“They are awaiting a natural and absolutely logical event, the death of someone. In this case, they have honored me by thinking of me. It might be a confession of what they have not been able to do in a long time. If I were a vain man, I could be proud of the fact that those guys admit that they are waiting for me to die, and this is the time.”
Thus Fidel warned on November 17, 2005, in his historic speech delivered in the University of Havana’s Aula Magna, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of his admission to the educational institution.He had directed his words to youth many times, but perhaps never before addressed so purposefully two realities that inevitably touched the hearts of all. The first: due to the irrevocable law of life, he would one day cease to physically exist. The second: “This country can self-destruct; this Revolution can destroy itself, but they can never destroy us; we can destroy ourselves, and it would be our fault.”
Perhaps, during the historic moments that we experience today, and after having faced the irreversible blow of his departure, the message that the Comandante bequeathed to us is more understandable. However, at that moment he confronted us with a reality that, I insist without fear of being mistaken, called for reflection on the part of all revolutionaries, even those who, like me, were just 15 years old. Fidel was, unquestionably, calling us to provide “continuity.”
It’s not that he had not done so before, as from the very beginning of the struggle in the Sierra Maestra, and the first years of the Revolution in power, he always made clear that the social process that was beginning was not limited to his person, not even to the Centennial Generation, but to something much more powerful: the People. But that day he confronted us with the possibility that our social system could be reversible, and not because our enemies had the weapons to achieve it, but only should the true commitment of Cubans to this work collapse.
Today, with a little more political maturity, I assume another reading of his words, and revisiting each of the key moments of the revolutionary history that he led, I understand that even under his protection, that even with his essential accompaniment, Fidel taught us to walk, and in each of his actions there was always a pedagogical principle: to provide us with the tools, values, and even the ideological platform to understand that we could not do without anyone on the path to the construction of socialism; that we should succeed him with the greatest of our strengths - unity - and understand the process of building a prosperous and sustainable society, as a process that goes far beyond the limits of the individual sphere.
On studying his speeches, when rereading the phrases he addressed to the masses, one can not help but be amazed. There is so much future vision in them, such an unimaginable understanding of the challenges to come that, as with the Apostle José Martí, we can take up Fidel’s thought now or in a hundred years, and in his words there will be always a message fit for the present.
“It is encouraging to know that thousands and thousands of young people, and tens of thousands of young people with a revolutionary mentality, with an increasingly higher education, join the work of the people, join the efforts of the people. We see how a new country is emerging from our youth. And we have the right to feel confident.” (November 8, 1961)
As early as 1961, he already spoke of his confidence in the youth, and looking back on that day, 57 years later, it becomes clear that those new generations, with whom he spoke then, really were worthy of his confidence and, as he predicted, they never failed. But neither did the children or the grandchildren of that passionate youth, because our country achieved something perhaps unprecedented, transforming the Revolution into a family inheritance, a precious possession that is handed down along with the most genuine legacy of our ancestors. That is why revolutionaries do not die leaving a path cut short, because they coexist with those who will take over, and educate them in those principles.
The Revolution has made each young person into something, and something very important in society, something extraordinarily appreciated in society. The Revolution has made children and young people almost its raison d'être. It’s raison d'être! Because they are the objective of the Revolution, the continuators of the Revolution.” (April 4, 1972)Fidel never harbored any doubts about the capacity for renewal of the Cuban social process. He was sure that difficult times could confuse many, and he was not blind to the fact that the constant harassment of our enemies would come to sow the seed of disenchantment and discredit in some of the children of the Revolution. But he always had confidence because he knew that the impact of this unprecedented work on the dignity of the people, on their values, on the spirit of patriotic love, was much more powerful than unfounded fallacies, and he expressed as such on many occasions, as on July 26, 1998:
“Don’t let yourselves be confused by anything, don’t ever let anyone deceive you. This is our hope; and that our country never goes backwards, that this Revolution never pulls back and that all the dignity and glory which we have erected can never be destroyed.”
Those words, once again directed to youth, after having survived the toughest years of the Special Period, putting the Cuban people's capacity for resistance to the test as never before since 1959, were nothing more than the reaffirmation that we could always continue. Even with the odds against us, even with birds of prey flying over our heads, we had pushed ahead. Years later, in his conversations with Ignacio Ramonet, Fidel would point out:
“Now, you develop and educate a complex society… and we’ll see what comes of it. Those are the 8 million people who after several years of the special period declared, ‘I am a Socialist.’’”
