Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC

Moscow LITERATURNAYA GAZETA in Russian 20 Feb 74 p 2 L

[Report by Genrikh Borovik and Yuriy Golovyatenko, NOVOSTI and
LITERATURNAYA GAZETA special correspondents: "Conversation With Comrade

[Text] Following the end of the visit to Cuba by Comrade Leonid Ilich
Brezhnev, general secretary of the CPSU Central Committee, Comrade Fidel
Castro, first secretary of the Cuban Community Party [PCC] Central
Committee and prime minister of the Revolutionary Government, received G.
Borovik and Yu. Golovyatenko, special correspondents of NOVOSTI and
LITERATURNAYA GAZETA. We publish here an account of that meeting and the
full text of the interview given by them by Comrade Fidel Castro.

"Why should we sit in an office?" Comrade Fidel said. "We agreed not to
have a formal discussion, didn't we? Then let's go somewhere. Would you
mind talking in a Jeep?"

What journalist could refuse such an offer!

We left the PCC Central Committee building. Havana was sinking rapidly into
the dusk, which falls quickly here. It begins from the horizon and moves
gradually upward, blotting out the golden tones of the sunset, until it
reaches the tops of the palm trees and the upper floors of the apartment

"Let's take a walk while they get the car ready back there," Fidel

One of us had first seen him exactly 14 years ago, after flying to Cuba for
the first time to write about the revolution which had been accomplished.
But Fidel--and this is no lies--has not changed at all since that time. It
is said that facial features become harsher with advancing age. Fidel's
have not done so--they have remained the same. And, most important, his
smile is still the same. When he smiles, his whole face lights up.

"A lot has changed in Cuba. But not you, comandante."

He laughed and tugged at his beard: "What about my gray hair?"

He is graying a little. At first glance, this is the only thing which
distinguishes today's Fidel in terms of outward appearance (he is now 46)
from the Fidel of 1960. We walked slowly along Independence Avenue. It was
already dusk, but the tip of the magnificent Jose Marti obelisk still shone
in the rays of the setting run. We walked beside tall palm trees which
bulged in the middle.

"Typical Cuban palms," Fidel said. "We planted them here about 5 years ago.
Very beautiful, aren't they? They are not Havana tree, of course. Most of
them were brought from Pinar del Rio."

He walked up to one of the trees and gently pulled with his fingers at one
of the short spines covering the bark of the tree. "The troubles is that
sometimes there's no time to admire them."

"We have heard that in the Sierra Maestra and afterwards, in the early
years of the revolution, you only slept 3 or 4 hours out of 24, and never
any longer."

He laughed and threw his head back. He was in excellent humor.

"No, but I do sleep a little longer now. But it's true, in those days I did
sleep only 3 or 4 hours in 24. I didn't need any more. Now I sleep 6 hours
on an average. True, if I do go on some trip with a full program, my sleep
decreases again. To be more precise, I have no time to sleep. But I make it
up when I come home: I spend the first 2 or 3 days sleeping it off."

We said that our readers and we ourselves would like to know a little about
the way Fidel spends a typical work day. He readily agreed to describe such
a day for us in general terms.

"The days and the weeks vary. There are weeks which are completely taken
up, down to the last minute, with routine work--meeting people, attending
conferences, dealing with matters scheduled in advance which must be dealt
with without fail. But days do occur sometimes when I am relatively less
busy. And then I go and visit factories, schools, and construction sites. I
try to travel around the country and visit the different provinces to see
for myself how the work is progressing. I try to spend as much time as
possible with the people. I set aside part of my time for study. A lot of
time is taken up by paperwork and reports. Unfortunately, these tasks are
also impossible to avoid. But I always make time to read a good book. I
usually read in the evenings,or sometimes I watch a movie--old movies,
sometimes, because I missed a lot of good movies during the time I was in
prison, in exile and underground. I missed them for valid reasons, as the
saying goes."

We stood beside a palm tree. One of us held a tape recorder, while the
other thought in horror: What is something was suddenly jammed or gone
wrong inside the machine and it is not working and consequently not
recording what Fidel says.

