|About Ron Ridenour|
(Speech given at book launch of "Tamil Nation in Sri Lanka" and "Sounds of Venezuela" at New Century Book House in Chennai, India.)
Fotos by Charlotte Borup at book launching in Chennai, India. Beside me is my translator Thiagu, who is leader of Tamil Nationalist Liberation Movement and who spent 16 years in prison for insurrection against landlords. While on death row he translated Karl Marx' Das Kapital from English to Tamil.
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. Another movement demanded territory in the south very much like the Tamils after the 1976 Vattukottai resolution, which called for a separate nation.
In the United States millions of blacks and whites fought 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 should 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 162 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!
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