“No Social Advance in the U.S. Has Ever Been Won Without a Struggle, Through the Good Will of Bankers and Employers”
Speech by Rev. Lucius Walker at Conference of World Solidarity with Cuba
The following speech by Rev. Lucius Walker, Jr., a leader of Pastors for Peace and of the Friendshipments of aid to Cuba delivered by U.S. citizens in defiance of the U.S. government blockade of Cuba, was presented on November 14, 2000, at the Open Tribunal of the Second Conference of World Solidarity with Cuba. The Conference was held in the Cuban capital, Havana.
Warm greetings to you all, especially to Commandante Fidel Castro, Sergio Correiri, and all the staff at ICAP [Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples], which organized this wonderful event, to all the delegates to this conference, and to the wonderful people of Cuba.
Standing in this place today stirs deep within me memories of 1993, when 14 U.S. citizens expressed special solidarity with Cuba through a hunger strike in Laredo, Texas. That hunger strike was a direct action response to the U.S. government’s seizure of a little yellow school bus which we were delivering to Cuba. That hunger strike lasted for 21 days, but on the tenth day, brothers and sisters in Cuba came together on this very site and began a sympathy fast with those of us who were in Laredo, Texas. The sympathy fast lasted 11 days here on this site. In my spirit I honor this place as sacred ground, as an example of the coming together of the determined spirits of Cubans and North Americans in defiance of the U.S. blockade.
Today, you see a pavilion erected of steel and stone. But I look back seven years and I see the weak bodies and the bold spirits of 14 U.S. citizens and the hopes of Cuban citizens joined together in bold resistance to U.S. imperialism. I see Raúl Suárez, Juan Ramón de la Paz, Sergio Arce, Clarita Rodes, and others. And I see Fidel Castro walking among them, as a supportive witness to their suffering, to end U.S. injustice.
Today, you see me standing here before this U.S. Interests Section, a symbol of U.S. arrogance, ignorance, insolence, and isolation. I see myself as a representative of those bold sisters and brothers in Cuba and in the U.S. who joined in that wonderful act of solidarity in 1993 on this site — Peggy Valdez, Abe Galo Rone, Hilda Roberts, Milton Reid, Lisa Valanti, and others. I stand here also as a representative of millions of North Americans who were joined then and are joined now in prophetic challenge to the immoral use of power by the United States [government], not only against Cuba, but around the world. That hunger strike in 1993 was in its own way an anti-imperialist tribunal. And we found the U.S. guilty of immoral and cowardly abuse of power. We found the United States guilty of attempting to destroy the aspirations of both the Cuban people, and its own citizens, who simply attempted to fulfill the Biblical mandate, to “love not simply in word, but in deed and in truth.” We found the U.S. guilty not only then of stealing the little yellow school bus, but we found them guilty of having the year before passed the Torricelli law. We found them guilty of allowing 1,700 overflights by Brothers to the Rescue over Cuban territory. We found the U.S. guilty of leaving hundreds of thousands of its own citizens hungry and homeless while it criticized other nations of the world for having hunger and homelessness.
Crimes of the U.S. Government
In 1993 we then found the U.S. guilty of leaving almost 40 percent of its own citizens with no health insurance while it was attempting to destroy Cuba, which has a universal free health care system. [Applause.] We found the U.S. guilty of racist aggression at home and exportation of racism all around the world. We, then, found the U.S. guilty of operating in Columbus, Georgia, a School of the Americas to train torturers, murderers, and assassins to kill sisters and brothers in Central and South America who were simply attempting to achieve freedom and democracy and relief from the dictatorships which the U.S. had placed in power. [Applause.]
Back then, we found the United States guilty of submitting its own Black youth to such danger as to be an endangered species. Back then we found the U.S. guilty of falsely imprisoning Mumia Abu Jamal and of attempting to kill him without even providing a fair trial. [Applause.] We found the U.S. guilty of holding more than 300 political prisoners in the prison system in the United States. Back then we found the U.S. guilty of holding more than 2 percent of its entire population in the jails and prison of the United States.
And today we come again to another tribunal seven years later. And the U.S. is still guilty! [Applause.] Guilty of gross violations of human rights in its own country and in countries throughout this globe.
We find today that more than 2 percent of U.S. citizens are in jails and prisons — an increase over 1993. It may seem strange, but perhaps not so strange, that 85 percent of those who are in jail in the U.S. just happen to be Black, Latino, Native American. For this, we find the U.S. guilty! [Applause, chants of “Guilty, guilty!”]
And in 2000, we are sad to report that Mumia Abu-Jamal is still on death row, denied a new trial, which is due him in the face of mounting evidence that he was unjustly charged and convicted. And for that, we at this tribunal find the U.S. guilty. [Applause.] Black young men in the United States are not only an endangered species but today are victims of racial profiling and police murder—and for this we find the U.S. guilty.
U.S. Election a “Corrupt Mess”
While lying to the U.S. people and the world public saying there is no electoral system in Cuba, the United States cannot even run a fair election for its own president. And for that we find the U.S. guilty! [Applause.] Early counting in the elections in Florida has revealed massive corruption and stealing of votes—that is what the U.S. calls democracy. While most of the U.S. Congress claims to be ignorant of the electoral system in Cuba, a recount in one West Palm Beach district found (“discovered,” like Columbus “discovered” America) 1,900 new votes for Gore. I suppose if one is going to run for president in the state of Florida, it would help if one’s own brother were the governor of the state! For this massive, corrupt mess we call an election, this tribunal should declare the U.S. guilty of not having a democratic electoral system. [Applause, shouts of “Guilty, guilty!”]
