We will never give in to coercion from any country or group of nations no matter how powerful they are

• Speech given by General of the Army Raúl Castro Ruz, president of the Councils of State and Ministers and second secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba at the closing session of the 9th congress of the Union of Young Communists, Havana, April 4, 2010, Year 52 of the Revolution 

Delegates and Guests,

Compañeros: 

We have had a good Congress, which really began last October with the open meetings attended by hundreds of thousand of youths and continued with the evaluation meetings of the grass roots organizations and municipal and provincial committees, during which the agreements adopted in these final sessions were shaped.  

If there is anything we have had plenty of over the past five years since Fidel made the closing speech at the 8th UJC Congress, on December 5, 2004, it has been work and challenges. 

This Congress has occurred in the midst of one of the most vicious and focused media campaigns launched against the Cuban Revolution in its 50 years, an issue I will refer to later on. 

Although I was unable to attend the meetings held prior to the Congress, I have been informed of the essential points that came out of each one of them. I am aware that there was little talk of achievements in order to focus on problems, looking inward and using only the time necessary to examine external factors.  

This is the method that should permanently characterize the work of the UJC in contrast to those that tend to look for the mote in the neighbor’s eye instead of undertaking the work that corresponds to them. 

It has been rewarding to listen to many young people who are directly linked to productive activities proudly explain, in simple words, what they do, barely mentioning the material difficulties and bureaucratic obstacles they have to face. 

Many of the shortcomings discussed here are not new; they have been facing the organization for quite a long time. Previous congresses adopted corresponding agreements; however, they have more or less been repeated, which is proof of the lack of a systematic and thorough control in their fulfillment.  

In this context, it is fair and necessary to repeat something reiterated by compañeros Machado and

Lazo, who have chaired many of the assemblies: the Party feels equally responsible for every flaw in the work of the UJC, particularly for the problems concerning the cadre policy.

We cannot permit that documents approved should turn into dead letters or get shelved like memoirs. They should become the 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 people are very critical of the youth of today while forgetting that they were once young too. It would be naïve to expect new generations to be the same as those of past times. A wise proverb goes: a man resembles his times more than those of his parents. 

Cuban youth has always been willing to take up challenges, as they proved during the recovery efforts from the damage caused by the hurricanes, the struggle against enemy provocations and defense-related tasks, just to mention a few examples. 

The average age of Congress delegates is 28. They grew up during the harsh years of the Special Period and have participated in our people’s efforts to preserve the central socialist achievements while confronting a very complex economic situation. 

It is precisely because of the importance of the youth vanguard being aware of the economic situation that the Political Bureau Commission – considering the positive experience of discussing the same issue with deputies from the National Assembly [of People’s Power] – decided to present the UJC municipal assemblies with information describing the present situation in all its severity and its prospects. Over 30,000 members of the UJC received this information, in the same manner as the principal leaders of the Party, mass organizations, and different levels of government. 

The slogan of this Congress is “Everything for the Revolution,” and that means, first and foremost, the strengthening and consolidation of the national economy. 

Today, more than never before, the economic battle is the principal task and the focus of the cadres’ ideological work, because the sustainability and the preservation of our social system depend on it.

Without a solid and dynamic economy and without the removal of superfluous expenses and waste, it will not be possible to improve the living standards of the population or 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, without dreaming about the large allocations of the past, we cannot expect to sustain and increase food supplies for the population, which still depend on importing products that could be grown in Cuba. 

If the people do not feel the need to work for a living because they are protected by extremely paternalistic and irrational state regulations, we will never be able to stimulate a love for work or resolve the chronic shortage of construction, agricultural and industrial workers; teachers, police agents and other indispensable trades that have steadily been disappearing. 

Without a solid and systematic social rejection of illegal activities and different expressions of corruption, more than a few people will continue to make fortunes at the expense of the labor of the majority, thus disseminating attitudes that directly attack the essence of socialism. 

If we maintain an inflated workforce in nearly every sector of national life and pay wages that bear no correspondence to the result of the work done, thus raising the amount of money in circulation, we cannot expect prices to halt their constant increase or prevent a decline in people’s purchasing power. We know that the budgeted and business sectors have hundreds of thousands of workers in excess; some analysts estimate that the surplus of excess workers is in excess of one million. This is an extremely sensitive issue that we should confront firmly and with political common sense. 

The Revolution will not leave anyone defenseless. It will fight 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 for everyone after they have been offered several different jobs. Citizens themselves should be the ones most interested in finding socially useful work. 

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 really unpleasant realities, but we are not closing our eyes to them. We are convinced that we need to break free from dogmas and firmly and confidently assume the upgrading of our economic model, which has already begun, in order to set the foundations for the irreversible nature and development of Cuban socialism, which we know is the guarantee of our national sovereignty and independence. 

I know that some compañeros sometimes despair and want immediate changes in many spheres. I am referring, of course, to those who do so without any intention of lending a hand to the enemy. We understand such concerns which, in general, stem from ignorance of the magnitude of the work ahead of us, the depth and complexity of interrelations among the different factors that make society operate and that must 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 just a few today. We cannot allow haste or improvisation on solving a problem to lead to an even greater one. With regards to matters of strategic importance for the life of the entire nation we cannot let ourselves be driven by emotion or act without the needed comprehensiveness. As we have explained, that is the only reason why we decided to postpone the Party Congress and the National Conference that will precede it by a few months.  

