October 7, 2017 - No. 31 


Selected Writings of Ernesto Che Guevara


Fidel and Che review a peasant militia, August 22, 1960.

Ideology of the Cuban Revolution
- Che Guevara, October 8, 1960 -
Mobilizing the Masses for the Invasion
- March 1961 -
Cadres for the New Party
- September 1962 -

Farewell Documents

Che's Farewell Letter to Fidel Castro
- April 1, 1965 -
Fidel's Eulogy
- October 18, 1967 -

Selected Writings of Ernesto Che Guevara

Ideology of the Cuban Revolution

Che Guevara wrote "Notes for the Study of the Ideology of the Cuban Revolution" for the October 8, 1960, issue of Verde Olivo, the magazine of Cuba's armed forces.


An issue of Verde Olivo from 1960.

This is a unique revolution, which for some does not fit in with one of the most orthodox premises of the revolutionary movement, expressed by Lenin: "Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement." It should be said that revolutionary theory, as the expression of a social truth, stands above any particular presentation of it. In other words, one can make a revolution if historical reality is interpreted correctly and if the forces involved are utilized correctly, even without knowing theory.

In every revolution there is always involvement by people from very different tendencies who, nevertheless, come to agreement on action and on the most immediate objectives. It is clear that if the leaders have adequate theoretical knowledge prior to taking action, many errors can be avoided, as long as the adopted theory corresponds to reality.

The principal actors of this revolution had no coherent viewpoint. But it cannot be said that they were ignorant of the various concepts of history, society, economics, and revolution being discussed in the world today. A profound knowledge of reality, a close relationship with the people, the firmness of the objective being sought, and the experience of revolutionary practice gave those leaders the opportunity to form a more complete theoretical conception.

The foregoing should be considered an introduction to the explanation of this curious phenomenon that has intrigued the entire world: the Cuban revolution. How and why did a group of men, cut to ribbons by an army enormously superior in technique and equipment, manage first to survive, then to become strong, later to become stronger than the enemy in the battle zones, move into new combat zones still later, and finally defeat that enemy in pitched battles even though their troops were still vastly outnumbered? This is a deed that deserves to be studied in the history of the contemporary world.

Naturally we, who often do not show due concern for theory, will not proceed today to expound the truth of the Cuban revolution as if we were its owners. We are simply trying to lay the foundation for being able to interpret this truth. In fact, the Cuban revolution must be separated into two absolutely different stages: that of the armed action up to January 1, 1959; and the political, economic, and social transformations from then on.

Even these two stages deserve further subdivisions. We will not deal with them from the viewpoint of historical exposition, however, but from the viewpoint of the evolution of the revolutionary thinking of its leaders through their contact with the people.

Incidentally, here we must introduce a general attitude toward one of the most controversial terms of the modern world: Marxism. When asked whether or not we are Marxists, our position is the same as that of a physicist when asked if he is a "Newtonian" or of a biologist when asked if he is a "Pasteurian."

There are truths so evident, so much a part of the peoples' knowledge, that it is now useless to debate them. One should be a "Marxist" with the same naturalness with which one is a "Newtonian" in physics or a "Pasteurian" in biology, considering that if new facts bring about new concepts, the latter will never take away that portion of truth possessed by those that have come before. Such is the case, for example, of "Einsteinian" relativity or of Planck's quantum theory in relation to Newton's discoveries. They take absolutely nothing away from the greatness of the learned Englishman. Thanks to Newton, physics was able to advance until it achieved new concepts of space. The learned Englishman was the necessary steppingstone for that.

Obviously, one can point to certain mistakes of Marx, as a thinker and as an investigator of the social doctrines and of the capitalist system in which he lived. We Latin Americans, for example, cannot agree with his interpretation of Bolivar, or with his and Engels's analysis of the Mexicans, which were made accepting as fact even certain theories of race or nationality that are unacceptable today. But the great men who discover brilliant truths live on despite their small faults, and these faults serve only to show us they were human. That is to say, they were human beings who could make mistakes, even given the high level of consciousness achieved by these giants of human thought. This is why we recognize the essential truths of Marxism as part of humanity's body of cultural and scientific knowledge. We accept it with the naturalness of something that requires no further argument.

The advances in social and political science, as in other fields, belong to a long historical process whose links are constantly being connected, added up, bound together, and perfected. In early human history, there existed Chinese, Arab, or Hindu mathematics; today, mathematics has no frontiers. A Greek Pythagoras, an Italian Galileo, an English Newton, a German Gauss, a Russian Lobachevsky, an Einstein, etc., all have a place in the history of the peoples. Similarly, in the field of social and political sciences, a long series of thinkers, from Democritus to Marx, have added their original investigations and accumulated a body of experience and doctrines.

The merit of Marx is that he suddenly produces a qualitative change in the history of social thought. He interprets history, understands its dynamic, foresees the future. But in addition to foreseeing it (by which he would meet his scientific obligation), he expresses a revolutionary concept: it is not enough to interpret the world, it must be transformed. Man ceases to be the slave and instrument of his environment and becomes an architect of his own destiny. At that moment Marx begins to put himself in a position where he becomes the necessary target of all those who have a special interest in maintaining the old -- like what happened to Democritus, whose work was burned by Plato himself and his disciples, the ideologues of the Athenian slave-owning aristocracy. Beginning with the revolutionary Marx, a political group is established with concrete ideas, which, based on the giants, Marx and Engels, and developing through successive stages with individuals such as Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, and the new Soviet and Chinese rulers, establishes a body of doctrine and, shall we say, examples to follow.

