J.J. Lawrence: Che Guevara

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I have been asked to write an article on Che, which I am pleased to do. Before I write this article, I must insist that if you have not read anything on Che (apart from this article) you must read a biography on him. Che was the first time I had read on something involving communism, which had a huge influence on me. There are a great deal of articles on Che. I do not want to just write another short summary of his life. I have tried in this article to show key points which had significant impact on him, and why he became the man he was.

‘Because of the circumstances in which I travelled, first as a student and later as a doctor, I came into close contact with poverty, hunger, and disease; with the inability to treat a child because of lack of money; with the stupefaction provoked by continual hunger and punishment, to the point that a father can accept the loss of a son as an unimportant accident… and I began to realize that there were things which were almost as important to me as becoming a famous scientist or making a significant contribution to medical science; I wanted to help those people.’ (Che Guevara, 1960, speaking on revolutionary medicine).

Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara was a communist revolutionary, a social philosopher, a medical doctor and became an international figurehead for the communist cause. His dream was to change Latin America into a socialist utopia and end US imperialism there as well as helping the rest of the developing world free themselves of oppression. When I first read about Che, I was blown away, his life, his ideals, a tear came to my eye when I read about his final hour and his murder in Bolivia. From the moment he agreed to join Castro’s revolution, he dedicated his life to the communist cause , his determination was unbelievable. In my opinion there was a number of key points on how Che became the man he was and why he is such an icon to so many today.

(1)

The first “key point” in my view was his asthma. I know some people would not see this as hugely significant but to me it was. From such a young age it affected him terribly, he did not start school until the age of seven because of it. But his mother gave him a good basic grounding in education. The asthma was something to him that would not hold him back, it gave him so much resolve. It was the fact that he had asthma that gave him this determination to succeed and throughout his battles in Cuba, the Congo and Bolivia it affected him terribly. Surely it was physically demanding enough to be a guerrilla fighter and on top of that he had to cope with asthma, he became a severe and a ruthless disciplinarian to his troops who complained and showed physical weakness. He concluded that if he could manage with severe asthma that they should find it much less demanding than him. Overall it installed huge determination in him, his will to take part in physical activity, it would not stop him from being part of the team. One of his decisions to study medicine was his determination to find a cure for his side effects of his drugs he used for asthma. He eventually qualified as a doctor. He knew his asthma was a weakness, but it installed in him, a self determination that would last for the rest of his life.

(2)

His travels of Latin America, without doubt, had a profound impact on Che. He visited numerous countries throughout his travels, as the quote from Che says ‘Because of the circumstances in which I travelled, first as a student and later as a doctor’, he witnessed at first hand the social injustice, US imperialism, the devastating poverty of the downtrodden classes and the ethnic minorities. Just to think what may have become of Che, if he did not travel around Latin America? He visited nearly all of the Latin American countries. He saw what kind of life that some people had to endure, while people suffered in poverty, starving and treated like filth, somewhere down the road a US owned business rakes in the PROFITS while subjecting the workers to wage slavery. Che, in his travels, for example, came into contact with an old woman, who was asthmatic, with a heart condition. This woman couldn’t pay her way.

‘It is then, at the end, that we see the profound tragedy which circumscribes the life of the proletariat the world over. In these dying eyes there is a humble appeal for forgiveness and also, often, a desperate plea for solace which is lost in the void’

As each encounter with social injustice, poverty, US imperialism and disease, occurred, Che began to realize that the whole of Latin America was in desperate need of change. The whole system was corrupt. Che had throughout his travels, already read a great deal on Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin etc., then when he witnessed the devastating effect of capitalism and privately owned businesses (usually US) in Latin America, he knew his beliefs were right. To destroy the current system and once and for all bring social justice, an end to capitalism. To finish that quote with which Che showed his anger at the system:

‘How long this present order, based on absurd idea of caste, will last I can’t say, but it’s time governments spent less time publicizing their own virtues and more money – much more money – funding socially useful projects.’

