From International Socialist Review, Vol.22 No.2, Spring 1961, pp.37-43.
(The following is the complete text of the opening speech made by former President Lázaro Cárdenas March 5 at the Latin-American Conference for National Sovereignty, Economic Emancipation and Peace.)
WE ARE attending an event of great international importance – the inauguration of the work of the Latin-American Conference for National Sovereignty, Economic Emancipation and Peace.
As Mexicans we offer you a warm welcome – illustrious representatives of different social sectors of our America and fraternal delegates from peoples of other continents, and we wish you a pleasant stay in our country.
It is just about twelve years since the day a small group of patriots met in the city of Paris to hold the first World Congress for Peace. In that memorable meeting important propositions were reached in favor of enduring peace. The warmongers fought these and sought to keep them from becoming known, but their efforts were futile; the result was to awaken human minds and wills in all corners of the globe until millions of men and women became adherents of the movement for peace.
Latin America has a pacifist tradition. Meetings and congresses in various countries have testified to the spirit that prevails among our peoples in favor of peace. And to realize this great aspiration, in all continents men and women of diverse religious creeds, different schools of philosophical thought and distinct political doctrines, have drawn together. Races, sexes and ages have joined ranks on the road to realizing this common ardent wish. Among all peoples the same desire unites us – to combat imperialist war so that we can undertake our full development.
To speak of peace and to discuss the most adequate measures to achieve it is one of the basic aims of this Latin-American Conference. Carrying out this noble mission, we shall briefly analyze the problems relating to war and peace in the light of the historic conditions in which all peoples live and develop.
On the world scene we encounter two great groups of countries: in one belong the socialist states; and, in the other, the capitalist states.
The nations found in the capitalist system do not represent a homogeneous whole; on the contrary, they are divided into two sectors. On the one hand, a small nucleus of states with a high level of industrialization, which follows the route of ascending economic development, which concentrates the major part of the world’s wealth, which has very high levels of average real per capita income and which possesses great military and political power. On the other hand – constituting the majority of nations – a group of peoples that lives essentially from agriculture, in surroundings of economic and cultural poverty, whose per capita real income is only a small fraction of that enjoyed by persons of the developed countries. Many of these peoples were, until recently, under the political domination of the imperialist powers, others still are, and those which retain their political sovereignty were, or are, dominated economically from abroad, suffering effects similar to those of colonies.
Thus it is that we observe in the world today that inequality in access to wealth, to culture and to power is the norm among these nations.
It is natural that this inequality determines different and contradictory conceptions of justice, of economics and of international politics. While the powerful nations seek to maintain their domination in the world, the oppressed peoples struggle to liquidate once and for all the colonial system and to win their political independence, which means freedom to organize their own life in accordance with their national interests.
We contend, consequently, that so long as any country remains without liberty, so long as nations exist without political independence, so long as national sovereignty is infringed in any way and we face the unjust spectacle of the economic or political submission of one country to another, it is impossible for peace to prevail in the world. Enduring peace is linked to the liberation of the colonial territories, to absolute respect for the sovereignty and the consolidation of the economic emancipation of nations.
To this group of peoples, the little developed peoples, belongs the majority of humanity. To it belong the many peoples of Africa, of Asia, of the Near and Middle East and of Latin America.
Solidarity among the less developed countries is becoming a common practice and, with time, will become one of the strongest in history. The results are already to be seen in the modification of the world situation, in which the democratic forces now have heavier weight. Collective support of the freedom and independence movements among the weak peoples, and its favorable results, illustrates the possibilities of advancing in the conquest of the economic and political independence of Latin America.
To accept isolation among our own peoples, who have the same history and are united by blood and language, would be a grave error, just as would the wish to remain distant from the development of other continents when it is evident that our problems are not alien to the scene of the world process.
On the other hand, the struggle for peace is found to be linked to the movements under way in each and all of the Latin-American countries to obliterate the economic, social, racial and political inequalities that for centuries have characterized the life of our peoples.
Latin America is endowed with great natural resources; in its extensive territories it can produce all the raw materials for its needs; it has big oil reserves and other important mineral bodies, sources of water power and a population of two hundred million inhabitants. If we utilized these vast riches to the benefit of our own countries, Latin America could transform its poverty into prosperity. The capital goods necessary for this development must be invested by the Latin Americans themselves. Only in this way will the economic emancipation of our nations be gained.
And thus our countries, which are free from any territorial ambition, could come to constitute a pacifist combination that, with its moral force, would contribute, together with the other continents, to friendship among all peoples and, consequently, to world security.
In all of Latin America anachronistic forms are maintained in the economic structure, relating principally to possession and exploitation of the land; in many countries latifundism prevails. The latifundia condition agriculture to monoculture which compels maintenance of the production of raw materials that are exported and worked up in other countries, even to the detriment of the vital consumption needs of the population.
