Ernesto "Che" Guevara (14 June 1928 – 9 October 1967), commonly known as Che Guevara, El Che, or simply Che, was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, politician, author, physician, military theorist, and guerrilla leader during the Cuban revolution. Following his execution in Bolivia, he became both a stylised countercultural icon and symbol of rebellion for leftist movements worldwide.
- I knew that the moment the great governing spirit strikes the blow to divide all humanity into just two opposing factions, I would be on the side of the common people.
- As quoted in Becoming Che : Guevara's Second and Final Trip through Latin America (2005) by Carlos "Calica" Ferrer, as translated by Sarah L. Smith (2006), p. 170
- If you tremble with indignation at every injustice, then you are a comrade of mine.
- As quoted in The Quotable Rebel : Political Quotations for Dangerous Times (2005) by Teishan Latner, p. 112
- Real revolutionaries adorn themselves on the inside, not on the surface.
- As quoted in Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life (2010) by John Lee Anderson, p. 178
- We cannot be sure of having something to live for unless we are willing to die for it.
- As quoted in Wise Guys : Brilliant Thoughts and Big Talk from Real Men (2005) by Allan Zullo, p. 36
- I am not a liberator. Liberators do not exist. It exists when people liberate themselves.
- Statement in Mexico (1958); as quoted in Kaplan AP World History 2005 (2004) edited by the Kaplan staff, p. 240
- The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall.
- Intercontinental Press (Vol. 3 January-April 1965); also, in Che Guevara speaks: Selected Speeches and Writings (1967)
- Silence is argument carried out by other means.
- As quoted in Secrets to a Richer Life: Illuminating Wisdom from the Human Family on the 12 Ultimate Questions (2005) by Earl Ernest Guile
- Words that do not match deeds are unimportant.
- As quoted in Seeds of Revolution: A Collection of Axioms, Passages and Proverbs, Volume 1 (2009) by Iam A. Freeman
- Cruel leaders are replaced only to have new leaders turn cruel!
- As quoted in An American Savage (2003) by J. Flash (Jeff Flashinski), p. 144
- One has to grow hard but without ever losing tenderness.
- As quoted in Essential Care : An Ethics of Human Nature (2008) by Leonardo Boff, p. 82
- Calica keeps cursing the filth and, whenever he treads on one of the innumerable turds lining the streets, he looks at his dirty shoes instead of at the sky or a cathedral outlined in space. He does not smell the intangible and evocative matter of which Cuzco is made, but only the odor of stew and excrement. It's a question of temperament.
- Letter to his mother from Cuzco, Peru (22 August 1953); as quoted in "Making of a Marxist" in The Guardian (16 June 2001)
- Along the way, I had the opportunity to pass through the dominions of the United Fruit, convincing me once again of just how terrible these capitalist octopuses are. I have sworn before a picture of the old and mourned comrade Stalin that I won't rest until I see these capitalist octopuses annihilated.
- I am not Christ or a philanthropist, old lady, I am all the contrary of a Christ.... I fight for the things I believe in, with all the weapons at my disposal and try to leave the other man dead so that I don't get nailed to a cross or any other place.
- The situation was uncomfortable for the people and for [Eutimio], so I ended the problem giving him a shot with a .32 pistol in the right side of the brain, with exit orifice in the right temporal [lobe]. He gasped for a little while and was dead. Upon proceeding to remove his belongings I couldn't get off the watch tied by a chain to his belt, and then he told me in a steady voice farther away than fear: "Yank it off, boy, what does it matter." I did so and his possessions were now mine.
- What are our primary goals? Our greatest goals? The great lines we must follow? From the political point of view, the first thing we want is to be masters of our own destiny, a country free from foreign interference, a country that seeks out its own system of development.
- As quoted in Venceremos! The Speeches and Writings of Ernesto Che Guevara (1968) by John Gerassi, p. 98
- If it is an element of liberation for Latin America, I believe that it should have demonstrated that. Until now, I have not been aware of any such demonstration. The IMF performs an entirely different function: precisely that of ensuring that capital based outside of Latin America controls all of Latin America.
- Regarding the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in an interview for Radio Rivadavia of Argentina (3 November 1959)
- The interests of the IMF represent the big international interests that today seem to be established and concentrated in Wall Street.
- Regarding the IMF, in an interview for Radio Rivadavia of Argentina (3 November 1959)
- The government of the United States represents, as its army also does, the finances of the United States. But these finances do not represent the North American people; they represent a small group of financiers, the owners of all the big enterprises... who also exploit the North American people. Clearly they do not exploit them in the same manner that they exploit us, the human beings of inferior races... for we have not had the good fortune of being born from blond, Anglo-Saxon parents. But they do exploit and divide them, they too are divided into blacks and whites, and they too are divided into men and women, union and non-union, employed and unemployed.
- As quoted in Che Guevara Speaks: Selected Speeches and Writings (1968), by George Lavan, p. 17
- What is our ideology? If l were asked whether our revolution is Communist, I would define it as Marxist. Our revolution has discovered by its methods the paths that Marx pointed out.
- As quoted in Cuba: A Dissenting Report (1960) by Samuel Shapiro, New Republic
- I am not interested in dry economic socialism. We are fighting against misery, but we are also fighting against alienation. One of the fundamental objectives of Marxism is to remove interest, the factor of individual interest, and gain, from people's psychological motivations. Marx was preoccupied both with economic factors and with their repercussions on the spirit. If communism isn't interested in this too, it may be a method of distributing goods, but it will never be a revolutionary way of life.
- As quoted in The Many Faces of Socialism Comparative Sociology and Politics (1983) by Paul Hollander, p. 224, ISBN 0887387403
- The victory of the Cuban Revolution will be a tangible demonstration before all the Americas that peoples are capable of rising up, that they can rise up by themselves under the very fangs of the monster.
- As quoted in Che Guevara Speaks: Selected Speeches and Writings (1968), by George Lavan, p. 24
- More and more violently, with the impotent rage of the wild beast, who wishes to maintain in the backyards of all her colonial possession, each and every sinecure upon which the American way of life was erected. Let them take heed, those sons of the Pentagon and of North American monopolies who until now have paraded their arrogance up down the lands of America... Cuba is no longer a solitary island... defended only by the vulnerable breasts of her sons... Cuba is now, in addition, a proud Caribbean island defended by the missiles of the greatest military power in history.
- As quoted in Venceremos! The Speeches and Writings of Ernesto Che Guevara (1968) by John Gerassi, p. 109-110
- If they attack, we shall fight to the end. If the rockets had remained, we would have used them all and directed them against the very heart of the United States, including New York, in our defense against aggression. But we haven’t got them, so we shall fight with what we’ve got.
- Statement in an interview with a reporter for the London Daily Worker (November 1962), as quoted in Companero: The Life and Death of Che Guevara (1998), by Jorge G. Castaneda, p. 231, 1st Vintage Books ISBN 0679759409
Speech to University students (1959)
- Speech to University students (17 October 1959).
- Our universities produced lawyers and doctors for the old social system, but did not create enough agricultural extension teachers, agronomists, chemists, or physicists. In fact, we do not even have mathematicians.
- We believe that the state is capable of understanding the needs of the nation; as such, then, the state must participate in the administration and direction of the university.
- The university cannot be an ivory tower, far away from the society, removed from the practical accomplishments of the Revolution. If such an attitude is maintained, the university will continue giving our society lawyers that we do not need.
- A number of students denounce state intervention and the loss of university autonomy. This student sector reflects its class background while forgetting its revolutionary obligation. This sector has not realized that it has an obligation to workers and peasants. Our workers and peasants died beside the students in order to attain power.
- Great strategic links are being developed abroad to destroy our Revolution. Those forces are trying to attract all those who have been hurt by the Revolution. We do not refer to the embezzlers, criminals, or the members of the old government; we are thinking of those who have remained on the margin of this revolutionary process, those who have lost economically but support the Revolution in a limited way.
- The university, vanguard of our struggling people, cannot become a backward element, but it would become so if the university did not incorporate itself into the great plans of the Revolution.
Speech at the University of Las Villas (1959)
- Speech to the University of Las Villas (28 December 1959).
- How could I as an individual, Ernesto Guevara, accept the degree of Doctor Honoris Causa conferred by the School of Education, since the only education I have imparted has been that of guerrilla camps, harsh words, and fierce example? And I believe such things certainly cannot be transformed into a cap and gown. That is why I continue to wear my Rebel Army uniform.
- 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.
- I would say that in order to reach the people you must feel as if you are part of the people. You must know what the people want, what they need, and what they feel. You must do a little self-analysis, study the university's statistics, and ask how many workers, how many peasants, how many men who make their living by their sweat eight hours a day are here in this university.
