Was Che Guevara a Stalinist sympathizer after the Secret Speech?

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yoda's walking stick
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Sep 1 2011 12:09
Was Che Guevara a Stalinist sympathizer after the Secret Speech?

I should know this having recently read Jon Anderson's biography of Guevara, but I don't. I recall Guevara wrote a letter to his aunt in which he referred to his "worshipping at the altar of Stalin," or something along those lines. But I'm not sure when this was.

If he remained a Stalinist sympathizer throughout his life, how did he justify it?

yoda's walking stick
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Sep 1 2011 12:14

Well according to Worker's Liberty he never made a break with Stalinism. That's depressing.

http://www.workersliberty.org/node/3076

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Fall Back
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Sep 1 2011 14:07

Because his suppression of the Cuban workers movement would have been better if he'd done it while not liking Stalin.

yoda's walking stick
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Sep 1 2011 20:55

When did he suppress the Cuban worker's movement?

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Serge Forward
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Sep 1 2011 21:07

Ooh look! Stalinist shoes! Must have! wall

radicalgraffiti
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Sep 1 2011 21:45

yoda you should maybe read some of the articles here

http://libcom.org/tags/cuba

eg

http://libcom.org/history/articles/1928-1967-ernesto-che-guevara

http://libcom.org/history/cuban-revolution-critical-perspective-sam-dolgoff

http://libcom.org/library/saint-che-truth-behind-legend-heroic-guerilla-ernesto-che-guevara

http://libcom.org/library/cuba-anarchism-history-of-movement-fernandez

yoda's walking stick
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Sep 1 2011 22:34

OK, I only have time right now to read this one. It seems ahistorical and to hold Che to a higher standard that most armed forces that I'm aware of throughout history have been.

Do I think nuclear missiles are an awful threat to life on this planet? Yes. But did their presence secure an agreement with the United States under which the yankees wouldn't invade Cuba again? Yup.

Do I think shooting deserters and spies is repulsive? Yes. But as awful as it is, that's pretty par for the course in war.

I'm a lowercase democrat, which I know many people at this forum are not, so I have a problem with the anti-democratic regime he installed in Cuba. And I completely agree with this article's critique of his focus on the peasantry. To be honest though, I think this focus was pretty inevitable due to the class make up of the continent.

In the context of Latin American, especially in the time period he was operating, when the continent was ruled by U.S. backed strong men, I think Guevara was a progressive force, from what I know now. That doesn't mean I agree with everything he did.

Black Badger
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Sep 2 2011 00:19

Hoorah for Anti-Imperialism! What's next, supporting Gaddafi as a progressive force of secularism? Less fawning over so-called revolutionary heroes and more incisive criticism of authoritarianism please. Pretty please.

working class
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Sep 2 2011 00:52
yoda's walking stick wrote:
If he remained a Stalinist sympathizer throughout his life, how did he justify it?

Much like how other Stalinists justified it, I would guess.

Quote:
OK, I only have time right now to read this one. It seems ahistorical and to hold Che to a higher standard that most armed forces that I'm aware of throughout history have been.

Armed forces exist within a context of class. Che's armed forces and the state which has ruled since the revolution represent the Cuban bourgeoisie.

Quote:
Do I think nuclear missiles are an awful threat to life on this planet? Yes. But did their presence secure an agreement with the United States under which the yankees wouldn't invade Cuba again? Yup.

Such armed standoffs are common among most nations because of the nature of world capitalism. Cuba had the open military support of the Russian imperialist bloc, which prevented any sort of invasion by other blocs.

Quote:
Do I think shooting deserters and spies is repulsive? Yes. But as awful as it is, that's pretty par for the course in war.

Such treatment of soldiers is characteristic of most national armies during times of emergencies. Why does anyone need to "defend" such things?

