Interview of Che Guevara on CBS «Face the Nation» (Transcript+Video)

Che Guevara- CBS Interview 1964“FACE THE NATION» as broadcast over the CBS Television Network and the Sunday,CBS Radio Network December 13, 1964 – – 12:30 – 1:00 PM EST.

GUEST: MAJOR ERNESTO GUEVARA, Minister of Industry of Cuba,

NEWS CORRESPONDENTS: Paul Niven CBS News Tad Szulc New York Times, Richard C. Hottelet, CBS News

PRODUCERS: Prentiss Childs, Ellen Wadley. DIRECTOR: Robert Vitarelli

MR. NlVEN: Major Guevara, in your speech to the General Assembly the day before yesterday, you accused the United States of helping Cuba’s neighbors prepare new aggression against her. We, in turn, have often accused your government of abetting subversion in other Latin American countries. Do you see any way out of this situation, any way to improve relations?

MAJOR GUEVARA: I think with regards to solutions, there are solutions, and I think there is only one. we have said repeatedly to the government of the United States that we do not want anything but to forget us, that they do not consider us even for good or evil.

MR. NlVEN: Major Guevara, we have more questions about Cuba’s relations with this country and with the Communist countries, and about your own internal situation.

MR. NlVEN: Major Guevara, you said a mornent ago you would simply like us Americans to forqet Cuba. Your speech the other day suggested that you cannot forget US. You consider us a hostile government, ninety miles away. How can you expect us to forget you?

MAJOR GUEVARA: I didnt say exactly that I expected you to forget US. You asked a solution, and I said what was that solution in the present moment. If it is possible or not, that is another question.

MR. SZULC: Major Guevara, on several opportunties recently Premier Fidel Castro has suqqested in interviews with visiting newspaperman and on other occasions that a new effort be made to normalize relations between Cuba and the United States, particularly in the field of trade and exchanges. As an economist, do you feel yourself that the resumption of relations of this nature would be useful or welcome for Cuba? In other words, would you like to see the relations normalized?

MAJOR GUEVARA: Not as an economist, because I have never considered myself an economist, but only an official of the Cuban Government, as another Cuban — I think harmonious relations with the U.S. would be very good for us from the economical point of view, more than in any other field, because all our industry has been established by the U.S. and primary products and repair parts that we have to make with much difficulty or to bring from other areas could come directly. And besides, sugar, which traditionally we had the American market is also near.

MR. SZULC: If my recollection is right, in 1960 you made several speeches, particularly one in 1960, saying that for Cuba to go on selling sugar to the United States was a form of colonialism to which you were subjected. Have you changed your mind about this?

MAJOR GUEVARA: Naturally — because those were different conditions. We sold sugar with the specific conditions established by American buyers, which in turn dominated the internal market and production in Cuba. Now if we would sell sugar to the U.S., it would be the Cuban Government the one who would sell it, and it would be a complete profit for our people.

MR. HOTELLET: Dr. Guevara, Washington has said that there are two political conditions for the establishment of normal relations between the United States and Cuba. One is the abandonment of your military commitment to the Soviet Union. The other is the abandonment of the policy of exporting revolution to Latin America. Do you see any chance of a change in either of these points?

MAJOR GUEVARA: Absolutely. We put no condition of any kind to the U.S., we dont want it to change its system, we don’t want racial discrimination to cease in the U.S., we put no conditions to the establishment of relations. But we neither put conditions to –

MR. HOTELLET: But my question was whethe r you would accept conditions placed by the United States on the resumption of normal relations.

MAJOR GUEVARA: We will not accept any conditions from the U.S.. We will not accept conditions imposed by the U.S. to us.

MR. HOTELLET: But in the matter of the missiles, the Russian missiles on Cuba, and the Cuban military relations with the Soviet Union, how can the United States be sure that Cuba is not a strategic threat once again? Would you accept United Nations inspection, or inspection by the Organization of American states, if you do not permit American on-site inspection of Cuba?