He found himself in Guatemala, under a new government of Jacobo Arbenz, which nationalized land owned by United Fruit, plus various US multinationals who severely exploited the workers, while they accumulated the profits. Obviously the US were not going to allow their interest to be affected, just because Jacobo Arbenz wanted to give his people a better standard of living. It became clear that the CIA were planning to overthrow the new government, then install a puppet. Eventually the coup won, Che was outraged that the government failed to arm the people. He once again had witnessed US intervention. Che gained valuable experience from his Guatemalan experience, that there must be unity, and to arm the people, he also realized that Uncle Sam would have to be kept in the dark until the revolution was secure. He also met the woman that would become his wife, Hilda Gadea Acosta, she would introduce him to some members of the JULY 26 MOVEMENT. He arrived in Mexico knowing that he was prepared to join any type of revolution that was fighting to overthrow a dictator. This is where Che Guevara met a man who would change his life and the course of history.

(3)

In Mexico, he had heard a lot about the leader of the July 26 movement, now he would meet him. FIDEL CASTRO, this is without doubt, without question, Fidel Castro had the biggest impact on the life of Che Guevara. All of Che’s experiences, his childhood and his travels, he realized that social change was needed. Seeing the US imperialism around Latin America, the devastating poverty of the downtrodden classes, he realized that a revolution was the only way. He needed to find a cause? He needed to find a strong leader?

It had reached the climax for Che, he had found his leader for a revolution, in Che’s own words after meeting Fidel:

‘an extraordinary man. He confronted and solved the most impossible problems. He had an unshakeable faith that once he left exile in Mexico and arrived in Cuba he would fight, and would win that fighting. I shared his optimism. It was imperative to do something, to struggle, to achieve. It was imperative to stop crying and fight!’

For Che, to say something like that, so soon after meeting him, shows what impact Castro had on Che. He talked with Fidel in their first encounter on every conceivable subject, they were like long lost soul brothers.

In the various “key points” I have shown, I feel these were the fundamental factors in the making of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara. These various incidents in Che’s life had a huge impact on him, from him suffering asthma, his travels of Latin America and meeting Fidel Castro. They all helped create a man whose life was dedicated to people who suffered at the hands of injustice.

THE REVOLUTION AND BEYOND.

Throughout Cuban revolution, Che was to become a severe and ruthless disciplinarian. He once shot a man for falling asleep on guard duty and ordered executions of deserters etc. Some people have argued that he was too harsh and too severe. But in my opinion he was justified, he became so dedicated to the revolution that nothing on earth could jeopardize it. During the Cuban revolution, Che showed his bravery, his tactical skill, his determination and all this was noted by Castro who eventually promoted Che to commander. He showed that anything he applied himself to he could do, Che Guevara was quite simply, a rare bird. He was without question the best guerrilla fighter in the Cuban revolution, he showed, at times, a complete disregard for his own personal safety. Even when Castro had told him not to take part in some of the battles. He was always determined to lead by example. During the revolution he would meet the woman who would become his second wife, Aleida March. What was an important factor to me about Che Guevara, was educating the new rebels, he set up an education program during the revolution. He was determined to introduce them to Marxism Leninism, Castro didn’t want the communist element to be heard, of course if the Americans got wind of it the revolution might have been doomed. Castro, I believe was always going down the communist road, he just needed to keep it quiet from uncle Sam.

When the rebels had won, and marched into the cities of Havana etc. Che set about leading by example, he was determined to show the people that everyone must make sacrifices in the ‘new Cuba’. Like in all revolutions, traitors and former henchmen of General Batista were still in the air. Some highly publicized trials were held. Over 500 men were convicted for crimes against the people, Che was in charge of the trials and had the last say on the fate of the men. Some people were outraged, friends who knew Che before he joined the revolution were shocked. In my view it was absolutely justified, some of the men executed were guilty of horrendous crimes. Others were a threat to the revolution and deserved to die. It shows an interesting aspect in Che’s character, a man who always wanted to help the people and to bring social justice to the world, but he showed no mercy to the enemies and handed out death sentences to them unemotionally. What is so profound of Che was his dedication, just as he was as a fighter in the revolution. He was determined to see the ‘new Cuba’ have economical stability and make sure it survived. Che was entrusted with the crucial job of forging relations to bankroll the revolution by visiting the rest of the socialist states, such as the Soviet Union, China and various other countries. When he returned to Cuba, he had the great news of securing financial and political support of the two communist super-powers China and the Soviet Union. He worked immensely hard for the revolution, be it going round the world forging alliances with various nations or going to do volunteer labour work on a construction site in Cuba. Seldom do you see a politician doing that at present in England or anywhere. At times he worked 36 hours straight meeting various people to help the revolution. To me these examples of self sacrifice had a huge impact on me, to see a man work so hard, so honestly and all he wanted in return was not a big pay packet but for the rest of Cuba to follow suit. During the Cuban missile crisis, when without consulting Castro the Soviet leader Khrushchev had already done a deal with President Kennedy. Castro was furious, but kept a smile for Khrushchev. Che was furious, he never trusted nor did he ever like the Soviet leader.

