Che the thinker

Ernesto "Che" Guevara was known as a guerrilla fighter, brilliant commander and military strategist. Che devoted his life towards the emancipation of the human kind. Che epitomize the perfect human being of modern times. But Che was also a great thinker.

Ernesto "Che" Guevara was born in Argentina in a middle class family. From his younger days Che was a voracious reader. However it was his trip on motor cycle in Latin America better known as "Motor Cycle Diaries" enlightened his mind. He saw for the first time the suffering of poor and downtrodden in countries such as Chile, Peru. After visiting Latin America, Che became an activist attracted to Marxism. In Guatemala Che fought alongside Arbenz government which was overthrown by CIA sponsored coup. Then he left to Mexico where he met Castro brothers. At this juncture Castro brothers were nationalists and were committed a nationalist revolution against Pro US Batista dictatorship. However Che was very much able to influence younger Castro brother Raul. During the days of Cuban struggle Che influenced the July 26th movement politically and to an extent could be considered the political commissar  of the movement

Che as a thinker foresaw the contradictions developing between the U.S policy in Latin America and nationalists. U.S constantly overthrew nationalist governments in its backyard. He also understood clearly that U.S support for the dictatorships in Latin America radicalized the nationalists. Although Fidel Castro came to power in 1958 as a nationalist, U.S attempts to overthrow him, pushed him further towards Marxism and closer relationship with then Soviet Union. Che played a major role as Minister of Industry in carrying out radical changes in Cuban industry which was previously totally dominated by U.S companies. In addition he was also instrumental in carrying out radical changes in sugar cane industry the prime industry in Cuba.Even though a minister , he worked occasionally in sugar cane fields .

Che visualized Cuban revolution as a vanguard for changes in three continents Latin America, Asia and Africa. He also looked at Marxism from a different perspective.  Lenin and Mao looked at working class and peasantry respectively in their countries as vanguard for socialist revolution .However Che theorized that objective conditions for socialist revolution can be created by a small guerrilla unit working as a catalyst. This catalyst in turn will contribute towards a mass based socialist revolution.

Although Che supported guerrilla movements in Latin America , his first overseas role as a guerrilla commander after Cuban revolution was in Africa.  Congolese President Patrice Lumumba was overthrown by a CIA sponsored coup and was assassinated. Che travelled to Eastern Congo and started organizing the remnants of Patrice Lumumba's political party into a guerrilla organization. At the same time various liberation movements fighting colonialism in Africa such as MPLA in Angola received training in Eastern Congo. In that sense Che laid foundation stones for anti colonial liberation struggles in Africa which became successful in later 70s and 80s.

When Che returned from Africa in 1964, Vietnam War was at the zenith. U.S intervention in Vietnam reached a point where almost 80% of U.S armed forces were involved in the Vietnam War. Che saw the need to open a second front to assist Vietnamese struggle.  He chose Bolivia which was under a military government. Bolivia was right in middle of South America and was surrounded by Peru, Chile, Brazil and Argentina. As such Che thought by establishing a vanguard guerrilla unit based in Bolivia, struggle will soon spread to rest of South America and will draw U.S intervention in a large scale. This will in turn assist Vietnamese struggle. However history proved otherwise and Che was killed in Bolivia.

Although Che did not achieve his goals during his life time, he became an icon for revolutionary changes in Latin America, Africa and to a lesser extent Asia. Today Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua have progressive governments in Latin America. Africa has thrown off colonialism and Apartheid. Vietnamese defeated U.S armed forces in 1975 and became truly independent. 

Che although being a Marxist and believed strongly in the close relationship with Soviet Union ,  also saw the decay set in the soviet system. He saw the mistakes made by the Soviet leadership and party and foresaw the collapse of the Soviet Union. Party lost touch with its grass roots and ended up as a huge bureaucracy. Che also saw most of the communist parties in Latin America as inept and unable to carry forward the struggle. However he along with Castros ensured that the Cuban revolution always maintained its strong links with people. That is why Cuban revolution could survive for such a long period in spite of isolation and sanctions imposed by U.S.

Che also did his best to repair the split between Soviet and Chinese communist parties in 1960s. He foresaw the damage caused to the international socialist cause by the split. He was well respected by both parties. However the damage caused by Sino- Soviet split affected progressive movements around the world. Destruction of Indonesian communist party (Third largest communist party in the world at that time) in 1967 after U.S sponsored military coup was one of the outcomes of the split. Similarly Sudanese communist party was wiped out in 1968 by the military government. One may conclude that Che's frustration with the Sino - Soviet split and the inability of the two communist powers to provide maximum support to Vietnamese struggle led him to embark on Bolivian mission without much preparation.

Che is one the greatest thinkers of modern times. He understood Marxism in the modern context. But unlike many thinkers he also did his best to put his thoughts in to action.

08th August 2008
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