Cuban Futures Conference, London, October 2015


Rafael Hernandez addressing the Cuban Futures Conference opening plenary “December 17th and beyond” Embassies have opened in Havana & Washington, the Miami 5 are free, Cuba is off the terrorist list and Obama and Raul Castro shook hands. What’s next?

Members of the Socialist Labour Party attended the Cuban Futures Conference held at Congress House, TUC HQ in central London last Saturday, October 3rd 2015. The original Socialist Labour Party was set up by James Connolly who was also at one time a member of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) alongside Keir Hardy. The name was revived in 1996 as a response to the removal of Clause 4 from the Labour Party’s constitution under Tony Blair. The leader of the SLP was, and still is, Arthur Scargill. This took Connolly’s Socialism on board and setting a distinctive tradition strongly opposing the social-democratic and neo-liberal trends in both the Labour Party and politics in general.


Bhagwant Singh, John Tyrrell and John Mcleod at the Cuba Futures Conference organised by Cuba Solidarity Campaign  

The SLP has been involve in two delegations to Cuba in the last decade. The first in 2008 was to attend the Conference Marxism in the 21st Century in Havana. It was then I became very much aware of a different perspective at work which was not confined to Cuba, but was having a far reaching effect on South American and Caribbean countries determined to counter the effects of their dominating neighbour to the north, the USA. Four years later it was apparent that joint organisations being developed like ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America) were gaining momentum with Venezuela and Bolivia having elected Socialist governments and many others supporting the Cuban position, including Brazil and Argentina. Equador and Nicaragua also became prominent with their Ambassadors speaking at the London Conference giving testimony to Cuban achievement and leadership.

DSC00121SLP members in Cuba in May 2008 to attend the Conference Marxism in the 21st Century.        l to r Lily and John Mcleod, John Tyrrell, Shangara Singh and Sheera Johal


No one claims, least of all Cubans themselves, that they have found answers to issues confronting the world and humanity, but as speakers from a variety of backgrounds illustrated how Cuba was succeeding in many ways better than far wealthier states in health, in education, in food production and so on. This was against a backdrop of continuing sanctions in spite of the recent apparent thaw in diplomatic relations between Cuba and the US. Cuban speakers made it clear that they didn’t see a change in the United States intentions, rather a different approach characterised by “charm” rather than aggression. One told us the story of the frog and the scorpion when the latter, incapable of swimming to leave Cuba, asked the frog to carry him to the US. The frog replied that the scorpion would use its sting on him, to which the scorpion replied that he would drown if he did that. Half way across the scorpion did sting the frog who asked in surprise why he had done it. “That’s what scorpions do” came the reply.

Cubans are seeking five major outcomes from the rapprochement with the US, including the return of Guantanamo Bay. The release of the Cuban 5 from their long incarceration is seen as a major step forward, but on other other hand Cuban demands that the perpetrators of the terrorist act in bringing down a Cuban airliner, living in the United States, had not been brought to justice. The five Cubans were arrested after their attempts to do just that.

Cuba is characterised as a dictatorship and undemocratic by the standards of western governments with multi-party systems. However this needs to be countered by understanding how people are elected to govern at three levels: local, provincial and national. In practice it is far more democratic by being inclusive with a far higher level of voter participation normally found in the so-called western democracies.


John Mcleod receiving gifts, including a portrait of Che Guevara, from a street committee in Santa Clara, Cuba, on behalf of the Socialist Labour Party in 2008.

The SLP delegations have been welcomed on each of their visits by local communities with festivities taking place in the streets or buildings where they live. Doctors, teachers, police and others involved in provision of services are involved as are members of the community of all ages. In Santa Clara and Havana we were treated to street theatre, dancing and delicious local products including food and wine.

Speakers at the London Conference this year demonstrated Cuba’s achievements in health, exporting doctors and nurses, while maintaining a high level of care at home. Indicators of child mortality at birth was 6 per 1000 compared to 8 per 1000 in the USA. (In the UK it is 5 per 1000. It was pointed out that Cuba used the NHS as a model for its care system. It was hastily qualified to the NHS as it once was!)

