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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 September, 2003, 18:10 GMT 19:10 UK
Solidarity with Cuba in Brighton
By Ben Davies
BBC News Online political staff at the TUC in Brighton

Andy Gilchrist
Gilchrist praised Cuba's "titanic struggle"
Solidarity with Cuba is always an issue that draws a substantial following at the TUC and this year's fringe meeting was no exception.

Whether it was the fact delegates had backed a motion renewing TUC opposition to economic sanctions or the excellent free rum being handed out at the beginning of the meeting, there was a tangible sense of optimism amoung the gathered faithful.

Fire Brigades' Union boss Andy Gilchrist told the audience that Cuban socialism was an inspiration to the "dispossessed" around the world.

Beacon?

Mr Gilchrist praised the people of the Caribbean island for their continued "titanic" struggle to ensure basics like health and education were provided to all citizens - in spite of current economic privations.

"As a socialist country it is a beacon for all of us," he said before disappearing off to address another meeting.

Labour left-winger and chairman of the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs John McDonnell said that - with the help of TUC resources - it was time to take the issue of Cuba's plight out to constituency parties.

"The tragedy of it is that just when we need a Labour government leading that solidarity campaign, we have a Labour government in retreat on the issue," he said.

"It's time that we pin down this government in determined solidarity with Cuba."

Chaos?

At the beginning of his remarks, Mr McDonnell said that he brought greetings from the Socialist Campaign Group - which he also described as "Her Majesty's Official Opposition".

He said that as the Cuban Solidarity Campaign was having its fringe event, the campaign group would be gathering in London.

Fellow Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn was chairing the meeting "so it's absolute bloody chaos I should think", he joked.

Mr McDonnell was followed by Alicia Gonzalez from Cuba, who said to loud applause that her country would not be overcome by US aggression.

"We do not want our homeland to be the next victim of imperial aggression," Ms Gonzalez said to loud applause.




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