Quote:
I'm a lowercase democrat, which I know many people at this forum are not, so I have a problem with the anti-democratic regime he installed in Cuba. And I completely agree with this article's critique of his focus on the peasantry. To be honest though, I think this focus was pretty inevitable due to the class make up of the continent.

Actually, it is typical of most nationalist guerrilla groupings to romanticise the peasantry since most these nationalist guerrilla groups are formed of middle class kids travelling to the countryside, trying to bring about "revolution". The origins of such nationalist guerrilla groupings go up to the nineteenth century Russian Narodniks and beyond.

Quote:
In the context of Latin American, especially in the time period he was operating, when the continent was ruled by U.S. backed strong men, I think Guevara was a progressive force, from what I know now. That doesn't mean I agree with everything he did.

I don't see how a nationalist guerrilla army can be a "progressive" force.

wojtek
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Sep 2 2011 01:07

Don't worry yoda, Saint Che still lives on in Cuba along with his teachings:

Saint Che in the Heavens

On Cuban Solidarity

Alexander Roxwell
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Sep 2 2011 04:03

Ché Guevara was a Latin American nationalist in the tradition of Augusto Sandino, Simon Bolivar and José de San Martín. The coloration that such bourgeois nationalists took on after World War II was as “Marxists.” I doubt very seriously that Ché Guevara gave much thought to Joseph Stalin but probably shuddered when he did. However, Joseph Stalin was part of the “package” that went with “Marxism” as Ché understood it so he probably just swallowed it whole without a backward glance.

yoda's walking stick
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Sep 2 2011 04:31
Alexander Roxwell wrote:
Ché Guevara was a Latin American nationalist in the tradition of Augusto Sandino, Simon Bolivar and José de San Martín. The coloration that such bourgeois nationalists took on after World War II was as “Marxists.”

I think this is definitely true of Fidel Castro. I'm not so sure about Guevara.

Alexander Roxwell
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Sep 3 2011 04:59
working class wrote:
I don't see how a nationalist guerrilla army can be a "progressive" force.

Karl Marx could understand that. Engels understood that. Lenin understood that. Frankly I think even the ding dong Bakunin* understood that. If you do not understand the progressive role that anti-colonial nationalist revolts made in the world from the end of World War II to the fall of the U.S.S.R. then you really have missed amost everything.

*I do not know much about Bakunin so I could be wrong here but my recollection tells me that I am not.

working class
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Sep 3 2011 17:11
Alexander Roxwell wrote:
working class wrote:
I don't see how a nationalist guerrilla army can be a "progressive" force.

Karl Marx could understand that. Engels understood that. Lenin understood that. Frankly I think even the ding dong Bakunin* understood that.

Marx, Engels and Lenin claiming guerrilla armies are progressive? Where did they say that? I know that Marx and Engels were aware of the activities of the Narodniks, but I do not recall their supporting them or claiming they were progressive. I am not aware of any other guerrilla armies operating during the time of Marx or Engels. As for Lenin, he definitely held the Narodnik terrorists in high regard and arguably got many of his political strategies from them. However, he disagreed with them in their romanticisation of the peasantry since he believed the industrial working class to be the guiding force of the revolution. I would not be surprised if I learned that Bakunin held guerrilla armies in high regard.

Quote:
If you do not understand the progressive role that anti-colonial nationalist revolts made in the world from the end of World War II to the fall of the U.S.S.R. then you really have missed amost everything.

There were plenty of anti-colonial nationalist revolts happening before and after this time period. None of them had anything to offer to the working class. Specifically, all the anti-colonial revolts resulted in the formation of newer states and were a direct continuation of colonialism with the main foreign bosses being replaced by other foreign bosses or local bosses. This is what happened in Cuba, which is the topic of this thread. Batista and the Americans were kicked out by Castro, who eventually joined the Russian bloc. Capitalist bureaucrats of the state were given ownership of many industries, instead of private individuals. I still do not see the progressive content here.

