`Imperialism misjudged the courage Of the Cuban people, the strength of the revolution.' Castro on first anniversary of defeat of U.S.-organized invasion at Bay of Pigs
Speech by President Fidel Castro. `40 Anniversary Of Workers And Farmers.' In Power In Cuba' series, from the Militant, Vol. 63, no. 18, 10 May 1999
Compañeros and compañeras:
A year ago today, on a day like today, the smoke from the last shots of the battle of Playa Giro'n was clearing. Those who launched the attack thought it would be the end of the revolution. They thought that a year later we would not be here together again. They thought that the revolution - what it is and what it stands for - could be destroyed. They thought that our country would return to the past, even at the cost of its total destruction.
To measure the degree of criminality of that attack, we must take into account what our enemy had in mind. They made the invaders, the forces they recruited and trained, believe stupidities such as that they would be welcomed with open arms. It was necessary to create such a fantasy in order to recruit these people - that is, to make them believe that our people would receive them with open arms.
Of course, in order to believe such a fantastic thing, you must live in a world quite different from the world of reality. You would have to be living in a fantasy world to believe that a people would welcome their exploiters with open arms - our masses of workers and farmers, our people who barely two years ago abolished the bloody tyranny that filled our homeland with the corpses of young people and of the humble and poor. You would have to be living in a fantasy world to believe that our masses would receive with open arms that horde which was a mixture of the worst elements, ranging from millionaire playboys to henchmen and parasites. To believe that our people would be capable of receiving them with open arms is to live in a fantasy world.
But we must stop to think not of what the mercenaries believed or were led to believe, but of what was in the minds of those who sent them to invade our land. And they knew - they certainly knew, they knew only too well - that our people would not receive them with open arms, that our people would not receive that criminal invasion with open arms.
They knew people supported revolution
The enemy knew only too well that the people would not support the counterrevolutionaries. And so they based their strategy on this fact. The strategy outlined by the Yankee military machine was not the kind that would be followed by anyone who expected the people to join the counterrevolution. On the contrary, it was a strategy planned by those who knew that the people supported the revolution.
That is why they adapted their war plans to the real situation, of which they were well aware, and tried to capture a part of our national territory. They did not choose an open battlefield, but an area of our national territory that had very little accessibility. A place that could only be reached by way of three roads that had in fact been built by the revolution; three roads, each of which was a Thermopylae pass, that is, a narrow road a few kilometers long, bordered on both sides by impassable swamps and quagmires, roads that from a military point of view are very easy to defend but very difficult to capture. There was also an airport in the area, which would have permitted them air communication abroad, and there was a deep bay for the transportation of all necessary supplies by sea.
The forces the enemy sent were more than enough to defend those roads; they were more than enough because the roads were so narrow, it was virtually impossible to deploy a greater amount of forces to defend them. From a tactical point of view, in studying the terrain and choosing the appropriate place, the Pentagon strategists did very well.
Their objective was precisely to establish a foothold in our national territory where they would have set up a counterrevolutionary government, which would have received aid more openly - as if the support they were already receiving was not evident enough - and they would have started a war of attrition against our country.
Plan was to establish base of operations
On top of the measures of economic aggression they had already taken - such as totally cutting off our trade, completely abolishing our sugar quota, the embargo imposed on all possible exports - they planned to start a war of attrition against us.(1) They planned to establish a base of operations for their air force on our national territory, to convert it into an imperialist bastion, reinforce it with as many mercenary soldiers as they could recruit from all over the world, and support them with all the economic and military resources of the empire.
When all this is taken into account, we realize just what such a war would have meant to our country, what it would have meant for our people. They would have had to work under the constant bombardment of enemy planes, as they traveled throughout the national territory to transport our products to all parts of the island, which is long and narrow. All this gives us an idea of the extent, not only of the material damage, but above all, of the human suffering and loss of life that such a war would have imposed on our country.
In order to take over a part of our territory that could only be reached by way of three narrow roads, 1,400 men were more than enough - 1,400 men who, in addition, had behind them a whole supply fleet, and behind it, the Yankee Navy units with fully equipped bombers from perfectly organized bases abroad, and behind these, a U.S. aircraft carrier.
That is why I said that in order to grasp the extent of the crime that Yankee imperialism attempted to commit against our people, you have to know exactly what their plans were. What destruction, how much blood, and how many lives such plans would have cost our country! There is no reason to believe that the revolution would have succumbed; there is no reason to believe that the revolutionaries would simply have surrendered, nor that the enemy would have achieved its objective of destroying the revolution. What is clear is what everyone knew, what everyone understood - that our people would have resisted the attack at any cost.
But the price would have been high; the price would have been extremely high.
In spite of this, the ones who made the plans did not refrain from carrying out their intentions. Those who made the plans did not worry in the slightest over how much mourning and how much sorrow they would have brought on our country. The violation of the most elementary international laws did not stop them. The violation of the most elementary principles of human rights did not stop them. They didn't take into the slightest consideration the opinion of the entire continent. None of this stopped them.
Only one thing held them back, only one reality stopped them. And that reality was our people. The barrier they met was our combatants.
What international law could not prevent; what international organizations could not prevent; the crime that no legal institution, no regional or world organization could prevent, was prevented by the brave soldiers of our country.
They misjudged morale of the people
Where did they make their mistake - those who had laid the plans so carefully? What was their error? They made their mistake in judging the morale of our people, the courage of our people, the strength of a revolution. That strength, that morale, that courage was what the enemy was not capable of judging, among other things, because these forces are not measurable, because the courage of a people who defend their land, the morale and strength of a revolution that defends the righteousness of its cause, cannot be measured. That is why the aggressors fail in the face of all true revolutions - because they are incapable of judging the strength of revolutions.
