Che Guevara was not a Stalinist. To claim Che was a Stalinist is to look over some very compelling facts and take other facts out of context. To say Che was a Stalinist, many point to the fact that in some letters to his family Che signed the letters as "Stalin II". Che was also accused of saluting in front of a picture of Stalin and claiming to promise to fight capitalism until it was dead. Stalinists also claim that because in Che's early years he read some of Stalin's writings to try to understand Marxism that this makes him a Stalinist.
While out of context these arguments look convincing, in context they fall apart. When Che signed his name "Stalin II" in letters to his family, read some of Stalin's writings, etc. it was during a period in history when the Soviet Union and Stalin were still considered fighters of Nazism and heros of the Allied powers, helping win World War II. Life magazine in the United States even designated Stalin as their man of the year!
Also, if reading Stalin automatically makes someone apart of he Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist worldview then I, a Anti-Stalinist, Left Communist, would become automatically a Stalinist. Just because someone reads a certain viewpoint doesn't mean they subscribe to that viewpoint. Following this logic, any World War II historian that read Mein Kampf would be a Nazi.
Che looked at things in ways that weren't just "good" or "bad" but looked at things as having good and bad parts. For instance, Che claimed to be a Marxist-Leninist but criticized Lenin for his NEP policy, claiming, 30 years before the fall of the USSR, that Lenin's introduction of state capitalism into the Soviet Union would cause it's falling. This criticism of Lenin has been reserved mainly for those on the left Marxist, anarchist, and libertarian socialist/communist line of thought. For this criticism to be stated by a Marxist-Leninist is very interesting and shows Che didn't see things as all good or all bad.
Also, Stalin thought the NEP was a great accomplishment by Lenin and believed it helped build socialism in Russia. Wouldn't you expect "Che the Stalinist" to agree with this viewpoint then?
If Che, later in life, still showed respect for "comrade Stalin", it was respect for fighting against Nazism with the Allied forces, for being against capitalist imperialism, etc.
In fact, when Che visited the Soviet Union he became disturbed by what he was and thought the Soviet Union version of Marxism had failed. While it is true Che visited the USSR during the de-Stalinization period when Khrushchev was around, Che was a critic of the Soviet bureaucratic system and elitist leaders, developments that increased faster under Stalin.
It is also obvious that Che did not embrace the idea of "Socialism in One Country." His attempts to spread socialist revolution in other countries proves this.
Fidel Castro claims that Che, while giving Stalin some merit for industrialization, fighting the Nazis, etc., was not a Stalinist and criticized Stalin and Stalinism.
While it is true that Che admired some of Mao Zedong's policies, Che was neither a Maoist or a Maoist guerrilla. In fact, he felt that Maoism could not work in Latin America. His admiration for some of Mao's policies does not make him a Maoist either. Again, Che saw things as having good parts and bad parts. In fact, many anti-Leninist socialists have admired Maoist ideas such as Parecon visionary Michael Albert and libertarian socialist Noam Chomsky.
This is really irrelevant, Che was a liberator of the masses and that is all there is to it. Different sects want him to be labeled under their banner because he is iconic. He favored Maoism over the USSR model (read "Fidel and Che a revolutionary friendship and Jon Lee Andersons book for my sources) because he saw the USSR as highly BS because of the parties he went to and he saw that KGB and politicians were treated greater and given more privileges than the party members in China (he used elevators to explain to Castro that in the USSR the elevators in the building where a party was thrown in the Cubans honor, that only KGB members and high ranking officials could get on the elevators. However in China at a party thrown there were everyday peasants not only at the party, but peasants were on the same elevator as the chairman an Che.) He saw Maoism (or what used to be called Chinese styled communism) to be more equal than USSR communism. (sorry for rant)
He should be an icon because he was less worried with ideology and more worried about progress and the destruction of imperialism. Most "revolutionaries" these days could learn from his example.
But I agree with your main point. He wasn't a Stalinist (even though that term alone is BS but we aren't discussing that) as in his Bolivian diaries he describes how a book by Trotsky was found in one of his soldiers backpacks. Since that soldier wasn't kicked out or shot etc. I think your assertion is fair. However Che believed in exporting revolution. This doesn't mean he didn't support SIOC, he was very into self-determination and never attacked a socialist nation for attempting SIOC so that assertion is baseless IMO.
Main point; Che wasn't a "good" anythingist, he was a great revolutionary that fought for the freedom of all peoples from imperialist oppression and exploitation.