Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC

Fidel Castro Speech

FL140245 Havana Domestic Service in Spanish 0153 GMT 14 Mar 79 FL

[Speech by Commander in Chief Fidel Castro at ceremony held at the Lazaro
Pena Auditorium in Havana City marking the closing of the First Congress of
the Federation of University Students (FEU) and 22d anniversary of the 1957
assault on the presidential palace and Radio Reloj Nacional--live]

[Text] Is this on television?  [Castro's question to someone on the dais]
[chanting of "Fidel" and other indistinct words] Dear comrades:  I should
have suspected [laughter] that you were going to play a trick on me.
[laughter]  Of course, this is a bad example because Jaime [Crombet] spoke
recently, and I attended the ceremony, and you know what happened.  Manolo
Ortega introduced me, and I had to speak.  This cannot continue all the
time.  I said that this could not be done every day, and I assured Comrade
Machadito [PCC Politburo member Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, the scheduled
speaker] and we agreed that we would come to this ceremony and he would
make the speech.  He has a speech already prepared.

What am I going to do with Machadito's speech?  It is his speech, not mine
[indistinct shouts] But I... [Castro does not complete thought] He does
not want to [speak].  I proposed that we consider that his speech had been
made, yes, and that it be published in the newspaper tomorrow.  [shouts of
"no"] Then let Machadito come here to deliver the speech. [indistinct
shouts] What do we do?  Machadito, come here.  No, this is your speech.
Let us do something reasonable.  [applause] let us be reasonable in keeping
with the resolution of the First FEU Congress.  Let us publish this speech
tomorrow, [shouts of "yes"] the one Comrade Machadito was going to make
here, so that all the people can read it.

I think it is a good speech. [applause] He lent it to me so that I could
read it.  [applause] It is a serious, formal and systematic speech.  It
contains all the dates, all the history and all the details.  It is the
type of speech I cannot deliver here.  That is to say, I could say certain
things [laughter] inspired by the atmosphere here, inspired by your,
inspired by memories and also, let us say without being dramatic, by the
emotion we all feel at a ceremony such as this one.

I heard the message [from the students to Castro read earlier by student
Elena Villar] and it was quite a surprise for me.  Time has really passed.
The message was read here by a young student who has born precisely in
January 1959.  Sometimes we distract ourselves and are not aware that years
fly by.  I am aware that some of the youths who were born at the triumph of
the revolution already are in the university and possibility not in the
firsts year but in the second and third years.

I used to have more contacts with the students in the past.  I frequently
visited the university.  But at that time there were one or two or three
universities, and now I probably do not even know how many universities we
have.  We have universities practically in all the provinces.  At first,
there were just a few thousand university students.  Now we have between
140,000 and 150,000 students in our universities.  In other words, our
student body has grown extraordinarily and will continue to grow.  Perhaps
by the time of the Second FEU Congress the number of students will exceed
250,000.  In other words, an extraordinary quantitative leap has been
achieved.  I would not dare assert what the qualitative leap has been.  I
do not mean politically or revolutionarily.  I refer to the educational
aspect.  I could not say yes or no [as heard], but the question seems to be
of extreme importance.

In the political and revolutionary aspect, the comrades who have
participated in the congress have given a magnificent and encouraging
impression.  They assert that the congress has been of high quality, that
the problems have been extensively discussed, that serious evaluations have
been made and that the problems have been expressed clearly and frankly.

Even the foreign visitors have perceived that spirit and have a very
positive opinion of the congress' development.  What I can talk about,
because I have seen it, lived it, is the difference between the university
that we knew and this university of today.  What I can really assert is
that there is an extraordinary difference both between the social
composition of our university student body and the political awareness of
that student body.  In the past, the university was a fundamental
possibility for the families, the children of rich families, for the
children of the bourgeoisie, of some small bourgeoisie and, exceptionally,
for humble youths of the people.

This does not mean that the student body, despite its social composition,
would not be capable of waging historic struggled for the country's
interests, for noble causes, for just causes, for progressive causes,
because unselfishness, idealism, the capacity for sacrifice are usually
tied to the youth.  Moreover, it is also true that not all the student mass
participated in those battles.  In reality perhaps it was a minority of the
students, a vanguard of the students.  Nevertheless, despite that, in
difference phases of Cuba's history the students have made their strength
felt, have made their combat spirit felt.  This was a source of numerous
combatants and heroes of our revolutionary causes for independence.

