[Marxism] Che's Legacy

Jscotlive at aol.com Jscotlive at aol.com
Mon Oct 8 07:58:24 MDT 2007

I wrote a piece on Che. Amazing to think that after 40 years his  example and 
unbending commitment to the struggle for human progress continues to  inspire 
On 9  October 1967 Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara was executed by a Bolivian army 
officer at  the end of his ill-fated attempt to help foment revolution throughout 
Latin America. He was executed at the behest of the CIA,  who in their usual 
misreading of the human spirit and its inextinguishable  desire to be free, 
hoped his death would deal a major blow to the influence of  the Cuban 
Revolution in a part of the world traditionally viewed as America’s  backyard, there to 
provide the cheap labour, raw materials, and markets required  to maintain 
the huge profits of US corporations.   
But  the CIA were wrong, just as successive US administrations have been 
wrong, in  thinking that the ideas for which Che Guevara fought and died could 
ever be  killed with a bullet. The Cuban Revolution continues as a beacon of hope 
and  inspiration for the poor of the undeveloped world. Achievements in the 
realms of  healthcare, education, and science have and continue to astound a 
world in which  the dominant ideology, free market capitalism, has waged an 
unremitting and  determined campaign designed to demonise socialism and socialist 
ideas. In this  Hollywood has  played a key role, with its near total monopoly 
on film production and,  crucially, distribution, churning out film after 
film designed to reaffirm  so-called American values of individualism and the 
attainment of extreme wealth  as the pinnacle of human aspiration, values 
embodied in the myth of the American  dream.  
That  a tiny island nation with a population of 12 million people, located 90 
miles  off the coast of Florida, should have the temerity not only to assert 
its right  to independence – both political and economic (on the understanding 
that you  cannot have one without the other) – but also would reject the 
cultural and  ideological hegemony of Rome – i.e. the Unites States, and could 
survive for so  long, is nothing short of heroic. Che exemplified, and continues 
to exemplify,  the heroism of the Cuban people, and his life and ideas have 
never been more  popular, potent and relevant than they are  today. 
The  legend of Che, for that is what he has come to represent now, a legend, 
has not  only continued unabated since his death, it has grown, grown in 
parallel with  the rise of US imperialism in our time and its countless victims. In 
every town  and every city, from Los Angeles to London, Beirut to Bethlehem, 
from Nairobi to  New Delhi, the  iconic image of Che captured by Alexander 
Korda is as ubiquitous as it is  powerful, carried on T-shirts, posters, caps, 
coffee mugs, carried on a myriad  items. It of course doesn’t hurt that Che with 
his movie star looks brought  glamour to the concept and meaning of 
revolution. Yet that is still not enough  explain the popularity of the image, even 
among those living in the relative  comfort and luxury of the West. For what the 
image and the man represents is  something transcendent in the human 
experience, that of an ideal which stands in  opposition to the values of self 
aggrandisement, material success, and blind  ambition drummed into us every minute of 
every day courtesy of advertisers and  mainstream entertainment. The antidote 
to this daily barrage of deadening  neoliberal and free market ideology is the 
ascetic self sacrifice, the primacy  of will, and the unshakeable belief in 
the ability of man to change the course  of history and break his chains that 
the image of Che represents.   
A  read through his writings today brings home the fierce determination of a 
man  who burned with anger at the injustice, oppression and exploitation 
suffered by  the world’s poor. In his address to the United Nations general 
assembly in 1964,  he said: 
“All  free men of the world must be prepared to avenge the crime of the 
Congo.  Perhaps many of those soldiers, who were turned into subhumans by 
imperialist  machinery, believe in good faith that they are defending the rights of a  
superior race. In this assembly, however, those peoples whose skins are 
darkened  by a different sun, coloured by different pigments, constitute the 
majority. And  they fully and clearly understand that the difference between men does 
not lie  in the colour of their skin, but in the forms of ownership of the 
means of  production, in the relations of production.” 
Enough that he should deliver such a powerful testament  in solidarity with 
the poor and oppressed of another land, but Che was also a  man who lived the 
principles of internationalism he so eloquently espoused, and  he embarked for 
the Congo a year later in order to give meaning to them,  abandoning the 
relative comfort and status earned him by the success of the  Cuban Revolution to 
risk his life arms in hand like the warrior poet he  was. 
In a  later speech to the Afro-Asian Conference in February 1965, Che offered 
this  admonition: 
“There are no borders in this struggle to the death. We  cannot be 
indifferent to what happens anywhere in the world, because a victory  by any country 
over imperialism is our victory, just as any country’s defeat is  a defeat for 
all of us.” 
But  perhaps his most enduring pronouncement came in his Message to the  
Tricontinental in 1967. Under the title ‘Create Two, Three…Many Vietnams’ Che  
gave his analysis of the world situation as it pertained to the struggle against 
 US imperialism. 
“In  focusing on the destruction of imperialism, it is necessary to identify 
its  head, which is none other than the United States of  America.” 
And  further on: 
“Wherever death may surprise us, let it be welcome if our  battle cry has 
reached even one receptive ear, if another hand reaches out to  take up our arms, 
and other men come forward to join in our funeral dirge with  the rattling of 
machine guns and with new cries of battle and  victory.” 
Make  no mistake, for Che the struggle against imperialism and exploitation 
could only  be won utilising the same kind of force and violence used and 
utilised without  compunction by the oppressor. Not for him non-violence and 
peaceful protest. His  experience, his observation of the poverty and truncated 
lives suffered by  immiserated millions throughout Latin America, Africa, 
throughout the developing world, instilled in him  a rage and a desire to visit 
retribution on those  responsible. 
Yet,  ironically, this rage, this unbending determination to destroy his 
enemies, was  born of a deep and great love for humanity.  
It is  precisely this love for humanity, for the poor and the oppressed, 
which  continues to lend such power to the Cuban Revolution and, now, to the 
Bolivarian  revolutionary process currently underway in Venezuela with Hugo Chavez 
at its  head. Che’s life and work has inspired Chavez, who in turn has 
inspired a long  awaited and desperately needed shift to the left throughout Latin 
America. In Bolivia, where Che met his end, Evo  Morales has come to power as a 
champion of the poor and the much maligned  indigenous peoples of that 
tortured land. In Chile, in Ecuador, left leaning governments  have also emerged, 
evidence that Che’s example and devotion to the cause of  social and economic 
justice remains ever present, acting as a guide and a  bulwark against that human 
wrecking machine otherwise known as  neoliberalism. 
And,  of course, the ongoing carnage in Iraq, the brutal occupation of 
Palestine, such monstrous  iniquities would not have gone unchallenged either. 
Indeed, given the facts of  his life, who could argue that Che would not be calling 
for all progressive  forces wherever they may be in the world to rise up in 
solidarity with the Iraqi  and Palestinian people, calling for the creation of 
Two, Three…Many Iraqs around  the world? Who could argue with that?  
Despite such a heroic life and example, there is one  incident which sums up 
more than any speech or article ever could just what  Che’s sacrifice and the 
enduring force of the Cuban Revolution he helped inspire  means and 
In  2006 Mario Teran, an old man living in Bolivia, was treated by Cuban 
doctors  volunteering their services free of charge to Bolivia’s poor, just as 
they have  and do to the poor in every corner of the developing world. They 
performed an  operation to remove cataracts from Mario’s eyes. It was an operation 
which  succeeded in restoring his sight. Mario Teran is not just any old man. 
Mario  Teran is the Bolivian army officer who executed Ernesto Che  Guevara. 


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