Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC

Fidel Castro Speech

FL161335 Havana Domestic Service in Spanish 0207 GMT 16 Oct 80

[Speech by President Fidel Castro at commemoration of Soviet-Cuban joint
space flight at Havana City's Palace of Conventions on 15 October--live]

[Text] Dear Comrades Romanenko, Tamayo and Shatalov, distinguished guests,
Soviet and Cuban comrades: Today I was pondering the fact that throughout
the history of our revolution very close fraternal, friendly ties have been
established between the Soviet cosmonauts and our people.

As the years go by, we are able to see the significance of some of the
things that have happened. It is in this manner that we remember that,
coinciding precisely with the imperialist mercenary aggression, the first
flight in space took place. For the first time man was able to fly in
space. A few weeks later, as a demonstration and great proof of solidarity,
the Soviet Union sent Gagarin to visit our country. Gagarin left among our
people and all persons who met him an unforgettable impression for his
really insuperable revolutionary, political and human characteristics.

Gagarin was the first person to receive in our country the Playa Giron
Order, the highest medal created by the revolution. Throughout the years,
not even a single Soviet cosmonaut has not visited Cuba. In our country,
the party decided to build a rest house at one of Cuba's best beaches for
Soviet cosmonauts. [applause] Some of them have visited Cuba several times.
Gagarin was president of the Cuban-Soviet Friendship Association and, now,
another cosmonaut, beloved Comrade Shatalov, twice Hero of the Soviet
Union, is the president of the Association of Friendship between Cuba and
the USSR. [applause]

For our people, the cosmonauts represent the Soviet man, the best fruits of
the Soviet revolution. If Lenin's generation carried out the revolution and
the next generation defended the fatherland and defeated fascism, this
generation is characterized by the great advances and great scientific and
technical gains and for having developed the daring men who have conquered
space. When Gagarin predicted that not many years would go by before Cuban
cosmonauts traveled in space, who would have imagined that 19 years later,
on a day like today, we would meet to commemorate, honor and pay tribute to
the Soviet-Cuban crew which has made it possible for us to say that our
country has already sent a man into space?

A cosmonaut is not chosen by chance. Tamayo said here that he feels
honored, very honored, because our party and government chose him to be the
first Cuban cosmonaut. That is not the way it happened. I repeat that a
cosmonaut cannot be chosen by chance. Exceptional conditions are required
for this mission. A great temperament is required. Great talent is
required. Great courage, great coolness are required. A revolutionary
attitude is required. Very high morals are required. It is required to be
an example. In a few words, it is necessary to be a communist. [applause]

I recently said, and now wish to reaffirm, that revolutionary virtues,
courage and many of the conditions represented by Comrade Tamayo are
precisely the virtues of our people. I said that there could be millions of
Tamayos in our country, that I was sure of that because I really am sure of
that. He is a symbol of the temperament, determination, audacity, courage,
talent and revolutionary spirit of our people. He symbolizes our heroic
combatants, the heroic combatants who gave their lives for the revolution's
triumph, for the defense of the revolution. He symbolizes the heroic
internationalist combatants of our people. He symbolizes our heroic
internationalist workers. He symbolizes the vanguard members of our working
class. He symbolizes exemplary workers. He symbolizes the work heroes.

Even much more, circumstances and exceptional merits are needed for our
people to select someone to symbolize them. With the revolution the doors
opened up for him as they did for all our youth, as they did for all our
people. The opportunity to study, the opportunity to excel, the opportunity
to serve his people were some of his options as a humble youth. And his
humble beginnings has been referred to, repeated and insisted on because it
really constitutes a symbol, the fact that our first cosmonaut and the
first cosmonaut from Latin America is the first cosmonaut from Africa. It
is not our whim to say that he also is the first cosmonaut from Africa
because Tamayo, an eminently black man who also has in his veins Indian and
Spanish blood is a symbol of the blood which, as demonstrated by the most
severe test of our fatherland's history, gave rise to our people. It is
African blood. It is Indian blood. It is Spanish blood.

