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Unblock Cuba!

Call for Solidarity against the Murderous Blockade Policy of the USA


Every year, the UN General Assembly in New York votes on a resolution calling for the lifting of the economic, trade and financial blockade that has been imposed on the island by the USA for almost 60 years. For years it has been accepted by the vast majority, with few votes against and abstentions. Most clearly in 2016 with 191: 0, when even the Obama administration did not oppose the resolution. Since Trump’s presidency, the situation has also deteriorated in the UN. In the last vote in 2019, the US, alongside Israel, also brought Brazil to a no-vote and Colombia and Ukraine to an abstention, with the resolution still being adopted with an overly clear 187:3.

The EU member states, including Germany and Austria, as well as Switzerland, have been voting against the blockade for years and condemned its extraterritorial extension, which also affects European companies and institutions. Regardless of this, Trump and his hardliners regularly tighten this sanctions policy against Cuba and other countries, which violates international law.

Some actual examples:

• By activating the so-called Section III of the Helms-Burton Act, US citizens can also take legal action against companies and institutions from third countries in US courts if they use Cuban property that was expropriated after the 1959 revolution. This is de facto directed against all Cubans and all institutions on the island. Village schools built on land that once belonged to large landowners may be affected. Or hotels that were once part of the US mafia empire.

• Online retailer Amazon has been sued for selling Cuban charcoal.

• The US tourism company Marriott International has to leave Cuba.

• Penalties are imposed on shipping companies that transport oil from Venezuela to Cuba, along with other measures designed to stop trade between Cuba and Venezuela.

There are further escalations in the important financial sector:

• Sending money to Cuba is no longer possible with Western Union.

• Various European financial institutions are keeping their hands off the business with Cuba. For years, the big banks UBS and Crédit Suisse in Switzerland have adhered more to US orders than to national legislation and have fully supported the blockade.

Recently, the blackmailing pressure of the US empire has even reached financial institutions that one would think were under state supervision: Cantonal banks (Swiss government-owned commercial banks) refuse internal Swiss payment orders as soon as “Cuba” appears in the system; the reason: “The processing of payments with reference to Cuba are largely no longer possible due to the US sanctions regime. The Group has therefore decided to no longer execute payments related to Cuba.”

This blockade policy has increasingly dramatic consequences for people in Cuba.

Money transfers from family members are made impossible, external support for health projects is prevented, important medicines can only be imported via a detour and at excessive cost, and the transport system has to be massively restricted. The evil intent behind US politics, already announced in 1960 (!), is becoming increasingly clear: “…weakening economic life through economic dissatisfaction and hardship, by denying Cuba money and supplies; with the aim of reducing nominal and real wages causing hunger, despair and the overthrow of the government”.

The peak moral impoverishment of the current US regime is demonstrated by the Corona virus pandemic. Despite its own problems, Cuba sends 3,000 medical workers to 28 countries (including European ones) to help fight the Covid -19 pandemic. How does Washington react? Secretary of State and former CIA director ,Mike Pompeo, calls this “human trafficking”, and Republican hardliners are filing a bill in the US Congress to put pressure on countries that have brought Cuban medical personnel into the country.

Meanwhile, the European governments are using cheap words, or wrapping themselves in silence, and are not taking any action against the US blockade and its devastating effects on Cuba. We demand that the vote against the blockade at the 29th edition of the resolution in the 75th UN General Assembly is finally followed by concrete action. The crawling gear in Europe in the face of US rule of force, that violates international law, must no longer be tolerated! No more aggression against sovereign states in Latin America and elsewhere.

Therefore, in the run-up to the next UN vote in May 2021, we call for a large solidarity campaign for Cuba and against the blockade! Together we – Cuba solidarity groups, progressive organizations and media from the FRG, Austria, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Great Britain, Spain, France, Czech Republic, Slovenia and other European countries – want to draw attention to the escalation operated by Washington to put pressure on the US administration and its European servants. With large posters, radio spots, advertisements in newspapers and social media channels, events and rallies concentrated in the capitals of our countries, we want to break the silence of the blockade on the part of the dominant media and make the consequences of such criminal policies unmistakably apparent.