- This professor standing before you was once a doctor, and by force of circumstance was obliged to take up arms, and after two years graduated as a guerrilla commander.
- The walls of the educational system must come down. Education should not be a privilege, so the children of those who have money can study. Education should be the daily bread of the people of Cuba.
- I began the ups and downs of my career as a university student, a member of the middle class, a doctor who shared the same horizons, the same youthful aspirations you have. In the course of the struggle, however, I changed and became convinced of the imperative need for revolution, and of the great justice of the people's cause.
Guerrilla Warfare (1960)
- Camilo (Cienfuegos) was the subject of a thousand anecdotes; he created them naturally wherever he went. To his ease of manner, always appreciated by the people, he added a personality that naturally and almost unconsciously put the stamp of Camilo on everything connected with him. Few men have succeeded in leaving on every action such a distinctive personal mark. As Fidel has said, he did not have culture from books; he had the natural intelligence of the people, who had chosen him out of thousands for a privileged position on account of the audacity of his blows, his tenacity, his intelligence, and unequalled devotion. Camilo practiced loyalty like a religion.
- Dedication, to Camilo Cienfuegos
- When forces of oppression come to maintain themselves in power against established law, peace is considered already broken.
- Ch. 1 : General Principles of Guerrilla Warfare
- Where a government has come into power through some form of popular vote, fraudulent or not, and maintains at least an appearance of constitutional legality, the guerrilla outbreak cannot be promoted, since the possibilities of peaceful struggle have not yet been exhausted.
- Ch. 1 : General Principles of Guerrilla Warfare
- The guerrilla fighter needs full help from the people of the area. This is an indispensable condition.
- Ch. 1 : General Principles of Guerrilla Warfare
- Why does the guerrilla fighter fight? We must come to the inevitable conclusion that the guerrilla fighter is a social reformer, that he takes up arms responding to the angry protest of the people against their oppressors, and that he fights in order to change the social system that keeps all his unarmed brothers in ignominy and misery.
- Ch. 1 : General Principles of Guerrilla Warfare
- War is always a struggle in which each contender tries to annihilate the other. Besides using force, they will have recourse to all possible tricks and stratagems to achieve the goal.
- Ch. 1 : General Principles of Guerrilla Warfare
On Revolutionary Medicine (1960)
- "On Revolutionary Medicine", speech delivered to the Cuban Militia (16 August 1960).
- After graduation, due to special circumstances and perhaps also to my character, I began to travel throughout America, and I became acquainted with all of it. Except for Haiti and Santo Domingo, I have visited, to some extent, all the other Latin American countries. Because of the circumstances in which I traveled, first as a student and later as a doctor, I came into close contact with poverty, hunger and disease; with the inability to treat a child because of lack of money; with the stupefaction provoked by the continual hunger and punishment, to the point that a father can accept the loss of a son as an unimportant accident, as occurs often in the downtrodden classes of our American homeland. And I began to realize at that time that there were things that were almost as important to me as becoming famous for making a significant contribution to medical science: I wanted to help those people.
- The desire to sacrifice an entire lifetime to the noblest of ideals serves no purpose if one works alone.
- Our youth must always be free, discussing and exchanging ideas concerned with what is happening throughout the entire world.
- Everything we thought and felt in that past period ought to be deposited in an archive, and a new type of human being created.
- The task of educating and feeding youngsters, the task of educating the army, the task of distributing the lands of the former absentee landlords to those who laboured every day upon that same land without receiving its benefits, are accomplishments of social medicine.
- In the future individualism ought to be the efficient utilization of the whole individual for the absolute benefit of a collectivity.
- We brought ten thousand head of cattle to the Sierra one day and said to the peasants, simply, "Eat". And the peasants, for the first time in years and years, some for the first time in their lives, ate beef.
- The life of a single human being is worth a million times more than all the property of the richest man on earth.
- Far more important than a good remuneration is the pride of serving one's neighbor.
- Much more definitive and much more lasting than all the gold that one can accumulate is the gratitude of a people.
- We should not go to the people and say, "Here we are. We come to give you the charity of our presence, to teach you our science, to show you your errors, your lack of culture, your ignorance of elementary things." We should go instead with an inquiring mind and a humble spirit to learn at that great source of wisdom that is the people.
- Our enemy, and the enemy of all America, is the monopolistic government of the United States of America.
Notes on the Cuban Revolution (1960)
- When asked whether or not we are Marxists, our position is the same as that of a physicist or a biologist when asked if he is a "Newtonian," or if he is a "Pasteurian". There are truths so evident, so much a part of people's knowledge, that it is now useless to discuss them.
- One ought to be "Marxist' with the same naturalness with which one is "Newtonian" in physics, or "Pasteurian" in biology, considering that if facts determine new concepts, these new concepts will never divest themselves of that portion of truth possessed by the older concepts they have outdated.
- The merit of Marx is that he suddenly produces a qualitative change in the history of social thought. He interprets history, understands its dynamic, predicts the future, but in addition to predicting it (which would satisfy his scientific obligation), he expresses a revolutionary concept: the world must not only be interpreted, it must be transformed. Man ceases to be the slave and tool of his environment and converts himself into the architect of his own destiny.
- At that moment Marx puts himself in a position where he becomes the necessary target of all who have a special interest in maintaining the old-similar to Democritus before him, whose work was burned by Plato and his disciples, the ideologues of Athenian slave aristocracy. Beginning with the revolutionary Marx, a political group with concrete ideas establishes itself. Basing itself on the giants, Marx and Engels, and developing through successive steps with personalities like Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse-tung and the new Soviet and Chinese rulers, it establishes a body of doctrine and, let us say, examples to follow.
- The Cuban Revolution takes up Marx at the point where he himself left science to shoulder his revolutionary rifle. And it takes him up at that point, not in a revisionist spirit, of struggling against that which follows Marx, of reviving "pure" Marx, but simply because up to that point Marx, the scientist, placed himself outside of the history he studied and predicted. From then on Marx, the revolutionary, could fight within history.
- We, practical revolutionaries, initiating our own struggle, simply fulfill laws foreseen by Marx, the scientist. We are simply adjusting ourselves to the predictions of the scientific Marx as we travel this road of rebellion, struggling against the old structure of power, supporting ourselves in the people for the destruction of this structure, and having the happiness of this people as the basis of our struggle.
- The enemy soldier in the Cuban example, which we are now considering, is the junior partner of the dictator; he is the man who gets the last crumbs left to him in a long line of profiteers that begins in Wall Street and ends with him. He is disposed to defend his privileges, but he is disposed to defend them only to the degree that they are important to him. His salary and pension are worth some suffering and some dangers, but they are never worth his life; if the price of maintaining them will cost it, he is better off giving them up, that is to say, withdrawing from the face of guerrilla danger.
Mobilising for Invasion (1961)
- "Mobilising the Masses for the Invasion" speech given to sugar workers in Santa Clara, Cuba 20 days before the Bay of Pigs Invasion (28 March 1961)
- We have to remind ourselves of this at every moment: that we are in a war, a cold war as they call it; 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 — are face to face and aware that one of them is going to end up dead in the fight.
- The victory of the Cuban Revolution will be a tangible demonstration before all the Americas that peoples are capable of rising up, that they can rise up by themselves right under the very fangs of the monster.
Cuba as Vanguard (1961)
- "Cuba: Historical exception or vanguard in the anticolonial struggle?" speech (9 April 1961)
- On various occasions emissaries of the U.S. State Department came, disguised as reporters, to investigate our rustic revolution, yet they never found any trace of imminent danger. By the time the imperialists wanted to react — when they discovered that the group of inexperienced young men marching in triumph through the streets of Havana had a clear awareness of their political duty and an iron determination to carry out that duty — it was already too late.
- The first liberating revolutions never destroyed the large landholding powers that always constituted a reactionary force and upheld the principle of servitude on the land.
- In most countries the large landholders realized they couldn't survive alone and promptly entered into alliances with the monopolies — the strongest and most ruthless oppressors of the Latin American peoples. U.S. capital arrived on the scene to exploit the virgin lands and later carried off, unnoticed, all the funds so “generously” given, plus several times the amount originally invested in the "beneficiary" country.
- We, politely referred to as "underdeveloped," in truth are colonial, semi-colonial or dependent countries. We are countries whose economies have been distorted by imperialism, which has abnormally developed those branches of industry or agriculture needed to complement its complex economy. “Underdevelopment,” or distorted development, brings a dangerous specialization in raw materials, inherent in which is the threat of hunger for all our peoples. We, the “underdeveloped,” are also those with the single crop, the single product, the single market. A single product whose uncertain sale depends on a single market imposing and fixing conditions. That is the great formula for imperialist economic domination.
