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Digital Archive International History Declassified

January 29, 1964

FROM THE DIARY OF A. I. ALEKSEYEV, RECORD OF A CONVERSATION WITH ERNESTO GUEVARA, 25 DECEMBER 1963

This document was made possible with support from the Leon Levy Foundation

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    Guevara informs the Soviets that he has been falsely accused of being "pro-Chinese." They discuss certain differences between Guevara and Soviet officials in terms of approach to the Liberation Movement in Latin America. Guevara reports recent economic progress and economic development plans in Cuba.
    "From the Diary of A. I. Alekseyev, Record of a Conversation with Ernesto Guevara, 25 December 1963 ," January 29, 1964, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, TsKhSD, f. 5, op. 49, d. 760, ll. 27-29, r. 9127. Translated for CWIHP by Gary Goldberg. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/117072
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[Stamp]: Declassified

from the diary

of A. I. Alekseyev

Secret Copy No 2

29 January 1964

No 37

RECORD OF A CONVERSATION

with Minister of Industry of Cuba Ernesto Guevara Serna

25 December 1963

I met today with E. Guevara and had a friendly conversation with him.

As we knew, Guevara expressed resentment that we had begun to deal less with him, supposedly because we had developed the opinion about him as a person who holds pro-Chinese positions.

Being a direct and open person at the beginning of the conversation he declared to me that we were mistaken to consider him pro-Chinese, that this does not correspond to reality. He has his own point of view regarding individual questions which do not agree with the opinions of individual Soviet comrades, but this does not mean that he holds pro-Chinese positions. We do not agree in questions of the mechanical employment of self-financing in Cuban industry and you do not approve of my policy of unleashing a guerilla war in the countries of Latin America described in the article in the magazine “Cuba Socialista.”

[Translator’s note: The last half of the above paragraph and the first half of the next paragraph are emphasized by two vertical lines in the left margin of the Russian text.]

I said to Guevara that he is not correct if he thinks that we consider him an advocate of a pro-Chinese orientation. My rare meetings with him are explained only by the fact that after the growth of the GKEhS [USSR State Committee for Economic Relations] office I deal less with economic questions and wanted him to resolve all economic questions directly with GKEhS representatives. I told him that we are very satisfied with the businesslike cooperation with him and that if there are any differences of views with him then they are in no way reflected in our relations.

A mechanical transfer of a self-financing system to Cuban industry is unacceptable at the present stage, Guevara explained to me. In principle we are not against this system; possibly, it will be employed later when industry does not operate with interruptions due to a lack of raw material and other similar occurrences.

I told Guevara that it is more evident to them what is more advantageous and we are not at all insisting on the use of our self-financing system in Cuban industry.

Guevara informed me that right now in all industrial sectors labor norms are being introduced; Soviet specialists have been of much help in drawing them up. Guevara has a negative attitude toward the progressive payment of labor, saying that mainly they will have incentives of a moral nature. In reply I said to Guevara that he is deeply mistaken if he thinks that a rise in labor productivity can be achieved without the material interest of workers. In our experience, I told him, a material reward for exceeding norms is that incentive.

In Guevara’s words, the main task right now is not to raise the productivity of manual labor but to introduce new technology and improve the production process. Moreover, he said, we should develop a revolutionary consciousness among our workers.

I noted to Guevara that he is idealizing Cuban workers and is mechanically transferring his own world view of the ideal revolutionary to the broad masses who are not Party members. In reply to this he said that the features of ideal revolutionaries should and could be instilled in all workers.

Here we disagree in our opinions, I said, but it does not mean that we consider you an advocate of a pro-Chinese orientation.

Then the question of the role of labor unions came up. In Guevara’s words, Cuban labor unions have preserved all the features of the labor union movement during capitalism and often even interfere in the development of Cuban industry. While preserving their authority, the labor union leaders are at the service of backward workers and do not understand their new role.

I told Guevara about the articles and speeches of V. I. Lenin that I had read on this question and promised to translate several of them into Spanish for him. I did not enter into polemics with him in regard to the question of Guevara’s position concerning guerilla warfare, saying that I had not read his articles in the magazine “Cuba Socialista.” This surprised Guevara very much and he noted that he thought that his articles had been read by us exhaustively as an expression of a pro-Chinese policy.

The Cuban leadership, Guevara noted, had given a positive assessment of N. S. Khrushchev’s 29 November letter to Mao Zedong.

At the conclusion of the conversation Guevara said that he was satisfied with our talks and requested that I visit him at any time and openly argue with him. I assured Guevara of our genuinely friendly feelings toward him and promised to meet with him more often.

USSR Ambassador to Cuba

[signature]

A. Alekseyev

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