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July 26, 2013 - No. 92 Supplement

Speech by Fidel Castro on the
50th Anniversary of the Attack on the Moncada Barracks (Excerpts)

50 Years of Resistance and Relentless Struggle

Fidel Castro speaking at celebration of 50th Anniversary of Attack on Moncado Barracks. (W. Lippmann)

TML is posting below excerpts from the text of the speech delivered by Cuban President Fidel Castro in Santiago de Cuba on July 26, 2003 at a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the attack on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Cespedes Barracks in 1953. Some 10,000 people participated in the ceremony, which included thousands of invited guests from 20 countries, at the site of the barracks which has been converted into a school and museum. Since then, ten more years of militant struggle have been added to Comrade Fidel's life and we send him our social love and very best wishes. We reprint the speech from that occasion because of its description by Fidel of the conditions in which Cuba languished in 1953 when the events took place and their significance to the generations which fought then and now. "

"Educating the people about the truth, with words and irrefutable facts, has perhaps been the fundamental factor in the grandiose feat that our people have achieved," Fidel said. "Those humiliating realities have been crushed, despite blockades, threats, aggressions, massive terrorism and the unrestrained use of the most powerful media in history against our Revolution."

The speech follows:


It seems almost unreal to be here in this same place 50 years after the events we are commemorating today, which took place that morning of July 26, 1953. I was 26 years old back then; today, 50 more years of struggle have been added to my life.

Way back then, I could not have imagined for even a second that this evening, the few participants in that action who are still alive would be gathered here, together with those, gathered here or listening to us all around the country, who were influenced by or participated directly in the Revolution; together with those who were children or teenagers back then; with those who were not even born yet and today are parents or even grandparents; with whole contingents of fully fledged men and women, full of revolutionary and internationalist glory and history, soldiers and officers in active duty or the reserves, civilians who have accomplished veritable feats; with a seemingly infinite number of young combatants; with dedicated workers or enthusiastic students, as well as some who are both at the same time; and with millions of children who fill our imagination of eternal dreamers. And once again, life has given me the unique privilege of addressing all of you.

I am not speaking here on my own behalf. I am doing it in the name of the heroic efforts of our people and the thousands of combatants who have given their lives throughout half a century. I am doing it too, with pride for the great work they have succeeded in carrying out, the obstacles they have overcome, and the impossible things they have made possible.

Fidel imprisoned in 1953.

In the terribly sad days that followed the action, I explained to the court where I was tried the reasons that led us to undertake this struggle.

At that time, Cuba had a population of less than six million people. Based on the information available back then, I gave a harsh description, with approximate statistics, of the situation facing our people 55 years after the U.S. intervention. That intervention came when Spain had already been militarily defeated by the tenacity and heroism of the Cuban patriots, and it frustrated the goals of our long war of independence when in 1902 it established a complete political and economic control over Cuba.

The forceful imposition on our first Constitution of the right of the U.S. government to intervene in Cuba and the occupation of national territory by U.S. military bases, together with the total domination of our economy and natural resources, reduced our national sovereignty to practically nil.

I will quote just a few brief paragraphs from my statements at that trial on October 16, 1953

"Six hundred thousand Cubans without work."

"Five hundred thousand farm labourers who work four months of the year and starve the rest."

"Four hundred thousand industrial workers and labourers whose retirement funds have been embezzled, whose homes are wretched quarters, whose salaries pass from the hands of the boss to those of the moneylender, whose life is endless work and whose only rest is the tomb."

"Ten thousand young professionals: medical doctors, engineers, lawyers, veterinarians, school teachers, dentists, pharmacists, journalists, painters, sculptors, etc., who finish school with their degrees anxious to work and full of hopes, only to find themselves at a dead end, with all doors closed to them."

"Eighty-five per cent of the small farmers in Cuba pay a rent and live under constant threat of being evicted from the land they till."

Cuban peasants rejoice at receiving land titles as part of
the agrarian reform in 1959.

"There are two hundred thousand peasant families who do not have a single acre of land to till to provide food for their starving children."

"More than half of our most productive land is in foreign hands."

"Nearly three hundred thousand caballerías (over three million hectares) of arable land owned by powerful interests remain idle."

"Two million two hundred thousand of our urban population pay rents that take between one fifth and one third of their incomes."

"Two million eight hundred thousand of our rural and suburban population lack electricity."

"The little rural schoolhouses are attended by a mere half of the school age children who go barefoot, half-naked and undernourished."

"Ninety per cent of the children in the countryside are sick with parasites."

