In Defense of Socialism: Four Speeches on the 30th Anniversary of the Cuban Revolution by Fidel Castro is one of Pathfinder’s Books of the Month for November. The excerpt is from the Jan. 8, 1989, speech “The Young Generation Must Improve and Defend Socialism.” It was given at Ciudad Libertad, formerly Camp Columbia, the main army base under the Washington-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, turned into a school after the revolution. Castro talks about what motivated the hundreds of thousands of Cubans who volunteered in Angola and risked their lives to defend that newly independent country from invasion by South Africa, helping to deal the apartheid regime a crushing blow in 1988. Copyright © 1989 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.
Even when the independence of Cuba was formally proclaimed at the beginning of the century and an allegedly Cuban government was installed, with the constitution that carried an amendment, the so-called Platt Amendment, entitling the United States to intervene in our country, this did not change anything. The ownership of the land and industry continued to be in the hands of those who owned them: the plantation owners, the capitalists, the landowners, and a growing number of foreign corporations. There was absolutely no change.
With the revolutionary triumph of January 1959, for the first time in the history of our nation, property was transferred from the hands of the exploiters into the hands of the people; for the first time a true social revolution took place; for the first time a profound change took place in our people’s political philosophy and consciousness. As could be expected, this unleashed the hatred and antagonism of the U.S. imperialists. They could not conceive of anything like it; they could not conceive of a socialist revolution in our country. They viewed our country as their property and our people as a herd of sheep. …
During these thirty years the revolution defended itself against imperialist threats, imperialist aggressions, imperialist plans, imperialist subversion, imperialist crimes. It defended itself against the counterrevolutionary bands, mercenary invasions, plans to sabotage our economy, attempts to assassinate revolutionary leaders, repeated threats of direct aggression, and an economic blockade that has already lasted thirty years. But imperialism has not disappeared, imperialism is right there. Capitalist ideology has not disappeared and neither has capitalism. Capitalism and capitalist ideology are right there. Imperialism’s threats have not disappeared, they are right there.
It would be an illusion to think that the whole difficult period for the revolution and for the nation is over. That would be an illusion that the current generation and the coming generations can never harbor. Imperialism has not renounced the idea of liquidating socialism in Cuba, of liquidating revolutionary ideology in Cuba; imperialism has not renounced the idea of liquidating our revolution. Imperialism might change its tactics, its weapons, but U.S. imperialism is too arrogant, too high-handed, too haughty to renounce the idea of overturning the Cuban revolution, to renounce the idea of liquidating socialism in Cuba. …
Capitalist society is based on material incentives and it does not pay any attention to moral factors. Building socialism cannot follow the capitalist formula of giving the main weight to material incentives. I already gave many examples of accomplishments where material incentives play no role. We cannot speak of building socialism if we don’t give all due weight to the moral factor and consciousness.
On January 4 I was really impressed when giving out diplomas to some workers at ExpoCuba who had made a tremendous effort. I remember one compañero who was always working; whenever I went day or night I would always find him there. He contributed 3,500 hours of voluntary work. I did some figuring and found it was the equivalent of almost two years of work, in voluntary hours after his eight-hour day. [Applause] What motivates that man, what amount of money? No money can buy that. …
When we mobilize, train, and arm millions of citizens of this country to confront an invasion, we know millions are ready to die. What can we pay them with? How much will we give each of the men and women of our armed forces, the Territorial Troop Militia, and the Production and Defense Brigades, for defending the homeland? They are defending an idea, the sacred value of the homeland! [Applause] What amount of money will we give the combatants going on internationalist missions, the hundreds of thousands who went and risked their lives for an idea, for a principle, for solidarity, for internationalism, for honor?
What men do for honor and moral principles — when I say men, I mean men and women — what human beings do for moral principles and honor they won’t do for all the money in the world. And I think it is an insult to the revolutionary ideal, to revolutionary ideas, to claim that man is only motivated by material interests.
I want to make this clear so we won’t be misunderstood. We have our feet on the ground, very firmly on the ground! That is why we consider all these examples, and I’ve enumerated some unique examples, which are part of the education of our young people.
There cannot be socialism or a communist society without education, without having certain ideas become indispensable ethical principles for every citizen and every human being.
It is in this light that the younger generation, this generation, must work, must create, and must improve our system.