That is why we say he also symbolizes Africa because he is the first
descendant of Africa to travel in space. [applause] It is a symbol that a
man from such humble origin has attained such extraordinary success. Of
course, only the revolution and the revolution alone has made it possible
for a youth such as Tamayo to have that possibility. When he joined the
rebel youth, when he joined thousands of other youths like him to hike to
the Sierra Maestra and to climb the Turquino peak 5 times as one of the
tests our youths had to go through, when he joined the revolutionary
activities, when he registered at the schools, when he said "present" to
the call for training of the first pilots in 1961, when he went to the
Soviet Union, when he returned to our country, when he continued to study,
when he continued to excel, when be continued to train, when he continued
to get an education as a communist youth, first, and a communist, later,
when he was promoted to pilot of our armed forces, when he continued to
assume responsibilities, when he continued to be promoted in our armed
forces and when, throughout all this time--nearly 20 years, he continued to
maintain an exemplary attitude, an irreproachable attitude, a revolutionary
attitude, a Communist attitude. We did not do it; it was Tamayo who,
without wanting to and unwittingly, chose himself to be the first Cuban
cosmonaut. [applause]

That has been the life of thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of
thousands of our compatriots. That has been the life of all revolutionary
leaders. That has been the life of each member of the PCC Central
Committee, of our Politburo, of our secretariat. That has been the life of
all leaders. That has been the life of all administrative cadres, of our
ministers, of our vice presidents. That has been the life of all members of
our People's Government National Assembly. That has been the life of our
officers in the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the Interior Ministry. That
has been the life of thousands and thousands of physicians, tens of
thousands of technicians. More than 100,000 professors and teachers have
had the same life. That has been the life of all our work heroes. That has
been the life of our selfless, struggling masses, because all, as a general
rule, members of humble families, of humble origin, knew how to choose,
also without wanting to and unknowingly, the place they occupy in our
party, in our government, in the midst of our revolution. [applause]

In this travel it was not a matter of seeking honors. It was a matter of
fulfilling objectives, objectives of great importance to the world,
objectives of great importance to our country. One of the really more
valuable things was the research work conducted by the crew. Here, Comrades
Romanenko and Tamayo talked about this research work, such as medical
research work, and of other types, research work on our country's nature
and natural resources, research work on valuable and essential materials
needed in the development of electronics and microelectronics, research
work related to solar energy and possibilities of using it. In summary, a
lot of useful research work was done.

I do not wish to say that the value is not because of the amount of
research work done or what it consisted of, but because of what it could
mean for mankind, all that can be developed and all that can be discovered
and investigated with the travel in space. If we want to have a concrete
idea of this effort by man, it is sufficient to say that thanks to the
satellites we have an immediate weather report. We have photographs of
hurricanes, the paths followed by the hurricanes. Today it is a most
valuable tool to face up to that phenomena, to adopt adequate measures with
time to spare. Thanks to the satellites, in a matter of fractions of
seconds millions of persons in our country were able to see what was going
on in Baikonur. Thanks to the satellites, navigation on the high seas is a
lot safer. Thanks to the satellites, in a matter of minutes, no matter the
distance separating them, people can communicate with each other. Thus, man
has benefitted and has already benefitted a lot from the research work and
flights in space.

These extraordinary events which our generation has witnessed, who could
have imagined them just a few decades ago? When we think of Lenin's day,
who would have imagined that the revolution, the first socialist
revolution, the first proletarian revolution, the first state of peasants
and workers--bitterly attacked by the reactionary forces, bitterly attacked
to the extreme of conducting a collective intervention--who would have said
that such a revolution would have had these results?

Who would have imagined that some day that country would be the first to
conquer space? Because, it was the USSR that opened the path to conquer the
cosmos. [applause]

It was the USSR which launched the first satellites. It was the USSR which
sent the first man into space. That merit, that glory, that honor cannot be
denied or taken away from it by anyone. It was the USSR which with more
seriousness has continued space research work without resorting to
spectacular projects, without sensationalism. And we have seen over a
period of 20 years, year by year, the systematic work being done by the
Soviet Union in space; and not just for merely commercial aims but for
truly scientific ones.

