Che Guevara on Africa (Interview with Josie Fanon)

Priya Prabhakar
7 min readJan 26, 2021
“Che Guevara on Africa”, published by Fair Play for Cuba Committee

(The following interview with Che Guevara, which appeared in the December 26 issue of Revolution Africaine, was reported by Josie Fanon, widow of the Algerian revolutionary figure Frantz Fanon, author of The Wretched of the Earth. The translation if by World Outlook.)

Josie Fanon: What is the reason for your visit to Algeria?

Che Guevara: The reason for my visit is very simple. In a few days I am going to visit a number of African countries, and to go to Africa, it is necessary for us to come to Algeria first. We are also utilizing the occasion; before we leave, to discuss general international and African problems with our Algerian government brothers. We are thinking of staying two of three days longer in Algeria.

Josie Fanon: Would you indicate in broad outline the position of the Cuban government in relation to Africa as a whole?

Che Guevara: Africa represents one of the most important, if not the most important, fields of battle against all the forms of exploitation existing in the world, against imperialism, colonialism, and neocolonialism. There are big possibilities for success in Africa, but there are also many dangers. The positive aspects include the youth of the African peoples as modern states, the hate which colonialism has left in the the minds of the people, the very clean consciousness which the peoples possess of the profound differences existing between an African man and the colonizer, the conviction that there can never be sincere friendship between them, except after the definitive departure of the colonizer. There are also other positive aspects: the present possibilities of a much more rapid development than even a few years ago due to the aid which some of the capitalist countries can likewise provide under certain conditions (but on this point we must be vigilant).

What we consider to be the principal danger for Africa is the possibility of division among the African peoples which appears to be continually rising. On the one side there are the lackeys of imperialism, on the other the people seeking to free themselves along the roads suited to them. We have concrete reason for fearing this danger. There is a phenomenon of unequal exchanges between the industrialized countries and the economically dependent countries. This relation of inequality is shown in the most brutal way in connection colonialism. But the completely independent countries also risk finding themselves locked up in the prison of the capitalist market because the big industrialized countries impose this through their high technical development. The big developed countries begin, after independence to exercise a kind of “suction” on the liberated countries and after a few years the conditions are again ripe of political domination.

We believe that in Africa the bourgeoisie still has a word to say today. This is quite different from Latin America where the national bourgeoise no longer has any choice but to submit completely to the orders to imperialism. In many independent African countries, the bourgeoisie has, in the beginning, the possibility of development and of playing a “relatively” progressive role. It can, for a time, mobilize the people of the forces of the left under the slogan of the struggle against imperialism, but inevitably the moment comes when this bourgeoisie and the government representing it end up in an impasse. It is not possible for the bourgeoisie, by its very nature, to follow the road into which the people seek to push it. The only course remaining open to it is collaboration with imperialism and oppression of the people. In brief, it can be said that there are at present big possibilities in Africa because of the effervescence existing in this region of the world but that there are also real dangers which we have to keep in mind. There are important economic problems that must be remembered. Unequal relations in international exchanges leads to an impasse where it becomes very easy to concede to imperialism and to oppress the people whom, for a short period, they appear to serve.

Josie Fanon: If you were asked what road of economic development was suited for the African countries, what would you say?

Che Guevara: If my advice were asked, or rather my opinion, as Cuban Minister of Industry, I would say simply that a country beginning to develop itself must, in the first period, work above all at organization and that one should approach the practical problems by “using your own head”. This may seem to be an abstract and rather vague opinion but it’s something very important.

In Africa, where many countries have already carried out very extensive nationalizations, there is perhaps the possibility of creating certain enterprises to provide products for other countries lacking them and vice versa. It is necessary to work in the spirit of mutual profit and for that it is necessary to know each other better and to establish relations of confidence. At first this must be limited to very simple things. It may be necessary at times to set up small plants requiring a lot of workers and offering jobs for many unemployed, rather than highly mechanized enterprises employing a reduced number of workers. In certain cases, a sector must be rapidly mechanized; in other cases this is not necessary. In fact, in a country on the road to development most problems involve agriculture and extractive industry, but it is quite evident that these problems are posed in a different way in each country, and that one must pay attention above all to particular realities. That’s why it is impossible to give a general formula that could be applied to all African countries.

Josie Fanon: What are the perspectives, in your opinion, of the revolutionary struggle in Latin America?

Che Guevara: You know, that is something close to my heart; it’s my keenest interest. We believe that the revolutionary struggle is a very long struggle, very hard. It is difficult to believe — difficult, but evidently not impossible — in the isolated triumph of the revolution in one country. Imperialism has been preparing an organized repression of the peoples of Latin America for some years. In different countries they have formed an international of repression. Right now, in fact, in the Latin-American countries where the last battles were fought for the liberation of America from the Spanish yoke, in Peru, military maneuvers are being held. Various countries are participating in these maneuvers, conducted by the United States, in the Ayacucho region. What are we witnessing in this region is direct preparations for repression. And why are these maneuvers taking place precisely in this mountainous region of Peru, in this jungle zone? It is because Ayacucho is situated close to the place where important revolutionary bases exist. Ayacucho was not chosen by accident.

The Americans are paying a lot of attention to the problem of guerrilla war. They have written some very interesting things on this. They have grasped the quite correct idea that guerrilla war is extremely difficult to liquidate if it is not liquidated as soon as it appears. All their strategy is now oriented on this objective, taking two main formed: first of all, repression; secondly, the isolation of the revolutionaries from their main base — the peasants. I read in an American document the very expression used by Mao Tse-tung: “Among the people, revolutionists are like a fish in water.” The Americans have grasped that the power of guerrilla fighter resides in this, and they have grasped that everything must be done to stop this from continuing.

Clearly, all these factors make the struggle more difficult. But against the international of repression will come the inevitable and natural reply of the international of the struggle of the proletarians and the peasants against the common enemy. That is why we foresee the organization of a continental front of struggle against imperialism and its domestic allies. This front will take a long a long time to organize, but when it exists it will be a severe blow against imperialism. I don’t know if it will be a definitive blow, but it will be a very hard blow. It is for this reason that we pose this fundamental principle: the struggle for freedom must be not only a defensive struggle but likewise an offensive struggle against imperialism.

We will even add that the working class in the United States, because of its high standard of living, does not see in a keen way the contradictions existing in American society. To the American workers, these contradictions appear softened and and they cannot gain clear consciousness of their own exploitation as long as they continue to get the crumbs which North American imperialism tosses to them from the feast.