So long as this agrarian system of land ownership is sustained, economic development will encounter obstacles that in many aspects are insuperable. The latifundia impose systems of exploitation of the labor of men, maintain an abysmal standard of life and of consumption, and, as a consequence – misery, technical backwardness and ignorance among the great masses of workers.
The peoples living from Patagonia to the peninsula of Lower California want to break up latifundism and the forms of feudal servitude through the complete realization of agrarian reform.
On this structure of the concentration of rural ownership and exploitation of the great peasant masses, stand political regimes, in some countries of our continent, which refuse to solve the grave problem of the land.
These conditions of inferiority and injustice must be superseded through political transformation into positive democratic nations and through changes in the economic structure to permit lifting the level of life by way of industrialization.
Defenders of peace are met with the charge that their struggle is not consistent, since they oppose violence when it concerns the dangers of war yet support violent methods in the struggle against dictatorial regimes, enemies of the peoples’ interests.
The charge tendentiously identifies the violence of war with revolutionary violence. Those who seek to confound the one kind of violence with the other forget, or would like to forget, that a revolution is a domestic affair while war is an affair between nations. In our atomic era, the former does not menace humanity, while the latter endangers its existence. The former is promoted by majorities as the only just and viable way out under repressive and antidemocratic conditions, while the latter is decided on by certain minorities, without previously consulting the will of their fellow citizens, as a false solution to the economic crises that these minorities have brought about through their improvidence and their greed for profit. Thus revolutions and wars are in origin and essence different and even antithetical.
In saying this, we are not advocating violence, we are only explaining it. We do not believe that the problems of Latin America must always be resolved precisely through violence. To avoid it, the peoples must organize themselves politically and struggle for democracy as the expression of the civic will.
But, although it may seem paradoxical, the same imperialist tactics that confound revolutions and wars, threaten today, objectively, to convert revolutionary struggles into bellicose conflicts.
The imperialist mechanism through which the popular Latin-American demands tend to become converted into revolutions and these into bellicose conflicts is composed of a pair of forces, a pincers action – the linking of the politics of anti-Communism with the programs of economic austerity.
Anti-Communist politics in Latin America attempts to present as subversive movements, of Communist inspiration, every democratic struggle, every bid for economic independence and every desire to preserve national sovereignty – inasmuch as these three currents confront the interests of big finance capital.
The politics of austerity in Latin America only affects the workers of city and field, through freezing of wages, and signifies exploitation of their productive forces to the benefit of the great international cartels.
The defense of the interests of the working class must be undertaken through its own unity. Dispersed and divided, as it is, it will forever be victim of exploitation.
The Cuban people, headed by incorruptible leaders, brought about the downfall not only of an antinational government, but of the foreign landholders, the telephone, electric and oil companies, the big subsidized dailies, the mercenary armies and the native opponents. This explains why it is the impact of the Cuban Revolution had such repercussions in each and every one of the countries in which the same instruments function that were broken in the largest of the Antilles. It shows in the same way why it is that a strictly internal affair like the Cuban Revolution became converted into an international problem. To any person of good faith and independent judgment, it is clear that the responsibility for the internationalization imposed on a matter that was strictly national in its origins, falls completely and beyond appeal on the big monopolistic cartels. The Cuban government and people are essentially pacifist. They reject and oppose war but they will defend their revolution. They have indicated that they are ready to resolve, through normal diplomatic channels and in a friendly way, the heated conflict with the US government. We hope for success in this, since such an understanding between two neighbor peoples would strengthen continental scrupulousness for the peaceful solution of all conflicts, for absolute respect for the free development of cultural, political and economic life, and for condemnation of any criminal attempt to interfere with the sovereign will of the states.
In the name of the Organizing Committee of this Conference, we offer to the national organizations that have supported its preparation and realization our warmest congratulations for having demonstrated once more their civic spirit and their great patriotism in defense of the general interests of our peoples and for having carried out a big job in making possible the participation of all the social sectors of their countries.
The conference will consider general theses on each of the themes proposed and also on the methods for converting them into reality. We will not have advanced if on concluding our sessions all that has emerged is a laudable wish or healthy intention. We have to put our ideas into practice, not only to determine whether or not they are correct, but, fundamentally, to struggle to achieve genuine freedom for our nations and a human life for our peoples.
In formulating the concrete programs of action for each country, the peculiarities of each must be taken into account, peculiarities that determine their geography, their population, their current development, their juridical system, the historical stage in which they live, and without infringing on their sovereignty. This in itself requires Sponsorship Committees for each country to promote the realization of agreements reached at this conference.
The proposed problems must be studied with serenity, with frankness, with decision. In doing this it is necessary to keep in mind the thought of our great leaders. Let us remember in this the liberator, Simon Bolivar, who in convoking the Congress of Panama, indicated this road for our America: “Solidarity, defense, union of the Latin-American republics, not to fight or conquer anyone, not for making war on anyone, but for defense against common dangers, to instill respect for their sovereignty, for solving differences in an amicable way, and for struggling for their prosperity and progress."
