Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Che Guevara: Natural Born Revolutionary


"If you tremble with indignation at every injustice, then you are a comrade of mine."

"Whenever death may surprise us, let it be welcome if our battle cry has reached even one receptive ear and another hand reaches out to take up our arms."

"We cannot be sure of having something to live for unless we are willing to die for it."

"The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall." - Che Guevara

Introduction


On October 9, 1967, after a desperate and protracted struggle, Che Guevara was executed in La Higuera, Vallegrande, Bolivia. Two days before, he had been betrayed by a paid informant in the employ of the Bolivian army. A day after that, he and the remainder of his force were surrounded in the Yuro Ravine. There were only ten of them. Five managed to escape, but Guevara and four others were captured. They were then imprisoned in a rundown schoolhouse in La Higuera. Guevara was held by the Bolivian army, assisted by CIA Agent Felix Rodriquez, a Cuban exile that had fled Cuba after the revolution. From the time that Guevara was captured, to the time that he was killed, he said very little, but the things that he did say were profound. On the day that he was captured, he surrendered, raised his weapon above his head, and said, “Do not shoot! I am Che Guevara, and I am worth more to you alive than dead.” This moment is profoundly rendered by John Lee Anderson in his biography of Guevara entitled, Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life, published in 1997. The morning that Guevara got shot, he had a conversation with one of the teachers from the school, Julia Cortez. She was personally summoned by Guevara. He pointed out to her the condition of her schoolhouse and told her, “This is anti-pedagogical. How can you expect students to be educated here when government officials drive Mercedes cars? That is what we are fighting against!” Michelle Ray delivered this moment in her article, “In Cold Blood: The Execution of Che by the CIA,” published in Ramparts Magazine, in 1968.

Later that day, Mario Teran, a Sergeant in the Bolivian army, volunteered to shoot Guevara, after the order had been passed down by Bolivian President Rene Barrientos, who had chosen to defy the wishes of the CIA. They wanted Guevara taken to Panama for further questioning. Just a few minutes before he was shot, one of Guevara’s guards asked him if he was worried about his own mortality. He replied that he was not and then said, “I am thinking about the immortality of the revolution.” This moment is caught well in a report, “Che: A Myth Embalmed in a Matrix of Ignorance,” published in Time Magazine, on October 12, 1970. Che’s last words were spoken in defiance. A few minutes later, Teran came into the room, and Che challenged him, “I know you've come to kill me. Shoot me. Do it!” Teran then pointed his weapon at Guevara, who promptly responded with, “Shoot me, you coward! You are only going to kill a man!” With that Guevara took nine shots to the body and was pronounced dead at 1:10 PM Bolivian time. After his death, Guevara became an international symbol and icon for rebellion against imperialism and cultural intrusion around the world. He was the personal symbol of the Viet Cong in Vietnam, and Mao’s 1968 summer student movement in China used his image as a symbol to represent their desire to purge their nation of all western imperialist influences. Andrew Sinclair discussed the spread of Guevara's near Martyr status after his death his his book, Che Guevara, published in 1998.

Guevara has continued to stand as such a symbol to this very day. Given these facts, who is the man that fought in foreign lands to procure the freedom of the poor and downtrodden of many nations, none his native Argentina? Who was the man that gave up a comfortable middle class life to endure abject poverty, on the way to his ultimate goal of a united and free Latin America? Who was the man that was so dangerous that the Bolivian government needed him dead, as they simultaneously risked creating stress with the United States? Who is the man that, since his death, has inspired multitudes of young revolutionaries to take up the fight for freedom? Who is the man whose writings revolutionized modern guerrilla warfare? Who was the man that so defiantly resisted the economic and military pressures of the United States? This article will answer these questions by exploring Guevara’s origins and personal motivations, by examining how other people felt about Guevara and what they said about him, and by examining how Guevara, himself, felt about the world that he lived in and his role in that world.

