1 CHE GUEVARA - SYMBOL OF STRUGGLE By Tony Saunois Introduction Chapter 1 A Bohemian Beginning Page 6 Chapter 2 In Bolivia Page 13 Chapter 3 What Do I join? Page 19 Chapter 4 Guerillaism and Marxism Page 26 Chapter 5 Granma and The July 26th Movement Page 31 Chapter 6 In Power - Cuba versus 'the gringos' Page 44 Chapter 7 A New Cuba Page 49 Chapter 8 Congo to Bolivia Page 60 Chapter 9 Epilogue Page 69 Introduction DURING 1996 and 1997 numerous books, pamphlets and articles have been published by assorted writers about Ernesto Guevara to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of his execution. Throughout the world he is known simply as 'Che'. He was given this nickname by friends and comrades in struggle when he was in Mexico during the 1950s. Che is a commonly used term in Argentina - his native country. In 1997 young people in Latin America and Europe have begun to wear Che Guevara T- shirts and display posters of his portrait. Some cynical and superficial pro- capitalist journalists have attempted to dismiss this re-awakened interest in Che. They have falsely attempted to portray it as nothing more than a desire to be identified with the so- called permissive life-style associated with the 1960s. Che Guevara undoubtedly has a romantic and cultural appeal to many young people who associate with his image as a "rebel". More importantly the renewed interest in Che Guevara reflects the appeal he always had for those looking for a way to change society and end the exploitation of capitalism and imperialism. Che, and Cuba, are seen by many as a symbol of resistance. Reflected in the public display of support for Che Guevara by a new generation, is the beginning of a search for revolutionary socialist ideas which offer a viable alternative society to capitalism. So why has the CWI produced another pamphlet on Che and Cuba when so much has already been written on them internationally? Apart from the cynical articles and on occasion flippant articles in some magazines and papers some serious books and biographies have already been produced. Che Guevara - A Revolutionary Life, by the US journalist and writer, Jon Lee Anderson, is a well researched and an enjoyable biography. So is Ernesto Guevara tambien conocido como El Che (Ernesto Guevara also know as El

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By Tony Saunois

IntroductionChapter 1 A Bohemian Beginning Page 6Chapter 2 In Bolivia Page 13Chapter 3 What Do I join? Page 19Chapter 4 Guerillaism and Marxism Page 26Chapter 5 Granma and The July 26th Movement Page 31Chapter 6 In Power - Cuba versus 'the gringos' Page 44Chapter 7 A New Cuba Page 49Chapter 8 Congo to Bolivia Page 60Chapter 9 Epilogue Page 69


DURING 1996 and 1997 numerousbooks, pamphlets and articles havebeen published by assorted writersabout Ernesto Guevara tocommemorate the thirtieth anniversaryof his execution. Throughout theworld he is known simply as 'Che'. Hewas given this nickname by friendsand comrades in struggle when he wasin Mexico during the 1950s. Che is acommonly used term in Argentina -his native country. In 1997 youngpeople in Latin America and Europehave begun to wear Che Guevara T-shirts and display posters of hisportrait.

Some cynical and superficial pro-capitalist journalists have attempted todismiss this re-awakened interest inChe. They have falsely attempted toportray it as nothing more than adesire to be identified with the so-called permissive life-style associatedwith the 1960s.

Che Guevara undoubtedly has aromantic and cultural appeal to manyyoung people who associate with hisimage as a "rebel".

More importantly the renewed interestin Che Guevara reflects the appeal healways had for those looking for a wayto change society and end theexploitation of capitalism andimperialism. Che, and Cuba, are seenby many as a symbol of resistance.Reflected in the public display ofsupport for Che Guevara by a newgeneration, is the beginning of asearch for revolutionary socialist ideaswhich offer a viable alternative societyto capitalism.

So why has the CWI produced anotherpamphlet on Che and Cuba when somuch has already been written onthem internationally?

Apart from the cynical articles and onoccasion flippant articles in somemagazines and papers some seriousbooks and biographies have alreadybeen produced. Che Guevara - ARevolutionary Life, by the USjournalist and writer, Jon LeeAnderson, is a well researched and anenjoyable biography. So is ErnestoGuevara tambien conocido como ElChe (Ernesto Guevara also know as El


Che) by the Mexican writer, PacoIgnacio Taibo (available only inSpanish).

Despite the extensive research andinvestigation such authors haveundertaken, their work inevitablylacks one thing. They do not draw apolitical balance sheet of the lessonsof Che's contribution to therevolutionary movement which canassist the struggle against capitalismand imperialism today. Such authors,although making a valuablecontribution in recording history,cannot achieve this task. The reason issimple enough. They are not activeparticipants in the struggle tooverthrow capitalism and begin thetask of building socialism.

The CWI has produced this pamphleton Che and the 1959 CubanRevolution in order to assist in thetask of building an internationalrevolutionary socialist organisationwhich will be able to defeat capitalismand imperialism. History never repeatsitself in exactly the same way.However, there are important lessonsfrom previous struggles andrevolutions which must be drawn bythose fighting for socialism today ifwe are to be successful.

It is for this reason that this pamphlethas been published at this time. TheCuban revolution, in particular thecontribution to it made by CheGuevara, has many lessons for thestruggle against exploitation which istaking place today, especially in LatinAmerica, Africa, Asia and the MiddleEast.

In order to make such a balance sheetit is necessary not only to follow thehistorical events which took place butto discuss the ideas and methods

advocated by the central figuresinvolved. This pamphlet is acontribution to a discussion on theexperiences, ideas and methods ofstruggle which developed during therevolution in which Che played aprincipal role.

Consequently this pamphlet does notaspire to be a full personal biographyof Che's life. Many aspects of his life,including his two marriages, are notcovered although such personalquestions are important features in theformation of any character and had abearing on his political evolution.Neither has it been possible to give afull account of all the historical eventswhich took place and in which Cheparticipated. Readers will need tostudy other biographies and works onCuba, Che and the Cuban Revolutionin order get such information.

On the thirtieth anniversary of hisdeath it is right to recall the heroic andself-sacrificing struggle which Checonducted in opposition to capitalismand imperialism.

He was a bitter opponent of capitalistexploitation and fought against it. Hewas drawn towards socialism largelyas the result of his own experiencesand was motivated by a desire to seeits victory internationally. Initially helooked to the USSR and EasternEurope as alternative socialistsocieties. This he did from "adistance". Later his first handexperience of those bureaucraticregimes which ruled in the name ofsocialism repelled him.

Committed to the life of arevolutionary by his mid-twenties, thestruggle for the internationalrevolution would cost him his life atthe age of 39. He led by example and


was an incorruptible internationalist.Because of these qualities hecontinues to be a source of inspirationas a symbol of struggle againstoppression and exploitation.

At the same time his ideas were notfully rounded-out from the point ofview of a full understanding ofMarxism. It was his ideas onguerrillaism which had a decisivebearing on the Cuban revolution andevents which followed, especially inLatin America. His defence of theseideas as a method of struggle to beadopted throughout Latin America putthem at the centre of a debate in therevolutionary socialist movementthroughout that continent and beyond.These ideas of Che are discussed inthis pamphlet as they have manyimportant lessons for today's struggleagainst capitalism and imperialism.

Che also developed other ideasrelating to the economy and also whathe called "socialism and the new man"which centred on how people's attitudetowards society could be developedafter the overthrow of capitalism.These works reflect some of the issueshe had to deal with after the revolutionhad taken place in 1959. Because oflimitations of space it has not beenpossible to discuss them in thispamphlet.

A study of Che's life shows that hisideas developed over a lengthy periodof time, often as the result of his ownexperience. He died at the relativelyyoung age of 39. It is clear that he wasstill developing his ideas at the time ofhis death. In this respect a certainparallel exists between Che andMalcolm X and George Jackson in theUSA.

Confronted by the difficulties of thesituation in Cuba and the horrors hewitnessed as a result of his visitsbehind the 'iron curtain' to the USSRand Eastern Europe, he seemed to besearching for an alternative and beganto explore other ideas. He started toread some writings of Leon Trotsky afew years prior to his death. We canonly speculatively pose the question:if he had continued his studies ofTrotsky's ideas would he haveembraced them?

In 1964 he was in Moscow to attendthe celebrations for the 47thanniversary of the Russian Revolution.During this visit he not only protestedabout the lifestyle of the Russianofficials but argued that economically"...the soviets are in an economicdead-end, dominated by bureaucracy".

The bureaucratic caste in China at thistime was adopting a more "radicalface" internationally in an effort to winsupport after the rupture which hadtaken place between it and the USSRbureaucracy. This had occurred as aresult of a clash of narrow nationalinterests between the two regimes.

Che was attracted towards the Chinesebureaucracy as a result of the "radicalface" it adopted during this period andalso because of the victory of thepeasant army which had taken place in1949. It appeared to confirm his ownanalysis. However, he also began toexplore the ideas of Leon Trotsky. InMoscow he was attacked as being"pro-Chinese" and a "Trotskyist".Aware of these denunciations Chereferred to them in a meeting in theCuban Embassy with Cuban students.The incident is recounted in PacoIgnacio Taibo's biography.


Che commented: "...I have expressedopinions which could be closer to theChinese side...and also those mixed upwith Trotskyism have come up. Theysay that the Chinese are fractionalists,also the Trotskyists and me as well."He continued: "Opinion which mustbe destroyed with batons is opinionwhich brings us an advantage. It is notpossible to destroy opinions withbatons and it is precisely this that isthe root of intelligence...it is clear thatyou can get a series of things fromTrotsky's thought."

There is no indication of whatconclusions Che was drawing fromany reading of Trotsky's writings andhe did not advocate ideas which wouldhave flowed from him embracingTrotskyism. However, he did continueto study them further. Just before hisdeath in 1967 he was given somebooks of Trotsky by the Frenchintellectual, Regis Debray, who was inBolivia, working with Guevara'sforces at the time.

During this period the dominantcurrent which subscribed toTrotskyism failed to engage in an openpolitical dialogue and discussion witha view to helping Che develop fullyrounded-out ideas on the socialistrevolution. They merely supported andencouraged the ideas on guerrillaismwhich he advocated and gave supportto Fidel Castro's regime.

This was combated at the time bysome within the Trotskyist movement,including the then tiny forces inBritain organised in Militant (now theSocialist Party) who later establishedthe Committee for a Workers'International (CWI). In 1960 at thetime of the stormy events in Cuba themembers of Militant enthusiasticallywelcomed the revolution and the

overthrow of Batista but alsoexplained the character of the newregime which developed and the needto look to the working class in order todevelop the revolution throughoutLatin America.

Later, Peter Taaffe, in an article inIssue 390 of the British Militantnewspaper explained the processeswhich had unfolded in Cuba. "Castroand Guevara relied on the peasantsand the rural population. The workingclass only entered the struggle throughthe general strike in Havana when theguerrillas had already triumphed andBatista was fleeing for his life."Explaining how this rural base shapedthe whole character of the movement,he continued to outline how therevolution unfolded, ending in theabolition of capitalism and privateownership of land by the big landowners but "because of the forcesinvolved - a predominantly peasantarmy" the new regime lackedconscious democratic control andmanagement of the economy by theworking class.

Despite encountering some ofTrotsky's ideas in his search for analternative, Che unfortunately did notembrace the alternative ideas ormethods of Trotskyism. Neverthelesshis actions were sufficient to provokea reaction in the Kremlin andelsewhere. In Cuba and amongst theLatin American masses Che was ahero whose revolutionary exampleshould be emulated. Amongst theruling circles of the bureaucracy inMoscow he was attacked as "anadventurer" "pro-Chinese" and worstof all a "Trotskyist". The ruling classof the capitalist countries hatedeverything he defended and fought for.


Che was executed by those intent ondefending the rich and powerful. Hisimage lives on as a symbol of struggleagainst oppression. As protests against'neo-liberal' policies and the markethave erupted in Latin America it isstill common to find graffiti scribbledon walls by young people - "Che -Vive" - Che Lives.To commemorate the anniversary ofhis execution it is justified that those

fighting capitalist exploitationinternationally should learn importantlessons from his ideas and experiencesin order to win the victory he desired -socialism. This pamphlet is intendedas a contribution to assist in thatstruggle.

Tony Saunois


Chapter 1 A Bohemian Beginning

IT IS perhaps fitting for anArgentinean to own a yerba mateplantation as Ernesto Guevara Lynchdid in the remote jungle of Misioneson the border with Paraguay andBrazil. Chileans are renowneddrinkers of tea and Brazilians ofcoffee. The Argentineans consumewith gusto a bitter tea herb throughoutthe day whilst at work or relaxing withfriends.

Ernesto Guevara Lynch was the great-grandson of one of South America'srichest men whose ancestors were ofboth Spanish and Irish nobility. Mostof the family fortune had been lost byprevious generations and GuevaraLynch invested what he had in theyerba mate plantation where he hopedto make his fortune. In 1927 he metand married Celia de la Serna, an

Argentinean also with ancestors fromthe Spanish nobility.

The first of four children, Ernesto, wasto become known as the worldrenowned revolutionary, Che Guevara.As a revolutionary who spent most ofhis life in clandestine activity, it wasapt that he should have falsified birthand death certificates.

Ernesto was in fact born one monthearlier than June 14 1928 which wasstated on his birth certificate, thedeception being necessary because hismother was three moths pregnant onthe day she married. Che was executedon October 8 1967 in Bolivia at thehands of the United States CentralIntelligence Agency (CIA) and theBolivian army.

Thirty years after his execution thename of Che Guevara lives onthroughout Latin America and beyond.He has left a powerful tradition as aninternationalist and self-sacrificingrevolutionary who acts as an inspiringsymbol of struggle againstexploitation.

On the thirtieth anniversary of hisexecution it is legitimate forrevolutionaries to salute Che'squalities as a symbol of struggleagainst oppression and recognise theheroic role he played in the Cubanrevolution in 1959. The guerrillastruggle which was mainly based uponthe most downtrodden peasants inCuba ended with the overthrow of thehated Batista dictatorship.

This was possible because of theconcrete situation which existed inCuba and other countries of Central

America and the Caribbean. It was notpossible for Che to successfully repeatthe experience of the revolution in thecountries of Latin America wherethere were different conditions - inparticular a more powerful urbanpopulation and smaller ruralpopulation than in Central America.

The attempt of Che to apply the samemethods he used in Cuba posesimportant question about his ideas andmethods which need to be discussedand analysed by revolutionarysocialists.

Che did not readily enter into politicalactivity. Reflecting his middle classupbringing and compassion for thepoor and sick he was initially drawntowards medicine and eventuallygraduated as a doctor from the BuenosAires Faculty of Medicine in 1953.


His family had moved from Misionesto Cordoba partly for business reasonsand also in a bid to aid Che's chronicasthma through a change of climate.They finally moved to Buenos Aires in1947 where his parents eventuallysplit up.

Asthma was to dog Che throughout hislife. Its crippling effect made all themore remarkable the guerrillastruggles which he eventually was toengage in. Like many such disabilitiesit had an effect in shaping his earlydevelopment. Often unable to walkand confined to bed he developed akeen interest in reading and learning toplay chess. Whilst determined toovercome his disability and insistingon playing sports he becamesomething of a loner spending muchof his time reading and studying. Thiswas re-enforced by the split betweenhis parents, the death of hisgrandmother and the financialproblems which the family were nowencountering.

At university Che was drawn to morepolitical reading although he did notactively participate in political life. Hebegan delving into socialist ideas.According to his own recollections heread some Marx, Engels and Leninalong with some material by Stalin.He also studied the novelists Zola andJack London and Argentine socialistssuch as Alfredo Palacios. His love ofpoetry was satisfied, amongst others,by the works of the Chilean writer andCommunist Party member, PabloNeruda, and the Spanish Civil Warpoet Lorca.

However, for all his new-foundcuriosity about socialist ideas he neverengaged in political activity beyonddiscussing with some members of theYoung Communists and other left-

wing groups. According to one reporthe joined the Peronist Youth (apopulist and nationalist Argentineanmovement led by General Perón) as ameans of obtaining greater access tothe university library.

He was regarded as radical andoutspoken by those he encountered butdid not have any coherent or workedout ideas and certainly did not regardhimself as a Marxist. His mainobjective was still to qualify as adoctor with a view to helping the sickand the poor. However, within him apassion for travel was beginning todevelop. Initially this was withinArgentina itself and then later heundertook two journeys which broughthim throughout Latin America andeventually beyond.

The experiences which he encounteredduring this Odyssey changed hisperception of the tasks necessary toend poverty and exploitation. It wasduring the adventures and eventswhich he witnessed on these journeysthat Che eventually embraced socialistideas.

Che's first real journey took placeduring 1950 in which he travelledwidely throughout Argentina. For thefirst time he witnessed the massivesocial divide which existed in thecountry. In Buenos Aires he hadevidently seen poverty before but forthe first time he witnessed the dualcharacter of much of South America.Buenos Aires was one of the mostEuropean of South American cities inits culture and lifestyle. During thisjourney he travelled into the backwardand socially deprived centres ofArgentina which existed at the time.

Much of what he saw in the hospitalshe visited and amongst the most


downtrodden of the rural poor withwhich he made contact was viewedthrough the eyes of an aspiring doctor.Che concluded from these experiencesthat the modern Argentinean nationwas a "luxurious façade" under whichthe real "soul" lay., a soul which wasrotten and sick.

Che's first international tour took placein 1952 and the second during 1953/4.These had a more pronounced effectand ultimately changed the directionof his entire life, especially his secondOdyssey throughout the continent.

Nobody can escape the consequencesof powerful social upheavals andconvulsions. It is true that someindividuals, especially from a middleclass background, may be content toonly observe such events. Others areincreasingly drawn into big socialevents and the struggles between thevarious classes. Che Guevara wascontent to play the role of an observerat the beginning of his voyage. As itprogressed he was eventuallyincreasingly drawn into therevolutionary struggle whichultimately cost him his life.

At the outset of his voyage he and histravelling companion, Alberto, weremore interested in having a good timeand gaining some medical experienceas they toured South America on aHarley Davidson. Che's recentlypublished Motor Cycle Diariesprovide more than adequate examplesof this. Drunken brawls, romanticencounters and other, "youthful"adventures, dominated the trip theywere making around the continent. Asthey crossed the border into Chile theypassed themselves off as leprologists.The local papers of the towns andvillages they passed through evenreported the journey of these two

young adventurers. The local daily inTemuco carried the headline 'TwoArgentine Experts in Leprology TravelSouth America on a Motor Cycle.'

Frequently they had to flee local townsand villages having aroused the wrathof the local peasants, especially fatherswith attractive daughters. During thisfirst trip Che led the largely bohemianand carefree existence for which hewas known as a student at universityin Buenos Aires. It was a lifestylemade all the more possible by therelative affluence of his middle classfamily. At the same time it alsoreflected the independent spirit whichmarked his character.

However, whilst it is this aspect of thetrip which is the dominant feature inhis diary, other experiences had animportant impact on him. The povertyand conditions he witnessedincreasingly aroused a nascent socialawareness. Che's anger at theindifference shown towards the poorby the ruling class was being stirredduring his travels.

Whilst encamped at the Chilean portof Valparaíso, Che was asked to usehis medical skills to try and help anelderly woman who it transpired wasdying of chronic asthma and a weakheart. There was little he could do butthe experience of trying to treat her,surrounded by poverty, evidently leftsits mark. Afterwards he wrote: "There, in the final moments of peoplewhose farthest horizon is alwaystomorrow, one sees the tragedy thatenfolds the lives of the proletariatthroughout the whole world; in thosedying eyes there is a submissiveapology and also frequently, adesperate plea for consolation that islost in the void, just as their body willsoon be lost in the magnitude of


misery surrounding us. How long thisorder of things based on an absurdsense of caste will continue is notwithin my means to answer, but it istime that those who govern dedicateless time to propagandising thecompassion of their regimes and moremoney, much more money, sponsoringworks of social utility."

Unable to get a boat to Easter Island asthey intended Che and his companionheaded north, eventually arriving atChuquicamata, the world's largestopen cast copper mine. "Chuqui" as itis still known in Chile today, wasowned by US monopolies such asAnaconda and Kennecott. USownership of the mines at "Chuqui"was a symbol of imperialist "gringo"domination of Chile. They wereeventually nationalised by the PopularUnity government, led by SalvadorAllende of the Socialist Party, between1970 and 1973.