To the delegates, once again, our cordial welcome.
(The following is the full text of the speech made March 5 by Alberto T. Casella from Argentina.)
WE HAVE met here under the sponsorship of a great American, Don Lázaro Cárdenas, and the warm and generous hospitality of the noble people of Mexico, to undertake together an examination of the past and current causes of some of the grave problems that afflict us, and to acquire, as citizen of Latin America, a clear understanding of how to bring these problems to a definitive resolution.
We greet our brothers of Latin America and the specially invited fraternal delegations who, in attending this assembly, overcame difficulties of all kinds with which we are all familiar.
One hundred and fifty years ago the majority of our peoples began the emancipating action in which we share. The War for Independence lasted a little more than a decade and a half, and, at its conclusion, many of the most outstanding figures were refugees in exile, skeptical or disappointed.
José de San Martín, the Great Captain of the Andes, who assured the independence of our peoples through his generous sacrifices, warned us of the danger of domination by some successful military figure.
Simon Bolívar said in discouragement: “We have plowed the sea. The Latin-American countries will fall under the domination of foreign and self-seeking tyrants.” This forecast was borne out in good part. Insurrections, coups d’etat, civil wars, have interfered with peaceful development for many decades. The results, seen by all, are no cause for pride.
Oligarchies of colonial and semi-feudal type, based on the arbitrary division of the land among a few without the people sharing, have submitted to the imperialist domination of more powerful countries to assure their own privileges. Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, whose sesquicentennial is being celebrated this year, said a century ago that the Latin-American countries had remained at the rear of the civilized nations of the earth. Today we know very well where to place responsibility for this backwardness. We must, then, undertake at once the task of obliterating evils that by inertia still persist and still weigh us down.
Such a state of affairs must not, however, discourage us, for since then a half hundred colonial countries have risen to independent life and shown us the wide road to freedom. We shall with them follow the indicated route until we gain full exercise of our sovereignty and economic emancipation in a world of peace and progress.
The long hard experience has demonstrated to us that political independence is not sufficient to assure the liberty and welfare of the people. Equally necessary is economic emancipation.
Already at the beginning of our struggle for independence there were clear and patriotically inspired minds who indicated the necessity of this combination. Thus the Argentine, Mariano Moreno, who died prematurely one hundred and fifty years ago, documented it in his famous Representacion de los Hacendados and in the proceedings of the May Junta of which he was the first secretary.
We live in an epoch of dramatic although not insuperable contradictions. The development of science and technology, at the same time that it makes possible the well-being of all of humanity, entails risks that place in danger their very existence.
Human and international relations are affected by mutual lack of confidence and the threat of war. The state of anxiety and tension which this creates must not persist a minute more. The alternatives are of utmost gravity: either we shall succeed in establishing the high moral order that human life merits, or we shall inevitably perish. Hence it is urgent that the immense sums of money devoted to the manufacture and purchase of armaments (more than $100 billion annually, about $2 billion for Latin America) be put into works of mutual benefit, so that all the peoples of the world can gain a higher standard of living.
Our America would benefit from this change of policy. It could thus utilize, through necessary and important works, its enormous natural resources. The results of this development would benefit all of humanity. With such transformations we would give effective form to the already classic thought which Roque Sáenz Peña expressed at the first Pan-American Congress.
The great statesmen of our America, who stood for arbitration and negotiation in resolving territorial dilutes inherited from the colonial past, have enriched international law with doctrines that even today, through their altruism and generosity, can contribute to the solution of conflicts among nations.
Let us revive this spirit, and, with the dignity and vigor characteristic of our forefathers, tell the powers oppressing our continent that to the people, people are sacred, and that any nation no matter how small it may be has the right to decide, without foreign intervention, its own destiny.
A people’s right to self-determination and independence is today an axiomatic principle universally recognized. In turn the decline of the colonial system throughout the world at an accelerated rate is evident. We witness the disintegration of colonialism with astonished satisfaction (the systems which it sustained appeared so strong) and we look toward the countries rising today with the optimistic hope that they are going to contribute to organizing a more just, more equitable world, with neither oppressors nor oppressed.
We hereby demand that the colonial possessions still remaining in our America be immediately freed from foreign tutelage. It is transparent that the proclaimed continental doctrines have not been able to win this.
We reject Monroeism and verbalistic Pan-Americanism, inoperative and contrary to genuine Latin-American interests, which have served only in setting up treaties involving our countries in the politics of armaments and war. Thus a pretext has been given to supporting military forces that are beyond our economic capacity and that up to now have forced postponement of the solution to problems as fundamental as those of education, health and homes.
