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      Cuba’s First International Meeting of Theoretical
      Publications of Left Parties and Political Movements

      By Janine Solanki

      From February 10 to 12, 2023, four organizers of the Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice traveled to Cuba to participate in the First International Meeting of Theoretical Publications of Left Parties and Political Movements. More than 200 people, including over 100 delegates from 34 countries and 65 organizations, as well as over 40 Cuban academics, participated in the conference. The meeting was convened by Cuba Socialista, the theoretical and political magazine of the Communist Party of Cuba, and held at the Casa de las Americas, a cultural and political institution in Havana.

      Cuba acted as an important venue and gathering point, providing an opportunity for left parties, movements and organizations from around the world to join together, discuss, and build new collaborations and connections. What better place to discuss the building of a better world than in Cuba, where the ongoing Cuban revolution is a shining light and example for how to fight against capitalism and imperialism, and how to develop a socialist project in society with revolutionary internationalism at its foundation.

      The conference was opened by Rogelio Polanco Fuentes, Member of the Secretariat of the Central Committee of Cuba’s Communist Party and Head of its Ideological Department, who said “The world is experiencing a structural systemic crisis: economic, energy, food, environmental, social, civilizational. There are no global responses in sight, because capitalism is not capable of structuring them, but is the cause of their exacerbation.”

      This important assessment and the necessity to build a revolutionary socialist alternative was reflected in the three main themes and workshops of the conference, which were 1) Imperialism and the New World Geopolitical Configuration, 2) Fidel and International Solidarity and 3) Socialism and Youth.

      Revolutionary Internationalism, Imperialism and Dynamics of the World Today

      On the first day of the conference, the workshops Imperialism and the New World Geopolitical Configuration and Fidel and International Solidarity featured many important speakers from Cuba and around the world, including Abel Prieto, president of Casa de las Américas and former long-time Cuban Minister of Culture; René González Barrios, director of the Fidel Castro Ruz Center in Havana; and French-Spanish journalist Ignacio Ramonet, a renowned author whose works include the book My Life, an interview with Fidel. Given the international nature of the meeting, discussing Fidel’s foundational concept of international solidarity was a critical topic. As delegates looked to Cuba’s example, it is with the understanding that Cuban revolutionary internationalism is at the core of Cuba's socialist project and revolution and is a weapon to win the battle of ideas. The example of Cuba’s revolutionary internationalism is evident in Cuba's numerous international medical missions, Cuba’s Si Se Puedo – yes I can – literacy program that took Cuba’s own experience of successfully overcoming illiteracy to the world, and Cuba’s vital assistance to Angola in the fight against the invading South Africa apartheid army that ultimately led to the defeat of apartheid in South Africa, to name a few key examples.

      Between workshops, the floor was opened for interventions, which had the spirited participation of Cuban and international delegates alike. The final discussion period of the conference’s first day was presided over by a special surprise guest, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who spoke to thank delegates for joining and stressed the importance of international solidarity.

      During this session, the head of the delegation of the Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice, Azza Rojbi, addressed the conference on the themes of imperialism, international solidarity, and the battle of ideas, reflecting the example provided by Fidel on these topics. Azza emphasized that “today, the best way to explain our struggle for socialism is the Battle of Ideas. Today the Battle of Ideas is as important as Workers of the World Unite by Marx and Engels. Both concepts are the most correct generalization that reflects the interests of working and oppressed people to defeat capitalism and imperialism. We need to develop an action program to guide us to an anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist revolution.” Azza also highlighted the importance of building a united front in the battle of ideas and said, “if we are union activists on workers' strikes, if we are in the environmental movement to fight against capitalist degradation of the earth, if we are fighting against war and occupation, if we are fighting against sanctions and blockades, if we are fighting against racism, sexism and homophobia, if we fight against the colonial structure, this is all about the survival of humanity. We have to win the Battle of Ideas as we say today, or as Malcolm X, the great black American once said, the ongoing battle between us and them. The Battle of Ideas is about the realization of the struggle for a better world, socialism.” Following Azza’s intervention, she had the chance to meet President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who thanked her for her words, and she gave him copies of the Fire This Time newspaper.

