Success of Cuba’s Fight Against Coronavirus

The following article is posted here from the CPA’s main site:

On the 1st of January, 2021, Cuban revolution completed 62 years. The socialist revolution carried out by a group of highly motivated individuals under the leadership of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara among numerous others in this small island nation in the Caribbean Sea in 1959 has since attempted to create an egalitarian society with a high standard of living for all its citizens sans exploitation. In the last six decades, it has survived continued imperialist assaults and built strong solidarity among its citizens. […] Today, the entire world is going through an unprecedented crisis in the form of COVID-19 pandemic which has left even the most advanced capitalist countries struggling to get past it. At such a time, Cuba’s success against the pandemic must be credited to its unwavering commitment to its revolutionary values of socialism, scientific temper and international solidarity.

A delegation of Cuban doctors arrives in Angola on April 10 to help the African country fight the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo: Ampe Rogerio)

Coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the world’s capitalist system and broken some myths. […] By contrast, socialist countries and governments have proven once again that they care about people and their wellbeing over anything else. Cuba, a small country with less than twelve million people, has established, in more than one way, standard of a successful fight against COVID-19. It did not only control its spread and provided free public health care to all but also took care of economic and social wellbeing of its citizens. It has also emerged as a world leader in providing aid to other members of the world community and helping them in their fight against the virus.

The success of Cuba’s fight against COVID-19 lies in its commitment to socialist values and scientific temper. The twin approach of considering universal public healthcare as a fundamental right for all members of the society with total trust in modern medical science in dealing with the disease has made Cuba a role model for the world to imitate. Its commitment to internationalism has proven to be contrasting and better approach than the narrow nationalistic approaches adopted by most of the developed capitalist countries who, unlike Cuba, have failed on every front and caused misery to their citizens.

Early response and information

Cuba’s success against COVID-19 is based on the fact that it was one of the first countries to respond to the WHO warnings and follow its guidelines with all seriousness. The early response included gathering and disseminating crucial information, acting on the preventive measures and developing a crisis response mechanism much before the actual outbreak. Cuba did all of it at the correct moment due to the socialist commitments to prioritise people over profits.

At a time when no one was talking about it, Cuban media was already reporting about the Coronavirus in the middle of January, a few weeks after it was first reported to the WHO by China. Its Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) convened a national-level meeting on the 24th of January on novel Coronavirus and created a National Working Group to keep a vigil and lead the fight against the virus. Immediately after that, the MINSAP started training doctors (95,000) and nurses (84,000) of how to diagnose and treat COVID-19. This was much before the first reported case in the country.

Cuban media and mass organisations started disseminating all crucial information about the disease and ways of its prevention, including the necessity of hygiene to people early in March. The MINSAP also declared a strict vigilance on all ports of entry tacking people with known symptoms of COVID-19.

The country reported the first case on the 10th of March when some foreign tourists were found positive. It had already set up a strong system in place to face any outbreak. Thousands of medical students in Cuba’s thirteen medical schools joined a campaign to visit every house in the country identifying people with symptoms and reporting the cases to nearby doctors in the mid-March. The medical students covered six million people, half of the country’s population, within a week.

Extensive measures and adequate compensation for all

When Cuba finally decided to impose WHO mandated physical distancing norms on the 20th of March after the number of cases had risen to twenty-one, the government made sure that all WHO norms are strictly followed. It had to face the economic impact of around 60,000 foreign tourists leaving the country in the wake of the pandemic compounding its economic troubles.

It imposed strict physical distancing norms and restrictions on the businesses and movements of the people. However, the government made sure that no one who has lost his/her job is left without help. Apart from suspending private business from paying taxes, the government paid all workers furloughed due to the lockdown their full salary for the first month and sixty per cent salaries for subsequent months. All workers in the private sector affected by the lockdown were given an amount equivalent to national minimum wages for the period of the lockdown.

The socialist government of Cuba made sure that no one goes hungry. Through its extensive network of neighbourhood stores, it served more than 3.9 million families with a food basket comprising of vegetables, rice, cooking oil, eggs and sugar.

On the 6th of April onwards when the number of cases started rising and reached 396 the government imposed stricter lockdown measures with the suspension of all non-essential economic activities. It mandated self-quarantine for all vulnerable sections of the population including the old and people with serious ailments. It also suspended the payments for water, electricity and gas services until the further notice in a big relief for the working people who had no substantial income to pay for these essential services due to the shut down of the economic activities.

