Vicente Morin Aguado
HAVANA TIMES — On February 26, 1964, Ernesto “Che” Guevara wrote the following to a man living at 560 Juan Bruno Zayas Street, Vibora, Havana: “Unfortunately, what reaches the majority – myself included – is an apology of the system and not its scientific analysis.” Che goes on to say to the non-sympathetic reader: “Because of this – because you are thinking – I thank you for your letter. That we should disagree is the least important part.”
These words written by Guevara, words that should be etched indelibly in our minds, have been deliberately forgotten by Cuba’s current leadership, its immediate subordinates and the whole of the crapulent bureaucracy that claims to defend socialism in Cuba (when the essence of the system proposed by Marx was to secure the greatest degree of democracy for the working class, to effectively emancipate that majority whose redemption is the basic aim proclaimed by communists).
The book quoted above gathers some of Che Guevara’s private observations, part of an incomplete project aimed at offering his critical perspectives on the experiences surrounding the creation of the so-called “new society.” Referring to the mistakes he observed during his visits to the Soviet Union, he employed a word that, in my view, ought to be taken as an essential concept here: “These mistakes are excusable in Soviet society, the first to undertake the experiment…”
That is to say, it is clear to Guevara that socialism is a genuine experiment, that no one is infallible and nothing predestined to succeed, that we are dealing with the most extraordinary undertaking ever essayed by human beings in the course of their history.
This unknown Guevara, made public after many years by the Australian publisher Ocean Press, provokes us with his initial remarks where, quoting the “holy” Marx, he writes:
“To those who look upon us with distrust based on their assessment of and loyalty towards socialist countries, we offer only one warning: Marx’s statement, found in the opening pages of Das Kapital, about bourgeois science’s inability to criticize itself and its reliance on apologetics, can, regrettably, be applied to Marxist economics today.”
Such self-criticism is a task our leaders, who must publicly and clearly assume full responsibility for the failure of the experiment they have been conducting for more than 50 years, have yet to take on.
This next-to-unknown Che ought to be read because his immense prestige and intelligence are invaluable tools for reflection. Allow me to share another opinion of his, regarding the new trade unions that took shape within socialism, expressed during one of the bimonthly meetings of the Ministry of Industries, which saw the participation of a large number of workers, when he was still a minister in the sector (on December 5, 1964):
“Trade union democracy is a myth here. It will be acknowledged or not, but it’s a complete myth. The Party meets and puts forth so-ad-so as the only candidate. Then, that person gets elected, sometimes with plenty of votes, sometime with less, when, in fact, there hasn’t been a true selection process by the masses.”
Some may think I’m making this up. The book is within everyone’s reach: it costs 18 Cuban pesos. I just bought it at the Fayad Jamis bookstore on Obispo Street, in Old Havana.
Che Guevara’s proposals for the new, socialist economy are equally controversial. They are well deserving of a complete article, for they express his complete opposition to the presence of the market within the socialist experiment. He is even highly critical and says negative things about worker self-management, as applied in ex-Yugoslavia.
I will limit myself to underscoring his impertinence of the Castro brothers and others who defended the Soviet model (ultimately implemented in Cuba) to the death. I imagine how hard it was to reconcile his immense prestige as a guerrilla leader, his tried-and-true loyalty, total capacity to carry out the tasks assigned him, his irrepressible intellectual acuteness and the personal freedom that being a foreigner afforded him.
It is sad, a testament to the intolerance of despots, that Che Guevara was ultimately encouraged to give in to the adventurous side of his personality, when we dearly needed him in his capacity as competent and incorruptible minister (as more than one testimony tell us he was), and now, when Raul Castro dubs “corruption” the root of all evil, an evil capable of destroying the socialism whose defense is his raison d’etre as president.
If someone believes I am exaggerating or being untruthful, suffice it to go back to the letter I quoted at the beginning of this post, in which Che Guevara tells Mr. Jose Medero Mestre:
“If you ever feel the need to tell me something else, please remember I am no authority on these matters. I am just another man fighting to bring about a new Cuba, one who was fortunate enough to live the most difficult moments of the Cuban revolution next to Fidel, and some of the most tragic and glorious chapters of the history of the world struggling for its freedom.”
“This is why you know who I am and I do not recall your name. It could have been the other way around, and, then, I would have had to write you from whatever remote part of the world my wandering bones had taken me to, since I was not born here.”
I await your comments, and I hope you will read the book.