by Abel Prieto, President of La Casa de las Américas
This most valuable, important, and transcendent book that we present today has been compiled and edited with particular care by the Office of Historical Affairs of the Presidency of the Republic of Cuba, and it is the first title of its publishing label Ediciones Celia, the name of which pays tribute to that figure of such significance in our revolutionary process, in both war and in peace, and who contributed so much, especially for the preservation of its history. It is a beautiful edition that we are presenting on the eve of the birthday of its author, General of the Armed Forces, Raúl Castro Ruz, and it is a gift to Raúl on this anniversary of his birth, and it is also, without any doubt, a great gift for the Cuban people. I must say that Revolution, the most beautiful work was to be prefaced by our unforgettable Eusebio Leal, who had a very close friendship with Raúl, whom he called, as we all remember, “the General President.” Eusebio suffered ill health and his worsening condition did not allow him to complete a preface for this book.
Conceived in two volumes, with a design and finish of the highest quality and a detailed and very useful analytical index, this title brings together speeches, speeches, interviews and statements by the General of the Armed Forces, between June 14 2006 and 1 May 2019. With the exception of the first text, all the others are dated after the “Proclamation of the Commander in Chief to the people of Cuba” of 31 July 2006, where Fidel explained that for health reasons, he had to provisionally abandon his responsibilities at the head of the Party, State and Government and delegate them to Raúl. On February 18, 2008, the “Message from the Commander in Chief” would be made public, in which he announced that he was definitively retiring from all positions to continue the fight as “a soldier of ideas.” The National Assembly elected Raúl President of the Councils of State and Ministers on 24 February 2008; and, later, in April 2011, the VI Congress of the Party elected him First Secretary.
These pages cover more than a decade in which transcendental events occurred for the nation, such as the debate and approval of the Guidelines for the economic and social policy of the Party and the Revolution; the reunion of the Five Heroes, finally all together in their homeland, just as Fidel had promised; the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the United States, after discussions in which Cuba did not make any concessions; the physical departure of the Commander-in-Chief, his funeral honours and the massive, painful and committed farewell to his people; and the vast popular debate and subsequent approval by referendum of the new Constitution. At the same time, Raúl, along with the enormous weight of the responsibilities he assumed, personally went through very bitter moments. Revisiting those moments and the national and international context in which these pages were born, our admiration for Raúl grows, for his courage, for his integrity, for his stature as a leader and as a human being. This book reveals to us the unbroken thread that seamlessly unites the thought of Fidel and Raúl: the absolute identification of the two brothers in terms of ideals, values, principles – the result of having shared, together, all the challenges and risks that facing them implied to defeat the Batista tyranny and to achieve the feat of making “a socialist Revolution right under the very nose of the United States.”
It was a wise decision of the editors to open the first volume of Revolution, the most beautiful work with the speech delivered on the 45th anniversary of the Western Army. Raúl explains in that speech how, based on the crusade against terrorism launched by Bush in 2003 and the real danger of an aggression, it was decided “to increase how much we did to strengthen the defence” (Vol.1, 2) and how, after taking successfully carrying out the 2004 Bastión Exercise, it was possible to provide “a considerable qualitative leap in the country’s defensive capacity” (Vol.1, 5). Now the enemy, adds Raúl, “aims its blows to weaken us ideologically (…) with an eye on the future, in a scenario that it considers more favourable to its purposes” (Vol.1, 8). And he then refers to the so-called “transition to capitalism” that they have designed for Cuba, “betting on the end of the Revolution when its historical leadership is no longer present.” And what the Yankees know is “that the special confidence, which the people give to the founding leader of a Revolution, is not transmitted as if it were an inheritance, to those who will occupy the main leadership positions of the country in the future” (Vol.1, 9). For this reason, Raúl says, “I repeat what I have affirmed on many occasions: the Commander-in-Chief of the Cuban Revolution is just one person, and only the Communist Party, as an institution that brings together the revolutionary vanguard and a sure guarantee of the unity of the Cuban people at all times, can be the worthy heir of the trust placed by the people in their leader. That is what we work for and that is how it will be…” (Vol,1, 9).