It was here Che and Albertoencountered the harsh realities of theclass struggle. They met a formerminer and his wife, both members ofthe then illegal Chilean CommunistParty. Che was told the bitter story ofrepression, disappearances and black-listing used by the company andgovernment against those who tried tofight for workers' rights.

Che and Alberto succeeded in enteringthe mine where a strike was beingprepared. They were shown around bya foreman who, as Che noted,commented, "..imbecile gringos, theylose millions of pesos a day in a strikein order to deny a few centavos moreto a poor worker."

This visit to Chuqui made a lastingimpression on Che and he kept a notebook on the experience in which he

detailed not only the impressions hehad of the workers, but alsoproduction techniques and the politicalimportance of the mines for Chile.Referring to the mineral richmountains he protested about the"exploited proletariat" andenvironmental destruction of thelandscape.

"The hills show their grey backsprematurely aged in the struggleagainst the elements, with elderlywrinkles that don't correspond to theirgeological age. How many of theseescorts of their famous brother(Chuquicamata) enclosed in theirheavy wombs similar riches to his, asthey await the arid arms of themechanical shovels that devour theirentrails, with their obligatorycondiment of human lives?" *

However, despite these scenes and theimpact they had on Che, he would stillneed further experiences and witnessgreater events before he committedhimself to the life of a revolutionary.

The next stop on his Odyssey wasPeru which proved decisive in Cheembracing socialist ideas through anencounter with a prominent leader ofthe Peruvian Communist Party, DoctorHugo Pesce. Before arriving in Limaon 1 May 1952, Che and Alberto hadthe opportunity to encounter themarvel of ancient Inca culture.

As with all visitors, the starkconsequences of four hundred years of"white" European conquest in LatinAmerica and brutal suppression of theindigenous peoples of the continent,was undoubtedly engraved into theconsciousness of Che during his visitto the ancient Inca capital of Cuzcoand the stunning temple ruins ofMacchu Picchu.


Pablo Neruda in his celebrated workon Latin America, Canto General(General Song) included a poem,Alturas de Macchu Picchu (TheHeights of Macchu Picchu) reflectingthe image this ancient ruin high in theAndes provokes in those aspiring tostruggle against exploitation.

In Che's native Argentina theindigenous peoples had been virtuallywiped out and their culture destroyed.In Peru, Bolivia, Mexico and someother Latin American countries thiswas not the case. They had beenreduced to the most downtrodden andexploited layers of society, oftenpredominating in the countryside. Themixed race mestizos had developedand formed big sections of theworking class in the cities. The richand powerful ruling classes were, andremain, largely of pure Europeandecent.

This history of conquest and thecontinued exploitation of the continentby imperialism, especially USimperialism, has resulted in anextremely powerful anti-imperialistconsciousness amongst the exploitedclasses. In the latter half of thiscentury this bitterness has been largelydirected at the "yanki gringos", northof the Rio Grande. Che, during hisvisit to Peru, increasingly absorbedthis hatred of the dominant imperialistpower.

Upon being forced to leave the freeaccommodation they had secured withthe arrival of a party of "gringo"tourists, Che noted: "Naturally thetourists who travelled in theircomfortable buses would knownothing of the conditions of theIndians...The majority of theAmericans fly directly from Lima toCuzco, visit the ruins and then return,

without giving any importance toanything else."

On 1 May the two travellers arrived inLima. Che met with Dr. Pesce, aleading figure in the Communist Partyand follower of the Peruvianphilosopher José Maríategui.Maríategui's primary work was writtenin 1928 - Seven Interpretative Essayson Peruvian Reality. This laid greatstress on the role of the indigenouspeople and peasantry in the strugglefor socialism.

The discussions with Pesce evidentlyhad a profound effect upon Che. Adecade later he sent the doctor a copyof his first book, Guerrilla Warfare,with the inscription, "To Doctor HugoPesce who, without knowing itperhaps, provoked a great change inmy attitude towards life and society,with the same adventurous spirit asalways, but channelled toward goalsmore harmonious with the needs ofAmerica."

At this stage, despite the discussionshe was engaged in with Pesce, Chewas still not prepared to embraceopenly an identification with"Marxist" ideas. His opinions werehowever beginning to take shape andhe began to express them. In particularhe began to openly developinternationalist ideas, at least withinthe context of Latin America.

At a party to celebrate his twentyfourth birthday in Peru, Che made atoast declaring "...that (Latin)America's division into illusory anduncertain nationalities is completelyfictitious. We constitute a singlemestizo race, which from Mexico tothe Straights of Magellan presentsnotable ethnographic similarities. Forthis, in an attempt to rid myself of the


weight of any meagre provincialism, Iraise a toast to Peru and for a UnitedAmerica."

This statement clearly reflected hisdeveloping internationalist aspirations.However, they did not constitute arounded out Marxist analysis and weresomewhat simplistic in the assessmentof the situation. The aspiration for aunified Latin America has existedsince Simón Bolívar (who led armedrebellions against Spain and helpedsecure independence for much ofLatin America) and the 19th centurywars of national liberation.Continental unity is still a powerfulsentiment amongst the Latin Americanmasses, existing side by side with anational consciousness in eachcountry.

The recurring aspiration of the massesto unify Latin America is not possibleto obtain within the context ofcapitalism because the ruling capitalistclass of each Latin American nationhave their own economic and politicalinterests to defend. They are alsolinked by economic and materialinterests to imperialism from whichthey cannot break free. Imperialismitself also opposes unity of thecontinent under capitalism, generallypreferring to impose its will on anumber of states weaker than itself.The establishment of a democraticfederation of Latin American states asa step to unify the continent is onlypossible by breaking free of capitalismand imperialism and buildingsocialism.

This spirit of internationalism was atheme to which Che returned manytimes and the idea of an internationallybased revolution against imperialismand capitalism was one hechampioned in later years. The

divergence he had with a fullyrounded out Marxist analysis wasabout how this should be done and bywhich class.

After continuing his tour, arriving inColombia and Venezuela, Che, havingseparated from his travel companionand friend, returned to Argentina inorder to complete his studies and sitexams at university. The impact of thisfirst journey upon him was evident inhis Notas de Viaje, written up from histravel diary. He was no longer thesame person who had left Argentina."The person who wrote these notesdied upon stepping once again ontoArgentine soil, he who edits andpolishes them, 'I' am not I; at least Iam not the same I that was before.That vagabonding through our'América' has changed me more than Ithought."

Once back in Argentina his familyhoped that his days as a vagabondwould end and that he would take uphis chosen profession, medicine. Checompleted his studies during April1953 and received his doctor's degreein June, a few days prior to his twentyfifth birthday.

However, the hopes held by his familywere rapidly dashed as his second tourof America began. This time it wasplanned together with his childhoodfriend, Carlos "Calica" Ferrer, whohad dropped out of medical school.

According to Calica, the two friendshad talked of going through Bolivia asChe wanted to return to visit the Incaruins and Machu Picchu. Their longerterm plans included Che's hopes ofvisiting India and Calica's quest to seeParis.


Thus by early July when the two travelcompanions set off by train fromBuenos Aires, Che still had no idea ofcommitting himself to a life ofdisciplined and self-sacrificingrevolutionary struggle. The bohemianstill dominated his character. Within arelatively short space of time this wasto change.

Individuals are drawn to participate inthe revolutionary movement for manyreasons. Some are mainly motivatedby political ideas, others by arevulsion of the existing system, andsome through participating in bigsocial upheavals from which theycannot simply stand aside.

The reason the direction of Che's lifetook a sharp turn cannot be explainedby one single issue. He wasundoubtedly interested in politicalideas and was outraged by the socialconditions which he witnessed. Hewas also profoundly affected by thepowerful social explosions heexperienced during his secondAmerican tour. These included tworevolutionary movements, in Boliviaand then Guatemala, after which hislife took an entirely new andunexpected direction.

*At the time, Chile was involved in aPresidential election campaign whichwas eventually won by the populistnationalist candidate, General CarlosIbanez del Campo. Once in power heconcluded an agreement with USimperialism and introduced a savagedeflationary package which includedreneging on a pledge to nationalise thecopper mines at Chuqui. In theelection the socialist and left-wingcandidate, Salvador Allende, camelast, partly due to the legal ban on theCommunist Party and its supporters.Allende was eventually elected

President in 1970, the first SocialistParty candidate to win a popularPresidential election campaign inSouth America. On victory heproclaimed himself to be a Marxist.One of the first acts of this socialist-led government was to nationalise themines at Chuqui. Allende'sgovernment was overthrown in a CIAbacked bloody coup in 1973.


Chapter 2 In Bolivia

DURING this second tour Che pennedanother journal which he entitled, OtraVez (Once Again).* Reflecting how hebegan this journey he wrote: "Thistime, the name of the sidekick haschanged, now Alberto is called Calica,but the journey is the same: twodisperse wills extending themselvesthrough America without knowingprecisely what they seek or which wayis north."

Che, who wanted to see the renownedBolivian miners first hand, visited theBalsa Negra mine just outside La Paz.Prior to the revolution companyguards had used a machine gun toopen fire on striking miners. Now themine was nationalised. Cheencountered truck loads of armedminers returning from the capital toprotest their support for land reformand the struggle of peasants. Withtheir "stony faces and red plastichelmets they appeared to be warriorsfrom other worlds".

Che and companion arrived in La Paz,the Bolivian capital, during July 1953.They were immediately caught up inthe revolutionary upheavals whichwere rocking one of the poorest andmost "Indian" of American nations. Amass revolt of the predominantlyindigenous peasants and tin minershad broken out twelve months earlier.This mass uprising had brought theradical Movimiento NacionalistaRevolucionario (MNR) to power.

The new regime, whilst trying to keepthe mass movement in check, wasforced by the insurrectionaryupheavals to carry through awidespread programme of reform. The

peasants, through a series of landoccupations, forced a far reachingprogramme of agrarian change. Thetin mines, Bolivia's primary source ofincome at the time, were nationalised.The miners and peasants had armedthemselves, sections of the army cameover to the side of the workers andpeasants. A militia was establishedand for a short time the army wasformally disbanded. However, therevolution was not completed with theestablishment of a new regime ofworkers' democracy and themovement was eventually defeated.

During these revolutionary events thetin miners played a leading role inestablishing a new independent tradeunion centre, the Central ObreraBoliviana (COB). Reflecting therevolutionary upsurge which tookplace the COB even formally endorsedthe Transitional Programme, writtenby Leon Trotsky in 1938.

In La Paz, Che spent much of his timein cafes and bars meeting politicalmigrants who had arrived from allover America. During the course ofthe revolution Bolivia had become apolitical Mecca as radicals and left-wing revolutionaries were attracted tothe stormy events erupting.

"La Paz is the Shanghai of theAmericas. A rich gamut of adventurersof all the nationalities vegetate andflourish in the polychromatic andmestizo city", wrote Che in his OtraVez. Here he mixed with a variety ofpolitical activists and engaged indebate and discussions with them. Hemet up with some of the Argentinecommunity living in La Paz. Amongst


those he met was an exiledArgentinean, called Nogues.

The influence of the powerful socialevents taking place in Bolivia arereflected in Che's comments about thisleader of the expatriate Argentineancommunity. "His political ideas havebeen outdated in the world for sometime now, but he maintains themindependently of the proletarianhurricane that has been let loose onour bellicose sphere."

Through these social contacts Che leda double existence in La Pazalternating between observing therevolutionary movements and the highlife he was introduced to through theArgentine community. On oneoccasion, Nogues' brother, havingrecently returned from Europe,showed Che and Calica an invitationhe had received to the wedding ofGreek shipping tycoon, AristotleOnassis.

However, it was the revolutionaryprocess which he witnessed in La Pazwhich left the most lasting impressionon Che. He wrote to his father in Julycomplaining that he wanted to stay inBolivia longer because, "...this is avery interesting country and it is livingthrough a particularly effervescentmoment. On the second of August theagrarian reform goes through, andfracases and fights are expectedthroughout the country. We have seenincredible processions of armedpeople with Mausers and 'piripipi'(machine guns), which they shoot offfor the hell of it. Every day shots canbe heard and there are wounded anddead from firearms."

Despite witnessing the tremendousstrength of the Bolivian miners Chenever really absorbed the potential

role of the working class in thesocialist revolution, even in countriessuch as Bolivia where they constituteda minority of the population. Thisweakness, combined with otherfactors, would have a direct bearing onthe ideas he later developed.

At this stage in Che's politicalevolution however, it is sufficient tonote the impact which events inBolivia had on his outlook. For thefirst time in his life he was toucheddirectly by the heat of the flame ofrevolution. Despite the sweep ofevents he was still an observer ratherthan an active participant.

After extending their stay in La Paz tonearly one month Che and Calicamoved on. They spent some time inPeru and in Lima again met withDoctor Pesce and also Gobo Nogues.Gobo ensured that they ate on a fewoccasions at the Country Club and inLima's most expensive hotel, the GranHotel Bolívar.

They moved on to Ecuador where theyforged new friendships with a group ofadventurers. Che's intention had beento move on with Calica to Venezuela.After a series of excursions Calica andChe departed company, the formerheading for Caracas and the latter witha new companion, Gualo, toGuatemala. They were totally brokeand had to work their passage on aship. Before reaching Guatemala theypassed through Costa Rica, Panamaand Nicaragua, meeting anddiscussing with individuals and groupsalong the way.

By travelling north to Central AmericaChe had entered a somewhat differentworld to that which existed in thesouthern cone of Latin America.Imperialism dominated the southern


countries in conjunction with anenfeebled national capitalist class.There was a relatively strong urbanpopulation and working class in thecities and the societies tended to bemore developed. This was even thecase in the poorest countries at thetime, such as Bolivia and Peru.

In a series of Central Americancountries US imperialism arrogantlyimposed local tyrants as dictatorialheads of state while despised andhated companies, such as Coca Colaand the United Fruit Company,plundered the economies. As Checommented: "...the countries were nottrue nations, but private estancias".

This was only fifty years after USimperialism had created Panama, andran it as a client state in order to keepcontrol of the canal which it had builtfor trade purposes and strategicinterests. Nicaragua had been ruled forthirty years by the corrupt dictatorshipof Somoza. El Salvador was run by asuccession of dictatorships intent ondefending the interests of the coffeeplantation owners, and Honduras wasvirtually run as a packaging plant forthe United Fruit Company.

The United Fruit Companysymbolised the exploitation of thecontinent by imperialism. Che'sfavourite poet, Pablo Neruda, wrote anironical verse, La United Fruit Co.,reflecting the sentiments of LatinAmerica towards its imperialistdomination:

"When the trumpet sounded,everything was prepared onearth,and Jehovah divided the worldbetweenCoca-Cola Inc., Anaconda,Ford Motors, and other entities:the United Fruit Company Inc.;

reserved for itself the mostbeautiful place,the central coast of my land;the sweet waist of America..."

Neruda's poem continues anddenounces the company for creatingthe "Tyrannical Reign of Flies" thedictators of Central America: Trujillo,Tachos, Ubico, Martínez, and Garias -"the bloody domain of flies."

On to Guatemala

If events in Bolivia had made animpact on Che, developments inGuatemala, where he got activelyinvolved for the first time, wouldchange the direction of his life. Hearrived in Guatemala City onChristmas Eve and openly identifiedwith a political cause and with someidea of what he now intended tocommit his life to.

Just prior to his arrival he had writtena letter dated December 10, in whichhe outlined his political views to hisaunt Beatríz, with whom he had anespecially close relationship. Thesewere undoubtedly a reflection of theeffect events in Bolivia had had onhim. For the first time he clearlyidentified himself ideologically withsocialist ideas.

"My life has been a sea of foundresolutions until I bravely abandonedmy baggage and, back pack on myshoulder, set out with el compañeroGarcía on the sinuous trail that hasbrought us here. Along the way I havehad the opportunity to pass throughthe dominions of the United Fruit,convincing me once again of just howterrible these capitalist octopuses are. Ihave sworn before a picture of the oldand mourned Stalin that I won't rest


until I see these capitalist octopusesannihilated. In Guatemala I willperfect myself and achieve what Ineed to be an authentic revolutionary."He signed the letter "from yournephew of the iron constitution, theempty stomach and the shining faith inthe socialist future. Chao, Chancho".

By 1953 the populist left-leaninggovernment in Guatemala, presidedover by Colonel Jacobo Arbenz, waslocked into a head-on confrontationwith US imperialism and the rich eliteof Guatemala City. Arbenz wascontinuing a reformist programmebegun by the preceding governmentwhich came to power during the1940's having toppled the ruthlessUbico dictatorship.

US imperialism would tolerate a lotfrom this reformist administration. Butin 1952 the Arbenz administrationtook a step too far. A land reformdecree was enacted which abolishedthe latifundia system and nationalisedthe properties of the detested UnitedFruit Company.

This measure provoked the wrath ofGuatemala's white Creole elite andwon massive support from the mainlyindigenous and mestizo poor ruralpeasants and urban workers. TheUnited Fruit Company and theEisenhower administration wereoutraged. It would only be a matter oftime before the CIA would instigatethe overthrow of the Arbenzgovernment.

The "socialist" experiment inGuatemala had drawn thousands fromall over Latin America to see firsthand this challenge to US imperialism.Mass mobilisations were taking placeall the time and numerous militiaswere established by both the

government and the various politicalparties. In the main these were notarmed. However, the forces ofreaction began to arm and mobilise.

Amongst those present during theGuatemalan drama, apart from CheGuevara, were numerous futureleaders of Latin American left-wingorganisations, including RodolfoRomero, a future leader of theNicaraguan Sandinista FSLN (FrenteSandinista de Liberacion Nacional)which overthrew the Somozadictatorship in 1979.

Che met with a series of politicalactivists and engaged in discussion.He secured work as a doctor in ahospital and was introduced to HildaGadea, an exiled leader of the youthwing of the radical populist Peruvianmovement, APRA. She introducedhim to activists and leaders of variouspolitical groupings and gave himpolitical works to study, includingsome works of Mao Tse Tung.

It was during these events that Cheencountered a number of Cubanexiles. They had been given asylum bythe Arbenz regime and hadparticipated in an attempted assault onJuly 26 1953 against the Moncadamilitary barracks in Cuba. For the firsttime Che began to discover about thestruggle developing against the CubanBatista regime.

The speed with which eventsdeveloped in Guatemala also resultedin Che's ideas maturing. He began tocriticise the communist parties whichhad adopted a policy of 'Popular' or'People's Fronts'. This put them inalliances with sections of the nationalcapitalist class. The leadership of thecommunist parties wrongly argued atactical alliance with this


"progressive" wing of the nationalcapitalist class was necessary in thestruggle against imperialism, in orderto defend and widen parliamentarydemocracy. They said a stage of'capitalist democracy and economicdevelopment' was necessary before theworking class could struggle for andhope to obtain socialism.

This policy resulted in the communistparty leaders limiting the struggles ofthe working class to prevent themchallenging the interests of capitalism.The workers' movement wasfrequently paralysed by this policywhich often resulted in bloody defeatat the hands of reaction. Decisivesections of the capitalist class werequite prepared to abolish democraticrights and utilise repressive methodsof rule in order to defend their ownclass interests.

Che, although not clearly presentingan alternative to this policy, felt thatthe communist parties were movingaway from the masses simply to get ashare of power in a coalitiongovernment. He wrongly argued atthis time that no party in LatinAmerica could remain revolutionaryand contest elections.

Though beginning to articulate histhoughts, Che's ideas did not becomefully formulated until later.Meanwhile, events in Guatemalaovertook the polemics he had begun tobe engaged in. The US wasincreasingly uneasy about the courseevents were taking and had concludedthe government must be overthrown.The example of the movement inGuatemala was beginning to spill overinto other Central American countries.A general strike broke out inHonduras. The Nicaraguan dictator,Somoza, feared his own population

may follow the example of events inneighbouring countries.

The CIA had put together a plan totopple the Guatemalan administration.A figure-head named Castillo Armaswas hand-picked to replace Arbenz asPresident. A paramilitary force wastrained in Nicaragua and thosefriendly to the US in the GuatemalanArmy were involved in a plot againstthe government.