They thought it was simply a matter of sending a squadron of bombers over our country any one morning, unexpectedly, to drop cluster bombs and rockets in a surprise attack. They thought that the noise of bombs exploding would be enough to create panic among the people, to terrorize the nation and frighten our combatants.
They counted on the factor of surprise, and in their estimates they were sure that the cowardly attack, that the criminal attack one morning - a Saturday at dawn - would demoralize the people, that it would demoralize the revolution, and furthermore, that it would completely destroy our few old fighter planes. In order to attain absolute air superiority, complete control of the air, they counted, among other things, on destroying every last one of our planes. Thus, after having terrified the people, demoralized our armed forces, and stripped us of our aircraft, they expected to control the battlefield with their planes.
That was their first big mistake - an error in psychology, a military error. The bombings did not intimidate the people nor did they demoralize or frighten anyone; instead, they filled our citizens with wrath and indignation. Furthermore, the bombings failed to destroy anything but an insignificant part of our old and battered aircraft.
Cowardly, criminal bombings
The men in the Pentagon believe that they are the only ones who have the power to think; those in the Pentagon think themselves to be super-intelligent people, and they consider others to be super-imbeciles. The men in the Pentagon think they are endowed with all wisdom; they also believed that the impact of their forces would discourage the revolutionaries. Those in the Pentagon did not stop for a minute to consider the fact that our revolution was forged out of practically nothing, that it sprouted from a very modest beginning, and that our people were accustomed to fighting against superior forces, against the numerical superiority and superior weapons of the enemy.
They thought that everything would be accomplished exactly as they had planned. But things turned out exactly the opposite of what they expected. Our planes were scattered in different places, our airfields were fully protected by antiaircraft batteries, and the cowardly, criminal surprise attack was able to destroy only a few of those planes. In spite of the fact that our planes were few, old, and battered, in spite of the fact that the bombings destroyed some of them, there were still more than enough planes for the pilots we had.
So the cowardly, criminal, and treacherous bombings served only as a warning, a warning of the imminence of an attack; it served only as a warning that gave us forty-eight hours to mobilize our defenses and to prepare for the attack that was in view. Yes indeed, that bombing made the imminence of an attack evident.
And that is just what happened. Landing forces began approaching in the early morning hours of April 17, and they began to take positions in the territory that had been selected. They had organized the movement of their troops. They brought with them weapons for the new contingents that would land later on. Their food supply was carefully planned for their day-to-day needs, as is customary with the Pentagon. Paratroopers were ready to land at strategic points at dawn; their complete control of the air was taken for granted.
At the outset, they met with the most determined resistance from the few militiamen who happened to be in the area. When the enemy shouted, "Surrender!" those militiamen answered, "Patria o muerte!" [Homeland or death] and opened fire.
This was perhaps the first surprise that the invaders received: the courage of those men, who all alone, with nothing more than their infantry rifles, started the resistance and gave warning of the presence of the enemy in the area.
The second surprise occurred at dawn, when the invaders were peacefully unloading their war equipment - almost as if they were on vacation. As the soldiers of their "famous" expeditionary forces, in their flashy uniforms, were landing, our few, old, and battered planes appeared in the sky, loaded with bombs, rockets, and bullets. Ironically, these bombs, rockets, bullets, and planes were the same ones that the imperialists had once given Batista to fight us.
And that, undoubtedly, was the second big surprise, the second big mistake in the plans made by the imperialists, by the "brains" in the Pentagon, who had not counted on the heavy shower of bombs and bullets that came down upon the invaders so early in the morning.
Cuban pilots mounted heroic resistance
Our planes were few, old, and battered, but they were flown by men who upheld the motto "Patria o muerte!" who had internalized the determination to win or die. And the enemy realized that their planes were not the masters of the sky. They encountered the persistent and heroic resistance of our pilots, who concentrated their efforts, quite naturally, against the enemy ships.
Meanwhile, our scanty forces mounted a firm resistance. Another thing that perhaps the Pentagon had not counted on was the immediate arrival of a combat battalion made up of students from the school for militia instructors in Matanzas, which reinforced the heroic Cienfuegos battalion.
The timing of the imperialist plans was perfect; they arrived right on schedule, they started landing right on schedule; they dropped all of their paratroopers at the strategic points according to plans. Everything would have been perfect, had not half of their ships been sunk by noon, and had not the road from the Australia Sugar Mill to Playa Larga fallen into our hands.
That day, our few, old, and battered planes could not offer our infantry very much air protection, since these planes were concentrating their attacks on the most important target at that moment - the enemy ships. Nevertheless, the infantry was able to advance, and while under the fire of enemy planes, it took position. That was when the real battle began.
The "experts" in the Pentagon most certainly knew that we had received a number of tanks, antiaircraft guns, and artillery, but they estimated that we would not yet be prepared, on that date, to use those tanks, that artillery, and that antiaircraft equipment. They erred once more in not being able to conceive the calmness with which our armed forces prepared the tank crews and the men who would operate the artillery. They thought that all the tanks and artillery would have been stored away on the day of the attack, because there was not enough time for us to have trained people to operate them.(2)
This assumption was also part and parcel of the plans made by the Pentagon experts. They could not conceive that revolutions accomplish incredible things that in normal times would be impossible; that a revolutionary people are capable of preparing themselves much quicker than a people living under normal conditions, or under conditions of oppression and exploitation.
