Today on June 14th we celebrate the 93rd birthday of the legendary Che Guevera.He carves a permanent niche amongst the great revolutionaries and crusaders for the liberation of man. Che may be no longer with us but his spirit is not dead and buried and still sparkles in a most subtle manner. In many areas of the world today Che’s soul has been ressurected whether in the peoples wars in Phillipines, Nepal, India and Turkey, the recent farmers movement in India ,Hugo Chavez movement in Venezuela ,struggle waged by Hamas for liberation of Palestinians ,yellow vest movement in Europe ,Contract workers movement led by Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha in mines earlier and many another struggles. All these are manifestation ‘s of man’s seeking to liberate himself ,galvanising energy at optimum levels to confront opressor classes. In his time no man at such magnitude symbolized the spirit or soul of a Marxist revolutionary as Guevera.It is hard to describe how Che’s presence embezzled the spirit within the youth worldwide. It was Che’s spirit that mainly crystallised the massive protests against the Vietnam War and give the cutting edge to anti-imperialist movements.
Che was the first Marxist revolutionary to address that “Love is the very essence of a revolutionary, and a revolutionary is filled with deep feelings of love.”No Marxist revolutionary illustrated the spiritual aspect of a revolutionary penetrating the depth of Che. Arguably he was the most complete man of the last century. What was remarkable is that Che rejected the traditional Marxist Leninist norms and innovated his own economic theories and political strategy. It was Guevera’s goal to extricate Marxism or its practice from mechanical approach. Cuba did not follow the Chinese or Russian model but practiced it’s own version of Socialism. It nationalised the sugar farms and instilled cooperative farming. he led by example, himself participating in production in farms and factories. Cuba was the most democratic society in the world of the last4 decades. Few revolutionaries as much crystallized the human touch to the degree of Che or placed equal emphasis on imbibe or inculcating a spiritual change from within man. He placed great emphasis on integrating humanism within Marxism .Such qualities tempted intellectuals to class Che Guevara as the most complete man of the century.
It must be stated that Guevera was an ardent opponent of Soviet revisionism and a staunch supporter of China under Chairman Mao Tse Tung or the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. In great esteem he held the new forms of production methods, innovation sin education, health etc. Morally the Chinese practice was akin to the views of Che Guevera.
Che fell out on his asessment of Lenin’s new economic policy which he assessed as mechanical. and also on the role of a vanguard Communist party,New Democratic Revolution and application of massline in peoples War. Che advocated foco theory which rejected the leadership of a party and the foco as a nucleus. In Che’s military theory the party would be a product of the armed struggle waged by the foco and isolated armed actions would inspire the opressed masses. In important ways Che was mascot of the New Left like Louis Althusser, Frantz Fanon and Jean Paul Sartre. However we must give him credit for leading a successful revolution in Cuba with Fidel Castro, even if it was non-Communist. Let us face it no Maoist revolution has won in Latin America or anywhere around the world. The Cuban revolution might have failed had it blindly followed the Russian and Chinese model and not discovered it sown path in the mountains of Sierra Maestra. Nor has any Society with any semblance to a Socialist state survived for such a sustained period inspite of existing in the very belly of United States of America and thus constantly being on the verge of being invaded by it’s neighbour. No doubt Cuba is the most democratic society of modern times. I am critical of Che Guevera soft-pedalling with Jawaharlal Nehru on his visit to India and not speaking about the oppression he unleashed on the Communists in Telengana from 1946-51 or provoked war with China.in 1962.
We have to admire Che as a great Marxist Internationalist who engulfed the globe to turn the spark of revolution into a prairie fire. No Comrade in his day so much set foot on so many spheres of the globe be it Africa, India or China. With stealthiest secrecy he toured the Latin America and African sub-continent. It is hard for an adjective to describe the impact he made on fellow people.Guevera inspired the African comrades to break the shackles of neo-colonial slavery and boosted the Palestinian struggle waged against Israel like no other political leader. He was a master in economics, illustrating how in essence all Latin American countries were Neo-colonies and at the very backbone illustrated the slavery in which the people were entrapped. Unlike the Maoists he did not openly condemn the Social Imperialism of the late Soviet Union and projected the United States of America as the principal enemy. I feel there was substance in this when you asess the havoc America created in the Vietnam war, with Vietnam a victor not only because of Chinese but of Russian help. Late Soviet Union in 1960’s supported anti colonial struggles in Angola .Even if revisionist Russia too had semblances of a Socialist state like free housing ,education and health services. There was a tendency of Maoists worldwide, to treat late Soviet Union as the principal enemy or agressor, including China under chairman Mao. It was most relevant that Che was critical of Fidel Castro not wishing to export the revolution out of Cuba.
The greatest memories I have of Che are of his diary on Revolutionary war where he intrinsically portrays the heart; spirit of psychological phenomena of the guerrilla .His motorcycle diaries deeply penetrates the stages of the evolution of a revolutionary. In some of his writing Che delves on the inner of spiritual aspect of man that needs to be transformed, when summing his experiences with the oppressed. Red Indians or even with patients in the hospital ,or even when participating in production.
