By Tatiana Coll on January 15, 2024
photo: Bill Hackwell
It is difficult, very difficult to make a valid account of 65 years of great events, of profound transformations, of surprising achievements, of complex challenges, of internationalist victories, of global warnings, of new approaches, of constant search and also of mistakes; but always of tenacity and fierce constancy, sustained in the most contradictory circumstances by a whole people on the march. In short, the Cuban revolution changed the circumstances of the world since the second half of the 20th century.
My earliest memories go back to childhood, when my father clung to a radio and patiently managed to tune in to Radio Rebelde, founded by Che in the Sierra Maestra. For him, a survivor of the Spanish Civil War and a year in a concentration camp, this was a dream recovered, a return to life. When I arrived in Cuba as part of the international brigades, summoned to cut cane for the challenge of producing 10 million tons of sugar, my life changed, the fact that most expresses the impact on my senses and capabilities populating them with meanings is that I not only read, but I lived a revolution: its torrent of joyful and determined humanity. An avalanche of facts, memories, readings, presences, debates envelopes me and I believe it is so for those who have been close to Cuba.
A statement that has accompanied these 65 years of revolution was made by Fidel Castro on January 8, 1959, in the first speech that Havana’s citizens witnessed in amazement: “Perhaps from now on everything will be more difficult”. And so it has been. A fragment never to be forgotten: “I know that in speaking here tonight I am faced with one of the most difficult obligations in this long process of struggle […]. I believe that this is a decisive moment in our history: tyranny has been defeated. The joy is immense. However, much remains to be done. Let us not delude ourselves into believing that from now on everything will be easy; perhaps from now on everything will be more difficult. To tell the truth is the first duty of every revolutionary. To deceive the people, to awaken delusions, would always bring about the worst consequences, and I believe that the people must be warned against excessive optimism […]. And that is why I want to start -or rather continue- with the same system: to tell the people the truth”.
In his first incredible speech, because it was the moment of victory, Fidel warned: “The revolution no longer has before it an army in combat readiness. Who can be today or in the future the enemies of the revolution? Who can be, before this victorious people, the enemies of the revolution? The worst enemies that the Cuban revolution could have in the future are the revolutionaries themselves”. This statement had and has multiple meanings for any process of change. First, to ask oneself what were the intentions of those who participated: ambition, desire to command, ignoble purpose, enjoyment of power, living like kings? “If these are the intentions, the revolution will fail”. If henceforth new combats were necessary, it will not be more or less numerous troops that will prevail, the only column that will win the war alone will be the people. “More than the people can no general, more than the people can no troops.” If mistakes are made, all of us, we and the people are going to suffer the consequences. “There is no error in the revolution without consequences for the people.” In the face of mistakes only the truth and let the people decide. “It is necessary to speak this way so that demagogy and confusionism does not arise, and above all divisionism […] the first thing I will always do, when I see the Revolution in danger will be to call the people” and that the people know everyone and their actions. “It is necessary to call the people a thousand times, it is necessary to talk to the people a thousand times, so that the people, without shooting, solve the problems.”
Times of exploits came, the recovery of embezzled goods and popular justice, literacy, land distribution, the great nationalizations, the volunteer work days, the vaccination campaigns, the total victory against the mercenary invasion. Times of unity, with the defeat of the counterrevolutionary bands, with the ideological struggle against sectarianism, with the great assemblies of the people and the first and second Havana declarations. Times of organization and participation forming the popular militias, the CDR, the women’s federation, the students’ federation, the peasants’ and workers’ federation, the writers’ federation, culture and science. Times, as Martí said, of creating the new from the roots, creations that even today amaze the world, such as scientific ones: new drugs, vaccines, unique teaching and cultural systems, medical universities for the third world, selfless solidarity of all kinds initiated in 1963, liberation of southern Africa and the end of apartheid, creation of the system of broad democratic participation of the People’s Power, among many others.
Since that bestial attack on March 4, 1960, when the explosion of the ship La Coubre shook the whole of Cuba, difficult times came, with terrorist attacks, bombings, incendiary bombs on the population and workplaces, economic blockade, contamination of crops and livestock. A thousand and one forms of vileness against a people that has not ceased to evolve technologically. Difficult times that today strike with force to that heroic people that continues stubborn in an unimaginable, epic resistance, that is why Cuba continues to be that vital utopia in our hopes also in resistance.
Source: La Jornada, translation Resumen Latinoamericano – English