Speech by José Ramón Machado Ventura, second secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee, during the closing session of the Federation of Cuban Women’s 10th Congress, in the Havana International Conference Center, March 8, 2019, Year 61 of the Revolution
(Council of State transcript – GI translation)
Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee;
Compañero Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, President of the Councils of State and Ministers;
Compañeras and compañeros of the Presidency;
Dear delegates and guests:
This 10th Congress, given the profundity of remarks made here, constitutes clear evidence of how much Cuban women have advanced in these years of Revolution.
And I am not referring solely to these last three days, but to the tone that predominated throughout the process, from the grassroots to municipal and provincial assemblies. This was the realization of sound, valuable proposals, the fighting spirit, and deep patriotism of our FMC members.
You are the daughters of a people which has faced difficult challenges, never absent throughout our history, intense work, and the constant aggression of powerful enemies, first of all the imperialist government of the United States, which today endeavors to revive the sad era of Yankee marines invading the countries of Our America one after another, almost without exception.
Facing every aggressive act, Cuban men and women firmly united, with serenity and determination, have invariably assumed the price implied by the decision to live with our heads held high.
As does the sister people of Venezuela, Bolivarian and Chavista, with an extraordinary example of courage and dignity, defending the truth in the face of a barrage of lies, ready to face the military aggression of which some feverish minds in the United States dream, with the shameful applause of traitors and sell-outs.
We reaffirm our unconditional support for Venezuela, its people, and legitimate government headed by President Nicolás Maduro Moros, determined to continue doing everything within our power to prevent war, suffering, and death from dominating our region, consistent with the agreement reached by heads of state and government of the continent, who five years ago, here in Havana, endorsed with their signatures the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace.
With equal firmness and conviction, Cuban men and women, on February 24, gave a strong YES to the new Constitution of the Republic. With this, we ratified the unwavering decision to preserve our socialism, now with a Magna Carta adjusted to the tasks and conditions of the present and the future.
The participation of our compatriots was broad and outstanding in the exemplary popular consultation, unparalleled in other latitudes, in which collective intelligence contributed so much to the new Law of Laws, clearly reaffirming the Revolution’s conquests, and no less importantly: charting the path ahead to achieve the conquests we will undoubtedly add in the future.
With special emphasis, the Constitution asserts the full equality of women and their rights on all planes, the primary role of the family, the duty of the state and society as a whole to protect children and the disabled, in short, the many realities present in Cuba, which unfortunately are no more than pipe dreams for the great majority of the world’s peoples.
Expanding on this is not necessary, since this is well known to our people and you addressed these aspects emphatically in your comments.
I will limit myself to remembering that today in Cuba half of management positions in the state and government are held by women, including more than 42% of so-called “decision-making positions.” And in the National Assembly of People’s Power, as you know, female deputies represent 53.2% of the current legislature.
This is, in no way, a gift or concession from anyone. As compañero Raúl affirmed, in his congratulatory message to the Federation of Cuban Women on the occasion of its 35th anniversary:
“The Federation has not only played a decisive role in the battle for women’s equality, that Fidel understood at the time was just beginning, it has done something even more important, earning the right that all Cubans feel it as our own, because our FMC members have been able to shoulder work, studies, and defense; they have invariably been willing to share joys, dangers, and difficulties with their male companions.”
Moreover, in the last elections, the proportion of district delegates rose to almost 36%, although we are still not satisfied with this percentage, which does not reflect the role women play and the tasks they assume in the community.
We know that this is not due to lack of prestige or authority; on the contrary, it often stems from the desire to protect the female neighbor who, when she comes home from work, begins another job, usually more intense, as she continues to assume the bulk of domestic tasks. It is something in which men have advanced a bit, but not enough. Institutions should also strive to develop services and products that lessen the burden of domestic tasks, to the extent that economic possibilities allow.
The advancement of women on all orders constitutes an important achievement for the Federation of Cuban Women, and puts you in a position to consider higher goals. The female workforce is already significant in decisive sectors, not only in education and health, where women have long been present, but also, and increasingly, in production and services of great weight in the national economy.
