Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC

-DATE-
19761202
-YEAR-
1976
-DOCUMENT_TYPE-
SPEECH
-AUTHOR-
F. CASTRO
-HEADLINE-
INAUGURAL SESSION OF THE CUBAN NATL ASSEMBLY
-PLACE-
KARL MARX THEATER
-SOURCE-
HAVANA DOMESTIC TV SVC
-REPORT_NBR-
FBIS
-REPORT_DATE-
19761202
-TEXT-
Text of Castro Speech

Havana Domestic Television/Radio Services in Spanish 2315 GMT 2 Dec 76 FL

[Speech by Prime Minister Fidel Castro at the inaugural session of the
Cuban National Assembly held at the Karl Marx Theater on 2 December
1976--live]

[Text]  Distinguished guests, dear comrades:  We salute, with warmth and
fraternity, the friendly delegations who are visiting us on the occasion of
this event and this date  To those who are not afraid to travel to Cuba,
those who do not require permission of the United States to maintain
relations with us, [prolonged applause] [rhythmic chanting:  "Fidel,
Fidel"] those who do not ignore the unquestionable right of each human
group to build a just future, and those who, whether or not sharing the
political ideology of our revolution, know there is no possible alternative
to mutual respect, friendship, cooperation and peace between peoples, to
you go all our consideration, our hospitality and our respect.

The highest level of political thinking was reached when some men because
aware that no people and no man had the right to exploit others and that
the fruits of the efforts and intelligence of each human being should be
available to all others; that man, in sum, had no reason to be a wolf but
the brother of man.  That is the basic nature of the postulates of
socialism.  But socialism, raised to its highest expression by the ideas of
Marx, Engels and Lenin, also taught us the laws that rule the development
of human society and the roads that lead to the definitive triumph of our
species over all forms of slavery exploitation, discrimination and
injustice among men.

We hail all who have attained these stimulating convictions and we also
hail those who, although not sharing these ideas, are honest democrats and
progressives, because political honesty practices consistently is a road
that leads the mind and will of man to the socialist ideal since, just as
someone said some time ago that all roads lead to Rome, today it can be
asserted that all roads of progressive thinking lead to socialism.
[applause]

This momentous and historic event to which we all are living witnesses ends
the provisional period of the Revolutionary government and our socialist
state adopts definitive institutional forms.  The National Assembly becomes
the supreme organ of the state and assumes the functions which the
constitution assigns to it.  It was a duty and, at the same time, it is a
great triumph of our generation to reach this objective.  When I speak of
our generation, I am not referring only to those of us who initiated the
struggle at the Moncada, continued it with the Granma and the Sierra
Maestra, continued it during the critical days of Giron and in the hard
years of noble, unselfish and proud struggle which came later.  Actually,
the fruits of the efforts of more than one generation are gathered here,
from that which fought strongly against Machado, symbolized today by Juan
Marinello, chairman of this assembly by virtue of age [applause] to that
our militant and enthusiastic youths represented by 19-year-old youths,
one of them a worker and the other a student, who had not been born at the
time of the granma landing, and were its [the assembly] secretaries.
[applause]

In the same way, on the 4th, your sons who today are officers in our
glorious Revolutionary Armed Forces or gallant Camilitos of our military
vocational schools will march, along with the gallant combatants of the
Sierra Maestra, in the brilliant military parade which weather conditions
forced us to suspend today.

If the sons of the 1868 warriors fought in the 1895 war, the sons of the
1956 combatants are now marching together with their fathers in 1976.  The
generation of grandfathers, fathers and sons who resolutely confronted
imperialism, tyranny and social injustice are meeting in this grand
assembly.  [applause]

As is the case in the bourgeois world, there are no differences here
between military men and civilians, whites and blacks, men and women,
youths and old people, because we all enjoy equal rights and duties.
Fortunately, there are as well no differences between rich and poor,
exploiters and exploited, powerful and humble, because to forge the state
of the workers the revolution liquidated the political power of the
bourgeois and landowners.