But Fidel went on: "Of course, I watch new movies too. I've seen some
Soviet movies, including 'War and Peace.' It is a wonderful movie. I saw it
twice. I've seen 'Liberation' and other movies. The first Soviet movie I
ever saw was--and he enunciated the name almost tenderly--'Seryosha.'"

We asked him to repeat the name, which he did. And then we guessed it:
"Serezha!" Fidel smiled and nodded: "Yes, 'Serezha.' A wonderful movie!

Two green Gazik-69's drew up to the place beside the palms where we were
talking. Fidel walked up to one of them. He sat in front, on the driver's
right, and we sat behind. Fidel looks somehow very natural in a Gazik, and
obviously feels very accustomed and at ease in one. They say that he often
takes the wheel himself, driving along the highways in his usual Sierra
Maestra outfit--a green forage cap, a combat jacket (now with a commander
in chief's shoulder strap), pants the same color with elasticated ankles,
and tough black boots, like Cuban soldiers wear.

Fidel pointed out the way for the driver--straight ahead. We drove along
the same highway where all Havana had welcomed Leonid Ilich Brezhnev only 9
days before; and where Havana had seen him off only 2 days before--on
Sunday, 3 February--on his way home. A week. That wonder visit lasted only
a week, but its importance extended the confines of those 7 days and made
them longer, wider and more capacious.

Our conversation naturally turned to the main point--the results of Leonid
Ilich Brezhnev's visit to Cuba and of that historic week which had just

"It was a week of intensive work, of course," Fidel said. "And so was the
period of preparations for Comrade Brezhnev's visit. But I would like to
say that it was enjoyable and very interesting work. The popular masses and
all our people took part in it.

"It was a week of joys and victories. It was a culminating point in the
entire 15-year period of our relations and the high point of the
friendship, fraternity, and cooperation which have existed between Cuba and
the Soviet Union for the past 15 years and a wonderful demonstration of the
strengthening and consolidation of relations between the CPSU and the PCC
and between the Soviet and Cuban peoples.

"Our relations had been developing very well in all aspects even before,
but it seems to us that this visit enabled the Soviet leaders to gain a
direct, personal impression of our country and our revolution.

"Through television the Soviet people witnessed the Cuban people's
manifestations of friendship and love for the Soviet people, as expressed
in the mass demonstrations which accompanied Comrade Brezhnev's visit. From
our point of view, these were above all an expression of our people's
tremendous gratitude to the Soviet Union for the decisive assistance we
have received during these past years, and an expression of the Cuban
people's internationalist sentiments and of the ideological firmness of the
Cuban revolution in standing fast on the principles of Marxism-Leninism.

"As a result of Comrade Brezhnev's visit, cooperation between the CPSU and
the PCC will become even stronger and our unity will become even firmer.
The friendship and fraternity between our peoples will develop to the

"We are learning more fully every day of the Soviet people's great
achievements, and the Soviet people are becoming daily better aware of the
revolutionary impulse which drives Cuba.

"I would observe also that Comrade Brezhnev very quickly won the sympathy
of all our people. We can say that from the moment of Comrade Brezhnev's
arrival at the airport our people weighed up the personal qualities of the
Soviet people's leader--unpretentiousness, modesty, directness and an
affable and frank nature. They sensed all this from the very first moment.
For example, after inspecting the honor guard, Comrade Brezhnev went back
to greet the soldiers. This was not provided for by protocol, but Comrade
Brezhnev thought it necessary, and all this was immediately appreciated.

"When he was introduced to the members of our party Politburo and Central
Committee and to the members of the government, he addressed kind words to
each of them, paying particular attention to those whom he already knew.
And in what a warm, friendly and simple manner he greeted the crowd at the
airport! All Cuba could see that on television.

"His ability to make contact with the people during mass demonstrations,
what he says, and the bold ideas he expresses so calmly--all this won him
the Cuban people's sympathies.

"His inborn human features are unpretentiousness, affability and
attentiveness. He has a very good memory. He never forgets anyone and
always has a kind word for anyone he knows.

"I may say that I have never known a man who could win our people's love so
quickly, so easily and so naturally as Comrade Brezhnev did.

