Address by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, President of the State Council and the Council of Ministers and Second Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee, at the Closing Session of the 9th Congress of the Young Communist League, Havana, 4 April 2010, Year 52 of the Revolution
Comrades, delegates, and guests:
We have had a good Congress, which really began last October with the open meetings attended by hundreds of thousands of youths and continued with the evaluation meetings of the rank-and-file organizations and of the municipal and provincial committees where the agreements were worked out that would be adopted in these final sessions.
If there is anything we have had aplenty in the little over five years that have passed since Fidel made the closing speech at the 8th YCL Congress, on December 5, 2004, that is work and challenges.
This Congress has been held in the midst of one of the most vicious and best organized media campaigns launched against the Cuban Revolution in its 50 years of life, an issue I will necessarily have to refer to later on.
Although I was unable to attend the meetings held prior to the Congress, I have been informed of the essentials of every one of them. I am aware that there has been little talk about achievements in order to focus on the problems and to look inside the organization, avoiding the use of more time than necessary to examine the external factors. Such is the style that should permanently characterize the work of the YCL in contrast with those that tend to look for the mote in the neighbor’s eye instead of doing what it is their job to do.
It has been rewarding to listen to many youths directly linked to productive activities to proudly explain in simple words what they do, barely mentioning the material difficulties and bureaucratic obstacles they must face.
Many of the shortcomings discussed here are not new; they have accompanied the organization for quite a long time. The previous congresses had adopted the corresponding agreements on them; however, they have more or less been reiterated, which is proof of the lack of a systematic and thorough control of their accomplishment.
In this sense, it is fair and necessary to repeat something reiterated by comrades Machado and Lazo, who chaired many of the assemblies: the Party feels equally responsible for every flaw in the work of the YCL, especially for the problems concerning the policy with cadres.
We cannot allow the approved documents to become a dead letter or kept in a drawer like memoirs again. They should become the guidelines for the everyday work of the National Bureau and for every member of the organization. You have already agreed on the basics; now you should act on them.
Some are very critical about the youth of today while forgetting that they were young, too. It would be naïve to pretend that the new generations are the same as those of past times. A wise proverb goes: A man resembles his times more than he does his parents.
The Cuban youths have always been willing to take up challenges. They have proved it in the recovery from the damages caused by the hurricanes, the fight against the enemy’s provocations, and the tasks of national defense, just to mention some examples.
The average age of the Congress delegates is 28. They have grown up during these hard years of the Special Period and taken part in our people’s efforts to preserve the main socialist conquests while facing up to a very complex economic situation.
Precisely because it is important for the youth’s vanguard to become aware of our economic situation, the Political Bureau’s Commission — considering the positive experience of the analysis of the same issue made with the Deputies to the National Assembly — decided to offer the YCL municipal assemblies information describing in all its crude reality the present situation and its prospects. Over 30,000 members of the YCL received this information, just like the main leaders of the Party and of the mass organizations and the government at various levels.
Today, more than ever before, the economic battle is the main task and the focus of the ideological work of the cadres, because it is on this battle that the sustainability and preservation of our social system rests.
Without a solid and dynamic economy and without the removal of superfluous expenses and waste, it will be impossible either to improve the living standard of the population or to preserve and improve the high levels of education and healthcare ensured to every citizen free of charge.
Without an efficient and robust agriculture that we can develop with the resources available to us, avoiding the dream of the large allocations of the past, we can’t expect to sustain and raise the amount of food provided to the population, who still largely depends on the import of products that can be grown in Cuba.
If the people do not feel the need to work for a living because they are covered by excessively paternalistic and irrational state regulations, we will never be able to stimulate love for work or resolve the chronic lack of construction, agricultural, and industrial workers, teachers, police officers, and other indispensable trades that have gradually been disappearing.
If we do not firmly and systematically reject illegal activities and diverse manifestations of corruption, more than a few will continue to make fortunes at the expense of the majority’s labor while disseminating attitudes that directly attack the essence of socialism.
If we keep the inflated payrolls in nearly every sector of national life and pay salaries that fail to correspond with the result of work, thus raising the amount of money in circulation, we cannot expect the prices to cease climbing constantly or prevent the deterioration of the people’s purchasing power. We know that the budgeted and entrepreneurial sectors have hundreds of thousands of excess workers; some analysts estimate that the number of excess workers exceeds one million. This is an extremely sensitive issue that we should confront firmly and with political common sense.
