Granma presents excerpts from the June 2 book presentation held in the Palace of the Revolution’s Reception Hall, with the presence of Party First Secretary and President Miguel Díaz-Canel, the country’s top leadership, and Army General Raul Castro’s brothers in arms, Rebel Army Comandante José Ramón Machado Ventura, and Comandantes del la Revolución Ramiro Valdés Menéndez and Guillermo García Frías. Revolucion, la obra ma hermosa has not yet been translated into English. One hopes that acquainting MLT readers with it will hasten an English translation.
This valuable, important, transcendental book we present here today was compiled and edited with particular care by the Office of Historical Affairs of the Presidency of the Republic and is the first title of its publishing house, Ediciones Celia, named in honor of a figure central to our revolutionary process, in war and peace, a woman who did so much, especially for the preservation of its history.
We are presenting a very beautiful edition on the eve of the birthday of the author, Army General Raul Castro Ruz, a gift to Raul on this anniversary of his birth, and also, no doubt, a great gift to the Cuban people.
I must say that Revolución, la obra más hermosa (Revolution, the most beautiful work) was to include a prologue by our unforgettable Eusebio Leal, who had a very close friendship with Raúl, whom he called, as we all remember, “el General Presidente.” Eusebio was ill, and his ailments, growing progressively worse, did not allow him to introduce the book.
Conceived in two volumes, with top quality design and finish, and a meticulous and very useful index, this title is a compilation of speeches, remarks, interviews and statements delivered by the Army General between June 14, 2006 and May 1, 2019. With the exception of the first text, all others are dated after the “Proclamation of the Comandante en jefe to the Cuban people” on July 31, 2006, in which Fidel explained that for health reasons he was obliged to provisionally withdraw from his responsibilities leading the Party, the state and government, and delegate these to Raul. On February 18, 2008, the “Message from the Comandante en jefe” was published, in which he indicated that he was definitively retiring from all positions in order to continue the struggle as “a soldier of ideas.”
On February 24, 2008, the National Assembly elected Raúl as President of the Councils of State and Ministers; and later, in April of 2011, the Sixth Party Congress elected him as the organization’s First Secretary.
These pages cover more than a decade in which transcendental events for the nation took place, including the debate and approval of the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Party and the Revolution; the freedom of the Cuban Five, finally all in the homeland, as promised by Fidel; the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the United States, after talks in which Cuba made no concessions; the physical departure of the Comandante en jefe, his funeral tribute and the massive, painful, committed farewell of his people; and the broad popular debate and subsequent approval of the new Constitution in a national referendum.
At the same time, along with the enormous weight of the responsibilities he held, Raul faced very bitter moments on a personal level. Revisiting these moments and the national and international context in which the events in these pages took place, our admiration for Raúl grows, for his courage, for his integrity, his stature as a leader and as a human being.
This book reveals the uninterrupted thread that seamlessly unites the thinking of Fidel and Raúl: the absolute identification of the two brothers in terms of ideals, values, principles – the product of having shared, together, all the challenges and risks involved in confronting and defeating the Batista dictatorship and in the epic feat of making “a socialist Revolution under the very nose of the United States.”
The editors made a wise decision in opening the first volume of Revolución, la obra más hermosa, with the speech Raul delivered on the 45th anniversary of the Western Army’s founding. He explains in this speech how, after Bush launched the war on terrorism in 2003 and a very real danger of aggression emerged, the decision was made “to increase everything we can to strengthen defense” (Volume 1, page 2) and how, after the successful completion of Exercise Bastion 2004, it was possible to make “a significant, qualitative leap in the country’s defensive capacity.” (Volume 1, page 5)
Now, Raul added, the enemy ” focuses its blows on weakening us ideologically … with its sights set on the future, in a scenario considered more favorable to its objectives.” (V1, 8) And then he refers to the so-called “transition to capitalism” the Bush administration had designed for Cuba, “betting on the end of the Revolution when its historical leadership would no longer be present,” and that he Yankees know “that the special confidence conferred by the people on the founding leader of a Revolution is not transmitted, as if it were an inheritance, to those who will occupy the country’s principal leadership positions in the future.” (V1, 9)
This is why, Raúl said, “I repeat what I have stated on many occasions: there is only one Comandante en jefe of the Cuban Revolution, and only the Communist Party, as the institution that brings together the revolutionary vanguard, and serves as a sure guarantee of the unity of Cubans at all times, can be the worthy heir of the trust placed by the people in their leader. We are working for this and so it will be…” (V1, 9)
This theme is present, above all, throughout the first volume of the book, as related to the sinister, perverse plan of the Yankees to prevent “Castro’s succession.” The plan was based on waiting for what they cynically called the biological solution, that is, the physical disappearance of Fidel, to then apply one of several variants, including military intervention, to make the survival of the Revolution impossible.