MAJOR GUEVARA: You talked about the organization of American States. Yesterday — the day before yesterday the Colombian delegate spoke about the orbit of the OAS; It is in effect an orbit which gyrates around the U.S. An inspection by such delegates would be an Inspection by the U.S. You talk about that the United States don’t feel secure. And we ask too U.S. — do we ourselves feel secure that we have no missiles against Cuba? Then cannot we reach a harmonious solution because the two countries are equal in the world. Let’s inspect a1l bases, atomic bases, of the U.S. and let‘s inspect also what we have in Cuba. And if you want, let‘s liquidate all the atomic bases in Cuba and in the U.S. and we are in complete agreernent with that.

MR. NlVEN: Major Guevara, are you in fact trying to export your revolution? Are you every day shipping arms to other Latin American countries? Are you bringing revolutionaries from other countries to Cuba, training them, sending them home?

MAJOR GUEVARA: I also had an opportunity to say at the Assembly, and I can repeat it emphatically now revolutions are not exportable: revolutions are created by oppressive conditions which Latin American countries exercise against their peoples. And there comes rebellion. And afterwards new Cubas will emerge. We are not the ones who create revolutions. It is the imperialist system and its allies, internal allies, the ones who create revolution.

MR. NlVEN: But does not your attitude towards the present government of Venezuela, which is considered in many other countries leftist and progressive, suggest that you consider any governrnent oppressive which is not Cornmunist?

MAJOR GUEVARA: In absolute, no. What we consider is that the Venezuelan government is not a leftist government, has nothing of a leftist government. It is an oppressor, an oppressive government, it is a murderer — he murders them the peasant fights in the region of Falcon, for example, where there are military advisors of the U.S. There is in Venezuela today, in spite of the American press does not reveal it — the Venezuelan government is not a leftist government.

MR. NlVEN: Is there any gove:rnment in this hemisphere which Cuba considers to be progressive?

MAJOR GUEVARA: The word «progressive” is an ambiguous word. There is one government with which we keep diplomatic relations, the government of Mexico, with which we have good relations. Our systems are different. We respect their system. We are in a complete harmony up to date, and I have the hope that it will continue like that. But if you ask me the image of Latin America, there are sorne countries which oppress their peoples much more, and among the less — least oppresive, among those with which we could have perfectly normal relations without any difficultieswe could have Uruguay, Chile, maybe Costa Rica. But the U.S.. do not permit us.

MR. HOTTELET: But all these countries have broken diplomatic relations with Cuba. Don’t you feel yourself isolated when you have no friend at all in this hemisphere?

MAJOR GUEVARA: We have a lot of friends, but not among the governments — the friends are in the peoples. And in the last instance the peoples will be the rulers of those states.

MR. SZULC: Major Guevara, if we may change the geographic scene of the friendships or no friendships in the world, you made a visit to Moscow in November, last month, since the change in the Soviet leadership. We have the impression here that the Government of Cuba had taken a rather unclear position on the difficulties between the Soviet Union and China ideologically. Could you tell us whether, as a result of your visit, is it clearer or easier for the government of Cuba to adopt a clearer position in relation to the Soviet-Chinese problem?

MAJOR GUEVARA: You can have the impression that our attitude is not clear. But we have the contrary impression. Our attitude is very clear. In effect there is the conflict, ideological conflict which we all know. We have stated our position in the sense of unity among socialist states — unity as a first measure. And always we argue that unity is necessity because disunity goes in favor of the U.S. , which are our enemy, and everything that goes in favor of the enemy must be eliminated. That is why we are in favor of unity. We feel that there is a necessity to strengthen this unity and that it will be strengthened and the bloc, the monolithic bloc of socialist countries will be formed again.

MR. SZULC: Early this year, I believe it was first in March and again in June, the Soviet Government, which then had Premier Khrushchev at its head, issued invitations to a number of Communist or Marxist-Leninst parties in tbe world, including to the Cuban Socialist Party, or rather the Cuban Party Socialist Revolution, to attend a preparatory meeting in Moscow of Communist parties. My memory is that the Cuban Party was one of the very few never to have answered the question — the invitation, rather. We see today that the Soviet Government has renewed the invitation for a March preparatory meeting of Communist or Marxist-Leninst countries. Would your government now accept, or your party now accept the Soviet invitation?

