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The Real Che Guevara and His Politics Today

The Real Che Guevara and His Politics Today Gerald A. Azul University of Central Florida

The Real Che Guevara and His Politics Today Abstract The subject of my research is Che Guevara. My purpose of this essay is to create an

objective analysis of Che Guevara. The majority of writings about Che lean left or right, leaving no middle ground or an objective view, each article seems to have an objective. For me to create this middle ground, I gathered multiple articles from an online database provided by the UCF Library and analyzed each article. I looked at the authors background for possible bias, their argument, how they support their argument, and the journal the articles purpose. These articles are a genre for the political science discourse community and a method of communication for political scientists to participate in the field and receive feedback. I analyze this genre to also understand the political science community since I am an aspiring political scientist. This research is to also help me learn to participate in this community.

The Real Che Guevara and His Politics Today Introduction I chose my topic since here at a college campus, you see many Che Guevara shirts and memorabilia. In my first semester I had an international relations class where he was briefly

mentioned. In the same class the professor assigned a miniature paper that allowed us to research anything we wanted more closure on in the class, of course I chose Che Guevara. I wanted to know what was with the shirts. In political science Che Guevara is a controversial political figure and folk legend. The Che most people have come to love is based upon folk and a cult of personality. My objective is to separate fact from myth and analyze Che as the political figure he truly is. To accomplish this I first accumulated multiple sources on Che Guevara. With the sources I analyzed them by scrutinizing the venue of article, and the author. From my sources I concluded that the authors political ideology polarizes the legacy of Che Guevara. Writers either love him or hate him. Writers wrote about Che as a personality (Fontova, 2007; Minogue, 1972; Harris, 1998,), aspects of Che (Payne, 2011; Yaffe, 2009; McCormick, 1997), being subjective to Che (Petras,1998; McLaren, 2001), and opposing Che (Fontova 2007). Fontova, a Cuban exile and political scientist wrote a book called, Exposing the Real Che Guevara. This book opposes Che Guevara by presenting him as a communist propaganda campaign, tyrant, and terrorist which is contrary to popular support for Che (Fontova 2007). His book even though mainly being an editorial opposing Che, being a Cuban exile is a reflection of what Cubans think of Che, he doesnt have the hearts of everybody. Minogue is in his essay Che Guevara written in Prophetic Politics attempts to separate fact from myth that surrounds Che Guevara (1972). His analysis concludes that Ches passion is the core of his legacy (Minogue 1972). He comes to this conclusion by presenting Che neutrally. Harris in his article

The Real Che Guevara and His Politics Today Reflections On Che Guevaras Lgeacy, on the other hand bases his analysis from other writings of Che. This sounds good, yet his sources are purely subjective towards the political figure, the writer may not necessarily biased but his sources. His conclusion is similar to that of

Minogue, passion leads Ches legacy ( Harris 1998). Payne in his article, Building the Base: AlQuaedas Focoist Strategy, asserts that modern terrorists groups are utilizing Ches guerilla foco theory (2011). As in Ches theories make modern insurgents more sophisticated than they seem. Yaffe in his article, Che Guevaras Leagacy: Not the Foco but the Theory of Socialist Construction, analyzes Che from an economic standpoint rather the clich analysis of guerilla warfare. He asserts that Che Guevaras policies are great, yet he implemented them at the wrong time. McCormick like Payne in his article, Che Guevara: the Legacy of a Revolutionary Man analyzed guerilla warfare. He asserted that Che Guevara is not worth all the hype since he only implemented basic military strategy and brought upon his own downfall with simple mistakes (1997). Petras in his two articles, Thirty Years After Che and Che Guevara and Contemporary Revoulutionary Movements is in the attitude of the common slogan El Che Vive! His articles are completely subjective to Che. McLaren on the same note assert the Ches legacy was created by capturing the hearts of young impressionable people, yet does not question this practice as indoctrination (2001). His passion for Che is blinding. These sources show how the political science community communicates. The primary genre for political scientists to participate and receive feed back is academic journal. Political scientists both read and write articles playing off of one another. Che As A Personality Che Guevaras legacy is based upon folk legend and mystique. More specifically, his legacy is a cult of personality (Fontova 2007). In order to understand any controversially figure,

The Real Che Guevara and His Politics Today you must separate fact from myth (Minogue 1972). Minogue, in his essay for Prophetic politics asserts that Che Guevaras passion is what created his following or cult of personality (1972). For example, he states in his essay, The passion Che followed was less universal than that of many another saint (Minogue 1972). Harris in his article asserts a similar argument of Ches personality. He states, It is impossible to think of a true revolutionary without this quality. . .

