‘Ever onward to victory’

We publish here the full speech of ULISES GUILARTE de NACIMENTO, general secretary of the Cuban Trade Union Confederation (CTC) to the TUC Congress in Brighton this year

Dear Comrades,

I am honoured in the name of the CTC — the central organisation of the Cuban trade unions, and all our affiliates in expressing fraternal greetings to the 151st TUC Congress, especially your general secretary Frances O’Grady.

The TUC and the CTC have maintained historical relations of friendship, solidarity and mutual co-operation, which have passed the tests of time based on our traditions of struggle for the defence of workers’ rights.

The land where Fidel Castro and Jose Marti were born, where Che Guevara fought for his ideals of justice, has endured more than 60 years of the criminal commercial and financial economic blockade that the United States government has imposed on us unilaterally, not bowing to the orders of the empire and building a social project flying the flags of socialism and independence.

A blockade that has been tightened in a new interventionist escalation with the application of the Helms-Burton law passed in 1996, whose extraterritorial nature constitutes a violation of international law and transgresses the sovereignty of other states.

The blockade causes deprivation to our people, does not allow the acquisition of supplies, medicines and raw materials from North American companies, with consequent interruptions that paralyse our industries.

It is the main obstacle to our development programmes, limiting access to sources of financing and foreign investment by exercising political pressures and penalising the banks that carry out commercial operations with our country.

As a result of the blockade, non-state workers involved in catering, running restaurants and guest houses and those who provide taxi services have seen their income reduced due to the elimination of cruise and airline travel for US tourists, as well as the drastic reduction in licences that Americans must obtain to travel to Cuba.

The Helms-Burton Act expresses the absurd idea of ​​establishing claims in US courts, demanding the return of land that before 1959 was in the hands of exploiters and which the revolution handed over to farmers who today produce food.

It also enables legal claims on former military barracks used by the old Batista dictatorship and now converted into schools where today more than 1.7 million children and young people study, and on factories now operated by our workers who own the fundamental means of production and generate the goods that the people require.

The blockade, over six decades, has caused huge losses to the Cuban economy of more than $138 billion at current prices and $922 billion taking into account the depreciation of the dollar compared to the value of gold on the international market.

Its main objective is to strangle our economy and fracture the spirit of rebellion that fertilises our revolution. With criminal eagerness, they never waver in ignoring the practically unanimous mandate of the general assembly of the United Nations that every year calls for the end of the blockade.

We need to strengthen the campaign outside Cuba to build understanding of the enormous magnitude of this perfidious aggression by the US against us, which mutates and diversifies daily without legal or ethical limits. We take this opportunity to wholeheartedly thank you once again for the solidarity that we have received from you during all these years

Together we are sure we will win. The American empire already knows the taste of defeat on Cuban soil, such as the one we gave it in April 1961 in the Bay of Pigs — in which international solidarity also played a crucial role.

The world of work is changing as a consequence of the rapid pace of technological innovation and the formation of new professional skills, demographic evolution and climate change, together with the progressive and systemic crisis of capitalism and the impact of its neoliberal policy causing the loss of social and labour conquests of large masses of workers.

200 million people are unemployed today and 21 million are victims of forced labour to which discriminatory practices are added for the large waves of migrant workers.

2.3 million workers lose their lives every year when working in dangerous environments, and a significant percentage acquires occupational diseases.

Labour reforms recently applied in several countries have restricted collective bargaining, while pockets of poverty and the precariousness of contracts are growing.

This sad but real panorama, a reflection of the current unjust, exclusive and decadent international economic order, poses challenges for the international trade union movement, imposing on us the need to articulate more effectively a campaign of struggle and union action that increasingly integrates national, regional and international interests in different multilateral scenarios.

Fellow delegates and guests to this congress:

Cuba, a small island in the Caribbean, continues to be involved in the improvement of its economic model as a sovereign, independent, and socialist nation, a subject widely debated in our recently concluded 21st CTC Congress.

Likewise, as a result of a democratic, participatory and contributory process of popular consultation, the new Constitution of the Republic was approved, where rights that constitute a chimera for many countries of the world were endorsed for workers.

With our own efforts, we have achieved world breaking results in global health and education indexes, in the promotion of gender equality, equitable wellbeing and in the development of international co-operation and solidarity.

Hundreds of Cuban doctors have risked their lives treating and curing patients hit by the Ebola epidemic in several African countries. This truth cannot be hidden by the lies that media monopolies divulge in their eagerness to discredit the professionalism, ethics and humanistic commitment of our medical missions.

3.4 million people from 34 countries have benefited from free eye operations through “Operation Miracle” and nine million adults have become literate though the Cuban pedagogy project “Yes I can.”

These examples confirm that achieving the ideal of a better world goes beyond a national project and is part of an integrationist vision, that Cuba continues to demonstrate with its modest material and human resources.

In this sense we will continue to accompany the heroic resistance of the Venezuelan people, their legitimate president Nicolas Maduro and the military civic union, which has caused the economic siege that they have imposed on him to fail.

We demand the release of comrade Lula in Brazil, a prisoner under false charges, we denounce the aggressions and lies spread against the Nicaraguan government, and we will work together with the social partners in the region for unity within the diversity of our America as the great homeland that was the dream of our heroes.

Dear union leaders, the Cuban delegation expresses its gratitude for the invitation to participate in this congress.

The international trade union movement can always count on the sincere voice of Cuba in the condemnation of injustice and inequality, while working for the establishment of a world centred on the human being, his or her dignity, and the wellbeing of workers.

Long live solidarity among the peoples of the world!

Long live peace and friendship!

Ever onward to victory.