- The people are weary of being oppressed, persecuted, exploited to the maximum. They are weary of the wretched selling of their labor-power day after day — faced with the fear of joining the enormous mass of unemployed — so that the greatest profit can be wrung from each human body, profit later squandered in the orgies of the masters of capital.
- The United States hastens the delivery of arms to the puppet governments they see as being increasingly threatened; it makes them sign pacts of dependence to legally facilitate the shipment of instruments of repression and death and of troops to use them.
On Growth and Imperialism (1961)
- "Economics Cannot be Separated from Politics" speech to the ministerial meeting of the Inter-American Economic and Social Council (CIES), in Punta del Este, Uruguay (8 August 1961)
- Cuba hopes that her children will see a better future, and that victory will not have to be won at the cost of millions of human lives destroyed by the atomic bomb.
- Democracy is not compatible with financial oligarchy, with discrimination against Blacks and outrages by the Ku Klux Klan, or with the persecution that drove scientists like Oppenheimer from their posts, deprived the world for years of the marvelous voice of Paul Robeson, held prisoner in his own country, and sent the Rosenberg's to their deaths against the protests of a shocked world, including the appeals of many governments and of Pope Pius XII.
- Democracy cannot consist solely of elections that are nearly always fictitious and managed by rich landowners and professional politicians.
On the Bay of Pigs Invasion (1961)
- A note passed on to one of U.S. President John F. Kennedy's secretaries at the Organization of the American States conference in Uruguay (August 1961)
- Thanks for Playa Girón. Before the invasion, the (Cuban) revolution was weak. Now it's stronger than ever.
Tactics and Strategy of the Latin American Revolution (1962)
- "Tactics and Strategy of the Latin American Revolution" (October, 1962)
- Power is the sine qua non strategic objective of the revolutionary forces, and everything must be subordinated to this basic endeavor. But the taking of power, in this world polarized by two forces of extreme disparity and absolutely incompatible in interests, cannot be limited to the boundaries of a single geographic or social unit. The seizure of power is a worldwide objective of the revolutionary forces. To conquer the future is the strategic element of revolution; freezing the present is the counterstrategy motivating the forces of world reaction today, for they are on the defensive.
- Cuba, for example, is a vanguard outpost, an outpost which overlooks the extremely broad stretches of the economically distorted world of Latin America. Cuba's example is a beacon, a guiding light for all the peoples of America.
- Moral missiles are such a devastatingly effective weapon that they have become the most important element in determining Cuba's value.
- Is it possible or not, given the present conditions in our continent, to achieve it (socialist power, that is) by peaceful means? We emphatically answer that, in the great majority of cases, this is not possible. The most that could be achieved would be the formal takeover of the bourgeois superstructure of power and the transition to socialism of that government which, under the established bourgeois legal system, having achieved formal power will still have to wage a very violent struggle against all who attempt, in one way or another, to check its progress toward new social structures.
- Cuba and Algeria are the most recent examples of the effects of armed struggle on the development of social transformation. If we conclude that the possibility of the peaceful road is almost nonexistent in the Americas, we can point out that it is very probable that the outcome of victorious revolutions in this area of the world will produce regimes of a socialist structure. Rivers of blood will flow before this is achieved... The blood of the people is our most sacred treasure, but it must be used in order to save more blood in the future.
- The most submissive countries and consequently, the most cynical, talk about the threat of Cuban subversion, and they are right. The greatest threat of the Cuban revolution is its own example, its revolutionary ideas, the fact that the government has been able to increase the combativity of the people, led by a leader of world stature, to heights seldom equaled in history. Here is the electrifying example of a people prepared to suffer nuclear immolation so that its ashes may serve as a foundation for new societies. When an agreement was reached by which the atomic missiles were removed, without asking our people, we were not relieved or thankful for the truce; instead we denounced the move with our own voice. We have demonstrated our firm stand, our own position, our decision to fight, even if alone, against all dangers and against the atomic menace of Yankee imperialism.
- We do assert, however, that we must follow the road of liberation even though it may cost millions of nuclear war victims. In the struggle to death between two systems we cannot think of anything but the final victory of socialism or its relapse as a consequence of the nuclear victory of imperialist aggression.
Method of Guerrilla Warfare (1963)
- "Guerrilla Warfare: A Method " (written September 1963)
- Guerrilla warfare is a people's warfare; an attempt to carry out this type of war without the population's support is a prelude to inevitable disaster.
- The guerrilla is supported by the peasant and worker masses of the region and of the whole territory in which it acts. Without these prerequisites, guerrilla warfare is not possible.
- Revolution, in history, is like the doctor assisting at the birth of a new life, who will not use forceps unless necessary, but who will use them unhesitatingly every time labor requires them. It is a labor bringing the hope of a better life to the enslaved and exploited masses.
- We should not allow the word "democracy" to be utilized apologetically to represent the dictatorship of the exploiting classes.
- Violence is not the monopoly of the exploiters and as such the exploited can use it too and, moreover, ought to use it when the moment arrives.
- The dictatorship tries to function without resorting to force so we must try to oblige it to do so, thereby unmasking its true nature as the dictatorship of the reactionary social classes.
People's War, People's Army (1964)
- "People's War, People's Army" an explanation by Guevara of why he believed the Vietnamese were able to achieve victory over the French (1964)
- Mass struggle was utilized throughout the war by the Vietnamese communist party. It was used, first of all, because guerrilla warfare is one expression of the mass struggle. One cannot conceive of guerrilla war when it is isolated from the people. The guerrilla group is the numerically inferior vanguard of the great majority of the people, who have no weapons but express themselves through the vanguard.
- The people did not talk about reciprocal concessions but demanded liberties and guarantees, which brought inevitably in many sectors a crueler war than the French would have waged otherwise.
- Marxism was applied according to the concrete historical situation of Vietnam and because of the guiding role of the vanguard party, faithful to its people and consequently to its doctrine, a resounding victory was achieved over the (French) imperialists.
- The characteristics of the struggle, in which territory had to be given to the enemy and many years had to pass in order to achieve final victory, with fluctuations, ebb and flow, was that of a protracted war. During the entire struggle one could say that the front lines were where the enemy was. At a given moment, the enemy occupied almost the entire territory and the front was spread to wherever the enemy was. Later the lines of combat were delimited and a main front was established. But the enemy's rear guard constituted another front; it was a total war and the colonialists were never able to mobilize their forces with ease against the liberated zones. The slogan "dynamism, initiative, mobility, and quick decision in new situations" is in synthesis the guerrilla tactic. These few words expressed the tremendously difficult art of popular war.
On Development (1964)
- "On Development" Speech delivered at the plenary session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in Geneva, Switzerland (25 March 1964)
- Justice remains the tool of a few powerful interests; legal interpretations will continue to be made to suit the convenience of the oppressor powers.
- If, on the other hand, the groups of underdeveloped countries, lured by the siren song of the vested interests of the developed powers which exploit their backwardness, contend futilely among themselves for the crumbs from the tables of the world's mighty, and break the ranks of numerically superior forces … our efforts will have been to no avail.
- The only way to solve the problems now besetting mankind is to eliminate completely the exploitation of dependent countries by developed capitalist countries, with all the consequences that this implies.
- The inflow of capital from the developed countries is the prerequisite for the establishment of economic dependence. This inflow takes various forms: loans granted on onerous terms; investments that place a given country in the power of the investors; almost total technological subordination of the dependent country to the developed country; control of a country's foreign trade by the big international monopolies; and in extreme cases, the use of force as an economic weapon in support of the other forms of exploitation.
- The International Monetary Fund is the watchdog of the dollar in the capitalist camp.
- The world is hungry but lacks the money to buy food; and paradoxically, in the underdeveloped world, in the world of the hungry, possible ways of expanding food production are discouraged in order to keep prices up, in order to be able to eat. This is the inexorable law of the philosophy of plunder, which must cease to be the rule in relations between peoples.
- And the imperialists? Will they sit with their arms crossed? No! The system they practice is the cause of the evils from which we are suffering, but they will try to obscure the facts with spurious allegations, of which they are masters.
- The feeling of revolt will grow stronger every day among the peoples subjected to various degrees of exploitation, and they will take up arms to gain by force the rights which reason alone has not won them.
The Cuban Economy (1964)
- "The Cuban Economy" (October, 1964)
- The natural advantages of the cultivation of sugar in Cuba are obvious, but the predominant fact is that Cuba was developed as a sugar factory of the United States.
- North American banks and capitalists soon controlled the commercial exploitation of sugar and, furthermore, a good share of the industrial output of the land. In this way, a monopolistic control was established by U.S. interests in all aspects of a sugar production, which soon became the predominant factor in our foreign trade due to the rapidly developing monoproductive characteristics of the country.
