Fidel Castro :: What is a Real Democracy

July 26, 1959 Speech

By Fidel Castro

Distinguished revolutionary leaders of Latin America, who are

honoring us with a visit; heroic peasants of Cuba; fellow countrymen, all:

On a day like this so full of memories for all of us it would be hard not

to feel overcome by the deepest emotion.

As I speak to you now, the first question which came to my mind was why a

man who is just a citizen like you all should have such a great debt of

gratitude to the people, for all the signs of affection given.  All we did

was try to do our duty.  All the credit is due the people, not one man.  I

also wondered why there was such rejoicing at the announcement that I was

obeying the people's will and resuming my post.  The only explanation

possible is that the people know I am not interested in public office and

that I will not sacrifice one iota of the national interests of my sense of

duty for all the premierships in the world.  The people would never demand

the return of a man who was ambitious only for his post, for if our country

is tired of anything it is tired of ambitious men, men incapable of

sacrificing themselves for the national interests.  A people never supports

a government without reason; a people never supports leaders without a


For those abroad who defame us, to those who speak of democracy and slander

us, we could offer no better argument than the million and more Cubans who

have gathered here today. To those who speak in the name of democracy or

who hypocritically invoke the word democracy to slander us we can say that

this is democracy.  Democracy is the fulfillment of the will of the people.

Democracy is, as Lincoln said, a government of the people, by the people,

and for the people. A government not of the people is not a democracy; a

government not for the people is not a democracy.  And what has the

government of the Cuban revolution been since Jan. 1, 1959 but a government

of the people, by the people, and for the people?  A government of the

people, not for a privileged group of people; a government of the people,

not of an oligarchy; a government for the people, not for a group of

politicians or military people we have as always had in Cuba.

A government of the people, by the people, and for the people means a

government for the farmers, in particular, because no one can deny the fact

that the farmers used to be the most forgotten and suffering sector of our


To those who do not understand or who do not wish to understand, we say

that this is the secret of the tremendous power of the Cuban revolution.

Could we have overthrown the tyranny simply to have a change of men in

government?  Could we have overthrown tyranny to continue small politics?

We overthrew the tyranny to make the revolution triumph.  We overthrew the

tyranny to free the people from murder, torture, and oppression and from


This is the secret of our revolution, of the power of our revolution, which

turned its eyes to the most humble to help them.  This is the only crime

that we have committed.  We no longer sell ourselves to the large domestic

and foreign vested interests as we are a government of the people, by the

people, and for the people.  This, in the eyes of our detractors and of our

enemies is the crime we have committed. We have turned our eyes to the

forgotten ones, the ones who need us; the ones who really needed a

revolution to free themselves of so much suffering.

How have we done this?  The revolution did not come into power after a coup

d'etat--after all the coup d'etat almost never is revolution.  We did not

come to power through fraid or small politics. We have deprived no one of

his right to think freely, to write freely, and to express his views

freely.  We did not come to power by means of treason, strikes, and riots.

We deceived no one.  Once we came to power, we deprived no one of his

rights. We came to power by fighting the most ferocious tyranny ever seen

in this continent and we paid for it highly in blood.

It was with the help of the people that we overthrew the tyranny.  We are

ruling with the people and for the people and for this reason the people

support us and will continue to support us.

Those who wish to find out what a real democracy is should come to Cuba.

Those who wish to find out what a ruling people are like should come to

Cuba.  Those who wish to find out what a ruling people are like should come

to Cuba.  Those who want to find out what the real word democracy means

should come to Cuba. Our democracy is so pure that we can compare it to the

first that existed in the world, such as the Greek democracy, where the

people discussed and decided their fate in the public square.  However,

there is a difference:  In Greece everything was discussed democratically

by the owners of slaves; in Cuba the people in general discuss everything

freely. The pilots of our country are the farmers, while the people who

ruled in Greece were well-to-do.  Our leaders come from among the farmers,

who have been mistreated for such a long time.

The peasant was not only denied land; he was denied education; the peasant

was even denied a chance to learn to read and write.  The peasant was

denied even the right to live, for it should be known that the peasants'

children often died from lack of medical care.  The peasant's wife died,

because he often had no medicine or doctor for her.  There are cases in

which the peasants' children have died of starvation.

In redeeming the peasantry, the revolution is taking the first step toward

establishing a real democracy, a democracy without slaves, without helots,

and which today presents the rare case of a nonrepresentative democracy,

one that is pure, a democracy that lives through the direct participation

of the people in its public problems.  In our country only the will and

interests of the people are effective.  If the people had willed otherwise,

I would not have returned to the post of premier. The decision was up to

the people.  The people could have said not to come back, or they could,

and did, say that I should come back. And so it was not the will of one man

or a group of ;men but the will of the people which was done.  Now let our

enemies say and write what they will.

