SPEECH MADE BY ARMY GENERAL RAUL CASTRO RUZ, PRESIDENT OF THE STATE COUNCIL AND THE COUNCIL OF MINISTERS OF CUBA, AT THE COMMEMORATION OF THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE CUBAN REVOLUTION. SANTIAGO DE CUBA, JANUARY 1ST, 2009, “YEAR OF THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE REVOLUTIONARY TRUMPH.”
Men and women from Santiago;
People from Oriente;
Combatants of the Ejército Rebelde, of the underground struggle and of every combat in defense of the Revolution throughout these 50 years;
In a day like this, our first thoughts are for those who fell in this long struggle. They constitute a paradigm and a symbol of the efforts and sacrifices of millions of Cubans. Closely united in the clamor of battle, waging the powerful weapons embodied in Fidel’s leadership, his teachings and his example, we have learned how to transform our dreams into a reality; how to keep our heads cool and our confidence in the face of dangers and threats; how to get over the big setbacks; how to turn every challenge into a victory and to overcome adversity, no matter how insurmountable they might have seem.
Those of us who have had the privilege to experience the intensity of this stage of our history are well aware of the truth contained in that alert he issued that January 8, 1959, during his first speech after entering the capital:
“The tyranny has been overthrown. Our joy is immense. However, much remains to be done. We shall not deceive ourselves believing that in the future everything will be easier, because perhaps everything will be more difficult,” he said.
For the first time, the Cuban people had attained political power. This time, with Fidel, the mambises entered Santiago de Cuba leaving behind exactly 60 years of absolute domination by the emerging US imperialism, which did not take long to show its real purposes by preventing the Liberation Army from entering this city.
The great confusion and above all the enormous frustration caused by the US intervention had been left way behind. But the Mambí Army, despite its formal dismantling, always preserved its fighting spirit and the ideas that led Céspedes, Agramonte, Gómez, Maceo and so many other heroes and independence combatants to take up arms.
For over fifty years our people would endure corrupted governments and new US interventions, the Machado tyranny and the frustrated revolution that overthrew him. Later, in 1952, the coup d’état dealt with the support of the US administration, reinstated the dictatorship. This formula was commonly applied in those years to ensure its dominion in Latin America.
It was clear to us that the armed struggle was the only way. Again, the revolutionaries would have to face –as Martí before us—the dilemma of the necessary war for the independence that was cut short in 1898.
Thus, the Ejército Rebelde took up again the weapons of the mambises and after the triumph was forever transformed into the unbeaten Revolutionary Armed Forces.
The Centennial Generation, which in 1953 stormed the Moncada’s and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes’ barracks, was inspired in Marti’s important legacy and his humanistic global vision reaching beyond the attainment of national liberation.
Speaking in historical terms, a short time would pass from the moment the mambises’ dreams were frustrated to the triumph of the War of Liberation. Early in that period, Mella, one of the founding members of our first communist party and of the FEU (University Students Federation), became the legitimate heir and the bridge connecting Marti’s thoughts to the most advanced ideas.
In those years, the conscience and action of workers and farmers matured and a genuine, valiant and patriotic intelligentsia was formed which has accompanied them to the present. Then, the Cuban school, as a loyal repository of the fighting traditions of its predecessors, planted them in the best of the new generations.
Right after the triumph it became evident for every humble man and woman that the Revolution was like a social cataclysm of justice knocking on every door, from the large palaces on the 5th Avenue, in the capital of the country, to the poorest shanty in the remotest mountain or plain field.
The revolutionary laws not only fulfilled the program that inspired the Moncada but also went far beyond it in the logical evolution of the process. At the same time, they set a precedent for peoples of Our America, which 200 years back had started the movement for the emancipation from colonialism.
But, in Cuba the history of the Americas would take a different turn. Nothing morally valuable has been alien to the turmoil that even before January 1st, 1959, started to sweep away opprobrium and inequity while opening the way to the enormous effort of all the people determined to give itself everything it deserves and that it has built with its own sweat and blood.
Millions of Cubans, men and women, have been workers, students or soldiers; sometimes all of these as the circumstances have demanded.
Nicolas Guillén’s masterly verses synthesized what the January 1959 triumph brought to our people. “I have what I was meant to have,” he said in one of his poems, referring not to material wealth but to being the masters of our own destiny.