Those are all our deputies, laborers or intellectuals, men and women, old
people and youths, soldiers and civilians, who devote their lives to the
service of the fatherland and the revolution, or study and prepare
themselves to become heirs of our ideas, our efforts and our struggles.

In our revolution the category of politician does not exist, because we all
are politicians from Pioneer to retired elderly person.  Those in party and
state work are those to whom the militants and people have assigned a task
and not those seeking a position.  In socialism posts are not sought, the
citizens do not seek nomination.  Neither wealth, nor social relations, nor
family name, nor publicity nor propaganda--as occurs in the bourgeois
society-decide or have any say in deciding the role of a man in society.
Merit, exclusively merit, capacity, modesty, complete devotion to work, to
the revolution and to the cause of the people are the factors that
determine the confidence which society grants to any of its children.

A single electoral billboard that gives the life and record of the citizen
is exhibited during the elections.  When the time comes to make a
selection, there are not a few but many who are worthy of such trust.  Not
all the men and women in our country who have merit are present in this
assembly.  That is impossible, but all those who are here are men and women
having unquestionable merits and are worthy representatives of all the
people.  These representatives of the people do not receive any type of
remuneration for their position as deputies, nor do they exercise the post
without the control of their fellow citizens.  Their position as deputies
is revocable at any time by those who elected them.  None is above the law
or the rest of their compatriots.  Their posts have no privileges, but have
duties and responsibilities.

Likewise in our system, the government and the administration of justice
depend directly on the National Assembly.  There is division of functions
but there are no divisions of power.  There is only one power, that of the
working people which is exercised through the National Assembly and the
state agencies which depend on it.  Our state form takes into consideration
the experience accumulated by other peoples who have traversed the path of
socialism and our own experience.

In conformity with true revolutionary ideas, we apply the essential
principles of Marxism-Leninism to our concrete conditions.  It is not that
due to this our revolution acquires a popular characteristic.  From the
very beginning our revolutionary process was profoundly popular and was
firmly rooted in the masses.  The first sovereign action taken by the
people was the revolution itself.  Our revolution did not emerge from a
coup d'etat.  To begin with we did not even have an army.  Our revolution
was not imposed by anyone from abroad, but it was forged in heroic struggle
against imperialist domination and the most bitter and ferocious foreign
aggression.

Our revolution sprang up in the midst of the people themselves.  It was
conceived and carried out by humble children of the people.  Our revolution
was born from a small seed which today has become a gigantic tree.  It is
yesterday's old dream transformed into today's beautiful reality, the will
of a people which has already become an irreversible part of history.
[applause]

Besides, our revolution is not the exclusive fruit of our ideas.  Our ideas
themselves, in a great measure, are the product of the world revolutionary
movement.  Some who in this hemisphere spread the dubious accusation
against socialism that it is a foreign idea do not take into consideration
that the language that we speak came from abroad some time ago, that the
bourgeois liberal ideas and all of capitalism's principles were
historically born in Europe, that Christianity was not the primitive
religion of the natives of this continent, that culture and science are
universal.  The political argument of reactionary and ignorant rulers in
confronting masses subjected to cultural and political illiteracy and to
the most brutal economic exploitation is reduced to such diatribes in many
instances.

Marxism-Leninism definitively is profoundly internationalist and at the
same time profoundly patriotic.  In our concept, liberation, progress and
peach in the fatherland are indissolubly united to liberation, progress and
peace of all mankind.  Anarchy, wars, unequal development, the fabulous
resources converted into arms and the risks threatening mankind today are
natural fruits of capitalism.  Only a just distribution of productive
forces, technology, science and standards of living, only an increasingly
more rational use of natural resources, only the closest coordination of
the efforts of all the peoples on earth--that is, only socialism--can save
mankind from the frightful dangers threatening it:  Depletion of the
natural resources, which are limited; progressive contamination of the
environment; uncontrolled growth of the population; desolating hunger and
catastrophic wars.

