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The Speech

Comrade Faure [Minister of Transportation] told me that they could be there by August 5, and we would have fifty-three instead of forty of these buses available. This will help in easing the situation. But it will be especially eased to the extent that the repair shop improves and repairs are speeded up and adequate maintenance service be given to the buses.

In many industries we detected the following problems: lack of lathes, lack of work tools, lack of measuring instruments.

It’s curious but microinvestments are what our country needs most at this moment, microinvestments! Investment in lathes for maintenance in industrial shops, work tools that are lacking in almost all industries, and measuring instruments.

How did we find the spirit of the workers in Santiago de Cuba? Knowing their many needs—because if transportation affected distribution anywhere, it affected it in Oriente, and especially in Santiago—their main concern was production. And only later in the discussion did they raise any other problems! And sometimes we were the ones who had to bring up the other problems!

And sometimes we saw workers with torn clothes, or shoes—we have seen this—because these problems of quality…. It wasn’t so much the quantity as the quality of the footwear: the introduction of a new method of production which hadn’t been sufficiently grasped, such as those rubber soles which led to their breaking. And the cane cutters in Oriente and other areas know very well how a sole can fall off after five or ten days.

And when quality is affected, what is the point of making thirty million pairs of shoes, if it doesn’t solve the problem?

The problem of footwear was seriously affected by the decline in quality.

And workers with torn shoes and clothes were asking for lathes, machine tools, and measuring instruments—more concerned about this than with their other problems. Even in spite of the bad food supply, they were more concerned with the factory and production than with food. [Applause] And this is really impressive! This is a real lesson for us! This is a living confirmation in reality of the proletariat and what it is capable of. The industrial proletariat is the truly revolutionary class, the most potentially revolutionary class. [Applause]

What a practical lesson in Marxism-Leninism! We began as revolutionaries not in a factory, which would have been a great help for all of us. We began as revolutionaries through the study of theory, the intellectual road, the road of thought. And it would have helped all of us if we had come from the factories and known more about them, because it is there that the really revolutionary spirit of which Marx and Lenin spoke is to be found.

And that’s the spirit of the great majority! The few lumpen elements that may still exist—most of them recent arrivals in the plant—the absentees, they are of no importance. And sometimes conditions are such that the amazing thing is not that there are absentees, but rather that there are some who do come to work. And the spirit, the sense of duty that inspires those who go to work; and the scorn they feel for the lazy, those who are resting on their oars.

Go to any factory and ask the workers what should be done about the lazy ones, the ones who don’t work. If you don’t watch out, they’ll go so far as to demand that they be shot. If you don’t watch out, they’ll demand just that! But, naturally, they will not go that far. Not that they lack the desire to do it, but they realize that the thing to do is to re-educate those people through work.

Thus, we came face to face with these problems, most of which have a solution. And we must say that we are to blame for a large part of these problems and that, simply as a result of a lack of capacity….

We—I began to explain an idea to you—were holding a conversation with some people from Santiago de Cuba in the city’s park following a three-day visit. We were talking about these problems with them, and we asked the people there, “Do you know of someone who is efficient whom we could entrust with some of these tasks?” That is what we asked the people, because the tragic thing, one of the many tragic things in our country—and this should not, by any means, constitute a reason for resigning ourselves to putting up with this tragedy—is our lack of cadres, of men with a high enough level of training and intelligence who are capable of carrying out the complex tasks of production.

These tasks are apparently easy. Most of the time we make the mistake of minimizing the difficulties, of minimizing the complexity of the problems. And we have seen this happen to a number of well-trained comrades, comrades well known to us for their iron will and their desire to do a good job—we’ve had these experiences—and we have seen them, in a specific task, going through what is practically an apprenticeship that lasts one, two, or even three years before they begin to do an efficient job.

If only we could solve our problems by simply replacing these men! We have to make changes. There is no question about the fact that many comrades have worn themselves out, have “burned themselves out,” as they say. There are some who have had to pay for the errors committed by others, because sometimes the error points to somebody who simply cannot do anything to solve the problem.

For example, we found that, in spite of the tremendous demand for housing and for repairs to houses everywhere—and especially in Santiago de. Cuba—the comrades in the districts of the local administration and the Party don’t even have a truck or a concrete mixer with which to face such demands.

As I said before, the cement factory there would stop operating. And, while the cement plant just outside Santiago de Cuba was shut down, Santiago was suffering from a cement shortage.

It was established that a certain percentage of the cement production be earmarked for Santiago and, in addition, that whatever amount of cement that the state agencies—due to problems in transportation or plan nonfulfillment—weren’t going to take away would be delivered to the city. This is easy, for the same trucks that are used for the hauling of the raw material from the quarries can be used to deliver the cement to Santiago. And there is one problem: once the cement is taken out of the silos and put into bags it cannot remain in the bags for more than three months. That is why, when the silos are full, we can’t just say, “Let’s pack the cement in bags for storage.”

These comrades were shown how to solve the problem, since, for any repair work, they are dependent on an operational base of trucks—which they didn’t have.

You cannot hold a man responsible for anything unless he is in a position where he can decide things; or else we appoint a man from the Party, we give him a job involving responsibility, and what we do is turn his job into a man-killer. He becomes a wailing wall, a poor man on whose lap everybody and his brother dumps his problems.

There are lists of houses to be delivered. There are lists, yes, but no houses. There are very few of them, or a plan for house building hasn’t been completed. Thus, a worker who has headed the list for a year and a half and still has no house—and this has happened in Santiago—even loses all hopes of ever getting one.

As we talked with the women comrades of the beer and malt beverage brewery and the bottling plant in Santiago, we realized that nine out of ten women—nine out of ten!—mentioned the housing shortage as one of the most pressing problems. The women felt this more than the men did.

This was something similar to the problem as to whether malt beverage or beer should be served at the workers’ dining room. The women, logically, said malt beverage, while the men, also logically, said beer.

In the analysis of recreation centers…. What happened in Santiago? Every single bar was closed because of the cane harvest. The result was a kind of prohibition. As a result, the people started to make rotgut and mix it with other things, and they came up with some sort of product.

Really, we don’t feel that was necessary, and it should teach us a good lesson. Because what has here been suggested and what we have been saying since the revolutionary offensive is that it is no crime to have a beer or some other alcoholic beverage; what we were against were those dark, dingy joints where having a drink or anything was a big mystery. The Revolution is not against drinking as such.

And that was done. And it is being analyzed.

We have asked the comrade in charge of this matter to analyze the question of recreation centers to decide on which days they should be open. And the workers should be consulted in the analysis of this matter. Even there we found different opinions: whether it should be two days or four days a week. And some workers said that their free day didn’t fall on a Saturday or Sunday; it came on a Thursday or Friday or some such day. And the women had a different opinion from the men.

Once we took a poll on this question, and that’s the way it turned out. So this time I told them: “Don’t rush, find out what they think and why.”

I was witness to an argument, an analysis carried out among men and women. One man, a vanguard worker whose opinion I asked, stood up and spoke. He said that a real worker, a conscientious worker, would be on time for work no matter what he did on his day off, even if he finished at 5:00 in the morning. He said that he had been working there at the factory and had gone to bed at 5:00 in the morning and had been back again at 8:00.

One woman had already said that the men would be absent from work. Another woman said that there was no labor problem but that some men would leave half their salary at home and drink the other half.

Well, that was the problem. And I told them to study everything carefully, so as to come up with a rational solution to the problem of the recreation centers, because the workers want them—especially those workers with great work spirit, workers who have spent up to eight months cutting cane, as many workers from Havana have done.

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