By Pip Hinman
MELBOURNE — One hundred and seventeen people took part in a day-long discussion on political and material solidarity with the Cuban people sponsored by the Australia Cuba Friendship Society on November 2.
Trade union, Latin American and solidarity activists from around the country together with the Cuban consul and the Cuban women's delegation spent the day mapping out a comprehensive program of activities which will see solidarity work with Cuba stepped up over the next period.
As the assistant federal secretary of the plumbers union, Bill Davis, commented, the time is right for progressives to repay Cuba their exceptional internationalism. Victorian ALP MLA Jean McLean and Victorian Senator Barney Cooney expressed similar sentiments. The conference decided on several immediate and longer term activities.
At the beginning of 1992, a new material aid project will be launched in Melbourne. It is hoped that some six or seven months later, a "solidarity ship" filled with Australian milk powder and wheat flour will be sent to Cuba, along with any other useful items. This project which has the support of sections of the trade union movement aims to draw many more interested people. As Dave Deutschmann, president of the Australia Cuba Friendship Society told the consultation, Cuba solidarity has to be broadened. It has to accommodate every interested group or individual despite political differences.
The consultation also voted on a proposal to tour two Cuban trade unionists and a delegation from the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP) next year.
The tour will be timed to coincide with May Day celebrations and a two-day conference on Cuba to be held in Melbourne sometime in April or May 1992. Part of the reason for the conference, Deutschmann explained, was to interest more people in Cuba. Its aim will be to have debate and discussion around a range of topics not all of which everyone will agree on.
A few immediate campaigns were launched from the consultation. They were: a fax campaign aimed at the United Nations secretary general to put pressure on the United States government to lift its economic blockade on Cuba and remove its base at Guantánamo (the UN fax number is 00 11 1 212 963 48 79 and copies should be sent to the Cuban consul on 02 371 5524); an advertisement to be lodged in the Saturday, November 30, Australian, the text of which is currently being circulated (sponsorship is $50 per organisation and $25 for each individual).
Other campaigns discussed included feeling out the possibilities of coordinating a national day of action in solidarity with Cuba, of sponsoring a tour by a Cuban band and/or the Cuban Ballet Company, stepping up scientific exchanges and letting other Australian non-government aid organisations know about the opportunities for material aid in Cuba. For information on any of the campaigns, contact (052) 633 100. n