Young Che


Ernesto “Che” Guevara was born to Ernesto Guevara Lynch and Celia de la Serna y Llosa on June 14, 1928, in Rosario, Argentina. He was the product of an Irish father and a Basque mother, and was the eldest of five children. Ernesto Guevara Lynch wrote an account of Guevara's life, Young Che: Memories of Che Guevara by His Father, which was published in 2011. At a very young age, Guevara was exposed to leftist politics as a result of his father’s support of the Republican cause in the Spanish Civil War. He was also exposed to leftist politics by his mother. In a report, “Argentina: Che’s Red Mother,” published in Time Magazine, on July 14, 1961, this is made more widely known. His father made sure to expose him to this environment, and even stated once, later in life, “The first thing to note is that in my son's veins flowed the blood of the Irish rebels.” Losif Lavretsky, with A.B. Eklof translating, got this quote from Che's father in his book, Ernesto Che Guevara, published in Moscow in 1976. At a very young age, Guevara also felt a deep compassion for the poor, a compassion that would be with him his entire life. Douglas Kellner made note of this in his book, Ernesto “Che” Guevara: World Leaders Past and Present, published in 1989.

In addition to Guevara’s political exposure, he was regularly involved in sports as a child. He enjoyed swimming, football, golf, cycling, rugby, and shooting and was not ever overburdened by asthma, which he had been diagnosed with early in his life. He was known by his friends and coaches as an aggressive player but a great person. His friends gave him the nickname, Fuser, which was a play on the word El Furibundo, which means ‘raging or intense anger.' David Sandison gets this part of Guevara in his book, The Life and Times of Che Guevara, published in 1996. Also, at an early age, Guevara was given access to the literature of multiple scholars, most all of whom would be considered leftists by today’s standards. His father had a vast personal library in the home, and so Che was exposed to the writings of people like Karl Marx, William Faulkner, Adred Gide, Emilio Salagari, Jules Verne, Vladimir Lenin, Robert Frost, H.G. Wells, Friedrich Engels, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Friedrich Nietzsche, among others. Joseph Hart reveals Guevara's extra reading in his book, Che: The Life, Death, and Afterlife of a Revolutionary, published in 2004.

In 1948, Guevara enrolled at the University of Buenos Aires to enter their medical program. During this period, he took two trips, taken during his years in school, which dramatically altered his perception of the world, and even more, himself. His first trip took place in 1950, which he made alone through the Argentine rural back country on a bicycle that he had rigged up with a small motor. He covered a great distance, nearly three thousand miles, on this trip. The trip took twenty days. The next trip took place in a nine month period in 1951, and he traveled with a friend, Alberto Granado. They took off a year from school to travel through South America and eventually volunteer at a leper colony on the banks of the Amazon River. The two young men traveled from Argentina on to Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, and then Miami, Florida. They were also able, during this trip, to find time to do their volunteer work at the leper colony, as was mentioned.

The things that the two saw changed them; though, the biggest changes occurred in Guevara. The conditions in which the industrial workers of Chile were forced to work in were particularly appalling to him. He was also extremely disturbed by the desperate poverty that the rural peasants in the Andes had to live through. Guevara took copious notes on everything that he saw and did, taking great care to recall every detail. He recounted a story in an industrial city where he took a tour of a factory with one of the employees that worked there. He witnessed the beginnings of a strike against the Anaconda Mining Corporation, who was willing to lose thousands if not millions of dollars just to avoid giving the miners a minuscule cost of living raise. This was in Chile. In Peru, he described what he called “the two Cuzcos.” He made note of the practically destroyed Cuzco on a mountain above the modern Cuzco. He railed on about the travesty of a destroyed civilization. He even pointed out that it was things like this that risked creating new warriors in the fight to preserve what was left of the Inca. They had been the rulers of the town above, a town that was no longer the home of the locals, but rather, a run down, beat up, filthy slum of a city controlled by foreign investors and greedy local landlords. Guevara's notes were later published, Ernesto “Che” Guevara and Victor Casaus, Ed., entitled Self Portrait: Che Guevara. This book was released in 2004. It was adapted from The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey, published in Havana, Cuba in 2003.