This theme is present, above all, throughout the first volume of the book, and has to do with that sinister and perverse plan of the Yankees to prevent “the succession of Castro.” It was based on waiting for what they cynically called the biological solution, that is, the physical disappearance of Fidel, and then pursuing any alternative, including military intervention, and making it impossible for the Revolution to survive. Raúl talks about these plans with journalist Lázaro Barredo and quotes several US officials who refer to the matter. One of them declared, according to Raúl, “that the US does not accept the continuation of the Cuban Revolution, although it did not say how they intend to avoid it.” (Vol.1, 14). Another assured that the transition in Cuba —that is, the death of Fidel— could occur at any moment and they had “to be prepared to act decisively and deftly.” He went on to say that the US wants to be sure that “the regime’s cronies do not take control” and added that “they were working so that there is no succession to the Castro regime.” And Raúl concludes: “What other way is there to achieve these goals other than military aggression? Therefore, the country adopted the pertinent measures to counteract this real danger” (Vol.1, 17). But, as we all know, Fidel retired for health reasons, resigned from his positions and Raúl replaced him in his capacity as First Vice President of the Council of State and Ministers and as Second Secretary of the Central Committee of the Party, and also, on account of his extraordinary merits, for his amply demonstrated capacity, because he had always been with Fidel in all the combats, as the undisputed second chief of the Revolution. The fact is that Raúl led the country with a firm hand and set himself new challenges, and the people reacted, as Raúl himself says in several interventions gathered in these pages, with great confidence in the Revolution, with great confidence in themselves.
The Yankees believed in the theory of the reactionary press that when the caudillo fell ill or died, everything would collapse in Cuba. They invent stereotypes, cartoons and fables and end up believing these themselves. Fidel was not a caudillo, of course, he was a guide, a visionary, a founder, with deep roots, with deep, endearing and enduring roots, and he had created, together with Raúl and the other founders, together with the Party, together with the people, revolutionary institutional frameworks that were not going to collapse. This was not something that was in the Empire’s calculations. They had not foreseen that Fidel would be able to retire with the country in total normality, that Raúl would assume his positions and undertake a group of daring transformations to perfect our socialism, with the overwhelming support of the people, without the slightest crack appearing in the unity of the revolutionaries in Cuba. That took the Yankee politicians, their think tanks, their intelligence services, their prophets supposedly specializing in our country and its destiny, by surprise. Just as they have been taken by surprise that Raúl left his positions in the hands of a much younger leader years later, comrade Díaz-Canel, and that this process was taking place, as defined by Raúl, as “gradual and orderly transfer to the new generations of the main responsibilities of leadership of the nation” (Vol.2, 88). And that has begun to happen in a very visible way, the Central Committee has been renewed, the Politburo and the Secretariat have been renewed, the Council of State and the Council of Ministers have been renewed, and in this country our people continue to trust in the leadership of the Revolution, founded by that generation who did not let Martí die in the year of his centenary, and who fortunately for everyone continue to accompany us all today.
Revolution, the most beautiful work is a book that should become a must-read for every Cuban —and it will surely have many readers beyond our borders. It is full of passages that incite reflection, analysis, self-critical evaluation of our own behaviour, which sternly place us face to face with the mistakes that revolutionaries can make, before distortions, clumsiness or overly bureaucratic, superficial, habituated, dogmatic attitudes. Other passages are very emotional, such as those associated with the death of the Commander-in-Chief: Raúl’s shattering speech on 25 November 2016, and his contributions at the tributes in the Plaza de la Revolución on 29 November, and in Santiago on 3 December. Other passages are true lessons on the foundations that define the international reach of the Cuban Revolution, thanks to Raúl’s speeches at meetings of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, ALBA-TCP, CELAC, Cuba-CARICOM, Petrocaribe, the Summit of the Americas in Panama, the roundtable between the government of Colombia and the leadership of the FARC-EP, in various United Nations events, in Rio de Janeiro, in Moscow, in Johannesburg, in Luanda, in Brasilia. And I could go on to mention many other forums of a similar nature that had the participation of Raúl in the period covered by the book. Reading these speeches in succession, one feels very proud to have been born on this tiny island in the Caribbean, geographically small but yet immense in the scale of its solidarity and humanity, and to have been able to meet this brother of Fidel’s blood and ideas, so modest (as its own name indicates) and at the same time so admirable.
