Washington and Lee University:
Faculty Development Seminar 2003
Contemporary Cuban Culture
June 8-17, 2003
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Dr. Andy Gomez, Special Assistant to the Provost and Senior Fellow at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami, to lecture April 3rd
Novelist Cristina Garcia to visit Seminar and give public lecture on "Politics, Art and Cultural Identity: Thoughts on American-Cuban Relations"
Monthly Discussion Group Calendar and Reading List
As part of the Global Learning Across the Campus initiative of the Global Stewardship Program, selected faculty participate in a yearlong series of meetings on campus dedicated to the interdisciplinary investigation of a given topic and locale. Following the series of meetings the select faculty have the opportunity to apply their findings during a site visit to the locale usually during the summer. The on-campus portion however is open to the public. If you would like to attend our meetings, suggest titles for readings, or participate in any fashion, please contact Prof. Barnett at 8950 for additional information. Note that the calendar below is subject to change so please call. (JB)
Date: Monday, December 9th: An Introduction
Place: Boatwright Room
Discussion: Ryan, Alan, ed. Reader’s Companion to Cuba .
Date: Monday, January 20: "A Journalist's View"
Place: Center for International Education
Discussion: Miller, Tom. Trading with the Enemy
Please feel free to come by early (12:00 or so) and bring a brown bag lunch if you'd like. Otherwise, well get started at 1:00.
It'll be helpful if we all shared briefly the ideas and objectives in our proposals. What is it that you want to get out of the trip?
Date: Monday, February 10: "For the love of the word"
Time: 1:00 - 2
Place: Center for International Education
Discussion: Bardach, Ann Louise, ed. Cuba: A Traveler's Literary Companion
(Includes fragments from some of the best known contemporary writers from various genres, eg., Novás Calvo, Lezama Lima, Cristina García, Strawberry and Chocolate, etc)
- 15 minutes to finish sharing ideas about proposals
- 40 minutes: Reaction to Cuban voices, perspectives, logic, spirit, island weltanschauung, the city and country, exile, nostalgia, etc etc
Date: Wednesday March 19: "Passionate Rhetoric / Rhetorical Passion?"
Time: 12:00 - 1
Place: Center for International Education
(1) Selected Primary Texts
(2) Selected articles from: Cuban Communism, by Horowitz and Suchlicki
The primary texts will be printed in your notebook or you can click here for table of contents as well as on-line versions. As for the Horowitz/Suchlicki volume, I will ask each of you at the February meeting to select articles of interest to you and then share your findings with the group at the March meeting.
- 30 minutes: Critique of Castro and Che speeches
- 25 minutes: Explain thesis of article(s) in your field from Horowitz/Suchlicki. With 9 of us and only 25 minutes, we'll really only have time to posit thesis, briefly react to it, and then indicate whether you recommend or not the article to us.
Date: Thur April 3rd: Discussion with Dr. Andy Gomez
Time: 1:00 - 2:00
Place: Center for International Education
Discussion: Damian Fernandez, Cuba and the Politics of Passion
Special Guest Lecturer, Dr. Andy Gomez, Special Assistant to the Provost and Senior Fellow at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami:
Dr.Gomez' topic will address the impact of the human psychological factor in societies undergoing transition, with special attention to changing norms and values in order to sustain a civil society. In particular, he will address THE CUBA TRANSITION PROJECT, in which he deals with "value orientations and their applicability in transition to democracy and the reconciliation with the community in exile."
Followed that afternoon by....
Date: Thur April 3rd: Public Lecture, Dr. Andy Gomez, "Cuba After Castro"
Time: 5:00 pm
Place: Northen Auditorium
Date: Wed May 21st, Discussion with Novelist Cristina Garcia
Time: 12:00 - 2:00
Place: Center for International Education
Discussion: Dreaming in Cuban
Special Guest Lecturer, Cristina Garcia will then offer a public lecture that evening May 21st, in Lee Chapel at 7:30, "Politics, Art and Cultural Identity: Thoughts on American-Cuban Relations"
Date: Friday, May 30th, (last day of classes)
Place: Prof Barnett's House
Discussion: Final matters
Bring your orientation materials. I'll hand out E-Ticket receipts then
Resources in Leyburn and TMC
Cuban Films in Leyburn (not on Reserve)
Films produced by ICAIC (Instituto Cubano De Arte E Industria Cinematografica)
Eduardo Desnoes: Inconsolable memories
Tomás Gutiérrez Alea; Strawberry and Chocolate
Tomás Gutiérrez Alea: The Death of a Bureaucrat
Tomás Gutiérrez Alea: The Last Supper
Tomás Gutiérrez Alea: Up to a certain point
Humberto Solás: Lucia
Juan Carlos Tabío: The Waiting List (will hopefully arrive in spring term)
Pastor Vega: Portrait of Teresa
Reinaldo Arenas: Before Night Falls
Oscar Hijuelos: The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love
Buena VistaSocial Club
Films in TMC: (forthcoming by mid-March?)
Interview with Castro (MSNBC)
Readings in Leyburn on Reserve:
Bardach, Ann Louise, ed:
: A Traveler's Literary Companion Cuba
Fernandez, Damian: The Politics of Passion
and the Cuba United States, A Chronological History
Horowitz, Irving Louis and Jamie Suchlicki: Cuban Communism
Luis, William: Culture and Customs of
Miller, Tom: Trading with the Enemy
Ryan, Alan, ed: Reader’s Companion to Cuba
: from Cuba to Castro and beyond Columbus
Other suggested readings not on reserve:
Historical Dictionary of Cuba, by Jaime Suchlicki.
Journey to the Heart of
: Life as Fidel Castro, by Carlos Alberto Montaner. Cuba
Real Life in Castro's
by Catherine Moses. Cuba,
Cuba, the Elusive nation: Interpretations of National Identity, Damián Fernández
Selected Primary Texts
Texts by Castro
Texts by Che Guevara
Young Ernesto Guevara
Ernesto Guevara de la Serna is born June 14, 1928 in Rosario, one of the most important cities in Argentina, in a well off family. A family with aristocratic roots but socialistic ideas.
In 1937, Ernesto is 9 years old and goes to the third grade of primary school; he follows up engagingly the Spanish Civil war. On a map he indicates the military evolution.
In 1947, Ernesto Guevara meets the young Berta Gilda Infante, also known as Tita. She is a member of the Argentine Communistic Youth. They build up a profound friendship. Together they read Marxist texts and discuss the actualities.
In 1948, Ernesto, who is 20 years old at that time, undergoes an examination at the faculty of medicine at the University of Buenos Aires. In March he passes for the examinations of the first year, in June for those of the second year and in December for those from the third year.
January 1 1950, Ernesto Guevara attempts his first voyage. He traverses the northern provinces of Argentina on a bicycle on which he adjusted a small motor. He arrives at San Francisco del Chahar, near Córdoba, where his friend Alberto Granado runs the dispensary of the leper-centre. With the patients he has long conversations about their disease.
He continues his university studies and is above all interested in the scientific research for allergies, asthma, leprosy and nutritive theory.
While he is studying, he works as a male nurse on trading and petroleum ships of the Argentine national shipping-company. Like that he travels from the south of Argentina to Brazil, Venezuela and Trinidad.
A journey through Latin-America
In October he decides to make his first trip through Latin-America. Together with Alberto Granado he leaves in January 1952 on an old « Norton » 500-cc motorbike.
In Valparaiso Chili he writes in his diary: « We are looking for the bottom part of the town. We talk to many beggars. Our noses inhale attentively the misery. »
About Chili he writes: « The most important effort that needs to be done is to get rid of the uncomfortable ‘Yankee-friend’. It is especially at this moment an immense task, because of the great amount of dollars they have invested here and the convenience of using economical pressure whenever they believe their interests are being threatened. »
On March 24 they arrive at the Peruvian Tacna. After a discussion about the poverty in the region, he refers in his notes to the words of José Marti: « I want to link my destiny to that of the poor of this world. »
On May 1 they arrive in Lima. Che meets doctor Hugo Pesce, a Peruvian scientist, and director of the national leprosy program and an important Marxist. They discuss several nights until the morning comes. Year’s later Che puts that these conversations were very important for the change in his attitude towards life and the society.
On May 17 he leaves for the leper-centre of San Pablo in the Peruvian Amazon forest. He arrives on June 7. During his visit to this place, he complaints about the miserable way that the people of that region and the sick have to live. There were no clothes, almost no food and no medication.
After working there for a few weeks, he leaves for Leticia, Colombia via the Amazon River.
July 17 he arrives in Caracas. There he decides to go back to Buenos Aires to finish his studies in medical science. He travels with a cargo-plane via Miami, where the technical problems with the aeroplane give him a delay of one month. To survive, he works as a waiter and he washes dishes in a bar. On regular base he is apprehended and questioned by the police. They ask him if he, his mother or father are communist. He is back in Buenos Aires on August 31.
On his way to the revolution
Che Guevara finished his studies early 1953. He gets summoned for military duty but he was rejected. On July 7 he goes by slow train to La Paz, Bolivia, 6000km further. Che arrives at Panama late October. He is indignant about the submissive attitude of the Panamese leaders towards the U.S. In Costa Rica he learns about the domination of United Fruit and the exploitation and of the misery that is the result of it. In a letter to his aunt Beatriz he writes: "In El Paso I traversed the vast domains of United Fruit. Once more I was able to convince myself how criminal the capitalistic octopuses are. On a picture of our old and bewailed comrade Stalin, I swore not to rest before these capitalistic octopuses are destroyed. In Guatemala I want to get perfect in becoming an authentic revolutionary."
Via Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador, Che arrives late December at Guatemala where Jacobo Arbenz leads a revolutionary process. In a letter to his mother he writes: "I’ve finally reached my aim…. If everything goes well, I think I will stay here for about 2 years."
June 14 - 15 - 16. Che sees how North American Aeroplanes fly over Guatemala and bomb down the military installations and the poor popular quarters. He writes; "This incident has united all Guatemalese with their government and with all who, just like me, were attracted by Guatemala." The U.S. chooses Castillo Armas as ‘leader’ of the coup.
June 18, 1954. He lives to see de coup d’état against the Arbenz government, planned and executed by the U.S. He transports weapons and tries to assemble some youths to fight; he helps to bring political leaders in safety. On June 20 Che writes to his mother: "These attacks, together with the lies of the international press, have woken the indifferent. A combative climate rules. I have applied as a voluntary for the medical help services and I have registered in the youth-brigade to get a military education and to go there where necessary."
On June 26 the national radio declares the resignation of president Arbenz and the exile of almost all-political leaders and their families. This causes a great commotion with the revolutionary people. Che puts it like this: "In Guatemala it was necessary to fight but almost no one fought. Resistance had to be put up and almost no one wanted to do it."
Repression breaks loose. Latin-American embassies are getting filled with political refugees. Che is indicated as a dangerous Argentine communist and may not remain in Guatemala.
Early 1955 Che Guevara finds work as a doctor in the "Hospital Central" of Mexico-City.
In June he meets Raul Castro. They become friends. On July 8 Fidel Castro arrives in the Mexican capital. About their first meeting Che said: "I’ve met him during one of the cool nights in Mexico and I remember that our first conversation was about international politics.
That same night – towards morning – I was one of the future participants of the expedition with the Granma." Fidel Castro about that meeting: "he knew much about the Marxism-Leninism, self-thought, very eager to learn, he was a convinced. When we met Che he was already an educated revolutionary."
On June 24, the Mexican police have arrested Che together with Cuban comrades.
On July 3 the press agency UPI notifies: "The Argentine doctor Guevara will be deported to his land of origin, because of his presumed participation of the failed conspiracy against the Cuban government of Fulgencio Batista." The Mexican ex-president Lázaro Cárdenas interferes to defend the Cuban revolutionaries. Late July the last, among them Che Guevara, are released. They continue their revolutionary activities in clandestinely.
With Fidel Castro to Cuba
November 25: the yacht Granma leaves in a stormy night with on board 82 man from the mouth of the river Tuxpán in Mexico.
On December 2 they landed in Los Cayelos, at the East Coast. The next day the Cuban and Latin-American newspapers announced about the expedition:"…Fidel Castro, Ernesto Guevara, Raul Castro and all other members of the expedition have perished…" Their arrival is noticed and they get hunted. The group splits. On December 5 in Alegría del Pino, Che gets ambushed. Later on he writes about this:" I’ve got wounded in my neck. I stayed alive thanks to my luck of a cat. A box of bullets I was carrying close to my chest stopped a bullet of a machine gun and it ricochets up to my neck.
With the help of other he could escape in the sugarcane fields. In these circumstances Che had to make the, so often told about, choice between his duty as a doctor and his duty as a revolutionary soldier. To escape he had to choose between a backpack filled with medications and a crate of bullets. It was impossible to take them both. Che takes the crate with bullets and hurries into the sugarcane. Later they leave a great deal of their cargo with a farmer. On December 21 Che’s group arrives at a coffee plantation where Fidel is already waiting for a couple of days.
On January they attack the barracks of La Plata. Che: "La Plata was our first victory. It was clear to everybody that a rebel-army existed and was ready for battle. To us it was the confirmation of the chances to the final victory." The ambushes and fights increased. The army bombarded. In April he organises, in order of Fidel extended contacts with the farmers, to create points of support in the area. Year’s later Che writes: "The guerrilla and the farmers gradually became one, without anyone could tell when this unity really had performed. I only know that these contacts with the farmers in the mountains made the spontaneous decision turn quickly into a devoted and serious relation. The suffering and sincere inhabitants of the Sierra Maestra have never known how important their part was in the creation of our revolutionary ideology."
In July Che begins to alphabetise Joel, Israel and other guerrilla’s. The others also are organised in circles of study about the history of Cuba, the characteristics of the army of tyranny and the importance of the armoured battle. On July 21 Fidel nominated Che commander. About this Che writes: "In a very informal way I was nominated commander of the second colonne of the guerrilla-army (…) The dose vanity that anyone has inside of him, made me the proudest man on the world that day."
On September 17, five army-trucks fall into an ambush of the rebels.
On January 6 Che writes to Fidel: "I already said that these merits would always be counted for: showing that in America the armoured battle with the support of the people is possible."
In February Che gets interviewed in front of the microphones of "Radio El Mundo" from Buenos Aires: "I’m simply here because I think that the only way to liberate America of the dictators is to defeat them. I’ll give all the help I can to make them go down, the sooner the better."
"Aren’t you afraid that your intervention will be regarded as a foreign interference?"
"First of all I don’t regard only Argentina as my native country but whole of America. For this I would like to call up to examples such as Marti, and it is exactly on his land of birth that I would make his doctrine come true. Besides you can’t call it interference if I want to give myself personally and totally – up to my blood – to a case that seems right to me and that is completely that of the people. A people that wants to get liberated of a tyranny that on itself cheers the armoured interference of a foreign power with aeroplanes, weapons and military advisors. Up to now not even one country accused the North-American interference in Cuban affairs, not one newspaper accuses the Yankees of helping Batista slaughtering his people.
On may 24 and 25 dictatorial troops attacked two mines in Sierra Maestra. It is the beginning of a big offensive. Hostile troops made a forced entry in several points in the Sierra Maestra and threaten to advance. In addition they occupy the supply and communication-lines. The next few days Che participates in a counter-attack that debouch into a defeat for the enemy, a force of over 10.000 man.
On August 21 Fidel writes: "The mission to conduct a brigade from the Sierra Maestra to the province ‘Las Villas’ and to operate there according to the strategic plan of the Rebel-army, is assigned to Commander Ernesto Che Guevara. (…) He is also appointed as head of all units of the ‘M-26 de julio’ that are operating in this province, in the cities as well as in the countryside. (…) The eight brigade has for a strategic object to attack the enemy continuously in the centre of Cuba and to intercept the hostile troop-movements over land from west to east until they are crippled completely.
On December 16 the bridge over the river Falcon by the Central Road is blown up, by that, all cities at the east of Santa Clara, were unable to be reached from Havana. On December 26 Che writes: "The war is won, the enemy has come loudly to his knees, in the east we keep 10.000 soldiers in captivity. Those of Camoguey have no longer a way out. All of this is the result of only one thing: our effort." The next day he decides to march to Santa Clara.
The international press informs the world that Che had died. ‘Radio Rebelde’ on the contrary sends word: "Latest news of primary importance! Great victory for the eight brigade of Las Villas. Troops under guidance of Ernesto Che Guevara conquered a blinded train and 300 fully equipped soldiers were captured."
By day-brake of New-Year dictator Batista fled the country. Che Guevara gets the Cuban nationality on February 9.
From July till August he travels as head of an official delegation to the United Arab Emirates and Egypt where he meets Nasser. The trip goes on to India, Thailand, Japan, Indonesia and Pakistan. They turn back via Eastern and Western Europe to close up in Morocco. On his return Che declares to be surprised for the sympathy that the Cuban revolution evoked all over the world.
On October 17 Che advises university students to: " (…) get contact with the people, not to ‘help’ them with knowledge or what so ever – like an aristocratic lady that hand out a coin of money to a beggar – but to become participants of the revolutionary forces that rule over Cuba today. To place your shoulders under the extension of the revolution and, at the same time, to get experience that might be more important than all interesting things that you learn in your lessons." On November 23 he introduces the first ‘day of voluntary labour’ in Cuba.
At the end of 1960 the U.S. establishes a complete trading-embargo against Cuba. Che leads an official Cuban delegation in a tour to different socialistic countries: from the Soviet-Union and Eastern Europe to China and Northern Korea. From there, back to the Soviet-Union, Eastern-Germany and Czecho-Slovakia. Early ’61 the U.S. breaks all diplomatic relations with Cuba.
On April 15 are the Cuban airports bombed by US-planes. On April 17 there is the invasions in the Bay of Pigs: 1.500 CIA-mercenaries attack Cuba supported by the American fleet and airforce. The contra’s want to cause a revolt of the people. In barely 72 hours they get completely defeated by the Cuban nation. 1.200 of them are being captured.
May 17: confronted with new acts of sabotage of the imperialism in a harbour in the south he says: "We have rendezvous with history, and we simply can not permit ourselves to be afraid! We must maintain the same enthusiasm and faith. Build factories with our left hand, aim the rifle with the right hand and crush the worms with our heels."
In August he talks about the situation in Congo: "What is happening in Africa, where only two years ago the prime minister of Congo was murdered and quartered, where North-American monopolies have installed themselves and the battle to own Congo has turn loose? Why? Because there is copper and radioactive minerals in their soil, because Congo has exceptionally strategic raw materials? Therefor a leader of the people, who was so naïve to believe in justice without render himself an account of the fact that justice gets expelled by power, got murdered. That is how he became a martyr of his people."
Later on Che speaks to the general meetings of the UN in New York. He accuses in powerful terms the part of the UN in the murder of Lumumba and to help to get in the saddle, Tshombe as Congolese president, it was the same man that had tried to tear off the province Katanga of the rest of the Congolese nation. "All free people of the world must be prepared to declare to revenge the Congolese crime."
Che arrives in Brazzaville on New Years day and begins with an official African journey. When he gets back in Cuba he convokes a secret conference with a hundred comrades who have great battle-experience. They are the future participants of the international mission in Congo. On February he arrives in Dar El Salaam together with different African revolutionary leaders who asked Cuba for weapons, training and finance. There he also meets Laurent Kabila and his general staff. They agree that the main African enemy is the North-American imperialism. In reply to Kabila’s question to train guerrilla’s in Cuba, Che says no. He explains the advantage of training on their proper terrain.
On March 31 Che writes a letter of goodbye to Fidel Castro. Later it will seem that Che, naturally clandestine, went to Congo. The US abuse the fact that Che does not longer appear in public to spread the rumour that he have been liquidated by Fidel because of heavy ideological conflicts in the highest leadership in Cuba. In their broadcast to China the US claim that Che was murdered because of his pro-Chinese point of view, and in the broadcasts to the East they claim the opposite.
On March 24 Che arrives from Tanzania near the harbour of Kigoma at the shore of the Lake Tanganyika. He disembarks with 14 Cubans outside the harbour to avoid the Belgian mercenaries patrol. Doing that they land in the water. From there he reaches Kibamba in Congo. On May 9 he succeeds making contact with the first group of guerrilla’s. He explains them that he has come to give them a guerrilla education, on demand of Gastón Soumaliot and Laurent Kabila to Fidel Castro. He wants to fight on their side in operations they decide. He is at their disposal. He starts with a school of warriors that gets the name "La Base".
On July 7 Che Guevara meets Laurent Kabila who promises to accompany him in a visit to several fronts on the inland. Kabila however leaves for Kigoma and the visits are getting postponed. On August 16, 7 soldiers die in an ambush of the guerrilla, among them two Belgian non-commissioned officers and three South-Africans.
In November the situation seems at the different fronts – among other things because of continuous discussions between the various revolutionary leaders – so confused that more and more guerrilla’s leave the battle. Together with the Congolese the decision is made that the Cubans will retreat. The mission took seven months in which Cubans participated in over 50 actions.
In July Che travels in the greatest secrecy to Havana, were he prepares a new mission to Bolivia in consultation with Fidel.
Across Moscow, Prague and Vienna Che Guevara travels via Brazil to Bolivia were he arrives on November 3.
Che writes: "As I thought the attitude of Monje (the under-secretary of the Bolivian KP) was avoiding and later traitorous. His party is already getting armed against us. I don’t know where that will take him but it will not slow us down, and maybe in long terms it will be an advantage for us, I’m almost sure of that. The most honest and competitive people will stand on our side, although they have to go true a severe crisis of their conscience. So far Guavara has reacted well. We’ll see how he and his people will line up (…) The actual phase of the guerrilla will now begin, we will test our troops. Time will tell which are the perspectives of the Bolivian revolution. Of all things that were planned the recruit of Bolivian comrades in battle was the slowest."
In March the analysis goes as followed: "This month there was no lack of incidents, but the total looks like this: phase of consolidation and purification of the guerrilla, slow development with few elements that came from Cuba – and they don’t perform badly – and elements of Guavvara’s group who were very weakly in general (two deserters, one loose-tongued whom we kept as prisoners, three that got scratches and two weaklings). Now the phase begins of actions with an exact and spectacular attack. We have to hit the road much sooner as I wanted, and with the burden of four possible talebearers. The situation is not good but a new stage of test begins for the guerrilla and it will do her good if they overcome it. The guerrilla consists of 29 Bolivians, 16 Cubans and 3 Peruvians.
In the months that follow Che and his man get more and more count off communication problems with La Paz and Cuba through which they finally have to operate completely isolated. To get connected with the farmers is much harder than they have thought. About that he writes in May: "The farmers still don’t join us, although it seems that slowly they don’t fear us anymore and they seem to admire us. It is a slow and patient process." In June he writes: "The farmers are still aloof. It is a vicious circle: to attract them we must have more actions in populated areas, but therefor we need more man. (…) The army stands nowhere in her military task, but it does dangerous work with the farmers that we may not leave without interference. If not all farmers will become tale-bearers, out of fear or because of the lies they tell them about our intentions."
In the mean time the US supplies more weapons and advisors to the Bolivian army. The land gets harassed with ever more strikes and the fame of Che’s man rises in Bolivian and world press every day: "On political field the official statement of the government is, that I’m really in Bolivia and not murdered in Cuba, the most important. They even add that the army has to deal with perfectly trained guerrilla’s, among them even Vietcong’s who had defeated the best trained American marines."
