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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Speech by Fidel Castro at the 4th Conference of Nonaligned Nations, Sept. 7, 1973

Castro at the conference, September 7, 1973

On September 7, 1973 Fidel Castro gave a speech at the 4th Conference of Nonaligned Nations being held in Algiers, Algeria. While the context of the world and the struggle against colonialism and imperialism was different than today, the speech remains important and interesting for a number of reasons.

One -- a fact that has not changed -- is that Castro points to the US and its allies as the greatest obstacle to the struggle for global human liberation.

Another is Castro's brilliant attack on the notion -- pushed even by some western leftists and Trotskyists -- that the USSR was also somehow an "imperialist" country. Castro demolishes this absurdity by pointing to the USSR's unwavering and stalwart support of anti-colonial and anti-imperialist causes, revolutions and movements and the central role it played in aiding so many countries in escaping from the colonial yoke.

Here we republish his speech in full 50 years later.


Mr. Chairman; Distinguished Heads of State and Government;

Representatives of the Heroic National Liberation Movements;


In expressing to you, Comrade Boumediene, to your compatriots and the distinguished representatives of the peoples meeting at this Conference the greetings of the Cuban delegation, we would like to emphasize the meaning we assign to the fact that this 4th Conference of Nonaligned Nations is taking place in Algeria, whose people, with their heroic and sustained struggle, awakened the admiration and served as encouragement for the countries that have fought for our national independence against the oppressors.

I want to remind you that Cuba is a socialist country, Marxist-Leninist, whose final objective is communism. We are proud of this! On the basis of that concept of human society, we determine our domestic and foreign policies. We are, above all, loyal to the principles of proletarian internationalism, and my words will be consistent with those ideas. All revolutionaries are duty-bound to defend their views in valiant fashion, and that is what I propose to do here as briefly as possible, since I don't intend to speak for an hour and a half, in order to respect the rights of others to speak at the Conference, too.

There has been talk at this Conference of the different ways of dividing the world. To our way of thinking, the world is divided into capitalist and socialist countries, imperialist and neocolonialized countries, colonialist and colonialized countries, reactionary and progressive countries -- governments, in a word, that back imperialism, colonialism, neocolonialism and racism, and governments that oppose imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism and racism.

This seems to us to be basic in the issue of alignment and nonalignment, because there is nothing exempting us in any way from our central obligation of steadfastly fighting the crimes committed against humanity.

The movement has grown without any question, and that is a source of satisfaction to us, as is the case of Latin America, when the presence here of three new states -- Peru, Chile and Argentina -- is due to progressive political changes in those countries. But the quality and not the number is what should take primacy for the purposes of this movement if we really mean to wield moral and political force before the peoples of the world. If this is not the case, we run the risk that the reactionary forces could succeed in penetrating its ranks to thwart its aims, and that the unity and prestige of the nonaligned countries could be irremediably lost.

Although the economic issues connected with the interests of the countries we represent take on justified and necessary importance, the political criteria we uphold will continue to be a basic factor in our activity. In this political terrain there has been an observable tendency during the months of preparation leading up to this Conference that unquestionably militates against our cause and serves only imperialist interests, to seek to pit the nonaligned countries against the socialist camp.

The theory of "two imperialisms," one headed by the United States and the other allegedly by the Soviet Union, encouraged by the theoreticians of capitalism, has been echoed at times deliberately and at others through ignorance of history and the realities of the present-day world, by leaders and spokesmen of nonaligned countries. This is fostered, of course, by those who regrettably betray the cause of internationalism from supposedly revolutionary positions.

In certain political and economic documents drafted for this Conference we've seen that current come to the fore in one way or another, with different shadings. The Revolutionary Government of Cuba will always oppose that current in all circumstances. That is why we find ourselves obliged to deal with this delicate matter as an essential issue.

There are some who, with patent historic injustice and ingratitude, forgetting the real facts and disregarding the profound, unbridgeable abyss between the imperialist regime and socialism, try to ignore the glorious, heroic and extraordinary services rendered to the human race by the Soviet people, as if the collapse of the colossal system of colonial rule implanted in the world up to World War II and the conditions that made possible the liberation of scores of peoples heretofore under direct colonial subjugation, the disappearance of capitalism in large parts of the world and the holding at bay of the aggressiveness and insatiable voracity of imperialism -- as if all that had nothing to do with the glorious October Revolution!