We must therefore think of ways that contribute to a more protagonist role for the Federation of Cuban Women on these important fronts, without diminishing attention to others.
Delegates have often mentioned our Comandante en Jefe; Army General Raúl Castro Ruz; and Vilma Espín, president of this organization forever (Applause). It could not be otherwise. In every conquest achieved by Cuban women over the years, their thought and example have been present, not infrequently confronting concepts and prejudices deeply rooted in the minds of many of our compatriots.
In this long battle that continues, but in which the successes are remarkable, highlighting the extraordinary role played by Vilma is obligatory. The love and passion with which she worked on behalf of children, youth, and people who face discrimination or are disadvantaged (applause); her continuous battle to promote more respect for the rights of every human being, without distinction. Her infinite patience, with her characteristic tenderness, in persuading, convincing, without imposing criteria, but with total firmness and without making the slightest concession of principle.
The best tribute to Vilma is to give continuity to her work, and that is what our FMC members do. You come to this Congress with greater results in the main indicators, particularly in the work of branches and chapters, the link where the work of the organization really materializes and is effective.
These advances have as their starting point the objective, self-critical analysis of your work, which has been followed by an organized and systematic effort to gradually resolve every shortcoming, without pretending to make spectacular leaps forward. We know that this has required considerable effort, especially from professional cadres and grassroots leaders, who have often been obliged to assume other vacancies.
It is better understood at all levels that the current circumstances differ greatly from those that existed years ago - a reality that impacts people’s thinking and is manifested in their behavior. It would be absurd to think that the methods and means of action that the organization used years ago would yield the same results today.
Don’t waste time lamenting that people do not respond, or that enthusiasm has diminished. Better to evaluate what was not done well and to think with an innovative spirit. That is why it is so valuable that, as a result of the organizational pre-Congress process, the proportion of experienced leaders as compared to younger ones has improved, since the latter, for obvious reasons, are the most willing to explore new paths.
Of course, the above does not mean that everything is fine, and this has been analyzed in this Congress, where fortunately, things as harmful as complacency and triumphalism were practically absent. There will always be areas in which less progress is made, new and old deficiencies to be eradicated, problems to solve, and misunderstandings to explain. This is the revolutionary’s perennial battle.
This is especially true in an organization like this, which includes more than 90% of adult and adolescent women in the country. They represent a wide range of interests, customs, knowledge, etc, but are united by something decisive: they are all Cuban women and love the land where they were born. It is a cardinal teaching that our comrade Fidel offered us that historic August 23, 1960, and it is the compass that should always guide the organization.
Just as you have noted, there remain inadequacies in the FMC’s internal functioning, especially within some basic structures and even at the municipal level.
Organizational tasks, documents, and supervision are not objectives to be achieved, in and of themselves; they should not be the center of work or over-emphasized in any case, because meetings and papers do not solve problems.
But the above should not be interpreted as defining these as unimportant. They are the basis of cohesion, of united action, and directed toward an end.
Without proper functioning, effective work on the fundamental fronts is impossible: for example, the collection of contributions, in which deficiencies were discussed at length in the Congress, contributes to cohesion, contact with members, and developing the sense of belonging to the organization - more important than the contribution to self-financing, which of course is also necessary.
It is therefore necessary to give internal functioning the required attention, under the principle that there are no two places with the same situation, and in each one, what is required must be done. The Party at all levels must collaborate more with you in this, especially at the municipal level.
On fronts of great importance such as social work and prevention, there has undoubtedly been progress and today the situation is better than it was five years ago. Here we have mentioned the many important tasks performed by the Neighborhood Women and Family Guidance Centers, the publishing house, and the Center for Women’s Studies, and the many positive experiences in provinces and municipalities, which demonstrate the importance of encouraging grassroots creativity.
Most, as is to be expected, have been carried out jointly with other political and mass organizations, and with specialists from the Ministries of Education, Labor and Social Security, Public Health, or the Ministry of the Interior, which, as the Congress has acknowledged, have always been willing to collaborate with the Federation of Cuban Women, not only because it is their duty, but because they understand that this close alliance is beneficial to their organization and for the country as a whole.