In September the guerrilla gets further isolated and the have many losses in an ambush of the army. On October 8, in the village La Higuera, Che and two comrades fall into the hands of the army. Two comrades die. A Bolivian colonel and a Cuban, who works for the CIA, come on the spot by helicopter. On higher command they decide to slaughter Che and his comrades Willy Cuba and Juan Pablo Chang immediately. A Bolivian soldier does the job, his eyes turned sidewise. While international press barons offer up to 125.000$ for the diary of Che, Bolivian revolutionaries make sure that copies of it reach Cuba the same year. Doing that the CIA-plan fails of making anti-communistic propaganda with falsifications of the original.
On July 1, 1968 the diary gets published in Cuba and distributed for free. The context causes an international scandal about the way Bolivia and the US treat prisoners of war. The example of Che inspires since then hundreds of thousands of youth al over the world.
UN: Cuba's example shows that the peoples of the world can liberate themselves
Ernesto Che Guevara represented Cuba in the 19th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York.
Address to General Assembly
The Delegation of Cuba to this assembly, first of all, is pleased to fulfil the agreeable duty of welcoming the addition of three new nations to the important number of those that discuss the problems of the world here. We therefore greet, in the persons of their presidents and prime ministers, the peoples of Zambia, Malawi, and Malta, and express the hope that from the outset these countries will be added to the group of Non-aligned countries that struggle against imperialism, colonialism, and neo-colonialism.
We also wish to convey our congratulations to the president of this assembly (Alex Quaison-Sackey of Ghana), whose elevation to so high a post is of special significance since it reflects this new historic stage of resounding triumphs for the peoples of Africa, who up until recently were subject to the colonial system of imperialism. Today, in their immense majority these peoples have become sovereign states through the legitimate exercise of their self-determination. The final hour of colonialism has struck, and millions of inhabitants of Africa, Asia, and Latin America rise to meet a new life and demand their unrestricted right to self-determination and to the independent development of their nations.
We wish you, Mr. President, the greatest success in the tasks entrusted to you by the member states.
Cuba comes here to state its position on the most important points of controversy and will do so with the full sense of responsibility that the use of this rostrum implies, while at the same time fulfilling the unavoidable duty of speaking clearly and frankly.
We would like to see this assembly shake itself out of complacency and move forward. We would like to see the committees begin their work and not stop at the first confrontation. Imperialism wants to turn this meeting into a pointless oratorical tournament, instead of solving the serious problems of the world. We must prevent it from doing so. This session of the assembly should not be remembered in the future solely by the number nineteen that identifies it. Our efforts are directed to that end.
We feel that we have the right and the obligation to do so, because our country is one of the most constant points of friction. It is one of the places where the principles upholding the right of small countries to sovereignty are put to the test day by day, minute by minute. At the same time our country is one of the trenches of freedom in the world, situated a few steps away from United States imperialism, showing by its actions, its daily example, that in the present conditions of humanity the peoples can liberate themselves and can keep themselves free.
Of course, there now exists a socialist camp that becomes stronger day by day and has more powerful weapons of struggle. But additional conditions are required for survival: the maintenance of internal unity, faith in one's own destiny, and the irrevocable decision to fight to the death for the defence of one's country and revolution. These conditions, distinguished delegates, exist in Cuba.
Of all the burning problems to be dealt with by this assembly, one of special significance for us, and one whose solution we feel must be found first - so as to leave no doubt in the minds of anyone - is that of peaceful coexistence among states with different economic and social systems. Much progress has been made in the world in this field. But imperialism, particularly U.S. imperialism, has attempted to make the world believe that peaceful coexistence is the exclusive right of the earth's great powers. We say here what our president said in Cairo, and what later was expressed in the declaration of the Second Conference of Heads of State or Government of Non-aligned Countries: that peaceful coexistence cannot be limited to the powerful countries if we want to ensure world peace. Peaceful coexistence must be exercised among all states, regardless of size, regardless of the previous historical relations that linked them, and regardless of the problems that may arise among some of them at a given moment.
At present, the type of peaceful coexistence to which we aspire is often violated. Merely because the Kingdom of Cambodia maintained a neutral attitude and did not bow to the machinations of United States imperialism, it has been subjected to all kinds of treacherous and brutal attacks from the Yankee bases in South Vietnam.
Laos, a divided country, has also been the object of imperialist aggression of every kind. Its people have been massacred from the air. The conventions concluded at Geneva have been violated, and part of its territory is in constant danger of cowardly attacks by imperialist forces.
The Democratic Republic of Vietnam knows all these histories of aggression as do few nations on earth. It has once again seen its frontier violated, has seen enemy bombers and fighter planes attack its installations, and has seen U.S. warships, violating territorial waters, attack its naval posts. At this time, the threat hangs over the Democratic Republic of Vietnam that the U.S. war makers may openly extend into its territory the war that for many years they have been waging against the people of South Vietnam. The Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China have given serious warnings to the United States. We are faced with a case in which world peace is in danger and, moreover, the lives of millions of human beings in this part of Asia are constantly threatened and subjected to the whim of the U.S. invader.
Peaceful coexistence has also been brutally put to the test in Cyprus, due to pressures from the Turkish government and NATO, compelling the people and the government of Cyprus to make a heroic and firm stand in defence of their sovereignty.
In all these parts of the world, imperialism attempts to impose its version of what coexistence should be. It is the oppressed peoples in alliance with the socialist camp that must show them what true coexistence is, and it is the obligation of the United Nations to support them.
We must also state that it is not only in relations among sovereign states that the concept of peaceful coexistence needs to be precisely defined. As Marxists we have maintained that peaceful coexistence among nations does not encompass coexistence between the exploiters and the exploited, between the oppressors and the oppressed. Furthermore, the right to full independence from all forms of colonial oppression is a fundamental principle of this organization. That is why we express our solidarity with the colonial peoples of so-called Portuguese Guinea, Angola, and Mozambique, who have been massacred for the crime of demanding their freedom. And we are prepared to help them to the extent of our ability in accordance with the Cairo declaration.
We express our solidarity with the people of Puerto Rico and their great leader, Pedro Albizu Campos, who, in another act of hypocrisy, has been set free at the age of seventy-two, almost unable to speak, paralysed, after spending a lifetime in jail. Albizu Campos is a symbol of the as yet unfree but indomitable Latin America. Years and years of prison, almost unbearable pressures in jail, mental torture, solitude, total isolation from his people and his family, the insolence of the conqueror and its lackeys in the land of his birth - nothing broke his will. The delegation of Cuba, on behalf of its people, pays a tribute of admiration and gratitude to a patriot who confers honour upon Our America.
The United States for many years has tried to convert Puerto Rico into a model of hybrid culture: the Spanish language with English inflections, the Spanish language with hinges on its backbone - the better to bow down before the Yankee soldier. Puerto Rican soldiers have been used as cannon fodder in imperialist wars, as in Korea, and have even been made to fire at their own brothers, as in the massacre perpetrated by the U.S. army a few months ago against the unarmed people of Panama - one of the most recent crimes carried out by Yankee imperialism. And yet, despite this assault on their will and their historical destiny, the people of Puerto Rico have preserved their culture, their Latin character, their national feelings, which in themselves give proof of the implacable desire for independence lying within the masses of that Latin American island.
We must also warn that the principle of peaceful coexistence does not encompass the right to mock the will of the peoples, as is happening in the case of so-called British Guiana. There the government of Prime Minister Cheddi Jagan has been the victim of every kind of pressure and manoeuvre, and independence has been delayed to gain time to find ways to flout the people's will and guarantee the docility of a new government, placed in power by covert means, in order to grant a castrated freedom to this country of the Americas. Whatever roads Guiana may be compelled to follow to obtain independence, the moral and militant support of Cuba goes to its people.
Furthermore, we must point out that the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique have been fighting for a long time for self-government without obtaining it. This state of affairs must not continue.
Once again we speak out to put the world on guard against what is happening in South Africa. The brutal policy of apartheid is applied before the eyes of the nations of the world. The peoples of Africa are compelled to endure the fact that on the African continent the superiority of one race over another remains official policy, and that in the name of this racial superiority murder is committed with impunity. Can the United Nations do nothing to stop this!
I would like to refer specifically to the painful case of the Congo, unique in the history of the modern world, which shows how, with absolute impunity, with the most insolent cynicism, the rights of peoples can be flouted. The direct reason for all this is the enormous wealth of the Congo, which the imperialist countries want to keep under their control. In the speech he made during his first visit to the United Nations, Compañero Fidel Castro observed that the whole problem of coexistence among peoples boils down to the wrongful appropriation of other peoples' wealth. He made the following statement: "End the philosophy of plunder and the philosophy of war will be ended as well."
But the philosophy of plunder has not only not been ended, it is stronger than ever. And that is why those who used the name of the United Nations to commit the murder of Lumumba are today, in the name of the defence of the white race, murdering thousands of Congolese. How can we forget the betrayal of the hope that Patrice Lumumba placed in the United Nations? How can we forget the machinations and manoeuvres that followed in the wake of the occupation of that country by United Nations troops, under whose auspices the assassins of this great African patriot acted with impunity? How can we forget, distinguished delegates, that the one who flouted the authority of the UN in the Congo - and not exactly for patriotic reasons, but rather by virtue of conflicts between imperialists-was Moise Tshombe, who initiated the secession of Katanga with Belgian support? And how can one justify, how can one explain, that at the end of all the United Nations activities there, Tshombe, dislodged from Katanga, should return as lord and master of the Congo? Who can deny the sad role that the imperialists compelled the United Nations to play?
To sum up: dramatic mobilizations were carried out to avoid the secession of Katanga, but today Tshombe is in power, the wealth of the Congo is in imperialist hands - and the expenses have to be paid by the honourable nations. The merchants of war certainly do good business! That is why the government of Cuba supports the just stance of the Soviet Union in refusing to pay the expenses for this crime.
And as if this were not enough, we now have flung in our faces these latest acts that have filled the world with indignation. Who are the perpetrators? Belgian paratroopers, carried by United States planes, who took off from British bases. We remember as if it were yesterday that we saw a small country in Europe, a civilized and industrious country, the Kingdom of Belgium, invaded by Hitler's hordes. We were embittered by the knowledge that this small nation was massacred by German imperialism, and we felt affection for its people. But this other side of the imperialist coin was the one that many of us did not see. Perhaps the sons of Belgian patriots who died defending their country's liberty are now murdering in cold blood thousands of Congolese in the name of the white race, just as they suffered under the German heel because their blood was not sufficiently Aryan.
Our free eyes open now on new horizons and can see what yesterday, in our condition as colonial slaves, we could not observe: that "Western civilization" disguises behind its showy facade a picture of hyenas and jackals. That is the only name that can be applied to those who have gone to fulfil such "humanitarian" tasks in the Congo. A carnivorous animal that feeds on unarmed peoples. That is what imperialism does to men. That is what distinguishes the imperial "white man."
All free men of the world must be prepared to avenge the crime of the Congo. Perhaps many of those soldiers, who were turned into subhumans by imperialist machinery, believe in good faith that they are defending the rights of a superior race. In this assembly, however, those peoples whose skins are darkened by a different sun, coloured by different pigments, constitute the majority. And they fully and clearly understand that the difference between men does not lie in the colour of their skin, but in the forms of ownership of the means of production, in the relations of production.
The Cuban delegation extends greetings to the peoples of Southern Rhodesia and South-West Africa, oppressed by white colonialist minorities; to the peoples of Basutoland, Bechuanaland, Swaziland, French Somaliland, the Arabs of Palestine, Aden and the Protectorates, Oman; and to all peoples in conflict with imperialism and colonialism. We reaffirm our support to them.
I express also the hope that there will be a just solution to the conflict facing our sister republic of Indonesia in its relations with Malaysia.
Mr. President: One of the fundamental themes of this conference is general and complete disarmament. We express our support for general and complete disarmament. Furthermore, we advocate the complete destruction of all thermonuclear devices and we support the holding of a conference of all the nations of the world to make this aspiration of all people a reality. In his statement before this assembly, our prime minister warned that arms races have always led to war. There are new nuclear powers in the world, and the possibilities of a confrontation are growing.
We believe that such a conference is necessary to obtain the total destruction of thermonuclear weapons and, as a first step, the total prohibition of tests. At the same time, we have to establish clearly the duty of all countries to respect the present borders of other states and to refrain from engaging in any aggression, even with conventional weapons.
In adding our voice to that of all the peoples of the world who ask for general and complete disarmament, the destruction of all nuclear arsenals, the complete halt to the building of new thermonuclear devices and of nuclear tests of any kind, we believe it necessary to also stress that the territorial integrity of nations must be respected and the armed hand of imperialism held back, for it is no less dangerous when it uses only conventional weapons. Those who murdered thousands of defenceless citizens of the Congo did not use the atomic bomb. They used conventional weapons. Conventional weapons have also been used by imperialism, causing so many deaths.
Even if the measures advocated here were to become effective and make it unnecessary to mention it, we must point out that we cannot adhere to any regional pact for denuclearisation so long as the United States maintains aggressive bases on our own territory, in Puerto Rico, Panama, and in other Latin American states where it feels it has the right to place both conventional and nuclear weapons without any restrictions. We feel that we must be able to provide for our own defence in the light of the recent resolution of the Organization of American States against Cuba, on the basis of which an attack may be carried out invoking the Rio Treaty.
If the conference to which we have just referred were to achieve all these objectives - which, unfortunately, would be difficult - we believe it would be the most important one in the history of humanity. To ensure this it would be necessary for the People's Republic of China to be represented, and that is why a conference of this type must be held. But it would be much simpler for the peoples of the world to recognize the undeniable truth of the existence of the People's Republic of China, whose government is the sole representative of its people, and to give it the seat it deserves, which is, at present, usurped by the gang that controls the province of Taiwan, with United States support.
The problem of the representation of China in the United Nations cannot in any way be considered as a case of a new admission to the organization, but rather as the restoration of the legitimate rights of the People's Republic of China.
We must repudiate energetically the "two Chinas" plot. The Chiang Kai-shek gang of Taiwan cannot remain in the United Nations. What we are dealing with, we repeat, is the expulsion of the usurper and the installation of the legitimate representative of the Chinese people.
We also warn against the United States government's insistence on presenting the problem of the legitimate representation of China in the UN as an "important question," in order to impose a requirement of a two-thirds majority of members present and voting. The admission of the People's Republic of China to the United Nations is, in fact, an important question for the entire world, but not for the machinery of the United Nations, where it must constitute a mere question of procedure. In this way justice will be done. Almost as important as attaining justice, however, would be the demonstration, once and for all, that this august assembly has eyes to see, ears to hear, tongues to speak with, and sound criteria for making its decisions.
The proliferation of nuclear weapons among the member states of NATO, and especially the possession of these devices of mass destruction by the Federal Republic of Germany, would make the possibility of an agreement on disarmament even more remote, and linked to such an agreement is the problem of the peaceful reunification of Germany. So long as there is no clear understanding, the existence of two Germanys must be recognized: that of the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic. The German problem can be solved only with the direct participation in negotiations of the German Democratic Republic with full rights.
We shall only touch on the questions of economic development and international trade that are broadly represented in the agenda. In this very year of 1964 the Geneva conference was held at which a multitude of matters related to these aspects of international relations were dealt with. The warnings and forecasts of our delegation were fully confirmed, to the misfortune of the economically dependent countries.
We wish only to point out that insofar as Cuba is concerned, the United States of America has not implemented the explicit recommendations of that conference, and recently the U.S. government also prohibited the sale of medicines to Cuba. By doing so it divested itself, once and for all, of the mask of humanitarianism with which it attempted to disguise the aggressive nature of its blockade against the people of Cuba.
Furthermore, we state once more that the scars left by colonialism that impede the development of the peoples are expressed not only in political relations. The so-called deterioration of the terms of trade is nothing but the result of the unequal exchange between countries producing raw materials and industrial countries, which dominate markets and impose the illusory justice of equal exchange of values.
So long as the economically dependent peoples do not free themselves from the capitalist markets and, in a firm bloc with the socialist countries, impose new relations between the exploited and the exploiters, there will be no solid economic development. In certain cases there will be retrogression, in which the weak countries will fall under the political domination of the imperialists and colonialists.
Finally, distinguished delegates, it must be made clear that in the area of the Caribbean, manoeuvres and preparations for aggression against Cuba are taking place, on the coasts of Nicaragua above all, in Costa Rica as well, in the Panama Canal Zone, on Vieques Island in Puerto Rico, in Florida, and possibly in other parts of United States territory and perhaps also in Honduras. In these places Cuban mercenaries are training, as well as mercenaries of other nationalities, with a purpose that cannot be the most peaceful one.
After a big scandal, the government of Costa Rica - it is said - has ordered the elimination of all training camps of Cuban exiles in that country. No one knows whether this position is sincere, or whether it is simply an alibi because the mercenaries training there were about to commit some misdeed. We hope that full cognisance will be taken of the real existence of bases for aggression, which we denounced long ago, and that the world will ponder the international responsibility of the government of a country that authorizes and facilitates the training of mercenaries to attack Cuba.
We should note that news of the training of mercenaries in different parts of the Caribbean and the participation of the U.S. government in such acts is presented as completely natural in the newspapers in the United States. We know of no Latin American voice that has officially protested this. This shows the cynicism with which the United States government moves its pawns.
The sharp foreign ministers of the OAS had eyes to see Cuban emblems and to find "irrefutable" proof in the weapons that the Yankees exhibited in Venezuela, but they do not see the preparations for aggression in the United States, just as they did not hear the voice of President Kennedy, who explicitly declared himself the aggressor against Cuba at Playa Girón. In some cases, it is a blindness provoked by the hatred against our revolution by the ruling classes of the Latin American countries. In others – and these are sadder and more deplorable - it is the product of the dazzling glitter of mammon.
As is well known, after the tremendous commotion of the so-called Caribbean crisis, the United States undertook certain commitments with the Soviet Union. These culminated in the withdrawal of certain types of weapons that the continued acts of aggression of the United States - such as the mercenary at tack at Playa Girón and threats of invasion against our homeland - had compelled us to install in Cuba as an act of legitimate and essential defence.
The United States, furthermore, tried to get the UN to inspect our territory. But we emphatically refuse, since Cuba does not recognize the right of the United States, or of anyone else in the world, to determine the type of weapons Cuba may have within its borders.
In this connection, we would abide only by multilateral agreements, with equal obligations for all the parties concerned. As Fidel Castro has said:
So long as the concept of sovereignty exists as the prerogative of nations and of independent peoples, as a right of all peoples, we will not accept the exclusion of our people from that right. So long as the world is governed by these principles, so long as the world is governed by those concepts that have universal validity because they are universally accepted and recognized by the peoples, we will not accept the attempt to deprive us of any of those rights, and we will renounce none of those rights.
The secretary-general of the United Nations, U Thant, understood our reasons. Nevertheless, the United States attempted to establish a new prerogative, an arbitrary and illegal one: that of violating the airspace of a small country. Thus, we see flying over our country U-2 aircraft and other types of spy planes that, with complete impunity, fly over our airspace. We have made all the necessary warnings for the violations of our airspace to cease, as
well as for a halt to the provocations of the United States Navy against our sentry posts in the zone of Guantánamo, the buzzing by aircraft of our ships or the ships of other nationalities in international waters, the pirate attacks against ships sailing under different flags, and the infiltration of spies, saboteurs, and weapons onto our island.
We want to build socialism. We have declared that we are supporters of those who strive for peace. We have declared ourselves to be within the group of Non-aligned countries, although we are Marxist-Leninists, because the Non-aligned countries, like ourselves, fight imperialism. We want peace. We want to build a better life for our people. That is why we avoid, insofar as possible, falling into the provocations manufactured by the Yankees. But we know the mentality of those who govern them. They want to make us pay a very high price for that peace. We reply that the price cannot go beyond the bounds of dignity.
And Cuba reaffirms once again the right to maintain on its territory the weapons it deems appropriate, and its refusal to recognize the right of any power on earth - no matter how powerful - to violate our soil, our territorial waters, or our airspace.
If in any assembly Cuba assumes obligations of a collective nature, it will fulfil them to the letter. So long as this does not happen, Cuba maintains all its rights, just as any other nation. In the face of the demands of imperialism, our prime minister laid out the five points necessary for the existence of a secure peace in the Caribbean.
A halt to the economic blockade and all economic and trade pressures by the United States, in all parts of the world, against our country.
A halt to all subversive activities, launching and landing of weapons and explosives by air and sea, organization of mercenary invasions, infiltration of spies and saboteurs, acts all carried out from the territory of the United States and some accomplice countries.
A halt to pirate attacks carried out from existing bases in the United States and Puerto Rico.
A halt to all the violations of our airspace and our territorial waters by United States aircraft and warships.
Withdrawal from the Guantánamo naval base and return of the Cuban territory occupied by the United States.
None of these elementary demands has been met, and our forces are still being provoked from the naval base at Guantánamo. That base has become a nest of thieves and a launching pad for them into our territory. We would tire this assembly were we to give a detailed account of the large number of provocations of all kinds. Suffice it to say that including the first days of December the number amounts to 1,323 in 1964 alone. The list covers minor provocations such as violation of the boundary line, launching of objects from the territory controlled by the United States, the commission of acts of sexual exhibitionism by U.S. personnel of both sexes, and verbal insults. It includes others that are more serious, such as shooting off small-calibre weapons, aiming weapons at our territory, and offences against our national flag. Extremely serious provocations include those of crossing the boundary line and starting fires in installations on the Cuban side, as well as rifle fire. There have been seventy-eight rifle shots this year, with the sorrowful toll of one death: that of Ramon Lopez Pefia, a soldier, killed by two shots fired from the United States post three and a half kilometres from the coast on the northern boundary. This extremely grave provocation took place at 7:07 p.m. on July 19, 1964, and the prime minister of our government publicly stated on July 26 that if the event were to recur he would give orders for our troops to repel the aggression. At the same time orders were given for the withdrawal of the forward line of Cuban forces to positions farther away from the boundary line and construction of the necessary fortified positions.
One thousand three hundred and twenty-three provocations in 340 days amount to approximately four per day. Only a perfectly disciplined army with a morale such as ours could resist so many hostile acts without losing its self-control.
Forty-seven countries meeting at the Second Conference of Heads of State or Government of Non-aligned Countries in Cairo unanimously agreed:
Noting with concern that foreign military bases are in practice a means of bringing pressure on nations and retarding their emancipation and development, based on their own ideological, political, economic, and cultural ideas, the conference declares its full support to the countries which are seeking to secure the evacuation of foreign bases on their territory and calls upon all states maintaining troops and bases in other countries to remove them forthwith.
The conference considers that the maintenance at Guantánamo ( Cuba) of a military base of the United States of America, in defiance of the will of the government and people of Cuba and in defiance of the provisions embodied in the declaration of the Belgrade conference, constitutes a violation of Cuba's sovereignty and territorial integrity. Noting that the Cuban government expresses its readiness to settle its dispute over the base of Guantánamo with the United States of America on an equal footing, the conference urges the United States government to negotiate the evacuation of this base with the Cuban government. The government of the United States has not responded to this request of the Cairo conference and is attempting to maintain indefinitely by force its occupation of a piece of our territory, from which it carries out acts of aggression such as those detailed earlier.
