Raúl Castro: ‘We’ve faced many challenges, but 65 years of Cuba’s socialist revolution is worth it’

February 5, 2024
Participants in New York meeting Jan. 21 received copies of Raúl Castro’s Jan. 1 speech to deepen their understanding of Cuba’s revolution and example it sets for workers worldwide.
Militant/Mike ShurParticipants in New York meeting Jan. 21 received copies of Raúl Castro’s Jan. 1 speech to deepen their understanding of Cuba’s revolution and example it sets for workers worldwide.

Speech delivered by Army Gen. Raúl Castro Ruz, leader of the revolution, at the celebration of the 65th anniversary of the triumph of the revolution, at Céspedes Park, Santiago de Cuba, Jan. 1, 2024, “Year 66 of the Revolution.” He spoke along with Miguel Díaz-Canel, president of Cuba and first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba. Translation is by the Militant.



We arrive at the 65th anniversary of the triumph of our socialist revolution. We have had to face many challenges and adversities to get here, but it has been worth it. The work of the revolution and its social achievements, even in the midst of difficulties, corroborate this.

The first thought of Cubans in this historic commemoration has been for Fidel, especially here, in the heroic city of Santiago de Cuba that treasures his immortal remains, as well as for all those who have fallen in the noble purpose of achieving and preserving the independence of the homeland.

Raúl Castro, second from left, with other historic leaders of the Cuban Revolution, José Ramón Machado and Ramiro Valdéz, and President Miguel Díaz-Canel, second from right.
GranmaRaúl Castro, second from left, with other historic leaders of the Cuban Revolution, José Ramón Machado and Ramiro Valdéz, and President Miguel Díaz-Canel, second from right.

We are gathered in the same place where Fidel proclaimed on Jan. 1, 1959, the triumph of the only revolution that has ever existed in Cuba, initiated on Oct. 10, 1868, by Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, the father of the homeland, whose name this square bears.

By paradoxes of history, the then nascent Yankee empire consummated the military occupation of Cuba on Jan. 1, 1899; therefore, its total domination over our island lasted exactly 60 years.

One of the most shameful and outrageous acts of the occupier in those days was to prevent from entering the city the troops of the Liberation Army commanded by Major Gen. Calixto García, without whose action the Spaniards without doubt would have defeated across the board those arrogant but quite inept invaders. That is why Fidel, when he was at the gates of Santiago, said in his speech on Radio Rebelde: “This time the Mambises will enter Santiago de Cuba … The history of ’95 will not be repeated,” he concluded.

I remember that memorable night of Jan. 1, 1959. As many know, by decision of the commander in chief, I had arrived in Santiago a few hours earlier, with the mission of consolidating the surrender of the troops of the Moncada Barracks, some 5,000 men who were in this city, in addition to the main force of the navy. I was just one more among the crowd that filled this square.

When Fidel saw me, he ordered me to go up to the stand and speak to those present. I only said a few brief words, which have not been preserved, but that is not important. But Fidel’s words were, and on that occasion he warned us: “The revolution begins now. The revolution will not be an easy task, the revolution will be a hard endeavor and full of dangers.”

Eight days later, after his triumphal entry into the capital, he insisted on this, when he said: “The joy is immense. And yet, there is still much to be done. Let us not delude ourselves into believing that everything will be easy from now on. Perhaps everything will be more difficult from now on.”

That was his early warning not to overestimate the successes and to prepare to face the most difficult possibility. And life proved he was quite right. The road we have traveled has not been easy. We have had to face the continuous and perverse aggressiveness of the enemy, which has even resorted to military invasion, terrorism and a ruthless and cruel blockade — condemned by the overwhelming majority of the world’s nations — in its failed attempt to destroy our revolution and erase its inspiring example for other peoples, that it is possible to build a just and humane society, with equal opportunities for all.