Arbenz refused to take action againstthose in the military known to besympathetic to the plotters and tried toappease the military. A few daysbefore his government wasoverthrown in 1954 by theconspirators he appealed to the armyitself to distribute arms to the militiaswhich had been established. Themilitary command refused and thegovernment fell. The existingcapitalist state machine had been leftintact and no alternative of workers'and peasants' committees had beenestablished from which an appealcould have been made to the rank andfile soldiers.

This defeat and the failure of Arbenzto take any action against the capitaliststate apparatus was to leave a lastingimpression on Che, one which hewould not forget as the revolution inCuba unfolded.

After seeking asylum in theArgentinean Embassy and hiding for aperiod, Che eventually found his wayto Mexico by September. As a freshactivist his movements had not goneunnoticed. The CIA opened a file onhim for the first time. Over the comingyears it was to become one of thethickest ever compiled by them on anyone individual.


It was while Che was in Mexico thathe initially met one of the leaders ofthe July 26th Movement fighting theBatista dictatorship in Cuba, FidelCastro. Their first meeting was during1955, after which Che eventuallyjoined the Movement.

Following his experiences in Boliviaand in particular after his participationin events in Guatemala, Che enteredthe next phase of his life no longer asthe medical doctor and socialobserver. From this point on he was tobe an active participant in andeventual leader of historic events.

* This journal, covering three years ofChe's life has never been fullypublished. It was transcribed by hiswidow, Aleida March after Che'sdeath. It was made available to thewriter Jon Lee Anderson andextensively used by him in hiscelebrated biography, Che Guevara -A Revolutionary Life, published in1997.


Chapter Three

What Do I join?

By the time Che had arrived inMexico his open commitment tosocialism had matured. Whilst inMexico he developed his studies ofMarx, Engels and Lenin andsupplemented them with furtherreading of Jack London and otherwriters. However, despite this politicalevolution of Che's politicalknowledge, his grasp of Marxisttheory was still one sided andincomplete.

This weakness was particularlyevident in his interpretation of how toapply a Marxist method to the colonialand semi-colonial countries of LatinAmerica. This would become clear ina very real way as he engaged in theconcrete struggle to overthrow theBatista dictatorship in Cuba.

Che was drawn to the July 26thMovement which was initiated byFidel Castro rather than the CubanCommunist Party. This decision haspuzzled many on the left, especially inLatin America. The answer lies in therole and policies advocated by thecommunist parties throughout LatinAmerica at that time and the characterof the July 26th Movement.

The July 26th Movement was so-named to commemorate the date of anassault on the Moncada militarybarracks in the Cuban city of Santiagoduring 1953. This attack was carriedout by a group of youth who weremainly linked with the Cuban Peoples'Party ( Partido del Pueblo Cubano),known as the Orthodox Party. Thiswas a radical Cuban nationalistformation which had split from the

Auténticos (Authentic RevolutionaryMovement) in 1947 and was led byEduardo Chibas whose mainprogramme was "honesty ingovernment". The Autenticos, re-organised during the 1930s, initiallyattempted to lay claim to the 19thCentury national democraticrevolutionary tradition of Cuba'snational hero, José Martí - the poetand fighter for independence who waskilled in 1895 whilst leading a chargeon horse-back against the Spanisharmy.

Martí and the independence movementwere comprised of many strands andincluded a certain anarchist influencefrom the growing Spanish workers'movement. Martí himself supported aradical social programme. He wasinfluenced by certain anarchistorganisations which had links with theSpanish workers' movement.However, as Hugh Thomas points outin his extensive tome, Cuba - ThePursuit of Freedom, Martí "...from hiswritings, seems a contemporary ofRousseau rather than of Marx..." Martíwas in essence a fighter for nationalindependence and defender of "socialjustice". He did not however advocatea break with capitalism or defendsocialist ideas.

The Auténticos increasingly modifiedtheir stand just as the Orthodox Partywere destined to do less than a decadelater. Within the youth wing of theOrthodox party a radical current wasto be found which increasinglybecame frustrated because of the lackof serious struggle by the party againstthe Batista regime.

Those who carried out the attack onthe Moncada barracks hoped that itwould begin a national uprisingagainst the Batista regime. Instead it


was brutally crushed and itsparticipants either killed orimprisoned. Amongst those involvedin the assault were Fidel Castro andhis brother Raúl. Most of the 170participants were either from a lowermiddle class or working classbackground. Despite this they werenot advocates of socialist ideas. RaúlCastro was a member of the YoungCommunists but had participated inthe attack as an individual and withoutthe knowledge of the CommunistParty.

The majority were not members of anypolitical organisation. The programmethey advocated was mainly limited tothe radical aspects of the policy of thedemocratic but capitalist OrthodoxParty. Fidel Castro was no exception.At that stage he did not regard himselfas a socialist and he was certainly notcommitted to Marxist ideology despitehaving read some Marx and Lenin.

The basic idea which the insurgents atMoncada advocated can be gaugedfrom the proclamation they read afterthe capture of the radio station: "TheRevolution declares its firm intentionto establish Cuba on a plan of welfareand economic prosperity that ensuresthe survival of its rich subsoil, itsgeographical position, diversifiedagriculture and industrialisation...TheRevolution declares its respect for theworkers...and...the establishment oftotal and definitive social justice,based on economic and industrialprogress under a well organised andtimed national plan..." Theproclamation affirmed that it"...recognises and bases itself upon theideas of Martí" and then pledged itselfto restore the constitution of 1940.

In other words it proposed aprogramme to established in Cuba a

modern, industrialised capitalistdemocracy which would grantelementary rights to the working classand the poor. This was amplified stillfurther by Castro after his arrest in thespeech he delivered during his trial.Castro outlined five laws theyintended to implement once in power.These were radical and promisednationalisation of the telephone systemand other public utilities, a programmeof land reform and proposals torestructure the sugar industry. Itproposed a profit sharing scheme inthe sugar mills and other non-agricultural sectors of the economy.

However, the programme did not evenpropose the nationalisation of thesugar industry and would not haveended foreign ownership of theeconomy. In essence it was aprogramme of liberal capitalist reformwhich if implemented would attemptto tackle the tasks of the bourgeoisdemocratic revolution.

Historically, these tasks include aprogramme of land reform to endfeudal class relations, the developmentof industry, the unification of thecountry into a nation state, theestablishment of capitalistparliamentary democracy and thewinning of national independencefrom imperialist domination andlaying the basis for the modern nationstate.

The exact form the tasks of thebourgeois democratic revolution takediffers from country to country and insome countries some of the questionsposed can be resolved or partlyresolved, others remain to beachieved. For example in Argentinacapitalist property relations as opposedto feudal ownership exists in the ruralareas. However, Argentina is still


shackled by the domination of themajor imperialist countries' economicpower.

However, for decades in the semi-colonial and colonial countries such asCuba, the implementing of theprogramme of the democraticbourgeois revolution has meant aconflict with capitalism andimperialism. This is because thenational capitalist class is tooenfeebled, linked to the landownersand shackled to imperialism toaccomplish the bourgeois democraticrevolution. A further factor is the fearthe national bourgeoisie have of theworking class entering any arena ofstruggle against imperialism.

The vice in which Cuba was locked byimperialism, together with thedecadent Cuban ruling class, was toostrong to permit even a limitedprogramme of liberal reform. As inother non-industrialised countries, thenational capitalist class in Cuba wastoo weak, corrupt and shackled toimperialism to complete the tasks ofthe bourgeois democratic revolution.And yet these tasks need to beresolved if society is to develop.

As the Russian Revolution hadillustrated in 1917, this dilemma couldbe solved by the working class, evenin a country where it was in aminority. It could do this by takingcontrol of the running of society andestablishing a workers' democracy.With a programme to win the supportof the poorer sections of the peasantryand other exploited layers such as theurban middle class and intelligentsia,landlordism and capitalism could beoverthrown.

Through the victory of theinternational revolution in the more

industrialised capitalist countries thebuilding of socialism could begin.Triumphant revolution in thesecountries would end the isolation ofother workers' states and because oftheir higher productivity level lay thebasis for the construction of socialism- that is, a society of plenty whereneed is met. In this way the tasks ofthe bourgeois democratic revolutionwould be achieved by the workingclass as part of the internationalsocialist revolution.

These were the classical ideas of thePermanent Revolution that weredeveloped from the experience of theRussian revolutions of 1905 and 1917.In particular they were developed byTrotsky and encompassed by Lenin.

In a distorted caricature of this Marxistprognosis the Cuban Revolutionwould eventually result in theoverthrow of landlordism andcapitalism and replace it with acentrally planned economy. Therevolution was to acquire masssupport and bring tremendous benefitsto the Cuban population. But the newregime which triumphed in 1959would not be based upon a regime ofworkers' democracy.

Castro And the July 26th Movement

At the time of the Moncada attackCastro still pronounced his allegianceto the Ortodoxos. The party leadershipregarded the attempted assault on theMoncada as an adventure. Largesections of the Ortodoxos and theurban middle class were still hoping toreach an agreement with thedictatorship. Batista denounced it asan attempted "communist putsch(coup)". The Communist Partydenounced it as an attempt at a"bourgeois putsch".


US imperialism at the time wasincreasingly expressing its concernabout what it viewed as "communistencroachment" throughout LatinAmerica. Under pressure fromWashington, after a visit to Havana byCIA director Allen Dulles, Batistaagreed to the establishment of theBuró de Represión a las ActividadesComunistas- BRAC.

Neither the CIA nor Batista had Castroand his supporters in mind when thisspecial police unit was established.Reflecting how little his movementwas perceived as a serious threat at thetime, Castro and the other imprisonedinsurgents were released in 1955 as a"good-will gesture" after a campaignto free them which in part wasinitiated by the Roman CatholicChurch.

In Cuba Castro was heralded as acause celebre because of his struggleagainst Batista and especially as aconsequence of his imprisonment onthe infamous Isle of Pines. The onecondition of his release was that heshould leave Cuba. He headed forMexico where Cuban exiles and someof his followers had been congregatingduring the early 1950s.

Castro had established a reputation asan audacious and charismatic leader.As a 'Young Turk' in the movement,he was able to exploit this to hismaximum advantage. In the summerof 1955 his new group, the Movementof the 26th of July, was formallyestablished and he broke from theOrtodoxos in 1956. At its launch theMovement declared that in its view the"Jefferson philosophy was still valid".Jefferson was one of the eighteenthcentury leaders of the US War ofIndependence against colonial Britishrule. His "philosophy" was therefore

liberal capitalism and parliamentarydemocracy. Castro viewed the USA ashis model for Cuba.

Within the Ortodoxos movement alayer of its supporters were seekingnegotiations and a compromise withthe dictatorship. Others, especially theyouth, were seeking more directmeans of confronting the regime.

The prospects for Castro had beenenhanced by the suicide of the formerleader of the party, Eduardo Chibas, in1951. By projecting himself in theimage of a new Martí, Castro made anappeal to the ranks of the Ortodoxos tosupport him.

The Communist Party inRetirement

At the same time the expandingpolitical vacuum was inflated by thesituation in which the CubanCommunist Party (Partido SocialistaPopular - PSP) found itself. HughThomas in his book on Cubaaccurately states, " The CubanCommunists in general were in semi-retirement during most of these years,recovering their health and energies..."

The party had lost much of itscredibility as a consequence of itsearlier policy of supporting a Popularor People's Front. The policy had beenadopted by the Latin Americancommunist parties after 1935 when ameeting of all the regional communistparties was called in Moscow wherethe new line was imposed in eachcountry, with some exceptions such asBrazil.

It was adopted in Cuba during anexceptional period of social turmoil.1933 had seen a radical revolt byjunior officers in the army. Amongst


other measures they demanded theending of the Platt Amendment,signed with the USA in 1901, whichgave the US the right to militarilyintervene in Cuba. At the head of thismovement was a young officer from aworking class background, FulgencioBatista.

This was an entire period of socialupheaval and radicalisation in Cuba.There was a crisis of authority in thegovernment. The one force whichseemed able to hold things togetherwas the army headed by theradicalised junior officers. Batistareflected the varying conflicts betweenthe various classes which existed atthe time. He reflected the pressurefrom a wing of the national rulingclass to assert its own interests againstUS imperialism. At the same time hereflected the pressures from theworking class and sections of theradicalised middle class for greatersocial change. For a period Batistabalanced between the different classpressures which were bursting forth.

Batista ruled Cuba through a series ofpuppet presidents, grantingconcessions to workers and alsoimplementing some land reform. Aminimum wage was introduced and itwas made illegal to dismiss employees"without reason". These measureswere slow in being implemented butthey boosted the confidence of theworking class. As a populist leaderfrom a working class backgroundBatista enjoyed widespread supportfrom the Cuban population for a shorttime. But like all such bonapartistleaders and regimes - those whichbalance between various class interestscombining reforms to the masses withrepression - in the final analysis theyact to defend one class or another, in

this case the interests of capitalism.Batista proved to be no different.

Political opponents were viciouslydealt with and under Batista'sleadership, with the encouragement ofthe US ambassador, the army wasdeployed in 1935 against a generalstrike demanding a new democraticconstitution. Despite his earlierpopulist nationalism, Batistasuccumbed to the pressures ofimperialism and ultimately fullycollaborated with it.

After winning the Presidentialelections in 1940 and withdrawing hiscandidature in 1944, Batista returnedto power in a coup which was stagedin 1952 after he lost anotherPresidential election. The new hatedregime which seized power in 1952was to unleash repression and terror.The communists throughout thisperiod adopted a policy of supportingBatista, slavishly following thedecisions of the Moscow conferencein 1935.

At its congress in 1939 the PSP agreedit should "adopt a more positiveattitude towards Colonel Batista".From that moment on in party journalsBatista was no longer "...the focalpoint of reaction; but the focal point ofdemocracy". (New York Daily Worker1 October 1939).

The international organisation of thecommunist parties which existed at thetime, the Comintern, stated in itsjournal: "Batista...no longer representsthe centre of reaction...the people whoare working for the overthrow ofBatista are no longer acting in theinterests of the Cuban people." (WorldNews and Views, No 60 1938).


In 1952 the PSP declared the newregime to be "no different" to thepreceding one! The "Communists" hadbeen loyal supporters of theBonapartist dictator for more than adecade when he seized power. AsHugh Thomas comments in his book,the Catholic laity had endured moreconflicts with the regime than theCommunist Party leaders.

Despite this the PSP maintained animportant influence amongstimportant sections of workers. Yet, inthe course of events, the party paid aprice for its collaboration with a lossof support amongst the working classand the youth.

However, the highest price was paidby the Cuban masses, suffering undera regime which rapidly showed itselfto be puppet of US imperialism.Historically Cuba had been aplayground for the "gringos" north ofthe Rio Grande. Havana developed asthe local brothel and gambling casinoof US bankers and industrialists.Batista was merely the local pimp.

It was against this historicalbackground that Che Guevaraeventually found his way into theranks of the July 26th Movement.Castro and his followers wouldundoubtedly have seemed a moreattractive and combative force than thecommunist parties at the time. Chewas in contact with some of Castro'ssupporters prior to his arrival inMexico. Plans were already being laidto begin an armed struggle againstBatista.

During 1954 Che was also mixingwith Communist Party members fromall over Latin America, especiallyexiles from Guatemala. Initially hesaw his future within the Communist

Party and wrote to his motheranticipating that he would eventuallytake such a path. But he held back atthis time largely because the bohemiandragon within him had still not beenfully slain. As Che himself admitted,he had "well-defined convictions" butalso what he described as his"vagabonding" and "repeatedinformality". As he explained in theletter to his mother he still yearned totravel, especially through Europe and"I couldn't do that submitted to an irondiscipline".

It was not until 1955 that he metCastro. The immediate prospect of astruggle which was offered to him byCastro and his movement togetherwith his "well-defined convictions"finally led Che to accept that "irondiscipline" which he had previouslyrejected, although it was not within theranks of the Communist Party.

Che's entry into the July 26thMovement was not without itsproblems. Some of its members wereof a pronounced middle classbackground and his political personairritated them. Che, despite his lack offormal commitment to the movement,was showing aspects of his characterwhich would emerge in a very forcefulway during the rest of hisrevolutionary life.

He was austere and once he haddecided to commit himself torevolutionary struggle, utterly self-sacrificing. Some of those who methim were somewhat "put out" by whatthey regarded as Che's "self-righteousness". As Jon Andersonrecounts in his biography, a Moncadaveteran, Melba Hernández, had arrivedin Mexico to join her husband. Shewas still dressed in refined clothes andjewellery when she was introduced to


Che. He looked at her and proclaimedshe could not be a seriousrevolutionary dressed so. "Realrevolutionaries adorn themselves onthe inside, not on the surface", hestated.

Having joined the July 26thMovement, Che threw himself into itbody and soul as preparations wereundertaken to land in Cuba and beginthe "revolution" during 1956. Heintensified his political studies andundertook an increasingly harshphysical training course and puthimself on a diet to get fit. Stillplagued by asthma he needed to betwice as healthy as other fighters.Through will-power and determinationChe overcame the limitations hishealth imposed upon him. Within thegroup, which numbered no more thantwenty to thirty according to Castro,Che rapidly rose to pre-eminence.

The group was arrested in Mexico andthen released. From prison Che wroteto his parents: "My future is linkedwith that of the Cuban revolution. Ieither triumph with it or diethere...From now on I wouldn'tconsider my death a frustration, only,like Hikmet (the Turkish poet): "I willtake to the grave only the sorrow of anunfinished song."

His commitment to the cause ofrevolution was now his entire life.This spirit is indispensable to defeatcapitalism and win a revolution. It isthe quality in Che which those fightingto emancipate the working class andexploited classes today need toemulate.

As he engaged directly inrevolutionary struggle his boldnessand self-sacrifice was to become veryevident. At the same time his ideas

developed in a one-sided manner. Hebased himself on the peasantry andguerrilla struggle. This is oneimportant aspect of the Marxist policywhich applies in the rural areas wherea peasant class exists.

The question of the role of theworking class and the urban centres isalso of decisive importance to apply acorrect Marxist policy. As will befurther explained in this pamphlet thisis true even in countries where theworking class form a relatively smallsection of the population.

Unfortunately because of the unevendevelopment of Che's ideas it was notpossible for him to develop a policyand programme which could bringabout a victorious revolution incountries such as Argentina, Brazil orChile where powerful working classesexisted.


Chapter FourGuerillaism and MarxismNO REVOLUTIONARY developsideas in a social vacuum or in totalisolation. In this respect the ideaswhich Che Guevara developed andsupported were not an exception. Inlooking at Che's life nobody whoregards themselves as a revolutionary,fighting against exploitation andoppression, can question his heroism,determination and self-sacrifice. Bythe time he arrived in Cuba he waswedded to the idea that socialism hadto be built throughout Latin Americato liberate the masses fromexploitation and free the continent ofimperialist domination.

However, what Che did not have wasa clear understanding of how thiscould be done and which class wouldhave to play the leading role inachieving it. From a Marxist point ofview the most important deficiency inChe's ideas was his underestimation ofthe role of the working class inoverthrowing capitalism and buildingsocialism.

Because of the specific conditionswhich existed in Cuba this deficiencydid not prevent the defeat of Batista orthe coming to power of the guerrillaforce Che was fighting with. Becauseof international factors and themomentum of the revolution, neitherdid it prevent the overthrow ofcapitalism in Cuba (discussed in laterchapters).

It did shape the character of the newregime which was to emerge after thetriumph of the revolution. Moreover,when Che's ideas were later applied toother countries in Latin America,where objective conditions were verydifferent, they failed. Many heroic and

genuine revolutionaries used theirenergies and not a few gave their livesin trying to apply his incomplete ideas.What Che had not absorbed from hisstudies of Marxist literature was theexperience of the Russian Revolutionof 1917 and the ideas of thePermanent Revolution. In particular,he did not grasp the role of theworking class even in countries whereit constitutes a minority in society.

Unfortunately after the victory of theRussian working class the revolutionwas not victorious in the developedindustrialised countries. TheBolshevik victory remained isolated.A combination of intervention by thearmies of Western imperialism andcivil war exhausted the Russianworkers' movement. Whilst capitalismremained defeated in Russia for aprolonged historical period of time,until the capitalist restoration of1989/92, the working class was robbedpolitically of its control of society.This was usurped through theemergence of a vicious, privilegedbureaucratic elite.