.Our vanguard revolutionaries must idealize their love for the people (Harris 1998). Harris in his article analyzing Ches legacy based off other biographers of Che and he pulls his own analyses from the gap. This shows how the love for Che is spread beyond the sources I have accumulated. Many writers have spread the love for Che, yet the cult of personality also stems from the personality itself, Che Guevara. He has many writings, but the favorite amongst the masses is The Motorcycle Diaries. Reading articles and books about Che give the writers interpretation of Che, but his personal diaries show the real Che. The personality of love and passion for the people every writer addresses can be found in the last passage of his diary. He states, I knew that when the great guiding spirit cleaves humanity into two antagonistic halves, I will be with the people (Guevara 2003). This shows there is some truth to every legend, for a legend reaffirms a groups common values. With Che being a political figure, much controversy arises around him. Political polarization skews his image from being a saint, to heartless monster. Fontova is his book asserts that Che Guevara nothing more than a terrorist (2007). He puts him along the lines of Osama Bin Laden. Fontova presents evidence that is neglected or has never been heard before. For example few are aware that Che planned an attack on the statue of liberty during his visit to the United Nations. Ches legacy is polarized left or right, never in between.

The Real Che Guevara and His Politics Today With the controversy of Che Guevara being so skewed from passionate freedom fighter to monster, I say Che Guevara is a pure monster and the people love him for it. In the world of politics almost nothing is certain, but Che Guevara is. No one truly knows where a politician

stands. For example Fidel Castro and Mitt Romney are quite obscure. Mitt Romney has changed his political platform more than four times in 24 hours. Fidel Castro on the same note was not even communist. He just used the communist revolution as a way to remove Fulgencio Batista and make a Cuba for Cubans, in a way that makes him right winged and opportunist. Che Guevara is consistent throughout. He was more popular than Castro himself in Cuba. The question for Che Guevara is not who he truly is, but do his ends justify his means. Fontova defines Che as a terrorist, while Harris defines him as freedom fighter for the people (2007; 1998). Both different definitions are two of the same. A guerilla fighter fighting in the name of peoples rights can be seen as a terrorism. Che ends are peoples rights, but his means are uprising and killing in the fight, then executing the remaining who oppose his views. Do the ends justify the means? I find that Che being so consistent in his socio-political views and actions are the reason he has a cult of personality. Its not the freedom fighter or politician the people, but the fact he is a straight up guy who stands behind himself. He exemplified the principles of individual sacrifice, honesty, dedication to cause, and personal conviction in his beliefs (Harris 1998). My analysis shows that schools should teach proper research. Most of the sources that are polarized is done so by the writers personal bias. Of course a Cuban Exile will hate Che, and of course a Latin American would most likely love Che since Latin America is quite leftist. From the polar opposites I had to establish a middle ground that Che is a pure monster and the people love him for it. In politics I find that polarization only leads to framing

The Real Che Guevara and His Politics Today

sources into the writers ideology. Writers should always a middle group or objective standpoint in their writing. Aspects of Che The writers who went more specific into Che for example analyzing him as a guerilla fighter or policy maker; are actually the most objective. Being experts in a more specific field allowed these writers to take the evidence of that aspect at face value. For example Yaffe, an economist analyzed Ches socialist construction policies rather his famous guerilla foco theory (2009). He asserts that Che enacted good economic policies to create socialism, but enacted them at the wrong time (Yaffe 2009). Marxists believe it or not actually like capitalist, but only as a prerequisite for communism. Karl Marx himself believed that the most advanced countries would have a communist revolution; not countries like Russia, China, and Cuba. Especially in Cuba, with country not modernized yet, Che implemented socialist construction to early (Yaffe 2009). Since socialist construction was implemented before the country modernized, Cuba has a problem with innovation (Yaffe 2009). The purpose of capitalism is to create competition for the economy to innovate. The dilemma in communism is how to innovate without the incentive of capitalism (communists reject consumerism). In turn, Raul Castro in 2008 began enacting capitalist policies (Yaffe 2009). This shows how Che Guevaras policies are no longer relevant, they do not work if Cuba wants to be competitive in the international economy. McCormick, a Department of Defense analyst and instructor at a Naval postgraduate school analyzes Che from military point of view. He asserts that Che Guevara is not worth all the hype, as in Che never brought anything new in to strategy and theory, he simply implanted basic military strategy (McCormick 1997). Che Guevara is known as guerilla fighter and the fame stems from his part in the Cuban Revolution. Che fanatics disregard his revolutionary attempts in