Throughout all those years and even today, the students' awareness is
motivated by that martyrology represented by the execution of the students
in 1871, and their political awareness, their rebellious spirit, their
hatred for injustice was renewed year after year by remembering that
savage, monstrous crime perpetrated by the colonial and reactionary forces
against those who were called innocent students, but who were innocent just
in the sense that they had not committed any crime, but on whose flesh the
patriotic feeling and the rebellious spirit of our youth was punished.

Throughout the history of that pseudorepublic which followed after the
Yankee intervention, in the struggle against all types of corrupted
governments, in the struggle against the Machado tyranny, in the struggle
against the Batista tyranny, in the struggle for the revolution that made
possible today's present, the students made a very important contribution
and shed their generous blood on the path or our current successes and
victories.  The university always was the center of struggles and center of
rebellion in our country's history.

We have had the privilege of knowing two different eras, two difference
universities, two student bodies which are different in composition, but
very similar in a certain aspect, that is in enthusiasm, in revolutionary
spirit which appears to us to be the same, that of today's student mass and
yesterday's vanguard.  We believe we see in you the magnificent rebirth of
Mella, Martinez Villena, Trejo and Echeverria.

There is something else similar along these lines.  What was the future of
the students then?  What was the fundamental duty of those students at
that time?  Could the students devote themselves to their studies and
disregard the atmosphere and environment around them?  Their duty was to
struggle, to go to the streets, organize demonstrations, fight against the
repressive forces and suffer attacks, beatings, and, as it happened many
times, be killed by bullets.

What future did the students have at that time?  In what society did they
live?  In what future were they going to live?

And when I speak of students I do not mean hundreds of thousands of
students.  I speak of just a few thousand in one university that was
backward, underdeveloped, lacking equipment and resources, disoriented
regarding fields of study and distorted.  And the, after their graduation,
these students did not have even an assurance of a job, certain work.
Those were the conditions in which the students found themselves at that
time--sacrifices, many times death, and without any real incentive, any
possibility to truly devote themselves and concentrate on their studies.

Has the revolution taken away from the student their field of struggle?
no.  But their field of struggle has changed radically.  In the past, the
immediate duty and field of struggle of the students was to tackle every
day all types of abuses and injustice and fight violence every day as it is
happening with students today in most of the Latin American countries.

On the other hand, the revolution created a much broader and much more
universal field of struggle, a gigantic task which is that of making the
revolution, building socialism practicing internationalism and being
students, being worker, being soldiers because already there is no
contradiction between the government and students, between a soldier and a
student, between a policeman and a student [words indistinct].  The student
today is student, worker and soldier.

I am absolutely certain that if it were necessary to defend the homeland
from an imperialist aggression, there would not be a single one of you who
would not demand arms to fight.  [prolonged applause] [indistinct chants]
That is today's student.  Many find it hard to understand the meaning of
socialism, and that is precisely what socialism means because oppression
has disappeared, man's exploitation of man has disappeared and the
government is in the hands of the people.

Because it is a true fact that the most sensitive thermometer of a
country's political situation in today's world is the student body.  I
recall that in those days the minister of education could not show his face
at the university.  [laughter in the audience.]  The politicians could not
show their faces at the university.  A president could not visit a Cuban
university, unless he had it surrounded by soldiers, police, patrol cars,
tanks and so forth.  [more laughter in the audience]  The politicians were
not able to visit the university.  But I ask myself:  How many ministers of
education are able to visit today the universities in Latin America? How
many politicians are able to visit the universities?  How many leaders are
able to visit the universities?

I repeat:  The student body has always been the most sensitive thermometer
of the political system under which it lives, of the type of society under
which it lives.  However, I believe that all of the revolution's ministers
of education have been able to visit the universities, [applause] because I
believe that Armando visited the universities many times and Fernandez
also.  I believe that if Asela visits the university you would give her a
perfect welcome.  Is that so or not? [applause]  Moreover, you have a
minister of higher education, and I believe he can also visit the
universities.  [applause]

The party leaders have been here participating with you in the First FEU
Congress, an FEU which no longer represents one university but--we could
say--dozens of universities.  I stressed this because there is nothing more
satisfactory for us, the revolutionaries--I mean us, and I am not going to
say the old revolutionaries because we do not feel old; let me say, the
more veteran revolutionaries that remain--the infinite satisfaction that we
feel in this atmosphere of confidence, unity and affection existing between
you and us.  In reality we are accustomed to this, but this is not just
anything.  This is what marks the profound difference between the political
systems, between a system of oppression and exploitation and a system of
equality and justice.

