Below is an excerpt from Cuba’s Internationalist Foreign Policy, 1975-80, by Fidel Castro, one of Pathfinder’s Books of the Month for April. It comes from his speech “Angola: African Girón,” given on April 19, 1976, in commemoration of the 15th anniversary of the Cuban victory at the Bay of Pigs (Playa Girón). This year marks the 57th anniversary of the “first defeat of Yankee imperialism on this continent.”
African Girón refers to the March 27, 1976, battle where the apartheid South African army — which invaded Angola right before it was to celebrate its independence from Portuguese colonial rule — was pushed out of Angola with the help of thousands of Cuban volunteers. Over the next 15 years hundreds of thousands of additional Cuban internationalist volunteers joined this effort. In 1988 combined Cuban, Angolan and Namibian liberation forces dealt a decisive military defeat to the apartheid regime at Cuito Cuanavale in southern Angola. Copyright © 1981 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.
Precisely fifteen years ago, at this very hour, you could still hear the echoes of the last shots of the battle that smashed one of Yankee imperialism’s most sinister and traitorous actions against a Latin American people. Girón [Bay of Pigs] went down in history as the first defeat of Yankee imperialism on this continent.
It would be useless to try to find the slightest ethical principle in a system whose every act is characterized by exploitation, plunder, deceit, and crime. …
Everything concerning the Girón episode was treacherous, a flagrant violation of international law, a perfidy, and a crime. The sinister CIA invested tens of millions of dollars to recruit, train, and equip mercenaries: landowners, bourgeois elements, traitors, war criminals, drug addicts, common criminals, and lumpen. Its strategy was accompanied by hair-raising plans to assassinate leaders of the Cuban revolution, in which they did not hesitate to use known Mafia leaders, poison, bacteria, explosives, and the most refined criminal methods. Beforehand, at every hour of the day and night, in planes or boats, scores of agents and thousands of arms were systematically brought in. They established their training bases in one Central American state and the embarkation points and air bases in another.
One quiet, clear dawn, on April 15, 1961, Yankee bombers bearing Cuban insignia attacked our air bases where a few rickety old planes, with barely half a dozen pilots, constituted our air forces. With unparalleled cynicism, the United States representative declared in the United Nations that those planes were part of our own air force that had rebelled.
Everything was done with the tacit complicity and in many cases with the collaboration of the majority of the Latin American governments and the approval and support of the loathsome and repugnant OAS. Never before in the history of our continent were such corruption, shamelessness, cowardice, immorality, and crime brought together to carry out a military and political action. That is what the mercenary attack on the Bay of Pigs symbolizes. …
The option between the past and the future, reaction or progress, treason or loyalty to principles, capitalism or socialism, imperialist domination or liberation, was what was decided at Girón, on April 19, 1961. Three days earlier, at the grave of the first martyrs of that brutal aggression, the people proclaimed the socialist nature of our revolution, and the men and women of our homeland expressed their readiness to die for it. No one knew how many mercenaries there were; no one knew how many Yankee marines and soldiers would come in after them, how many planes, how many further bombings it would be necessary to bear. Never, as at that moment, was the slogan of “Patria o muerte” more dramatic, real, and historic. The decision to win or die, embodied in a whole people, was stronger than all the risk, suffering, and danger. This made that day doubly historic, because our Marxist-Leninist party was really born at Girón; [Applause] membership in our party is recognized from that day on; from that day on, socialism was cemented forever with the blood of our workers, peasants, and students; from that day on, a new and completely different destiny opened up before the people of this continent because of the liberty and dignity that one of them had conquered in the face of aggression from the powerful empire that subjected all. Because, say what you will, after Girón, all the peoples of America were a little bit freer. …
In commemorating this, the fifteenth anniversary of the heroic, glorious victory at Girón, our people have an additional reason to be proud, which constitutes their finest expression of internationalism and transcends the boundaries of this continent: the historical victory of the people of Angola, [Prolonged applause] to whom we offered the generous and unlimited solidarity of our revolution.
At Girón, African blood was shed, that of the selfless descendants of a people who were slaves before they became workers, and who were exploited workers before they became masters of their homeland. And in Africa, together with the blood of the heroic fighters of Angola, Cuban blood, that of the sons of Martí, Maceo, and Agramonte, that of the heirs to the internationalist tradition set by Máximo Gómez and Che Guevara, [Prolonged applause] also flowed. Those who once enslaved man and sent him to America perhaps never imagined that one of those peoples who received the slaves would one day send their fighters to struggle for freedom in Africa.
The victory in Angola was the twin sister of the victory at Girón. [Applause] For the Yankee imperialists, Angola represents an African Girón. At one time we said that imperialism had suffered its great defeats in the month of April: Girón, Vietnam, Cambodia, etc. This time the defeat came in March. On the twenty-seventh of that month, when the last South African soldiers crossed the Namibian border, after a retreat of more than 700 kilometers, one of the most brilliant pages in the liberation of Black Africa was written.