You are on page 1of 15

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 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 the shirts meant. 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 legend 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 it is mainly 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, unlike many other

The Real Che Guevara and His Politics Today authors. Harris in his article 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 be biased but his sources are. His

conclusion is similar to that of Minogue, passion is what Ches legacy consists of ( Harris 1998). Payne in his article, Building the Base: Al-Quaedas Focoist Strategy, asserts that modern terrorists groups are utilizing Ches guerilla foco theory (2011). Ches theories make modern insurgents more sophisticated than they seem. He is neither subjective or opposing Che Guevara, but stating an observation/claim. 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 (Yaffe 2009). 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). Payne and McCormick analyzing Che Guevara in the specifics of their field took Che Guevara at face value, creating an objective analysis. 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 when referring to his influence on Latin American politics. McLaren on the same note asserts that 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.

The Real Che Guevara and His Politics Today 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, 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 most prominent is The Motorcycle Diaries. Reading articles and books about Che gives 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.

The Real Che Guevara and His Politics Today With Che being a political figure, much controversy arises around him. Political polarization skews his image from being a saint, to heartless character. 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. 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 at all times. 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 character and the people love him for it. In politics I find that polarization only leads to framing sources into the writers ideology. Writers should always a middle group or objective standpoint in their writing. Aspects of Che

The Real Che Guevara and His Politics Today 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 capitalism, 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 (third world countries). Especially in Cuba, which did not modernize 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 profit (communists reject consumerism). In turn, Raul Castro in 2008 began enacting capitalist policies (Yaffe 2009). This shows how Che Guevaras policies are slowly losing their relevance, they do not work if Cuba wants to be competitive in this global 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 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

The Real Che Guevara and His Politics Today 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 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

The Real Che Guevara and His Politics Today 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 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,

The Real Che Guevara and His Politics Today 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 articles 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 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 writers has for Che. It should be

taught that writers should only present the evidence and their analysis based upon the evidence at face value. This would remove much of the polarization and skewing of analyses, especially around controversial figures in general. 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 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

The Real Che Guevara and His Politics Today are sometimes two of the same. Yet to others on the opposition to Che would find him as a

10

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 character. There is no middle ground to this analysis, only rebuttals to common perceptions of Che. The Gap 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 eldest daughter Aleida Guevara and colleagues who remain in Cuba and those who are exiled here in the United States.

The Real Che Guevara and His Politics Today

11

The analysts who scrutinized him 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. 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. With passion being so blinding 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. Continuing the Research From my research I have found sources that claim Che Guevara is a saint, and other sources that claim he is sociopath. Political Science is a discipline that is created by other social sciences like psychology and sociology; hence the claim Che Guevara is a sociopath. To really go into the mind of Che Guevara, research must go into his home life, or life outside of his profession. All articles analyzing political figures only analyze the profession. But now in these days in politics the home life matters for example Bill Clinton and his relations with an intern. The private life of political figures now is an important aspect.

The Real Che Guevara and His Politics Today

12

None of my sources that I have accumulated has done any interviews. Their analyses are based on other sources like my own research assignment. To enhance the historical perspective of the political science field I will attempt to accumulate more first hand sources. The most prominent person who knew Che Guevara personally rather professionally is his daughter Aleida Guevara. I would conduct an interview with her. From my sources I have found no precedent on how to specifically conduct the interview, but I can treat this as an oral history. I would basically ask about the time or era she grew up in, general information. Then I would get more specific. For example, I would ask how her father has influenced her life, how did his profession as a revolutionary affect you and the family, and finally what was he like when he home. The article presenting the evidence I have accumulate from a primary source would only reference the interview/oral history and my personal analysis. In the political science field, writers base their analyses from other analyses primarily by a establishing a gap, rebuttal, or agreement. This article being based off a primary source will be in touch with historical aspect of the political science field. The evidence would mainly be an objective presentation of history. There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know (Truman). The current analyses of Che Guevara are all based on his profession as a revolutionary. These sources I have acclimated portray Che Guevara as a legend and saint, or as sociopath guerilla fighter/terrorist. My own personal assessment of Che is that he is both. He is a pure character and the people love him for it, and his policies are somewhat irrelevant today. Che being a pure character you know what to expect with him, he has consistency. This consistency to his own beliefs puts him in more favor than his colleague Fidel Castro. The consistency to his own beliefs bring up the question, Do the ends justify the means? Does being a pure character fighting for what he believes is freedom justifiable? This characteristic of Che Guevara is what

The Real Che Guevara and His Politics Today

13

made him the legend he his today. The atrocities he is accused of were in name of freedom and the people in his mind. His policies today are almost irrelevant. The socialist construction he implemented in Cuba is slowly being moderated with capitalist policies to modernize the country (Yaffe 2009). The real Che Guevara is a pure character which legend elates, and whose policies today are becoming irrelevant. Yet his influence still remains high. Conclusion While researching my gap, I did not find anything relating to my gap. All articles relate to his career. They present information about his legacy, and everything that contributed to his legacy. Yet there are no scholarly article about his home life, everyone has a personality as a professional, and as a typical individual. To truly analyze any political figure, it is necessary to understand there private life. To fill in the gap I designed an interview with Che Guevaras daughter, Aleida. Yet, most information about Che hailing from Cuba seems to always be put through their propaganda bureau first. You receive nothing but positive information. What Ive learned from this is that you must verify an authors claims. Much of the political information readers receive are usually at most half true, you must verify your source to get the other half. From this research assignment as a whole I find that all of politics is based upon your personal perspective. Yet each perspective claims itself to be the universal truth. While analyzing Che Guevara I practiced how to formulate solid arguments based on fact and other analyses. In the political science field analyses are typically build off of previous analyses, if not a gap in the interpretation of evidence. This has helped me in my other classes. I am now taking classes directly pertaining to my degree. Currently I am writing a critique/analysis of the Iranian Revolution based on All The Shahs Men by Kinzer, and Shah of Shahs by Kapuscinksi. This

The Real Che Guevara and His Politics Today

14

research assignment has helped me practice writing in the manner I will for classes towards my degree.

The Real Che Guevara and His Politics Today References Fontova, H. (2007). Exposing The Real Che Guevara: And The Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him. New York, NY: Penguin Group Guevara, E. (2003). The Motorcycle Diaries. New York, NY: Ocean Press. Harris, R. (1998). Reflections On Che Guevaras Legacy. Latin American Perspectives, 25(4), 19-32. McCormick, G.H. (1997). Che Guevara: The Legacy of a Revolutionary Man. World Policy Journal, 14(4), 63. McLaren, P. (2001). Che Guevara, Paulo Freire, and the Politics of Hope: Reclaiming Political Pedagogy. Critical Studies: Cultural Methodologies, 1(1), 108-131. Minogue, K. (1972). Che Guevara. In Maurice Cranston (Ed.), Prophetic Politics (pp. 17-48). New York, NY: Touchstone. Payne, K. (2011), Building the Base : Al Quaedas Focoist Strategy. Studies In Conflicts and Terrorism, 34(2), 124-143. Petras, J. (1997). Latin America: Thirty Years After Che. Monthly Review, 49(5), 8-21. Petras, J. (1998). Che Guevara and Contemporary Revolutionary Movements. Latin American Perspectives, 25(4), 1-3.

15

Yaffe, H. (2009). Che Guevaras Legacy: Not the Foco but the Theory of Socialist Construction. Latin American Perspectives, 36(2), 49-65.