Workers, farmers, students, all Cubans:

We have a lot to talk over with you. In this great rally today there are important matters to be dealt with. This is or should be more than just a moment of enthusiasm. It should be above all a time of meditation.

Every nation must search for the source of its problems. It is not enough to know the facts. It is necessary for the people to know the factors behind the facts. The support of the people gratifies us. There extraordinary enthusiasm gives us satisfaction. But, above all it interests us that the people should meditate. It interests us that the people should think because the people should find an explanation for the problems with which they are confronted.

I am not here to make a speech. I am here to reason with the people. I am here to converse with the people.

Never has there been a time when it was more necessary that there should be the most complete understanding between the people and us. After all, those of us who make up the Council of Ministers and occupy the key positions of the government are merely men of the people. We are simply carrying out the will of the people and fulfilling the desires of the people. Never has there been a time when it was more necessary that the Cuban people and we, the revolutionary leaders, should think and act as one. If our enemies engage us in battle we will give them battle. If they attack us they will find all of Cuba to be one great army.

We are not dismayed by deserters and cowards. After all we have just been through a war. In the war we learned that some men desert and some men turn cowards; but they do not matter because they are the minority. We know that we have with us the people of Cuba and the people are not going to become cowardly. There is only one way for our people to obtain victory and make progress – through courage. We know that the people will not become cowardly. We know that the people are willing to die alongside their revolutionary government. The people know that we can end this struggle only by winning or by dying in the attempt. The people know perfectly well that the men who today have the reins of the government in their hands, these rebels who have appeared today on this platform, are men who are willing to die alongside the people.

When the people of a nation are courageous and willing to face death, when their leaders are willing to die with them, that nation is invincible; that nation cannot be overcome by anything or anybody.

These are the questions we should ask ourselves: Why are we being attacked? Why have we had to meet here together again? Why are there traitors? Why is there an attempt to make the revolution fail? What accusations are being made against the Revolution? Why are certain charges made against us? What ends are being sought? How should the people contend with these maneuvers and motives? How can the success of the Revolution be assured? What measures have we taken and what measures are we willing to take in order to defend the Revolution?
Before going further I want to defend the Revolution.

[Castro reads a news report]

“Officials of the customs of Miami are investigating the news that six or seven airplanes are in flight from the Miami area toward Havana to drop counterrevolutionary leaflets over the rally in support of Castro being carried out in Havana. Customs official Joseph Portier said that he had information that these flights were being made but he did not know what success they may have had. ‘We are trying to place agents in these possible flights,’ Portier said. He also said that he had sent agents to various airports of the meridional region of Florida and that some of the airplanes that took part in the alleged flight to Havana were rented and others were private property.”

I read this bulletin for the simple reason that I know that the people are not afraid.

But at the same time while we have been here on this platform we have received the following communication from the head of the regiment of the Rebel Army in the Province of Pinar del Rio:

“Be advised that an [small plane] has flown over the city and [from it] were thrown hand made grenades as well as an incendiary bomb at the Niagara Sugar Mill. A house was set on fire between the post office and the Army garrison. It was at six thirty in the evening. They also dropped pamphlets.”

That is to say, the authorities of Miami recognized that six or seven airplanes left from that area en route to Cuba, and they were still waiting for the results of the flights.

Very well. Now we can give the first report of the results. And we beg them, if they will be so kind, to go ahead and send along the official war communique letting us know the pilots’ tally of this daring sortie against the people of Cuba.

This is the limit. We cannot be sure whether it is shamelessness or whether is it complete impotence on the part of the United States that the authorities should report news of the fifth aerial bombing mission over our territory. How is it possible that the authorities of a nation so powerful, with so many economic and military resources, with radar systems which are said to be able to intercept even guided missiles, should admit before the world that they are unable to prevent aircraft from leaving their territory in order to bomb a defenseless country like Cuba?

I cannot conceive of any explanation other than the fact that Cuba is a small nation unable to defend itself from those attacks, a country that is not a world power. I am unable to find – and I do not believe that there is – any other explanation, because the honorable attitude for powerful nations would be to make certain to prevent their territory from serving as a base for aggression against a smaller country…as well as to prevent raids against a powerful country.

Who are those who attack us from the United States and why do they attack us?

When I contemplate these problems I cannot avoid remembering the first days after we won the war. I cannot avoid remembering the overwhelming joy of our people, the infinite happiness of the Cuban people. I remember they were happy because the war was over and because no more blood was going to be spilled, because no more homes and no more villages were going to be burned, because the murderous bombings were not going to be repeated again. Our people were happy because they had obtained peace. Our people were happy because none of them could ever suspect that some day from foreign territory, the criminals, the same merciless hordes who cowardly fled the first of January, would return with their inconceivably inhuman methods to spread terror among our people.

It is painful to remember those days because they remind us of a happy people who believed that never again would they have to suffer terror at the hands of that group of criminals that we had finally driven out of power.