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Sep 3 2011 19:03

Alright, I gotta ask. What's the story behind the dolphin thing?

batswill
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Sep 3 2011 19:55

Possibly they have a higher intelligence than those that interrogate them,,,,possibly,,,

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Rob Ray
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Sep 3 2011 21:10

Alexander Roxwell
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Sep 4 2011 00:29

Workingclass:

Karl Marx could understand how bourgeois nationalist revolts from below were progressive. Fredrich Engeles could understand how bourgeois nationalist revolts from below were progressive. V.I. Lenin could understand how bourgeois nationalist revolts from below were progressive. Even Bakunin could understand how bourgeois nationalist revolts from below were progressive. Do you really deny that or are you focusing all your attention on the word "guerilla"?

wojtek
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Sep 4 2011 02:09

What about nowadays Alex, do you think that nationalist guerilla armies like FARC in Columbia and/ or the Naxalite-Maoists in India are progressive?

LBird
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Sep 4 2011 05:27
LBIrd (on another similar thread) wrote:
For those new posters who perhaps think that the rest of us are being a bit short tempered with Alexander Roxwell and his ideas on 'national liberation' and 'self determination', here are two threads in which we've all asked Alex reasonable questions, and he's refused to answer them.

Anyway, judge for yourselves:

http://libcom.org/forums/ireland/irish-unification-2661-whats-wrong-it-31122010

http://libcom.org/forums/history/right-nations-self-determination-27012011

I'd read them in that order, as the second is a continuation of the first thread.

I'd appreciate some feedback from anyone who's reading them for the first time - are we being harsh on Alex, in your opinion?

workingclass, you're wasting your time expecting a proper discussion with Alex. The rest of us have tried at great length to do so, and have, sadly, failed.

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sabot
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Sep 4 2011 06:51

nevermind, now I know. grin

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Sep 4 2011 09:50
sabot wrote:
Alright, I gotta ask. What's the story behind the dolphin thing?

Yeah, that is fucking amazing. Your handiwork RR?

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sabot
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Sep 4 2011 11:17

lol, I literally started reading The Motorcycle Dairies for a moment to find the dolphin shit.

Mark.
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Sep 4 2011 21:28

The Cult of Che

S. Artesian
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Sep 4 2011 21:57
Alexander Roxwell wrote:
Workingclass:

Karl Marx could understand how bourgeois nationalist revolts from below were progressive. Fredrich Engeles could understand how bourgeois nationalist revolts from below were progressive. V.I. Lenin could understand how bourgeois nationalist revolts from below were progressive. Even Bakunin could understand how bourgeois nationalist revolts from below were progressive. Do you really deny that or are you focusing all your attention on the word "guerilla"?

Talk about abstracting an analysis from its history, the above ranks right up there, or down there, with one of the best/worst. First off, Marx and Engels were writing about such revolts 165 years ago. Secondly, Marx at least was much more circumspect than Engels, always arguing that the driving force of such revolts was the "social questions" -- the questions being more precisely of land and labor, and landed labor.

In addition, Engels took a number of "wrong" or just plain jackass positions, such as in supporting the US in the war against Mexico, a war which Abraham Lincoln and others opposed as being fought for the benefit of slaveholders.

And Engels consistently agitated for the IWMA to support Bismarck in the Franco-Prussian War, but Marx in his addresses written on behalf of the IMWA offers no such support, simply stating and warning if such war moved beyond being a "defensive" war, then there would be no difference between Bismarck and Louis Bonaparte-- which should give us a hint to what was going on in capitalism, and the impacts of uneven and combined development. I mean, there was no possibility that such a war could be confined to being defensive when the goal was the subordination of all of Germany to Junker capitalism.

And Lenin? He was just wrong, more often than not, in his evaluation of "nationalist" movements, forgetting or ignoring, that such national revolts are but momentary, superficial expressions, of the real class struggle between capital and labor, between private property and social production which are compressed by uneven and combined development.

