Fidel Castro Defends Socialist Nature of Cuban Revolution
Printed below are major excerpts from a speech delivered by President Fidel Castro Ruz, on the 40th anniversary of the proclamation of the socialist nature of the Cuban Revolution, in Havana, April 16, 2001.
Compatriots: Exactly 40 years ago, at this same time, in this same place, we proclaimed the socialist nature of our Revolution. We had just buried the men who had died victims of the perfidious attack made at daybreak on April 15, 1961.
Forty years have passed. Nevertheless, the methods of lies and deception used by the empire and its mercenary allies remain unchanged. Barely four years ago, when bombs began to explode in Havana hotels, financed by the Cuban American National Foundation and brought to Cuba from Central America by bloodthirsty terrorists, the story they tried to spread was that these were actions carried out by members of the Cuban state security services disgruntled with the Revolution.
Almost at the end of the speech I gave here 40 years ago, I said, what the imperialists cannot forgive us is that we are here. What they cannot forgive us is the dignity, the determination, the courage, the ideological firmness, the spirit of sacrifice and the revolutionary spirit of the Cuban people, and the fact that we have undertaken a socialist revolution. And that socialist revolution we defend with these guns! We defend that socialist revolution with the same courage with which our antiaircraft artillery force riddled the attacking planes with bullets yesterday! We do not defend it with mercenaries; we defend it with the men and women of our people!
[The many rhetorical questions that follow were posed by Fidel Castro to this mass rally of Cuban workers and peasants in Havana. They were all met by answered shouts.]
Is it the millionaires who have the weapons? Is it the children of the rich who have the weapons? That is what I asked then, and this is what you answer now.
Is it the overseers who have the weapons? Who has the weapons? Whose hands are those raising those weapons? Are they the hands of the rich kids? Are they the hands of the rich? Are they the hands of the exploiters? Whose hands are those raising those weapons?
Are they not the hands of workers, are they not the hands of peasants, are they not hands callused by work, are they not creative hands, are they not the humble hands of the people?
And who makes up the majority of the people, the millionaires or the workers? The exploiters or the exploited? The privileged or the humble? Do the privileged have them?
Do the humble have them?
Are the privileged the minority? Are the humble the majority? Is a revolution democratic when it is the humble who have the weapons?
Comrades, workers and peasants: This is the socialist and democratic revolution of the humble, by the humble and for the humble! And for this revolution of the humble, by the humble and for the humble, we are willing to give our lives!
Yesterdays attack, which cost seven heroic lives, was aimed at destroying our planes on the ground. But they failed, they only destroyed three planes, and the bulk of the enemy planes were damaged or shot down.
Compatriots of yesterday, today and tomorrow:
At the Bay of Pigs, our patriotic and heroic people, who had matured extraordinarily in barely two years of confrontation with the powerful empire, fought fearlessly and unwaveringly for socialism.
Once and for all, they crushed the absurd idea that the suffering endured, and the blood and tears spilled throughout almost a hundred years of struggle for independence and justice against Spanish colonialism and its slavery-based model of exploitation, and later against imperialist domination and the corrupt and bloody governments imposed on Cuba by the United States, were to serve for the rebuilding of a neocolonialist, capitalist and bourgeois society. It was essential to seek out loftier objectives in the political and social development of Cuba.
It was necessary, and it was possible. We did it at the exact and precise moment in history, not a minute before and not a minute later, and we were daring enough to attempt it.
When we see that south of the Rio Grande there is a whole collection of balkanized countriesalthough they all share the same language, culture, history and ethnic rootsabout to be devoured by the mighty, expansionist and insatiable superpower of the turbulent and brutal north that scorns us, we Cubans can cry out to the top of our voices: Bless that day, a thousand times over, that we proclaimed our revolution to be socialist! Today it might have been too late. The victory of January 1, 1959, offered an exceptional opportunity to do it.
Without socialism, we would not have been able to reduce the illiteracy rate to zero.
