolled.
The Cuban Revolution has over the past 50 years been able to achieve all of this and more in the face of constant aggression from the world’s most powerful nation. Although errors have been made, the leadership has shown a willingness to admit when its policies have been incorrect. Two of the most well publicized cases have been the government’s previously harsh stances towards organized religion and homosexuality, both of which have been overturned and apologized for by the parties responsible. This shows that the revolutionary government has the willingness to continue to deepen the revolution and continue to build a better society. As a whole, the Cuban Revolution has been a remarkable triumph and should be an inspiration to all those who work for a better way of life.
By: Jack Hagen