Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Rebel armies

I went to see "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" on New Years Day.

It recalled incidents from the Cuban revolutionary war in more than one scene.


Fighting in the `suicide squad'

He told the story of how the "suicide squad," a special unit formed in Guevara's Rebel Army column, got its name. Roberto Rodríguez, known as "Vaquerito," took the initial idea of a "commando action group" to Guevara, Tamayo explained. Guevara thought it was a good idea, he said, but pointed out that this was the name used by capitalist armies, by murderous armies. He proposed that it be called the "suicide squad."

"Actions by the `suicide squad,' " Tamayo explained, "consisted of taking a hand grenade in each hand, with the safety pin pulled, and a light machine gun across the chest, then getting as close as possible to the door of an army garrison, throwing the grenades in, and immediately entering the garrison shooting. This we did on several occasions," he said.

Tamayo recounted the experiences of fighting under Guevara's leadership from the initial stage of the revolutionary war in the mountains in the southeast of Cuba - the Sierra Maestra -to the battle of Santa Clara in the middle of the island. As Guevara's column "took the garrison of Santa Clara, the third- largest in the country," Tamayo explained, "it was the definitive blow to the dictatorship" of Fulgencio Batista, which was backed by Washington.

Tamayo outlined how, after the triumph, "Che with his tremendous capacity for work" fulfilled many duties, "working 17, 18, or 19 hours a day with only 6 hours rest".

Guevara continued his military command responsibilities even after being appointed by Cuban president Fidel Castro as president of the National Institute of Agrarian Reform (INRA) and then president of the National Bank. Later he was head of the Ministry of Industry.

"Che also represented Cuba in the United Nations, where he told the truth about imperialism in imperialism's own house," he added.

Tamayo was present at Guevara's 1961 speech at Punta del Este, Uruguay, where, at the Inter-American Economic and Social Conference sponsored by Organization of American States, Guevara scored Washington's aggression against Cuba.

In contrast to the heads of the capitalist governments who gave brief speeches, Tamayo said, "Che spoke for an hour and a half without papers or notes."

Afterward, Tamayo recounted that Guevara, in response to a journalist's question about his "former homeland," had swiftly responded, "I don't have a `former' homeland. My homeland is Argentina, my homeland is Cuba, my homeland is Latin America, my homeland is the entire world. I have more homeland than you."

When another participant in the meeting asked what sort of political education was carried out in the Rebel Army, Tamayo pointed out that he had "never been to school - where we lived there were no schools."

"There was very good political education for the entire Rebel Army," Tamayo added, "the example of Fidel and Che." In addition, the largely illiterate recruits were taught to read and write.

"After the triumph of the insurrection we began to study politics from books," he said. "All the men who were with Che took to study, in many cases up to university."

He told of how Guevara during the guerrilla war used even punishment for indiscipline in an educational way, with solitary confinement serving also as an assignment to read some books and be tested on them. "He was giving us culture," Tamayo commented.

`Che gave everything for his work'
Another questioner wanted to know whether Che was "exploited" by working so hard. Tamayo responded that "men like Che could never be exploited. Che was a man of conviction and judgment. Men like Che give everything for their responsibilities and for their work." He emphasized that "in the early years there were very few people to take on the top positions. Not only did Che work for up to 19 hours, but Fidel, Raúl, and all the top leaders" worked very hard. "That is why Che is an example. That is why I say Che is the communist of the 21st century."

Asked about the place land reform had played in winning peasants like him and his father to the revolution, Urbano remarked, "I believe it was one of the fairest measures of the revolution, giving the peasants the land they had worked for years, which was in the hands of exploiters and big companies."

"I can say land reform is still in force in Cuba," he said. "Even the previously state-run lands have been turned into agricultural and livestock cooperatives. It has been handed back to the agricultural workers and they have become masters of the land.

"The state-owned land has been handed over to those who want to work it," Tamayo emphasized, "so that today I can say we have even more agrarian reform!"

Tamayo concluded his presentation saying that "Che was dedicated to work, and dedicated to the welfare of humanity. It was for the welfare of humanity that he gave his life."  



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