- Cuba became the sugar-producing and-exporting country par excellence; and if she did not develop even further in this respect, the reason is to be found in the capitalist contradictions which put a limit to a continuous expansion of the Cuban sugar industry, which depended almost entirely on North American capital.
- The North American government used the quota system on imports of Cuban sugar not only to protect her own sugar industry, as demanded by her own producers, but also to make possible the unrestricted introduction into our country of North American manufactured goods.
- The US quota system meant stagnation for our sugar production [...] the preferential treatment given to Cuban sugar by the quota also meant that no other export crops could compete with it on an economic basis. Consequently, the only two activities of our agriculture were cultivation of sugar cane and the breeding of low-quality cattle on pastures which at the same time served as reserve areas for the sugar plantation owners.
Address to the United Nations (1964)
- "Colonialism is Doomed" speech to the 19th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York City (11 December 1964). Guevara quoted earlier statements of Fidel Castro extensively in this speech, and many of these are often misattributed to him.
- The final hour of colonialism has struck, and millions of inhabitants of Africa, Asia and Latin America rise to meet a new life and demand their unrestricted right to self-determination.
- We should like to see this Assembly shake itself out of complacency and move forward. We should like to see the committees begin their work and not stop at the first confrontation. Imperialism wishes to convert this meeting into a pointless oratorical tournament, instead of solving the grave problems of the world. We must prevent their doing so.
- Peaceful coexistence cannot be limited to the powerful countries if we want to ensure world peace. Peaceful coexistence must be exercised among all states, regardless of size, regardless of the previous historical relations that linked them, and regardless of the problems that may arise among some of them at a given moment.
- As Marxists we have maintained that peaceful coexistence among nations does not encompass coexistence between the exploiters and the exploited, between the oppressors and the oppressed.
- 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?
- Our free eyes open now on new horizons and can see what yesterday, in our condition as colonial slaves, we could not observe: that “Western Civilization” disguises behind its showy facade a picture of hyenas and jackals … A carnivorous animal that feeds on unarmed peoples.
- 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? The government of the United States is not the champion of freedom, but rather the perpetrator of exploitation and oppression against the peoples of the world and against a large part of its own population.
- This epic before us is going to be written by the hungry Indian masses, the peasants without land, the exploited workers. It is going to be written by the progressive masses, the honest and brilliant intellectuals, who so greatly abound in our suffering Latin American lands. Struggles of masses and ideas. An epic that will be carried forward by our peoples, mistreated and scorned by imperialism; our people, unreckoned with until today, who are now beginning to shake off their slumber. Imperialism considered us a weak and submissive flock; and now it begins to be terrified of that flock; a gigantic flock of 200 million Latin Americans in whom Yankee monopoly capitalism now sees its gravediggers.
- Now in the mountains and fields of America, on its flatlands and in its jungles, in the wilderness or in the traffic of cities, on the banks of its great oceans or rivers, this world is beginning to tremble. Anxious hands are stretched forth, ready to die for what is theirs, to win those rights that were laughed at by one and all for 500 years.
Afro-Asian Conference (1965)
- "At the Afro-Asian Conference in Algeria" speech to the Second Economic Seminar of Afro-Asian Solidarity in Algiers, Algeria (24 February 1965)
- The struggle against imperialism, for liberation from colonial or neocolonial shackles, which is being carried out by means of political weapons, arms, or a combination of the two, is not separate from the struggle against backwardness and poverty. Both are stages on the same road leading toward the creation of a new society of justice and plenty.
- Ever since monopoly capital took over the world, it has kept the greater part of humanity in poverty, dividing all the profits among the group of the most powerful countries. The standard of living in those countries is based on the extreme poverty of our countries. To raise the living standards of the underdeveloped nations, therefore, we must fight against imperialism. And each time a country is torn away from the imperialist tree, it is not only a partial battle won against the main enemy but it also contributes to the real weakening of that enemy, and is one more step toward the final victory.
- There are no borders in this struggle to the death. We cannot be indifferent to what happens anywhere in the world, because a victory by any country over imperialism is our victory, just as any country's defeat is a defeat for all of us.
- Each time a country is freed, we say, it is a defeat for the world imperialist system, but we must agree that real liberation or breaking away from the imperialist system is not achieved by the mere act of proclaiming independence or winning an armed victory in a revolution. Freedom is achieved when imperialist economic domination over a people is brought to an end.
- Imperialism has been defeated in many partial battles. But it remains a considerable force in the world, and we cannot expect its final defeat save through effort and sacrifice on the part of us all.
- The socialist countries must help pay for the development of countries now starting out on the road to liberation.
- Socialism cannot exist without a change in consciousness resulting in a new fraternal attitude toward humanity, both at an individual level, within the societies where socialism is being built or has been built, and on a world scale, with regard to all peoples suffering from imperialist oppression.
- How can it be "mutually beneficial" to sell at world market prices the raw materials that cost the underdeveloped countries immeasurable sweat and suffering, and to buy at world market prices the machinery produced in today's big automated factories?
- We must agree that the socialist countries are, in a certain way, accomplices of imperialist exploitation … The socialist countries have the moral duty to put an end to their tacit complicity with the exploiting countries of the West.
- For us there is no valid definition of socialism other than the abolition of the exploitation of one human being by another. As long as this has not been achieved, if we think we are in the stage of building socialism but instead of ending exploitation the work of suppressing it comes to a halt — or worse, is reversed — then we cannot even speak of building socialism.
- Development cannot be left to complete improvisation. It is necessary to plan the construction of the new society. Planning is one of the laws of socialism, and without it, socialism would not exist. Without correct planning there can be no adequate guarantee that all the various sectors of a country's economy will combine harmoniously to take the leaps forward that our epoch demands.
- As long as imperialism exists it will, by definition, exert its domination over other countries. Today that domination is called neocolonialism.
- Arms cannot be commodities in our world. They must be delivered to the peoples asking for them to use against the common enemy, with no charge and in the quantities needed and available.
- Now is the time to throw off the yoke, to force renegotiation of oppressive foreign debts, and to force the imperialists to abandon their bases of aggression.
Man and Socialism in Cuba (1965)
- "Socialism and Man in Cuba" - A letter to Carlos Quijano, editor of Marcha a radical weekly published in Montevideo, Uruguay; published as "From Algiers, for Marcha : The Cuban Revolution Today" (12 March 1965); also published in Verde Olivo, the magazine of the Cuban armed forces. - Variant translation by Margarita Zimmermann
- A common argument from the mouths of capitalist spokespeople, in the ideological struggle against socialism, is that socialism, or the period of building socialism into which we have entered, is characterized by the abolition of the individual for the sake of the state.
- The state sometimes makes mistakes. When one of these mistakes occurs, a decline in collective enthusiasm is reflected by a resulting quantitative decrease of the contribution of each individual, each of the elements forming the whole of the masses. Work is so paralysed that insignificant quantities are produced. It is time to make a correction.
- A more structured connection with the mass is needed, and we must improve it in the course of the coming years. But as far as initiatives originating in the upper strata of the government are concerned, we are currently utilizing the almost intuitive method of sounding out general reactions to the great problems we confront.
In this Fidel is a master. His own special way of fusing himself with the people can be appreciated only by seeing him in action. At the great public mass meetings one can observe something like the dialogue of two tuning forks whose vibrations interact, producing new sounds. Fidel and the mass begin to vibrate together in a dialogue of growing intensity until they reach the climax in an abrupt conclusion crowned by our cry of struggle and victory.
- In capitalist society individuals are controlled by a pitiless law usually beyond their comprehension. The alienated human specimen is tied to society as a whole by an invisible umbilical cord: the law of value. This law acts upon all aspects of one's life, shaping its course and destiny.
- The difficult thing for someone not living the experience of the revolution to understand is this close dialectical unity between the individual and the mass, in which the mass, as an aggregate of individuals, is interconnected with its leaders.
Some phenomena of this kind can be seen under capitalism, when politicians capable of mobilising popular opinion appear, but these phenomena are not really genuine social movements. (If they were, it would not be entirely correct to call them capitalist.) These movements only live as long as the persons who inspire them do, or until the harshness of capitalist society puts an end to the popular illusions which made them possible.
- The laws of capitalism, blind and invisible to the majority, act upon the individual without his thinking about it. He sees only the vastness of a seemingly infinite horizon before him. That is how it is painted by capitalist propagandists, who purport to draw a lesson from the example of Rockefeller — whether or not it is true — about the possibilities of success.
The amount of poverty and suffering required for the emergence of a Rockefeller, and the amount of depravity that the accumulation of a fortune of such magnitude entails, are left out of the picture, and it is not always possible to make the people in general see this.
