The Left

Unite, the Trades Union, Withdraws Rise Sponsorship in Support of Cuba

Unite should be ashamed of this:

News from
in London
17th June 2008


Unite the Union is to cease financially supporting the Latin American stage at the Rise Festival after the Mayor’s Office has targeted its partner in the production, the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, as being a “political campaign group” and therefore unacceptable.

For the past five years Unite has co-produced a programme of Latin American music and dance at Rise, a close fit with its organising campaigns, working with London’s Latin American community who are often on the margins of the labour market.

The Latin American show has gone from strength to strength and is seen as one of the high points of the Rise Festival.

Not only has the Mayor’s Office banned CSC from the festival site it has also altered the message of the Festival, changing it from anti-racist event to one that celebrates London diversity.

Unite’s London Regional Secretary, Steve Hart, has tried to negotiate with the Mayor’s Office to resolve the impasse but has always come up against the same barrier, Unite is welcome to participate but it can’t participate if it involves Cuba Solidarity Campaign as its partner.

Steve Hart said: “The ban on Cuba Solidarity Campaign is the direct application of a political pre-condition on Unite in its sponsorship of the Latin American stage at Rise. Censorship is unacceptable to my union. I feel that I am left with no alternative other than to withdraw our intended funding of the Latin American stage at Rise in 2008.”

For further information please contact:
Steve Hart on 07970.081509
or Adrian Weir on 07970.081522

This is a disgraceful decision.

The Cuba Solidarity Campaign, and all marginal and extreme Communist organisations, certainly should be excluded from a festival which is designed for all Londoners, and particularly recent immigrants. Their presence might be appropriate at a state sponsored political colloquium. But that is not the purpose of the Rise festival: not now, and not in the past.

The Cuba Solidarity Campaign exists to apologise for an undemocratic one party state, now run by a monarchical one family dynasty, which imprisons those who dissent from or oppose the politics of its ruling family.

Many many new Londoners came to this country after having suffered under incredibly repressive Communist regimes: not simply from Cuba but also from Eastern Europe. There’s a blindness on even parts of the fluffy Left to this.

People from Poland and East Germany will have spent the early parts of their lives living in a nightmarish repressive state. You think Davis Davis has a point about 42 days detention and ID Cards? So do I. However, this doesn’t even begin to describe the situation which existed in Eastern Europe under Communism, and which still exists in Cuba.

A festival which is open to all Londoners CANNOT be led by, and should not even have involvement by, Communist groups like the SWP, Socialist Action, or the Cuba Solidarity Campaign. They certainly shouldn’t be leading it. Their very inclusion excludes many many of London’s newest arrivals.

I mean, this is like inviting a pro-Nazi group to help run a festival which was meant to bring together all Londoners, including asian, african and carribean, and Jewish people.

If anybody knows Steve Hart, perhaps they can find out from him why he thinks that a political campaign, promoting the Cuban regime, has any place in a celebration of London’s may cultures. The closest thing the Unite letter comes to an argument is the suggestion that Unite has been “working with London’s Latin American community”. Well, London’s Latin American community will include those who oppose Communist totalitarian states, and those who have suffered under them. It would be just as outrageous for Unite to support a Chilean Solidarity Campaign linked to supporters of General Pinochet!

Similarly, the suggestion that not allowing an extremist organisation to have a stall is “censorship” is crass and nonsensical. I very much doubt that they’d pull out in disgust if Richard Barnbrook’s BNP were denied a stall.

Unite should rethink its stance on this issue.


There has been some debate below as to whether or not the Cuba Solidarity Campaign supports the Cuban people, or the Castro junta. It is very clear from their site that it is nothing more than a propaganda outlet:


Any one of the deputies to Cuba’s parliament, including Fidel Castro, are subject to recall at any time and must by law report back to mass meeting in their constituency once every six months.
If Castro is such a dictator, why did he receive such overwhelming support in the elections? Why is it also that his position as the country’s President is decided by parliament and that members of his government are also voted in by parliament?

This is what Unite supports.

If you were a recent arrival in London from Hungary or the Czech Republic, and you wanted union representation, would you be happy that your leadership was spending your dues on this?

Gene adds: The International Trade Union Confederation provides a useful summary of the current status of trade union rights in Cuba. Essentially, outside of the official government-approved union, there are none.

It is a source of utter bafflement to me how some trade unionists in the West can lend support to regimes that suppress free trade unions elsewhere. In the end I think they share a pervese belief with the rightwing opponents of trade unionism– that is, the freedom of workers to organize and bargain independently is dispensable in certain circumstances (unfettered capitalist development, revolutionary socialist development, etc).