These relations between the revolutionary government and the people, these
exemplary relations between the revolutionary government and the students
have been the same since the first say of the revolution's triumph.  I am
sure that this tells a lot to the young representatives of the student
movement who have accompanied you in this congress.  These relations could
not be any other way, because since the first day the people and the
revolutionary government were exactly the same thing.

I make three remarks, I repeat, not because it is something new, but I do
it as I ponder over, think of the still terrible, hard and bitter
situations under which hundreds of thousands of university students live in
Latin America.  Every day we read about confrontations, demonstrations,
clashes, victims, deed, martyrs, exactly as it was occurring in our
fatherland prior to the revolution's triumph.  Today our ambitions are much
more far-reaching; our thoughts are set on much more distance goals.

We no longer think of universities as being different from the people.  We
already think of universities as being an objective of the people, of the
masses.  We think of a gigantic university.  We think of an entire nation
studying.  And what are we today to some extent?  What is our country today
but a gigantic university?  What can be said of a country that already has
1 million students at the intermediate level?  What can be said of a
country which has more than 60,000 workers studying? What can be said of a
country where all its workers already are making plans so that our entire
labor force will complete at least the intermediate level of schooling, a
country which already can think of the data when all its workers will have
preuniversity schooling as a minimum?  What else can you call this but the
threshold of an entire nation studying and even studying at the

One of the problems today is the many thousands of workers who, having
completed the workers' [curriculum] or about to complete it, want to go on
to university studies.  And because of the increase in students, all the
resources assigned to universities are not enough to satisfy these needs.
We now are involved in analyzing it and determining how to do it because
this big movement of workers studying in the workers' [curriculum] forces
us to find solutions so that it [the movement] is not interrupted, and
to think of means and ways by which these workers can go to higher
educational studies.  We do not have enough classrooms, laboratories,
professors, and equipment.  The constructions which increasingly grow each
year are not enough.  And we have to distinguish between regular students
and workers who can attend systematic courses and workers who can take
directed studies so that we can continue with the idea of making university
education universal and of making it possible someday for any and all
citizens of this country to go on to higher educational studies in one way
or another.

You, university students, will not be condemned to be the people's
sorcerers the people's magicians, a strange individual, or be like the one
who claims to be an engineer, or a doctor or a lawyer because he knows much
in a nation of illiterates.  Someday you will be engineers among engineers,
lawyers among lawyers, doctors among doctors.  You do not believe it?  I
do.  I believe it more than you do, because if I did not believe it I could
not have believed yesterday what I am seeing today. [prolonged applause]

I see you, and because I see you I believe in the future.  Furthermore, I
believe in the future more than ever because our mighty, vigorous and
extraordinary student and university treasure of today was something
absolutely impossible to imagine in the past.  [It was impossible to
imagine] our current university system, its prospects and the idea that by
the end of the next 5-year period [1981-85] we well be able to have around
300,000 university students.  And the demand is greater.  If our
universities do not grow at a faster pace, it is not because of a shortage
of candidate students but because of the lack of resources.  We have
discussed this subject on other occasions, especially in talks with

At a relatively recent date, we said that in the future a person with a
sixth-grade education would be illiterate and a person with basic secondary
schooling would be almost illiterate, almost illiterate.

For the first time in history socialism creates the possibility of reaching
the highest goals in the field of education and culture.  The time will
come, sue to the law of nature, when higher education will be massive, will
be universal; moreover, I think this is part of the essence of Marxism.
When Marx and Engels talked about the future and a society in which
differences would even disappear between manual and intellectual labor,
this can also be possible to achieve in a society which has reached the
universality of the broadest knowledge; that is, that practically the
entire society has access to higher education.  The time will come when
achieving a university degree will not mean that society will employ the
person because of that degree.

