Cuba from outside

Stop the blockade of Cuba

Stop the blockade of Cuba

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Cuba from outside

At present a small collection of documents by non-Cubans on the development of the revolution in the country and how it effects the populace.

On Cuba

Cuba – Dictatorship or Democracy, How people’s power works, Marta Harnecker, Lawrence Hill, Westport, 1979, 145 pages.

Women and the Cuban Revolution, Speeches and documents by Fidel Castro, Vilma Espín and others, edited by Elizabeth Stone, Pathfinder, 1981, 83 pages.

Cuba – The Second Decade, edited by John Griffiths and Peter Griffiths, Writers and Readers, London, 1982, 147 pages.

History of a Takeover – The US Naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Editora Politica, Havana, 1982, 55 pages.

Cuba Moves On, Roberto Robaina, Jose Marti Press, Havana, 1991, 13 pages.

What is the FMC, Havana, N.D. 13 pages. The Federacíon de Mujeres Cubanas.

Solidarity Organisations

The New Man in Cuba – Britain-Cuba Association, London, 1969, 24 pages.

Cuba – Report by Newcastle Latin America Study Group of the visit April 1984, Newcastle 1984, 14 pages.

Cubatimes, Fall 1981, Cuba Resource Centre, New York

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Consequence of the declaration of Albania as an ‘atheist state’ in 1967

Anti-Orthodox Church

Anti-Orthodox Church

More on Albania …..

Consequence of the declaration of Albania as an ‘atheist state’ in 1967

A photograph of a painting in the Gjirokaster Castle Museum gave rise to some thoughts about religion.

The painting (above) was created in 1975 by M Jorgji. Unfortunately, to date, I have no more information on the artist. Neither do I know whether the painting still exists and if it does where it might be – I’ve only seen a photograph of it.

In 1967 the Peoples’ Socialist Republic of Albania declared itself an ‘atheist state’ and what followed was an anti-religion campaign – and this painting is all part of that propaganda war.

So before going any further it will be important to put the images and message in this painting in context.

The words on the red banner at the top state, in Albanian;

Gjithe Partia dhe vendi duhet te ngrihen ne kembe, te djegin mezjarr e t’i kepusin koken cilido qe merr neper kembe kighin e shenjte te Partise per mbrojten e te detyrave te grave dhe vajzave

this translates, into English, as;

The whole Party and the country must rise to their feet, burn fiercely and behead anyone who tramples on the sacred law of the Party for the protection of the rights of women and girls

Although the banner doesn’t state specifically this is particularly directed against the Orthodox Church – although it could just as well as have been directed against the Catholics or the Muslims, the other two religions/versions of the mystical ‘faiths’ that existed in Albania at the time.

We know it’s the Orthodox Church on trial as, slightly separated and alone, in the centre of the painting is an old, partially bald, bearded priest dressed in a black cassock. He’s lacking his hat which such priests are normally seen wearing whilst in public – all religions have their crazy dress quirks. His lack of a hat indicates a lack of status in the community in which he sits and who all look at him in destain.

Because this attack on the ‘church’ is directed against the Orthodox Church we can assume that we are probably in the south of the country – the Catholics were more dominant in the north, centred around Shkodra (and were more friendly to the Nazi invaders in the 1940s). As I’ve seen this image in Gjirokaster it’s possible that the event is depicted as taking place there or at least in the southern part of the country, although kapart from the stone arch (typical of Gjirokaster) I can’t see any direct references to the city.

Although there are not only women surrounding the disgraced priest they are dominant in the image, which fits in with the slogan on the banner. The abusive priest is being faced by the women he (or his homologues) have abused in the past. In 21st century parlance this priest is facing his ‘#MeToo’ moment.

So how are we supposed to react to this image. Do we side with the ‘vulnerable’, dejected old man who sits head-bowed, alone and separate from the rest of the people? Or do we side with the mass of women who obviously have a grievance with what he has done in the past? Obviously, the message on the banner and the overwhelming presence of women and girls suggest that the priest is not the victim but the perpetrator who has, finally, been brought to book.

