Che Guevaras tale på den
Afrikansk-Asiatiske konference i Algeriet
From Algeria Guevara traveled to Mali, Congo (Brazzaville), Guinea, Ghana, Dahomey,
Tanzania, and the United Arab Republic. He then returned to Algiers to attend the Second
Economic Seminar of the Organization of Afro- Asian Solidarity. The speech he made there,
particularly in its passages regarding economic relations between underdeveloped countries
and the countries of the Soviet bloc, was one of the most important of his career. His
speech, delivered on February 26, 1965, is here translated in full.
Cuba is attending this conference to raise on her own the voice of the peoples of
America; and as we have emphasized on other occasions also, Cuba speaks both in her
capacity as an underdeveloped country and as a country building socialism.
It is not by accident that our delegation is permitted to give its opinion here among
the peoples of Asia and Africa. A common aspiration unites us in our march toward the
future: the defeat of imperialism. A common past of struggle against the same enemy has
united us along the road.
This is an assembly of embattled peoples, and the battle is being developed on two
equally important fronts which require all our efforts. The struggle against imperialism
for liberation from colonial or neocolonial shackles, imposed by political arms or
firearms or a combination of the two, is inseparable from the struggle against
backwardness and poverty; both are steps on the same road leading toward the creation of a
new society of justice and plenty.
It is imperative to take political power and to liquidate the oppressor classes; but
then the second stage of the struggle, which perhaps may have more difficult features than
the first, must be faced.
Ever since monopoly capital took over the world it has kept the greater part of
humanity in poverty, dividing all the profits among the most powerful nations. The higher
standard of living in those nations is based on the misery of ours. Thus to raise the
standard of living of the underdeveloped peoples, there must be a fight against
imperialism. And each time a country is torn away from the imperialists, it is not only a
partial battle won against the main enemy, but it also contributes to the general
weakening of that enemy and is one step more toward final victory.
There are no boundaries in this struggle to the death. We cannot be indifferent to what
happens anywhere in the world, for a victory by any country over imperialism is our
victory; just as any country's defeat is a defeat for all of us. The practice of
proletarian internationalism is not only a duty for the peoples struggling for a better
future, it is an inescapable necessity. If the imperialist enemy, American or any other,
develops its attack against the underdeveloped peoples and the socialist countries, simple
logic determines the necessity of an alliance between the underdeveloped peoples and the
socialist countries. If there were no other uniting factor, the common enemy should be it.
Of course this alliance cannot be made spontaneously, without discussions or previous
birth pangs, which sometimes can be painful.
Each time a country is freed, we say, it is a defeat for the world imperialist system,
but we must agree that real liberation or breaking away from the imperialist system is not
achieved by the mere act of proclaiming independence or winning an armed victory in a
revolution. Freedom is achieved when imperialist economic domination over a people is
brought to an end.
Therefore the socialist countries have a vital stake in making these acts of breaking
away from the imperialist system successful; and it is our international duty, a duty
determined by our guiding ideology, to make this liberation as rapid and thoroughgoing as
A conclusion must be drawn from all this: The development of countries now starting out
on the road to liberation should be paid for by the socialist countries. We state it this
way without any intention whatsoever of blackmail or dramatics, nor of currying favor with
the Afro- Asian peoples, but as a profound conviction. Socialism cannot exist without a
change in conscience to a new fraternal attitude toward humanity, not only within the
societies which are building or have built socialism, but also on a world scale toward all
peoples suffering from imperialist oppression.
We believe the duty of aiding dependent countries should be approached in such a
spirit. There should not be any more talk about developing mutually beneficial trade based
on prices rigged against underdeveloped countries by the law of value and the inequitable
relations of international trade brought about by that law.
How can one apply the term "mutual benefit" to the selling at world-market
prices of raw materials costing limitless sweat and suffering in the underdeveloped
countries and the buying of machinery produced in today's big, automated factories?
If we establish that kind of relation between the two groups of nations, we must agree
that the socialist countries are, in a way, accomplices of imperialist exploitation. It
can be argued that the amount of exchange with underdeveloped countries is an
insignificant part of the foreign trade of the socialist countries. That is a great truth,
but it does not eliminate the immoral character of the exchange.
The socialist countries have the moral duty of liquidating their tacit complicity with
the exploiting countries of the West. The fact that the trade today is small does not mean
much. In 1959, Cuba sold sugar only occasionally to a socialist-bloc country, usually
through English brokers or brokers of other nationalities.
Today, 80 per cent of Cuba's trade is with that area; all her vital supplies come from
the socialist camp, and in fact she has joined that camp. We cannot say that this was
brought about solely by the increase in trade, nor that the increase in trade was brought
about by the destruction of the old order and the adoption of the socialist form of
development; both extremes touch and are interrelated.
