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Vol. 74/No. 37      October 4, 2010

‘Spending beyond income
jeopardizes revolution’
Raúl Castro explains Cuba’s economic
challenges to communist youth congress
(feature article)
The following is an excerpt from an address by Cuban president Raúl Castro to the closing session of the Ninth Congress of the Union of Young Communists (UJC) in Havana April 4. The speech addresses challenges in forging proletarian leaders from the youngest generations in Cuba today, cadres who lead by example, imbued with habits of discipline and self-sacrifice.

In the excerpt printed here Castro focuses on the centrality of confronting the country’s economic challenges, which are made ever more difficult today by the combined effects of Washington’s decades-long embargo and the world capitalist depression. Detailed information on Cuba’s economic situation was distributed to 30,000 members of the UJC following discussion on these matters in the Communist Party leadership, National Assembly of People’s Power, and various levels of government.

We print this selection as major capitalist dailies have been featuring articles on recent decisions by the Cuban government to implement aspects of the economic course Raúl Castro outlines.

Through combination of deliberate misrepresentation, reporters’ ignorance, and wishful thinking, the articles have invariably presented these necessary moves by the Cuban government as motion toward capitalist restoration. Raúl Castro’s speech, however, makes clear they are part of a working-class trajectory aimed at maintaining the proletarian revolution and defending it against its class enemies led by Washington.

Translation and headings are by the Militant.


Today, more than ever before, the economic battle is the main task and the focus of the ideological work of the cadres, because the sustainability and preservation of our social system depend on it.

Without a sound and dynamic economy and without eliminating superfluous expenses and waste, it will not be possible to raise the living standard of the population nor preserve and improve the high levels of education and health care guaranteed to every citizen free of charge.

Without an efficient and robust agriculture that we can develop with the resources available to us—without dreaming of the large allocations of the past—we can’t hope to maintain and increase the amount of food for the population, instead of depending so much on importing products that could be grown in Cuba.

Without people feeling the need to work to be able to live—if they are protected by excessively paternalistic and irrational state regulations—we will never be able to encourage the love of work or solve the chronic shortage of construction, farm, and industrial workers; teachers; police; and other indispensable trades that little by little have been disappearing.

Without a firm and systematic social rejection of illegal activities and various displays of corruption, more than a few will continue to enrich themselves on the sweat of the majority while spreading attitudes that directly attack the essence of socialism.

If we keep inflated payrolls in nearly every field of national life and pay wages that have no connection to results, increasing the amount of money in circulation, we cannot expect that prices will stop their constant climb, which reduces people’s purchasing power. We know that government departments and government-funded enterprises have hundreds of thousands of workers in excess; some analysts estimate that there are more than one million excess positions. This is a very sensitive issue that we should face firmly and with political sense.  
‘Will not leave anyone defenseless’
The revolution will not leave anyone defenseless. It will strive to create the necessary conditions for every Cuban to have a decent job, but this does not mean that the state will take charge of placing everyone in a job after they received several work offers. The citizens themselves should be the ones most interested in finding socially useful work.

In summary, to continue spending beyond our income is tantamount to eating up our future and jeopardizing the very survival of the revolution.

We are facing realities that are not at all pleasant, but we will not close our eyes to them. We are convinced that we need to break away from dogmas and firmly and confidently take on the ongoing upgrading of our economic model in order to lay the foundations of the irreversibility of Cuban socialism and its development, which we know is the guarantee of our national sovereignty and independence.

I know that some comrades sometimes get impatient and wish for immediate changes in many areas. Of course, I mean those who do this without any intention of playing the enemy’s game. We understand those concerns that, generally, stem from a lack of understanding of the magnitude of the work ahead of us, of its depth, and of the complexity of the interrelations between the different elements of society’s functioning that need to be modified.

Those who ask us to advance more rapidly should bear in mind the series of issues that we are studying, of which I have mentioned only a few today. In trying to solve a problem, we should avoid causing a greater one as a result of haste or improvisation. With regards to issues of strategic importance for the life of the entire nation we cannot let ourselves be carried away by emotion and act without the necessary comprehensiveness. As we have already explained, that is the only reason why we decided to postpone for a few months the celebration of the Party Congress and the National Conference that will precede it.

This is the biggest and most important challenge we face in order to ensure the continuity of the work built in these five decades, that our youth have assumed with full responsibility and conviction. The theme of this Congress is “Everything for the Revolution,” and that means, foremost, strengthening and consolidating the national economy… .

Cuban youth are called upon to take over from the generation that established the revolution. Leading the great strength of the masses requires a vanguard that convinces and mobilizes on the basis of authority that comes from personal example; led by firm, capable, and prestigious leaders; real leaders, not improvised ones, who have passed through the irreplaceable forge of the working class where the most genuine values of a revolutionary are cultivated. Life has eloquently demonstrated the dangers that come with violating that principle.

Fidel said it clearly in his closing remarks at the 2nd UJC Congress, on April 4, 1972, and I quote:

“No one will learn to swim on the ground, and no one will walk on the sea. A man is shaped by his environment; a man is made by his own life, by his own activity.”

And he concluded: “It is by creating that we shall learn to respect what work creates. We shall teach respect for those goods by teaching how to create them.”

This idea that he stated 38 years ago, and that was surely received with an ovation by that congress, is another clear example of things we agree to but then do not carry out… .

Meanwhile, it would seem that the standard-bearers of the so-much-trumpeted freedom of the press have forgotten that the economic and trade blockade against Cuba and all of its inhumane effects on our people is in full force and is being intensified; that the current U.S. administration has not stopped in the least its support to subversion; that the unfair, discriminatory, and meddling common position adopted by the European Union, sponsored at the time by the U.S. government and the Spanish right wing, is still in force demanding regime change in our country, or what is the same thing, the destruction of the revolution.

More than half a century of permanent combat has taught our people that hesitation is synonymous with defeat.

We will never yield to blackmail from any country or group of nations, no matter how powerful they might be, and regardless of the consequences. We have the right to defend ourselves. Let them know that if they try to pen us in, we know how to defend ourselves, first of all with truth and principles. Once again we will be firm, calm, and patient. Our history is rich in such examples! …  
Effects of Soviet Union’s collapse
More recently, the Cuban people gave an indelible example of their capacity for resistance and their self-confidence when, as a result of the demise of the socialist camp and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Cuba suffered a 35 percent drop in its gross domestic product; an 85 percent cut in its foreign trade; the loss of markets for its main exports such as sugar, nickel, citrus, and others whose prices plummeted by half; the loss of credits on favorable terms with the subsequent interruption of numerous crucial investments like the first nuclear power station and the Cienfuegos Refinery; the collapse of transportation, construction, and agriculture with the instant loss of the supply of spare parts, fertilizer, feed, and raw material for industry, which caused the shutdown of hundreds and hundreds of factories and led to the sudden quantitative and qualitative deterioration of food supplies for our people to levels below those recommended for adequate nutrition.

We all suffered those warm summers of the first half of the 1990s, when the blackouts exceeded 12 hours a day due to the lack of fuel for electrical generation. And, while all this was happening, scores of Western press agencies, some of them with unconcealed jubilation, were sending their correspondents to Cuba with the intention of getting the first reports of the final defeat of the revolution.

Amidst this dramatic situation, no one was left to their own fate; the strength stemming from the unity of the people when they defend just ideas and works built with so much sacrifice was evident. Only a socialist regime, despite its deficiencies, can successfully pass such a gigantic test.
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‘Everybody in Cuba has access to culture’  
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