Without socialism, we would not have schools and teachers for all our children, without a single exception, even in the most distant and remote corners of the country. Nor would we have special schools for those who need them, nor a primary schooling rate of 100 percent, nor a secondary schooling rate of 98.8 percent. We would not have exact science vocational schools, or senior high schools, or military schools, or sports training schools, or schools for physical education and sports instructors, or trade schools, or technological and polytechnic professional training institutes, or colleges for workers and peasants, or language schools, or art schools in every province of the country.
Without socialism, Cuba today would not have 700,000 university graduates, 15 teacher-training colleges, 22 medical schools, a total of 51 higher education institutions, plus 12 affiliates and independent faculties, with 137,000 university students.
Without socialism, we would not have 67,500 doctors, over 250,000 professors and teachers, and 34,000 physical education and sports instructors, the highest number per capita in all three categories among all countries in the world.
Without socialism, sports would not be a right of the people, and Cuba would not win more Olympic gold medals per capita than any other country.
Without socialism, we would not have been able to attain the level of political culture we have today.
Without socialism, we would not have 30,133 family doctors, 436 polyclinics, 275 hospitals, both general and specialized, including surgical, pediatric and maternal hospitals, and 13 specialized medical institutes.
Without socialism, our country would not have 133 scientific research centers and tens of thousands of either Masters or Ph.D. researchers.
Without socialism, there would not be 1,012,000 retired workers, 325,500 pensioners and 120,000 people on social welfare receiving social security benefits, without a single exception, nor would those social security benefits be available to all of the countrys people when needed.
Without socialism, 163,000 campesinos would not be the owners of their lands, whether in the form of individually owned parcels or cooperatives, nor would 252,000 agricultural workers be the owners of the facilities, machinery and crops in the basic units of cooperative production.
Without socialism, 85 percent of families would not own their homes, nor would 95 percent of the population have access to electricity, and 95.3 percent to drinking water; 48,540 kilometers of highways would not have been built, nor would there be 1,005 water reservoirs, which hold almost all of the water that can be dammed for agricultural, industrial and domestic use.
Without socialism, the infant mortality rate would not be less than eight per 1000 live births. Vaccines against 13 diseases would not protect our children, nor would our peoples life expectancy at birth be 76 years. The rate of HIV infection would not be 0.03 percent, as compared to 0.6 percent in the United States and other developed and wealthy countries; nor would 575,000 voluntary blood donations have been made in the year 2000.
Without socialism, we would not be able to promise, as we are now doing, to provide decent employment to 100 percent of our youth under the sole condition that they be trained; nor would we be developing the programs that will offer them all the opportunity for training.
Without socialism, manual laborers and intellectuals, whose works help fulfill the material and spiritual needs of our species, would never have taken the vanguard role they justly deserve in human society.
Without socialism, Cuban women, formerly discriminated against and relegated to humiliating work, would not constitute 65 percent of the countrys technical work force today, nor would they enjoy the right to equal pay for equal work, a goal that has yet to be achieved in almost all of the developed capitalist countries.
Without socialism, there would not be mass organizations, made up of workers and laborers, campesinos, women, neighborhood residents organized into Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, primary school, junior and senior high school students, university students, veterans of the Cuban Revolution. These organizations encompass the vast majority of our people and play a decisive role in the revolutionary process and the truly democratic participation of all the people in the leadership and destiny of the country.
Without socialism, we could not have a society without beggars wandering the streets, without children going barefoot or begging, or absent from school because they need to work for a living, or subjected to sexual exploitation, or used for committing crimes, or joining gangs, things that are so common in other parts of the world, including the United States.
Without socialism, Cuba would not have an outstanding place in its growing, tenacious and sustained struggle to preserve the environment.
Without socialism, the countrys cultural heritage would be left unprotected, subjected to plunder or destruction. The historic parts of Cuba s oldest cities would have been replaced with new buildings totally unrelated to their architectural surroundings. The oldest section of our capital, where visitors increasingly marvel at the painstaking care taken in its restoration and preservation, would not exist. The eyesore built behind the Palace of the Captains-General, where a centuries-old university building was torn down to put up a heliport in its place, provides ample evidence for these claims.
