I also want to thank compañera Aleida March, the director of Che's Personal Archive, and the many comrades throughout the leadership of the UJC [Union of Young Communists] whose support and enthusiasm for this magnificent collection of Che's speeches contributed to the quality of the book.
Pathfinder together with Editora Abril decided to publish this collection now for one reason: because it is needed.
Revolutionary-minded youth in both the United States and Cuba need Che's help today. You, better than I, know how relevant Che's ideas and example are for young people in Cuba. The valuable preface written by compañero Armando Hart, and the presentation by compañero Hassán Pérez here this evening, express this well.
I want only to add a few words on the importance of this book for a new generation of young people in the United States--and elsewhere outside Cuba as well.
It is not evident from the televised "factoids" spread around the world by the mass media of the U.S. rulers, nor reflected in what they consider "news," but profound changes are beginning to mark struggles by working people in the United States today. The brutal economic offensive ravaging the lives and futures of millions throughout Latin America and the rest of the imperialist-dominated Third World has a parallel course within the United States. More important, there is also a proletarian resistance and response gestating there.
l The capitalist economic boom that has marked much of the last 18 years has brought with it a deadly intensification of labor, threatening life and limb for millions of workers. A working day of 10 or 12 hours, while not the average, is increasingly common in the United States today.
l The standard of living of most working families, including those in the countryside, has been maintained only by more members of the family, including young people, entering the labor market, and often working more than one job. Despite that, millions are worse off today than they were two decades ago. Until the end of the 1990s, real wages were still lower for the average worker in the United States than they were in 1973. The income of the bottom 20 percent of wage earners actually fell by 6 percent over the past 20 years.
l Declining commodity prices are driving small family farmers off their land at an accelerated rate, as they fall victim to the world reality of prices of production working through the capitalist market. More and more farmers become debt slaves at the mercy of the banks and giant agricultural monopolies.
l The system of social security, won by working-class struggles in the 1930s and through the mass civil rights battles of Blacks in the 1960s, is being weakened and restricted. We will see the devastating consequences with the next economic downturn in the capitalist economy, as millions in the United States will then feel they are falling off a cliff with no support.
l Racist, anti-immigrant, and semifascist currents are gaining ground among certain middle-class layers, fearful of their future. And policy divisions within the ruling class more often surface indirectly, publicly, and crudely--and with unpredictable consequences--as we saw around the impeachment and trial of William Clinton a year ago.
Under these conditions, a new mood of resistance and struggle is developing among workers and farmers, and a new vanguard is emerging. Strikes more often end in a standoff, not a defeat. A wave of strikes that end in real victories is still to come. But a small layer of workers emerge from more and more fights, regardless of the outcome, with increased confidence.
These working people, tested in struggle, are beginning to know and trust each other, to extend a hand of solidarity from one struggle to the next. They are weaving connections and thinking about the depth and common roots of the crisis they face. They are coming together, to read, to discuss, to search for allies, and to look for ways forward. And this is new.
The new confidence being born was evidenced graphically less than a month ago in Columbia, South Carolina. On the holiday honoring the birthday of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., workers, farmers, and youth from high schools and university campuses across the South gathered 50,000 strong in that city to demand that the battle flag of the old Southern slavocracy, which flies over the capitol building of that state, come down. That flag is the symbol of racist resistance to, and rightist reaction against, the advances won by Black people in the United States these last decades, and to the social weight of the Black struggle in initiating further progress.
It was the largest demonstration ever to take place in the U.S. South. The mood was jubilant and determined.
Barely a few days after this march, a battle occurred in the port of Charleston, also in the state of South Carolina. Hundreds of dockworkers, Black and white, among whom were many who had participated in the Columbia demonstration, mobilized on the wharfs to defend their union and prevent the bosses from using scab labor. When they were attacked by some 600 anti-riot police they defended themselves energetically.
As this new mood of struggle develops, a generation of young people are awakening to political consciousness and action, being drawn towards these struggles, choosing the social forces they will side with, and looking for answers to explain the world in which we live. Just as important, they are looking for examples of how to fight back--successfully--against the most powerful ruling class the oppressed and exploited of the world have ever had to take on and defeat.
In this context the example of the Cuban revolution stands like a beacon. And despite all the ways Che's detractors and misrepresenters have tried to reduce him to a saint-like image on a T-shirt or a poster, Che Guevara is known throughout the world as a representative of this powerful revolution that for more than 40 years has faced down Yankee imperialism.
As they search for answers and an effective course of struggle, revolutionary-minded youth in the United States--and vanguard fighters of all ages--need Che's help.
They need Che's scientific precision to help them learn to analyze the tendencies and laws of motion of capital underlying the complex and fast-moving political events that mark the unfolding class struggle in this changing world.
They need Che's Marxism--the Marxism of Marx and Engels and Lenin. The Marxism of the Communist Manifesto, of Capital, of Lenin's Imperialism and What Is To Be Done--the Marxism that is not a set of preconceived ideas or formulas, set down in manuals, but the generalization of the line of march of a class fighting to achieve its emancipation and open the road forward for all the oppressed peoples of the world, for all humanity.
They need Che's deeply felt hatred for the coarseness and hypocrisy of the imperialist rulers, his revulsion against their brutal indifference to all human life, including the life of the most innocent child, if it serves their needs.
They need Che's discipline--and the satisfaction he gained from hard work and rigorous study; the responsibility he felt for his own actions and the consequences they had for his co-combatants, to whom Che was so loyal.
They need Che's cultural breadth, his historical perception as a citizen of the world, his selflessness as a citizen of time. They need the example of his lifelong effort to acquire this perspective.
They need Che's courage. His determination to fight in the front ranks of whatever struggle demanded his modest efforts.
They need Che's moral fearlessness, his understanding that morality is a class question, that the moral values of the working class are the negation of bourgeois domination, with all its obfuscating fetishes, hypocrisy, selfishness, and brutality. They need Che's conviction that communists must fight to take that terrain--the moral high ground--from the rulers as well.
They need Che's political depth, his constant striving to place all the petty frustrations of daily life and struggle, as well as the deepest challenges of transforming the economic and social foundations of society, in the broadest world political context--to see the present as history. They need to "politicize the ministry," as Che told the UJC cadres in one of the talks in this collection, to politicize every aspect of their work, as the only way to become more deeply political themselves.
They need Che's profound--and profoundly Marxist--understanding of the transformation of human beings as they struggle and work together to transform the world.
And, not least of all, they need Che's sense of humor, his joy and spontaneity, his love of life and struggle.
All these qualities permeate the pages of this magnificent book, in which Che speaks as an equal to the youth of Cuba and the world, challenging them to rise to the level of revolutionary activity and scientific thought necessary to enable working people to organize to confront and resolve the historic contradictions of capitalism threatening the future of all humanity.
That is why Che Guevara Talks to Young People will be so valuable for the young generation of politicizing young people in the United States who will be buying, reading, studying, and distributing it to others in both English and Spanish.
It will bring the actions and understanding of young people in both Cuba and the United States closer together. It is to them and their future victorious battles--imbued with the example of Che and the other men and women who have made, and are making, the Cuban revolution--that this book is dedicated.
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