[Marxism] TEHRAN TIMES/George Galloway: Che: "El Commandante came too soon"

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Sun Oct 7 21:24:42 MDT 2007

View Rate : 244 #             News Code : TTime- 154467        
Print Date :  Monday, October 8, 2007

Che: ‘El Commandante came too soon’
By George Galloway


LONDON (The Independent) -- From Caracas to Cape Town, Chesterfield
to Cowdenbeath, one man’s admittedly handsome face on a T-shirt tells
you more about its wearer than how well he or she fits it. Ernesto
“Che” Guevara Lynch, who was murdered by United States agents under
orders from Washington 40 years ago, is the face of global rebellion.

He inspires all the more intensely since he could have lived a
prosperous bourgeois life as an Argentine dentist. Instead, and
despite asthma, he chose a life of action, a motorcycle diarist, a
comandante in a triumphant Cuban revolutionary army, a guerrilla
leader in the Congo, a martyr in the mountain gullies of Bolivia.

It’s true he had a spell as a bank manager -- but it was the
governorship of Cuba’s revolutionary state bank.

It was the 1950s motorcycle tour that did it. He saw the immiserated
wastelands of Latin American, where the poor starved, the
latifundists larked and the U.S. corporations sucked the blood of
South America.

In 1954 he witnessed the overthrow of the reforming Guatemalan
government at the behest of the United Fruit Company, run by those
scions of the U.S. establishment, the Dulles family. By the time Che
Guevara met Fidel Castro a year later he was a rebel.

After, he was a revolutionary. Guevara had absolutely no military
background and signed on with Fidel as the rebel “army’s” doctor. In
the mountains of eastern Cuba in the late 1950s he became a military
leader and a strategist of revolutionary warfare of the first order.
It was an old-fashioned ethos: Lead your men (and women) from the
front and don’t ask them to do anything you aren’t prepared to do
with them.

It was in no small measure due to his military victories that the
Cuban Revolution triumphed -- the rebels’ entry into Havana on New
Years Day 1959 is memorably recreated in the Godfather II. The
Mafiosi and the bordello owners headed for the airport with the
barbaric dictator Fulgencio Batista.

Those who would traduce Che, Fidel and the Cuban revolutionaries must
say what Cuba would be like now if that dictatorship had held on --
Haiti, the most hellish place in the Western hemisphere is literally
not far from Cuba, but metaphorically in a different universe.

By the standards of Cuba’s blood-drenched history, the retribution
visited on the dictator’s henchmen was light -- even according to the
U.S. ambassador to Havana and the head of the CIA at the time, Alan

Che, in particular, defies the right-wing stereotype of the ice-cold,
cunning revolutionist. He said that ‘the true revolutionary is guided
by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine
revolutionary lacking this quality.’

Even as Cuba, in the grip of the U.S.’ embargo, looked to the Soviet
Union for support, Che was prepared to criticize the bureaucratism he
saw in Moscow.

It’s a staple of liberal and conservative cynics that revolutionaries
such as Che ineluctably end up mirror images of the monsters they set
out to overthrow. No one shatters that lazy cliché more than Che.

Instead of settling down in Havana, he set out to spread revolution
in Congo, where the great Patrice Lumumba had been murdered in a
UN-supported coup. Nelson Mandela paid tribute to the Cuban role in
Africa’s liberation struggle. On his release from prison he went to
Cuba, rather than any other capital in the world, beneath an
illumination of Che’s image, Mandela lifted his hands aloft and said:
“See how far we slaves have come!.”

“There are no frontiers in this struggle to the death,” Che told an
international conference in 1965. “We cannot remain indifferent in
the face of what occurs in any part of the world. A victory for any
country against imperialism is our victory, just as any country’s
defeat is our defeat.”

That internationalism, which has become a leitmotif of today’s
movements, connected him with the masses on every continent. Even the
coldest of latter-day Cold Warriors must have been moved by the
recent story that a Cuban medical team last year saved the sight of
Mario Teran, the Bolivian sergeant who executed Che.

One of the greatest mistakes the U.S. state ever made was to create
those pictures of Che’s corpse. Its Christ-like poise in death
ensured that his appeal would reach way beyond the turbulent
university campus and into the hearts of the faithful, flocking to
the worldly, fiery sermons of the liberation theologists.

Which leaves the liberals, who say that they too, as Che put it, ‘. .
. tremble with indignation at every injustice,’ but who turn up their
noses when the despairing mass of people resort to force against the
daily violence of the elite.

They call to mind the admonition of the great black abolitionist
Frederick Douglass: ‘Those who profess to favor freedom and yet
depreciate agitation... want the ocean without the awful roar of its
many waters.... Power concedes nothing without a demand.’

Today, a new generation is struggling for progress -- drawing
strength from Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution, while many of us
also remain mindful of the catastrophe that engulfed Allende and the
Chilean movement when those who stood in its way were not defanged.
To wish Venezuela’s social reforms without Che’s revolutionary
steadfastness is to will the first 11 September atrocity -- Santiago,
Pinochet, 1973, gunfire drowning the song of a new Chile.

Che’s time is not past -- it is coming. I was struck recently by the
remarkable introduction by Lucia Alvarez de Toledo to a compilation
of Che’s Bolivian diaries. She met the daughter of the telegaphist in
the Bolivian village where Che was taken who had communicated the
first written word of his murder.

Toldeo writes: “She said she had been there when Guevara had died.
She said she was 19 at the time. Then she cast a look around her and
said, ‘Look at us. Nothing has changed since then. El Commandante
came too soon. We were ignorant and did not understand him... We
abandoned him... and here we are just as we were before he came, or
maybe even worse.’”

More information about the Marxism mailing list