The Organization of American States - which the people also call the United States Ministry of Colonies - condemned us "energetically," even though it had just excluded us from its midst, ordering its members to break off diplomatic and trade relations with Cuba. The OAS authorized aggression against our country at any time and under any pretext, violating the
most fundamental international laws, completely disregarding the United Nations. Uruguay, Bolivia, Chile, and Mexico opposed that measure, and the government of the United States of Mexico refused to comply with the sanctions that had been approved. Since then we have had no relations with any Latin American countries except Mexico, and this fulfils one of the necessary conditions for direct aggression by imperialism.
We want to make clear once again that our concern for Latin America is based on the ties that unite us: the language we speak, the culture we maintain, and the common master we had. We have no other reason for desiring the liberation of Latin America from the U.S. colonial yoke. If any of the Latin American countries here decide to re-establish relations with Cuba, we would be willing to do so on the basis of equality, and without viewing that recognition of Cuba as a free country in the world to be a gift to our government. Because we won that recognition with our blood in the days of the liberation struggle. We acquired it with our blood in the defence of our shores against the Yankee invasion.
Although we reject any accusations against us of interference in the internal affairs of other countries, we cannot deny that we sympathize with those people who strive for their freedom. We must fulfil the obligation of our government and people to state clearly and categorically to the world that we morally support and stand in solidarity with peoples who struggle anywhere in the world to make a reality of the rights of full sovereignty proclaimed in the United Nations Charter.
It is the United States that intervenes. It has done so historically in Latin America. Since the end of the last century Cuba has experienced this truth; but it has been experienced, too, by Venezuela, Nicaragua, Central America in general, Mexico, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. In recent years, apart from our people, Panama has experienced direct aggression, where the marines in the Canal Zone opened fire in cold blood against the defenceless people; the Dominican Republic, whose coast was violated by the Yankee fleet to avoid an outbreak of the just fury of the people after the death of Trujillo; and Colombia, whose
capital was taken by assault as a result of a rebellion provoked by the assassination of Gaitán.
Covert interventions are carried out through military missions that participate in internal repression, organizing forces designed for that purpose in many countries, and also in coups d'etat, which have been repeated so frequently on the Latin American continent during recent years. Concretely, United States forces intervened in the repression of the peoples of Venezuela, Colombia, and Guatemala, who fought with weapons for their freedom. In Venezuela, not only do U.S. forces advise the army and the police, but they also direct acts of genocide carried out from the air against the peasant population in vast insurgent areas. And the Yankee companies operating there exert pressures of every kind to increase direct interference. The imperialists are preparing to repress the peoples of the Americas and are establishing an International of Crime.
The United States intervenes in Latin America invoking the defence of free institutions. The time will come when this assembly will acquire greater maturity and demand of the United States government guarantees for the lives of the Blacks and Latin Americans who live in that country, most of them U.S. citizens by origin or adoption.
Those who kill their own children and discriminate daily against them because of the colour of their skin; those who let the murderers of Blacks remain free, protecting them, and furthermore punishing the Black population because they demand their legitimate rights as free men - how can those who do this consider themselves guardians of freedom? We understand that today the assembly is not in a position to ask for explanations of these acts. It must be clearly established, however, that the government of the United States is not the champion of freedom, but rather the perpetuator of exploitation and oppression against the peoples of the world and against a large part of its own population.
To the ambiguous language with which some delegates have described the case of Cuba and the OAS, we reply with clear-cut words and we proclaim that the peoples of Latin America will make those servile, sell-out governments pay for their treason. Cuba, distinguished delegates, a free and sovereign state with no chains binding it to anyone, with no foreign investments on its territory, with no proconsuls directing its policy, can speak with its head held high in this assembly and can demonstrate the justice of the phrase by which it has been baptized: "Free Territory of the Americas."
Our example will bear fruit in the continent, as it is already doing to a certain extent in Guatemala, Colombia, and Venezuela.
There is no small enemy nor insignificant force, because no longer are there isolated peoples. As the Second Declaration of Havana states:
No nation in Latin America is weak - because each forms part of a family of 200 million brothers, who suffer the same miseries, who harbor the same sentiments, who have the same enemy, who dream about the same better future, and who count upon the solidarity of all honest men and women throughout the world. ...
This epic before us is going to be written by the hungry Indian masses, the peasants without land, the exploited workers. It is going to be written by the progressive masses, the honest and brilliant intellectuals, who so greatly abound in our suffering Latin American lands. A struggle of masses and of ideas. An epic that will be carried forward by our peoples, mistreated and scorned by imperialism; our people, unreckoned with until today, who are now beginning to shake off their slumber. Imperialism considered us a weak and submissive flock; and now it begins to be terrified of that flock; a gigantic flock of 200 million Latin Americans in whom Yankee monopoly capitalism now sees its gravediggers. ...
But now from one end of the continent to the other they are signalling with clarity that the hour has come - the hour of their vindication. Now this anonymous mass, this America of colour, somber, taciturn America, which all over the continent sings with the same sadness and disillusionment, now this mass is beginning to enter definitively into its own history, is beginning to write it with its own blood, is beginning to suffer and die for it.
Because now in the mountains and fields of America, on its flatlands and in its jungles, in the wilderness or in the traffic of cities, on the banks of its great oceans or rivers, this world is beginning to tremble. Anxious hands are stretched forth, ready to die for what is theirs, to win those rights that were laughed at by one and all for five hundred years. Yes, now history will have to take the poor of America into account, the exploited and spurned of America, who have decided to begin writing their history for themselves for all time. Already they can be seen on the roads, on foot, day after day, in an endless march of hundreds of kilometres to the governmental "eminences," there to obtain their rights.
Already they can be seen armed with stones, sticks, machetes, in one direction and another, each day, occupying lands, sinking hooks into the land that belongs to them and defending it with their lives. They can be seen carrying signs, slogans, flags; letting them flap in the mountain or prairie winds. And the wave of anger, of demands for justice, of claims for rights trampled underfoot, which is beginning to sweep the lands of Latin America, will not stop. That wave will swell with every passing day. For that wave is composed of the greatest number, the majorities in every respect, those whose labour amasses the wealth and turns the wheels of history. Now they are awakening from the long, brutalizing sleep to which they had been subjected. For this great mass of humanity has said, "Enough!" and has begun to march. And their march of giants will not be halted until they conquer true independence - for which they have vainly died more than once. Today, however, those who die will die like the Cubans at Playa Girón. They will die for their own true and never-to-be-surrendered independence.
All this, distinguished delegates, this new will of a whole continent, of Latin America, is made manifest in the cry proclaimed daily by our masses as the irrefutable expression of their decision to fight and to paralyse the armed hand of the invader. It is a cry that has the understanding and support of all the peoples of the world and especially of the socialist camp, headed by the Soviet Union.
That cry is: Patria o muerte! (Homeland or death)
A New Old Interview
Two Chinese Communist journalists, K'ung Mai and Ping An, interviewed Che Guevara at his home on April 18, 1959, or, as they put it, on "the 108th evening after the victory of the revolution. " Though Peking radio and the New China News Agency in London gave summaries and a few direct quotations from it, the interview was not reported in any of Peking's three leading newspapers. It was, however, published in full in the lesser-known journal Shih-chieh Chih-shih (World Knowledge) of June 5, 1959. This neglected interview apparently never appeared in Cuba, nor was it translated from the Chinese into any other language until William E. Ratliff published a complete English translation, thoroughly documented and annotated, in the Hispanic American Historical Review of August, 1966.
The Agrarian Reform, which Guevara speaks about in the future tense, became law on May 17, 1959, i. e., in the interval between the granting of the interview and its publication in China.
The excerpts below are from Ratliff's translation.
Reporter: Will you please tell us how Cuba achieved her revolutionary victory?
Guevara: Certainly. Let us begin at the time I joined the 26th of July Movement in Mexico. Before the dangerous crossing on the Granma the views on society of the members of this organisation were very different. I remember, in a frank discussion within our family in Mexico, I suggested we ought to propose a revolutionary program to the Cuban people. I have never forgotten how one of the participants in the attack on the Moncada army camp responded at that time. He said to me: "Our action is very simple. What we want to do is to initiate a coup d 'etat. Batista pulled off a coup and in only one morning took over the government. We must make another coup and expel him from power… Batista has made a hundred concessions to the Americans, and we will make one hundred and one." At that time I argued with him, saying that we had to make a coup on the basis of principle and yet at the same time understand clearly what we would do after taking over the government. That was the thinking of a member of the first stage of the 26th of July Movement. Those who held the same view and did not change left our revolutionary movement later and adopted another
From that time on, the small organisation that later made the crossing on the Granma encountered repeated difficulties. Besides the never-ending suppression by the Mexican authorities, there was also a series of internal problems, like those people who were adventurous in the beginning but later used this pretext and that to break away from the military expedition. Finally at the time of the crossing on the Granma there remained only eighty-two men in the organisation.
The adventurous thought of that time was the first and only catastrophe encountered within the organisation during the process of starting the uprising. We suffered from the blow. But we gathered together again in the Sierra Maestra. For many months the manner of our life in the mountains was most irregular. We climbed from one mountain peak to another, in a drought, without a drop of water. Merely to survive was extremely difficult.
The peasants who had to endure the persecution of Batista's military units gradually began to change their attitude toward us. They fled to us for refuge to participate in our guerrilla units. In this way our rank and file changed from city people to peasants. At that same time, as the peasants began to participate in the armed struggle for freedom of rights and social justice, we put forth a correct slogan -land reform. This slogan mobilised the oppressed Cuban masses to come forward and fight to seize the land. From this time on the first great social plan was determined, and it later became the banner and primary spearhead of our movement.
It was at just this time that a tragedy occurred in Santiago de Cuba; our Comrade Frank País was killed. This produced a turning point in our revolutionary movement. The enraged people of Santiago on their own poured into the streets and called for the first politically oriented general strike. Even though the strike did not have a leader , it paralysed the whole of Oriente Province. The dictatorial government suppressed the incident. This movement, however, caused us to understand that working class participation in the struggle to achieve freedom was absolutely essential! We then began to carry out secret work among the workers, in preparation for another general strike, to help the Rebel Army seize the government.
The victorious and bold secret activities of the Rebel Army shook the whole country; all of the people were stirred up, leading to the general strike on April 9 last year. But the strike failed because of a lack of contact between the leaders and the working masses. Experience taught the leaders of the 26th of .July Movement a valuable truth: the revolution must not belong to this or that specific clique, it must be the undertaking of the whole body of the Cuban people. This conclusion inspired the members of the movement to work their hardest, both on the plains and in the mountains.
At this time we began to educate our forces in revolutionary theory and doctrine. This all showed that the rebel movement had already grown and was even beginning to achieve political maturity....
Every person in the Rebel Army remembered his basic duties in the Sierra Maestra and other areas: to improve the status of the peasants, to participate in the struggle to seize land, and to build schools. Agrarian law was tried for the first time; using revolutionary methods we confiscated the extensive possessions of the officials of the dictatorial government and distributed to the peasants all of the state-held land in the area. At this time there rose up a peasant movement, closely connected to the land, with land reform as its banner....
To carry out thoroughly the law providing for the abolition of the latifundia system will be the concern of the peasant masses themselves. The present State Constitution provides for mandatory monetary compensation whenever land is taken away, and land reform under it will be both sluggish and difficult. Now after the victory of the revolution, the peasants who have achieved their freedom must rise up in collective action and democratically demand the abolition of the latifundia system and the carrying out of a true and extensive land reform.
Reporter: What problems does the Cuban Revolution now face, and what are its current responsibilities?
Guevara: The first difficulty is that our new actions must be engaged in on the old foundations. Cuba's antipeople regime and army are already destroyed, but the dictatorial social system and economic foundations have not yet been abolished. Some of the old people are still working within the national structure. In order to protect the fruits of the revolutionary victory and to enable the unending development of the revolution we need to take another step forward in our work to rectify and strengthen the government. Second, what the new government took over was a rundown mess. When Batista fled he cleaned out the national treasury, leaving serious difficulties in the national finances.... Third, Cuba's land system is one in which latifundistas hold large amounts of land, while at the same time many people are unemployed.... Fourth, there is still racial discrimination in our society which is not beneficial to efforts to achieve the internal unification of the people. Fifth, our house rents are the highest in the world; a family frequently has to pay over a third of its income for rent. To sum up, the reform of the foundations of the economy of the Cuban society is very difficult and will take a long time.
In establishing the order of society and in democratising the national life, the new government has adopted many positive measures. We have exerted great effort to restore the national economy. For example, the government has passed a law lowering rents by fifty percent. Yesterday a law regulating beaches was passed to cancel the privileges of a small number of people who occupy the land and the seashores....
Most important is the land reform law, which will soon be promulgated. Moreover. we will found a National Land Reform Institute. Our land reform here is not yet very penetrating; it is not as thorough as the one in China. Yet it must be considered the most progressive in Latin America....
Reporter: How will Cuba struggle against domestic and foreign reactionary enemies? What are the prospects of the revolution ?
Guevara: The Cuban Revolution is not a class revolution, but a liberation movement that has overthrown a dictatorial, tyrannical government. The people detested the American-supported Batista dictatorial government from the bottoms of their hearts and so rose up and overthrew it. The revolutionary government has received the broad support of all strata of people because its economic measures have taken care of the requirements of all and have gradually improved the livelihood of the people. The only enemies remaining in the country are the latifundistas and the reactionary bourgeoisie. They oppose the land reform that goes against their own interests. These internal reactionary forces may get in league with the developing provocation’s of the foreign reactionary forces and attack the revolutionary government.
The only foreign enemies who oppose the Cuban Revolution are the people who monopolise capital and who have representatives in the United States State Department. The victory and continuous development of the Cuban Revolution has caused these people to panic. They do not willingly accept defeat and are doing everything possible to maintain their control over the Cuban government and economy and to block the great influence of the Cuban Revolution on the people's struggles in the other Latin American countries....
Our revolution has set an example for every other country in Latin America. The experience and lessons of our revolution have caused the mere talk of the coffee houses to be dispersed like smoke. We have proved that an uprising can begin even when there is only a small group of fearless men with a resolute will; that it is only necessary to gain the support of the people who can then compete with, and in the end defeat, the regular disciplined army of the government. It is also necessary to carry out a land reform. This is another experience that our Latin American brothers ought to absorb. On the economic front and in agricultural structure they are at the same stage as we are.
The present indications are very clear that they are now preparing to intervene in Cuba and destroy the Cuban Revolution. The evil foreign enemies have an old method. First they begin a political offensive, propagandising widely and saying that the Cuban people oppose Communism. These false democratic leaders say that the United States cannot allow a Communist country on its coastline. At the same time they intensify their economic attack and cause Cuba to fall into economic difficulties. Later they will look for a pretext to create some kind of dispute and then utilise certain international organisations they control to carry out intervention against the Cuban people. We do not have to fear an attack from some small neighbouring dictatorial country, but from a certain large country, using certain international organisations and a certain kind of pretext in order to intervene and undermine the Cuban Revolution....
Cadres for the New Party
It is not necessary to dwell upon the characteristics of our revolution; upon
its original form, with its dashes of spontaneity which marked the transition
from a revolution of national liberation to a socialist revolution; one full of
rapidly passing stages, led by the same people who participated in the initial
epic of the attack on the Moncada Barracks; a revolution which proceeded through
the landing from the Granma and culminated in the declaration of the socialist
character of the Cuban Revolution. New sympathisers, cadres, organisations
joined the feeble structure to such an extent that they imparted to our
revolution its present mass character, which has now placed its stamp upon our
When it became clear that a new social class had definitely taken power in
Cuba, the great limitations which the exercise of state power would encounter
because of the existing conditions in the state became evident: the lack of
cadres to cope with the enormous tasks which had to be carried out in the state
apparatus, in political organisation, and on the entire economic front.
Immediately after the taking of power, administrative assignments were made
"by rule of thumb"; there were no major problems - there were none
because as yet the old structure had not been shattered. The apparatus
functioned in its old, slow, lifeless, broken-down way, but it had an
organisation and with it sufficient co-ordination to maintain itself through
inertia, disdaining the political changes which came about as a prelude to the
change in the economic structure.
The 26th of July Movement, deeply impaired by the internal struggles between
its right and left wings, was unable to dedicate itself to constructive tasks;
and the Partido Socialista Popular (Popular Socialist Party), because it
had undergone fierce attacks, and because for years it was an illegal
party, had not been able to develop intermediate cadres to cope with the newly
When the first state interventions took place in the economy, the task of
finding cadres was not very complicated, and it was possible to select them from
among many people who had the minimum basis for assuming positions of
leadership. But with the acceleration of the process which took place after the
nationalisation of the North American enterprises and later of the large Cuban
enterprises, a veritable hunger for administrative technicians manifested
itself. At the same time, an urgent need was felt for production technicians
because of the exodus of many who were attracted by better positions offered by
the imperialist companies in other parts of the Americas or in the United States
itself. The political apparatus had to make an intense effort, while engaged in
the tasks of building, to pay ideological attention to the masses who joined the
revolution eager to learn.
We all performed our roles as well as we could, but it was not without pain and anxieties. Many errors were committed by the administrative section of the Executive; enormous mistakes were made by the new administrators of enterprises who had overwhelming responsibilities on their hands, and we committed great and costly errors in the political apparatus also, an apparatus which little by little began to fall into the hands of a contented and carefree bureaucracy, totally separated from the masses, which became recognised as a springboard for promotions and for bureaucratic posts of major or minor importance.
The main cause of our errors was our lack of a feeling for reality at a given
moment; but the tool that we lacked, that which blunted our ability to perceive
and which was converting the party into a bureaucratic entity and was
endangering administration and production, was the lack of developed cadres at
the intermediate level. It became evident that the policy of finding cadres was
synonymous with the policy of going to the masses, to establish contact anew
with the masses, a contact which had been closely maintained by the revolution
in the first stages of its existence. But it had to be established through some
type of mechanism which would afford the most beneficial results, both in
feeling the pulse of the masses and in the transmission of political
orientation, which in many cases was only being given through the personal
intervention of Prime Minister Fidel Castro or other leaders of the revolution.
From this vantage point, we can ask ourselves what a cadre type is.
We should say that a cadre person is an individual who has achieved
sufficient political development to be able to interpret the extensive
directives emanating from the central power, make them his, and convey them as
orientation to the masses, a person who at the same time also perceives the
signs manifested by the masses of their own desires and their innermost
He is an individual of ideological and administrative discipline, who knows
and practices democratic centralism and who knows how to evaluate the existing
contradictions in this method and to utilise fully its many facets; who knows
how to practice the principle of collective discussion and to make decisions on
his own and take responsibility in production; whose loyalty is tested, and
whose physical and moral courage has developed along with his ideological
development in such a way that he is always willing to confront any conflict and
to give his life for the good of the revolution. Also, he is an individual
capable of self-analysis, which enables him to make the necessary decisions and
to exercise creative initiative in such a manner that it won't conflict with
Therefore the cadre person is creative, a leader of high standing, a technician with a good political level, who by reasoning dialectically can advance his sector of production, or develop the masses from his position of political leadership.
This exemplary human being, apparently cloaked in difficult-to-achieve
virtues, is nonetheless present among the people of Cuba, and we find him daily.
The essential thing is to grasp all the opportunities that there are for
developing him to the maximum, for educating him, for drawing from each
personality the greatest usefulness and converting it into the greatest
advantage for the nation.
The development of a cadre individual is achieved in performing everyday
tasks; but the tasks must be undertaken in a systematic manner, in special
schools where competent professors - examples in their turn to the student body
- will encourage the most rapid ideological advancement.
In a regime that is beginning to build socialism, you could not imagine a
cadre that does not have a high political development, but when we consider
political development we must not only take into account apprenticeship to
Marxist theory; we must also demand responsibility of the individual for his
acts, a discipline which restrains any passing weaknesses, and which will not
conflict with a big dose of initiative; and constant preoccupation with all the
problems of the revolution. In order to develop him, we must begin by
establishing the principles of selectivity among the masses; it is there that we
must find the budding personalities, tested by sacrifice or just
beginning to demonstrate their stirrings, and assign them to special schools; or
when these are not available, give them greater responsibility so that they are
tested in practical work.
In this way, we have been finding a multitude of new cadres who have
developed during these years; but their development has not been an even one,
since the young compañeros have had to face the reality of revolutionary
creation without the adequate orientation of a party. Some have succeeded fully,
but there were others who could not completely make it and were left midway, or
were simply lost in the bureaucratic labyrinth, or in the temptations that power
To assure the triumph and the total consolidation of the revolution, we have
to develop different types of cadres: the political cadre who will be the base
of our mass organisations, and who will orient them through the action of the Partido
Unido de la Revolución Socialista (United Party of the Socialist
Revolution; PURS). We are already beginning to establish these bases with the
national and provincial Schools of Revolutionary Instruction and with studies
and study groups at all levels. We also need military cadres; to achieve that,
we can utilise the selection the war made among our young combatants, since
there are still many living, who are without great theoretical knowledge but
were tested under fire-tested under the most difficult conditions of the
struggle, with a fully proven loyalty toward the revolutionary regime with whose
birth and development they have been so intimately connected since the first
guerrilla fights of the Sierra. We should also develop economic cadres who will
dedicate themselves specifically to the difficult tasks of planning and the
tasks of the organisation of the socialist state in these moments of creation.
It is necessary to work with the professionals, urging the youth to follow
one of the more important technical careers in an effort to give science that
tone of ideological enthusiasm which will guarantee accelerated development.
And, it is imperative to create an administrative team, which will know how to
take advantage of the specific technical knowledge of others and to co-ordinate
and guide the enterprises and other organisations of the state to bring them
into step with the powerful rhythm of the revolution.
The common denominator for all is political clarity. This does not consist of
unthinking support to the postulates of the revolution, but a reasoned support;
it requires a great capacity for sacrifice and a capacity for dialectical
analysis which will enhance the making of continuous contributions on all levels
to the rich theory and practice of the revolution. These compañeros should
be selected from the masses solely by application of the principle that the best
will come to the fore and that the best should be given the greatest
opportunities for development.
In all these situations, the function of the cadre, in spite of its being on different fronts, is the same. The cadre is the major part of the ideological motor which is the United Party of the Revolution. It is something that we could call the dynamic screw of this motor; a screw that in regard to the functional part will assure its correct functioning; dynamic to the extent that the cadre is not simply an upward or downward transmitter of slogans or demands, but a creator which will aid in the development of the masses and in the information of the leaders, serving as a point of contact with them. The cadre has the important mission of seeing to it that the great spirit of the revolution is not dissipated, that it will not become dormant nor let up its rhythm. It is a sensitive position; it transmits what comes from the masses and infuses in the masses the orientation of the party.
Therefore, the development of cadres is now a task which cannot be postponed.
The development of the cadres has been undertaken with great eagerness by the
revolutionary government with its programs of scholarships based on selective
principles; with its programs of study for workers, offering various
opportunities for technological development; with the development of the special
technical schools; with the development of the secondary schools and the
universities, opening new careers; with the development finally of our slogans
of study, work and revolutionary vigilance for our entire country, fundamentally
based on the Union of Young Communists from which all types of cadres should
emerge, even the leading cadres in the future of the revolution.
Intimately tied to the concept of cadre is the capacity for sacrifice, for demonstrating through personal example the truths and watchwords of the revolution. The cadres, as political leaders, should gain the respect of the workers by their actions. It is absolutely imperative that they count on the respect and affection of their compañeros, whom they should guide along the vanguard paths.