"Of course, our people did know Comrade Brezhnev before and already
cherished feelings of respect, love and profound gratitude to him for his
proven friendship toward Cuba. But until this visit our people had had no
opportunity to see him at such close quarters.

"Ask any Cuban, and he will tell you the same things as I am telling you.
Every Cuban will say that Comrade Brezhnev won our people's affection by
his natural, unpretentious and modest manner and his personal charm. A
short distance away over there is the technology institute," Fidel said.
"If you like, we'll go there. Don't mention that you are from the Soviet
Union, and you will see and hear for yourselves what the kids there have to

We drove up to a small group of interconnected, four-story buildings girded
by long, continuous balconies. On the balconies and in the courtyard below
were people talking and reading, some walking by with towels over their
shoulders and other "tapping" basketballs or tossing baseballs around. In
short, it was recess time. Suddenly, several happy voices shouted, almost
simultaneously: "It's Fidel-el! Fidel's co-ome!"

At first it was impossible to distinguish what was said in the merry
hubbub. Then those on the balconies said to those below: "Quiet, boys. We
want to hear Fidel too!" Then there was silence.

"You haven't been to see us for a long time, Fidel," someone said.

"But I've visited you two or three times," Fidel answered. "How are your
studies progressing? What are your results like?"

Someone answered, and Fidel listened attentively. He smiled with
satisfaction. Clearly, things were going well with the kids as far as
results were concerned.

"My journalist friends here and I decided to come and see you to ask your
opinions about Comrade Brezhnev's visit to Cuba. Were you in the Square?"


"All of you?"

"All of us!"

"What do you think of Comrade Brezhnev as an individual?"

Several hundred people started to say what they thought all at once, at the
top of their voices. We could not hear their words, but the content of
their answers was obvious from their eyes.

"No, no," Fidel laughed, holding up his hand and immediately restoring
silence. "That's no good. Let's do it one at a time."

"Brezhnev is an unpretentious and sincere man," said a girl in the crowd,
and several people in front of her immediately stood aside so that she
could see Fidel. "We can feel it. It is clear from every step he takes and
every word he says."

"It seems to me that he likes the Cuban people very much," said a youth
standing near us. "And that is something I value very much. We have seen
once again the unity between Cuba and the Soviet Union."

"Fidel, I very much liked the moment when Brezhnev mounted the rostrum. Do
you remember?" said someone who was no more than a child or
adolescent--certainly no more than 15 years old. "He began by standing in
center stage, but then decided to move across to one end of the rostrum and
then to the other in order to greet us all. I realized immediately what a
respectful attitude he has toward people."

"I listened to his speech with great attention," a young man in a track
suite interjected. "It was very profound and very simple. There really is a
bridge of friendship between us...."

"Fidel, what impression did Comrade Brezhnev make on you, then?" the person
standing next to the young man in the track suite asked.

"A very great impression," Fidel said. "I have just been describing it to
my journalist friends. He is an eminent statesman and at the same time a
most unpretentious, cordial and modest man. You all saw that for
yourselves." "Yes, we did!" the kids agreed.

They spend a little longer telling Fidel about their daily lives and their
studies, and he questioned them, offering advice, sometimes joking and
something highly serious. And then, after a brief silence, he said quietly:
"You have no idea how I envy you. You are just beginning your lives, and
you are studying in this wonderful institute. I'd like to become one of you
and to study, to take off my uniform and wear yours, to sit down there in
the classroom and imagine, just for a day, that I was one of you. I'd like
to know completely what your feelings are."

The kids fell silent, touched by Fidel's unexpected words. And in the
silence we suddenly heard the voice of a youth standing on the very edge of
the crowd: "No, Fidel, you do your work. You're needed more there...."

As the Gazik carried us away from the institute, Fidel was silent for a
time, smoking his cigar, looking ahead at the highway, in no hurry to start

"They're good kids, wonderful kids," he said at last, with conviction.
"They are healthy and happy. And what a sense of dignity they have, what a
sense of equality! Look, they met us completely naturally, regarding it as
nothing unusual. And they talked to us as though they were talking to
students like themselves or to their neighbors. They were glad that we
came, but were by no means embarrassed at our arrival--it seems entirely
natural to them that we should come and visit and talk to them. Did you
notice that?"