Illiteracy continues to be one of the great evils from which Latin America suffers, extending, according to recent UN data, to forty-nine per cent of the population. This figure testifies to the fundamental cause of the backwardness of our cultural and scientific development. Cuba proposes to end illiteracy by the third year of its revolution. Can the Latin-American peoples remain indifferent in face of this extraordinary effort which our political regimes have been incapable of carrying out in one hundred and fifty years?
And what shall we say of the hunger that reigns in vast areas of our extensive territory, and of the precarious conditions in homes and health still to be found in the big cities but above all in rural zones which embrace millions of square miles?
These are typical traits of the underdevelopment of our countries. The picture is completed by adding to the high figures for illiteracy, infantile mortality, etc., the low figures for production: for power, for steel, for cement, etc.
This situation is not justified by any lack of natural resources, since we possess the best lands in the world, incalculable sources of water power, enormous fields of oil, coal and gas, immense forest regions, great beds of iron ore and the most valuable industrial metals, without overlooking the fact that those of highest interest in our days are the radioactive ones.
To what then must we ascribe the economic backwardness which is the fundamental cause of our evils? Are our peoples perhaps incapable of utilizing these riches to their own benefit and that of humanity? In no manner whatsoever.
The fundamental cause of the backwardness and underdevelopment of Latin America is the deforming imperialist domination of our economy. Another of the causes is the lack of unity among the various sister countries, and of an independent policy that would permit planning the over-all utilization of the soil, taking advantage of the technological resources wherever they are found most accessible in regard to quality and price; that is, exchanging goods without discrimination with all the peoples of the earth. We must not forget that trade is the basis of peaceful life.
Lisandro de la Torre, eminent public figure of Argentina, defended in a memorable parliamentary debate, the right of our countries to transact commerce freely in accordance with their genuine interests and to their own advantage. The struggle against the monopolies and for freedom has been cruel and costly in sacrifices in Latin America: Martí, Sandino, Bordabehere, Gaitán, Candia, Albizu Campos, are some of the outstanding names of the American martyrs. Today in Africa Patrice Lumumba is another of the victims in this long and unhappy universal struggle.
The United States has had since its emancipation an imperialist vocation. Madison affirmed that expansion was the key to resolving the internal economic difficulties and maintaining the social harmony of the North American people. Jefferson in turn held that democracy and prosperity depended on a society of agriculturalists and exporters. Theodore Roosevelt thought that expansion must be coupled with extension of the authority of the United States. It is the policy of the Open Door that explains the foreign policy of the USA during the period extending from the crisis of the year 1890 to the year 1961. Already in 1902 Wilson was declaring that concessions obtained in other countries by the financiers must be protected by the state even if it became necessary to infringe on sovereignty. A thought that serves by way of antecedent to explain the policy of the government of the USA is the case of United Fruit in Guatemala. It was likewise Wilson who defined commerce not as the exchange of merchandise but as the conquest of markets for North American exports.
Expansion was considered to be like a natural law. Consequently whoever opposed it violated the will of God. The conquest of markets thus corresponded with the divine will. This being so, all freedom movements and social revolutions must be repelled. The freedom of peoples to work out their own economic and political configuration was considered a negation of freedom itself insofar as it opposed the peremptory necessities of the economy of the United States. The “New Deal” brought nothing new to the classic orientation of foreign policy imposed by the trusts. In all cases, the international order had to adjust itself to the imperious necessity of expansion. An order that crossed it was interpreted as disorder. What was necessary, indispensable, was an international security that would make possible, without obstacles, the policy of the Open Door. Hence the blind opposition of the USA to all liberating movements.
The supposed right of the USA to expansion is incompatible with the right of self-determination of peoples. This explains the contradictions which the USA incurs between its proclaimed decision to respect self-determination and the frequent and aggressive violations committed against this right. Intervention was considered by the USA to be a political measure. The interventions perpetrated in Cuba, Haiti, Santo Domingo, Panama and Nicaragua were transposed into the organization of military forces or police who, in time, were converted into a source of terrible dictatorships of a military character.
It is also the necessity for expansion that shapes international relations in our continent. The USA has dissimulated this necessity behind a military mask. Economic problems were translated into war terms. And since everything opposed to the supposed natural law of expansion is injurious, they disguised the profound reason for their commitments, inventing the danger of extra-continental aggression. US Senator J. William Fulbright said in this respect:
“If there is one factor that explains more than any other the tight spot in which we find ourselves, this factor is our disposition to utilize the specter of communism as a cloak to cover the failure of our own leadership.”