The role of the mass organisations

Cuba’s response to COVID-19 pandemic was quick and effective. It has been able to control the spread of the virus and reduce the total number of deaths. In a country of more than 11 million, the total number of cases has not exceeded 13,000 and the death rate is one of the lowest in the world with a total number of 147 until the first week of January, 2021. A large part of the credit for this success goes to the crucial role played by different mass organisations affiliated to the ideas of the Cuban revolution.

The public action carried out by organisations such as the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs) with eight million estimated members along with the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) and Federation of University Students (FEU) played crucial roles in spreading information, maintaining a constant supply of food and other essential items to remote parts of the country and helped the state agencies in executing lockdown measures. The role of thousands of medical students in identifying the infected quite early from their house-to-house surveys was crucial to check the spread of the virus in the country. These voluntary mass public actions created a community of mutually caring individuals which is impossible to achieve in a non-socialist country.

Internationalism

Cuba was one of the first countries to help provide the required medicine to China and several other countries. By the 24th of February it had provided 150,000 double dose vials of Interferon Alpha 2B to China alone. Several other countries were supplied the drug found to be effective in raising the immunity of the patients. But that was just a small part of country’s commitment to internationalism. Group of Cuban doctors, formally known as Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade formed in 2005, has defied the geographical and political boundaries during the COVID-19 pandemic and provided crucial medical assistance to more than two dozen countries as they have done before during the outbreak of Ebola and other disasters. The countries which received crucial medical assistance from the thousands of Cuban doctors and medical staff at a time when most of the capitalist countries were unable to even think of helping others range from Italy in Europe to Barbados in the West Indies. The Cuban doctors trained the medical staff in these countries and prepared them in ways of dealing with the pandemic.

Despite these efforts, Cuban doctors have faced vilification by the US instead of getting applause and recognition for their unparalleled work. This has prompted several rights groups and progressive individuals for starting a campaign for Noble Prize of Cuban Doctors.

Cuban vaccine

Defying the American sanctions and its commitment to science, Cuba has registered four vaccines candidates, namely “sovereign” or Soberana 01 which was announced in August and it was the first vaccine registered in Latin America and the Caribbean, Soberana 02, Mambisa and Abdala. All of these vaccine candidates are at different levels of human clinical trials and are expected to be available for the public by February 2021.

As per the announcement made by the Cuban government, the vaccines developed in Cuba will not be treated as private property or a source to make a profit as most of the other vaccines developed all across the world and will be available for the world as and when it is ready.

Above is the short description of the pro-people measures undertaken by the small socialist government in Cuba. Other socialist countries such as China and Vietnam and socialist government in the Indian state of Kerala have too adopted similar ways and successfully fought against the COVID-19 pandemic. In contrast, people in the world’s rich capitalist countries are forced to suffer an ineffective and inhuman system.

Friedrich Engels on United States Politics and the Bourgeois State

130 years ago, Friedrich Engels made the following observations on politics and the form of the bourgeois state in the United States. You will agree that these insights are still relevant today:

Nowhere do “politicians” form a more separate and powerful section of the nation than precisely in North America. There, each of the two major parties which alternately succeed each other in power is itself in turn controlled by people who make a business of politics, who speculate on seats in the legislative assemblies of the Union as well as of the separate states, or who make a living by carrying on agitation for their party and on its victory are rewarded with positions. It is well known how the Americans have been trying for thirty years to shake off this yoke, which has become intolerable, and how in spite of it all they continue to sink ever deeper in this swamp of corruption. It is precisely in America that we see best how there takes place this process of the state power making itself independent in relation to society, whose mere instrument it was originally intended to be. Here there exists no dynasty, no nobility, no standing army, beyond the few men keeping watch on the Indians, no bureaucracy with permanent posts or the right to pensions. And nevertheless we find here two great gangs of political speculators, who alternately take possession of the state power, and exploit it by the most corrupt means and for the most corrupt ends – and the nation is powerless against these two great cartels of politicians, who are ostensibly its servants, but in reality dominate and plunder it.

