for building a democratic labour movement in India
Article written by Ségolène Allemandou and published at LINKS, an international Journal for socialist renewal, September 22, 2014
Cuba is joining the fight against Ebola by sending a 165-strong army of doctors and specialists to West Africa. Despite decades of financial hardship, the communist country remains at the forefront of the world’s medical expertise and know-how.
The team, which includes doctors, nurses, epidemiologists and intensive care specialists, is due to touch down in Sierra Leone in the beginning of October.
Margaret Chan, the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), has hailed it as the “largest offer of a foreign medical team from a single country” since the start of the outbreak. So far, the deadly Ebola virus has claimed more than 2600 lives in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Although Cuba has suffered from a full economic embargo imposed by the United States since the early 1960s, the island remains one of the best training grounds for health care professionals.
“Cuba is known the world over for its ability to train excellent doctors and nurses”, WHO said, which has previously described the island nation as “a role odel” when it comes to its proactive medical approach and research.
Cuba’s demographic statistics confirm that opinion: the country enjoys the highest average life expectancy in the Americas, at 78 years old. It also has the lowest infant mortality rate, at just 4.2 per one thousand babies born.
‘Health a top priority’
“Health has always been the Cuban government’s top priority”, Latin America expert Jean Ortiz said. According to Cuba’s National Statistics Office, the country has the highest share of doctors per capita – one per 137 inhabitants.
According to Stéphane Witkowski, the head of the Institute of Latin American Studies in Paris (IHEAL), Cuba is also “among the world leaders within the pharmaceutical sector”, adding that it “houses the largest biotechnology centre in the world, with 20,000 staff”.
Cuba’s other strong point is the quality of its medical training. United Nations chief Ban Ki Moon recently described Havana’s Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) as the “world’s most advanced” school for medicine studies. The school has 11,000 students from more than 120 countries.
Ever since the Cuban revolution in 1959, the country has a tradition of applying “medical diplomacy” to foster positive relationships with its neighbours and other countries. In all, the communist regime – led by Fidel Castro and his brother Raul – has deployed more than 135,000 health-care specialists to country’s struck by natural disasters and other humanitarian crises.
According to the Cuban health ministry, there are currently 50,000 Cuban doctors and health-care specialists in 66 countries around the world.
One of Cuba’s most celebrated medical contributions include “Operation Miracle”, an eye surgery program launched in Venezuela in 2004 to offer Latin American low-income earners free eye surgery and optical care. In exchange for the Cuban contribution, Venezuela provides Cuba with oil.
Since the launch of the program, more than 2.8 million people have received free glasses and contact lenses. The program has since been extended to cover 14 Latin American countries.
Even though Cuba’s medical sector has been hit hard by the country’s strained economy, Witkowski said “the quality of the country’s doctors, and in particular its psychiatrists and GPs, remains indisputable”.
In Brazil, more than 10,000 Cuban doctors have been deployed to poverty-struck areas abandoned by their local colleagues. Earlier this year, Cuba also launched a malaria vaccination campaign in some 15 countries in West Africa.
But the expertise doesn’t come for free. Cuba’s massive expertise export – including also sport and education specialists – account for the largest source of revenue for the island, bringing in an estimated $10 billion a year.
The Cuban medical mission in Sierra Leone is expected to last for about six months. WHO has said it hopes the move will “send a strong message of solidarity for Africa to the rest of the world and will catalyse additional offers of support from other countries”.
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Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”
What does labor want? We want more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures,”
Social progress depends not upon the ennoblement of the few but on the enrichment of democracy; universal brotherhood can be achieved only when there is an equality of opportunity - of opportunity in the social, political and individual life.
In the new global politico-economic regime with new international division of labour, informalization of labour, free mobility of capital, alarming expansion of reserve army of labour and creation of global reserve army of labour for capital, and a system of regulating at international level and deregulating at national level, the pre-globalization strategies of organizing and collective bargaining have largely become ineffective and irrelevant. Therefore the labour movements and the social, political movements in general need to develop and implement new strategies of organizing and collective bargaining effective in new global politico-economic regime.
Divide, isolate and rule is the most important aspect of the capitalism to control the labour by not letting the working class emerge as a unified force. Dividing the working class in different sectional interests, and intensifying social conflicts (caste, gender, religion, regionality and nationality conflicts etc) are important strategies of capitalism. On the other hand, by its various institutions and propaganda machinery, the capitalism blurs the link between various sectional problems and their linkage with the capitalist system and therefore the movements appear detached from each other and focused on their sectional issues rather than challenging the capitalist system that produces and reproduces these problems.
The fate of social, political movements in India depends on their attitude towards learning and building unity in diversity at various levels to defeat the capital’s attempts to divide, isolate and rule. The revival of the working class movement also depends on this factor.