And that shouldn’t be a surprise. For centuries, no millennia, those who hold religious office have used the so-called uniqueness and privilege of their position to abuse those who are powerless for their own selfish and puerile ends under the guise of exceptionality. It was happening all over the world in all those ancient societies which weren’t even aware that other cultures, doing the same, even existed.

Theocratic societies followed the same path of the abuse of power wherever they sprouted – and they sprouted everywhere. And everywhere they existed girls and young women would have been their principal (but not only) target.

In European societies we only have to look at the activities of the various brands of Christianity and their abuse of power with the likes of their witch-hunts and Inquisitions. The two main streams of the so-called ‘Christian’ faith – the Catholics and Protestants – ‘threw stones’ at each other but, in reality, they were both as vile as each other.

We don’t have to look too deeply to see that this situation has been going on, continuously, for centuries. The abuse scandals which single out those in the religious community, of whatever colour, appear on an even daily basis. And those are not just historical abuses that had been hidden by the various hierarchies but are continuing to this day. With Islam as we are presented with their abuses on a daily basis, whether it be in countries where they are the dominant religion (e.g., Afghanistan) or in western European countries where ‘Christianity’ might be dominant (so-called ‘honour’ killings).

Many religions argue the ‘bad apple’ gambit – it’s not the faith itself, it’s bad practitioners of that faith. But that doesn’t accept that all religions are a power structure that seeks to maintain the status quo. For all the cosmetic changes that might have been made in recent years that structure has not, is not now and will not, in the future, change substantially. That’s the same for all the Abrahamic faiths but it’s not so different in those more ‘esoteric’ religions of the east. It’s all about power.

Whereas capitalist societies are quite harpy to live with even the ‘bad apples’ – after all, capitalism is all about abuse of the poor by the wealthy and powerful – the socialist society that the Albanian Party of Labour sought to create between 1944 and 1990 decided that such stupidity, ignorance and backward thinking needed to be, had to be, challenged. Hence the atheism campaigns and the likes of this painting.

Ultimately that particular campaign wasn’t a success. Why is something that needs to be studied in order to learn the lessons for the future.

In present day (2020s) Albania there are more religious buildings being constructed than you can shake a stick at. Whether there’s the population to ‘justify’ such a vast number of places is debatable. I’ve yet to see, anywhere in Albania of whatever variety of metaphysical thinking, that the masses are flocking to the various ceremonies that take place on a daily/weekly basis.

Yes, you’ll go into a catholic church and see someone praying for some higher being to come up with a miracle and to provide the wherewithal to pay the bills that the present capitalist society in Albania fails to produce. But do they really believe? Or is it just being used as a crutch for the weak?

Historically religion has been crucial for colonialist and imperialist expansion. In Central and South America it was said that ‘When the Europeans came we had the land and they had the cross. Now we have the cross and they have the land’. The Catholic Church followed an explicit policy of the ‘extirpation of idolatry’ in South America which meant the forced conversion (or death) of the ‘heathens’ and the physical destruction and annihilation/suppression of anything that was sacred to the indigenous peoples. As had been done with Roman structures in Europe the religious centres/locations in a country such as Peru had churches constructed on them (a clear show of who was in control and who held the power) or they were destroyed – such as particular rock formations or fountains, for example, which were the sacred places of a non-monotheist culture such as that of the Inca.

And this wasn’t just something that occurred in the early days of colonialism in Peru. Prior to the visit of the fascist pope Karol Woytyla, in 1985, a large cross was constructed in the area of Sacsayhuaman in the hills above Cusco. Here was a modern day example of ‘extirpation’ with the sinking of a Christian symbol into the heart of a pre-Columbian site.

But it wasn’t just the Catholics who carried out this cultural vandalism and destruction of anything that was considered ‘uncivilised’ in the pre-colonial world. Although known about for centuries the forced assimilation of indigenous children through their ‘education’ in religious schools – which sought to inculcate European values into the conquered peoples – also included the murder and secret burial of countless indigenous babies and children. This genocidal approach to the original population of the colonial countries is now being unearthed (literally) in countries as diverse as Ireland, Canada and Australia.

