/* Written 8:11 PM Jan 11, 1996 by igc:plink in web:militant.news */
/* ---------- "960122-Che Guevara on rebel victory" ---------- */
Title: 960122-58--`Rebel Triumph Is Clearly In Sight'
Articles by Che Guevara from Sierra Maestra
The following are three articles by Ernesto Che Guevara, one of the central leaders of the Cuban revolution. They were published in El Cubano Libre (Free Cuban), the newspaper of the Rebel Army in Cuba, which led the revolutionary war to overthrow the U.S.-backed tyranny of Fulgencio Batista.
El Cubano Libre - also the name of a paper published by Cuban patriots during the independence wars against Spanish colonialism in the 19th century - was established by Guevara in November 1957 in the Sierra Maestra.
"As for the dissemination of our ideas, first we started a small newspaper, El Cubano Libre, in memory of those heroes of the jungle," says Guevara in the chapter "One year of armed struggle" of his book Episodes of the Cuban Revolutionary War - 1956-58. "Three or four issues came out under my directorship; it was later edited by Luis Orlando Rodri'guez, and subsequently by Carlos Franqui, who gave it new impetus. We had a mimeograph machine brought up to us from the cities, on which the paper was printed."
In February 1996 Pathfinder Press will release a new edition of the Episodes. The English-language translation of the articles below, which are not included in the Episodes, is copyright Pathfinder Press. They are reprinted by permission. Footnotes are by the Militant.
The first year of our struggle in the Sierra Maestra has now been completed. The road has been long and difficult.
On the third day after our landing in Cuba on December 2, 1956, our troop of 82 expeditionaries was taken by surprise, dispersed, and almost annihilated at a place known as "Alegri'a" [joy].(1)
Bitter days of dispersal followed. The defeated rebels - hungry, thirsty, discouraged, in small groups - roamed the woods aimlessly. Some lost faith and turned in their weapons. Then came death at the hands of military killers, as Laurent and other jackals gorged their lust for blood, and great comrades fell victim. Antonio Lo'pez, Juan Manuel Ma'rquez, Jose' Smith, and Ca'ndido Gonza'lez were among the murdered.
Days passed and finally the dispersed fighters were reunited: fifteen poorly armed men with even less ammunition. What sustained them was a common ideal: Cuba. And they were driven by a faith that could move mountains: that of Fidel.
Few times can it be said so truthfully that one man was the creator of a revolution. Marti'(2) proclaimed that those who march at the head have the obligation of seeing farther. Fidel marched at the head of a tiny guerrilla unit, and saw what no one dared to see; during those days of defeat he saw victory, and his wonderful faith in the power of the people sustained and inspired everyone.
Later came the victories at La Plata and Palma Mocha. Subsequently a traitor whom Casillas introduced in our midst had us in the jaws of the jackal on three occasions; the worst period eventually passed, and we eliminated the internal enemy. Later, when the world had given us up for dead, the interview with Matthews put the lie to our disappearance.(3)
Thus we can say that the timid stage of the revolution was brought to an end.
Up until then we saw in each peasant a potential informer; we saw in each peasant hut a threat to our security. We ate boiled malanga or yucca, often without salt or lard. We had still not understood the enormous capacity of struggle of the Cuban peasant. In response to the threats, the mistreatment, the burning of homes, and murder, they responded by supporting us with greater enthusiasm, giving us their children as combatants and guides, and letting us use their houses, all as a contribution to the cause.
Afterward came the battle of Uvero, where we achieved a great though painful triumph, costing us the lives of seven of our comrades.
The subsequent forced evacuation of peasants by the government was the pretext for a thousand crimes, robberies, and abuses against them. Again the peasants responded with renewed support to the cause of the July 26 Movement.
Our fair treatment toward the peasantry - respecting their property, paying for what we consumed, tending their sick, helping those most in need - was the total opposite of the government's bestial policy.
At that point the relationship of forces in the Sierra Maestra began to shift greatly. Four well-armed columns were formed, Estrada Palma and Bueycito were attacked, the enemy was compelled to maintain a defensive posture, and their columns were decimated when they tried to ascend the mountains.
Now the Movement has proposed to obstruct the sugar harvest as long as Batista is in power. We intend to overthrow him: through economic pressure caused by the loss of the sugar harvest, his principal source of income; through the revolutionary general strike, which will be called at the appropriate moment; and through the pressure of our columns, which will repulse every attempt by the enemy to enter the mountains, while preparing to take the struggle down onto the plains once and for all. Now that our triumph is clearly in sight, when a Fidel Castro is not needed to see its approach, the politicians of old, living comfortably in exile, tried to make a pact in which our name was invoked.(4) Not only did they not consult us, but they boycotted us in a clear attempt to return to the swamp that existed prior to March 1952.
