'History will absolve me' — Fidel Castro's speech from the dock, 1953
It's the 70th anniversary of one of history's most famous courtroom speeches, Fidel Castro's speech from the dock after he led the attack on Moncoda Barracks on 26th July 1953.
There is a magnificent series of YouTube speeches recorded by famous actors of world famous speeches for Almeida Theatre.
This one, performed by Iwan Rheon, is mesmerising. It’s a section of Fidel Castro’s incredible TWO HOUR monologue from the dock, defending himself against charges stemming from the revolt at Moncoda Barracks a few months earlier, in which seventy of Castro’s revolutionaries died. It was delivered 70 years ago today.
Below is an edited transcript of the speech. I highly recommend watching the YouTube as you read it. Rheon is a genius.
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Techniques to look out for:
Anaphora - repeated phrase at the start of a sentence - ‘we were taught’ … ‘we were taught’ … ‘we were taught’
Rule of threes,’love for your country, love for humanity, love for justice’
Be specific in storytelling, capture the moment, ‘from a shack in the mountains, I listened to the dictator’s voice on the air’;
If you have a horrific story to tell, include horrific detail; (bullets in wall encrusted with human hair)
Simile and metaphor - stream of lies compared to stream of blood
A phrase that reflects on itself - ‘When there are many men without honour, there are always others who bear in themselves the honour of many men.’
A KILLER last line. ‘Condemn me. It does not matter. History will absolve me.’
A general rule for when you’re organising your next coup. Don’t let very eloquent people defend themselves for two hours!
If there is in your hearts a vestige of love for your country, love for humanity, love for justice, listen carefully.
I know that I will be silenced for many years; I know that the regime will try to suppress the truth by all possible means; I know that there will be a conspiracy to bury me in oblivion. But my voice will not be stilled - it will rise from my breast even when I feel most alone, and my heart will give it all the fire that callous cowards deny it.
From a shack in the mountains I listened to the dictator's voice on the air.
While the long cherished hopes of freeing our people lay in ruins about us, we heard those crushed hopes gloated over by a tyrant more vicious, more arrogant than ever.
The endless stream of lies and slanders that poured forth in his crude, odious, repulsive language, may only be compared to the endless stream of clean young blood which had flowed since the previous night.
Already a circle of more than a thousand men, armed with weapons more powerful than ours and with orders to bring in our bodies, was closing in around us. Moncada Barracks were turned into a workshop of torture and death.
Some shameful individuals turned their uniforms into butchers' aprons. The walls were splattered with blood. The bullets embedded in the walls were encrusted with singed bits of skin, brains and human hair, the grisly reminders of rifle shots fired full in the face.
The grass around the barracks was dark and sticky with human blood. The criminal hands that are guiding the destiny of Cuba had written for the prisoners at the entrance of that den of death the very inscription of Hell: ‘Forsake all hope.’
In every society there are men of base instincts. The sadists, the brutes, go about in the guise of human beings, but they are monsters, only more or less restrained by discipline and social habit. If they are offered a drink from a river of blood, they will not be satisfied until they drink the river dry.
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