Achievements of the Cuban Revolution are well known to Monthly Review readers. What is striking about Raúl Castro Ruz’s address on 26 July 2007 (an excerpt from which is reproduced below), on the occasion of Cuba’s National Day of Rebellion, is not his tribute to them but his candid assessment of the “errors which aggravate objective difficulties derived from external causes.” What “structural and conceptual changes” will be introduced to overcome them in “a very trying international economic situation”? And where will the changes take the revolution? Combined with “Cuba’s Self Criticism” by Fidel (also reproduced below), Raúl’s address is an essential reading for all peoples who cherish independence and are willing to fight for it “at the cost of any sacrifice.” — Ed.
The Revolution’s Most Important Weapon: the People
by Raúl Castro Ruz
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Efficiency largely depends on perseverance and good organization, especially of systematic controls and discipline, and in particular on where we have succeeded in incorporating the masses to the struggle for efficiency.
We need to bring everyone to the daily battle against the very errors which aggravate objective difficulties derived from external causes, especially those induced by the United States’ economic blockade which really constitutes a relentless war against our people, as the current administration of that country is especially bent on finding even the slightest of ways to harm us.
One could point to a myriad of examples. I shall limit myself to mentioning the obstacles to the country’s commercial and financial transactions abroad, often directed at the purchase of food, medicines and other basic products for the people, and the denial of access to banking services through coercion and the extra-territorial imposition of its laws.
There are also the almost insurmountable obstacles imposed by that government that goes to ridiculous lengths to prevent its people from traveling to Cuba and also on the Cuban residents there coming to visit their relatives; the denial of visas not just to our officials, but to artists, athletes, scientists and, in general, to anyone who is not willing to slander the Revolution.
As our Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently denounced, we can add to all of this the obstacles to the fulfillment of what is established in the migratory agreements with regards to the minimum number of visas to be granted annually.
This policy encourages those who turn to illegal emigration and are received there as heroes, often times after endangering the lives of children, and in spite of the fact that such an irresponsible behavior puts at risk not only the safety of Cubans, but also of Americans, the ones who the government constantly claims to be protecting, since whoever risks trafficking with human lives for money, would probably not hesitate in doing so with drugs, arms or other such things.
Cuba, for her part, will continue to honor her commitments to the migratory accords, as she has done until today.
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By that time the elections will also have taken place in the United States and the mandate of the current president of that country will have concluded along with his erratic and dangerous administration, characterized by such a reactionary and fundamentalist philosophy that it leaves no room for a rational analysis of any matter.
The new administration will have to decide whether it will maintain the absurd, illegal and failed policy against Cuba or if it will accept the olive branch that we offered on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the landing of the Granma. That is, when we reasserted our willingness to discuss on equal footing the prolonged dispute with the government of the United States, convinced that this is the only way to solve the problems of this world, ever more complex and dangerous.
If the new United States authorities were to finally desist from their arrogance and decide to talk in a civilized manner, it would be a welcome change. Otherwise, we are ready to continue confronting their policy of hostility, even for another 50 years, if need be.
Fifty years seem like a long time, but soon we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Triumph of the Revolution and the 55th anniversary of Moncada, and among so many tasks and challenges those years have gone by and we have hardly noticed. Furthermore, practically 70% of our population was born after the blockade was imposed, and so we are well trained to continue resisting it and finally defeating it.
Some who have been influenced by enemy propaganda or are simply confused, do not perceive the real danger or the undeniable fact that the blockade has a direct influence both on the major economic decisions as well as on each Cuban’s most basic needs.
Directly and on a daily basis, it weighs heavily on our food supply, transportation, housing and even on the fact that we cannot rely on the necessary raw materials and equipment to work with.
The enemy established it half a century ago for this reason, as we were saying, and today it still dreams of forcing us to submit to its will. President Bush himself insists on repeating that he will not allow the Cuban Revolution to continue. It would be interesting to ask him just how he intends to do that.
How little they have learned from history!
In his Manifesto published on June 18, Fidel said to them once again what every revolutionary on this island is convinced of: “They shall never have Cuba!”
Our people will never give an inch of ground under the attempt of any country or group of countries to pressure us, nor will it make the slightest unilateral concession to send any kind of signal to anybody.