Thousands upon thousands of humble and poor youth volunteered and hastily trained to operate those weapons; and on the day of the attack, the enemy could not even imagine that those weapons were ready for battle and ready for victory. So, what had happened to them by midday on April 17, was only the beginning, only a sample of what was to come. From then on, the battle continued without interruption. After the invaders had fought a whole day and considered that it was time to take a rest, our 122 mm mortars and our tanks were put into action. If they thought there would be a letup in the fighting, they were soon convinced otherwise. Our artillery and tank crews, unable to wait for dawn, started to attack enemy positions during the early morning hours of April 18. At dawn, when the planes that had been harassing our unprotected infantry returned, they encountered fire from fifty-four antiaircraft guns.
Our battalions were already advancing along the roads and rugged paths within the territory the enemy had tried to capture. Attacks were also launched on the two other points of access to the territory where the enemy was entrenched.
Pentagon had no time to react
There was one surprise after another, error after error, and things happened so quickly that the enemy didn't even have time to react or to recover. I'm not referring to the enemy that was here on our beach and didn't have time to catch a wink of sleep, but to the main enemy - the one overseas. The Pentagon had no time to meet and discuss the situation, because long before such a meeting could be called, there was no longer a beachhead at Playa Giro'n. For on April 19, our forces, advancing from all directions, surrounded and dislodged the enemy.
There was no Dunkirk-type retreat here.(3) There was no Dunkirk for those flagrant invaders. Precisely to prevent one, we didn't give the enemy one minute of rest or letup in the fighting. No ship, or anything like a ship, dared come to their rescue. Our tanks and artillery immediately took possession of the coastline and stood on alert to see what would develop.
During the three days of combat, U.S. aircraft carriers lurked near our shores. More than once their planes flew in low over our territory in an attempt to frighten us, and occasionally, they even opened fire.
Our troops were not only ready to fight the mercenary force. They were also ready to fight whatever followed it, as U.S. leaders went into near hysteria. Such a shattering and astounding defeat was beyond anything the imperialists had imagined. Out of pride and arrogance, they immediately started to issue threats and warnings that, in the case of Cuba, they were ready to act unilaterally. This made it necessary to transfer the bulk of the troops back to the capital, where they had come from, and where they remained alert, awaiting developments. Other forces were sent to replace them and complete the capture of the invaders.
The glory of our combatants lies not only in the bravery and heroism with which they fought and defeated the enemy vanguard, but also in their willingness to face the imperialist army if it dared invade our soil.
We didn't prepare that attack, they did; so we are not to blame for the defeat they suffered. They attacked us, so they themselves are the only ones to blame for their humiliating defeat!
From a military point of view, the importance of the battle at Playa Larga and Playa Giro'n, in the entire Zapata Swamp, rests in the fact that the "bridgehead" was quickly destroyed, preventing the enemy from going ahead with its plans. The enemy could not carry out its strategy; it could not land the bulk of its forces. The military importance of the battle lies in the fact that their plans were spoiled from the very moment it became impossible to establish a beachhead, from the very moment they could not take over a part of our territory. All their other plans were left hanging in the air, when the force that was sent to accomplish the first tasks was wiped out.
Infinite difference between two causes
Not only was this a great victory for our people, but our forces maintained a calmness and a firmness seldom seen in the history of war. In spite of the fact that our soldiers' blood was boiling, in spite of the fact that the deepest indignation burned within them, they remained calm and determined.
What merit did those invaders have? What merit could they have? They were not the Granma expeditionaries;(4) they were not eighty-two men in a small ship sixty feet long, without food, lost in the Gulf of Mexico, in the Caribbean, without a supply base, without an air force, without a fleet, without the Yankee army to support them, without aircraft carriers, without submarines, and without battleships. Those who wanted to invade us were not a revolutionary force. As a rule, revolutionaries receive help from no one when they are forging their revolution, when they start their struggle. Usually they suffer from want of practically everything, they suffer persecution, they lack means of transportation, weapons, any kind of protection. They throw themselves into a fight against an entire army, with only the scantiest means available to them.
When there is belief in the masses, when there is faith in the cause because it is a just one, then there is no need for tanks, nor bombers, nor heavy mortars, nor bazookas, much less the support of a fleet. Only the prote'ge's of Yankee millionaires, representatives of slavery and wealth, representatives of fortune and privilege, can expect the support of a navy or an army.
When we began our struggle against privilege, against the power of riches and exploitation, we had nothing behind us but the wake of our little ship. And that is the difference, the infinite difference between the two causes that we represent. Our cause took a firm stand, faced all kinds of hardships, and was victorious. The revolution of the people, the revolution of the humble and poor, came to power. When the counterrevolution of the powerful, the rich, the exploiters, came to recover its privileges, it was financed by the big monopolies, the unending millions of an empire, and was supported by its navy, its planes, its training camps, its airfields, its air forces, and its puppet governments. How easy they had it.
The weapons came from Yankee arsenals; the food came from Yankee warehouses; the clothing, the campaign equipment, and the war rations came from U.S. army stocks. And their expedition was prepared at many bases, from the island of Vieques in the oppressed sister nation of Puerto Rico, all through United States territory, and in Guatemala and Nicaragua. All the power of the millionaires was behind them, all the millions of the powerful exploiters were behind them. That was the cause they represented.
On the other hand, the expedition of the small and solitary ship that embodied a just cause - the cause of the humble and poor - succeeded. We fought for twenty-five months and came to power, while the cause of the exploiters, of the privileged, of the millionaires, of the powerful, failed - such a cause could not be maintained for even seventy-two hours.
