Youth in Action

U.S. youth go to Cuba

By PAUL M.

Youth for Socialist Action (YSA) is sponsoring its first ever trip to Cuba this month. Twenty YSA members from Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Minneapolis, and Ashland, Wisc., will be participating.

YSAers have been planning the two-week visit, scheduled for July 17-31, for over a year. Those going on the trip have held garage sales and baked “communist cookies,” among other things, in an effort to raise money for the trip.

The most notable of the fund-raisers, however, was a benefit concert organized by Bay Area YSA members last October. This event, called “Hip-Hop For Cuba,” featured several local politically conscious hip-hop groups, including one YSA member. It raised almost $1400 for the trip and educated nearly 200 young people about the U.S. blockade against Cuba.

While most American youth would not likely see the relevance of Cuba to their lives, the organizers of this trip believe that defending the Cuban revolution advances the interests of their generation, as well as working-class and oppressed people in general.

At a time when the incarceration of young people is rapidly increasing in the United States, Cuba provides a stark contrast of a society that truly values its youth. All education, for example, is free there.

Mike Schwartz, an LA YSA member who will be participating in the trip, told me: “Cuba is a shining example of what can be accomplished when a society values people rather than profits.”

A focus of the visit will be to discuss with Cuban youth how they feel about their society. The trip is taking place at the invitation of Cuba’s national youth organization, the Union de Jovenes Comunistas (UJC), or the Young Communist League. Throughout their stay in Cuba YSAers will be collaborating closely with members of the Cuban youth group.

Leaders of the UJC have arranged a dynamic tour for the American youth. Through a number of meetings with Cuban leaders, YSA members will be taking part in discussions about topics ranging from the role of workers in Cuba, to the effects of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the American blockade, to the relevance of Marxist theory.

They are scheduled to meet with prominent Cuban youth, government officials, representatives of the Cuban Federation of Women, members of the neighborhood-based Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, and many others.

The itinerary also includes visits to factories, hospitals, historic sites, and the memorial to the martyred champion of the Cuban revolution, Che Guevara. A day will be spent participating in the activities of a student work brigade as well.

What many YSA members are perhaps looking forward to the most, however, is their participation in the main celebration of the Cuban Revolution, which takes place every year on July 26. This day commemorates the attack on the Moncada army barracks by a group of Cuban revolutionaries, led by Fidel Castro, in 1953.

After this heroic, but failed, attempt to spark an armed struggle against U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista, the revolutionary movement in Cuba became known as the July 26 movement. Since the triumph of the revolution in 1959, July 26 has been a national day of celebration.

This year, YSA members will have the opportunity to join hundreds of thousands of Cuban people in a demonstration of their continued support for their revolution. But even those who are already willing to declare their solidarity with the Cuban revolution are still excited by the idea of seeing for themselves the society that the proponents of the American ruling rich daily decry as miserable and totalitarian.

When I spoke to LA YSA member Joanna Baker, for example, she told me: “I’m interested to see for myself how the political system is organized and what the culture is like instead of listening to what everyone else tells me to think about Cuba.”

The trip promises to be a powerful experience for everyone going. Witnessing a society in which masses of people have tossed out their exploiters and continue to stand firm against the pressure of the world’s biggest imperialist power will likely make a lasting impression on the 20 YSA members.

We can expect that their stay in Cuba will provide the American youth with the inspiration necessary to continue the struggle when they return home, where it counts the most.

Socialist Action readers can look forward to a thorough report on the trip next month.

 


 

Amarillo YSA fights censorship

The following article was written by members of the Amarillo, Texas, chapter of Students for Socialist Action. They are students in the 7th and 8th grade at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School.

By SAM BLACK BURN and ANDY WHINERY

 

Every day, school seems to become more and more a tool of capitalist repression, more and more a means for the suppression of free-thinking minds (as well as anyone deemed dangerous to the Christian right wing and its stranglehold over education), more and more a tool for taking away what little freedoms we have left-such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of peaceful assembly and petition.

Our freedoms are slipping away from us as easily as sand through a funnel, with the hole at the bottom widening. We seem to not only be losing our freedoms, but losing them at a greater rate as time progresses.

Here we intend to cover a recent blow to the movement at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School.

Sam Blackburn’s account

I had just eaten lunch and was attending my sixth period class, “Social Studies,” when an announcement came over the PA system: “Can you please send Sam Blackburn down to the office, thank you.”

Knowing that I had done absolutely nothing wrong, I was not scared the least bit. I entered the office with a little bit of anxiety in my gut, not knowing what to expect, bad news or good.

My principal, Mrs. Connie Wooton, was standing in the middle of the room. “Take a seat, Sam, oh, and don’t worry, you’re not in trouble.” She pointed to a chair pushed into a round table.

She said that she had received some complaints from parents that she was not allowed to name, but she would tell me what they were complaining about: “They said that their children have been exposed to some of your ideas that I personally do not believe are compatible in a Christian school.”

I asked her specifically what beliefs those were. She replied by saying that parents had told her that I was “recruiting kids to a socialistic, atheist” point of view. I asked her why she thought that I was “recruiting” kids to my point of view, and I was answered with a firm, brisk, “now you’re just trying to be argumentative.”

After about 30 minutes of well-proven points on my side and about 40 more of these kind of comments from her, she decided to just set down some rules for me.

Her first rule was that I would not be allowed to bring any more “socialistic-type literature” to school. Let me explain to you what books I had been bringing to school. For instance, “The History of American Trotskyism” by Jim Cannon, “America’s Road to Socialism,” also by Cannon, and “Compañero: The Life and Death of Che Guevara.” For those of you who have read even one of these books, you can understand why this sort of logic is totally irrational and bizarre.

When all ends met ends, the final rules were these:

1) From then on, I was not allowed to discuss philosophy, political issues, or current books I was reading, even with my closest of friends.

2) However, I am allowed to bring my books to school, but I am not allowed to tell anyone about them, and if anyone asks me, I just tell them to go away.

3) I was no longer allowed to ask questions in “Religion” (Christianity) class that had never been answered before.

(Pardon me for interrupting, but is it just me, or was the last time I checked, a question not asked to get an answer?)

At the very end, when I was getting up, she said, “Now, Sam, remember this isn’t punishment.”

In a way, she was right, this is not punishment but a low form of totalitarianism.

Andy Whinery’s account

When I first heard about the insane restrictions that had been placed upon my comrade, I thought, “They have taken thought-control, as George Orwell called it, much too far.”

I have heard it said that in a private school, any restrictions that the administration deems necessary may be put on the student body. This to a certain extent could be agreeable in the form of rules about wearing uniforms, tucking in shirts, and other unimportant matters.

However, when restrictions are put upon politics and freedom of speech, basic constitutional rights have been trampled under foot-and action must be taken.

No historical documents, amendments, or laws in the U.S. have ever stated that the government gives the church its consent to wipe its soiled feet on the Bill of Rights.

The reason that I see for the restrictions upon Sam are that the school administration believes that all communists are “devils” lacking ethics and morals.

Since Sam and I are both outspoken leftists and have asked questions about the Christian faith that couldn’t be answered by the teacher, we were assumed to be “dangerous” and needed to be silenced.

I can assure you that none of our questions were aimed at defacing Christianity or being prejudiced toward that faith.

They were aimed instead at our quest for knowledge and the seeking of truth, using Thomas Paine’s method of reason as the most formidable weapon against all types of errors. We must rise up and defeat injustices like these to better our society for all!

Students of America, take this message from us. They can take away your books, your rights, your liberty, and your justice, but they will never seize your mind, for it is the most important weapon you have in this battle for an end to class antagonism.