What our people think is really what matters and what our people think will

be what the peoples of America will think.  After all, I can again repeat

with certainty to detractors of our revolution:  "Condemn me; it does not

matter. History will clear me."

And so we are returning to the job of carrying the revolutionary laws

forward.  We return to our work of making our people's aspirations come

true. We return more convinced than ever of the future that awaits our

country, and that our people deserve all the faith we had in them and all

the sacrifices we made for them.  We return convinced that people are

grateful.  We return to continue forward, along a difficult road, but we

have what it takes for a difficult job:  A people capable of marching

forward.  Our people cannot be easily deceived.  They cannot be kept from

their historic destiny.

We said that if the campaigns against the agrarian reform continued we

would have a half million peasants gather in Havana, and somewhat more than

half a million gathered with their machetes.  We did not say to bring their

wives,for we could not expose the women to the discomforts and

inconveniences; and so we did not say that half a million peasant women

should come too.  But if we had, a million peasants would have come, and

the people of Havana would have opened their doors and found a way to lodge

them all.  We know more peasants would have liked to come, but those who

did get here as representatives of our peasantry are more than enough.  If

there are half a million here with their machetes, representing half a

million soldiers of the revolution, then back in the interior, in fields

and towns, there are a million and a half men more who are also another

million and a half soldiers of the revolution.  If in the capital right now

there are half a million peasants, there are another half a million

workers, young men, and men of all classes all ready to defend our

revolution, for the workers too are prepared to buy themselves machetes,

the students too, and the professional men, and practically, except for a

handful of parasites and people who resent the very just revolutionary

laws, except for a few who have no country or sentiment or ideal beyond

their own vile interests, there is no Cuban man or woman not ready to take

up a machete to defend the revolution and the fatherland."

For this reason our revolution is strong; for this reason our revolution is

invincible; for this reason--because we have a people ready to die to

defend it and when we realize that the people are ready to die to defend

it--you can see why we said with certainty that half a million peasants

would come to Havana.

When we speak about the power of our revolution, we do not do so to make

anyone afraid of it because no one has reason--unless it be egostical and

base reasons--to fear our revolution. When we say we are strong we do not

say so because we want to attack anyone.  We only aspire to live on our

wealth and not on that of other people.  We only want to live on the sweat

and toil of our people and not on the sweat and toil of other people.

When I say that our revolution is strong, I do not do so to frighten other

people because our revolution is aimed against no one and no people of the

world have anything to fear from our revolution.  Those who lie to the

people; those who unashamedly and cynically wish to deceive other people

awakening fears of our revolution in them; those vested and egotistic

interests that wish to deceive other people--these people are only watching

out for their base and egotistic interests.  No one has anything to fear

from our revolution.  So when I say that our revolution is strong, we do

not display an aggressive fortress against anyone.

We would not be strong in attacking other people because our strength lies

in the justice of our cause and it is not just to attack any other either

politically or economically.  When I say that our revolution is strong I

mean to say that it is strong to defend itself.  For this reason I say that

no force in the world is capable of beating our revolution. When I say that

our revolution is strong, I mean to say that we know what we want--we know

what we are doing.

Because our country is sovereign and independent, because we are not a

protectorate or a colony or a stronghold of any other nation, I say we are

(only exercising?) the legitimate right of a nation to have happiness and

freedom, and we are doing it in the only legitimate way, for a minority is

not being imposed on the majority by force.  And if it is not legitimate to

aspire to happiness, (recognizing the right to soveriegnity?) that all

peoples have, and doing it with the majority support of the nation, because

the majority of the nation rules, then what would be legitimate?  We Cubans

are exercising these legitimate rights that only madmen dare deny.

Only those who are blinded by ignorance or selfishness dare deny them; only

those who speak for selfish, colonialist, exploiting principles, contrary

to self-determination and democratic majority government, would dare deny

them.  Those foreign political figures must be considered selfish,

ignorant, madmen who do a disservice to the nation to which they

belong--for we are not the enemies of any nation, and what we want are the

best possible relations with all nations.  Only blind politicians, only

mercenary writers, only men who are moved to defend base interests, are

capable of denying this fact, that we are a sovereign nation aspiring to

happiness, by the palpable, undeniable will of 95 percent of the citizens.