In the first years of the revolution, when we faced an enormous lack of
technicians and qualified personnel, we desperately needed to increase the
number of technicians.  Now I ask:  Should we limit ourselves to train
university personnel exclusively in accordance with what a rational
estimate dictates?  Should there be 30,000 or 50,000 engineers only?
Should be plan to train 30,000 or 50,000 engineers?   An exact number of
teachers?  An exact number of economists?  An exact number of historians?
And when we reach that number should we limit the university attendance?
The, we will have to tell someone: You cannot be an economist.  That person
wants to be an economist and have knowledge of the science of economics, or
he wants to be a historian, or a socialogist or mathematician.  I think
very few want to be that.  [laughter in the audience]  Or they want to be

Should we limit man's aspirations to be better, the aspiration to study,
the aspiration to obtain higher knowledge?  Well, that could only be
imagined in a feudal society where the people were born for each thing, but
not in a socialist society.  The time will come when even the post of
engineer, historian or economist will be granted based on the record.  This
does not mean that the possibility of studying should be limited or
suppressed.  If a tractor operator wants to be a mechanical engineer, why
should we stop him from being a mechanical engineer?  If all Cuban tractor
operators were mechanical engineers, it is possible that the tractors would
be in better working condition.  [laughter in audience]  I am absolutely
sure of that.

Let us not refer to the practical and material benefits alone which will
unquestionably mean for the country the fact that the people en masse will
reach higher levels of culture.  There are still more important things--the
spiritual wealth of the human being when higher levels of culture are
achieved, the infinity of the spiritual horizons.  We cannot conceive a
more horrible thing than absolute ignorance, and I believe there is no
human being who can resign himself to that.  To reach the highest levels of
knowledge doubtlessly is the highest satisfaction that any human being can
experience.  There is something that can already be detected in our
country's environment, and that is a lot of new useful people who are
outstanding everywhere they go.  Something we can observe in our country
are those new worthy people, comrades whose education is more and more
solid, who are outstanding.

That can be observed everywhere in our country.  We ask ourselves:  What
will it be like in 10 years, in 20 years?  In a country where everybody
had an opinion about anything, it is difficult today to have an opinion on
anything, because wherever someone having the traces of a charlatan
appears, he will always find well-educated people.

I believe there is something that has been proven to the students.  The
politicians in reactionary regimes who fight the students do not like the
students to protest, fight, struggle and be in the opposition, and they say
that the first duty of students is to study.

This is because they want the students in the classrooms and not in the
streets.  They do not want the students involved in demonstrations and

We--who do not have students in the streets, students organizing
demonstrations, students making counterrevolution--say and say it with
reason that one of the fundamental duties of students is to study, but I do
not say it is the only duty.  What do I mean by this?  Every minute that is
lost at your age is a crime, because actually one of the ways of serving
the country and the people and of making revolution and building the future
is devotion to study.  We do not need mediocre engineers.  We do not need
mediocre doctors.  We do not need mediocre professors.  We do not need
mediocre agronomists.  I am certain that none of you, absolutely none of
you, wants to be or would be satisfied with being a mediocre doctor, a
mediocre engineer, and mediocre professor, a mediocre agronomist, a
mediocre economist, and so forth.

There is something more important.  The country needs the maximum
development of the capabilities of each student.  We speak of the present
comparing it with the future, but our people and all the peoples of the
world still have a difficult future.  Our people and all the peoples and
mankind have a difficult future.  And the future problems of mankind are
very serious ones.  Mankind has many problems to solve--the world's health
problems, energy problems, food problems, problems concerned with
contamination of the environment, uncontrolled population growth, shortages
of natural resources, dangers of all sorts, dangers derived from the
aggressive nature of imperialism, dangers derived from the tremendous
difference between the developed capitalist world and scored upon scores of
underdeveloped nations and threats to peace.  Are we not witnessing the
incredible event of China's crininal war against Vietnam?  Who would have
imagined it?  How many mistakes and how many blunders have been committed
in that revolutionary process in China so that today its rulers are
following an aggressive and fascist policy with imperialism?

In other words, the problems which mankind will have to face in the future
are very bid ones and involve very big risks.  All these factors and all
these realities must teach us, especially us as Cuban revolutionaries, what
we should do and how we should do it to maintain the right path, maintain
the revolution pure and clean and not ever separate ourselves from the
revolutionary principles, not ever separate ourselves from the
Marxist-Leninist principles and not ever separate ourselves from the
internationalist principles.

What and how should be our contribution to the effort and struggle of the
other peoples of the world?  How can we make our contribution and whatever
contributions are necessary to solve the future problems of our people and
mankind?  What do we need?  We need two things.  We need consciousness and
we need knowledge.  We need political consciousness and we need profound
knowledge.  And we need them from each and every one of us.