Friedrich Engels, 1891. ‘Introduction to Karl Marx’s The Civil War in France’. Marx Engels Collected Works, Volume 27, p. 189.

Deng Xiaoping on Mass Movements

An abiding question for Communist Parties is the relationship with mass movements. While Communist Parties need to be involved with mass movements, seeking to guide them as a vanguard Party, we also need to be discerning. Not all mass movements advance the cause of workers, and some actively undermine the conditions of workers.

Historical lessons are useful, especially since Communist Parties have more than a century of experience of involvement with mass movements. Each situation differs, in light of specific economic and social conditions, historical events, and political structures. A good example comes from the Communist Party of China during the Anti-Japanese War (1931-1945), which drew most of Japan’s forces and was the major factor – through massive losses – in Japan’s defeat in 1945.

In 1943, Deng Xiaoping penned an article called ‘The Establishment of Base Areas and the Mass Movement’. The second part (the longest) concerns mass movements and is well worth careful study. The article may be found in the first volume of Deng Xiaoping’s Selected Works. In the quotations that follow, we need to keep in mind that the context of the Anti-Japanese War is quite different. But there are also some deeper lessons that can learned. These concern the underlying principles of Communist Party involvement with mass movements.

The relevant material includes the following, with an emphasis on the vanguard role of the Party and the core role of education and consciousness raising:

What laws should we keep in mind in guiding mass movements in the base areas? First, organise … the masses while arousing them. Second, as soon as they have been aroused, make plans for and regularise the activities of mass organisations. Third, in arousing and organising the masses, pay attention to their political education. When the masses have been sufficiently incited and organised, we should shift the focus of our work to educating them in order to promote their activities in the struggle for democracy …, so that they will become a class for themselves, join the united front, take part in mass guerilla warfare, and consolidate the political and economic rights they have won. Fourth, keep the economic and political struggle of the masses within the scope of the united front. Without a proper understanding of the foregoing laws regarding mass movements and the need to guide the movements gradually from a lower to a higher level, the movements will fall apart and the masses will not become a class for themselves or safeguarding the benefits they have gained.

To summarise the principles espoused here: 1) organise; 2) regularise; 3) educate politically, so that they can become class conscious; 4) ensure that the united front is the horizon for economic and political struggle.

A little later, Deng outlines in more detail the relationship between the Communist Party and mass organisations. The key here is that the Communist Party maintains a vanguard role, especially in political leadership and guidance, but that the mass organisations should have their own organisational structure, leadership, and be financially self-supporting. It should be an independent movement that complements the work of the Communist Party.

We may put these points as follows:

1. Organisational independence of the mass organisation; political leadership by the Communist Party.

Deng writes:

Organisationally a mass organisation is independent; politically it must place itself under Party leadership. The Party, on its part, should strengthen political leadership over the mass organisation, but not act in its place. The work of a mass organisation should be discussed and performed by the organisation itself. The Party exercises political leadership over mass organisations through leading Party members’ groups, not by issuing orders directly to them … While affirming the organisational independence of mass organisations, we should guard against any tendency on the part of a mass organisation to break away from the Party’s political leadership or of a leading Party members’ group to assert its independence.

2. Direct leadership of mass organisations by the organisations themselves.

To quote:

In future we should see to it that mass movements are directly led by mass organisations, especially peasant associations. Party and military cadres sent to engage in mass movements should carry out activities as members of mass organisations or recommended by them. Only in this way can we help foster the masses’ sense of organisation, enhance the prestige of mass organisations and train more leaders from among the masses.

3. Vanguard role of the Communist Party.

To quote again:

At the same time, the Party should provide more effective guidance to mass movements by sending good cadres, who maintain close ties with the masses, to lead mass organisations, paying special attention to raising the competence of mass organisations at the grass-roots level. Since it is impossible to give equal attention to all mass organisations, for the present, the Party should particularly strengthen its leadership over the work of peasant associations, first of all improving their organisation and activities.

4. Financial independence.

Mass organisations should gradually become financially self-supporting, but the government will provide them with adequate subsidies. From now on, the mass organisations should be responsible for their own budget expenditures.

5. Complementary role of mass organisations.

A final quotation from Deng Xiaoping:

The Party should do its utmost to train junior and senior leaders of the masses. We should be aware that the leaders of the masses are our most valuable assets, without whom we cannot sustain the arduous struggles.