Che failed to grasp the lessons of therevolution of 1917 or later events. Todo this and apply the lessons of theseevents to the specific conditions whichemerged in Central and Latin Americarequired a gigantic and audacious leapforward in political understanding andvision. In isolation and under theinfluence of events and alternativeideas, Che could not complete the leap(which was and still is) required inapplying the methods of Marxism tothe particular conditions which existon his continent.


Under capitalism the working class iscompelled to struggle collectivelythrough strikes, demonstrations andworkplace occupations etc. in order towin concessions and to defend itsinterests. Of course where necessarythe workers' movement needs also toorganise its own defence from armedattack by the employers and those thatdefend their interests.

The decisive role of the working classin the socialist revolution arisesbecause of the collective classconsciousness which it develops in theworkplace and which allows it toprepare the basis for the collectivedemocratic control and managementof society. This lays the basis forestablishing a workers' democracy inorder to begin the task of buildingsocialism. By incorporating into itssocialist programme the interests ofother exploited layers of society, theworking class can win their support tocarry through the revolution andoverthrow landlordism and capitalism.In this way the proletariat play theleading role in the revolution and thebuilding of socialism.

The Rural Struggle and Marxism

The poorer peasants, whilst able toplay an important revolutionary role instruggle, lack the collective classconsciousness which predominatesamongst the working class. Thepeasantry, because of its isolation inrural areas and economic relationshipto the land, with its narrow, parochialand individualistic outlook, cannotplay the same role in the revolution asthe workers in the cities.

Whilst Marxism defends the leadingrole of the working class in thesocialist revolution it also recognisesthe importance of the struggle in the

countryside, especially amongst ruralagricultural workers and the poorersections of the peasantry.

Even today, after a massiveurbanisation of society in SouthAmerica, there are many importantlinks between the rural areas and theurban population, especially theworking class. This is pointedly thecase in Central America. Workersfrom the cities will periodically returnto the countryside for work or tosupport their families who are stillthere. Sections of the urban poor,living in shanty towns on theperiphery of major cities, live almostas peasants on the outskirts of theindustrial centres.

These sections of the population arebound to be affected by the ruralmovements and will frequently takeup the methods of struggle mainlyused by peasants and rural workers.These methods of struggle will includeland occupations and formingcontingents of armed groups to fightthe military, the police and the armedthugs used by the landlords to protecttheir interests. Under certainconditions these movements in thecountryside can erupt prior tomovements in the cities and can bringwith them a boost in the confidence ofurban workers.

This process has been seen recently inthe Zapatista (a radical, mainly ruralmilitia) uprising in Mexico and by theexplosive movement of the Brazilianlandless organised in the MST(Movimiento Sem Tiera).

A revolutionary Marxist programmewould support such struggles in thecountryside and take every step toincorporate them with the workers'movement in the cities. They would,


however, play an auxiliary role to themovement in the cities.

Che, influenced by a combination offactors, drew other conclusions whichunder-estimated the role of theworking class. His conclusionsevolved over a period of time. Theywere being formed through hisobservations, discussions and then hisparticipation in the Cuban movement.His ideas were most clearly expressedin articles and publications after theconquest of power by the 26th JulyMovement in 1959. One of the mostcomplete explanations of his policiesis to be found in his book, GuerrillaWarfare, which was not publisheduntil 1960.

A Different Conception

Partly as a result of his own classbackground and the fact he was not anactive member of any organisation inthe workers' movement, Che neveractively participated in the actualstruggles of the proletariat. Apart fromsome activity in Guatemala his onlyactive participation in therevolutionary Left was through theJuly 26th Movement and the guerrillastruggle in Cuba. As a result he failedto grasp the revolutionary potentialand strength which workers possessedas a class.

Other political ideas and experienceswhich he was exposed to inevitablyhad an important impact on theformulation of his hypothesis. He wasbound to be under the influence of thepowerful traditions of historicalstruggles throughout the LatinAmerican continent. The wars forindependence led by Simon Bolivar,who even posed the idea of unifyingthe entire continent, Sandino's strugglein Nicaragua, Mart' in Cuba and others

during the 19th century, together withthe Mexican Revolution (1910-18) andthe peasant armies of Zapata andPancho Villa, all form part of a strongtradition on the continent and areengraved onto the outlook of politicalactivists.

These struggles took place in aprevious historical epoch when theproletariat and the workers' movementwas only in its very early stages ofconception. Since that period theworking class has enormouslydeveloped throughout the region.

In Cuba by 1953 according to HughThomas, only 42% of the workingpopulation was employed on the land.By the end of the 1950s there wereabout 200,000 peasant families and600,000 rural workers. In the citieswere to be found 400,000 families ofthe urban proletariat and 200,000families of those employed as waiters,servants and street vendors. The socialweight of the Cuban working classwas far greater at the end of the 1950sthan the Russian working class was in1917.

As well as the weight of historicaltradition Che was also influenced at anearly stage by the ideas expressed bythe Peruvian, Pesce. Pesce articulatedthe theories which he and Mar'ateguihad begun to advocate during the1920s. They revised the classicalanalysis of Marxism regarding the roleof the working class and the peasantry,giving far more importance to thelatter in the socialist revolution. Chewas also attracted by the victory ofMao Tse Tung's peasant army inChina in 1949, together with theongoing national liberation struggle inVietnam. Undoubtedly he wasinfluenced by some of Mao's writings.


The Latin American communistparties, although formally adhering tothe working class in the cities,followed the polices of supportingPeople's or Popular Fronts. This policyattempted to limit the struggles of themasses from going beyond theinterests of capitalism. Che, alongwith a broader layer of youth in LatinAmerica, regarded this policy as too"dogmatic" and looked for somethingmore "radical".

As far as Che was concerned the ideashe defended were an attempt to applya fresh "Marxist" approach to thespecific conditions of Latin America.He was unable to formulate anotheralternative to the pusillanimous role ofthe communist parties apart fromdefending the guerrilla struggle as thedriving force of the revolutionthroughout the continent.

As a result the leading class in therevolution was the "peasantry with aproletarian ideology". As he put it in aspeech which was published in June1960, entitled, 'The Responsibilities ofthe Working Class in Our Revolution',"...It is no secret that the strength ofthe revolutionary movement wasprimarily among the peasants, andsecondarily among the workingclass...Cuba, like all underdevelopedcountries, does not have a powerfulproletariat." Che continued in thesame speech to say "...the worker attimes became a privileged individual".

In reality the "primary" position of thepeasants in the revolution reduced theworking class to playing the auxiliaryrole. The exact opposite of whatMarxism explains is the class able toplay the leading role in the revolutionand in building socialism.

It was true that the workers in thecities in Cuba at the time did enjoy ahigher standard of living than thepeasants in the countryside. Behindthe idea of a "privileged" workingclass lay the idea that therevolutionary potential of any socialgrouping is only determined by thedepth of its poverty. What Che missedwas the potential role of the workingclass because of its position as a class.A contributory factor in Che reachingthese conclusions was the timid role ofthe communist leaders.

In his book, Guerrilla Warfare, Cheagain plays down the potential role theworking class can play. Referring tothe "three contributions" Cuba hasmade in revolutionary strategy Cheargues: "The third contribution isfundamentally of a strategic nature,and is a rebuke to those whodogmatically assert that the struggle ofthe masses is centred in the urbanmovements, totally forgetting theimmense participation of the peoplefrom the countryside in the life of allthe underdeveloped countries of LatinAmerica." He continues to argue thatthe repressive conditions which existin the cities make it more difficult forthe organised workers' movement. Thesituation, he argues, is easier in thecountryside where the inhabitants canbe "supported by armed guerrillas."

Che again misses the central pointabout the role of the workers as a classin building socialism and reduces thequestion of revolution to oneimportant issue, logistics. The issue ishow the difficulties which themovement in the cities encounters canbe overcome. Che, unfortunately fleesfrom this issue to the mountains wherethe guerrillas can "support" the localinhabitants.


In the same book he argues that "...thearena for the armed struggle mustbasically be the countryside." Theguerrilla centres would rest upon thesupport of the peasantry and would actto ignite a movement to overthrow theestablished regimes - the "foco"theory. While Che advocated thisthesis it was developed into a rounded-out policy by Regis Debra, the Frenchintellectual who generalised it for thecontinent and beyond. Che echoedDebra in 1963 in an article entitled,'Building a Party of the WorkingClass': "We went from the countrysideto the city, from lesser to greater,creating the revolutionary movementthat culminated in Havana" (Ouremphasis).

Rather than the guerrillas "creating"the revolutionary movement they wereable to step into a political vacuumand seize the initiative. This waspossible because of the specificobjective situation which unfolded inCuba. When Che attempted to applyhis ideas to other countries in LatinAmerica they were a failure.

Marxists recognise that under certainspecific conditions a guerrilla strugglein the countryside where the workingclass is not playing the leading role,may be victorious and overthrow anexisting regime.

However, without the working classconsciously at the head of therevolutionary process, it will not bepossible to establish a new regimebased upon workers' democracy whichis able to begin the task ofconstructing socialism.

Despite Che's wrong approach to thesequestions, his support for the idea ofsocialism was to have a profoundeffect on developments inside the July

26th Movement and on the futuredirection of the revolutionaryprocesses in Cuba.


Chapter FiveGranma and The July 26thMovementOn 2 December 1956 eighty two menlanded on the Cuban coast havingsailed from Mexico in a run downboat, Granma. The voyage and landingwere little short of a disaster. Ajourney which was planned to last fivedays had taken seven. At times the tripwas almost comical. As theyapproached the Cuban coastline thenavigator fell overboard.

The landing was supposed to havecoincided with an armed uprising inthe city of Santiago following which100 insurgents should have awaitedthe arrival of Granma with trucks andsupplies. Frank Pais, a leader of theJuly 26th Movement in the Orienteprovince was to organise this. He waslater on to organise supplies for therebel army through the undergroundurban network which was built, theLlano.

After the Granma weighed anchor theplan was then to launch an attack onthe towns of Niquero and Manzanillobefore proceeding to the SierraMaestra mountain range from whereCastro intended to launch the waragainst Batista in earnest.

Batista had dispatched extra troops toOriente province and crushed theuprising in Santiago while navel andair force patrols awaited the arrival ofCastro and his party. The insurgencybegan badly and only got worse.

The rebels waded ashore in broaddaylight, they were a mile short oftheir intended rendezvous, they leftmost of their supplies behind, theirreception party had given up anddeparted the night before after waiting

for two days. On top of that they werespotted by an airforce observationaircraft. The group was divided intotwo and roamed around lost for twodays.

As Che described later in his diarythey were "disorientated and walkingin circles, an army of shadows, ofphantoms walking as if moved bysome obscure psychic mechanism."They finally regrouped and headedeastwards towards the Sierramountains under the guidance of alocal peasant. They encountered thefirst attack from the Cuban Armyduring which Che suffered asuperficial wound in the neck.

This was the opening phase of agruelling war which was to last fortwo years. It ended in January 1959after Batista had fled the country onNew Year's Eve. The forces of theMovement of the 26th of July marchedinto Havana to be greeted by a generalstrike of the workers. Of the eighty-two who came ashore from Granmajust over twenty eventually regroupedin the Sierra Maestro. Less would seethe New Year in 1959 and the triumphof the revolution.

How was it possible for such a smallgroup to emerge triumphant withintwo short, if bloody and turbulent,years? The answer lies in acombination of political and socialfactors. Firstly, social support forBatista was disintegrating. Oppositionto the dictatorship was increasing andthe regime by 1959 was on the pointof collapse. Even the army wasbeginning to be affected and becameincreasingly demoralised.


At the same time none of theopposition parties channelled theanger of the population. The docilePSP was still largely compromised byits previous support for Batista. Theparty still had a certain authorityamongst important sections ofindustrial workers in the cities.However, its leaders largely used theauthority they had to keep the workers'movement in check.

As the result of this, a politicalvacuum had developed in Cuba.Castro and his forces, despite beingrelatively small, were able to fill itafter a two year struggle which theyconducted from the Sierra Maestro. Bythe end of 1958 Castro had no morethan 3,000 in his army and thisincluded a large number of non-combatants who were based in camps.

If the war which was fought between1956-58 is considered from merely amilitary point of view then Castro wona remarkable victory. The Prussiangeneral and writer, Clausewitz, arguedthat: "War is not merely a political act,but also a real political instrument, acontinuation of political commerce, acarrying out of the same by othermeans." It was the objective politicalsituation and social factors which hadunfolded in Cuba that permittedCastro to score such a dramatic victoryin only two years.

To achieve this victory, subjectivequestions, in particular the collapse ofthe morale of the Cuban army and thewill power and determination of thefighters of the July 26th Movement,played a crucial part.

Due to the hatred of Batista by themass of the Cuban population theguerrillas could rely upon the supportthey enjoyed amongst the peasants and

urban population. There was no otherpolitical force which was seen aswaging an effective or serious struggleagainst the regime.

This support increased as the warraged and the brutality of the regimewas increasingly contrasted with theheroism of Castro's fighters.Moreover, in battle when Batista'ssoldiers were taken prisoners unlikecaptured guerrilla fighters, they werenot executed. They were discussedwith and then set free unharmed. Suchinitiatives had a big effect inundermining the morale of the soldiersin Batista's army. Castro lost noopportunity in trying to presenthimself as a modern José Martí - anew liberator of Cuba.

Che Guevara emerged as one of theprinciple military and political leaders.He had originally enlisted as themedical expert. Events forced him inanother direction as he displayed otheroutstanding qualities when in the thickof war. Early on in the conflict hecrossed yet another line in theevolution of his own character. Caughtin an exchange between guerrillas andthe army, in a split second he wasforced to choose between picking upmedical supplies or a machine gun andammunition.

Opting for the latter, it became clearthat despite his medical knowledgeand experience Che was not destinedto play the role of doctor.

As the war progressed, Che's authorityincreased in the eyes of his fellowrebels. He actively engaged in battleswith the army and undertook quitereckless missions on occasions.During one air raid, as other rebelsfled, including Castro, Che remainedbehind to help stranded fighters. He


was eventually appointed commanderof his own column along with Castro'sbrother, Raúl.

Che's overall maxim was to lead byexample, never to ask those under hiscommand to do what he would notundertake himself. He also refused allprivileges - few though they were forthose fighting in the Sierra Maestra.Che's own conditions were in manyways worse than the soldiers he foughtwith. The effects of his cripplingasthma attacks in the jungle wouldhave driven many with lessdetermination away from thebattleground.

The column of fighters he led wereundoubtedly amongst the mostdetermined and heroic. They werefuelled by his bold example anddetermination to achieve a victoriousrevolution.

They were steeled to continue thestruggle against what at times seemedimpossible odds. The 'Suicide Squad',which was established in his columnto undertake particularly dangerousmissions, gained a fearsome reputationfor its discipline and heroism.

It was a model for other rebel fightersto aspire to. As Che noted in hiswartime diaries: "The 'Suicide Squad'was an example of revolutionarymorale and only selected volunteersjoined it. But whenever a man died -and it happened in every battle - whena new candidate was named, those notchosen would be grief-stricken andeven cry. How curious to see thoseseasoned and noble warriors showingtheir youth by their tears of despair,because they did not have the honourof being in the front line of combatand death."

There was another reason his columnwas amongst the most combative. Chebegan to organise a programme ofpolitical education for some of itsmembers. His socialist ideas began totake root amongst many of hisguerrillas as his reputation grew. Inthe midst of the military conflict therewas also a political dispute whichunfolded within the July 26thMovement. It featured a powerstruggle between the guerrillamovement in the mountains and theurban underground resistance, theLlano. At the same time it also posedthe question of what the July 26thMovement stood for. Che's outspokendefence of socialist ideas was aminority voice within the ensuingpolemics.

Character of July 26th Movement

The July 26th Movement's ideologyand programme reflected the socialcomposition of much of itsmembership and supporters. The bulkof the leaders were drawn from theurban middle class, some from itsupper layers. Whilst the Movementdid have a layer of lower middle classand even working class members, aswas reflected by the social make-up ofthose who participated in the Moncadaincident, it was not a political currentwhich was given birth to by theworking class.

Castro had established an inner core ofleaders based upon the steeringcommittee which he had set up in thesummer of 1955. This reflected muchof the Movement at that time. Mostwere former students from the urbanupper middle class. The NationalDirectorate (of which Castro was not amember), was made up of such peopleand was responsible for all theunderground activity in the urban


areas, i.e.. obtaining supplies of armsand communications etc. Many wereself-sacrificing and had been arrestedand tortured by Batista's police.However, politically what united themwas the struggle to overthrow Batistaand little else.

The programme and ideology of theJuly 26th Movement reflected thevacillations and amorphous featureswhich are the political hall-marks ofthe urban petty bourgeoisie. Most ofits members probably wanted littlemore than to establish a capitalistparliamentary democracy and enact aradical democratic programme ofreform.

Che had many presentiments aboutCastro's colleagues from the urbancentres in the National Directorate."Through isolated conversations, Idiscovered the evident anti-Communist inclinations of most ofthem", he wrote in his diary.

There was a more radical wing to themovement which in many ways Castrorepresented. He wrote an Appeal tothe Cuban People, which was verycombative. In defence of the guerrillas'proclamation to burn sugar cane hewrote: "To those who invoke theworkers' livelihoods to combat thismeasure, we ask: Why don't theydefend the workers when...they suckdry their salaries, when they swindletheir retirement pensions, when theypay them in bonds and they kill themfrom hunger during eight months?Why are we spilling our blood if notfor the poor of Cuba? What does alittle hunger today matter if we canwin the bread and liberty oftomorrow?"

Although from a Marxist point of viewthe idea of small groups of guerrillas

burning sugar cane and imposing astruggle on behalf of the sugar caneworkers, rather than drawing them intostruggle, is wrong, the radicalsentiments behind such declarationsgot an echo with Cuba's poor.

However, the programme which evenCastro was advocating in the earlystages of the war, albeit with a socialconscience, was not going beyond thebounds of capitalism. During the firstfew months of 1957 a leadingcorrespondent of the New York Times,Herbert Matthews, who had alsoreported on the Spanish Civil War,secured a visit and interview withCastro.

When published in February it landedas an international bomb shell and wasa publicity coup for Castro as Batistawas claiming the guerrilla leader hadbeen killed in battle. Apart from beinga major international propagandasuccess for Castro, the interviewrevealed much about his political ideasat the time.

Matthews wrote: "It is a revolutionarymovement that calls itself socialistic.It is also nationalistic, which generallymeans anti-Yankee. The programme isvague and couched in generalities, butit amounts to a new deal for Cuba,radical, democratic and therefore anti-Communist. The real core of itsstrength is that it is fighting against themilitary dictatorship of PresidentBatista...(Castro) has strong ideas ofliberty, democracy, social justice, theneed to restore the Constitution, tohold elections."

Castro told Matthews, "You can besure that we have no animositytowards the United States and theAmerican people...we are fighting fora democratic Cuba and an end to the


dictatorship. We are not anti-military..for we know the men are good and soare many of the officers."

During the interview Castro succeededin giving Matthews the impressionthat he had more forces around himthan was the case. In conditions of warthis was legitimate - why show theenemy Batista one's weaknesses.Matthews reported that eighty two ofthe original Granma landing were withCastro and that his forces weregrowing all the time as more and moreyouth arrived.

In fact, as Hugh Thomas recounts,Castro's brother kept passing in frontof Matthews with the same group ofmen dressed differently. Castro had nomore than eighteen in camp with himat the time and a total armed force of20!

It is probably accurate to conclude thatCastro at that time did not have aworked out political philosophy.According to one account even by1960 Castro was still not supporting"socialism". Che, in conversation witha friend from Mexico, Dr. DavidMitrani, stated that he hoped totransform Cuba into a socialist statebut that Fidel was not yet convinced (See Jon Anderson's biography).

Since the victory of the CubanRevolution it has been argued that theoverthrow of capitalism wasanticipated by Castro and evenprepared in collaboration with thebureaucracy which then ruled inMoscow. This analysis overestimatesthe political clarity with which theleaders of the July 26th Movementapproached the situation in Cuba. Italso falsely elevates the role of thebureaucracy in Moscow in

overthrowing landlordism andcapitalism in Cuba.

