April 19 this year marks the 50th anniversary of the victory of Cubas working people over a U.S.-organized invasion at the Bay of Pigs. Below we print an excerpt from an April 16, 1961, speech by Fidel Castro given at a mass funeral rally honoring those killed in U.S. airstrikes the day before. In his address, Castro prepares the Cuban people for the coming imperialist attack, publicly proclaiming for the first time the socialist character of the revolution they were defending.
While Washington had been vehemently denying any intention to launch a military operation, a U.S.-backed invasion by 1,500 mercenaries began the following day, April 17. In fewer than 72 hours it was crushed at Playa Girón (Girón beach) by Cubas workers and farmers, who had conquered power two years earlier and begun to reorganize society in the interests of the toiling majority.
Castros speech is included in Playa Girón/Bay of Pigs: Washingtons First Military Defeat in the Americas. Copyright © 2001 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.
Yesterday they attacked our land in a cunning and criminal attack. The whole world knew about it. There were Yankee planes, Yankee bombs, and Yankee weapons, as well as mercenaries paid by the Yankee Central Intelligence Agency. They destroyed the nations wealth. They ended the lives of young people, many of whom were still in their teens .
Those weve come here to bury were not millionaire parasites they were not mercenaries who sold themselves for foreign gold, they were not thieves. They are true sons of our people! [Prolonged applause]
They were young workers, children from families of ordinary people who never stole anything from anyone, who never exploited anyone, and who had a right to live more than the millionaires. They had more right to live than the parasites and the gusanos! [Applause] Because they did not live off the labor of others, like the Yankee millionaires. They did not live off foreign gold, like the mercenaries and gusanos who have sold out to imperialism. [Shouts of Down with them!]
What the imperialists cannot forgive is that we are here. What the imperialists cannot forgive is the dignity, the integrity, the courage, the firmness of ideas, the spirit of sacrifice, and the revolutionary spirit of the people of Cuba. [Applause]
That is what they cannot forgive, that we are here under their very nose. What they cannot forgive is that we have made a socialist revolution right under the very nose of the United States! [Applause and shouts] That we defend this socialist revolution with these guns! [Applause] That we defend this socialist revolution with the same courage shown yesterday when our antiaircraft artillery riddled the aggressors planes with bullets! [Applause and shouts of Venceremos! and other revolutionary slogans.]
Compañero workers and peasants of the homeland: yesterdays attack was the prelude to the mercenaries aggression. Yesterdays attack, which cost seven heroic lives, aimed to destroy our planes on the ground. But the mercenaries failed; they did not destroy our planes, and the bulk of the enemy planes were damaged or shot down. [Applause]
Here, in front of the graves of our fallen comrades; beside the remains of the heroic youth, children of workers and children of ordinary working men and women, we reaffirm our determination. Just as they faced the bullets, just as they gave their lives, we state that no matter when the mercenaries come, no matter who we face, that we are all proud of our revolution, proud to defend this revolution of the working people, for the working people, and by the working people. And we will not hesitate to defend it to the last drop of blood. [Applause]
Compañeros, all units need to head toward the site of their respective battalions, in view of the mobilization order to maintain the country in a state of alert in face of the imminent mercenary aggression that can be deduced by all the events of the last weeks and yesterdays cowardly attack.
Let us march to the Militia Houses.
Let us form up the battalions and prepare to go confront the enemies, with the national anthem on our lips, with the words of the patriotic anthem, with the cry of To battle, with the conviction that to die for the homeland is to live and to live in chains is to live plunged in ignominy and shame.
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