So I think it's pretty hard to argue about the "progressive" nature of "national" or anti-colonial movements, when all such movements have been based on substituting one or another form of national property for international revolution; when all, sooner or later, are recuperated into the capitalism that Marx critiqued and for which Marx identified the agent for its abolition.

working class
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Sep 4 2011 22:33
Alexander Roxwell wrote:
Workingclass:

Karl Marx could understand how bourgeois nationalist revolts from below were progressive. Fredrich Engeles could understand how bourgeois nationalist revolts from below were progressive. V.I. Lenin could understand how bourgeois nationalist revolts from below were progressive. Even Bakunin could understand how bourgeois nationalist revolts from below were progressive. Do you really deny that or are you focusing all your attention on the word "guerilla"?

It does not matter what these persons thought. As has been demonstrated above, they were either wrong or talking in a different context. However, even if we assume that "from below" means that workers are acting solely in their interests against capital to form a national entity, such bourgeois nationalist revolts from below are not even possible today, since all such nationalist revolts after World War II and before/after the fall of the U.S.S.R. have ended up being subservient to the interests of one or the other faction of imperialism and have resulted in the continuation of colonialism in the form of neo-colonialism. This has been the case in all national liberation/anti-colonial struggles in Africa, Asia and Latin America. This being the case, the workers of those countries today have no interest in forming national level class alliances and fighting for national liberation.

Alexander Roxwell
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Sep 5 2011 00:07
working class wrote:
. . . . . since all such nationalist revolts after World War II and before/after the fall of the U.S.S.R. have ended up being subservient to the interests of one or the other faction of imperialism

Since the sky is green with purple polkadots .................................

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Sep 5 2011 00:54

Tony Cliff's 1963 work 'Deflected Permanent Revolution' gives a good overview of the class nature of these colonial revolts and nationalist revolutions:

http://www.marxists.org/archive/cliff/works/1963/xx/permrev.htm

In it he specifically discusses the Cuban revolution.

Quote:
3. Castro’s Revolution
A case in which neither the working class nor the peasantry played a serious role, but where middle-class intellectuals filled the whole arena of struggle, is Fidel Castro’s rise to power. C Wright Mills’ book, Listen Yankee, which is a more or less authentic monologue spoken by the Cuban leaders, deals first of all with what the revolution was not:

... the revolution itself was not a fight ... between wage workers and capitalists ... Our revolution is not a revolution made by labour unions or wage workers in the city or by labour parties, or by anything like that. [22] ... the wage workers in the city were not conscious in any revolutionary way; their unions were merely like your North American unions: out for more money and better conditions. That was all that really moved them. And some were even more corrupt than some of yours. [23]

Paul Baran, an uncritical supporter of Castro, wrote, after discussions with Cuban leaders, regarding the negligible role of the industrial proletariat in the revolution:

It would seem that the employed segment of the industrial working class remained, on the whole, passive throughout the revolutionary period. Forming the “aristocratic” layer of the Cuban proletariat, these workers partook of the profits of monopolistic business – foreign and domestic – were well paid by Latin American standards, and enjoyed a standard of living considerably higher than that of the masses of the Cuban people. The fairly strong trade union movement was dominated by “business unionism”, United States style, and was thoroughly permeated by racketeering and gangsterism. [24]

The indifference of the industrial proletariat accounted for the complete failure of Castro’s call for a general strike on 9 April 1958, some sixteen months after the beginning of the uprising and eight months before the fall of the Cuban dictator, Batista. the workers were apathetic, and the Communists sabotaged. (It was some time later that they jumped on Castro’s bandwagon. [25])

The role of the peasantry in Castro’s rise to power has been commented on more positively. Wright Mills reports that during the insurrection:

the peasants played the big role. Together with the young intellectuals, they became the rebel army that won the insurrection. They were the decisive ones, the intellectuals and the campesinos ... Rebel soldiers [were] formed of peasants and led by young intellectuals ... [26]