- In any case the road to success is pictured as one beset with perils but which, it would seem, an individual with the proper qualities can overcome to attain the goal. The reward is seen in the distance; the way is lonely. Further on it is a route for wolves; one can succeed only at the cost of the failure of others.
- I think the place to start is to recognize the individual's quality of incompleteness, of being an unfinished product. The vestiges of the past are brought into the present in one's consciousness, and a continual labor is necessary to eradicate them.
- It was not capitalism's internal contradictions that, having exhausted all possibilities, caused the system to explode. The struggle for liberation from a foreign oppressor; the misery caused by external events such as war, whose consequences privileged classes place on the backs of the exploited; liberation movements aimed at overthrowing neo-colonial regimes — these are the usual factors in unleashing this kind of explosion.
- Wealth is far from being within the reach of the masses simply through the process of appropriation.
- To build communism it is necessary, simultaneous with the new material foundations, to build the new man and woman.
- In moments of great peril it is easy to muster a powerful response to moral stimuli; but for them to retain their effect requires the development of a consciousness in which there is a new priority of values. Society as a whole must be converted into a gigantic school.
- Capitalism uses force but it also educates the people to its system. Direct propaganda is carried out by those entrusted with explaining the inevitability of class society, either through some theory of divine origin or through a mechanical theory of natural law.
This lulls the masses since they see themselves as being oppressed by an evil against which it is impossible to struggle. Immediately following comes the hope of improvement — and in this, capitalism differed from the preceding caste systems, which offered no possibilities for advancement.
- For some people, the principle of the caste system will remain in effect: The reward for the obedient is to be transported after death to some fabulous other world where, according to the old beliefs, good people are rewarded.
- The myth of the self-made man, has to be profoundly hypocritical: it is the self-serving demonstration that a lie is the truth.
- In this period of the building of socialism we can see the new man and woman being born. The image is not yet completely finished — it never will be, since the process goes forward hand in hand with the development of new economic forms.
- What is important, however, is that each day individuals are acquiring ever more consciousness of the need for their incorporation into society and, at the same time, of their importance as the motor of that society.
- The road is long and full of difficulties. At times we wander from the path and must turn back; at other times we go too fast and separate ourselves from the masses; on occasions we go too slow and feel the hot breath of those treading on our heels. In our zeal as revolutionists we try to move ahead as fast as possible, clearing the way, but knowing we must draw our sustenance from the mass and that it can advance more rapidly only if we inspire it by our example.
- The change in consciousness will not take place automatically, just as it doesn't take place automatically in the economy. The alterations are slow and are not harmonious; there are periods of acceleration, pauses and even retrogressions.
- In the field of ideas not involving productive activities it is easier to distinguish the division between material and spiritual necessity. For a long time man has been trying to free himself from alienation through culture and art. While he dies every day during the eight or more hours that he sells his labour, he comes to life afterwards in his spiritual activities.
But this remedy bears the germs of the same sickness; it is as a solitary individual that he seeks communion with his environment.
- Socialism is young and has made errors. Many times revolutionaries lack the knowledge and intellectual courage needed to meet the task of developing the new man with methods different from the conventional ones — and the conventional methods suffer from the influences of the society, which created them.
- Let us not attempt, from the pontifical throne of realism-at-any-cost, to condemn all the art forms which have evolved since the first half of the nineteenth century for we would then fall into the Proudhonian mistake of returning to the past, of putting a straitjacket on the artistic expression of the man who is being born and is in the process of making himself.
- What are needed are the development of an ideological-cultural mechanism which permits both free inquiry and the uprooting of the weeds which multiply so easily in the fertile soil of state subsidies.
- What we must create is the man of the twenty-first century, although this is still a subjective and not a realised aspiration. It is precisely this man of the next century who is one of the fundamental objectives of our work...
- The great multitudes continue to develop; the new ideas continue to attain their proper force within society; the material possibilities for the full development of all members of society make the task much more fruitful. The present is a time for struggle; the future is ours.
- Our task is to prevent the present generation, torn asunder by its conflicts, from becoming perverted and from perverting new generations. We must not bring into being either docile servants of official thought or scholarship students who live at the expense of the state — practising "freedom." Already there are revolutionaries coming who will sing the song of the new man in the true voice of the people. This is a process, which takes time.
- We are doing everything possible to give labor this new status of social duty and to link it on the one side with the development of a technology which will create the conditions for greater freedom, and on the other side with voluntary work based on a Marxist appreciation of the fact that man truly reaches a full human condition when he produces without being driven by the physical need to sell his labor as a commodity.
- Man still needs to undergo a complete spiritual rebirth in his attitude towards his work, freed from the direct pressure of his social environment, though linked to it by his new habits. That will be communism.
The change in consciousness will not take place automatically, just as it doesn't take place automatically in the economy. The alterations are slow and are not harmonious; there are periods of acceleration, pauses and even retrogressions.
- At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality. Perhaps it is one of the great dramas of the leader that he or she must combine a passionate spirit with a cold intelligence and make painful decisions without flinching. Our vanguard revolutionaries must idealize this love of the people, of the most sacred causes, and make it one and indivisible. They cannot descend, with small doses of daily affection, to the level where ordinary people put their love into practice.
The leaders of the revolution have children just beginning to talk, who are not learning to call their fathers by name; wives, from whom they have to be separated as part of the general sacrifice of their lives to bring the revolution to its fulfilment; the circle of their friends is limited strictly to the number of fellow revolutionists. There is no life outside of the revolution.
In these circumstances one must have a great deal of humanity and a strong sense of justice and truth in order not to fall into extreme dogmatism and cold scholasticism, into isolation from the masses. We must strive every day so that this love of living humanity will be transformed into actual deeds, into acts that serve as examples, as a moving force.
- Excerpts from the two paragraphs above have sometimes been quoted in abbreviated form: At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality... We must strive every day so that this love of living humanity will be transformed into actual deeds, into acts that serve as examples, as a moving force.
- Of course there are dangers in the present situation, and not only that of dogmatism, not only that of weakening the ties with the masses midway in the great task. There is also the danger of weaknesses. If a man thinks that dedicating his entire life to the revolution means, that in return he should not have such worries as that his son lacks certain things, or that his children's shoes are worn out, or that his family lacks some necessity, then he is entering into rationalisations which open his mind to infection by the seeds of future corruption.
In our case we have maintained that our children should have or should go without those things that the children of the average man have or go without, and that our families should understand this and strive to uphold this standard. The revolution is made through man, but man must forge his revolutionary spirit day by day.
- We know that sacrifices lie before us and that we must pay a price for the heroic act of being a vanguard nation. We leaders know that we must pay a price for the right to say that we are at the head of a people, which is at the head of the Americas. Each and every one of us must pay his exact quota of sacrifice, conscious that he will get his reward in the satisfaction of fulfilling a duty, conscious that he will advance with all toward the image of the new man dimly visible on the horizon.
- The ultimate and most important revolutionary aspiration: to see human beings liberated from their alienation.
- The individual under socialism, despite apparent standardization, is more complete.
- The individual will reach total consciousness as a social being, which is equivalent to the full realization as a human creature, once the chains of alienation are broken. This will be translated concretely into the reconquering of one's true nature through liberated labor, and the expression of one's own human condition through culture and art.
- In order to develop a new culture, work must acquire a new status. Human beings-as-commodities cease to exist, and a system is installed that establishes a quota for the fulfillment of one's social duty. The means of production belong to society, and the machine is merely the trench where duty is performed.
- While a person dies every day during the eight or more hours in which he or she functions as a commodity, individuals come to life afterward in their spiritual creations. But this remedy bears the germs of the same sickness: that of a solitary being seeking harmony with the world.
- The law of value is no longer simply a reflection of the relations of production; the monopoly capitalists — even while employing purely empirical methods — surround that law with a complicated scaffolding that turns it into a docile servant. The superstructure imposes a kind of art in which the artist must be educated. Rebels are subdued by the machine, and only exceptional talents may create their own work. The rest become shamefaced hirelings or are crushed.
- A school of artistic experimentation is invented, which is said to be the definition of freedom; but this “experimentation” has its limits, imperceptible until there is a clash, that is, until the real problems of individual alienation arise. Meaningless anguish or vulgar amusement thus become convenient safety valves for human anxiety. The idea of using art as a weapon of protest is combated. Those who play by the rules of the game are showered with honors — such honors as a monkey might get for performing pirouettes. The condition is that one does not try to escape from the invisible cage.
- The fault of many of our artists and intellectuals lies in their original sin: they are not true revolutionaries. We can try to graft the elm tree so that it will bear pears, but at the same time we must plant pear trees. New generations will come that will be free of original sin.