This should be the beginning of a campaign to end the farce that we call the Electoral College. To the U.S. government we say, “Let there be a system of direct voting. Let every person’s vote count, in the U.S. like it does in Cuba!” [Applause.] I have a proposal. I propose that Cuba send the children of Cuba, who monitor the polling places in Cuba, to Florida, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, to monitor elections in the United States. [Applause.] And then I propose that Cuba send a team of experts on democratic elections to the United States to assist the U.S. in writing new election laws. [Applause.]
It is time for a change. It is time for the U.S. to follow the Cuban example, in case after case after case. I suppose some of our neighbors to the West are listening [pointing to the U.S. Interests Section]. I hope they hear what I say next. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the United States were to close the School of the Americas [applause] and convert the SOA into a medical college to provide free scholarships to Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, and students from the Third World. Wouldn’t it be wonderful?! [Applause, shouts of “Sí!”] What if, instead of sending businessmen to other countries, rather than sending soldiers and military support to dictators and undemocratic regimes around the world, the U.S. would decide to use its ample resources as Cuba does, to provide health care professionals, engineers, doctors, technicians, and architects for the Third World? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the U.S. would take all the money that it uses to destabilize Cuba and clean up Harlem, to clean up the slums of Washington, DC, to decide to provide an adequate education for the poor children of the U.S?
Why the Obsession to Destroy Cuba?
Well, we must ask, why is the United States government so pathologically obsessed with the destruction of Cuba? I thing the answer is simple. First of all, Cuba is a good example, which capitalism cannot tolerate. What would happen if the Cuban model of development, of health care, of education, and of using its resources for the development of its own people rather than the repaying of massive, unpayable debt to the World Bank and the IMF, what if the Cuban model were copied, modified and adapted in Haiti, in Jamaica, throughout the Caribbean, Central America, South America, throughout Africa and Asia. [Applause.] Oh, if Bill Gates and the other multimillionaires in the U.S., if the owners of the banks and corporations are listening to this tribunal today, I would imagine they’re shaking in their boots! For changing the way nations use their resources as Cuba does would truly be revolutionary.
There are several answers to my question: why is the U.S. pathologically obsessed with destroying Cuba? Because when Africa called, Cuba answered. When the forces of apartheid sought to capture the total southern cone of Africa, who responded? Who beat the troops of apartheid? It was Cuba. Let’s give Cuba a hand for what it has done to save the world from apartheid. [Applause, chants of “Cuba, Cuba!”]
Those of us in the United States have a very special appreciation for Cuba. When some of our African American freedom fighters needed a refuge from the racism of the IN-justice system of the U.S., Cuba gave refuge. No other country has so successfully resisted the monster to the North. It stands as a progressive voice of the Third World, against neoliberal globalization, against privatization. In the United Nations, Cuba is the voice that has most astutely and effectively called for a cancellation of Third World debt. No wonder the bankers don’t like Cuba. [Applause.]
We should be appreciative that Cuba has led the way. And what should we do, as a solidarity community? It is wonderful to come to a solidarity conference, but wouldn’t it be even greater if we would pass among ourselves, conference delegates, pass a resolution to absolutely double our solidarity efforts. [Applause.] Cuba has made a commitment. Cuba fulfills its commitments. And the United States, under the manipulation of the right-wing Cuban Americans in the U.S. Congress, who fear the isolation of the United States and who feel threatened by the beautiful, wonderful success of the Cuban Revolution, are reaching their last breaths. They are fighting like dying men and women — fighting for life. They have subverted the democratic process in the U.S. Congress. They did so in the case of the last food and medicine amendment. This was not an advance, not a move toward an end to the blockade, as the U.S. administration would have us believe. It was a step backward. But they are fighting a last-ditch effort.
What Must We Do?
As I said, we must redouble our efforts. We must resist more boldly. I say, especially to the U.S. delegates to this conference, we have a responsibility to cease cooperating with the U.S. government’s Track Two policy for destabilizing Cuba. I say to us from the U.S., that we should refuse to ask the monster for permission to come to Cuba. [Applause.] We should come to Cuba out of heartfelt solidarity, without a license, without permission, because it is the right thing to do. Because it is the revolutionary thing to do! We can’t call ourselves revolutionary and cooperate with Cuba’s major enemy. I call upon us to stand more boldly, to engage in the struggle against the U.S. blockade more prophetically. I call upon all who will to join the Pastors for Peace caravan in a bold challenge to the U.S. blockade in July of the year 2001.
We must struggle. It will not be easy. The U.S. government will seek to stop us, but we should remember that no social advance in the United States has ever been won because of a sudden sense of good will by the bankers, the owners, the capitalists, or the members of Congress. Every step of progress we have made has been in struggle against power.
In closing, I want to leave with you the words of one of the greatest African Americans, indeed the greatest American of the nineteenth century [Frederick Douglas]:
The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims, have been born of earnest struggle...If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.
This struggle may be a moral one or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”
Long live the struggle of the Cuban people! [Applause and shouts of “Viva!”] Long live the creative example of the Cuban Revolution. Long live the wisdom and the heartfelt concern for the poor of the world by Fidel Castro. [Applause and shots of “Viva Fidel!”] Long live the beauty that we see in the faces of the Cuban children. They are the Revolution. Long live solidarity. May it ring out from all parts of the world. Let it be redoubled and may we see the fruits of this revolution flower in nation after nation until the kingdom and the imperialist powers of this world give way to the revolution of the hopes and the aspirations of the poor worldwide. God bless you. [Standing ovation, applause.]