The Cuban revolution takes up Marx at the point where he put aside science to pick up his revolutionary rifle. And it takes him up at that point not in a spirit of revisionism, of struggling against that which came after Marx, of reviving a "pure" Marx, but simply because up to that point Marx, the scientist, standing outside of history, studied and predicted. Afterward, Marx the revolutionary took up the fight as part of history.

We, practical revolutionaries, by initiating our struggle were simply fulfilling laws foreseen by Marx the scientist. And along that road of rebellion, by struggling against the old power structure, by basing ourselves on the people to destroy that structure, and by having the well-being of the people as the foundation of our struggle, we are simply fitting into the predictions of Marx the scientist. That is to say, and it is well to emphasize this once again: the laws of Marxism are present in the events of the Cuban revolution, independently of whether its leaders profess or fully know those laws from a theoretical point of view . . .

Fidel and his guerrilla column in conversation with peasants, in the Sierra Maestra in 1957.
The peasants were joining the struggle in growing numbers and helping to create a secure
base for military operations.

Each one of those small historical moments of the guerrilla war framed different social concepts and different appraisals of Cuban reality. They shaped the thinking of the military leaders of the revolution, who in time would also reaffirm their status as political leaders.

Before the landing of the Granma, a mentality predominated that, to some degree, might be called subjectivist: blind confidence in a rapid popular explosion, enthusiasm and faith in being able to destroy Batista's might by a swift uprising combined with spontaneous revolutionary strikes, and the subsequent fall of the dictator. . . .

After the landing comes the defeat, the almost total destruction of the forces, their regroupment and formation as a guerrilla force. The small numbers of survivors, survivors with the will to struggle, were characterized by their understanding of the falsehood of the imagined schema of spontaneous outbursts throughout the island. They understood also that the fight would have to be a long one and that it would need to have a large peasant participation. At this point too, the first peasants joined the guerrillas. Also, two clashes were fought, of little importance in terms of the number of combatants, but of great psychological value, since they erased the uneasiness toward the peasants felt by the guerrillas' central group, made up of people from the cities. The peasants, in turn, distrusted the group and, above all, feared barbarous reprisals from the government. Two things were demonstrated at this stage, both very important for these interrelated factors: The peasants saw that the bestialities of the army and all the persecution would not be sufficient to put an end to the guerrillas, but would be capable of wiping out the peasants' homes, crops, and families. So a good solution was to take refuge with the guerrillas, where their lives would be safe. In turn, the guerrilla fighters learned the ever-greater necessity of winning the peasant masses. . . .

[Following the failure of Batista's major assault on the Rebel Army,] the war shows a new characteristic: the relationship of forces turns in favor of the revolution. During a month and a half, two small columns, one of 80 and the other of 140 men, constantly surrounded and harassed by an army that mobilized thousands of soldiers, crossed the plains of Camagüey, arrived at Las Villas, and began the job of cutting the island in two.

At times it may seem strange, or incomprehensible, or even incredible that two columns of such small size -- without communications, without transport, without the most elementary arms of modern warfare -- could fight well-trained, and above all, well-armed troops. The fundamental thing is the characteristic of each group. The fewer comforts the guerrilla fighter has, the more he is initiated into the rigors of nature, the more he feels at home, the higher his morale, the higher his sense of security. At the same time, under whatever circumstances, the guerrilla has come to put his life on the line, to trust it to the luck of a tossed coin. And in general, whether or not the individual guerrilla lives or dies weighs little in the final outcome of the battle.

The enemy soldier, in the Cuban example that we are now considering, is the junior partner of the dictator. He is the man who gets the last crumbs left by the next-to-last hanger-on in a long chain that begins on Wall Street and ends with him. He is ready to defend his privileges, but only to the degree that they are important. His salary and his benefits are worth some suffering and some dangers, but they are never worth his life. If that is the price of keeping them, better to give them up, in other words, to retreat from the guerrilla danger.

From these two concepts and these two morales springs the difference that would reach the crisis point on December 31, 1958.

The superiority of the Rebel Army was being established more and more clearly. Furthermore, the arrival of our columns in Las Villas showed the greater popularity of the July 26 Movement compared to all other groups: the Revolutionary Directorate, the Second Front of Las Villas, the Popular Socialist Party, and some small guerrilla forces of the Authentic Organization. In large part this was due to the magnetic personality of its leader, Fidel Castro, but the greater correctness of its revolutionary line was also a factor.

Here ended the insurrection. But the men who arrive in Havana after two years of arduous struggle in the mountains and plains of Oriente, in the plains of Camagüey, and in the mountains, plains, and cities of Las Villas are not the same ideologically as the ones who landed on the beaches of Las Coloradas, or who joined in the first phase of the struggle. Their distrust of the peasant has turned into affection and respect for his virtues. Their total ignorance of life in the countryside has turned into a profound knowledge of the needs of our peasants. Their dabbling with statistics and with theory has been replaced by the firm cement of practice.

With agrarian reform as their banner, the implementation of which begins in the Sierra Maestra, these men come up against imperialism. They know that the agrarian reform is the basis upon which the new Cuba will be built. They know also that the agrarian reform will give land to all the dispossessed, but that it will dispossess its unjust possessors. And they know that the largest of the unjust possessors are also influential men in the State Department or in the government of the United States of America. But they have learned to conquer difficulties with courage, with audacity, and above all, with the support of the people. And they have now seen the future of liberation that awaits us on the other side of our sufferings. . . .

(Che Guevara Speaks, Pathfinder Press (2000). Photos: R.A. Torres, Cuban Office of Historical Affairs.)

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Mobilizing the Masses for the Invasion

The following is an extract from a speech by Ernesto Che Guevara to sugar workers in Santa Clara on March 28, 1961, twenty days before the Bay of Pigs invasion.