And who today, under the conditions of the revolution, has more
possibilities to accumulate and develop knowledge than a student like you.
The worker, after working 7 or 8 hours, devotes several hours to his
studies.  The political cadres of the party devote several hours to studies
after working 8 and 10 hours.  Everyone is going to schools, different
types of schools, including political schools.

This is done independently from the work they perform, independently from
the age.  Which university student has the right to waste time if we
understand these truths, if we understand these realities?  Our cooperation
throughout the world is developing more and more.  The technical
cooperation grows as if it were foam.  The demands for Cuban technical
services in other countries grows continuously.  We are asked for
physicians, engineers, economists, agronomists.  We are asked for
technicians of the most varied specialties.

When we send to any country, as a donation or because it is a country which
has economic resources and can compensate us for that technical
cooperation, when we send a technician, a university graduate, is it not
true that every Cuban wants that technician to have the highest
qualifications?  Is it not true that the fatherland requires that such a
technician have the highest qualifications?  Is it not true that the
country's honor and prestige, that our own honor is involved in the
performance of that technician?  Will the increasingly more complex
problems being faced by the world be resolved with a mediocre training?
With a mediocre education?  Could they be solved without a profound
capacity of analysis?

Could the be easily solved?  Or simply solved?  One needs only to reach the
threshold of contemporary technology and science to ask oneself if it is
possible to live in and know the world of the future without an enormous
wealth of education and knowledge.

We believe that the students should ponder on this.  If before one had to
leave behind the books and the classroom to go out in the streets to
fight, that does not mean that the struggle has disappeared for the new
generations.  The new generations face a still greater challenge than the
one we faced, still greater than the one we faced.  Today's struggle is to
study to be able to respond to the immense challenge you will later face,
to be able to perform successfully in the enormous struggles of all types
you will later face.

No one should think that the hour of the revolution has ended.  We had our
hour of revolution but your hour of revolution begins now.  It is just
beginning, and no one should be saddened by thinking that the moment of the
great struggles is over, that the moment of great heroism is over.  Greater
struggles and greater heroism will be demanded from the new generations if
we are to understand the realities of our world and the realities of our
present.  There were youths who were lamenting not having been born before
the Moncada assault or before the Sierra Maestra so that they could have
participated in those struggles.  But later on we had Giron.  Later on we
had to need to defend the revolution throughout all these years, and then
same the internationalist missions, in which dozens of our compatriots had
the opportunity to demonstrate their qualifications and courage.

Hundreds of young students of the Che Guevara internationalist detachment
returned recently.  [applause] What a pride for our revolution!  What a
pride for our youth!  What a pride for our people to have a youth capable
of fulfilling such tasks!  What a pride to know that we have 25,000 youths
in the educational detachment!  What a satisfaction to recall our youth's
rapid and energetic response, of our student youth which was capable of
solving the insoluble problem of having teachers for those million
intermediate-level students!  You can observe that every day, every
instant.  Every moment needs emerge that demand spirit and revolutionary
awareness, that demand disposition, that demand courage, that demand

That is why we tell our young students, we mention to them that the future
is filled with tasks, that the future is full of struggles, that it demands
awareness, that it demands disposition, that it demands revolutionary
spirit and that it demands education.  We know that we have an
extraordinary youth..  One needs only to come here and establish contact
with you to learn how much enthusiasm, how much joy, how much vigor, how
much quality can be found in you, the university students.

You have forced me to speak, but also I have the right to ask something,
and it is this.  It is nothing new. [applause] [It is] that all of you,
that each of you make a commitment to be equal to Jose Antonio Echeverria;
that each of you make a commitment to be equal to Jukio Antonio Mella,
[prolonged applause] in revolutionary spirit and in your work, efforts and
studies.  I am deeply convinced that in each of you there is a Mella, there
is a Jose Antonio.

I had the opportunity of knowing Jose Antonio at the university in the
first months of the [Unreadable text] 1952.  He was young, friendly, happy,
enthusiastic.  He was like you.  He and many like him died to become a
tree.  They died to become seeds.  Or, as Mella wanted, they died to be
useful by serving as a banner.  [prolonged applause] And you, today's
university students, are the fruits of that tree, the bearers of that
banner.  [applause] Fatherland or death, we will win. [prolonged applause]