But why do they attack us? And what is the reason for the tolerance of the American authorities?

On another occasion like this when all the people were assembled here to defend our country from an organized campaign of libel and slander, I said that our enemies were using defamation in the press in order to lay the way for acts of aggression against us.

The months have not yet passed by and we have had to call the people together again. This time not just to defend ourselves from slander, but to struggle for the very survival of our citizens, and in defense of the safety of our children.

What we can depend upon we have mobilized. We have mobilized the Cuban people. We have gathered a million Cubans together on three days’ notice, to proclaim before all the nations of the world, our protest against the acts of barbarity which, in one afternoon and in the course of just a few minutes, produced 47 victims among our unwarned and defenseless civilians. But why are we attacked? Why don’t airplanes fly out of Florida to attack the dictatorship of [Rafael] Trujillo? Why don’t airplanes leave the United States to attack the dictatorship of Somoza [Luis Somoza Debayle]? Of course, airplanes should not leave the United States to bomb us here nor bomb anybody, anywhere! They should not go to Santo Domingo nor to Nicaragua. They should not go anywhere. But what we must ask ourselves is: Why precisely is Cuba chosen?

After all, there are emigrants of all nationalities in the United States – even many emigrants from our sister nation Puerto Rico, that has the right to aspire to be one more independent nation in Latin America. And, nevertheless, although there are many emigrants from many nations, Cuba just happens to be the one country to which airplanes depart with emigrants abroad to attack a civil population.

Why precisely Cuba? If there is one country with which the United States should be more careful, if there is one country about which the United States should be concerned that these incidents should not occur, this country is Cuba. Cuba has just been through a two years war during which airplanes of American origin were used to drop on Cuban cities and on the Cuban countryside rocket projectiles and incendiary bombs also of American manufacture. Thousands of our people were murdered with weapons of American manufacture. The least we could expect after having destroyed Batista’s mercenary army, after we liberated our people from tyranny, the least that we could expect is that our people should not continue to be bombed from bases located in the territory of the United States.

What can we think of such negligence on the part of the authorities of a country [the U.S.] which right here, in the heart of our country [in Cuba], maintains a naval base [Guantanamo Bay Naval Base] to protect its citizens from an attack of any kind?

What would be the reaction of the American public if the American public were aware of all this? In the name of the people of Cuba I appeal to the public opinion of the United States. I do not conceive nor believe that the people of the United States could approve of such irresponsibility on the part of the authorities of their country.

I ask myself what would happen…what would the people of the United States say if planes departing from Canada or any other country should drop incendiary bombs on American factories and houses and then make a raid on the capital of the United States, with the result that city hospitals would be crowded with men, children and old people, wounded by machine-guns?

The people of the United States still have fresh in their memory the treacherous surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. I am sure that under no circumstances would the American people, who experienced such profound indignation over Pearl Harbor, approve these aerial attacks [on Cuba] nor would they by any means accept the explanation that the authorities are unable to prevent these flights.

As I said a few days ago, the people of the United States would have to come to the conclusion that either their authorities are accomplices to the raids on Cuba, or the American nation has been deceived by its authorities, and is defenseless. How is it possible that the American people can be told that they are safe even from guided missiles if the government is not even capable of preventing small aircraft from taking off and landing as they please from their territory?

Then, I ask: has the Revolutionary Government done anything that the people do not approve? What has the Revolutionary Government done except defend the interests of the people? What have we done except sacrifice ourselves for our country? In four centuries of Cuban history never has there been such an altruistic movement.

In the 1500’s the Indians of this island were persecuted and slaughtered by the Spanish conquistadores. For over three hundred years during the colonial period there was slavery in Cuba and human beings were bought and sold like animals. Our own seven year struggle against tyranny cost 20,000 lives, while thousands of homes were destroyed by fire, thanks to selfishness, greed and vested interests.

At long last the destiny of Cuba is being shaped by a revolutionary movement which is fighting against inequality and injustice – a revolutionary government which is determined to redeem our people and to destroy evils which, in some instances, have been in existence for more than four hundred years. The Revolutionary Government of Cuba has begun to build what has not been built during the 50 years that this country has been a republic – streets, water works, schools, hospitals, and industries.

What have the people of Cuba and its Revolutionary Government done except defend Cuban interests in Cuba and abroad? I ask myself and ask you if the worthy and courageous position taken by the people of Cuba in the international organizations is or is not correct?

I could go on asking whether or not you approve of our having given the common people the right to use those beaches which used to belong only to a small privileged group, so that now with all stupid prejudices abolished all Cubans can go to the beaches, whatever color their skin may be.

I ask you whether or not you approve of our having given all Cubans, whatever color their skin may be, an equal opportunity to work.

We could go on indefinitely asking what has the Revolutionary Government done that is not for the benefit of the people.