Who were these peasants? “... really a sort of agricultural wage worker, who, most of the year, were unemployed”. [27] In similar vein Baran reports: “The class that made the revolution is the rural campesinos.” [28] And these were agricultural wage earners, not petty owners. “Not being inhabited by a petty bourgeois stratum of small peasant proprietors, the Cuban countryside ... never became a ‘breeding ground of bourgeois ideology’.” [29]

This description, however, is belied by two things: the peasantry was hardly involved in Castro’s army. As late as April 1958, the total number of armed men under Castro numbered only about 180 and at the time of Batista’s fall had only grown to 803. [30] The cadres of Castro’s bands were intellectuals. And peasants that did participate were not agricultural wage earners, collectivist in inspiration, as Mills and Baran state. Witness ‘Che’ Guevara on the peasants who joined Castro in the Sierra Maestra:

The soldiers that made up our first guerrilla army of country people came from the part of this social class which shows its love for the possession of land most aggressively, which expresses most perfectly the spirit catalogued as petty bourgeois. [31]

The Castro movement was middle-class. The 82 men under Castro who invaded Cuba from Mexico in December 1956 and the 12 who survived to fight in the Sierra Maestra all came from this class. “The heaviest losses were suffered by the largely middle-class urban resistance movement, which created the political and psychological acids that ate into Batista’s fighting force.” [32]

Quite characteristically ‘Che’ Guevara raises the weakness and impotence of the industrial working class as a central element in all future socialist revolutions:

The campesinos, with an army made up of their own kind fighting for their own great objectives, primarily for a just distribution of land, will come from the country to take the cities ... This army, created in the countryside, where subjective conditions ripen for the seizure of power, proceeds to conquer the cities from the outside. [33]

Industrial advance is described as an impediment to the socialist revolution:

It is more difficult to prepare guerrilla bands in those countries that have undergone a concentration of population in great centres and have a more developed light and medium industry, even though not anything like effective industrialisation. The ideological influence of the cities inhibits the guerrilla struggle ... [34] ... even in countries where the predominance of the cities is great, the central political focus of the struggle can develop in the countryside. [35]

Paying lip service to the role of the industrial proletariat, Che says that the peasant guerrillas will have to accept “the ideological base of the working class – Marxism” – forgetting that the very heart of Marxism is the fact that the socialist revolution is the act of the working class itself, the result of the proletariat becoming the subject and not the object of history.

From the outset Castro’s programme did not go beyond the horizon of broad liberal reforms acceptable to the middle classes. In an article to the magazine Coronet of February 1958, Castro declared that he had no plans for expropriating or nationalising foreign investments:

I personally have come to feel that nationalisation is, at best, a cumbersome instrument. It does not seem to make the state any stronger, yet it enfeebles private enterprise. Even more importantly, any attempt at wholesale nationalisation would obviously hamper the principal point of our economic platform – industrialisation at the fastest possible rate. For this purpose, foreign investments will always be welcome and secure here.

In May 1958, he assured his biographer, Dubois:

Never has the 26th of July Movement talked about socialising or nationalising the industries. This is simply stupid fear of our revolution. We have proclaimed from the first day that we fight for the full enforcement of the Constitution of 1940, whose norms establish guarantees, rights and obligations for all the elements that have a part in production. Comprised therein is free enterprise and invested capital as well as many other economic, civic, and political rights. [36]

As late as 2 May 1959, Castro declared to the Economic Council of the Organisation of American States in Buenos Aires: “We are not opposed to private investment ... We believe in, the usefulness, in the experience and in the enthusiasm of private investors... Companies with international investments will have the same guarantees and the same rights as the national firms.” [37]

The impotence of the contending social classes, workers and capitalists, peasants and landlords, the inherent historical weakness of the middle class, and the omnipotence of the new Castro elite, who were not bound by any set of coherent, organised interests, explains the ease with which Castro’s moderate programme of the years 1953-58, based on private enterprise, was cast aside and replaced by a radical programme of state ownership and planning. It was not before 16 April 1961 that Castro announced that the revolution had been socialist. In the words of the President of the Republic, Dr Osvaldo Dorticos Torrado, the people “one fine day ... discovered or confirmed, that what they have been applauding, which was good for the people, was a Socialist Revolution.” [38] An excellent formulation of the Bonapartist manipulation of the people as the object of history, not its conscious subject!