It is very satisfying, above all, to see that you are the first to take issue with what has been achieved; aware of the need to do much more, especially in the interest of prevention, a front on which, due to the high degree of sensitivity and humanism that it requires, the work of women is irreplaceable, providing “the honey of their affection,” as Martí said.
When a problem exists, there is no alternative but to face it, but it is better to detect problems early and act before causes and conditions develop as a breeding ground for antisocial or criminal behavior, or when there are indications that someone is taking such a path.
I ask you to be attentive to other problems not of this nature, such as teenage pregnancy, which greatly affects adolescent women, their children, the rest of the family, and therefore society.
Be conscious that the essential is not the number of tasks completed, but their quality and effectiveness. Ask yourself every time, if what is done is working, if it is really appropriate for the particular place and time, because no situation remains static.
The community is, and always will be the Federation of Cuban Women’s most essential arena of action, and as a basic element of the community, the school and the family. It is necessary to increase and perfect the work of the organization, especially with the latter.
In the neighborhood, our female compatriots enjoy much-deserved respect and consideration, earned in their daily confrontations with the many difficulties the blockade imposes on home life, and for being, like no one else, champions of solidarity among neighbors, which has made overcoming countless obstacles possible, particularly when serious natural disasters or other difficult situations appear, as occurred during the Special Period. And for their enduring dedication to the care of grandparents, parents, and children, and the education of children, adolescents and young people.
Defense is still a very important front, as has been demonstrated clearly in recent events. Among other tasks, the Federation of Cuban Women must contribute to the understanding of more young women, and especially their parents, of the value of Voluntary Military Service for Women, in a country where the demographic situation makes the contribution of women to the Armed Forces essential, and in which they also develop skills and have ample opportunities to improve themselves.
There will continue to be many things to do, and many methods and ways to carry them out, but always keep in mind that nothing replaces frank and direct conversation with people. It is valuable to encourage those who excel or recognize those who simply fulfill their duty, beyond tributes and certificates. This is even more important when it comes to clarifying issues or positively influencing someone who is making mistakes.
Conversing, as Comrade Raúl frequently insists, eye to eye, frankly criticizing a negative attitude. Conversing as an equal, not from the position of a superior giving a sermon to a subordinate.
This daily work, which as a rule remains anonymous, is, nevertheless, the Federation’s greatest contribution to the effort to make our society better, more disciplined, more just, and more supportive, every day.
To the degree that more professional cadres, grassroots leaders, and members in general, make these ideas their own and act accordingly, the more effective the work of the Federation of Cuban Women will be.
Now, as was done after the previous Congress - and better as far as possible - the first thing is to implement the approved objectives. Evaluate them in the National Committee and then in each province, municipality, chapter and branch, to undertake immediately the actions needed to realize those that are appropriate given the specific characteristics of each community.
The Federation of Cuban Women has managed to maintain itself in the place of honor to which Vilma led it; it has been consistently true to the commitment assumed as an organization founded by the historic leader of the Revolution, who was also its main promoter, the most convinced of its importance and its irreplaceable role in society, and at the same time the driving force behind each one of its tasks.
On behalf of the leadership of our Party, accept a well-deserved recognition for the work done by all our FMC members, the leadership of the organization and its Secretary General, compañera Teresa Amarelle Boué.
As Compañero Fidel urged that August 23, 1960:
“And now, to work, to organize and to put into practice the creative spirit, the enthusiasm of Cuban women, so that Cuban women, in this revolutionary stage, eliminate the last vestiges of discrimination; so that Cuban women, on the basis of their virtue and merit, assume the place they deserve in the history of the homeland.
May you always rise to the call to combat of constant vigilance!
Long live the Federation of Cuban Women (Exclamations of: Viva!)
Eternal glory to Vilma Espín! (Exclamations of: Gloria!)
Long live Fidel! (Exclamations of: Viva!)
Long live Raúl! (Exclamations of: Viva!)
Homeland or death!