Raul discussed these plans with journalist Lazaro Barredo and quotes several U.S. officials who refer to the matter. Raúl recounts that one of them openly stated that the U.S. does not accept the continuity of the Cuban Revolution, but “He did not say how they intend to avoid it.” Another individual insisted that the transition in Cuba – that is, the death of Fidel – could happen at any moment and they needed “to be prepared to act decisively and swiftly.” He went on to say that the U.S. wants to be sure that “the regime’s cronies do not take control,” adding, “They were working to make sure there would be no succession to Castro’s regime.” And Raul concludes: “In what way could these goals be achieved, other than military aggression? Thus, the country adopted the pertinent measures to counteract the very real danger.” (V1, 17)
But, as we all know, Fidel retired for health reasons, resigned from his positions and Raul took his place as the First Vice President of the Council of State and Ministers and Second Secretary of the Party Central Committee, and moreover given his extraordinary merits, his amply demonstrated ability, and because he had always been at Fidel’s side in all the battles, as undisputed second in command of the Revolution. The fact is that Raul led the country with a firm hand and took on new challenges, and the people reacted, as Raul himself says in several speeches included in these pages, with great confidence in the Revolution, with much confidence in himself.
The Yankees believed the theory that when the caudillo, as the reactionary press said, fell ill or disappeared, everything would collapse in Cuba. They invent stereotypes, caricatures and fables and end up believing them. Fidel was not a caudillo, of course, he was a guide, a visionary, a founder, with very deep roots, endearing roots, and he, along with Raul and other founders, with the Party, with the people, had created a revolutionary institutionality that was not going to just fall apart.
This was not included in the empire’s calculations. They had not foreseen that Fidel could retire and the country continue in complete normality, that Raul would assume his responsibilities and undertake a number of bold transformations to perfect our socialism, with the overwhelming support of the people, without the even slightest crack appearing in the unity of Cuban revolutionaries. This took the Yankee politicians by surprise, as well as their think tanks, their intelligence services, the prophets supposedly specialized in our country and its destiny. Just as it has taken them by surprise that Raúl left his positions years later in the hands of a much younger leader, compañero Díaz-Canel, and that the process, which Raúl has defined as “the gradual and orderly transfer to younger generations of the main responsibilities of the nation’s leadership” (V2, 88), was taking place.
And this has begun to occur in a very visible manner; the Central Committee has been rejuvenated, the Political Bureau and the Secretariat have been renovated, the Council of State and the Council of Ministers have been recharged, and in this country our people continue to trust in the leadership of the Revolution founded by the generation that did not let Marti die in the year of his centenary, which fortunately for all of us continues to accompany us.
Revolución, la obra más hermosa is a book that should become a must-read for every Cuban – and, for sure, will have many readers beyond our borders. It is full of passages that generate reflection, analysis, self-critical evaluation of our own conduct, that rudely place us face to face before the mistakes we revolutionaries can make, the distortions, the ineptness, the bureaucratic, superficial, routine, dogmatic attitudes. Other passages are very emotional, including those associated with the Comandante en jefe’s death: Raul’s moving speech on November 25, 2016 and his speeches during the tributes in the Plaza de la Revolución, on November 29, and in Santiago, on December 3.