This victory is twice as worthy for it has been attained despite the unhealthy and vindictive hatred of the powerful neighbor.
The promotion and support of sabotage and banditry; the Playa Girón [Bay of Pigs] invasion; the blockade and other economic, political and diplomatic aggressions; the permanent slandering campaign aimed at denigrating the Cuban Revolution and its leaders; the October [Missile] Crisis; the hijackings of and attacks on civilian planes and sea crafts; the state terrorism, with its terrible result of 3478 dead and 2099 maimed; the attempts on the life of Fidel and other leaders; the murder of Cuban workers, farmers, fishermen, students, diplomats and combatants; these and many other crimes bear witness to the stubborn insistence on putting out, at any cost, the beacon of justice and honor that January 1st meant to so many.
One way or another, with more or less aggressiveness, every US administration has tried to impose a regime change in Cuba. Resistance has been the key word and the explanation of every one of our victories throughout this half century of continued fighting when we have consistently acted on our own and taken our own risks notwithstanding the extensive and decisive solidarity we have received.
For many years, Cuban revolutionaries have abided by Martí’s apothegm: “Freedom is most precious and one must either accept to live without it or be determined to buy it for its price.”
On the 30th anniversary of the victory, Fidel said at this square: “We are here because we have put up a resistance.” Ten years later, in 1999, from this same balcony, he said that the Special Period was “the most extraordinary page of revolutionary and patriotic glory and firmness […] when we were left absolutely alone in the West, only 90 miles away from the United States, and we decided to continue forward.” End of quote. We repeat the same thing today.
We have firmly resisted --far from any fanaticism-- based on sound convictions, and on the resolution of all of the people to defend them at any cost. Presently, our glorious Five Heroes are a living example of that unshakable determination. (Applause and exclamations)
Today, we are not alone on this side of the ocean facing the empire, as it was the case in the 1960s when in January 1962 the United States of America forced on the OAS the absurd expulsion of Cuba, the country which had shortly before been the victim of an invasion organized by the US administration and escorted to our coasts by its own warships. Actually, as it has been proven, that expulsion was the prelude to a direct military intervention only prevented by the deployment of the Soviet nuclear missiles leading to the October Crisis, known to the world as the Missile Crisis.
Today, the Revolution is stronger than ever; it has never failed to stand by its principles, not even in the most difficult circumstances. This truth cannot be changed in the least even if some get tired or even renounce their history as they forget that life is in itself an eternal fight.
Does it mean there is less danger? No, it doesn’t. Let’s not entertain any illusions. As we commemorate this half century of victories, it is time to reflect on the future, on the next fifty years when we shall continue to struggle incessantly.
The observation of the current disturbances in the contemporary world tells us that the coming years will not be easier. This is the truth; I am not saying this to scare anyone.
We should also keep in mind what Fidel told us all, but especially the youth, at the University of Havana on November 17, 2005: “This country could destroy itself, this Revolution could destroy itself, but they [the enemy] cannot destroy it. We could destroy it ourselves, and it would only be our fault,” he argued.
In the face of this possibility, I ask myself:
What is the guarantee that such a horrible thing would not happen to our people?
How could we avoid such a numbing blow that we would need much time to recover from and to attain victory again?
I am speaking on behalf of all those who have been fighting from the moment the first shots were fired on the walls of the Moncada barracks 55 years ago and of those who fulfilled heroic internationalist missions.
Of course, I am also speaking on behalf of those who fell in the wars of independence and more recently in the War of Liberation. I speak on behalf of them all, and on behalf of Abel and Jose Antonio, of Camilo and Che, when I say that this demands foremost from tomorrow’s leaders that they never forget that this is a Revolution of the humble, by the humble and for the humble; (Applause) that they should never be misled by the enemy’s siren songs and be aware that, given its very essence, the enemy will never cease to be aggressive, treacherous and dominant; that they should never distance themselves from our workers, our farmers and the people at large; that the party members must prevent the destruction of the Party. Let’s learn from history.
If they act consistently, they will always have the support of the people, even if they make mistakes which do not breach basic principles. But, if their actions were inconsistent with such principles, they would even lack the strength and the opportunity to rectify, since they would fail to have the moral authority that the masses only grant to those who never back from the struggle. They could end up incapacitated for tackling internal and external dangers and unable to preserve the work that is the fruit of the blood and the sacrifices of many generations of Cubans.
