Compañeras, compañeros, delegates and guests,
It has been a good Congress, which actually began last October with the open meetings attended by hundreds of thousands of young people and continued with the evaluation meetings conducted by organizations from the rank and file as well as the municipal and provincial committees where the agreements were shaped that would be adopted in these final sessions.
If there is one thing we’ve had plenty of during the little over five years that have passed since Fidel made the closing speech at the Eighth Young Communist League (YCL) Congress, on December 5, 2004, it’s been work and challenges.
This Congress has been held in the midst of one of the most vicious and concerted media campaigns launched against the Cuban Revolution in its fifty years of existence, an issue to which I will necessarily refer 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 problems, looking internally and without spending more time than necessary on the analysis of external factors. It’s a style that ought to permanently characterize the work of the YCL in contrast to those who tend to look for the mote in their neighbor’s eye instead of expending such an effort on their own tasks.
It has been rewarding to listen to many young people directly linked to productive activities proudly and simply explaining the work they’re doing, barely mentioning the material difficulties and bureaucratic obstacles that affect them.
Many of the shortcomings analyzed are not new; they have accompanied the organization for quite some time. The previous congresses adopted corresponding agreements and yet they’ve been reiterated to a greater or lesser degree, which proves the lack of a systematic and thorough control of their completion.
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, most especially for the problems concerning the policy with cadres.
We cannot permit that, once again, approved documents become dead letters or shelved like memoirs. They should be a guide 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 once they themselves were young. It would be naïve to pretend that new generations are the same as those of the past. A wise proverb says: A man resembles his own time more than that of his parents.
Cuban youth have always been willing to meet challenges. They have proven it in the recovery from damages caused by hurricanes, confronting the enemy’s provocations and defense-related tasks; I might mention many more examples.
The average age of Congressional delegates is twenty-eight. All of them have grown up during these hard years of the Special Period and have participated in our people’s efforts to preserve the main achievements of socialism in the midst of a very complex economic situation.
It is precisely because of the importance of fully informing the vanguard of our youth about our economic situation, that in consideration of the positive experience resulting from the analysis of this same issue by the members of the National Assembly [of People’s Power], the Politburo Commission decided to offer the YCL municipal assemblies a report describing the present situation and its prospects, in all its crude reality. Over thirty thousand members of the YCL received this information, as well as the main leaders of the Party, the mass organizations and the government at various levels.
Today, more than ever before, the economic battle is the main task and focus of the ideological work of the cadres, because the sustainability and the preservation of our social system rest upon this work.
Without a sound and dynamic economy and without the removal of superfluous expenses and waste, it will neither be possible to improve the living standard of the population nor to preserve and improve the high levels of education and health care ensured to every citizen free of charge.
Without an efficient and robust agriculture that we can develop with the resources available to us, — without even dreaming of the large allocations of times past — we can’t hope to sustain and increase the amount of food provided to the population, that still depend so much on the import of products that might be cultivated in Cuba.
If 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 a love for work nor will we resolve the chronic lack of construction, farming and industrial workers; teachers, police and other indispensable trades that have steadily been disappearing.
If we do not build a firm and systematic social rejection of illegal activities and different manifestations of corruption, more than a few will continue to enrich themselves at the expense of the labor of the majority, while spreading attitudes that directly attack the essence of socialism.
If we maintain inflated payrolls in nearly every sector of national life and pay salaries that fail to correspond to results achieved, thus raising the amount of money in circulation, we cannot expect prices to cease climbing constantly or prevent the deterioration of people’s purchasing power. We know that the budgeted and business sectors have hundreds of thousands of excess workers; some analysts estimate that the surplus of people in work positions exceeds one million. This is an extremely sensitive issue that we must confront firmly and with political common sense.
The Revolution will not leave anyone without shelter. 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 giving work to everyone after providing several job offers. Citizens themselves should be the ones most interested in finding socially useful work.
In summary, to continue spending beyond our income is tantamount to consuming our future and jeopardizing the very survival of the Revolution.
We are facing really unpleasant realities, but we do not close our eyes to them. We are convinced that we need to break away from dogma and assume the ongoing upgrading of our economic model with firmness and confidence, in order to set the foundations for the irreversibility and development of Cuban socialism, which we know constitutes the guarantee of our national sovereignty and independence.