Overall, there are no better cadres than those elected by the masses in the assemblies that select the exemplary workers, those that will be brought into the PURS along with the old members of the ORI (Organización Revolucionaria Integrada -Integrated Revolutionary Organisation) who pass the required selective tests. At the beginning they will constitute a small party, but with enormous influence among the workers; later it will grow when the advance of socialist consciousness begins converting the work and total devotion to the cause of the people into a necessity. With the intermediate leaders of this category, the difficult tasks that we have before us will be accomplished with fewer errors. After a period of confusion and poor methods, we have arrived at a just policy which will never be abandoned. With the ever-renewing drive of the working class, nourishing from its inexhaustible fountain the ranks of the future United Party of the Socialist Revolution, and with the leadership of our Party, we fully undertake the task of the forming of cadres which will guarantee the swift development of our revolution. We must be successful in the effort.
Camilo Guevara, son of El Che in Belgium.
Excerpts from interview in ‘HUMO’ nr 43/3032 16 October 1998
Q: You didn’t really know your father. You where five years old when he died. You probably know him like we all do: out of books.
Guevara:I have a few memories, but vaguely, things I’m not even sure off that they really happened or that I dreamed them, fantasy. I know him through the stories that my mother, family and friends of my father have told me.
Q: For believers in the free market and the Americans, he is a devil.
Guevara: That’s their problem, not mine. He is a devil for the US government and American multinationals. Not for the North-American people. I am convinced that many North-Americans admire and respect El Che, that they love him and that they fight injustice in American society under his banner. In the US there is a movement that declares its solidarity with Cuba and tries to lift the economic blockade.
Q: Your father’s live ended in controversy. He left Cuba because the Soviets came, whom he did not trust, so they say, and had problems with Fidel Castro who became more and more a pragmatic head of state.
Guevara: That isn’t true. My father left Cuba because he was an eternal revolutionary. He wrote as much in letters that might soon be published. He had no quarrel with Fidel at all. Fidel and Che stayed friends, brothers and comrades until the end. That they had problems with one another is a lie which was already launched before El Che’s death. The period he was in Congo during the sixties and the capitalist countries didn’t know where he was, the Western press wrote some crazy stories: he was dead; he was locked up in a Cuban jail. With these lies they wanted to harm the Cuban revolution and Fidel Castro as one of the international leaders of the left and of the poor in the world, still eighty percent of the world population today. On the other hand they tried to convince people that the revolutionary Guevara, this great symbol, wasn’t all that, but a man who had to flee from Cuba because he had problems with his colleague -revolutionary Fidel Castro.
Q: How is life for the son of El Che in Cuba?
Guevara: You want to know if I’m privileged? Children of ‘the symbol’ have one advantage: a great part of the Cuban people still loves El Che. I often feel awkward about it, but a lot of Cubans treat us, the children of El Che, more warmly than others. I feel that the Cubans convey their affection that they had for my father onto me and my family. In that way we are indeed privileged.
Q: How are things in Cuba today? The economic situation seems to improve gradually?
Guevara: 1994 was rock-bottom for us. After that the Cuban economy gradually began growing again, which was a miracle, really. And El Che had nothing to do with it! (Laughs) Or maybe, a little. That year made a great impression on us all. Imagine: a country which is the victim of a rigorous economic blockade all of a sudden also loses eighty percent of its trade due to the collapse of Eastern Europe. At the same time the blockade is even tightened, and the prices of Western goods, which we desperately needed just like any other Third World country, keep on rising. And still we managed to let our economy grow. That is the miracle. A very dangerous example. We achieved this without one cent from the International Monitary Fund, nor of any other international financial institution whatsoever! We have showed that you can achieve a lot without money, but with a great political will. I suspect that capitalists around the world are a bit anxious that this example might be followed in other countries. That’s why they try to destroy us with even greater vigour.
Q: El Maximo Lider Fidel will sooner or later disappear from the scene. He is 72 now. What will happen then? In Florida huge groups of Cuban exiles are waiting for the day they can reclaim Cuba.
Guevara: There are few thing of which one can be sure in this world. (Laughs)
The Cubans in Florida where already convinced back in 1959 that they would
re-conquer Cuba quickly. Ha! We are forty years further now, and they are still
in Florida. When Eastern Europe collapsed, they knew for certain: we take Cuba
back! In the meantime that’s nine years ago.
For sixty years, from the beginning of the century until the end of the fifties, Cuba was a colony of the US. We know capitalism, we have experienced its deeds. Until Fidel and a group of youngsters launched the revolution. What do you think the Cuban people are going to do after Fidel’s death? Do you think that everybody wants to go back to the period before 1959; that the people will allow the US to come and boss us around?
Q: Wouldn’t it be possible that the Cuban regime imploded? The consumption goods of capitalism are very seductive. One notices it these days in Havana.
Guevara: In the West capitalism seduces many people, yes. And maybe a few ignorant people in the Third World too…
Q: Oh come on, the Cuban youth wants Nikes and Marlboro’s, Coca-Cola and walkmans too.
Guevara: Without a doubt, without a doubt. But that isn’t the majority of youngsters. Never! The Cuban people have reached a level of political and cultural awareness that cannot easily be ignored. The Cubans have seen what has happened to Eastern Europe: before the collapse of the Berlin Wall they had promised these people heaven, but what did they get? Nothing, absolutely nothing, except chaos and exploitation. We Cubans know this, we see it and we don’t want it to happen to us. OK, there are still some people that want to sell us out to the US. But they are a minority.
Q: Wouldn’t it be wiser to completely ignore the US and tighten the economic ties with Europe?
Guevara: The Europeans aren’t philanthropists either, hey. You have to be realistic: our relationship with Europe depends on what we can earn from one another. But the US executes pressure onto Europe, a lot of pressure. Northern-Europe resists the Helm-Burton law (American law that tries to prevent non-American industry to trade with Cuba) and we are glad about that. But is that because the Europeans are in love with Cuba? No, its a question of sovereignty. How can one country accept that another country forbids it to trade with the rest of the world?
Q: Until recently Cuba was a isolated socialist ‘paradise’. Now you receive thousands of tourists and businessmen from Europe and South-America. Is that positive?
Guevara: Cuba has never been as isolated as you think. We have always had good contact with Europe. With Eastern-Europe, sure. But we have always been open to the European culture. In the past we have never promoted mass tourism from Western-Europe because we didn’t need it. Now it has become our most important source of income and a way to attract foreign investments.
Q: But mass tourism has a shadow side too: prostitution.
Guevara: For me it has more to do with the crisis of human values all over the world, than with tourists coming to Cuba.
Q: You really belief that?
Guevara: There’s prostitution in Belgium as well. I have seen it with my own eyes. People who have enough money to live on don’t prostitute themselves. People who lack money, do. Why?
Q: Because they want money?
Guevara: No! If I had no money and would go hungry every day, I would not prostitute myself! It is a question of values. So, what can we do about it? Must we throw out all tourists, or do we have to make sure that people do not only have enough money, but also have respect for the essential human values? In any case we are working hard to force back prostitution.
Q: You work for the Ministry of Fishery. Strange that you have such ministry. Cubans hardly eat fish.
Guevara: That’s true. But there is improvement. In the past, eating fish was for the poor. Or food for cats and dogs. Now we try to promote the fish consumption through fairs and feasts.
Q: Even Fidel seems to interfere?
Guevara: Yes, he once did an advertisement on TV. One saw an empty table in an empty room. Fidel entered and sat himself behind the table, looked into the camera very seriously but didn’t say a word. After a while a waiter entered and served him a plate of fish. Fidel ate the fish in silence. This took a few minutes. When only the fish-bones where left on his plate, Fidel rose up, looked imperatively into the camera, and spoke to his people the historical words " And now, YOU" And now we all eat fish.
Cuban Exceptionalism ?
The following selection is from Guevara's article "Cuba: Exceptional Case or Vanguard in the Struggle Against Colonialism? " in the April 9, 1961, issue of Verde Olivo, the magazine of Cuba's armed forces.
...Some sectors, in good faith or with axes to grind, claim to see in the Cuban Revolution a series of exceptional origins and features whose importance for this great historical event they even inflate to that of the decisive factor . They speak of the exceptionalism of the Cuban Revolution as compared with the course of other progressive parties in America and conclude therefrom that the form and road of the Cuban Revolution are unique and that in the other countries of America the historic transition of the peoples will be different.
We accept that there are exceptions which give the Cuban Revolution its peculiar characteristics. It is a clearly established fact that every revolution has this type of specific factor, but it is no less an established fact that all of them follow laws which society cannot violate. Let us analyze, then, the factors of this purported exceptionalism.
The first, perhaps the most important, the most original, is that cosmic force called Fidel Castro Ruz, a name that in a few years has attained historic proportions. The future will accord our Prime Minister's merits their exact place, but to us they appear comparable to those of the greatest historic figures of all Latin America. And what are the exceptional circumstances about the personality of Fidel Castro? There are various features of his life and character which make him stand out far above all his compañeros and followers. Fidel is a man of such tremendous personality that he would gain the leadership in whatever movement he participated in; and so it has been throughout his career from his student days to the premiership of our country and of the oppressed peoples of America. He has the qualities of a great leader, and added to these are his personal gifts of audacity, strength, courage, an extraordinary eagerness always to discern the will of the people; and these have brought him to the position of honor and sacrifice that he occupies today. But he has other important qualities, such as his ability to assimilate knowledge and experience in order to understand a situation as a whole without losing sight of the details, his immense faith in the future, and the breadth of his vision to foresee events and anticipate them in action, always seeing farther and better than his compañeros. With these great cardinal qualities, with his capacity to bring people together and unite them, opposing the division which weakens; with his ability to lead the whole people in action; with his infinite love for the people; with his faith in the future and his capacity to foresee it, Fidel Castro did more than anyone else in Cuba to construct from nothing the present formidable apparatus of the Cuban Revolution.
However, no one could assert that there were political and social conditions in Cuba totally different from those in the other countries of America, and that precisely because of that difference the revolution took place. Nor could anyone assert, on the other hand, that Fidel Castro made the revolution despite that difference. Fidel, a great and able leader, led the revolution in Cuba, at the time and in the way he did, by interpreting the profound political disturbances that were preparing the people for the great leap onto the revolutionary road. Also certain conditions existed which were not confined to Cuba, but which it will be hard for other peoples to take advantage of again because imperialism, in contrast to some progressive groups, does learn from its errors.
The condition that we would describe as exceptional was that North American imperialism was disoriented and was never able to measure accurately the true scope of the Cuban Revolution. Here is something that explains many of the apparent contradictions in North American policy. The monopolies, as is habitual in such cases, began to think about a successor for Batista precisely because they knew that the people were not compliant and were also looking for a successor to Batista, but along revolutionary paths. What more intelligent and expert stroke then than to get rid of the now unserviceable little dictator and to replace him with the new "boys" who could in their turn serve the interests of imperialism very well? The empire gambled on this card from its continental deck for a while, and lost miserably. Prior to our military victory they were suspicious, but not afraid of us; rather, with all their experience at this game, which they were accustomed to winning, they played with two decks. On various occasions, emissaries of the State Department, disguised as newspapermen, came to investigate our rustic revolution, but they never found any trace of imminent danger in it. When imperialism wanted to react, when the imperialists discovered that the group of inexperienced young men, who were marching in triumph through the streets of Havana, had a clear awareness of their political duty and an iron determination to carry out that duty, it was already too late. And thus in January, 1959, dawned the first social revolution of the Caribbean zone and the most profound of the revolutions in America.
We don't believe that it could be considered exceptional that the bourgeoisie, or at least a good part of it, showed itself favorable to the revolutionary war against the tyranny at the same time that it was supporting and promoting movements seeking for negotiated solutions which would permit them to substitute for the Batista regime elements disposed to curb the revolution.
Considering the conditions in which the revolutionary war took place and the complexity of the political tendencies which opposed the tyranny, it was not at all exceptional that some latifundist elements adopted a neutral, or at least non-belligerent, attitude toward the insurrectionary forces. It is understandable that the national bourgeoisie, struck down by imperialism and the tyranny, whose troops sacked small properties and made extortion a daily way of life, felt a certain sympathy when they saw those young rebels from the mountains punish the military arm of imperialism, which is what the mercenary army was.
So non-revolutionary forces indeed helped smooth the road for the advent of revolutionary power .
Going further, we can add as a new factor of exceptionalism the fact that in most places in Cuba the peasants had been proletarianized by the needs of big semimechanized capitalist agriculture, and had reached a stage of organization which gave them greater class-consciousness. We can admit this. But we should point out, in the interest of truth, that the first area where the Rebel Army, made up of the survivors of the defeated band that had made the voyage on the Granma, operated, was an area inhabited by peasants whose social and cultural roots were different from those of the peasants found in the areas of large-scale semi-mechanized agriculture. In fact, the Sierra Maestra, locale of the first revolutionary beehive, is a place where peasants struggling barehanded against latifundism took refuge. They went there seeking a new piece of land, somehow overlooked by the state or the voracious latifundists, on which to create a modest fortune. They constantly had to struggle against the exactions of the soldiers, who were always allied to the latifundists; and their ambition extended no farther than a property deed. Concretely, the soldiers who belonged to our first peasant-type guerrilla armies came from the section of this social class which shows most strongly love for the land and the possession of it; that is to say, which shows most perfectly what we can define as the petty-bourgeois spirit. The peasant fought because he wanted land for himself, for his children, to manage it, sell it, and get rich by his work.
Despite his petty bourgois spirit, the peasant soon learned that he could not satisfy his land hunger without breaking up the system of latifundist property. Radical agrarian reform, the only kind that could give land to the peasants, clashed directly with the interests of the imperialists, latifundists and sugar and cattle magnates. The bourgeoisie was afraid to clash with those interests. But the proletariat wasn't. In this way the revolution's course itself brought together the workers and peasants. The workers supported the demands against the latifundists. The poor peasant, rewarded with ownership of the land, loyally supported the revolutionary power and defended it against its imperialist and counter-revolutionary enemies.
In our opinion no further factors of exceptionalism can be claimed. We have been generous in stating those listed in their strongest form. Now we shall examine the permanent roots of all social phenomena in America, the contradictions which, ripening in the womb of present societies, produce changes that can attain the scope of a revolution like Cuba's.
First in chronological order, though not in the order of importance at present, is latifundism. Latifundism was the economic power base of the ruling class throughout the entire period which followed the great liberating anticolonialist revolution of the last century. But that latifundist social class, which is found in all of the countries, generally lags behind the social developments that move the world. In some places, however, the most alert and clear-sighted members of the latifundist class are aware of the dangers and begin to change the investment form of their capital, at times going in for mechanized agriculture, transferring some of their wealth to industrial investment, or becoming commercial agents of the monopolies. In any case, the first liberating revolution never destroyed the latifundist bases which always constituted a reactionary force and upheld the principle of servitude on the land. This is the phenomenon that shows up in all the American countries without exception and has been the substratum of all the injustices committed since the era when the King of Spain gave huge grants of land to his most noble conquistadores, leaving, in the case of Cuba, for the natives, creoles and mestizos, only the realengos, that is,
the scraps left between where three circular grants touched each other.
In most countries the latifundist realized he couldn't survive alone and promptly entered into alliances with the monopolies, that is, with the strongest and cruelest oppressor of the American peoples. North American capital arrived on the scene to make the virgin lands fruitful, so that later it could carry off unnoticed all the funds so "generously" given, plus several times the amounts originally invested in the "beneficiary" country.
America was a field of inter-imperialist struggle and the "wars" between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, the separation of Panama from Colombia, the infamy committed against Ecuador in its dispute with Peru, the fight between Paraguay and Bolivia, are nothing but manifestations of the gigantic battle between the world's great monopolistic combines, a battle decided almost completely in favor of the North American monopolies following World War II. From that point on, the empire dedicated itself to strengthening its grip on its colonial possessions and perfecting the whole structure to prevent the intrusion of old or new competitors from other imperialist countries. All this resuIted in a monstrously distorted economy which has been described by the shamefaced economists of the imperialist regime in an innocuous term which reveals the deep compassion they feel for us inferior beings (they call our miserably exploited Indians, persecuted and reduced to utter wretchedness, 'little Indians"; all Negroes and mulattos, disinherited and discriminated against, are called "colored"; individually they are used as instruments, collectively, as a means of dividing the working masses in their struggle for a better economic future). For us, the peoples of America, they have another polite and refined term: "underdeveloped."
What is "underdeveloped"?
A dwarf with an enormus head and a swollen chest is "underdeveloped," inasmuch as his weak legs or short arms do not match the rest of his anatomy. He is the product of an abnormal formation that distorted his development. That is really what we are, we, who are politely referred to as "underdeveloped," but in truth are colonial, semi-colonial or dependent countries. We are countries whose economies have been twisted by imperialism, which has abnormally developed in us those branches of industry or agriculture needed to complement its complex economy. "Underdevelopment," or distorted development, brings dangerous specialization in raw materials, inherent in which is the threat of hunger for all our peopIes. We, the underdeveloped, are also those with monoculture, with the single product, with the single market. A single product whose uncertain sale depends on a single market that imposes and fixes conditions, that is the great formula for imperialist economic domination. It should be added to the old, but eternally young, Roman slogan Divide and Conquer!
Latifundism, then, through its connections with imperialism, completely shapes the so-called underdevelopment, whose results are low wages and unemployment. This phenomenon of low wages and unemployment is a vicious circle which produces ever lower wages and ever more unemployment, as the great contradictions of the system sharpen and, constantly at the mercy of the cyclical fluctuations of its own economy, provides the common denominator of all the peoples of America, from the Rio Bravo, (The Latin American name for the river called the Rio Grande in the United States) to the South Pole. This common denominator, which we shall print in capital letters and which serves as the starting point for analysis by all who think about these social phenomena, is called THE PEOPLE'S HUNGER; weary of being oppressed, persecuted, exploited to the limit; weary of the wretched selling of their laborpower day after day (faced with the fear of swelling the enormous mass of unemployed) so that the greatest profit can be wrung from each human body, profits that are later squandered in the orgies of the masters of capital.
We see, then, that there are great and inescapable common denominators in Latin America, and that we cannot say we were exempt from any of those leading to the most terrible and permanent of all: the people's hunger. Latifundism, whether as a primitive form of exploitation or as a form of capitalist monopoly of the land, adjusts to the new conditions and becomes an ally of imperialism, the exploitative form finance and monopoly capitalism takes outside its national borders, in order to create economic colonialism, euphemistically called "underdevelopment," which results in low wages, underemployment, unemployment: the people's hunger. It all existed in Cuba. Here, too, there was hunger. Here the percentage of unemployed was one of the highest in Latin America. Here imperialism was crueler than in many countries of America. And here latifundism was as strong as in any brother country.
What did we do to free ourselves from the vast imperialist system with its train of puppet rulers in each country and mercenary armies to protect the puppets and the whole complex social system of the exploitation of man by man? We applied certain formulas, which on some previous occasions we have given out as discoveries of our empirical medicine for the great evils of our beloved Latin America, empirical medicine which was soon adopted into the expositions of scientific truth.
The objective conditions for struggle are provided by the people's hunger, their reaction to that hunger, the terror unleashed to crush the people's reaction, and the wave of hatred that the repression creates. America lacked the subjective conditions, the most important of which is awareness of the possibility of victory through violent struggle against the imperialist powers and their internal allies. These conditions were created through the armed struggle which made clearer the need for change (and permitted it to be foreseen) and the defeat and subsequent annihilation of the army by the people's forces ( an absolutely necessary condition for every true revolution ).
Having already shown that these conditions are created through the armed struggle, we have to explain once more that the scene of the struggle should be the countryside. A peasant army, pursuing the great objectives for which the peasantry should fight (the first of which is the just distribution of the land ), will capture the cities from the countryside. The peasant class of America, basing itself on the ideology of the working class, whose great thinkers discovered the social laws governing us, will provide the great liberating army of the future, as it has already done in Cuba. This army, created in the countryside, where the subjective conditions keep ripening for the taking of power, proceeds to take the cities, uniting with the workers and enriching itself ideologically from contributions of the working class. It can and must defeat the oppressor army, at first in skirmishes, engagements, surprises; and in big battles at the end, when the army will have grown from its small-scale guerrilla footing to the proportions of a great popular army of liberation. One stage in the consolidation of the revolutionary power, as we indicated above, will be the liquidation of the old army....
Guerrilla Warfare: A Method
Guerrilla warfare has been employed on innumerable occasions throughout
history in different circumstances, to achieve different aims. Of late it has
been used in various people's wars of liberation when the vanguard of the people
chose the path of irregular armed struggle against enemies of greater military
power. Asia, Africa and America have been the scene of such actions when trying
to attain power in the struggle against feudal, neo-colonial or colonial
exploitation. In Europe, guerrilla warfare was used as supplementary to their
own or allied regular armies.
Guerrilla warfare has been waged many times in America. As a case in point
closer to home the experience of Augusto César Sandino fighting against the
Yankee expeditionary force on the banks of the Segovia in Nicaragua can be
noted, and recently Cuba's revolutionary war. Since then in America the problems
of guerrilla warfare have become a question for theoretical discussions for the
continent's progressive parties, and whether it is possible or expedient to use
it, has become the subject of head-on controversial discussions.
This article will try to present our views on guerrilla warfare and how to
use it correctly.
Above all, it must be made clear that this form of struggle is a means - means to an end. That end, essential and inevitable for all revolutionaries, is the winning of political power. Therefore, in analysing specific situations in different countries in America one must use the concept of guerrilla warfare in the limited sense of a method of struggle in order to gain that end.
Almost immediately the question arises: Is guerrilla warfare the only formula
for seizing power in the whole of America? Or at least will it be the
predominant form? Or will it simply be one of many forms used in the struggle?
And in the final analysis it may be asked: Will the example of Cuba be
applicable to the actual situation of other parts of the continent? In the
course of polemics those who advocate guerrilla warfare are often accused of
forgetting mass struggle, almost as if guerrilla warfare and mass struggle were
opposed to each other. We reject this implication. Guerrilla warfare is a
people's war, a mass struggle. To try to carry out this type of war without the
support of the population is to court inevitable disaster. The guerrillas are
the fighting vanguard of the people, stationed in a specified place in a certain
area, armed and prepared to carry out a series of warlike actions for the one
possible strategic end - the seizure of power. They have the support of the
worker and peasant masses of the region and of the whole territory in which they
operate. Without these prerequisites no guerrilla warfare is possible.
We consider that the Cuban Revolution made three fundamental contributions to the laws of the revolutionary movement in the current situation in America. They are: Firstly, people's forces can win a war against the army. Secondly, we need not always wait for all the revolutionary conditions to be present; the insurrection itself can create them. Thirdly, in the underdeveloped parts of America the battleground for armed struggle should in the main be the countryside. (Guerrilla Warfare)
Such are the contributions to the development of the revolutionary struggle in America, and they can be applied to any of the countries on our continent where guerrilla warfare may be developed.
The Second Declaration of Havana points out:
In our countries two circumstances are joined: underdeveloped industry and an agrarian regime of a feudal character. That is why no matter how hard the living conditions of the urban workers are, the rural population lives under even more horrible conditions of oppression and exploitation. But, with few exceptions, it also constitutes the absolute majority, sometimes more than 70 per cent of Latin American populations.
Not counting the landlords who often live in the cities, the rest of this
great mass earns its livelihood by Working as peons on the plantations for the
most miserable wages, or they work the soil under conditions of exploitation
indistinguishable from those of the Middle Ages.