Finally it was Che’s very own strategy that turned against him when he was assassinated by the C.I.A in Bolivia. This was a lesson for Comrades on grasping the essence of mass line, a leadership of the party and thus negativity of foco theory. In my view in India Charu Mazumdar too copied Che’s model in the name of Maoism when he propagated call of ‘Annihilation of the class enemy.” and rejected mass movements. This led to a complete reversal in naxalbari movement. However having such a comprehensive understanding of Marxism I do not completely guage Che as just a projector of individual heroism and a person who downplayed all mass movements. To an extent I respect Guevera’s criticism of practice of the conventional model of the Communist party when you asses the Russian and Chinese experience, of Socialist period. Che strived to create a Communist party which was answerable to the masses or checked by it. He constantly waged a struggle against the dogmatic, mechanical and merely materialist approach to Marxism.
I would have loved to have a Che Guevera re-born in today’s world and would forever visualize what steps he would have undertaken to confront the tyranny of imperialism globalization worldwide, I am curious what modification she would have proposed to orthodox Marxist-Leninist-Maoist theory ,particularly with regard to two -line struggle within a Communist party and mass military line. In certain ways what was practiced by the Communist party of Peru led by Chairman Gonzalo had shades of Guevera’s foco theory ,which may have led to it’s demise. I am certain Guevera would have been vehemently critical of the Revisionist and capitalist rule in China today and critically defended Chairman Mao and the Cultural Revolution. He was such a genius that he could have devised theories to win over the working class in ‘labour aristocracies’ in Europe or America. I have no doubt that he would have been an ardent supporter of the C.P.I.(Maoist) today .I would have loved an analysis written by Che of the pernicious penetration of imperialism sharpening Neo-fascism. Even if ecclectical Che would have thrown light on the shortcomings of the conventional vanguard party. I feel in sowing the seeds or knitting a red army Che’s ideas would still be useful. I greatly missed his presence during the Iraq war when his intervention could have played stellar role and in combating the neo-fascist apartheid of Israel.
Today Che Guevera’s writing son revolutionary medicine are a must read for all cadres. He virtually made a 360 degree turn from the conventional pro-capitalist medical system, and emulated the barefoot doctors in China.
It is ironic that however unorthodox Che was a great admirer and supporter of the writings of Stalin.In important writings he has illustrated the essence of Leninism within Stalin’s views and it’s applicability.
I would have backed Che if he had lived on to self-correct his own eclectic military theory and devise a new military path for third world countries –similar to that of Chairman Mao Tse Tung. Whole heartedly he would have defended Socialism after fall of erstwhile USSR in 1991, with intensity perhaps at a magnitude more than anyone. However it is hypothetical whether he would have eradicated his flawed concepts of a Socialist Society. Still I would have loved to read Guevera’s critique of post-modernism within Marxism. I would also have loved to see him rectify mechanical approach to emulating Chinese path of Peoples War, amongst Maoist parties.
Amongst some of my comrade friends Che Guevera was still eulogized, even if he was not a conventional Marxist-Leninist. A former late close student comrade of mine even being a strong supported of the erstwhile C.P.I.(M.L.)Peoples War Group made Guevera his role model in his day to day life. In his homage meeting a student comrade described how his mannerisms were almost a copy of Che’s.
I would love readers to only to read the biographies of Che but also the appraisals of Cuban Society. Without doubt it has been the most progressive society in Latin America and the entire world in the last 4 decades after China veered towards the capitalist path., if you asses strides in of literacy .medicine, employment and housing. Unlike China after 1978, till Castro’s death Cuba never incorporated private enterprises. What one can learn from Che is the inner evolution of a revolutionary and ho w to gain insight into fellow comrades and people.
I recommend ‘The Story of Che Guevera” by Lucia Alvarez De Toledo,which is arguably the most insightful biography of Che.I also like David Sandison’s “Che Guevera.”I also recommend reading of his letters to hisf amily.
Quoting Chairman Joma Marie Sison leader of NDF,Philippines and former CPP chairman
,”Comrade Che Guevara was an outstanding proletarian revolutionary fighter and was a selfless revolutionary martyr. He exerted heroic efforts to promote the world proletarian revolution and advance the national liberation movements, especially in Latin America and Africa. I admire his revolutionary spirit and deeds. These inspire the Filipino revolutionaries.”
“I have always said that the Cuban revolution is outstanding and unique. It was a socialist revolution that arose not as the direct consequence of a world war, different from Russia where the revolution occurred during WWI and China and other countries where socialist revolutions emerged as a result of WWII. If the Cuban people can make revolution only 90 miles away from the beast, why cannot peoples elsewhere in the world? The Cuban revolution is an inspiration to the people everywhere, not just Latin America or Africa. When the revolutionary will of the people is asserted and the correct line, strategy and tactics are adopted, the revolution can advance and succeed in many parts of the world.”
Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist.Toured India,particularly Punjab .Written on Mass movements ,,Massline,Maoism on blogs like Democracy and Class Struggle and frontierweekly .An avid cricket lover too who has posted writings on blogs like Pakpassion Indian Cricket Fans and Sulekha.com