Translation: MSc. Guillermo Rodriguez
Almost a million people, gathered in front of the former Presidential Palace (now the Museum of the Revolution), were listening to then Prime Minister Fidel Castro on the night of September 28, 1960 when several explosions were heard. Then, those gathered there responded with cheers to the Revolution, to their leader and sang the notes of the National Anthem.
«We are going to establish a system of collective revolutionary vigilance – Fidel Castro pointed out on that occasion – They are messing with the people and they still do not know who the people are; they are messing with the people and they do not know the tremendous revolutionary force there is in the people.»
That same night, at the end of the speech, the first Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) were born, a sui generis organization that six months and several days later would disarticulate the elements that intended to serve as a fifth column to the mercenary brigade defeated at the Bay of Pigs.
It was constituted as a neighborhood cell that channeled the needs of the people, to defend the work initiated by the Revolution, women, men, the elderly, students, workers, peasants, professionals, intellectuals, retirees or housewives.
To the initial tasks of the revolutionary vigilance, other tasks of popular interest were added such as education, volunteer work, patriotic activities, health (vaccinations, blood donations, etc.); the collection of raw materials, environmental protection and many more.
Promoting human concern and the welfare of the population have been priority objectives of the organization since its inception.
With its active role against the plans of those who want to destroy the revolutionary conquests, plus its enthusiasm, initiative, will, altruism, solidarity, humanism and combativeness, the organization became the most thriving in Cuba.
It is an organization that brings together the vast majority of the population over 14 years of age who wish to work for the benefit of the community. It is structured throughout the country, both in rural and urban areas. The CDRs are constituted on the basis of the place of residence, in the cities by blocks or apartment buildings and in the countryside on the basis of villages and the like.
The block and zone executives carry out this activity on a completely voluntary basis.
It is a non-governmental organization that is self-financed by the contributions of its members.
All the people who hold responsibilities in the CDRs are proposed and democratically elected by the local residents.
The organization works with all the people in the neighborhood, to maintain citizen tranquility, and the protection of community property. To promote blood donations, this made it possible to achieve one blood donation for every 20 inhabitants since 1997, a proposal made by the World Health Organization (WHO), to be achieved in the year 2000.
They work in cleaning and beautification of the environment, planting trees, promoting self-sufficiency areas, medicinal plant gardens and family aquaculture, participation in agricultural tasks prioritized as sugar, tobacco or coffee harvests.
For the ideological formation of the population with the realization of neighborhood debates on different issues ranging from draft laws and / or legislative amendments to sex, social or child education and other issues of national or international interests, in cultural and sports activities.
In the collection of raw materials for recycling, which in addition to the collective benefit, educates the youngest in the importance of not throwing waste on public roads, on the contrary collaborate with hygiene. With the children in games as a recreational option and in the formation of values.
In the family-community link, in the social commissions, in the creation of neighborhood museums, literary contests, and many other innovative initiatives capable of surprising for their boldness and freshness.
In addition to mobilizing the whole society in the tasks of defending the Revolution and the conquests of Socialism, the CDRs had, among other objectives, the participation in the National Literacy Campaign and vaccinations against polio and other diseases.
Their participation is decisive in eradicating disease-transmitting vectors, collecting raw materials, cleaning and beautifying neighborhoods, schools and social centers.
In addition, they provide attention to children, the elderly, and to the electoral processes of the People’s Power.
In the popular mobilizations for the return of the child Elian Gonzalez and for the release of the Five Heroes imprisoned in U.S. jails, the work of the CDR members played a fundamental role.
Likewise, in the Civil Defense System, which evacuates millions of people during hurricanes, the CDR is a vital element in safeguarding the population. After the passage of hurricanes the enormous strength of the CDRs is felt: popular mobilization to quickly repair the damage caused by these destructive atmospheric phenomena.
The system of revolutionary collective vigilance established against terrorists and criminals demonstrated, as Fidel pointed out, that when the people are organized, there are neither imperialists nor lackeys of the imperialists, nor sold out to the imperialists, nor instruments of the imperialists that can act against the Revolution.