Che became a Stalinist after Stalin's death. Stalin died in 1953. This anecdote from the Libcom library article says:

Quote:
Guevara was still a youth. At this period he seemed remarkably disinterested in politics and failed to offer any opinions for or against the Peron regime.

Events in Guatemala were to change this. Arbenz, a leftist army officer, was elected as President. In 1952 he nationalised the property of the United Fruit Company, a major US company which owned much land and had great economic and political influence. He also began to nationalise the land of the local big ranchers and farmers. Guevara was caught up in enthusiasm for this experiment in 'socialism' which infected middle class Latin American youth. Just before a trip to Guatemala he wrote: " I have sworn before a picture of the old and mourned comrade Stalin that I won't rest until I see these capitalist octopuses annihilated".

He was a lifelong, unapologetic Stalinist of the most fanatical variety. The Khruschchev era and 'Peaceful Co-Existance' was detestable to Guevara- so no, the Secret Speech had no impact on him in terms of 'liberalizing' his Stalinism.

yoda's walking stick
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Sep 5 2011 01:04
devoration1 wrote:
He was a lifelong, unapologetic Stalinist of the most fanatical variety. The Khruschchev era and 'Peaceful Co-Existance' was detestable to Guevara- so no, the Secret Speech had no impact on him in terms of 'liberalizing' his Stalinism.

I wonder what exactly Stalinism meant to him. I remember vaguely from the Anderson biography I mentioned earlier in this thread or another that Che was reading a book by Trotsky or one of Trotsky's followers. Che lost or almost lost the book in a battle or something and he was very concerned about the political ramifications of it being found out that he was reading Trotsky.

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Sep 5 2011 01:28

Yea but reading habits can have all manner of meanings. When Wilhelm Reich was investigated for deportation as an 'enemy alien' by the FBI they used his possession of the books Mein Kampf by Hitler and My Life by Trotsky against him (in context Reich was a favorite target of the Nazi press as a 'degenerate Jewish pornographer Communist' as a Freudian psychoanalyst and member of the German Communist Party).

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Sep 5 2011 01:39
Quote:
He was a lifelong, unapologetic Stalinist of the most fanatical variety. The Khruschchev era and 'Peaceful Co-Existance' was detestable to Guevara- so no, the Secret Speech had no impact on him in terms of 'liberalizing' his Stalinism.

Not hardly. He was not of the "most fanatical variety." He was not a Yagoda, a Yeshov.

Beginning, I think upon his return from the failed mission in the Congo, Che began working on a critical analysis of the economics of the Soviet Union. Examination of the drafts of the work show that Che thought the SU was in fact "state capitalist" and the roots of that state capitalism were not in the changes made after the death of Stalin, or in Stalin's purges and veritable civil war in the 1930s, but rather in Lenin's NEP.

So that doesn't say anything about whether or not Che regarded himself as a Stalinist, or a Leninist, or any sort of "ist" other than a communist. However, as an individual, Che was a pretty remarkable character.

Doesn't mean he was right in his strategy of the foco, of guerrilla warfare. After all, who would pick Bolivia of all places after the MNR had been overthrown, after the miners had been suppressed, and after the 14 years in which the MNR and following it, the military, had worked to turn the rural indigenous peoples into peasants, and the peasantry against the workers?

But Che was a deeply committed to egalitarianism in organization and conduct and there's no point in denying it.