Revolution, the most beautiful work allows us to know better the aspects of Raúl as a statesman, as a defender of the poor of the earth, of abandoned children, of immigrants cornered by racism and neo-fascism, of the illiterate, of the unemployed, and as a defender of peace, of multilateralism, of a new international economic order, of the right of each people to decide for themselves the political system they deem appropriate, of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states, of a comprehensive and inclusive conception of human rights, of the founding principles of the United Nations, which have been shamelessly betrayed by Yankee imperialism and its allies. In all the forums he attends, Raúl broaches the issue of peace and the resolution of conflicts through peaceful means. He refers consistently to the absurd and dangerous growth of the arms industry, with funds that could be used to aid development and combat climate change. Let us remember that one of the projects to which Raúl dedicated a lot of time and effort was the meticulous and laborious gestation of CELAC, an organization of nations inspired by the dreams of Bolívar and Martí, which brings together Our America and the Caribbean without the presence of the old or new colonial metropolises. In addition, as we know, CELAC issued the historic Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace. By the way, Raúl’s pacifist vocation does not contradict the priority he has given internally to the doctrine of the All People’s War. For him, our permanent, incessant, conscious preparation for defence is the only way to preserve peace.
Throughout Raúl’s international activity, we can see his ability to deal with delicate, complex issues, and to build rapprochement and consensus among representatives of very diverse governments, always on the basis of ethics and principles. One of his most sustained and palpable efforts has been to try to get the countries of the South to unite, to come closer, regardless of all kinds of cultural, political, religious differences, and to assert their combined strength. Raúl emphasised in those forums that it is possible to achieve unity in diversity, that we must concentrate on the issues upon which we agree and that are common to us, while setting aside topics that are more difficult for us to resolve and not permitting these to become obstacles to our shared purpose. It is on the basis of unity that we will be heard and afford ourselves the opportunities to achieve some victories in this selfish world controlled by the interests of the wealthy elites. “We are one hundred and twenty Non-Aligned States (…) Our enormous strength cannot be underestimated when we act in concert”, he said in September 2016 at the 17th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement. The peoples of the South have had in Raúl a passionate and lucid spokesman. A loyal spokesperson, who always demands a fairer, better world, cured of the vestiges of colonialism and the geopolitics of looting; a world based on collaboration and not on duplicitous and unequal competition, where there is support and the transfer of technology from the developed North to the underdeveloped South, where we work together to reduce the abysmal disparities in all fields. Raúl is also a defender of the potential of South-South cooperation. Regarding the environment, Raúl maintains a position of permanent alert and he denounces the big multinational corporations and industrialized countries as supreme predators on our planet. He also criticizes the lack of political will by those in power on such an urgent issue and the lack of concrete commitments at climate summits. At the same time, Raúl draws attention to the devastating effects of climate change on small island states and requests a nuanced strategy with them. Already internally, Raúl has been a promoter of the Life Task, “the plan of the Cuban State to confront climate change (…), a matter of special strategic significance for the present and especially the future of our country, given its island status, in which we have had the participation of our national scientific and technological capabilities” (Vol.2, 400).