We have seen this in recent days because we never had been so close to
events [in space]. We had read, seen and heard of space flights, but we had
never been so close as when it was the turn of a Cuban to participate in
one of those flights. Perhaps in a few days we have learned more about
cosmonautics and space than we had learned in 20 years. In a few days we
have become more aware of the colossal effort made by the Soviet people
than we had in 20 years from the sensational, spectacular and incredible
launching of that gigantic rocket in Baykonur to the pictures of the
docking and work in space, the reports from the flight control center, from
the computers, Star City, the research that is being done and how it is
being done. It is incredible that over the time span of a single
generation, practically during an average man's life, we have gone from
fiction--because space flights were fiction when many of us who are not so
old were children and there was talk in fiction, movies and books, of space
flights--to these extraordinary changes.

There is no doubt that we have seen a great victory of socialism. I do not
deny and will not deny that the capitalists and imperialists also have had
important technological achievements. I am not going to say that they are
underdeveloped in the field of technology and science. But there is a
difference and it is that we know that those things they are developing,
that technology and that science, are not for us; they are against us. They
are not to help us, they are to exploit us. They are not to make us feel
more secure, but to make us feel more insecure.

And who can speak with more reason [on this] than Cuba, which cannot even
feel joy that some medicine has been discovered in the United States, even
if only a more effective aspirin for headaches, because it is forbidden to
sell even aspirin to Cuba. That is the difference of the meaning of
scientific and technological achievements of socialism for us and for

We feel that the triumphs of the Soviet Union are our own triumphs.
[prolonged applause] We would be indulging in narrow-minded
chauvisnism--and all chauvinism is narrow-minded--and would be indulging in
sterile vanity if just because a Cuban flew into space, only for that
reason, we felt proud and considered ourselves better than other peoples.
No. We are far from that. More than Cubans, we feel pride as
revolutionaries. We feel proud of the revolution. We feel pride as
socialists. We feel pride as communists. It was because of the revolution,
socialism, the wise ideas of Marx and Engels, the struggle of the Soviet
people which made these realities possible. It was the effort of thousands
upon thousands of scientists, technicians and researchers whom we could
symbolize in one of them--for example, (Sergey Korolev), who is practically
the father of the development of spaceships.

And, just as he did, thousands of scientists and technicians, hundreds of
thousands of workers, an entire nation worked to reach those achievements
which today we consider to be ours. And it was thanks to the revolution, to
socialism and to communism that these victories were possible. All the
peoples of the world and, above all, the underdeveloped nations whose
natural and scientific resources do not allow them to carry out such feats
on their own, feel the benefits of these victories. We all feel encouraged
by these successes. And we all are aware of our modest contribution, but as
revolutionaries, as socialists, as communists and as internationalists, we
are proud of this feat. [applause] It is not nationalistic pride. It is
internationalist pride.

Everything we have seen over recent days is truly encouraging. Our people
felt really happy. Our people felt moved as they seldom had before. They
felt highly encouraged. However, as revolutionaries, as socialists, as
internationalists, I explain this so that our feelings are well understood.
These successes make us more revolutionary. They strengthen our convictions
more and they show what a nation can do with the revolution and with
socialism. That is why we can say today that because of the revolution,
because of socialism and because of internationalism, and not because of
exceptional virtues or because we may be superior to other peoples, today
we no longer are just the top Latin American country in public health,
education and social development which has freed itself of many ills such
as beggars, prostitution, drugs, gambling and so forth, so forth, so forth.
We no longer are only the first Latin American country in sports. We are
now also the first in space. [Applause] And Romanenko explained that we are
the ninth space power. Well, I say that indeed the ninth space power,
considering that the USSR's space power also belongs to us. [applause]

How many benefits mankind could get from these creations, from these
successes in man's research in science and technology, how many problems
could be resolved, how many anguishing issues in many fields today could be
overcome when one sees the precision and marvel of those machines, the
things that are possible and the safety with which they are done today; and
when man is capable of building such perfect machines, when man is capable
of solving such complex problems and the incredible safety with which he
solves them. And this can be seen in an episode of a space flight such as
this one [Soviet-Cuban flight].

