By Andy Brooks
Solidarity and cultural events big and small are taking place up and down the country to mark the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution. Many are part of the festival organised by Cuba50, the umbrella committee supported by the Cuban Ministry of Culture, Cuban Embassy, Cuba Solidarity Campaign and a number of unions, tourist and business interests. Others like last week’s solidarity meeting in the House of Commons are being organised by progressive organisations like Third World Solidarity (TWS).
Third World Solidarity is no stranger to the Pakistani community in Britain or New Worker supporters in London. The driving force is its Chair, Mushtaq Lasharie, a Labour councillor in Kensington, and TWS has sponsored impressive solidarity events throughout the year since its foundation in 1986.
Last Tuesday was no exception with glittering panel of guest speakers that included the ambassadors of Cuba and Venezuela, veteran Labour politician Tony Benn, the famed American novelist and commentator Gore Vidal and, of course, Mushtaq Lasharie himself.
Ably chaired by Labour MP Dave Anderson speaker after speaker spoke of their impressions of the Cuban revolution and its lesson for today. Tony Benn said the Cuban revolution was one of the most important events of the 20th century because it was a direct attack on the US “Monroe Doctrine” which regarded the whole of Latin America as their own backyard. It gave the people of Cuba the opportunity to develop the full creative spirit of the Cuban people. Inspire by Fidel, they were led by Fidel, Benn said but the achievement was that of the Cuban people themselves.
Speaker after speaker paid their own tributes to Cuba’s new life on the day Barack Obama had been sworn in as President of the United States in Washington DC and this was the cue for Gore Vidal, who gave a scathing commentary on American political life over the period that largely spanned his own 80-odd years. Fidel had seen out all his enemies: the Kennedy brothers, Lyndon Johnson and the two Bush’s .But Vidal was mildly optimistic about Barack Obama saying he hoped the new president would restore the American constitution and American civil rights.
Gore Vidal visited Cuba in 2007 and he said “I came to Cuba with my broken knee to help break 40 years of embargo” – a call echoed by the 150 or so who packed the parliamentary committee room in Westminster.
The American man of letters who is wheel-chair bound called his assistant, a former US naval officer, to speak about “Veterans against the War” and the anti-war movement that is growing in the United States. Though “Veterans against the War” has only 2,000 members’ opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan amongst the officers and the rank-and-file was put at around 50 per cent and growing.
And that was the point Mushtaq Lasharie stressed in his call for solidarity with all the struggling peoples of the world, whether they be in Cuba, Iraq, Afghanistan or the streets of Gaza.
Third World Solidarity can be contacted by writing to : The Secretary, TWS, 303 Testerton Walk London W11 1WG