We did not start out on the path that ends in communism, foreseeing all steps as
logically predetermined by an ideology advancing toward a fixed goal. The truths of
socialism and, even more, the naked truths of imperialism forged our people and showed
them the path which we consciously took later. The peoples of Asia and Africa that are
advancing toward their own complete liberation should take the same path. They will follow
it sooner or later, regardless of what modifying adjective their socialism may take today.
There is no other definition of socialism valid for us than that of the abolition of
the exploitation of man by man. As long as this has not been achieved, we are in the stage
of the building of socialist society; and if instead of achieving this goal, the
elimination of exploitation comes to a halt, or worse, is reversed, then it is false even
to speak of building socialism.
We have to prepare conditions so that our brothers can directly and consciously take
the path of the complete abolition of exploitation, but we cannot ask them to take that
path if we ourselves are accomplices of that exploitation. If we were asked what the
methods were for establishing just prices, we could not answer because we do not know
concretely the full scope of the problems involved. All we know is that, after political
discussions, the Soviet Union and Cuba signed agreements advantageous to us, in accordance
with which we will sell five million tons of sugar at prices fixed above those of the
so-called Free World Sugar Market. The People's Republic of China also pays those prices
in buying from us.
This is only a beginning; the real task consists of fixing prices that will permit
development. A great ideological change is needed to change the character of international
relations; foreign trade should not determine politics, but should on the contrary be
subordinated to the politics of fraternity toward peoples.
Let us briefly analyze the problem of long-term credits for developing basic
industries. Frequently we find that beneficiary countries attempt to create industrial
bases too large for their actual capability, whose products would not be all consumed
domestically. And they mortgage their reserves in this effort. Our reasoning is that in
the socialist states investments weigh directly on the state budget, and are only paid off
through the utilization of what is produced by the investment in the entire manufacturing
cycle. We propose that some thought be given to the possibility of making these kinds of
investments in the underdeveloped countries.
In this way an immense hidden force in our continents - miserably exploited but never
aided in their development - could be tapped and a new era begun of a real international
division of labor, based not on the history of what has been done up to now, but rather on
the future history of what can be done.
The states, in whose territories the new investments are to be made, will have all the
inherent rights of sovereign property over them without any payment or credit due, but
they would be obligated to supply agreed-upon quantities of products to the investor
countries for a certain number of years at fixed prices.
The method for financing the local expenses incurred by the investor country in such
projects also deserves study. The supplying of marketable goods on long-term credits to
the governments of underdeveloped countries could be one form of aid not requiring the
expenditure of freely convertible funds.
Another difficult problem is the mastering of technology. The shortage of technicians
in underdeveloped countries is well known to all. Educational institutions and teachers
are lacking. Sometimes we even lack an understanding of which of our needs should be given
priority in a program of technical, cultural, and ideological development. The socialist
countries should supply the aid for organizing centers for technical training; they should
insist upon the great importance of this, and supply technicians to fill the present need.
It is necessary to insist further on this last point. The technicians who come to our
countries must be exemplary. They are comrades who find themselves in a strange
environment, often one hostile to technology, with a different language and totally
different customs. The technicians facing this difficult task should be, first of all,
communists in the most profound and noble sense of the word. With this single quality,
plus flexibility and a modicum of organization, wonders can be accomplished.
We know it can be done because brother countries have sent us a certain number of
technicians who have done more toward the development of our country than ten institutes,
and have contributed more to our friendship than ten ambassadors or a hundred diplomatic
f we could achieve the above-listed points, and also if the underdeveloped could
acquire all the technology of the advanced countries unhampered by the present system of
patents, which prevents the spread of the inventions of different countries, we would
progress a great deal in our common task.
Imperialism has been defeated in many partial battles. But it remains a considerable
force in the world, and we cannot expect its final defeat save through effort and
sacrifice on the part of all of us.
The proposed steps, however, cannot be taken unilaterally. The development of
underdeveloped countries should be paid for by the socialist countries, we agree. But the
underdeveloped countries must also exert all their forces to embark resolutely upon the
road of building a new society - whatever its name may be - where the machine, an
instrument of labor, is no longer an instrument of the exploitation of man by man. Nor can
the confidence of the socialist countries be expected by those who play at balancing
between capitalism and socialism, trying to use each force as a counterweight in order to
derive certain advantages from such competition. A new policy of absolute seriousness
should govern the relations between the two groups of societies. It is worth emphasizing
again that the means of production should preferably be in the hands of the state, so that
features of exploitation may gradually disappear.