To sum up, mass organisations are not simply Communist Party organisations. While under the guidance and political leadership of the Communist Party as vanguard, and even with members of the mass organisations drawn from the Communist Party, mass organisations are independent organisations that assist with the struggle and enable consciousness-raising among the masses of workers.

Communism and the Environment: Engels’s Insights from Dialectics of Nature

In the 1870s, Engels gathered extensive notes for a work that he wanted to call Dialectics of Nature. His plan was to develop a more comprehensive project for the new method that he and Marx had hammered out since the 1840s.

Marx preferred to focus on economic and social issues, for which we now use the shorthand of ‘historical materialism’ (a term Engels coined). But Engels was keen to extend this approach to science, nature and earlier history. During the 1870s and 1880s, Engels did precisely that, alongside his heavy duties in editing Marx’s scattered drafts and notes for the second and third volumes of Capital. While he was still alive, Marx was fully aware of Engels’s ambitious projects and often commented on them.

Some projects were completed, some were not: Dialectics of Nature was one of the latter. What we have are folders with notes and drafts of sections. Although not a finished work, it contains enough of Engels’s insights to have inspired generations of communists since that time. Indeed, along with Anti-Dühring (1878), the work that we now know as Dialectics of Nature was deeply influential. The whole approach would come to be called ‘dialectical materialism’. Even today, it forms a cornerstone for innovation in Chinese science and technology.

Let us focus on one section, for which Engels wrote a full draft entitled ‘The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man’. Here Engels offers a brief sketch of the role of labour from the earliest human activities to his own day in Europe in the 1870s. Towards the end of the sketch, he outlines the impact of a capitalist mode of production on the natural environment. His main point – which he already saw in Manchester in the 1840s – is that the short-term drive for profit at all costs has a profoundly destructive effect on the natural environment.

This outcome directly affects workers. The position of the Communist Party today is that workers should have a safe and healthy environment in which to live. Further, this focus will ensure that the wider environment is healthy and robust in all respects – a win-win result. So let us consider Engels’s insights from 150 or so years ago, since they show already then how a capitalist system cannot address environmental problems.

The following passages come from Marx-Engels Collected Works, volume 25, pages 461-64.

In short, the animal merely uses its environment, and brings about changes in it simply by its presence; man by his changes makes it serve his ends, masters it. This is the final, essential distinction between man and other animals, and once again it is labour that brings about this distinction.

Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human victories over nature. For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us. Each victory, it is true, in the first place brings about the results we expected, but in the second and third places it has quite different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel the first. The people who, in Mesopotamia, Greece, Asia Minor and elsewhere, destroyed the forests to obtain cultivable land, never dreamed that by removing along with the forests the collecting centres and reservoirs of moisture they were laying the basis for the present forlorn state of those countries … Those who spread the potato in Europe were not aware that with these farinaceous tubers they were at the same time spreading scrofula.

Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature – but that we, with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to learn its laws and apply them correctly.

It required the labour of thousands of years for us to learn a little of how to calculate the more remote natural effects of our actions in the field of production, but it has been still more difficult in regard to the more remote social effects of these actions. We mentioned the potato and the resulting spread of scrofula. But what is scrofula compared to the effects which the reduction of the workers to a potato diet had on the living conditions of the popular masses in whole countries, or compared to the famine the potato blight brought to Ireland in 1847, which consigned to the grave a million Irishmen, nourished solely or almost exclusively on potatoes, and forced the emigration overseas of two million more?

The men who in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries laboured to create the steam-engine had no idea that they were preparing the instrument which more than any other was to revolutionise social relations throughout the world. Especially in Europe, by concentrating wealth in the hands of a minority and dispossessing the huge majority, this instrument was destined at first to give social and political domination to the bourgeoisie, but later, to give rise to a class struggle between bourgeoisie and proletariat which can end only in the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the abolition of all class antagonisms. – But in this sphere too, by long and often cruel experience and by collecting and analysing historical material, we are gradually learning to get a clear view of the indirect, more remote social effects of our production activity, and so are afforded an opportunity to control and regulate these effects as well.