This is the greatest and most important challenge we face to ensure the continuity of the work built over five decades, which our youth has assumed with full responsibility and conviction. The slogan presiding over this Congress is “Everything for the Revolution,” and that means, first and foremost, the strengthening and consolidation of the national economy. 

Cuban youth has been called to take over from the generation that founded the Revolution. To lead the masses with their great strength requires a vanguard that is convincing and that has the capacity to mobilize through personal example; a vanguard headed by firm, capable and prestigious leaders; true leaders and not improvised leaders; leaders who have been shaped as members of the working class where the most genuine values of a revolutionary are bred. Life has eloquently shown the danger of violating that principle. 

Fidel stated it clearly in his closing remarks at the 2nd UJC Congress, on April 4, 1972, and I quote:

“Nobody can learn to swim on the ground, and nobody can walk on the sea. People are shaped by their environment; humans are shaped by their own lives, by their own activities.” 

And he concluded: “We will learn to respect what work creates. We will teach respect for those goods by teaching how to create them.” 

This idea, articulated 38 years ago, which surely received a standing 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 capable of undertaking effective ideological work, which cannot be a discussion among the deaf or a mechanical repetition of slogans. We need leaders who bring sound arguments to a 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 others viewpoints with an open mind, which does not exclude energetically refuting, with sound arguments, those viewpoints considered unacceptable. 

Such leaders should foster open discussions and not consider discrepancies a problem, but rather the source of the best solutions. In general, absolute unanimity is fictitious, and thus, 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 simulation 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 young people all over the island with the necessary disposition and capacity to take over leadership positions. The challenge is to find them, to train them and to gradually assign them greater responsibilities. The masses will then confirm if the selection was right. 

We observe that progress is being made in the ethnic and gender composition of the organization. It is a movement that can afford neither regression nor superficiality; the Union of Young Communists should work on this constantly. In passing, let me emphasize that this was one of the agreements we adopted 35 years ago during the 1st Party Congress. We left it to be spontaneously fulfilled and did not follow up on it as we should have done, even though this was one of Fidel’s first statements after the triumph of the Revolution, one he has repeated on a number of occasions. 

This Congress has coincided with an uncommon media attack on Cuba

As I said at the beginning, this Congress has coincided with an uncommon media attack on Cuba; a campaign that has been orchestrated, directed and financed by the centers of imperial power in the United States and Europe, which are hypocritically waving the human rights banner. 

They have cynically and shamefully manipulated the death of an inmate sentenced on 14 charges of common crimes that he committed. Due to a repeated lie, which was blown out of all proportion, and a thirst for economic support from overseas, he became a “political dissident,” who was incited to wage a hunger strike for absurd demands. 

Despite our doctors’ efforts, the man died, something we also regretted when it happened, and we condemned the sole beneficiaries of his death, the same forces that are currently encouraging another individual to continue with a similar attitude of unacceptable coercion. The latter, despite all the calumny, is not in prison. He is a man at liberty, who has already served his sentence for common crimes, specifically for the assault and battery of a woman, a doctor and hospital director whom he also threatened to kill, and later an elderly man of nearly 70 years old, who, as a consequence of the assault, required surgery to remove his spleen. As was done in the previous case, everything possible 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 an outcome that we do not wish for him either.  

The double standard of those in Europe is repugnant, given that they are the ones who maintained a complicit silence about the torture engaged in during the so-called war on terrorism, allowed clandestine CIA flights carrying prisoners to pass through their territories, and even permitted the use of their countries for the establishment of clandestine prisons. 

What would they say if we, like them, and in breach of ethical standards, had forcibly fed these people, as they have done on a daily basis in many torture centers, including the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base? Of course, as we see on television on almost a daily basis, these are the same people who, in their own countries, use police agents to charge demonstrators on horseback, to beat them and attack them with tear gas and even bullets. And what about the frequent abuse and humiliation of immigrants? 

The mass media in the West is not only attacking Cuba; it has also initiated a new form of relentless media terror against political leaders, intellectuals, artists and other personalities, who speak out all over the world against fallacy and hypocrisy, and who simply examine events objectively. 

Meanwhile, it would seem that the torch-bearers of the much trumpeted “freedom of the press” have forgotten that the economic and trade blockade of Cuba, and all of its inhumane effects on our people, is in full force and intensifying; that the current U.S. administration has not, even to the minimally, ceased to support subversion; that the unjust, discriminatory and interfering Common Position adopted by the European Union, sponsored from its inception by the U.S. government and the Spanish right wing, is still in force calling for a regime change in our country; or, in other words, for the destruction of the Revolution. 

More than half a century of permanent combat has taught our people that vacillation is synonymous with defeat. 

We will never yield to coercion 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 take cover, first and foremost with truth and principles. Once again we will be firm, calm, and patient. Our history is rich with such examples! 

That is how our heroic mambises (liberation fighters) fought during our wars of independence in the 19th Century. 

