Comrade Liz Payne, who is Chair of the SW England & Cornwall District Committee of the CPB, visited Cuba in May on behalf of the British Peace Assembly. Here is the speech that she made to the seminar held in city of Guantanamo.
Sixth International Seminar on Peace and the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases, Guantanamo, 4-6 May 2019
Contribution of the British Peace Assembly (BPA)
The British Peace Assembly (BPA) thanks the Cuban Movement for Peace and the Sovereignty of Peoples (MOVPAZ), the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples, the World Peace Council and all other organisations which have prepared and supported this event.
We bring our greetings of peace and solidarity to all who are gathered here from across the world on this significant occasion, taking place on the 70thanniversary of the foundation of both US-led NATO, the most reactionary and vicious military alliance in history, and the World Peace Council, which unites in common initiative the organisations of the peace-loving and most progressive peoples of the world.
Comrades – In imperialism’s heartlands such as Britain, the ruling class goes to every length – through its mass media, education curricula and invasive promotion of chauvinistic and racist values – to deny the people the very possibility of comprehending the nature of its criminal aggression and conceptualising the potential for peace, justice and a path to socialism. This denial is crucial for the continuance of imperialism itself, confusing and deceiving the masses who would otherwise defeat it at its core.
Being here together will enable all of us, on our return to our countries and our movements, better to expose that fundamental choice which faces the peoples of the world at this most dangerous juncture – for imperialism and war or for peace and justice.
The US base at Guantanamo stands for the former. It is a scar on the face of the earth. It is hideous for its long history of aggression against the people of this island, for the crimes against humanity that continue to be committed on its stolen soil, for the vast concentration within its boundaries of the military personnel and means of war and for the threat it continuously poses to the brave revolutionary Republic of Cuba, to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and all parts of Latin American in which peoples now and in the future dare to clear a path towards justice and democracy. It is a byword and a symbol of all that imperialism stands for – the blood and terror, the coercive force that lies in wait to stamp out the hopes and aspirations of millions. In place of the US blockade of this island, the ships of the world should freely bring their cargoes to the harbour of Guantanamo – for Cuba and the Revolution.
Comrades – Since the Fifth International Seminar here two years ago, US-led NATO has made the world a significantly more dangerous place. Its strategy, set out in the Brussels Summit Declaration of July 2018, is chilling. Its ‘Readiness Initiative’ plans for forces, ships, planes and weaponry to be deployed instantaneously, enhancing with every available piece of cutting-edge technology imperialism’s military mobility by land, air and sea. The Declaration blatantly includes the use of nuclear weapons – the how and when and where in the war that is surely coming.
Comrades – The thousands of US and NATO military bases and installations across the world are crucial to imperialism’s hegemonic plans – encircling and threatening rivals, controlling key strategic positions, providing surveillance, testing lethal weapons and technologies, furnishing mega-harbours and airfields from which to launch attacks, hosting the warplanes, aircraft carriers and missiles so essential to their 21st century terror.
In all of this our country is complicit. The government of Britain is a foremost ally – the number one blood partner – of the United States. Its bases and facilities, many once outposts of empire, are crucial to US-led NATO and its designs. They are in Bahrain, Bermuda, Cyprus, the Malvinas, Gibraltar, the Indian Ocean, Qatar, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and a host of other locations in every corner of the world. They are army bases, naval bases, air-force bases – and there is no case of any kind that can be made for Britain to hold onto a single one of them.
Britain’s behaviour is despicable. In 1965 the British government unlawfully detached the Chagos Islands, from Mauritius by devious and coercive means at the time of the latter’s independence from Britain. It abusively and mercilessly expelled every man, woman and child to create the massive base – Diego Garcia – from which the US now threatens and attacks the peoples of the Middle East with impunity. To this day, it denies absolutely the right of return of the population, refusing to vacate the Islands, even on the orders earlier this year, of the UN’s highest court. We condemn this absolutely.
In April, we learned of the first overseas deployment of the “world-beating” British F-35B attack aircraft to RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus. An important milestone, the Ministry of Defence boasted, to prove its readiness for deployed operations anywhere in the world in defence of Britain’s “national interests”. We condemn this too. Shame on you for this dangerous escalation, this crossing of a line, this imposition of a real and ever-present threat on the peoples of Cyprus, the eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and beyond.
Comrades – In Britain, the peace movement has a long and proud tradition of mass activity with roots reaching far back into the first imperialist century. It has had many major successes in challenging the murderous, war-mongering foreign and military policies of our government, dressed up as ‘defence’, ‘security’, ‘prevention of terrorism’ and ‘humanitarian aid’ – all lies that we must counter. The movement continues strong and has huge potential. It embraces the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Stop the War Coalition, single issue lobbies such as the Campaign Against the Arms Trade and many solidarity organisations supported by the trade unions, for example the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign and the Cuba Solidarity Campaign.
In this movement, the British Peace Assembly has a crucial and unique role to play. We recognise that the key responsibility of the peace movement of Britain, a leading imperialist power, is to challenge and defeat our own ruling class and the government that represents its interests. The British Peace Assembly will bring the class-based, comprehensive analysis of the World Peace Council and its member organisations and supporters directly into the heart of the movement in Britain, influencing its demands, campaigns and developing understanding that another world is possible. In so doing, we will call for an end to imperialist foreign policy based on the so-called “special relationship” of the British establishment with the most reactionary forces of the US, the withdrawal of Britain from NATO and the closure of all British bases and their immediate restoration to the countries and peoples to whom they rightfully belong. We will do so in the knowledge that without its bases, imperialism is disarmed. At the same time, we will promote true international solidarity by raising the ‘Yes to Peace and No to NATO’ slogan of the World Peace Council and fostering throughout the movement the understanding that imperialism means war. Comrades – this is a hard task ‘in the belly of the beast’ but we know that with your solidarity and inspired by your struggle we can and will win through.
No to imperialism’s military bases! No to NATO! No to war! Long live international solidarity and the struggle for peace! No to the US base at Guantanamo and all it stands for! Viva Cuba!