The conditions that these people, and many others, were forced to live in enraged Guevara, and it helped to create in him a strong anti United States sentiment. It also stirred in Guevara, a dream of a united Latin America that would organize against the United States and improve the living conditions of the impoverished peoples of a continent racked with the stink of American economic imperialism. After he and this comrade had completed their journey, they returned to Buenos Aires, where in June of 1953, Guevara completed his studies and took the formal title Dr. Ernesto Che Guevara. However, this is not the point of the story where Guevara settled down to a comfortable life as a doctor, for settling down was never an acceptable option for Guevara. Evidence of Guevara’s restlessness can be seen in his tireless search for the next revolution, which will be addressed later. On July 17th, 1953, he left Argentina again to head out on another trip across South America and then Central America. This trip took Guevara through Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and finally to Guatemala.

The Rise of a Revolutionary


It is this third trip that truly put Guevara on the road to becoming a revolutionary. In these nations, Guevara got to see firsthand the affect of the United States’ economic imperialism, and he was not at all pleased with it. For him, this evil was personified by the United Fruit Company. He felt that their most evil deeds were done in Guatemala, and in a letter to his Aunt Beatriz in December of 1953, he made a vow to make them pay for their crimes, “Along the way, I had the opportunity to pass through the dominions of the United Fruit Company, convincing me once again of just how terrible these capitalist octopuses are. I have sworn before a picture of the old and mourned comrade Stalin that I won’t rest until I see these capitalist octopuses are annihilated.” This quote is taken directly from Ernesto “Che” Guevara himself, in a letter that he wrote to his Aunt Beatriz, dated December 10, 1953. He penned the letter from San Jose, Costa Rica. Not long after this, Guevara made his way to Guatemala, where Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, the democratically elected leader of the nation, was initiating a land reform program were all excess land held by large land holders was to be taken and redistributed to landless peasants. This program was initiated in response to Guatemala’s latifundia system, which concentrated power in the hands of a few rich men, while the majority of the poor were given nothing but the lash or dirt level wages. The company most affected by the new laws was the United Fruit Company. This pleased Guevara, and so he chose to settle down into a quite life in Guatemala. He was not able to get settled in for very long, though. Paco Ignacio Taibo II captures this this transition in his book, Guevara, Also Known as Che, published in 2009.

That same year, the CIA backed a military coup to overthrow the sitting president. They did so in support of the economic interests of the United Fruit Company, which had been operating in Guatemala since 1930. Guzman’s land policies severely restricted their ability to make a profit, and being a big company with a lot of lobbying power, they were able to get the United States government to approve the plan for the coup. The coup was a success, despite attempts by Guzman supporters to receive outside assistance. The Pro-US military regime, under the command of Carlos Castillo Armas, that was installed by the CIA, reversed all of Guzman’s policies. Max Gordon covered this in, “A Case History of U.S. Subversion: Guatemala, 1954," published in Science and Society in 1971. While in Guatemala, Guevara sought the wisdom of the famous economist, Hilda Gadea. Not long after his arrival, the coup occurred and she was arrested, and Guevara was to be arrested as well. The coup was conducted by a paramilitary force armed trained by the CIA. Nicholas Cullather wrote of this era of Guevara's life in , Operation PBSUCCESS: The United States and Guatemala, 1952–1954, published in 1994. Guevara then sought refuge in the Argentine Embassy in Guatemala City, where he remained until he was granted a safe departure.

This event left Guevara incensed and now firmly convinced that armed conflict against U.S. intervention in Latin America, led by Marxist principles, was the only way to create a united and economically independent Latin America. Frank E. Smitha has this reality captured in his website publication, Che Guevara: 1960-1967. He felt this way because he knew that the coup had been planned and executed with the help of the CIA. He stated publicly that, “The last Latin American revolutionary democracy that of Jacobo Arbenz, failed as a result of the cold premeditated aggression carried out by the United States. Its visible head was the Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, a man who, through a rare coincidence, had been a stockholder and attorney for the United Fruit Company.” This is confirmed in a government memorandum, Memorandum, CIA’s Role in the Overthrow of Arbenz, released for public view over twenty years later. Guevara’s accusations were confirmed by the release of a classified CIA document outlining their plan to make the coup a guaranteed success. Guevara then went to Mexico in search of Fidel Castro and what was left of the Cuban 26th of July Movement.

