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After almost collapsing in the early ’90s (while managed by NZ Socialist Unity Party member, Ray Stewart), the WPC has recovered some of its past glories in recent years.
Below are excerpts from a June 2004 interview copied from Cuba Education Tours It was originally published in official Cuban newspaper Granma.
By Marelys Vanencia, Granma International staff writer
Vanencia: What did it mean to you to be named president of the World Council?
Fundora: For me, it was very encouraging to see people from Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and other countries, such as India, Japan, France and Portugal voting and talking about me. It is an honor to be president of an international organization that in recent years has taken on new life from the political point of view, and has once again become a body that battles against every vestige of war and abuse.
I think it is primarily a recognition and honor for Cuba. That at a time such as this, of such aggression by the empire against us, a unanimous election is held for a Cuban to occupy such a post seems to me to have a lot of political significance.
The World Council participates as an NGO in UN forums, where it is also known as the Peace Messengers. The UN also recognizes the Cuban Movement for Peace, which attends the meetings in Geneva every year, where we raise our voice and will continue to do so.
The Assembly of the World Peace Council Assembly, which reacted to current calamities in a unanimous and strong way, and supported Cuba and the Bolivarian Revolution, tells me that there are renewed possibilities of the World Council making its mark as a strong agency of struggle against the Empire.
Vanencia: How do you assess the history of the Cuban Movement for Peace?
Fundora: The movement was born on August 6, 1949, under the name of Committee for the Defense of Peace and Democracy. From then on, it became one of the most outstanding American organizations in the international arena; so much so, that in 1950 it joined the World Peace Council, which was founded that year, and has always had a representative on it. Prestigious Cuban figures such as Juan Marinello and Fernando Ortíz headed that original committee, which was made up of personalities from the sciences, arts and politics.
When the Revolution triumphed, the change of name was not simply a matter of semantics; rather, it opened doors to a greater sphere. It must be said that those who struggled for peace in Cuba before 1959 suffered persecution and obstacles in the way of their work, but with the Revolution, we have every option for fighting for disarmament and against nuclear weapons, and special emphasis has been placed on issues of the right of Third World nations to development. If we were to imagine that agreements were signed to destroy nuclear weapons and eliminate testing, and that even all weapons of destruction were to be eradicated – nuclear, chemical, biological, which is a dream for humanity – the following day, 40,000 children would die of hunger and curable diseases. Every three days, the same number of children die as those killed when the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
Our initiatives have had an influence on the World Peace Council.
Vanencia: Could you comment on some experiences or anecdotes from within the heart of the World Council?
Fundora: The former Soviet Union and the socialist countries were the main support of the World Peace Council, and when that entire world began to collapse, the same representatives from the Soviet committee on the council began to take a different attitude. For example, they wanted to substitute the presidency of Romesh Chandra with that of an unknown and lackluster character from the Nordic countries. We didn’t allow it; many members of the council joined us.
We used to call Chandra the priest of peace. Educated at Cambridge (Britain), cultured, he not only participated with Gandhi in the struggle for peace, but also brought to the World Council the need to support liberation and anti-colonial movements during the 1960s and 70s.
During that conference in Athens, in 1990, a fierce argument broke out. In the first place, we were able to maintain the anti-imperialist principles that founded the organization, in response to the concepts that were in vogue at the time. We had very strong support from the council’s vice president, who was from the United States and from a number of organizations. Then we asked, does imperialism exist or not? Things must be called by their name. Some heavy events occurred; there was an attempt to use a conformist, soothing language and to transform the council into yet another organization that didn’t upset anyone. And in a conference in Utrecht, Holland, we said that if it was a bland, odorless, colorless council that they wanted, to look for other members, but they couldn’t count on me for that. And we won that battle; however, it was visible that the collapse of the socialist camp debilitated the World Council very much at the time.
Vanencia: What happened afterwards?
Fundora: In 1994, a conference took place in Mexico, which in my opinion was a landmark event, really, because the forces regrouped again, and a secretariat – which had disappeared – was approved, made up of the national committees from Japan, France, Portugal, Palestine and Cuba.
A number of members who were concerned at the seriousness of the council began writing to me, and we took on the debilitating tendencies. The culminating point of that was a statement by the WPC executive secretary at the time, which misrepresented NATO’s genocidal action in the war against Yugoslavia.
New organizations have emerged and others have been reborn, in Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Canada and the United States.
Vanencia: Where do the most important members come from today?
Fundora: A movement of intellectuals has always existed. This idea of creating a movement for world peace emerged in a Polish village in 1948, from no less than Irene and Frederic Joliot-Curie, Nobel Prize winners for Physics and Chemistry, respectively; the famous painter Pablo Picasso; Chilean poet Pablo Neruda; Pablo Casals (one of the great maestros of the cello) and the famous African-American actor, Paul Robeson, who were all there. That was its birth. And the individuals sustaining this movement today are figures from the arts, sciences, journalism and education.