The process of the revolution, togetherwith a combination of national andinternational factors, propelled thecentral players in these events to apolitical and social location which wasnot their intended point of arrival. AsChe stated in 1960: "The principleactors of this revolution had nocoherent viewpoint." (Notes for theStudy of the Ideology of the CubanRevolution).

The impact of big social events,especially wars and the strugglebetween different classes in society,has affected the political outlook ofmany individuals. Che Guevara hadempirically arrived at the guerrilla warin which he was now engaged againstthe Batista dictatorship. The effects ofthe guerrilla war had an importanteffect in radicalising its primaryleaders. As Che wrote to ErnestoSábato, a prominent Argentineannovelist, in a letter in April 1960: "Thewar revolutionised us...In this way ourrevolution was born. In this way, itsslogans were being created, and in thisway little by little, we began drawingtheoretical conclusions in the heat ofthese events to create our own body ofideas."

Che was the most politicallysophisticated of the leading guerrillafighters, in the sense of advocating analternative ideology. From thestandpoint of a Marxist analysis thetheoretical conclusions he eventuallydrew were false and in many respectsquite crude. However, he asserted agrowing influence over Castro asevents and the struggle unfolded. Bothwere propelled by the rhythm ofevents and the concrete situation inwhich they found themselves.


Whilst Che aspired to conquering asocialist revolution with aninternationalist character he had noworked out perspective or programmeof how to achieve his aim. By his ownadmission the ideas he developedevolved empirically, shaped more byhis own subjective experiences thanby an extensive appreciation of thehistorical lessons of the internationalworkers' movement.

A Difference of Opinion

Within the July 26th Movement thingsdid not remain politically static duringthe course of the civil war. A conflictemerged between the NationalDirectorate and the guerrillaleadership in the Sierra. Castro wantedto establish his rebel army as theprimary leadership in the movement -under his control.

Initially this friction was kept withinmanageable limits. It surfaced at ameeting in 1957 where some of theurban leaders argued for Castro toleave the Sierra Maestra to raise fundson a speaking tour. Along with otherproposals this clearly indicated theywanted to play down the importanceof the guerrilla struggle in the SierraMaestra. On this occasion Castro wonthe day and gained a majority againstother proposals.

Over the following months thisfriction was to develop into an openpolitical rift between the Llano and theguerrilla leaders. The latter in the mainthought the leadership of the Llanowas pusillanimous - they were notwithout justification in thisassessment. On the NationalDirectorate were some of the mostconservative sections of the July 26thMovement.

However, a contributing element inthe friction was another politicalfactor. Those involved in the fightingof a guerrilla war, however self-sacrificing, develop a certain contempttowards the urban population. Thedesperate hardship involved in thestruggle in the mountains can wronglylead the rural fighters to dismiss themasses in the cities as unwilling tostruggle because of their relativelyprivileged situation. This attitude is re-enforced if the guerrilla fighter's lackclear political ideas and are not linkedto an organised movement of urbanworkers with an audacious leadershipand socialist policies.

Castro certainly still lacked a clearpolitical objective for his strugglebeyond overthrowing the dictatorship.What he did have, however, was anability to rest opportunistically onnumerous political forces to strengthenhis own position. On 12 July 1957Castro signed a pact with the openlypro-capitalist Auténtico and OrtodoxoParties who had rejected Batista'srecent attempt to buttress his regimeby calling Presidential elections inwhich he himself would not stand.

The pact, known as the 'Sierra Pact,'limited the July 26th Movement in itsobjectives. Whilst it called forBatista's resignation and rejected themilitary junta, it proposed an"independent" member from civicinstitutions to act as transitionalPresident and for full elections withintwelve months. Its economicprogramme was limited to little morethan agrarian reform. If anything itwas even more moderate than theoriginal programme of the July 26thMovement and intended to contain thepolitical situation in the interests ofcapitalism and imperialism shouldBatista fall.


However, reflected in the signing ofthis agreement was the fact that theBatista regime was increasingly losingthe support it enjoyed and oppositionto it was growing. Castro's guerrillafighters had begun to attract a layer ofyouth from the urban centres. Someprotests were taking place in the cities.There was a certain shift in the policyof the PSP. Though still regardingCastro's military campaign as anadventure some contact began to takeplace between the guerrillas and thePSP.

The PSP used these contacts to try andpersuade Castro that conditions werenot right for an armed movement inCuba and urged him to wait for a moreopportune moment. Consequentlyrelations between the PSP and Castrowere strained but contact wasmaintained.

The 8th Congress of the PSP was heldin 1957 at which the leadershipannounced the PSP recognised the"valour and sincerity" of Castro. Atthe same time the party also madeclear it had a "radical disagreementwith the tactics and plans" of Castro.The party concluded that the July 26thMovement had not yet taken asufficiently anti-imperialist line. InPSP jargon that meant that it was notsufficiently anti-USA and pro-Russian. The party called for electionsand formation of a "popular front"involving the "national bourgeoisie".

This position was not withoutopposition from within the party,especially its youth wing. Whilst thePSP played no real role in themovement which was unfolding, apartfrom trying to act as restraininginfluence on Castro, during 1958 anincreasing number of young partymembers joined the rebels in the

mountains - especially the columnsunder the leadership of Che and RaúlCastro.

Enter US Imperialism

US imperialism was evidentlybeginning to become more worriedabout the situation. In general themain concern it had was to safeguardits business interests and containunrest. Violence was not good for areturn on investment. Batista wasencouraged to "democratise" and holdelections which would be won by asafe traditional party. The emergenceof Castro's forces and their continuedcampaign had complicated thesituation.

Between 1957 and 1958 there was adivision of opinion in Washingtonabout how to deal with the situation.The State Department, the CIA andDepartment of Defence had their ownseparate policies. They were notalways compatible. The Department ofDefence and US military in Cuba,working together with and armingBRAC (the anti-Communist bureau),wanted to support Batista and crushthe guerrilla movement.

At the same time the StateDepartment, apparently in agreementwith the CIA, wanted Batista out asthe most effective manner ofcontrolling the situation. There is evenevidence to suggest that theyattempted to try and collaborate withand buy-off the July 26th Movementand Castro, in case he did succeed inoverthrowing Batista.

According to Yuri Paporov, a KGBofficial, CIA money was channelled tothe July 26th Movement. This claimhas been confirmed by Tad Szulc,Castro's biographer, who says it


occurred between 1957 and 1958, afterthe 'Pact of Sierra Maestra' was signedby Castro!

This policy changed later as it becameclear they could not control Castro orhis movement.

Despite the apparent efforts by asection of the ruling class in the USAto reach out to Castro's movement,with a view to embracing its nowinternationally renowned leader,events conspired against this policy.The momentum of the revolutionaryprocesses which were underway,together with questions of nationalprestige and individual interest, madethis task initially difficult andultimately it was not achievable.

Che's reputation was growing and hewas increasingly becoming known asan important "communist" influencewithin the guerrilla forces. Thisincreased the tension between themore pronounced "anti-Communists"within the July 26th Movement,especially sections of its Llanoleadership, and Che. He establishedhis own line of supplies to his forcesexcluding the local leadership of theLlano in the Oriente province. Thiswas headed by a member of theDirectorate, Daniel. Che's actionsundercut the authority of Daniel'sleadership and provoked a clash. TheLlano leadership appealed to Castro toarbitrate.

Behind this dispute was a broaderpolitical question which involved theincreasing suspicion which existedbetween Che and the Llano leadership.Things came to a climax over a freshpolitical initiative. There was anattempt to form a coalition"revolutionary" government in exile. Itwould be dominated by the July 26th

Movement together with theAuténticos, led by Pío. According toHart, the Llano leader involved innegotiations, the discussions hadincluded some people "close to the USembassy".

Miami versus Sierra

The US, uncertain that Batista couldhold on, attempted to patch together acoalition of anti-Batista forces withinwhich they were hoping to included a"controlled" July 26th Movement. Ameeting was called in Miami whichCastro ordered a delegation to attend.On 1 November the "Cuban LiberationJunta" was formed and the Miami Pactwas signed.

Felipe Pazos had acted as the July26th Movement's official leader in thedelegation. He had done so withoutthe consent of Castro who correctlysaw it as a bid to upstage him. ThePact which was agreed amounted to aclear attempt to secure the mostmoderate of regimes possible shouldBatista fall.

It included nothing opposing foreignintervention, said nothing against theidea of establishing a military junta toreplace Batista and urged theincorporation of Castro's guerrillaforces into the Cuban army. In effect itwas a proposal to prepare a tame post-Batista government and to dissolve theguerrilla forces.When news of the agreement reachedthe Sierra Maestra it provokedoutrage. Raúl Castro demanded thatthe July 26th Movementrepresentatives be shot. Fidel Castrodid not immediately respond. Cheexploded with rage. He linked theacceptance of the Miami Pact by theDirectorate's representatives with his


own conflicts with them over militaryissues. He accused them of "sabotage".Che had been involved in militaryaction at the time. He was forced toretreat to a place called El Hombritoand was later injured at Altos deConrado. Both of these setbacks werelinked to the Directorate not sendinghim supplies. Now he issued anultimatum in a letter he sent to Castroon December 9. Che demanded that hebe allowed to take firm action againstthe Directorate or he would resign.

Castro's reply would determine notonly his relations with Che but wouldaffect the rest of the conduct of theguerrilla campaign. He was underpressure from those fighting in themountains and was implicitlythreatened by Pazos who was makinga bid not only for the leadership of theJuly 26th Movement but also for thePresidency in post-Batista Cuba.

Castro moved firmly against theDirectorate and the Miami Pact. "Theleadership of the struggle againsttyranny is, and will continue to be, inCuba and in the hands of revolutionaryfighters." The National Directoratewas accused of showing "lukewarmpatriotism and cowardice". To try andhead off Pazos's bid for a futurePresidency he made his ownnomination - an elderly jurist ManuelUrruitia - to lead a transitionalgovernment.

The newly created junta collapsed,Pazos resigned from the Movementand the new leader of the Directorate,Chomón, attacked Castro for hisactions. Castro by his actions wasmaking clear that he and his forceswere the dominant alternativeleadership to Batista. To consolidatehis position he had to rest on Che andthe "left-wing" of the July 26th

Movement in order to oppose the"rightist" Directorate.A total rupture with the Directoratewas set to take place in the followingmonths, propelled further by theprocess of events and the revolution.Che had played an important role inthe outcome of this cross-roads in thepolitical evolution of Castro, the July26th Movement and the revolution.

Che wrote to Daniel defending his"Marxism", attacking the "rightistDirectorate" for allowing themovement's "ass to be buggered" bythe Miami Pact, and praising Castro as"an authentic leader of the leftistbourgeoisie". Even at this stage Cheevidently did not see Castro as anardent defender of socialism but as arepresentative of the radicalbourgeoisie.Daniel replied, expressing doubtsabout the Miami Pact but urging theJuly 26th Movement to decide whichpath it intended taking and to ask itselfwhere it was heading. This exchangeechoed a furious ideological strugglewhich was taking place within theanti-Batista forces, including withinthe July 26th Movement.

As the crisis intensified the vacillatingpetty bourgeoisie who were groupedinto this movement were beingincreasingly divided into opposing andseparate camps.

On the one side the rightist leadershipof the Directorate were increasinglyunder the influence of US imperialismand its attempts to achieve the mostfavourable outcome for itself.

Alternatively, a more combative wingwas increasingly being radicalised tothe left by a combination of the effectsof the war, the process of therevolution and the necessity to defend


its own interests and aspirations.Castro was now firmly entrenched asthe leader of this wing - El JefeMáximo as he became known.

Within this process Che was the mostpolitically conscious in his support forinternational socialism. Although helacked the clarity of ideas andprogramme which were needed toachieve this goal, the clash with theDirectorate indicated he probablyincreasingly influenced Castro atcritical moments and "helped" him totake one or more steps further in aleftward direction.

By March 1958 the situation inBatista's camp was worsening. Withdifficulties mounting on all fronts thestate apparatus was beginning to crackaround him. In an unprecedentedmove a Havana magistrate agreed toprosecute a police colonel and theChief of Naval Intelligence, Laurent,for the murder of four youths. All theschools were closed as 75,000 studentswent on strike. Batista suspended allcivil rights and imposed radio andpress censorship.

The General Strike - A Setback

There had been much speculation anddiscussion amongst the anti-Batistaforces about the calling of a generalstrike. Despite having organisedgroups of supporters in the cities theorganised basis of the July 26thMovement amongst the working classwas weak. The main structured andcoherent political force amongst theindustrial workers was the PSP.

The Llano leadership refused toinvolve the PSP in its general strikeplans. Formally the PSP supported theidea of a general strike although itsleaders did nothing to prepare for one

and worked against the July 26thMovement. The leadership of theofficial trade union federation, theCTC (Cuban Workers' Confederation)was corrupt and compromised throughits relations with Batista. Despitebeing heavily influenced by the PSP itdid not endorse or mobilise for thestrike. The Llano leadership issued acall for a general strike on 9 April.

It was done with no preparationamongst the workers and withoutconcrete plans or a strategy to conductit. Even clandestine strike committeesof activists and known fighters werenot established in the work-places toprepare the strike.

A general strike can arise, take formand play one of two roles for theworkers' movement. If the social andpolitical conditions are right it candirectly challenge the ruling regimeand dominant class in society. As aresult it can pose the question ofwhich class ought to run society - thecapitalists and landlords or theworking class with the support ofother exploited social layers.

With a far sighted Marxist leadershipsuch a conflict in society can developinto a revolutionary situation andvictory for the proletariat. Thissituation usually arises when: theruling class is split and divided, theintermediary classes - the urbanmiddle class and sections of thepeasants - are politically vacillatingand looking for an alternative, and theworking class is prepared to fight totake over the running of society with atested revolutionary leadership at itshead.

In other situations, where the workingclass is newer, too weak or lackingexperience, confidence and


consciousness in itself as a class, ageneral strike can play a different role.Under these conditions, whilst theelements outlined above may exist,they are not sufficiently matured toactually allow the question of whichclass is to run society to be posedimmediately. A strike under theseconditions can play an important rolein the working class gainingexperience, building its organisationsand acquiring greater consciousnessand confidence in itself as a class.

On 9 April 1958 neither situationarose. The all-out strike did notmaterialise and was a complete flop.In Havana the Harbour functionedalong with the transport system andmost shops and factories remainedopen. The strike was imposed over theheads of the workers and was ignoredby them. The membership of theHavana Strike Committee illustratesthe absence of participation from theworkers. Apart from two members ofthe National Directorate of the July26th Movement, it comprised of asenior engineer, a journalist from theOrthodox Party, the leader of theCuban evangelical churches and aphilanthropic doctor.

Castro had backed the strike butcriticised the Llano leadership forexcluding the PSP earlier. The PSP,with some justification, blamed thefailure of 9 April on the July 26thMovement's "unilateral call" for ageneral strike.

The Batista regime's sense of securitytemporarily and falsely increased as aresult of the strike's failure. Within theJuly 26th Movement it had deeperrepercussions. The friction betweenthe Llano and Sierra shot up as Castroturned the urban leadership's

weakened prestige to his ownadvantage.

It was not revealed until years later thefull significance of these events. Chewrote an article in 1964, entitled ADecisive Meeting, for Verde Olivo,the magazine of the post-Batista army.Here the consequences of the eventssurrounding the April 'strike' becomeclear.

A meeting took place on 3 May 1958in which an open struggle took placebetween the supporters of the Llanoand Castro. Arising from this meetingCastro was named for the first timeGeneral Secretary of the July 26thMovement. This served to consolidateCastro's position as the leader of themovement. As Che commented in hisarticle: " At this meeting decisionswere taken that confirmed Fidel'smoral authority, his indisputablestature..." He continued, "...Fidel'sstanding and authority wereconsolidated, and he was namedcommander-in-chief of all forces,including the militias - which untilthen had been under Llanoleadership..."

Politically the defeat of the strike re-enforced the scepticism in which theSierra held the prospects of amovement in the cities. This wasreflected in the struggle which tookplace in the meeting held on 3 May.The prominent role of the guerrillastruggle in the mountains wasconfirmed after the heated debatewhich took place. Che wrote: "Butmost importantly, the meetingdiscussed and passed judgement ontwo conceptions that had clashed witheach other throughout the wholeprevious stage of directing the war.The guerrilla conception would


emerge triumphant from thatmeeting."

He went on: "We did away withvarious naive illusions aboutattempted revolutionary generalstrikes when the situation had notmatured sufficiently to bring aboutsuch an explosion, and without havinglaid the necessary groundwork...wehad considered it likely that theMovement's forces would fail inattempting a revolutionary generalstrike..."Che qualifies his conclusions aboutthe revolutionary general strike withreferences to central subjective andobjective issues of "groundwork" andconditions which were not sufficiently"matured". These are decisivequestions but they are axiomatic forMarxists and centre on an estimationof the balance of forces which exist.

Che's consideration of the generalstrike as a "naive illusion" and hiscounterpoising with it the "guerrillaconception", reveals how he, and theleadership of the Sierra, were notlooking for the active and consciousparticipation of the masses, especiallythe proletariat, in the revolution. Thiswas not simply a question of onearticle but an approach which wascontained in his method.

If the "groundwork" for a generalstrike had not been prepared the job ofMarxists was to prepare it. If theobjective conditions are not"sufficiently matured" then Marxistspatiently but energetically participatein the struggles of workers andconduct propaganda and agitation toassist them.

There was no assessment of the defeatof the general strike from a Marxistpoint of view by the leadership of the

Llano. Its leaders did not subscribe tosocialism, even less to revolutionaryMarxism and its method of struggleaimed at ensuring the working classwas running society.

The failure of the general strike inApril reflected a certain paralysis bythe working class in the cities, mainlybecause of the absence of a leadershipable to offer a way forward. The July26th Movement, whilst enjoying muchsympathy because of its anti-Batistastruggle, was not rooted amongst theproletariat and could not win itsconfidence due to its vague radicaldemocratic programme.

The programme of the July 26thMovement in the Llano still reflectedthe aspirations of the radical pettybourgeoisie rather than those of theworking class despite its call for actionagainst the regime. However, thismerely expanded the vacuum whichexisted in Cuban society. The failureof the general strike was not a measureof the support which Batista enjoyed.It was a measure of the absence ofleadership within the workers'movement.

Castro's guerrilla army was perceivedas being more combative and radical.Through its heroic military struggleand apparently uncompromising standagainst the regime and USimperialism, it was increasingly ableto fill the void which existed.

Batista, encouraged by the defeat ofthe April strike, mounted a militaryoffensive against the rebels in May.His confidence evidently rose after theApril events. However, this eventuallycollapsed given the poor state ofmorale within his forces. By July therewas a definite change. Increasinglysections of Batista's army, including


officers, came over to the side of therebels.

In the final months of 1958 the rebelsscored success after success on thebattlefield. Other political and militaryopposition groups collapsed intoCastro's forces. Che led his owncolumn and spearheaded a majoroffensive on Cuba's fourth largest city,Santa Clara, which was Batista's mainline of defence. The battle was crucialand lasted about three days duringwhich Che played quite an heroic role,his forces at one stage seizing controlof an armoured train. Che's rebelsissued a call to arms as sections of thetown's population took to the streetswith molotov-cocktails and did battlewith the army.

As the rebels strengthened theirposition, in the USA both the CIA andState Department had changed theirearlier attitude and now regardedCastro's forces as too "unreliable" todo business with. Almost giving up on

the situation there was a last ditchattempt to put together a plan toreplace Batista but it came to nothingdue to a combination of treachery andthe dynamic of the revolution whichwas underway.

With his regime in a state ofdisintegration, Batista fled the countryon New Year's Day 1959 on board anair-force jet. On the night of 1-2January Che arrived in Havana whilstCastro took control of Santiago. On 2January, as Radio Rebelde reportedthe fall of Batista, the July 26thMovement issued a call for a generalstrike to mark the end of the oldregime. On this occasion the strikewas solid.

The rebels had won and they arrivedin the capital to a rapturous receptionas the population took to the streets.The hated Batista dictatorship hadfallen. The revolution was set tocontinue. Its repercussions were to befelt around the globe.


Chapter Six In Power - Cuba versus 'the gringos'

THE FALL of the Batista dictatorshipdid not end the revolutionary processwhich had developed in Cuba. Castro'striumphant entry into Havanarepresented the close of chapter one. Acombination of factors came togetherand propelled the revolution muchfurther than many of its leadersinitially intended.