Others serve as true lessons on the principles that define the international projection of the Cuban Revolution, thanks to Raúl’s speeches at meetings of the Non-Aligned Movement, ALBA-TCP, CELAC, Cuba-CARICOM, Petrocaribe, the Summit of the Americas in Panama, the talks between the Colombian government and the leadership of the FARC-EP, at various United Nations events, in Rio de Janeiro, in Moscow, in Johannesburg, in Luanda, in Brasilia. And I could go on mentioning many other forums of a similar nature in which Raúl participated during the period addressed in the book.
Reading these speeches in a single sitting, one cannot help but feel proud to have been born on this Caribbean island, geographically small but immense in moral and solidary stature, and to have known this brother of Fidel’s, in blood and ideas, so modest (as his own name indicates), and at the same time so admirable.
Revolución, la obra más hermosa allows us to understand better Raul as a statesman, as a defender of the poor of the earth, of abandoned children, of immigrants cornered by racism and neo-fascism, of the illiterate, of the unemployed, as a defender of peace, of multilateralism, of a new international economic order, of the right of every people to choose the political system it deems convenient, of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states, of an integral and comprehensive conception of human rights, of the founding principles of the United Nations, which have been impudently violated by U.S. imperialism and its allies.
In all the forums he attends, Raul introduces the subject of peace and the solution of conflicts by peaceful means. He constantly refers to the absurd and dangerous growth of the arms industry, with funds that could be used for development and the fight against climate change. Let us recall that one of the projects to which Raul devoted most time and effort was his patient and laborious promotion of CELAC, an organization of nations inspired by the dreams of Bolivar and Marti, which brings together Our America and the Caribbean without the presence of old or new metropolises. In addition, CELAC approved, as we know, the historic Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace.
Clearly, Raul’s pacifist vocation does not contradict the priority he has given internally to the doctrine of the entire People’s War. For him, our permanent, unceasing, conscious preparation for defense is the only way to preserve peace.
In the course of Raul’s international activity, we can observe his ability to address delicate and complex issues, and to build closer relations and consensus among representatives of very different governments, always on the basis of ethics and principles. One of his most recognized and visible efforts has been to bring the countries of the South together, to bring them closer, regardless of cultural, political, religious differences, of all kinds, and to articulate their forces.
In these forums, Raul often insisted that unity can be achieved within diversity, that it is possible, that we must concentrate on the issues we have in common, on which we agree, and put aside the issues we understand differently and not turn them into obstacles. Thanks to unity, we will be heard and we will have the opportunity to achieve victories in this self-centered world controlled by the interests of the rich elites. “We are one hundred and twenty Non-Aligned States…. Our enormous strength cannot be underestimated when we act as one,” he said in September 2016 at the XVII Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement.
The peoples of the South have had in Raúl a passionate and lucid spokesman. A loyal spokesman, who at all times calls for a more just and better world, freed from the vestiges of colonialism and the geopolitics of plunder; a world based on collaboration and not on a deceitful, unequal competition, with support and transference of technology from the developed North to the underdeveloped South, in which we work together to reduce the abysmal gaps in all arenas. Raul is also an advocate of the potential of South-South cooperation.
With respect to the environment, Raul maintains a position of persistently warning and denouncing transnational corporations and industrialized countries, the planet’s principal predators. He criticizes the inadequate political will of great powers and the lack of concrete commitments in events addressing an issue that cannot be postponed. At the same time, Raul draws attention to the devastating effects of climate change on small island states and calls for a differentiated approach in their case.
At the domestic level, Raúl has been a driving force behind Task Vida, “the Cuban state’s plan to confront climate change… a matter of special strategic significance for the present and especially the future of our country, given our condition as an island, in which the participation of our national scientific and technological forces has been key.” (V2, 400)
Returning to the international dimensions of his work, we must remember that Raul always has words of encouragement and friendship for the long-suffering Haitian people. He continually recalls the debt the West owes this nation, and how Cuba has never and will never abandon Haiti. He harshly condemns the “charity” in quotation marks, the theatrical “charity” designed for television cameras offered by some powerful countries. Likewise, he devotes words of solidarity to the African continent, the Palestinian people, the Saharawi people, to Puerto Rico, to the just causes the hegemonic press never covers truthfully.