Looking back at all of this clearly shows that the Guevara who was prepared to join and viciously fight in the Cuban Revolution, was not the same Guevara that was born to an upper middle class family in Rosario, Argentina. The idea in the title of this article that Guevara was a natural born revolutionary is supported by the fact that from a very young age, Guevara was exposed to leftist activists, leftist writings, and leftist politics. His interest in medicine would have also had an effect on him, as it required him to help the sick, no matter their social or fiscal condition. However, it is his travels through South and Central America that created the Che Guevara that went to Mexico in 1954 in search of Fidel Castro. On his first trip through the rural areas of Argentina, he witnessed the unsavory condition of the lives of the impoverished peasants in his own country. His second trip exposed him to the unsafe working conditions and pollution in U.S. owned factories in Chile. He also encountered abstract poverty as he traveled the Andes mountains in Peru, the ancient center of the mighty Inca Empire. The final trip, which ended him up in Guatemala, was the trip that solidified his revolutionary mindset. He witnessed firsthand the lengths to which the United States was willing to go in Latin America to protect its economic interests. He stood witness as the last popularly elected government in Latin America, at the time, came to a swift and violent end because they dared to create laws that improved the lives of their people and limited the ability of foreign entities to take control of their resources without offering more than fair compensation for those foreign entities.

The Cuban Revolutionary


Guevara’s next stop was Mexico City. This was where he was to meet up with Raul Castro and his brother Fidel. Also while in Mexico, he married Hilda Gadea and greeted, there, his first child. He arrived in Mexico City in September of 1954. When he finally left Mexico, it would be aboard a small leaky cabin cruiser named Granma. When Guevara first arrived in Mexico, he took a job at the General Hospital in Mexico City working with allergy patients. He also did work at the National Autonomous University of Mexico giving lectures on various medical topics. He was there for a year before friends of his, exiles from Cuba, introduced him to Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother, and later Fidel, himself. He met with them in June of 1955, and after only one discussion, he decided that the July 26th Movement was in line with his own principles. He felt so in tune with the movement because he understood that Batista was just like any of the other Latin American dictators catering to U.S. companies, he was a “U.S. puppet whose strings needed cutting.”

Before the following day even had a chance to start, he had signed up to help them depose the dictator Fulgencio Batista. This was to be a dynamic relationship that despite what were known to be personal differences would become, according to Simon Reid-Henry, “a revolutionary friendship that would change the world.” Simon Reid-Henry covers this relationship visually in, “Fidel and Che: A Revolutionary Friendship, An Audio Slideshow,” produced by The Guardian in 2009. This period of time was also significant because this is where Guevara received his first formal training in guerrilla warfare tactics. He and the other members of the movement were trained by General Alberto Bayo. Guevara was considered by Bayo, despite his signing up as a combat medic, to be the best of his trainees. He called him, “the best guerrilla of them all.”

Once aboard the Granma, for Guevara there was no turning back. The small force of eighty-two men, including the Castros, Camilo Cienfuegos, and Guevara, landed on the Cuban coast on the Playa Los Coloradas, near the small town of Niquero, on December 2, 1956; they arrived two days later than they had anticipated. This put them out of sync with revolutionaries already in Cuba, the Llano Movement. This, however, was not the worst of their troubles. Unfortunately for them, Batista received an advanced warning of their arrival. They suffered from ariel assaults, and three days later, while they were marching into the Sierra Maestra mountains, they were attacked by a detachment of the Cuban army. They suffered fatal losses, and while the numbers on the amount of survivors vary by account, it is assured that no more than twenty of the original members of the guerrilla force survived the assault to complete the march into the mountains. Hugh Thomas made account of this devastating affair in, Cuba or The Pursuit of Freedom, Updated Edition, published in 1998.