Thus we must seek in the necessity for expansion the reason for the existence of pacts like that of Rio de Janeiro. This is likewise the reason for the Inter-American Defense Board and the interventionist clauses in the Charter of the Organization of American States. Similarly hidden propositions are at the bottom of the Declaration of Caracas, making opinion a crime, ideas punishable, and imposing collective armed interventionism. The bilateral military pacts which the USA signed with twelve Latin-American nations are open faucets for the penetration of the trusts in these twelve nations. Secret clauses are one of their characteristics. And since these pacts are inspired by and founded in the Mutual Security laws of the USA, nothing that has been stipulated in them can be aimed at anything other than the benefit of the USA, as these laws themselves stipulate. In this way the US Congress has become converted into the legislative organ of these twelve Latin-American nations.
However, the militarization of the nations of Latin America, the attempted standardization of armaments, the United States military missions stationed in all our nations, are not in reality aimed at making possible the defense of the continent in face of the pretended extra-continental aggression. This has been proved. In the USA they know very well that our armed forces are not equipped to carry out such a mission. The arms which the USA has sold us are mostly old and no longer being manufactured. The military missions are instruments of political infiltration. The USA has in no way hidden this objective. The entire structure of the pacts has the same aim, pursuing the subjection of our peoples in order to count on the votes of their governments in the international debates carried on in the UN. The twenty-one American nations represent almost a quarter of the members of the United Nations. The idea of expansion has governed the architecture of the relations between the USA and our nations under appearance of a military organization for the defense of the continent. Defense is not the concern but the creation of special relations with the armed forces of our nations, with an eye to the pressure they exercise on our governments, and to obtain military bases. More particularly the question is to facilitate a limited or deficient improvement of armaments with the aim of converting the armed forces into police forces to bar movements of emancipation or social betterment dedicated to opposing the aggressive pressure of the United States economy. In Argentina this is manifest in the application of an unconstitutional “state of internal war” and a permanent “state of siege.” This has been the constant in the policy of the USA: to prevent our peoples from exercising their freedom to oppose the abuse the US makes of its freedom in stepping beyond its boundaries. The case of Cuba is instructive. Cuba is censured and insulted because it is making correct use of its freedom, a use of freedom in the concrete to oppose justifiably the expansion and robberies of the North American trusts which have done so much evil. The USA uses the word freedom in the abstract in referring to the case of Cuba, because freedom in the abstract is what has made possible for them penetration and subjugation. It is time in Latin America for all of this to be ended definitively.
The reality which we face would be sad and discouraging if we did not have profound faith in the capacity of our peoples to emerge from the stagnation in which they find themselves.
The facts are sufficiently clear and so the attempt is made to cloak them with words. This has been a negative work engaged in by governments, the press, and all those serving the interests of imperialist domination in Latin America. But now is not the time to continue exposing this incongruous, negative verbalism. It is time for action and it is the peoples that must undertake it. They talk insistently about giving us aid, but we have already had bitter experience with such aid throughout our history. We cannot delude ourselves nor continue being naive. The latest instructions, publicly announced, demand the highest returns on foreign investments. The Metropolis is in a crisis and needs aid itself. We must not place confidence in such aid, still less since it now constitutes part of the imperialist plans of domination elaborated by powerful international bodies which, as in the case of Argentina, have set as the basic condition for an illusory later development greater impoverishment of the workers along with unlimited enrichment of big trusts whose balances boast of the most shameless profits.
This situation has made it possible for our countries to be characterized as sanctuaries of lucre for the big international monopolies.
We must begin our task of modernization at once, placing our confidence in ourselves and in the genuine aid which can be given to us by those who will grant it without the economic or political conditions that would make it unacceptable.
We must proceed to draw up an inventory of our wealth and to plan, for example, the joint development of the great natural resources in the mighty cordillera of the Andes, and of the great rivers draining from them and crossing our plains. We must break the back of economic imperialism, as in Cuba, nationalizing the public utilities and the key sectors of the economy. We must carry out a thoroughgoing agrarian reform, fitted to the needs of each region, based on the concept that the land is a social utility and belongs to those who till it.
We must liquidate illiteracy and carry out the educational reforms that still continue to be an aspiration forty-three years after the Cordoba proclamation which had repercussions throughout the Americas.
We must trade with all the world and struggle to break through the conditions that brought about the deterioration of the terms of exchange.
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The series of facts which we have been outlining give to this conference, in the current circumstances, an extraordinary importance. The quality and the representativeness of the delegates participating in it assure to its decisions the widest possible response and support in Latin America.
We say this although it will displease those out to decry its importance, who persist in the mistaken tactic of deluding the people with maliciously slanted news. We say to such organs of public expression that they are defaulting in their duty to serve the public and that they have bowed to the economic interests that still exercise economic dominion over our peoples.
We desire peace because it fosters the greatest conquests of culture and science and serves the welfare of all who aspire. Peace is the basic and irreplaceable condition for the development of our peoples and for gaining full sovereignty and economic emancipation. On the basis of this premise, we consider general controlled disarmament and the definitive cessation of all types of tests with nuclear weapons indispensable and urgent. The fulfilling of this wish will relieve the general worry and alarm over the perspective today, whether accidental or intentional, of a completely destructive war.