[...] We must remind ourselves of this at every moment: that we are in a war, a cold war as they call it. We are in a war where there is no front line, no continuous bombardment, but where the two adversaries -- this tiny champion of the Caribbean and the immense imperialist hyena -- stand face to face, knowing that one of them is going to end up dead in the fight.

The North Americans are aware -- they are well aware, compañeros -- that the victory of the Cuban revolution will not be just a simple defeat for the empire, not just another link in the long chain of defeats it's been suffering in its policy of force and oppression against the peoples in recent years. The victory of the Cuban revolution will be a tangible demonstration before all the Americas that the peoples are capable of rising up, that they can proclaim their independence in the very clutches of the monster. It will mean the beginning of the end of colonial domination in Latin America, that is, the beginning of the definitive end of U.S. imperialism.

That is why the imperialists do not resign themselves. That is why this is a struggle to the death. That is why we cannot take a single step backward, because the first time we retreat one step would be the beginning of a long chain for us too. And we would end up the same way as all the traitorous regimes and all the peoples who at a given moment of history were incapable of resisting the drive of the empire.

That is why we must move forward, striking out tirelessly against imperialism. From all over the world we have to learn the lessons presented to us. We must turn Lumumba's murder into a lesson.

The murder of Patrice Lumumba is an example of what the empire does when the struggle against it is carried on in a firm and sustained way. Imperialism must be hit in its snout again and again, and yet again, in an infinite series of blows and counterblows. That is the only way the people can achieve their true independence.

Never a step backward, never a moment of weakness! And every time circumstances might tempt us to think that the situation might be better if we were not fighting the empire, let each of us think of the long chain of tortures and deaths through which the Cuban people had to pass to win their independence. Let all of us think of the eviction of peasants, of the murder of workers, of the strikes broken by the police, of all those manifestations of oppression by a class that has completely disappeared from Cuba. . . . And, let us also understand well how victory is won; victory is won by preparing the people, by enhancing their revolutionary consciousness, by establishing unity, by meeting each and every attempt at aggression with our rifles in hand. That is how it is won. . . .

We must remember something and insist again and again upon it: The victory of the Cuban people can never come solely through outside aid, however adequate and generous it may be, however great and strong the solidarity of all the peoples of the world with us may be. Because even with the wholehearted solidarity of all the people of the world with Patrice Lumumba and the Congolese people, when conditions inside the country went wrong, when the government leaders failed to understand how to strike back mercilessly at imperialism, when they took a step back, they lost the struggle. And they lost it not just for a few years, but for who knows how many years! That was a great setback for all the peoples.

That is what we ourselves must be well aware of, that Cuba's victory lies not in Soviet rockets, not in the solidarity of the socialist world, not in the solidarity of the entire world. Cuba's victory lies in the unity, the work, and the spirit of sacrifice of its people.

(Che Guevara Speaks, Pathfinder Press (2000).)

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Cadres for the New Party

The French word cadre meaning framework, especially in the sense of the skeletal force of noncommissioned officers of a regiment, which needs only to be fleshed out with enough recruits to become a fully functioning unit, has made its way into the military vocabulary of most countries and into the political parlance of revolutionary movements throughout the world.

Unlike previous revolutions of this century, the Cuban revolution had to build its party after coming to power. Here, Guevara discusses the problems of selecting the cadre, i.e., that core of trained, active, and responsible members that will educate the new recruits and that will embody the party's stability and continuity. The excerpts are from Guevara's article, "Cadres: Backbone of the Revolution," in the September 1962 issue of Cuba Socialista.


It is not necessary to dwell on the characteristics of our revolution, on the original way, with strokes of spontaneity, that the transition took place from a revolution of national liberation to a socialist revolution. Nor on the accumulation of rapidly passing stages in the course of its development, led by the same people who participated in the initial epic of the attack on the Moncada garrison, proceeding through the Granma landing, and culminating in the declaration of the socialist character of the Cuban revolution. New sympathizers, cadres, and organizations joined the weak organizational structure of the early movement, until it became the flood of people that today characterizes our revolution.

When it became clear that a new social class had definitively taken command in Cuba, we also saw the great limitations that would be faced in the exercise of state power because of the conditions in which we found the state. There were no cadres to carry out the enormous number of jobs that had to be filled in the state apparatus, in the political organization, and on the entire economic front.

Immediately after the seizure of power, bureaucratic posts were filled simply by "pointing a finger." There were no major problems -- there were none because the old structure had not yet been shattered. The apparatus functioned at the slow and weary pace of something old and almost lifeless. But it had an organization and within it sufficient coordination to maintain itself through inertia, disdaining the political changes that were taking place as a prelude to the change in the economic structure.

The July 26 Movement, deeply wounded by the internal struggles between its right and left wings, could not devote itself to tasks of construction. And the Popular Socialist Party, because it had endured fierce attacks and illegality for years, had not been able to develop intermediate cadres to handle the newly arising responsibilities.

When the first state interventions in the economy took place, the task of finding cadres was not very complicated, and it was possible to choose from among many people who had some minimum basis for exercising positions of leadership. But with the acceleration of the process beginning with the nationalization of the U.S. enterprises and later of the large Cuban enterprises, a real hunger for administrative technicians came about. On the other hand, an urgent need was felt for production technicians because of the exodus of many who were attracted by better positions offered by the imperialist companies in other parts of Latin America or in the United States itself. While engaged in these organizational tasks, the political apparatus had to make intense efforts to provide ideological attention to the masses who had joined the revolution eager to learn.

