Our support for colonised peoples must go beyond mere rhetoric. It must be taken into our workplaces and unions, our communities, our rent strikes and our struggles against the pigs and the prisons. The abolition of racial capitalism and imperialism is a matter of life and death.
52 years ago today, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, the Argentinean revolutionary, was executed in Bolivia, having been captured by military forces under the leadership of the CIA.
Che became a leading figure in the Cuban Revolution. Alongside Fidel and Raul Castro and the rest of the July 26th Movement, he sailed on the Granma to the Playa las Coloradas, and set to overthrow Fulgencio Batista’s murderous régime. After the Revolution, he served in a number of roles within the new socialist Cuban administration, such as director of the national bank and minister of industry. A committed internationalist, Che traveled to Congo and then Bolivia between 1965 and 1967, assisting with the revolutionary and anti-colonial struggles in these countries. Bolivia is where he was finally captured, at the hands of Bolivian soldiers acting under the command of the CIA.
After refusing to give up the location of his comrades under questioning, and knowing that his execution would take place shortly, Che was asked if he was thinking about his own mortality. “No,” he replied, “I’m thinking about the immortality of the revolution.” A few minutes later, facing his killer, he proclaimed his famous last words: “Shoot, coward. You are only going to kill a man.”
More than 5 decades later, Che lives on as a key revolutionary figure in the international communist movement – a person whose actions and words he helped to create and inspire socialists and anti-imperialists throughout the world. It’s hard to think of a revolutionary movement that does not uphold Che, a man who famously proclaimed:
“The true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality.”
Freedom fighters and socialists carry his image in their hearts on almost every continent, and where there is struggle, he is remembered. This day, October 8th, is celebrated throughout Latin America as “Día del Guerrillero Heróico” – Day of the Heroic Revolutionary.
In Cuba, where material conditions today under socialism are incomparable to those under the US supported military dictatorship of Batista, Che lives.
In states like the DPRK, Laos, China, and Vietnam, where people have been liberated from the oppression they suffered under comprador regimes allied with imperialism – Che lives!
In nations that have freed themselves and in those that wish to free themselves from colonialism and neocolonialism – Che lives!
In our hearts and minds – Che lives!
However, nothing that we or anyone else could write today would be more poignant than the words spoken by Che’s closest comrade, Fidel Castro, who fought alongside Che in the liberation of Cuba, reminiscing on his death. The following speech, from which we have chosen a few quotes, was given by Fidel Castro on 8 October 1987 at the main ceremony marking the twentieth anniversary of Guevara’s death. It was held at a newly completed electronics components factory in the city of Pinar del Río.
As we predicted on October 18, twenty years ago, he became a symbol for all the oppressed, for all the exploited, for all the patriotic and democratic forces, for all the revolutionaries. He became a permanent and invincible symbol.
We feel Che’s presence for all these reasons, because of the real force that he still has today which, even though twenty years have gone by, exists in the spirit of all of us, when we hear the poem, when we hear the anthem, or the bugle is sounded before a moment’s silence, when we open our newspapers and see photographs of Che during different stages of his life, his image, so well known throughout the world — because it has to be said that Che not only had the virtues and all the human moral qualities to be a symbol, he also had the appearance of a symbol, the image of a symbol: his look, the frankness and strength of his look; his face, which reflects character irrepressibly determined for action, at the same time showing great intelligence and great purity — when we look at the poems that have been written, the episodes that are recounted, and the stories that are repeated, we feel the reality of Che’s relevance, of his presence.
When they hid Che’s body, they showed their weakness and their cowardice, because they also showed their fear of the example and the symbol. They did not want the exploited peasants, the workers, the students, the intellectuals, the democrats, the progressives or the patriots of this hemisphere to have a place to go to pay tribute to Che’s remains. And in the world today, in which there is no specific place to go to pay tribute to Che’s remains, tribute is paid to everywhere.
Today tribute is not paid to Che once a year, not once ever five, ten, fifteen, or twenty years; today homage is paid to Che every year every month, every day, everywhere, in a factory, in a school, in a military barracks, in a home, among children, among Pioneers. Who can count how many millions of times in these twenty years, the Pioneers have said: “Pioneers for communism, we will be like Che”!
As [José] Martí said, whereas there are men without dignity, there are also men who carry inside them the dignity of many men! We might add that there are men who carry inside them the dignity of the world, and one of those men is Che!
Patria o muerte! [Homeland or death!]
Venceremos! [We will win!]