The Real Che Guevara and His Politics Today

other countries afterwards. They see his personality as passionate, not his failure. For example in Bolivia where he was executed he implemented basic strategy and committed the most crucial basic mistakes. At first Che attempted to implement the Cuban Revolution in Bolivia (McCormick 1997). Secondly, he ignoring cultural differences between Latin Americans, Bolivia is not Cuba (McCormick 1997). Finally he didnt have the same support in Bolivia as he did in Cuba (McCormick). Che could be a great man to some, but he is his own greatest enemy. He brought his downfall upon himself. Payne also analyzes Ches guerilla fighting, but emphasizes his foco theory. In his article Payne asserts that Al-Quaeda is implementing Ches guerilla foco theory. This is where a guerilla/paramilitary group vanguards discontent and creates popular support for a revolution. Payne asserts Al-Quaeda is using this for their global jihad, as in Al-Quaeda vanguards Muslims for global jihad (2011). When analysts scrutinize a subject specifically related to their field, it enables them to take evidence at face value. The analyses I have accumulated show only that Che Guevara is still relevant today, whether you love or hate him. This has influenced leftist politics highly. I find that if writers researched subjects more in depth into the individual aspects the analyses can be more objective. When writing writers should take all their sources at face value, not frame it to their own ideology. Subjective to Che Political polarization skews any analysis of a subject, including Che Guevara. From the sources I have accumulated, two authors are exclusively subjective to Che. Petras, a political scientist and political activist who leans left, asserts that Che has a lasting influence on Latin American politics. Latin America is a refuge for leftist politics. Petras states, I would argue that

The Real Che Guevara and His Politics Today

Ches relevance to contemporary revolutionary politics is found in his general analysis of politics and his reflections on political action and economic structures rather than the tactical ideas he applied to specific conjunctural circumstances (1998). Basically Ches politics remain relevant today. This articles analysis seems similar to Yaffes article, but other articles by Petras provide more evidence that he is subjective to Che, besides his political standing. In his article, Thirty Years After Che, he analyzes Che legacy based on his guerilla warfare rather his politics. He asserts that Ches ideology for guerilla lives on today. He states in his article, The figure and ideas of Che Guevara have been influential and prescient in shaping the revolutionary debates and understanding their potentialities (1997). His evidence for this claim are presented by waves of revolutions after his death. McCormick analyzed Ches guerilla warfare, but in micro level of analysis. Payne did the same with guerilla theory but on the macro level. Payne and Petras may have some common ground, yet Petrass attitude is more subjective to Che Guevara. He states in his article, The CIA may have killed the man, but his ideas today are more pervasive than ever in ethics, politics, and culture (Petras 1997). This statement is similar to a common slogan El Che Vive (the Che lives). McLaren in his article is blatantly subjective to Che. It is visible in the title of the article, Che Guevara, Paulo Freire, and the Politics of Hope: Reclaiming Political Pedagogy. The emphasis of the article is Che as a symbol of Hope. The introduction of the article states, I noticed that he was wearing a Che T-shirt with the inscription iChe Vive!; A fleeting sensation of plaintive connectedness overcame me, and I managed to give him a quick thumbs-up gesture of affirmation (McLaren 2001). The subject of the article is Ches pedagogy, which is the teaching of children. McLaren in his article also states, Che is not sympathetically portrayed in school extbooks, and because strong social movements against oppression are woefully lacking