Well we did notice it, of course. And we said as much to Comrade Castro. We
suggested, furthermore, that it must make him tremendously happy to see
young people greeting him in precisely that way--as a friend and as an
older but close comrade.

Fidel nodded, still watching the road. "I really would like to be one of
them," he said, thinking it necessary to explain what he had said, "and to
feel what it means to be a student now that the revolution is victorious. I
believe that those young people are happy, very happy. We too, of course,
are happy. But in our own way. Those young people have real lives to live.
We did not have that. We were born and grew up in an egotistical society,
an individualistic society with no place for feelings of fraternity or
mutual assistance. Who knows how much talent there is among those kids?
They will undoubtedly grow up to be brilliant engineers and wonderful
politicians. This is where our revolutionary intelligentsia is born. It is
work of tremendous importance. And since we have started talking about the
intelligentsia, let me tell you that I have learned about the Soviet
people's outstanding deeds--during the revolution and the foreign
intervention and at the time of the great patriotic war--from the writers
who have described those deeds. I have read Sholokhov's books about the
revolution, the civil war and the class struggle in the early period of
Soviet power. Soviet literature has exerted tremendous influence on
international revolutionary thought. When we were young we all read books
by Soviet writers and biographies of your heroes. I could name many, but I
will mention 'How the Steel Was Tempered' and Boris Polevoy's book. Or, for
example, the documentary story 'The Underground Obkom Is at Work.'
[paragraph continues] A copy came into our possession while we were
preparing for our struggle, and it interested us very much. It influenced
us greatly--it was a book about the heroic partisan struggle in the fascist
army's rear.

"But Lenin's works, of course, have been of the greatest importance to us.
For me, coming to know Lenin's books was decisive. His works helped me find
my bearings in a sea of complex problems and served as a foundation for the
development of my revolutionary concepts...."

The technology institute we had visited and from whence we were now
returning to Havana is not far from the airport where, 2 days earlier, the
Cubans had seen off from Moscow Leonid Ilich Brezhnev and those who had
come with him to Cuba. As if he had thought of this at the same time we
did, Fidel said: "Leonid Ilich Brezhnev gave me a book containing a series
of works by Soviet war writers. The book is about the battles at
Novorossiysk, in which he himself participated. It contains portraits of
battle heroes--those who dies, those who have died since the war, and those
who are still alive. It portrays the battlefields and sketches the
trenches. It is a very good book, with very good illustrations. When
Comrade Brezhnev and I talked about the war in which he took part, I
remembered our landing from the Granma at Playa de las Coloradas. I'd very
much like Comrade Brezhnev to visit those places sometime...."

We told Fidel that we have seen pictures by Cuban artists on revolutionary
themes and that we were acquainted with the many branches of Cuban art
which were reborn, as it were, after the revolution in a multitude of works
by poets and writers.

"Yes," Fidel said, "the creative intelligentsia's position really was
different before the revolution. It was impossible for writers to publish
their books. They enjoyed no respect in the society which surrounded them.
A cult of foreign intellectuals existed in the country. Then again, most of
the people had neither books nor time to read them or were simply

"Under socialism life changes fundamentally and bourgeois values lose their
importance in society. The content of literature also changes. The problems
which literature tackles now are different from the old problems. And when
the bourgeoisie talks about 'the suppression of creative freedom' under
socialism, it means the bourgeois content of creative work and the content
of bourgeois literature, which fundamentally is venal. [upadnicheskiy],
commercial, and in many cases corrupt and tries to idealize the bourgeois
system. Bourgeois ideologists strive to influence the socialist countries.
They would like the socialist intelligentsia's creative work to have the
same decadent [dekadentskiy] trend as that which marks bourgeois culture.
They are deeply irked by the changes which occur under socialism. They are
irked because the content of art changes under socialism and because its
aim becomes a depiction of socialist reality as it is.

"Of course, these changes to not come very easily. Many people who were
brought up in the old society cannot adopt to the new situation. But we
believe in art as an instrument of revolution. Art must serve the

"The bourgeois way of life, with its egotism and corruption, cannot form
the subject of real art.