- It is not a matter of how many kilograms of meat one has to eat, or of how many times a year someone can go to the beach, or how many pretty things from abroad you might be able to buy with present-day wages. It is a matter of making the individual feel more complete, with much more inner wealth and much more responsibility.
- Our children must have, or lack, those things that the children of the ordinary citizen have or lack; our families should understand this and struggle for it to be that way.
- We socialists are freer because we are more fulfilled; we are more fulfilled because we are freer. The skeleton of our complete freedom is already formed. The flesh and the clothing are lacking; we will create them.
- The basic clay of our work is the youth; we place our hope in it and prepare it to take the banner from our hands.
Farewell letter to Fidel Castro (1965)
- In a revolution one wins or dies, if it is a real one.
- In a revolution, one triumphs or dies (if it is a true revolution).
- I feel that I have fulfilled the part of my duty that tied me to the Cuban revolution in its territory, and I say farewell to you, to the comrades, to your people, who now are mine.
- I have lived magnificent days.
- Other nations of the world summon my modest efforts of assistance.
- I leave a people who received me as a son. That wounds a part of my spirit. I carry to new battlefronts the faith that you taught me, the revolutionary spirit of my people, the feeling of fulfilling the most sacred of duties: to fight against imperialism wherever it may be.
- If my final hour finds me under other skies, my last thought will be of this people and especially of you.
- Hasta la victoria siempre
- Until victory always
- Variant translations: Always toward Victory! or Until eternal victory!
Last Letter to his Parents (1965)
- "Dear Old Folks", Sent by Che to his parents in 1965 as he embarked for Bolivia.
- Once again I feel beneath my heels the ribs of Rocinante. Once more, I'm on the road with my shield on my arm.
- Rocinante was the name of Don Quixotes' horse.
- My Marxism has taken root and become purified. I believe in armed struggle as the only solution for those peoples who fight to free themselves, and I am consistent with my beliefs.
- Many will call me an adventurer, and that I am... only one of a different sort: one who risks his skin to prove his truths.
- It is possible that this may be the end. I don't seek it, but it's within the logical realms of probabilities. If it should be so, I send you a final embrace.
- Now a willpower that I have polished with an artist's delight will sustain some shaky legs and some weary lungs. I will do it. Give a thought once in awhile to this little soldier of fortune of the twentieth century.
Letter to his Children (1965)
- "Last Letter from Papa", Letter to all of his children written sometime in 1965, to be read in the event of his death.
- Your father has been a man who acted according to his beliefs and certainly has been faithful to his convictions.
- Grow up as good revolutionaries. Study hard to be able to dominate the techniques that permit the domination of nature. Remember that the Revolution is what is important and that each of us, on our own, is worthless.
- Above all, try always to be able to feel deeply any injustice committed against any person in any part of the world. It is the most beautiful quality of a revolutionary.
- Until always, little children. I still hope to see you again. A really big kiss and a hug from Papa.
Birthday Letter to his Daughter (1966)
- "Birthday Wishes from Papa", sent to Guevara's oldest daughter Hilda on her 10th birthday (written 15 February 1966)
- Remember, there are still many years of struggle ahead, and even when you are a woman, you will have to do your part in the struggle. Meanwhile, you have to prepare yourself, be very revolutionary — which at your age means to learn a lot, as much as possible, and always be ready to support just causes.
- You should fight to be among the best in school. The very best in every sense and you already know what that means; study and revolutionary attitude. In other words: good conduct, seriousness, love for the revolution, comradeship. I was not that way at your age but I lived in a different society, where man was an enemy of man. Now you have the privilege of living in another era and you must be worthy of it.
Message to the Tricontinental (1967)
- "Message to the Tricontinental" sent from his jungle camp in Bolivia, to the Tricontinental solidarity organisation in Havana in the Spring of 1967, Published: 16 April 1967.
- There is a sad reality: Vietnam — a nation representing the aspirations, the hopes of a whole world of forgotten peoples — is tragically alone. This nation must endure the furious attacks of U.S. technology, with practically no possibility of reprisals in the South and only some of defense in the North — but always alone.
- The solidarity of all progressive forces of the world towards the people of Vietnam today is similar to the bitter irony of the plebeians coaxing on the gladiators in the Roman arena. It is not a matter of wishing success to the victim of aggression, but of sharing his fate; one must accompany him to his death or to victory.
- Not for a long time shall we be able to know if President Johnson ever seriously thought of bringing about some of the reforms needed by his people — to iron out the barbed class contradictions that grow each day with explosive power. The truth is that the improvements announced under the pompous title of the "Great Society" have dropped into the cesspool of Vietnam.
- Our America is integrated by a group of more or less homogeneous countries and in most parts of its territory U.S. monopolist capitals maintain an absolute supremacy. Puppet governments or, in the best of cases, weak and fearful local rulers, are incapable of contradicting orders from their Yankee master.
- The slogan "we will not allow another Cuba" hides the possibility of perpetrating aggressions without fear of reprisal, such as the one carried out against the Dominican Republic or before that the massacre in Panama — and the clear warning stating that Yankee troops are ready to intervene anywhere in America where the ruling regime may be altered, thus endangering their interests.
- There are no other alternatives; either a socialist revolution or a make-believe revolution.
- A new era will dawn in Africa, when the impoverished masses of a nation rise up to rescue their right to a decent life from the hands of the ruling oligarchies.
- We must bear in mind that imperialism is a world system, the last stage of capitalism — and it must be defeated in a world confrontation. The strategic end of this struggle should be the destruction of imperialism. Our share, the responsibility of the exploited and underdeveloped of the world is to eliminate the foundations of imperialism: our oppressed nations, from where they extract capitals, raw materials, technicians and cheap labor, and to which they export new capitals — instruments of domination — arms and all kinds of articles; thus submerging us in an absolute dependence.
- While envisaging the destruction of imperialism, it is necessary to identify its head, which is no other than the United States of America.
- We must not underrate our adversary; the U.S. soldier has technical capacity and is backed by weapons and resources of such magnitude that render him frightful. He lacks the essential ideological motivation which his bitterest enemies of today — the Vietnamese soldiers — have in the highest degree. We will only be able to overcome that army by undermining their morale — and this is accomplished by defeating it and causing it repeated sufferings.
- It is absolutely just to avoid all useless sacrifices. Therefore, it is so important to clear up the real possibilities that dependent America may have of liberating itself through pacific means. For us, the solution to this question is quite clear: the present moment may or may not be the proper one for starting the struggle, but we cannot harbor any illusions, and we have no right to do so, that freedom can be obtained without fighting.
- These battles shall not be mere street fights with stones against tear-gas bombs, or of pacific general strikes; neither shall it be the battle of a furious people destroying in two or three days the repressive scaffolds of the ruling oligarchies; the struggle shall be long, harsh, and its front shall be in the guerrilla's refuge, in the cities, in the homes of the fighters — where the repressive forces shall go seeking easy victims among their families — in the massacred rural population, in the villages or cities destroyed by the bombardments of the enemy.
- The beginnings will not be easy; they shall be extremely difficult. All the oligarchies' powers of repression, all their capacity for brutality and demagoguery will be placed at the service of their cause. Our mission, in the first hour, shall be to survive; later, we shall follow the perennial example of the guerilla, carrying out armed propaganda … the great lesson of the invincibility of the guerrillas taking root in the dispossessed masses; the galvanizing of the national spirit, the preparation for harder tasks, for resisting even more violent repressions. Hatred as an element of the struggle; a relentless hatred of the enemy, impelling us over and beyond the natural limitations that man is heir to and transforming him into an effective, violent, selective and cold killing machine. Our soldiers must be thus; a people without hatred cannot vanquish a brutal enemy.
- We must carry the war into every corner the enemy happens to carry it: to his home, to his centers of entertainment; a total war. It is necessary to prevent him from having a moment of peace, a quiet moment outside his barracks or even inside; we must attack him wherever he may be; make him feel like a cornered beast wherever he may move. Then his moral fiber shall begin to decline. He will even become more beastly, but we shall notice how the signs of decadence begin to appear.
- To die under the flag of Vietnam, of Venezuela, of Guatemala, of Laos, of Guinea, of Colombia, of Bolivia, of Brazil — to name only a few scenes of today's armed struggle — would be equally glorious and desirable for an American, an Asian, an African, even a European.
- Each spilt drop of blood, in any country under whose flag one has not been born, is an experience passed on to those who survive, to be added later to the liberation struggle of his own country. And each nation liberated is a phase won in the battle for the liberation of one's own country.
- How close we could look into a bright future should two, three or many Vietnams flourish throughout the world.
