Elio Delgado Legon
HAVANA TIMES — If we were to ask ourselves what has distinguished Cuban university students in the 90 years since their organization, the Federation of University Students (FEU), was created, we would have to conclude that it has been their readiness to join the working people in the struggle against the excesses of the government of the day.
Be it as part of a protest against an unjustified increase in bus fares and electricity bills, against plans to build a canal across Cuban territory, calling for the payment of the differential to sugar industry workers and in the name of many other causes, Cuban university students have always been in the front lines of the struggle, advancing fearlessly against a police force that opened fire on them, attempted to subdue them with jets of compressed water and beat them with the utmost brutality, leaving behind thousands of wounded and dead on the pavement.
When dictators Gerardo Machado and Fulgencio Batista took control of the country and began to perpetrate all kinds of atrocities, Cuba’s university students again stepped forward and joined the people in its struggle for a free and independent country.
During Batista’s last dictatorship, the FEU established its armed wing, the Revolutionary Directory, an organization which, next to the 26th of July Movement, played an important role in the overthrow of that opprobrious regime and in the ultimate triumph of the revolution. Since then, the FEU, together with the people, has led many battles to impel the Cuban Revolution, for which the blood of so many young people was spilt.
From June 11-14, the FEU will hold the closing sessions of its 8th Congress, a gathering which, since January of this year, has engaged students in a broad debate process and an exchange of ideas and proposals regarding the workings of the organization, institutional issues and political questions.
The stage where these student debates take place is very different from what it was before the triumph of the revolution. Today, students need not demand free education, as they must do in many countries around the world, where they are violently repressed by the police.
They have no need to demand academic freedom or the co-management of student affairs, for these two things already exist in practice, as, through the FEU, students are part of the University Council, where their opinions are always taken into account.
Today, Cuba’s political landscape is the complete opposite of the one the FEU had to move in before the revolution. It is even entirely different from what it was in earlier stages of the revolution.
Cuba is currently engaged in a process aimed at restructuring its economic model, with a view to improving the lives of all citizens economically and socially, and this endeavor requires everyone’s participation, particularly that of workers and students, whose opinions are gathered and put into practice, wherever possible.
We mustn’t forget that Cuba endures an economic and financial blockade imposed upon it by the world’s most powerful nation. Because of this, many issues the government wishes to address immediately, in order to improve the lives of students and the people in general, have to wait their turn. This is something which students understand better than anyone, owing to their high educational level and political consciousness.
Many of the opinions and proposals advanced by the students during the preparations for the Congress have already been addressed. The opinions and demands of university students have always been given a prompt response, even if these are expressed outside the framework of the Congress.
No rift or antagonism between the revolutionary government and the FEU exists, because the two pursue the same end: to push the revolution forward and to overcome all obstacles in its way. The two aim to perfect the socialist system for everyone’s benefit, not to destroy it, so only a handful of people may live comfortably, as is the case in many other places.
We can be confident that the 8th Congress of Cuba’s FEU will meet with resounding success and result in the strengthening of the organization, the creation of more spaces for debate within higher education and greater student participation in social matters, particularly in the implementation of Cuba’s new economic and social guidelines, approved during the 6th Congress of Cuba’s Communist Party.