Capitalism--which, as Marx said, came to the world gushing blood and mud
from all its pores--along with its great scientific and technological
advances and colossal development of productive forces will pass into
history as one of the most cruel, plundering, shameful and fatally
dangerous period in the evolution of human society, for within it are
combined today the most reactionary ideas, the most inconceivable waste of
natural resources, improvisation, irresponsibility and weapons as
destructive as the human mind has ever been able to conceive.

Only the might, resources and prestige of the Soviet Union, leading all the
world's progressive forces with a wise, vigorous and persevering policy for
peace, have been able to halt the threats and dangers which capitalism
still represents for the world.

The recent history of China shows that the most absurd things can happen
even within the socialist family and in countries that initiated that
glorious and revolutionary path, if principles are neglected, if concepts
are lost, if men become gods, and if internationalism is abandoned.  That
country, whose heroic and unselfish revolutionary victory constituted,
after the glorious October revolution, one of the greatest and most
encouraging hopes for all peoples of the world, has been the scene of the
most brutal treason to the world revolutionary movement.  For this, it is
not fair to blame that noble and unselfish people or the Chinese Communists
who have given so much proof of their heroic virtues and revolutionary
spirit.

How then can we explain the events that took place there?  How can it be
explained that Chinese international policy would end up associated with
the most reactionary forces of imperialism all over the world--its defense
of NATO, its friendship with Pinochet, its criminal complicity with South
Africa against the MPLA its hatred and repugnant campaign against the
Soviet Union, its cowardly attacks against Cuba to the extreme of
associating itself with the worst spokesmen of Yankee imperialism to
present it [Cuba] as a threat to Latin American peoples, which is just the
same as being an accomplice in the blockade and infamous policy of
imperialist aggression against our fatherland!

All of this can happen when a corrupt and conceited clique can become
master of the party, destroy, humiliate and crush the best militants and
impose its complete will on the entire nation, backed by the force and
prestige emanating from a social revolution.  I have always believed that
the founders of a revolutionary socialist process acquire such authority
and control over their fellow citizens, such means of power, that the
unrestricted use of that authority, that prestige and those means could
lead to grave mistakes and incredible abuses of power.  I therefore believe
and have always believed that, regardless of the individual merits of any
man, all manifestations of worship of a personality must be radically
avoided; that any man, regardless of what aptitudes can be attributed to
him, will never be superior to the collective capability; that collective
leadership, unrestricted respect for the practice of criticism and
self-criticism, socialist legality, democracy, party and state discipline,
and inviolability of the standards and basic ideas of Marxism-Leninism and
socialism are the only values by which a real revolutionary leadership can
be sustained.

One day, precisely during the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the
Moncada, I said:  Men die; the party is immortal.  [applause]  Today I wish
to add:  No man can be above the party.  Never must the will of any citizen
prevail over that of millions of his compatriots.  No revolutionary is more
important than the revolution.  The exercise of power must be a constant
practice of self-limitation and modesty.

There is today a new political leadership in China.  There is still not
enough time to judge what is happening there.  Incredible things are
reported about the manner which a group of adventurers virtually took over
the party leadership.  What is still not clear in the official explanations
coming from China is through what mechanisms that group could for many
years direct Chinese policy at its whim and how the widow of Mao Tse-tung
could, while he was still alive, commit those crimes within a communist
party and within a socialist state.  Whatever experience is derived from it
must be undeniably useful to the world revolutionary movement.

The developed capitalist world today is mired in a profound economic
crisis.  This hurts all underdeveloped countries whose traditional markets
are affected by a grave depression which harms our own country to a certain
extent.  There is, however, an exception in the underdeveloped world--the
big oil exporters.  These, in a privileged manner, receive a great part of
the income from international trade in this area and they and the developed
capitalist countries are crushing, like a millstone, all the economically
weak nations of the world, which form the immense majority.

The issue is not a simple one.  The capitalist monopolies had owned the
world's oil sources and they imposed the oil prices.  Revolutionary opinion
constantly denounced the monopolistic prices of imperialist companies and
the enormous profits extracted annually.  The just cause of the right of
peoples to own their natural resources, including oil, was supported by all
the world's progressive states.

