che-3
CheInCongo1965

Che in the African Congo, where he led an all-black force of Cuban and Congolese soldiers against white South African mercenaries of apartheid, 1965

Issue #1 in a series of articles correcting misinformation on El Che

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“The life of Che is an inspiration to all human beings who cherish freedom.
We will always honour his memory.”

— Nelson Mandela, while visiting Cuba in 1991 {1}

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One of the favorite libelous smears by right-wing hacks is that Argentine Marxist revolutionary Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara (1928-1967) was RACIST against blacks. Being shameless, they usually attack where they think left-wing icons or heroes are strongest. However, when you understand the full depth to which the forces of reaction LIE, then you realize why they can’t be trusted for information generally and especially on leftist figures! Hopefully, this article will operate as a mini case study displaying that reality.

Their “evidence” for this often-parroted internet falsehood is Che’s youthful diary passage where he visits a Venezuelan slum and offensively opines that the blacks he encounters there are “indolent and lazy”, waste their money on booze, and don’t save money like Europeans. He also compares the “racial purity” of the blacks in Caracas to the Portuguese. However, these lines are always deceptively and disingenuously culled from the larger historical context of his later life … so what is the truth?

That quote was written by Guevara in 1952 when he was 24 and encountered blacks for basically the first time in his life, during his Motorcycle trip around South America (as told in his memoir ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’). ** The full context of this statement is addressed by biographer Jon Lee Anderson on page 92 of ‘Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life’, and Anderson notes they were “stereotypical of white Argentine arrogance and condescension.” ** However, months later at the end of his continental trip, Guevara announced himself a transformed man and even denounced the racism he encountered while living in Miami, USA for a month, while awaiting his return to Argentina. Essentially, the quote was before he was “Che”, in both literal nickname and political beliefs.

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From then on and throughout his life, Che showed he was ANTI-RACIST through his ACTIONS:

– The following year in 1953, while travelling through Bolivia with his friend Carlos “Calica” Ferrer, Guevara became indignant when he observed that all the dark-skinned indigenous Indians had to be sprayed with DDT (ostensibly to kill lice) before being allowed to enter the Ministry of Peasant Affairs.

– Che’s very first student in 1957 as a guerrilla fighter was a 45-year-old illiterate black guajiro named Julio Zenon Acosta, whom he was teaching the alphabet. After Acosta was killed in an ambush by Batista’s forces, Che exalted him as “my first pupil” and the kind of “noble peasant” that made up the heart of the Cuban Revolution.

– During the Cuban guerrilla campaign, Che’s girlfriend (for all intents and purposes) for the first half of 1958 was Zoila Rodríguez García, a black/mulatto woman. Moreover, his first wife Hilda Gadea whom he married in 1955 was a dark-skinned indigenous Peruvian.

– In 1959, Che pushed for racially integrating the schools and universities in Cuba, years before they were racially integrated in the southern United States. For context, the Alabama National Guard was needed to force Governor George Wallace aside at the University of Alabama in 1963 and forced school busing wasn’t enacted in the U.S. until 1971.

– In 1959, Fidel & Che pushed through “Law 270″, which declared all beaches and other public facilities open to all races. For the first time in Cuban history, clubs, businesses, and other establishments that refused equal access and service to blacks were shut down.

– In August 1961, (9 years after his “indolent” remark), Guevara attacked the U.S. for discrimination against blacks and the actions of the KKK, which matched his declarations in 1964 before the United Nations (12 years after his “indolent” remark), where Guevara denounced the U.S. policy towards their black population. It was around this same time, that the black anti-colonial philosopher Frantz Fanon proclaimed Che to be “the world symbol of the possibilities of one man.”

– Che’s friend and personal bodyguard from 1959 till his death in 1967 was Harry “Pombo” Villegas, who was Afro-Cuban (black). Pombo accompanied Che everywhere in Cuba, then to the Congo and to Bolivia, where he survived and escaped the final battle where Che was wounded and captured. He resides in Cuba and wrote his own diary about his time in Bolivia entitled ‘Pombo: A Man of Che’s Guerrilla, With Che Guevara in Bolivia 1966-68′ and speaks positively of Guevara to this day.