A Provisional Government wasappointed which included Pazos, oneof the Maestro Pact signatories, andwas under the Presidency of JudgeManuel Urruita. All were under theumbrella of the July 26th Movementand Castro's guiding influence. It wasprecisely what its name stated - amovement and not a disciplinedpolitical party with a clear ideology orpolicy. The paralysis of 'liberal'capitalist Cuba was reflected in theiracceptance of this 'ProvisionalGovernment'. The government rapidlyannounced elections would bepostponed for eighteen months. Theavowedly 'liberal' capitalistrepresentatives lacked the vision orinitiative to boldly enter the politicalfray. They had no choice but to allowCastro to pull the strings.

During the early days of JanuaryCastro played a typical Bonapartistbalancing act. On the one hand heincorporated sections of the 'liberal'Cuban capitalist class into thegovernment and verbally tried toreassure them and to some extent USimperialism that their interests werenot placed in jeopardy by therevolution against Batista. He was stillmotivated by the radical ideas of Martímore than anything else. Therevolution he promised was genuinely"Cuban, national and democratic". On

16 January he spoke at the grave ofEduardo Chibas (the former leader ofthe Orthodox Party), refuting that hewas a communist and praising Chibas.Chibas had always been a bitteropponent of socialist ideas. At the endof January, when he was in Venezuela,Castro promised elections to a'congress' within two years.

At the same time the workers,peasants, youth and even the middleclass had been radicalised by thedownfall of Batista. Castro rested onthis mass movement as he moved tointroduce measures which wouldassert Cuba's independence. He wasalso affected by it and pushed in aneven more radical direction.

A combination of these processes athome and the reaction of USimperialism to these events resulted inthe revolution going much further andfaster forward than its central playershad originally intended. USimperialism was horrified at eventsthat began to unfold in its formerplayground.

The remaining US tourists staying atthe Havana Hilton were undoubtedlysomewhat disgruntled as this luxuryhotel was transformed into anunofficial but de-facto seat ofgovernment. As they abandonedholidays prematurely they were forcedto mix with "dirty" bearded armedguerrillas, workers and youth whonow roamed the corridors. Amongstthem was the figure who wasincreasingly becoming their bête noir -Che Guevara.


The Jury of a million

During January measures began to betaken by Castro, largely under Che'sdirection, which aroused the wrath ofUS imperialism. In order to protectitself from the threat of a counter-revolution from the remnants ofBatista's regime a purge of the oldrepressive state apparatus began to beimplemented. Known sympathisersand supporters of Batista werearrested, known torturers and thugswere executed. Over a period ofmonths several hundred wereexecuted.

Che was a crucial influence inenacting these justifiable measures tosafeguard the revolution. In mid-January Che established the AcademiaMilitar-Cultural to conduct aneducation programme amongst thearmy at La Cabaña. From here twocritical aspects of work wereconducted. A political educationprogramme amongst the army waslaunched. About 1,000 prisoners ofwar were held from Batista's defeatedforces.Che was trying through thesemeasures to re-build the army and bydoing so construct it as a firm basis forthe revolution. The guerrilla units andtheir leaders were incorporated into itincreasingly with members of the PSPwith whom Che was establishingcloser relations.

From La Cabaña he oversaw theRevolutionary Tribunals which wereused as a means of purging the armyof its most pro-Batista elements. Thetrials centred on those who conductedtorture and murder under the Batistadictatorship. Much of the Cubanpopulation was in the mood to unleashlynching parties on those associatedwith the dictatorship. The tribunals

provoked a massive attack by USimperialism which denounced suchmeasures as criminal. However, thereprisals had the support of the massof Cubans, especially the poor, whohad suffered horrific crimes at thehands of Batista's thugs.

The Tribunals were not electedcommittees of workers, soldiers andrepresentatives of the local communityas would have been advocated byMarxists during such revolutionaryconditions.

However, the measures taken by theTribunals were to defend therevolution and to try and exact somejustice for the victims of Batista'ssadistic torturers. Those accused weregiven defence lawyers and the right todisprove or justify their actions.According to those who participated,in the main, nobody was shot forhitting a prisoner of the formerregime. Only in the cases of brutaltorture or death, which involvedhundreds of cases, was execution theverdict. Former prisoners and thefamilies of the dead or 'disappeared'were asked to give evidence and showthe scars they were left to carry forlife.

These elementary rights are in markedcontrast to the "justice" given duringthe 1980s throughout Latin Americaas military regimes fell one afteranother across the continent. Unlike inCuba after the fall of Batista, the newpro-capitalist governments havepermitted a conspiracy of silence totake place in order to protect themilitary and police in their respectivecountries. Despite hundreds ofthousands suffering torture and death,few prosecutions have been madeagainst those responsible for suchcrimes in, Argentina, Chile, Brazil,


Peru, and other countries. The victimshave been denied the opportunity tospeak out.

The friends and families of "losdesapparacidos" (the disappeared) stillget no reply to their simple questioncarried on placards throughout thecontinent: "Donde Están?" (Where arethey?). In Argentina after more than adecade of weekly protests in front ofthe Presidential Palace the mothers ofthe disappeared are still asking thissame question and still get no reply.Even the bodies of loved ones havenot been returned to allow burial andgrieving.

The silence of US imperialism aboutthese crimes, in which it and itsagencies such as the CIA are directlyimplicated, has been deafening. It hasbeen in marked contrast to its reactionto the tribunal headed by Che in Cuba.

A gruesome picture was painted byUS imperialism of what was takingplace in Havana. The "terror" of thenew regime was hypocriticallydenounced and Che was presented aspublic enemy number one. The wrathof US imperialism had now beenunleashed as the revolution tookretribution against the paid lackeys ofWashington.

Che was determined to carry throughthis policy. The wound of recenthistory was still open and aggravatedby his experience during the war. Cherepeated endlessly to his Cubancomrades during this period thatArbenz had failed in Guatemalabecause he failed to purge the armedforces and allowed the CIA topenetrate and overthrow hisgovernment. He was determined not toallow history to be repeated in Cuba.

On 22 January a mass rally was calledin Havana to support the government's"war trials" policy. Estimates vary butanything between half a million andone million participated in this massdemonstration. It was bigger than therally which greeted Castro when hearrived in Havana on 8 January. Therevolution was gathering momentum.

Banners denounced US imperialismfor its double standards, compared thetrials of Batista's assassins with theNuremberg trials of convicted Nazisafter the Second World War anddemanded "revolutionary justice".

Castro asked all those who agreedwith revolutionary justice to raise theirhands. Up to one million hands wereraised to a cry of "si".

Castro commented: " Gentlemen ofthe diplomatic corps, gentlemen of thepress of the whole continent, the juryof a million Cubans of all ideas and allsocial classes has voted."

There was massive support for themeasures being taken by thegovernment. Castro was resting on thissupport and was now mobilising it toanswer the attacks and threats from the'imperialist gringos' in the USA. Hewas also being pushed along by thepressure of the mass movement whichwas now gripped with a revolutionaryfervour. At the same time the arrogantresponse and demands of the UScompounded this. Within a short spaceof months the revolution had gonemuch further than any of its centralplayers had anticipated it would. EvenChe had written in 1958: "...I beganthe struggle with that spirit: honestlywithout any hope of going further thanthe liberation of the country; and fullyprepared to leave when the conditionsof the struggle veered all the action of


the Movement toward the right(toward what all of you represent)." (Letter to the July 26th Movement co-ordinator in the Oriente, 'Daniel').

The Death of Capitalist Cuba

Although Castro was leaning on themasses and defended the"revolutionary trials" he still was notpropagating the idea of a "socialistrevolution".

All property belonging to Batista andhis cronies was taken over by the stateduring the early days of the revolution.However, Castro was still refuting any"communist" objectives and declaringhis support for the establishment of acapitalist "democracy" in Cuba.

US imperialism was terrified of theevents which were unfolding only 100miles from its coastline. Though it wasjustified in its fears, many of itspolitical representatives were alsosuffering from a severe case of"communist paranoia" and saw a"communist plot" in every radicalpolitical movement south of the RioGrande which it did not directlycontrol or influence.

Castro was not trusted but stillremained a largely unknown quantity.He was invited to the US by a groupof newspaper editors with a view to"sounding him out". His visit tookplace during April and it was evidentlyintended also as a means of puttingpressure on him to follow US wishes.While he was in Washington Castromet, amongst others, Vice-PresidentRichard Nixon for "discussions".

Nixon demanded the end ofexecutions resulting from the"revolutionary" tribunals and a

severing of relations with"communists". He presented Castrowith a file on "known communists" inand around his government. Moreover,these demands were linked to thequestion of economic aid. After themeeting Nixon concluded that Castrowas either, "..incredibly naive aboutcommunism or was under communistdiscipline and that we would have totreat him accordingly."

'Accordingly', he then supportedFederal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)chief, J. Edgar Hoover, in urging theUS immediately arm Cuban exileswith a view to overthrowing Castro.The forced removal of Castro becamea matter of prestige for the ruling classin the USA and this has determined itspolicy ever since.

Castro tried to explain to Nixon thatany measures his government tookagainst US interests were just andspent the US tour arguing that he wasnot a communist, that foreign interestswould be respected and that his heartwas "in the west". For three hours hemet with the CIA's "expert" oncommunism in Latin America, whoconcluded, "Castro is not only not acommunist, he is a strong anti-Communist."

US imperialism was not prepared toaccept any challenge to its interests inCuba or throughout the region as awhole. It certainly was not prepared topermit a loosening of its grip in itsformer playground through theemergence of a more independent,"national" and "liberal" reform mindedregime in Havana. The result was thatCastro, also under pressure from therevolution in Cuba, became lockedinto a conflict with the USA andcapitalism.


Che, during these processes, wasurging Castro to go further againstcapitalism at each stage. Therevolution sank deeper and deeperroots and gained momentum. Theblows struck against it by USimperialism only served to strengthenit and push it in a still more leftwardand socialist direction. In his 1963article, Building a Party of theWorking Class, Che wrote:"Imperialism has been a veryimportant factor in the developmentand deepening of our ideology. Eachblow dealt by imperialism called for aresponse. Each time the Yankeesreacted with their habitual arrogance,by taking some action against Cuba,we had to adopt the necessary counter-measures, and thereby the revolutiondeepened."

After Castro returned from hisAmerican visit a programme ofagrarian reform was announced by thegovernment. It had been drafted underChe's influence and its first articleproscribed estates larger than 1,000acres and supported the establishmentof co-operatives. Exceptions wereallowed and land could even be heldby foreign companies if thegovernment deemed it to be in thenational interest. In fact this law wentlittle further than the Constitution of1940 but it did allow the governmentto confiscate land and the newlegislation affected about 40% of totalfarmland.

The land reform programme was to beenacted through the Agrarian ReformInstitute, INRA, which appointed farmmanagers and paid workers $2.50 aday throughout the year. Whilst theproposed agricultural reform may havediffered little from the 1940Constitution it was sufficient to arousethe opposition of Cuba's landowners

and their friends in the USA fromwhere the spectre of "Communism inCuba" was raised.

The price of Cuban sugar on the NewYork Stock Exchange fell. UScompanies with investments in Cubawere beginning to panic about whetherthey would be paid compensationshould their assets be taken over bythe new government.

The US orchestrated a campaign tooust Castro by demanding he callelections. The response was a massivedemonstration of hundreds ofthousands on May Day, of armedCubans chanting, "Revolution- Yes -Elections -No."

Within Cuba itself a massiveradicalisation of workers, poorpeasants and youth was taking placealongside a polarisation within thegovernment. Vendors were sellingfruit juice on the streets to raise moneyfor the state and the revolution. Duringthe summer of 1959 Castro was stillvacillating and speaking of a"humanist" national revolution whichwas neither "capitalist" nor"communist".

The openly pro-capitalist 'Liberals' inthe government lacked any seriousfigures around which they could rallytheir limited forces. However, theyincreasingly protested at the actions ofChe in the armed forces and thepromotion of known socialists andPSP supporters. They opposed themore radical measures which Castrowas agreeing to implement, such as adecree cutting rents by 50%announced in March. An increasingpolarisation developed within rulingcircles reflecting the pressure of therevolution underway and the series of


blows and counter-blows taking placebetween the USA and Cuba.

Manuel Urruita, the President, wasforced to resign in July after massiveprotests against his opposition to theradical steps being implemented bythe government. By November theliberal ministers had been sacked orforced to resign as they joined theWashington chorus against the"communist" policies of the Cubangovernment.

Che during these months wasdemanding still more radicalmeasures. Since January he had beenadvocating a policy of rapidindustrialisation of the economy basedupon nationalisation of mineralwealth, electricity, the telephonecompany (a subsidiary of the USmulti-national ITT) and other sectorsof the economy.

More than anybody else in Cuba, Chenow terrified US imperialism withwhat he was preaching. He anticipatedthe onslaught from the US governmentwhich would follow the adoption ofmore radical policies. On 27 Januaryhe delivered a speech, 'SocialProjections of the Rebel Army". Cheproclaimed: "Our revolution isintimately linked to all theunderdeveloped countries of LatinAmerica. The revolution is not limitedto the Cuban nation because it hastouched the conscience of (Latin)America and seriously alerted the

enemies of our peoples. Therevolution has put the Latin Americantyrants on guard because these are theenemies of popular regimes, as are themonopolistic foreign companies......Today, all the people of Cuba are on awar footing and should remain so, sothat the victory against the dictatorshipis not a passing one but becomes thefirst step to the victory of (Latin)America."

It was a clarion call to revolutionariesthroughout Latin America and adeclaration of war against USinterests. The US was adopting apolicy aimed at strangling themeasures being taken by the newregime. The importation of sugar fromCuba was slashed because of theagricultural reform and thenationalisation of foreign petrolcompanies in June. This followed theimportation of Russian oil which UScompanies in Cuba had refused torefine. The Cuban governmentappointed administrators at all therefineries owned by Texaco, Esso andShell and then nationalised them.

Castro retaliated to the cutting of sugarimports with a decree legalising thenationalisation of all foreign assets. InOctober, 383 large Cuban industriesand the banks were taken over by thestate. Capitalism was snuffed out. InApril 1960, Castro for the first timeproclaimed the revolution in Cuba as"Socialist".

Chapter SevenA New Cuba

WHILST US imperialism washorrified by the events which weretaking place in Havana thebureaucratic dictatorship which ruled

in Moscow in the name of "socialism"initially observed events from adistance. The leaders in the Kremlinwere, if anything, taken by surprise atthe turn events had taken. It iscertainly false to assert, as someapologists for the Moscow regimehave, that the Cuban Revolution wasconducted with the support of the


USSR from the very beginning andthat Castro was collaborating withthem.

There had been some limited contactbetween individual members of theJuly 26th Movement and Sovietofficials in Mexico prior to theGranma expedition. Apart from RaúlCastro's membership of the YoungCommunists, Che had also haddiscussions with a Soviet official.

At most, the contact which had takenplace was of a fact-finding character.Che, during the time he was inMexico, saw the Soviet Union as themanifestation of "socialism".Moreover, as with many in thecolonial and semi-colonial world, theUSSR was viewed as an attractivecounterweight to imperialism - inLatin America especially USimperialism.

In a letter to 'Daniel' written in 1958,Che had explained that he "...belongedto those that believe that the solutionto the world's problems lies behind theso-called iron curtain..." Later, as Chewas to see Russia at first hand themore critical and hostile he became inhis attitude towards the privilegedbureaucracy which ruled there in thename of "socialism" - without losinghis hatred of capitalism andimperialism.

If there was a conspiracy involvingCastro and the bureaucracy in theKremlin to take over Cuba then theleaders of the Soviet Union knewnothing about it. As news of theturbulent events in Havana reachedMoscow during January 1959, ameeting of the CPSU (CommunistParty of the Soviet Union) leaders wastaking place. Anderson details in hisChe Guevara biography events as they

were recalled to him by GiorgiKornienko, a senior official workingin the CPSU Department ofInformation. "Khruschchev asked,'What kind of guys are these? Who arethey?' But nobody knew the answer tohis question...In reality we didn't knowwho these guys in Havana were."

However, once confronted with thesocial revolution, the Moscowbureaucracy was prepared to step inand use the opportunity which hadpresented itself. By embracing theCuban regime under Castro,Khrushchev was able to assert thebureaucracy's international influenceand prestige.

This was seen during the Cubanmissile crisis in 1962 when fearingplans for a US intervention, theCubans appealed for military aid. TheSoviet bureaucracy agreed anddespatched weapons capable ofcarrying nuclear warheads. This wasdone primarily to boost the prestige ofthe bureaucracy internationally bybeing seen to "stand up to" the USA. Itwas done partly as a tit-for-tat measureagainst action taken by the USAearlier. By installing nuclear weaponsin Cuba Khrushchev argued: " We cangive them back the same medicinethey gave us in Turkey (the USA hadinstalled nuclear missiles aimed at theUSSR)...It's just to frighten them abit...They should be made to feel thesame way we do...They have toswallow the pill like we swallowed theTurkish one."

As well as using the situation in Cubato boost its international prestige, theRussian bureaucracy would also useits influence and economic muscle tocontrol the Cuban leaders who wereregarded as wild cards. Thebureaucracy which ruled the USSR in


1960 was confident and assertive onthe world arena in marked contrast tothe demoralised clique who enactedthe restoration of capitalism during1989/92.

Social gains

Revolutionary Cuba establishedextremely favourable tradingarrangements with the USSR andEastern Europe. 85% of Cuban tradewas conducted behind the 'iron curtain'as Cuban sugar was purchased at threeand even four times the price on theworld market. 95% of Cuba's oil wasfrom the USSR. Indeed Russianeconomic aid amounted in excess ofUS$ one million per day. Withoutsuch support the Cuban economy andthe revolution would have collapsed.As the old saying goes, "He who paysthe piper calls the tune". With suchdependency the Kremlin had theCastro regime firmly in grasp.

Investment in industry was undertakenand technicians were sent to Havana.Based upon the overthrow ofcapitalism and the construction of aplanned economy with the economicsupport from the USSR, the life of theCuban masses was transformed. Thegains made as a consequence of therevolution contrasted with the 'freemarket' sea of misery in which the restof the population on the continent wasleft to drown.

Within two years illiteracy wasabolished. Prior to 1959 50% ofchildren of primary school agereceived no education at all; after therevolution it was available to all.Teachers and students were sent toorganise classes in the factories and onthe farms. When everybody in theworkplace could read and write a redflag was flown at the entrance. Health

care was developed and made freelyavailable to everybody. Eventually itwould rank amongst the best in theworld. Work, food and housing wereavailable for all. Infant mortality wasreduced to 10.6 per thousand and lifeexpectancy increased to 74 years bythe late 1970s. These age expectancylevels compared favourably to themajor imperialist countries. Itcompared at the time to 45 years inBolivia, about 60 in Brazil and 58 inColombia.

Castro's government was the first onthe continent to openly proclaim itsallegiance to "socialism". Earlierinclusion of the socialist or communistparties in government in LatinAmerica had been through coalitionwith a variety of capitalist parties. Anyadherence to building socialismrapidly faded and was dropped. Notuntil Allende's election in Chile in1970 was another Latin Americangovernment to proclaim its intent onbuilding socialism.

Moreover, the victory in Cuba wasapparently achieved by revolution.The effect throughout the continentwas electric. Workers, peasants andyouth throughout Latin America beganto look to Cuba as an example whichthey aspired to emulate. Cuba wasnow a beacon to the exploited massesof Latin America. The enthusiasmwhich events in Havana had generatedfurther south was only mirrored by thehorror with which they were greetedby the capitalist rulers north of the RioGrande.

From what José Mart' described as"inside the monster" of USimperialism plans were laid tooverthrow Castro's "Communistthreat". In April 1961 planes from theUS bombed the city of Santiago de


Cuba. It was in response to this attackthat Castro proclaimed the "socialistcharacter" of the revolution. Thisattack was a prelude to an invasion inthe same month at Playa Gir-n (Bay ofPigs) by US organised mercenaryforces. The assault collapsed into afarce as the US pulled back from an allout-attack on Cuban soil and wasrepelled by armed militias.