The Revolution will not leave anyone helpless. It will strive to create the necessary conditions for every Cuban to have a dignified job, but this does not mean that the State will be responsible for providing a job to everyone even after making several job offers. The citizens themselves should be the ones most interested in finding a socially useful job.
In summary, to continue spending beyond our income is tantamount to eating up our future and jeopardizing the very survival of the Revolution.
We are facing none too pleasant realities, but we do not close our eyes to them. We are convinced that we need to break away from dogma and continue firmly and confidently the ongoing upgrading of our economic model in order to set the foundations of the irreversibility of the Cuban socialism and its development, which we know are the guarantee of our national sovereignty and independence.
I know that some comrades sometimes get impatient, wishing for immediate changes in many areas. Or course, I mean those who want to make changes but not with the intention to play along with the enemy. We understand such concerns, which, generally, stem from ignorance of the magnitude of the work ahead of us, of its depth and of the complexity of the interrelations between the different elements that make society work and that will have to be modified.
Those who are asking us to go faster should bear in mind the list of issues that we are studying, of which I have mentioned only a few today. We cannot allow haste or improvisation in the solution of a problem to lead to a greater one. With regard to issues of strategic dimension for the life of the entire nation, we cannot let ourselves be driven by emotion and act without necessary comprehensiveness. As we have said, that is the only reason why it was decided to postpone for a few more months the Party Congress and the National Conference that will precede it.
This is the greatest and most important challenge we face to ensure the continuity of the work built in these five decades, the same that our youths have assumed with full responsibility and conviction. The slogan of this Congress is “Everything for the Revolution,” and that means, foremost, the strengthening and consolidation of the national economy.
The Cuban youth is destined to take over from the generation that founded the Revolution; and leading the masses who have great strength requires a vanguard who can convince and mobilize through personal example — a vanguard headed by firm, capable, and esteemed leaders, true leaders, not improvised ones, leaders who have been through the irreplaceable forge of the working class where the most genuine values of a revolutionary are bred. Life has eloquently shown the dangers that come with the violation of that principle.
Fidel said it clearly in his closing remarks at the 2nd YCL Congress, on April 4, 1972, and I quote: “No one will learn to swim on the ground, and no one will walk on the sea. A man is shaped by his environment; a man is made by his own life, by his own activity.” And he concluded: “It is by creating that we shall learn to respect what work creates. We shall teach to respect those goods as we teach how to create them.” This idea that he stated 38 years ago, and that was surely received with an ovation by that Congress, is another clear proof of the agreements that we reach and then do not fulfill.
Today more than ever we need cadres who can carry on an effective ideological work that cannot be a dialogue of the deaf or a mechanical repetition of slogans. We need leaders who bring sound arguments to the discussion, who do not think they own the absolute truth; leaders who are good listeners even if they don’t like what some people say; leaders who are capable of examining other peoples’ views with an open mind, which does not exclude the need to refute, with sound arguments and energy, unacceptable views.
Such leaders should foster open discussions and should not consider disagreement a problem but rather see it as the source of the best solutions. In general, absolute unanimity is fictitious and therefore harmful. When contradictions are not antagonistic, as in our case, they can become the driving force of development. We should deliberately suppress anything that feeds pretense and opportunism. We should learn to work collegially, to encourage unity, and to strengthen collective leadership; these features should characterize the future leaders of the Revolution.
There are youths all over the island with the necessary disposition and capacity to take on leading positions. The challenge is to find them, to train them, and to gradually assign them greater responsibilities. The masses will confirm if the selection is right.
We observe that progress is being made in the ethnic and gender composition of the organization. In this sense, we can afford neither regression nor superficiality; the Young Communist League should work on this permanently. By the way, allow me to recall this was another thing that we agreed upon 35 years ago, in the First Party Congress; but we left its accomplishment to spontaneity and did not follow up on it as we should, even when this was one of Fidel’s first statements after the victory of the Revolution and one he has repeated a number of times.
As I said at the beginning, the celebration of this Congress has coincided with a huge smear campaign against Cuba, a campaign orchestrated, directed, and financed by the imperial power centers in the United States and Europe, hypocritically waving the banners of human rights.