– In 1964, when Che addressed the U.N., he spoke out in favor of black musician Paul Robeson, in support of slain Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba (who he heralded as one of his heroes), against white segregation in the Southern U.S. (which still unfortunately existed), and against the white South African apartheid regime (long before it became the Western ’cause de jour’). Nelson Mandela later remarked that while he was imprisoned Che’s “revolutionary exploits, including on our own continent, were too powerful for any prison censors to hide from us.” {1}

– Che was heralded by Malcolm X during this trip to NYC and in contact with his associates to whom he sent a letter. On behalf of his actions in Africa, Che would also later be praised by the Black Panther’s Stokely Carmichael. The Black Panther’s even adopted their black berets in honor of Guevara iconic headwear.

– In 1965, Che toured and met anti-colonial leaders from the African nations of Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Tanzania, Congo Brazzaville and Benin. This led to Che assisting and befriending Algerian President Ahmed Ben Bella, Egyptian leader Abdel Nasser, Angolan independence leader Agostinho Neto of the MPLA, Ghanaian leader Kwame Nkrumah, and Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere. Che also established Cuban collaboration through supplies and military support for Amilcar Cabral’s PAIGC in Guinea Bissau, Alphonse Massamba-Débat in Congo Brazzaville, and Laurent-Désiré Kabila in Congo Leopoldville. Later Guevara offered assistance to fight alongside the (black) FRELIMO in Mozambique, for their independence from the white Portuguese.

– When Guevara ventured to the African Congo in 1965, he fought with a Cuban force of 130 Afro-Cubans (blacks) alongside all-black Congolese fighters — they then battled against a force comprised partly of white South African mercenaries and white Cuban exiles backed by the CIA. This resembled the fight in Cuba, where Che’s units were made up of many poor rural mulattos and blacks, against a Cuban army staffed at the top by whites with connections to the upper class. Of note, nearly all Cuban exiles who fled Che’s economic reforms to Miami throughout the early 1960’s were white, despite the island being 1/3 mulatto & black.

– Che’s Congolese teenage Swahili interpreter for his African expedition named Freddy Ilanga lived until 2006 in Cuba, and his dying wish was to erect a lighthouse memorial to Guevara in Africa. In 2005 he told the BBC that Che “showed the same respect to black people as he did to whites.” {2}

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[CHE QUOTES REGARDING RACIAL JUSTICE]

On EDUCATION …

“The university should color itself black and color itself mulatto—not just as regards students but also professors… Today the people stand at the door of the university, and it is the university that must be flexible. It must color itself black, mulatto, worker, peasant, or else be left without doors. And then the people will tear it apart and paint it with the colors they see fit.”

— Che Guevara, to the University of Las Villas on December 28, 1959 {3}
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On U.S. RACISM …

“Democracy is not compatible with financial oligarchy, with discrimination against Blacks and outrages by the Ku Klux Klan.”

— Che Guevara, to the OAS on August 8, 1961 {4}

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On U.S. HYPOCRISY …

“Those who kill their own children and discriminate daily against them because of the color of their skin; those who let the murderers of blacks remain free, protecting them, and furthermore punishing the black population because they demand their legitimate rights as free men — how can those who do this consider themselves guardians of freedom?”

— Che Guevara, to the U.N. on December 11, 1964 {5}
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On SOUTH AFRICAN APARTHEID …

“We speak out to put the world on guard against what is happening in South Africa. The brutal policy of apartheid is applied before the eyes of the nations of the world. The peoples of Africa are compelled to endure the fact that on the African continent the superiority of one race over another remains official policy, and that in the name of this racial superiority murder is committed with impunity. Can the United Nations do nothing to stop this?”

— Che Guevara to the U.N. on December 11, 1964 {5}

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On PATRICE LUMUMBA …

“We must move forward, striking out tirelessly against imperialism. From all over the world we have to learn lessons which events afford. Lumumba’s murder should be a lesson for all of us.”

— Che Guevara, in 1964

* U.S. imperialism would similarly help murder Che 3 years later.