Each attempted assault by USimperialism merely served tostrengthen support for the revolutionand Castro's regime. Che, withjustification, sent a written message toPresident Kennedy after the invasionat Playa Gir-n: "Thank you for PlayaGir-n. Before the invasion, therevolution was shaky. Now, it isstronger than ever."

The failure of this invasion was thenfollowed by a campaign to isolateCuba internationally. The expulsion ofCuba from the Organisation ofAmerican States (OAS) was carriedout on 31 January 1962. This wasfollowed by a total US trade embargowhich still exists today.

On 4 February Castro hit back in alengthy speech, 'The SecondDeclaration of Havana'. It wasdelivered to an audience of onemillion - one in seven of the entirepopulation. It was an outstandingsummary of the history of LatinAmerica, denouncing capitalism andimperialism and calling for revolutionand socialism throughout thecontinent.

Castro was more than justified inproclaiming "Cuba, the LatinAmerican nation which has madelandowners of more than 100,000small farmers, ensured employment allthe year on state farms and co-

operatives to all agricultural workers,transformed forts into schools, given70,000 scholarships to university,secondary and technological students,created lecture halls for the entirechild population, totally liquidatingilliteracy, quadrupling medicalservices, nationalising foreigninterests, suppressing the abusivesystem which turned housing into ameans of exploiting people, virtuallyeliminating unemployment,suppressing discrimination due to raceor sex, ridding itself of gambling viceand administrative corruption, armedthe people..is expelled from theOrganisation of American States bygovernments which have not achievedfor their people one of theseobjectives."

Referring to the wrath arousedamongst the defenders of capitalismthe declaration argued: "What explainsit is fear. Not fear of the Cubanrevolution but fear of the LatinAmerican revolution...fear that theworkers, peasants, students,intellectuals and progressive sectors ofthe middle strata will by revolutionarymeans take power in the oppressedand hungry countries exploited by theYankee monopolies and reactionaryoligarchies of America, fear that theplundered people of the continent willseize arms from their oppressors and,like Cuba, declare themselves freepeople of America."

The achievements of the Cubanrevolution together with suchdeclarations ensured that it wonmassive support at home and abroad.However, despite the popularity of thenew regime and the tremendous gainsmade by the revolution, it did notresult in the establishment of agenuine system of workers'democracy.


A New Cuba but run by whom?

After the Russian Revolution in 1917a system of workers' democracy wasestablished through the election ofSoviets (Councils). These compriseddelegates elected from the factories,workplaces and military units. Similarforms of organisation have beenestablished by the working class inother revolutions, including during theParis Commune which was establishedin 1871. After the Russian revolutionthe local soviets would elect regionaland national councils from which thegovernment was formed.

All those delegates elected could bereplaced by those who elected them atany time. Government officials werepaid no more than the average wage ofskilled workers. Lenin argued themaximum differential in wages andsalaries should be four to one.Through this system of workers'democracy the working class with thesupport of the poor peasants and otherexploited layers, exercised democraticcontrol and management over therunning and planning of society.

As a result the Russian Revolution hada massive impact internationally. Itwas as John Reed entitled his vibrantaccount of the revolution Ten Daysthat Shook the World. Workers worldwide not only supported the revolutionbut they fought to emulate a similarsystem of workers' democracy in theirown countries. It had an even biggerand more practical impactinternationally than the sympathywhich was aroused by the Cubanrevolution.

The system of workers' democracywhich was established during theRussian Revolution was built on thebasis of the working class consciously

taking over the running of society.With the proletariat at the head of therevolutionary process a workers' statewas established which reflected theclass character of the revolution. Itwas this which had such an impact onworkers throughout the world.

The working class eventually lostpolitical power to a bureaucratic elitebecause of the failure of theinternational revolution and themilitary intervention by 21 armies ofimperialism which strengthenedcounter revolutionary forces in Russia.The civil war which raged between1918 and 1921 resulted in an horrificeconomic and social catastrophe.Because of the starvation whichdeveloped in rural areas evencannibalism took place. These eventsand the failure of the victory of therevolution internationally eventuallyexhausted the working class,especially the most politically activeand experienced workers. A privilegedand bureaucratic caste emerged whichtook political power. A repressivebureaucratic regime ruled in the nameof "socialism" until 1989/91.

In Cuba the new regime which cameto power in 1959 was tremendouslypopular and enjoyed massive supportamongst the population. But thecharacter of the state which wasestablished reflected thepredominately rural and peasant basisof the revolution. As a result aworkers' democracy similar to thatwhich took power in Russia in 1917was not established.

Despite its support and popularity theCuban regime was from the beginningnot a workers' democracy but what theCWI would characterise as a deformedworkers' state. That is to say a statewhere capitalism and landlordism


were overthrown and replaced with astate owned planned economy but runand controlled by a bureaucratic caste.There was no system of soviets orworkers' councils through which theproletariat could govern society.

The government would rule mainlythrough the Communist Party and theCommittees for the Defence of theRevolution (CDRs) which the newregime formed in September 1960.These were not elected bodies basedupon the workplaces through whichthe working class could initiateproposals or revise and amend thosecoming from regional and nationallevel. This is essential to allow acentrally planned economy to developmost effectively and exercise a checkover bureaucratic tendencies.

Every street had a CDR which anyonecould initially join and theyconsequently boasted 3 millionmembers. These acted as atransmission belt for the decisions ofthe government which werecommunicated to them mainly throughmembers of the Communist Party.They functioned as the mechanismthrough which the party leadershipconducted local plebiscites to endorseits decisions. There was no effectivechannel through which the workersand the population could debate andchange the decisions taken above.

This method of rule was frequentlyused by Castro. Mass rallies werecalled and proposals presented tothose in attendance who were asked toendorse them "si " or "no". There wasno debate or discussion or check andcontrol.

In the fervour of the early day of therevolution through the CDRs anelement of control was exercised

largely on day to day issues. However,they have never functioned as amechanism through which thedemocratic planning and control of theeconomy and society as a whole couldbe carried out by the working class.

Although they were popular in theearly period of the revolution amongstmany workers they increasinglyplayed the role of informing on theactivities of the local population.

The trade unions, through the CTC,rapidly became little more than thesupervisory agency for the relevantgovernment ministry.

There also existed nearly 300municipal councils but they have littlepower. Candidates all had to fulfil thecriteria laid down by the Party whichalso appointed the presidents.

The Cuban Communist Party is themain instrument through which thebureaucracy conducts its rule. Theparty itself is run on the basis ofappointments made at each level fromthe top down. It was formallyestablished in 1965 on a controlledbasis following a purge which hadtaken place in the ORI (IntegratedRevolutionary Organisations) of allPSP members who had participated inthe rigged elections Batista called in1958.

With 70,000 members in 1969 it wasproportionally the smallest per head ofpopulation of the "communist parties"of the so-called "communist"countries. Its members were handpicked by commissions which wereappointed by the Central Committeeand factions were outlawed. Thesecommissions selected "exemplary"workers and especially techniciansfrom the workplaces. Despite being


formed in 1965 the Communist Partyonly held its first congress in 1975 - adecade later. Other political partieswere banned.

In Russia even during the conditionsof civil war the Bolshevik party held acongress every year. Under Lenin andTrotsky factions within the party werebanned (Lenin wanted this as atemporary measure) when therevolution was threatened by the civilwar and imperialist intervention from21 countries. Other parties were onlybanned when they resorted to takingup arms against the revolution andcollaborated with imperialistintervention.

A central planning mechanism wasestablished firstly through INRA andthen JUCEPLAN which were animitation of the bureaucratic planningmechanisms which existed in theUSSR. Che played a leading role inboth and was head of the nationalisedCuban National Bank.

"Advisers" from behind the "ironcurtain" arrived and increasinglyinfluenced the centralised planningmechanism. By 1961 more than 100Eastern European "advisers" were inHavana. The masses were not incontrol of the central or local planningof the economy. The bureaucraticcontrol of the economy resulted in aseries of economic "zigzags" andunrealisable targets being set as theregime attempted to overcomeshortages and problems. In 1960Castro promised living standards equalto Sweden would be achieved by1965. In 1961 Che Guevara declaredCuba would become an industrialisedcountry within 12 months. The sameyear food rationing was introducedwhich was continued right up until the1970s!

The excessive targets and zigzagswere pronounced in the importantagricultural sector as well as inindustry. In countries like Cuba aharmonious development ofagriculture and industry is essential. Ahigh degree of industrial developmentand mechanisation is necessary inorder to boost agricultural productionto the maximum. This requires a finelytuned correlation being establishedbetween industry and agriculture. It isnot possible to achieve this without asystem of workers' democracy andwhere a bureaucracy ruling societyfrom the top. Leon Trotsky argued thiscase in his criticism of Stalin'sagricultural policies in the 1930s.Castro declared in the late 1960s thatCuban sugar production would reach10 million tonnes by 1970. This wouldonly have been possible with thedevelopment of industry andmechanisation of agriculture. Only 8million tons were harvested in 1970and 5.4 million in 1975. In a desperaterace to meet the 1970 target 400,000Cubans were mobilised from the citiesto reap the harvest. This policy of themass mobilisation of voluntary labour(at times forced labour) was anattempt to provide a substitute for thelack of mechanisation. In turn itresulted in a dislocation of productionin the cities and added to the problemswhich existed in industry.

Che and Castro attempted to resolvesome of the economic difficultieswhich arose because of thebureaucracy. They bemoaned thesymptoms but could not find a cure.Even in 1963 Che was having to dealwith problems which were arisingbecause of the system of bureaucraticrule. He delivered a secret speechwhich was "for the private use ofpolitical and economic leaders" in


which he castigated managers for thepoor quality of goods. However, tocure the decease of bureaucracy asystem of workers' democracy whichpermitted criticism of decision makersand discussion and changes of planswas necessary. This was absent inCuba.

In a small country like Cuba, thedifficulties which would even beencountered by a regime of workers'democracy would demand the victoryof the socialist revolutioninternationally - especially throughoutLatin America in order to obtain thenecessary resources and techniquethrough the integration and planningof the economies throughout thecontinent. That is why the struggle fora Socialist Federation of LatinAmerica is of such crucial importancefor the working class and exploitedpeoples of the continent.

Che supported and fought for thevictory of such an internationalrevolution. Unfortunately the ideas headvocated to achieve it did notcorrespond to the conditions whichexisted in other more urbanisedcountries of Latin America.

The bureaucratic influence from theUSSR worsened the situation. Atcentral level it attempted to impose itsown budgeting system. This ludicrouspolicy meant that each industryfinancially operated separatelyirrespective of the national accounts.One industry could not therefore offersubsidies to another even when thiswas globally economically desirable.Che resisted attempts to impose this inCuba. Other aspects of Russian "aid"were almost comical if not tragic.Houses designed for the sub-zeroconditions in Serbia were built in sunsoaked Cuba! 1,000 Russian tractors

were sent in 1963 to harvest sugarcane. Once unloaded it was discoveredthey could not be used for the task asspecial machinery was required.

Wage differentials existed from theoutset of the new regime. K S Carolremarks in his book, Guerrillas inPower that by 1963 he hadencountered an engineer in one factorywho received 17 times the wage of aworker. It was a long way fromLenin's proposed maximumdifferential of 4 to 1.

The Cuban bureaucracy tookprivileges for itself although becauseof the backwardness of Cuba theseappeared less than those taken by thebureaucrats in the Kremlin. However,they are no less significant in socialmeasurements. In 1975 theCommunist Party congress voted toallow Cubans to buy cars. Until thenthis had been the preserve of party andstate officials. During the foodrationing of 1961 government officialswere given higher rations thanworkers and peasants. At the sametime better quality and more expensiverestaurants like 'Torre' and the '1830'were frequented by party andgovernment officials. For workersthey remained inaccessible.

Not For Che

Some of these privileges were literallytaken from what the rich had leftbehind as they fled Cuba. Che was notto be a party to such activities and wasrepelled by them. He grewincreasingly irritated by thebureaucratic features which wereemerging in the new Cuba.

Orlando Borrego worked with Che inJUCEPLAN and recalls one incident.Having "intervened" in a sugar mill he


had taken a brand new Jaguar carwhich the former owner had leftbehind and drove around in it for aweek. Che spotted him in it and ran tohim yelling: "You're a pimp. It is apimp's car. Not one representative ofthe people should be driving it, get ridof it. You have two hours." Borregorecalls "Che was super strict..likeJesus Christ".

He rejected privileges for himself andlived a frugal lifestyle. As head of theNational Bank he refused the highersalary to which he was entitled andinsisted on living on the minimal wagepaid to a "comandante". When foodrationing was introduced in 1961 hewas appalled to find out by accidentthat his ration was higher than thatbeing given to the mass of thepopulation and immediately cut hisaccordingly.

He even refused to use governmentpetrol allocated for official duties totake his wife to hospital and wantedhis father and family to pay their ownairfare from Argentina when theyvisited him in Cuba.

His commitment to the revolution andhis life style earned him a specialplace in the hearts of the Cuban andLatin American masses.

Increasingly, Che reacted withhostility to what he saw in the SovietUnion. On one visit, invited to dinnerin the apartment of a governmentofficial, he ate his meal on the finestimported French porcelain. During thedinner he turned to his host andsarcastically quipped: "So, theproletariat here eats off Frenchporcelain, eh?"

Back in Cuba he grew frustrated bythe quality of the industrial supplies

sent from Moscow which hedenounced as "horse shit". On oneoccasion, when suffering from aparticularly bad attack of asthma, hewas visited by his friend, Padilla, who,having just returned from the USSR,was denouncing what he had seen.Che interrupted him: "I must tell you Idon't need to listen to what you haveto say because I already know all ofthat is a pigsty, I saw it myself."

Although repelled by what he saw inthe USSR and frustrated by theemerging bureaucratic methods andmistakes in Cuba, Che had no clearalternative. His central weakness, thelack of an understanding of the role ofthe working class in the revolution andin consciously planning and runningsociety, now prevented him fromdeveloping a viable alternative policy.

To this must be added his lack of anyworked out explanation about theStalinist states in the USSR andEastern Europe. From a Marxist pointof view, both of these deficiencies inhis ideas would conspire against him.

He correctly looked to extend therevolution beyond Cuba's borders butfailed to grasp how this could be done.

International Policy

All he could offer was an appeal torepeat the revolution, and its methodsof 'guerrillaism'. Because of theauthority of the Cuban revolution thishad a big impact on layers of youthand intellectuals throughout LatinAmerica and Europe. However,despite sympathising with the CubanRevolution and Che, this method ofstruggle was not viewed as viable tothe powerful working class which wasgrowing up in Chile, Argentina,Brazil, Bolivia and other countries.


Che failed to turn to this powerful andpotentially revolutionary class andoffer it an alternative revolutionarysocialist programme to the policies ofclass collaboration, reformism andPopular Frontism which were on offerfrom the socialist and communistparties in the region.Che's ideas on internationalism hadmass support in Cuba and the newregime was prepared to echo them as acounter-weight to the vicious blockadeby imperialism. Under Che's influencethe regime supported and initiatedguerrilla organisations in numerouscountries.

This was tolerated for a brief time bythe bureaucracy in the USSR despitecausing it some problems in itsdealings with local communist partieswhich rejected these methods.Conflicts and disagreements also tookplace between Havana and Moscow.From the Kremlin's point of view itwas a price worth paying as theeconomic aid Moscow was giving toCuba strengthened its internationalprestige especially in the colonial andsemi-colonial countries.

Although the support of the Castroregime to numerous guerrilla forces inLatin America was a source ofirritation to the Moscow bureaucracy,it was not threatened by it. However,they could tolerate it for a period oftime and even use it to their ownadvantage against US imperialism.The different attitude shown byKhrushchev towards the events inHungary in 1956 and those whichdeveloped in Cuba illustrated thenature of the regime in Havana.

In the Hungarian uprising in 1956workers' councils were formed. Powerwas in the hands of the working classand the masses which posed a mortal

threat to the bureaucracy. A victoriousrevolution in Hungary would threatento spread in a series of uprisings toEastern Europe and the USSR. Thebureaucracy would not compromisewith this threat. Khrushchev drownedthe Hungarian revolution in blood.

However, to Havana he extended thehand of friendship in the form of tradeagreements and aid because the natureof the Castro regime did not threatenthe rule of the bureaucrats in theKremlin.

International policy reflects domesticpolicy. By 1968, after Che's death,Havana attempted to soften itsrelations with US imperialism and itscohorts in Latin America. Thisreflected the bureaucracy'sconsolidation of power and atemporary easing of the trade boycottby the USA. Cuban support torevolutionary movementsinternationally lessened. The interestsof the national regime had a higherpriority than the internationalrevolutionary movement.

The Mexican government was theonly capitalist state to keep diplomaticrelations with Havana. It acted as amessenger service between Havanaand Washington as it does today. InMexico October 1968 the militarymassacred up to 1,000 students. Not aword of protest emanated from theCuban Communist Party or thegovernment.

Moreover, there was a markedcontradiction in the policy Cubaadopted towards the guerrillamovements and the struggles of theworking class. As workers'movements erupted during the stormydecade of the 1960s Castro and theCuban regime were notably silent.


When European capitalism wasshaken by the general strike of 10million workers in France during May1968 there was silence from Havana.In the same year Castro supported the

military intervention of the Russianbureaucracy into Czechoslovakia.


Chapter Eight

Congo to Bolivia

The internationalist spirit of Che had abig impact on young Cuban people.Delegations of youth arrived to seehim and sent letters pleading to beallowed to go and fight in Nicaragua,Guatemala, the Dominican Republic,Venezuela and other countries. Aspecial government department wasestablished, Liberacion, withresponsibility "for the Latin Americanrevolution".

Foreign policy is a continuation ofdomestic policy, and like the CDRs,the international departments ofCuba's government had two sides. Tobegin with those involved wereusually motivated with the desire tospread the revolution and lendassistance to fighters in othercountries. Refuge was offered to thosethroughout the region who werepersecuted and had nowhere else togo.

However, the support Liberaciónoffered was almost entirely directed toguerrilla organisations and notorientated to the working class.Guerrilla groups were trained andresources channelled to them. Che wasinvolved in assisting groups fromGuatemala, Peru, Venezuela andNicaragua. Many of the leaders of theNicaraguan FSLN, such as TomásBorge and Rodolfo Romero, who weremembers of the Sandinista leadershipwhich took power in 1979, wentthrough training in Cuba.

This early support, reflecting the roleof the Castro regime, later became the

instrument to exercise control and toimpose Havana's desired policy overvarious guerrilla and left-wing groups.Increasingly this was done to meet theneeds of the bureaucracy in Moscow.

This was later illustrated when theSandinistas seized power in a similarprocess to that which unfolded inCuba. However, they did not thenproceed to nationalise the decisivesectors of the economy and overthrowcapitalism.

During 1985, under the threat ofcounter-revolution backed from theUS, the Sandinista leaders wereflirting with the idea of "doing aCuba". In April, Sandinista leaderDaniel Ortega visited Moscow todiscuss getting the support of theSoviet bureaucracy. Unwilling tobecome embroiled in a war in CentralAmerica and with different interestsand a changed international situationcompared to that which existed in1959/60, the Moscow bureaucracydeclined giving its support.

Castro dutifully supported hispaymasters and put pressure on theFSLN leaders. A small number ofSoviet MIGs destined for Nicaraguawere impounded in Havana. He hadpreviously visited Managua in January1985 to urge the FSLN to support amixed economy, telling them: "Youcan have a capitalist economy" andpraised Ortega for his "serious andresponsible approach".

Che in the early 1960s was intent ondeveloping the revolution by theapplication of his guerrilla methodsthroughout the South Americancontinent. In particular he hoped for arevolutionary upsurge in his nativeArgentina.


Castro wanted to strengthening hisregime and win the support ofKhrushchev. After returning fromMoscow during 1963 with vasteconomic aid from the USSR, he wasless concerned with the idea ofspreading the revolution beyondCuba's shores and declared that he was"ready to do whatever is necessary toestablish good neighbourly relationswith the United States of America,based upon the principles ofcoexistence".

A guerrilla operation was initiated inArgentina during 1962 by the EjércitoGuerrillero del Pueblo (People'sGuerrilla Army). With its massiveurban working class it was the leastapplicable country to launch aguerrilla war. The offensive wasundertaken to coincide with thesecond anniversary of the militarytaking power. It was a disaster and thegroup was slaughtered, including twoof his closest collaborators, Hermesand Masetti.

