Why Che Guavara approved of Stalin

Che Mo Laoch And Che’s Own Hero

by Manus O’Riordan

You can find on YouTube that powerful Irish Jacobite anthem,Mo Ghile Mear, whose chorus begins: “Sé mo laoch”, and which translates as “He’s my hero”. Well, “Che mo laoch” translates as “Che, my hero”. On October 9th an Irish Times report recorded an interview with Che’s brother, Juan:

“The father of Che Guevara embraced his Gaelic heritage, especially the rebel­lious nature of the Irish and their fondness for partying, according to the brother of the Cuban revolutionary figure. Today marks the 50th anniversary of the death of the famous Argentinean-born Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara Lynch, at the hands of Bolivian security forces, and his revolu­tion­ary legacy is being commemorated in countries around the world. An Post has released a special-edition stamp featuring Dublin artist Jim Fitzpatrick’s iconic red, white and black rendering of Guevara, a move which prompted a rebuke from Fine Gael Senator Neale Richmond who accused the company of immortalising someone who committed ‘heinous’ acts.”

Speaking at the launch of an exhibition featuring images of Guevara in his native Buenos Aires, his youngest brother Juan Martin Guevara Lynch recalled their father Ernesto Guevara Lynch’s connection to his ancestral homeland:

“My grandmother was North American. A Lynch, but born in the US. She was born in San Francisco. The family moved from here, the province of Buenos Aires, but moved to San Francisco where she was born. But her father yes, he was born in Ireland. Then on the other side the Guevaras were Basque. It is because of that our aunt always said we are the descendants of the Basque and Irish, meaning we have one steadfast idea of how things are and we are not for turning. With my old man a bit, yes. He used to speak about the rebellious nature of the Irish. Beyond that he liked the Irish because of their party nature; they like to drink a drop of whiskey! He was really fond of all that. The Basque are a bit more serious. So he was more into his Irish than his Basque side.”

But who were Che’s own heroes? See https://communismgr.blogspot.ie/2016/04/che-guevara-i-came-to-communism-because.html?m=1 for a rough English trans­lation from Greek of an April 2016 blog by one Nikon Mottas, entitled “Che Guevara: ‘I came to communism because of Stalin’”.  Mottas wrote:

“Ernesto Che Guevara is undoubtedly a historical figure of the 20th century’s communist movement who attracts the interest of people from a vast range of political ideologies. The years followed his cowardly assassination in Bolivia, Che became a revolutionary symbol for a variety of marxist-oriented, leftist and progressive parties and organisations— from Trotskyists to militant leninists and from Social Democrats to anarcho-libertarians. A significant number of those who admire the argentine revolutionary identify themselves as ‘anti-stalinists’, hate and curse Stalin while they often refer to the ‘crimes’ of Stalin’s era. What a contradiction and an irony of history is the following: Che Guevara himself was an admirer of Joseph Stalin… In 1953, situated in Guatemala, the then 25 years old Che noted in his letter to aunt Beatriz: ‘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’ (Jon Lee Anderson, Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life, 1997).

Years later—after his letter from Guatemala —in the midst of the revolutionary process in Cuba—Guevara would re-affirm his position towards Stalin:

“In the so called mistakes of Stalin lies the difference between a revolutionary attitude and a revisionist attitude. You have to look at Stalin in the historical context in which he moves, you don’t have to look at him as some kind of brute, but in that particular historical context. I have come to communism because of Stalin and nobody must come and tell me that I mustn’t read Stalin. I read him when it was very bad to read him…”

Mottas went on to quote Guevara on Trotsky:

“I think that the fundamental stuff that Trotsky was based upon was erroneous and that his ulterior behaviour was wrong and his last years were even dark. The Trotskyites have not contributed anything whatsoever to the revolutionary movement; where they did most was in Peru, but they finally failed there because their methods are bad”  (Comments on ‘Critical Notes on Political Economy’ by Che Guevara, Revolutionary Democracy Journal, 2007).

In a letter to Armando Hart Dávalos, a Trotskyist and prominent member of the Cuban Revolution, Guevara particularly argued for the study of Stalin’s writings in Cuba:

“It would be necessary to publish the complete works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin [underlined by Che in the original] and other great Marxists. Here would come to the great revisionists (if you want, you can add here Khrushchev), well analysed, more profoundly than any others and also your friend Trotsky, who existed and apparently wrote something” (Contracorriente, No.9, Sept.1997).

Mottas further related:

“Four years after the beginning of Khrushchev’s ‘de-stalinisation’, on Novem­ber 1960, Ernesto Che Guevara was visiting Moscow as an official rep­resent­ative of the Cuban government. Against the advise of the then Cuban ambas­­sador to avoid such an action, Che insisted on visiting and depositing a floral tribute at Stalin’s tomb at the Kremlin necropolis. Che had a deep admiration for Stalin and his contribution in building Socialism. And that because, as Che himself was saying, ‘You have to look at Stalin in the historical context in which he moves […] in that particular historical context’…

An Post’s envelope for the first day cover issue of its Che stamp carried a quotation from Ernesto Guevara Lynch, father of Che: “In my son’s veins flowed the blood of Irish rebels”. The father, as the report says, certainly embraced his Gaelic heritage. If Che himself had done so, he might well have sung “Stalin mo laoch”!

Originally published in Irish Political Review, 17th November 2017.