And that is what the U.S. logistics, the Pentagon logistics, and their strategic plans did not take into consideration. That is why their terrorist plans failed. That is why their counterrevolutionary bands were also wiped out, in spite of all the weapons they received by air and sea.(5)
They murdered literacy teachers
They took vengeance on our teachers, our literacy brigades, on our people's literacy teachers. They began by murdering a volunteer teacher, Conrado Beni'tez. Later they murdered a people's literacy teacher, Delfi'n Sen, who was a worker. Then, together with the father of a farm family, a peasant, they murdered the literacy brigade volunteer Manuel Ascunce.(6) Only the blind hatred and maliciousness of the exploiters, of the imperialists, of the counterrevolutionaries, could conceive of such acts, which they thought would go unpunished.
But what has happened over the course of this year? What has happened over the course of the last twelve months since the crushing victory at Playa Giro'n? The murderer of Delfi'n Sen was captured and shot with all his gang. The leader of the gang that murdered literacy brigade member Manuel Ascunce was captured and shot. And finally, as a symbolic coincidence, a day after commemorating the beginning of the battle last April, the murderer of volunteer teacher Conrado Beni'tez was surrounded and killed when he tried to escape.
On the banners we raise against imperialism, against the paid assassins of imperialism, we could have written, "You will not escape!" You will not escape the justice of the people! Murderers - murderers of teachers, murderers of teenage literacy brigade volunteers - you will not escape! Murderers of workers like the ones who committed sabotage by burning the "El Encanto" department store, causing the death of that outstanding worker, Fe del Valle, will not escape the justice of the people!(7) Murderers of workers, murderers of farmers, murderers of teachers, murderers of literacy volunteers, will not escape the justice of the people. Just as the criminals, who during the war took the lives of thousands of young people in the mountains and in the cities, did not escape.
They did not escape! Neither the petty nor the most ruthless criminals escaped, nor will they escape, nor will those who organize gangs of murderers escape the verdict of history, which is not merely a verdict of words, but a verdict that relentlessly marks the fate of exploiters all over the world. A verdict that is like a clock ticking out these words: "Your days are numbered, the end of your system of exploitation is near."
This ticking of the clock, like the heartbeat of the exploited peoples, measures their inescapable fate; these are not simply phrases.
The work of the revolution advances
We have only to take an overview of the world; above all, the Americas. The Cuban revolution still stands and is becoming stronger every day. Today, one year after that cowardly sneak attack, the Cuban revolution is commemorating the first anniversary of that victory. Furthermore, the revolution will continue to commemorate this day for years and years to come.
The work of the revolution advances. Since then, almost a million Cubans have learned to read and write. Neither the invaders nor their horrible crimes could prevent us from carrying out our literacy campaign. They could not keep the hundreds of thousands of our compatriots from receiving an education - compatriots whom society, that exploiting, vicious society, had denied the opportunity of even learning the alphabet.
Our plans in all fields, but primarily our plans in the field of education on which depend our great hopes for the future, are being carried through; they are moving ahead. Thousands of young people who went into the mountains to teach, returned victorious. Today they are part of the legions of enthusiastic students dedicated wholeheartedly to learning, so that they may forge the Cuba of tomorrow.
They were not able to halt our plans, nor our progress on all fronts. That is why the revolution is becoming more solid, stronger, backed by the people and close to the people. For the revolution is made up of just that: the people.
The government in whose territory the expedition was organized and the mercenaries trained cannot say the same. Nor can the tyrant who governs Guatemala; because if by any chance he, too, commemorates the anniversary of this defeat, he most certainly will not be able to commemorate the second, because he is losing power, because his situation is not sustainable.(8) He is being swept away by his people. He cannot even be saved by Kennedy's support. Nor can the other governments that lent themselves to the attack against our country claim they are getting stronger.
Proletarian vs. pseudo democracy
The proletarian democracy, the proletarian government is becoming stronger and stronger in our country. But that pseudodemocracy cannot say the same - that so-called representative democracy, which is nothing more than the ferocious dictatorship of the exploiting oligarchies against the people.
Nor can the tottering government of Ro'mulo Betancourt say the same, one year after the imperialist defeat at Giro'n.(9) We may ask ourselves if he might commemorate the second anniversary of the defeat of the imperialists at Giro'n. And there was one of them who was not able to commemorate even the first anniversary of the defeat of the imperialists - the pseudodemocratic government, the so-called representative democracy of Argentina. There it was not even the people, but the "gorillas" that overthrew that government. But to the same degree that this has made the Argentine political system take a backward step, it has brought the Argentine people closer to the hour of their revolution.(10)
The proletarian government, the proletarian revolution is advancing; the "representative democracies" of Ydi'goras, Betancourt, and Company, are tottering - they are falling - at times shaken by the people, and at other times shaken by the most reactionary imperialist forces.
From what we can see, while the Cuban revolution could not and cannot be destroyed, in spite of all the economic and military aggressions and in spite of not having received a single penny from imperialism, their "representative democracies" continue to fail, no matter what help imperialism offers them - which is, in fact, very little!
What would happen if they were attacked the way imperialism has attacked the proletarian revolution? What would happen if their regimes had to resist the siege, the embargo, the blockade that imperialism has imposed on the proletarian revolution? What would happen, how long would they last if even when fully propped up by imperialism, with everything imperialism can offer in that regard, they are falling? Yet as imperialism tries to destroy us through every means possible, instead of crumbling, our revolution becomes stronger every day.
Imperialism offered another Guatemala
What perspectives did the imperialists offer our country? What solution did they offer? The solution they gave Guatemala, the solution they gave our sister nation of Guatemala, with the invasion and the subsequent counterrevolution of Castillo de Armas.(11) Seven years have passed since that act of piracy - seven or eight or nine years since that act of piracy, in which, just as they tried to do at Playa Giro'n, the enemy launched a horde of mercenaries from nearby territories, also with the help and complicity, as in our case, of puppet governments. With the support of bombers, they seized the government of that country, established the worst reactionary regime, and took the land away from the peasants.
