In Cuba, the word ‘change’ has a distinct meaning. Of course, it means to transform, but always looking to the past first. Here, we talk about continuity, and this is something we learned long ago.
Remembering history, knowing all and every one of its stages, has brought us thus far. This is one of the strengths that allows us to advance the national project to which we aspire, and Fidel said it specifically, on the centenary of the beginning of our independence struggles:
“… in Cuba there has been only one Revolution, the one that Carlos Manuel de Céspedes began on October 10, 1868, and which our people are carrying forward at this very moment.”
Referring to events in the past, to experiences in the struggle, to the homeland’s heroes, was always a resource used by the Comandante en Jefe in his speeches. On March 13, 1962, at the University of Havana, when Cuba was still taking its first steps as a free nation, Fidel spoke of the future. Assuring continuity and with it the perpetuity of the revolutionary victory was an objective that has always been part of constructing the nation. That day, he said to youth present:
“And what youth do we want? Do we, perchance, want a youth that develops to simply listen and repeat? No! We want a youth that thinks. A youth, perchance, that is revolutionary by imitating us? No, rather a youth that learns on its own how to be revolutionary, a youth that thinks for itself, a youth that develops its thinking fully.”
Since then, these ideas have been put into practice. The results can be seen in Cuban society and have been achieved thanks to many of the youth who were present there that day. Today their hair is grey, but they have been the protagonists of the country’s accomplishments.
They carried out the literacy campaign, fought in Angola, survived the special period, and were present in every struggle Cuba has won since 1959. Members of this generation were the Cuban Revolution’s architects. They built schools, hospitals, and cut sugar cane. They made possible the country’s development in culture and sports. That made Cuba a world reference in social gains, and above all, they did so, as Fidel said, learning how to be revolutionaries.
Thanks to them, Cuba now has one of the world’s lowest infant mortality rates, on a par with the most developed countries. Life expectancy is more than 78 years and 42% of the members of the Council of State elected this year by the National Assembly are new. Likewise, more than half of National Assembly deputies - 53.22% to be exact - are women, while black and mixed race Cubans make up 40.49%. Of the Assembly’s 605 members, 87.8% were born after the triumph of the Revolution, January 1, 1959. On this long, imperfect road, much more has been won than was lost.
Raúl assumed the Presidency in 2006, and took responsibility for continuing the revolutionary project. He rose to the occasion and as a faithful follower of Fidel’s ideals, continued preparing less experienced leaders to be able to leave the position, in 2018, to those who would succeed him.
“Our greatest satisfaction is the tranquility and serene confidence we feel as we hand over the responsibility of continuing to construct socialism to new generations,” he said.
This vanguard generation took advantage of history and its historical leaders to give life to the country. Today, in the search for results and experience, they continue working and teaching youth how to maintain this continuity.
Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez is the first Cuban President born after the triumph of the Revolution, and no doubt represents continuity. Not only because he is an example of the revolutionary Fidel described, but also because he continues to stress the importance of preparing the next generation of leaders.
“This is the revolutionary that we want, this is the revolutionary we want in the Revolution’s political organization, this type of man who is an example. This is a Party branch that has authority not simply because it is the branch, but because it is exemplary; that has authority not because someone imposes it, but because everyone recognizes it.”
Comandante en Jefe said this on March 13, 1962, and 56 years later, Díaz-Canel reminds the world that there is no rupture in the Cuban revolutionary process. That he is there as a result of years of selfless work, and because of the respect and affection of the people who support him. We have seen that he is respected by the international community, and above all, that the new generation assuming leadership is supported by veterans and followed by the young.
Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee, referred to these continuators during the closing of the Constituent Session of the National Assembly’s Ninth Legislature, held in havana’s international Convention Center, April 19, this year, saying, “It could be no other way. Those of us who had the privilege of fighting against the dictatorship under the leadership of Fidel - from Moncada, Granma, the Rebel Army, and the clandestine struggle, through today - feel, just like the heroic people of Cuba, a deep satisfaction in the consolidated work of the Revolution, our most beautiful work which imbues us with a genuine sense of happiness and calm confidence as we witness with our own eyes the transfer of the mission to continue building socialism, and in so doing guarantee independence and national sovereignty, to the new generations.”
“There is talk going around about rebels without a cause; but it appears to me, as I recall, that I was a rebel with many causes, and I am grateful to life for having continued to be a rebel, all this time.”
This is one of Fidel’s phrases we often recall, from his speech on November 17, 2005, in the University of Havana’s Great Hall, during the celebration of the 60th anniversary of his arrival to the university.
In this speech, he remembered the spirit of rebellion that reigned when he and a group of other youth at the university began to think about the path to a better Cuba. It would be a struggle in which rebellion predominated, with which the accomplishments we see today were achieved.
These youth of Martí’s centenary, of the Sierra, the Moncada, knew then that being a rebel implied being revolutionary as well, being consistent with the historic moment, renovating and continuing. This is why they believe in the future. Fidel addressed this theme February 4, 1962, during the closing of the Association of Young Rebels First Congress.
“Believing in youth is seeing in them, in addition to enthusiasm, ability; in addition to energy, responsibility; in addition to youth, purity, heroism, character, willpower, love for the homeland, confidence in the homeland! Love for the Revolution, faith in the Revolution, confidence in themselves, a deep conviction that youth can, that youth are capable, a deep conviction that great tasks can be placed on the shoulders of youth!”
A view reaffirmed by Raúl in the aforementioned speech to the National Assembly earlier this year, “Cuban youth have demonstrated how right Fidel was when he spoke to them in 1962. We today reiterate that confidence, certain that they will be jealous guardians of the precepts contained in the Comandante en Jefe’s brilliant definition of the concept of Revolution.”
The result of these ideas can be seen every day, as youth show their commitment and participate in the process of constructing Cuba. During the constitutional reform popular consultation recently concluded, youth offered many opinions and many good ideas. This participation was evidence of interest in being part of continuing the Revolution and following the path of those who from the beginning gave their all for the homeland.
In the future, insists Díaz-Canel, “There will always be presidents defending the Revolution and they will be compañeros who come from the people… I cannot conceive of ruptures in our country; I believe, above all, that there must be continuity.”