Che Guevara’s Legacy and World Revolution

Latin America and Africa share a common heritage of struggle against imperialism

Abayomi Azikiwe
Revolutionary Strategic Studies

This year represents the 44th anniversary of the martyrdom of Ernesto Che Guevera, the Argentine-Cuban revolutionary who made a monumental contribution to the anti-imperialist and world socialist movement in Latin America, Africa and throughout the globe. His political determination and theoretical reflections provide tremendous lessons for the workers, farmers and youth today who are facing the same challenges of building societies devoid of class exploitation, racism and national oppression.

The peoples of Africa and Latin America share a common history of forced removals, slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism. Both continents had produced cultures and civilizations that have been recognized by historians for their advancements to human knowledge and social organization.

After playing an instrumental role in the Cuban Revolution which triumphed on January 1, 1959, and the formative years of the transformation from neo-colonialist capitalism to the construction of socialism, Che intervened directly in the African and Latin American Revolutions during the period of 1964-1967.

Che and the African Revolution: From Ghana to Congo

In 1964, Che set out on a world tour that took him to the People’s Republic of China and various African states. His travels in 1964-65 flowed directly from his role in the Cuban Revolution by seeking to build a broader anti-imperialist front against the U.S.

After making a speech before the United Nations General Assembly in December 1964, Che visited several Africa states beginning in Algeria, where there had recently been the triumph of an armed struggle by the National Liberation Front (FLN) against French colonialist occupation. He later traveled to Mali, Congo (Brazzaville), Guinea (Conakry) Dahomey (Benin), Tanzania and Egypt (then known as the United Arab Republic).

While in Ghana, Che held discussions with President Kwame Nkrumah, the political leader of the movement for African unity and socialism. Che and Nkrumah laid the basis for the convening of the Tri-continental Conference that brought together dozens of revolutionary organizations from Africa, Latin America and Asia during January 1966. It was from this gathering that the Organization of Solidarity of the Peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America (OSPAAL) was formed.

Prior to his leaving Africa for the first time in 1965, he visited Algeria again and addressed the Second Economic Seminar of the Organization of Afro-Asian Solidarity. In this speech Che identified U.S. imperialism as the principal enemy of the workers and oppressed throughout the world.

As Nkrumah noted in his book “Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism,” that despite the formal independence won by the peoples of Latin America and Africa, the former colonial powers of Europe and the U.S. seek to dominate the majority of the peoples of the world throughout controlling the economic resources and political structures in the various post-colonial states. Nkrumah pointed out that the struggle against neo-colonialism posed a monumental challenge to the workers and oppressed of the world since its existence represented imperialism’s final phase of global domination, and this was reflected in its military desperation in Vietnam, Korea, Africa and Latin America.

Nkrumah said that “All these examples prove beyond doubt that neo-colonialism is not a sign of imperialism’s strength but rather its last hideous gasp. It testifies to its inability to rule any longer by old methods. Independence is a luxury it can no longer afford to permit its subject peoples, so that even what it claims to have ‘given’ it now seeks to take away.” (Neo-Colonialism, Nkrumah, p. 253)

The leader of Ghana went on to stress the need for unity among the peoples of oppressed nations including the need for an all-union government in Africa coupled with the strengthening of unity between Africa and Asia and “To it, we must seek the adherence on an increasingly formal basis of our Latin American brothers. Furthermore, we must encourage and utilize to the full those still all too few yet growing instances of support for liberation and anti-colonialism inside the imperialist world itself.”

Che’s Interventions in the African and Latin American Revolutions

Che relocated in Congo (Leopoldville) in the early months of 1965 to support the revolutionary forces that were fighting to uphold the independent anti-imperialist legacy of the-then martyred Patrice Lumumba, the first legitimately elected prime minister of that mineral-rich central African state. Although the role of the Cuban brigade and the Lumumbists were not successful in 1965, and Che, who re-located in Bolivia 1966, was assassinated the following year by the Bolivian military coordinated and supported by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), their struggles were by no means in vain.

Later in 1975, the people and government of Cuba were able to provide critical support to the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) in the struggle to establish Angola as a strategic basic for the further independence of Southern Africa. Between 1975-1988, Cuba would send over 300,000 of its own people to fight against the U.S.-backed South African apartheid system which sponsored the counter-revolutionary UNITA movement in Angola in an effort to block the independence of Namibia and the total elimination of settler-colonialism based in Pretoria.

Namibia would win independence in 1990 and South Africa would be taken over by the African National Congress in 1994. The important role of Cuba in these historical achievements have been acknowledged by the peoples of Africa and the world.

Latin America Moves Left and Expresses Solidarity With Libya

Since the 1990s, various left movements throughout Latin America have made tremendous advancements. Even prior to this time period, the revolution in Nicaragua and Grenada in 1979 would set a pattern of anti-imperialism in the region.

Despite the setbacks in Grenada in 1983 which prompted a U.S. invasion and the destabilization of Nicaragua that brought about the overthrow of the FSLN in Nicaragua in 1990, (it later regained power through elections) other revolutionary movements would come to power in Venezuela and Bolivia during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Today the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America (ALBA) and other formations have properly identified the necessity for building an anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist front throughout South America and the world.

This independent thinking was exemplified recently with the U.S.-NATO war against the North African state of Libya. It was former Cuban President Fidel Castro and the leadership of the Communist Party that labeled the so-called “No-Fly Zone” over Libya as a plot to intensify neo-colonialist control over the continent.

The ALBA states, led by Venezuela, immediately expressed solidarity with Libya and the African Union (AU) which also opposed the imperialist intervention. At the recent UN General Assembly in New York, it was the progressive states of Latin America along with President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe that stood firm in opposition to the imperialist machinations to transform Libya into an outpost for further exploitation and military domination of the entire region.

Consequently, the movement towards greater unity among the peoples of Latin America and Africa will increasingly take on an anti-imperialist character. As Nkrumah called for in 1965, “all these liberatory forces have, on all major issues and at every possible instance, the support of the growing socialist sector of the world.”

Anti-Imperialism Must Guide the Left Movement in the West

Today as the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression poses a profound challenge to the workers, oppressed and youth inside the U.S. and all the imperialist states, the left must place the solidarity and unity with the peoples of the world as a cornerstone of the struggle to build a new society. The falling standard of living among the people inside the capitalist states is directly linked to the unbridled militarism of the imperialist countries.

Neither of these strategies by the ruling class to starve workers in the so-called developed regions and to re-occupy the oppressed countries are sustainable. Workers and youth throughout the world are rising up from Wall Street to Tahrir Square, from the factories and plantations of Colombia to the mines of South Africa. They are all saying “we want to be free” and are increasingly prepared to make the necessary sacrifices for the liberation of humanity from capitalism and imperialism.

Abayomi Azikiwe
is the editor of Pan-African News Wire , an international electronic press service designed to foster intelligent discussion on the affairs of African people throughout the continent and the world. The press agency was founded in January of 1998 and has published thousands of articles and dispatches in newspapers, magazines, journals, research reports, blogs and websites throughout the world. The PANW represents the only daily international news source on pan-african and global affairs. To contact him, click on this link >> Email