Schools and clinics we visited were not lavishly equipped but clearly they manage to carry out excellent work. Gifts of even basic commodities were received gratefully. As the Cubans we met pointed out “we have little, but what we have we share”. DSC00163

Visiting a school in Santa Clara, Cuba, 2008


Visit to a centre for young people here seeing services demonstrating a rescue exercise. Fidel Castro used to visit regularly on his birthday.

The Conference was against a backdrop of events on and after 17th December, 2014 when there was an apparent thaw in relations between Cuba and its powerful neighbour to the north, the United States of America.

Later in April 2015 President Obama announced that Cuba is of the list of state sponsored terrorists.

So what of the future? How far have things changed? Cuban speakers were cautious believing that what they were seeing was a change in tactics by the US rather than a fundamental shift in their attitude to Cuba, aggressive posturing being replaced by a charm offensive. Cuba they still see as an undemocratic dictatorship as a one party state. The gains of the Revolution will have to continue to be defended, including “health, internationalism, educations, women’s rights”. Others, including the US can learn much from Cuba.


Arleen Rodriguez with translator on Cuban Futures. The return of Guantanamo Bay remains unresolved as does the Blockade and compensation for 50 years of aggression.

It was felt that the support of many South American and Caribbean countries was instrumental in convincing the US that a new approach was necessary, as was world solidarity seen here today.  It was noted that Obama still talks about “trading with the enemy” while Kerry referred to the relationship as “neighbours” rather than “friends”.  A resolution to end the blockade will be taken to the UN. How will the Obama administration vote? Cuba will not be going cap in hand but proceed with a dignified conscience to maintain a dignified sovereignty based on a record of solid achievement.

Corbyn’s point is made as trivia takes hold

Many have already voiced their opinion that Prime Minister’s Question Time is dominated by personal abuse which trivialises matters of vital importance, indeed distracts from serious discussion. So Jeremy Corbyn’s point is made as camera lenses point at every move and action and trivia takes hold.

Two captions both fit the image of Mr Corbyn standing quietly. “He was disrespectful to Queen and Country” or alternatively “he stood silently respectfully remembering those who had died in conflict”. There is room for respecting the dead of all nations, and this so often happens. Many artists have made such a point in major works as Benjamin Britten did in his War Requiem, and is there in the poetry of Wilfred Owen whose poetry is so movingly set in it.

So before we can get to the point of transforming politics and entering serious discussion character assassination is taking place. Corbyn is drowned out by the shouting and screaming of members of an establishment who don’t even want to know about the issues that the many who supported him. Instead of speaking out the Labour Party join the chorus and display intense embarrassment. They are entrenched as an integral part of status quo. What do their constituents think? Do they really know?

While stating his own beliefs and convictions Corbyn has repeated that he respects the practice that policy is made collectively. At the TUC Conference in Brighton he said clearly that he didn’t believe in benefits cap. When his cabinet members said that this was not yet discussed within the party media representatives blew a fuse. It is more than apparent that it takes time to discuss the many pressing issues, but that two days in this cannot have been dealt with as necessary.

I for one am anxious to see Parliament change fundamentally in the way it operates, and I want to see an opportunity for that to happen. The problem is that those entrenched in establishment and a world of privilege are clearly not going to allow it. The Punch and Judy show continues.

When moderate is portrayed as extreme

Jeremy Corbyn’s thanks were highlighted in the Morning Star. Just this fact shows how moderate is portrayed as extreme. There was absolutely nothing there that should not be part of mainstream politics today. It appears it is in many people’s beliefs and that has been realised in the result of a democratic election of leader of the Labour Party. A veil of deception has been lifted from our eyes, although media and all those politicians personally benefitting from a corrupt establishment are going to overdrive to maintain the fog.

The first day left Corbyn battling to establish a front bench, difficult in any circumstances, but impossible if some of those nursing defeat had their way. It was achieved with criticism over the inclusion of women. This was surely a denial of all Corbyn was about. Two of the top places, his own and his deputy’s, were already decided in the ballot, leaving the Shadow-Chancellor. Cries of cronyism here. Continuing comment that his supporters were young and needed to grow up. Thus a commentator on radio 4 explained how she had been on demonstrations and shared the excitement. Then she grew up and saw that she had to accept things as they were. Clearly she missed the opportunity to stop and think about the alternatives that exist to austerity because those like George Osborne had said there was none. Labour largely agreed coming up with it’s own watered down version. This in spite of the fact it was the Tory intention all along to dispense with the state and its provision. Ideological and entirely unnecessary. So many see and understand this and its apparent consequences. Fed up with the response of the careerists in politics so many have decided that enough is enough.

