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Issue No. 184 27 June 2003  
E D I T O R I A L

To the Victors The Spoils
Revelations that private American lawyers, rather than the ILO, will rewrite the labour laws of countries levelled by the American military vindicate the warnings of those concerned by US unilateralism.

F E A T U R E S

History: Nest of Traitors
Rowan Cahill uncovers a ripping yarn that could redefine the way we look at Australian involvement in World War II.

Interview: A Nation of Hope
Former PM Bob Hawke bemoans the demise of industrial relations but takes heart from the prospect of peace in the Middle East

Unions: National Focus
Noel Hester reports on a soap star rebellion, Howard’s plans to renuclearise South Australia, more historical atrocities in the north, the redundancy test case plus more in the monthly national wrap.

Safety: The Shocking Truth
It’s every power worker’s worst nightmare – and it happened to Adrian Ware. In a flash of voltage, his life changed forever, as Jim Marr reports.

Tribute: A Comrade Departed
From Prime Ministers to wharfies, the labour movement paid tribute to Tas Bull this week. Jim Marr was among them.

History: Working Bees
Neale Towart looks at a group of workers who got sacked so their boss could keep making the Bomb.

Education: The Big Picture
The NTEU’s Dr Mike Donaldson and Tony Brown join all the dots in the current debate around higher eduction.

International: Static Labour
Ray Marcelo argues there’s another side to the recent furore over Telstra’s use of cheap Indian IT contractors.

Economics: Budget And Fudge It
Frank Stilwell argues that Peter Costello’s latest budget plumbs fiscal policy to new depths.

Technology: Google and Campaigning
Labourstart’s Eric Lee argues the latest weapon for campaigning could be the humble search engine.

Review: Secretary With A Difference
Looking for a new job can be hard enough, without having to worry about sadomasochistic bosses and the threat of being spanked for forgetting to cross your ‘t’s, says Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: The Minimale
The Labor Party leadership is in the news again, inspiring our resident bard David Peetz to song

Satire: Howard Calls for Senate to be Replaced by Clap-O-Meter
John Howard released a controversial policy statement today, arguing that the Senate be abolished in favour of a device measuring noise from the gallery of the House of Representatives.

N E W S

 Rail Chaos Looms

 Electrolux Blows Fuse at Fundraiser

 ACM Loosens Handcuff on Democracy

 Sick Call on Mum’s Job

 Now For Industrial Shock and Awe

 Brian Miller – Working Class Hero

 Dynamite: Howard Handout for Rorters

 Family Case to Nurture Mothers

 Militants Lock Out Another 600

 Tipping the Turtle – Fijian Style

 Carr Goes Private

 Wages Blemish Sound Budget

 Westie Takes On Westfield ‘Hypocrisy’

 Eleventh Hour Reprieve for Women's Centre

 Activist Notebook

C O L U M N S

Politics
It’s Our Party
Long time union watcher Nicholas Way looks at the changing dynamics between the industrial and political wings of the labour movement.

The Soapbox
Grass Roots
In his Maiden Speech, new MP Tony Burke argues that the ALP’s union links are nothing to be ashamed of.

Media
Opinion Forming Down Under
Evan Jones condemns the mainstream’s media coverage of the War on Iraq and the damage it is doing to our national psyche.

The Locker Room
Location, Re-Location!
It’s all fun and games until someone loses a club, writes Phil Doyle

L E T T E R S
 In Defence of Cuba
 The Story in General
 Thinking of America
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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Letters to the Editor

In Defence of Cuba


Paul Norton in his letter to Workers Online (Issue 183) not only misrepresents the Cuban electoral and democratic system , but also the answer given to the question he posted to Melbourne Indymedia (see: )

Norton correctly states that in response to his question as to whether he could form a Greens Party in Cuba, the comrade who posts by the name "redstar" answered: "no you would not be able to form a Green Party". Norton, however, does not mention that the comrade also pointed out that it is possible for any Cuban age 16 years or over to stand as an individual on green issues if they so choose and that in fact around 30% of the delegates elected to the three levels of Cuban People's Power Assemblies are NOT members of the Cuban Communist Party.

The Cuban Communist Party plays no role in the electoral process and delegates are elected based on their work in the community, not on whether they are a member of the Communist Party or not. In addition, all delegates are fully accountable to their electorate and are recallable if they do not carry out their electoral promises (no "core" and "non-core" promises here).

While Cuba does not have a multi-party electoral system, it is actually one the most democratic and participatory systems in the world. This I would argue is why comrade "redstar" pointed out that it would be a mistake to believe that democracy could only exists if there is a multi-party electoral system.

The term "democracy" is a shopworn phrase which is often bandied around devoid of any serious reflection. When examining whether a system is democratic or not, we need to look at the content of the system, not labels such as "one-party system" or "multi-party system". Instead of setting up straw arguments about "Stalinism" and "fascism", what Norton and others need to ask themselves when discussing the issue of democracy, whether in Cuba or else where, is who does it serve? The wealthy minority or the majority of citizens?

"Democracy" supposedly existed in Cuba prior to the Cuban revolution from 1902 until 1958. Up until and even under the regime of the brutal US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista, a multi-party electoral system existed. All of the elections during this 56 year period were marked by corruption, fraud, harassment, attempted and sometimes successful assassinations of candidates and the ongoing active participation of various US Administrations in the establishment of pro-US puppet governments in Cuba which would serve the USA's economic and political needs. Under this multi-party electoral system, the majority of ordinary Cubans did not participate in the political process. Instead they were disenfranchised, living in severe poverty with their economic and social exploitation legalised. Racism, sexism and crime was rife.

Under the current "one-party system" in Cuba today, however, there exists not only a guarantee of democracy (i.e. the rule of the people) in the form of free, fair and secret ballots every 5 years, but also a real political pluralism.

While it would be a mistake to argue that Cuba is perfect or a "paradise", any serious observer of Cuba would notice that there is lively, widespread political debate and discussion in Cuba, including differing opinions on how to further develop and improve democracy and the electoral system. They would also notice and acknowledge that "political pluralism" in Cuba involves the full participation of the majority of Cubans citizens - whether they be students, workers, small landowners or professionals in the cities - in the political and social life of the country.

Like Norton, the USA regularly attempts to drown out any link between democracy and content by focusing on certain features of the political process such as the number of parties in existence. However, for the Cubans, democracy is first and foremost about the elimination of poverty and the establishment of equality for all people, the right to free universal medical care and education, the right to adequate food and shelter, as well as the full active participation of all citizens in the economic, social and political landscape of Cuban society.

We on the Left need to understand that democracy cannot and should not be reduced to a political process as Norton has done, but instead should be defined and judged as to the quality of life it is capable of offering.

For a general introduction to the Cuban democracy system visit:

Kim Bullimore

NSW


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