Those who act in such a manner are acting not only as enemies of the Cuban

people, but of their own people.  What they are doing is arousing dislike

in the Cubans, arousing a resentment all the more understandable and

justifiable in the Cuban people, because peoples can react in no other way

when they are offended.  We will not be forced into friendship with

anybody.  We cannot be friends of those who offend us. We cannot be friends

to those who insult and slander us.  We cannot be friends with those who

attack us.  We cannot be friends with those who exploit us.

We Cubans will aspire to the best of relations with other nations.  We

Cubans are not the enemies of any nation. We Cubans do not look with hatred

on the citizens of any nation because of the insults we receive from bad

politicians and defenders of base interests, who can do so as much harm to

the other nation as to us.

We proclaim that we are not the enemy of any nation, we are not the enemy

of the citizens of any country, provided they respect the laws of our

country, provided they respect the sentiments of our country, and provided

they want to be our friends.

We know how to stand up with all necessary dignity to those who, instead of

extending their hand, try to stab us; those who, instead of giving us their

hand, try to force us back to the hated past and the hopeless life in which

our people were sunk.

Because as I said, we do not want to make a living from the wealth of other

countries, but from the wealth of our country.  We do not want to make a

living from the efforts of other countries but from the efforts and sweat

of our country.  We, who aspire to make a living from and enjoy our own

wealth, to receive the fruits of our efforts and of our sweat, cannot have

any reason for having conflicts with other countries. A country that sets

for itself a goal as just as the one set by the Cuban people can proclaim

its desire to be friends with all countries, because we do not desire, and

we cannot harm anyone.  We will never harm anyone.  Harm has been done to

us.  We have had to suffer harm, but we Cubans have harmed no one, and we

will not harm anyone.

I am sure that if, like some of the illustrious foreign guests today, the

citizens of any other country of the world, in whom an attempt has been

made to instill all sorts of prejudices and lies against our revolution,

could see what this revolution is, could have been in this capital this

week, could have seen the spectacle in this city. I am sure that no citizen

in any other country could but sympathize with us. Unfortunately, we do not

have the means of communication to inform the world of our truths. We

cannot even count on the impartiality of the usual organs of communication.

We are the victims of clever reports made against our revolution. We are

not the owners of these agencies which divulge all the imaginable calamnies

against Cuba. We cannot even count on the impartiality of these organs

which attack us from abroad; these same organs which have attacked all just

causes, these same organs which, in their own countries, have attacked

the most honest and capable governors they have had. We cannot even count

on the impartiality of those organs and must be the victim of all


We have some friends who write in our favor, but spontaneous writers do not

do systematic work. On the other hand, the interested organs, which respond

to mercenary interests, those organs do systematic and tireless work

against the revolution, even though it is just.  Even though our revolution

is just, we are the victims of all the campaigns that are made against it.

These campaigns go on all over the world.  These campaigns are taking place

among our Latin American sister nations.  Unfortunately, the countries of

Latin America have been up to the present, in part, countries of controlled

opinions, countries of prefabricated opinions, because these countries have

been receiving reports from interested organs; clever reports that result

in controlled opinions.  When a country does not have the opportunity to

consider the truth, of receiving a just and correct report, and does not

receive, does not read, or hear other than false reports, these

circumstances make for countries of controlled opinions.

I cannot understand how democracy can be spoken of when a system of

controlled opinion is being practiced.  We speak to the people.  The right

of speaking to the people belong to all.  Even the enemies of the agrarian

reform have a right to give their reasons to the people, if they have them.

Even the enemies of revolutionary laws can do it because they have the

means and take complete liberty to do so.

We are enemies of controlled opinions.  I cannot understand how one can

speak of democracy while trying to control the opinions of other countries.

Although our revolution is just--so just that if people from other

countries could know it, they would support it--it is impossible for us to

count on the impartiality of these organs of communication.

The aggressions committed against us and the treason committed against our

revolution have perhaps made our revolution even stronger.  What have they

achieved with their action?  They have made our revolution stronger.  They

cannot overcome the great weight of public opinion supporting the

revolutionary government.

Why is this so?  It is because our people are not intimidated; because this

government is not frightened. We are not at the mercy of what is said or

thought about us in the Senate of other countries; our Senate is our

people.  Of course, we care about what our Senate thinks; we worry about

what our compatriots think because they are holding us to account.  Our

government heeds the opinion of the country. We do not care at all about

the opinion of certain political sectors or certain public agencies in

other countries. We do not care about it at all because we only care about

what is said here.