Hope across austerity-ridden Europe has been expressed with Podemos in Spain commenting on Corbyn’s victory seeing it as a reaction to the damage neo-liberalism is intensifying glaring inequality on populations. Back home those who didn’t support Corbyn have been thinking it through, moving from “it will never work” to “it certainly won’t if we all say so. If we don’t try we’ll all be blamed.” Moving along from restating her position, Polly Toynbee makes a case for support in order to deal with the rampant and vindictive Tory agenda.

Voices overlaid in UK political struggles

The inclusion in the campaign to select a new leader of the Labour Party has unlocked voices overlaid by swathes of media reporting which have been one sided in showing UK political struggles. As in the US frustration is shown with orthodox views promoted by elite and vested interest predominantly in the hands of powerful corporations. It is these corporations that have apparently unlimited and unfettered access to those who inhabit Westminster and their realms of privilege dominated by economic interests. Such interests have, of course, to be preserved at all costs to the benefit of those who can operate and benefit. Politicians, who are easy targets, willingly fall in from day one of their entry into the Westminster bubble with few feeling able to resist.

Jeremy Corbyn has found himself at the centre of interest from within the Labour contest for a leader. Vested interests, particularly from those inhabiting the Labour Party, are now displaying skills as contortionists to say why he is not a fit and proper person to stand for their leadership. Dissenting voices from colleagues within are still quiet and distant in contrast to the many who are now showing interest and hope for a change which will represent those taking the brunt of austerity in particular.

What do we hear from them? “Anti-austerity is unpopular with the public”. Is austerity popular then? It’s imposition has been a confidence trick and overlays the continuing work of banksters, financial services

Revealing the depth of the Labour candidates’ poverty

The appearance together at a gathering focussing on Israel is revealing the depth of the Labour candidates’ poverty. This is with the honourable exception of the previously discounted candidacy of Jeremy Corbyn. The other three vied with each other in their sycophancy saying that support for that state was eternal and unconditional. Trashing Gaza, seizing Palestinian land in the West Bank and holding prisoners, including many children, in abject conditions is not on their radar. Neither is the continuing trauma of so many children, both Palestinian and Israeli, not there for consideration. Of course we’ve seen this all before with Middle East Peace Envoy Blair. They’ll all say that they need to uphold such unspeakably inhumane ideals as necessary to get them and Labour elected. Support for Corbyn in anti-austerity suggests that his contrary stance is appreciated by rather more than elitist Britain’s corporate power admit.

If nothing else Jeremy Corbyn’s entry into the debate has opened crucial areas of debate that wouldn’t have been had if confined to the dire poverty of the rest. Not that any areas of the establishment believe in making it easy with interviewers lowering the pitch by asking him and others if they believed that his inclusion would make Labour unelectable. Well it most certainly will be if it doesn’t involve itself in such a serious debate and then translate this into serious politics. The people of Scotland told Labour clearly what they thought, regrettably by voting in a nationalist party. (Others using such a term are considered taboo – as in BNP, NF and National Socialists in Germany.) Corbyn has proved himself well able to deal by contesting those who have tried to draw him into their vacuous debate by referring to the pressing issues needing their, and our, attention.

Blair talks about Corbyn’s supporters requiring “a heart transplant”. Judging by this display of hard heartedness by the other contenders, like their spokesman, hearts would be replaced by stones!

Looking at an outside,informed view from an economist, Joseph Stiglitz, indicates how such central issues as austerity are sidelined by those inside the “Westminster bubble” but, as in the US, the feelings of the majority who have watched wealth increase exponentially in the hands of an elite. It is just this elite which is misusing the power that this wealth and influence give. Vested interests incorporations dealing with our essentials like food and drink and inessentials like increasingly sophisticated war materials dominate them. The revolving door in our parliament ensures that those we elect are seduced by their power far than by the vote we gave them. It’s easy to see why the Israeli lobby (not supported by many Jewish people) became a place where candidates fell over each other to please. Another US commentator, journalist Eileen Fleming, makes a comment on the issue. (See comments).