We all performed our roles as well as we could, but not without problems and embarrassments. Many errors were committed in administrative areas on the central executive level. Enormous mistakes were made by the new administrators of enterprises, who had overwhelming responsibilities in their hands. We also committed big and costly errors in the political apparatus, which little by little degenerated into a pleasant and peaceful bureaucracy, seen almost as a springboard for promotions and for bureaucratic posts of greater or lesser importance, totally separated from the masses.

The main cause of our errors was our lack of a sense of reality at a given moment. But the tool that we lacked, which blunted our ability to see and was turning the party into a bureaucratic organization, endangering administration and production, was the lack of developed cadres at the intermediate level. It became evident that the development of cadres was synonymous with the policy of going to the masses. The watchword was to once again establish contact with the masses, a contact that had been closely maintained by the revolution in its earliest days. But this had to be established through some type of mechanism that would afford the most beneficial results, both in feeling the pulse of the masses and in the transmission of political leadership, which in many cases was only being given through the personal intervention of Prime Minister Fidel Castro or some other leaders of the revolution.

At this point, we can pose the question: What is a cadre? We should state that a cadre is an individual who has achieved sufficient political development to be able to interpret the larger directives emanating from the central authority, make them his own, and convey them as an orientation to the masses; a person who at the same time also perceives the signs manifested by the masses of their own desires and their innermost motivations.

A cadre is someone of ideological and administrative discipline, who knows and practices democratic centralism and who knows how to evaluate the contradictions in our current methods in order to make the best of them. In the field of production, he knows how to practice the principle of collective discussion and individual decision-making and responsibility. He is an individual of proven loyalty, whose physical and moral courage has developed in step with his ideological development, in such a way that he is always willing to face any debate and to give even his life for the good of the revolution. He is, in addition, an individual who can think for himself, which enables him to make the necessary decisions and to exercise creative initiative in a way that does not conflict with discipline.

The cadre, therefore, is a creator, a leader of high standing, a technician with a good political level, who by reasoning dialectically can advance his sector of production, or develop the masses from his position of political leadership.

This exemplary human being, apparently cloaked in difficult-to-achieve virtues, is nonetheless present in the people of Cuba, and we encounter him daily. The essential thing is to take advantage of all the opportunities that exist to develop him to the maximum, to educate him, to draw from each individual the greatest benefit and convert it into the greatest value for the nation.

The development of a cadre is achieved through performing everyday tasks. But the tasks must be undertaken systematically, in special schools where competent teachers -- examples in their own right for the students -- will encourage the most rapid ideological advancement.

In a system that is beginning to build socialism, cadres must clearly be highly developed politically. But when we consider political development we must take into account not only knowledge of Marxist theory. We must also demand responsibility of the individual for his actions, a discipline that restrains any passing weaknesses and that is not at odds with a big dose of initiative. And we must demand constant preoccupation with all the revolution's problems. In order to develop a cadre, we must begin by establishing the principle of selection among the masses. It is there that we find the individuals who are developing, tested by sacrifice or just beginning to show their concerns, and assign them to special schools; or when these are not available, give them greater responsibility so that they are tested in practical work.

In this way, we have been finding a multitude of new cadres who have developed in recent years. But their development has not been an even one, since the young compañeros have had to face the reality of revolutionary creation without an adequate party leadership. Some have succeeded fully, but there were others who could not completely make it and were left midway, or were simply lost in the bureaucratic labyrinth, or in the temptations that power brings.

To assure the triumph and the total consolidation of the revolution, we have to develop different types of cadres. We need the political cadre who will be the foundation of our mass organizations, and who will lead the masses through the action of the United Party of the Socialist Revolution. (We are already beginning to establish this foundation with the national and provincial Schools of Revolutionary Instruction and with studies and study groups at all levels.) We also need military cadres. To achieve that, we can utilize the selection the war made among our young combatants, since there are still many living who are without great theoretical knowledge but who were tested under fire. They were tested under the most difficult conditions of the struggle, with a fully proven loyalty to the revolutionary regime with whose birth and development they have been so intimately connected since the first guerrilla battles of the Sierra. We should also develop economic cadres who will dedicate themselves specifically to the difficult tasks of planning and the tasks of the organization of the socialist state in these moments of creation.

Farewell Documents

Che's Farewell Letter to Fidel Castro


I remember many things in this hour -- how I met you in the house of María Antonia, and how you proposed that I come with you, and all the strain of the preparations.

One day they passed by to ask who would be advised in case of the death, and the real possibility of it struck all of us. Later we knew that it was true, that in a revolution one triumphs or dies (if it be a true one). Many comrades were left along the road to victory.

Today everything has a less dramatic tone, for we are more mature, but the event is repeating itself. I feel that I have fulfilled the part of my duty that bound me to the Cuban Revolution on its territory, and I take my farewell of you, my comrades and your people who are now my people.

Che in his office in 1964, in his capacity
as Industry Minister.

I formally renounce my posts in the leadership of the Party, my post as Minister, my rank as Major, my status as a Cuban citizen. Nothing legal binds me to Cuba, only ties of another kind that cannot be broken, as can official appointments. Looking back over my past life, I believe that I have worked with sufficient faithfulness and dedication in order to consolidate the revolutionary triumph. My only deficiency of any importance is not to have trusted you more from those first moments in the Sierra Maestra and in not having understood soon enough your qualities of leader and revolutionary.

I have lived through magnificent days and at your side I felt the pride of belonging to our people in the luminous and sad days of the Caribbean Crisis. Rarely has any statesman shone more brilliantly than you did in those days. I feel pride, too, in having followed you without hesitation, identifying myself with your way of thinking and seeing and of judging dangers and motives.

Other regions of the world claim the support of my modest efforts. I can do what is forbidden to you because of your responsibility to Cuba, and the time has come for us to separate.