"Art which serves imperialism is not art. That is the way we understand
this question...."

We were now driving through the streets of Havana--a beautiful city unlike
any other in Latin America, a distinctive city with its own unique
appearance and its own character, a revolutionary character.

"Comrade Fidel, 20 years ago, during the trial of the heroes of the Moncada
attack, you pronounced the celebrated sentence 'History will vindicate me.'
The path which you and your comrades in arms chose has since been long and
has repeatedly been vindicated by history. We know that it is difficult to
answer such a question, but nevertheless: What do you consider the main
achievement in the 20 years which have elapsed since then?"

When Fidel talks about something he considers particularly important or
which agitates him, he talks quietly, very quietly. And this was how he
answered us now.

"There are not many revolutionaries who have been lucky enough," he said,
"to live to see their ideals being implemented in practice. Yet we have had
the opportunity to see for ourselves the greater part of our program become
a reality. I personally am most impressed by the changes in the people's
awareness, by their increased standards of political culture, and by their
profound revolutionary sentiments of fraternity and solidarity. All these
features were manifested on Revolution Square, where a million Cubans
gathered to meet Comrade Brezhnev. Virtually the entire adult population of
the city assembled that day to greet Comrade Brezhnev. Our people's
organization, discipline, conviction and enthusiasm and their attitude
toward the major political tasks show that the Cuban people are more
cohesive, politically better educated and filled with greater optimism and
revolutionary enthusiasm than the people of any other Latin American
country. This fact has impressed me more than any other throughout the 20
years of the revolution. We have wonderful achievements to our credit in
education, medicine and economic building. But I draw the greatest
satisfaction from the moral gains. Cuba is now the home of a united,
revolutionary people of great political maturity who will not yield to the
influence of capitalism's ideology. We are only 90 miles from the United
States. Yet the United States is incapable of exerting the slightest
influence on political life in our country. The process which has occurred
in the people's consciousness is irreversible.

"Cubans now have a different sense and understanding of life, and ordinary
people have gained a sense of their own worth.

"Astonishing changes have also occurred in human relations. These prove
once again what unlimited potential people possess for improving their
characters and effecting positive changes in the sphere of human relations.
This was demonstrated again and reaffirmed by the Cuban revolution...."

We had now reached the very center of Havana. We passed the well-known
steps of Havana's famous university, where Batista's police massacred the
revolutionary students. Fidel asked the driver to take us onto the campus.
We drove into the small, tree-lined park within the university complex.
Fidel got out of the Gazik, and we followed him.

"I studied here," Fidel said, "in this building here. I studied law." He
stood, looking around thoughtfully at the ancient, yellow university
buildings. His left hand was tucked under his right arm, and with his right
hand he held his cigar in front of his face. He wore a half-smile as he

"What d you call these trees in your country? What's that? Laurels? I spent
a lot of time talking to people under these trees. I devoted comparatively
little time to my books, but I talked a lot, in fact a very great deal. I
did get good grades, it's true. I liked to dream a little. At that time I
was a supporter of Utopian socialism. That was in the very early years of
my studies at the university. I was studying political economy, but still
knew nothing of Marx, Engels or Lenin. But I had reached the conclusion
that capitalism was an absurd and irrational system of living. And I
pictured a world much better organized than the world in which I lived."

The few students we found in the park at this relatively late hour gathered
around us. They greeted Fidel happily and pressed around him. A few of them
had small children with them.

"What is this, a university or a kindergarten?" Fidel laughed. "I thought I
had the wrong address."

"I am very happy to see you," a young man in glasses said suddenly and
somewhat unexpectedly. He spoke in a sincere and serious tone.

"Thank you," said Fidel.

"Very happy," the student repeated. "I've never seen you so close before."

Fidel was touched, and found it necessary to turn the situation into a
joke. "You've never seen me so close? Well then, I've been the loser."

Everyone laughed good-naturedly.

"What are you studying?" Fidel asked a girl standing in front of him,
tapping her gently on the shoulder.

"Scientific information."

"Are you working?"

"Yes, at the Ruben Martinez Villen library."