These are the circumstances which determine that the poor population of the countryside constitutes a tremendous potential revolutionary force.
The armies are set up and equipped for conventional warfare. They are the
force whereby the power of the exploiting classes is maintained. When they are
confronted with the irregular warfare of peasants based on their own home
grounds, they become absolutely powerless; they lose ten men for every
revolutionary fighter who falls. Demoralisation among them mounts rapidly when
they are beset by an invisible and invincible army which provides them no chance
to display their military-academy tactics and their fanfare of war, of which
they boast so much to repress the city workers and students.
The initial struggle of small fighting units is constantly nurtured by new
forces; the mass movement begins to grow bold, the old order bit by bit breaks
up into a thousand pieces and that is when the working class and the urban
masses decide the battle.
What is it that from the very beginning of the fight makes those units
invincible, regardless of the number, strength and resources of their enemies?
It is the people's support, and they can count on an ever-increasing mass
But the peasantry is a class which, because of the ignorance in which it has
been kept and the isolation in which it lives, requires the revolutionary and
political leadership of the working class and the revolutionary intellectuals.
Without that it cannot alone launch the struggle and achieve victory.
In the present historical conditions of Latin America the national bourgeoisie cannot lead the anti-feudal and anti-imperialist struggle. Experience demonstrates that in our nations this class - even when its interests clash with those of Yankee imperialism - has been incapable of confronting imperialism, paralysed by fear of social revolution and frightened by the clamour of the exploited masses.
Supplementing these statements, which constitute the essence of the
revolutionary declaration of America, the Second Declaration of Havana in other
paragraphs states the following:
The subjective conditions in each country, the factors of consciousness, of organisation, of leadership, can accelerate or delay revolution, depending on the state of their development. Sooner or later, in each historic epoch, as objective conditions ripen, consciousness is acquired, organisation is achieved, leadership arises. and revolution is produced.
Whether this takes place peacefully or comes to the world after painful
labour, does not depend on the revolutionaries; it depends on the reactionary
forces of the old society; it depends on their resistance against allowing the
new society to be born, a society produced by the contradictions of the old
society. Revolution, in history, is like the doctor who assists at the birth of
a new life: it does not use forceps unless it is necessary, but it will
unhesitatingly use them every time labour requires them. A labour brings the
hope of a better life to the enslaved and exploited masses. Revolution is
inevitable in many countries of Latin America. Nobody's will determines this
fact. It is determined by the frightful conditions of exploitation which afflict
mankind in America. It is determined by the development of the revolutionary
consciousness of the masses, by the world crisis of imperialism and by the
universal movement of struggle of the world's subjugated peoples.
We shall start from this basis to analyse the whole question of guerrilla
warfare in America.
We have asserted that it is a means of struggle to achieve an end. Our first concern is to analyse the end and to see whether the winning of power here in America can be attained in any other way than by armed struggle.
Peaceful struggle can be carried out through mass movements and can - in
special situations of crisis - compel governments to yield, so that the popular
forces eventually take power and establish a proletarian dictatorship.
Theoretically this is correct. When analysing this on the American scene we must
arrive at the following conclusions: Generally speaking, on this continent there
exist objective conditions which impel the masses to violent actions against the
bourgeois and landlord governments; in many other countries there exist crises
of power and some subjective conditions too. Obviously, in the countries where
all these conditions are given, it would be criminal not to act to seize power.
In others where this situation does not occur, it is right that different
alternatives should emerge and that the decision applicable to each country
should come out of theoretical discussion. The only thing history does not
permit is that the analysts and executors of proletarian policy should blunder.
No one can claim the role of vanguard party as if it were a university diploma.
To be a vanguard party means to stand in the forefront of the working class in
the struggle for the seizure of power, to know how to guide this struggle to
success by short cuts. That is the mission of our revolutionary parties, and the
analysis should be profound and exhaustive in order that there will be no
At present there is in America a state of unstable balance between oligarchic
dictatorship and popular pressure. By "oligarchic" we mean the
reactionary alliance between the bourgeoisie and the landlord class of each
country with a greater or lesser preponderance of feudalism. These dictatorships
continue within certain frameworks of legality, which they set up for themselves
to facilitate their work during the whole unrestricted period of their class
domination, while we are undergoing a stage in which the pressure of the people
is very strong and is knocking at the doors of bourgeois legality which its own
authors have to violate in order to cheek the impetus of the masses. The
barefaced violations of all established legislation - or of legislation
especially instituted to sanction their deeds - only heighten the tension of the
people's forces. The oligarchic dictatorship, therefore, endeavours to use the
old legal order to change constitutionality and further suppress the proletariat
without a head-on clash. Nevertheless, this is just where a contradiction
arises. The people now do not tolerate the old, still less the new, coercive
measures adopted by the dictatorship, and try to smash them. We must never
forget the authoritarian and restrictive class character of the bourgeois state.
Lenin refers to it thus:
The state is the product and the manifestation of the irreconcilability of
class antagonisms. The state arises when, where, and to the extent that class
antagonisms objectively cannot be reconciled. And, conversely, the existence of
the state proves that the class antagonisms are irreconcilable. (State and
In other words, we must not allow the word democracy, used in an apologetic
manner to represent the dictatorship of the exploiting classes, to lose its
deeper meaning and acquire the meaning of giving the people certain liberties,
more or less good. To struggle only to restore a certain degree of bourgeois
legality, without at the same time raising the question of revolutionary power,
is to struggle for the return of a certain dictatorial order established by the
dominant social classes; it is only a struggle for a lighter ball to be fixed to
the convict's chains.
In these conditions of conflict, the oligarchy breaks its own contracts, its
own mask of "democracy," and attacks the people, although it always
tries to make use of the superstructure it has formed for oppression. At that
moment, the question again arises: What is to be done? Our answer is: Violence
is not only for the use of the exploiters; the exploited can use it too, and
what is more, ought to use it at the opportune moment. Martí said: "He who
wages war in a country that can avoid it is a criminal; so is he who fails to
wage a war that cannot be avoided."
And Lenin said:
Social-Democracy has never taken a sentimental view of war. It unreservedly condemns war as a bestial means of settling conflicts in human society. But Social-Democracy knows that so long as society is divided into classes, so long as there is exploitation of man by man, wars are inevitable. This exploitation cannot be destroyed without war, and war is always and everywhere begun by the exploiters, by the ruling and oppressing classes.
He said this in 1905. Later, in "The War Program of the Proletarian Revolution," in a profound analysis of the nature of class struggle, he affirmed:
Whoever recognises the class struggle cannot fail to recognise civil wars,
which in every class society are the natural, and under certain conditions,
inevitable continuation, development and intensification of the class struggle.
All the great revolutions prove this. To repudiate civil war, or to forget about
it, would mean sinking into extreme opportunism and renouncing the socialist
That is to say, we should not be afraid of violence, the midwife of new societies; only such violence should be unleashed precisely at the moment when the people's leaders find circumstances most favourable.
What will these be? Subjectively, they depend upon two factors that are
complementary and that in turn deepen in the course of the struggle: the
consciousness of the necessity of change and the certainty of the possibility of
this revolutionary change. These two factors, coupled with the objective
conditions - which in nearly all of America are highly favourable for the
development of struggle with the firm will to attain it as well as the new
correlation of forces in the world, determine the form of action.
However far away the socialist countries may be, their favourable influence
will make itself felt among the fighting peoples who will be given more strength
by their enlightening example. On the 26th of July this year (1963), Fidel
And the duty of the revolutionaries, especially at this moment, is to know
how to recognise and how to take advantage of the changes in the correlation of
forces which have taken place in the world, and to understand that these changes
facilitate the struggle of the peoples. The duty of revolutionaries, of Latin
American revolutionaries, is not to wait for the change in the correlation of
forces to produce a miracle of social revolutions in Latin America, but to take
full advantage of everything in it that is favourable to the revolutionary
movement - and to make revolution!
There are people who say: 'We admit that in certain specific cases revolutionary war is the proper way to attain political power; but where can we find those great leaders, the Fidel Castros who will lead us to victory?" Fidel Castro, like every human being, is a product of history. The military and political leaders, merged if possible into one man, who may lead risings in America, will learn the art of war in the exercise of war itself. There is no job or profession which can be learned from textbooks alone. In this case, struggle is the great teacher.
Naturally the task is not simple, nor is it exempt from serious threats all
the way along.
During the development of the armed struggle there appear two moments of extreme danger for the future of the revolution. The first of these arises in the preparatory stage and the way it is dealt with gives the measure of the determination for struggle and clarity of purpose of the people's forces. When the bourgeois state advances against the positions of the people, obviously there must emerge a process of defence against the enemy who attacks in this moment of superiority. If the minimum subjective and objective conditions have already been developed, the defence must be armed but not in such a way that the people's forces become mere recipients of the enemy's blows; nor should the stage of armed defence be transformed into nothing but a last refuge for the pursued. Guerrilla fighting, though at a given moment it may be a defensive movement of the people, carries within itself the capacity to attack the enemy and must constantly develop it. This capacity is what determines, as time goes on, the catalytic character of the people's forces. That is to say, guerrilla fighting is not passive self-defence; it is defence with attack, and from the moment it is recognised as such, it has as a final perspective the winning of political power.
This moment is important. In social processes the difference between violence
and non-violence cannot be measured by the number of shots exchanged; it depends
on concrete and fluctuating situations. And one must know how to recognise the
exact moment when the people's forces, conscious of their relative weakness but
at the same time of their strategic strength, should take the initiative so that
the situation does not worsen. The balance between the oligarchic dictatorship
and the pressure of the people must be upset. The dictatorship constantly tries
to function without resorting to force. Being obliged to appear without
disguise, that is to say, in its true aspect as a violent dictatorship of the
reactionary classes, will contribute to its unmasking, and this will deepen the
struggle to such an extent that it will not be able to turn back. The resolute
beginning of long-range armed action depends on how the people's forces fulfil
their function, which amounts to the task of forcing a decision on the
dictatorship-to draw back or to unleash the struggle.
The skilful avoidance of the other moment of danger depends on the ability to develop the growth of the people's forces. Marx always advised that once the revolutionary process has begun, the proletariat must strike and strike without rest. A revolution that does not constantly deepen is a revolution that goes back. The combatants, once wearied, begin to lose faith, and then some of the bourgeois manoeuvres to which we have been so accustomed may bear fruit. These can be the holding of elections to hand over the government to some other gentleman with a more honeyed voice and a more angelic face than the outgoing dictator, or the staging of a coup by reactionaries, generally headed by the army and supported, directly or indirectly, by progressive forces. There are others as well, but it is not our intention to analyse such tactical stratagems.
Let us focus our main attention on the operation of the military coup
mentioned above. What can militarists contribute to true democracy? What kind of
loyalty can be asked of them, if they are mere instruments of domination by the
reactionary classes and imperialist monopolies and, as a caste whose worth rests
only on the weapons in their hands, they aspire only to maintain their
When, in situations difficult for the oppressors, the military men conspire
to overthrow a dictator who in fact is finished, it can be taken for granted
that they do so because they are unable to preserve their class prerogatives
without extreme violence, a procedure which generally does not coincide with the
interests of the oligarchies at that moment.
This statement certainly does not mean rejecting the services of military men
as individual fighters who, separated from the society they have served, have,
in fact, rebelled against it. And they should be made use of in accordance with
the revolutionary line they adopt as fighters and not as representatives of a
Long ago, Engels, in the preface to the third edition of The Civil War in
The workers were armed after every revolution; . . therefore the disarming of the workers was the first commandment for the bourgeois at the helm of the state. Hence after every revolution won by the workers, a new struggle, ending with the defeat of the workers." (Quoted by Lenin in State and Revolution)
This play of continuous struggles in which some formal change is brought
about and then strategically withdrawn, has been repeated for decades in the
capitalist world. But the continuous deception of the proletariat along these
lines has been practised periodically for more than a century.
There is also a danger that the leaders of the progressive parties, desiring to prolong conditions more favourable for revolutionary action by using certain aspects of bourgeois legality, lose sight of the goal, something that is very common in the course of action, and forget the definite strategic objective: the seizure of power.
These two difficult moments of the revolution which we have briefly analysed
can be surmounted when the Marxist-Leninist party leaders are capable of clearly
seeing the implications of the moment and of mobilising the masses to the
maximum, leading them onto the correct path of resolving fundamental
In elaborating the thesis, we have assumed that eventually the idea of armed
struggle as well as the formula of guerrilla warfare as a method of fighting
will be accepted. Why do we think that guerrilla warfare is the correct way in
the present situation in America? There are fundamental arguments which in our
opinion determine the necessity of guerrilla action as the central axis of the
struggle in America.
First, accepting as true that the enemy will struggle to maintain itself in
power, it is necessary to consider destroying the oppressor-army. To do this, it
is necessary to confront it with a people's army. This army is not born
spontaneously; it must be armed from the enemy's arsenal and this demands a long
hard struggle in which the people's forces and their leaders will always be
exposed to attack by superior forces and be without adequate conditions of
defence and manoeuvrability.
On the other hand, the guerrilla nucleus, established in areas suitable for fighting, ensures the security and continuity of the revolutionary command. The urban forces commanded by the general staff of the people's army can perform actions of the utmost importance. But the eventual destruction of these groups would not kill the soul of the revolution, its leadership. This would continue to spark the revolutionary spirit of the masses from its rural stronghold, organising new forces for other battles.
Moreover, in this area begins the construction of the future state apparatus
entrusted with leading the class dictatorship efficiently during the whole
period of transition. The longer the struggle, the greater and more complicated
the administrative problems, and to solve them cadres will be trained for the
difficult task of consolidating power and economic development at a later stage.
Secondly, the general situation of the Latin American peasantry and the increasingly explosive character of its struggle against feudal rule in the framework of an alliance between local and foreign exploiters.
Returning to the Second Declaration of Havana:
At the outset of the past century, the peoples of America freed themselves from Spanish colonialism, but they did not free themselves from exploitation. The feudal landlords assumed the authority of the governing Spaniards, the Indians continued in their painful serfdom, the Latin American man remained a slave one way or another, and the minimum hopes of the peoples died under the power of the oligarchies and the tyranny of foreign capital. This is the truth of America, to one or another degree of variation. Latin America today is under a more ferocious imperialism, more powerful and ruthless than the Spanish colonial empire.
What is Yankee imperialism's attitude confronting the objective and
historically inexorable reality of the Latin American revolution? To prepare to
fight a colonial war against the peoples of Latin America; to create an
apparatus of force to establish the political pretexts and the pseudo-legal
instruments underwritten by the representatives of the reactionary oligarchies,
in order to curb, by blood and by iron, the struggle of the Latin American
This objective situation demonstrates the latent, unused strength in our
peasants and the necessity to utilise it for the liberation of America.
Thirdly, the continental character of the struggle.
Could this new stage of the emancipation of America be conceived as a confrontation of two local forces struggling for power in a given territory? Hardly. The struggle between all the forces of the people and all the forces of repression will be a struggle to the death. This too is forecast by the passages quoted above.
The Yankees will intervene because of solidarity of interests and because the
struggle in America is decisive. In fact, they are already intervening in the
preparation of repressive forces and the organisation of a continental apparatus
of struggle. But from now on they will do so with all their energy; they will
strike the people's forces with all the destructive weapons at their disposal.
They will try to prevent the consolidation of revolutionary power; and if it
should be successful anywhere, they will renew their attack. They will not
recognise it. They will try to divide the revolutionary forces. They will
introduce all types of saboteurs, create frontier problems, engage other
reactionary states to oppose it, and will try to strangle the new state
economically-in a word, to annihilate it.
This being the picture in America, it is difficult to achieve and consolidate victory in a country that is isolated. The unity of the repressive forces must encounter the unity of the people's forces. In all the countries in which oppression becomes unbearable, the banner of rebellion must be raised, and this banner of historical necessity will have a continental character. As Fidel said, the Andes will be the Sierra Maestra of America, and all the immense territories that make up this Continent will become the scene of a life-and-death struggle against the power of imperialism.
We cannot tell when this struggle will acquire a continental character nor
how long it will last; but we can predict its advent and its triumph, because it
is the inevitable result of historical, economic and political conditions and
its direction cannot be changed. It is the task of the revolutionary force in
each country to initiate it when the conditions are present, regardless of the
situation in other countries. The general strategy will emerge as the struggle
develops. The prediction of the continental character of the struggle is borne
out by analysis of the strength of each contender, but this does not in the
least exclude independent outbreaks. Just as the beginning of the struggle in
one part of a country is bound to develop it throughout its area, the beginning
of a revolutionary war contributes to the development of new conditions in the
The development of revolution has normally produced high and low tides in
inverse proportion: to the revolutionary high tide corresponds the
counter-revolutionary low tide; and conversely at moments of revolutionary
decline, there is a counter-revolutionary ascendancy. At such moments the
situation of the people's forces becomes difficult, and they should resort to
the best defence measures in order to suffer the least loss. The enemy is
extremely powerful, continental in stature. Therefore the relative weaknesses of
the local bourgeoisie cannot be analysed with a view to making decisions within
restricted limits. Still less can one think of an eventual alliance of these
oligarchies with an armed people. The Cuban Revolution has sounded the alarm.
The polarisation of forces is becoming complete: exploiters on one side and
exploited on the other. The mass of the petty bourgeoisie will lean to one side
or the other according to their interests and the political skill with which it
is handled; neutrality will be an exception. This is how revolutionary war will
Let us consider the way a guerrilla centre can start.
Nuclei of relatively few persons choose places favourable for guerrilla
warfare, sometimes with the intention of launching a counter-attack or to
weather a storm, and there they begin to take action. But the following must be
made clear: At the beginning, the relative weakness of the guerrilla fighters is
such that they should only endeavour to pay attention to the terrain in order to
become acquainted with the surroundings, establish connections with the
population and fortify the places which eventually will be converted into bases.
A guerrilla unit can survive only if it starts by basing its development on
the three following conditions: constant mobility, constant vigilance, constant
wariness. Without the adequate use of these elements of military tactics, the
unit will find it hard to survive. It must be remembered that the heroism of the
guerrilla fighter at such times consists in the scope of the planned objective
and the long series of sacrifices that must be made in order to attain it.
These sacrifices will not mean daily combat or face-to-face struggle with the
enemy; they will assume forms more subtle and difficult for the individual
guerrilla fighter to endure physically and mentally.
The guerrillas will perhaps suffer heavily from the attacks of enemy armies, at times be split up while those taken prisoner will be martyred. They will be pursued like hunted animals in the areas they have chosen to operate in, with the constant anxiety of having the enemy on their track, and on top of all this with the constant doubt that in some cases the terrorised peasants will give them away to the repressive troops in order to save their own skins. They have no alternative but death or victory at times when death is a concept a thousand times present, and victory a myth only a revolutionary can dream of.
That is the heroism of the guerrilla. That is why it is said that to be on
the march is also a form of fighting, and to avoid combat at a given moment is
another form. Faced with the general superiority of the enemy, the way to act is
to find a form of tactics with which to gain a relative superiority at a chosen
point, either by being able to concentrate more troops than the enemy or by
making the best use of the terrain to secure advantages that upset the
correlation of forces. In these conditions tactical victory is assured; if
relative superiority is not clear, it is preferable not to take action. As long
as one is in a position to choose the "how" and the "when,"
no battle should be fought which will not end in victory.
Guerrilla forces will grow and be consolidated within the framework of the
great politico-military action of which they are a part. And within this
framework they will go on forming the bases, which are essential for their
success. These bases are points which the enemy can penetrate only at the cost
of heavy losses; they are bastions of the revolution, both shelters and starting
points for bolder and more distant raids.
Such a time will come if the difficulties of both tactical and political
discipline have been overcome. The guerrillas must never forget their function
as vanguard of the people, the mandate entrusted to their care, and therefore
they should create the necessary political conditions for the establishment of a
revolutionary power based on the full support of the masses. The main demands of
the peasantry should be met to the degree and in the form which circumstances
permit, so as to bring about the unity and solidarity of the whole population.
If the military situation is difficult from the first moments, the political
situation will be no less delicate; and if a single military error can wipe out
the guerrillas, a political error can check their development for a long period.
The struggle is politico-military; so it must develop, and so it must be
In the course of its growth guerrilla fighting reaches a point at which its capacity for action covers a given region, for which there are too many men and too great a concentration. Then begins the beehive action, in which one of the commanding officers, a distinguished guerrilla, hops to another region and repeats the chain development of guerrilla warfare, but still subject to a central command.
Now, it is necessary to point out that one cannot hope for victory without the formation of a people's army. The guerrilla forces can be expanded to a certain size; the people's forces, in the cities and in other enemy-occupied zones, can inflict losses, but the military potential of the reactionaries would remain intact. It must always be remembered that the final outcome should be the annihilation of the enemy. Therefore all these new zones that have been created, as well as the penetrated zones behind the enemy lines and the forces operating in the principal cities, should be under a unified command. It cannot be claimed that there exists among guerrilla forces the closely linked chain of command that characterises an army, but there is a strategic command. Within certain conditions of freedom of action, the guerrillas should carry out all the strategic orders of the central command, which is set up in one of the safest and strongest areas, preparing conditions for the union of the forces at a given moment.
The guerrilla war or war of liberation will generally have three stages:
First, the strategic defensive when a small force nibbles at the enemy and makes
off, not to shelter in passive defence within a small circumference, but rather
to defend itself by limited attacks which it can carry out successfully. After
this, comes a state of equilibrium, during which the possibilities of action on
the part of both the enemy and the guerrillas are established; then comes the
final stage of overrunning the repressive army, ending in the capture of the big
cities, large-scale decisive encounters and the total annihilation of the enemy.
After reaching a state of equilibrium, when both sides are on guard against
each other, in the ensuing development guerrilla war acquires new
characteristics. The concept of manoeuvre is introduced: big columns attack
strong points; and mobile warfare with the shifting of forces and of
considerable means of attack. But owing to the capacity of resistance and
counter-attack that the enemy still retains, this war of manoeuvre does not
entirely replace guerrilla fighting; it is only one form of action taken by the
larger guerrilla forces until finally they crystallise into a people's army with
army corps. Even at this time, the guerrillas will play their
"original" guerrilla role, moving ahead of the actions of the main
forces, destroying communications and sabotaging the whole defensive apparatus
of the enemy.
We have predicted that the war will be continental. This means it will be
protracted; it will have many fronts, and will cost much blood and countless
lives over a long period. But besides this, the phenomena of polarisation of
forces that are occurring in America, the clear division between exploiters and
exploited that will exist in future revolutionary war, mean that when the armed
vanguard of the people seizes power, the country or countries that attain it
will, at one and the same time, liquidate both their imperialist and national
exploiting class oppressor. The first stage of the socialist revolution will
have crystallised; the people will be ready to staunch their wounds and begin to
Will there be other possibilities less bloody?
Some time ago, there took place the last dividing up of the world, in which the United States took the lion's share of our continent; today the imperialists of the Old World are developing anew, and the might of the European Common Market is threatening the United States itself. All this might lead to the belief that it will be possible to watch as spectators the inter-imperialist struggle in order to attain further advances, perhaps in alliance with the stronger national bourgeoisie. Apart from the consideration that in class struggle a passive policy never brings good results and that alliances with the bourgeoisie, however revolutionary they may appear at a given moment, have only a transitory character, the time factor will induce us to take another path. The sharpening of the fundamental contradiction in America appears to be so rapid that it upsets the "normal" development of the contradictions within the imperialist camp in its struggle for markets.
