The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 70/No. 45           November 27, 2006  
Meeting at UCLA discusses
book on Cuban Revolution
(front page)
LOS ANGELES—During the 1960s and ’70s, among Asian American students like himself, said Russell Leong, editor of the Amerasia Journal, “a lot of us focused on the socialist revolution in China and also in Vietnam. We didn’t know much about Cuba, and nothing about the involvement of Chinese in the Cuban Revolution.”

Leong was chairing a presentation here November 8 of Our History Is Still Being Written: The Story of Three Chinese-Cuban Generals in the Cuban Revolution at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Recommending that professors adopt the book for their classes, Leong noted that “you can hear what those who have been involved in the Cuban Revolution have to say about it, and also have to say about the future.”

Leong thanked the sponsors of the meeting, which included several at UCLA: the Asian Pacific Coalition (APC), Asians in the Americas Working Group, Amerasia Journal, Department of Asian American Studies, Asian American Studies Center, and Latin American Center. Also sponsoring were the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research and the Filipino group Bayan of Southern California.

Among the more than 100 people attending were more than 20 UCLA students, members of sponsoring campus groups, activists in solidarity with Cuba, members of the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California (CHSSC), and Filipino and Korean activists.

Jason Osajima, director of the APC, opened the meeting, noting that the coalition includes more than 20 Asian and Pacific Island student groups at UCLA. Also speaking were Eugene Moy, vice president of programs of the CHSSC; Clara Chu, professor in the departments of Information Studies and Asian American Studies who chairs the Asians in the Americas Working Group; Nobuko Miyamoto, founder and artistic director of the Asian American cultural group Great Leap; and Mary-Alice Waters, president of Pathfinder Press and editor of Our History Is Still Being Written.

Ojima said the APC has been involved along with Black and Latino student groups in protests against moves to undermine affirmative action at UCLA.

“We see the struggles that other communities of color are going through on this campus as ours,” he said. “There is still blatant and implicit racism. And I think those were the type of thoughts the Chinese-Cuban generals were going through during their time in the Cuban revolution.”

Leong added that “one of the great things about this book is that it shows the role students can have in the revolution.”
Growing up in segregated L.A.
Eugene Moy described growing up behind his family’s store in segregated South Central Los Angeles.

Through the work of the Chinese Historical Society, Moy said, “We’ve learned why there were Chinatowns and ghettos.” Referring to the book’s account of the role of Chinese in Cuba, he said he was happy “to have the opportunity to learn more about this aspect of our history” too.

Several other CHSSC members participated in the event, including its president, J.W. Wong.

Nobuko Miyamoto reported that on a 2001 trip to Cuba she met Japanese-Cubans who described the internment of Japanese men by the U.S.-backed Cuban government during World War II. “Similar to the Chinese in Cuba, many of them joined the revolution,” she said.” Miyamoto also performed several songs.

Mary-Alice Waters brought greetings from the three Cuban generals interviewed in the book—Armando Choy, Gustavo Chui, and Moisés Sío Wong—with whom she had just participated in a speaking tour in seven cities across Cuba. At those meetings, “Many Cubans were learning about their own history too,” she said.

Like other titles in Pathfinder’s 17-book series on the Cuban Revolution, Waters said, Our History Is Still Being Written tells the story of “a generation of young people, students and workers, who refused to bow down to the indignities and brutalities of life under the boot of the U.S-backed dictatorship.”

This book “is one of the best places to start to understand the depth and character of the revolution,” Waters said. It offers an effective counter to the reactionary drumbeat by those in the United States calling for a “transition” in Cuba toward capitalism.

Clara Chu focused her remarks on the immigration of Chinese to Latin America. Chinese were brought to Cuba in the mid-19th century as indentured laborers to work the sugar plantations, she said, adding that “Chinese participated in the Cuban wars for independence from Spain.” Chu described the rich artistic and cultural contributions of Chinese-Cubans.

A lively discussion followed the presentations. “Were there connections between the Chinese-Cuban generals and African Cubans?” was the first question.

Waters noted that in the book Chui, whose father was Chinese and mother was Black, describes the prejudice among some relatives toward his mother. “You get a picture of the racial conflicts that did exist,” she said. “And through their stories you see the impact of the Cuban revolution in overcoming such divisions, as different components of the population came together in the course of struggle.”

Another audience member noted that out of a freshman class of 4,852 at UCLA this year, only 96 students are African American. “How does this book relate to the struggle for affirmative action?” she asked.

Moy recalled that the formation of Chinese Historical Society was connected to the effort in the 1960s to win ethnic studies programs at UCLA and other campuses. “We wanted to see some measure of justice. The problem is, we’re not there yet,” he said.  
What socialist revolution can do
“This book shows what it takes to chart a course of struggle,” said Waters. Racist discrimination exists in the United States not because some people have prejudiced ideas “but because it’s crucial to preserving the capitalist system.

“The economic foundations of discrimination were eliminated in Cuba with the socialist revolution,” she said. That social transformation made it possible for the revolutionary leadership to attack the vestiges of racism, a process that is ongoing.

A questioner asked about the current cleanup of Havana harbor, contrasting it with the polluted ports in Los Angeles. Waters in her talk had pointed to Choy’s leadership of the cleanup in Cuba.

“Capitalist governments all over the world use the slightest economic downturn as an excuse not to address degradation of the environment,” Waters said. “In Cuba, even under the most difficult economic conditions, the leadership did confront it. This shows the different priorities of a socialist country that doesn’t start with the need to protect profits.”

Nety Con, a member of the CHSSC, told the Militant after the meeting that she found the program interesting “because I haven’t known about Chinese in another country fighting with the people and helping with the revolution.”

“What a breath of fresh air to be around people who open their eyes to the world,” said Brent Shepard, a UCLA student. “The Cuban Revolution amazes me, and it’s amazing how it is shunned in this society.”
Related articles:
Book by Chinese-Cuban generals: 'A practical example of how to fight, win, and defend gains'
Pathfinder president speaks in Cuba on 'Our History Is Still Being Written'
'An important introduction to Cuba's socialist revolution'
Gen. Moisés Sío Wong speaks at book presentation in Santiago de Cuba
What the Cuban Revolution shows
UN vote condemns U.S. embargo against Cuba
New Greek-language book on 'Cuba and Africa,' Pathfinder titles
'Books Liberate' is theme of 2006 international book fair in Venezuela
'Che teaches us need to make a revolution'
Youth panel discusses 'Che Guevara Talks to Young People at Caracas book fair'
Venezuelan gov't opens youth centers for education, recreation in working-class areas  
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home