On the other hand, development should not be left to complete improvisation; it is
necessary to plan the construction of the new society. Planning is one of the laws of
socialism; and without it, it would not exist. Without correct planning there can be no
adequate guarantee that all the various sectors of a country's economy will combine
harmoniously for the forward strides which our epoch demands. Planning is not an isolated
problem of each of our small countries, distorted in their development, possessors of some
raw materials or producers of some manufactured or semimanufactured goods, but lacking in
most others. From the very beginning, planning should tend toward some regional view in
order to coordinate the various national economies, and thus bring about an integration on
the basis of a genuine mutual benefit.
We believe the road ahead is full of dangers, not dangers conjured up or foreseen in
the distant future by some superior mind, but palpable dangers deriving from the realities
besetting us. The fight against colonialism has reached its final stages; but in the
present era, colonial status is only a consequence of imperialist domination. As long as
imperialism exists, it will, by definition, exert its domination over other countries.
Today that domination is called neocolonialism.
Neocolonialism was first developed in South America, throughout the whole continent,
and today it begins to be felt with increasing intensity in Africa and Asia. Its forms of
penetration and development have distinct characteristics. One is the brutal aggression we
have seen in the Congo. Brute force, without concealment or disguise of any kind, is its
final weapon. But there is another more subtle form: political penetration in liberated
countries, alliances with the growing indigenous bourgeoisies, development of a parasitic
bourgeoisie closely linked to the old metropolitan interests. This development may be
fostered by a certain temporary rise in the popular standard of living, because in a very
backward country the simple step from feudal to capitalist relations marks a great
advance, although it may later bring dire consequences for the workers.
Neocolonialism has shown its claws in the Congo. That is not a sign of strength, but of
weakness; it had to resort to force, its final weapon, as an economic argument. This has
evoked opposition of great intensity. But at the same time a much more subtle form of
neocolonialism is being practiced in other countries of Africa and Asia, and is rapidly
bringing about what some have called the South- Americanization of these continents; that
is, the development of a parasitic bourgeoisie, which adds nothing to the national wealth
of their countries, but even goes so far as to deposit its huge dishonest profits in
capitalist banks abroad; and to obtain more profits, this parasitic bourgeoisie signs
pacts with foreigners with absolute disregard for the welfare of the people of their
There are also other dangers such as competition between brother countries, which are
politically friendly and sometimes neighbors, because both are trying simultaneously to
develop the same investments in markets which cannot take the increased volume of
products, This competition has the disadvantage of wasting energies that could be used for
much greater economic cooperation, and furthermore it allows the imperialist monopolies to
play games with us.
When it has been impossible to get a certain investment from the socialist camp, there
have been occasions when it has been obtained by agreements with the capitalists. Such
capitalist investments not only have the disadvantage of the way the loans are made, but
others, such as the creation of a joint corporation with a dangerous neighbor. Since these
investments in general parallel those made in other states, they tend to cause divisions
between friendly countries by the creation of economic rivalries; and further, they create
the dangers of corruption flowing from the constant presence of capitalism which is so
skillful in conjuring up visions of advancement and luxury in the minds of many people.
Later on, when prices in the saturated market decline, the countries engaged in the
parallel production find themselves obliged to seek new loans, or to permit additional
investments for further competition. The falling of the economy into the hands of the
monopolies, and a slow but sure return to the past is the final consequence of such a
policy. As we see it, the only safe way of obtaining investments from the capitalist
powers is for the state to have direct control as the sole purchaser of goods, limiting
imperialist participation to the supplying of goods in accordance with the contracts and
not permitting them to get beyond the street door to our house. And here it is just and
proper to take advantage of inter-imperialist contradictions in order to secure the least
It is necessary to watch the "disinterested" economic, cultural, and other
aid which imperialism grants directly or, since it is better received that way in some
parts of the world, through puppet states.
If all of the dangers pointed out are not seen in time, some countries that began their
task of national liberation with faith and enthusiasm may find themselves unwittingly
stepping onto the neocolonial road, and find further that monopoly domination has been
gradually establishing itself within their territories with such subtlety that its effects
are difficult to discern until they brutally make themselves felt.
There is a big job to be done. Immense problems confront our two worlds - that of the
socialist countries and that called the "third world" - problems directly
concerning man and his welfare, and the struggle against the main culprit for our
backwardness. In the face of these problems, all countries and peoples aware of their
duties, of the dangers inherent in the situation, of the sacrifices required by
development, should take concrete steps to cement our friendship in the two fields - which
can never be separated - the economic and political. And we should organize a great solid
bloc which, in its turn, helps new countries to free themselves not only from political
domination, but from imperialist economic domination as well.
Our attitude toward liberation by armed struggle against an oppressor political power
should be in accordance with the rules of proletarian internationalism. If it is absurd to
imagine that in a socialist country at war a factory manager would demand a guarantee of
payment before shipping to the front the tanks produced by his factory, it is no less
absurd to inquire of a people fighting for liberation, or needing arms to defend its
freedom, whether or not they can guarantee payment.