Eventually, through the use of textbook guerrilla tactics, assistance from the peasants of the Sierra Maestra, and Batista’s political isolation, the guerrillas gained total control of the mountains. Batista, despite being advised not to do so, also took brutal action against the cities of Cuba, further pushing Cuba’s civilian population into the arms of the guerrillas. The group’s success also hinged on Guevara’s brutal tactics and iron clad discipline. These became his trademarks. He was well known for executing suspected Batista loyalists, rivals to Fidel, and anyone else suspected of betrayal. Alvaro Vargas Llosa makes note of this in his article, “The Killing Machine: Che Guevara, From Communist Firebrand to Capitalist Brand,” published in The Independent on July 11, 2005. Another key part of the guerrilla's strategy was to put out propaganda, to counter the Batista regime. Their solution to this was to create their own radio station, Radio Rebelde. In February of 1958, they began disseminating their message to the entire nation. Information on Radio Rebelde can be found at Radio Rebelde, “About Us,” RadioRebelde.cuThe group’s efforts were made possible by an acutance of Fidel’s, Carlos Franqui, who was the movement’s head of propaganda. He later went into exile in Puerto Rico, and became one of the most outspoken critics of Fidel. Despite his criticisms of Fidel, it is Fidel that outlived Carlos Franqui. His obituary was published by The Telegraph on May 24, 2010.

The guerrilla's terminal assault in the revolution came right after Batista launched a failed assault on the guerrilla's stronghold in the mountains near La Plata. After this, the guerrilla's began taking city after city, which led to the taking of Santa Clara, in which Guevara used a very small force to not only take the city, but to also defeat the Cuban army’s detachment of thousands. Not long after, on January 2, 1959, Guevara entered Havana and Castro entered Santiago de Cuba, just a few days after Batista had fled to the Dominican Republic. The next step to freeing Cuba was to reorganize society to work from the bottom up. Guevara was first assigned the task of dealing with all of the members of the Batista government that remained behind. Their fate was debated, but in the end, many of their lives were not spared, especially those that had been particularly brutal during the revolution. From January 2 through June 12, 1959, Guevara was in command of the La Cabana fortress prison, where he executed anyone convicted of war crimes or of supporting, in any way, the Batista government.

There were no less than two hundred executions during that period. The exact number has been debated ever since. One of the most common methods of execution there, though not all the prisoners were executed, as Guevara did pardon some, was by firing squad. Men were placed up against a wall, given a chance to make their peace, and shot. The walls there were stained with blood from the ordeal. Frank Niess recounted the particularly brutal nature of these executions in his biography of GuevaraChe Guevara, published in 2007. There were also, many times, crowds of people watching the executions, all the while yelling in Spanish, “To the Wall!” Thomas E. Skidmore gave some coverage to this moment in his book, Modern Latin America, published in 2008. He made account of the crowds that would be yelling ¡Al muro!, ¡Al muro!, ¡Al muro! He was somewhat critical of the brutal nature of the executions, but he did pay attention to the fact that the Batista government had been no less brutal when it was attempting to defeat the rebels before they fled with whatever they could carry to the Dominican Republic.

Brief Role in the Cuban Government


After this, Guevara took to government work. His three main areas of reform were agrarian land reform, literacy, and access to higher education. Towards the end of January of 1959, Guevara made an important speech in which he declared that “the main concern of the new Cuban government was the social justice that land redistribution brings about.” The speech was entitled, “Speech on the Aims of the Cuban Revolution.” On May 17, 1959, his first Agrarian Reform Law went into effect. It limited the size of all farms to one thousand acres, it expropriated any farms over the limit and redistributed the lands to the peasants or turned them into state run communes. It also declared that no sugar plantations could be owned by foreigners. To attend to the literacy problem in Cuba, Guevara instituted the Cuban Literacy Campaign. The program lasted the length and breadth of 1961, and skyrocketed the literacy rate in Cuba from sixty percent to ninety-six percent. The program reached nearly three quarters of a million people. It was a huge success. He then instituted an affirmative action program that made access to college much easier for those Cuban’s historically barred from attending universities, i.e., blacks, mulattoes, low wage workers, and peasant farmers.