Cameron takes over as recruiting agent for extremists

David Blair (aka Cameron) came to Birmingham today and lectured us all on tackling extremism, taking over as recruiting agent for extremists. I think that’s been done before, not least by one Tony Blair. Since then the world has erupted with bigger and better wars being fought. At the same time while we were distracted, banksters and company have increased their stranglehold on resources. It’s not unrelated – the arms industry is a nice little earner. So let’s blame extremists and everyone else for encouraging them. Problem they observe the speck in their eyes while ignoring the plank blinding them.

Cameron is hell bent on chasing extremists in Syria just as Blair insisted on going into Iraq. Then came Afghanistan, Libya etc. all erupting in flames. Britain had a taste at home 10 years back, probably due to the target Blair painted saying “shoot here”. They did exactly that, but Cameron can’t, won’t learn.

Since then of course the world had had its attention drawn to Gaza in particular and Palestine as a whole. Not a hint that this could be part, if not the root, of the problem. To celebrate Eid the Israeli Occupation Force is planning to demolish yet another Palestinian village. The world’s media appears to have walked away since the Gaza attack ended, leaving living conditions unbearable, but no one notices. If anything’s said then we’re all the extremist.

IPCC’s refusal to investigate Orgreave once again questions its independence

What happened at Orgreave is felt to prefigure Hillsborough. That enquiry has thrown up many deeply uncomfortable facts, some in common with Orgreave. The depth of violence, the testimony of police officers require investigation and accountability. The IPCC’s decision not to investigate Orgreave calls its independence into question once again. The time lapse between now and then is no excuse.

It is the deeply political nature of Orgreave which sets it apart from Hillsborough. The Thatcher-led government was determined that what happened following the Battle of Saltley Gate in Birmingham in 1972 should not be repeated. To Thatcher this reached epic proportions with references to “the enemy within” comparing trades unionists as comparable with Argentina’s attempts to claim the Falkland Islands as theirs.

For a change the Labour Party, or some of its leadership, has exercised an independence by supporting an enquiry. While the Home Secretary has said that she would take requests into consideration it is hardly likely that the Conservative Government would want these events put under a microscope and invite extended media coverage, although they could rely on a right wing supine press to give them the kind of support they have enjoyed for foisting austerity on the people and recreating the deeply divided nation Thatcher presided over. The lesson of Saltley Gate showed that power need not necessarily be one-sided but the miners’ strike more than a decade later did not learn from this>. A divided Trades Union movement and Labour Party failed to give the support that had been witnessed in Birmingham in 1972.

Capita marches on as banking and finance control all

In Birmingham banking and finance are well-oiled as Capita marches on. Essential services have been slashed to the bone in the face of “Austerity”. Win or lose Capita and the like gain as if there is no tomorrow. The way they are going there will be no tomorrow as among their ranks the global warming flat earthers ensure that the priorities are with money, loads and loads of it. To the rest governments deliver “shock and awe” to the working people. “We are the Party for working people” intones Cameron as more is taken out of their mouths and delivered into the hands of C(r)apita and the like.

But you’ve seen nothing yet. What was once Blackwater in the USA won major contracts in areas which once the state firmly controlled. In Iraq their personnel became involved in the conduct of war. This was convenient to the state since they weren’t covered by the rules of war and Geneva convention. If their staff were killed or injured their families received no recognition or compensation. The Chief Executive of Blackwater was noted for is hatred of Islam and Muslims. Individuals like Dick Cheney held their shares. Naturally bigger and better wars were voted for by the wealth driven politicians. And so Capita. Now they are reaching further and further, higher and higher.

While some of Capita’s mates like G4S and Serco for fraud outsourcing marches on, and it is the giants who are going for the cream. They cherry pick the profitable services while the bits that are doubtful and unreliable sources of dosh – like A & E hospital services – are marginalise, even closed.

Is Capita efficient? The health service and local government haven’t found it so. It’s expensive and in Birmingham failed to deliver on taking over the call centre and IT systems.

Is Capita ethical? Small businesses who have worked with Capita haven’t found so according The Independent They are advisers to businesses to work off shore. Presumably they do so – so do they pay their taxes in a way that reflects their colossal hold on public and private services? Irrespective, Capita marches on a giant predator devouring local government as it cuts “essential services” to the bone making huge profits out of taxes. The Government has arranged it so that taxes we pay together with assets owned by us through our local council are handed over to the private sector. Groups like Capita can’t lose.