MAJOR GUEVARA: It will be studied in the proper moment and we will give the answer. This is an invitation which is not made to the government, but to the party. And the party is the one who has to answer. I am here representlng the govermnent now.

MR. HOTTELET: Major Guevara, you are probably the outstanding exponent of guerrilla war in the western hemisphere and you have said that the problems of revolution in Latin America will be settled by bullets rather than by ballots. And in general your dynamic approach to these things seems to run much closer to the Communist line — to the Chinese Cammunist line. Also Cuba has never signed the treaty banning nuclear weapons tests in the outer atmosphere, in the atmosphere and in the sea. This is also the Chinese Communist position. Does this not put you really in terms of your practical behavior and policy on the Chinese side of the Communist fence?

Che Guevara- CBS Interview 1964 2

MAJOR GUEVARA: Well, there are three or four questions rnerged in one, which I will turn to one by one. In the first place, there is a statement I would like to deny or maybe the translation was inaccurate. I heard you said I am the representative of guerrilla in this hemisphere. I am not the representative of guerrilla in this hemisphere. I would say that the representative would be Fidel Castro which was the leader of our revolution and who had the most outstanding role in the direction of the revolutionary struggle and directs the strategy of the Cuban government. As regards the two other specific questions, we do not have to participate in the controversy because they are very specific problems. The problem of peaceful transition to socialism, we do not discuss it as a theoretical question. But in America it is very difficult, and it is nearly impossible. That is why specifically in America we say that the road to the liberation of peoples, which will be the road of socialism will go through bullets in almost all countries. And I can make a prophesy with tranquillity that you will see it. With regards to the problem of the signing of the new test ban treaty, we welcomed that step as a measure which tended to prevent the a aggravation of tensions. But pointed out very clearly that us, with a military American base in our territory, where there could be any sort of weapons, where we have to endure every kind of provocations, we have to support and endure the flights over our territory. We cannot sign that treaty, because it would be a treason to our people. That is independently to the fact that we welcome the treaty in its world-wide terms as beneficial to the world. But only as that. We cannot remain here. We must continue forward if we want to prevent a world war.

MR. SZULC: You have been over the years I believe a very articulate and candid critic yourself of that which was occurring with the Cuban economy. I read your speeches in which you have criticized the errors in policies and errors in judgments. Now that you are approachinq the seventh year of your revolution, would you try to assess for us briefly just what has happened to the economy in your country? Do you feel that you might begin to rise from the point where you have been? What projection of the economy would you make for 1965? Will it be the seventh lean year or not necessarily?

MAJOR GUEVARA: It is a very difficult question to answer it in a very short moment. I am being bombed by questions of all kinds. I will try to be very concise and try to explain to the American people. We had a great number of mistakes in the economic fleld, naturally. I am not the critic. It is Fidel Castro, the one who has criticized repeatedly the mistakes we have made, and he explained why we have made them. We did not have a previous preparation. We made mistakes in agriculture. We made mistakes in industry. All these mistakes are being settled now. In industry, we are now concentrating our best effort in trying to make plants work at a maximum capacity, trying to replace the equipment which is in bad conditions due to lack of spare parts from the U.S.., that we cannot get from the U.S.; to extend our industry later on the basis of our primary resources. And to lessen our dependence on external markets and dedicate our efforts in 1965 to the aspect of security and hygiene of work, to make our plants better for the worker: that the worker may feel really a man there. We have taken plants from the capitalist system where the most important thing was to produce, especially in Cuba. I do not imply that in the U.S plants, industrial plants, are now places of exploitation where man is oppressed. 1 know that there are a great number of advantages here for too American worker. But those advantages in Cuba had not reached, and conditions are very bad, very unhealthy. We have to dedicate our efforts to better the life, the time passed by the worker in the industrial plant. That will be one of our main efforts during the next year.