So really, when we consider the anti-clerical campaign in Albania from 1967 to 1990 the question we should be asking is not ‘why did it happen?’ but ‘why didn’t it happen elsewhere?’

More on Albania …..

Confronting a 21st century pandemic with 14th century tactics

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?

Confronting a 21st century pandemic with 14th century tactics

Depending upon which ‘fact’ you believe the covid pandemic has been with us for just over or just under two years. 21st century societies, especially those in the richer countries, pride themselves on their sophistication and ability to deal with any problem that arises with the technologies that have been (and/or are in the process of being) developed through the increase in scientific knowledge, a process that really took off towards the end of the 20th century. Indeed, such claims have been made ever since the climate emergency became more widely known and accepted by the majority of scientists but not by some world leaders nor many of the companies that have played (and are still playing) a major role in causing the problem in the first place. Technology, those climate deniers say, will always come up with a solution – even if not until the eleventh hour.

However, the first time this bizarre ‘theory’ is put into practice it falls far short of the over-riding solution it is supposed to be.

Most countries put their faith in a vaccine that would protect against the outbreak and it arrived, relatively, quickly. This was due to an unbelievably huge public investment into the work of private companies (who are now reaping the benefit with their huge profits – why wasn’t something written in the agreement that in return for the public investment the vaccines would be supplied at cost?) and the knowledge base that had been established over the last couple of decades. But when the vaccine arrived it wasn’t enough.

First the vaccine was just going to be for the most ‘vulnerable’ in society but it was no surprise that those countries that had the wherewithal to secure vaccines would soon roll out the programme to include the majority of their population. Now children as young as five are being vaccinated and it would be no real surprise if babies and infants are soon to be included as well. First it was thought that two injections would be sufficient but now third ‘booster’ shots are being given to many in the rich countries and there is already talk that a regular ‘top-up’ injection might be the way forward for the next few years, at least.

This selfish grabbing of as many vaccines as possible by a few countries means that even after two years of the pandemic the vast majority of the population of the world (i.e., those in the poor South) haven’t even had a single injection. That’s bad enough but what is worse is that it doesn’t even seem to be an issue at the moment. Government’s keep their populations ‘happy’ – or at least some of them – by pumping the stuff into their arms and the calls to extend the vaccination to those who really are now the world’s ‘vulnerable’ fall on deaf ears. As with compensation due to the consequences of the climate emergency all the promises have come to nought.

The fact that we are in the middle (or even just the start) of a pandemic which, by definition, effects every corner of the globe, seems to have been forgotten as well as the fact that the longer the virus is allowed to grow and mutate in huge parts of the world the more it is likely to come back (to the North) in a form which the vaccines won’t be able to combat.

Not only has the vaccine programme in the richer countries been a display of immorality and hypocrisy it also demonstrates that nationalism and tribalism is triumphant and concern for the really poor people of the world is non-existent.

Worse still it’s not really working. There may be various reasons for this, the unvaccinated are in the firing line at the moment, but the prime reason is that no country in the world has really developed a proper strategy to deal with a disease that will likely be with us forever so has to be managed rather than defeated. The military terminology used from the start has blinded people to the reality that there is no real winner in this case.

As the days pass more countries in Europe are re-introducing various restrictions and lock downs. In Britain the Buffoon has said that’s not going to happen there but there have been so many U-turns in the last 18 months the Government resembles a child’s spinning top – so no real guarantee for the near future.

In the very first posts in this series ‘The Journal of the Plague Years 2020-2?’ the question was asked whether we, as a society in general, had learnt anything since the Black Death of the 14th century or the Great Plague of London in the 17th. Then the response was to hide away and hope for the best and, in reality, that’s all we’re doing now.

No society in the world has really taken a pro-active approach to dealing with the virus in a manner which didn’t create collateral damage which could ultimately be more expensive in the long run.

