Cuba-ALBA lands are Tamils’ natural allies

Following is the text of Ron Ridenour’s talk in Chennai (November 12, 2011). Ron is in India for the launching of the Indian edition of his books “Tamil Nation in Sri Lanka”, “Sounds of Venezuela”, and “Cuba: Revolution in Action”.

Greetings and appreciation to the Latin American Friendship Association of Chennai, India for inspiring me to become aware of the oppression of the Tamil people by the Sinhalese government of Sri Lanka, and for encouraging me to remind our comrade governments of Cuba and other ALBA country governments of their strong commitment to international solidarity to oppressed people everywhere.

Also I extend my appreciation to New Century Book House for publishing “Tamil Nation in Sri Lanka”, “Sounds of Venezuela”, and “Cuba: Revolution in Action”. Thank you Amarantha for your translation of the Venezuela book; Dhanapal Kumar for your translation of the Cuba book; and Thiagu for your translation-in-progress of the Tamil Nation book.

I start from the premise that Martin Luther King expressed: “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere”. In the country of my birth, The Devil’s Own Country, I experienced similar injustice committed against the native peoples and the black people as Tamils suffer, especially in Sri Lanka where they are subjugated to Shinalese chauvinism. I joined with millions of brothers and sisters of all colours to fight racism, to struggle for equal rights, for education and health care for all, even the basic right to vote.

Europeans invaded the Americans and stole the lands and wealth held by native peoples for thousands of years. They enslaved black Africans who they held as slaves and even after slavery ended they kept them as second-class citizens.

Black people developed various forms of struggle including civil disobedience, sit-ins, pickets, mass rallies, propaganda, and voting for equality where possible. Another form of struggle was the Black Panther Party’s armed self-defence when attacked by Ku Klux Klan and the ruling class’ police. Another form was the Gravey Movement that called for separation from the United States, demanding territory in the south. Very much like the Tamils after the 1976 Vattukottai resolution.

In the United States millions of blacks and whites fought this racist discrimination for over a century and eventually won most basic rights but not before millions were arrested, imprisoned for long times, and many murdered. Many thousands of black people were lynched, burned alive, mutilated, tortured to death until the 1980s.

Fidel Castro: “Those who are exploited are our compatriots all over the world; and the exploiters all over the world are out enemies…Our country is really the whole world, and all the revolutionaries of the world are our brothers.” “To be internationalist is to settle our debt with humanity.”

Che Guevara from “Socialism and Man”: “The revolutionary is the ideological motor force of the revolution. If he forgets his proletarian internationalism, the revolution, which he heads will cease to be an inspiring force and he will sink into a comfortable lethargy, which imperialism, our irreconcilable enemy, will utilize well. Proletarian internationalism is a duty, but it is also a revolutionary necessity. So we educate our people.”

I believe that these principles apply to the Tamils of Sri Lanka. I believe Che would agree with your struggle for equality and when not possible to achieve within the Sri Lankan chauvinist context, he would understand your fight for your own nationhood.

I think this is also what Lenin meant in his 1916 thesis, “The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination”:

“Victorious socialism must necessarily establish a full democracy and, consequently, not only introduce full equality of nations but also realize the right of the oppressed nations to self-determination, that is, the right to free political separation.”

I am hurt and deeply disappointed that the government of Cuba—where I have lived and worked side by side with the people and government for eight years—as well as the socialist-progressive governments of Venezuela, Bolivia and other Latin American governments have not understood that those principles must apply to the Tamil people of Sri Lanka. I got involved in solidarity with your people’s struggle because you have been so brutally treated, and because of these righteous principles expressed by Lenin, Fidel and Che. I have written critically about these governments siding with the Sinhalese governments of Sri Lanka while it denies the Tamil people those basic principles and rights, and commits genocide.

Perhaps Cuba+ have not understood the history of struggle that Tamils have undergone to win full equal rights before taking up arms. For 30 years you fought peacefully but you were met with brutal force, with pogroms/massacres of hundreds and thousands of people—even worse than that used against blacks in the US, and against Palestinians by Israelis. And, unfortunately, it was not only the governments that have done this against Tamils but also misguided Buddhist monks who betray the peaceful, coexistence values of Buddhism.

Your people’s organizations must meet and discuss these realities with the communist and socialist parties and with people’s grass roots and indigenous organizations in Latin America and elsewhere. You must explain to them your history, why you had to take up arms and fight for separation, for an independent nation. They have to hear of your suffering, of your struggles, why Tamil Eelam is a NECESSITY. You must remind them what they say about international solidarity, about what Lenin meant about political separation when the ruling powers will not grant a people their basic democratic and equal rights.