MR. NlVEN: Major, we have some more questions about the internal situation in Cuba when we resume in a moment.

MR. HOTTELET: Dr. Guevara, you have protested against the presence of the American naval base at Guantanamo and the continued American reconnaissance over-flights over Cuba. Will you take any military action, either aqainst the base or the planes?

MAJOR GUEVARA: We will — we had to explain at the Assembly the other day that we do not boast. We know the power of the U.S.. We do not fool ourselves about this power. We say that the U.S. government wants us to pay a very high price for this unstable peace we enjoy today. And the price we are in a position to pay is only — comes only to the frontiers of dignity, not beyond. If we had to kneel in order to live in peace, they will have to kill us before. If they do not want to go to that point, we will continue to live in the best way possible — that is in this not peaceful coexistence that we have today with the U.S.

MR. NlVEN: What does that mean in terms of practical diplomacy, Major? What do you propose te do?

MAJOR GUEVARA: We have denounced in all assemblies, in all places where we have had the opportunity to speak, the illegality of flights and the fact that there is a base against the will of the Cuban people. Fur thermore, we have denounced the qreat number of violations, or provocations from that base, according to statistics, a little rough statietics four provocations every day. And we have asked the non-aligned countries and the General Assembly of the UN to take measures to prevent things like these.

MR. SZULC: Major Guevara, could we turn very briefly now to sorne of the internal political problems in Cuba about which we hear in this countxy in a very indirect way and we are intrigued by them. We read recently that an outstandinq member of the former Communist Paxty of Cuba, the former Senator Ordoqui, havinq been placed undex arrest. We have hear a great deal about the tensions between the so-called old line Communist party and the 26th of July movement type of group. We learned on Tuesday that Major Martinez Sanchez, who was a close friend and companion of you and Dr. Castro, triad to cornmit suicide. What is happeninq internally in Cuba?

MAJOR GUEVARA: There is nothing happening which we cannot say publicly. The fact of the attempted suicide by Augusto Martinez was explained in a concise and exact form by our governmenmt in a communique. There is absolutely notthing else to add. I understand that the American people has a riqht and especially the press, which is not very friendly to us, to make all suppositions and ideas about this fact – this disgraced fact. There is always the possibility of all sorts of speculations on this. But the fact is as we expxessed it. Augusto Martinez Sanchez was separated due to administrative problems and his reaction was to attempt suicide. We regret it because of him and we regret it because of the revolution, because it has given foot to these speculations. With regards to the arrest of Mr. Ordoqui, we also stated publicly what we were able to say at that moment, and we have expressed that in the proper opportunity everything will be explained or Mr. Ordoqui will have a public satisfaction. All our public documents reflect our absolute truth.

MR. NlVEN: Major, may I ask you what percentage of the people of Cuba support the revolution.

MAJOR GUEVARA: Well, there is a joke which you may -­ which you circulated — I don!t know if you want to refer to the joke about the Castro brothers -­

MR. NIVEN: We ha ve ten seconds.

MAJOR GUEVARA: In ten seconds it is very difficult. In themoment we do not have elections. But the great majority of the Cuban people supports its government.

MR. NlVEN: Thank you, Majar Gueyara, for being here to FACE THE NATION. We will haw a concluding word in a moment.


Cuba and the U.S.: Che Guevara’s interview to Monthly Review

The questions below were submitted, in writing, to Comandante Guevara by Leo Huberman during the week of the Bay of Pigs invasion; the answers were received the end of June 1961.

1. Have relations with the U.S. gone “over the brink” or is it still possible to work out a modus vivendi?

This question has two answers: one, which we might term “philosophical,” and the other, “political.” The philosophical answer is that the aggressive state of North American monopoly capitalism and the accelerated transition toward fascism make any kind of agreement impossible; and relations will necessarily remain tense or even worse until the final destruction of imperialism. The other, political answer, asserts that these relations are not our fault, and that, as we have many times demonstrated, the most recent time being after the defeat of the Giron Beach landing, we are ready for any kind of agreement on terms of equality with the Government of the United States.