Think of the crime which war really means, of the crime which the arms race
means because the same thing we have seen in the space flight, that same
precision, that exactness are what nuclear weapons have today, are what
strategic missiles have. And it is truly overwhelming and deeply painful to
think that the technology which could serve mankind so much can serve
precisely for the destruction of mankind. In recent days, there was the
news that a U.S. Titan rocket exploded. It is a good thing that is was the
rocket that exploded, for it had a 20-megaton nuclear warhead in its nose,
in other words, a thousand times the nuclear power of the first bomb
dropped on Hiroshima.

It is truly absurd that at this time, and in the realities of this world,
the imperialist countries still harbor ambitions or there are sectors
within the imperialist countries which advocate military superiority over
the socialist camp. It is known that what is known as parity--more or less
a balance of military strength--has been reached in today's world. However,
there are sectors within imperialism which advocate the arms race and
military superiority. The theory of military superiority would, if carried
out, force the socialist camp, essentially the Soviet Union, to make an
enormous effort in the military field because, as the Soviet Government and
party have declared clearly and absolutely, the Soviet Union never will
allow any type of imperialist military superiority over the socialist camp.
[prolonged applause]

What interest can socialism have in an arms race? What interest can the
socialist economy have in arms production? Arms production is one of the
things to which the capitalist countries resort for profits, to create
jobs, to fight their crises. What interest or what need can the socialist
countries have in this? The socialist countries, fundamentally the USSR,
are characterized not only by full employment. In many cases, the problems
which the more developed socialist countries have are a shortage of labor.
As a matter of principle, the socialist economy can have no interest in
arms production, in the arms race.

It is precisely the lack of identify between the interests of the system
and the interests of the people which leads the capitalist system along
those paths, which leads the capitalist system to seek an arms race.
Precisely today we read in news reports of the sale of thousands of
millions of dollars, in this case francs, in weapons to an Arab oil country
which has a lot of money because it has a lot of oil. And this is a $4.5
billion purchase in a single purchase made by Saudi Arabia from France.
This is a colossal business.

The arms business and the arms industry continue to develop. And deals in
billions [of dollars] are made as if they were nothing. Of course, there
are some who have many millions, too many millions. But one should not
forget that the world is partly paying for such weapons, partly because
when underdeveloped countries have to pay those prices for oil, prices
virtually out of the reach of their resources, and when underdeveloped
countries have to pay more not only for fuel but also for the
semimanufactured raw materials and for the industrial products of the
developed capitalist countries, there is no doubt that the underdeveloped
countries also are paying for a portion of those weapons.

Thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of minds continue to be
used to develop increasingly more deadly weapons systems, increasingly more
exact weapons, increasingly more precise, increasingly more destructive
weapons. And we are seeing this spectacle, and it really appears to be a
spectacle of insane people, on this path of the arms race which the
imperialist countries are trying to impose on the world. And the time will
come when the amount of explosives per capita, for each human being, in
this world will no longer be measured by tons of explosive. On this path,
each human being will have an atomic bomb on top of his head. And it
remains to be seen if man is capable of surviving the means of destruction
he has developed because there is no doubt that international tension and
the arms race sooner or later will lead to war. There is no doubt that
problems in the world and the pockets of conflict are increasing instead of

We are not living in prehistoric times. We are not living in the old days
or in the Middle Ages or in feudal times. In the past, what a man did could
affect the clan or the tribe and what a tribe did could affect several
tribes. Today, what a man with power does can affect the entire world.
Today, what a nation does can affect all the nations of the world. And the
problem is not just one of war. There are other problems associated with
the international situation, increasingly more relevant problems.

A few minutes ago I mentioned the energy problem. And the energy problem
already is becoming for scores and scores of countries a vital question for
their development and under such conditions there will be no development
for scores and scores of countries in the world. The burdensome energy
problem is one of the grave problems the world has to solve.

The food problem is another of the big problems which the world has to
face. After 20 years, and 20 years go by fast, and it has been more than 20
years since the triumph of the revolution, it has been almost 20 years
since the first space flight, it has been almost 20 years since Gagarin
visited us in our country. Twenty years pass rapidly. And in 20 years the
world will have 6.4 billion inhabitants. The FAO today made an appeal to
world public opinion on the fact that more than 200 million persons are
starving in Africa and in Southeast Asia.

Agricultural developments and food production require machinery,
fertilizers, pesticides and energy.

