Cuba: Crime and Punishment

“I did not bow down to you, I bowed down to all the suffering of humanity.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky in Crime and Punishment

Sue Monk on the steps of the Moncada Barracks in Santiago De Cuba now a school and museum. The bullet holes remain to show where the Cuban revolution began.

Before the revolution, poverty and illiteracy afflicted the people. Cuba’s biggest crime, according to the United States, was to stand up for its own sovereignty. This apt title was given by Sue Monk and Lachlan Hurse to a talk about the relentless, sixty year US blockade of Cuba. The forum was organised by Just Peace that has been running in Brisbane since 2004.

Just Peace was set up in response to Australia’s invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. The organisation sought an independent foreign policy from the United States. It was thought, wrongly at the time, that these wars and other acts would culminate in the fall of the Howard government.

Alberto Korda’s portrait of a little girl in Cuba hugging her makeshift dolly out of a lump of wood. “One of his best photos, otherwise, the best of famed photographer Korda. This picture has a very nice story” Vilma Calderin.

This led to a crisis and some introspection in the Left in Australia. Could mass rallies against the war bring about social and political change? Certainly not on their own.

The Australian wealthy elite had swung to the right and it was not until 2007 that the Howard government was eventually toppled after nearly 12 long years in office, attacking working class people and their unions.

However, the damage was done. The alliance with the United States grew stronger than ever with support from both sides of the parliament. With one exception. There was bipartisan support to end the blockade of Cuba because it interrupted free trade.

Meanwhile Australia had committed itself to a 20 year war of terror against the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria,  and anywhere else the United States chose to go.

The US spy base in Central Australia at Pine Gap was crucial to US drone strikes and missile strikes against  people in Iraq and Afghanistan … attacking and murdering any resistance to US imperialism.  However, the Cuban Revolution continued.

The title Crime and Punishment highlights the dependence the Cuban revolution once had on the Soviet Union. When communism collapsed the Cuban people entered ‘the special period‘ where they faced starvation because of the blockade. Yet by the end of the 1990s the Cuban people emerged stronger.

In typical fashion, Sue and Lachlan began their talk with a song.

Sue Monk and Lachlan Hurse described the social and political history of the island. They stressed that underlying the current crisis in Cuba is down to the US blockade which has lasted more than 60 years. Every attempt has been made by successive US administrations to bring the Cuban revolution to its knees. Solidarity with Cuba is not a liberal issue; it goes to the heart of socialist struggle because the Cuban’s supported poor people’s struggles in Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Timor Leste, and Palestine.

I have captured some of the images and video of the Cuban revolution presented by Sue and Lachlan in their talk:

Historic images from the revolution … the assault on the Moncada Garrison in 1959 marked the beginning of the revolution. Left: the front of the barracks. Right: 26th July School, Below Left: Birthplace of Antoniao Maceo for fought for Cuban independence from Spain. Below Right: Photo from Moncada.

Carousel of photos (click to enlarge and view).

We recommend that people keep an eye out for Just Peace events like this and join the organisation if they wish. It focuses on Australia having an independent foreign policy and campaigns against having US bases like Pine Gap on Australian soil.

Jumping Fences conduct a monthly peña in Brisbane called Foco Nuevo.

Ian Curr
12 September 2021

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