Ernesto Che Guevera with Anastás Mikoyán, first vice-president of the Council of Ministers of the USSR.
Excerpt from the book “Anatomy of the Caribbean Crisis” by Sergo Mikoyán, Chapter XIV, “Che Guevara”.
Fragments of an interview with journalist I.R. Grigulievich granted by Anastás Mikoyán, a few months before his death.
You were able to meet Che, of course. Tell us, Anastás Ivanóvich, what memories do you have of those encounters and what can you tell us about Che as a man, a state personality and a revolutionary?
Che Guevara attracted attention because of his external appearance. He was slender, elegant in his own way, despite being quite robust. His face was courageous and generous at the same time. He seduced with his charming smile. From the conversations an impression was formed of him being a man of broad education, cultured, erudite. But all these qualities taken together were not what made Che an outstanding personality. Of course, the fundamental thing in him was not his external aspect and his erudition but that condition of being a revolutionary with a conviction of steel, I would say indomitable, in the justice of his ideals. He was selflessly devoted to the cause of the Revolution, to the cause of the liberation of the workers from any kind of oppression, poverty and other plagues of capitalism and imperialism. He was a revolutionary from head to toe. That was Che Guevara. The selfless dedication to the Revolution consisted of his main passion, his happiness, his maximum ideal. In him was present the sense of revolutionary honor, of revolutionary duty, that is why difficulties, dangers did not repel them, on the contrary, they attracted him. Fearless, he was always ready to give his life for the ideas in which he believed. At the same time, he was removed from any ostentation, vainglory, exhibition of courage, bravado and charlatanry. All his words, gestures, actions and conduct were imbued with sincerity, modesty and simplicity.
This intellectual, this “bibliophile” was not an office worker, a hermit-scholar. He was drawn to fighting, to heated combat, to audacious exploits. But he was not a Don Quixote, who dreamed of fighting with windmills, with imaginary enemies. The enemy for him was very concrete, his name was imperialism. To fight it was for Guevara revolutionary honour, revolutionary duty.
Was Che a romantic? Without a doubt. He was a revolutionary romantic. Let us remember Lenin’s words: “… By itself it is understood that we cannot stop being romantic. It is better that it should be present and not missing. We have always sympathized with the romantic revolutionaries, even when we have not agreed with them.
We talked a lot with Che and often argued. He was distinguished by his impatience, his frankness, his faith in the marvelous power of revolutionary action, his uncompromising struggle. To a certain degree all revolutionaries, and especially the youth, err on that score. For many of us, the experience of life alone, and by this one must understand not only successes but also failures, brings sobriety to the analyses, only with the experience of life is the revolutionary passion disciplined, which allows us to gather, to gather the necessary forces, to throw ourselves into combat again….
We talked about it with Che Guevara. On many things, he agreed with me, but on many others he held a directly contrary opinion. Once I jokingly told him that the name Che matches him, because in Armenian language “che” means “No”. When he heard that, graciously, he laughed out loud. It wasn’t easy for me to change Che’s mind, just as it wasn’t easy for him to change mine. Only life, only the very development of the revolutionary process can bring the corresponding corrections to our discussions, showing where he was wrong and where I was wrong. But our discussions were between two people with the same convictions and not between adversaries. We were both communists and that determined a mutual respect, which we experienced with each other and a friendship, which united us…
I would particularly like to underline the impression I had of the mutual relations between Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. We were together many times and sometimes just the three of us, in addition to the translator. That is why I had the opportunity to appreciate how special this friendship was, permeated by absolute trust and mutual understanding. The characteristics of these two Cuban revolutionaries are remarkably different. The temperamental, fiery, passionate Fidel and the cold-blooded Che were marvelously close to each other, they valued each other and may even be for those same qualities that differentiated them.
After Che’s death I never saw Fidel Castro again, but I met his brother Raúl, when he was coming to Moscow and I know very well how deeply they feel that loss. Until the end I will share that sorrow with them.
What can you say about “Diario del Che en Bolivia”?
When I read it, it seemed to me that it was written in the blood of a generous revolutionary. With pain in my soul I read the last pages of Che’s life. Few are the words in those pages, but the drama of the revolutionary fighters is great! A boundless respect inspires their courage, their firmness, and their willingness to fight to the end, which is what the diary shows. This most clearly characterizes his profile as an unshakeable combatant, who remains such, despite the failures, since we are talking about the failures of the guerrilla detachment, on which he had placed great hopes. People like Che do not die in vain. After death they remain in line and continue with their lives inspiring new and fresh fighters in the struggle for communism, for the liberation of all humanity from exploitation and oppression. The shining example of the communist Che will live eternally in the memory of the peoples, in the hearts of his friends and comrades in struggle and of all those who knew him.
Anastas Ivanovich was silent.
Anastás Ivanóvich Mikoyán was a Bolshevik leader of Armenian origin, who held important responsibilities in the Soviet government from the 1930s to the early 1960s. From 1954 to 1964 he served as Deputy Chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers, and later as President of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet. He visited Cuba twice, where he held conversations with Commander in Chief Fidel Castro and other leaders of the Cuban Revolution.
Spanish Translation by Leonel Gorrín Mérida for Cubadebate
English Translation by Internationalist 360°