The Real Che Guevara and His Politics Today in the United States, we therefore should not place too much faithin the relevance of Ches message for our current condition (2001). In Cuba, kids start their day in school by pledging, We Will Be Like Che. McLaren is for this practice. Arguably, this practice can be called


indoctrination as well. Che and the Cuban government are creating a communist impression on impressionable children. There is no mention in the article that the practice within the article could be indoctrination of any sort. From these three article I have come to the conclusion that passion is blinding. Petras and McLaren have a blatant subjectivity to Che Guevara. They are blinded and disregard any evidence or hold to one interpretation of it. The synopsis of each article is El Che Vive. The writers only mention Ches successes and how they live on in history, yet briefly mention if not at all his failures. The writers views Che as a good man, these writers contribute to the cult of personality that has created Ches legacy. Writers should take the tone of historians, neutral. When you read these articles you can feel the emotion the writer has for Che. It should be taught that writers should only present the evidence and their analysis based upon the evidence and nothing more. This would remove much of the polarization and skewing of analyses, especially around controversial figures. Opposition to Che Just as complete subjectivity to Che Guevara skews the analysis, complete opposition to Che does the same. Fontova, a Cuban exile and political scientist wrote a book that exposes the real Che Guevara. He asserts that Che Guevara is a propaganda campaign, tyrant, and terrorist. Che Guevaras diaries were published by the propaganda bureau of a totalitarian regime Might there be some embellishment or omission (Fontova 2007). Fontovas sole purpose in this book is to debunk the legend of Che, and show who he truly is, the epitome of a totalitarian

The Real Che Guevara and His Politics Today regime. For example he has a chapter titled, Jailers of Rockers, Hipsters, and Gays (Fontova


2007). The Majority people who love Che know him as a guerilla or freedom fighter, those terms are sometimes two of the same. Yet to others on the opposition to Che would find him as a terrorist. Much like Al-Quaeda today, to them they are protecting the world Muslim community or Ummah. To the United States Al-Quaeda is a terrorist organization. Che Guevara is in the same situation. Fontova states in the first chapter of his book, New York Fetes the Godfather of Terrorism, he was referring to when Che addressed the United Nations (Fontova 2007). Out of all the sources that I have accumulated only one purely opposed Che Guevara. This also emphasizes Ches cult of personality. There is a widespread support of Che Guevara in some shape or form. It seems books that opposed che are not highly praised. In Fontovas book he presented evidence that many disregard or was never aware of. The rest of article do not address Che as a tyrant, terrorist, and propaganda campaign. Fontova looks at Che as if he were a pure monster. There is no middle ground to this analysis, only rebuttals to common perceptions of Che. Conclusion My sources analyzed Che Guevara as a politician and guerilla fighter. The writers of these sources wrote about specific aspects of Che as a politician and guerilla fighter, or were subjective or opposed to Che. They analyzed his theories, socialist construction and influence to other socialist constructions, and actions as a guerilla fighter or terrorist to some. To completely understand Che Guevara, you cannot only look at what his profession was, but his home life. The love and hate for Che stems from his profession as a revolutionary. But who was this guy at home? If I were researching this subject professionally I would interview his

The Real Che Guevara and His Politics Today eldest daughter Aleida Guevara and colleagues who remain in Cuba and those who are exiled here in the United States. The analysts who scrutinized hum by profession where skewed politically by polarization. Polariztion leads to framing of sources, facts, and half truths. So in reality there is


no way to analyze Che Guevara objectively with the current system. Writers have been catering to their own biases, and the most objective analyses were Yaffe and McCormick who analyzed Che in their specific field (2011; 1997). From my sources I have to conclusion that Che Guevara is not worth the hype he receives. As a guerilla fighter, he brought nothing new to strategy, he only implemented basic military strategy and theory. His famous guerilla foco theory is based on French Focalism, so its nothing new. He only did basic strategy so his basic mistakes were crucial and brought upon his down fall. Che Guevara initiated his own downfall. His freedom fighting can easily be interpreted as terrorism, as Fontova has written in his book (2007). His legacy is purely based on his passion for his own interpretation of freedom. Passion is blinding so it led to the impracticality of his own socialist construction, for he was too impatient wait upon the right time to implement socialist policies (Yaffe 2009). Che Guevara is nothing more than a cult of personality, a symbol of rebellion, and a possible propaganda campaign by Cuba.