Over a long period of time, the interests of the petroleum-producing
countries and the rest of the underdeveloped countries marched together.
They all were demanding, with absolute justice, the revaluing of their raw
materials and an end to the unequal trade with the developed capitalist
world.  At the same time, in the midst of the industrialized capitalist
countries a profound crisis was emerging, which was fundamentally the
result of the aggressive, anarchic, exploiting and irresponsible attitude
of imperialism, of the Vietnam war, the enormous military expenses, the
budgetary deficits, the waste and squandering of consumer societies and
other defects which are inseparable from capitalist society.

The wornout methods of developed capitalism aimed at avoiding and
postponing the sorrowful cycles of the system became more and more
ineffectual.  Inflation became uncontrollable.  On the other hand, the
growing resistance of the working masses to accept the principal weight of
the restrictions made it more difficult for the governments to implement
the classic formulas of the bourgeois state.  In this situation, the war in
the Middle East began and there was the subsequent petroleum embargo by the
Arab nations against a numerous group of industrialized nations which
traditionally had backed the Israeli aggressor.  At this juncture the price
of petroleum rose extraordinarily, which also benefited those producers who
had not joined the embargo.

From that point in time, the OPEC nations, moved by strictly economic
interests, well aware of the monopolistic power of the largest part of
petroleum being traded in the world market, and in possession of a raw
material that is essential to all nations, established the prices at a
level four-or fivefold that prior to the embargo, intensifying and
deepening still more the world economic crisis.  The fact that among the
petroleum-producing nations were Algeria, Iraq and others, which maintain
an international progressive policy, the sympathy of many peoples toward
the Arab cause, the brutal threats of Yankee imperialism and other similar
factors determined that all underdeveloped countries made common cause with
the petroleum producers.

The attitude of those countries could not be more impartial and solidary,
due to the fact that they were not in any condition to endure the enormous
economic load implied by the exorbitant price of fuel, if they were even to
survive, to say nothing of attaining a modest development.  The mere fact
that a group of petroleum exporting nations, which until recently were
colonies, could impose such a demand without being immediately invaded and
occupied by the imperialists was only possible due to the new world
correlation of forces, the untiring struggle of all the peoples in the last
decades and to international solidarity.

As a balancing out of events, the petroleum producing nations would also
have to make the cause of the underdeveloped world their own cause and to a
reasonable degree share with it [the underdeveloped world] the new and
fabulous financial possibilities that were dropping into their hands.  This
was publicly stated by the Cuban Government at that time.  It was essential
and just that at least an adequate supply of fuel for those countries was
resolved at an accessible price.

This would have been the only sensible and intelligent policy for
maintaining those nations of the so-called Third World united in the common
struggle against their historic exploiters, except that in some isolated
cases nothing of the sort happened.  Some petroleum producing nations,
above all the largest producers and those with the smallest population,
began to accumulate fabulous quantities of cash and immediately invested it
in real estate, stocks and industries in the United States, England, the
FRG and other industrialized nations of Europe to such a degree that in a
very short time no one will be able to tell the difference between the
interests of those states and of the international financing capital, that
is the imperialist monopolies.

This selfish and erroneous attitude cannot be reconciled at all with the
exemplary solidarity of the underdeveloped countries and, it can be
explained by, among other things, the great heterogeneity and diversity of
opinions and political systems existing among OPEC nations that in practice
only reach unanimous agreement on just one point:  To raise prices.  Not
all the OPEC nations conduct the same policy.  Some maintain progressive
positions in many aspects and harbor sincere preoccupations due to the
international economic situation--such as Algeria, Iraq, Libya, Kuwait,
Nigeria and Venezuela.  But it is an undisputed fact that the two largest
producers, Iran and Saudi Arabia, whose volumes of production are superior
to the rest of the OPEC members together, spend tens of billions of dollars
in purchasing sophisticated weapons in the United States, making it
possible for that imperialist country to replace and sell its obsolete and
unused military equipment and to maintain its war industry, besides using
thousands of military technicians, who are paid fabulous salaries, in the
territories of those states.