* * *

The policy of permanent hostility and blockade of the United States government is the main cause of the difficulties of our economy. This is an irrefutable fact, even though the enemy invests millions of dollars and much effort to hide it. It is endorsed by some who act against their own homeland, either out of a desire to make money or simply out of a slave mentality. Others allow themselves to be misled by their lies, and unconsciously play into them to some extent, overwhelmed by difficulties of everyday life. With the latter we cannot lose patience. We must listen, and explain to them until we convince them with the powerful weapon of truth, which is on our side.

This does not mean in any way that we can disregard our flaws and errors, which have never been of principle. The leadership of the revolution has been characterized, throughout these 65 years, by its transparency and self-critical spirit, by discussing with the people any deficiency, aware that only together will we be able to eradicate them.

Fidel Castro at Havana rally January 1959, after overthrow of Fulgencio Batista dictatorship. Castro led Cuba’s toilers in their millions to transform their country and themselves, making a socialist revolution.
AP photo/Harold ValentineFidel Castro at Havana rally January 1959, after overthrow of Fulgencio Batista dictatorship. Castro led Cuba’s toilers in their millions to transform their country and themselves, making a socialist revolution.

In the transition on the unknown road of building socialism in a poor country subjected to constant aggressions, we have been forced to create our own ways of doing things, evidence that the Cuban revolutionary process has always been marked by an immense creative capacity.

Today we can say with healthy pride that neither external aggressions, nor the blows of nature, nor our own mistakes have prevented us from reaching this 65th anniversary. Here we are and here we will be! (Applause.)

This has been possible, first of all, because of the proven resistance and self-confidence of our heroic people; because of the wise leadership of Commander in Chief of the Cuban Revolution Fidel Castro Ruz; because of the existence of a party that has become a worthy heir to the trust placed by the people in its leader; and because of the unity of the nation.

Comrade Díaz-Canel referred to this track record a few moments ago in his overview of the epic the Cuban people have lived through during these 65 years, which reaches back to the difficult and unforgettable moments of the Moncada, the Granma and the struggle in the Sierra and the plain, until we reached the real victory on a day like today.

And the greater the difficulties and dangers, the greater the need to be more demanding, for more discipline and unity. Not a unity achieved at any price, but one based on the principles so accurately defined by Fidel in his reflection of Jan. 22, 2008, and I quote: “Unity means sharing the struggle, the risks, the sacrifices, the objectives, ideas, concepts and strategies, arrived at through debates and analysis. Unity means the common struggle against annexationists, sellouts and corrupt people who have nothing to do with a revolutionary militant.”

And he added another essential idea: “We must avoid that, in the enormous sea of tactical judgments, the strategic lines are diluted and we imagine nonexistent situations.”

Such is our unity, which did not arise out of thin air, which we have patiently built among all of us, brick by brick. In the Cuban Revolution there has been room for every sincere patriot, with the only requirement to be willing to confront injustice and oppression, to work for the good of the people and to defend their conquests.

In that furnace of action and thought our party was forged, alien to authoritarianism and impositions, listening and debating different criteria and involving all those willing to join in the work. Modesty, honesty, adherence to the truth, loyalty and commitment have been the key. Our capacity to resist and win is based on socialism and its work, in unity and revolutionary ideology. (Applause.)

Unity is our main strategic weapon. It has allowed this small island to succeed in every challenge. It sustains the internationalist vocation of our people and its feats in other lands around the world, following Martí’s maxim that homeland is humanity. Let us take care of unity more than the apple of our eye! I have no doubt that you will. I am convinced that the new saplings, our combative youth, will guarantee it.

The unity formed by the party, the government, the mass organizations and all our people, and as part of it the combatants of the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the Ministry of the Interior, is the shield against which will crash, once again, all the subversive plans of the enemy, from its systematic use of lies to terrorism.

Today I can state with satisfaction that the Cuban Revolution, after 65 years of existence, far from weakening, is getting stronger (Applause), and as I said a decade ago on a day like today and in this very place, with no obligations to anyone at all, only to the people. (Applause.)

