There Hasn't Been a Day in My Life When I Haven’t Learned Something

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(to the Cuban National Assembly, December 28, 2007)

Comrades of the National Assembly:

You have no easy task on your hands. On January 1st, 1959, surrounded by the accumulated and deepening grievances that our society inherited from its neo-colonial past under U.S. domination, many of us dreamed of creating a fully independent nation where justice prevailed. In the arduous and uneven struggle, there came the moment when we were left completely alone.

Nearly 50 years since the triumph of the Revolution, we can justifiably feel proud of ourselves, as we have held our ground, for almost half a century, in the struggle against the most powerful empire ever to exist in history. In the Proclamation I signed on July 31, 2006, none of you saw any signs of nepotism or an attempt to usurp parliamentary powers. That year, at once difficult and promising for the Revolution, the unity of the people, the Party and State were essential to continue moving forward and to face the declared threat of a military action by the United States.

This past December 24, during his visit to the various districts of the municipality which honored me with the nomination of candidate to parliament, Raúl noted that all of the numerous candidates proposed by the people of a district famous for its combativeness, but with a low educational level, had completed their higher education. This, as he said on Cuban television, made a profound impression in him.

Party, State and Government cadres and grassroots organizations face new problems in their work with an intelligent, watchful and educated people who detest bureaucratic hurdles and inconsiderate justifications. Deep down, every citizen wages an individual battle against humanity’s innate tendency to stick to its survival instincts, a natural law which governs all life.

We are all born marked by that instinct, which science defines as primary. Coming face to face with this instinct is rewarding because it leads us to a dialectical process and to a constant and altruistic struggle, bringing us closer to Martí and making us true communists.

What the international press has emphasized most in its reports on Cuba in recent days is the statement I made on the 17th of this month, in a letter to the director of Cuban television’s Round Table program, where I said that I am not clinging to power. I could add that for some time I did, due to my youth and lack of awareness, when, without any guidance, I started to leave my political ignorance behind and became a utopian socialist. It was a stage in my life when I believed I knew what had to be done and wanted to be in a position to do it! What made me change? Life did, delving more deeply into Martí’s ideas and those of the classics of socialism. The more deeply I became involved in the struggle, the stronger was my identification with those aims and, well before the revolutionary victory I was already convinced that it was my duty to fight for these aims or to die in combat.

We also face great risks that threaten the human species as a whole. This has become more and more evident to me since I predicted, for the first time in Rio de Janeiro, –over 15 years ago, in June 1992– that a species was threatened with extinction as a result of the destruction of its natural habitat. Today, the number of people who understand the real danger of this grows every day.

A recent book by Joseph Stiglitz, former Vice-President of the World Bank and President Clinton’s chief economic advisor until 2002, Nobel Prize laureate and bestselling author in the United States, offers up-to-date and irrefutable facts on the subject. He criticizes the United States, a country which did not sign the Kyoto Protocol, for being the largest producer of carbon dioxide in the world, with annual emissions of 6 billion tons of this gas which disturbs the atmosphere without which life is impossible. In addition to this, the United States is the largest producer of other greenhouse gases.

Few people are aware of these facts. The same economic system which forced this unsustainable wastefulness on us impedes the distribution of Stiglitz’ book. Only a few thousand copies of an excellent edition have been published, enough to guarantee a margin of profit. This responds to a market demand, which the publishing house cannot ignore if it is to survive.

Today, we know that life on Earth has been protected by the ozone layer, located in the atmosphere’s outer ring, at an altitude between 15 to 50 kilometers, in the region known as the stratosphere, which acts as the planet’s shield against the type of solar radiation which can prove harmful. There are greenhouse gases whose warming potential is higher than that of carbon dioxide and which widen the hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica, which loses as much as 70 percent of its volume every spring. The effects of this phenomenon, which is gradually taking place, are humanity’s responsibility.

Few people are aware of these facts. The same economic system which forced this unsustainable wastefulness on us impedes the distribution of Stiglitz’ book. Only a few thousand copies of an excellent edition have been published, enough to guarantee a margin of profit. This responds to a market demand, which the publishing house cannot ignore if it is to survive.

To have a clear sense of this phenomenon, suffice it to say that the world produces an average of 4.37 metric tons of carbon dioxide per capita. In the case of the United States, the average is 20.14, nearly 5 times as much. In Africa, it is 1.17, while in Asia and Oceania it is 2.87.

The ozone layer, in brief, protects us from ultraviolet and heat radiation which affects the immune system, sight, skin and life of human beings. Under extreme conditions, the destruction of that layer by human beings would affect all forms of life on the planet.

Other problems, foreign to our nation and many others under similar conditions, also threaten us. A victorious counterrevolution would spell a disaster for us, worse than Indonesia’s tragedy. Sukarno, overthrown in 1967, was a nationalist leader who, loyal to Indonesia, headed the guerrillas who fought the Japanese.

General Suharto, who overthrew him, had been trained by Japanese occupation forces. At the conclusion of World War II, Holland, a U.S. ally, re-established control over that distant, extensive and populated territory. Suharto maneuvered. He hoisted the banners of U.S. imperialism. He committed an atrocious act of genocide. Today we know that, under instructions from the CIA, he not only killed hundreds of thousands but also imprisoned a million communists and deprived them and their relatives of all properties or rights; his family amassed a fortune of 40 billion dollars -which, at today’s exchange rate, would be equivalent to hundreds of billions- by handing over the country’s natural resources, the sweat of Indonesians, to foreign investors. The West paid up. Texan-born Lyndon B. Johnson, Kennedy’s successor, was then the President of the United States.

The news on the events in Pakistan we received today also attest to the dangers that threaten our species: internal conflict in a country that possesses nuclear weapons. This is a consequence of the adventurous policies of and the wars aimed at securing the world’s natural resources unleashed by the United States.

Pakistan, involved in a conflict it did not unleash, faced the threat of being taken back to the Stone Age.

The extraordinary circumstances faced by Pakistan had an immediate effect on oil prices and stock exchange shares. No country or region in the world can disassociate itself from the consequences. We must be prepared for anything.

There hasn’t been a day in my life in which I haven’t learned something.

Martí taught us that “all of the world’s glory fits in a kernel of corn”. Many times have I said and repeated this phrase, which carries in eleven words a veritable school of ethics.

Cuba’s Five Heroes, imprisoned by the empire, are to be held up as examples for the new generations.

Fortunately, exemplary conducts will continue to flourish with the consciousness of our peoples as long as our species exists.

I am certain that many young Cubans, in their struggle against the Giant in the Seven-League Boots, would do as they did. Money can buy everything save the soul of a people who has never gone down on its knees.

I read the brief and concise report which Raúl wrote and sent me. We must not waste a minute as we continue to move forward. I will raise my hand, next to you, to show my support.

Fidel Castro Ruz
December 27, 2007

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