With respect to the economic and social tasks ahead of us, we know the tensions that Party cadres are subjected to, especially at the base, where there’s hardly ever a balance between accumulated needs and available resources.
We are also aware that, because of the extreme objective difficulties that we face, wages today are clearly insufficient to satisfy all needs and have thus ceased to play a role in ensuring the socialist principle that each should contribute according to their capacity and receive according to their work. This has bred forms of social indiscipline and tolerance which, having taken root, prove difficult to eradicate, even after the objective causes behind them are eradicated.
I can responsibly assure you that the Party and government have been studying these and other complex and difficult problems in depth, problems which must be addressed comprehensibly and through a differentiated approach in each concrete case.
All of us, from the leaders to the rank-and-file workers, are duty-bound to accurately identify and analyze every problem in depth, within our working areas, in order to combat the problem with the most convenient methods.
This differs greatly from the attitude of those who use existing difficulties to shield themselves from criticisms, leveled against them for not acting with the necessary swiftness and efficiency, or for lacking the political sensitivity and courage needed to explain why a problem cannot be solved immediately.
I will limit myself to drawing your attention to these crucial issues. A simple criticism or appeal will not solve these problems, even when they are made at a ceremony like this. They demand, above all else, organized work, control and dedication, day after day; systematic rigor, order and discipline, from the national level down to the thousands of places where something is produced or a service is offered.
This is where the country’s efforts are headed, as they are in other areas of similar importance and strategic significance. We are working hastily but not desperately, avoiding unnecessary public statements so as not to raise false hopes. And, again, speaking with the sincerity which has always characterized the Revolution, I remind you that all problems cannot be solved overnight.
I am not exaggerating when I say that we face a very trying international economic situation, where, in addition to wars, lack of political stability, the deterioration of the environment and the rise in oil prices — apparently an irreversible trend — we now face, like comrade Fidel has recently denounced, the decision made primarily by the United States, to transform corn, soy and other food products into fuel. This move is bound to make the price of these products, and those directly dependent upon these such as meats and milk prices, climb dramatically as it has been the case in recent months.
I will just mention some figures. Today, the price of an oil barrel is around 80 dollars, nearly three times what it was only 4 years ago, when it was priced at 28 dollars. This has an impact on practically everything, for, to produce anything or to offer any kind of service, one requires a given quantity of fuel, directly or indirectly.
Another case in point is the price of powdered milk, which was 2,100 dollars the ton in 2004. This already placed great strains on our ability to make this product available, as its import meant an investment of 105 million dollars. A total of 160 million dollars were spent to purchase the needed quantities in 2007, as prices shot up to 2,450 dollars the ton. In these four years, nearly 500 million dollars have been spent in these purchases.
Currently, the price of powdered milk is over 5,200 dollars the ton. Therefore, should domestic production not continue to increase, to meet consumption needs in the next 2008, we would have to spend 340 million dollars in milk alone, more than three times what was spent in 2004. That is, if prices do not continue to rise.
In the case of milled rice, it was priced at 390 dollars a ton in 2006 and is sold today at 435 a ton. Some years ago, we were buying frozen chicken at 500 dollars a ton. We made plans on the assumption its price would go up to 800; in fact, it went up to its current price of 1,186 dollars.
This is the case with practically all products the country imports to meet, essentially, the needs of the population, products which, as it is known, the people purchase at prices which have practically remained unchanged in spite of the circumstances.
And I am talking of products that I think can be grown here — it seems to me that there is plenty of land — and we have had good rains last year and this. As I drove in here I could see that everything around is green and pretty, but what drew my attention the most, what I found prettier was the marabú (a thorny bush) growing along the road.
Therefore, any increase in wages or decrease in prices, to be real, can only stem from a greater and more efficient production and services offer, which will increase the country’s incomes.
No one, no individual or country, can afford to spend more than what they have. It seems elementary, but we do not always think and act in accordance with this inescapable reality.
To have more, we have to begin by producing more, with a sense of rationality and efficiency, so that we may reduce imports, especially of food products — that may be grown here — whose domestic production is still a long way away from meeting the needs of the population.