Inform yourself and become active!

Support the European-wide solidarity campaign by donating money!

Talk to other organizations, but also to acquaintances, relatives and friends about the tightening of the blockade and supporting the solidarity-action.

Video – Presentation: European solidarity campaign “Unblock Cuba” XXVI. International Rosa Luxemburg Conference 2021

This article first appeared on the junge Welt website

Expropriation Referendum is in sight – despite deficit in democracy

Press Release from Deutsche Wohnen & Co Enteignen – English language version


The Berlin State Election Office revealed this morning that 130,000 signatures have been collected as part of the ‘Deutsche Wohnen und Co. enteignen’ initiative. If the group is successful in collecting the required quorum of signatures by the end of June, there will be an official referendum on the issue in September. Berliners will then be asked to vote on whether an estimated 240,000 flats from corporate landlords should be expropriated and turned into socialized housing. This most recent count indicates that the initiative ‘Deutsche Wohnen und Co. enteignen’ has already managed to collect more than 50% of the required 175,000 valid signatures.

So far 50,962 signatures have been reviewed and 75.2% confirmed as valid. Over 50% of the signatures deemed invalid by the State Election Office were disqualified because the signees did not have the required German citizenship. Because more than 20% of Berliners do not have German citizenship, they are disqualified from taking part in crucial democratic processes such as state elections and referendums. Berliners who are unable to formally register as residents in the city are also disenfranchised.

“With this latest count we are well over target and truly on our way! If the 1,700 activists and countless supporters across Berlin continue with the same energy, we will easily surpass the required 175,000 signatures by the 25th of June” said Moheb Shafaqyar, representative of the initiative.

“We encourage everyone who sympathizes with our cause to support and sign the expropriation referendum. Those hit hardest by the housing crisis in Berlin have campaigned for decades to change the electoral law. We demand voting rights for all those who call Berlin their home” stated Rosa Silva, member of the Right to the City for All-working group that is part of the initiative, which organizes for the visibility and rights of disenfranchised Berliners.

Berliners without German citizenship or who are not registered as residents are disproportionately affected by the housing crisis and the city’s rising rents. The reasons for this are diverse: precarious working arrangements play just as much a role as insecure and exploitative housing situations. The lack of affordable and accessible places to live impacts low-wage earners, refugees and migrants the most. Racism and discrimination on the housing market leads to severe exclusions. “Many of us find ourselves caught in a vicious cycle of low pay, high rents, not having our own contracts, and not being able to register as residents. We can’t plan our lives like this. The majority of flats are simply not accessible to us” commented Rosa Silva from the Right to the City for All working group.

By transfering 240,000 apartments to public ownership, the initiative aims to democratize housing in Berlin and enable tenants, regardless of their citizenship status, to co-manage the socialized housing stock. “The socialization of housing should benefit those who struggle the most in the current system” said Moheb Shafaqyar.

Berlin, 26.4.2021

Initiative “Deutsche Wohnen und Co. enteignen”


German language:

English language:

The original German language version of this statement is available here

Beyond the perpetual repressive semi-lockdown

Why we need a Left alternative to the current Covid measures


Covid policy in Germany and elsewhere in Europe has landed us in a capitalist dystopia: work is allowed, and everything else is prohibited. We need stronger fundamental opposition from the left to prevent this pandemic ending in a long-term ideological win for the conservative right.

This week, the German parliament approved the Bundes-Notbremse, a regulation that allows the federal government to override states and enforce stringent measures when and where Covid-19 infection levels rise. Besides closing shops and nail salons, theatres and gyms, a curfew is introduced: being outside between 10pm and 5am will not be allowed, except for work or in urgent circumstances. These measures come on top of existing limitations of personal life, such as a prohibition on meeting more than one person or receiving visitors after 9pm in Berlin.

Curfews to combat covid are not particularly original: European countries with a more statist political culture, like France and Italy, have employed them since the beginning of the pandemic. For Germany, however, having reckoned with its authoritarian past by strongly safeguarding civil liberties, the first national curfew since WW II means a new precedent. In the Netherlands, a country with a similarly anti-authoritarian political tradition, the enactment of a curfew in January led to a week of large-scale riots across the country, fuelling the legitimacy of extreme-right movements and covid deniers.