That is how we defeated the last offensive of 10,000 heavily armed troops of the dictatorship, who were initially confronted by barely 200 rebel fighters who, under the direct leadership of Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz, engaged in more than 100 combative actions, including four battles in a small territory of 406 to 437 square miles, an area smaller than Havana. That great operation, which lasted for 75 days – from May 24 through August 6, 1958 – determined the course of the war, and four months later the Revolution was victorious. This inspired an entry in Commander Ernesto Che Guevara’s campaign diary, which reads: “Batista’s army ended this last offensive in the Sierra Maestra with its backbone in tatters.” 

We were also not scared by the yanki fleet positioned within sight of Playa Girón in 1961. Under their very noses we annihilated their mercenary army, which amounted to the first defeat of a U.S. military venture in 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 that was aiming its nuclear weapons at us and preparing to invade the island. We also didn’t give an inch when the leaders of the Soviet Union – our central ally in such a predicament and on whose support the fate of the Revolution depended – who were negotiating a solution to the crisis behind our backs, respectfully tried to persuade us to accept inspections of the withdrawal from our territory of their nuclear weapons, and we responded that such inspection could possibly take place onboard their ships in international waters, but never in Cuba. 

Young Cuban revolutionaries have the clear understanding that to preserve the Revolution and socialism and to continue to have dignity and freedom, many more years of struggle and sacrifice still ahead lie ahead of them 

We are positive that it would be very difficult for worse circumstances than those mentioned above to repeat themselves.  

In more recent times, the Cuban people have illustrated 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 suffered a drop of 35% in its GDP; an 85% reduction of its foreign trade; the loss of markets for its main exports 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 the transportation, construction and agriculture sectors when we abruptly lost supplies of spare parts for machinery, fertilizers, animal feed and raw materials for industry, causing hundreds and hundreds of factories to be paralyzed, which 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 during those hot summers in the early 1990s, when blackouts exceeded 12 hours a day due to a lack of fuel to generate electricity. While all this was happening, scores of Western press agencies, some failing to conceal their delight, were sending their correspondents to Cuba with the intention of being the first to report on the definitive defeat of the Revolution. 

Amidst this dramatic situation, nobody was abandoned to their fate, which illustrated the strength that emanates from the unity of the 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 tough test.

Thus, we are not losing any sleep over the current skirmishes of the international reaction’s offensive, coordinated, as usual, by those who do not want to accept that this country will never be crushed, one way or another, and that we would rather disappear, as we proved in 1962. 

This Revolution started only 142 years ago, on October 10, 1868. At that time, the struggle was being fought against a decaying European colonialism, but we were always under the boycott of nascent U.S. imperialism, which did not want our independence until the “ripe fruit” would fall by “geographic gravity” into its hands. And so it happened after more than three decades of war and enormous sacrifices made by the Cuban people. 

Now the external actors have interchanged their roles. For more than half a century we have been attacked and continuously harassed by what is now the most 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 certain countries and reactionary political forces in the European Union with various unacceptable conditions. 

We ask ourselves, why? And, we think that it is simply because the actors are still essentially the same and have not renounced their old aspirations of dominance. 

Young Cuban revolutionaries have a clear understanding that in order to preserve the Revolution and socialism, and to continue to have dignity and freedom, many more years of struggle and sacrifices still lie ahead of them.  

At the same time, great challenges are hanging over humanity and it is the youth who have to confront them. It is about defending the very survival of the human species, threatened as never before by climate change, a situation accelerated by the reckless production and consumption patterns engendered by capitalism. 

Today, there are seven billion people on Earth. Half of this population is poor, while 1.02 billion suffering hunger. Thus, it is worthwhile to ponder what will happen in 2050 when the world’s population reaches nine billion and living conditions on the planet have deteriorated even further.

The recent summit that ended in the Danish capital last December turned into a farce and illustrated that capitalism, with its blind market laws, will never be able to solve this or many other problems. Only consciousness and the mobilization of the people, the political will of governments, and the advancement of scientific and technological knowledge can prevent humanity’s extinction. 

To conclude, I would like to refer to the fact that April of next year will mark half a century since the proclamation of the socialist nature of the Revolution and the crushing victory over the mercenary Bay of Pigs invasion. We shall celebrate these extraordinary events in every corner of our country, from Baracoa, where they tried to disembark a battalion, to the westernmost end of the nation. In the capital, we shall have a people’s march and a military parade. Young people, intellectuals, and workers will be the principal protagonists of all of these activities. 

In 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 aggressions. 

Cuba does not fear the lies nor does it bow to pressure, conditions or impositions, wherever they come from. It defends itself with the truth, which is established, and sooner rather than later.

The Union of Young Communists was born on a day like this, 48 years ago. On that historic April 4, 1962, Fidel stated:

“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 of homeland, faith in their homeland! Love of the Revolution, faith in the Revolution, and confidence in themselves! It is the profound conviction that youth can do it, that youth is capable; the profound conviction that great tasks can be placed on the shoulders of the youth.” 

That’s how it was yesterday, how it is today and how it will continue to be in the future.

Thank you very much.

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