And what do we have in Guatemala after eight years? How were things solved? Blood is being spilled in that sister nation today; dozens and hundreds of young students and workers have been murdered by the henchmen of the proimperialist tyranny; the peasants have lost their land; and the workers have lost their rights. Eight years after that treacherous mercenary invasion, which achieved its objectives, the Guatemalan people's blood is still being spilled, the blood of workers, peasants, and students. Eight years later there is still a ferocious repression and tyranny in the country, and the people are fighting again to break their chains.
That is what they wanted to give us! New Machados, new Batistas, new Venturas, new Chavianos, new Cowleys, another "Bloody Christmas," another chain of bodies of murdered young people, hunger, unemployment, discrimination, inhuman exploitation, slavery for the peasants, pitiless oppression of the working masses.(12) That is what they had in store for us - a bloodbath. For how else could they have seized the country again if not by creating a bloodbath, by piling bodies high, and by trampling the ashes of our national territory? And that is what they had in store for us.
They thought we were going to receive them with open arms, as if freed slaves longed for the whip and chain of their masters of yesterday.
Neither eight years from now, nor ever again will our workers, our farmers, or our students be machine-gunned by their exploiters, by the mercenary armies of exploiting oligarchies, by the owners of wealth, of the land, of industry. Never again will they fall under the murderous bullets of military forces that have been armed and organized by imperialism. Never again, because the people are and always will be the masters of their own destiny and of their wealth. Because more and more men and women will be working as our economy develops. We will become, more and more each day, a nation of workers and students.
Imperialism can offer only scenes like those at the University of Guatemala, where young people fell murdered by the "porra."(13) The scene offered by the revolution, on the other hand - visible to all, every day - is a multitude of uniformed scholarship students with books under their arms, enthusiastically going to high school, technical schools, colleges, and universities.
How different from those presented by imperialism are the prospects offered to the proletariat by the revolution! Within fifteen years - which goes quickly in the life of a people - the scholarship plan alone, not counting those who don't need aid from the revolutionary government, will yield 100,000 technicians from our universities. We will have hundreds of thousands of technicians. What a great future, what an extraordinary future!
We have only to prepare our people. It is important to train the people because our country has enough natural resources to develop a great industry and an extraordinary economy. And if we have the natural resources, then what are we lacking? We are lacking skilled human resources, so we are developing them. We are lacking machinery and factories; but we are installing these factories. We will not lack the financial resources; we will not lack magnificent natural resources; we do lack the human resources, but since we have a willing and enthusiastic people we shall also have those human resources that we need. And above all, as we carry through our plans for the technical training of the whole working class, for the training of hundreds of thousands of technicians, undoubtedly, our country will have an extraordinary future, for it has all it needs to guarantee that future.
Our present problems deceive no one, confuse no one. When we fought the imperialist forces, we knew that they were not thinking of destroying the present, but that they wanted to destroy our future. For our present was none other than what they left us; a poor economy, an underdeveloped and backward industry, an absolute dependence on one market. We could have no present other than the one they left us. We then had to make a better distribution of what we had; we distributed more evenly what they left us.
The tyranny left us without reserves. It had spent hundreds of millions of the country's reserves in the seven years of squandering and bloodshedding it imposed on us. We had no other choice than to put to better use and to distribute more evenly what we had.
True, our economy was dependent on one market - unfortunately, the U.S. market. Almost all our spare parts and factories came from U.S. companies. Our economy was completely geared to depend on one market. Imperialism took advantage of that fact to do us all the harm they possibly could. They tried to strangle our economy and defeat us through hunger. They placed before us every imaginable roadblock, thus putting our people to a hard test.
They left us with very little
True, they left us very little, and the little they did leave us was virtually dependent on the will of our Yankee exploiters. The only thing we could do was to take better advantage of the little we had, and of what they left us, so that no child would go to bed hungry, so that no Cuban table would lack food, so that we could offer employment, so that every family could have an income. We had to manage with what little had been left us, and to begin preparing for the future.
And so our big task is the future. Imperialism is trying to deceive the peoples of Latin America by blaming the revolutionary measures for the damage caused by the embargo and economic aggression. The imperialists do not say that they have created these problems for us with their aggressions and embargo; they blame the revolutionary laws. They are trying to confuse the peoples with deceit.
But as times change, as the years go by, when the new generations are born and we begin to harvest the fruit of today's work, we will see then that our country will be full of factories. When our workers obtain considerably more technical knowledge, when we have hundreds of thousands of technicians, when we multiply the productivity of our work, we will be proud to think about all of the sacrifices we are making today. We will be able to say, "This has not been a victory without effort nor a victory without sacrifices." Tomorrow we will be able to say, "We have a right to these benefits, because we earned them, because we are not a people who were thinking of bread for today and hunger for tomorrow." Of course, there were some who never knew hunger, but there were many who did. The capitalist regime offered "hunger for today and more hunger for tomorrow."
The socialist revolution offers bread for today and more bread for tomorrow!
This leads us to the conviction that work is the most important thing in this revolution, that the duty of the worker is the most sacred duty of the revolution, and that to be called a worker is to have the most honorable title in this society. It is the worker who creates the wealth, the bread for all. Our society has to become more and more a society of workers, a society of those who produce, a society in which there are fewer parasites.
Because the parasites of the exploiting society, the parasites of the bourgeoisie and their coterie of bootlickers nurture themselves on the sweat of the workers. And it takes little common sense to understand that there will be more wealth and greater production in a nation with more people who work, with fewer parasites and less idleness, than there will be in a nation in which idleness increases and where there are fewer people who work.