In Germany, resistance in the streets against further curtailing citizens’ personal lives is likely to (also) come from the left: autonomous left groups have already announced they will hold large-scale nighttime protests once the curfew comes into effect. The Interventionistische Linke argues: “The virus doesn’t go out for evening walks, it goes to work at daytime. A curfew is an authoritarian placebo. We need a solidary shutdown to close companies and schools, instead of locking people up in their homes.” The Zero Covid movement has been fighting for that for months: instead of symbolic measures, they want a three week shutdown of all non-essential parts of the economy to break the third wave, with ample financial compensation for all.

This would mean a substantial ideological break with current anti-covid policy as carried out in most European countries. Over the past year, we seem to have slowly landed ourselves in a capitalist dystopia: we still have to (go to) work, but almost everything else is prohibited. Shopping – another ‘essential’ part of the economy – is allowed as much as possible, but our private and intimate lives are likely to remain limited for the foreseeable future. Large corporations like Lufthansa have received billions to stay afloat, while half of Germans with a month net income of less than 900 euros say their income has decreased the past year. Governments propose no alternative to these policies: it’s either this type of perpetual semi-lockdown, or nothing.

Covid policy is largely devised with white middle class nuclear families in mind. Employers are suggested (but not required) to allow their white collar personnel to work from home, which does nothing against the thousands of infections among workers in Amazon distribution centres and slaughterhouses. Over Christmas, only partners and biological family members were allowed to meet in most of Germany, excluding anyone who has had to rebuild or redefine family over the course of their lives. And in the UK, lockdown rules have effectively made sex illegal for millions of people who are not in a long-term monogamous relationship. Anti-covid measures everywhere in practice protect certain classes and lifestyles over others.

Meanwhile, not white middle class families but marginalized groups are hit the hardest by the pandemic. A study in the Netherlands shows that people with the 20% lowest incomes are three times as likely to die from a covid infection as those with the highest incomes. Their working environment and housing situation are likely to play a large role in this, researchers say. People with a migration background are also found to be more at risk, as they are in the US. And queer and trans people across Europe are significantly more affected in terms of mental health and access to care.

In the face of those inequalities, the response by the mainstream left has largely been too little and too late. The Dutch left completely failed to policitize the pandemic in the elections last month. In Spain, the left Podemos-PSOE government’s anti-covid policy is largely the same as elsewhere in Europe. In Germany, the governing SPD codesigned current policy. Die Linke has supported shutting down non-essential factories and offices and opposed measures such as curfews – but they’re co-responsible for current policy in states such as Berlin, where companies have only been required to allow half of their employees to work from home since last month.

It’s therefore also up to extra-parliamentary activist groups and organizations to not leave opposition to the current capital-friendly semi-lockdown to the extreme-right. To push for breaking Europe’s third covid wave in a way that stops putting the working class and marginalized groups at risk; and to oppose repressive measures like Germany’s nationwide Ausgangssperre, which are yet another step towards atomizing us into private households and reducing us to our working lives for an indefinite amount of time.

This kind of opposition is not only crucial in the short term: it is about preventing a long-term ideological win for the conservative right, with tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths as collateral damage. If governments retain a strong grasp on citizens’ private lives and sanction only certain types of relationships, that has profound consequences for those living outside the norm. And if governments continue to successfully convince people there is no alternative to their present economic policy, there will be little in their way to impose austerity as soon as the pandemic is over.