They have cynically and shamefully manipulated the death of an inmate sentenced to jail on 14 charges of common crimes, who, thanks to a repeated lie and because of an interest in receiving economic support from overseas, was turned into a “political dissident,” a man who was induced to persevere on a hunger strike making absurd demands.
Despite our doctors’ efforts the man died, which we also regretted when it happened, while denouncing the only beneficiaries of his death, the same ones who are currently encouraging another individual to persist on a similar attitude of unacceptable blackmail. The latter is not in prison, despite all the slandering. He is a free person who has already served his sentence for common crimes, specifically for assault and battery of a woman, who is a doctor and director of a hospital whom he moreover threatened to kill, and later of an old lady, nearly 70 years old, who as a consequence had to undergo surgery to remove her spleen. Still, as in the previous case, everything is being done to save his life; but if he does not modify his self-destructive behavior, he will be responsible, together with his sponsors, for the outcome we do not wish.
It is disgusting to see the double standard of those in Europe who keep complicit silence about tortures in the so-called war on terrorism, allowed clandestine CIA flights carrying prisoners, and even permitted the use of their territory for the establishment of secret prisons.
What would they say if we had imitated them and, in breach of ethical standards, had forcibly fed these people, as they have usually done in many torture centers, including the one they have in the Guantanamo Naval Base? By the way, these are the same people who, in their own countries, as we see on television almost on a daily basis, use police to charge on horseback against demonstrators, to beat them and attack them with teargas and even bullets. And what about the frequent abuse and humiliation of immigrants?
The mainstream press in the West not only attack Cuba; they have also initiated a new modality of implacable media terror against the political leaders, intellectuals, artists, and other personalities all over the world who are speaking out against fallacy and hypocrisy and who are simply examining the events with objectivity.
Meanwhile, it would seem that the standard-bearers of the oft-trumpeted freedom of the press have forgotten that the economic and trade blockade against Cuba with all its inhumane effects on our people is in full force and even tightened; that the current US administration has not ceased to support subversion; that the unfair, discriminatory, and interfering Common Position adopted by the European Union, sponsored from its inception by the US government and the Spanish right wing, is still in force, demanding a regime change in our country or, to put it bluntly, the destruction of the Revolution.
More than half a century of permanent combat has taught our people that hesitation is synonymous with defeat.
We will never yield to blackmail from any country or group of countries, no matter how powerful they might be, and regardless of the consequences. We have the right to defend ourselves. Let them know that if they try to corner us, we will defend ourselves, first of all with truth and principles. Once again we shall keep ourselves firm and steady, and we shall be patient. Our history is rich in such examples!
That’s how our heroic mambises fought in our independence wars of the 19th Century.
That’s how we defeated the last offensive of ten thousand troops sent against us by the tyranny, who were initially confronted by barely 200 rebel fighters, under the direct leadership of Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz, engaging for 75 days — from May 24 through August 6, 1958 — in more than 100 combat actions, including four battles in a small territory of 406 to 437 square miles, that is, a smaller area than that of Havana City. That great operation determined the course of the war and shortly four months later the Revolution was victorious. This inspired Commander Ernesto Che Guevara to make an entry in his campaign diary, which I quote: “Batista’s army ended up with its backbone broken by this last offensive on the Sierra Maestra.”
Neither were we scared by the Yankee fleet positioned in sight of the coasts of Playa Girón [Bay of Pigs] in 1961. It was under their very nose that we annihilated their mercenary army in what would be the first defeat of a US military adventure in this continent.
And again we did it in 1962, during the October [Missile] Crisis. We did not give in an inch despite the brutal threats of an enemy aiming their nuclear weapons at us and gearing up for action to invade the island; neither did we when, negotiating the solution to the crisis behind our backs, the leaders of the Soviet Union — our main ally in such a predicament, on whose support the fate of the Revolution depended — respectfully tried to persuade us to accept inspection, on our national territory, of the withdrawal of their nuclear weapons, and we responded that such inspection could eventually take place on board their ships in international waters, but never in Cuba.
We are sure that worse circumstances than those are unlikely to come.