It should be noted that during Obama’s term in office and his policy changes with respect to Cuba (while his offensive against Venezuela was intensifying), the voice of our country, and in particular the voice of Raul, was raised on all tribunes to express our solidarity with the homeland of Bolivar and Chavez, and with all the victims of interference and dirty tricks on the part of the United States and its allies.
At the General Assembly, celebrating the 70th anniversary of the UN, in September 2015, Raul concluded his speech with these words:
“The international community will always be able to count on the sincere voice of Cuba in the face of injustice, inequality, underdevelopment, discrimination and manipulation and for the establishment of a more just and equitable international order, in which human beings, their dignity and well-being are truly central.” (V2, 251)
Revolución, la obra más hermosa allows us to identify the primordial core of Raúl’s thought and action, both in his international work, as we have already seen, and in what constitutes the raison d’être of our Party, the methods and styles of work that should characterize a Cuban leader of today and the future, in the Party, the government, in mass organizations; his constant, astute, critical evaluation of revolutionary work; his very broad, very complete, very deep and coherent vision of the challenges we face, his optimism in the face of any contingency and confidence in victory.
This book illustrates, with many examples, his stature as an exceptional leader, who defends this “Revolution of the humble, by the humble and for the humble” from the overt or covert aggressions of the empire and its mercenaries, and tirelessly defends it, as well, with action and sharp words, from all obstacles, in particular from those leaders and officials with “obsolete mentalities,” from the self-satisfied, sectarian, corrupt and crooked, to those who are insensitive to the needs and demands of the population.
Also of significant conceptual and practical utility are Raul’s views on cadre policy and the qualities that should characterize our leaders, as well as the attributes that can disqualify a person. He establishes as a rule that cadres must have worked at the grassroots level and exercised the profession they studied, before assuming a leadership responsibility. He emphasizes that, although we have made progress, female, black and mixed race cadres are still promoted only in a limited fashion. He insists that this is an issue of utmost importance, which should not be left to spontaneity.
His way of speaking to the Cuban people, transparent, direct, frank, adhering strictly to the truth, in its essence far removed from any trace of demagogy, is clearly evident in this book. This type of communication between Raúl and the people is accompanied by his repeated calls for open, penetrating debate:
“All the information and arguments on which every decision is based,” he says, “must be put on the table and, in this way, stem the excess of secrecy to which we have become accustomed over more than fifty years of the enemy’s siege… Explaining, substantiating and convincing the people of the rightness, necessity and urgency of a measure, however hard it may seem, is vitally important… The Party and the UJC (Young Communists League), in addition to the CTC (Federation of Cuban Workers) and its unions, mass and social organizations, have the capacity to mobilize the support and confidence of the population through debate, not bound by dogmas or impractical frameworks, that constitute colossal barriers and absolutely must be eliminated little by little, and we will achieve this with the efforts of all.” (V1, 418-419)
He has said before that we should not be afraid of disagreement, which “will always be more desirable than fake unanimity based on simulation and opportunism.” (V1, 417)
He warns, with much realism, that “…as the implementation of the new model advances, a different scenario will be created for the party organization, characterized by increased heterogeneity among sectors and groups in our society, emerging from the differentiation of incomes. All this imposes the challenge of preserving and strengthening national unity in circumstances unlike those we became accustomed to in previous stages.” (V2, 307)
Bearing in mind this essential mission, he emphasizes, “In the Party ‘giving orders’ must definitely end; its strength is moral, not official, that is why leading the Party requires morals and the ability to convey this spirit to the mass of members.” (V2, 13)
Raul very frequently reflects in these pages what should characterize leaders at all levels. He reiterates that they must permanently have their ears to the ground, listening to the people, attentive to their opinions. He rejects defensive, deceptive positions and anything intended to avoid the analysis of the real problems: “prepared,” “decorated,” “scripted,” visits to provinces and municipalities by the national leadership; accountability reports to the National Assembly, with “arranged” praise; any fake, feigned misrepresentation, which leads us away from directly confronting mistakes and errors. He conducts a penetrating, rational assessment to expose work systems and nonsensical habits that have taken root in different sectors, and emphasizes the waste of resources they imply.