Let it be known that I do it with a mixture of joy and sorrow: I am leaving here the purest of my hopes as a builder and the most loved among my beloved creatures, and I leave a people who accepted me as a son; this rends a part of my spirit. On new battlefields I will carry with me the faith that you inculcated in me, the revolutionary spirit of my people, the feeling of having fulfilled the most sacred of duties: to fight against imperialism wherever it may be; this comforts and heals any wound to a great extent.

I say once more that I free Cuba of any responsibility save that which stems from its example: that if the final hour comes upon me under other skies, my last thought will be for this people and especially for you, that I am thankful to you for your teachings and your example, and that I will try to be faithful up to the final consequences of my acts; that I have at all times been identified with the foreign policy of our Revolution, and I continue to be so; that wherever I may end up I will feel the responsibility of being a Cuban revolutionary, and I will act as one; that I leave nothing material to my children and my wife, and this does not grieve me: I am glad that it be so; that I ask nothing for them, since the State will give them sufficient to live and will educate them.

I would have many things to say to you and to our people, but I feel that they are unnecessary; words cannot express what I would want them to, and it isn't worthwhile wasting more sheets of paper with my scribbling.

To victory forever. Patria o Muerte!

I embrace you with all my revolutionary fervor!

(Cuban Office of Historic Affairs, R.A. Torres)

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Fidel's Eulogy

Alberto Korda's famous portrait of Che wrought in steel, along with his famous words "Hasta la victoria siempre" adorn the Ministry of the Interior in Revolution Square, Havana.

On October 18, 1967, the third day of national mourning, Fidel Castro delivered a eulogy to a crowd of almost one million at the Plaza de La Revolución in Havana at a mass public ceremony in tribute to Ernesto Che Guevara.


I first met Che one day in July or August 1955. And in one night -- as he recalls in his account -- he became one of the future Granma expeditionaries, although at that time the expedition possessed neither ship, nor arms, nor troops. That was how, together with Raúl, Che became one of the first two on the Granma list.

Twelve years have passed since then; they have been 12 years filled with struggle and historical significance. During this time death has cut down many brave and invaluable lives. But at the same time, throughout those years of our revolution, extraordinary persons have arisen, forged from among the people of the revolution, and between them, bonds of affection and friendship have emerged that surpass all possible description.

Tonight we are meeting to try to express, in some degree, our feelings toward one who was among the closest, among the most admired, among the most beloved, and, without a doubt, the most extraordinary of our revolutionary comrades. We are here to express our feelings for him and for the heroes who have fought with him and fallen with him, his internationalist army that has been writing a glorious and indelible page of history.

Che was one of those people who was liked immediately, for his simplicity, his character, his naturalness, his comradely attitude, his personality, his originality, even when one had not yet learned of his other characteristics and unique virtues.

In those first days he was our troop doctor, and so the bonds of friendship and warm feelings for him were ever increasing. He was filled with a profound spirit of hatred and contempt for imperialism, not only because his political education was already considerably developed, but also because, shortly before, he had had the opportunity of witnessing the criminal imperialist intervention in Guatemala through the mercenaries who aborted the revolution in that country.

A person like Che did not require elaborate arguments. It was sufficient for him to know Cuba was in a similar situation and that there were people determined to struggle against that situation, arms in hand. It was sufficient for him to know that those people were inspired by genuinely revolutionary and patriotic ideals. That was more than enough.

One day, at the end of November 1956, he set out on the expedition toward Cuba with us. I recall that the trip was very hard for him, since, because of the circumstances under which it was necessary to organize the departure, he could not even provide himself with the medicine he needed. Throughout the trip, he suffered from a severe attack of asthma, with nothing to alleviate it, but also without ever complaining.

Members of the July 26 Movement, including Che Guevara, disembark the Granma,
December 2, 1956, Playa Las Coloradas, municipality of Niquero.

We arrived, set out on our first march, suffered our first setback, and at the end of some weeks, as you all know, a group of those Granma expeditionaries who had survived was able to reunite. Che continued to be the doctor of our group.

We came through the first battle victorious, and Che was already a soldier of our troop; at the same time he was still our doctor. We came through the second victorious battle and Che was not only a soldier, but the most outstanding soldier in that battle, carrying out for the first time one of those singular feats that characterized him in all military action. Our forces continued to develop and we soon faced another battle of extraordinary importance.

The situation was difficult. The information we had was erroneous in many respects. We were going to attack in full daylight -- at dawn -- a strongly defended, well-armed position at the edge of the sea. Enemy troops were at our rear, not very far, and in that confused situation it was necessary to ask people to make a supreme effort.

Comrade Juan Almeida had taken on one of the most difficult missions, but one of the flanks remained completely without forces -- one of the flanks was left without an attacking force, placing the operation in danger. At that moment, Che, who was still functioning as our doctor, asked for three or four men, among them one with a machine gun, and in a matter of seconds set off rapidly to assume the mission of attack from that direction.

On that occasion he was not only an outstanding combatant but also an outstanding doctor, attending the wounded comrades and, at the same time, attending the wounded enemy soldiers.

After all the weapons had been captured and it became necessary to abandon that position, undertaking a long return march under the harassment of various enemy forces, someone had to stay behind with the wounded, and it was Che who did so. Aided by a small group of our soldiers, he took care of them, saved their lives, and later rejoined the column with them.

From that time onward, he stood out as a capable and valiant leader, one of those who, when a difficult mission is pending, do not wait to be asked to carry it out.