The problem is that such a strategy (which needs a whole raft of measures which include, but are not restricted to, a functioning, reliable and trustworthy testing arrangement which includes viable and effective support for those with the virus to be able to, and encouraged to, isolate for the general good) is not really viable in a capitalist society which leaves everything to the ‘free market’.

Because of that the merry-go-round of lockdown to lockdown is more than likely to continue for some time yet and the last page of this ‘Journal’ will not be published until some time yet.


Vaccination programme (and now a pill) in Britain …..

First pill to treat covid gets approval in UK.

Covid jabs to be compulsory for NHS staff in England from April.

Pfizer says antiviral pill 89% effective in high risk cases.

AstraZeneca to take profits from covid vaccine.

Medication holiday may boost vaccine protection.

Covid-resistant people inspire new vaccine tactic.

It’s bad enough that the richer countries are hoovering up all the available resources of vaccines – leaving the poorer countries to just manage on the crumbs – but now there are threats being made if people don’t take extra vaccinations (when at first we were told that two would be sufficient). When is this going to stop? Get a covid booster jab or risk more restrictions, warns the Buffoon.

Merck v Pfizer: here’s how the two new covid antiviral drugs work and will be used.

Care homes: why mandatory vaccination could make staff shortages worse.

Making vaccination compulsory for NHS frontline workers likely to make patients suffer.

….. and the rest of the world

This is Pfizer. What’s the catch? They’ve earned billions in the last year or so – so why this generous, esoteric approach now? Pfizer to allow developing nations to make its treatment pill.

Novavax covid vaccine is nearing approval – but what impact will it have?

How the pandemic is faring in Britain …..

Covid makes Christmas ‘problematic’, says Jonathan Van-Tam as he warns ‘darkest months’ are ahead of us.

UK bucking trend of rising covid cases in Europe.

Will this mean the return of free dental treatment for all in the UK? I don’t think so. Why having bad oral health could raise the risk of covid.

….. and throughout the world

Some of the richest capitalist countries in the world and they still can’t get it right! Even when they’ve been hoovering up unbelievably high doses of vaccine. WHO warns Europe once again at epicentre of pandemic.

Belarus: how an unpopular government is struggling to manage the covid crisis.

Austria’s lockdown for the unvaccinated: what does human rights law say? [This might now be redundant in the case of Austria but such a situation is sure to arise somewhere in the world before the end of the pandemic.]

How Peru became the country with the highest covid death rate in the world.

WHO says it is very worried about Europe surge.

‘Long covid’

Long covid: my work with sufferers reveals that western medicine has reached a crisis point.

Vulnerability to the virus

Gene commonly found in south Asian people affects covid severity.

The future treatment of the virus

Promising covid treatments could be growing under the sea.

A nation (or, perhaps, even wider afield) of hypochondriacs?

Is the common cold really much worse this year?

More on ‘covid passports/passes’

Why covid passes are not discriminatory (in the way you think they are).

‘Collateral damage’

What happened to furloughed workers after the end of the Job Retention Scheme?

The cost of covid: what happens when children don’t go to school.

Obesity among children soars after lockdown – and yet the country is bemoaning the fact that there is a ‘shortage’ of crisps!

Calling children ‘vectors’ during covid-19 is turning into discrimination.

…. or not?

Young and ethnic minority workers were hardest hit at the start of covid, but not any more.

Poverty in Britain

Hunger and the welfare state: Food insecurity among benefit claimants during covid-19. The executive summary, the Full Report and the Appendices.

England: Landlord possessions increase by 207%.

Cambs Universal Credit claimants ‘struggling to make ends meet’ after £20 cut.

Those continuing to profit from the pandemic – and often after huge public investment in research

This week Pfizer announced profits so far this year of $7.7 billion, 133% more than it made last year. And Moderna has made $7.3 billion in profit, after receiving over $10 billion of public funding for development and manufacture of its vaccine

This is a strange one

How creative industries could boost the economies of small islands crippled by covid.

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?