It is possible that many still wonder how we did it, and I believe it was for the greatest reason – we were aware of what we were going to lose. The vivid experience of a past of humiliation provided more than enough strength to know that the option to surrender was not part of our survival strategy. Thus the vultures were once again left knife and fork in hand, unable to savor their longed for feast. Mistakenly, on July 31, 2006, they returned to the table:
“I do not have the slightest doubt that our people and our Revolution will fight to the last drop of blood to defend these and other ideas and measures that are necessary to safeguard this historic process. Imperialism will never be able to crush Cuba.”
It would be foolish to deny the fear, and deep concern, we felt when we heard his proclamation and the immeasurable test of loyalty to which we were being called. But, just as they had done so often before, the insipid enemies of the homeland misinterpreted the emotions of the Cuban people.
We feared for him, for his health, his life, but this fear never came from any weakness in our convictions, we did not feel even the slightest hint of feebleness at that moment, or the notion that we would not be able to carry on.
The years that followed showed the Cuban people’s ability to grow and, hand in hand with Raúl, we started out on a road littered with obstacles, but also the boundless will to overcome them. And in his reflections Fidel found a way to tell us: I am here, beside you forever!
It was during the Sixth Party Congress, and the First Conference of this organization which has acted as a guide for Cuban society, and the seventh Assembly, when the vital need to update our economic model, and strengthen the leading role of the Party in this process, were reaffirmed.
And so we organized popular meetings to publicly discuss the conceptualization of our socio-economic model and the national development plan, where everyone from the humblest worker to the most renowned academics were heard, in this collective effort to build Cuban society.
Then, suddenly, his farewell. That goodbye for which we would never be prepared and which struck us to the very core of our souls, like only the passing of a father can. The eager detractors of the Revolution shouted, the time has come! But as usual, they were wrong. But Fidel, Fidel already knew that.
“The Revolution is not founded on caudillistas ideas, or a cult of personality. Socialism can’t have caudillos, nor can there be caudillos in a modern society, where people do things just because they have blind faith in a leader or because the leader asks them to do so. The Revolution is based on principles. And the ideas we defend are, and have been for a long time, the ideas of the entire people,” (Cien Horas con Fidel)
The Revolution will continue because that’s why we, its inheritors, are here. Since then, at every transcendental moment of revolutionary reaffirmation we have stated: “This is the first time without the physical presence of the Comandante,” but far from discouraging us, we have turned this expression into a powerful source of motivation, in to the humble tribute we pay to him every day.
And we gave the most unequivocal confirmation, the most complete proof of our support of the principles he taught us when, under the shroud of democracy and our right to free self-determination as a nation, we successfully undertook a general election process, which not even the force of nature could spoil.
This April 18, when the National Assembly of People’s Power was finally constituted, with millions of Cubans sitting in Parliament, represented by valuable compatriots, we taught the world an important and timeless lesson, that the peoples are the sole master of their destiny.
“You don’t have to measure our elections by the number of votes. I measure them by the depth of sentiment, the warmth, I have continued to see over many years. I never saw such hopeful, proud faces.” (Cien Horas con Fidel)
As the Centenary Generation hands over the banner of socialism to those who will have the honor of continuing to uphold it, this continuity to which Fidel dedicated much of his energy, is sustained. We know what our future holds; we know that we may face new challenges and, but we also know that only socialism and the Revolution can bring our people prosperity.
One hundred and fifty years ago we chose a path, and no one has ever been able to force us from it, and never will. We want to triumph just like Fidel, just like all those who came after him, and all those who are no longer with us, just like those who can proudly say that they began the struggle alongside him and are still here today: "We must use all our energy, all our efforts, all our time to be able to say in the voice of millions or hundreds of millions: It was worth being born! It was worth having lived!"
Sources: Cien Horas con Fidel. Conversaciones con Ignacio Ramonet; Fidel habla a la Juventud; Speech by Fidel in the University of Havana’s Aula Magna on the 60th anniversary of his entrance into the institution; Fidel’s proclamation to the people of Cuba, July 31, 2006