We finally are beginning to understand our apostle.  We are finally

practicing the ideas of the apostle of our independence. We have thus

learned to stand up and we have finally understood that it is better to die

starving than to live kneeling.  We do not want to be an impotent people;

we do not want to be a people kneeling down. We want to be free of foreign

protection and we want to be free of domestic tyrannies. We want to be free

of oppression, humiliation, and dependence.  Every Cuban today has the

satisfaction of being a human being with rights.  Every Cuban today has the

satisfaction of knowing that he is a human being and not a beast.

Under the tyranny the Cuban was treated like a beast; he underwent

torture, grief, pain, and atrocities such as no beast does.

No one can take this satisfaction away from our people. Those who think

that Cuban can return to the past and that the war criminals and murderers

can return here are very mistaken.  How mistaken are those who think that

today's security and freedom, today's honor, today's sovereignty, today's

prestige will be given up by the people of Cuba to go back to the odious

past.  How mistaken are those who think that they can return here to resume

their business, their profits, their office buildings, their estates, and

their bank accounts. They are mistaken, these criminals who fled like

cowards on Jan. 1 and who are now helping the enemies of our country.  They

are in a base alliance with the worst enemies of Cuba with only one aim:

To return here.

They will never come back here to retrieve their land. All those

caballerias of land will be turned over to our peasants.  Nor can they come

back to get their bank accounts.  Those millions of pesos go directly to

the peasants in the form of equiping, loans, seed, and housing. The

agrarian reform is doing even better now, as we have 20 million pesos more

which we have recovered from the bank accounts of the misusers of public

funds. These 20 million pesos were drained from our nation, and today

under agrarian reform they are being given back to the peasants.  Besides

all the land, and bank accounts recovered, the agrarian reform institute

has recovered 17.5 million pesos.  To these sums must be added a list of

buildings and other assets which totals more than 100 million pesos which

have been recovered for the republic by the Ministry for the Recovery of

Assets.  On the land, we are going to place peasants, who will be

inseparable from it.  They are very sadly mistaken, those who think they

will come back to reclaim their estates.

We have never seen such a spectacle as all these machetes. It is perhaps

the most imposing spectacle ever seen anywhere in the world.   These half

million machetes make the machete the symbol of our revolution from today

on.  If the war criminals who are plotting to return could contemplate

these machetes for half a minute, and particularly if they could see the

arms that are brandishing them, if they could see the faces of our

peasants, and remember that our army comes mostly from the peasantry, and

that our army has modern weapons at its disposal now, even though it won a

war with inferior weapons, they might very well drop their plans.

We are speaking of these things to show our people how stupid our enemies

are in thinking they have even the slightest chance of coming back.  We

have no interest in bloodshed.  We especially do not want any Cuban mother

to have to mourn a son lost defending his country.  Fighting criminals has

already cost enough blood.

The war criminals want to recover their privileges and their wealth here.

They are fools because they do not understand that they are not up against

Cuban opinion alone but the opinion of all Latin America.  They are fools

because they do not seem to understand that Cuba cannot be assailed because

assailing Cuba would mean assailing all of Latin America.

What stupid persons are those who do not understand that our people are

determined to defend themselves and that no power in the world can help

them return to our land because we shall know how to defend it to the last

man?  The murderers who could do nothing else but murder still believe that

they can regain their power by committing more murders.  They are mistaken

if they think that they are going to murder the revolution by killing its

leaders.  Cuba has an abundance of men and leaders.  At the present time,

and considering the majority of our people, no one here is indispensable.

This proved by facts.  For example, a man deserted the air force and we now

find that the air force is 50 times better than when the traitor was its


This is also shown by the recent crisis in the presidency. The revolution

has gained, because a firm revolutionary, a young man, absolutely

identified with those who were his companions, a man who will dignify the

presidency, a man with whom we are wholly identified and with whom the

cabinet can never have any differences, has taken the place of the other,

who unjustifiably created such differences and provoked the crisis.  No man

is indispensable.  The only thing indispensable here is the people.  It is

comforting to think that a man can be killed but the people cannot.  The

only indispensable thing is the people, and the revolution is guaranteed.

The work we have to do is not easy, but our people are able to conquer big

obstacles.  Our republic has found itself with almost no monetary reserves

and a huge debt; the tyranny's policy has brought sugar prices low.  Yet

our people have great faith, and the government has great faith in the

revolution.  Under no circumstances will the people suffer from hunger,

because when we have the last inch of soil planted all the necessary foods

will be available for the people.