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The Cuban Revolution has excited the interest of all the peoples of America and encouraged and inspired them. The tragedy of this country, one of the last to succeed in freeing itself from the Spanish colonial regime, has moved all of America. The sacrifices and the feats of this heroic people have won the respect and admiration of all the peoples of the world. The accomplishments that have already been achieved in the social, economic and cultural fields are an enormous credit on the balance sheet of the Revolution.
We consider the Cuban experience to be a lesson that cannot fail to be learned. We well know the anarchy and disorder associated with the coups d’etat in our countries. Here we have been struck by the totally different character of this authentic revolution which has already transformed, in such a brief time, the conditions of life of the Cuban people, and which stands out as an inspiring example for all the countries of Latin America.
But it is not only the gain in material and economic advantages that makes the Cuban Revolution outstanding. Even worthier of note is the level which this country has attained in the international field by following with dignity an independent policy, breaking the ties that bound it, like other Latin-American countries, to obligations injurious to its sovereignty as a free and independent nation.
Cuba demonstrates anew the bankruptcy of the principles of geopolitics which have been kept alive in America through a fatalism arising from our geographic location and the deformation of our economies.
With their revolution, the Cuban people are realizing the dreams of Martí, and the Latin-American peoples are encouraging them to continue in their struggle to achieve a well-being which was denied them during fifty years of pseudo-democratic and non-independent life.
The feeling of the Latin-American peoples is that they must stand by the Cuban people and defend them through active solidarity against all the attacks aimed at returning them to slavery.
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This conference, composed of qualified personalities in various branches of science and culture, of representatives of workers, students and professional organizations embracing millions of members, will have the opportunity to analyze the current situation in Latin America and of proposing practical solutions conducive to its genuine liberation and ultimate development.
This conference is the reply of Latin America to the call of the Sierra Maestra. Our peoples, conscious of their duty to humanity, wish to take into their hands their own destinies and work out in common, in a world of peace, a better life for all.
(The following is the full text of the speech of Señora Vilma Espin, representing the Cuban delegation.)
IN THE name of the Cuban delegation, we wish to extend to all of you – the Mexicans, our Latin American brothers, and the fraternal delegates – our most cordial greetings and our most fervent and deeply felt gratitude. From the warm reception at the airport – where along with the stirring cheers, there was not lacking the inspiring note of revolutionary songs rendered by the typical mariachis – to the revolutionary enthusiasm shown at this magnificent opening session; everything has made us feel, at each instant, that this magnificent Mexican people, and our brothers all over America, and our brothers from other continents as well, are body and soul on the side of our glorious Cuban Revolution.
All this has deeply moved us and we want to begin by saying with profound and sincere brevity: “ Gracias, compañeros.”
General Lázaro Cárdenas has already expressed, with absolute clarity, in his admirable opening address, what this meeting means at the present moment in the world and in the history of our definitive emancipation. We, like him, are convinced that “among all peoples the same desire unites us – to combat imperialist war so that we can undertake our full development.” We also know, as the great Mexican statesman put it, that “So long as any country remains without liberty, so long as nations exist without political independence, so long as national sovereignty is infringed in any way, and we face the unjust spectacle of the economic or political submission of one country to another, it is impossible for peace to prevail in the world.” And we affirm with General Cárdenas that “enduring peace is linked to the liberation of the colonial territories, to absolute respect for the sovereignty and the consolidation of the economic emancipation of nations."
Cuba was until yesterday a typical example of a semi-colonial country, underdeveloped, a victim of imperialism. The Spanish-Cuban-American war of 1898 was the first typical imperialist war, the first such war fought between two rapacious nations disputing the possession of colonies. As a result of that war Cuba ceased to be a Spanish colony and became a semi-colony of the United States of North America. The Platt Amendment was the juridical expression – written in the Constitution of the newborn Antilles republic – of its situation of political dependence; the Reciprocity Treaty of 1903 confirmed our economic slavery; the Naval Base of Caimanera [Guantánamo] even now reminds us, anachronistically, of that deplorable colonial situation. An entire costly governmental apparatus staffed by presidents, senators, representatives, etc. – democratic in outward form – served as administrator or overseer for the foreign interests and the native latifundistas, and a well-oiled caste army – professionals in abuse and torture – maintained an order of the graveyard on the Island converted into an immense sugar-cane plantation to sweeten the life of Uncle Sam.
Cuba was an immense sugar-cane plantation – with a little corner left over for tobacco and a few manganese and nickel mines; and all this was destined for one single buyer, who set the prices and controlled the amount of harvest yields. Cuba was, furthermore, through unilateral and unjust agreements and treaties, subjected to this single buyer, forced to acquire in his storehouses the bulk of our indispensable consumers goods and any number of superfluous items, from rice to Cadillacs, flour or television sets.