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[RELEVANT IMAGES]

gal_cheguevara_4

Che with his bodyguard Pombo, after Guevara’s wedding in 1959

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pombo2

Che beside Pombo in Bolivia in 1966

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pombo

Pombo in 2008

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tumblr_lv6pxacLB31qgfbgio1_500

Che meeting with Kwame Nkrumah and Kojo Botsio in Ghana in 1965

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Che visita escritorio do MPLA146

Che visiting Agostinho Neto of the MPLA in Angola in 1965

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123

Che in disguise on his way to Tanzania in 1965

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254180447_c767decf1f

Che aiding Congolese national liberation fighters in 1965

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tumblr_mg0m47VAjO1r84pkto1_500

Che in Mozambique offering to assist the FRELIMO against the Portuguese

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Freddy

Che’s Congolese Swahili translator Freddy Ilanga, he went on to be a paediatric neurosurgeon in Cuba

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CheinBolivia1

Che in Bolivia with indigenous Indian children in 1967, shortly before his capture & execution

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Pionniers_de_la_révolution

Children “Pioneers” of the Revolution in Burkina Faso donned starred berets honoring Guevara in 1987

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[TO CONCLUDE]

Only to someone completely uninformed, could Che –(a man who fought shoulder to shoulder with African national liberationists against white supremacist South African mercenaries of Apartheid, and later died while attempting to galvanize dark-skinned Bolivian Indians to revolution against a U.S.-backed dictatorship)– be seen as “racist” for a single diary paragraph he wrote in his youth 15 years earlier.

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“Che Guevara taught us we could dare to have confidence in ourselves, confidence in our abilities. He instilled in us the conviction that struggle is our only recourse. He, was a citizen of the free world that together we are in the process of building. That is why we say that Che Guevara is also African and Burkinabe.”

— Thomas Sankara, commonly referred to as ‘Africa’s Che Guevara’

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“The death of Che Guevara places a responsibility on all revolutionaries of the World to redouble their decision to fight on to the final defeat of Imperialism. That is why in essence Che Guevara is not dead, his ideas are with us.”

— Stokely Carmichael (aka Kwame Ture), ‘Black Power’ leader, 1967

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P.S. If you want a dose of rich irony, nearly all of the people who criticize Che for his supposed imaginary racism, also then support his arch-nemesis the CIA, i.e. the same group who made the racist remark in their February 13, 1958 declassified ‘biographical and personality report’ that Guevara was “quite well read”, while adding in apparent amazement that “Che is fairly intellectual for a Latino.”

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Links to primary web sources for selected quotes (others are books):

{1} http://db.nelsonmandela.org/speeches/pub_view.asp?pg=item&ItemID=NMS1526

{2} http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4522526.stm

{3} http://www.themilitant.com/2000/6401/640158.html

{4} http://www.marxists.org/archive/guevara/1961/08/08.htm

{5} http://www.marxists.org/archive/guevara/1964/12/11.htm

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Join the conversation! 13 Comments

  1. Thanks for this post. It was very informative. There’s a lot of misinformation about Che floating around on the internet. This post clears up a lot of misconception. Kudos!

    Reply
  2. Wow, amazing. Couldn’t have wrote this any better

    Reply
  3. Government and leaders like to destroy people who held great vision and when he lived. He was dangerous to the nations who were based on war and wealth. To people who study true history. We see a brave man who lived and died for his dreams. This is why 40 plus years later. His thoughts and words are as powerful as when he was alive. Thank you for the information.

    Reply
  4. Educative article you have got here…Che and Malcom X are my heroes…Two men who spoke their mind and galvanized support for their course…Both killed by forces that never wanted justice or equality to be. It is expected that both will be villified, because unlike MLK, they were more confrontational, more radical.

    Che was never a racist, on his mission in Africa, Che was given a number name which in native Congolesse language means Number 2…meaning that he was under someone…and that person, the number one was a black cuban.

    The Congolesses said about this; that was the first time we have ever seen a white man beneath a black man.

    He was a complete revolutionarie, and he died a revolutionarie.
    Viva Revolutionarie…(Though peaceful means should be explioted fully to the end before arms struggle can be justified)

    Reply
  5. I sincerely treasure you drafting this valuable write-up. This is the
    year needed for Ghana to develop, come together and
    then take a look at the way we can keep moving our
    country in the right direction and recover from the present challenges.
    Thank you for such insightful blog.

    Reply
  6. What about his notorious sexism and cis machismo? What about the white cis males who strut around thinking they are the leaders of the liberation struggle? Thinking they know SO much more than those who have tasted the pear? Mao says to know the pear, you must taste it. These white cis males have not tasted real oppression. They need to listen and learn.