The progressive governments have won majority votes for new constitutions in Bolivia, in Ecuador, in Venezuela that grant equal rights to their indigenous peoples. In Bolivia, for instance, under the new constitution there are four official national languages, three of them are indigenous ones as well as Spanish. The same equalitarian development is happening in several progressive-pro socialist governments in Latin America. If these people could know you simply want these same rights, they would listen to you and stop backing Sri Lanka. But they have been misguided because when they hear the worst terrorist in the world—The United States of America government—raise a little finger of possible criticism that maybe the Sri Lanka government should investigate itself to find some official scapegoat for violating human rights, Cuba+ react against this hypocrisy. But they must know that in this case the Sri Lanka government is a terrible violator of human rights, and not just against the Tamils, but also against Muslims, the indigenous tribes, and it also exploits Sinhalese workers and the poor, and castes.

We must understand that Cuba, and so many governments and peoples, has been victimized by the United States false accusation that it commits “human rights abuse”. Cuba has been blockaded by the US since its victory in 1959. The US tried to overthrow the new revolution in April 1961. It brought the entire world to the brink of a nuclear war in October 1962. The US has sabotaged Cuba, murdered and handicapped thousands of its citizens; it even infiltrated bacteriological diseases in its livestock, its grains and sugar cane.

What has Cuba done to “deserve” this murderous aggression? It has done what Big Capital does not do, what imperialists will not do. It has introduced full and free education and health care. It has assured every citizen food and shelter. No one starves. 80% of its people own their own homes after paying the state simply what it actually costs to build them.

It has organized an excellent system of disaster management in which people and their animals are evacuated before hurricanes hit the island nation. And more often than not no one is killed, and their livestock is saved. That is not what happens in the United States especially in the areas where blacks and poor people live and are struck by natural disasters.

Cuba came to the aid of Angola when attacked by apartheid South Africa. Cuba, alongside with the new Venezuela, comes to the aid of tens of millions of people in scores of land around the world with their medical care, curing even blindness, and educating people to read and write, offering sports and technical assistance. Cuba has more doctors serving the international arena than is offered by all the governments in the United Nations. Cuba does not export war and torture, disease and starvation. It exports “human capital”.

Tamils in Tamil Nadu, Sri Lanka Tamil refugees here and in the Diaspora should not rely on the greatest terrorist in the world to help them. The Yankees offer no help without humiliating costs. We must be aware that since World War 11, the US has invaded/intervened militarily 160 times in 66 countries. We must understand that now with a black-faced puppet president of Big Capital, the imperialists are at war in seven countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, Ethiopia and now Uganda. They kill tens of millions; they torture hundreds of thousands; they starve hundreds of millions.

US’s staunch ally, Zionist Israel commits genocide against the Palestinian people. It offered Mossad intelligence, great amounts of weaponry, killer aircraft and even pilots to Sri Lanka, in order to murder the Tamils. After the end of the war, May 2009, Sri Lanka sent its military chief-of-staff, Donald Perera, to Israel as its ambassador, a reward for Zionist assistance. He told the largest Zionist daily, Yedioth Abornoth,: “I consider your country a partner in the war against terror,” thus coupling terrorism with the Palestinians’ struggle for their homeland and the Tamils’ simple right to exist in peace and equality.

Perera spoke proudly of having “a great relationship with your military industries and with Israel Aerospace industries.”

Perera spoke about the murder, on May 31, 2010, of nine Turkish solidarity activists bound for Gaza with survival supplies: “I can understand that Israel had to protect itself.”

Perhaps because of the complexity of geo-politics, the history of standing for sovereignty of the member nations of the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM), the leaders of Cuba and ALBA lands (Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Latin America) cannot support the goal of a separate nation within Sri Lanka. But they could be convinced to chastise the Sri Lankan government for its atrocities against the Tamil people, and the other oppressed people under the chauvinist Sinhalese leadership. They could see within the context of their moral ideology that it is only right that Tamils must have equality and the basic right to exist without fear of murder and takeovers of their homes and lands. Your peoples’ organizations should remind these pro-Palestinian governments that it is only Israel that supports the US blockade against Cuba; that it is the US and Israel that lead the tiny opposition to Palestine’s right to be a member of the United Nations.

Regardless of whether Cuba has achieved socialism—it is a long process after all and there is so much destruction and subversion coming from the Yankee imperialists—the Cuban people and the government are still worthy of our love and support. They have conducted no wars or torture against any people and they have helped many millions. It is now time that they are approached by all your organizations and become convinced to come to the aid of their natural brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka—the oppressed Tamil people.

We have wandered over the deserts and the seas. We have been hungry and thirsty. We have been murdered and tortured. We are of the working class, of the castes; we are many races and nationalities. We share a common vision: freedom and equality; bread and water on the table; a shelter over our heads. We must fight together to live in peace and harmony.