If it came about that economic measures were taken, with which certain

foreign politicians want to threaten us, what does it matter?  What is

important is for the soil to produce, and our soil produces more than

enough.  What is important is for the plants to spring from our fertile

soil worked by the generous hands of our peasants, and for the peasants to

produce not only for themselves, but that they be capable of producing food

to feed all our people, if possible, like the workers of our cities are

capable of producing industrial articles such as clothes, shoes, and other

goods essential to life; enough to dress all our peasants.

The revolution will continue with its work.  It will go ahead with its

agrarian reform its housing program will continue.  Its beaches for the

people will go forward; its tourist plans; its construction of schools, of

hospitals, its programs based on the agrarian reform and on the industrial

development of the country will continue.  The revolution will continue

with its program of social service.  It will continue with its aspiration

to raise the standard of living of our people.  We will continue to

progress if you are ready to face all the obstacles and inconveniences

which may be placed in our path.  We will continue achieving the future,

the spiritual and moral liberation of our country.  We will continue

filling the cities and countryside with happiness.

We will continue at the rate which our energy and our resources permit.  We

will continue without hesitation because we have complete faith and

confidence in our people.  Therefore, all that needs to be said is forward,

forward fellow citizens of the countryside, forward workers, forward

students, forward professionals, forward worthy Cubans, forward,

conscientious Cubans.  Forward soldiers of the revolutionary army. Forward.

Today we are gathered in the capital.  The call for this July 26 was for

"half a million peasants to the capital."  The call for July 26 next year

will be for "half a million citizens to the Sierra Maestra."  There the

citizens will bring friendship to the peasants.  They will go to share

their lives with the peasants.

The peasants will have their pots and pans ready to cook for the Cubans who

are going to visit them, and they will have more next year with which to

welcome their guests.

The peasant still have something coming, for he has nothing other than his

magnificent and noble spirit.  We will help them meet the expenses.  We

will bring toys for their children, and clothes for their wives.  So next

year it will not be a concentration.  Next year it will be dispersed

throughout the mountains so the city man can see where the revolution was

born and why.  He will discover the reason for the peasant's spirit of

sacrifice, why they sharpen their machetes; for as Maceo said:  The

revolution will be on the march as long as there exists injustice.  Those

machetes are not sharpened in vain.

Everything here has been smiles and happiness.  But here, too, these are

necessities to be met.  Cubans shed their blood here, too.  There was

injustice here, too, and the ones that remain will be abolished.  There are

sorrows here, too.  The music and dancing and the happiness is in honor of

the peasants.  Here you have met the happy part of Havana, just as next

year the men of Havana will know of the happiness of the peasants.

However, the revolution has to direct its efforts first to those who need

it most.  This is a basic principle of justice.  We will continue to help

those who need it most.  Since our peasant brothers are the most needy,

we must help them in the first stage.  The agrarian reform is not only the

liberation of the peasant but also the liberation of all the people. Today

we must help them, and the people will continue to help them.  We must

direct our efforts toward the education of the sons of peasant families,

because illiteracy was widespread in the country due to the lack of

teachers or schools. The death rate of children was high because there was

no medical assistance for the peasants.

As I said yesterday, all youths should be students.  All youths of school

age should be able to go to school.  We are not devoting our efforts only

to the satisfaction of material needs, we must satisfy spiritual needs.

The peasant of today is the hero of the country.  The peasant of today is

no longer the man of yesterday who was exploited by the vested interests

which tried to keep him ignorant.  He is the soldier of the revolution,

whose weapon is his work. The peasant is the symbol of the revolution and

the weapon through which it will succeed.

On this anniversary of July 26 I am thinking of the glories of Cuba.  I

think of our country's prestige.  I think of the friendship felt by

thinking men of Latin America, because the friendship of the good men of

America matches the hatred of the evil men of America.  Tell me who your

enemies are and I will tell you who you are.  Our enemies are Somoza,

Trujillo, Senator Eastland, who is a racist and a colonialist.  Our enemies

are the big interests, the big vested interests of the international scene.

Our friends are Lazaro Cardenas, Senator Allende, the daughter and the wife

of Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, illustrious leader, who was a Colombian national

hero and whose memory is still inspiring that country's aspiration for

progress, and every one of the other distinguished guests who have visited

us in large numbers and who will visit us in the future in ever growing

numbers, because they know we need their encouragement, their presence,

their attestations. They know that helping the Cuban revolution and Cuba's

liberation means helping in the liberation of every sister nation of Latin


Never have we felt so proud to be Cubans.  Seeing how high we have placed

our flag I felt rewarded for all sacrifices made and still to be made.