This regulation, however, requires something more than mere knowledge. It requires a complete revolution in our hitherto existing mode of production, and simultaneously a revolution in our whole contemporary social order. All hitherto existing modes of production have aimed merely at achieving the most immediately and directly useful effect of labour. The further consequences, which appear only later and become effective through gradual repetition and accumulation, were totally neglected.

The original common ownership of land corresponded, on the one hand, to a level of development of human beings in which their horizon was restricted in general to what lay immediately available, and presupposed, on the other hand, a certain superfluity of land that would allow some latitude for correcting the possible bad results of this primeval type of economy. When this surplus land was exhausted, common ownership also declined. All higher forms of production, however, led to the division of the population into different classes and thereby to the antagonism of ruling and oppressed classes. Thus the interests of the ruling class became the driving factor of production, since production was no longer restricted to providing the barest means of subsistence for the oppressed people.

This has been put into effect most completely in the capitalist mode of production prevailing today in Western Europe. The individual capitalists, who dominate production and exchange, are able to concern themselves only with the most immediate useful effect of their actions. Indeed, even this useful effect – inasmuch as it is a question of the usefulness of the article that is produced or exchanged – retreats far into the background, and the sole incentive becomes the profit to be made on selling.

As individual capitalists are engaged in production and exchange for the sake of the immediate profit, only the nearest, most immediate results must first be taken into account. As long as the individual manufacturer or merchant sells a manufactured or purchased commodity with the usual coveted profit, he is satisfied and does not concern himself with what afterwards becomes of the commodity and its purchasers.

The same thing applies to the natural effects of the same actions. What cared the Spanish planters in Cuba, who burned down forests on the slopes of the mountains and obtained from the ashes sufficient fertiliser for one generation of very highly profitable coffee trees – what cared they that the heavy tropical rainfall afterwards washed away the unprotected upper stratum of the soil, leaving behind only bare rock! In relation to nature, as to society, the present mode of production is predominantly concerned only about the immediate, the most tangible result; and then surprise is expressed that the more remote effects of actions directed to this end turn out to be quite different, are mostly quite the opposite in character; that the harmony of supply and demand is transformed into the very reverse opposite.

Newcastle CPA Branch Meetings

Local branch meetings of the CPA usually take place every two weeks. These are an important part of our activities, since we discuss ongoing plans, projects and action. Those who seek to become new members are normally expected to attend these meetings for a few months, to show that they are serious about joining the CPA. As a member or someone seeking to become a member, you will receive a reminder from our branch secretary.

CPA involved in climate march on 22 February, 2020

As mentioned on our events page, we participated in the climate rally and march in Newcastle on the 22nd of February, 2020.

We approach the scientific fact of climate change in light of our core Marxist-Leninist approach, focusing on the economic and social needs of the vast majority: workers and the common people. For real action on climate change, we need a different system, one that seeks to improve the lives of workers through democratic centralism.

And yes, we were flying the red flag:

NO TROOPS TO IRAQ OR SYRIA

THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT IS WORKING ON A TROOP AND AIR FORCE BUILD UP IN THE MIDDLE EAST, PRIOR TO DEPLOYMENT IN IRAQ AND SYRIA. THE USA HAS REQUESTED IT, AND LIKE A TAME LAP-DOG WE HAVE JUMPED.
Australia has been involved in disastrous wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan at the request of the USA. Will we ever learn?
In Afghanistan, and now in the Middle East, we have been directed to fight radical fundamentalist insurgents. But these groups, the Taliban in Afghanistan (originally created to fight the Soviet Union’s troops protecting the legitimate Afghan government) and Islamic state or ISIS in Syria and now Iraq (created to topple the legitimate Syrian government), were created, supported and armed by the United States and their Arab allies.
With the current deployment of air and ground troops, is the crushing of ISIS the real agenda?
We know that under capitalism, governments act to support and extend the influence of big money and big business- whether it is the US government and American big business or the European Union and European big business. Taking direct control of Iraq again will allow the oil companies to tighten their grip on Iraq’s oil and gas reserves – a grip that had been under threat in recent times. Fighting ISIS also provides a pretext for invading Syria and destroying the Syrian government – a government that has not always toed the Western line and has shown a degree of independence.

Do we want to be part of this? Let us see beyond the propaganda and understand what is really going on.
We must demand that our already deployed troops be brought home and that no more of our troops be committed to these US wars.