Without socialism, we would not have been able to withstand the overpowering foreign influence progressively imposed on so many peoples around the world, nor would we be witnessing the vigorous cultural and artistic movement developing in our country today: the Higher Institute of Art, a prestigious institution created by the Revolution, is being restored and expanded; valuable knowledge is being passed on in the 43 vocational and professional art schools throughout the country, which will soon grow in number; and 4,000 young people have just entered the first year of study in 15 new art instructor training schools created last year. Every year, another 4,000 students will enter these schools, which have room for a total enrollment of 15,000, and they will graduate with a high school degree in humanities.
Presently, we have 306 cultural centers, 292 museums, 368 public libraries open to the entire population, and 181 art galleries.
Without socialism, we would not have the televised courses of University for All; its initial programming has had a tremendous impact, and it promises to contribute significantly to achieving a level of comprehensive general knowledge that will make Cubans the most educated people in the world.
Three hundred Youth Computer Clubs are operating, and 20,000 personal computers are being distributed to junior and senior high schools. Computer skills will be taught on a mass basis from preschool all the way up to the university level.
The list of comparisons and contrasts would be endless, but there are a few that I cannot fail to mention, given their patriotic, internationalist and human significance:
Without socialism, Cuba would not have been able to endure 42 years of hostility, blockade and economic war imposed by imperialism, much less a 10-year special period that has still not ended. It would not have been able to achieve an appreciation of its currency from 150 pesos to the dollar in 1994 to just 20 pesos to the dollar in 1999, a feat unequalled by any other country. Nor would it have been possible, in the midst of inconceivable difficulties, to initiate modest yet sustained and sound economic growth.
Without socialism, Cuba would not be the only country in the world today that does not need trade with the United States in order to survive, and even to advance, both economically and socially. As to the latter, not even the wealthiest and most industrialized countries compare to Cuba.
Cuba is one of the few countries in the world that is not a member, and does not want to be a member, of the International Monetary Fund, which has become the zealous guardian of the empires interests. Nothing I have described here would have been possible if our hands and feet were tied to that sinister institution spawned at Bretton Woods, which politically crushes those who must turn to it, destabilizing and destroying governments. There is no escape for those tied to the double yoke of the IMF and neo-liberalism, both manifestations of the unfair and irrational economic order imposed on the world.
Without socialism, each and every person in our country would not have the same right to receive educational or health care services free of charge, regardless of the cost, and without anyone ever questioning him or her on religious or political beliefs.
Without socialism, we would not have a country free of drugs, brothels, gambling casinos, organized crime, vanished people, death squads, lynching and out-of-court executions.
Without socialism, Cuban families could not watch their children grow up healthy, educated and skilled, with no fear of them being lured into drugs or crime, or killed at school by their own classmates.
Without socialism, Cuba would not be, as it is today, the most solid barrier in the hemisphere against drug trafficking, something that benefits even U.S. society.
Without socialism, Cuba would not be a country in which, for 42 years, no one has suffered the repression and police brutality so commonly practiced in Europe and other parts of the world, where anti-riot vehicles and men dressed up in strange gear, like visitors from outer space, attack the population with clubs, shields, rubber bullets, tear gas, pepper gas and other means.
It is difficult for the West to understand why such things do not happen in Cuba. They do not have the slightest notion of the way human society can be enriched by the unity, political consciousness, solidarity, selflessness and generosity, patriotism, moral values and commitment built through education, culture and all the justice offered by a true revolution.
Without socialism, hundreds of thousands of Cubans would not have undertaken internationalist missions; nor would our country have contributed even a grain of sand to the struggle against colonialism in Africa; nor would its people have shed a single drop of blood fighting against the seemingly invincible forces of the hateful system of apartheid, racism and fascism.
