18th CTC CONGRESS

MIREYA CASTAÑEDA
Thursday, May 3, 2001

• Fidel Castro closes important workers’ event • Pedro Ross ratified as general secretary • National committee elected • Resolutions passed against Quebec meeting, the U.S. blockade of Cuba and regarding other trade union issues

IN his closing speech at the 18th Congress of the Central Organization of Cuban Trade Unions (CTC), President Fidel Castro made an analysis of the situations faced by workers of the world today, comparing them with what is happening in Cuba, where "there is a just socialist society" and "unity and consensus" exists.

The Cuban head of state and government utilized international news agency summaries referring to May Day activities in various countries, presenting a panorama of poverty, unemployment, fundamental human rights violations and democracies with police violence.

"For Latin America," he affirmed, "the date has arrived with little reason to celebrate and many protests on account of high unemployment rates, against globalization and the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA)."

The examples he gave included Chile, with 8.8% unemployment, where the cables reported workers demonstrating for "decent jobs, respectable wages and democratic reforms," and Uruguay, with 14.1% unemployment.

"That system has no prospects," Fidel stated, "because it is a society where persons are considered excess, hence it could be seen as a savage society."

Continuing with news agency cables, he added that in Nicaragua workers were to march against government corruption and loss of social security and, in El Salvador, to reject unjust government measures.

They are examples, he said, of what is happening in those countries that "cheerfully promote the FTAA, and which are going to be worse off afterwards."

He also referred to Europe, where a Berlin court banned a protest march by extremists of the "radical left," while 9,000 police protected a march of 1,500 members of the neo-Nazi party; in London, where Tony Blair demonstrated his total support for the police who mobilized 6,000 officers and warned that they would use rubber bullets; while in Paris the issues were to be globalization, unemployment and the defense of the environment.

"Now it’s clear why Cuban workers are authorized to come together and march. You are not radicals, nor leftist extremists; you are extreme revolutionaries," Fidel commented.

The president emphasized that you could bet a $1 million or the $10 million USD that the country has spent on new plans for social and cultural development to find "one photo or any film footage of [Cuban] workers repressed by SWAT teams delivering blows, with tear gas, water cannon or rubber bullets."

Explaining why that could be the case, he stated that in Cuba there is a socialist and just Revolution, with unity and consensus, which could never be led by force of arms. "That’s stupidity, totally illogical."

He also went into the repercussions of the comments made by Judge Baltasar Garzón to the Dominican newspaper Listín Diario, and his reply in which—among other aspects—Fidel warned of the dangers resulting from the manipulation by powerful nations of the principle of extraterritoriality.

"In my view, in the case of Pinochet, the Spanish judge was seeking promotion. I don’t believe that he was inspired by a sense of justice, and he applied Spanish laws of an extraterritorial nature."

Fidel observed the potential danger of U.S. or North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) judges assuming the right to put anyone in the world on trial. He added that that would be insane.

After reiterating his reflection that Pinochet’s arrest in London was just from the ethical point of view, he stated that it was questionable legally and, in political terms, it created problems within the Chilean process. "We defend the thesis that Pinochet should be tried and sanctioned in Chile."

Fidel also noted that Cuban likewise defends the thesis of establishing an international court for judging war crimes, under the supervision of the UN General Assembly, "the genuinely democratic body of that institution," and never under the jurisdiction of the Security Council, given its veto power.

Later on, he referred to a statement by James Wolfensohn, president of the World Bank, in which he praised and appreciated Cuba’s advances in terms of education and health care, although things gave gone beyond that on the island; for example in sports, the quality of education, social security and the protection of children.

"I am talking of the fruits of the labors of a country that has tried to create a just society," he affirmed and stated that "in this Revolution, reality has surpassed dreams," although it is far from being perfect.

The president subsequently made an analysis of the class nature of the Cuban state and the role of the working class, referring to the theories of Marx and Lenin which, he noted, were grafted onto the body of the ideas of José Martí who, "at the end of the 19th century, wrote things that have absolute validity today," and who was "the first person to define the United States as imperialist."

After reflecting on the definition of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the immense support for the Revolution since 1959, he dwelt on Cuban democracy, in which, he said, the secret lies in nominations, given that it is the masses who present proposals for public office, and where decisions affecting the people are previously discussed and reached by consensus, demonstrated throughout the 40 years of Revolution.

Fidel concluded that the CTC Congress has been a reflection of the long-fought battle for national sovereignty and genuine independence which is continued in the battle of ideas being waged today.

FIGHTING AGAINST NEGATIVE TENDENCIES

The 18th CTC Congress was attended by 1,675 delegates—in representation of 3.1 million Cuban workers—accompanied by 600 representatives of 180 trade union organizations in other countries.

The sessions discussed the report presented by Ross which affirms that the draft debated prior to Congress by all Cuban workers was a "veritable program of ideas, aimed at strengthening the positions of the Revolution and promoting its economic and social development."

The document also notes that the issues most fervently discussed by workers related to prices, social assistance and security, improvements in incentive systems, and housing repairs and construction.

Ross insisted on the need for fuller discussion on food production, a problem which, he noted, is far from being solved, and called for continuing a vigorous struggle against poor labor and social ethics, various forms of theft and diverting of resources, cases of corruption and nepotism on the part of certain officials, the increase of a social-climbing and opportunistic mentality, indifference and the mistaken psychology that any means of solving our problems are legitimate."

This speech led to discussions in which President Fidel Castro played an active part, particularly on issues such as education, commenting on the impact of the use of audiovisual media in schools, the scope of computer teaching and taking it to remote schools.

"That is proof of the massive difference existing between the human rights concept held by a heap of hypocrites and those existing in Cuba. There are millions of children lacking schools in the world and here we are concerned about a pupil living on a mountain peak. Nobody can say that we are inventing things because we are being accused; we have spent 40 years charging others because nobody is concerned about human beings."

Fidel covered the subject of health, when during the special period not one doctor’s office was closed down, and guaranteed that by the end of this year, there should be no lack of essential medicines because, with resources obtained, the country is in a position to acquire the raw materials to produce them.

EXTENDING MATERNITY LEAVE

Given women workers’ comments on their difficulties with day-care centers (21 closed throughout the country and 11 of those in the capital), the president proposed to extend maternity leave to one year with pay, instead of the previous six-month period of paid leave.

Fidel also referred to the various programs related to the training of teachers, social workers and school repairs in Havana. "Nothing is attained," he stated, "if we aren’t motivated; there are solutions because we have the people, we have the masses, we have unity."

In a moment of reflection on the FTAA, a U.S. annexationist treaty which someone could sign without any consultation with the people, and with which, as he warned, the United States is already beginning to decide on political themes like demanding representative democracy in those countries, he added: "Our country has attained much more democracy, infinitely more popular participation."

The U.S. Congress approved a statement on the FTAA which expresses, among other points, that it is a project which, put into practice, would mean extending neoliberalism, and which is an attempt to block the much-needed integration of Latin America and the Caribbean, since the agreements reject all aspects of such integration.

Moreover, the plenary session approved the 21 resolutions discussed in the work commissions, including those on the Cuban labor movement and the defense and values of the Revolution; workers and the defense of the socialist homeland; a condemnation of the U.S. blockade; socialist emulation; youth; and programs for the 1,400,000 Cubans who are retired and receiving pensions.

During the final session of the 18th CTC Congress (April 28-30), the 17 members elected to the CTC Secretariat were presented, as were the 70 on the National Committee, and Pedro Ross Leal was ratified as general secretary.