Muslim children targeted in primary school survey

The bigots’ charter is being introduced as a primary school is given a questionnaire – apparently without being asked – with Muslim children targeted in the primary school survey.

You’d think the best way to upset people and drive them into radicalism would be to continually harass a particular group of people in this way. Ever since the US under George W. Bush invented the “Terrorist” idea extreme groups have burgeoned. Al Quaeda now looks a quite moderate outfit to the post Iraq, post Libya groups that emerged intent on making more outrageous acts and statements to upset western sensibilities. They are working as bigger wedges are hammered home with the effect of dividing communities where no such division existed before. Long standing Moslem friends who assumed that they were a settled part of British society now feel that they too are under attack. The result is that the anti-terror brigades are increasingly counter-productive. They appear to want to create a division from an early age. This is deeply worrying.

These are questions asked. What would anyone make of these let alone young children? Could they incriminate themselves? How will the fools who thought them up interpret them? Will they consult Muslim advisers?

Given the predominant tendency to, at best, ignore and forget what happened to Gaza – Christians as well as Muslims were targets – interpretations of responses could be – are likely to be – highly biased.

I’m going to vote today

I have a choice of candidates here in the Perry Barr constituency of Birmingham. Khalid Mahmood is the sitting Labour MP and no one is questioning that he will continue. At the last General election I was a candidate myself, but not for the Labour Party. This time there is no candidate for the Socialist Labour Party for parliament, although there is one for the City Council Election. Paulette Hamilton is the candidate, nearly deselected by efforts of her two comrades, and she again is expected to hold onto her seat.

My first thought is for the great need for a fairer system than first past the post which reproduces the same old same old so Austerity is going to continue in one form or another. Austerity is a measure determined by a Westminster elite controlled by big business and huge unaccountable corporations who have been successful in maintaining their power through the status quo. Politicians from all parties in Westminster become part of the revolving door culture very quickly. A few individuals hold out. Dave Nellist, standing on the left in a Coventry constituency and winning his parliamentary seat, would only take a working person’s salary. He mentions how on the first day in parliament he was offered directorships from lobbyists. That’s the culture and that’s how it works. Today’s poll won’t alter that. Unless.

The Socialist Labour Party is fielding 8 candidates in Wales. That means it achieved a party political broadcast. Ken Capstick speaks about the dire situation many families and individuals find themselves in exacerbated by 5 years of Tory/LibDem rule. Arthur Scargill presents the SLP manifesto.

Clearly the Socialist Labour Party hasn’t the support or the money to challenge the status quo. However many detected a breath of fresh air when three other parties were introduced into the televised election debate. I exclude UKIP and Farrage because the air around that party in not only stale, it is poisonous in the way that surrounded the growth of the Nationals Socialists in Germany in the thirties. Scottish and Welsh Nationalists and the Green Parties, all with women leaders, articulated sentiments which more than a few people understood. Nicola Sturgeon’s assertion that many of the things the Scottish people want – freedom from the Westminster system currently in place – is shared wider. In the she’s right. The problem is that as Socialists we want to see a cohesive force across the currently United Kingdom which does away with austerity, privatisation and run down of what we used to call “essential services”. If Sturgeon is still heading for a separate Scotland but still wedded to other bastions of elitism like Europe, no I don’t want to go there.

Today I know I have a choice between Labour, Conservative, LibDem, and then Green Party, UKIP and TUSC. While UKIP supports withdrawal from Europe as does the SLP the reasoning is fundamentally different. Placing the blame on and fanning hatred of migrants is not the reason for the plight of the most vulnerable. It is a Capitalist system of greed that needs to be displaced. There is no cosy, cuddly form, wished for by many of the other parties. It is vicious and exploitative as has been shown in the 5 years of Austerity we have just lived with. Its press has shown just how it is with the Sun, Mail, Telegraph screaming at people to ensure their Capitalist paymasters maintain their power and influence. It is clear at the moment that with the prospect of a hung parliament that public opinion doesn’t continue to follow to the degree it once did when Neil Kinnock was denied victory.