      Socialism and Youth

      The third workshop, “Socialism and Youth”, was held on the second day of the conference and moderated by Yoerky Sánchez Cuellar, director of the Cuban newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth). This important workshop included speakers Marxlenin Pérez Valdés, professor of Marxism-Leninism at the University of Havana, and Manolo de los Santos, co-executive director of The People's Forum in New York and researcher at Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. In the words of Marxlenin Pérez Valdés, “Socialism cannot be passive or conformist; as youth is not. What is youth ultimately, if not a revolutionary force? The same as socialism, designed to transform the old world in pursuit of a new one. Therefore, socialism needs youth to exist. For their abilities to create with creativity. For their push and strength to conquer. For their desires and willingness to act actively. For their energy to transform themselves and others. So, saving socialism is also a way to save the youth.”

      Throughout the conference, Fire This Time delegates had a chance to meet with organizers from all around the world, including Peru, Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Korea, India, Kenya, China, Russia, Germany, Scotland, Denmark and England, just to name a few! From the informational table or in discussions with Fire This Time delegates, participants received recent issues of the Fire This Time newspaper, a special issue of Fire This Time commemorating the life and legacy of Fidel, and examples of Cuba solidarity activism in Vancouver and Canada including the new postcard campaign from Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) demanding that US President Biden remove Cuba from the U.S. State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. Through these interactions, organizers exchanged about their approach to different social justice struggles and found connections on how to collaborate and work together. Alongside the conference program, Fire This Time delegates also had the opportunity to exchange with Cuban institutions, including meeting leading members of the Union of Young Communists (UJC), Cuba’s Federation of University Students (FEU), and the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP).

      Action Plan

      This inaugural conference closed with a reading of the Action Plan, which among other points, included a denunciation of the genocidal blockade by the United States against Cuba and the commitment of organizations to campaign against the blockade. After two days of workshops, the last day of the program was a visit to the Fidel Castro Ruz Center, which was opened in late 2021. Delegates were welcomed by the Fidel Center’s director René González Barrios, who also spoke at the conference. He emphasized that when Fidel passed away, he ensured a law was passed that no monuments or statues of him be erected and no streets, schools or other institutions be named after him because Fidel rejected any manifestation of a cult of personality. However, we know that Fidel’s ideas are an important legacy for present and future generations of revolutionary fighters not just in Cuba but worldwide, which is why the Fidel Castro Center is an important and singular exception to this law, as an interactive and educational institution dedicated to documenting and reflecting the ideas and legacy of Fidel, with its doors open and free to Cubans and international visitors alike.

      The First International Meeting of Theoretical Publications of Left Parties and Political Movements took place in connection with the 31st International Havana Book Fair, which featured over 40 countries and 120 exhibitors as well as poetry readings, book launches, art exhibits, concerts and other cultural events. Fire This Time delegates also had a chance to explore this massive book fair and take part in some of the many activities.

      The experience of participating in the First International Meeting of Theoretical Publications of Left Parties and Political Movements, as well as being immersed in Cuban political and cultural life, left the Fire This Time delegates much to share. On March 3, Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice hosted a report back webinar, with stories, photos and videos from the trip. To watch the recording online visit https://youtu.be/2KytsUmJu7Q or www.youtube.com/@firethistime Cuba’s First International Meeting of Theoretical Publications of Left Parties and Political Movements was an important opportunity for international exchange and building collaboration among left parties and organizations, and also to learn from the example that Cuba’s socialist revolution gives us. Cuba is the socialist vanguard and leading the way in the fight for a better world, and this conference was an important step forward in continuing that path!

      Follow Janine on Twitter: @janinesolanki

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