Thus it was at the battle of El Uvero. But he acted in a similar way on a previously unmentioned occasion during the first days when following a betrayal, our little troop was attacked by surprise by a number of planes and we were forced to retreat under the bombardment. We had already walked a distance when we remembered some rifles of some peasant soldiers who had been with us in the first actions and had then asked permission to visit their families, at a time when there was still not much discipline in our embryonic army. At that moment, we thought the rifles might have to be given up for lost. But I recall it took no more than simply raising the problem for Che, despite the bombing, to volunteer, and having done so, quickly go to recover those rifles.

This was one of his principal characteristics: his willingness to instantly volunteer for the most dangerous mission. And naturally this aroused admiration -- and twice the usual admiration, for a fellow combatant fighting alongside us who had not been born here, a person of profound ideas, a person in whose mind stirred the dream of struggle in other parts of the continent and who nonetheless was so altruistic, so selfless, so willing to always do the most difficult things, to constantly risk his life.

That was how he won the rank of commander and leader of the second column, organized in the Sierra Maestra. Thus his standing began to increase. He began to develop as a magnificent combatant who was to reach the highest ranks in the course of the war.

Che was an incomparable soldier. Che was an incomparable leader. Che was, from a military point of view, an extraordinarily capable person, extraordinarily courageous, extraordinarily aggressive. If, as a guerrilla, he had his Achilles' heel, it was this excessively aggressive quality, his absolute contempt for danger.

The enemy believes it can draw certain conclusions from his death. Che was a master of warfare! He was an artist of guerrilla struggle! And he showed that an infinite number of times. But he showed it especially in two extraordinary deeds. One of these was the invasion, in which he led a column, a column pursued by thousands of enemy soldiers over flat and absolutely unknown terrain, carrying out -- together with Camilo [Cienfuegos] -- an extraordinary military accomplishment. He also showed it in his lightning campaign in Las Villas Province, especially in the audacious attack on the city of Santa Clara, entering -- with a column of barely 300 men -- a city defended by tanks, artillery, and several thousand infantry soldiers. Those two heroic deeds stamped him as an extraordinarily capable leader, as a master, as an artist of revolutionary war.

The victorious Rebel Army parades through Santa Clara, December 31, 1958 after decisive
victory there under Che's command.

However, now after his heroic and glorious death, some people attempt to deny the truth or value of his concepts, his guerrilla theories. The artist may die -- especially when he is an artist in a field as dangerous as revolutionary struggle -- but what will surely never die is the art to which he dedicated his life, the art to which he dedicated his intelligence.

What is so strange about the fact that this artist died in combat? What is stranger is that he did not die in combat on one of the innumerable occasions when he risked his life during our revolutionary struggle. Many times it was necessary to take steps to keep him from losing his life in actions of minor significance.

And so it was in combat -- in one of the many battles he fought -- that he lost his life. We do not have sufficient evidence to enable us to deduce what circumstances preceded that combat, or how far he may have acted in an excessively aggressive way. But, we repeat, if as a guerrilla he had an Achilles' heel, it was his excessive aggressiveness, his absolute contempt for danger.

And this is where we can hardly agree with him, since we consider that his life, his experience, his capacity as a seasoned leader, his authority, and everything his life signified, were more valuable, incomparably more valuable than he himself, perhaps, believed.

His conduct may have been profoundly influenced by the idea that people have a relative value in history, the idea that causes are not defeated when people fall, that the powerful march of history cannot and will not be halted when leaders fall.

That is true, there is no doubt about it. It shows his faith in people, his faith in ideas, his faith in examples. However -- as I said a few days ago -- with all our heart we would have liked to see him as a forger of victories, to see victories forged under his command, under his leadership, since people of his experience, of his caliber, of his really unique capacity, are not common.

We fully appreciate the value of his example. We are absolutely convinced that many people will strive to live up to his example, that people like him will emerge.

It is not easy to find a person with all the virtues that were combined in Che. It is not easy for a person, spontaneously, to develop a character like his. I would say that he is one of those people who are difficult to match and virtually impossible to surpass. But I would also say that the example of people like him contributes to the appearance of people of the same caliber.

In Che, we admire not only the fighter, the person capable of performing great feats. What he did, what he was doing, the very fact of his rising with a handful of men against the army of the oligarchy, trained by Yankee advisers sent in by Yankee imperialism, backed by the oligarchies of all neighboring countries -- that in itself constitutes an extraordinary feat.

If we search the pages of history, it is likely that we will find no other case in which a leader with such a limited number of men has set about a task of such importance; a case in which a leader with such a limited number of men has set out to fight against such large forces. Such proof of confidence in himself, such proof of confidence in the peoples, such proof of faith in man's capacity to fight, can be looked for in the pages of history but the likes of it will never be found.

And he fell.

The enemy believes it has defeated his ideas, his guerrilla concepts, his point of view on revolutionary armed struggle. What they accomplished, by a stroke of luck, was to eliminate him physically. What they accomplished was to gain an accidental advantage that an enemy may gain in war. We do not know to what degree that stroke of luck, that stroke of fortune, was helped along, in a battle like many others, by that characteristic of which we spoke before: his excessive aggressiveness, his absolute disdain for danger.

This also happened in our war of independence. In a battle at Dos Rios they killed José Martí, the apostle of our independence; in a battle at Punta Brava, they killed Antonio Maceo, a veteran of hundreds of battles [in the Cuban war of independence]. Countless leaders, countless patriots of our war of independence were killed in similar battles. Nevertheless, that did not spell defeat for the Cuban cause.

The death of Che -- as we said a few days ago -- is a hard blow, a tremendous blow for the revolutionary movement because it deprives it, without a doubt, of its most experienced and able leader.

But those who boast of victory are mistaken. They are mistaken when they think that his death is the end of his ideas, the end of his tactics, the end of his guerrilla concepts, the end of his theory. For the person who fell, as a mortal person, as a person who faced bullets time and again, as a soldier, as a leader, was a thousand times more able than those who killed him by a stroke of luck.