* * *

Compañeras and compañeros:

I know that I express the sentiment of the historic generation in ratifying the confidence in those who today occupy leadership responsibilities in our party and government, and in the other organizations and institutions of our society, from the highest positions to the tens of thousands of grassroots leaders who are in the front line of combat. In very difficult circumstances, the vast majority of them have been demonstrating with their actions the necessary revolutionary firmness and will to overcome the current difficulties and move forward together with our people.

Those who — due to insufficient ability, lack of preparation or simply because they are tired — are not up to the demands of the moment, should make way for another compañero or compañera willing to assume the task.

I call on all our cadres to reflect every day on what more can be done to justify the trust and exemplary support expressed by our compatriots, even in the midst of so many needs, not to be naive or triumphalist, to avoid bureaucratic responses and any manifestation of routine and insensitivity, to find realistic solutions with what we have, without dreaming that something will fall from the sky. Likewise, within the many daily tasks and challenges, to find time to better ourselves, knowledge has always been an essential weapon, and even more so in the present.

If the current challenges and difficulties are great, greater is the work of the revolution, which constitutes its best and irrefutable defense against the slanders of the enemy, a palpable work seen in any corner of Cuba in the material and spiritual order.

The revolution dignified Cuba and Cubans. The very concept of power took on a new dimension when politics ceased to be the fiefdom of an elite and all the people became protagonists of their destiny. That is why we have to defend and carry forward this revolution of the humble, by the humble and for the humble.

History has taught us amply where resignation and defeatism lead to. Let us not limit ourselves to resist. We are going to get out of these difficulties, as we have always done, by fighting! (Applause), With the same determination of Baraguá, of Moncada, of Granma, of Girón and with the firm convictions instilled in us by the commander in chief.

Today this means working harder and, above all, doing it well. It is our obligation to the glorious history of the homeland and the best tribute to the fallen.

As the prime minister, compañero Manuel Marrero, explained in a transparent way a few days ago in the National Assembly of People’s Power, in the complex and pressing economic battle, it is vital to make progress with productivity, order and efficiency, even if it implies some sacrifices to create the conditions that will allow us to get out of the current situation and develop.

Finding an answer to these difficulties is an unavoidable duty of all Cuban revolutionaries. On such a significant date, I ask our people to join consciously and responsibly, as we are accustomed to, in this endeavor that the homeland demands today.

I reiterate a conviction that I expressed in the Cuban parliament on Aug. 1, 2010: “We, Cuban revolutionaries, do not lose any sleep at night because of difficulties. Our only path is to continue the struggle with optimism and unshakable faith in victory.” (Applause.)

In this supreme endeavor, the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the Ministry of the Interior, faithful and firm guardians of the revolution, will participate decisively. If yesterday the new homeland emerged free, beautiful, powerful and invincible from the weapons of the Rebel Army, I can state today that in the face of any threat or weakness its combatants will not waver in continuing to be, together with the party, the soul of the revolution. (Applause.)

Dear compatriots:

As the commander in chief said in his message when the Association of Combatants of the Cuban Revolution was created 30 years ago: “There are no generational contradictions in the revolution for one simple reason: because there is no envy or craving for power among its sons.

“None of us old fighters cling to positions nor do we think the homeland owes us for having rendered it a service. As long as we have strength left we will be in the post assigned to us, however modest it may be.” Those were Fidel’s words, which could have been spoken today.

On this date of such significance I can say that our greatest pride and satisfaction is to have stood by Fidel in every moment of joy, indignation or sadness; to have learned from him the decisive importance of unity; not to lose serenity and confidence in victory no matter how insurmountable the powerful obstacles of the enemies or how great the dangers may seem; to learn and draw strength from every setback until we turn it into victory.

Faithful to his teachings and his example, here we are! And from the heroic Santiago de Cuba we ratify that we remain with our foot in the stirrup and ready to charge with the machete, together with the people as one more combatant. (Applause) Ready to charge against the enemy and our own errors, certain that the Mambi cry will always resound in this land:

Long live free Cuba! (Exclamations of: “Viva!”)