Nobody should have any doubt that if that would ever happen our people would put up a fight, and today’s mambises would be in the frontline; that they would never be ideologically disarmed nor would they ever let down their sword. (Applause and exclamations)
It befits the historical leadership of the Revolution to prepare the new generations to take up the enormous responsibility of continuing to carry forward the revolutionary process.
This heroic city of Santiago and all of Cuba witnessed the sacrifices of thousands of compatriots, the rage accumulated for so many lives cut short by crime, the endless pain of our mothers and the sublime courage of its sons and daughters.
This was the birthplace of a young revolutionary killed when he was only 22 years old, a man who is a symbol of that willingness to make sacrifices, of that purity, courage and serenity, and of that love for our people: Frank País García.
This eastern land was the birthplace of the Revolution. It was here that the call of duty was made in La Demajagua and on July 26th; it was here that we landed in the Granma and started the fight on the mountains and the plains, the same that extended later to the entire island. As Fidel said in History Will Absolve Me, “every day here looks like it will be again the day of Yara and Baire.”
Never again shall poverty, ignominy, abuse and injustice return to our land!
Never again shall the heart of our mothers be filled with pain and the soul of every honest Cuban succumb to shame!
Such is the firm resolution of a nation on a war footing; a nation that is aware of its duty and proud of its history.(Applause)
Our people are well aware of every shortcoming in the work they have built with their own hands and defended with their own lives. We, the revolutionaries are our strongest critics. We have never hesitated to publicly discuss our flaws and mistakes. There are plenty of past and recent examples.
Since October 10, 1868, disunity had been the main cause of our defeats. After January 1st, 1959, the unity forged by Fidel has been the guarantee of our victories. Our people have been able to preserve that unity despite all of the ups and downs and the attempts at division, and have rightly placed common aspirations above differences, crushing meanness with the strength of collectivism and generosity.
Revolutions can only advance and endure when they are carried forward by the people. The full understanding of this truth and the consistent and unshakable action carried forward have been decisive elements in the victory of the Cuban Revolution over its enemies, and over seemingly insurmountable difficulties and challenges.
As we arrive at the first half century of the victorious Revolution, let’s pay homage first to our wonderful people and to its exemplary decision, courage, loyalty and internationalist and fraternal vocation; to its extraordinary show of will, its spirit of sacrifice and its confidence in victory, in the Party, in its maximum leader and, above all, in itself. (Applause)
I know that I am expressing the feelings of my compatriots and of many revolutionaries in the world, when I pay homage to the Commander in Chief of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz. (Applause and exclamations)
We know that a man alone doesn’t make history, but some men are indispensable as they can have a decisive influence in the course of events. Fidel is one of them; nobody doubts it, not even his most bitter enemies.
Ever since his early youth he adopted as his own one of Martí’s thoughts: “All of the glory in the world fits in a kernel of corn.” This he turned into his shield from everything that is superfluous or transient, into his main weapon to transform praises and honors --even if well-deserved—into greater humility, honesty, fighting spirit and love for truth, which he has invariably placed above all else.
He made reference to these ideas 50 years ago in this same square. His words that night are absolutely valid today.
At this very special moment when we think of our past journey and particularly of the long way ahead, when we reiterate our commitment to the people and to our martyrs, allow me to conclude by recalling the premonitory alert and the call to combat made by the Commander in Chief in this historic place on January 1st, 1959, as he indicated:
“We do not believe that all of the problems can be easily solved; we know that the path is fraught with obstacles, but we are men of faith, we are used to facing great difficulties. Our people can be sure of one thing, and that is that we can make one or many mistakes, but we will never steal and we will never betray you.”
And he added:
“We shall never let ourselves be carried away by vanity or ambition, […] there can be no greater reward or satisfaction than the fulfillment of our duty,” he concluded.
On this date full of significance and symbolism, let’s reflect on these ideas which constitute a guidance for true revolutionaries; let’s do it with the satisfaction of having fulfilled our duty until the present and having behind us a life lived with dignity in the most intense and fruitful half century of our history. Let’s do it with the firm commitment that we will always be able to proudly claim in this land:
Glory to our heroes and martyrs! (Exclamations)
Long live Fidel! (Exclamations)
Long live the Revolution! (Exclamations)
Long live Free Cuba! (Exclamations)