We face the imperative of making our land produce more; and the land is there to be tilted either with tractors or with oxen, as it was done before the tractor existed. We need to expeditiously apply the experiences of producers whose work is outstanding, be they in the state or farm sector, on a mass scale, but without improvising, and to offer these producers adequate incentives for the work they carry out in Cuba’s suffocating heat.
To reach these goals, the needed structural and conceptual changes will have to be introduced.
We are already working in this direction and a number of modest results can already be appreciated. As demanded by the National Assembly of the People’s Power, all debts to farmers were settled; in addition to this, there has been a discrete improvement in the delivery of inputs to some productive sectors and a notable increase in the prices of various products, that is to say, the price the state pays to the producer, not the price the population pays, which remains unchanged. This measure had an impact on important production items, such as meat and milk.
With respect to milk production and distribution, we are aware that the material resources we have managed to secure for the livestock industry are still very limited. However, in the last two years nature has been on our side and everything indicates that we will reach the planned figure of 384 million liters of milk, which is still far lower than the 900 million we were producing when we had all the fodder and other required inputs.
In addition to this, since March, an experiment has been underway in six municipalities — Mantua and San Cristóbal in Pinar del Rio, Melena del Sur in La Habana, Calimete in Matanzas, Aguada de Pasajeros in Cienfuegos and Yaguajay in Sancti Spiritus — where 20 thousand liters of milk have been directly and consistently delivered by the producer to 230 rationed stores and for social consumption in these localities every day.
In this fashion, we have eliminated absurd procedures through which this valuable food product traveled hundreds of miles before reaching a consumer who, quite often, lived a few hundred meters away from the livestock farm, and, with this, the product losses and fuel expenses involved.
I will give you one example or maybe two in order to mention one from Camaguey. Currently, in Mantua, one of the western most municipalities in Pinar del Rio, 2,492 liters of milk, which meet established consumption needs, are being distributed directly to the municipality’s 40 rationed stores and 2,000 liters of fuel are being saved every month.
What was the situation until four months ago?
The closest pasteurizer is located in the Sandino municipality, 40 kilometers away from Mantua, the most important town in the area. Thus, in order to deliver the milk to that plant, a truck had to travel a minimum of 80 kilometers — because distances are different — each day to make the round journey. I say “a minimum” because other areas of the municipality are even farther away.
The milk that children and other consumers in Mantua receive on a regulated basis, once pasteurized at the Sandino plant, returned, shortly afterwards, on a vehicle which, as it is logical to assume, had to return to its base of operations after delivering the product. In total, it traveled 160 kilometers, a journey which, as I explained, was in fact longer.
I don’t know if at the moment this is still the case but some time ago, as I was touring the southeast of Camaguey and in a place known as Los Raules — my namesake — I asked a few questions. It happened that all the milk produced at Los Raules was brought to Camaguey for pasteurizing, and the milk assigned to the children at Los Raules had to be taken back there after that. Is that still the case?
On one occasion, not long ago, less than a year, I asked if that insane and absurd crisscrossing had been eliminated. I assure you that I was told it had, and now we are finding out this.
Try thinking about things like these and you’ll see the spending they mean.
The commendable aim of all of this crisscrossing was, as we can see, to pasteurize all milk. This measure makes sense and it is necessary in the case of large urban centers — even though it is customary in Cuba to boil all milk at home, whether the milk is pasteurized or not — and all milk needed to supply cities will thus continue to be stocked and pasteurized, but it does not prove viable for a truck — or hundreds of trucks — to travel these long distances every day to deliver a few liters of milk, to places which produce enough of it to be self-sufficient.
As from the victory of the Revolution, the Cubans have learned to travel from west to east, mostly from east to west really, but our wishes to travel have led us to make the milk travel as well.
In addition to the municipalities participating in this experiment, which I mentioned already, another 3,500 rationed stores in other municipalities and provinces are also directly distributing milk, and over 7 million liters of milk have already been distributed.
This procedure will gradually begin to be applied in more and more places, as expediently as possible but without any rash attempts at making it a general formula. In all cases, its application will be preceded by a comprehensive study that demonstrates its viability in a specific place and reveals the existence of the needed organizational and material conditions.