We must unite around the world and struggle for an independent international investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity against Sri Lanka government leaders.

We must call for a worldwide BOYCOTT of Sri Lanka.
CHE GUEVARA would be on our side today!


  1. sivasegaram says:

    Before we talk about the moral responsibility of Cuba and Latin American countries let us look at the class nature of Lankan Tamil nationalism historically.
    Setting aside Tamil nationalist reliance on India and later the West to achieve Tamil Eelam, let us ask ourselves on whose side the Tamil nationalists have been on any international issue involving imperialist oppression, aggression or invasion?
    From Vietnam to Palestine, and Cuba to Libya it is one and the same sad story.

    The Tamil nationalists of Tamilnadu, especially the likes of Goplalasamy, Nedumaaran and now Seeman, who champion the Tamil secessionist cause in Sri Lanka have an equally miserable track record on that count.

    With whom have the sympathies of Tamil nationalists in either country or among the Tamil diaspora been on issues ranging from Kashmir to Manipur and people’s struggles against land grab in India?
    Lankan Tamil secessionists do not acknowledge the right to self determination of the Muslims and Hill Country Tamils who refuse to be identified as ‘Tamils’ and for long asserted their individuality.
    It was this attitude that enabled the cruel expulsion of Muslims from the North, and mass killings of not only Sinhalese and Muslims civilians but also fellow Tamils in large numbers.
    No defender of the Tamil secessionist cause ever opened his mouth against the brutality of the LTTE.
    It was the LTTE which knowingly led the Tamils in Vanni to what what became the Killing Fields of Sri Lanka in 2009.
    That Tamils are a nationality is accepted.
    But secession was never the best answer to national oppression.
    The Tamil leadership remained aloof of any just struggle in the South (with the sole exception of the Federal Party supporting the Hartal of 1953, when they owed to the Communists their survival against Tamil Congress thuggery).
    They never denounced mass killings by governments in the South.
    In fact, they applauded the suppression of the JVP in 1971 and kept mum in 1988-89.

    Recent protests in the South against state repression have not concerned them.
    It is such conduct that has isolated Tamils from progressive movements nationally and internationally.
    If the case that is argued is for the emergence of a progressive Tamil nationalist force that will join hands will other oppressed people of Sri Lanka and link hands with liberation struggles worldwide, that deserves support.
    Tamil nationalism as it exists in Sri Lanka and among the Tamil diaspora cannot be anything more than a tool in the hands of imperialism and Indian hegemony.
    There is work to do for the Tamil people in replacing the century old reactionary leadership with a more progressive alternative.
    Support for a cause, however just, has to be earned.
    It is time that the Tamil people made a start

  2. Sivasegaram,
    Just back from six weeks in India and recuperating from stomach failure and lung failure from pollution+++
    I’m glad to hear your rejoinder to one of my writings again. I follow you most of the way, however your comment that Tamil nationalism “cannot be anything more than a tool in the hands of imperialism and Indian hegemony” is inaccurate, gratutious and helps progressive governments discount the Tamil cause for equal rights.
    The US and co. are not in the least interested in Tamil nationalism nor in displeasing the current (or past) genocidal Sinhalese government. Their posturing is just that, a charade without content.
    No, let’s stick to the real issue you correctly raised: Tamils have not supported other oppressed peoples’ causes so, in essence, why should they support the Tamils’? Fair enough.
    That, however, should not be an excuse for the other oppressed or attacked, such as Cuba-ALBA governments, to ENDORSE pogroms, genocide, discrimination and denial of equal rights for the Tamil people, which is what their Human Rights Council resolution of 2009 does, in essence. These usually progressive governments applaud Rajapaksa for annhilating “terrorism” and “separatism”, and for being “humanitarian” and respecting “human rights”.
    Come now, comrade, this is not befitting of any decent government or people regardless that the Tamils have I grant you been quite amiss in not reaching out.

    Reaching out to others’ struggles has been part of my message during this trip, in my talks and in dialogue with many Tamil nationalist, anti-caste and communist groups. Unfortunatetly, I also found as you do that nearly no one wants to admit that the Tigers were brutal and killed many people unjustly, including their own. In fact, because I do write this in my book and in a couple of articles, one leftist, anti-caste magazine refused to print an interview it undertook with me.

    The Tamils, like all other peoples engaged in struggle for equality or liberation or nationhood are not one voice, and there are many paths to achieve diverse goals. I hope that they could unite more and do so in support of others’ struggles and thus could we boycott Sri Lanka while boycotting Palestine together. Tamils should be with the Palestinians, as well as elsewhere. Of course, we can’t ask that of those who must live a suffering life inside Sri Lanka. They can barely survive, as I understand it, and they have so many enemies, including some exploiting-oppressing gangs, which were once with the Tigers.

    Yours in the struggle,

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