Che Ernesto Guevara
June 14, 1928- October 8, 1967
Poster Boy for Communist Insurrectionby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
"Che was the most complete human being of our age."1 Was Che really "complete", as many people believe him to be? Did he live a good life? Was the cause of his fight a worthy one? Why is his face so popularized on t-shirts, posters, and the graffiti walls of universities?
This future poster boy was born Ernesto Rafael Guevara on June 14, 1928 into an upper middle-class family in Rosario, Argentina. Although his father was trained as a construction engineer he also had other businesses that failed, so at times the family did not do so well. Guevara's primary education was being home schooled by his mother. Guevara liked to read very much, and spent most of his time reading from his father's library, which included books by Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud. Guevara's family was somewhat leftist but was not strongly active in politics. Guevara's political views were mostly developed on his own, but his father was the first to "nudge" him to the left when he was young. In 1948 Guevara enrolled in the University of Buenos Aires to study medicine, although it took him five years to graduate. Guevara became interested in medicine because of his severe condition of asthma. This is important because it would affect him throughout his life and his work. His family had to move to a drier climate when he was a child because of the illness. Also, he applied for the Argentine army before applying for university, but was rejected because of his asthma.
At the age of 21 Guevara took a 4,000 mile road trip alone on his moped. He traveled throughout Northern Argentina in mostly indigenous villages and it was then that he first began to take notice of the poverty of others. In 1951, he took another road trip, this time with a friend. Starting out in Buenos Aires, they traveled down the coast of Argentina, into Chile, and then headed north to Peru, Venezuela, and Colombia. Guevara kept a journal of the journey, which was published into a book2 and adapted to film3 post mortem.
Next, in 1954, he hitchhiked to Guatemala, almost 4,000 miles4, just in time to watch the overthrow of radical socialist Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, who had confiscated property of local ranches, farms and property own by the United Fruit Company. Guevara developed his disdain for the United States government because he learned the CIA had assisted in the ousting of Arbenz was led by the CIA). This is essentially where he decided how he wanted to live his life and how he was going to overthrow governments. In Guatemala he met a lot of his connections and friends, including his soon-to-be wife Hilda Gadea; as well as Nico Lopez, one of Fidel Castro's lieutenants. Guevara got money by writing archaeological articles every now and then but basically he was in rags. He got his nickname "Che", which is Argentine slang for "buddy" or "friend", apparently because he referred to everyone as his buddy. Guevara wanted to fight but Arbenz convinced everyone to run away, so Guevara and his ches fled to Mexico.
There in Mexico, in September 1954, Guevara met Fidel Castro and his brother Raúl, who were exiled from Cuba. These brothers were planning to overthrow the government of Fulgencio Batista in Cuba, a coup known as "the 26th of July Movement". Che signed up right away. However, it was not until 1956 that Guevara, Castro, and just eighty other guerrillas set out for Cuba. The battle commenced soon after their arrival, and only twelve of the guerrillas survived. Guevara was supposed to be the doctor but quickly became a soldier. Despite this major setback, the revolution was going rather well. They seized some weapons and recruited volunteers from among the peasants and other classes. As the months went by Guevara climbed the ranks until he became major of the entire army. After the manner of his hero, Stalin, Che "establish a rigid discipline, organise a high command and set up a Staff". demanded the death penalty for "informers, insubordinates, malingerers and deserters". He exucuted "informers, insubordinates, malingerers and deserters". Castro had to stop "Doctor" Che from exucuting his some of his own guerrillas who were protesting bad food with a hunger strike.
In 1958 Guevara and his troops took out a train full of Batista's men, taking over the city of Santa Clara and forcing Batista to flee. On January 2, 1959 Castro's troops entered Havana, capital of Cuba. They set up their government and Guevara became Castro's right-hand man. He set up and ran the National Institute of Agrarian Reform as well as being president of the National Bank of Cuba and the Minister of Industries. In his personal life, Guevara divorced his wife Hilda Gadea, with whom he had one daughter. Soon after, he married a Peruvian named Aleida March who was in Castro's army, and they eventually had four children. In February 1960 he signed a trade agreement with the USSR. He then traveled to many socialist countries in Africa and Asia to form more trade agreements.
In 1961 raved, "The U.S. is the great enemy of mankind!" ... "Against those hyenas there is no option but extermination. We will bring the war to the imperialist enemies' very home, to his places of work and recreation. The imperialist enemy must feel like a hunted animal wherever he moves. Thus we'll destroy him! We must keep our hatred against them [the U.S.] alive and fan it to paroxysms!"
Che brokered the USSR deal that led to the 1962 Cuban Missle Crisis. When the Soviets wisely withdrew, Che told reporters that he would have fired the nuclear weapons. In fact, Che later talked about spreading his unusal rebellion across Latin America by way of nuclear war if needed.
Guevara was trying to mold Cuba into his own image, going against Castro's. Guevara's views were not shared by many others- capitalist or communist. He criticized the Soviet Union and he criticized the United States. He moved away from the "Moscow" communism and more to the "Mao Tse-Tung" communism5. He published his views of Communism in 1965.6
This change in ideology forced Fidel Castro to unofficially drop Guevara from all his government positions in 1965, to which Che officially submitted his resignation and renounced his citenzenship. During this time Guevara traveled to Congo, where he tried to start an insurrection. The problem was Guevara never had any formal military training, and he was up against the U.S. Army Special Forces-aided Congolese. So, he returned to Cuba and recruited 120 soldiers and took them back to the Congo. Still, Guevara's army was no match and they withdrew from the fiasco by August of 1965.
After touring China, Egypt, Algeria, Ghana, and Congo, Guevara returned to Cuba. He was seen for a few days in Cuba but after that was not seen anywhere for a very long time. He was officially relieved of all his positions in the Cuban government. In fact, he had given up the Cuban citizenship given to him after the revolution against Batista. He disguised himself as a Uruguayan economist and set off to Bolivia to start another revolution. "Other nations are calling for the help of my modest efforts," claimed Guevara.
In November 1966 the Bolivian Communists bought a piece of jungle in Nancahazu and gave it to Guevara to use as a training ground. Once again Guevara tried recruiting local peasants, but his army only reached 120. The Bolivian Communists did not help him much because he was too "Maoist" in his Communism. When the President of Bolivia, Rene Barriéntos, found out Guevara was there, he immediately ordered his army to capture him. The Guevara-led army actually did quite well against the government troops. Unfortunately for them, though, the CIA was involved with this fight as well.
The story of Guevara's death is what sealed his face as martyred poster boy for communism. He was ambushed by a CIA-led group of the Bolivian Army in the Bolivian jungle where he was sick with severe asthma. Both the Bolivian Army and the CIA wanted credit for Guevara's capture. Although the CIA wanted to take him alive, the Bolivians wanted him dead. Guevara was taken to a school in that village and executed on October 8, 1967. A few days later, the CIA announced Guevara's death to the world. Not surprisingly, Castro announced three days of mourning in Cuba a week later.
Many believe that Che Guevara is one of the greatest revolutionaries and greatest Latin Americans to ever live.7 Capitalists certainly profit from selling his image. Mr. Sartre says that he was a complete man. Looking at his life, one can see that Guevara was, as God says, one of "many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers."8. Guevara was a brutal revolutionary who fashioned himself after Stalin. He was deceived and deceived many others with his atheistic politics. His revolutions failed. Why? Remember the words of Jesus, ".apart from me you can do nothing."9
up5Maoism was basically the theory that the peasants could overthrow the rich government if the Communists lead them. Guevara recruited peasants believing they would fight harder because they are less complacent.