The great task today is to produce
All this indicates that the great task of our people is to produce. Even on a day like today. On this particular Thursday of every year, it used to be the custom that all work stopped from noon on, in keeping with the traditions of Holy Week. This year, however, it was agreed that work would stop only on Friday, considering the need for work and production. There were a few problems in working this out, and we didn't start soon enough to notify all workers and employees on time. There have been some complaints about this. Nevertheless, is there room for such complaints on a day like today? After all, even today, in what way have we honored the victory and those who made the victory possible? By working!
The revolution has created new holidays: January 1, already a traditional holiday, will be celebrated on January 2, and July 26, two new holidays.(14) The revolution has established a month's vacation. This right is going to be extended by law to all state employees.
So when the needs of the struggle require a mass meeting and losing a whole day's work, then we should try to arrange things so that it's a Sunday. And if it occurs on a weekday, let's work on Saturday or Sunday, because the most sacred, the most important responsibility, the primary duty of each citizen is to produce. The people need many material things, they need clothing, shoes, food on the table every day, medicine, housing, and many other things. But to be able to sit at the table, to be able to meet all these needs, the people have to produce. These things will not fall like manna from heaven. Man must earn them by working with the means he has, by struggling with nature and by working.
For the exploiters, for the capitalists, the wealth does fall from heaven. It comes from the sweat of the workers. But in a society that eliminates all exploitation of man by man, there will be no exploiters, no one will become wealthy by a sort of divine right to benefit from the sweat of others. Everyone will produce. We must create that wealth and we have to do it by working. Therefore, we must honor work, we must increase productivity. How can we increase productivity? With new technology, with new machines. How can we acquire new technology, new machines? By producing, by working, by making all of our factories and enterprises pay for themselves. This is the way - the only way - to satisfy all our needs, to satisfy our need to invest in new machinery, to invest in new factories, that will increase the productivity of labor; to train new technicians to meet the needs of the people.
Thus, we as a working people must put our minds on our work. We must think more and more about the goodness of work, and we must realize that only we can produce the things we want, the things we need, that only from our work can we obtain them. And in this spirit, we should face the task in the countryside, in the cities, and on all fronts, with a sense of duty, with our minds on the people, on their needs, on satisfying their needs, on the increasing population, on the population that needs the benefits obtained from this work.
Today I wanted to take a little time to discuss these things, because in doing so, with the future in mind, we are able to analyze and commemorate these historic events. This is the way we must show our loyalty toward those who have fallen; this is the way we must honor our dead.
Loyalty to those who have fallen
So today, the people are united in this commemoration, the representatives of our heroic combat units, our glorious Revolutionary Armed Forces, together with the families of heroes who fell in battle, together with the working people, together with the revolutionary government, the revolutionary leaders. They are united in expressing the true meaning of the revolution: the worker who works and produces with his tools; the worker who stands guard with his rifle and defends the integrity of his country.
Workers who produce, workers who stand guard, soldiers who are willing to produce, workers willing to became soldiers, all willing to become soldiers if our country needs them, or to go into production if our country does not need soldiers!
Those are our people, that is our revolution. It was against this revolution and these people that the imperialist invaders came to fight. All aggressions against these people are bound to fail, for they failed at Playa Giro'n when we had, as I said, only "a few dilapidated old planes." But if they repeat such a thing, they will find that our planes are neither old, nor dilapidated, nor are there few of them!
At Giro'n, our forces were prepared for combat, not only against a force such as they confronted, but against several such forces. Let no one think that all of our infantry troops and artillery were engaged in combat; and that was then! The situation is different now. No more inexperienced and hastily trained troops. The enemy will encounter a much more efficient, a much better trained and more fully equipped and organized army.
Our forces have increased considerably since then - we warn them. We warn the enemy that it is worth their while to take heed. The revolution has decreed more severe laws. It has taken more drastic measures. Since the murder of literacy volunteer Manuel Ascunce, the revolution has been relentless with its enemies!
Enough is enough! We have given them more than enough time to learn their lesson. If they attack our country again, they had better make out their wills before coming. Regardless of the type of attack - be it direct, by infiltration, with a mercenary force or marines, the revolutionary courts will always be there.
The organization of the revolution is becoming more efficient, not only in the military field, but on all fronts. We should make it advance on all fronts: agriculture, public administration, on all fronts. We ought to perfect our work and continue perfecting our defenses. We should continue with our educational plans, keep our defenses on the alert, and our planes ready and protected, so that the enemy may never destroy them in a surprise attack. Our forces should always be on the alert - always! We should never lower our guard, nor think that the danger has vanished. Always alert, always ready! And last but not least, we should be prepared to win.
All officers, all revolutionary instructors, every combatant, should never forget that the enemy is devious, that the enemy is criminal, that the enemy is cowardly, and that the enemy attacks by surprise. Every soldier, every combat unit should always be ready at any moment. Defense must never be relaxed. The revolutionary soldier will never surrender! And when he is left alone, he will fight as if he had a whole army behind him. His mind should always be on the alert. He should have an iron will, he should be firm and always aware of the revolutionary fighter's duty, under all conditions, in face of all hardships. He should be able to react quickly, as we reacted against the sneak attack a year ago. No matter who the enemy may be, nor how strong it is, the revolutionary soldier should react just as those who were on guard at Playa Larga and Playa Giro'n did. They said, "Patria o muerte!" He should behave at all times as our pilots, our artillerymen, our tank crews, our infantrymen did - like those young heroes, the fourteen- and fifteen-year- old boys who manned the antiaircraft guns. We take as an example that seaman who, left alone for three days on one of the keys south of the Zapata Swamp, did his duty by reporting all of the enemy's movements to our rearguard.