"How many of you are studying and working?"

It turned out that all those present at this discussion were doing so.
Fidel pondered, glanced around the courtyard, and said:

"How this university has changed! It used to be only for the bourgeoisie,
only for the rich, but now it is for you, for working people. There never
used to be even the concept of a workers' faculty here. Now more than half
the students here are workers. That's wonderful, isn't it?"

"I am a teacher, Fidel," said a young woman standing next to the girl
studying scientific information.

"A teacher? That's good," Fidel said enthusiastically. "That's very good!"

He is deeply interested in anything involving children, schools or
education. Are there indeed any questions relating to Cuba to which Fidel
is indifferent? But schools and children's education arouse his particular
interest. He immediately went on to talk about schools.

"You know, we opened a new school yesterday, for 900 children. I didn't
attend the opening, but I read about it in the newspapers. For 900
children!" He tugged gently at his beard and rocked his entire, huge frame
to and fro from his toes onto his heels. He was clearly very pleased that
another new school had been opened in the country. "And how do you like the
Lenin school?"

"We like it!" the students answered him almost in unison.

"And aren't you envious? Wouldn't you like to study there?"

Everyone understood that he was joking.

"Don't laugh," Fidel explained. "We have a lot of problems with that
school. Everyone wants to study there, everyone wants to send their
children to it. We have many other wonderful schools, where the teachers
are equally good and the equipment and sports facilities are excellent, but
everyone wants to go the Lenin school!"

"Fidel," said a young man clasping a rolled-up exercise book in his large,
strong hand, "I was very impressed by Brezhnev's speech at the opening of
the Lenin school. It was a very important speech for our young people. It
was both instructive and inspiring. He said some wonderful things."

Fidel was pleased and nodded in our direction. "My journalist friends and I
have been conducting what you might call a public opinion poll. We want to
know what people think about Comrade Brezhnev's visit and what impression
he himself made on them as an individual."

"It probably isn't a question of opinions," a young man in a striped shirt
commented. "I think that all the opinions have already been expressed,
especially on Sunday, when we saw off Comrade Brezhnev. I believe that the
demonstration was the most important. Everyone went to see Brezhnev
off--the whole of Havana--even though it was Sunday."

"Yes," Fidel agreed, "Sunday, when people take a rest."

"People went to see him off as they would a friend or relative who was
going away."

Someone asked: "But Fidel, did Comrade Brezhnev like Cuba?"

"It seems to me," Fidel said, "that Cuba and the Cubans made a very great
impression on him and on all the people who came with him. The meeting in
Santiago went very well. The inhabitants of Santiago, as always, rose to
the occasion."

Fidel raised his hand. "I am very glad to have met all of you here. I am
very glad that we have had such a good talk and that you have reaffirmed
the impressions of Comrade Brezhnev's visit to us which I have been
expressing to my journalist friends from the Soviet Union. Whenever I have
been to Moscow, I have always been given a wonderful welcome by Soviet
people. So I am doubly pleased by the reception which the Cubans gave
Comrade Brezhnev. There were more than a million people in Revolution
Square on 29 January. Honestly," Fidel said, smiling, "I have no idea where
Havana found so many people...."

Fidel said goodbye to the students or, more precisely, the student-workers.
We climbed back into the Gazik and drove back--we were late now--to the PCC
Central Committee building on Revolution Square.

As the Gazik was approaching the square, Fidel said: "For us, Comrade
Brezhnev personifies the Soviet people. It was the Soviet people, who
helped up repel imperialist aggression and the imperialist blockade.
Without the Soviet Union's help, our revolution would have been doomed to
defeat. The Soviet Union gave us decisive assistance at the moment when the
question of our country's survival or collapse was being decided. And if
today we have such wonderful schools as the Lenin school and such
specialized educational establishments as the technology institute and the
workers' faculty of Havana University, if we can direct our energies toward
social progress, we owe all this to the Soviet Union's solidarity.

"We are glad that Soviet people can see today that their efforts to help us
have not been in vain. Cuba today is world socialism's outpost in the
western hemisphere. Here Cuba is the first country of socialism. And it
will not be the last. We are convinced of that. It's only a matter of