The dreams of greatness of the shah of Iran, the fantastic quantities of
arms that rust in the hands of the inept soldiers of the king of Arabia and
the fabulous luxuries of the reactionary sultans of the Gulf of Persia are
being paid for with the sweat and hunger of hundreds of millions of men,
women, old people and children of the underdeveloped world.  This is
literally so, because the developed capitalist countries have charged the
excess price of petroleum to all the equipment, fertilizers, foodstuffs and
manufactured products in general that are exported to the underdeveloped
countries.  Those which see their markets being severely affected, their
export products devaluated, have to pay for the petroleum that they consume
at nearly 100 dollars per ton.

The industrialized capitalist countries have other additional methods to
confront this excessive price, among them the sale of military equipment as
awe mentioned before, which becomes useless scrap iron in less time than it
take the oppressed subjects of the Persian shah and Saudi king to learn how
to operate it.  This is the repetition in the modern era of the classic
legend of the European conquistadores of America who acquired the gold of
the Indians with mirrors and glass trinkets.  No one questions the fact
that petroleum is a raw material that can be exhausted, just as is the case
with other minerals being exported by many African, Asian and Latin
American peoples, and because of that deserve remunerative prices.

No one is questioning the fact that oil has been criminally wasted by
consumer societies and that it needs a policy of conservation and rational
use.  But, why should the underdeveloped countries--who have less economic
resources and in many cases are short of natural resources--be the ones to
support the heaviest burden--which is overwhelming and intolerable--of the
capitalist crisis?  The prices for their imports are so high that they are
inaccessible.  They face a depression in their markets and fuel prices that
are 10 times higher than the cost of producing oil.

What are the short-term and long-term consequences for the world in a
situation like this?  How can any campaign be organized against hunger,
malnutrition, poor health, illiteracy, the lack of drinking water and
housing--in other words, against poverty--in a world that already has a
population of more than 4 billion persons and where one out of three is
undernourished?

Facts show that excessive and abusive overevaluation of a raw material in
the world market as a result of the monopolistic and unilateral action of a
few who have it has been carried out only at the cost of devaluating the
other raw materials and products on which the great majority of the
underdeveloped countries depend for their livelihood.  This is not the way
to overcome unequal exchange conditions.

These conditions are now even less favorable for the majority of countries.
This situation does not represent any solidarity among exploited countries,
but a manifestation of narrow-minded and egotistical nationalism.
Demanding something from the rich is not the same thing as stealing from
the poor.

It is true that among the underdeveloped countries that do not produce oil
there are also backward governments and unjust social systems, but we
defend principles.  These problems show the increasingly urgent need that
all the countries have in seeking rational formulas of cooperation and
distribution of technology and resources.  This is precisely what Marx
foresaw more than a hundred years ago when the world population and other
difficulties were not even a shadow of what they are today.  No country is
prepared to die from hunger.  The oil-producing countries of the
underdeveloped world are not the only ones who have a right to live.

We have spoken in recent days of the problems in Cuba deriving from these
factors.  Sugar, with the exception of that which Cuba sells to the USSR
and to other socialist states, is not only suffering as a result of low
prices, but its markets also import less.  Countries like Japan, which in
the past few years purchased up to 1 million tons of sugar from Cuba, did
not buy more than 130,000 tons in 1976.  This also has happened with other
markets.  This had caused us difficulties and forces us to reduce our trade
with these markets drastically.  This is because the principle of
fulfilling our international financial commitments comes before the
acquisition of new merchandise and industrial plants.  The restrictions on
the domestic economy are never pleasant.  We know that.  Improvements will
always be received with much more satisfaction.  But the strength of a
people and a revolution consists precisely in their capacity to understand
and confront difficulties.

Despite all this, we will make progress in numerous areas and we will fight
bravely to increase the efficiency of the economy, to save resources, to
reduce nonessential expenses, in increase exports and to create an economic
awareness in each citizen.

