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Vol. 81/No. 32      August 28, 2017

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Workers, youth build Cuba ‘Che brigade,’ youth festival in Russia

In less than six weeks, delegations of workers and youth from countries around the world will be heading to Cuba for the Oct. 1-15 “In the Footsteps of Che International Brigade.” Others will be attending the 19th World Festival of Youth and Students in Sochi, Russia, Oct. 14-22. Both gatherings will bring together anti-imperialist fighters, supporters of the Cuban Revolution and others who want to learn about struggles of working people around the world and how to strengthen their political work when they return home.

So far more than 60 youth, workers and others from the U.S. have sent in applications, and people continue to sign up for the brigade. Participants will visit places where Che Guevara led battles in the Cuban Revolution and meet with veterans of those struggles. They will talk with leaders of Cuba’s mass organizations and do agricultural work.

“I am a worker 100 percent,” Alex Calvo, 26, from Far Rockaway, Queens, told Val Johnson, his neighbor, and Róger Calero, a leader of the Socialist Workers Party in New York Aug. 15. “I am interested in seeing what a group of people can do when they have mankind in their best interest.” He was referring to the Cuban people’s internationalist contributions, including providing free treatment in Cuba for more than 20,000 victims of the Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion and the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Calvo filled out his application for the brigade and sent $200 toward travel expenses.

Joel Britton, a member of the SWP from Oakland, California, who is going on the brigade, told the Militant about the interest in the Cuban Revolution he and other party members found when they went to Hollister, California, in June to express solidarity with members of the Teamsters union at San Benito Foods on strike there.

“When they first heard about it, two of the leaders of the militant cannery workers’ strike were attracted to the idea of the brigade,” he said. The strikers kept up effective picket lines for a week, won solidarity from workers in the area and won a $1-an-hour wage increase.

“We explained how working people took power in Cuba nearly 60 years ago and remain in power with a revolutionary leadership. And that workers should emulate their example in order to be free of the exploitation and oppression we live with under capitalism,” Britton said. “One of these strikers has applied to participate in the brigade.”

Six people from western New England have joined the brigade. The Greater Hartford Cuba Coalition organized an Aug. 15 fundraising picnic to help cover airfare and other expenses. “A few years ago a friend of mine went to Cuba and said I must go and see for myself,” Pat Fontes, who has been active in anti-war and social justice fights for 40 years, told those at the event. “I want to see how they are building a socialist society.”

So far $427 has been raised, nearly half the Coalition’s goal of $1,000.

The Che brigade is being organized by the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP). It is named for Ernesto Che Guevara, a central leader of the Cuban Revolution and of efforts to aid workers and farmers worldwide to follow its example. Che fell in combat 50 years ago helping to lead a guerrilla struggle against the military dictatorship of René Barrientos in Bolivia.

Some 20,000 delegates from over 120 countries are expected at the World Festival of Youth and Students in Russia. One hundred have signed up to go from the U.S. The festival provides an opportunity for anti-imperialist fighters to meet each other, share experiences and discuss and debate how to advance social struggles worldwide.

Those who join the Che brigade or the World Festival in Sochi will have the opportunity to organize reportback meetings to share what they’ve learned.

To sign up for the brigade, contact the Chicago Cuba Coalition at (312) 952-2618 or
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1961 literacy drive key to advance of Cuban Revolution
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