We will continue to work in this direction until all of the country’s municipalities that produce the needed quantities of milk become self-sufficient and can complete, within their jurisdiction, the cycle which begins when a cow is milked and ends when a child or any other person drinks the milk, to the extent that present conditions allow.
That is to say, the chief aim of these efforts is to produce as much milk as possible, and I say this is possible in the overwhelming majority of municipalities, except for those in the capital of the country, that is, those which are not in the outskirts of the city, because there they can produce milk too. There are already some capital cities in various provinces that can produce enough in their main municipalities; such is the case of Sancti Spiritus. And, we must definitely produce more milk!
I mean, the main purpose is to produce more milk to first ensure what we need for our children. We are talking about a basic food for children, and for the ill people; we cannot fool around with that either. But we should neither renounce the possibility that others may also receive it in the future.
Additionally, this program intends to continue increasing fuel savings; something very important, too.
This program responds to today’s existing situation, where dreams of the vast imports of fodder and other inputs of decades past, when the world was very different from what it is today, are just that: dreams.
This is but one example of the abundant resources that become available when we organize ourselves better and analyze an issue as deeply as required, mindful of all the involved factors.
I reiterate that our problems will not be solved spectacularly. We need time and, most importantly, we need to work systematically and with devotion to consolidate every achievement, no matter how small.
Another nearly endless source of resources — if we consider how much we squander — is to be found in saving, particularly, as we said, the saving of fuel, whose price is increasingly prohibitive, and very unlikely to decrease.
This is a task of strategic importance which is not always undertaken with the necessary care, and wasteful practices have not yet been halted. The example with the milk is enough.
Wherever it is rational to do so, we must also recover domestic industrial production and begin producing new products that eliminate the need for imports or create new possibilities for export.
In this connection, we are currently studying the possibility of securing more foreign investment, of the kind that can provide us with capital, technology or markets, to avail ourselves of its contribution to the country’s development, careful not to repeat the mistakes of the past, owed to naivety or our ignorance about these partnerships, of using the positive experiences we’ve had to work with serious entrepreneurs, upon well-defined legal bases which preserve the role of the State and the predominance of socialist property.
We shall step up our cooperative efforts with other nations more and more, aware that only united, and on the basis of utter respect for the path chosen by every country, will we prevail. Proof of this are the steps we are taking forward next to our brothers in Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua, and our solid ties to China and Vietnam, to mention but a few noteworthy examples of the growing number of countries in all continents with which relations of all kinds are being re-established and extended.
We will continue to make a priority of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries and the growing international movement of solidarity towards the Revolution. We will also continue to work with the United Nations Organization and other multilateral organizations of which Cuba is a member, which respect the norms of international law and contribute to the development of nations and to peace.
Many are the battles we face simultaneously and which require us to bring together our forces to maintain the unity of the people, the Revolution’s greatest weapon, and to take advantage of the potential of a socialist society like ours. The coming People’s Power elections will be a new opportunity to demonstrate how extraordinarily strong our democracy — a true democracy — is.
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We must always remember — and not to repeat it from memory like a dogma, but rather to apply it creatively in our work every day — what comrade Fidel affirmed on May 1st, 2000, with a definition which embodies the quintessence of political and ideological work:
“Revolution means a sense of our moment in history, it means changing all that ought to be changed; it is full equality and freedom; it is being treated and treating others like human beings; it is emancipating ourselves by ourselves, and through our own efforts; it is defying powerful and ruling forces inside and outside of the social and national spheres; it is defending values that are believed in at the cost of any sacrifice; it is modesty, selflessness, altruism, solidarity and heroism; it is fighting with audacity, intelligence and realism; it is never lying or violating ethical principles; it is the profound conviction that there is no force in the world capable of crushing the strength of truth and ideas. Revolution is unity, it is independence, it is fighting for our dreams for justice for Cuba and for the world, it is the foundation of our patriotism, our socialism and our internationalism.” . . .
by Fidel Castro Ruz
The National Directorate of the UJC (Communist Youth League) agreed to communicate the following measure as it was concluding its strategy:
“Last Saturday, July 7, the National Bureau of the Communist Youth decided to tighten up the plan for the mobilization of forces of the Student Work Brigades (BET), guided by the principle of using students for tasks of a social and recreational nature, in numbers adjusted to a necessary minimum and within municipalities where they reside, in order to avoid relying on transportation.