I said before that we are all politicians.  Now I am adding that we must
all be economists.  I repeat, economists, not economicians [economicistas].
Having a mentality for savings and efficiency is not the same as having a
consumer mentality.

Sometime ago, because of the reasons that I have explained, it was
necessary to reduce the consumption of coffee.  This was applied equally to
social and individual consumption.  I should say that restrictions began
with mass and government organizations.  The amount of coffee for sugarcane
cutters and persons who work at night was kept intact as much as possible.

I want to point out that Comrade Agostinho Neto and other Angolan leaders,
as soon as they found out about these restrictions, told our delegation in
Angola that they were prepared to send coffee to Cuba under any condition.
[applause]

This gesture moved us, but we could not accept it under any terms.
[applause]  Today, 15,000 tons of coffee are worth $40 million, and Angola,
a country ravaged by a war and facing great difficulties, needs this
income.  For consuming coffee we cannot use those resources that we have
helped defend and build with our work and with our blood.  [applause]

Neto's gesture was exemplary of internationalism, and Cuba's attitude must
also be exemplarily internationalistic.  Coffee must be produced in Cuba
whatever the climatic conditions may be.

To this we must add the fact that as a result of the conditions that have
been created by the revolution many peasants have a tendency to migrate
from the mountains, which are coffee-producing regions, regions to which
they were pushed by hunger and unemployment.  The children of these
peasants are now going to school and have wonderful opportunities of
becoming technicians and skilled workers.  There are, as a result of this,
other aspirations.  Meanwhile, the consumer population is now much larger.

The National Association of Small Farmers [ANAP] must make a great effort
to create awareness among the peasants of those areas in order to increase
production.  The National Bank must study credit-related problems as well
as the mechanisms to provide adequate financial resources.  The Agriculture
Ministry must study prices, renovation of plantations, equipment and other
necessary factors.  The policy of establishing high schools and
preuniversity schools in the mountains must be continued.  These schools
should have study and work programs.  It will be necessary to give special
attention to farming, particularly taking the new social conditions into
consideration.

On behalf of the entire nation, we ask the eastern provinces, whose
representatives are here, to carry out a special technical and production
effort in coffee growing.  We ask the same of the provinces that make up
the former Las Villas, Pinar del Rio and Havana provinces.  Coffee farms
are there, too.

One year ago we held the first congress of the party.  An intensive party
and state campaign has been underway since then to fulfill the congress
resolutions.  The socialist constitution was approved in an exemplary
referendum.  The congress took the steps leading to a new
politico-administrative division.  It brilliantly and enthusiastically
carried out the process of nominating the candidates and electing the
delegates to the municipal assemblies which constituted the basis for the
subsequent steps:  The election of provincial delegates and deputies to the
National Assembly and the installation of popular power at the municipal
and provincial level.

The new provinces were officially established on 7 November.  Meanwhile,
months of intensive work were spent drafting the reorganization of the
central state apparatus which was prepared following constitutional
principles.  The new politico-administrative division was organized,
popular power was established, the system for directing the economy was
implemented and the maximum efficiency and consistency in and minimum cost
to the central administration was sought.  Despite all this, it is a matter
in which we can and should continue to advance in coming years.  We were
able to clearly define the functions, structures and personnel lists of all
central state administrative agencies as set forth in an important law
known as the Law on the Organization of the Central State Administration,
which was approved by the Council of Ministers in one of its last actions
as the legislative branch.

The law set up 43 central organizations, 34 of which are state committees
or ministries whose heads will hold ministerial rank and who, along with
the president, the vice presidents and their secretaries, will compose the
Council of Ministers.  With this structure and the suppression of
regionalism, there is a considerable reduction of administrative personnel
in the central administration as it stands now.  The workers who have been
laid off will have to be assigned to other services or production
activities.  As it is logical to expect, they will not be abandoned to
their fate, because the government will adopt, as always, the necessary
measures for their subsistence and reassignment.

