Reflections by the Commander in Chief
Chibás, 100 years after his birth
When I read Hart's
article, published by Granma in commemoration of Chibás'
birth, and saw it quoted a paragraph of the speech I delivered at
the Colón Cemetery on January 16, 1959, eight days after my
arrival in Havana following the revolutionary triumph, many
memories of fallen, heroic comrades came to me. I thought of Juan
Manuel Márquez, a brilliant orator and follower of Marti's ideas
and second chief of the Granma expeditionary force. I thought of
Abel Santamaría, who was to take command of our forces were I to
fall during the attack on the Moncada garrison; of Pedro Marrero,
Ñico López, José Luis Tasende, Gildo Fleitas, the Gómez brothers,
Ciro Redondo, Julio Díaz and practically all the members of the
numerous contingent of young people from Artemisa who fell at
Moncada or in the Sierra. The list is endless. All of them came
from the rank and file of the Orthodox Party.
first problem we faced was getting Batista out of office. Had
Chibás been alive, Batista would not have been able to stage his
coup d'état, because the founder of the Cuban (Orthodox) People's
Party kept a close eye on him and called him into question
publicly and methodically. Following Chibás’ death, Batista was
sure to lose the elections scheduled for June 1, 1952, two and a
half months after the coup. Opinion polls were fairly reliable and
Batista's unpopularity was constantly growing, day after day.
I was at
the meeting where the new Orthodox candidate was chosen. I was
more of a bold intruder than an invitee. I was to enter
parliament, to struggle in the name of a radical program. No one
could have prevented this. Then, it was rumored that I was a
communist, a word which prompted many negative reactions
inculcated by the dominant classes. To have spoken of
Marxism-Leninism then, or even during the first years of the
Revolution, would have been foolish and clumsy. During the speech
I delivered before Chibás' grave, I spoke such that the people
would understand the objective contradictions which our society
faced at the time and which we still must face.
every day at a local radio station in the capital to deliver
messages directly to tens of thousands of voters who had
spontaneously joined the Orthodox Party. I also addressed the
entire nation through the special supplements of the Alerta
newspaper on several, nearly consecutive Mondays, publishing the
proven accusations of corruption in the Prío government voiced
between January 28 and March 4, 1952. Intuitively, I was able to
predict and get inside Batista's intentions of staging a coup. I
denounced these intentions before the party leadership and asked
them permission to use Chibás' Sunday radio time to do so
publicly. "We'll look into it", they told me. Two days later, they
announced the following: "We have looked into the matter through
our channels and there's no indication of that whatsoever". The
coup could have been prevented but nothing was done. Months
before, Chibás had already, painstakingly managed to prevent "a
pact without ideology", as he would call it, between members of
the Orthodox party and the former Cuban (Authentic) Revolutionary
Party. Most of the provincial party leadership had supported the
pact. The economic system prevailing at the time made it easy for
the oligarchy and land-owners to take control of the party
leadership in nearly all of the country's provinces. Only one
party leadership remained loyal, the one in the capital, which was
heavily influenced by radical intellectuals. Following the coup
and at a time when unity was most dearly needed, what the
oligarchy did was abandon the vast majority of the people at the
mercy of the imperialist tempest. I continued to adhere to my
revolutionary project, only that this time it would be an armed
struggle, from the very beginning.
in which Chibás --whose body lay in state at the University of
Havana-- was to be buried, I proposed that the leadership of the
Orthodox Party lead the enormous funeral procession to the
Presidential Palace and seize the premises. I had spent the entire
night answering questions from radio reporters and inciting the
people to undertake radical actions. No one at the university paid
any attention to the radio broadcasts that night. We had a
disorganized, panic-stricken government, a demoralized army that
had no intention of repressing that procession. No one would have
held it back.
after the death of Chibás, I wrote a proclamation titled “A Harsh
Blow”, which was mimeographed six days following Batista’s
treacherous coup. What follows is the text of this proclamation.
Revolution, but a harsh blow! Not patriots; but destroyers of
civil liberty, usurpers, backward-minded individuals, adventurers
thirsty for gold and power.
It was not a
military uprising against the apathetic and lazy President Prio;
it was a military uprising against the people, on the eve of an
election whose results were a foregone conclusion.
