The President: The General Council are supporting the motion.
Ruth Winter (Fire Brigades Union) moved motion 92:
She said: I am pleased, I am honoured, to be here moving this motion to advance Congress policy on Cuba and to show our support for the people of Cuba. I was extremely fortunate this year to be in Havana. We filled Revolution Square on May Day. There were a million people there; it was something I have never experienced and I do not think I will experience it again. It will stay with me for the rest of my life. It was a pleasure and an education to be there as part of a trade union delegation to a Women's Conference organised by the Cuban Women's Federation. What did I find there when I went to Cuba? - a people who put health care and education as priorities because they are political priorities of the welfare of their people. Cuba are a people of consciousness, an inspiration, not one of conspiracy or suspicion. This so‑called defunct state has one of the most educated peoples in the world, not just general education but political education, something that we in this movement here only dream about.
Despite this, there has been 40 years of illegal blockade imposed by the United States. They have reduced infant mortality by 30 per cent since the revolution, despite the US blockade, and Cuba has sent medical aid in the form of nurses and doctors to almost every part of the world despite the US blockade. True internationalism at work. If you speak to anyone who has visited Cuba they will tell you, you do not see a downtrodden or a dowdy people at all; you will see a people who have been starved of food and medicines and its political freedom, not by it own Government but by the United States. What you will also see is a nation of culture, of music and hope, with an absolutely infectious sense of community and society. After 40 years of oppression with an illegal blockade and constant political attack by the so‑called developed world a small but determined country still survives.
Internationalism is woven into the culture of Cuba, so let us show it is woven into ours. It can be looked on as good news by some that the ban on food and medicine sales from the US to Cuba might now be lifted, but let us not forget some of the reasons why that is. It is because some of the American farmers want a piece of the developing trade in Cuba. To be honest, tampering with the blockade is just not good enough. You do not move from starving a country to partially starving a country and expect to be applauded for that. It is a disgrace and it is absurd and the blockade must be lifted in total.
The best way to learn about Cuba is to go there and see for yourself. When you see the reality, push yourself a little further and use your imagination. Imagine what they could do with their economic freedom restored. Imagine what it would be like in the way of infrastructure, economic development and proper medical supplies. It cannot be acceptable for a large more powerful nation to dictate and destroy a success because they quite simply do not like the idea of socialism being successful. Today I hope we will speak for the people of Cuba to do our bit in assisting their struggle for freedom by taking a public position which says the blockade is wrong. Freedom is a word that is often misused. What is it? Is it the right to have free health care at the time and point of need? Or the freedom to be put on an NHS waiting list or take out private medical insurance? Is it free education for all, from nursery school age upwards, or freedom to go to an underfunded school? The freedom of the right to self determination or the freedom to be persecuted and starved because you have a different political ideology. It is time the so‑called land of the free dropped its stranglehold and gave the Cuban people their economic freedom back.
Get your union involved and assist in raising money to buy goods for the Cuban people. As Karl Marx said, and I hope we all remember who he was, philosophers only interpret the world, the point is to change it. Let us start changing it. Support the motion and support the people of Cuba.
Mike Fullard (UNISON), seconding the motion, said: I am proud to second this motion in the presence of trade union representatives from the Cuban TUC, the first time ever - and we hope not the last - that the Cuban trade union movement have been invited officially to attend our Congress.
Solidarity with our Cuban comrades is as important now as it ever was. We must continue to lobby against the odious US blockade but, equally, we must celebrate 40 years of Cuban independence and the tremendous achievements which the Cubans have made in so many fields of activity.
We must also ensure that Cuba remains high on the trade union agenda. One way of doing this is to strengthen links with our counterpart unions in Cuba. UNISON has already established twinnings with sister unions in health and public administration in Cuba. These have been extremely successful, involving grass root membership on both sides and leading to practical initiatives and solidarity work, whilst raising awareness about Cuba amongst our membership. We urge other unions to consider similar twinning with their counterparts in Cuba. We believe it is very important now for the TUC and its affiliates to develop bilateral relations with the Cuban trade union movement. UNISON will be sending a delegation to the World's Solidarity Conference in Havana this November. The event will be an important demonstration of international solidarity with the Cuban people, and we hope that other unions represented in this hall will consider taking part.
A visit to Cuba is the best way to know Cuba and, on that note, in April 2001 the Cuban CTC will be holding its Congress. We understand from our Cuban colleagues here that an invitation will be issued to the General Council. We urge the General Council to take up this invitation to visit Cuba so that they can see for themselves what life is like under the blockade but also to witness the marvellous achievements of Cuban society which are an inspiration to us all.
Please support the motion.
* Motion 92 was CARRIED
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