[Marxism] Was Che Guevara a Stalinist?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Dec 13 18:11:38 MST 2012

Posted to PEN-L by Chuck Grimes:

> What follows are impression about Jacobin -  a magazine of culture and
> polemic, and Louis Proyect's blog, Was Che a Stalinist? This was a great
> blog BTW and interesting to read.
> I've read several Jacobin contributors who are also list members and was
> glad they got published. So who knows. I don't think it's a matter of
> magazine editorial policy, so much as an uneven left conceptualization. In
> other words, there is more than one left. In fact it's obviously a spectrum
> and always has been. Bloodworth's essay only proves he is an idiot, at least
> on this one.
> Part of the trip at Jacobin is a critique of the `old' left which I am
> afraid includes my generation. This motivation probably explains publishing
> the Bloodworth essay that goes after Che as revolutionary icon and tries to
> prove him a Stalinist. Let's take down an old hero. Certainly not a bad
> idea. I've done it myself. Later sometimes I was right, sometimes I was a
> fool.
> There are interesting problems that are not just a quibble about which left
> is left or which left is a good left and which is a bad left.
> The left is under a constant re-construction so old and new, good and bad
> follow in cycles that get very confusing. For example, if we consider the
> current cycle the recently dead postmodern left are now old. But when I was
> in my 30s during the 1970s, they were the new left. They were also dominated
> by cultural and social topics.
> I got very tired of the postmodern critique and its themes in arts and
> culture and started reading Marx and very recently Trotsky. Back in the late
> 90s I started on a selection of Marx to figure out what on earth the various
> postmodern movements had to do with Marxism. The historical answer is pretty
> complex, but it goes back to the Frankfurters of Weimar who saw a lack of
> Marxist analysis of modern industrial culture. Marx could easily be applied
> to sociology and economic structures of society. But what did all that have
> to do with the arts? I found an answer but it took a long time, so I won't
> go into it.
> More recently Marx and Trotsky have been reconstructed in terms of point of
> view and spirit rather than abstract analytics. For example having recently
> read both, the present world is well understood by a straight forward
> Marxism. The rich are so rich and the rest of us are going down or are
> already down. This means that the world easily divides into have and have
> not. What should frighten the Haves, is that the solution to this vast
> global inequality is looking more and more like the events and forces
> described in Trotsky's History of the Russian Revolution.
> Back in the 1950-70s when there was a large middle between the have and have
> not, it was much more difficult to make the case that society had two
> classes. For example, an engineer working in electronics like my stepfather
> made enough money to easily afford an Austin Healey, a Cadillac, my humble
> vechicles, plus a quarter acre ranch style house with a horse in the
> backyard. My mother was a school teacher and spent her own salary as she
> pleased. One of my friends on the block had a swimming pool and a horse. Now
> does that sound like class struggle?
> Marxism and the essential features of communism seemed very out of date,
> hence `old' left. In fact, most of the prosperous `middle' class were told
> and believed that communism meant their prosperous lives would be ruined by
> any sort of socialist or communist structural change. The social protest and
> civil rights movements of the period were almost entirely about the people
> kept out of the big middle and those forced to go to ridiculous wars like
> Vietnam.
> Now back to Louis Proyect's blog titled `Was Che a Stalinist.'
> ``In September 2011 Jacobin Magazine published an article by James
> Bloodworth titled `The Cult of Che' that repeats the slander about Che’s
> Stalinism.''
> If you are interested in the topic you should read Bloodworth's essay here:
> http://jacobinmag.com/2011/09/the-cult-of-che/
> Back to the past. This was the standard liberal and reactionary line of the
> 1950s forward. Anything to do with Marx was communist, and communism was
> Stalinism, and all that meant totalitarian dictatorship. This cold war story
> made it impossible to understand the events and figures of the Cuban
> Revolution then and now. Bloodworth's essay gave the now `old' cold war
> story a shine with research like details and sold it as a `new' look at Che
> Guevara. Sure facts matter, but so does context and Bloodworth has no
> understanding of context.
> By the fluke of my circumstances, until my mother married the engineer when
> I was thirteen, we had lived in much different conditions in downtown LA and
> briefly in Mexico. That meant that I had grown up before middle teens and
> seen the Other world, which most of my peers 1959-62 had not. It was no
> mystery to me why the Cubans lead a peasant army, marched on Havana, and
> took it by force. It is a story out of Latino folklore long before Che and
> that's where the Cubans got the basic idea. It was no mystery why that was a
> good thing to do, the right thing to do, and in fact the only thing to do.
> An alliance with the Russians made perfect sense after the Bay of Pigs,
> because it was obvious the US was totally untrustworthy and hostile.
> Again by circumstance, I rode my horse through large tracks of orange
> groves, corn fields, and pastures to get to the northern hills beyond and I
> knew what landowners and their hired men were like. If they didn't want you
> riding on their land they would and did shoot at you. They used shotguns
> loaded with rock salt, but I got the idea. The hills were not entirely free
> either. In the spring, Basque sheep herders managed flocks and lived in
> small ratty trailors. They carried guns.
> Guess who I watched spray the trees with DDT, dig the irrigation channels,
> and pick the fruit? Migrant laborers did seasonal work right across the
> street from our house.
> That's why there was and is a cult of Che and why there was a Cuban
> Revolution. Connect the dots. Landowners are a bad lot. They are assholes as
> a class.
> CG
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