The problem is: if we plant rice, we interfere with foreign interests; if we produce lard, we interfere with foreign interests; if we produce cotton, we interfere with foreign interests, if we cut down the electric tariffs, we interfere with foreign interests; if we make a Petroleum Law, like the one which is about to be decreed, we interfere with foreign interests; if we carry out a Land Reform, we interfere with foreign interests; if we make a Mining Law, like the one which is about to be announced, we interfere with foreign interests; if we create a Merchant Marine, we interfere with foreign interests. If we try to find new markets for our country, we interfere with foreign interests. If we attempt to sell at least as much as we buy, we interfere with foreign interests.

Because our Revolutionary Laws have an adverse effect on privileged classes inside Cuba and outside Cuba, they attack us and attack us and call us Communists. They accuse us, trying to find some pretext to justify aggression against our country.

The campaign of lies and slander being carried out against us does not [originate in] Cuba and is not [good for] Cuba. Those magazines which seek to degrade our people, those international news agencies which write about non-existent horrors in our country, are not Cuban and are not [good for] Cuba. This is the truth, this is the truth which must be told to the people. This is the truth which the false and shameless refuse to admit. They refuse to admit that they are spreading their poison in a campaign against our Revolution simply because we have taken measures for the good of Cuba. All the great vested interests, both national and international all the enemies of our country have banded together under the same pirates’ flag and screaming the same battle-cry.

I said that we should carefully contemplate the whys and wherefores of the attacks against us. Why is there such opposition to our training the workers and the farmers? It is very simple. The reactionaries would like for us to have an army such as they supported in what they would call the “good old days.” They would like a professional army, such as Cuba used to have. That would be their only hope because such an army down through the years might come to be an instrument of the reactionaries. They have hopes of being able to find somebody greedy for power, some traitor like the one we have just discovered. They have the hope that in a career army they might some day be able to corrupt soldiers and officers, and they have the hope that in the moment least suspected the armed forces of the Republic might determine the fate of our country, because they remember that the big trusts, the vested interests, the robber barons and other power groups and cliques affected by the revolution, all those selfish minorities, are accustomed to using the army as their tool. The army was the instrument of the foreign interests and of the worst elements in our own country. It was no accident that the army of Cuba had foreign instructors.

Since it is necessary for us to defend our country against aggression, since it is necessary to defend our country from aerial attacks from foreign bases, since it is necessary to defend our country against treason, the Council of Ministers will meet tomorrow to discuss and approve the law re-establishing war tribunals for as long as they are necessary. And even though the courts will be the ones to decide according to law the sentence of each of the guilty, I want the opinion of the people. Please raise your hands those who think that the invaders of our country deserve to face the firing squad… Raise your hands, those who believe that the terrorists deserve to face the firing squad… Raise your hands, those who believe that pilots who fly over our territory and drop bombs on our people deserve to be condemned to death… And please raise your hands those who believe that traitors like Huber Matos deserve finally to face the firing squad.

Cuba must, first of all, survive as a nation and defend her sovereignty as a nation. To survive is the matter of most urgency and must take precedence even over our most worthy illusions, even over our fondest dreams.

Today Cuba is holding her head high. Today Cuba fears no obstacle. This entire revolutionary nation is now on her feet and must not fear anything or anyone. The whole nation holds her head high like one great united army above those contemptible men who try to create confusion, above those unscrupulous ones who try to divide Cuba and weaken Cuba. Men of no feeling, they are unable to share in this hour of illusion the emotion or the spirit [that has been aroused] in Cuba after four centuries of struggling for justice.

Cuba will never surrender, every house will be a fortress; we will fight on every terrain necessary and with all kinds of weapons, and those who plot to take over Cuba will – as Maceo [Antonio Maceo Grajales] used to say — find only dust mixed with blood.

So, if we cannot buy planes, we will fight on the ground when the fight comes down to the ground. If they persist in dropping bombs, we will build underground shelters and tunnels. The people are in a fighting mood, and we shall immediately begin training the farmers and the workers and the students. The tribunals of war and the Revolutionary military courts will be re-established and the pilots who land on Cuban territory will inexorably go before the firing squad. We will defend our country by fighting on every terrain necessary, and if England does not sell us the planes, we will buy them where they will sell them to us.

In closing, I want only to say:

The Land Reform is here to stay.

The Petroleum Law is here to stay.

The Mining Law is here to stay.

The Revolutionary measures taken to defend Cuba are here to stay.

The Education Reform is here to stay.

The Reform of the University and all our reforms are here to stay.

If anybody wants to criticize us for this, let them criticize us.

If they accuse us, [for this] let them accuse us; if they attack us, [for this] let them attack us.

We shall fight those who dare plan the destruction of the revolution. And we take an oath in the name of the people of Cuba – that is, in the name of you and us – that either Cuba will triumph or we shall all die [striving toward that triumph].

Now, more than ever, we take for our own the words of our national anthem: “Hasten to the fight Cubans, the country is proudly watching: do not fear a glorious death. To die for your country is to live on.”

Primary Source excerpt and adaptation via the Castro Speech Database:

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