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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 13, No. 47, 13 November 2014

In this Issue:

Red Alert

Obama, it may seem, is alone on this matter!

By Comrade Che Matlhako

End the United States of America`s economic embargo on Cuba: The United Nations General Assembly votes for the 23rd time

On 28 October the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly for the 23rd consecutive time, condemning the United States of America`s decades-long economic embargo against Cuba. Cuba was also praised by delegates from many countries for its role in the fight against Ebola in West Africa. In the 193 Member-States General Assembly, 188 voted for the resolution, the `Necessity of Ending the Economic, Commercial and Financial Embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba`.

The voting results were the same as in previous years with the U.S, which is led by Barack Hussein Obama II as President (that "gentleman" - real gentlemen don`t lie - who was first elected to the position on a campaign ticket to end the embargo) being one of the only two member-states that, in blunt contrast, voted against ending it. The other member-state voting with the U.S was its satellite state in the Middle East, Israel and Pacific island states Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau abstaining.

Comrade Che Matlhako, General Secretary of the Friends of Cuba Society (FOCUSA) in South Africa and full time SACP Central Committee Member, Secretary for International Relations, below takes us through changes in attitude within the U.S media on the embargo against Cuba.

Obama, it may seem, is alone on this matter!

By Che Matlhako

Over the last few weeks and in the midst of major world events, an important point was made, by the New York Times. The paper has in the past few weeks found reason to openly break with the official U.S policy on Cuba. It has joined the worldwide chorus calling for the U.S administration to lift the economic embargo against Cuba, and by so doing for President Obama to `make history`. This makes for interesting developments as the New York Time is not an insignificant player in the U.S polity and holds huge sway in various areas of public policy and Capitol HIll lobby front.

This also came hot on the heels of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly Plenary session scheduled of 28 October to consider the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the U.S against Cuba: report of the UN Secretary-General (A/69/98). The UN General Assembly has over many years voted unanimously, and adopted for the umpteenth time consecutively, a resolution calling for an end to the U.S decades-long economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba.

The New York Times editorial board has found another reason the U.S should lift its long-time embargo against Cuba: Ebola.

The paper called for an end of the embargo, though not because of Ebola and followed that up with and editorial: `Ebola an urgent reminder U.S should open relations with Cuba`. Some few telling points made by the paper are worth noting:

"It is a shame that Washington, the chief donor in the fight against Ebola, is diplomatically estranged from Havana, the boldest contributor. In this case the schism has life-or-death consequences, because American and Cuban officials are not equipped to coordinate global efforts at a high level. This should serve as an urgent reminder to the Obama administration that the benefits of moving swiftly to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba far outweigh the drawbacks…"

Secretary of State John Kerry then praised "the courage of any health care worker who is undertaking this challenge," and made a brief acknowledgment of Cuba`s response. "As a matter of good sense and compassion, the American military, which now has about 550 troops in West Africa, should commit to giving any sick Cuban access to the treatment centre the Pentagon built in Monrovia and to assisting with evacuation."

The New York Times wrote in praise of Cuba`s aggressive response to quarantining the virus in Africa, where there has been an epidemic, and said the U.S should follow suit.

US embargo against Cuba

Cuba calculates the resulting economic damages accumulated after half a century to amounting to more than $1 trillion. The embargo also has as its main obstacle (among others) to broader access to the Internet, the free circulation of persons, the exchange of ideas and the development of cultural, sport and scientific relations. However, many U.S citizens have over the years undermined the embargo by among others traveling in contravention to U.S laws to Cuba, whilst others have gone on to study medicine in the Cuba.

The essence of the United States` Cuba policy remained unaltered and anchored in the Cold War. Cuba holds that the blockade is a relic of the Cold War and has no place in contemporary politics. But the U.S administration went on to strengthen the embargo and imposed extraterritorial punitive measures against third parties who trade with Cuba.

The blockade had been further tightened under President Obama`s administration, particularly in the financial sector. The U.S has historically used the enormous technological power of its recently denounced mass espionage system to persecute and monitor Cuba`s financial transactions and economic relations. From January 2009 to September 2013, fines imposed on 30 U.S and foreign entities for relations with Cuba and other countries amounted to more than $2.4 billion.

In an earlier editorial (11 October, `Sunday Review`), the New York Times makes the following points:

"For the first time in more than 50 years, shifting politics in the United States and changing policies in Cuba make it politically feasible to re-establish formal diplomatic relations and dismantle the senseless embargo. The Castro regime has long blamed the embargo for its shortcomings, and has kept ordinary Cubans largely cut off from the world. Mr. Obama should seize this opportunity to end a long era of enmity and help a population that has suffered enormously since Washington ended diplomatic relations in 1961, two years after Fidel Castro assumed power." Furthermore:

"A first step, the Obama administration should remove Cuba from the State Department`s list of nations that sponsor terrorist organisations, which includes Iran, Sudan and Syria. Cuba was put on the list in 1982 for backing terrorist groups in Latin America, which it no longer does. American officials recognise that Havana is playing a constructive role in conflict in Colombia by hosting peace-talks between the government and guerrilla leaders. Since 1961, Washington has imposed sanctions in an effort to oust the Castro regime. Over the decades, it became clear to many American policy-makers that the embargo was an utter failure."

