Monday, May 23, 2005


I recently completed the biography, "Che, A Revolutionary Life" by Jon Lee Anderson, which is widely acknowledged as the definitive work on Ernesto "Che" Guevara. I had put off reading it for years, but finally settled down to learn who this man was, inspired by having seen "The Motorcycle Diaries," the superb re-telling of one of Guevara's early traveling adventures.

I do not intend to spend a great deal of time dissecting the book and the life Che Guevara lived. It is incumbent upon interested parties to sit down and read the book themselves for detailed analysis. However, I do believe some thoughts are in order.

Ernesto Guevara, in his younger years, exhibited a high level of intelligence, boundless energy despite a severe asthma afflication and strong abilities to succeed in the medical or research fields. He also seemed to hold a genuine interest in the lower classes of South and Central America. From his youth forward he also displayed uncompromising idealism and a stubbornness that he always knew the best way to do things.

These last traits led Guevara to become "Che," the revolutionary, communist/socialist, who was led down the path of social change via violent conflict. That he was an interesting and complex figure is beyond dispute. The mythology that grew around his persona, built by the Castro propaganda machine, his loyal followers, and strangely, many young people today in America is in part based on accomplishment, but also partially blamed on a misunderstanding of the evidence of his life.

Guevara's idealism and certainty in his choices led to a rigidity of belief. His determination became a relentless, cruelty. His desire to free "the people" from the grasp of imperialism brought about nothing more then misguided economic policies and oppressive leadership for anyone who deviated from the Castro/Guevara system.

The Cuba model that led to the success of Fidel Castro's movement was more a product of perfect circumstances and a lot of luck rather then a formula for guerrilla activity. Guevara stubbornly held to the model though, leading to massive failures in the Congo and Bolivia, the latter resulting in his eventual capture and execution.

Still, Guevara's ability to overcome his asthma and become the leader he was has to be viewed as nothing short of amazing. His courage is beyond rapproach. That his men followed him without question is true, too, although many of them had their loyalty returned by Guevara's volatile temper and unwavering discipline. Those who let him down, heard about it. Disagreeing with him would lead to punishment, banishment or death. The only two people Guevara remained completely loyal and respectful to were Fidel Castro and his second wife, Aleida.

Ernesto Guevara genuinely cared about the peasants. He honestly was troubled by their plight and there are countless documentations of his acts of generosity toward the common man, although more often in his traveling youth. Later on, he lost his way wrapped blindly within a radical and unalterable belief system.

In closing, the fact remains that he was a major player in bringing about a new Cuba with Fidel Castro. Sadly, that Cuba became a den of repression that went beyond the cruel Batista regime. Forty years later, Castro still holds power on the island and the people of Cuba live in poverty under strict state control. In large measure, that is Guevara's legacy, along with the image of a man of unimpeachable toughness and leadership qualities who ran wildly off the road of idealism to be consumed by a violent rage.


Anonymous said...

this piece of writing is a bunch of totall, outspoken, arrogant bullshit. Clearly written by someone who has never lived nor experienced anything outside their 'world'. In fact, i would even go to the extent of saying that it is pretentious and untrue.

STP said...

And the above comment was written by someone who needs to hide behind a mask and has likely bought in hook, line and sinker into the modern day drivel of Guevara being somehow more than an intelligent man who got caught up in ideological nonsense and became a cruel and vicious killer. Oh, and he is partly responsible for the bankrupt dictatorship he helped create in Cuba.

Anonymous said...

Che was a true hero. Castro was power hungry, Che was not. He genuinly wanted to help the poor and oppressed. I think this piece was biased and obvioulsy written by somebody who has never lived or experienced poverty and oppression. No matter how you feel about him, Che will remain adored by many.

STP said...

Che can remain adored by many, and you, but your analysis is either based upon not reading about him or doing so through shaded lense. Che was definitely concerned with the poor and oppressed. There is no doubt about that. However, as he became radicalized, he became a cruel, vicious, tyrant. Castro did not make him such, but they both lost their way together. Not acknowledging what Che became and ignoring the evidence is not only biased on your part, but flat at wrong.