There is also a huge administrative decentralization in state tasks.  Now,
the municipalities and provinces have important functions.

More than ever before, it is necessary to have close coordination among all
national communities and with the central government.  Any sign of local
selfishness and regionalism must be strongly opposed.  But, at the same
time, it will be the duty of each province to struggle adequately, justly
and rationally for its development without losing sight of national
interests as a whole.

As may have been noticed, there have been profound institutional changes
within a short time.  With the installation of this assembly, the election
of the Council of State, its president and vice presidents and the
appointment of the Council of Ministers, this historic process of
institutionalization of our revolution essentially concludes.

Among the many important functions assigned to it in the constitution, the
National Assembly will henceforth approve the economic plans and the
budget of the republic.  There should be no fear of facing difficulties.
And if the international economic situation and the limitations of our
natural resources impose more modest plans, let us carry them out without
hesitation or dismay, because our watchword is and always will be to do the
most we can and to do it all for our people.  Let us be brave in performing
our duties and let us always behave as true revolutionaries.

Who can deny that the process which concludes today is an advancement that
makes us all proud, a reckoning with history and with our revolutionary
consciences, the happy fulfillment of a sacred duty which arose at Moncada
and unequivocal proof of fidelity to principle of our revolution.  We must
all adapt our minds to the changes we have made, work with enthusiasm and
confidence in the new conditions, strictly abide by the guidelines and
struggle tirelessly so that the new institutions will work as efficiently
as possible.

Today is the 20th anniversary of the Granma landing.  With the passing of
time, Granma seems increasingly smaller to all of us and the distance of
1,500 miles from Tuxpan to Las Coloradas, infinitely longer.  Back then, it
seemed to use to be a marvelous vessel to transport our 82 combatants, and
the tempestuous sea seemed to be a lovely route back to the homeland to
happily fulfill a promise.  No one can imagine the strength and
determination that just ideas can generate in a human spirit.

Similar events were later repeated.  A victorious army was rebuilt from
seven rifles carried by the hungry and exhausted remnants of that
expedition.  With a handful of men, Raul and Almeida opened the second and
third fronts.  Some 300 combatants defeated 10,000 soldiers in the Sierra
Maestra.  Together with 140 and 90 veterans respectively, Che and Camilo
invaded Las Villas during an epic march, pursued by thousands of enemy
soldiers.  The spirit of Granma also moved our men, almost 20 years later,
to cross 10,000 kilometers of the Atlantic aboard planes that were more
than 20 years old to support our Angolan brothers.  [applause]  The same
spirit moved those who traveled the same distance by sea in journeys
lasting up to 20 days in merchant ships which carried three times as many
men as would have been figured for any logistics operation.

Only a few survived Moncada and Granma.  And in our armed forces we can
count on the fingers of our hand those who participated in these events.
But young workers, peasants and students filled the gap left by death in
our ranks.  All the people joined the cause of the revolution.  Since then,
our strength has multiplied infinitely.  It was the idea, the conviction of
defending a just cause that produced this miracle.  A beautiful tradition
confidence and invincible spirit of decision of the new fighting man.

Therefore, Cuba, nobly and heroically, has been able to withstand
undefeated the attacks by Yankee imperialism.

Recently, the Political Bureau decided to designate the new ranks of our
revolutionary armed forces, which is in keeping with international
practice.  This was thoroughly studied for a long time.  In our life as
revolutionary soldiers, we were always cautious regarding ranks.  Our top
military rank in the Sierra Maestra was that of commander.  In reality, we
had three ranks--lieutenant, captain, and commander.  We began, as you well
know, with 82 men.  Later, our number fluctuated.  At the end of the war,
we had approximately 3,000 armed men.  Those who led columns and opened new
fronts--Raul, Almeida, Camilo, Che, and others--held the rank of commander.
Outstanding military feats were achieved by those of modest ranks.  The
revolution triumphed and we maintained our ranks.  Our Revolutionary Armed
Forces increased extraordinarily and we maintained our ranks.  This became
virtually a path for the revolutionary movements which arose after the
Cuban revolution.  Following our tradition, no one has held a rank higher
than that of commander.  But one day we faced the necessity of organizing
and leading an enormous army with those ranks.  We deeply despised certain
high-ranking military titles.  This was logical in those of us who grew up
watching the abuse, injustice, pillage and privileges of a mercenary army
which oppressed the people and against which we had struggled.  But it is
also certain that the victorious revolution had no way of making itself
understood in the universal terminology of military ranks.