How can the Soviet Union be labeled imperialist? Where are its monopoly corporations? Where is its participation in the multinational companies? What factories, what mines, what oilfields does it own in the underdeveloped world? What worker is exploited in any country of Asia, Africa or Latin America by Soviet capital? The economic cooperation that the Soviet Union provides to Cuba and many other countries comes not from the sweat and the sacrifice of the exploited workers of other peoples, but from the sweat and efforts of the Soviet workers.

Others regret the fact that the first socialist state in history has become a military and economic power. We underdeveloped and plundered countries must not regret this. Cuba rejoices that this is so. Without the October Revolution and without the immortal feat of the Soviet people, who first withstood imperialist intervention and blockade and later defeated the fascist ag-gression at the cost of 20 million dead, who have developed their technology and economy at an unbelievable price in efforts and heroism without exploiting the labor of a single worker of any country on the face of the earth—without them, the end of colonialism and the balance of power in the world that favored the heroic struggles of so many peoples for their liberation wouldn't have been possible. Not for a moment can we forget that the guns with which Cuba crushed the Playa Giron mercenaries and defended itself from the United States; the arms in the hands of the Arab peoples, with which they withstand imperialist aggression; those used by the African patriots against Portuguese colonialism; and those taken up by the Vietnamese in their heroic, extraordinary and victorious struggle came from the socialist countries, especially from the Soviet Union.

The very resolutions of the nonaligned countries aid us in understanding where the dividing line in international politics comes today.

What state have those resolutions condemned from Belgrade to Lusaka for its aggression in Vietnam and all Indochina? The imperialist United States. Whom do we accuse of arming, sup-porting and continuing to maintain the Israeli aggressor state in its rapacious war against the Arab countries and in its cruel occupation of the territories where the Palestinians have the right to live? We accuse U.S. imperialism. Against whom did the nonaligned countries protest over the intervention in and blockade of Cuba and the intervention in the Dominican Republic and for maintaining bases at Guantanamo, in Panama and in Puerto Rico against the will of their peoples? Who was behind the murder of Lumumba? Who supports the killers of Amilcar Cabral? Who helps to maintain in Zimbabwe a white racist state and turn South Africa into a reserve of black men and women in conditions of semislavery? In all these cases, the culprit is the same: U.S. imperialism, which also backs Portuguese colonialism against the peoples of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde, Angola and Mozambique.

When our resolutions list the millions of dollars, pounds, francs or marks that leave the developing neocolonialized or colonialized countries as a consequence of plundering investments and onerous loans, they condemn imperialism and not any other social system. It is not possible to change reality with equivocal expressions.

Any attempt to pit the nonaligned countries against the socialist camp is profoundly counterrevolutionary and benefits only imperialist interests. Inventing a false enemy can have only one aim, to evade the real enemy.

The success and the future of the nonaligned movement will depend on its refusal to allow itself to be penetrated, confused or deceived by imperialist ideology. Only the closest alliance among all the progressive forces of the world will provide us with the strength needed to overcome the still-powerful forces of imperialism, colonialism, neocolonialism and racism and to wage a successful fight for the aspirations to peace and justice of all the peoples of the world. With the preoccupying, increas-ing needs for sources of energy and raw materials on the part of the developed capitalist countries in order to maintain the absurd consumer societies they have created, were it not for the extraordinary containing power of the socialist camp, imperial-ism would carve up the world all over again, new wars would plague the human race, and many of the independent countries that today belong to this movement would not even exist. Right now there are leading circles in the United States that are push-ing for military intervention in the Middle East if fuel require-ments warrant it.

Any estrangement from the socialist camp means weakening and exposing ourselves to the mercy of the still-powerful forces of imperialism. It would be a stupid strategy, a case of severe political shortsightedness.

Mr. Chairman, Latin America notes with concern the way that Brazil, under U.S. sponsorship, is building up a military might that goes way beyond the needs of its rulers to employ armed brutality, murder, torture and imprisonment against its people. Brazil is visibly growing into a military enclave in the heart of Latin America at the service of imperialism. The Government of Brazil -- which, along with that of the United States, took part in the invasion of the Dominican Republic and then with the same partner worked to overthrow the progressive Government of Bolivia and recently helped to implant a reactionary dictatorship in Uruguay -- is not only a tool of the United States but is gradually becoming an imperialist state. Today it has an observer status at this Conference, as has Bolivia. We hope that such governments, under which some peoples of our hemisphere still suffer, are never admitted to the nonaligned movement.