The national bourgeoisie is for the most part united with United States
imperialism and has to throw in its lot with the latter in each country. Even
cases of agreements or coincidences of contradictions between the U. S. and the
national bourgeoisie and other imperialists happen within the framework of a
fundamental struggle that in the course of its development inevitably embraces
all the exploited and all the exploiters. The polarisation of antagonistic
forces among class enemies is so far more rapid than the development of the
contradictions among exploiters over the division of the spoils. There are two
camps: the alternative becomes clearer for every individual and for every
particular stratum of the population.
The Alliance for Progress is a design to check what cannot be checked.
But if the advance of the European Common Market, or any other imperialist group on the American market, were more rapid than the development of the fundamental contradiction, the people's forces would only have to be introduced as a wedge into the open breach, carrying on this whole struggle and utilising the new intruders with a clear consciousness of their final intentions.
Not a single position, not a single weapon, not a single secret, should be given up to the class enemy, under penalty of losing all.
The eruption of the struggle in America has actually begun. Will its storm
centre be in Venezuela, Guatemala, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador? Are these present
skirmishes only a manifestation of a restlessness that has not come to fruition?
It does not matter what will be the result of today's struggles. It does not
matter, so far as the final result is concerned, whether one or another movement
is temporarily defeated. What is certain is the determination to struggle which
ripens day by day, the consciousness of the necessity for revolutionary change,
the certainty that it is possible.
This is a prediction. We make it with the conviction that history will prove us right. An analysis of the subjective and objective factors in America and in the imperialist world points to us the accuracy of these assertions based on the Second Declaration of Havana.
Ideology of the Cuban Revolution
This is a unique revolution which some people maintain contradicts one of the most orthodox premises of the revolutionary movement, expressed by Lenin: "Without a revolutionary theory there is no revolutionary movement." It would be suitable to say that revolutionary theory, as the expression of a social truth, surpasses any declaration of it; that is to say, even if the theory is not known, the revolution can succeed if historical reality is interpreted correctly and if the forces involved are utilised correctly. Every revolution always incorporates elements of very different tendencies which, nevertheless, coincide in action and in the revolution's most immediate objectives.
It is clear that if the leaders have an adequate theoretical knowledge prior to the action, they can avoid trial and error whenever the adopted theory corresponds to the reality.
The principal actors of this revolution had no coherent theoretical criteria; but it cannot be said that they were ignorant of the various concepts of history, society, economics, and revolution which are being discussed in the world today.
Profound knowledge of reality, a close relationship with the people, the firmness of the liberator's objective, and the practical revolutionary experience gave to those leaders the chance to form a more complete theoretical concept.
The foregoing should be considered an introduction to the explanation of this curious phenomenon that has intrigued the entire world: the Cuban Revolution. It is a deed worthy of study in contemporary world history: the how and the why of a group of men who, shattered by an army enormously superior in technique and equipment, managed first to survive, soon became strong, later became stronger than the enemy in the battle zones, still later moved into new zones of combat, and finally defeated that enemy on the battlefield even though their troops were still very inferior in number.
Naturally we, who often do not show the requisite concern for theory, will not run the risk of expounding the truth of the Cuban Revolution as though we were its masters. We will simply try to give the bases from which one can interpret this truth. In fact, the Cuban Revolution must be separated into two absolutely distinct stages: that of the armed action up to January 1, 1959, and the political, economic and social transformations since then.
Even these two stages deserve further subdivisions; however, we will not take them from the viewpoint of historical exposition, but from the viewpoint of the evolution of the revolutionary thought of its leaders through their contact with the people. Incidentally, here one must introduce a general attitude toward one of the most controversial terms of the modern world: Marxism. When asked whether or not we are Marxists, our position is the same as that of a physicist or a biologist when asked if he is a "Newtonian," or if he is a "Pasteurian".
There are truths so evident, so much a part of people's knowledge, that it is now useless to discuss them. One ought to be "Marxist' with the same naturalness with which one is "Newtonian" in physics, or "Pasteurian" in biology, considering that if facts determine new concepts, these new concepts will never divest themselves of that portion of truth possessed by the older concepts they have outdated. Such is the case, for example, of Einsteinian relativity or of Planck's "quantum" theory with respect to the discoveries of Newton; they take nothing at all away from the greatness of the learned Englishman. Thanks to Newton, physics was able to advance until it had achieved new concepts of space. The learned Englishman provided the necessary stepping-stone for them.
The advances in social and political science, as in other fields, belong to a long historical process whose links are connecting, adding up, moulding and constantly perfecting themselves. In the origin of peoples, there exists a Chinese, Arab or Hindu mathematics; today, mathematics has no frontiers. In the course of history there was a Greek Pythagoras, an Italian Galileo, an English Newton, a German Gauss, a Russian Lobachevsky, an Einstein, etc. Thus in the field of social and political sciences, from Democritus to Marx, a long series of thinkers added their original investigations and accumulated a body of experience and of doctrines.
The merit of Marx is that he suddenly produces a qualitative change in the history of social thought. He interprets history, understands its dynamic, predicts the future, but in addition to predicting it (which would satisfy his scientific obligation), he expresses a revolutionary concept: the world must not only be interpreted, it must be transformed. Man ceases to be the slave and tool of his environment and converts himself into the architect of his own destiny. At that moment Marx puts himself in a position where he becomes the necessary target of all who have a special interest in maintaining the old-similar to Democritus before him, whose work was burned by Plato and his disciples, the ideologues of Athenian slave aristocracy. Beginning with the revolutionary Marx, a political group with concrete ideas establishes itself. Basing itself on the giants, Marx and Engels, and developing through successive steps with personalities like Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse-tung and the new Soviet and Chinese rulers, it establishes a body of doctrine and, let us say, examples to follow.
The Cuban Revolution takes up Marx at the point where he himself left science to shoulder his revolutionary rifle. And it takes him up at that point, not in a revisionist spirit, of struggling against that which follows Marx, of reviving "pure" Marx, but simply because up to that point Marx, the scientist, placed himself outside of the history he studied and predicted. From then on Marx, the revolutionary, could fight within history.
We, practical revolutionaries, initiating our own struggle, simply fulfil laws foreseen by Marx, the scientist. We are simply adjusting ourselves to the predictions of the scientific Marx as we travel this road of rebellion, struggling against the old structure of power, supporting ourselves in the people for the destruction of this structure, and having the happiness of this people as the basis of our struggle. That is to say, and it is well to emphasise this once again: The laws of Marxism are present in the events of the Cuban Revolution, independently of what its leaders profess or fully know of those laws from a theoretical point of view. . .
Each of those brief historical moments in the guerrilla warfare framed distinct social concepts and distinct appreciations of the Cuban reality; they outlined the thought of the military leaders of the revolution-those who in time would also take their position as political leaders.
Before the landing of the Granma, a mentality predominated that, to some degree, might be called "subjectivist": blind confidence in a rapid popular explosion, enthusiasm and faith in the power to liquidate the Batista regime by a swift, armed uprising combined with spontaneous revolutionary strikes, and the subsequent fall of the dictator. . . .
After the landing comes the defeat, the almost total destruction of the forces, and their regrouping and integration as guerrillas. Characteristic of those few survivors, imbued with the spirit of struggle, was the understanding that to count upon spontaneous outbursts throughout the island was a falsehood, an illusion. They understood also that the fight would have to be a long one and that it would need vast campesino participation. At this point, the campesinos entered the guerrilla war for the first time.
Two events - hardly important in terms of the number of combatants, but of great psychological value - were unleashed. First, antagonism that the city people, who comprised the central guerrilla group, felt towards the campesinos was erased. The campesinos, in turn, distrusted the group and, above all, feared barbarous reprisals of the government. Two things demonstrated themselves at this stage, both very important for the interrelated factors: To the campesinos, the bestialities of the army and all the persecution would not be sufficient to put an end to the guerrilla war, even though the army was certainly capable of liquidating the campesinos' homes, crops, and families. To take refuge with those in hiding was a good solution. In turn, the guerrilla fighters learned the necessity, each time more pointed, of winning the campesino masses. . . .
[Following the failure of Batista's major assault on the Rebel Army,] the war shows a new characteristic: The correlation of forces turns toward the revolution. Within a month and a half, two small columns, one of eighty and the other of a hundred forty men, constantly surrounded and harassed by an army that mobilised thousands of soldiers, crossed the plains of Camagüey, arrived at Las Villas, and began the job of cutting the island in two.
It may seem strange, incomprehensible, and even incredible that two columns of such small size - without communications, without mobility, without the most elementary arms of modern warfare - could fight against well-trained, and above all, well-armed troops.
Basic [to the victory] is the characteristic of each group: the fewer comforts the guerrilla fighter has, the more he is initiated into the rigors of nature, the more he feels himself at home; his morale is higher, his sense of security greater. At the same time, he has learned to risk his life in every circumstance that might arise, to trust it to luck, like a tossed coin; and in general, as a final result of this kind of combat, it matters little to the individual guerrilla whether or not he survives.
The enemy soldier in the Cuban example, which we are now considering, is the junior partner of the dictator; he is the man who gets the last crumbs left to him in a long line of profiteers that begins in Wall Street and ends with him. He is disposed to defend his privileges, but he is disposed to defend them only to the degree that they are important to him. His salary and pension are worth some suffering and some dangers, but they are never worth his life; if the price of maintaining them will cost it, he is better off giving them up, that is to say, withdrawing from the face of guerrilla danger. From these two concepts and these two morals springs the difference which would cause the crisis of December 31, 1958 . . . . *
Here ends the insurrection. But the men who arrive in Havana after two years of arduous struggle in the mountains and plains of Oriente, in the plains of Camagüey, and in the mountains, plains, and cities of Las Villas, are not the same men, ideologically, who landed on the beaches of Las Coloradas, or who took part in the first phase of the struggle. Their distrust of the campesino has been converted into affection and respect for his virtues; their total ignorance of life in the country has been converted into a knowledge of the needs of our guajiros; their flirtations with statistics and with theory have been fixed by the cement which is practice.
With the banner of Agrarian Reform, the execution of which begins in the Sierra Maestra, these men confront imperialism. They know that the Agrarian Reform is the basis upon which the new Cuba must build itself. They know also that the Agrarian Reform will give land to all the dispossessed, but that it will dispossess its unjust possessors; and they know that the greatest of the unjust possessors are also influential men in the State Department or in the government of the United States of America. But they have learned to conquer difficulties with bravery, with audacity and, above all, with the support of the people; and they have now seen the future of liberation that awaits us on the other side of our sufferings.
*The day Batista was overthrown.
Notes on Man and Socialism in Cuba
Though belatedly, I am completing these notes in the course of my trip through Africa, hoping in this way to keep my promise. I would like to do so by dealing with the theme set forth in the above title. I think it may be of interest to Uruguayan readers.
A common argument from the mouths of capitalist spokesmen, in the ideological struggle against socialism, is that socialism, or the period of building socialism into which we have entered, is characterised by the subordination of the individual to the state. I will not try to refute this argument solely on theoretical grounds, but I will try to establish the facts as they exist in Cuba and then add comments of a general nature. Let me begin by sketching the history of our revolutionary struggle before and after the taking of power:
As is well known, the exact date on which the revolutionary struggle began - which would culminate January lst, 1959 - was the 26th of July 1953. A group of men commanded by Fidel Castro attacked the Moncada barracks in Oriente Province on the morning of that day. The attack was a failure; the failure became a disaster; and the survivors ended up in prison, beginning the revolutionary struggle again after they were freed by an amnesty.
In this stage, in which there was only the germ of socialism, man was the basic factor. We put our trust in him - individual, specific, with a first and last name - and the triumph or failure of the mission entrusted to him depended on his capacity for action.
Then came the stage of guerrilla struggle. It developed in two distinct elements: the people, the still sleeping mass which it was necessary to mobilise; and its vanguard, the guerrillas, the motor force of the movement, the generator of revolutionary consciousness and militant enthusiasm. It was this vanguard, this catalysing agent, which created the subjective conditions necessary for victory.
Here again, in the course of the process of proletarianizing our thinking, in this revolution, which took place in our habits and our minds, the individual was the basic factor. Every one of the fighters of the Sierra Maestra who reached an upper rank in the revolutionary forces has a record of outstanding deeds to his credit. They attained their rank on this basis. It was the first heroic period and in it they contended for the heaviest responsibilities, for the greatest dangers, with no other satisfaction than fulfilling a duty.
In our work of revolutionary education we frequently return to this instructive theme. In the attitude of our fighters could be glimpsed the man of the future.
On other occasions in our history the act of total dedication to the revolutionary cause was repeated. During the October crisis and in the days of Hurricane Flora we saw exceptional deeds of valour and sacrifice performed by an entire people. Finding the formula to perpetuate this heroic attitude in daily life is, from the ideological standpoint, one of our fundamental tasks.
In January 1959, the Revolutionary Government was established with the participation of various members of the treacherous bourgeoisie. The existence of the Rebel Army as the basic factor of force constituted the guarantee of power.
Serious contradictions developed subsequently. In the first instance, in February 1959, these were resolved when Fidel Castro assumed leadership of the government with the post of Prime Minister. This stage culminated in July of the same year with the resignation under mass pressure of President Urrutia.
There now appeared in the history of the Cuban Revolution a force with well-defined characteristics, which would systematically reappear - the mass.
This many-faceted agency is not, as is claimed, the sum of units of the self-same type, behaving like a tame flock of sheep, and reduced, moreover, to that type by the system imposed from above. It is true that it follows its leaders, basically Fidel Castro, without hesitation; but the degree to which he won this trust corresponds precisely to the degree that he interpreted the people's desires and aspirations correctly, and to the degree that he made a sincere effort to fulfil the promises he made.
The mass participated in the agrarian reform and in the difficult task of the administration of state enterprises; it went through the heroic experience of Playa Girón; it was hardened in the battles against various bands of bandits armed by the CIA; it lived through one of the most important decisions of modern time during the October crisis; and today it continues to work for the building of socialism.
Viewed superficially, it might appear that those who speak of the subordination of the individual to the state are right. The mass carries out with matchless enthusiasm and discipline the tasks set by the government, whether economic in character, cultural, defensive, athletic, or whatever.
The initiative generally comes from Fidel or from the Revolutionary High Command, and is explained to the people who adopt it as theirs. In some cases the party and government utilise a local experience which may be of general value to the people, and follow the same procedure.
Nevertheless, the state sometimes makes mistakes. When one of these mistakes occurs, a decline in collective enthusiasm is reflected by a resulting quantitative decrease of the contribution of each individual, each of the elements forming the whole of the masses. Work is so paralysed that insignificant quantities are produced. It is time to make a correction. That is what happened in March 1962, as a result of the sectarian policy imposed on the party by Anibal Escalante.
Clearly this mechanism is not adequate for insuring a succession of judicious measures. A more structured connection with the masses is needed and we must improve it in the course of the next years. But as far as initiatives originating in the upper strata of the government are concerned, we are presently utilising the almost intuitive method of sounding out general reactions to the great problems we confront.
In this Fidel is a master, whose own special way of fusing himself with the people can be appreciated only by seeing him in action. At the great public mass meetings one can observe something like a counterpoint between two musical melodies whose vibrations provoke still newer notes. Fidel and the mass begin to vibrate together in a dialogue of growing intensity until they reach the climax in an abrupt conclusion culminating in our cry of struggle and victory.
The difficult thing for someone not living the experience of the revolution to understand is this close dialectical unity between the individual and the mass, in which the mass, as an aggregate of individuals, is interconnected with its leaders.
Some phenomena of this kind can be seen under capitalism, when politicians capable of mobilising popular opinion appear, but these phenomena are not really genuine social movements. (If they were, it would not be entirely correct to call them capitalist.) These movements only live as long as the persons who inspire them do, or until the harshness of capitalist society puts an end to the popular illusions which made them possible.
Under capitalism man is controlled by a pitiless code of laws, which is usually beyond his comprehension. The alienated human individual is tied to society in its aggregate by an invisible umbilical cord- the law of value. It is operative in all aspects of his life, shaping its course and destiny.
The laws of capitalism, blind and invisible to the majority, act upon the individual without his thinking about it. He sees only the vastness of a seemingly infinite horizon before him. That is how it is painted by capitalist propagandists, who purport to draw a lesson from the example of Rockefeller - whether or not it is true - about the possibilities of success.
The amount of poverty and suffering required for the emergence of a Rockefeller, and the amount of depravity that the accumulation of a fortune of such magnitude entails, are left out of the picture, and it is not always possible to make the people in general see this.
(A discussion of how the workers in the imperialist countries are losing the spirit of working-class internationalism, due to a certain degree of complicity in the exploitation of the dependent countries, and how this weakens the combativity of the masses in the imperialist countries, would be appropriate here; but that is a theme which goes beyond the aim of these notes.)
In any case the road to success is pictured as one beset with perils but which, it would seem, an individual with the proper qualities can overcome to attain the goal. The reward is seen in the distance; the way is lonely. Further on it is a route for wolves; one can succeed only at the cost of the failure of others.
I would now like to try to define the individual, the actor in this strange and moving drama of the building of socialism, in his dual existence as a unique being and as a member of society.
I think it makes the most sense to recognise his quality of incompleteness, of being an unfinished product. The sermons of the past have been transposed to the present in the individual consciousness, and a continual labour is necessary to eradicate them. The process is two-sided: On the one side, society acts through direct and indirect education; on the other, the individual subjects himself to a process of conscious self-education.
The new society being formed has to compete fiercely with the past. The latter makes itself felt in the consciousness in which the residue of an education systematically oriented towards isolating the individual still weighs heavily, and also through the very character of the transitional period in which the market relationships of the past still persist. The commodity is the economic cell of capitalist society; so long as it exists its effects will make themselves felt in the organisation of production and, consequently, in consciousness.
Marx outlined the period of transition as a period which results from the explosive transformation of the capitalist system of a country destroyed by its own contradictions.
However in historical reality we have seen that some countries, which were weak limbs of the tree of imperialism, were torn off first - a phenomenon foreseen by Lenin.
In these countries, capitalism had developed to a degree, sufficient to make its effects felt by the people in one way or another. But having exhausted all its possibilities, it was not its internal contradictions, which caused these systems to explode. The struggle for liberation from a foreign oppressor, the misery caused by external events like war, whose consequences make the privileged classes bear down more heavily on the oppressed, liberation movements aimed at the overthrow of neo-colonial regimes - these are the usual factors in this kind of explosion. Conscious action does the rest.
In these countries a complete education for social labour has not yet taken place, and wealth is far from being within the reach of the masses simply through the process of appropriation. Underdevelopment on the one hand and the inevitable flight of capital on the other, make a rapid transition impossible without sacrifices. There remains a long way to go in constructing the economic base, and the temptation to follow the beaten track of material interest as the moving lever of accelerated development is very great.
There is the danger that the forest won't be seen for the trees. Following the will-o'-the-wisp method of achieving socialism with the help of the dull instruments which link us to capitalism
(The commodity as the economic cell, profitability, individual material interests as a lever, etc.) can lead into a blind alley.
Further, you get there after having travelled a long distance in which there were many crossroads and it is hard to figure out just where it was that you took the wrong turn. The economic foundation, which has been formed, has already done its work of undermining the development of consciousness. To build communism, you must build new men as well as the new economic base.
Hence it is very important to choose correctly the instrument for mobilising the masses. Basically, this instrument must be moral in character, without neglecting, however, a correct utilisation of the material stimulus-especially of a social character.
As 1 have already said, in moments of great peril it is easy to muster a powerful response to moral stimuli; but for them to retain their effect requires the development of a consciousness in which there is a new priority of values. Society as a whole must be converted into a gigantic school.
In rough outline this phenomenon is similar to the process by which capitalist consciousness was formed in its initial epoch. Capitalism uses force but it also educates the people to its system. Direct propaganda is carried out by those entrusted with explaining the inevitability of class society, either through some theory of divine origin or through a mechanical theory of natural selection.
This lulls the masses since they see themselves as being oppressed by an evil against which it is impossible to struggle. Immediately following comes the hope of improvement - and in this, capitalism differed from the preceding caste systems, which offered no possibilities for advancement.
For some people, the ideology of the caste system will remain in effect: The reward for the obedient after death is to be transported to some fabulous otherworld where, in accordance with the old belief, good people are rewarded. For other people there is this innovation: The division of society is predestined, but through work, initiative, etc., individuals can rise out of the class to which they belong-
These two ideologies and the myth of the self-made man have to be profoundly hypocritical: They consist in self-interested demonstrations that the lie of the permanence of class divisions is a truth.
In our case direct education acquires a much greater importance. The explanation is convincing because it is true; no subterfuge is needed. It is carried on by the state's educational apparatus as a function of general, technical and ideological culture through such agencies as the Ministry of Education and the party's informational apparatus.
Education takes hold of the masses and the new attitude tends to become a habit; the masses continue to absorb it and to influence those who have not yet educated themselves. This is the indirect form of educating the masses, as powerful as the other.
But the process is a conscious one; the individual continually feels the impact of the new social power and perceives that he does not entirely measure up to its standards. Under the pressure of indirect education, he tries to adjust himself to a norm, which he feels is just, and which his own lack of development had prevented him from reaching theretofore. He educates himself
In this period of the building of socialism we can see the new man being born. His image is not yet completely finished - it never could be - since the process goes forward hand in hand with the development of new economic forms.
Leaving out of consideration those whose lack of education makes them take the solitary road toward satisfying their own personal ambitions, there are those, even within this new panorama of a unified march forward, who have a tendency to remain isolated from the masses accompanying them. But what is important is that everyday men are continuing to acquire more consciousness of the need for their incorporation into society and, at the same time, of their importance as the movers of society do.
They no longer travel completely alone over trackless routes toward distant desires. They follow their vanguard, consisting of the party, the advanced workers, advanced men who walk in unity with the masses and in close communion with them. The vanguard has its eyes fixed on the future and its rewards, but this is not seen as something personal. The reward is the new society in which men will have attained new features: the society of communist man.
The road is long and full of difficulties. At times we wander from the path and must turn back; at other times we go too fast and separate ourselves from the masses; on occasions we go too slow and feel the hot breath of those treading on our heels. In our zeal as revolutionists we try to move ahead as fast as possible, clearing the way, but knowing we must draw our sustenance from the mass and that it can advance more rapidly only if we inspire it by our example.
The fact that there remains a division into two main groups (excluding, of course, that minority not participating for one reason or another in the building of socialism), despite the importance given to moral stimuli, indicates the relative lack of development of social consciousness.
The vanguard group is ideologically more advanced than the mass; the latter understands the new values, but not sufficiently. While among the former there has been a qualitative change, which enables them to make sacrifices to carry out their function as an advance guard, the latter go only half way and must be subjected to stimuli and pressures of certain intensity. That is the dictatorship of the proletariat operating not only on the defeated class but also on individuals of the victorious class.
All this means that for total success a series of mechanisms, of revolutionary institutions, is needed. Fitted into the pattern of the multitudes marching towards the future is the concept of a harmonious aggregate of channels, steps, restraints, and smoothly working mechanisms which would facilitate that advance by ensuring the efficient selection of those destined to march in the vanguard which, itself, bestows rewards on those who fulfil their duties, and punishments on those who attempt to obstruct the development of the new society.