“That decision was discussed on the same day with the National General Staff of the BET, made up of student organizations and bodies belonging to the Central State Administration, and also with the directorates of the Communist Youth in all the provinces.
“The idea of making a more rational use of the mobilized forces was emphasized; also, saving material resources, especially fuel, and the fact that the students should be using their time consolidating their knowledge, incorporating reading habits and discussing subjects of great importance.
“As a result of the decisions adopted, only 200,000 of the originally planned 600,000 students will be mobilized in July and August. Mobilizations to the agricultural fields or schools in the countryside will not take place, since their locations imply the use of transportation and other logistical services.
“This year the call will be made for only 7 days of work related to the tasks included in the Energy Revolution, together with the social workers, such as training the community to improve their energy saving habits, delivering the domestic appliances that have not been distributed, and visiting a number of families who, having received and taken on the pertinent obligations, have yet to complete their payments.
“They will also be participating in the Anti-Mosquito Campaign in order to prevent a return of dengue fever, and in primary and secondary health care, supporting polyclinics and hospitals.
“Promoting cultural, recreational and sports activities in the communities will be another of the tasks occupying the members of the Student Work Brigades.
“The UJC will promote study and discussion among the mobilized young people and among the rest of the youth.”
I can certainly congratulate the National Directorate of the Communist Youth League, and also the people in charge of the Organization and Ideology Departments of the Party who were consulted about this and who wholeheartedly supported this measure.
Physical labor on its own does not generate conscience. Every worker is different. Their temperament, their physique, their spirit, the kind of work they do, the toughness of their work, the conditions under which they labor — under a scorching sun or in an air-conditioned room — whether it is piecework or is salaried, whether the worker is disciplined or not, whether they have command of all their mental capacities or suffer from some disability, the schools they attended, teachers they had, whether the activity is a professional one or not, whether the worker is from the country or from the city. Something else very important: whether the worker handles or distributes goods or services of some kind, who the bosses are, what image they project, how they speak, the way they look at things. I could fill pages talking about the individual differences of every worker. Therefore, what the people in our country need most is knowledge, if what we want to do is create conscience.
Martí’s precept about the importance of linking education and work in the formation of man led us in the past to promote the participation of university students and even students from the middle-level education in physical labor. At first, this was an inescapable necessity. We had to fill the vacuum left by those who abandoned the sugar cane fields en masse as soon as other work opportunities appeared. The average level of knowledge was very low, even after the literacy campaign, the massive surge in primary education, and later at the junior high school level. Our youth understood this and contributed their efforts with discipline and enthusiasm.
Nowadays we have taken higher education to the masses, beginning with the physicians and educators and continuing with the social workers, those in the field of computer science, the art instructors, in the universalization of university courses for a wide variety of degree courses. We have to make the brain cells work if we want to build consciences, so necessary in today’s complex world.
The purpose of studying for one or two weeks, and this year it will only be for 7 days, with proper materials that will be supplied, will generate a feeling of satisfaction in time well spent and the conscience that our society urgently needs.
Throughout the entire year we must keep ourselves informed about essential matters and about the details of what is happening in Cuba and in the rest of the world.
On specific economic matters, I think that in every country, most people are unaware of everything. It is inescapable to know why the cost of oil is climbing; last Monday the price reached 77 dollars a barrel. Why the prices of foods are increasing, such as wheat and others which must be imported because of climate-related problems; if the cause of their increase is permanent or short-lived.
Not all workers receive the incentive of convertible pesos, a practice that became generalized in a large number of companies during the Special Period, without always fulfilling the minimum committed requirements. Not everybody receives convertible currency from abroad, something which is not illegal but which at times creates irritating inequalities and privileges in a country that does its utmost to supply vital services free of charge to the entire population. I do not mention the juicy profits being made by those who transport people clandestinely, nor the way they would fool us by changing the US bills into other currencies in order to avoid our response measures against the dollar.
The real and visible lack of equality and the lack of pertinent information gives way to critical opinions, especially in the neediest sectors.
