Speakers included Jacob Perasso, a YS national organizer; Jorge Peña, first secretary of the Cuban Mission to the United Nations; and Mary-Alice Waters, a member of the National Committee of the Socialist Workers Party and the books editor. Martín Koppel of the SWP in New York, and Chauncey Robinson, a Young Socialist in Newark, New Jersey, and the SWP candidate for city council there, co-chaired the program.
Those present came not only from the New York-New Jersey area but from Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington, and Albany, New York. The event was the last of four regional events on this topic, sponsored over the past month by the SWP and Young Socialists.
Several members of Casa de las Américas in New York attended, including its president, Luis Miranda. The organization is made up of Cubans who support the Cuban Revolution.
Participants included members of Cuba Solidarity New York, who helped staff a table at the event to build the May 20 Hands Off Venezuela and Cuba march on Washington.
Corky Lee, a photojournalist whose photos document the Asian and Pacific American community, also attended.
Our History Is Still Being Written was created to be used as a tool in the class battles of today and those coming, said Perasso, who is also a leader of the SWPs trade union work. He pointed to the protests by immigrant workers and their allies and noted the self-confidence of those in Detroit and other cities who were fired for joining the protests and are now fighting to win back their jobs.
Ross Hogan, a Young Socialist who attends the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, recounted a story told by Armando Choy, one of the Chinese-Cuban generals interviewed in the book. While working in his fathers store in the mid-1950s, Choy went against his fathers wishes and gave a pound of corn meal to a man whose family would have only that to eat for the day. It was one of the experiences with class injustice that led Choy to join the revolutionary struggle. This kind of solidarity is the backbone of the Cuban Revolution today, he said.
Milton Chee, a rail worker in San Francisco who helped locate valuable photos of Chinese in Cuba for the book, told the audience how thousands of Chinese were brought to the West Coast of the United States in the mid-1800s during the so-called coolie trade. Chinese revolted on these ships against the conditions that were as hideous as the African slave trade, said Chee. His own father was among the thousands of Chinese and other Asian immigrants who claimed U.S. citizenship after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire destroyed all the citys birth records.
Our History shows part of the history of the Cuban Revolution, said Jorge Peña. After reading it, youre not surprised that Cuba is able to send volunteer doctors to Africa, Venezuela, or Pakistan. The struggle of the Cuban Revolution is the struggle of all the people.
Waters reminded those present the meeting coincided with the 45th anniversary of the defeat of the U.S.-organized mercenary invasion of Cuba in April 1961. She cited the observation by Cuban commander José Ramón Fernández that the mercenaries came well organized, well armed, and well supported. What they lacked was a just cause to defend. That is why they did not fight with the same passion, courage, conviction, valor, firmness, bravery, and spirit of victory as did the revolutionary forces.
It is a class question, Waters said, one the imperialists can never understandthe class character of the Cuban Revolution that Our History explains. Her presentation focused on why the future of the sharpening struggles unfolding in the U.S. today are intertwined with Cubas socialist revolution and its example.
In the discussion period, one of the participants asked about the growth of small-scale urban agriculture in Cuba that Moisés Sío Wong, one of the generals interviewed in the book, describes. This initiative, which began within Cubas Revolutionary Armed Forces, was expanded in response to the food shortages that developed at the start of the Special Period, Waters said, referring to the years after the collapse of the Soviet bloc, when Cuba abruptly lost the source of 85 percent of its imports. It is one of the ways in which working people have successfully met Cubas economic and political challenges.
Peña commented on a number of measures that the Cuban government was compelled to take during the Special Period, including the expansion of tourism and joint economic ventures involving corporations from capitalist countries, which increased inequalities between Cubans with access to hard currency and those without it. He said programs such as the urban agriculture and the initiatives to improve the quality of schools and expand access to university education have helped reduce those inequalities and advance the Cuban Revolution.
A meat packer from Newark asked how it was possible to win over Cuban-Americans, like some of his co-workers who are critical of the Cuban Revolution. Perasso replied that the class struggle in the United States will have an impact on many working people, including those born in Cuba who have immigrated here. He pointed to a recent Cuban immigrant he had worked with at a meatpacking plant in Minnesota. When he complained after his first weeks on the job that his hands were swelling up from the pace of the work on the line, the boss told him, If you dont like it, you can go back to Cuba, said Perasso. The co-worker was stunned by the callousness of the response, but he fought back, kept his job, and over time began explaining to others how much better working conditions and access to medical care were in Cuba.
Most of those present stayed for informal discussion over dinner for two hours after the program. Youth got a dance going at the end. Participants pledged and donated $6,980 to help finance the promotion and distribution of books such as Our History Is Still Being Written.
Fifteen Young Socialists met the next morning to discuss their activities. These include building the immigrant rights actions and the march in Washington, Hands off Venezuela and Cuba, joining in the spring Militant sub drive, and planning the YS summer schools, which will begin in several cities, including New York, Atlanta, and Twin Cities.
Maura DeLuca from New York contributed to this article.
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