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Ernesto 'Che' Guevara

Biographical commentary
by Steve Eckardt

Riding My Father's Motorcycle
by Aleida Guevera
Che's daughter writes about him in the New York Times (uncut version)

Farewell Letter to Fidel
Spring 1965

Message to the Tri-Continental Congress
His most famous speech (April 1964)

'U.S. Government Perpetrator of Exploitation and Oppression'
December 1964 Address to UN

Where It All Began
His account of the 1956 landing of revolutionary forces in Cuba

On Revolutionary Medicine
August 1960 address to medical students

Biographical Commentary

by Steve Eckardt

Though Argentine by birth and upbringing, “Che” (as he was nicknamed by his Cuban comrades) is one of the best-known and most respected symbols of both the Cuban Revolution and the international struggle against imperialism.

Born in 1928, Che traveled throughout Latin America just before graduating from medical school, becoming politically active in 1954 by joining the opposition to Washington’s drive to overthrow Guatemala’s elected government.

In the aftermath of the coup he joined the Cubans under the leadership of Fidel Castro training in Mexico for guerilla war to bring down the Batista dictatorship. While originally the troop doctor, his exemplary conduct and leadership soon earned him the rank of Commandante.

Following the successful overthrow of Batista, Che was asked to assume numerous leadership responsibilities, including directing the National Bank, the land reform, and the ministry of industry, as well as representing Cuba at the UN and other international gatherings.

In 1965 he left these positions to lead combat operations against imperialist intervention in the Congo and, next, an effort to both overthrow the Bolivian dictatorship and “turn the Andes into the Sierra Maestra of the Americas.” [The Sierra Maestra was the base of Cuba’s guerillas.] He was subsequently wounded and captured in a CIA-organized ambush and –following communication with Washington— murdered on October 9, 1967.

The Bolivian operation –far from being a romantic-but-doomed act of individualistic idealism– was one carefully thought out by the continent's most experienced revolutionaries. These Cuban cadres –including of course Che– reasoned that Latin American's 'southern cone' was at the edge of popular rebellion, and that Bolivia (part of this imminent explosion) and its borders with five countries made it the most important base for a movement that could liberate the entire southern cone from U.S. imperialism and its repressive local quisling regimes.

Indeed Bolivia did indeed soon erupt into a general strike and an overthrow of government, while shortly thereafter Argentina's workers exploded into the 'Cordobazo' uprising, and later Chile elected the Allende government. Che's death and the defeat of his guerilla took place only weeks before these events began to unfold. The political calculations that went into the Bolivian mission were proven to be fundamentally accurate.

Had Che and his guerilla survived the communication problems that caused them to be both isolated in a backward region and separated into two groups unable to find each other, their leadership would have been an overwhelmingly valuable tool for transforming the popular uprising in Bolivia into conscious revolution aimed at taking and consolidating popular power, which would have reached out to and helped lead the rebellions in the rest of the Southern Cone.

To the extent that a political error was made, it seems it was underestimating the perfidy of the Bolivian Communist Party, whose refusal to aid the revolutionary mission in the slightest –instead, indeed, publicly condemning it– appears to have been outside the mission's calculations ... an especially ironic fact given that Che was famous for his less-than-diplomatic condemnation of the Stalinist "Communist" Parties.

Following Che's murder, Washington ordered the amputation of his hands, which it then appallingly put on a triumphalist world tour (although its scope was quickly constrained by international outrage).

Subsequent treatment of Che has proven even more obscene, as the enemies of Cuba and of Latin American liberation have produced floods of lies claiming that Che broke from the Cuban Revolution, or even that Fidel had Che killed. Thorough-going character assassinations have been produced in book-length form, including the pernicious, ostensibly 'authoritative' biography by John Lee Anderson along with a hateful "biographical" screed by the erstwhile Mexican leftwing intellectual Jose Casteñada, now a disgraced rightist.

At the same time, commericial interests have tried to appropriate the revolutionary cachet of Che's name and image to make money, creating designer Che products to wear, carry, or even use in the bathroom, sometimes costing in excess of one thousand dollars.

Those interested in the real Che can find both truth and antidote in his actual writings at PathfinderPress.com and OceanBooks.com.au.

But there is no equal for keeping Che and his ideas alive than the daily pledge by the more than one million Cuban youth organized in the Young Pioneers to "be like Che" --a promise made all the more real by the hundreds of thousands of Cubans who have volunteered to provide health care, education, and military defense in dozens of countries from Africa to the Caribbean and Latin America.

As he demonstrated with both his life and death –and in his powerful writings– there is only one Che: an outstanding revolutionary leader and thinker, an implacable opponent of imperialism, and a whole-hearted supporter of Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution.

 

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