Every soldier should always be ready
With that spirit, with that determination, with that fervor and firmness, we should commemorate this April 19 as a tribute to our dead, to those who fell in battle, by showing our solidarity toward them, toward those whose children - the children of all the people - whose wives, parents, and loved ones will find some compensation for their grief in the people's friendship and affection toward them. They will find a reward for their sacrifices in the people's happiness. They will realize that their sacrifices have not been in vain, that their profound grief has been compensated somewhat by all the happiness and good that was made possible for the country.
When we met with the families, we told them how grateful the people were to those who died in combat. That due to the courage with which they fought, and to their determination to attack and crush the invader, they stopped the enemy from carrying out its plans, they prevented the enemy from plunging the country into mourning. Because, in effect, if the enemy had captured and held a part of national territory, neither this theater, nor even the Plaza Ci'vica, would have enough space to hold all those who would have had to mourn the loss of their sons, their fathers, their husbands, and their brothers. We express the undying gratitude of our country toward those who fell in battle and spared us so much grief. For we could say that never before were so many lives saved by so few lives that were lost. Our country will always be grateful for this. Our consideration toward their loved ones is not conferred on them as a privilege, but out of respect for the memory of our fallen compañeros.
Logically, in the hour of combat, when there is a possibility of death, any combatant, any father, any son, any husband, inevitably thinks of his loved ones; of those he supports and protects with his work. We extend our deepest respect and consideration for those who are going to die, or to face death. We therefore extend to the loved ones of those who fell all the respect, all the consideration, and we offer all the help that we can possibly give.
We also told them that our revolutionary court has demanded indemnification for all damages caused by the invasion, though that indemnification could never compensate for the loss of life that they brought upon us.(15) The moral aspect to this is the most important thing, but even though the material damage takes second place in importance, it is nevertheless important that those who prepared the invasion, pay Cuba for the damages caused by it. Another important fact is that the invaders had to return or will have to return without being able to say as Julius Caesar said: "I came, I saw, I conquered." They will have to say instead: "I came, I saw, I was crushed."
Together with the defeated, those most responsible will have to lower their heads and also pay for their crimes. The moral significance of this situation is that the imperialist country, that powerful country that did not judge correctly its power when it made its criminal plans against our peace-loving nation, against our working people, against our small country, will have to pay, somehow or other, whether directly or indirectly, openly or secretly, for all the material damage they have caused us. In spite of the fact that the reparations of material damages cannot compensate for human lives lost, we are going to invest that money in medicine, surgical instruments, means for producing children's food - that money will be used to save many lives, bring health to our people, particularly to our children. It will help to compensate a little for the damage they created.
Compañeros and compañeras: Our dead command us, but let's not say they are dead. As the poet Nicola's Guille'n says,(16) they are more alive than ever, they eternally live on in the beat of each Cuban heart, they live on in our blood, in our devotion, in our efforts, they live on in each student who heads toward the university with his books, in each child in our playgrounds, in each Pioneer who goes to school. They live on in each of our soldiers, in each workers' center, in each battalion, in each unit, in each division. They live on in each citizen of our country and they command us to fulfill our duty.
Patria o muerte! [Homeland or death]
1. In early July 1960 Washington reduced Cuba's sugar quota, which was the amount of Cuban sugar Washington allowed to be sold in the U.S. market. In response, the revolutionary government authorized the nationalization of the holdings of the principal U.S. companies in Cuba. On October 19, 1960, Washington declared a partial embargo on trade with Cuba. A total embargo was imposed in February 1962.
2. Division Gen. Ne'stor Lo'pez Cuba, who commanded Cuba's tank regiment at Playa Giro'n, has described the intense period of training in the days before the Bay of Pigs landing. "Everything we learned in the morning from the Soviet instructors," he said, "we had to teach at night to the rest of the compañeros using whatever tools we had at our disposal." These comments can be found in Secretos de generales (Secrets of generals, Havana: Editorial Si-Mar, 1997) and in the upcoming Pathfinder book Making History: Interviews with Four Generals of Cuba's Revolutionary Armed Forces.
3. In May-June 1940, after the German army's conquest of France, 300,000 British and other Allied troops were evacuated by sea at Dunkirk on the French coast and taken to Britain.
4. The Granma was the yacht used by 82 revolutionary fighters, including Fidel Castro, Rau'l Castro, Ernesto Che Guevara, and Juan Almeida, to sail from Mexico to Cuba to initiate the revolutionary war against the U.S.-backed regime of Fulgencio Batista. The expeditionaries landed in southeast Cuba on December 2, 1956.
5. In conjunction with the Bay of Pigs invasion, bands of counterrevolutionaries, armed and financed by Washington, carried out sabotage and other attacks against the revolution. Centered in the Escambray mountains of central Cuba, these bands were eliminated by the Cuban army and popular militias by the mid-1960s.
6. At the time of the mercenary invasion, the revolutionary government was carrying out a massive campaign to teach 1 million Cubans to read and write. Central to this effort was the mobilization of 100,000 young people to go to the countryside, where they lived with peasants whom they were teaching. As a result of the 1960-61 drive, Cuba virtually eliminated illiteracy. Conrado Beni'tez was a 19-year-old literacy volunteer murdered by counterrevolutionary bandits in the Escambray mountains January 5, 1961. Delfi'n Sen, a workers' literacy brigade member, was killed by counterrevolutionaries in Las Villas on October 3, 1961. Manuel Ascunce, a 16-year-old literacy volunteer, was murdered by counterrevolutionaries in the Escambray November 26, 1961, together with a peasant he was teaching to read and write.