Initially, as a result of a series of minor events, Fidel tried to refrain from using Marxist language about the revolution to describe the disaster of what was the Bay of Pigs, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. As a result of these “minor” events, Guevara began to obtain a degree of liability for Castro, who was assured that a solid alliance with the Soviet Union was essential to Cuba. This was especially the case after the failure of Guevara’s industrialization plan. After a speech that he made at a political and economic conference in Algiers, Guevara disappeared not to be heard from again until October when Castro read a personal letter that Guevara had written to Castro and to the Cuban people. Helen Yaffe, covered this in her book, Che Guevara: The Economics of Revolution, published in 2009. The letter indicated that Guevara still supported the Cuban Revolution but was ready to fight the revolution elsewhere. In it, he also resigned all of his government postings and his Cuban citizenship, claiming that he was now a citizen of Earth. He wrote the letter from the jungles of the Congo. The most telling statement in the letter was, “Other nations of the world summon my modest efforts of assistance. I can do that which is denied you, due to your responsibility as the head of Cuba, and the time has come for us to part.” The letter was entitled. “Farewell Letter to Fidel Castro.” A full copy of the letter can be obtained at Marxists.orgThis really shows where Guevara’s heart truly lied and how he felt about his position in the world. He had, by the things he had seen, and the events that he had been involved in, and with the Cuban Revolution now included, been changed into a permanent revolutionary. It shows that he felt most effective towards ending foreign imperialism, coming from his Marxist leanings, when he was in the thick of the fight.

Post Cuba Revolutions - Africa


So, into thick of the fighting he went, and he did so against the advice of many sympathetic leaders in Africa. Both Ahmed Ben Bella, the President of Algeria, and Gamal Abdel Nasser, the President of Egypt, both agreed that his trip to the Congo was not only a bad idea, but also doomed to failure. Despite these warnings, Guevara traveled to the Congo using an assumed name, Ramon Benitez. Che and his initial group of twelve Cuban Revolution veterans arrived in the Congo on April 24, 1965. They were soon followed by a detachment of one hundred Afro-Cubans that had signed up for the fight. William Galvez edited Che's Africa diary entitled, Che in Africa: Che Guevara’s Congo Diary, which is the best source of what happened on the ground there. As previously warned, Guevara’s mission was doomed to failure from the outset. First, leadership of the Congolese forces was sketchy at best. Guevara was doing more work in the field than was the man that was supposed to be there, in the first place.

The recognized leader was Laurent-Desire Kabila, but he was rarely in the field with his troops. He and his men also had, to Guevara’s dismay, very poor discipline. After seven months of working with Kabila, and suffering from disillusionment, Guevara dismissed him. He was later quoted as saying that “nothing leads me to believe he is the man of the hour.” A report from the BBC's Africa Desk entitled, “Profile: Laurent Kabila,” does a great job of catching the dismay in Guevara's voice. Guevara also had to work around the language barrier, a task that was a challenge, as he did not speak any of the local languages, as well as, South African mercenaries under the command of Mike Hoare, who was working for the CIA. These issues are important to understand, but for Guevara, the poor leadership skills of the local leaders are what ultimately caused the revolt to fail. After nearly losing his life in battle and suffering from dysentery, Guevara, on the advice of his comrades and emissaries sent by Castro, agreed to leave the Congo for good. Leaving the Congo, while it was the best thing to do, given the circumstances, was not an easy task for Guevara because he still saw potential in the affair if only local leadership would stand up to the task.

Post Cuba Revolutions - Bolivia



Guevara’s next destination was Bolivia. However, he spent six months meeting with other revolutionary groups; staying in Dar es Salaam and Prague for a time, and visiting other western European nations to test out false identity papers made for him by Cuban Intelligence in advance of his trip to Bolivia. He then secretly returned to Cuba to meet with Castro. He also took some time to talk to his wife and children. Jorge G. Castaneda covered these intimate meetings with passion in his biography of Guevara entitled, Che Guevara: Companero, published in 1998. In a letter to his children that was only to be opened in the case of his death, knowing that he might not return, he made a statement about how he thought of himself that was very telling, “Above all, always be capable of feeling deeply any injustice committed against anyone, anywhere in the world. This is the most beautiful quality in a revolutionary.” This letter was not widely known of until it was published in a text entitled, The Diaries of Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, published in 2009. Che arrived in La Paz, Bolivia on November 3, 1966, posing as Uruguayan businessman Adolfo Mena Gonzalez. He looked old, trimmed, and clean shaven. Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon cover how changed Guevara looked in their biography entitled, Che: A Graphic Biography, published in 2009. Three days after his arrival, upon having met with his contact in La Paz, Haydee Tamara Bunke Bider, or Tania for short, Guevara was on the march. His first camp was in the remote southeastern part of the country, Nancahuazu.