He speaks with great emphasis of the need to consolidate every step we take in updating the country’s model. Distortions and deviations must be detected, in order to rectify them immediately, in time, and never allow these distortions to become widely accepted, because, as he points out, rectifying them later becomes a political problem.
One of Raúl’s fundamental concerns is eliminating improvisation and establishing as the norm Martí’s concept that: “To govern is to foresee.” He pointed out during his Central Report to the Seventh Party Congress: “The issue is to have a method, a path, a project to make sure that things never surprise us and progress fluidly.” (V2, 316)
Another of his concerns is linked to the strengthening of our institutional framework, from all points of view, legal, ideological, moral, in terms of efficiency and service to the people, in terms of legitimacy. Toward this end, it is essential to check and systematically follow up on the agreements emanating from Party Congresses, Central Committee Plenary Sessions, the National Assembly of People’s Power, different political and governmental bodies. This is why he so harshly criticizes the tendency to shelve agreements and documents, or simply forget about them.
Apathy, paralysis and insensitivity are capital sins in these times. For Raúl, “The worse thing there can exist, the worse that a revolutionary or any plain, honest person, communist or not, can do is to stand idly by in the face of a problem.” (V2, 297)
Similarly, he criticizes improvisation and the use of “campaigns,” replete with loud, fleeting agitation, that are absolutely ineffective in completing critical tasks and ensuring follow-up.
He is particularly concerned about being rushed and the errors that result from hasty decisions: “The pace and depth of the changes we must introduce in our model must be conditioned by our ability to get things right and to rectify any deviations in a timely fashion. This will only be possible if adequate prior preparation is guaranteed – which we have not done – with training and understanding of regulations established at every level and the accompaniment and conduction of processes, aspects in which there has been a good dose of superficiality, an excess of enthusiasm and desire to advance more quickly than what we are really capable of.” (V2, 403-404)
Raul reminds us time and again of Fidel’s warnings in the University of Havana’s Aula Magna, November 17, 2005, about the urgency of eliminating corruption to save the Revolution, and goes further in describing the regression in our country of “moral and civic values, such as honesty, decency, morality, decorum, honor and sensitivity to the problems of others.” (V2, 71)
Raúl identifies two practices that would go a long way in preventing us from making mistakes when developing strategies: In the first place, rigorous, open discussion, “in the various collegiate bodies at our disposal, in the Party, the state and the government, to ensure that important decisions are always the result of collective analysis, which does not exclude honest disagreements or different opinions;” (V2, 333) and second, consultation with the people.
“The Party is obliged,” he tells us, “to constantly strengthen and perfect our democracy… It is our duty to promote and guarantee ever greater participation by the citizenry in the fundamental decisions of society. We have no fear whatsoever of differing opinions or disagreement, since only frank and honest discussion of differences among revolutionaries will lead us to the best decisions.” (V2, 311)
Raul insists that anything that separates us from what is essential, from core truths – be it mediocrity or a defensive, bureaucratic spirit – damages the Revolution, diverts us, creates a shadowy atmosphere where it is difficult to recognize mistakes and rectify them. That is why he summoned the entire Council of Ministers to see the play “Abracadabra” by the Colmenita theater company and to participate, guided by the child actors, in the search for the essence of things – and he refers to this many times.
If we do not get to the truth, to the essence of things, an inspection visit to this or that entity, or province or municipality, makes no sense. Rather, it diverts us from our objectives. We remain trapped in a tangle of lies and half-truths. “We must fight to definitively banish lies and deceit from the conduct of cadres at all levels,” Raúl emphasizes and reminds us of Fidel’s concept of Revolution: “Never lie or violate ethical principles.” (V1, 416)
It is possible, according to Raúl, to lie because of sheer negligence, like compañeros who, “without fraudulent intent, provide inaccurate information reported by their subordinates without having checked it and fall into a lie unconsciously.”