Arms cannot be regarded as merchandise in our world. They should be delivered to the
peoples asking for them for use against the common enemy without any charge at all, and in
quantities determined by the need and their availability. That is the spirit in which the
USSR and the People's Republic of China have offered us their military aid. We are
socialists, we constitute a guarantee of the proper utilization of those arms; but we are
not the only ones. And all of us should receive the same treatment.
To the ominous attacks by American imperialism against Vietnam and the Congo, the
answer should be the supplying of all the defense equipment they need, and to offer them
our full solidarity without any conditions whatsoever.
In the economic field we must conquer the road to development with the most advanced
technology possible. We cannot climb the long ascending road from feudalism to the atomic
and automated era. That would be the road of immense and largely useless sacrifices. It is
necessary to seize technology at the height it has attained today to make the great
technological leap ahead which will reduce the gap between the more developed countries
and ourselves. This means big factories and a properly developed agriculture. And above
all, its foundation must be a technological and ideological culture with enough mass base
and strength to guarantee the continuing sustenance of the institutes and research
organizations which have to be created in each country - as well as the men who, utilizing
the present technology, may be capable of adapting themselves to the newly mastered
These cadres must be conscious of their duties to the society in which they live. There
cannot be an adequate technological culture if it is not complemented by ideological
culture. And in most of our countries a proper foundation for industrial development,
which is what determines the growth of modern society, cannot exist if we do not begin by
assuring for our people the necessary food, the essential consumer goods, and adequate
A good part of the national revenues must be spent on the so-called unproductive
investment in education, and special attention must be given to the development of
agricultural productivity. The latter has reached incredible levels in many capitalist
countries, producing the senseless crisis of overproduction and a surplus of grain and
other food products and industrial raw materials in the developed countries while the rest
of the world suffers hunger, although it has enough land and labor to produce several
times over what is needed to feed the entire world.
Agriculture must be considered a fundamental pillar of our development, and therefore
changes in the agricultural structure, adjustment to the new technological possibilities,
as well as the new duties of eliminating the exploitation of man, should be fundamental
aspects of the work
Before making costly decisions that could cause irreparable damage, a careful study of
the national territory is needed. This is one of the preliminary steps in economic
research and an absolute prerequisite for correct planning.
We warmly support Algeria's proposition for institutionalizing our relations. We would
like to make some supplementary suggestions: First, for the Union to be an instrument in
the struggle against imperialism, the cooperation of Latin American countries and the
alliance of the socialist countries is necessary.
Second, we should be vigilant about the revolutionary character of the Union,
preventing the admission into it of governments or movements not identified with the
general aspirations of the people, and creating mechanisms that would permit the
separation from it of any government or movement diverging from the just road.
Third, we must advocate the establishment of new relations which create a revolutionary
jurisprudence to defend us in case of conflict, and to give new meaning to the relations
between us and the rest of the world.
We speak the language of revolution and we honestly fight for the victory of that
cause. But frequently we entangle ourselves in the nets of an international law created as
the result of confrontations between the imperialist powers, and not by the free peoples,
the just peoples, in the course of their struggles.
For example,.our peoples suffer the painful pressure of foreign bases established on
their territories, or they have to carry the heavy burdens of foreign debts of incredible
The history of these burdens is well known to all of us. Puppet governments,
governments weakened by long struggles for liberation or by the operation of the laws of
the capitalist market, have acquiesced to treaties which endanger us internally and
compromise our future.
This is the time to throw off the yoke, to force renegotiation of oppressive foreign
debts, and to force the imperialists to give up their bases for aggression on our
I would not want to conclude these remarks, this repetition of concepts you all know,
without calling the attention of this gathering to the fact that Cuba is not the only
American nation; it is simply the only one that has the opportunity of speaking before you
today; and that other countries are shedding their blood to win the rights we have; and
that when we send our greetings from here, and from all the conferences and the places
where they may be held, to the heroic peoples of Vietnam, Laos, so-called Portuguese
Guinea, South Africa, or Palestine - to all exploited countries fighting for their
emancipation - we should simultaneously extend our voice, our hand, our encouragement, to
our brother peoples in Venezuela, Guatemala and Colombia who today, arms in hand, are
giving a resolute No! to the imperialist enemy.
And there are few settings from which to declare this as symbolic as Algiers, one of
the most heroic capitals of freedom. And the magnificent Algerian people, steeled as few
others in suffering for freedom, and firmly led by its party headed by our dear comrade
Ahmed Ben Bella, serves as an inspiration to us in this fight without quarter against