There has been considerable talk here of the situation prevailing in Southeast Asia and in the Near East; of the peoples oppressed and bled by Portuguese colonialism; of the brutal racist repression in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia.

US. imperialism continues to back the neocolonial regime in South Vietnam, which refuses to comply with the Paris Agreements, and the puppet government of Lon Nol in Cambodia; Israel mocks the United Nations resolutions and refuses to return the territories it occupied by force; Portugal, with the backing of the United States and NATO, scorns world opinion and the resolutions against it adopted by international bodies. The racist governments not only step up repression but threaten other African states.

These are bitter, outrageous truths that put the strength, unity and will to struggle of the nonaligned countries to the test. We who are meeting here are the leaders and representatives of more than 70 states. Let us enact concrete measures and agreements to isolate and defeat the aggressors. Let us support in a determined, steadfast manner, the Arab peoples under attack and the heroic people of Palestine; the fighters for the independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde, Angola and Mozambique; the oppressed peoples of South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia! Let us fight consistently against the imperialist countries that aid and abet these crimes! Let all of us nonaligned countries recognize the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam, and let us give our full support to it in the struggle for compliance with the Paris Agreements! Let us back the patriots of Laos and Cambodia, and no force in the world will be able to prevent the solution of these problems that affect our peoples in the Near East, Africa and Southeast Asia!

The true strength and profundity of the movement of non-aligned nations will be measured by the firmness of our actions regarding these problems. Cuba will back with the greatest deter-mination the agreements adopted to that effect, even if to do so calls for contribution of our blood.

We cannot ignore the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. That people, a thousand times heroic, has undergone the most devastating war of aggression. Millions of tons of bombs were dropped on their economic facilities, cities, towns, schools and hospitals. Their self-sacrificing and victorious struggle against imperialist aggression has served the interests of the entire hu-man race. We must not settle for expressions of sympathy. Right now, that admirable country is confronting the difficult work of reconstruction. We propose to the nonaligned countries that we take part in the rebuilding of North Vietnam, with each of us making a contribution to the extent of our possibilities. This would provide a new and revolutionary dimension to the nonaligned nations in the field of international solidarity.

The nonaligned countries must express their solidarity with Zambia and Tanzania against South African and Rhodesian aggression. We must also support the Democratic People's Re-public of Korea in its efforts to attain the peaceful reunification of the Korean people. We must offer the Panamanian people full support in their just struggle for sovereignty in the Canal Zone. We must provide solidarity with the people of Chile in the face of imperialist plotting. We must join with Argentina in its just demand for the return of the usurped Malvina [Falk-land] Islands. And we must defend the right of the people of Puerto Rico to their full sovereignty.

Our country must put up with the humiliating presence of a U.S. base on a part of our territory, maintained by force completely against the will of our people, who confront a rigorous and criminal economic blockade by the United States. Despite that, the Cuban people stand firm and are successfully building socialism right at the gateway to the United States. Our country has been able to resist because it has carried out a genuine revolution that radically wiped out all forms of exploitation of man by man, building upon that base a lofty fighting morale and a solid, indestructible unity.

When there is a real desire to free the country from imperialist exploitation, then the people must also be freed from the plunder of the fruits of their labor by the feudal lords, the landholders, the oligarchs and the social parasites of all kinds.

We also ask for your solidarity with the Cuban people.

If an understanding with the socialist countries is a vital factor for our victory, unity among the nations fighting for independence and development is its indispensable condition. We support all pronouncements in favor of greater unity of the nonaligned in regard to the principal problems of international life that are included in the different motions presented to the Conference. But we are concerned -- more than concerned, we become indignant -- when we see that a leader of the stature of Sekou Toure must defend himself not only against the Portuguese colonialists but also against conspiracies promoted right inside his own underdeveloped Africa.

Our faith in certain unity declarations and postulates wanes when we see that the People's Republic of the Congo and the Republic of Somalia are not free from threats by other African forces and we note the difficulties of the Revolutionary Govern-ment of the Democratic and People's Republic of Yemen in overcoming hostilities that may well stem from Washington but which are carried out from other areas closer at hand.

All of this shows that our true unity depends not on circumstantial nonalignment but on a deeper, more lasting identity, an identity stemming from revolutionary principles, a common anti-imperialist program and an aspiration to substantial, conclusive social transformations.

This is Cuba's position. The point of view that I have just outlined will surely not be shared by all the leaders meeting here, but I have complied with my duty to express them with respect and with loyalty toward all of you. Thank you very much.



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