I know that some comrades sometimes get impatient and wish for immediate changes in many areas. Or course, I’m referring now to those who want this without intending to play the enemy’s game. We understand such concerns that generally stem from ignorance of the magnitude of the work ahead of us, of its depth and of the complexity of the interrelations between different elements in the functioning of society that will 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 resolution of a problem to cause a still greater one. With issues of strategic magnitude in the life of the entire nation we cannot let ourselves be driven by emotion and act without the requisite integration. As we have said, that is the only reason we decided to postpone a few more months the celebration of 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 youth have assumed with full responsibility and conviction. The slogan for this Congress is “Everything for the Revolution,” and that means, first and foremost, strengthening and consolidating the national economy.
Cuban youth are destined to take over from the generation that founded the Revolution, and in order to lead the masses with great strength, a convincing and mobilizing vanguard is required, for mobilization through personal example; a vanguard headed by firm, capable and prestigious managers, true leaders, not improvised ones; leaders who have passed through the irreplaceable forge of the working class where the most genuine values of a revolutionary are bred. Life has eloquently shown us the dangers that come with the violation of that principle.
Fidel said it clearly in his closing remarks at the Second 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 will learn to respect what work creates. We will teach respect for those goods as we teach how to create them.”
This idea that he stated thirty-eight years ago, and that was surely received with an ovation by that Congress, is another clear example of agreements that we reach and then do not fulfill.
Today more than ever we need cadres capable of carrying out effective ideological work that cannot be a dialogue of the deaf nor a mechanical repetition of slogans. We need managers who reason with sound arguments, without considering themselves the absolute owners of the truth; who know how to listen even if they don’t like what some people say; who are capable of examining other peoples’ views with an open mind, which does not exclude the need to energetically refute with sound arguments those views considered unacceptable.
Such leaders should foster open discussions and not consider discrepancy a problem but rather, 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 youth 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 take it upon themselves to confirm whether the selection was right.
We observe that progress is being made in the ethnic and gender composition of the organization. In this sense, we can neither afford regression nor superficiality; the YCL should always work on this. By the way, I recall that this was another thing that we agreed upon thirty-five years ago, in the First Party Congress; but we left its accomplishment to spontaneity and did not follow up on it as we should have, even when this was one of Fidel’s first statements since the victory of the Revolution and one he repeated a number of times.
As I told you at the beginning, this Congress has coincided with a huge smear campaign against Cuba, a campaign orchestrated, directed and financed by the centers of imperial power in the United States and Europe, hypocritically waving the banner of human rights.
They have cynically and shamefully manipulated the death of an inmate sentenced to jail on fourteen counts of common crimes, who by design and thanks to a repeated lie and an interest in receiving economic support from overseas was turned into a “political dissident,” a man who was incited to go on a hunger strike with absurd demands.
Despite our doctors’ efforts he died, something we also regretted at the time, and we denounced the only beneficiaries of this event, the same who are currently encouraging another individual to persist on a similar path of unacceptable blackmail. The latter is not in prison, despite all the slander. He is a free person who has already served his sentence for common crimes, specifically for assault and battery against a woman who is a doctor and director of a hospital, who he also threatened to kill, and later an old woman, nearly seventy years old, who as a consequence had to be subjected to surgery to remove her spleen. Just 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 also do not wish to see.
It is disgusting to see the double standard of those in Europe who keep a complicit silence about tortures in the so-called war on terrorism; who allowed clandestine CIA flights carrying prisoners, and even permitted the use of their territory for the establishment of secret prison centers.
What would they say if in breach of ethical standards, we had forcibly fed these people, as they have done habitually in many torture centers, including the one they have at the Naval Base at Guantánamo? By the way, these are the same who in their own countries, as we see on television almost on a daily basis, use police agents to charge on horseback against demonstrators, to beat them and shoot at them with tear-gas and even bullets. What do they say about the frequent abuse and humiliation to which they subject their immigrants?
The major Western press not only attacks Cuba; it has also initiated a new modality of implacable media terror against political leaders, intellectuals, artists and other personalities all over the world who speak out against fallacy and hypocrisy, and simply examine events with objectivity.
Meanwhile, it would seem that the standard-bearers of the highly vaunted freedom of the press have forgotten that the commercial and economic blockade against Cuba and all of its inhumane effects on our people is in full force and even reinforced; that the current U.S. Administration has not ceased in the slightest the support for subversion; that the unfair, discriminatory and interventionist Common Position adopted by the European Union, sponsored from the inception by the U.S. government and the Spanish far right-wing remains in place, calling for a regime change in our country, or to put it bluntly, for 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. If they try to corner us, they should know that we will defend ourselves, first of all with truth and principles. Once again we shall keep ourselves firm, calm and patient. Our history is rich in such examples!