- Our every action is a battle cry against imperialism, and a battle hymn for the people's unity against the great enemy of mankind: the United States of America.
- Wherever death may surprise us, let it be welcome, provided that this, our battle cry, may have reached some receptive ear and another hand may be extended to wield our weapons and other men be ready to intone the funeral dirge with the staccato singing of the machine-guns and new battle cries of war and victory.
Capture and Death (1967)
- Do not shoot! I am Che Guevara and worth more to you alive than dead.
- As he was captured, after being wounded several times, and having his gun shot from his hands.
- I know you've come to kill me. Shoot, coward, you are only going to kill a man.
- These reportedly, were his last words, to Sergeant Jaime Terán, who in different accounts had either volunteered to be his executioner, or by most accounts, had been selected by lot (9 October 1967). Because of the many different reports that have arisen, much confusion and uncertainty exists about his actual last words. His last words to Colonel Arnaldo Saucedo Parada, head of intelligence of the Eighth Division who delivered the official report on Che's final moments were reported as: "I knew you were going to shoot me; I should never have been taken alive. Tell Fidel that this failure does not mean the end of the revolution, that it will triumph elsewhere. Tell Aleida to forget this, remarry and be happy, and keep the children studying. Ask the soldiers to aim well."
- Variant translations:
- I know you are here to kill me. Shoot, you are only going to kill a man.
- I know you have come to kill me. Shoot, coward. You are only going to kill a man.
Quotes about Guevara
- Alphabetized by author
- Che was loved, in spite of being stern and demanding. We would give our life for him.
- Tomas Alba, who fought under Che, as quoted in "Che Guevara Honored 40 Years After Death" at AHN News (11 October 2007)
- I have yet to find a single credible source pointing to a case where Che executed 'an innocent'. Those persons executed by Guevara or on his orders were condemned for the usual crimes punishable by death at times of war or in its aftermath: desertion, treason or crimes such as rape, torture or murder. I should add that my research spanned five years, and included anti-Castro Cubans among the Cuban-American exile community in Miami and elsewhere.
- Jon Lee Anderson, author of Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life (1997), at "The Legacy of Che Guevara" at PBS Online Newshour Forum (20 November 1997)
- Che is a figure who can constantly be examined and re-examined. To the younger, post-cold-war generation of Latin Americans, Che stands up as the perennial Icarus, a self-immolating figure who represents the romantic tragedy of youth. Their Che is not just a potent figure of protest, but the idealistic, questioning kid who exists in every society and every time.
- We'll still have to wait many years for history to deliver a definite judgement on Che, when the passions of both sides have passed.
- Uva de Aragon, Cuban-American academic at Florida International University, "Sympathizers marks 40th anniversary of Che Guevara's death" AP article (8 October 2007)
- Che Guevara - hero of the Cuban Revolution, left-wing icon and the face that has sold more posters than anyone else in history. Remembered as a romantic freedom fighter, an expert in guerrilla warfare, and a thoughtful philosopher who died young for his cause, Guevara has always been the revolutionaries' revolutionary. Stylish, vehemently anti-American and considerably better looking than Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin, he practically invented the image of the bearded, beret-wearing left-wing radical, as adopted by thousands during the 1960s and 70s.
- Owen Booth, as quoted in "Comrade Che Keeps an Eye on British Workers", BBC News (October 24, 2002)
- The discussions that count, are those that continue albeit silently in thought.
In my mind, the discussion with Che has continued for all these years, and the more time passed, the more he has been right.
Even today, dying while putting in motion a never ending struggle, he continues, always, to be right.
- 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.
- He wasn't able to inspire revolutions because individuals don't inspire revolutions — they inspire movements, respect, and, sometimes, adulation and admiration. Once he was dead, of course, the fact that you could read him any way you wanted, and that there was no danger of being contradicted by him, made it easier in a sense for Che to inspire people. But the fact is that none of the political movements that Che inspired after his death in 1968 were triumphant. The cultural movements were, but the political movements didn't go anywhere.
- Jorge Castañeda, Author of "Compañero: The Life and Death of Che Guevara", as quoted in "A Life (more or less) Revolutionary" in The Atlantic (20 November 1997)
- Why did they think that by killing him, he would cease to exist as a fighter? … Today he is in every place, wherever there is a just cause to defend.
- Che sowed the seeds of social conscience in Latin America and the world, he was a flower prematurely cut from its stem.
- Che is fairly intellectual for a Latino.
- It's like he is alive and with us, like a friend. He is kind of like a Virgin (Mary) for us. We say, "Che, help us with our work or with this planting,' and it always goes well."
- Manuel Cortez, a farmer who lives next door to the schoolhouse where Guevara was executed, "In Bolivia, Push for Che Tourism Follows Locals' Reverence" by Kevin Hall in Knight-Ridder (17 August 2004)
- This secular saint was ready to die because he could not tolerate a world where the poor of the earth, the displaced and dislocated of history, would be relegated to its vast margins.
- With the news of Che’s death, rallies were held from Mexico to Santiago, Algiers to Angola, and Cairo to Calcutta. The population of Budapest and Prague lit candles; the picture of a smiling Che appeared in London and Paris…when a few months later, riots broker out in Berlin, Paris, and Chicago, and from there the unrest spread to the American campuses, young men and women wore Che Guevara T-shirts and carried his pictures during their protest marches.
- Erik Durschmied, historian and journalist, as quoted in his book The Blood of Revolution: From the Reign of Terror to the Rise of Khomeini (2002)
- What has made Guevara a cultural icon is not his example for poor countries, but his capacity to provoke empathy among the spoiled youth of the affluent West.
- Some argue that history has transformed Che's revolutionary image into just another fashion accessory. It is tempting for those of us on the left to feel uncomfortable with his popular appeal; rather like music fans who, when their favorite underground band hits the big time, moan that they've 'gone commercial' … I don't see it that way. If only 10 percent of the people who wear the image know what he stood for, that is still many millions. Overwhelmingly, they are also young people, with their hearts set on making the world a better place. Indeed, in my experience, many more than 10 percent have a very good idea of what he stood for … If Che's image seems to be everywhere, that is because what he fought and died for is more fashionable than ever.
- Che was wearing green fatigues, and his usual overgrown and scraggly beard. Behind the beard his features are quite soft, almost feminine, and his manner is intense. He has a good sense of humor, and there was considerable joking back and forth during the meeting … Although he left no doubt of his personal and intense devotion to communism, his conversation was free of propaganda and bombast. He spoke calmly, in a straightforward manner, and with the appearance of detachment and objectivity … I had the definite impression that he had thought out his remarks very carefully — they were extremely well organized.
- It was difficult to recall that this man had once been one of the great figures of Latin America. It was not just that he was a great guerrilla leader; he had been a friend of Presidents as well as revolutionaries. His voice had been heard and appreciated in inter-American councils as well as in the jungle. He was a doctor, an amateur economist, once Minister of Industries in revolutionary Cuba, and Castro's right-hand man. He may well go down in history as the greatest continental figure since Bolivar. Legends will be created around his name.
- Richard Gott, journalist in Bolivia on the day of Che's execution, in "US Intelligence agent in at Che Guevara's death" in The Guardian (10 October 1967)
- What I appreciated most was his honesty — and his ability to transform negative things into positive things. … he was not compromising. It wasn't easy unless you shared his vision and believed in it.
- He always did what he said he was going to do, That's why he is still timely.
- We can in no way accept that my father should appear on women's underwear or men's underwear or that it should be on the back pocket of a pair of jeans or that they use it as a commercial image for a pair of glasses. We think that is lacking in respect and we won't accept that.
- That he was shot after capture demonstrates the fear that the Bolivian authorities felt even of an imprisoned Che. They were afraid to bring to him to trial: afraid of the echoes his voice would have aroused from the courtroom: afraid to prove that the man they hated was loved by the world outside. This fear will help to perpetuate his legend, and a legend is impervious to bullets."
- Graham Green, as quoted in Andrew Sinclair's Viva Che!: The Strange Death and Life of Che Guevara (2006) p. 82
- He belongs more to the romantic tradition than the revolutionary one. To endure as a romantic icon, one must not just die young, but die hopelessly. Che fulfils both criteria. When one thinks of Che as a hero, it is more in terms of Byron than Marx.
- We predict that Guevara will be eulogized as the model revolutionary who met a heroic death.
- Thomas L. Hughes, Intelligence specialist, in a memo to U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk (October 19 1967); National Security Archives
- Long Live Che Guevara!
- Jesse Jackson, speech in Havana, Cuba (1984), quoted in "Fidel Castro, the First Superdelegate" by Greg Grandin in The Baltimore Chronicle
- As a supporter of the ideals for which Che Guevara died, I am not averse to its reproduction by those who wish to propagate his memory and the cause of social justice throughout the world, but I am categorically against the exploitation of Che's image for the promotion of products such as alcohol, or for any purpose that denigrates the reputation of Che.