However, how should revolutionaries face this serious setback? How should they face this loss? If Che had to express an opinion on this point, what would it be? He gave this opinion, he expressed this opinion quite clearly when he wrote in his message to the [Tricontinental] Latin American Solidarity Conference that if death surprised him anywhere, it would be welcome as long as his battle cry had reached a receptive ear and another hand reached out to take up his rifle.

His battle cry will reach not just one receptive ear, but millions of receptive ears! And not one hand but millions of hands, inspired by his example, will reach out to take up arms! New leaders will emerge. The people of the receptive ears and the outstretched hands will need leaders who emerge from their ranks, just as leaders have emerged in all revolutions.

Those hands will not have available a leader of Che's extraordinary experience and enormous ability. Those leaders will be formed in the process of struggle. Those leaders will emerge from among the millions of receptive ears, from the millions of hands that will sooner or later reach out to take up arms.

It is not that we feel that his death will necessarily have immediate repercussions in the practical sphere of revolutionary struggle, that his death will necessarily have immediate repercussions in the practical sphere of development of this struggle. The fact is that when Che took up arms again he was not thinking of an immediate victory; he was not thinking of a speedy victory against the forces of the oligarchies and imperialism. As an experienced fighter, he was prepared for a prolonged struggle of 5, 10, 15, or 20 years, if necessary. He was ready to fight 5, 10, 15, or 20 years, or all his life if need be! And within that perspective, his death -- or rather his example -- will have tremendous repercussions. The force of that example will be invincible.

Those who attach significance to the lucky blow that struck Che down try in vain to deny his experience and his capacity as a leader. Che was an extraordinarily able military leader. But when we remember Che, when we think of Che, we do not think fundamentally of his military virtues. No! Warfare is a means and not an end. Warfare is a tool of revolutionaries. The important thing is the revolution. The important thing is the revolutionary cause, revolutionary ideas, revolutionary objectives, revolutionary sentiments, revolutionary virtues!

And it is in that field, in the field of ideas, in the field of sentiments, in the field of revolutionary virtues, in the field of intelligence, that -- apart from his military virtues -- we feel the tremendous loss that his death means to the revolutionary movement.

Che's extraordinary character was made up of virtues that are rarely found together. He stood out as an unsurpassed person of action, but Che was not only that -- he was also a person of visionary intelligence and broad culture, a profound thinker. That is, the man of ideas and the man of action were combined within him.

But it is not only that Che possessed the double characteristic of the man of ideas -- of profound ideas -- and the man of action, but that Che as a revolutionary united in himself the virtues that can be defined as the fullest expression of the virtues of a revolutionary: a person of total integrity, a person of supreme sense of honor, of absolute sincerity, a person of stoic and Spartan living habits, a person in whose conduct not one stain can be found. He constituted, through his virtues, what can be called a truly model revolutionary.

When people die it is usual to make speeches, to emphasize their virtues. But rarely can one say of a person with greater justice, with greater accuracy, what we say of Che on this occasion: that he was a pure example of revolutionary virtues!

But he possessed another quality, not a quality of the intellect nor of the will, not a quality derived from experience, from struggle, but a quality of the heart: he was an extraordinarily human being, extraordinarily sensitive!

That is why we say, when we think of his life, when we think of his conduct, that he constituted the singular case of a most extraordinary human, able to unite in his personality not only the characteristics of the man of action, but also of the man of thought, of the person of immaculate revolutionary virtues and of extraordinary human sensibility, joined with an iron character, a will of steel, indomitable tenacity.

Because of this, he has left to the future generations not only his experience, his knowledge as an outstanding soldier, but also, at the same time, the fruits of his intelligence. He wrote with the virtuosity of a master of our language. His narratives of the war are incomparable. The depth of his thinking is impressive. He never wrote about anything with less than extraordinary seriousness, with less than extraordinary profundity -- and we have no doubt that some of his writings will pass on to posterity as classic documents of revolutionary thought.

Thus, as fruits of that vigorous and profound intelligence, he left us countless memories, countless narratives that, without his work, without his efforts, might have been lost forever.

An indefatigable worker, during the years that he served our country he did not know a single day of rest. Many were the responsibilities assigned to him: as president of the National Bank, as director of the Central Planning Board, as minister of industry, as commander of military regions, as the head of political or economic or fraternal delegations.

His versatile intelligence was able to undertake with maximum assurance any task of any kind. Thus he brilliantly represented our country in numerous international conferences, just as he brilliantly led soldiers in combat, just as he was a model worker in charge of any of the institutions he was assigned to. And for him there were no days of rest; for him there were no hours of rest!

If we looked through the windows of his offices, he had the lights on all hours of the night, studying, or rather, working or studying. For he was a student of all problems; he was a tireless reader. His thirst for learning was practically insatiable, and the hours he stole from sleep he devoted to study.

He devoted his scheduled days off to voluntary work. He was the inspiration and provided the greatest incentive for the work that is today carried out by hundreds of thousands of people throughout the country. He stimulated that activity in which our people are making greater and greater efforts.

As a revolutionary, as a communist revolutionary, a true communist, he had a boundless faith in moral values. He had a boundless faith in the consciousness of human beings. And we should say that he saw, with absolute clarity, the moral impulse as the fundamental lever in the construction of communism in human society.

He thought, developed, and wrote many things. And on a day like today it should be stated that Che's writings, Che's political and revolutionary thought, will be of permanent value to the Cuban revolutionary process and to the Latin American revolutionary process. And we do not doubt that his ideas -- as a man of action, as a man of thought, as a person of untarnished moral virtues, as a person of unexcelled human sensitivity, as a person of spotless conduct -- have and will continue to have universal value.