News from Berlin and Germany: 24th April 2021

Weekly news roundup from Berlin and Germany


Compiled by Ana Ferreira



47 percent of Berliners in favour of expropriation of real estate corporations

The opinion research institute Civey asked 2,502 representatively selected Berliners about their attitude to the expropriation of real estate companies. The result: in total, 47.1 per cent think it is the right thing to do, while around ten per cent of all respondents were undecided. As in previous surveys, the proportion of supporters is highest among Left Party voters. It currently stands at 89.3 per cent. But even 20 per cent of CDU and FDP voters think the expropriators’ cause is worth supporting. A clear majority of supporters of these parties – just like the AfD – reject expropriation. Source: tagesspiegel

Remembering women and migrants

Ulisone Rodrigues, a pastor from Mozambique, offered church services for contract workers from Mozambique in Friedrichshain in 1986. This turned the parish hall into a meeting place where Mozambicans and other contract workers could celebrate and exchange ideas, also about their experiences of racism in the GDR. Stories such those illustrate why Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg sees itself with justification as a trendsetter when it comes to addressing social conditions and making repressed histories visible. However, the “Kiezmuseum“ wants to go even further on inclusiveness, identifying four thematic areas: women’s history, migration history, queer political history and colonialism. Source: taz


The Corona “emergency brake” is getting closer

In Berlin, the Bundestag passed amendments to the Infection Protection Act, tightening it up. Extremists have called for a storming of the Reichstag, which brings back memories of August 2020. In the parliament, during the debate on the Rules of Procedure, the Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble had to slow down the speakers. The managing director of the AfD parliamentary group called the whole affair a “farce.” The Liberals also complained harshly. Only after more than two and a half hours the results came up: with a sufficient majority (342 votes in favour, 250 against, 64 abstentions), the Bundestag passed the law. Source: dw

Left Party leader Wissler leaves Wiesbaden for Berlin

The former parliamentary group leader of the Left Party in the state parliament, Janine Wissler, is moving out to the Bundestag in Berlin. As the most diligent speaker in the opposition, she has earned the respect of the other parliamentary groups over the years. Wissler named the abolition of tuition fees in Hesse, the commitment against the airport expansion and for the decommissioning of the Biblis nuclear power plant as among her most formative issues. Currently, she and Susanne Hennig-Wellsow, leader of the Left Party in Thuringia, form the new dual leadership of the party. Source: hessenschau

Laschet is the Union candidate for Chancellor

CSU leader Markus Söder has accepted the vote of the CDU federal executive committee. This means that the leader of the Christian Democrats, Armin Laschet, is the Union’s candidate for chancellor. Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulated Laschet and further statements also came from other politicians. The Green Party leader Annalena Baerbock said she was counting on “a fair election campaign for the leadership of this country.“ FDP leader Christian Lindner said there were many substantive issues on which the Liberals agreed with Laschet, wishing him every success, “as long as it is not at our expense”. Source: dw

When will Corona vaccinations for children and adolescents come?

In the “vaccination hierarchy” of most countries, children and adolescents are not even mentioned. They would probably be vaccinated last. However, the question has not yet arisen because no Corona vaccine has yet been licensed for children and adolescents. And, since last Spring, sudden cases of a multi-organ disease, the Pediatric Inflammatory Multisystem Syndrome (PIMS), have been increasing worldwide – mostly after an asymptomatic infection.In the meantime, BioNTech says a vaccine for younger children could be available in early 2022. Moderna aims to present initial results by the summer. Source: dw

The majority of Germans wants the rent cap

Thousands of people demonstrated in Berlin ‘s Neukölln and Kreuzberg districts against the ruling on the rent cap. According to the latest survey, almost 61 per cent of Germans can imagine stricter rent regulation in individual regions. The Civey survey also distinguished between property owners and tenants. Not surprisingly, around 69 percent of tenants would like to see stricter rules on the ground. It is interesting, however, that even more than half of the property owners (50.6 percent) would welcome regional rent caps. Most economists are of the opinion that one should not regulate further. Source: welt

Building support for the NHS pay battle

Day of action planned for 3rd July 2021

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) staff, many of whom are worn out and overworked, deserve a substantial pay rise. Their wages have fallen in value by 10-15% – for some, even lower than that. They believe sleaze, corrupt lobbying and privatisation are all helping a Tory government to deliberately undermine the NHS. It is time to take a stand.

Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) stands firmly together with health and care workers demanding a substantial pay rise in recognition not only of pay erosion over the last decade but also their amazing efforts and dedication during the pandemic. At the end of March, Health Campaigns Together (HCT) and KONP issued a joint statement calling for a campaign for better pay for all NHS staff following the government’s announcement that it can only ‘afford’ a 1% increase. Contrast this with the 22% increase in MP’s salaries since 2010!

NHS staff who have been left reeling from the impact of the year-long pandemic are equally furious and bewildered. This time last year, Johnson was standing on the steps of Downing Street applauding the NHS every week until he caught the coronavirus. His life was saved by these same staff and he emerged from Intensive Care pledging to honour and support the NHS. Chancellor Sunak promised to provide ‘whatever it needs’ for the NHS to tackle the pandemic.

Broken promises and life on the frontline

What a difference a year makes! Staff morale is at a low ebb, with many reporting feelings of exhaustion, mental health difficulties and some being ‘broken’ by their individual traumas. The HCT affiliates meeting on March 27th were addressed by Holly Johnstone, an oncology nurse from Sheffield, members of ‘NHS Workers Say No’ and GMB union, who summed up the current mood and fears amongst NHS staff:

This year has been like no other, staff are exhausted and demoralised, yet they have stepped up and taken risks but they really are at breaking point. …
We know that as almost 1000 health and care workers have died and over 1 in 10 survivors go on to develop complications of long Covid, the impact on an already depleted workforce will be massive. …
have a backlog of waiting lists to work through, delays in emergency care, ambulances queuing to get into hospitals, and we’re simply working in an already overwhelmed NHS under a government that doesn’t prioritise the safety of its workers or patients.

The pandemic has compounded pre-existing problems of staff feeling undervalued, horrendous working conditions, people not having breaks, staying way beyond their shifts to keep wards safe. Job roles and responsibilities have increased dramatically and this was happening before the pandemic. …
We take on the extra responsibility and we do it well, but this is simply not reflected in our pay and the extra responsibilities we take on are to plug the gaps in the shortages from doctors, nurses and others.”

Austerity has caused a real loss in income

While Government claims that nurses have seen their pay rise, in the last decade wages in the NHS grew at much less than inflation, meaning that by 2020 the real buying power of staff had fallen by 10-15%. This is in stark contrast to wages in the private sector where buying power remained much the same.

Since the year ending August 2010, when the NHS started publishing these statistics, average nurse pay has fallen by 7.4% in real terms. However, this average conceals differences between various grades with a newly qualified staff nurse (Band 5) estimated to have experienced an 11% real-terms pay cut, while the most experienced staff nurse saw a cut of 17%. Senior ward staff or specialist nurses at Band 6 were hit the worst with a massive real-terms loss of 32%.

When is a ‘pay rise’ a ‘pay cut’?

NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens pointed out that ministers had already planned a 2.1% pay rise from 1st April 2021 under Theresa May’s five-year funding deal. The NHS Confederation, speaking on behalf of organisations that plan, commission and provide NHS services, emphasised that valuing and recognising the contributions and sacrifices made by NHS staff over the last year will be crucial to retaining staff, let alone filling the 90,000 current vacancies. The 1% pay offer risked demoralising workers and harming efforts to retain staff, making it very unlikely that the key manifesto target of recruiting an extra 50,000 nurses could be met.

Polling undertaken by Savanta ComRes for 38 Degrees found that 53% of the public think NHS nurses should get at least a 5% pay rise and that 83% – including 78% of Tory voters – think the 1% is too little for NHS staff overall. A recent survey of 800 senior NHS managers found 9/10 thought a significant pay rise for staff was essential to avert an exodus of key personnel. Some decried the 1% offer as an “insult” and “making them feel worthless”. One described how NHS staff had been treated like cannon fodder.

A representative poll of 1,006 health professionals across the UK by YouGov for the IPPR think tank found that the pandemic has left one in four more likely to leave than a year ago. That includes 29% of nurses and midwives, occupations in which the NHS has major shortages. A quarter of NHS workers are more likely to quit their job than a year ago because they are unhappy about their pay, frustrated by understaffing and exhausted by Covid-19.