Because we were slaves of the dollar and wore its livery, we appeared rich, but the illiterate peasant was starving to death and the workers and civil servants of the towns were dragging through a mediocre existence, with miserably low wages, constantly going downhill. The periodic economic crises characteristic of the capitalist economy – always sharper and more serious in the colonies – engendered as their natural produce the dictatorships which toughened and hardened in our land – from Machado to Batista – excellent foremen in the service of imperialist interests.
The Revolution based itself on the exploited masses of the countryside and the city. It was and will always be a revolution of the poor, by the poor and for the poor. It was born among youth and students, workers and professionals of the city, and grew strong in the Sierra, having taken root in the people of the land, who form the majority of the exploited in underdeveloped countries. It became as any truly organic product, one with the earth itself, and has been forming its consciousness in contact with Cuban reality, living day to day the pain and exploitation, but also the desires of recovery of the peasants and workers and professionals and students, and of men and women of the middle class who hope to breath free air, and of the small manufacturers and native merchants who dreamed of achieving definitive economic independence.
The Revolution was not, and is not, and will never become the adventure of a few, to benefit a new class of self-seekers. It was, and is, and will be the irresistible impulse of a whole people to become absolute master of its destiny, without subjection to any type of colonial rule, to recover its land and its dignity, its right to bread and to culture, to exploit its own riches for its own benefit, and to live in peace and friendship with all the peoples of the world.
That is why the Cuban Revolution started out by destroying the tools of colonial bondage, that is latifundism and the caste army. The Revolution counterposed the Agrarian Reform to latifundist holdings, and created the Rebel Army as against the caste army; the Rebel Army which, in the apt definition of the unforgettable Camilo Cienfuegos, is none other than the people armed in defense of their Revolution. Thus the militias also were born, the entire people ready to fight, in an organized manner, in defense of their recovered land. Without latifundios to feed off, without a mercenary army and caste army on which to lean, the very possibility of existence of dictators disappears. And with that begins also the exodus, the precipitate flight of the odious caste of self-seekers and time servers of the unjust regime.
Those who could not flee, and were incapable of adapting themselves to the new situation, attempted desperate attacks against the Revolution and are falling victims of their own senselessness. Because – while it is possible to fight against a class, against a dominating group – it is absolutely impossible to defeat an entire people that has taken possession of the land which it waters with its blood and sweat, and which has in addition the courage and more than enough arms to defend that land. A people that is sinking deeper roots every day into the land recovered by the Agrarian Reform.
The Revolution learned in the days of struggle against the dictatorship, in the rigors of the Sierra Maestra and in the plains, that were won bit by bit, that it is not enough to give the land to the peasant – to create a host of small landowners – nor was it possible economically to parcel out the sugar latifundios dividing them up into small plots among the macheteros and the other sugar workers. Modern economic development, mechanization, and technical advances in agriculture, the intimate link between agriculture and industry, and many other reasons, call for a collective effort, for the union of muscles and creative enthusiasm, in order to derive the maximum benefit from the rich lands which were liberated. And so were born the cooperatives and the peoples stores, which have made it possible for the Cuban Revolution to achieve the miracle of increasing production in the second year of the revolutionary process, in sharp contrast to the economists and false prophets of imperialism – economists and prophets who recommended the economic blockade of the island to starve us out.
But they didn’t take into account the resolute attitude of the Cuban people, who stepped out into the international market to offer their products and to find buyers and friends first of all in the socialist countries. The United States, which has maintained diplomatic relations with the socialist countries for a long time, and has the further advantage of its excellent markets, has always been insistent on keeping these doors closed tight to its semi-colonies, to the underdeveloped countries subjected to its unjust domination. But when the Cuban Revolution shook off the yoke of colonial bondage, it was able to overcome the strangulation to which the imperialist interests sought to condemn it, thanks to the generous and unselfish aid of the socialist nations and that of the brother nations which – like Mexico and Canada – have arrived at a degree of economic and political maturity which allows them to act with a certain independence vis-a-vis their powerful and merciless neighbor. And all of the peoples of our America, faced with the harassment of imperialism, have stood up and demanded that their governments defend Cuba’s right to win its definitive independence.
Independence that is spelled out in the complete abolition of latifundism, in the nationalization of factories, in the Urban Reform which recognizes the right of every man to possess the roof over his head, in growing industrialization, in the struggle against illiteracy and low cultural levels – the root of all superstitions and fanaticism; in the creation finally of a new consciousness. Everyone who visits Cuba can already feel this new consciousness in the atmosphere, this consciousness which has returned to the Cuban the dignity of a free and independent people which can now stand up erect face to face with its friends and enemies, no matter how great be their stature. Now for the first time we can speak out without having our answers dictated to us. On our feet and not on our knees, which is an unworthy posture, not to speak of being highly uncomfortable for carrying on a conversation. And we are ready to converse with the whole world, including the United States, whenever we are both standing or both seated, which is even more comfortable. But as equal to equal and without any attempt to force the agenda on us beforehand.