There are the problems of the environment. There are the problems of
contamination of waters, the destruction of soil, the destruction of
forests, the destruction of nature. Tremendous problems exist in the world,
and they are accumulating. How can these problems be solved amid an
atmosphere of international tension and arms races?

This experience we have experienced in recent days should serve to make us
more aware of these problems and of these realities, and the importance of
the struggle for international detente and the struggle for peace.

Our people do what they can and do what they should. We have created in our
country the best conditions to work for the future, to preserve our
resources, to develop conditions of life in our fields, to develop
conditions of life in the cities. We are making an enormous effort to
increasingly preserve the health of our population. We are making a
gigantic effort to educate the new generations. To the extent of our
strength and possibilities, it will be up to us also to work for
international peace, for understanding among nations.

It will be up to us to continue to carry on our international cooperation
with underdeveloped countries that are even poorer than we are and require
this cooperation. It is not in our hands but in the hands of all
revolutionary countries, all progressive countries and all conscientious
rulers to wage this decisive struggle to try to change the current course
of events, to try to prevent the world from continuing to advance on that
dead end of an arms race and war which could mean the application of all
those technical and scientific marvels to the destruction of the lives of
hundreds of millions or perhaps thousands of millions of human beings.

I believe that this success, this feat of the Soviet brothers with the
participation of one of our compatriots, should serve to encourage us.
Tamayo and Romanenko, the first two to receive the title of heroes of the
Republic of Cuba, should constitute an example for our youth and our
people, an example for all the combatants of our Revolutionary Armed
Forces, an example for our young communists, for members of the party, for
all students, for all workers because what is deduced with dazzling clarity
is that these events are not possible without great preparation, that human
advance and progress are not possible without a great effort, without many
sacrifices, without much study.

We have all been informed of the dedication of these comrades, the
dedication with which Romanenko and Tamayo devoted themselves to preparing
for the flight. [There were] long periods of study and training which
required perseverance, tenacity and will to undertake not just mechanical
tasks, to be able to solve not only problems that may arise, but also to
carry out serious research. Without the will which Tamayo displayed,
without his constancy, without self-denial, he could not have performed his
mission. That is why they should represent an example for all

As I was saying, there are problems in the world and they are serious
problems. However, we are not pessimists. I believe that man's intelligence
and capabilities will be equal to overcoming the reactionary forces,
backward forces, irresponsible forces which are endangering world's
survival, world peace and are threatening mankind with an unbelievable step
backward. The march of progress win not stop because no one can halt the
march of progress. The march of history can be stopped by no one. The march
of the struggle for independence and liberation can be stopped by no one.
It is completely absurd. It is a big lie, a real fraud to attempt to
attribute the liberation movement of the peoples, the revolutions, to
alleged Soviet expansionism.

The Soviet Union had nothing to do with the rise of the Cuban revolution.
Lenin's idea did have something to do with it. The changes in the world's
correlation of forces did have something to do with it, but the Soviet
state had nothing to do with the rise of the Cuban revolution. It had
nothing to do with the rise of the revolution in Nicaragua, for example, or
with the revolution in Ethiopia, which did not want to be resigned to
living under the feudal regime of a 1,000-year old kingdom.

Who can blame the Soviet Union for the liberation movements in Angola and
Mozambique? Who can blame the Soviet Union for the struggle of the
Vietnamese people for their liberation? It is nothing but lies and pretexts
of the imperialists. I feel that the peoples' struggle, progress and
liberation movements will not stop. I have the feeling that mankind will be
capable of winning the battle for survival. In this world, which is
increasingly interrelated, we will fulfill our duty. We will work. We will
work for our country and will also cooperate with other countries.

We are willing to observe a constructive policy and a policy of peace to
the same degree that we will be ready to defend our fatherland, revolution
and cause with even our nails and even our teeth. [applause] We are
determined to defend the first socialist state on the Western Hemisphere to
the last drop of our blood. [applause] Let those who talk about naval
blockade against Cuba and aggression against Cuba be aware of this!
[applause] With profound emotion we listened to the beautiful and heroic
national anthems of the Soviet Union and Cuba at the beginning of this
ceremony. This historic event is proof of the close, indestructible and
eternal friendship between our two peoples.

Fatherland or death. We shall win!