Money for the few, not the many

Health minister, Lord Bethell, has defended the proposed 1% ‘pay rise’, explaining that “nurses are well-paid for the job” and that they had secure jobs many people would “envy“. He also showed his lack of empathy for beleaguered staff when he refuted Simon Stevens’ suggestion that this was in fact a pay cut, by adding: “There are millions of people out of work out of the back of this pandemic”.

Lord Bethell relies on unpaid advisors, including Lord Feldman (former Conservative Party Chair) who also happens to have run a lobbying firm. One of the clients he lobbied for was Bunzl Healthcare, awarded a £22.6m contract without competition for supply of Personal Protective Equipment, just one of the contracts the government unlawfully failed to disclose.

Cutting workers’ pay while handing out large sums of money to supporters and cronies is clearly seen as perfectly fair by a government that is becoming so mired in sleaze that even leading Tories are expressing alarm.

Matt Hancock – crony minister of health

Having shrugged off the court ruling that he acted unlawfully in not publishing contracts, Hancock is now embroiled in further controversy about his standards of behaviour in public office. He was lobbied by David Cameron on behalf of a now collapsed company run by the scandal-hit financier Lex Greensill, and invited for a private drink and a chat. This related to an app called Earnd that would enable 1.4m NHS staff in England to be paid daily by Greensill.

More ignominy followed when the Health Service Journal exposed how Hancock failed to declare his interest in the company Topwood for more than two months and had never previously declared his family’s longstanding involvement with it despite the awards of NHS contracts.

Further revelations included that Lord Prior, chair of NHS England, a former Tory health minister and Tory party deputy chair, helped facilitate a meeting at which Lex Greensill was also able to lobby Tory peer Dido Harding, chair of NHS Improvement and head of ‘test and trace’. According to reports, Prior had previously arranged for Greensill to meet NHS England’s chief financial officer and Sir Simon Stevens.

Caroline Molloy writing about the background to Greensill and the NHS, describes the discussions around Earnd as:

“… emblematic of the digital transformation of the NHS

with much wider significance than being just a mundane way of impoverished staff getting faster access to pay:

“… the use of apps – both patient-facing and internal – has been a key bridgehead to cementing NHS privatisation and shovelling valuable data into the hands of the private sector in a plethora of ways, and looks set to remain so under the rubric of ‘digital transformation’.”

‘Test, trace’, fail, reward

Serco is one of the companies that has benefitted from a £37bn contract to undertake ‘test and trace’ (junior health minister Edward Argar is a former Serco lobbyist). The cross-party parliamentary public accounts committee recently reported it could find no evidence that ‘test and trace’ had led to a reduction in coranavirus cases! The committee sought justification for the:

staggering investment of taxpayers’ money”

and criticised the use of private consultants who are paid up to £6,624 a day. The chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing speaking for many pithily observed:

The public knows more nurses, not more highly paid consultants, means better care”.

Far from being embarrassed, Serco chief executive Rupert Soames, whose brother is former Conservative MP Nicholas Soames, staunchly defended his company’s role, saying the test and trace team had done “bloody well”. Perhaps he was referring to generous rewards reaped by Serco from public funds, with Soames’s pay for 2020 being a cool £4.9 million. Shareholders also enjoyed a £17m dividend payout after company profits doubled with revenue boosted by pandemic contracts

Standing shoulder to shoulder with NHS staff

The Pay Review Body may make its recommendation on pay towards the end of May but possibly not until early June. The unions are preparing to reject any offer which does not reflect their demand for a ‘substantial’ pay rise. They are hoping to coordinate efforts, even as far as indicative ballots for strike action. This will be an important step for both the HCT and KONP.

So far it is clear that the government is extremely vulnerable on this issue and has executed many U-turns in the last year when put under pressure, and there is huge public support for the staff and the NHS which can be mobilised around pay. We are calling on all local groups to make contact with NHS staff and their unions at local level.

With HCT, we are proposing that all local groups look to mobilise coordinated action over the weekend of 3-4th July 2021, the nearest weekend to the 73rd NHS July 5th anniversary. It aims for scores of events that weekend (pandemic conditions permitting) and will be producing stickers, posters and flyers.

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