Not one of the countries that traded and invested back then and still now possess enormous wealth in South Africa and other countries on the African continentwhere Cuba neither sought, nor has, nor wants to have a single square inch of landcontributed the least share of sacrifice. Not even the enormous distance separating us from Africa could be an insurmountable obstacle for the spirit of solidarity of this small, blockaded and besieged island.
Without socialism, over 40,000 Cuban health care workers would not have provided their noble internationalist cooperation in more than 90 countries, nor would they be helping to develop comprehensive health care programs today in 16 countries in Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa, thanks to the immense human capital created by the Revolution.
Without socialism, it would not have been possible for 15,600 students from the Third World to graduate in Cuban universities, nor would there be 11,000 students from those countries currently enrolled in higher studies in Cuba.
Without socialism, we would not have the prestigious Latin American Medical School, where there are currently young people from 24 countries and 63 indigenous ethnic groups studying, and 2,000 new students will enroll every year.
Without socialism, we would not have been able to establish the International School of Sports and Physical Education that can accommodate a total of 1,500 students, and where 588 youths from 50 countries are currently enrolled in the first year of studies.
Without socialism, we would not have been able to provide medical treatment in Cuba for 19,000 children and adults from the three republics affected by the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986, the majority of whom were treated in the midst of the special period, and for 53 people harmed by the radiation leak in the state of Goiás, in Brazil.
What we have shared with other peoples has not prevented a single one of our compatriots from having the opportunity to be a part of the millions of mid-level technicians and university-educated professionals in Cuba today. This shows that much can be done with very little, and that everything could be done with much less resources than those spent today on commercial advertising, weapons, narcotics and luxury.
Without socialism, Cuba would not have become, without actually trying, an example for many people in the world, and the loyal and constant voice for the most deserving causes; a small country that enjoys the enviable privilege of being almost the only one that can speak out at any international forum and freely denounce, with no fear of reprisals or aggression, the unfair economic order and the insatiable, rapacious, hypocritical and immoral policies of the hegemonic superpowers government....
On a day like today, as we look back over the accomplishments of the Revolution, it is amazing to discover that we are far from having achieved all the necessary and possible justice.
The years that have passed have come to enrich our experience and knowledge tremendously. Four decades of struggle in the face of enormous difficulties have strengthened our convictions, and our confidence in human beings and their infinite potential.
The socialism we conceive of today is far superior to our dreams back then. The special period forced us to walk back on a stretch of the road we had traveled. Painful inequalities emerged. Those who were willing to patiently endure, those most dedicated to the revolutionary cause above all else, our most loyal manual and intellectual workers, the most humble and faithful of the people, the most conscientious revolutionaries understood this inevitable circumstance. And as has always happened and always will happen in difficult times, they shouldered the bulk of the burden in the efforts to save the country and socialism at any cost.
In the future we will not only achieve much higher goals than those we achieved in the past, but we will even surpass them. Today, we are advancing towards objectives we would not have even dreamed of 40 years ago, and much less in the extremely difficult stage that began 10 years ago, from which we are emerging victorious. A new dawn is beginning to shine on our future, a future that will shine more brightly on a more accomplished socialism, a more promising and profound revolutionary work.
We did not come here today to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the proclamation of the socialist nature of the Revolution, but rather we came here to ratify it, to swear our allegiance once again.
Using the exact same words as on that unforgettable day 40 years ago, I will ask you, Workers and peasants, humble men and women of the homeland, do you swear to defend to your last drop of blood this Revolution of the humble, by the humble and for the humble? [Exclamations of, We do!]
Here, before the tomb of our fallen comrades; here, near the remains of those heroic young men, sons of workers and sons of humble familiesand today I will add two more things: in memory of all those who have died for the homeland and for justice in the last 133 years, and in the name of all those who have given their lives for humanity in heroic internationalist missionswe reaffirm our determination that like those who stood up to the bullets, like those who gave their lives, no matter when the mercenaries come, all of us, proud of our Revolution, proud to defend this Revolution of the humble, by the humble and for the humble, will not waver, in the face of whoever they may be, in defending our Revolution to our last drop of blood.
Ever onward to victory! Patria o Muerte! Venceremos!