With the workers’ movement on the rise in the U.S. and around the world, May Day activities for 2023 were in full swing over the last few days. Also in evidence were attempts by the U.S. government to repress those individuals who believe in expressing international solidarity with the working class and oppressed nations worldwide.
One notable event was the 2023 May Day youth delegation to Cuba, in which an estimated 150 young activists from a variety of anti-imperialist organizations took part in a multiday brigade to the island country, to learn from the Cuban people and experience firsthand the construction of socialism there.
Among the May Day brigadistas were some leaders of the burgeoning labor movement in the U.S., such as Chris Smalls, president of the Amazon Labor Union, who was embraced by President of Cuba Miguel Díaz-Canel.
However, activists from several groups, including The People’s Forum, were detained, threatened and searched by federal agents upon their return to the U.S. on May 3. Reports then followed on May 7 of additional activists from the National Network on Cuba facing the same treatment upon their return. Activists’ electronics were seized and searched, and some of them were threatened with jail.
This harassment, as well as the genocidal multidecade blockade against Cuba, is an ongoing effort by the U.S. government to isolate Cuba from the world and prevent workers in the imperial core from realizing the claims made by the U.S. media, which alleges without proof that Cuba’s government is tyrannical, are nothing but lies and propaganda.
Despite the over 60 year blockade, Cuba has persevered and even surpassed the U.S. in many key ways, such as medical and educational progress, as well as the September 2022 passage of a groundbreaking new family code, which enshrines the rights of children, LGBTQ+ people, grandparents, fathers and nontraditional family units.
Despite the periodic harassment of solidarity activists by the U.S. government, Cuba still welcomes international brigades to share in cultural exchange and build class solidarity, including those from in the U.S. who want to see for themselves.
Attempts to intimidate
This harassment against international solidarity activists must be seen in the context of FBI raids and federal charges against other anti-imperialist activists. On April 18, the U.S. Department of Justice released a document detailing accusations against members of the African People’s Socialist Party, Uhuru House, Black Hammer Party and an unnamed third organization based in California — all targeted for their criticism against the U.S./NATO proxy war in Ukraine.
The accusations allege that these organizations were acting as “agents of Russia” within the U.S., by spreading “Russian talking-points,” or in other words speaking out against the imperialist narrative about the U.S.-NATO proxy war in Ukraine. The African People’s Socialist Party office and its Chairperson Omali Yeshitela’s home were raided by the FBI with flashbang grenades and assault weapons, when he and his spouse, Ona Yeshitela, were detained.
Other supporters, including white organizers within the Uhuru Movement, were also indicted. One of the reasons the APSP was on the FBI’s radar was their presence at an anti-globalization conference in Russia. Another reason was for circulating a document titled “Petition to the United Nations on the Crime of Genocide against African People in the United States of America,” which was presented to the U.N.
Black activists faced brunt of repression
While the organizations named so far subscribe to a variety of views, they have in common an anti-capitalist orientation and advocate for the self-determination of colonized peoples, particularly Black people and the African diaspora.
Black activists have often faced the brunt of anti-communist repression. The recent labeling of APSP and other activists as “Russian agents” for opposing the U.S. war drive in Ukraine is reminiscent of similar crackdowns that happened during the Cold War.
Pan-African socialist leader and historian, W.E.B. Du Bois became sympathetic to the Bolshevik Revolution when he visited the USSR a few years after the 1917 Revolution. More than 20 years later, he was arrested in 1951 on charges of being an “agent of the Soviet Union,” simply for circulating a petition against nuclear weapons.
The following year the U.S. government revoked his passport in order to prevent him from attending an antiwar conference in Canada. Du Bois was labeled as “Unamerican” for opposing the war drive against the USSR and the imperialist war against Korea.
Paul Robeson, acclaimed left-wing musician, actor and internationalist, traveled to the Soviet Union in 1934 at the invitation of the renowned Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein. Robeson became sympathetic to communist politics after having experienced the socialist country firsthand, stating: “Here I am not a Negro but a human being for the first time in my life . . . I walk in full human dignity.” (paulrobesonhouse.org)
Over the following years, Robeson was targeted by the FBI for his political positions and was forced to testify in front of the Tenney Committee and later the House Un-American Activities Committee, regarding his alleged affiliation to the Communist Party.
Both Robeson and Du Bois, along with others, collaborated in drafting and presenting a declaration titled “We Charge Genocide” to the United Nations, detailing the ongoing genocide against Black people in the United States. And a couple of years after Du Bois’s passport was revoked, Robeson’s passport was also denied.
The similarities between the repression faced by Du Bois and Robeson then and the repression against organizations like the APSP now are striking. In both cases socialist organizers, who advocated for Black self-determination in the U.S., had visited a country Washington considered an enemy, advocated against U.S. imperialist war and aggression and presented documents charging the U.S. government with genocide against Black people.
It is clear that challenging U.S. imperialism, both by opposing military intervention abroad and fighting settler colonialism in the core by advocating for national self-determination of Black and Indigenous peoples, coupled with explicitly anti-capitalist and internationalist politics, is something the U.S. empire sees as a fundamental threat to itself.
International solidarity is the key
As the U.S./NATO proxy war in Ukraine grinds on and tensions between the U.S. and China are reaching a recent all-time high, while conditions for workers inside the U.S. deteriorate, the need for solidarity with groups like the APSP and activists targeted for international solidarity work becomes more critical.
Many more workers are starting to understand that U.S. wars and sanctions do not benefit them and solely serve to maintain U.S. imperialist hegemony to the benefit of capitalist exploiters. Trillions of dollars are spent on imperialist wars and occupations, while workers and oppressed people go hungry, unhoused, unemployed and sick.
Maintaining international connections with workers’ movements in countries like Cuba and others is an indispensable tool for our class to learn from and unite with workers around the world, who are fighting with us against a common enemy. We must not let harassment, threats and bogus charges frighten the anti-imperialist movement. We must staunchly support activists facing repression.
Drop all charges against APSP and Uhuru Movement! End the blockade against Cuba! No more sanctions! No to the U.S./NATO proxy war in Ukraine! Abolish NATO! Reparations and self-determination for Black, Brown and Indigenous peoples now!