In Cuba, without a doubt, those who some way or another receive convertible pesos — even though in these cases the sums are limited — or those receiving currency from abroad, also acquire free essential social services, food, medicines, and other goods at extremely low subsidized prices. However we are strictly fulfilling our financial obligations precisely because we are not a consumer society. We need serious, brave and conscientious managers.
Those using up gasoline all over the place with our current fleet of vehicles of all kinds; those who forget that the prices of food increase sharply and that raw materials for agriculture and industry, many of whose products are distributed to all at subsidized prices, must be acquired at market prices; those that forget that the country has the sacred duty to struggle until our last drop of blood and must spend money for raw materials and defensive measures faced with an enemy who is permanently on guard, they can compromise the independence and life of Cuba. We cannot fool around with that!
I was horrified when a few days ago I heard a distinguished bureaucrat exclaim on TV that now that the Special Period was over, we would be sending more and more delegations each year to such and such activities.
Where did this genius come from? I wondered. Perhaps it is a donation sent us by Sancho Panza from his Isle of Barataria.
In Cuba, the Special Period has abated; but the world has fallen prey to a very special period, and we must wait to see how it will come out in the end. Billions of dollars are wasted in fuel. Not just as professional wastrels, that’s a natural tendency, but also out of necessity to exchange thousands of ancient Soviet motors, from a time when there was gasoline aplenty, for Chinese motors that are very thrifty and have reasonable credit facilities. This program has fallen behind.
In the world economy, metals, just like oil, rise above their historical parameters, but they also plummet abruptly.
Of course, no one can remedy, in a short time, the need for oil in personal and public transportation and for agricultural or construction equipment. In developed countries everything is mechanized. Travelers describe how they see building after building, of all kinds, rising up, and that the pace does not stop, day or night. Cities are becoming gigantic. There are constantly more millions of people who need drinking water, vegetables, fruits, and protein foods that have had to be produced and supplied by others often after traversing great distances. Furthermore, they need highways with three or four lanes in both directions, bridges, expensive works of engineering. The least of accidents, a simple sideways brush between two vehicles, will paralyze everything. Public expenditures are greater every day and development assistance has decreased.
Worst of all, for every thousand people there are more than 500 private automobiles. In the United States that number reaches almost a thousand. People live or work at great distances. Everybody has their own garage. Every workplace has its own parking lot. There are not enough oil refineries. Many of them need to be expanded and also new plants must be constructed. The raw material for a refinery is oil; the heavier it is the more we need and for a long time now there have been no great oilfields of light oil coming to light. A strike in Nigeria, the war in Iraq, the threats to Iran, the old political conflicts in Europe, a tidal wave, a hurricane, all of these send prices sky high. The old and the new big consumers are always demanding more millions of barrels per day. Of course, new nuclear plants are growing at the same time. I am not discussing now the environmental or climate effects or dangers, but the uncertainties that they unleash upon the real economy.
After spending a mountain of gold to destroy Vietnam, Nixon replaced gold with paper bills, with hardly anyone noticing the consequences. The United States’ technological development was such, as was its capacity to produce industrial and agricultural merchandise, especially its enormous military powerhouse, that the replacement of gold by paper did not constitute a tragedy. Inflation of more than 10 % was produced, and it was controlled. This was followed by the United States military build-up voted in with papers, at the end of the Cold War, and the victory of the consumer society which dazzles nations with its orgy of apparent wellbeing. The empire acquired a large part of the world’s wealth with paper, imposing their United States laws there, scorning the sovereignty of nations.
The dollar went along progressively losing its value until it reached less than 6 percent of what its value had been in the 70’s. Experts are puzzled about the new phenomena. Nobody is sure about what is going to happen.
Do we have reasons to delve more deeply into these subjects, or not?
Fidel Castro Ruz
July 10, 2007
Raúl Castro Ruz is First Vice-President of the Council of State and General of the Army of Cuba. The above is an excerpt from his address on 26 July 2007, Cuba’s National Day of Rebellion commemorating the attack on Moncada on 26 July 1953. The Spanish text and an English translation of the address was published in Granma International on 27 July 2007. Fidel Castro Ruz is President of Cuba. His essay on “Cuba’s Self Criticism” was published in Granma International on 11 July 2007. The Spanish text is available at <www.granma.cubaweb.cu/secciones/reflexiones/esp-030.html>.