The quote above is taken from a book that every activist who supports the Embargo on Cuba should read and it is available online in pdf format. Ironically, it is a book recommended by Castro regime apologist Danny Glover, it is titled No Easy Victories: African Liberation and American Activists over a Half Century, 1950-2000. Now for the folks who argue that the sanctions approach hasn't worked in 53 years they should also recall that the African National Congress (ANC) was founded in 1912 to combat systematic racism in South Africa and only succeeded in this goal 82 years later in 1994. Mind you it got worse before it got better. Apartheid came into existence 36 years after the founding of the ANC. It took decades for South African economic sanctions to make an impact.
South Africa and Cuba have profoundly different histories and experiences. South Africa throughout the 20th Century would be a country defined by racial segregation taken to its most extreme form in the creation of an Apartheid state that sought to completely separate South Africans along racial lines while systematically seeking to humiliate, degrade and dominate the black majority. In Cuba and South Africa, the 20th century is divided in two. In Cuba, a flawed democratic republic with authoritarian interruptions between 1902-1952 followed by the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista (1952-1958) and the arrival of a tropical form of Stalinist communism through the betrayal of the promises of democratic restoration by Fidel Castro (1959 - Present). In South Africa, independence arrived in a de facto form in 1931 and on May 3, 1961 in a whites only referendum South Africa became a Republic and left the British Commonwealth. Apartheid was put into place with a series of laws in 1948 and continued until 1994. In both Cuba and South Africa large numbers of people were killed struggling for both their freedom and dignity and the opposition struggled to develop a coherent strategy.
Despite these differences there is much that Cubans can learn from the South African experience, the following are some highlights summarized below.
- Furthermore that the effort by the Anti-Apartheid movement to target the South African regime began with a call in May of 1960 for both a consumer boycott of South African goods and US government sanctions against South Africa. This effort would not gather a mass following until the 1980s. Until then actions against apartheid tended to be small scale and isolated.
- The first large large anti-apartheid demonstration was called by the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) on March 19, 1965 to protest Chase Manhattan Bank loans to South Africa. The event brought together a total of 400 demonstrators from different organizations who marched for five hours outside the bank headquarters in Manhattan; 49 demonstrators were arrested after staging a sit-in.
- In the second half of the 1960s through the early 1970s support for the Anti-Apartheid movement grew inside the World Council of Churches (WCC) and through the growing radicalization of US activists. The World Council of Churches gave grants of financial assistance to the liberation movements in South Africa.
- All of these efforts failed to reach a critical mass that would impact national opinion and official policy until the mid 1980s. Nevertheless, the strategic vision laid out in these years set the framework for the anti-apartheid movement in later decades.
- Despite, the African National Congress's decision to abandon nonviolence, in the early 1970s the greatest expansions by the Anti-Apartheid movement were thanks to nonviolent actions and crackdowns by the Apartheid regime on nonviolent activists. Black trade unions organized labor strikes in Durban in 1973 and the massive regime crackdown drew huge international attention and reaction. The 1977 murder of Steven Biko while in police detention exposed the brutal nature of the Apartheid regime. Books, songs, and movies would be made about his life and death. The murder of Biko led to the extension of an arms embargo against South Africa.
- Another interesting observation is that people of good will had differences of opinion over the effectiveness of economic sanctions in South Africa. For example, UN ambassador Andrew Young, a civil rights pioneer and "liberal" in the Carter Administration argued against sanctions claiming that economic ties could be used to erode the apartheid system. This was a position also argued by the South African apartheid regime and business interests.