The imperialists boast of their triumph at having killed this guerrilla fighter in action. The imperialists boast of a triumphant stroke of luck that led to the elimination of such a formidable man of action. But perhaps the imperialists do not know or pretend not to know that the man of action was only one of the many facets of the personality of that combatant. And if we speak of sorrow, we are saddened not only at having lost a person of action. We are saddened at having lost a person of virtue. We are saddened at having lost a person of unsurpassed human sensitivity. We are saddened at having lost such a mind. We are saddened to think that he was only 39 years old at the time of his death. We are saddened at missing the additional fruits that we would have received from that intelligence and that ever richer experience.

We have an idea of the dimension of the loss for the revolutionary movement. However, here is the weak side of the imperialist enemy: they think that by eliminating a person physically they have eliminated his thinking -- that by eliminating him physically they have eliminated his ideas, eliminated his virtues, eliminated his example.

So shameless are they in this belief that they have no hesitation in publishing, as the most natural thing in the world, the by now almost universally accepted circumstances in which they murdered him after he had been seriously wounded in action. They do not even seem aware of the repugnance of the procedure, of the shamelessness of the acknowledgement. They have published it as if thugs, oligarchs, and mercenaries had the right to shoot a seriously wounded revolutionary combatant.

Even worse, they explain why they did it. They assert that Che's trial would have been quite an earthshaker, that it would have been impossible to place this revolutionary in the dock.

And not only that, they have not hesitated to spirit away his remains. Be it true or false, they certainly announced they had cremated his body, thus beginning to show their fear, beginning to show that they are not so sure that by physically eliminating the combatant, they can eliminate his ideas, eliminate his example.

Che died defending no other interest, no other cause than the cause of the exploited and the oppressed of this continent. Che died defending no other cause than the cause of the poor and the humble of this earth. And the exemplary manner and the selflessness with which he defended that cause cannot be disputed even by his most bitter enemies.

Before history, people who act as he did, people who do and give everything for the cause of the poor, grow in stature with each passing day and find a deeper place in the heart of the peoples with each passing day. The imperialist enemies are beginning to see this, and it will not be long before it will be proved that his death will, in the long run, be like a seed that will give rise to many people determined to imitate him, many people determined to follow his example.

We are absolutely convinced that the revolutionary cause on this continent will recover from the blow, that the revolutionary movement on this continent will not be crushed by this blow.

From the revolutionary point of view, from the point of view of our people, how should we view Che's example? Do we feel we have lost him? It is true that we will not see new writings of his. It is true that we will never again hear his voice. But Che has left a heritage to the world, a great heritage, and we who knew him so well can become in large measure his beneficiaries.

He left us his revolutionary thinking, his revolutionary virtues. He left us his character, his will, his tenacity, his spirit of work. In a word, he left us his example! And Che's example will be a model for our people. Che's example will be the ideal model for our people!

If we wish to express what we expect our revolutionary combatants, our militants, our people to be, we must say, without hesitation: let them be like Che! If we wish to express what we want the people of future generations to be, we must say: let them be like Che! If we wish to say how we want our children to be educated, we must say without hesitation: we want them to be educated in Che's spirit! If we want the model of a person, the model of a human being who does not belong to our time but to the future, I say from the depths of my heart that such a model, without a single stain on his conduct, without a single stain on his action, without a single stain on his behavior, is Che! If we wish to express what we want our children to be, we must say from our very hearts as ardent revolutionaries: we want them to be like Che!

Che has become a model of what future humans should be, not only for our people but also for people everywhere in Latin America. Che carried to its highest expression revolutionary stoicism, the revolutionary spirit of sacrifice, revolutionary combativeness, the revolutionary's spirit of work. Che brought the ideas of Marxism-Leninism to their freshest, purest, most revolutionary expression. No other person of our time has carried the spirit of proletarian internationalism to its highest possible level as Che did.

And when one speaks of a proletarian internationalist, and when an example of a proletarian internationalist is sought, that example, high above any other, will be the example of Che. National flags, prejudices, chauvinism, and egoism had disappeared from his mind and heart. He was ready to shed his generous blood spontaneously and immediately, on behalf of any people, for the cause of any people!

Thus, his blood fell on our soil when he was wounded in several battles, and his blood was shed in Bolivia, for the liberation of the exploited and the oppressed, of the humble and the poor. That blood was shed for the sake of all the exploited and all the oppressed. That blood was shed for all the peoples of the Americas and for the people of Vietnam because while fighting there in Bolivia, fighting against the oligarchies and imperialism, he knew that he was offering Vietnam the highest possible expression of his solidarity!

It is for this reason, comrades of the revolution, that we must face the future with firmness and determination, with optimism. And in Che's example, we will always look for inspiration -- inspiration in struggle, inspiration in tenacity, inspiration in intransigence toward the enemy, inspiration in internationalist feeling!

Therefore, after tonight's moving ceremony, after this incredible demonstration of vast popular recognition -- incredible for its magnitude, discipline, and spirit of devotion -- which demonstrates that our people are a sensitive, grateful people who know how to honor the memory of the brave who die in combat, that our people recognize those who serve them; which demonstrates the people's solidarity with the revolutionary struggle and how this people will raise aloft and maintain ever higher aloft revolutionary banners and revolutionary principles today, in these moments of remembrance, let us lift our spirits and, with optimism in the future, with absolute optimism in the final victory of the peoples, say to Che and to the heroes who fought and died with him:

Hasta la victoria siempre! [Ever onward to victory!]
Patria o muerte! [Homeland or death!]
Venceremos! [We will win!]

(Photos: Selengkapnya, Granma, B. Glinn)

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