- Alberto Korda, on his famous photograph of Guevara, as quoted in "Che Guevara photographer dies" in BBC News (26 May 2001)
- Che never wavered from his firm revolutionary stand, even as other Cuban leaders began to devote most of their attention to the internal problems of the revolution.
- Brian Latell, CIA analyst, in an intelligence memo (18 October 1965); quoted in "The Death of Che Guevara: Declassified" by Peter Kornbluh, a summary of various accounts of Che Guevara's Death at George Washington University
- Revolutionaries are not normal people’: an understatement in relation to Ernesto Che Guevara. Physician, brilliant intellect, competent soldier, charismatic leader, developed—and eventually creative-Marxist economist, always a man able to capture the spirit of an experience in his own being, Che remains one of the four or five greatest revolutionaries in modern history.
- Che was not only a heroic fighter, but a revolutionary thinker, with a political and moral project and a system of ideas and values for which he fought and gave his life. The philosophy which gave his political and ideological choices their coherence, colour, and taste was a deep revolutionary humanism. For Che, the true Communist, the true revolutionary was one who felt that the great problems of all humanity were his or her personal problems, one who was capable of feeling anguish whenever someone was assassinated, no matter where it was in the world, and of feeling exultation whenever a new banner of liberty was raised somewhere else.
- Michael Löwy, author of The Marxism of Che Guevara, in "The spark that does not die" in International Viewpoint (July 1997)
- The first thing to note is that in my son's veins flowed the blood of the Irish rebels.
- Ernesto Guevara Lynch, father of Che Guevara. Quoted in "Ernesto Che Guevara" by Iosif Lavretsky, translated by A.B. Eklof.
- We also honour the great Che Guevara, whose revolutionary exploits, including on our own continent, were too powerful for any prison censors to hide from us. The life of Che is an inspiration to all human beings who cherish freedom. We will always honour his memory.
- On his trips, he would receive gifts from his hosts, some of them very expensive. He would get presents for me as well, and he would give them away if he considered them too ostentatious. I was given a color TV only to see Che pass it on to a factory worker. And back then, it was sort of an unimaginable item. Once, after a trip to Algeria, he received a barrel of an excellent wine. When he arrived home, he told me to give it to the army barracks near our home. I would not always unconditionally obey his mandates. Knowing that wine was one of the few treats he allowed himself, I kept five liters.
- Aleida March, Che's widow, as quoted in "Widow has her say on Che" in NY Daily News (1 October 2007)
- I worked with Che in the military regiment at La Cabaña, putting order into the revolution; he personally asked me to take command of the new revolutionary police … there was a lot of resentment against us at the beginning. People still loyal to the old regime would have done anything against us and the new, free, Cuba. Not many people wanted to stain their hands with such a job. But I did, and Che even more. Some call him "the butcher of La Cabaña" because of all the executions he had to carry out, but he did it honourably. He was a great man - so humble, so free, with such conviction. It was such a pleasure and an honour to be around him. But we were all convinced of what we were fighting for. We fought for our people to be fully happy. And we stayed alive to keep an eye on that marvellous victory.
- Luis Martínez, worked alongside Che at La Cabaña fortress, "First Person: Luis Martínez" in The Financial Times (18 April 2009)
- To his critics, Guevara was a trigger-happy megalomaniac whose bloody example led thousands to their deaths in futile uprisings that only hardened military repression from Guatemala to Chile.
- Patrick J. McDonnell, journalist, "Che Guevara's legacy looms larger than ever in Latin America" in The Los Angeles Times (8 October 2007)
- He was just like a Christ, with his strong eyes, his beard, his long hair. He is very miraculous.
- Susana Osinaga, the nurse who cleaned Guevara's corpse, as quoted in "The final triumph of Saint Che" in The Observer (23 September 2007)
- Why do we say Che is alive? Because of his grandeur, his transcendence. For us, Che is here, very much alive, in everything we say.
- Osvaldo 'Chato' Peredo, president of the Che Guevara foundation, as quoted in "The final triumph of Saint Che" in The Observer (23 September 2007)
- He took joy in killing counterrevolutionaries and was one of the most hard-edged, most Stalinist, pro-Soviet communists of the whole leadership.
- Most people don't know the real Che Guevara — the Che Guevara who wrote that he was thirsty for blood, the Che who assassinated thousands of people without any regard for any real legal process.
- The myth of the holy Che must finally be destroyed.
- Bolivian General Gary Prado Salmon, commander of the mission to capture Guevara, in "The Curse Of Che Guevara" by Jens Glüsing in Der Spiegel (8 October 2007)
- We feel sick about this grand show that goes on every year on the anniversary of his death. Rather than honour a man who came to invade the country, we should honour the armed forces, the soldiers who defended the country.
- Bolivian General Gary Prado Salmon, commander of the mission to capture Guevara, "Che Guevara Honored 40 Years After Death" at AHN News (11 October 2007)
- You know how much I admire Che Guevara. In fact, I believe that the man was not only an intellectual but also the most complete human being of our age: as a fighter and as a man, as a theoretician who was able to further the cause of revolution by drawing his theories from his personal experience in battle.
- Jean-Paul Sartre, as quoted in Marianne Sinclair's !Viva Che!: Contributions in Tribute to Ernesto 'Che' Guevara (1968)
- He was demanding of everyone and practiced being a personal example. Once, Guevara and other ministry officials were served steaks during a severe food shortage. Steaks are a treasured meal for Argentines, but Guevara became incensed and ordered it all removed. "What is this? No one is touching this meat. Take it away."
- Tirso Saenz, Che's aide, as quoted in "Che Remembered 40 Years After Death" by Alvaro Suazo in The Washington Post (6 October 2007)
- 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 Burkinabè.
- Thomas Sankara, commonly referred to as "Africa's Che Guevara", as quoted in "We are Heirs of the World’s Revolutions": Lessons from Thomas Sankara by Akinyemi Adeseye (May 15, 2010)
- Che T-shirts are among the first things you'll see after landing at the Havana airport. But at least the Cubans know whom they're glorifying. In the United States, Che's life story and ambitions seem beside the point, or maybe they've just been reduced to caricature. The guy's face is shorthand for "I'm against the status quo." He's politics' answer to James Dean, a rebel with a very specific cause.
- David Segal, journalist, in "The Che Cachet" in The Washington Post (7 February 2006)
- "Che lives!" is the slogan for a generation of restless students and budding revolutionaries the world over. The Black Panthers, who occasionally style themselves 'Che-type,' have adopted his black beret. Arab guerrillas sometimes name combat operations in his honor. Posters of Che adorn dorm walls from Berkeley to Berlin, and his books have become basic-training manuals for the New Left. Writers from Graham Greene to Susan Sontag have extolled him. West German Playwright Peter Weiss has even compared him to "a Christ taken down from the Cross."
- He taught me to think — he taught me the most beautiful thing which is to be human.
- "Urbano", former Cuban rebel fighter, as quoted in "Latin America's new look at Che" in BBC News (9 October 2007)
- Guevara remains a national hero in Cuba where he is remembered for promoting unpaid voluntary work by working shirtless on building sites or hauling sacks of sugar. To this day, he appears on a Cuban banknote cutting sugar cane with a machete in the fields.
- Rosa Tania Valdes, journalist, in "Cuba remembers Che Guevara 40 years after his fall" in Reuters (8 October 2007)
- He was a man full of hatred … Che Guevara executed dozens and dozens of people who never once stood trial and were never declared guilty … In his own words, he said the following: "At the smallest of doubt we must execute." And that's what he did at the Sierra Maestra and the prison of Las Cabanas.
- Armando Valladares, Cuban dissident imprisoned by the revolutionary regime in 1960, in "‘Che’ spurs debate, Del Toro walkout" in The Washington Times (27 January 2009)
- He had eyes that seemed to go through you. I’ve interviewed all sorts of famous people, from Ben Gurion to Bob Dylan, but no one has ever made an impression on me like Che did. There was something Christ-like about him. I really felt that when he was talking to me, he was telling the truth.
- Marilyn Zeitlin, journalist, after speaking with Guevara for six hours on September 12, 1962, as quoted in David Kunzle's book Che Guevara: Icon, Myth, and Message (1997)
- Time 100 : Che Guevara
- The Che Guevara internet archive - contains written works, pictures, and speeches
- "The Death of Che Guevara: Declassified" by Peter Kornbluh, a summary of various accounts of Che Guevara's Death at George Washington University
- Cuba and the U.S.: Che Guevara interview by Leo Huberman, September 1961