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The Cuba Solidarity Campaign and Lenin’s useful idiots in the trade unions

This is a guest post by Howard Fuller, Branch Secretary, PCS South West Thames Branch (pc)

The Cuba Solidarity campaign held its usual fringe meeting at the Annual Conference of the Trade Unions Congress(TUC) this year attended by several leading trade union figures including Bob Crow, General Secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport workers (RMT). The purpose of this gathering was to extoll the virtues of Cuba’s “socialist paradise”

As regular readers of Harry’s Place will know Cuba is one of the last Stalinist states left following the collapse of communism world-wide in the 1980s. It remains a dictatorship which does not allow free elections and of course the unions that exist are all directly controlled by the state and the ruling Communist Party. There are no free trade unions and any attempt to establish them is regularly and severely oppressed.

The following report is from the International Labor Organization earlier this year:

The International Labor Organization (ILO) in early June will consider charges of the denial of Freedom of Association by the Cuban government and the maintenance of a union monopoly by the official state-controlled union.

The discussion will take place at the General Session of the ILO meeting during the first week of June in Geneva. The charges will be considered by government, labor and management representatives from more than 100 nations.

The Report of the Committee of Experts of the ILO examined the charges, which were filed in 2011 by the Coalition of Independent Trade Unions of Cuba (CSIC). The CSIC’s leaders noted they were subjected to continuing harassment and detention.

The Report pointed out that these charges have been raised frequently over the last 10 years and the ILO Committee has issued reports in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008 calling on the Cuban government to take steps to bring its laws into line with the Standards and Conventions of the ILO governing these matters and thereby guarantee the right of Freedom of Association to the independent unions and deny to the “official” Cuban government-controlled unions their current monopoly status.

The Report covers much the same ground as earlier recommendations, but notes that the Cuban government has replied to past charges with denials and with the statement that the basic Labor Law was being amended. Meanwhile, the independent unions noted, the harassment and denial of rights have continued unabated.

The Committee’s Report, 1,025 pages in all, dedicates about 10 pages to Cuba. The General Session will decide on a list of 20 nations considered serious offenders of the ILO Conventions, for further action by the organization.

Despite all this evidence large numbers of British trade unions such as my own (PCS -Public & Commercial Services Union) continue to act on behalf of the Cuban regime in opposition to the democratic needs of Cuban workers themselves.

Given that the same trade unions and their leaderships attack the fairly innocuous trade union laws that prevail in this country, it’s both disgraceful and hypocritical that these “comrades” support a regime that refuses to grant its own workers the right to establish their own unions.

A couple of years back when the issue was discussed at PCS Conference and points such as these were highlighted, Hector Wesley (PCS National Executive) said he would “raise these issues with the Cuban Ambassador”. Of course Hector and the Deputy General Secretary Hugh Lanning still support the CSC and remain in complete denial about the true nature of the Cuban regime. Obviously the Cuban Ambassador has told them what they wanted to hear. I’m also sure the Syrian Ambassador speaks highly of President Assad.

Although Lenin is said to have never actually used the phrase “useful idiots”, he probably thought it and it certainly sums up the role the old fashioned left still plays in the unions.

British Trade Unions should be demanding as a basic minimum the establishment of free and independent trade unions in every country without the kind of state control our brothers and sisters face in Cuba today.

Meanwhile Amnesty International reports on Human Rights on Cuba.