"The question is one of fighting the causes and not just the effects. This revolution is bound to fail if it doesn't succeed in reaching deep inside them, stirring them right down to the bone, and giving them back their stature as human beings. Otherwise, what's the use?'"
Everyone has seen the above image on posters, advertisements or billboards and yet very few people know who he is , nevermind what he stood and died for. His name is Che guevara ,a socialist guerilla fighter who played a central role in the Cuban revolution and Cuba's subsequent conversion to socialism. I have divided this page into three sections; a biography, a synopsis of his role in Cuba and Che's legacy.
Ernesto "Che" Guevara (1928-1967)
Che guevara was well educated, a man who could have had a comfortable life as a doctor; yet he gave up all this, putting his life on the line for the things he believed. In the anti-Vietnam, anti-American era of the '60s, Che became the poster boy for revolution. Recently Che's body was found, dug up, and returned to Cuba. His remains were met by Fidel Castro and members of Guevara's family. Eventually his body will be placed in a mausoleum in the square that bears his name. Yet where did all this begin?
Ernesto "Che" Guevara was born in Rosario, Argentina in 1928 to Ernesto Guevara Lynch, a Civil Engineer of Irish descent. Che had a good education due to his middle-class background and went to medical school and became a physician. Severe asthma limited much of his physical activity and the young Che spent a lot of his time reading including the works of Pablo Neruda, Engels and most importantly Marx and Lenin. This literature and Che's experiences in traveling in South America pushed him to the left. He was greatly influenced by his stay in Guatemala during the CIA-aided fall of the Arbenz government and Che committed himself to socialism during this period. Che had been an administrator in the leftist Arbenz government in Guatemala in 1953. From here Che saw the failed military coup in Cuba against dictator, Fulgencio Batista led by Fidel Castro .
Che then moved onto Mexico where he met Raul and Fidel Castro, Che signed up with the Cuban rebels in Mexico City .The three then sailed to Cuba in an old yacht with 60 other people, a group that was to become the core of the future guerrilla movement. The Cuban Revolution thus began on December 2, 1956 with the landing of this ship near the Sierra Maestra mountains on the southeastern coast of Cuba. Whilst staying in the mountains Che's talents were put to use in the battles of the Sierra Maestra, where he organized a workshop of weaponry and recruited locals to his army. Production of bread, beef jerky, cigarettes and cigars also took place as logistical support for the guerrilla campaign. Then in late 1958, he led one of the forces that invaded central Cuba, capturing Santa Clara. That was the decisive victory of the war against the forces of Batista.
After the revolution, El Che held various positions in government from in January of 1959 until he left for the Congo in April of 1965 . From there he went to Bolivia to organise another socialist rebellion against a oppressive regime. Che's campaign struggled with little success against the Bolivian Army. A lack of support by the peasantry and a tepid response to recruitment efforts of Bolivian soldiers by Guevara's group led to failure. The lack of support Che received from locals and Cuba led to his capture by the Army of the Bolivian state (with certain help by the CIA) on the 8th of October, 1967 near Vallengrande. Next day, while he laid wounded and deprived of medical treatment, he was killed in cold blood by the cowards who have captured him. The order came from Lyndon B. Johnson, president of the United States of America. Since his death, however, many in Vallegrande have turned Guevara into a saintly figure whom they ask for favors. Although his military campaign was only successful in Cuba he was regarded as a expert military strategist, he wrote about his innovative strategies in his book "Guerilla Warfare".
The Cuban Revolution
Today Che is revered in Cuba as a national hero, his image is everywhere and his days as a guerilla fighter are immortalized in local legends all over Latin America, not just Cuba. Little reference is made to his fights with Castro over politics and where Cuba was headed. Che wanted an independent Marxist state rather than the Soviet satellite Cuba became under Castro.
Castro's shortsighted and often foolish economic policies have left Cuba in ruins . Che had wanted to allow small businesses; he understood that this increased the number of consumer goods available to people and soaked up excess currency, preventing inflation. As Castro began to sell the revolution out to a Soviet-subsidized paternalism, Che still sought to instill the revolution in the hearts and minds of the Cuban people. When that conflict came to a head in 1965, took took the honorable way out. He resigned as Economic Minister and announced that he was going to spend the next five years managing a factory. He was willing to take this demotion rather than have a damaging public falling-out with Castro. He has become disillusioned with the increasing bureaucracy in Cuba and preferred to leave rather than fight an unwinnable battle against the new Havana fatcats who had replaced the Batista bourgeois. This growing gap between the leaders and the masses led to Cuba's downfall.
Jean-Paul Sartre called him "the most complete human being of our age." His image and his death in the prime of life have immortalized Che forever. His courage, intelligence and commitment to his ideals are well known. However you have to question whether Che changed the world in the manner some people think. The Cuban revolution is now regarded as a failure although that cannot be blamed on Che and his other attempted rebellions in the Congo and Bolivia were unsuccessful. He will go down in history with all the other sixties icons like Jim Morrison and Hendrix who made the most of their lives. He is reported to have said to his executioners "Kill me all you will kill is a man", in the minds of millions around the world he lives on. Vive Che!
For those of you who don't believe the CIA was responsible for Che's death try the following links: Here and here.
If you would like to read some books on Che the following books are very interesting. Two are books written by Che, 1 is the FBI's involvment with Che and the other 2 are biographys of Che's life. Guerrila Warfare is his most famous book but I think Che Guevera Speaks gives better insight into the man's life, Guerilla Warfare is mainly concerned with military tactics.