"Society is indifferent to the mass murder of so many thousands of children who die every year from lack of resources."

"From May to December over a million people are jobless in Cuba, with a population of five and a half million."

"When the head of a family works only four months a year, how can he purchase clothing and medicine for his children? They will grow up with rickets, with not a single good tooth in their mouths by the time they reach thirty; they will have heard ten million speeches and will finally die of poverty and disillusion. Public hospitals, which are always full, accept only patients recommended by some powerful politician who, in return, demands the votes of the unfortunate one and his family so that Cuba may continue forever in the same or worse condition."

Perhaps the most important statement I made about the economic and social situation was the following:

"The nation's future, the solutions to its problems, cannot continue to depend on the selfish interests of a dozen big businessmen nor on the cold calculations of profits that ten or twelve magnates draw up in their air-conditioned offices. The country cannot continue begging on its knees for miracles from a golden fleece, like the one mentioned in The Old Testament destroyed by the prophet's fury. Golden fleece cannot perform miracles of any kind.... Statesmen whose statesmanship consists of preserving the status quo and mouthing phrases like 'absolute freedom of enterprise,' 'guarantees to investment capital' and 'law of supply and demand,' will not solve these problems."

"In this present-day world, social problems are not solved by spontaneous generation."

These statements and ideas described a whole underlying thinking regarding the capitalist economic and social system that simply had to be eliminated. They expressed, in essence, the idea of a new political and social system for Cuba, although it may have been dangerous to propose such a thing in the midst of the sea of prejudices and ideological venom spread by the ruling classes, allied to the empire and imposed on a population where 90 per cent of the people were illiterate or semi-literate, without even a sixth-grade education; discontent, combative and rebellious, yet unable to discern such an acute and profound problem. Since then, I have held the most solid and firm conviction that ignorance has been the most powerful and fearsome weapon of the exploiters throughout all of history.

Educating the people about the truth, with words and irrefutable facts, has perhaps been the fundamental factor in the grandiose feat that our people have achieved.

Those humiliating realities have been crushed, despite blockades, threats, aggressions, massive terrorism and the unrestrained use of the most powerful media in history against our Revolution.

The statistics leave no room for doubt.

It has since been possible to more precisely determine that the real population of Cuba in 1953, according to the census taken that year, was 5,820,000. The current population, according to the census of September 2002, now in the final phase of data processing, is 11,177,743.

 A young Pioneeer participates in Cuba's program to eliminate illiteracy in 1961, which is today world-renowned.

The statistics tell us that in 1953, a total of 807,700 people were illiterate, meaning an illiteracy rate of 22.3 per cent, a figure that undoubtedly grew later during the seven years of Batista's tyranny. In the year 2002, the number was a mere 38,183, or 0.5 per cent of the population. The Ministry of Education estimates that the real figure is even lower, because in their thorough search for people who have not been given literacy training in their sectors or neighbourhoods, visiting homes, it has been very difficult to locate them. Their estimates, based on investigative methods even more precise than a census, reveal a total of 18,000, for a rate of 0.2 per cent. Of course, neither figure includes those who cannot learn to read or write because of mental or physical disabilities.

In 1953, the number of people with junior or senior high school education was 139,984, or 3.2 per cent of the population aged 10 and over. In 2002, the number had risen to 5,733,243, which is 41 times greater, equivalent to 58.9 per cent of the population in the same age group.

The number of university graduates grew from 53,490 in 1953 to 712,672 in 2002.

Unemployment, despite the fact that the 1953 census was taken in the middle of the sugar harvest -- that is, the time of the highest demand for labour -- was 8.4 per cent of the economically active population. The 2002 census, taken in September, revealed that the unemployment rate in Cuba today is a mere 3.1 per cent. And this was the case in spite of the fact that the active labour force in 1953 was only 2,059,659 people, whereas in 2002 it had reached 4,427,028. What is most striking is that next year, when unemployment is reduced to less than 3 per cent, Cuba will enter the category of countries with full employment, something that is inconceivable in any other country of Latin America or even the so-called economically developed nations in the midst of the current worldwide economic situation.

Without going into other areas of noteworthy social advances, I will simply add that between 1953 and 2002, the population almost doubled, the number of homes tripled, and the number of persons per home was reduced from 4.46 in 1953 to 3.16 in 2002; 75.4 per cent of these homes were built after the triumph of the Revolution.

Eighty-five per cent of the people own the houses they dwell and they do not pay taxes; the remaining 15 per cent pays a rather symbolic rent.

