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Cuban trade unions salute history of friendship with Britain's labour movement

by Ben Chacko
at Hamilton House

CUBAN trade unionists paid tribute to the “historic friendship and solidarity” between their and Britain’s labour movements at a packed Unions for Cuba conference in central London at the weekend.

Cuban trade union federation CTC deputy general secretary Carmen Rosa Lopez Rodriguez said British workers’ solidarity action in fighting the illegal US blockade of the island and for freedom for the Miami Five had “cemented our traditions of struggle and defence of workers’ rights.”

She led a delegation of 14 Cuban trade unionists, 12 of them women, who are visiting Britain this week to share experiences and build closer links with their British counterparts.

Saluting the internationalist outlook that has led Cuba to send medical workers and educators abroad, Unison London regional secretary Maggi Ferncombe praised Operation Miracle — the cataract-removing mission that has restored sight to 3.4 million people around the world — and the literary Yes I Can campaign that has taught nine million people in poorer countries to read.

Unite leader Len McCluskey said the Cuban revolution continued to inspire the British working class.

Recalling the news of the revolution spreading among Liverpool dockers in 1959, he said: “In the community I come from I remember how welcome that news was. 

“It brought to mind stories of the tears of joy shed by British miners at news of the Russian Revolution of 1917.

“The Cuban elite took off for Florida expecting to come back to their mansions and plantations in a few months. How wrong they were!” he said to stormy applause.

CWU leader Dave Ward noted that Cuba’s new constitution, approved after exhaustive consultation with trade unions and citizens through thousands of workplace meetings, declared that socialism was “irreversible.”

Looking to the election campaign now underway that pits a socialist and anti-imperialist Labour leader against Boris Johnson, he wondered “whether we in Britain might be taking steps in that direction.

“We are on the brink of a rebirth of collectivism in Britain,” he said. “And we are inspired by the way you have resisted the US blockade and [Donald] Trump. We are going to give this everything we’ve got — we will bring about irreversible change, irreversible socialism!”

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