A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann
At the meeting of the National Council of the FEU, I got the difficult but honorable task of speaking at the opening ceremony that day at the Julio Antonio Mella Memorial statue, near the foot of the university steps, before thousands of students would go up the 88 steps.
After the activity at the Memorial, as much as I tried to arrive in time and get a seat at the Aula Magna [Ceremonial Lecture Hall of Havana University] where Fidel would speak, it was impossible. The historic hall was full. I had to watch the speech from the second balcony. Hundreds of students watched from giant screens placed at different places at Ignacio Agramonte Square, and waited hours hoping to interact directly with him.
We all fell under his natural spell: that special ability to mobilize. Fidel offered virtually a work platform; he outlined the current and future challenges of the Revolution and humanity, which largely remain the same today. He felt at home in his university with the university students on whom he has always relied, and said some things that maybe in another scenario he would not have felt so comfortable and motivated to discuss.
I think it was no accident that he chose the Aula Magna of the University of Havana to deliver such a memorable speech. As it was no accident that during the events of August 5, 1994, the first people Fidel sought for support were the university students.
I confess that my greatest aspiration that day, as for many other attendees, was to finally get the chance to crown one of my big dreams –just as it had happened to my grandparents: the opportunity to shake hands with the Comandante. Unfortunately, no opportunity came my way that day. But days later, there was a Mesa Redonda [Cuban TV round table for the discussion of national and international issues] for which they invited various FEU leaders as audience, and there, when I least expected it, I was able to realize the noble desire held by all revolutionaries.
At that time, the country was beginning its Energy Revolution, and the FEU of the University of Havana had to play a very important role in this strategic mission. We had to exchange incandescent bulbs and other appliances in several municipalities, carry out an electro-energetic census and, starting on December 31, 2005, we had to share tasks with social workers at the gas stations in the capital. We did it with a special passion, because we had made a commitment with Fidel. We'd had the unique privilege of being called together directly by him; and that's how we related to those university students from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, of which we had heard so many stories.
I think the words of Fidel that day marked a ‘before and after’ for the Cuban Revolution at the beginning of the 21st Century. They opened a new stage in which the need to look inwards became the main task... although some still out there refuse to go along with that perspective and continue to point their binoculars to the outside. I see a continuation of this speech by Fidel in many of the speeches by President Raul Castro Ruz.
As Alfredo Guevara said at the Centro Cultural Felix Varela on October 29, 2011: "Fidel’s call on 17 November seemed to have had no answer, but at last, in even more difficult circumstances, it began to have one; and it is having an answer in this project of radical changes initiated by Raul with his team and many more compañeros –some higher-ranking, and other qualified experts working in task groups. It has opened an age that I want to call again ‘an epoch of the possible’. It is a time when diversity is conceptually recovered for real life, in today’s society, in a framework defined by knowledge and ethics and the elevation of the person to its own rank. A diversity that is not staged, not a show; but essentially, authentic and deep. This diversity of worldviews, in which the difference may be obvious, undeniable and almost non-exclusive, can and should continue, deepen and give more complexity to a genuine dialogue.... "
Fidel could not have been more explicit in his speech: "This country can self-destruct; this Revolution can destroy itself. They cannot destroy it today [he refers to the imperialists] but we can; we can destroy it; and it would be our fault.".
I think that statement profoundly marked the thinking and actions of many of the young people gathered at the Aula Magna, and of many others who later read the speech and could reflect on its significance.
But despite the strong and critical warning Fidel made that day, we cannot find in the whole speech a single note of pessimism or defeat. On the contrary, it is a cry of war based on the certainty that victory is possible if the greatest strength that the Revolution has always had is mobilized: the people.
"And in general, we know everything,” marked Fidel in his words, “and many have said:" The Revolution cannot; no, it is impossible; no, it cannot be fixed. "But yes, this is going to be fixed by the people; this is going to be fixed by the Revolution, no doubt. Is it just an ethical issue? Yes, it is first of all an ethical matter; but it is also a vital economic issue."
In the light of today's circumstances, I increasingly understand Fidel's words that 17 November 2005; even more so after the announcements of December 17, 2014.
Our internal capabilities are subject to one of the most difficult tests the Revolution has gone through in more than 50 years. Imperialism has understood that from the outside it is impossible to destroy the Revolution. That this is only possible from within; and it aims at "helping" us do it ourselves.
Hence it is essential today to sweep, once and for all, those vices that Fidel denounced in his keynote address –still present in our reality, and which undoubtedly are the main allies of those who oppose us.
"We must be determined,” said Fidel. “Either we defeat all these deviations and make the Revolution stronger by destroying any remaining illusions the Empire may still harbor, or we might say: we radically overcome these problems or we’ll die. On this issue we would have to reiterate our watch phrase: “Patria o Muerte".
For that battle to which Fidel summoned us –and which ten years later is still on– we have many strengths and potential. The key is to be able to use them and articulate them. I trust that always, no matter how difficult the circumstances, that Fidel we Cuban revolutionaries carry within us will be victorious. But our optimism cannot be complacent and passive, but critical and active as was the spirit in the words of Fidel at the Aula Magna of the University: confronting the problems. The biggest challenge is in ourselves.
Source: JUVENTUD REBELDE