This institutionalisation of the revolution has not yet been achieved. We are looking for something which will permit a perfect identification between the government and the community in its entirety, something appropriate to the special conditions of the building of socialism, while avoiding to the maximum degree a mere transplanting of the commonplaces of bourgeois democracy-like legislative chambers- into the society in formation.
Some experiments aimed at the gradual development of institutionalised forms of the revolution have been made, but without undue haste. The greatest obstacle has been our fear lest any appearance of formality might separate us from the masses and from the individual, might make us lose sight of the ultimate and most important revolutionary aspiration, which is to see man liberated from his alienation.
Despite the lack of institutions, which must be corrected gradually, the masses are now making history as a conscious aggregate of individuals fighting for the same cause. Man under socialism, despite his apparent standardisation, is more complete; despite the lack of perfect machinery for it, his opportunities for expressing himself and making himself felt in the social organism are infinitely greater.
It is still necessary to strengthen his conscious participation, individual and collective, in all the mechanisms of management and production, and to link it to the idea of the need for technical and ideological education, so that he sees how closely interdependent these processes are and how their advancement is parallel. In this way he will reach total consciousness of his social function, which is equivalent to his full realisation as a human being, once the chains of alienation are broken.
This will be translated concretely into the regaining of his true nature through liberated labour, and the expression of his proper human condition through culture and art.
In order for him to develop in the first of the above categories, labour must acquire a new status. Man dominated by commodity relationships will cease to exist, and a system will be created which establishes a quota for the fulfilment of his social duty. The means of production belong to society, and the machine will merely be the trench where duty is fulfilled.
Man will begin to see himselve mirrored in his work and to realise his full stature as a human being through the object created, through the work accomplished. Work will no longer entail surrendering a part of his being in the form of labour-power sold, which no longer belongs to him, but will represent an emanation of himself reflecting his contribution to the common life, the fulfilment of his social duty.
We are doing everything possible to give labour this new status of social duty and to link it on the one side with the development of a technology which will create the conditions for greater freedom, and on the other side with voluntary work based on a Marxist appreciation of the fact that man truly reaches a full human condition when he produces without being driven by the physical need to sell his labour as a commodity.
Of course there are other factors involved even when labour is voluntary: Man has not transformed all the coercive factors around him into conditioned reflexes of a social character, and he still produces under the pressures of his society. (Fidel calls this moral compulsion.)
Man still needs to undergo a complete spiritual rebirth in his attitude towards his work, freed from the direct pressure of his social environment, though linked to it by his new habits. That will be communism.
The change in consciousness will not take place automatically, just as it doesn't take place automatically in the economy. The alterations are slow and are not harmonious; there are periods of acceleration, pauses and even retrogressions.
Furthermore we must take into account, as I pointed out before, that we are not dealing with a period of pure transition, as Marx envisaged it in his Critique of the Gotha Program, but rather with a new phase unforeseen by him: an initial period of the transition to communism, or the construction of socialism. It is taking place in the midst of violent class struggles and with elements of capitalism within it which obscure a complete understanding of its essence.
If we add to this the scholasticism which has hindered the development of Marxist philosophy and impeded the systematic development of the theory of the transition period, we must agree that we are still in diapers and that it is necessary to devote ourselves to investigating all the principal characteristics of this period before elaborating an economic and political theory of greater scope.
The resulting theory will, no doubt, put great stress on the two pillars of the construction of socialism the education of the new man and the development of technology. There is much for us to do in regard to both, but delay is least excusable in regard to the concepts of technology, since here it is not a question of going forward blindly but of following over a long stretch of road already opened up by the world's more advanced countries. This is why Fidel pounds away with such insistence on the need for the technological training of our people and especially of its vanguard.
In the field of ideas not involving productive activities it is easier to distinguish the division between material and spiritual necessity. For a long time man has been trying to free himself from alienation through culture and art. While he dies every day during the eight or more hours that he sells his labour, he comes to life afterwards in his spiritual activities.
But this remedy bears the germs of the same sickness; it is as a solitary individual that he seeks communion with his environment. He defends his oppressed individuality through the artistic medium and reacts to aesthetic ideas, as a unique being whose aspiration is to remain untarnished.
All that he is doing, however, is attempting to escape. The law of value is not simply a naked reflection of productive relations: The monopoly capitalists - even while employing purely empirical methods - weave around art a complicated web which converts it into a willing tool. The superstructure of society ordains the type of art in which the artist has to be educated. Its machinery subdues rebels and only rare talents may create their own work. The rest become shameless hacks or are crushed.
A school of artistic "freedom" is created, but its values also have limits even if they are imperceptible until we come into conflict with them - that is to say, until the real problem of man and his alienation arises. Meaningless anguish and vulgar amusement thus become convenient safety valves for human anxiety. The idea of using art as a weapon of protest is combated.
If one plays by the rules, he gets all the honours - such honours as a monkey might get for performing pirouettes. The condition that has been imposed is that one cannot try to escape from the invisible cage.
When the revolution took power there was an exodus of those who had been completely housebroken, the rest - whether they were revolutionaries or not - saw a new road open to them. Artistic inquiry experienced a new impulse. The paths, however, had already been more or less laid out and the escapist concept hid itself behind the word "freedom." This attitude was often found even among the revolutionaries themselves, reflecting the bourgeois idealism still in their consciousness.
In those countries, which had gone through a similar process, they tried to combat such tendencies by an exaggerated dogmatism. General culture was virtually tabooed, and it was declared that the acme of cultural aspiration was the formally exact representation of nature. This was later transformed into a mechanical representation of the social reality they wanted to show: the ideal society almost without conflicts or contradictions, which they sought to create.
Socialism is young and has made errors. Many times revolutionaries lack the knowledge and intellectual courage needed to meet the task of developing the new man with methods different from the conventional ones - and the conventional methods suffer from the influences of the society, which created them.
(Again we raise the theme of the relationship between form and content.)
Disorientation is widespread, and the problems of material construction preoccupy us. There are no artists of great authority who at the same time have great revolutionary authority. The men of the party must take this task to hand and seek attainment of the main goal, the education of the people.
But then they sought simplification. They sought an art that would be understood by everyone - the kind of ‘art’ functionaries understand. True artistic values were disregarded, and the problem of general culture was reduced to taking some things from the socialist present and some from the dead past (since dead, not dangerous). Thus Socialist Realism arose upon the foundations of the art of the last century.
But the realistic art of the nineteenth century is also a class art, more purely capitalist perhaps than this decadent art of the twentieth century, which reveals the anguish of alienated man. In the field of culture capitalism has given all that it had to give, and nothing of it remains but the offensive stench of a decaying corpse, today's decadence in art.
Why then should we try to find the only valid prescription for art in the frozen forms of Socialist Realism? We cannot counterpose the concept of Socialist Realism to that of freedom because the latter does not yet exist and will not exist until the complete development of the new society. Let us not attempt, from the pontifical throne of realism-at-any-cost, to condemn all the art forms which have evolved since the first half of the nineteenth century for we would then fall into the Proudhonian mistake of returning to the past, of putting a straitjacket on the artistic expression of the man who is being born and is in the process of making himself.
What are needed are the development of an ideological-cultural mechanism which permits both free inquiry and the uprooting of the weeds which multiply so easily in the fertile soil of state subsidies.
In our country we don't find the error of mechanical realism, but rather its opposite, and that is so because the need for the creation of a new man has not been understood, a new man who would represent neither the ideas of the nineteenth century nor those of our own decadent
and morbid century.
What we must create is the man of the twenty-first century, although this is still a subjective and not a realised aspiration. It is precisely this man of the next century who is one of the fundamental objectives of our work; and to the extent that we achieve concrete successes on a theoretical plane-or, vice versa, to the extent we draw theoretical conclusions of a broad character on the basis of our concrete research-we shall have made an important contribution to Marxism-Leninism, to the cause of humanity.
Reaction against the man of the nineteenth century has brought us a relapse into the decadence of the twentieth century; it is not a fatal error, but we must overcome it lest we open a breach for revisionism.
The great multitudes continue to develop; the new ideas continue to attain their proper force within society; the material possibilities for the full development of all members of society make the task much more fruitful. The present is a time for struggle; the future is ours.
To sum up, the fault of our artists and intellectuals lies in their original sin: They are not truly revolutionary. We can try to graft the elm tree so that it will bear pears, but at the same time we must plant pear trees. New generations will come who will be free of the original sin. The probabilities that great artists will appear will be greater to the degree that the field of culture and the possibilities for expression are broadened.
Our task is to prevent the present generation, torn asunder by its conflicts, from becoming perverted and from perverting new generations. We must not bring into being either docile servant of official thought or scholarship students who live at the expense of the state - practising "freedom." Already there are revolutionaries coming who will sing the song of the new man in the true voice of the people. This is a process, which takes time.
In our society the youth and the party play an important role.
The former is especially important because it is the malleable clay from which the new man can be shaped without any of the old faults. The youth is treated in accordance with our aspirations.
Its education steadily grows more full, and we are not forgetting about its integration into the labour force from the beginning. Our scholarship students do physical work during their vacations or along with their studying. Work is a reward in some cases, a means of education in others, but it is never a punishment. A new generation is being born.
The party is a vanguard organisation. The best workers are proposed by their fellow workers for admission into it. It is a minority, but it has great authority because of the quality of its cadres. Our aspiration is that the party will become a mass party, but only when the masses have reached the level of the vanguard, that is, when they are educated for communism.
Our work constantly aims at this education. The party is the living example; its cadres should be teachers of hard work and sacrifice. They should lead the masses by their deeds to the completion of the revolutionary task, which involves years of hard struggle against the difficulties of construction, class enemies, the sicknesses of the past, imperialism . . .
Now, I would like to explain the role played by personality, by man as the individual leader of the masses, which make history. This has been our experience; it is not a prescription.
Fidel gave the revolution its impulse in the first years, and also its leadership. He always strengthened it; but there is a good group who are developing in the same way as the outstanding leader, and there is a great mass which follows its leaders because it has faith in them, and it has faith in them because they have been able to interpret its desires.
This is not a matter of how many pounds of meat one might be able to eat, nor of how many times a year someone can go to the beach, nor how many ornaments from abroad you might be able to buy with present salaries. What is really involved is that the individual feels more complete, with much more internal richness and much more responsibility.
The individual in our country knows that the illustrious epoch in which it was determined that he lives is one of sacrifice; he is familiar with sacrifice. The first came to know it in the Sierra Maestra and wherever else they fought; afterwards all of Cuba came to know it. Cuba is the vanguard of the Americas and must make sacrifices because it occupies the post of advance guard, because it shows the road to full freedom to the masses of Latin America.
Within the country the leadership has to carry out its vanguard role, and it must be said with all sincerity that in a real revolution, to which one gives himself entirely and from which he expects no material remuneration, the task of the revolutionary vanguard is at one and the same time glorious and agonising.
At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality. Perhaps it is one of the great dramas of the leader that he must combine a passionate spirit with a cold intelligence and make painful decisions without contracting a muscle. Our vanguard revolutionaries must idealise this love of the people, the most sacred cause, and make it one and indivisible. They cannot descend, with small doses of daily affection, to the level where ordinary men put their love into practice.
The leaders of the revolution have children just beginning to talk, who are not learning to call their fathers by name; wives, from whom they have to be separated as part of the general sacrifice of their lives to bring the revolution to its fulfilment; the circle of their friends is limited strictly to the number of fellow revolutionists. There is no life outside of the revolution.
In these circumstances one must have a great deal of humanity and a strong sense of justice and truth in order not to fall into extreme dogmatism and cold scholasticism, into isolation from the masses. We must strive every day so that this love of living humanity will be transformed into actual deeds, into acts that serve as examples, as a moving force.
The revolutionary, the ideological motor force of the revolution, is consumed by his uninterrupted activity, which can come to an end only with death until the building of socialism on a world scale has been accomplished. If his revolutionary zeal is blunted when the most urgent tasks are being accomplished on a local scale, and he forgets his proletarian internationalism, the revolution which he leads will cease to be an inspiring force, and he will sink into a comfortable lethargy which imperialism, our irreconcilable enemy, will utilise well. Proletarian internationalism is a duty, but it is also a revolutionary necessity. So we educate our people.
Of course there are dangers in the present situation, and not only that of dogmatism, not only that of weakening the ties with the masses midway in the great task. There is also the danger of weaknesses. If a man thinks that dedicating his entire life to the revolution means, that in return he should not have such worries as that his son lacks certain things, or that his children's shoes are worn out, or that his family lacks some necessity, then he is entering into rationalisations which open his mind to infection by the seeds of future corruption.
In our case we have maintained that our children should have or should go without those things that the children of the average man have or go without, and that our families should understand this and strive to uphold this standard. The revolution is made through man, but man must forge his revolutionary spirit day by day.
Thus we march on. At the head of the immense column we are neither afraid nor ashamed to say it - is Fidel. After him come the best cadres of the party, and immediately behind them, so close that we feel its tremendous force, comes the people in its entirety, a solid mass of individualities moving toward a common goal, individuals who have attained consciousness of what must be done, men who fight to escape from the realm of necessity and to enter that of freedom.
This great throng becomes organised; its clarity of program corresponds to its consciousness of the necessity of organisation. it is no longer a dispersed force, divisible into thousands of fragments thrown into space like splinters from a hand grenade, trying by any means to achieve some protection against an uncertain future, in desperate struggle with their fellows.
We know that sacrifices lie before us and that we must pay a price for the heroic act of being a vanguard nation. We leaders know that we must pay a price for the right to say that we are at the head of a people, which is at the head of the Americas. Each and every one of us must pay his exact quota of sacrifice, conscious that he will get his reward in the satisfaction of fulfilling a duty, conscious that he will advance with all toward the image of the new man dimly visible on the horizon.
Let me attempt some conclusions:
We socialists are freer because we are more complete; we are more complete because we are freer.
The skeleton of our complete freedom is already formed. The flesh and the clothing are lacking. We will create them.
Our freedom and its daily maintenance are paid for in blood and sacrifice.
Our sacrifice is conscious: an instalment payment on the freedom that we are building.
The road is long and in part unknown. We understand our limitations. We will create the man of the twenty-first century - we, ourselves.
We will forge ourselves in daily action, creating a new man with a new technology.
Individual personality plays a role in mobilising and leading the masses insofar as it embodies the highest virtues and aspirations of the people and does not wander from the path.
It is the vanguard group, which clears the way, the best among the good, the party.
The basic clay of our work is the youth. We place our hope in them and prepare them to take the banner from our hands.
If this inarticulate letter clarifies anything it has accomplished the objective which motivated it. I close with our greeting- which is as much of a ritual as a handshake or an 'Ave Maria Purissima'- Our Country or Death!
May Day Speech
We meet once again, on the eve of the International Workers' Festival, to honour those compañeros who have distinguished themselves by their efforts in the service of production for our country, in the service of the noble cause of the building of socialism, as vanguard workers in each of the different enterprises into which our Ministry is divided.
During the twelve months of the past year, we have had periodic talks with
those compañeros who, month by month by their dedication to their work,
excelled among all the workers in our enterprises.
We have repeated over and over that, in the case of vanguard workers, excessive modesty is not a good quality but a defect; that the vanguard worker must show by his example, must make it vivid and palpable, communicate it, publish it, make his enthusiasm contagious, and see that his individual effort is transformed into a great, united, collective effort of all the workers; that the forces of the vanguard factories are transformed also into the great collective force of all the factories of the country, of all the centres of production; that they may simultaneously deepen the efficiency of the work and consciousness of our people, in order to obtain both the material abundance needed for the construction of socialism and the indestructible strength of consciousness of its sons, also needed for its defence.
During an entire year these two tasks have been completely fulfilled. Not without defects, not without more or less serious bungling, not without mistakes, quarrels, backward steps in order to get back on the road. But with unquenchable enthusiasm and complete dedication to our task, we have during the year of 1962 solidly constructed the basis of our society. We contributed, too, to the development of the revolutionary consciousness of the entire world when, confronted with the atomic menace of the Yankee invader, our entire people rose last October and gave an answer which without doubt will pass into history.
It was an example of how a people in revolution can confront great danger, even the menace of atomic destruction - a threat unknown to other societies in world history, and how with revolutionary consciousness and determination to win, and the militant solidarity of all the countries of the socialist camp and of all the world's free men, a small people, living at the gates of the most aggressive and powerful imperialist power on earth, can triumph, can maintain its sovereignty, and, most important, continue building its own society.
The central task assigned to us, compañeros, in what might be called the trenches of production, is that of constantly continuing to construct, no matter what dangers threaten or what difficulties have to be overcome. And this task we are carrying out.
Each year that passes we do less badly at least; each year we learn from our
own errors and the experience of other peoples. We are forging the basis of what
will be in the future a powerful, autonomous, self-supporting industry in this
country, which will have to rely on its great agricultural riches based on the
fertile soil, favourable climate, and relatively low population density. . . .
You all know the immense number of illiterates we had in Cuba. We are all witnesses, and in some form participants in that battle, as heroic as any other battle, which we fought against the lack of culture, in this case illiteracy.
But illiteracy is only the extreme expression of a people's lack of culture. Whoever learns just to read and write has taken only the first step toward culture.
Modern technique is advancing by giant steps. Very soon to be a qualified technician in this country will require a speaking knowledge of more than one language; and to read technical books will require knowledge of more than one language, to learn how to read the technical specifications and directions in whatever language, since the capitalists have produced a great deal in technology - and very good stuff - and we must know how to take advantage of all this knowledge.
Raising qualifications then is a cardinal task for the government and all the people and must not be neglected. Men and women, even when tired after work, must make the indispensable effort to study, even though for only an hour or half-hour a day, and try in this way to keep increasing their knowledge.
It is not important that in some few weeks or months the distance covered seems small. This is a task of years, and a task which must never end; a task also that is very difficult for a beginner, for a worker of a certain age who can barely read and write. But to the degree new knowledge is acquired, culture will cease to be a revolutionary duty, something more or less painful that must be done to fulfil a revolutionary obligation, and will become a need. And then it will cease to be an effort to continue the task of learning.
In this work tremendous efforts and a prodigious amount of society's goods have been consumed and will continue to be consumed. We believe culture and public health are services on which we can never spend enough for our people; and the more we can give, the better it will be for all. And so we will continue to give as much as possible.
But remember, the professors who teach the worker-students at the various levels of study are being kept out of production and therefore constitute a state expense which should be repaid to society by redoubled effort.
We must take up another red-hot problem, the new salary scale and the work norms, two closely related points we have been discussing for over a year.
I remember that on the eve of last May Day, in this same theatre, I asked
pardon for not having finished this task. Today, in a certain sense, I should
again ask pardon; but the task of organising the salary scales and work norms is
very far advanced. And next month, by the middle of the month, pilot tests will
begin in various industries, not only in our Ministry, but in all branches of
There we will be able to complete the methods for giving a single, salary qualification for the whole country, and a more equitable salary recompense. But there will have to be much firmness exercised in something that is still confused. The new salary scale, with the corresponding applied norms, does not necessarily signify a salary increase, far from it.
We have explained that in the first branch where this was set up, mining - and only in some of the mines - on account of the relatively low pay, the work norms and new salary scale meant substantial increases for the compañeros there. But it will not be equally so in all branches.
There are some groups of workers who at present are being paid in accordance
with the averages considered adequate now, and some others who receive more than
We have also made clear that all those workers whose average salary is larger than the new salary decreed will continue to receive their full salary, but divided into two parts: one corresponding to his actual work plus a legal extra so as not to upset the budgets of such compañeros, who won this higher salary over the years and under different circumstances, during the development of the capitalist process with all its consequently anarchic relations of production.
However, all new entrants in production will get the new salary scale, and one of the main points for measuring a rise in the scale will be the worker's qualifications. This means that all workers who are satisfactorily fulfilling the standards of quality and quantity over a period of time, but who cannot ascend automatically in the salary scale since they are not part of a new group with a different scale, will have the opportunity to raise their qualifications and enter a higher income group, raising their salaries in this way.
So, individual qualifications will always be taken into account in
considering each individual's salary.
All this will be explained by the Minister of Labour; there will be preliminary discussions and a whole process of clarification, since this is a very complicated task in which the whole economy of the country is bound up.
In some cases, it will mean an increase in order to correct very low salaries; in others, salaries will remain the same, according to standards adopted from the new studies; in still others, they will remain the same - but these compañeros will have a divided salary, although the basic amount will not be touched.
Simply in order that it will be clearly established that one part of the salary belongs to him for, let us say, historic reasons, but that it is his individual salary. When this worker leaves his position, the salary for that job reverts to the norm, the fixed basic salary, and not the actual salary this hypothetical worker had been receiving....
To finish this speech - a little long, a little tedious - I want to remind you, compañeros, of the responsibility that we have, all, without exception.
Today we are here to salute our best workers, the vanguard workers. And we
are saluting alsodelegations of workers who have come to visit us from all over
the world. . . .
We are a showcase, a mirror into which all the peoples of America can look, and we must work to make our abilities greater every day, and our disabilities fewer.
We must not return to the practice of hiding our defects so they may not be seen. That would be neither honest nor revolutionary. They will learn also from our mistakes, from our errors, the compañeros from America and the other countries of Asia and Africa who are fighting today for their independence. We must not cease to show a single one of our errors, not a single one of the vices of the past that we have not yet been able to resolve, nor a single one of the errors we have made in the socialist present.
We must be open, for this is our duty, because our duty reaches immense heights at this moment. And each of us is responsible to the peoples of the world for what the Cuban Revolution does and will do.
Our path is not simple; it is full of danger and difficulties. Imperialism is
lying in wait at every bend of the road, hoping for a moment of weakness in
order to launch itself against us; the reactionaries of all America are waiting
to publish with joy even our own official acknowledgements of our errors.
Fundamentally they are trying to show America and the whole world that if a small country such as ours, without industries, without technological development, tries to make a revolution, it is bound to fail. And they use information and tricks, and also saboteurs and divisionists, to hold back our development.
We cannot allow ourselves one moment of weakness. Not now, when we are directly under the visual inspection of our guests, nor at any time; for in each minute of our country's life we are under the eager inspection of all the peoples of America, who see in us a new hope of salvation, a new hope of redeeming themselves from their chains.
Let us show them the realities of the road we have taken, compañeros! Let us show them that not only are we capable of the dangerous task of confronting, almost unarmed at one time, the armed force of the oligarchy; of developing our popular armies by capturing arms from the enemy, of confronting them on the field of battle, and of catalysing the consciousness of the entire people of Cuba so as to convert them into a great vanguard army to destroy the dictatorship! Let us show that we are not only capable of preparing our whole people to stand as one, to launch our war cry, our defiant shout, which we all know; let us show also, compañeros, that we are capable of triumphing in this long, tiring, terrible struggle, in which we are being obstructed in the building of socialism by an imperialist blockade.
In the face of all the dangers, the threats and aggressions, the blockades,
the sabotage, all the divisionists, all those powers who try to restrain us, we
must show once more our people's capacity to make their own history.
We must all be united, compañeros, firm in our faith, firmer than ever
today, though perhaps not so firm as we shall be tomorrow, to go forward always
with our eyes on the future, with our feet on the ground, building each step,
and making sure of each step we take, so that we will never give up one inch of
what we have won, of what we have built, of what is ours: socialism!
Our Country or Death! We Shall Win!
Mobilising the Masses for the Invasion
. . . We have to remind ourselves of this at every moment: that we are in a war, a cold war as they call it; a war where there is no front line, no continuous bombardment, but where the two adversaries - this tiny champion of the Caribbean and the immense imperialist hyena - are face to face and aware that one of them is going to end up dead in the fight.
