Raul Castro: 'We need to break away from dogma'

[This is an abridged version of Cuban President Raul Castro’s speech to the closing session of the Ninth Congress of Cuba’s Union of Young Communists (UJC) held in Havana, Cuba, April 3-4. The complete text can be read at Agencia Cubana de Noticias].

It has been a good Congress, since last October when it began with the open meetings attended by hundreds of thousands of youths, and continued with the evaluation meetings conducted by the organisation from the rank and file through the municipal and provincial committees where the agreements were worked out that would be adopted in these final sessions. […]

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 the problems, and to look inside the organisation, avoiding the use of more time than necessary to examine the external factors. Such is the style that should permanently characterize the work of the UJC in contrast to those that tend to look for the mote in the neighbour’s eye instead of doing what it is their job to do.

It has been rewarding to listen to many youths directly linked to productive activities proudly explain in simple words what they do, barely mentioning the material difficulties and bureaucratic obstacles they must face. Many of the shortcomings discussed here are not new; they have accompanied the organisation for quite a long time. The previous congresses had adopted the corresponding agreements on them; however, they have more or less been reiterated, which is proof of the lack of a systematic and thorough control of their accomplishment.

In this sense, it is fair and necessary to repeat something reiterated by [First Vice-President Jose Ramon] Machado and [Vice-President Esteban] Lazo, who chaired many of the assemblies: the [Cuban Communist] Party feels equally responsible for every flaw in the work of the UJC, very especially for the problems concerning the policy with cadres.

We cannot permit that, once again, the documents approved become dead letter or are kept in a drawer like memoirs. They should become the guidelines for the everyday work of the [UJC] National Bureau and for every member of the organisation. You have already agreed on the basics, now you should act on it.

Some are very critical about the youth of today while forgetting that they were young, too. It would be naive to pretend that the new generations are the same as those of past times. A wise proverb goes: A man resembles his times more than he does his parents.

The Cuban youth have always been willing to take up challenges. They have proved it in the recovery from the damages caused by the [2008] hurricanes, the fight against the enemy’s provocations and the defence-related tasks, just to mention some examples.

The average age of the Congress delegates is 28. They have been growing up during these hard years of the [post-Soviet] Special Period and taken part in our people’s efforts to preserve the main socialist conquests while facing up to a very complex economic situation.

It is precisely because of its importance that the youth vanguard is aware of our economic situation, that the [Communist Party] Political Bureau’s Commission — considering the positive experience of the analysis of the same issue made with the deputies to the National Assembly [of People’s Power] — decided to offer the UJC municipal assemblies information describing in all its crude reality the present situation and its prospects. Over 30,000 members of the UJC received this information, just like the main leaders of the Party, the mass organisations and the government at various levels.

Dynamic economy

Today, more than ever before, the economic battle is the main task and the focus of the ideological work of the cadres, because it is on this work that the sustainability and the preservation of our social system rest. 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 healthcare ensured to every citizen free of charge.

Without an efficient and robust agriculture that we can develop with the resources available to us — avoiding the dream of the large allocations of the past — we can’t expect to sustain and raise the amount of food provided to the population, that largely depends on the import of products that can be grown in Cuba.

If the people do not feel the need to work for a living because they are covered by extremely paternalistic and irrational state regulations, we will never be able to stimulate love for work or resolve the chronic lack of construction, farming and industrial workers, teachers, police agents 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 expressions of corruption, more than a few will continue to make fortunes at the expense of the majority’s labours while disseminating attitudes that crash into the essence of socialism.

If we keep the inflated payrolls in nearly every sector of national life and pay salaries that fail to correspond with the result of work, thus raising the amount of money in circulation, we cannot expect the prices to cease climbing constantly or prevent the deterioration of the people’s purchasing power. We know that the budgeted and entrepreneurial sectors have hundreds of thousands of workers in excess; some analysts estimate that the surplus of people in work positions exceeds one million. This is an extremely sensitive issue that we should confront firmly and with political common sense.

