What a Young Communist should be?- Ernesto Che Guevara

[ Socialist India remembers Che on his death anniversary. We publish excerpts of the speech given by him On the second anniversary of the unification of the revolutionary youth organizations October 20, 1962.]


…..You, compafieros, must be the vanguard of all movements, the first to be ready to make the sacrifices demanded by the revolution, whatever the nature of those sacrifices may be. You must be the first in work, the first in study, the first in defense of the country. You must view this task not just as the full expression of Cuba’s youth, not just as a task of the organized masses, but as the daily task of each and every member of the Union of Young Communists. And to do that, you have to set yourself real, concrete tasks, tasks in your daily work that won’t allow the slightest letup. The job of organizing must constantly be linked to all the work carried out by the Union of Young Communists. Organization is the key to grasping the initiatives presented by the revolution’s leaders, the many initiatives proposed by our prime minister, and the initiatives coming from the working class, which should also lead to precise directives and ideas for subsequent action. Without organization, ideas, after some initial momentum, start losing their effect. They become routine, degenerate into conformity, and end up simply a memory. I raise this warning because too often, in this short but rich period of our revolution, many great initiatives have failed. They have been forgotten because of the lack of an organizational apparatus needed to keep them going and bring them to fruition.


….This lack of initiative is due to a long-standing ignorance of the dialectic that moves mass organizations, forgetting that an organization like the Union of Young Communists cannot be just a leadership organization that sends directives to the ranks all the time and doesn’t listen to anything they have to say. It was thought that the Union of Young Communists, that all Cuba’s organizations, had one-way lines, one-way lines of communication from the leadership to the ranks, without any line that went the other way and brought communication back from the ranks. Yet it was through a constant two-way exchange of experiences, ideas, and directives that the most important guidelines-those that could focus the work of our youth-would have to emerge, at the same time identifying the places where our work was weakest, the areas where we were failing.

We still see today how the youth-heroes, almost like in the novels-who can give their lives a hundred times over for the revolution, who can respond massively to whatever specific task they are called upon to do, nevertheless sometimes do not show up at work because they had a Union of Young Communists meeting. Or because they stayed up late the night before discussing some initiative of the youth organization. Or sometimes for no reason at all, with no justifiable reason. So when someone looks around at a volunteer work brigade to see where the Young Communists are, it often turns out there are none; they haven’t shown up. The leader had a meeting to attend, another was sick, still another was not fully informed about the work. The result is that the fundamental attitude, the attitude of being a vanguard of the people, of being that moving, living example that drives everybody forward as the youth at Playa Giron did-that attitude is not duplicated at work. The seriousness that today’s youth must have in meeting its great commitments-and the greatest commitment is the construction of socialist society-is not reflected in actual work. There are big weaknesses and we must work on them, work at organizing, work at identifying the spot that hurts, the area with weaknesses to be corrected. We must also work so that each one of you achieves a clear consciousness that you cannot be a good communist if you think about the revolution only at the moment of decisive sacrifice, at the moment of combat, of heroic adventure, at moments that are out of the ordinary, yet in your work you are mediocre or less than mediocre. How can that be? You already bear the name Young Communists, a name we as a leadership organization, as a leadership party, do not yet have. You have to build a future in which work will be man’s greatest dignity, a social duty, a delight, the most creative activity there is. Everyone will be interested in their work and the work of others, in society’s daily advance. How can it be that you who today bear that name disdain work? There is a flaw here, a flaw in organization, in clarifying what work is.

Now, compafieros, I wanted to share my opinion as a national leader of the ORI on what a Young Communist should be, to see if we all agree. I believe the first thing that must characterize a Young Communist is the honor he feels in being a Young Communist, an honor that moves him to let the world know he is a Young Communist, something he doesn’t hide or reduce to formulas. He expresses that honor at all times, so it comes from the bottom of his soul, and he wants to show it because it is his greatest pride. In addition, he should have a great sense of duty, a sense of duty toward the society we are building, toward our fellow human beings, and toward all humanity around the world. That is something that must characterize the Young Communist. And along with that there must be deep sensitivity to all problems, sensitivity to injustice; a spirit that rebels against every wrong, whoever commits it; [ applause] questioning anything not understood, discussing and asking for clarification on whatever is not clear; declaring war on formalism of all types; always being open to new experiences in order to take the many years of experience of humanity’s advance along the road to socialism and apply them to our country’s concrete conditions, to the realities that exist in Cuba.


