Even before Guevara went to Bolivia, opponents of the Cuban Revolution were working overtime to promote the myth that Fidel Castro and Guevara had a falling out amid “irreconcilable differences.” They said Fidel was disillusioned with Che’s adventurism, preferring “peaceful coexistence.” After Guevara’s death, they claimed Castro had sent him on a suicide mission to get him out of the way.
These slanders are still promoted to this day. Their purpose is to undermine the Cuban revolution he helped to lead and to foster cynicism. After all, if Fidel Castro, the central leader of the revolution, and Che were backstabbers and murderers, what’s the point of fighting to change the world and studying the lessons of the Cuban Revolution?
In 1955 the Argentine-born Guevara joined the July 26 Movement, led by Castro. He was part of the 1956 Granma expedition, where Castro and others returned to Cuba to launch the revolution.
Castro forged a cadre of revolutionists who were able to lead millions to topple the U.S.-backed Batista dictatorship in January 1959, establish a workers and farmers government and expropriate the U.S. and Cuban capitalists and landlords. In Fidel’s judgment, Che became a highly skilled strategist and fighter, the first Castro promoted to commander.
U.S. imperialism never forgave the revolutionary working people of Cuba for being a powerful example to millions worldwide.
For many liberals and Stalinist groups, the Cuban Revolution is an obstacle to their bureaucratic scorn for the working class, and their course of reforming capitalism.
Following Castro’s death in 2016, the New York Daily News repeated the well-worn slanders that Castro “left his old comrade stranded to die” in Bolivia.
When Guevara joined the Cuban revolutionary forces he asked one thing, Castro told journalist Ignacio Ramonet in the book My Life, that Castro “not forbid me for reasons of state, from going to Argentina to make a revolution there.”
“‘Agreed,’ I said to him,” Castro says.
Guevara left Cuba in 1965, seeking to expand the revolution internationally, to help make “one, two three Vietnams,” a course he and Castro agreed on wholeheartedly. At the request of revolutionary fighters there, he went first to the Congo to aid the anti-imperialist struggle, and then to Bolivia.
Cuban leaders ‘shared Che’s views’In 1965, after false rumors circulated in his absence about divisions in the Communist Party, Guevara sent a letter to Castro. “Other nations of the world summon my modest efforts of assistance. I can do that which is denied you due to your responsibility as the head of Cuba,” Guevara wrote.
When Castro learned about Guevara’s plans to go to Bolivia, “we suggested he needed more time, not to get impatient,” Castro told Ramonet. To wait until the new guerrilla movement there was more established.
But Guevara argued the pre-revolutionary situation in the Southern Cone called for timely action. Castro persuaded him to return to Cuba so they could work together to maximize the chances for success.
“We helped Che; we shared his views. At that moment, Che was right. At that moment the struggle could have been spread,” Castro told Ramonet. This assessment was born out in the years following Guevara’s death when explosive working-class struggles broke out in Argentina in 1969 and Bolivia in 1970.
While in Cuba, Guevara — with Castro’s help — handpicked the veteran Cuban combatants he asked to volunteer for Bolivia.
After Guevara arrived in Bolivia and the guerrilla nucleus had begun its training, they were stabbed in the back by Mario Monje, head of the Stalinist Bolivian Communist Party. Monje said his party would stop supporting the guerrilla effort unless he was given personal command of the group. And the CP refused any further support.
“Fidel did everything he could for the fighters in Bolivia as he did for us in the Congo as he has done for Cuban internationalist fighters everywhere,” said Victor Dreke on a 2002 speaking tour in the U.S. Dreke served as second in command under Guevara in the combat mission in the Congo in 1965.
Dreke described Che as a “great leader” who led by personal example.
“He was one of the noblest … most unselfish men I’ve ever known,” Castro told Ramonet, “which would be of no importance unless one believed that men like him exist by the million.”
That’s what makes fighting to make a revolution like Cuba’s in the U.S. today realistic.
“Che thought and acted as an internationalist,” Socialist Workers Party leader Mary-Alice Waters wrote in her introduction to Che’s Bolivian Diary. He knew that “only new revolutionary victories elsewhere, especially new socialist advances in the Americas, would change the relationship of class forces internationally and break the isolation that weighed so heavily on Cuba.”
That remains true today. And despite the slanders, which continue to circulate, in today’s crisis-ridden world growing numbers of workers and youth will be drawn to the Cuban Revolution, discussing how the example set by Castro and Guevara can be emulated.
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