The New York Times realises that the U.S stands alone on this matter. In order to avoid losing face, the paper suggests Obama lifts the embargo in order to be in sync with the times. The overwhelming world opinion is against the unilateral sanctions imposed on weaker nations by the militarily strong U.S. However, huge geo-politics shifts are occurring, reducing the perceived power of U.S as a global policeman. The paper correctly acknowledges the role others could play in the process of Cuba reforming the economy that is currently underway, and hell-bent on seizing the opportunity to position the U.S enterprises and firms to be the beneficiaries of such.

"Failing to engage Cuba now will likely cede this market (telecommunications) to competitors. The presidents of China and Russia traveled to Cuba in separate visits in July, and both leaders pledged to expand ties"; argues the New York Times, further remarking that:

"Normalising relations with Havana would improve Washington`s relationships with governments in Latin America - a subtly acknowledgement of the immense role and respect Cuba commands on the continent, and resolve an irritant that has stymied initiatives in the hemisphere. The Obama administration is leery of Cuba`s presence at the meeting and Mr. Obama has not committed attending. He must - and should see it as an opportunity to make history"

Obama, it may seem, is alone on this matter!

Comrade Che Matlhako is General-Secretary of the Friends of Cuba Society - South Africa (FOCUS-SA) and Full Time SACP Central Committee Member, Secretary for International Affairs.

Nota Bene - Note well!

This piece was supplied to a number of local media houses for publication, but it was never published. If you tail the U.S media, when they change their minds on the very same facts it might be embarrassing to follow instantly. Is that not so?

What`s purported to be radicalism could be something else!

By Barry Mitchell

Most noticeable of late is fronting rhetoricians, loud and proud, active in displaying full plumes of feathers similar to a male peacock yearning for attention but turning itself inside-out in an infantile display of desperateness. Recent developments in South Africa portrayed by some print and online media houses signify an impending "Perfect Storm", as "eloquently" "elaborated" by Max Du Preez (SA is heading to its Tunisia Day, 5 November 2014, Moneyweb). The expulsion of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) has further added to this "cataclysmic impending disaster".

If logic were to prevail amongst this media frenzy, then perhaps a clear and unambiguous understanding of principle-trumps-personality should, and must, prevail. The challenge however is that objective observers of unfolding events seem completely void of any historical context.

Furthermore, and with the utmost respect, veterans of the movement now voluntarily extracted from the realities within the trade union federation Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) have added their voice to choir, at times echoing sentiments of arm-chair critics who are far removed if not displaced from reality. At the end of the day, they too are engaged in pushing a certain politics and are therefore not neutral. They could as well be part of the forces at play who have caused the problems. Is it not expected that those who have divorced the Alliance and react negatively towards it will maintain this politics in whatever they have to say? This is what the likes of one Sam Shilowa to left to form the so-called Congress of the People from which he was later banished are engaging in. Jay Naidoo? For some time now he has showed the signs of, in the one extreme, the moderate one, biasness and in the other, the extreme one, embeddedness in factionalism.

Perhaps what is needed amongst those that indicate keen interest in the current dynamics within the trade union movement is acceptance of an evolutionary character of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR). What is needed, too, is a basic understanding that material conditions alter: what is what was, might not be what today is tomorrow.

Extracting sections from the Freedom Charter, formulated in 1955, and purport reflect a historical standard of "radicalism" in order to chastise the current administration for narrow personality-cult egotisms and to adopt populist rhetoric used to manipulate the working class masses, is an affront to every dignity of the revolutionary movement dedicated at ending the exploitation of person-by-person.

It is with ease that one could don a Nostradamus coat and predict the grandstanding of leadership cliques vying for media attention on the bandwagon of the triple-crisis of inequality, unemployment and poverty facing many people in SA but in effect spitting dangerous airs of witlessness to the unintended consequences we could face.

Also, if rhetoric was permitted to prevail within the core principle of democracy, i.e. democratic centralism, if the mandate entrusted by workers upon leadership was bypassed for the sake of an individual, regardless of apparent capacity, anarchy characterised by manipulation, rhetoric and unimpeded exploitation would have taken grip of organised labour and the left axis in this country.

To date the explosion of rhetoric from numerous quarters manifests in ultra-leftism, workerism - syndicalism, and on the other side of the same coin, embryonic fascism. Ironically, but not surprisingly, these rhetoricians have gained tacit support from the "complete opposite" they purport to be opposing - the ideological forces of private capital accumulation, neo-liberals, conservatives, anti-majoritarians, have all jumped on the "Perfect Storm" bad-wagon to express their "dissatisfaction" at the current "trajectory" of economic and labour affairs. This trait of "adaptation" to suit one`s material needs has become common within capital in South Africa in its historical senses. A relatively new phenomena, described as business unionism, is a direct manipulative manifestation of this "adaptation" - i.e. vacillation.

An egalitarian society seeking to end all forms of exploitation of person by person and in which all the products of human endeavour will be distributed according to need, requires sound comprehension of historical and material realities. The implementation of such comprehensions must therefore be matched with historical and contemporary realities.

Rhetoric through grandstanding merely orchestrates a symphony of capital delight and plays into the hands of sensationalists and biased elements, both print and online. Whilst the rhetoricians and arm-chair critiques speculate, debate and attempt to ignite populist manipulative feelings or demagogic mobilisation amongst the working class, the second, more radical phase of the NDR, given context and content through a process of, amongst others, re-industrialisation and relative global de-linking should continue, unhindered by attempts to derail a historic struggle that is yet to reach its logical, revolutionary conclusion.

Let`s `GO TO THE ROOT` as the SACP discussion document on the second, more radical phase of the NDR appeals.

Comrade Barry Mitchell is Second Deputy Provincial Secretary of the SACP in Western Cape, and writes in personal capacity.