But the blood of the people has not been shed in vain. Each and every one of our dead over these five years of dictatorship constitutes a solemn pledge to carry our revolution forward, far beyond the simple ouster of Batista - as far as necessary to ensure there will be no going back to the status quo of old.
That is why we fight. And neither the latest crimes that drag the army down to the lowest rung of barbarism, nor the betrayal of the pseudo-oppositionist and electoralist groups, will make us change our stance.
Here in the mountaintops of our Sierra, the voice of a distant world reaches us via the radio and newspapers. The media are more explicit in describing events abroad, because they are unable to mention the crimes committed here on a daily basis.
Thus we learn of the disturbances and deaths in Cyprus, Algeria, Ifni, or Malaya, all of which have common characteristics:
a) The government authorities "have inflicted heavy losses on the rebels." b) There are no prisoners. c) "All goes normally" for the government. d) All the revolutionaries, no matter which country or region they are in, are receiving "secret aid from communists."
How much the world resembles Cuba! It is the same everywhere. A group of patriots is murdered, with or without arms, whether or not they are rebels. After a "ferocious struggle," they fall under the guns of the oppressors. No prisoners are taken because all witnesses are killed.
The government never suffers any casualties, which is sometimes true - since murdering defenseless individuals is not particularly dangerous. But sometimes it is also pure lying; the Sierra Maestra gives irrefutable proof of this.
And finally, there is the handy accusation, as always, of "communists." Those who are fed up with so much poverty and pick up a gun, wherever it may be, are "communists." Those who murder the indignant people: men, women, or children, are "democrats."
How much the world resembles Cuba! But everywhere, as in Cuba, the people are standing up to brutal force and injustice. And it is they who will have the last word: that of victory.
There is a notable difference between that tattered and filthy "army" of twelve men (please don't count them) who roamed as isolated inhabitants of the highest peaks of the Sierra Maestra, and our new army of twelve columns and great offensive might. The difference is not only military, although perhaps the military aspect provides the basis; today it is also political. There is a world of difference between the pictures of bearded guerrilla fighters that used to appear on the amusement pages, taken from Life and Coronet magazines, and the serious declaration by the State Department denying Fidel Castro's comments to Homer Biggart denouncing the pact between that department and Batista. The July 26 Movement is no longer a bizarre spectacle for the entertainment pages; it has now become an international political factor.
But there is a question on the minds of the Cuban people: Does the pact exist? And if so, what is the United States trying to achieve?
Yes, the pact exists, and the revolutionary general staff knew that Batista would lift the censorship and Pri'o would be arrested the day before these things occurred. What we cannot answer is what goals are being pursued by the United States of North America, the Great Power defending democracy and the free world, backing a semidefeated dictatorship against the clear will of the people.
It would seem ridiculous for our small forces to attempt to threaten the giant. Threaten them? No, never. We are simply reminding them. Reminding the United States of North America that behind the July 26 Movement's army there is a people in struggle, there is a unanimous civic will. To put them on notice, simply put, that the July 26 Movement is advancing toward its goal, fulfilling the will of the masses. And to put them on notice that our conduct is guided by the battle cry that serves as this publication's motto:
Freedom or death!
1. On Dec. 2, 1956, 82 expeditonaries reached Cuba at Las Coloradas beach in Oriente province aboard the yacht Granma. Three days later the rebel combatants were surprised by Batista's troops at Alegri'a del Pi'o and dispersed; half the rebels were subsequently murdered or imprisoned.
2. Cuban national hero Jose' Marti' (1853-1895) was a noted poet, writer, speaker, and journalist. He founded Cuban Revolutionary Party in 1892 to fight Spanish rule and oppose U.S. designs on Cuba, launched the 1895 independence war, and was killed in battle later that year.
3. New York Times correspondent Herbert Matthews (1900- 1977) was first journalist to interview and photograph Fidel Castro in the Sierra Maestra on Feb. 17, 1957.
4. Guevara is referring here to the Miami Pact. It was issued Nov. 1, 1957, by forces including leaders of the Authentic Party, Orthodox Party, Revolutionary Directorate, and others who falsely claimed the document had been signed by authorized representatives of the July 26 Movement. The pact created the Cuban Liberation Junta dominated by Authentic Party leader Carlos Pri'o; it was denounced by the Rebel Army and July 26 Movement in a letter drafted by Fidel Castro.
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