The episode had a devastating effecton Che. "...Here you see me behind adesk, fucked, while my people dieduring missions I've sent them on", hereplied, when asked why he wasappearing depressed.

A combination of this and otherdefeats for guerrilla forcesinternationally, combined withfrustration at the growingbureaucratisation of the Cuban regimehad led him to decide he should returnto the battlefield. He finally left Cubaduring 1965 and went not to LatinAmerica but to Africa and fought inthe Congo. Ever since the overthrowof Lumumba's government and hisassassination the Congo had been atthe centre of an important conflictwith imperialism.

The Congo Disaster

Che left a letter to Castro, praising hisqualities as a "revolutionary leader"and absolving Cuba of any of hisfuture actions. Typically he wrote: "...Iam not sorry that I leave nothingmaterial to my wife and children. I amhappy it is that way. I ask nothing forthem, as the state will provide themwith enough to live on and to have aneducation..."

He finished the text with his famousphrase which was to become a battlecry of the youth throughout LatinAmerica in the struggle against thedictatorships which imprisoned thecontinent during the 1970/80s, "Hastala victoria siempre!" ( "Always untilvictory").

However, the hopes and aspirationswith which he departed for the Congowith a force of Cubans were rapidlydashed. The mission was to turn into adisaster and result in defeat. It was ill-prepared and undertaken almost as anact of desperation. Moreover, it was amission which was imposed fromoutside. As Che admitted later theCongolese knew little of it until hearrived in their country.

When his forces reached Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania, where the rebelleaders were based, none could befound. They were abroad in Cairo.Amongst them was Laurent Kabilawho over thirty years later would takepower in the Congo.

The Cuban forces were shocked bywhat they found amongst the rebelarmy. Not only did it lack anycoherent political direction but was inChe's words "a parasitic army". Thelocal peasants were terrified of it.


Soldiers would rob them and assaultthe women. In the conflicts witnessedby Che the fighters would usually fleefrom battle. Officers would often leaddrunken binges followed by fights.Kabila was seen by Cubans drivingaround Dar-Es-Salaam in a MercedesBenz and was never present whenbattles were imminent.

All of this was in marked contrast towhat the Cuban forces were used toand expected. Eventually they werecompelled to withdraw and admitdefeat following an assault bygovernment forces on the rebels. Chefound refuge in the Cuban Embassy inTanzania and via Eastern Europeeventually returned clandestinely toCuba. However, having build hisreputation on fighting to the end hecould not return to Havana "emptyhanded".

Onto Bolivia and Death

Che's aim was to return to hishomeland of Argentina and continuethe struggle there but this proved to beimpossible. In 1967 he emerged inBolivia with the view of igniting arevolutionary movement through aguerrilla campaign. From this hehoped to radiate to the surroundingcountries a series of revolutionarystruggles. It was an heroic gesture, likemuch of Che's political struggle. Likethe Congo, it turned out to be anotheradventure, this time with fatalconsequences for him. An iron law ofhistory, that revolution cannot beartificially imposed from the outside,was illustrated in a tragic manner.

Although Bolivia had a bigger ruralpopulation than Argentina it had astrong working class spearheaded bythe revolutionary traditions of the tinminers. This was ignored by Che

despite his having witnessed the massrevolutionary upsurge of 1953.Moreover, an extensive programme ofland reform was carried out during theBolivian revolution in the 1950s. Thismade the peasantry less inclined andreceptive to take up an armed struggleand lend support to a guerrilla army.

As his plans were laid for thiscampaign, Che failed to win the activesupport of the Bolivian CommunistParty (PCB) which initially, at leastformally, took a neutral stand andeven allowed some of its members tohelp with preparations for thecampaign.

In part this was to allow its leadershipto appear more "revolutionary" as theyfeared being outflanked on the left.They were especially fearful of theTrotskyist party, the POR ( Workers'Revolutionary Party), which had apowerful tradition and semi-massinfluence in the country, especiallyamongst the tin miners.

In reality the PCB failed to organisesupport for the guerrilla force and itsleaders were very sceptical aboutsupporting such methods. Monje andthe other leaders certainly did not wanta guerrilla campaign being fought intheir own backyard. The party wasstill wedded to the idea of coalitionwith the "progressive" sections of thenational bourgeoisie.

Castro had agreed with Monje andother PCB leaders that they shouldhave the monopoly on political andmaterial support. In reality the PCBleadership provided little back-up toChe's forces. This was partly becauseof the situation in Bolivia.

There were also international factorswhich bore down on Monje and the


PCB leadership. The Moscowbureaucracy wanted to rein in theguerrilla movements which wereadding to the instability which wasdeveloping in Latin America. TheCuban regime was seen to beencouraging them and its activitiesneeded to be "controlled." Che wasregarded as an irresponsibleadventurer in the Kremlin. He wasdenounced as a "Trotskyist" and a"Maoist" amongst circles in theKremlin.

This was manifested at aninternational conference which tookplace in January 1966, the so-calledTri-Continental Conference. Thisevent took place in Havana and wasattended by delegates from Asia,Africa and Latin America as well asChina and Russia. Apart fromgovernment representatives, guerrillagroups were present, mainly fromLatin America. Here Castro attractedthe attention of the Chinesebureaucracy whose interests conflictedwith their counterparts in the USSR.

At the same time Castro pushedthrough a resolution supportingguerrilla movements much to theannoyance of the Moscow leaders.Monje made a rapid visit to Moscowafter the conference. Arising fromdiscussions he had with CPSUofficials he concluded that they likehim saw Che as the driving forcebehind this policy - although he wasnot present at the conference.

According to Monje he was urged, byCPSU officials, to stand up to theCubans and not to be pushed aroundby them. Monje was certainlyencouraged by the bureaucracy not tomobilise the Bolivian CommunistParty in support of Che's guerrillaoperation.

This, and the friction which existedbetween the PCB leaders and Che,was known in Havana when Castroagreed to give the BolivianCommunist Party a monopoly onpolitical and practical support to Cheand his guerrillas.

In the event, Che launched his crusadein one of the most isolated areas ofBolivia, in the south east of thecountry, 250 kilometres south of SantaCruz. His guerrilla force was namedthe ELN - (National Liberation Army).At its peak his forces numbered 29Bolivians and 18 Cubans. The areachosen to launch the offensive wasone of the least populated with notradition of struggle amongst the localpeasants. Not surprisingly, Che'sexpedition failed to gain any localsupport.

The failure of Che's forces to win anyreal local basis also reflected that afterthe land reform enacted during therevolution of 1953 the peasants werenot disposed to take to the road ofarmed struggle.

After months of fighting the guerrillaforce was isolated and sufferedsetback after setback. Che's healthbegan to give out and he was forced toride on horseback, unable to walkbecause of asthma attacks. No supportwas forthcoming from Havana andcommunications with the ELN brokedown.

It is safe to assume that the Moscowbureaucracy wanted Che 'out of theway'. Castro remained passive as oneof the principle leaders of the CubanRevolution faced his final months andweeks. Regis Debray, who was inBolivia with Che Guevara has sincemoved to the right politically and


became an adviser to FrancoisMitterand, the ex-French president.During 1996 he attacked Castro andHavana accusing them of abandoningChe and his forces.

Che's small force was in battle against1,500 soldiers from the Bolivian army.In collaboration with the CIA theytracked his forces down. After ahopeless engagement on 8 October heand his guerrillas were captured nearthe village of La Higuera, east ofSucre.

The next day he was interviewed forforty five minutes by Lieutenant -Colonel Andres Selich, after which hismurder was ordered by Cuban-bornCIA agent, Felix Rodriquez. He laybound hand and foot next to the bodiesof two dead guerrilla fighters.

When asked: "Are you Cuban orArgentinean?" Che replied, " I amCuban, Argentinean, Bolivian,Peruvian, Ecuadorian, etc...Youunderstand."

He was executed at the age of 39 andburied in a secret grave which hasrecently been discovered. His bodyhas now been returned to Cuba. Hisexecutioners cut off his hands after hisdeath and sent them back to Havana asproof of his death.

Painted on a wall near his grave inBoliva is a simple slogan: "Che -Alive as they never wanted you to be".The spirit of an heroic commitment tostruggle against oppression has beenbequeathed new generations. Hisexample still inspires many to struggleto overthrow capitalism and fight for asocialist alternative. Three decadesafter his death, Marxists can saluteChe as an honest and heroicrevolutionary.

The tragedy of Che was that hisheroism was not linked with a fullyrounded-out programme and ideaswhich could bring about the objectivehe aspired to - an internationalsocialist revolution. The necessity ofachieving this is more urgent thanever. It will be accomplished if today'srevolutionaries learn from theexperience of Che Guevara's struggleand emulate his audacity and self-sacrifice in the struggle to bring abouta socialist society.


Chapter NineEpilogue

Three decades after Che's death Cubais once again at a cross-roads. Againstthe background of a transformedinternational situation the threat ofcounter-revolution and capitalistrestoration threatens. US imperialismhas once again tightened its grip and isspearheading attempts to overthrowCastro and recapture a playground forbusiness tycoons.

With the loss of favourable tradingarrangements with the former USSRin 1990/91 Cuba was plunged intoeconomic crisis. This has beencompounded by the attempts of USimperialism to isolate Cuba with theimposition of a trade embargo aimedat strangling the economy.

Every US President since the CubanRevolution in 1959 has attempted totake measures aimed at bringing aboutthe downfall of the Castro regime andrestoring capitalism. Apart fromeconomic blockades and sponsoring ofmercenary forces other notable effortsby the CIA have included sendingexploding cigars to "el jefe maximo"in Havana.

Castro, much to the irritation of theoccupants of the White House, hassurvived nine US Presidents, each ofwhich underestimated the massivesupport which existed in Cuba for therevolution - despite the absence of agenuine regime of workers'democracy.

However, the past gains of the CubanRevolution are now under threat as theprospect of capitalist restoration loomsas a likely prospect. The regime,

confronting the loss of economicsupport from the former USSR andisolation, has been driven to adopt anew economic policy. This has openedit up to foreign investment andownership of sections of the economy,legalised the circulation of the USdollar and begun to threaten theexistence of a centrally plannedeconomy.

Prior to 1990/91 trade with the formerregimes in the USSR and EasternEurope accounted for 85% of Cubanexports. Sugar exports subsequentlyfell by 70%. The loss of these outletsand subsidies from these regimesresulted in a plummeting of theeconomy. Cuban Gross DomesticProduct nose-dived by more than 30%during 1991. Despite apparentlystabilising the decline and increasingproduction during the last two years,the collapse which occurred during theearly 1990s has not been made up for.

Living standards fell dramatically andrationing of bread and rice wasintroduced. Rationalisation in the statesector led to the laying off of up to500,000 workers. The regime hastaken measures to ensure that healthcare and education are defended buthas been unable to prevent the returnof some of the worst aspects of lifeunder capitalism. Although not on thescale which existed prior to therevolution, prostitution has returned tothe streets of Havana.

In a desperate attempt to stop theeconomic collapse the regime wasforced to take steps to attract foreigninvestment and acquire access to theinternational markets. 100% foreignownership of some industries has nowbeen legalised.


Imperialism Divided

This change in policy by Castro'sgovernment has opened up a divisionamongst the contending imperialistpowers.

European (especially Spain), Canadianand Japanese imperialism have soughtto take advantage of this situation.They have encouraged investment inthe Cuban economy. Canada is nowCuba's leading trade and investmentpartner followed by Spain. By 1996there were an estimated 650 foreigncompanies with investments in Cuba.Other more powerful Latin Americancapitalist countries, such as Mexicoand Brazil, have followed suit with aview to extending their economic andpolitical influence in the region.

Apart from taking economicadvantage of the opening, through thispolicy they hope to pressurise thebureaucracy to move towardscapitalism and disperse the plannedeconomy. They are implementing thispolicy with a view to marrying thebureaucracy, or sections of it, togetherwith capitalism and converting it intoa capitalist class together with sectionsof the exile Cuban population inFlorida.

This policy has been tremendouslycomplicated because of the attitude ofUS imperialism which has adopted amore aggressive and confrontationalapproach. This has been to try and"starve out" Castro and overthrow hisregime and install their loyal Cubanbackers from Miami.

It is a short sighted policy but reflectsthe different pressures which USimperialism is under. It has beenfuelled by historical considerations, of

avenging the damaged prestige of USimperialism which lost its playgroundto Castro in 1959.

It has also been determined by theneed of consecutive USadministrations to gain the support ofthe 700,000 Cubans living in Florida.The Cuban-American NationalFoundation, one of the most powerfullobby groups in Washington, had adecisive effect in enacting the Helms-Burton Act, which tightened theembargo on Cuba and even penalisedforeign companies which invested inthe country.

Other reactionary, if smaller, groupslike Alpha 66 have attempted terroristand armed actions against the Castroregime. Whilst within this there is abody of "moderate" opinion whichwould support a compromise with theCastro regime there is also a powerfulreactionary force of former Cubancapitalists and their dependants.

These forces are in no mood tocompromise with the Castrobureaucracy and seek to reclaimfactories and land which they lostduring the course of the revolution.Should they return to Cuba manywould do so with the intention ofwreaking their revenge.

The stance of US imperialism,together with the threat of the Cubanexiles, has creating big obstacles tothose sections of the Cubanbureaucracy which would be moreenthusiastic about embracingcapitalism and attempting to convertitself into a capitalist class. This is animportant difference with the eventswhich developed in the former USSRand Eastern Europe. The bureaucracyin these countries had the prospect ofthemselves becoming the ruling class


(The exception was Eastern Germanywhere the old bureaucracy was largelypensioned off by West Germanimperialism).

The enthusiasm for the revolution andhatred of US imperialism has enabledthe leadership of the Cuban regime,especially Castro, to maintain massivesupport in Cuba despite the economiccollapse which has taken place since1990. The aggressive arrogance of USimperialism has rebounded on it andhelped to maintain the Cubanleadership in power.

However, the Cuban government hasbeen compelled to move in thedirection of taking pro-capitalistmeasures and to try and secure theinvestment of the non-US imperialistpowers. These accelerated during1993 and 1994 and foreign ownershipwas allowed in tourism and someother sectors.

Even agriculture was affected. In 199275% of Cuba's cultivable land wasunder the control of state farms whichenjoyed massive subsidies. By 1995this figure had fallen to 27% - the restbeing farmed by private co-operativeswhich lease land from the governmentand buy equipment. A fixed quotamust be sold to the state and anythingabove this can be sold privately.

These and other measures haveallowed a certain growth in theeconomy to take place in the last twoyears but it has not made up anythinglike what was lost after 1991. Thesesame policies have also led to thegrowth of inequalities. Workersemployed in joint ventures, partly orwholly owned by foreign companies,are paid higher wages - in dollarswhich were legally allowed incirculation in 1993. A black market

has inevitably developed under theseconditions.

When implementing these measuresCastro has presented them astemporary steps forced upon theregime because of the situation. At thesame time he has proclaimed hiscontinued support for socialism. Whenagreeing to open the economy toforeign investment, the policy was"...not being inspired by neo-liberalism nor does it aim for atransition to capitalism. It is anopening to defend and developsocialism and this is not concealed byour government."

The apparent defence by Castro of therevolution and "socialism" in the faceof imperialist aggression from theUSA has re-enforced support for Cubain the minds of many youth andworkers internationally during the lastfive years. For many Cuba is now seenas the only regime which is stilldefending socialism and fighting thethreat of imperialist aggression andcapitalist restoration.

The international workers' movementhas a responsibility to oppose allaggression by imperialism andattempts to restore capitalism in Cuba.At the same time it is necessary to seewhat lies behind the defence of"socialism" by Castro and the Cubanbureaucracy.

A section of it is resisting attempts tomove towards capitalist restoration. Inpart this is because it does not want toabandon the social gains conquered bythe revolution and preside over themisery and chaos which a return tocapitalism would mean in Cuba.

Most importantly, because of thereaction of US imperialism and the


threat posed by a returning exilecapitalist class to sections of theCuban bureaucracy, the latter has beencompelled to try and avoid a return tocapitalism in order to protect its owninterests and privileges.

The bureaucracy has been forcedverbally to defend the revolution andoppose imperialism as a means oftrying to maintain and rest upon abasis of support amongst the masses.At the same time it is determined tomaintain its rule and control oversociety. This is reflected in thecontinuation of a one-party state. TheCuban Communist Party is theinstrument through which thebureaucracy controls society.

Friends of Socialism?

Notwithstanding Castro's defence of"socialism" the other side of his dualpolicy has been to secure investmentfrom other imperialist countriesoutside the USA. With their moneyhas also come capitalist politicians andideas. The hated pro-Thatcheriteformer Spanish minister, Solchaga,was invited to Havana as aneconomics adviser. Castro declared hisdesire to meet Thatcher in person andhas already met with the Pope as partof a clear overture to the CatholicChurch.

In an ironical repetition of history, asin 1968 (when the Mexican militaryslaughtered hundreds of students) theCuban government and CommunistParty have remained virtually silentabout the uprising of the indigenouspeople in Chiapas, Mexico. Nosupport was offered to the heroicbattles of the Mexican bus and petrolworkers to their fight againstprivatisation.

International policy still reflectsdomestic policy and the interests ofthe Cuban regime. It cannot be a co-incidence that the silence from Havanaregarding the struggles of the Mexicanmasses is at a time when Mexicancapitalism is amongst the largestinvestors in Cuba. US$1.5 million wasinvested in telecommunications by theMexican, Grupo Domos.

A large part of the Cuban bureaucracyis prepared to support capitalistrestoration should an accommodationwith imperialism prove to be possible.The pressure for more pro-capitalistmeasures is set to increase. Cubacannot exist in international isolationfor an indefinite period of time and itwill be forced to try and attract moreforeign investment and trade. Castroand sections of the bureaucracy wouldprobably be content to try and sustaina hybrid regime if this is possible. Thiswould include a big element of theprivate market with some stateownership and planning and his statemachine left in tact.

Those sections of the leadership whichare more inclined towards capitalistrestoration are likely to be moreassertive with the death of Castro who,at 71, is in ailing health.

With a change in the Cuban leadershipafter Castro's death, even USimperialism could change its policyand try to incorporate a new andyounger generation from thebureaucracy with the Cuban capitalistclass in exile. Some sections of theruling class in the US are alreadylooking at this possibility and haveeven carried out investments in Cuba.

This was curtailed in the run-up to thelast US Presidential elections asClinton tightened the embargo in part


in an attempt to win the Cuban vote inFlorida. However, whilst such actionsmay emerge as the main plank ofpolicy even this would have toovercome the hatred and bitternessamongst the Cuban masses towardsUS imperialism and the reactionaryCuban capitalists residing in Florida. Itwill not be an easy journey given theconflicting interests which exist.

For A Socialist Alternative

The absence of a socialist alternativeand Cuba's isolation, will force theprocess of capitalist restoration toaccelerate further. This could only beaverted by establishing a regime ofgenuine workers' democracy, with aperspective of developing the socialistrevolution throughout Latin Americaand internationally.

The establishment of genuine workers'councils, locally and nationally, whichhave control and management of theeconomy are essential. Allrepresentatives and officials must beelected, subject to recall by those theyrepresent and receive only the averagewage of a skilled worker.

There must be an ending of the oneparty regime which exists. This isoften justified because of the threat tothe revolution from imperialism and

the prospect of reactionary right-winggangs from Miami being allowed toorganise their forces. This threat isreal but will not be averted by onlyallowing the party of the bureaucracyto organise itself. All parties which areopposed to imperialism and defend theidea of a socialist planned economyshould be allowed to organise, conductpropaganda and stand candidates inelections. Independent trade unionsneed to be established.

The threat posed by imperialism andcapitalist restoration in Cuba can onlybe avoided through the victory of thesocialist revolution throughout LatinAmerica and internationally. For this itis necessary to win the support of theworking class in Latin America andestablish a Socialist Federation of thecontinent. This was necessary whenChe and the revolution triumphed in1959.

Che aspired to achieving this victory.However, despite his heroism andrevolutionary sacrifice, he failed tounderstand how to accomplishcontinental socialism. Thirty yearsafter his death this struggle is morenecessary than ever. If the lessons ofChe's legacy are grasped byrevolutionaries internationally it willbe won.