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“The Social Ideas of the Rebel Army,” Che Guevara, January 27, 1959

Ambition Graphic Organizer


  • I can assess Che Guevara’s Marxist words and ideas and his brand of revolutionary justice for Cuba.

Essential Vocabulary 

justice Upholding of what is fair and right. Respecting the rights and dignity of all.
vanguard A group of people leading the way in new developments or ideas.
avowed Something that has been asserted, admitted, or stated publicly.

Building Context 

Soon after the Cuban Revolution successfully overthrew the Batista regime, Guevara gave the following speech outlining the ways in which his supporters would go about revolutionizing society to impose a new ideology. Besides what he discusses in the excerpt below, Guevara also called for other communist policies like nationalizing natural resources and certain utilities, as well as exporting revolution to other countries in the Americas.    

“The Social Ideas of the Rebel Army,” Che Guevara, January 27, 1959

“What tools do we have to carry out a program such as I have presented? We have the Rebel Army, and this must be our first instrument of struggle, the most positive and most vigorous one. All remnants of the Batista army will be destroyed. Let it be clearly understood that we are not doing so out of vengeance, or solely out of a spirit of justice. Rather, we do so out of necessity, to assure that all these conquests by the people can be achieved in the shortest period of time 

We defeated an army vastly superior in numbers through popular support, through correct tactics, and through revolutionary morale….We have to rapidly restructure the Rebel Army, because along the way we built an armed body of peasants and workers, many of them illiterate, uneducated, and without technical training. We must train this army for the great tasks its members have to face, and train them both technically and culturally. 

The Rebel Army is the vanguard of the Cuban people, and in referring to its technical and cultural progress we have to know the meaning of these things in a modern sense…. 

Taking back the nation involves the destruction of many privileges. We therefore must be prepared to defend the nation from its avowed or disguised enemies…. 

Now, in the face of the experiences we have had, the question is raised of what our future will be, a future intimately linked to all the underdeveloped countries of Latin America. The revolution is not limited to the Cuban nation, since it has touched the conscience of the Americas and has given a serious wake-up call to the enemies of our peoples.”

Primary Source Analysis Questions 

  1. Guevara speaks of carrying out “justice” and “necessity” against members of the Batista regime. Was this true justice? 
  2. What parts of society did Guevara want to compose for the Rebel Army? Did those groups support the Communist revolution? Was the army’s task (or objective) just? 
  3. What is the danger of searching for “enemies of the state or revolution?” Who can be deemed an “enemy?” What possible outcomes could result from a search for “enemies?” Who gets to decide who an “enemy” is? 
  4. What “enemies” exist in other places outside of Cuba? What plans did Guevara have for those “enemies”?