The problem, Raul says, is that “this false data can lead us to erroneous decisions with greater or less serious consequences for the nation.”
“Whoever acts in this way is also lying,” he continues, “and whoever the person is should be demoted from the position held, and not temporarily… and also removed from the ranks of the Party if he or she is a member.” (V1, 415-416
Such tendencies, that reveal superficiality, lack of seriousness and ethical weaknesses, can contaminate even vital tasks like ideological work. Raul leaves us, in these pages, an insightful assessment of the challenges we face in this field and the antidotes to which we must turn, with a comprehensive perspective:
“While we safeguard in the people the historical memory of the nation and perfect differentiated ideological work, with special emphasis on youth and children, at the same time, amongst ourselves, we must strengthen anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist culture, combatting, with arguments, conviction and determination, any pretension to establish patterns of petty-bourgeois ideology characterized by individualism, self-interest, a thirst for profit, banality and the exacerbation of consumerism. // The best antidote against policies of subversion consists of working with integrity and without improvisation; doing things well; improving the quality of services available to the population; not letting problems accumulate; reinforcing knowledge of Cuban history, national identity and culture; upholding pride in being Cuban and promoting within the country an atmosphere of legality, defense of the public patrimony and respect for the dignity of persons, values and social discipline.” (V2, 313)
These two volumes contain an important set of ideas of conceptual depth, moral foundations and projection in practical terms that offer us a guide of palpable relevance for today and the future. Here we find a wealth of lessons for all revolutionaries and in particular for leaders, young and not so young. With Revolución, la obra más hermosa, Ediciones Celia has made an immeasurable contribution to the preparation of our people for present and future battles.
The penultimate text included in Revolución, la obra más hermosa is Raul’s speech before the National Assembly, on the occasion of the proclamation of the Constitution of the Republic (Let us remember that Raul chaired the Commission created by the Assembly to draft the preliminary text and subsequently introduce the many valuable modifications that emerged from the popular consultation, before the referendum.) The speech is dated April 10, 2019.
“The tone of the U.S. government attacking Cuba is increasingly threatening,” Raúl notes, “while a series of steps are taken to aggravate bilateral relations // Cuba is blamed for all evils, lies are used in the style of Nazi propaganda. We will never abandon our duty to act in solidarity with Venezuela. We will not renounce any of our principles and we will vigorously reject all forms of coercion // We have made it known to the U.S. administration, with the utmost clarity, firmness and serenity… that Cuba is not afraid of threats and that our vocation for peace and understanding is accompanied by our unwavering determination to defend the sovereign right of Cubans to decide the future of the nation, without foreign interference.”(T2, 523)
He ended his speech that day with these words:
Over 60 years, facing aggression and threats, Cubans have shown the iron will to resist and overcome the most difficult circumstances. Despite its immense power, imperialism does not possess the capacity to break the dignity of a united people, proud of its history and of the freedom conquered with so much sacrifice. Cuba has already shown that, yes, we could, yes, we can, and will always be able to resist, fight, and emerge victorious. There is no other alternative (V2, 525)
With this call to combat, before an empire in its most aggressive and fascist version, the second volume of Revolución, la obra más hermosa, concludes. Although we were aware of many of these speeches, reading them compiled here, in chronological order, is an incomparable, enriching and very intense experience. No revolutionary Cuban, no worthy Cuban, should forego living this experience and drawing nourishment from it.
I end by thanking compañeros Alvariño and Suárez, compañera Belkys Duménigo and the entire team at Ediciones Celia, for this book so full of ideas and revolutionary spirit. A book that allows us to approach Raul’s personality, his thought, his consistency, his wisdom, in a novel and moving manner.
Thank you, dear Raul, for so many lessons. Best wishes for (your birthday) tomorrow.