Díaz-Canel: We have struggled for 150 years and we will continue to struggle, ever onward to victory
Speech delivered by Miguel M. Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, President of the Councils of State and Ministers, during the political-cultural commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the beginning of our independence struggle, in La Demajagua, Granma, October 10, 2018, Year 60 of the Revolution
october 12, 2018 15:10:00
Photo: Estudios Revolución
(Council of State transcript/GI translation)
Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee;
We are once again in La Demajagua, the place where we say: We are Cuba – with an abundance of patriotic sentiments.
We are Cuba: you, us, the history and this landscape are formidable; it looks like a canvas of the nation, with the sea and the mountain in the background, the mill’s old machinery embraced by a powerful ficus tree.
According to legend, which is the poetic version of history, no artist raised this monument. (Gesture). It was the work of nature.
After the uprising, in an act of ludicrous impotence, Spanish troops burnt the site, time went by, and a ficus tree grew over the old sugar mill’s drive wheel, to eternalize the event.
It is impossible to arrive here and not be moved by such a mystery. One more, among the many which have accompanied us, since we began the struggle for a free Cuba.
Today we come requesting permission from history to enter one of its sacred sites, to pay tribute to those who gave us a nation, and those who later rescued her, taking for themselves nothing more than sacrifice.
This site is beautiful, and at the same time, sublime, because here Carlos Manuel de Céspedes raised the soul of a newborn people against the colonial power that had tyrannized them for more than three centuries, and declared all free citizens, without distinction based on race or sex, interring forever the rotten foundations of a patriarchal, slave-holding society.
It is only right to honor the ground on which they rode together, under a torrential rainstorm - the former master and those who until that day had been his slaves.
Born here 150 years ago was the Cuban Revolution, and here, a century later, Fidel noted its unique character, from October 10, 1868, through our times.
One is moved, as well, to think that this bell - rung that glorious day to decree equal rights for all Cubans for the first time - would, in 1947, be taken to awaken the nation’s conscience, in the hands a young student, the same one who would return in 1968, having become the revolutionary leader Fidel Castro Ruz, to give us an unparalleled history lesson.
The centenary of October 10 is another event worthy of celebration. On this day, the name of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes took on greater meaning, as Father of the Homeland.
Until then, his famous statement that all Cubans were his children, when he refused to lay down his arms in exchange for the freedom of his son Oscar, was the explanation given in Cuban primary schools as to why we call him Father.
We lacked the powerful arguments regarding the meaning for Cuba of his first liberatory acts, an issue that had been debated a great deal among academics, but not in speeches on the date or in school books.
The reflections that day of someone passionate about history, like Fidel, were more than a speech, but rather a deeply felt invitation to revisit - with heart and mind definitively free of imported and reductionist lessons - the dramatic course of the process begun 100 years earlier, in this valley, so close to where he would return to the country, in 1956, with the expedition destined to recover the Revolution frustrated by foreign intervention, and within view of the mountains where the Centenary Generation would fight again for independence, with the same devotion shown by the nation’s founders.
I have re-read many times the words of Fidel during that solemn commemoration, and I have just extracted phrases that indicate its historical importance. All are transcendental and maintain a striking relevance, despite the fact that they were spoken when most of those gathered here today had yet to be born, and we were elementary school students.
Those with more age surely recall that day, also a rainy one, according to what Fidel himself said. And I have no doubt that it was where and when he said, “… in Cuba there has been a single revolution: that which Carlos Manuel de Céspedes began on October 10, 1868. And which our people carry forward at this moment.”
Remembering, however, is not enough. We must invite our children and grandchildren, today’s students, to extract the meaning of that statement, with which began the first public, political analysis of the most important chapter of the nation’s history.
Let us begin with his evaluation of the decisions made by Céspedes. Fidel says, “The story of many revolutionary movements is that they ended - the vast majority of them - in prison or in the grave.
“Undoubtedly, Céspedes had a very clear idea that the uprising could not result in much, nor could he risk taking the long route of perfecting an organization, an army equipped with large quantities of weapons, to begin the struggle…
“The history of our people over these 100 years confirms this axiomatic truth; if to fight, we wait to first assemble the ideal conditions, have all the necessary weapons, assure supplies, then the struggle would never begin…”
Facing the enormous challenges of Cuba today, condemned by the U.S. blockade to a shortage of material resources that makes prosperity appear impossible, it is imperative to resume Fidel’s 1968 analysis.
Facing the reality of that first day as Cubans, an idea held by only a few dozen men, almost all unarmed and soaked by the rain, the extraordinary power of a revolutionary ideal was revealed. Instead of waiting for better times, the insurgents at La Demajagua euphorically threw themselves into making a revolution that would cost them, at that first moment, all the wealth they possessed, if not their very lives.
Those who measure their luck, or that of their country, with possessions would say: “They lost everything.” Only those who believe in the homeland would understand the truth: “They gave us everything. Even what we did not have: freedom.”
So then, we know that, yes, it is possible to triumph, starting with nothing, at times with no weapons other than morality and patriotism. And that from a struggle under the worst circumstances, emerges the vast reservoir of courage and perseverance which has made the Cuban people what we are: a sovereign, independent nation, proud of our history, something that is nothing more than an unreachable dream for many nations in our region and the world.
Céspedes’ decision to free the slaves, that would not find consensus among the insurgents a year later at the Guáimaro Assembly, is another act which Fidel described in his comments as radically revolutionary. With this, Céspedes was again ahead of his contemporaries, and it was perhaps then, not later, when he earned the title of Father of all Cubans.