    What about the white cis male culture within the activist community? There is a blind spot in this analysis. It is fine to point out Che’s achievements – but to only do this is very simplistic cult of personality type stuff. We should not be afraid to point out how cis males, especially white cis males, manarchists and brocialists, ALWAYS try to hide behind people of color and their struggles as a way to hide their own oppressive behavior. Do we really need more cis males, especially white cis males, trying to run the show? Anti-imperialism must also be revolutionary or it is just another form of the system of domination. To be revolutionary means to not be afraid to challenge all oppression, even unconscious oppression. We should have more womyn icons and queer heroes in our pantheon. We need HERstory, not simply history and cistory.

    Reply
    • With the correct political line on gender in command, comes the break in the stranglehold of patriarchal individuals on the revolutionary movement inside the belly of the beast.

      Putting politics in command, rather than navel-gazing, is key here.

      Reply
  7. I knew he wasn’t a racist! Just typical Right-wing, pro-capitalist propaganda. Thank-you anti-imperalism.com for pointing out the truth and the facts against this ridiculous right-wing lie! Cheers! :)

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    • Yes the pictures prove without a doubt how he felt forget what he wrote or said pictures are worth a thousand words

      Reply
  8. Interesting. What happened to issue #2 of this series on debunking lies about Che Guevara? I would like to read more.

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  9. i too find it disturbing that the left has obscured the real contribution of gender outlaws to the revolutionary struggle. I am reminded of the busts of marx-engels-lenin-stalin-mao.. and che aswell. It is as though our history does not matter. The cis-het-pat colonizes the way we understand history so that even oppositional history instills at the subconscious level the ideology that only cis-het men are leaders. No thinking revolutionary really could believe in this day and age that gender outlaws have made real contributions to the struggle and are even more capable of leadership than cis-het-males. We need to bring forward the revolutionary history of gender outlaws. We need our own symbols of resistance. We need to stop shoving this cis-het-pat narrative onto the masses. I am open to AI.com on this but there are other organizations that seem to be challenging the cis-het-pat paradigm more effectively. We know there is a long history of non-binaries and two-spirit resistance. It is not just about cis-het men. There is a real issue here that we need to address ad in a big way. From a dialectical deconstructionist p.o.v. the more you try to suppress our narrative, the more it will come back to haunt and then overturn your own set of logo-phallocentric binaries. This is why I have been contemplating the whole concept of “trandsgression” and the network of semiotic cascades that are invoked in the very notion.

    Reply
    • Good points. Would be interested in hearing which organizations you think are doing a better job at this?

      Reply
  10. Advancing this deconsturctionist provocation is something I have desired for a long time but never felt the will power to do so. I feel a kind of satisfaction that we have arrived at a similar ideological space.

    Revolutionaries recognize that there is a suppressed history sometimes referred to provocatively as herstory – could also be queerstory or transtory. We know that the c.h.p. gods have been presented as the motive force in history as the revisionist great man theories. We know that simple statistics shows there is a population excluded from this history. We know the winners write history in both capitalism and socialism. Walk a step more. The men write history as an ideological tool to control the past gives them power over the present and future. Wimmin and nonbinaries are left out even though statistically they must account for at least some of the top leadership of past revolutions. No conspiracy theory here – the patriarchy is literally everywhere. It is something that cannot be escaped without destroying. What we need is a re-inscription of the revolutionary narrative that begins to shed light on those excluded and marginalized. Was Chiang Ching just Mao’s so-called spouse as we are taught by the second-system patriarchists or was she something more? Let’s evaluate this. She was to lead China when Mao died so she had to have been much more than Mao. Most people say Mao pulled her strings but perhaps she was pulling Mao’s all along all the way back to the beginning. Isn’t that what the revisionists claimed. Could a case be made that she was the leading force of the Chinese revolution from the very beginning but has been obscured by c.h.p.? Now go down the rabbit hole even deeper. If there can be whole people demoted and sidelined then why not erase whole leaders? We know Stalin erased people this way. And what is more dangerous to the c.h.p. than an gender outlaw proletarian leader? The whole narration has to be understood as a construct from the standpoint of the oppressed. The numbers do not lie so it must be the narration.

    I plan to elaborate on this research programme when I do my senior thesis – I would be honored if people could check my work It may seem fantastic but I assure you. There is a vanishing effect that because it goes unnoticed is almost impossible to combat except by leaving the dominant paradigm.

    Reply

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About Cuervo Rojo

Hasta la Victoria Siempre

Latest Posts By Cuervo Rojo

    Category

    Africa, History, Imperialism, Latin America, Militarism, National Liberation, Revolution, Revolutionary Foreign Policy, Socialism

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