Of the total number of homes in the country, the percentage of huts fell from 33.3 per cent in 1953 to 5.7 per cent in 2002, while the percentage of homes with electrical power service rose from 55.6 per cent in 1953 to 95.5 per cent in 2002.

These statistics, however, do not tell the full story. Cold figures cannot express quality, and it is in terms of quality that the most truly spectacular advances have been achieved by Cuba.

Today, by a wide margin, our country occupies first place worldwide in the number of teachers, professors and educators per capita. The country's active teaching staff accounts for the incredible figure of 290,574.

According to studies analyzing a group of the main educational indicators, Cuba also occupies first place, above the developed countries. The maximum of 20 students per teacher in primary schools already attained, and the ratio of one teacher per 15 students in junior high school -- grades seven, eight and nine -- that will be achieved this coming school year, are things that could not even be dreamed of in the world's wealthiest, most developed countries.

The number of doctors is 67,079, of which 45,599 are specialists and 8,858 are in training. The number of nurses is 81,459, while that of healthcare technicians is 66,339, for a total of 214,877 doctors, nurses and technicians in the healthcare sector.

A member of a Cuban medical detachment travels by horseback in rural Cuba, 1970. Cuba's first rate attention to health care means that its people have amongst the highest indices of health in the world, despite all of the economic hardships it has faced.

Life expectancy is 76.15 years; infant mortality is 6.5 for 1000 live births during the first year of life, lower than any other Third World country and even some of the developed nations.

There are 35,902 physical education, sports and recreation instructors, a great many more than the total number of teachers and professors in all areas of education before the Revolution.

Cuba is now fully engaged in the transformation of its own systems of education, culture and healthcare, through which it has attained so many achievements, in order to reach new levels of excellence never even imagined, based on the accumulated experience and new technological possibilities.

These programs are now fully underway, and it is estimated that the knowledge currently acquired by children, teenagers and young people will be tripled with each school year. At the same time, within five years at most, average life expectancy should rise to 80 years. The most developed and wealthy countries will never attain a ratio of 20 students in a classroom in primary school, or one teacher to 15 students in high school, or succeed in taking university education to every municipality throughout the country to place it within reach of the whole population, or in offering the highest quality educational and healthcare services to all of their citizens free of charge. Their economic and political systems are not designed for this.

In Cuba, the social and human nightmare denounced in 1953, which gave rise to our struggle, had been left behind just a few years after the triumph of the Revolution in 1959. Soon, there were no longer peasants, sharecroppers or tenant farmers without land; all of them became the owners of the land they farmed. There were no longer undernourished, barefoot, parasite-ridden children, without schools or teachers, even if their schooling took place beneath the shade of a tree. They no longer died in massive numbers from hunger, disease, from lack of resources or medical care. No longer were the rural areas filled with unemployed men and women. A new stage began in the creation and construction of educational, healthcare, residential, sports and other public facilities, as well as thousands of kilometres of highways, dams, irrigation channels, agricultural facilities, electrical power plants and power lines, agricultural, mechanical and construction material industries, and everything essential for the sustained development of the country.

One million Cubans defiantly mark May Day 1980 with the "March of a Fighting People" through Havana and past the offices of the U.S. Interests Section.

The labour demand was so great that for many years, large contingents of men and women from the cities were mobilized to work in agriculture, construction and industrial production, which laid the foundations for the extraordinary social development achieved by our country, which I mentioned earlier.

I am talking as if the country were an idyllic haven of peace, as if there had not been over four decades of a rigorous blockade and economic war, aggressions of all kinds, countless acts of sabotage and terrorism, assassination plots and an endless list of hostile actions against our country, which I do not wish to emphasize in this speech, so as to focus on essential ideas of the present.

Suffice it to say that defence-related tasks alone required the permanent mobilization of hundreds of thousands of men and women and large material resources.

This hard-fought battle served to toughen our people, and taught them to fight simultaneously on many different fronts, to do a lot with very little, and to never be discouraged by obstacles.

Decisive proof of this was their heroic conduct, their tenacity and unshakably firm stance when the socialist bloc disappeared and the USSR splintered. The feat they accomplished then, when no one in the world would have bet a penny on the survival of the Revolution, will go down in history as one of the greatest ever achieved. They did it without violating a single one of the ethical and humanitarian principles of the Revolution, despite the shrieking and slander of our enemies.

The Moncada Program was fulfilled, and over-fulfilled. For some time now, we have been pursuing even greater and previously unimaginable dreams.[...]