7. On April 13, 1961, a fire set by counterrevolutionaries destroyed the nationalized department store El Encanto in Havana. A worker at the store, Fe del Valle, was killed in the blaze.
8. A reference to the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua and Gen. Miguel Ydi'goras, the military strongman in Guatemala. Both regimes allowed their territory to be used as staging grounds for the mercenary invasion of Cuba. Ydi'goras was overthrown in March 1963, prior to the second anniversary of Playa Giro'n.
9. Ro'mulo Betancourt was president of Venezuela 1945-48 and 1959-64; leader of Democratic Action party.
10. In March 1962, the Argentine military toppled the government of Arturo Frondizi, leader of one of the wings of the Radical Party. Frondizi had been in power since 1958. In a play on words, "gorillas" was a term used in Latin America to describe the reactionary military commanders used to brutally suppress popular struggles.
11. Seeking to crush political and social struggles in Guatemala accompanying a limited land reform initiated by the regime of Jacobo Arbenz, mercenary forces backed by the CIA invaded the country in 1954. Arbenz refused to arm the people and resigned, and a right-wing dictatorship led by Col. Carlos Castillo de Armas took over. In Guatemala at the time was a young Argentine named Ernesto Guevara, later known as Che. "When the U.S. invasion occurred, I tried to form up a group of young men like myself to combat the adventurers of the United Fruit Company. In Guatemala it was necessary to fight, and virtually no one did," he said in a 1958 interview with journalist Jorge Ricardo Masetti.
12. Gerardo Machado was Cuba's dictator from 1925 to 1933.
Fulgencio Batista - a retired Cuban army general and strongman in successive governments in Cuba between 1934 and 1944 - organized a military coup against the government of Carlos Pri'o on March 10, 1952, and canceled scheduled elections. With support from Washington, Batista imposed a brutal military dictatorship that lasted until the revolutionary victory of January 1,1959.
Esteban Ventura, a colonel in Batista's police, was a notorious torturer and murder under the Batista regime.
Alberto del Ri'o Chaviano was commander of the Oriente military garrison under Batista. He helped direct the murder of dozens of captured revolutionaries who participated in the assault on the Moncada garrison on July 26, 1953 (see note 15).
Fermi'n Cowley, head of the military district of Holgu'i'n under the Batista regime, directed the "Bloody Christmas" massacre in Holgui'n, where 23 government opponents were kidnapped and murdered December 23-26, 1956.
13. Porra was a term that originated in Cuba to designate the secret police under the dictatorship of Gerardo Machado between 1925 and 1933.
14. January 1, 1959, marks the triumph of the Cuban revolutionary war.
On July 26, 1953, some 160 revolutionaries launched an insurrectionary attack on the Moncada army garrison in Santiago de Cuba, and a simultaneous attack on the garrison in Bayamo. This marked the beginning of the revolutionary armed struggle against the Batista dictatorship. After the attack's failure, Batista's forces massacred more than fifty of the captured revolutionaries. Fidel Castro, the central leader of the group and commander of the Moncada assault, and twenty-seven others were captured, tried, and sentenced to up to fifteen years in prison. They were released in May 1955 after a public defense campaign forced Batista's regime to issue an amnesty.
15. On May 17, 1961, Fidel Castro had proposed that the U.S. government exchange 500 tractors for the 1,179 mercenaries captured at the Bay of Pigs as indemnification for the damage Cuba suffered in that invasion. Ultimately Washington agreed to deliver $53 million in food, medicines, and medical equipment, in exchange for the prisoners.
16. Nicola's Guille'n was a noted Cuban poet and a member of the National Committee of Popular Socialist Party before the revolution. He became president of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC) in 1961, and later became a member of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party.
About this speech...
The speech printed here was given by Fidel Castro to a rally in Havana on April 19, 1962, commemorating the first anniversary of the victory over the U.S.-backed invasion at the Bay of Pigs.
Even before the victory of the Rebel Army and July 26 Movement on January 1, 1959, the U.S. government had been a bitter enemy of the Cuban revolution. This hostility grew sharply following the May 17, 1959, proclamation of an agrarian reform law that decreed the nationalization of the vast sugar plantations owned by U.S. corporations and Cuban landlords.
Among its efforts to overthrow the revolutionary government, Washington built a mercenary army recruited in the United States from among those who fled Cuba following the revolution. This force included many former officers and military cadres of the regime of the U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista, as well as members and hangers-on of Cuba's former ruling class.
On April 15, 1961, mercenary planes sent from the United States bombed airfields of the Revolutionary Armed Forces in Havana, Santiago de Cuba, and San Antonio de Los Baños. Seven people were killed and fifty-three wounded in the attack.
The following day, at a mass rally to honor the victims, Fidel Castro proclaimed the socialist character of the Cuban revolution and called the people of Cuba to arms in its defense.
On April 17, 1961, two days after the air assault, a U.S.- organized and - financed invasion conducted by 1,500 Cuban mercenaries landed at the Bay of Pigs on Cuba's southern coast. The mercenaries aimed to establish a beachhead, declare a provisional government, and appeal for direct U.S. intervention.
The invaders, however, were defeated within 72 hours by Cuba's popular militia and its Revolutionary Armed Forces. On April 19 the last invaders surrendered at Playa Giro'n (Giro'n Beach), which is the name Cubans use to designate the battle. In the speech printed here, Castro explains how the victory, which is celebrated every year in Cuba, was won.
The translation is (c) Pathfinder Press and is reprinted by permission. Subheadings are by the Militant.
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