Because the new nation could not overlook one of its great strengths: the children of the African men and women who emigrated by the force of the whip and colonial power, whose descendents reached the highest ranks in the wars of independence and in the dignifying act of being a Cuban national, as Antonio Maceo would prove throughout his exemplary life, he who in Baraguá, as Fidel said, “… saves the flag, saves the cause, and places the revolutionary spirit of the newborn people at its highest level…”
We again say, “We are Cuba,” when we recall the bravest of the warriors, the mestizo, son of a lion and lioness, that was not satisfied with the glory of being the Mambi officer most feared by his adversaries, and filled the book of his life with pages of such dignity, that reviewing it today, makes more just and more necessary the persistent demand, of Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, to protect and encourage the humanist legacy of Céspedes, who put the Black man alongside the white, and not behind. Not at his service, but as an equal.
He called them citizens right away, without distinction. The inheritor of this first law, which even before being written had dignified human beings (fighting) in the scrub, our National Assembly, the nation’s supreme power, bears today, and must forever, the colors that made Cuba invincible. Blacks, mixed race, mestizos are needed by the country of our future, just as they brought glory to the country in our honorable past.
On today’s date, almost 20 years after the uprising at La Demajagua, in a commemoration with émigrés in New York, José Martí, excited by the emotion of an auditorium of Cuban patriots, said, “This date, this religious enthusiasm, the presence (...) of those who, on a day like this, abandoned welfare to obey honor (...) those who fell to the ground giving birth, as heroes always fall, demands from the lips of man such words that, when you cannot speak with sunbeams, with the headiness of victory, with the holy joy of the armies of freedom, the only language worthy is silence. I do not know that there are words worthy of this moment.”
When reading this, listening to Martí, one feels the need to be silent. If the owner of words believes none exist that merit being spoken, who can dare to speak. But the Apostle himself, with this speech, left us a guide to not remaining silent, asking ourselves, “Why are we here? What motivates us, more than our gratitude, to gather to commemorate our fathers?”
And our generation responds: If in 1968, a historical analysis based on Marxist concepts was needed, to replace all the laurels that the interventionists had snatched, today this same history is demanding of us review and learning, indispensable to our moving to a higher stage of the same Revolution that has not ceased 150 years after it began.
The two ’68s that precede us, bear lessons, and between one and the other, the country we are today has been shaping itself.
Fidel said in 1968 that if we do not understand the historical process of the Revolution, “We won’t know anything about politics.” And he called on us to learn and study history. Why? What for, the naive may ask, or those who believe that subjective factors play no role in the country’s destiny. Well then, for the same reasons that our adversaries ask us to turn the page and forget history.
Because herein lie the keys to all our defeats and failures, which we have had and very painful ones, throughout the 150 years of struggle, but also the keys to our resistance and the victories.
Cuban education, at all grades and levels, has the inescapable duty to study this chapter of our history, through Fidel’s speech of 1968, along with two others, inseparable from the first: that of March 13, 1865, on the University of Havana Grand Stairway, and that of May 11, 1973, in Jimaguayú. This magnificent triad, worthy of the extraordinary intellectual and orator who delivered them, allows us, as no other fountain, to drink in the value of unity and understand the profound meaning of the short phrase we have chosen to identify ourselves on social media and other arenas imposed by current communications: We are Cuba.
When on October 10, 1868, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes read his vibrant manifesto to “compatriots and all nations,” he was establishing invariable principles, that make the Revolution unique, and I continue:
“Cuba aspires to be a great, civilized nation, to extend a friendly hand and fraternal heart to all other peoples, and if Spain itself agrees to leave us free and tranquil, we will hold her to our breast like the loving daughter of a good mother. But if Spain persists in its system of domination and extermination, it will cut all of our necks, and those of who may come to take our place, before being able to make Cuba, forever a vile herd of slaves.”
Let us change the name of Spain in these words to that of the contemporary power, which for 60 years now has hounded us, and we will find the solution, and the invariable position in our chosen destiny. The Revolution is the same one.
And also identical are the challenges: an imperial attack from abroad; an annexationist tendency of a few within - of those who do not believe that the homeland can stand on its own strength - and as our only salvation: unity.
Martí and Fidel saw it and warned us, both in their own time. Both learned from previous history that only disunion has been able to defeat the country.
At this time, as we discuss, among all, what the model society we owe ourselves will look like, thinking about Céspedes is a must, thinking about the men and women who at his side became founding leaders, and about everything that frustrated their dreams, so close to our own. The breaking of unity was always the fundamental cause of defeats and setbacks.
A century after Martí’s birth, the generation which would vindicate his noble aspirations of regrouping and uniting defenders of the Revolution’s continuators, emerged on the historical horizon in Cuba. I refer to our historic generation, the venerable vanguard that never shirked its responsibility or commitment to the humble.
Here today, the homeland’s youngest sons and daughters have reaffirmed the message to new generations, expressing the firm commitment that we will not give up; we will not betray; and we will never surrender.
Let us assume as our own, with the firm decision of continuity, the words of Fidel, that October 10, 1968, “… because this people, just as it struggled for 100 years for its destiny, is capable of struggling another 100 for this same destiny.”
We have struggled 150 years and we will continue struggling, always onward to victory.
Long live a free Cuba! (Shouts of Viva!)
Eternal glory to Carlos Manuel de Céspedes! (Shouts of Gloria!)
Long live October 10! (Shouts of Viva!)
Long live the heroic Cuban people and their 100-year struggles! (Shouts of Viva!)
Long live Fidel and Raúl! (Shouts of Viva!)
Socialism or death!
Homeland or death!