I could repeat here something similar to what I said in the spurious court where I was tried and sentenced for the struggle we initiated five decades ago today, but this time it will not be me who says it; it will be declared and foretold by a people that has carried out a profound, transcendental and historic Revolution, and has succeeded in defending it:

Condemn me. It does not matter. The peoples will have the last word!

Eternal glory to those who have fallen during 50 years of struggle! Eternal glory to the people that turned its dreams into a reality! Venceremos!

Photos from the Relentless Struggle of the Cuban People

Fidel and the rebel army in the Sierra Maestra, 1957.

The victorious Rebel Army led by Fidel Castro was enthusiastically welcomed in Havana on January 8, 1959.

In 1959, Camilo Cienfuegos leads a group of rebel fighters advancing on the immense estates of the
United Fruit Company, where, on behalf of the people of Cuba, the land would be nationalized according to the
provisions of the Agrarian Reform Act signed a few weeks earlier in May 1959.

The first Declaration of Havana was approved on September 2, 1960 by more than a million Cubans who constituted themselves into the National General Assembly of the People. In it they refuted the Organization of American States'
San José Declaration in which the member states sided with the U.S. aggressive plans against Cuban sovereignty.

Commander in Chief Fidel Castro leading the Cuban Armed Forces at the Bay of Pigs (left) where on April 19, 1961 the
Cuban revolutionary forces celebrate victory in repelling an attempted invasion by the United States.

On April 16, 1961 Fidel Castro issues historic declaration establishing the irrevocable socialist character
of the Cuban Revolution.

Fidel Castro makes his first speech to the UN on behalf of an independent Cuba, September 26, 1962 (left). In October 1962
the Cuban people again prepare to defend their revolution from U.S. threats during the "Cuban Missile Crisis"

Cuban internationalist troops fight side by side with the Angolan people, 1980. The Cubans sent many volunteers to fight side-by-side with the peoples of southern Africa against colonialism and the apartheid regimes.

Children from Chernobyl, Ukraine, visit Cuba  in 1989 (left). Since the 1986 nuclear disaster in Chernobyl, some 13,600 children and 2,500 adults affected by the intense radiation have received treatment in Cuba. This major act of
international solidarity with the victims of Chernobyl began at the height of the Special Period in Cuba. At right, Fidel
visits a day care centre. Day care centres were established in the major Cuban cities in the late 1980s
to address political and economic issues.

A brigade of Cuba's Territorial Troops Militia (MTT),  in a 1990 photo. The MTT is a volunteer military force which continues
the fighting tradition of those who fought at Playa Giron and against banditry, the latest incarnation of the citizens' active participation in the defence of the nation. In the MTT, as in all of Cuba's armed forces, women play an important role.

Rally in 2000 in Havana, to demand the U.S. return the child Elian Gonzalez to Cuba.

Mass demonstration in Havana against at the U.S. release of terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, April 20, 2007. The monument of black flags is part of the Anti-Imperialist Tribune located across from the office of the U.S. Interests Section, and commemorates victims of terrorism against Cuba, many of whose deaths Posada is responsible for.

President Raúl Castro gives speech at celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the victory of the Cuban Revolution in Santiago de Cuba, January 1, 2009.

Cuban youth rally at the flag memorial to Cuban victims of terrorism in Havana, June 18, 2009, to demand the release of the Cuban Five. President of the Cuban Parliament Ricardo Alarcón attends the rally.(right)

Activists from around the world stand with Cuba at  6th International Colloquium to Free the Cuban Five held in Holguín,
Cuba, November 17-21, 2010. The gathering demanded the release of the five Cuban anti-terrorists from U.S. jails.

Cubans celebrate the 50th anniversary of their victory over a U.S.-backed mercenary invasion force at Playa Giron,
April 16, 2011 in
José Martí Revolution Square, Havana.

The Communist Party of Cuba held its 6th Congress from April 16-19, 2011 with the presence of Cuban
President Raúl Castro (left) and 997 elected delegates from every province. The Congress deliberated on the
Draft Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Party and the Revolution.

The UN General Assembly overwhelming shows its support for Cuba and opposition to the criminal U.S. blockade
for the 21st consecutive year, November 13, 2012.

Havana, May Day 2013

(Historical photos from Cuba: "Cien Imagenes de la Revolucion Cubana, 1953-1996," Oficina de Publicaciones del Consejo de Estado; Instituto Cubano del Libro; Editorial Arte y Literatura. Havana, 2004.)

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