There was no
order but it was the people whose duty it was to decide
democratically, in a civilized manner, on the men who would govern
them, by political will and not by force.
A fortune would
be spent in favor of the imposed candidate, nobody denies that,
but that wouldn’t change the result just as the result was not
changed by a flood of funds from the Public Treasury in favor of
the candidate imposed by Batista in 1944.
completely false, absurd, ridiculous and childish that Prio would
attempt a coup d’état, a clumsy excuse; his impotence and
incapacity to attempt such an enterprise has been irrefutably
demonstrated by the cowardice with which power was seized.
suffering from bad governance, but we were also suffering from
years of waiting for a constitutional opportunity to avert the
evil, and you, Batista, who remained in the shadows as a coward
for four years and futilely indulged in politicking for another
three, now you appear with your tardy, disturbing and poisonous
remedy, ripping the Constitution to shreds when we were only two
months away from reaching the goal through the official channels.
allege is a lie, a cynical justification, concealed vanity and not
patriotic decorum, ambition and not ideal, greed and not civil
It was correct
to overthrow a government made up of embezzlers and murderers; we
tried to do this by civic channels, supported by public opinion
and with the help of the masses; in contrast, what right do they
who yesterday robbed and killed indiscriminately have to replace
it in the name of bayonets?
It is not
peace, it is the seed of hatred which is being sown. It is not
happiness, it is mourning and sadness which the nation feels as it
is faced with the tragic panorama it begins to discern. There is
nothing in this world as bitter as the spectacle of a people
who go to sleep in liberty and awaken in slavery.
Once again the
military boot; once again Columbia dictating laws that remove and
appoint ministers; once again tanks rumbling menacingly through
our streets; once again brute force reigning over human
rationality. We were becoming accustomed to living by the
Constitution; we had twelve years without any great difficulties,
even though there were some errors and rash actions. Superior
states of civic coexistence can only be attained through arduous
efforts. In a matter of a few hours, you, Batista, have
demolished the Cuban people’s noble illusion.
All of the ills
Prío was responsible for in three years, you committed in the
course of eleven. Your coup is thus unjustifiable; it is not
based on any serious moral reason, or on any social or political
doctrine of any kind. It finds its only reason for existence in
force, and its justification in lies. Your majority lies with the
Army, never with the people. Your ballots are guns, never free
wills; with them you can win a military uprising, but never clean
elections. Your usurping against power lacks any principles to
legitimize it; laugh if you will, but in the long run principles
are more powerful than cannons. Principles are what form and
nourish the people, what embolden them for battle, what they die
Do not call
this outrage revolution, this disquieting and untimely coup, this
treacherous stab in the back of the Republic which you have just
given. Trujillo has been the first one to recognize your
government, he knows who his friends are in the covey of tyrants
who are battering America; that shows, more than anything else,
the reactionary, militaristic and criminal nature of your coup.
Nobody even remotely believes in the governmental success of your
old and rotten covey; the thirst for power is too great; there is
no moderation when there is no Constitution and law other than the
will of the tyrant and his gang.
beforehand that your guarantee for life will be torture and
humiliation. Your followers will kill even though you don’t want
them to, and you will tranquilly consent because you owe yourself
completely to them. Despots are masters of the people they
oppress and slaves to the force on which they base their
oppression. A torrent of lying and demagogic propaganda will rain
down on us now, in your favor, from all sources, using both soft
and hard methods, and your opposition will be deluged with vile
slander; Prío did that also and it had no effect on the people's
consciousness. But the truth which illuminates the fate of Cuba
and guides the steps of our people in this their difficult hour,
that truth which you will forbid to be told, the whole world will
know it; it will race clandestinely from mouth to mouth, down
every man and woman, even though no one says it in public or
publishes it in the press, and everyone will believe it and the
seeds of heroic rebellion shall be sown in every heart; that is
what guides every conscience.
I do not know
what the furious pleasure of the oppressors will be, when their
treacherous whip hits human backs like a new Cain against their
brothers, but I do know that there is an infinite happiness in
fighting them and raising a strong arm while saying: I don’t want
to be a slave!
we have a tyrant, but again we will have the likes of Mella, Trejo
and Guiteras; there is oppression in our homeland but one day
there will be freedom again.