Returning to the international dimension of his work, it must be remembered that Raúl always has words of encouragement and friendship for the suffering Haitian people. He continually remembers the West’s debt to that nation, and how Cuba never forsaken Haiti and will never allow it to become isolated. He stringently criticizes “charity” in quotation marks: the theatrical “charity” designed for television cameras, of some world powers towards Haiti. Likewise, he dedicates words of solidarity to the African continent, to the Palestinian people, to the Saharawi people, to Puerto Rico, to just causes that the hegemonic press never truly covers. It should be noted that during the Obama era and his policy changes towards Cuba (while his offensive against Venezuela was intensifying), the voice of our country, and in particular the voice of Raúl, was raised across the land to express its solidarity towards the homeland of Bolívar and Chávez and towards all the victims of the interference and dirty tricks of the United States and its allies. At the General Assembly, which was celebrating the 70th anniversary of the UN, in September 2015, Raúl concluded his speech with these words: “The international community will always be able to count on the sincere voice of Cuba in the face of injustice, inequality, underdevelopment, discrimination and manipulation, standing for the establishment of a fairer and more equitable international order, at the centre of which is a true basis in the dignity and well-being of humanity” (Vol.2, 251).
Revolution, the most beautiful work allows us to identify the foundational nuclei of Raúl’s thought and action, both in his aforementioned international range, and in his embodiment of the raison d’etre of our Party, the methods and styles of work that must characterize a Cuban leader of today and in the future, in the Party, in government, in mass organizations, the results of his abiding and sharply critical appraisal of revolutionary work, his very consummate and complete vision, deeply and lucidly attentive to the challenges that we have before us, his optimism abreast of any contingency, and his faith in victory assured. Many examples in this book illustrate his capabilities as an exceptional leader, who defends this “Revolution of the humble, by the humble and for the humble” from the open or surreptitious aggressions of the empire and its mercenaries. He defends the Revolution tirelessly through his actions and his sharp insight against of all impediments, especially those represented by leaders and officials of “obsolete mentality”, the well-to-do, the sectarian, corrupt or rogue, and of those who are insensitive to the needs and demands of the population. There is so much conceptual and practical benefit to be gained from Raúl’s assessments of cadre politics and of the traits that should characterize our leader and the shortcomings that can impair good leadership. He establishes as a rule that you must have worked on the ground and put into practice what you have studied. He emphasizes that, although we have made progress, there is still more work to be done to ensure full equality for women and blacks and mulattoes. He insists that it is a matter of the utmost importance, that we must not leave it to mere chance.
His way of speaking to the Cuban people, transparent, direct, frank, precisely attuned to the truth, essentially irreconcilable with any trace of demagoguery, is manifested very frequently in this book. This type of communication between Raúl and the people is accompanied by his repeated claim to consolidate an open and deep debate:
“It is necessary to put on the table all the information and the arguments that support each decision and, incidentally, to suppress the excess of secrecy to which we become accustomed during more than fifty years of enemy siege (…). It is vital to explain, substantiate and convince the people of the fairness, necessity and urgency of a measure, no matter how hard it may seem. // The Party and the UJC, in addition to the CTC and its unions, together with the rest of the masses and social organizations, have the ability to mobilize the support and trust of the population through debate without ties to unviable dogmas and schemes, which constitute a colossal barrier, that it is essential to dismantle little by little, and we will achieve it together” (Vol.1, 418-419).
He has previously said that disagreements should not be feared, that “they will always be more desirable than false unanimity based on falsification and opportunism” (Vol.1, 417). He warns very realistically that “as the implementation of the new model progresses, a different scenario will be configured for our party organization, characterized by the growing heterogeneity of sectors and groups in our society, which originates in differentiation of your income. All of this imposes the challenge of preserving and strengthening national unity in circumstances other than those that we are accustomed to in previous stages” (Vol.2, 307). Bearing in mind this essential mission, he emphasizes that “in the Party” top-down attitudes “must definitively end; its strength is moral, not legal, that is why it is necessary to have the morality to lead the Party and bring that spirit to the mass of militants” (Vol.2, 13).