Each and every one of you must think about how to change reality, how to make it better. The Young Communist must always strive to be the best at everything, struggle to be the best, feel upset when he is not and fight to improve, to be the best. Of course, we cannot all be the best. But we can be among the best, in the vanguard. We can be a living example, a model for those compafieros who do not belong to the Young Communists, an example for older men and women who have lost some of that youthful enthusiasm, who have lost a certain faith in life, and who always respond well to example. That is another task of Young Communists.


Together with that there should be a great spirit of sacrifice, not only in heroic ventures but at all times, making sacrifices to help the next compafiero in small tasks so he can finish his work, so he can do his work at school, in his studies, so he can improve in any way. He must always pay attention to the mass of human beings he lives among.


Every Young Communist must fundamentally be human, so human that he draws closer to humanity’s best qualities. Through work, through study, and through ongoing solidarity with the people and all the peoples of the world, he distills the best of what man is. Developing to the utmost the sensitivity to feel anguish when a human being is murdered in any corner of the world and to feel enthusiasm when a new banner of freedom is raised in any corner of the world. [Applause]

The Young Communist cannot be limited by national borders. The Young Communist must practice proletarian internationalism and feel it as his own. He must remind himself and all of us-Young Communists and those aspiring to be communists here in Cuba that we are a real and living example for all Our America. And not just for Our America, but also for the other countries of the world fighting on other continents for freedom, against colonialism, against neocolonialism, against imperialism, against all forms of oppression by unjust systems. He must always remember that we are a flaming torch. Just as we are all, individually, a mirror for the people of Cuba, we are also a mirror in which the oppressed peoples of Latin America and the oppressed peoples of the world who are fighting for their freedom see themselves reflected. We must be a worthy example. At every moment and every hour we must be worthy of being that example. That is what we think a Young Communist should be.


And if someone says we are just romantics, inveterate idealists, thinking the impossible, that the masses of people cannot be turned into almost perfect human beings, we will have to answer a thousand and one times: Yes, it can be done. We are right. The people as a whole can advance, wiping out all those little human vices as we have been doing in Cuba over these four years of revolution, improving themselves as we all improve ourselves daily, intransigently casting off all those who fall back, who cannot march to the rhythm of the Cuban Revolution. It must be so, it should be so, and it will be so, compafieros. [Applause] It will be so because you are Young Communists, creators of the perfect society, human beings destined to live in a new world where everything decrepit, everything old, everything that represents the society whose foundations have just been destroyed will have definitively disappeared.


To reach that goal we have to work every day, along the lines of improving ourselves; of gaining knowledge and understanding about the world around us; of inquiring, finding out, and knowing why things are the way they are; and always considering humanity’s great problems as our own. Thus, at any moment, on an ordinary day in the years ahead, after much sacrifice-yes, after seeing ourselves perhaps many times on the brink of destruction, perhaps after seeing our factories destroyed and having rebuilt them, after seeing the death, the massacre of many of us and rebuilding what is destroyed-after all this, on an ordinary day, almost without noticing it, we will have created, together with the other peoples of the world, our ideal: communist society. [Applause]


Compafieros, speaking to the youth is a very pleasant task. You feel able to communicate certain things, and you feel that the youth understand. There are many more things I would like to say to you about our common efforts, our desires, about how, nevertheless, many of them shatter in face of daily reality and how we have to start all over after moments of weakness, about how contact with the people-the purity and ideals of the people-fills us with new revolutionary fervor. There are many more things to talk about, but we too have duties to carry out. By the way, I’ll take this opportunity to explain to you why I’m saying good-bye to you, with an ulterior motive, perhaps. [Laughter] I’m saying good-bye because I am going to fulfill my duty as a volunteer worker at a textile factory. [Applause] We have been working there for some time now, involved in emulation with the compafieros of the Consolidated Spinning and Textile Enterprise in another textile plant, and we are also involved in emulation with the compafieros of the Central Planning Board, who work in another textile plant. I want to tell you honestly that the Ministry of Industry is in last place in the emulation. We have to make a bigger, greater effort, repeatedly, to move ahead, to meet the goal we ourselves set of being the best, of aspiring to be the best, because it hurts us to be last in socialist emulation. What happened is simply what has happened to a lot of you. The emulation is cold, a little bit artificial, and we have not known how to get in direct contact with the mass of workers in that industry. We have a meeting tomorrow to discuss these problems and try to resolve all of them, to find a common ground, a common language, an identity between the workers from that industry and ourselves, workers from the ministry. After we do that, I am sure our output will increase, and we will be able to at least fight a clean, honorable battle for first place. At any rate, at next year’s meeting we’ll tell you what happens. So until then. [Ovation]


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