I invite all
brave Cubans, all the brave militants of the Glorious Party of
Chibás; the time has come to make sacrifices and fight; should our
lives be lost, nothing is lost; “to live enchained is to live in
dishonor and outrage. To die for the Homeland is to live.”
this irreverent article was not published —who would dare publish
it?— it was distributed at the Colón Cemetery by friends and
sympathizers in the Orthodox Party on March 16, 1952.
August 16, 1952, the clandestine newspaper El acusador
published an article entitled “A Critical Assessment of the Cuban
(Orthodox) People’s Party”, under the pseudonym of "Alejandro". As
I have already offered a critical assessment of that party, I
thought it apt to include the following analysis:
Above and beyond the commotion of the cowards, the
mediocre and the fainthearted, it is necessary to voice a brief
but courageous and constructive assessment of the Orthodox
Movement, following the fall of its great leader Eduardo Chibás.
and sharp criticisms of the champion of the Orthodox Party left it
such an immense profusion of popular emotion that it brought it
right to the doors of Power. Everything was done, and all that
remained was to know how to hold on to the ground already gained.
question each honest Orthodox member must ask himself is the
following: Have we enhanced the moral and revolutionary legacy
left us by Chibás…, or, on the contrary, have we misappropriated
part of that legacy…?
He who thinks
that until this moment everything has been done well, that we have
nothing to reproach ourselves for, is not sufficiently severe with
feuds that followed the death of Chibás, those colossal scandals,
for reasons that were not exactly ideological but purely selfish
and personal, still echo like bitter blows of the hammer on our
process of going to the rostrum to clarify pointless disputes was
a grave symptom of lack of discipline and responsibility.
came unexpectedly. It was to be expected that such a serious
event would rip from the roots of the Party the petty quarrels and
the sterile personal ambitions. Was that what actually happened…?
amazement and indignation of the Party masses, the clumsy disputes
cropped up again. The culprits were so foolish that they did not
realize that there was narrow room in the press to attack the
regime, but ample room to attack the Orthodox Party. Those who
have helped Batista in like fashion have not been few.
No one would be
shocked that such a necessary recount should be made today, when
it is the time for the great masses who, in bitter silence, have
suffered these losses, and there is no more fitting moment than
today to be accountable to Chibás at his tomb.
mass of the Cuban People’s Party is on its feet, more determined
than ever. It asks at this hard moment…Where are those who were
candidates…those who wanted to be the first in the positions of
honor at the assemblies and in the executive, those who would go
on tours and chart tendencies, those who would claim their places
on the platform at the large rallies and who now no longer go on
tours, or mobilize the grass roots, or ask for the positions of
honor in the front line of combat…?
Whoever has a
traditional concept of politics could be pessimistic when faced
with this vision of truths. On the other hand, for those with a
blind faith in the masses, for those who believe in the
uncompromising force of great ideas, the indecision of the leaders
will not be a reason for weakness or despair, because these
vacancies will be occupied in short order by upright men who come
from the rank and file.
The moment has
come for revolution and not politics. Politics is the
consecration of the opportunism of those who have the means and
the resources. Revolution opens the door to true worthiness, to
those who possess courage and sincere ideals, to those who bare
their chest and uplift the banner. The Revolutionary Party
requires a revolutionary leadership, young and from the ranks of
the people, in order to save Cuba.
Later, we set up a clandestine radio station which
did what Radio Rebelde would later do in the Sierra. In relatively
little time, the mimeograph, broadcaster and the few things we had
fell to the hands of the coup officers. I then learned the
rigorous rules to which the conspiracy which culminated with the
attack on the Moncada garrison had to adhere.
a small volume which expounds on two fundamental ideas that were
expressed in two of my speeches —the one I delivered at the United
Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de
Janeiro over 15 years ago and at the international conference
titled “Dialogue among Civilizations”, held two and a half years
ago— will be published. I ask readers to study the two documents
in depth. I apologize for this act of self-publicity, from which I
hope you, not I, will profit.
Fidel Castro Ruz
August 25, 2007