Throughout the book Raúl reflects very frequently on how a leader should conduct himself in all circumstances. He reiterates that he must constantly have his ears glued to the ground at grassroots level, listening to people, attentive to their views. He disapproves of defensive and deceptive positions in leadership and anything that means avoiding the analysis of real problems: “choreographed”, “cosmetic” visits with an already prepared script by national authorities to provinces and municipalities; justifying the rendering of accounts before the National Assembly with “arranged” interventions of praise; any representation, false or feigned, that takes us away from the direct confrontation with mistakes and errors. He speaks with great emphasis of the need to strengthen each step we take in updating our model. You must detect the distortions, the deviations, to rectify them immediately, in time, and never allow those distortions to become something that everyone accepts, because, as he points out, later it becomes a political problem to rectify them.
One of Raúl’s fundamental concerns has to do with erasing ad hoc or improvised decision-making and implanting among us that concept of Martí’s: “To govern is to foresee.” Hence, in the Central Report to the VII Party Congress: “The question is to have a method, a path, a project so that things never surprise us and can evolve naturally” (Vol.2, 316). Another of his concerns is linked to the strengthening of our institutions, from all points of view, legally, ideologically, morally, in terms of efficacy and service to the people, in terms of legitimacy. To this end, the systematic checking and monitoring of the agreements issued by the Party Congresses, the Plenary sessions of the Central Committee, the Assembly of People’s Power, and the various political and governmental bodies are essential. That is why he criticizes so severely the tendency to shelve agreements and documents and simply forget them. Apathy, paralysis, insensitivity, are capital sins in these times. For Raúl, “the worst thing there can be, the worst thing that a revolutionary or a simple honest person, communist or not, can do is sit idly by when faced with a problem” (Vol.2, 297). In the same way, he criticizes improvisation and the use of “campaigns”, full of noisy and ephemeral bluster, which are really ineffective in the execution and follow-up of certain tasks.
He is particularly concerned about rashness and the errors that emerge from it: “the pace and depth of the changes that we must introduce in our model must be conditioned by our ability to do things right and rectify any deviation in a timely manner. This will only be possible if we guarantee adequate prior preparation — which we do not do — training and mastery of the regulations established at each level and the accompaniment and conduct of the processes, aspects in which there has been no lack of a good dose of superficialities and an excess of enthusiasm and desire to move faster than we are really capable of” (Vol.2, 403-404). Raúl reminds us again and again of Fidel’s warnings in the Aula Magna of the University of Havana on 17 November 2005 about the urgency of curbing corruption to save the Revolution, and goes further to characterize the underdevelopment in our country of “moral and civic values, such as honesty, decency, shame, decorum, honesty and sensitivity to the problems of others” (Vol.2, 71). For Raúl, there are two practices that would prevent us from making mistakes when drawing up strategies: first, rigorous, open discussion, “in the various collegiate bodies at our disposal, in the Party, the State and in the Government, so that the main decisions are always the result of collective analysis, which does not exclude honest disagreements or different opinions” (Vol.2, 333); second, the consultation of the people: “The Party is obliged to permanently enhance and perfect our democracy (…) it has the duty to favour and guarantee the increasing participation of citizens in the fundamental decisions of society. We are not afraid of different opinions or disputes, since only a frank and honest discussion of the differences between revolutionaries will lead us to the best decisions” (Vol.2, 311).
According to Raúl, everything that separates us from the essential, from the core of truth, whether through mediocrity, or by defensive, bureaucratic spirit, damages the Revolution and leads us astray, creates a foggy mindset wherein it is difficult to recognize errors and to rectify them. That is why he called the Council of Ministers so that we could watch La Colmenita’s play Abracadabra and participate, guided by the child actors, in the search for the essence of things — and this is something he refers to many times. If we do not get to the truth, to the essence of things, the inspection visits to this or that entity or province or municipality do not make sense. Rather, it diverts us from our goals. We are trapped in a skein of lies and half-truths. “We must fight to definitively banish lies and deception from the conduct of cadres at any level,” emphasizes Raúl, and in doing so reminds us of Fidel’s concept of Revolution: “Never lie or violate ethical principles” (Vol.1, 416).