We want to live in peace and be friends with everyone, but we are on guard in case they attempt aggression against us. And we are not exporting revolutions. But neither can we prevent the example of the Cuban Revolution from going beyond our borders and revealing to the brother peoples of our America and the world that imperialism is not invulnerable. That when a united people decides to obtain its full freedom and its complete independence, there are no forces which can stand in its way.
They say that when the forces of Lincoln were fighting in the North against the slave-holding states of the North American South, the slaves around the sugar mills and canebrakes of Cuba were singing this chant:
“ Avanza, Lincoln, avanza, tu eres nuestra esperanza.”
(Forward, Lincoln, forward you are our hope.)
We know only too well – and this admirable conference is another demonstration of it – that in the soul of every Indian and every Negro and every Mestizo or white who is exploited, from the Rio Grande to Patagonia, there is today resounding a similar chant, and that the underdeveloped peoples are now repeating in chorus:
“Avanza, Fidel, avanza, tu eres nuestra esperanza.”
And what is involved is not a military advance – which would have the illustrious precedent of Bolívar or San Martín, liberators of many nations – but the peaceful spiritual advance such as headed by Sarmiento or Bello, Juárez and Hostos, Martí or Emiliano Zapata, the uncontainable advance of a new American consciousness, which flowered here in Mexico in 1910 and which is now bearing fruit in our Antillean land; where a people anxious to live in peace is preparing to defend its threatened soil, and in the face of any attempt to violate its recovered independence, proudly raises its battle cry – which has already been converted into a hymn of victory.
Patria o Muerte! Venceremos!
(Country or Death! We Will Win!)
(The following declaration of the Conference was adopted unanimously at the closing session March 8.)
The new stage of liberation has begun in Latin America. The struggle is posed in terms of defense of national sovereignty, economic emancipation and peace.
This struggle will gather together, day by day, all the patriotic and democratic forces against the factors that impede the complete development and utilization of the human and material potential of our countries.
We need to finish with the situation of dependence in which we stand today in violent contrast to the uncontainable advance of the liberating process and the perspectives which science and technology offer to contemporary man.
The fundamental force that blocks the development of Latin America is US imperialism. Its close alliance with the national oligarchies, the ruinous effects of its economic and cultural penetration, show it to be the principal cause of the general stagnation which prevails in the Latin America of today.
The defeat of imperialism is the fundamental condition of any plan for the development of our countries.
Determined to follow an independent policy, without other aims than its genuine interests and necessities, Latin America demands full respect for the self-determination of its peoples. Such a policy is the indispensable premise for our participation in the world order under conditions of equality.
Without economic emancipation there is no political independence. To consolidate it we need: thorough agrarian reform and preferential attention to the indigenous population, redemption of the national wealth now in the hands of foreign monopolies, stimulation of the basic sources of energy and of the fundamental industries, free access to all markets, technical and economic assistance without injurious conditions.
Our countries require substantial transformations in their political, economic and social structure in order to eliminate the alarming current deficits in the standard of living, overcome technical backwardness and stimulate our indigenous cultures.
We reject the Monroe Doctrine and the policy of proclaimed hemispheric security and defense which infringes on our sovereignty. In opposition to oppressive Pan-Americanism, we stand for a Latin Americanism that would free our productive forces, amplify our possibilities of development, fortify solidarity and cooperation among our peoples and contribute effectively to peace in this hemisphere and in the world.
The works of the Cuban Revolution point the road to ending foreign domination. Its instructive revolutionary process constitutes an effective contribution to our liberating cause.
In energetically reaffirming that they will defend Cuba against all aggression, the Latin-American peoples know that they thus defend their own destiny.
US imperialism has involved Latin America in the politics of the cold war. The imposition of military pacts has placed on our peoples the weight of the armaments race and fixed limitations on our sovereignty and economic development.
We demand the repudiation of all the military pacts and the liquidation of all the US military bases in Latin America.
To contribute to an agreement on world disarmament, to finish with colonialism, put an end to the Cold War, assure peaceful coexistence among different regimes and peoples – these are the premises for guaranteeing peace and national sovereignty.
The struggle for independence that is mobilizing peoples today is also ours. The Latin-American process of liberation is inseparable from the consolidation of world peace.
The realization of these aims is a necessity that cannot be deferred if we are to gain the liberty and the progress which we desire. For this, we must unite. Close cooperation and solidarity among all the democratic forces of each country and among all the Latin-American peoples, will permit us to reach these objectives in a brief historic period.
The common character of our problems clearly defines the continental dimension of our struggle.
We are not alone. We are backed by the fraternity of all the peoples that love liberty and peace. But the liberation which we seek will depend fundamentally on our own forces.
Last updated on: 22 May 2009