Operating as The National Liberation Army of Bolivia, Guevara and the group that he started with only numbered around fifty people. The group was well supplied, and initially won some important victories against the Bolivian army in the Camiri region from early to mid 1967. Their initial successes against larger forces mislead the army’s assessment of the rebel’s numbers. Unfortunately, the army was able to capture two of the forces’ units. This marked the beginning of the road to the end of Che Guevara. He had disagreements with the Bolivian Communist Party, and the peasant population, which was already accustomed to land reform and was not interested in the rest of Guevara's platform. They felt like his program would risk the loss of what little benefits they had already received from the present government. In October of 1967, Guevara was captured by the Bolivian army. He was never to escape their clutches. When the time came for him to die, he faced his death with courage and honor, to the point that his bravery and selflessness shamed the man that shot him for the rest of his life.

Having come full circle, what has been learned about Ernesto “Che” Guevara? If one follows Marx and Engels closely, it should be pretty easy to see that Ernesto “Che” Guevara was largely a product of his material circumstances, i.e. family, income, political policy, international travel, etc. His socialization around liberal radicals as a child led him to be curious and to seek to fulfill the basic needs of others. This sent him to medical school and on several road trips, where he was further radicalized by the understanding that Latin America was a slave of the United States’ economic policies, so far, in some cases, that their governments were toppled with open help from the United States when they tried to disrupt those economic affairs. Furthermore, the peasant population rarely protested these happenings. He then moved on to the Cuban Revolution and forward. That’s a bit of a rigid way to look at it, but it makes the point that Guevara, given a completely different set of circumstances, would not be the same person twice.

Che Guevara's Legacy


One can only wonder how Guevara would react to what his image has become since his death. His image has become so popular that almost anyone will know who the person is in the image at the start of this article, without having to be told. This is the bad side. His actions have been lauded as heroic, and he has received countless humble comments of endearment and commitments to inspiration. This is the good side. In either sense, Guevara’s image is equally represented. But which would he prefer? Would it be the fact that his image has been so commercialized that many people no longer value his ideals, or even really understand who he is because they are merely following the trends and fashions of the day? Essentially, if Che goes, they go, or, would it be the image painted by so many people, of a blessed hero? What would happen if he liked neither? Nelson Mandela called him an “inspiration for every human being who loves freedom.” Stokley Carmichael said, “Che is not dead, his ideas are with us.” Both of these quotes can be found in Sinclair's biography published in 1998. Many others nearly deify him.

Guevara himself would not want such praise. He wanted to work for the greater good of humanity. Like minds understand that he was more interested in the welfare of others than he was his own. They understand that if he were alive now, he would be sick with the commercialization of his image. Maybe; there is a third option, is it the story of a noble sacrifice and genuine respect for duty? This will be contested by many because, no matter what, Guevara did make a name for himself for having the ability to kill without blinking. Even this point, however, can be argued. He was a natural born revolutionary. It can be argued that he merely did what the situation demanded for the welfare of the people that he was fighting for. If a person had killed thousands under a capitalist regime, then their death was required, even though it was likely to be very little in payment for the pain and suffering that they actually caused to their people. Guevara would have seen their death as a simple part of the revolution that was moving his people towards true freedom. Any that attempts soil his legacy because he had the gumption needed to carry out the needs of the revolution, is obviously not a part of the revolution. Likely, they are part of the capitalist opposition, and are possibly, paid for by the very same. Who are you going to listen to? 

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