The North Americans are aware, they are well aware, compañeros, that the victory of the Cuban Revolution will not be just a simple defeat for the empire, not just one more link in the long chain of defeats to which its policy of force and oppression against peoples has been dragging it in recent years. The victory of the Cuban Revolution will be a tangible demonstration before all the Americas that peoples are capable of rising up, that they can rise up by themselves right under the very fangs of the monster. It will mean the beginning of the end of colonial domination in America, that is, the definitive beginning of the end for North American imperialism.
That is why the imperialists do not resign themselves, because this is a
struggle to the death. That is why we cannot take one backward step. Because the
first time we retreat a step would mean the beginning of a long chain for us
too, and would end up the same way as with all the false leaders and all the
peoples who at a particular moment of history did not measure up to the task of
withstanding the drive of the empire.
That is why we must move forward, striking out tirelessly against imperialism. From all over the world we have to learn the lessons which events afford. Lumumba's murder should be a lesson for all of us.
The murder of Patrice Lumumba is an example of what the empire is capable of
when the struggle against it is carried on in a firm and sustained way.
Imperialism must be struck on the snout once, and again, and then again, in an
infinite succession of blows and counter-blows. That is the only way the people
can win their real independence.
Never a step backward, never a moment of weakness! And every time
circumstances might tempt us to think that the situation might be better if we
were not fighting against the empire, let each one of us think of the long chain
of tortures and deaths through which the Cuban people had to pass to win their
independence. Let all of us think of the eviction of peasants, the murder of
workers, the strikes broken by the police, of all those kinds of class
oppression which have now completely disappeared from Cuba. . . . And, further,
let us understand well how victory is won by preparing the people, by enhancing
their revolutionary consciousness in establishing unity, by meeting each and
every attempt at aggression with our rifles out in front. That is how it is won.
. . .
We must remember this and insist again and again upon this fact: The victory
of the Cuban people can never come solely through outside aid, however adequate
and generous, however great and strong the solidarity of all the peoples of the
world with us may be. Because even with the ample and great solidarity of all
the people of the world with Patrice Lumumba and the Congolese people, when
conditions inside the country were lacking, when the leaders failed to
understand how to strike back mercilessly at imperialism, when they took a step
back, they lost the struggle. And they lost it not just for a few years, but who
knows for how many years! That was a great setback for all peoples.
That is what we must be well aware of, that Cuba's victory lies not in Soviet rockets, nor in the solidarity of the socialist world, nor in the solidarity of the whole world. Cuba's victory lies in the unity, the labour, and the spirit of sacrifice of its people.
As a 14-year old, Che Guevara read Freud, Jung and the short version of "Das Capital". Later, when he was 16 - 17 years old he read the theories of Marx, Engels and Lenin.
In 1954 he arrives in Guatemala and meets the young woman Hilda Gadea Costa. Both have read many books on the Soviet-Union and books of Marx, Engels and Lenin. Hilda, who had studied economy at the university, brings Ernesto to a more systematic study. She also brings to his notice some books on China: they reveal a whole new world for him.
During a long trip through Latin-America he was confronted with the terrible misery of the Latino’s, caused by the subjection to the imperialist (1) countries. He was also confronted by the failure of the non-violent resistance in Guatemala to break this subjection. It fortified the correctness of Marx' theory in Che's mind. But above all, it was especially the concrete experience of the Russian revolution that was the most important school. In November 1953 he wrote in a letter from Costa Rica:
"Once more I could convince myself how terrible the capitalist octopuses are. I swore on a picture of our old and bewailed comrade Stalin, I swore not to rest before these capitalist octopuses are destroyed."
"I have travelled through entire Latin-America and I know this continent very well. I have seen poverty, famine, diseases, the impossibility to cure a child because of lack of medication, the apathy and dull resignation caused by famine and continuous oppression."
Out of his correspondence with his family and also in the works he wrote between 1954 and 1956 one can establish how thorough and how convincingly he dedicated himself to the systematic study of Marxism. Especially political economics, statistics and other related disciplines. These letters from 1956, he was barely 27 years old, give an idea in which way the study of Marx (Che always spoke of San Carlos) changed his medical- into a revolutionary vocation.
"I haven’t got much to tell about my life, seeing that I spent it being physician and reading books. I think that when I leave here, I will have a suitcase full of questions on economics, while I’ll have forgotten how to take somebody's pulse…..It seems that my way slowly removes itself from clinical medicine; but yet not far enough to erase my desire for an hospital. San Carlos (Karl Marx) has gained a dedicated follower. I’m busy changing the order of my studies: I used to devote myself to medical studies as best as possible and spent my free time on the study of San Carlos, without any real engagement. The new phase in my life demands that I change that order: now San Carlos is the most important, he is the pivot, and he will be for the years that the earth will let me live on its exterior crust.
Che looks at the Cuban revolution as the prolongation of other communist revolutions in the twentieth century:
"This revolution is by some defined as the fundamental happening of Latin-America. In order of importance it succeeds the trilogy of the Russian revolution, the victory on the army of Hitler and the following social transformations, and the triumph of the Chinese revolution."
The communist party.
The first three years of the Cuban revolution was characterised by a great deal of anarchy. Che Guevara warned several time against this anarchy.
"To avoid it there is need of an organism that takes the lead of the revolution and guides it. That organism is the communist party. The party is a forefront organisation. The best workers are nominated for membership by their comrades. They form a minority, but due to the quality of its militants the party radiates great authority. It is our aspiration that she becomes a mass-party, but only when the masses reach the level of consciousness of the forefront. Meaning: when they have been reared up to communism. That educative work is our task. The party must be the vivid example through her militants, an example of dedication and sacrifice. Through their efforts they have to get the masses to rise up to their revolutionary task in turn. It will take years of heavy combat against the difficulties that the edification of socialism will bring, against class-enemies, against misdeeds of the past, against imperialism…In short "the party's mission is to achieve the dictatorship of the proletariat as soon as possible."
Che Guevara realises that the communist party is crucial for the edification of the socialist revolution. The 'New Human Being' does not evolve spontaneously. The capitalist awareness is tougher and harder to extinct than a military enemy. The old habits and convictions are obstinate and can only be got rid off through a large and severe process of mental transformation. Besides that, imperialism will not neglect to batter the spirits with propaganda. Finally, the rich West starts from a principle called the ‘demonstration-effect’ (2) . Che sees the ideological education as a fundamental task for the revolutionary leadership.
"To build up communism one has to, together with the material basis, create the 'New Human Being'. Therefore it is very important to choose the right instruments to mobilise the masses. Direct education through experience is most important. …It has to be organised by the educational apparatus such as the ministry of education and the party."
Communism will be achieved in stages. The first stage is socialism, this is a phase of transition to communism.
"We are in… the first phase on the road to communism, or in the phase of the construction of socialism. This phase is characterised by a violent battle between the classes and the presence of capitalist elements in society that turbid the exact issues at stake."
What he means by that, he resumes very brief: "There is no other valid definition of socialism to us, but to abolish the exploitation of man by man."
Battle against revisionism.
It is not sufficient enough to have a communist party that tries to build up a new society, there must also be an active battle against all kinds of ideological deviations which over a long period can perpetrate the revolution. Already in the beginning of the sixties, shortly after Chroetsjov took power in the Soviet-Union, Che saw very clearly in which direction it was going over there. Breaking up with the course of Stalin would inevitable mean the destruction of the revolution from within.
Sure, he criticised Stalin: he blamed him for organising a personality cultus and for neglecting the communist education of the masses. Che called it an "historic crime". But these criticisms were not of a kind to reject the global course of Stalin, on the contrary. He realised that the break with Stalin's policy and the attacks on his person opened the gate to liberal and capitalist elements. And according to Che they were the core of revisionism (3) :
"In the so called mistakes of Stalin lies the difference between a revolutionary attitude and a revisionist attitude. You have to look at Stalin in the historical context in which he moves, you don’t have to look at him as some kind of brute, but in that particular historical context … I have come to communism because of daddy Stalin and nobody must come and tell me that I mustn’t read Stalin. I read him when it was very bad to read him. That was another time. And because I’m not very bright, and a hard-headed person, I keep on reading him. Especially in this new period, now that it is worse to read him. Then, as well as now, I still find a Seri of things that are very good."
Che saw that the revisionism of Chroetsjov was not only bad for the Soviet-Union but also for the revolutionary movements in his continent. Except for Colombia, all guerrilla-activities in the Latin-American countries were condemned by Moscow. When Che started his guerrilla in Bolivia, he was betrayed by the Bolivian CP, which lead to the isolation and the elimination of his guerrilla force.
Many times Che Guevara personally experienced the brutality of imperialism. Referring to the events in Congo and the, at that time, military interference of the Belgians he writes in 1964:
"These events learn us two things. First the bestiality of imperialism, that is not bound to a particular border or a particular country. Beasts where the Hitlertroops , as the North-Americans are beasts today, or the Belgian elite forces in Congo, or the French mercenary troops in Algiers. Because it is in the nature of imperialism that it makes beasts out of men, that changes them into bloodthirsty predators, willing to slit throats and murder. …"
Those who think imperialism is reconcilable with peace and democracy, or those who have confidence in the international institutions are mistaken, according Che.
"The statue of Lumumba reminds us that imperialism is not to be trusted, not in the least, not at all. (...) It was under the United-Nations flag that Lumumba was murdered in Congo. And it are the same United-Nations that, according to the US, should inspect our territories. The same United-Nations!"
The armed struggle.
According to Che the only way to wipe out the bestiality of imperialism and to end the unbearable misery of the peoples, is to pick up arms.
"We can not and may not cherish the illusion that we can obtain freedom without battle. These battles won’t be restricted to streetfights with rocks and teargas, nor will they be peaceful general strikes, nor will it be the battle of a furious nation that in two or three days will have destroyed the repression apparatus of the ruling financial oligarchy. This battle means a long war, and I repeat it once more, a cruel war…"
"Hate will be an element of the battle, a merciless hate for the enemy, that will inspire the guerrilla-soldier to superhuman efforts of strength and changes him into an effective, violent, selected, in cold blood killing machine. That is how our soldiers must be; a nation without hate can not triumph over a brute enemy."
The ideas of Che Guevara are still valid today, more than ever so. It is not because the revolutionary climate is less tangible than thirty years ago that his ideas have become worthless. On the contrary. Today a great majority of the people on this planet live in miserable circumstances. The historical experience of the twentieth century show that there are not too many different ways to get out of it. The easy, so called "third way" (4) is wishful thinking of many tired and burned out intellectuals today . They dream of a non-violent, gradual way out of misery. But it is a phantasm, a believe in the illusion of an ‘imperialism with humane feelings’. The yearly cost of imperialism is millions of people that starve to death or die of sicknesses that could easily be cured.
El Salvador and Guatemala show us that armed struggle as such is no warranty for success either. Che experienced it in person in Congo and in Bolivia. Nicaragua learns us that a military victory does not automatic implicate a durable victory. Cuba shows that a revolutionary communist party is the only way that leads to a qualitative jump forward and that such party is indispensable for the revolution to hold firm even in the most difficult of times or situations. And it shows that Che's ideas on revolution and socialism are no redundant theory.
Fidel Castro, Che and a few comrades in arms began their guerrilla in the Sierra Maestra at a time that no one believed in victory. But Batista had to run. Che went to Congo to fight alongside Kabila and Mulele at a time the resistance took some devastating blows. Their battle seemed without perspective then. Who would have believed that the Congolese guerrilla, thirty years post-date would triumph after all? Pessimism was unknown to Che. It’s the unyielding revolutionary optimism, averse to intellectual doubts, as well as the radical ideas that characterises this legendary figure. The same spirit one finds in Cuba today in spite of the extremely difficult condition, and in spite of all the negative propaganda. Numerous times the end of this glorious revolution was predicted. If the Cubans had the same fatalist mentality as we in Europe often show, the island would already have been a North-American colony long ago. The writings of Che and even more his way of live are a perfect anti-dote against the post-modern doubts and actual ideological confusion within the revolutionary movement and against the capitulation and the revisionism within a great part of the left.
(1) Imperialism according to the conception of Che: the highest form of development of capitalism, with the purpose to conquer economical and political power world wide. Sometimes by setting up a puppet government in a developing country, sometimes through deals laid down by the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank. That is the favourite way capitalist governments subdue developing countries to open up their economies to the interests of western multinational concerns. In case such countries won't keep in line, the ultimate trick is to launch a military intervention under the flag of the United Nations to restore "democracy" or "human rights".
(2)Promoting the Western way of living and mass consumption to countries or individuals that have not reached the same level. Radio, television, film, magazines, tourism etc. are the media to achieve this. It calls on the egoism within each individual, as opposed to Che’s revolutionary moral where the collective wellbeing is of greater importance. It demands a higher level of consciousness to withstand the enticing adverts or propaganda for such a way of living.
(3)Is a tendency within the socialist movement that breaks up with essential points of the Marxist doctrine. For example the necessity for dictatorship of the workers against financial monopolies, or the need of a planned economy. Only a planned economy, controlled by the workers, can fulfil the basic needs of the masses and avoid crises due to overproduction of consumption goods.
(4)Neither capitalism nor socialism, but a 'social corrected free market economy' or 'humane capitalism'. Adepts of this theory call on the 'universal human rights' to bring the exploiting classes to insight and subsequently to handle in the interests of 'all mankind'. They deny the exploited classes the right to take up arms and fight for their rights. Instead all social progression must come with consent of the ruling classes.
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Farewell letter from Che to Fidel Castro.
At this moment I remember many things-when I met you in Maria Antonia's house, when you proposed I come along, all the tensions involved in the preparations." One day they came by and asked who should be notified in case of death, and the real possibility of it struck us all. Later we knew it was true, that in a revolution one wins or dies (if it is a real one). Many comrades fell along the way to victory.
Today everything has a less dramatic tone, because we are more mature, but
the event repeats itself. I feel that I have fulfilled the part of my duty that
tied me to the Cuban revolution in its territory, and I say farewell to you, to
the comrades, to your people, who now are mine.
I formally resign my positions in the leadership of the party, my post as minister, my rank of commander, and my Cuban citizenship. Nothing legal binds me to Cuba. The only ties are of another nature-those that cannot be broken as can appointments to posts.
Reviewing my past life, I believe I have worked with sufficient integrity and dedication to consolidate the revolutionary triumph. My only serious failing was not having had more confidence in you from the first moments in the Sierra Maestra, and not having understood quickly enough your qualities as a leader and a revolutionary.
I have lived magnificent days, and at your side I felt the pride of belonging to our people in the brilliant yet sad days of the Caribbean crisis." Seldom has a statesman been more brilliant as you were in those days. I am also proud of having followed you without hesitation, of having identified with your way of thinking and of seeing and appraising dangers and principles.
Other nations of the world summon my modest efforts of assistance. I can do that which is denied you due to your responsibility at head of Cuba, and the time has come for us to part.
You should know that I do so with a mixture of joy and sorrow. I leave here the purest of my hopes as a builder and the dearest of those I hold dear. And I leave a people who received me as a son. That wounds a part of my spirit. I carry to new battlefronts the faith that you taught me, the revolutionary spirit of my people, the feeling of fulfilling the most sacred of duties: to fight against imperialism wherever one may be. This is a source of strength, and more than heals the deepest of wounds.
I state once more that I free Cuba from all responsibility, except that which stems from its example. If my final hour finds me under other skies, my last thought will be of this people and especially of you. I am grateful for your teaching and your example, to which I shall try to be faithful up to the final consequences of my acts.
I have always been identified with the foreign policy of our revolution, and I continue to be. Wherever I am, I will feel the responsibility of being a Cuban revolutionary, and I shall behave as such. I am not sorry that I leave nothing material to my wife and children; I am happy it is that way. I ask nothing for them, as the state will provide them with enough to live on and receive an education.
I would have many things to say to you and to our people, but I feel they are unnecessary. Words cannot express what I would like them to, and there is no point in scribbling pages.
Ever onward to victory!
Homeland or Death!
I embrace you with all my revolutionary fervour.
Speech by Commander in Chief Fidel Castro, President of the
. Ciego de Avila, Republicof Cuba
September 29, 2001
A peaceful solution would still be possible. The present situation is so tense that nobody could write a speech hours before delivery and be certain that it is not outdated. I am also running the risk of sounding too optimistic even when I am not. However, it is my duty to say what I think.
The unanimous shock suffered by all peoples of the world on September 11, due to the insane terrorist attacks against the American people, which could be seen live on television, has created exceptional conditions for the eradication of terrorism without the need to unleash a useless and perhaps endless war.
Terrorist actions in the
, as anywhere else in the world, inflict terrible damage on the peoples fighting for a cause that objectively they consider to be fair. United States
Terror has always been an instrument of the worst enemies of Mankind bent on suppressing and crushing the peoples AE struggle for freedom. It can never be the instrument of a truly noble and just cause. All throughout history, almost every action intended to attain national independence, including that of the American people, was carried out with the use of weapons and nobody ever questioned, or would question, that right. But, the deliberate use of weapons to kill innocent people must be definitely condemned and eradicated for it is as unworthy and inhuman as it is repulsive, the same as the historic terrorism perpetrated by the oppressing states.
In the present crisis, real possibilities still exist to eradicate terrorism without a war but the main obstacle is that the most notable political and military leaders in the United States refuse to listen to any word said against the use of weapons and in favor of a truly effective solution to the worrisome problem, heedless of the fact that it would be very honorable for the American people to accomplish that objective while avoiding blood shedding.
The decision-makers are only betting on war actions. They have associated honor with war. Some speak of the use of nuclear weapons as if it were as simple as having a cup of tea. Others affirm that paratroopers will be employed in irregular warfare tactics. Someone has even speculated on the advisability of using lies as a weapon although others have shown more rationality and common sense but still along the war line. Objectivity and rationality are not abundant. Many people have been made to believe that only belligerent formulas are viable regardless the loss of American lives.
It is hard to know whether the final tactic and strategy of struggle have already been decided upon to use against a country whose communications and technological infrastructure as well as material conditions seem to have hardly left the Stone Age behind. Will irregular warfare tactics with squadrons of aircraft carriers, armored warships, cruisers and submarines be used in a landlocked country? Why send also scores of B-1 and B-52 bombers, hundreds of modern fighter planes, thousands of missiles and other strategic weapons? What are they going to shoot against? Meanwhile, confusion and panic prevail in the rest of the world, while opportunistic positions motivated by convenience and national interests are not lacking. Some have torn their honor to pieces. And, following the initial atmosphere of uncertainty there is a bizarre and widespread ostrich reflex despite the fact that there are not even enough holes to hide heads. Many seem not to have realized yet that, on September 20, before the United States Senate, the end of independence was decreed for every other state --without exceptions-- as well as the end of the United Nations AE role.
Nevertheless, no one should be misled into thinking that the peoples of the world, and a number of honest political leaders, will not react as soon as the war actions become a reality and their horrific images start to be seen.
These will then take the place of the sad and shocking images of the events in New York at a time when forgetting them would bring irreparable damage on the spirit of solidarity with the American people that is today a primary element towards the eradication of terrorism, without the need to resort to a war of unpredictable consequences and avoiding the death of an incalculable number of innocents. The first victims can already be seen. They are the millions trying to escape the war and the dying children with ghastly appearance whose images will move the world to pity without anyone being able to prevent their dissemination. It is a great mistake on the part of the
and its NATO allies to believe that the strong nationalism and religious sentiments of Muslims can be neutralized with either money or a promise of assistance, or that their countries can be permanently intimidated by force. There are already statements from religious leaders of major nations, that have no affinity whatsoever with the Taliban, who are voicing their resolute opposition to a military attack. Meanwhile, contradictions are beginning to arise among the United StatesAE allies, both in Center and United States South East Asia. On the other hand, xenophobia, hatred and scorn for every Muslim country are starting to emerge. An important European head of government has just said in Berlin that Western civilization is superior to Islamic and that the West will keep on conquering peoples, even if that means confrontation with the Islamic civilization, which has remained stuck where it was 1400 years ago. In an economic situation such as the world is experiencing today, when extremely serious problems affecting Mankind remain unresolved, including its own survival which is threatened by other evils unrelated to the destructive power of modern weaponry, one wonders: Why this obstinate course of starting a complicated and open-ended war? Why are the American leaders showing such arrogance when their enormous power gives them the privilege of showing some moderation?
It would suffice to return to the United Nations Organization the prerogatives that it has been deprived of and let the General Assembly, its most universal and representative body, be the center of that fight for peace --regardless of its limitations due to the arbitrary veto right of the Security Council standing members, most of them also a part of NATO-- and for the eradication of terrorism with total and unanimous support from the world opinion. Under no circumstances should those responsible for the brutal attacks against the American people be allowed to go unpunished, if they can be identified. An honorable condition for every country would be that they are tried by an unbiased court of law that would ensure the reliability of the evidence and that justice be done.
was the first country to speak of the need for an international struggle against terrorism just a few hours after the tragedy brought on the American people on September 11. We also said that: None of the present problems of the world can be solved by force. [...] The international community should build a world conscience against terrorism. [...] Only the intelligent policy of seeking strength through consensus and the international public opinion can decidedly uproot this problem [...] this unimaginable event should serve to launch an international struggle against terrorism. ...] The world cannot be saved unless a path of international peace and cooperation is pursued. Cuba
We firmly stand by these views. It is indispensable to return to the United Nations its role in the attainment of peace. I harbor no doubts that the Third World countries --I dare say almost everyone of them without exception, despite their political and religious differences-- would be willing to go alongside the rest of the world in this struggle against terrorism as an alternative to war.
I think that these ideas do not, in any way, tarnish the honor, the dignity and the predominant political or religious principles of any of the above-mentioned states.
I am not talking here on behalf of any of the poor and underdeveloped countries of the world. I am simply expressing my deepest conviction as I am aware of the tragedy of these peoples that have been exploited and humiliated for centuries where, even without a war, inherited poverty and underdevelopment, hunger and curable diseases are silently killing scores of millions of innocents every year.
For these people, saving peace with dignity, with independence and without a war is the cornerstone of the struggle that we should wage together for a truly just world of free peoples.
is not motivated by any economic interest or by opportunism, much less by any fear of threat, danger or risk. But this people that, as it is widely known, has most honorably endured over four decades of economic warfare, blockade and terrorism is entitled to explain, reiterate and insist on its viewpoints; and, it will not hesitate to do so until the very last minute. Cuba
We are, and we will continue to be, opposed to terrorism and opposed to war!
No matter what happens, nothing will separate us from that line! The dark clouds on the horizon of the world today, will not prevent the Cubans from continuing to work restlessly on our wonderful social and cultural programs as we are persuaded that it is a human endeavor unparalleled in history. And even if the promised wars were to turn them into mere dreams, we would still fall with honor defending such dreams.
Long live the Revolution and Socialism! Patria o Muerte! Venceremos!
2003 Washington and Lee Faculty Participants
- Jeff Barnett (Romance Languages / Global Stewardship Director), Seminar leader
- Jim Casey (Economics)
- Helen I'Anson (Biology)
- Krzysztof Jasiewics (Sociology)
- Ellen Mayock (Romance Languages)
- Mark Rush (Politics)
- Rob Straughan (Management)
- Terry Vosbein (Music)
- Cecile West-Settle (Romance Languages)
- Eric Wilson (English)