That’s how our heroic mambises fought in our independence wars of the nineteenth century.
That’s how we defeated the last offensive of ten thousand fully armed troops sent against us by [Batista’s] tyranny, initially confronted by barely 200 rebel fighters who under the direct leadership of Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz, and for seventy-five days, — from May 24 through August 6, 1958 – waged more than a hundred war actions, including four battles in a small territory of between 406 and 437 square miles, that is, a smaller area than that of the City of Havana. That great operation determined the course of the war and just a little more than four months later the Revolution was victorious. This inspired Commander Ernesto Che Guevara to write in his war diary, and I quote: “Batista’s army ended this final offensive over the Sierra Maestra with its backbone shattered.”
Nor were we frightened by the Yankee fleet facing 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 U.S. military expedition on this continent.
And we did it again in 1962, during the October [Missile] Crisis. We did not give an inch despite the brutal threats of an enemy aiming their nuclear weapons at us and gearing for action to invade the island; nor did we flinch when the leaders of the Soviet Union — our main ally at that extremely difficult juncture, and upon whose support the fate of the Revolution depended — negotiated a solution to the crisis behind our backs. They 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 it would be very difficult for worse circumstances than those to repeat themselves.
More recently, the Cuban people offered an everlasting example of their capacity for resistance and their self confidence when, as a result of the demise of the socialist camp and the dismemberment of the Soviet Union, Cuba suffered a 35% drop in its GDP; the reduction of its foreign trade by 85%; 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 our 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 equipment, fertilizer, animal food and raw industrial materials, causing hundreds and hundreds of factories to be paralyzed and the sudden quantitative and qualitative deterioration of food supplies for our people to levels below those recommended for adequate nutrition.
We all suffered those warm summers of the first half of the 1990’s, when blackouts exceeded twelve 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 without bothering to conceal their jubilation, were sending their correspondents to Cuba with the intention of being the first to report 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 a people when they defend just ideas and a work built with so much sacrifice. Only a socialist regime, despite its deficiencies, can successfully pass such a huge test.
Therefore, we’re not losing any sleep over the current skirmishes in the offensive by international reactionaries, coordinated as usual, by those who can’t bring themselves to understand that this country will never be crushed, in one way or another, and that we would prefer to disappear, as we demonstrated in 1962.
This Revolution started only 142 years ago, on October 10, 1868. At the time, it was a fight against a decadent European colonialism, but always under the boycott of emerging U.S. imperialism that did not want our independence and waited for the “ripe fruit” to fall in its hands by “geographic gravity.” It finally 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 in the European Union with various unacceptable conditions.
We ask ourselves, “why?” And, we believe simply that it is because essentially the actors remain the same and they do not renounce their old aspirations of domination.
The young Cuban revolutionaries understand perfectly well that to preserve the Revolution and socialism, and to continue being dignified and free, they have many more years of struggle and sacrifices ahead of them.
At the same time, great challenges hang over humanity and it is up to the youth, in the first place, 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 engendered by capitalism.
Today, we are seven billion people on earth. Half of these are poor, while 1.02 billion are going hungry. It is worthwhile to ask oneself what will happen by the year 2050 when the world population climbs to nine billion and the living conditions on the planet have deteriorated even further?
The farce that concluded the most recent climate summit, in the Danish capital last December, proves that capitalism with its blind adherence to market laws will never solve this nor many other problems. Only conscience and the mobilization of the people, the political will of governments and the advancement of scientific and technological knowledge can prevent man’s extinction.
To conclude, I’d like to refer to 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 invasion at Playa Girón. We will celebrate these extraordinary events in every corner of our country, from Baracoa where they tried to land a battalion, up to the western-most end of the nation. In the capital, we will have a people’s march and a military parade, activities in which all workers, intellectuals and youth will be the principal protagonists.
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, will give another resounding response to this new international escalation of aggression.
Cuba does not fear lies nor does it kneel to pressure, conditions or impositions, from whichever direction. 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, forty-eight years ago. That historical April 4, 1962, Fidel said:
“Believing in youth 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 youth are competent, that youth are capable; the deep conviction that great tasks can be placed on their shoulders.”
That’s how it was yesterday, how it is today and how it will continue to be in the future.
Thank you very much.