It is possible, according to Raúl, to lie out of sheer negligence, like those colleagues who, “without a deceptive purpose, pass on inaccurate information from their subordinates without having verified it and unconsciously fall into the lie.” The problem, says Raúl, is that “such false data can lead us to wrong decisions with greater or lesser repercussions for the nation (…) Whoever acts like this also lies and whoever they are they must be removed permanently from the position they occupy (…) and also removed from the ranks of the Party if they are active in it.” (Vol.1, 415-416). These tendencies that reveal superficiality, shallowness and ethical weaknesses can even contaminate a task as vital as ideological work. Raúl leaves to us in these pages crucial evaluations of the challenges we have in this field and the antidotes to which we must turn with a comprehensive approach:
“At the same time that we safeguard in the people the historical memory of the nation and perfect the differentiated ideological work, with special emphasis on youth and childhood, we must strengthen among ourselves our anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist culture, fighting with arguments, conviction and resolve against the efforts to establish patterns of petty bourgeois ideology characterized by individualism, selfishness, profit-motive, philistinism and the exacerbation of consumerism. // The best antidote to the politics of subversion is to work with integrity and without improvisation; do things well; improve the quality of services to the population; do not allow problems to accumulate; reinforce knowledge of Cuban history, national identity and culture; enhance the pride of being Cuban and propagate in the country an environment of lawfulness, the defence of our public heritage and respect for the dignity of our people, values and social discipline” (Vol.2, 313)
In these two volumes there is an important set of ideas of conceptual depth, moral foundations and exploration in practical terms that offer us a guide of pulsating relevance for today and for the future. Here we find a wealth of lessons for all revolutionaries and, in particular, for leaders, young and old. With Revolution, the most beautiful work, Ediciones Celia has made a incalculable contribution to the preparedness of our people for present and future battles. The penultimate text included in Revolution, the most beautiful work is Raúl’s speech before the National Assembly, on the occasion of the proclamation of the Constitution of the Republic (remember that Raúl chaired the Commission created by the ANPP to write the initial draft and then, before the referendum, introduce to it the many valuable modifications that arose from the popular consultation). It is dated 10 April 2019:
“The tone of the US Government against Cuba is increasingly threatening, while ongoing steps are being taken to diminish bilateral relations. // Cuba is blamed for all evils, using lies in the style of Hitler’s propaganda. We will never abandon our duty to act in solidarity with Venezuela. We will not renounce any of our principles and we will strongly reject all forms of blackmail. (…) // We have made it known to the US administration, with the utmost clarity, firmness and serenity (…), that Cuba is not afraid of threats and that our vocation for peace and understanding is accompanied by the unshakable determination to defend the sovereign right of Cubans to decide the future of our nation without foreign interference” (Vol.2, 523)
And he ended his speech with these words:
“In 60 years in the face of attacks and threats, we Cubans have shown the strong will to resist and overcome the most difficult circumstances. Despite its immense power, imperialism does not possess the ability to break the dignity of a united people, proud of its history and of the freedom achieved through so much sacrifice. Cuba has already shown that it was possible, and yes it is and yes it will be possible to fight and achieve victory. There is no other alternative” (Vol.2, 525).
With this call to combat, in the face of an Empire that has reached its most aggressive and fascist phase, the second volume of Revolution, the most beautiful work closes. Although we knew many of these speeches, reading them compiled here, in chronological order, has been a unique, enriching and very intense experience. No Cuban revolutionary, no worthy Cuban, should forgo living that experience and should nourish themselves with it. I end by thanking comrades Alvariño and Suárez, comrade Belkys Duménigo and the rest of the Ediciones Celia team for this book so full of ideas and revolutionary spirit. A book that allows us to get closer to Raúl’s personality, his thought, his coherence, and his wisdom in a renewed and exciting way.
Thank you, dear Raúl, for so many lessons. Congratulations for tomorrow.
SOURCE: Granma 2 June 2021. Translation: Aaron Kelly