2. The U.S. holds Cuba responsible for the rupture in relations while Cuba blames the U.S. What part of the blame, in your opinion, can be correctly attributed to your country? In short, what mistakes have you made in your dealings with the U.S.?

Very few, we believe; perhaps some in matters of form. But we hold the firm conviction that we have acted for our part in accord with the right, and that we have responded to the interests of the people in each of our acts. The trouble is that our interests, that is, those of the people, and the interests of the North American monopolies are at variance.

3. Assuming that the U.S. means to smash the Cuban Revolution, what are the chances of its getting help from the O.A.S. group?

Everything depends on what is meant by “smash.” If this means the violent destruction of the revolutionary regime with the help—likewise direct—of the O.A.S., I believe there is very little possibility, because history cannot be ignored. The countries of America understand the value of active solidarity among friendly countries, and they would not risk a reversal of such magnitude.

4. Does Cuba align itself in international affairs with the neutralist or Soviet bloc?

Cuba will align herself with justice; or, to be less absolute, with what she takes for justice. We do not practice politics by blocs, so that we cannot side with the neutralist bloc, nor, for the same reason, do we belong to the socialist bloc. But wherever there is a question of defending a just cause, there we will cast our votes—even on the side of the United States if that country should ever assume the role of defending just causes.

5. What is Cuba’s chief domestic problem?

It is difficult to assess problems with such precision. I can mention several: the “guerrillerismo” which still exists in the government; the lack of comprehension on the part of some sectors of the people of the necessity for sacrifice; the lack of some raw materials for industries and some non-durable consumer goods, resulting in certain scarcities; the uncertainty as to when the next imperialist attack will take place; the upsets in production caused by mobilization. These are some of the problems which trouble us at times, but, far from distressing us, they serve to accustom us to the struggle.

6. How do you explain the growing number of Cuban counter-revolutionaries and the defection of so many former revolutionaries?

Revolutions function by waves. When Mr. Huberman asked this question, perhaps it was accurate, but today there are fewer counter-revolutionaries than before Giron Beach. The counter-revolutionary attack increased slowly until it reached its climax on Giron Beach; then it was defeated and fell drastically to zero. Now that it is again attempting to raise its head and inflict new harm, our intention is to eliminate the counter-revolutionaries.

The defections of more or less prominent figures are due to the fact that the socialist revolution left the opportunists, the ambitious, and the fearful far behind and now advances toward a new regime free of this class of vermin.

7. Can the countries of Latin America solve their problems while maintaining the capitalist system, or must they take the path of socialism as Cuba has done?

It seems elementary to us that the way of the socialist revolution must be chosen, the exploitation of man by man must be abolished, economic planning must be undertaken, and all means of assisting the public welfare must be placed at the service of the community.

8. Are civil liberties, Western style, permanently finished while your government is in power?

This would depend on what civil rights were referred to—the civil right, for example, of the white to make the Negro sit in the rear of a bus; the right of the white to keep the Negro off a beach or bar him from a certain zone; the right of the Ku Klux Klan to assassinate any Negro who looks at a white woman; the right of a Faubus, in a word, or perhaps the right of a Trujillo, or Somoza, or Stroessner, or Duvalier. In any case, it would be necessary to define the term more precisely, to see if it also includes the right to welcome punitive expeditions sent by a country to the north.

9. What kind of political system do you envisage for Cuba after the present emergency period of reorganization and reconstruction is over?

In general terms it may be said that a political power which is attentive to the needs of the majority of the people must be in constant communication with the people and must know how to express what the people, with their many mouths, only hint at. How to achieve this is a practical task which will take us some time. In any event, the present revolutionary period must still persist for some time, and it is not possible to talk of structural reorganization while the threat of war still haunts our island.

Monthly Review, 1961, Volume 13, Issue 05 (September) / Cuba and the U.S.

Read the Greek version.