The Revolution will not leave anyone helpless. 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 providing a job to everyone after they have been made several work offers. The 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 do not close our eyes to them. We are convinced that we need to break away from dogma and assume firmly and confidently the ongoing upgrading of our economic model in order to set the foundations of the irreversibility of the Cuban socialism and its development, which we know are 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 mean those who want it but not with the intention to play along with the enemy. 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 the different elements that make society work and that shall 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 that haste or improvisation in the solution of a problem lead to a greater one. With regards to issues of strategic dimension for the life of the entire nation we cannot let ourselves be driven by emotion and act losing sight of the necessary comprehensiveness. As we have said, that is the only reason for which it was decided to postpone for a few other months the convening of the Party Congress and the National Conference that will precede it. […]

New generation

The Cuban youth is destined to take over from the generation that founded the Revolution and leading the masses with their great strength requires a vanguard that is convincing and that has a capacity for mobilisation through personal example; a vanguard headed by firm, capable and prestigious leaders, true leaders and not improvised leaders; leaders who have been through the irreplaceable forge of the working class where the most genuine values of a revolutionary are bred.

Life has eloquently shown the dangers that come with the violation of that principle. Fidel said it clearly in his closing remarks at the Second UJC Congress, on April 4, 1972: “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 shall learn to respect what work creates. We shall teach respect for those goods as we teach how to create them.” This idea that he stated 38 years ago, and that was surely received with an ovation by that Congress, is another clear proof of the agreements that we reach and then do not fulfil.

Today more than ever we need cadres that can carry on an effective ideological work that cannot be a dialogue of the deaf or a mechanical repetition of slogans. We need leaders who bring sound arguments to the 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 other peoples’ views with an open mind, which does not exclude the need to refute with sound arguments and energy 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, 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 pretending 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 youths 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 confirm if the selection was right. […]

Smear campaign

As I said at the beginning, the convening of this Congress has coincided with a huge smear campaign against Cuba, a campaign orchestrated, directed and financed by the imperialist power centres in the US and Europe, hypocritically waving the banners of human rights.

They have cynically and shamefully manipulated the death of an inmate sentenced to jail on 14 charges of common crimes, who by work and grace of a repeated lie and an interest in receiving economic support from overseas was turned into a “political dissident,” a man who was induced to persevere on a hunger strike making absurd demands.

Despite our doctors’ efforts the man died, something we also regretted when it happened, and we denounced the only beneficiaries of the event, the same who are currently encouraging another individual to persist on a similar attitude 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 of a woman who is a doctor and director of a hospital and who he also threatened to kill, and later an old lady, nearly 70 years old, who as a consequence had to be subjected to surgery to remove her spleen.

Still, the same as in the previous case, everything is being done to save his life; but if he does not modify his self-destructive behaviour, he will be responsible, together with his sponsors, for the outcome we do not wish.

It is disgusting to see the double standard of those in Europe that keep a complicit silence about tortures in the so-called war on terrorism; that allowed clandestine CIA flights carrying prisoners, and even permitted the use of their territory for the establishment of secret prison centres.

What would they say if we had imitated them and, in breach of ethical standards, had forcibly fed these people, as they have usually done in many torture centres, including the one they have in the Guantanamo naval base? By the way, these are the same that 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 attack them with teargas and even with bullets; and, what about the frequent abuse and humiliation of immigrants?

The mainstream press in the West does not only attack Cuba; they have also initiated a new modality of implacable media terror against the political leaders, intellectuals, artists and other personalities that all over the world speak out against fallacy and hypocrisy, and who simply examine the events with objectivity.

Meanwhile, it would seem that the standard-bearers of the so much trumpeted freedom of the press have forgotten that the economic and trade blockade against Cuba and all of its inhumane effects on our people is in full force and even tightened; that the current US administration has not ceased to support subversion; that the unfair, discriminatory and interfering Common Position adopted by the European Union, sponsored from its inception by the US government and the Spanish right-wing, is still in force claiming 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. [ … ]

The young Cuban revolutionaries have a clear understanding that to preserve the Revolution and socialism, and to continue having dignity and being free, they still have ahead many more years of struggle and sacrifices. At the same time, great challenges hang over humanity and it is the first duty of the youth 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 fathered by capitalism.

Today, we are 7 billion people on Earth. Half of this population is poor, while 1.02 billion are going hungry. Thus, it is worthwhile wondering what will happen by the year 2050 when the world population is 9 billion and the living conditions on the planet are more deteriorated.

The travesty in which the latest [UN climate change] summit ended in the Danish capital, last December, shows that capitalism with its blind market laws will never solve this nor many other problems. Only conscience and the mobilisation of the peoples, the governments’ political will and the advancement of scientific and technological knowledge can prevent humanity’s extinction. […]

The UJC was born on a day like this, 48 years ago. That historical day, April 4, 1962, Fidel stated: “Believing in the youths 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 the youth can do it, that the youth is capable of doing it; the deep conviction that the youth can carry on great tasks.” That’s how it was yesterday, how it is today and how it will continue to be in the future.