It was Che who first denounced the new Soviet imperialism for not giving unconditional support to third world liberation movements etc. It was a part of Che’s character, he would always voice his opinion, whether it be attacking his nemesis, or criticizing the Soviet Union for its faults. History has proven Che correct about the former Soviet Union, with revisionists such as Khrushchev and the eventual collapse of it. Che saw this happening.

CONCLUSION.

Che Guevara had served as a vital cog in the Cuban revolution he felt it was time to leave for another adventure. He decided it was to be the Congo, to assist the rebels there. I believe, and I may be wrong about this, but Che knew he would not grow old peacefully, his heart lay on the battlefield. He left a letter for his children, to be opened if he was killed:

Dear Hildita, Aleidita, Camilo, Celia and Ernesto,

If you read this letter one day, it will mean that I

am no longer alive. You will hardly remember me,

and the smallest among you will have entirely

forgotten me.

 

Your father was a man who acted as he thought

best and who has been absolutely faithful to his

convictions.

 

Grow up into good revolutionaries. Study hard to

master technique, which gives you mastery over

nature. Remember that it is the Revolution which

is important and that each of us, taken in

isolation, is worth nothing.

 

Above all be sensitive, in the deepest areas of

yourselves, to any injustice committed against

whoever it may be anywhere in the world.

 

Yours always, my children. I hope to see

you again.

 

A big strong kiss from

Daddy.

His Congo and Bolivian missions were both disastrous, Bolivia proving fatal. But Che Guevara is an important historical figure, he is a prime example of what can be achieved, by only having huge determination and a dream. He was a dedicated Marxist-Leninist, the amount of effort, blood, sweat and tears he put in to further the cause of his idols was profound. When we look at politicians today who consistently misrepresent the people, it is sickening. Che dedicated his life to help the people, to demonstrate why communism was the only way forward. He was the second most powerful man in Cuba, he was loved by the people, a hero of the revolution. He was married with five children and could have grown old peacefully in Cuba, he gave everything up in Cuba to further the communist cause. He had an epic dream to bring the whole of Latin America into a socialist utopia, through armed revolution. When you realize how dedicated a human being must be to give up everything in Cuba, to help bring socialism to the whole of Latin America is astonishing. I believe the importance of Che Guevara is huge for the communist cause, he shows how communists should dedicate themselves to their beliefs. The NCMLU (Communist Party Alliance) follows the political principles of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, which is correct. But we should take from Che the honesty, dedication and self sacrifice to help the working class. With so much anti-communist feeling around the world, who accuse us of being ‘evil’, we can show them what a communist is and what we stand for. Tell them to read on Che, who only ever wanted to help the downtrodden classes of the world. For me, Che will always hold a special place in my heart, reading about him was the first time I had come into contact with communism.

Reading on him sparked off something inside me to help the communist cause. Upon reading on Che, it has led me to Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin. In my opinion we will never see another human being of his kind.

We must all strive to be like Che, to show self sacrifice, dedication to the cause, to fight against injustice, racism and imperialism, to help bring about social equality and change the world. To quote Marx, ‘The philosophers have only interpreted the world in different ways; the point is to change it’.

I will finish with a part of a speech from Fidel Castro, speaking to the Cuban people after the death of his comrade.

 

‘a man of profound ideals, a man in

whose mind stirred the dream of

struggle…’

 

CHE GUEVARA

1928-1967

Source

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