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Solidarity beyond Prison Walls: Cuba

The uprisings across the United States must be understood by any Marxist-Leninist as the long overdue expression of tensions arising from the shortcomings of a justice system based on the protection of private property, in short as the failure of Capitalism. For too long, Black Americans have faced the scourges of a legal system that was instituted to repress and enforce the conditions of the first African peoples that were kidnapped and made to serve as the essential cogs to the colonial system. In the west, dealing with the legacy of colonialism is essential to the liberation of Black and Brown bodies and the movement to tear down the bricks on the wall that we call Imperialism. As the US and the world continues to grapple with the dominant system of racist imperialism and state sanctioned police terror, we look to Cuba for inspiration in building new systems that respect human dignity and deliver justice.

We must examine history to understand why these two systems are so different. It is no secret that in the United States the police were created for the purpose of preserving slavery and hunting run-away slaves. Early european colonizers understood that in order to preserve a system (early mercantile-capitalism) so plagued by inequality, the brute force of the law was essential. The first formal slave patrol had been created in the Carolina colonies in 1704. During the Civil War, the military became the primary form of law enforcement in the South, but during Reconstruction, many local sheriffs functioned in a way analogous to the earlier slave patrols, enforcing segregation and the disenfranchisement of formerly enslaved people. This same police system led to a  judicial system that delivers justice only to the white terrorists that exist in Amerika. High crime rates, police using high caliber rifles against protestors, the disproportionate deaths faced by black people in comparison to white people, these things do not happen in Cuba, and Tthat is because Cuba has instead invested its resources in community, not in building a carceral state for the preservation of white supremacist private property & domination.

 Following the revolution in 1959, Cuba was plagued by saboteurs and reactionaries whose only wish was to destroy the nascent revolution. The modern police force created after the revolution was a force instituted to protect equality and crack down on counter-revolutionaries whose motives were to return Cuba to the United States and once again enslave the island and her lands to US agricultural interests. While the government was certainly struggling (and had shortcomings) to organize Cuba from a servicial Colonial outpost into a free socialist society, the efforts made to provide the people with a socially conscious system of defense are evidenced through the stark differences in the outcomes of policing when comparing the United States and Cuba.

Crime fighting in Cuba begins with a social safety net, which provides every Cuban with free education, free health care, and subsidized cultural events. Cuba doesn’t suffer from homelessness and cartel-instigated drug addiction, despite traffickers’ regular attempts to smuggle drugs into Cuba from Florida.

Cuba uses community to discourage crime. The committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs) were originally set up in the early 1960s to root out U.S.-backed counter revolutionaries.

Nowadays, the CDRs promote public health and act as neighborhood watch groups. They protect their communities by being in direct contact with everyone who lives around them and understanding their problems in order to address those problems, which in turn prevents crime. CDRs also function as a platform for community members to serve their incarcerated neighbors even when the law has determined they are guilty. Among some of the initiatives, when residents are convicted of crimes, CDR members visit them in jail and participate in conversations with inmates to keep them in sync with their families and communities while they are repaying debts to society. Some CDRs have begun using these interactions to teach disadvantaged inmates transferable skills they can use to better their conditions when their freedom is restored. 

Cuba has made efforts to promote community in the face of the onslaught of sanctions and abuse coming from the Western world. In these times we can find the most radical and humanistic organizing on the shores of the blockaded caribbean island. The Cuban people trust their government and their institutions because, unlike the United States, in Cuba the people speak and the government listens. We don't have to imagine a new world where everything is reformulated, we simply need to look to the global south. Revolution is a seed that grows from the sacrifices provided by those who tend to her. We should look to the peoples of this world who have struggled against the beast that is capitalism for a vision of the world being built all around us.

Obviously, institutions developed in Cuba can’t simply be transferred wholesale to the United States, but we can learn from the concepts of community protection. For the first time in recent history, people of all backgrounds in the United States are seriously discussing how to fundamentally change the police. Cuba’s experiences should be part of that discussion.

For more information on the current US backed misinformation campaign against what is one of the most humanistic police bodies in the World, read this article from Granma, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba:

Fear mongering and the police in Cuba

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