More recently, the Cuban people offered an everlasting example of their capacity for resistance and their confidence in themselves when, as a result of the demise of the Socialist camp and the dismemberment of the Soviet Union, Cuba sustained a 35% fall in its GDP; an 85% reduction in its foreign trade; the loss of markets for its main export items such as sugar, nickel, citrus, and others whose prices plummeted by half; the loss of soft credits with the subsequent interruption of numerous crucial investments like the first Nuclear Power Station and the Cienfuegos Refinery; the collapse of transportation, construction, and agriculture as we abruptly lost the supply of spare parts for the equipment, fertilizers, animal feed, and raw material for the industry, which caused hundreds and hundreds of factories to be paralyzed and led to the sudden quantitative and qualitative deterioration of food supplies for our people to levels below those recommended for adequate nutrition. We all suffered those hot summers of the first half of the 1990s, when the blackouts exceeded 12 hours a day due to the lack of fuel for electricity generation. And, while all this was happening, scores of Western press agencies, some of them with ill-concealed glee, were sending their correspondents to Cuba with the intention of getting the first reports of the final defeat of the Revolution.
Amidst this dramatic situation, no one was left to their own fate; this gave further evidence of the strength stemming from the unity of the people who defend ideas of justice and the result of work built with so much sacrifice. Only a socialist regime, despite its deficiencies, can successfully pass such a tough test.
Thus, we do not lose any sleep over the current skirmishes with the international Reaction’s offensive, coordinated, as usual, by those who do not want to accept the fact that this country will never be crushed, in any way, and that we would rather disappear than give in as we demonstrated in 1962.
This Revolution started only 142 years ago, on October 10, 1868. Then, it was a fight against a decaying European colonialism, but we were always boycotted by the emerging US imperialism that did not want our independence and waited for the “ripe fruit” to fall in its hands by “geographic gravity.” And so it happened after more than three decades of war and enormous sacrifices made by the Cuban people.
Now the external actors have exchanged roles. For over half a century we have been attacked and continuously harassed by the now modern and most powerful empire on the planet, assisted by the boycott implied in the insulting Common Position, which remains intact thanks to the pressure of some countries and reactionary political forces of the European Union with various unacceptable conditions.
We ask ourselves: why? We believe it is simply because essentially the actors are still the same and they do not renounce their old aspirations of dominance.
The young Cuban revolutionaries have a clear understanding that, to preserve the Revolution and Socialism, and to continue to have dignity and be free, they still have many more years of struggle and sacrifices ahead.
At the same time, great challenges hang over humanity and it is the first duty of the youth to tackle them. They should defend the survival of the human species threatened like never before by climate change, a situation accelerated by the reckless production and consumption patterns fathered by capitalism.
Today, we are seven billion people on Earth. Half of this population is poor, while 1.02 billion are going hungry. Thus, it is worth asking ourselves what will happen in 2050 when the world population rises to 9 billion and the living conditions on the planet become more deteriorated.
The travesty in which the latest climate summit in the Danish capital ended, last December, shows that capitalism with its blind laws of the market will never solve this nor many other problems. Only the awareness and mobilization of the peoples, the governments’ political will, and the advancement of scientific and technological knowledge can prevent man’s extinction.
To conclude, I’d like to mention the fact that on April next year it will be half a century since the proclamation of the Socialist nature of the Revolution and of the crushing victory over the mercenary Playa Girón invasion. We shall celebrate these extraordinary events in every corner of our country, from Baracoa where they tried to disembark a battalion up to the westernmost end of the nation. In the capital, we shall have a popular march and a military parade, and the youths, the intellectuals, and the workers will be the protagonists of every activity.
Within a few days, on May 1st, our revolutionary people throughout the country, in public squares and in the streets that belong to them by right, shall give another resounding response to this new international escalation of aggressions.
Cuba does not fear the lies nor does it bow to pressures, conditions, or impositions, wherever they come from. It defends itself with the truth, which always, sooner rather than later, ends up being known.
The Young Communist League was born on a day like this, 48 years ago. That historical April 4, 1962, Fidel stated in concluding:
Believing in young people is seeing in them not only enthusiasm but capacity; not only energy but responsibility; not only youth, but purity, heroism, character, willpower, love for their homeland, faith in their homeland! Love for the Revolution, faith in the Revolution, and confidence in themselves! It is the deep conviction that the youth can do it, that the youth is capable of doing it — the deep conviction that the youth can carry on great tasks.
That’s how it was yesterday, how it is today, and how it will continue to be in the future.
Thank you very much.