Starting with the socialist countries, our ranks were different.  It was
necessary to lead regiments, divisions and army corps.  We created the
ranks of first captain, first commander, and so forth.  Later, we had
brigade commander, division commander and others.  Nevertheless, our
military ranks were still not understood in the world.  A deep-rooted
modesty kept us from changing our ranks.  In some countries, such as China
during the crazy years of the so-called cultural revolution, they even
suppressed military ranks.  We, on the contrary, realized that although
someday armies could be suppressed when socialism becomes universal and
peace truly prevails between countries, as long as imperialism exists the
socialist countries need armies, and as long as armies exist, military
ranks are necessary.

If the same principle to suppress ranks were applied in all other
institutions, we would have to suppress the titles of party secretary,
president of the republic, chief of state, factory administrator and so
forth.  However, the fact that our country was occupied by a mercenary army
at the service of imperialism during the years of the domination is not
sufficient reason to stop honoring our heroic Mambises in the two wars of
independence--1868 and 1895--who used the ranks of colonel and general.
Maximo Gomez, Antonio Maceo and Ingnacio Agramonte were generals.
[applause]

A few days after the landing in Playites, Jose Marti awarded the rank of
major general of the liberating army to Maximo Gomez.  He received it with
deep emotion and pride.

Our revolutionary army, beginning virtually with nothing, confronted and
defeated Batista's mercenary army, destroyed the counterrevolutionary
ranks, and eliminated in less than 72 hours during the Bay of Pigs the army
trained and organized by the Pentagon and the CIA.  It heroically and
resolutely withstood the deadly nuclear risk of the October crisis.  It has
defended the country against the most powerful imperialism in the world.
In an important internationalist mission alongside our Angolan brothers, it
destroyed in a few months the imperialist, racist coalition which tried to
control Angola.  Our officials have been incessantly training and excelling
themselves.

Twenty years after its founding, we think that our Revolutionary Armed
Forces well deserve to have the appropriate ranks used throughout the world
to organize and conduct the defense of the country.  We know our military
well.  We know how deeply linked they are with the people and with the
cause of socialism, their modesty, their self-sacrifice, their sobriety,
their discipline, their patriotism and their attitude of unconditional
obedience to our party and to our popular state.  They are, as Camilo said,
the people in uniform.  Therefore, we ask the National Assembly to support
and ratify this decision of our party and our Council of Ministers.
[applause]

We have one formal act left--to state that at this moment the Revolutionary
Government transfers to the National Assembly the power it has exercised up
until today.  In this way, the Council of Ministers places in the hands of
this assembly the constituent and legislative functions which it exercised
for almost 18 years, which is the period of the most radical and profound
political and social transformations in the life of our fatherland.  Let
history judge this era objectively.

For my part, dear comrades, I am a tireless critic of our own work.  We
could have done it better, from Moncada up until today.  Experience tells
us how we could have improved.  But this, unfortunately, is not possessed
by the youths who are beginning the arduous and difficult path of the
revolution.  Let this, however, show that we do not know it all, and that
in the face of each decision there can perhaps be another which is
superior.  You, with extraordinary affection, attribute great merits to
your leaders.  I know that no man has exceptional merit and that every day
we can receive great lessons from the most humble comrades.  If I had the
privilege of living my life all over again, I would do many things
differently.  But at the same time, I can assure you that I would struggle
all of my life with identical effort for the same objectives for which I
have struggled up until today.  Fatherland or death, we will overcome!
[applause]
-END-


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