Should We Admire Che Guevara? Essay

Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara de la Serna was born on the 14th May 1928, in Rosario, Argentina. He was the son of Ernesto Guevara Lynch and Celia de la Serna y Llosa, and was to be eldest of five children.

Little did they know then that ‘Che’ was to become arguably one of the greatest Marxist leaders, a revolutionary of the people, a supreme military tactician and guerrilla leader, an author and a politician. Nor would they have thought that, forty years on, his stylised image would still be an icon of rebellion, freedom and power to millions of people across the world.

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However, despite his messianic image amongst rebels young and old, some people in recent years have spoken out against Guevara, calling him: ‘A Killing Machine’, and ‘A man who left Cuba in more of a mess than it was when he arrived’. Others have spoken out against his ‘designer-label’ image, claiming he has turned ‘From Communist Firebrand to Capitalist Brand’.

There have also been comparisons to Hitler, Mao and even Bin Laden. So was he right? And was what he did, good? And how should his values be looked at? I plan to find out.

Childhood

Che was born in Rosario on May 14th 1928, into a family of Spanish and Irish descent, and left wing leanings (which undoubtedly influenced him in the long run). Interestingly, his mother Celia had his birth certificate was born in Rosario on May 14th 1928, into a family of Spanish and Irish descent, and left wing leanings (which undoubtedly influenced him in the long run). Interestingly, his mother Celia had his birth certificate forged to prevent scandal (as she was three months pregnant at the time of her marriage to Ernesto, Che’s father) the date was changed, and put a month back, to June 14th, as a child born two months early was not inconceivable.

Although he was to be hindered all his life by severe asthma, Che was a great athlete, and a keen rugby union player, even earning himself the pet name ‘Fuser’ (a combination of his mother’s name – de la Serna, and El Furibundo – raging). He was also however, given the nickname Chancho (pig), as he rarely washed and proudly wore a ‘weekly shirt’. Aside from this, Che was a great intellectual with a burning love of poetry and all literature which stayed with him all his life. Che did not start school at the usual age because of his asthma, so his mother taught him his first lessons

(including French). However, at the age of seven Che started attending the Jose de San Martin School in Alta Gracia, and started in second grade. Che enjoyed life around Alta Gracia, and went on frequent

excursions to the nearby hills with his parents to study his three loves of animals, countryside and nature. It was around this time that his siblings Roberto (May 18th, 1931) and Ana Maria (January 28th, 1934) were born. In 1936 when he had just turned eight fighting broke out in the homeland of Che’s ancestors, Spain. This aroused the interests of the family and their friends, as Che’s uncle was a war correspondent, indeed the young Ernesto used to listen attentively to any conversation that was to be had about the current state of affairs across the Atlantic. He even used to create mock battle scenes with his friends. They used to cry: “Onward Militia!! Long live the Spanish republic!!”

Growing Up

In 1941 Che (now 13) joined Dean Funes school, a liberal institution were discrimination was not allowed. Che obviously enjoyed it as he had to commute over 35 kilometres daily form Alta Gracia (where he still lived) and Cordoba (Although his family did eventually move to the latter). It was here that he met his great friends Gregorio Granada, Gustavo Roca and Tomas Alberto. He kept his love of literature and read several authors including: Sigmund Freud, Pablo Neruda, Jose Ingenieros, Jack London and Carlos Gustavo Jung. Interestingly, he also read a shortened version of ‘The Captial’ by one Karl Marx.

When he had just turned 14, Che asked if he, and his younger brother Roberto could work in a local vineyard during the grape harvest and his request was granted. Unfortunately for Che, several serious asthma attacks forced him to return much earlier than he had expected. However in this time Che did learned of the cruel treatment of the workers by the owner of the farm – an eye opener to the real world.

In 1947 Che’s grandmother became seriously ill. Che put his studies in engineering on hold and was by her side constantly for the 17 days until her death. Having witnessed his grandmother’ agony Che was deeply moved and decided to give up engineering permanently and take up medicine. The family moved to Buenos Aires and lived in his grandmother’s old house.

Che worked hard(between 12 and 14 hours a day)and was devoted to finishing his medicine studies early. He managed this in style – completing all studies for the first year in May, the second in June and the third in December.

In that December Che enrolled in the School of Medicine at Buenos Aires University. He had a record MAT score of 59345. he had taken his first steps towards becoming a doctor.

The rest is history

After studying medicine for nearly 6 years Che received his degree from the University of Buenos Aires and began his travels round Central and South America, settling after some time in Guatemala and eventually finding work as an inspector for a land re-distribution organisation.

This did not last long as a US organised military coup overthrew the government of the President Jacobo Arbenz Guzman within a year of Che’s arrival.

After several unsuccessful attempts to create a resistance movement, Che was forced to seek asylum in the Argentine embassy, and flee to across the border to Mexico, and to find a job in Mexico City. This experience only aggravated Che’s anti-American sentiments and led him to the conclusion that the only way for any reform in South America was through violence.

On the train to Mexico, Che met Julio Roberto C�ceres (El Patojo), a Venezuelan with whom he struck a warm friendship. The first months in Mexico were not easy. Guevara had no money and no work. He bought a camera and started to work as a street photographer with C�ceres. In the parks around the city, they took pictures of passers-by with a cheap camera. Altogether his first impressions were not great, as he described it as ‘the world capital of corruption’ to his aunt Beatrice.

Eventually he got a job as a doctor in the allergy ward in Mexico City’s General Hospital. He also started seeing his old girlfriend Hilda again.

In his free time, he wrote scientific research papers on allergies and attended a congress in Veracruz. He also climbed Mt. Popacatapetl, intending to place an Argentine flag at the summit.

In July 1955 Che first met Ra�l Castro, a Cuban student leader who had just been released from jail. A little while later Che met Ra�l’s brother Fidel and from there his journey to glory began.

During that summer Che married his long-time girlfriend Hilda Gadea, in Tepozotl�n town, Mexico and honeymooned in south-east Mexico, where they explored the Mayan ruins.

During this time the Castro brothers influence grew on Che and he learned of the atrocities being commited in Cuba, under the regime of the tyrant Fulgencio Batista and eventually he signed up for the famous ’26th of July movement’, (primarily as the physician) becoming the only non-Cuban in the 83 strong force of guerrilla fighters that made the journey to Cuba in December 1956, intent on overthrowing Batista’s government.

Despite their best efforts the original force was crushed almost immediately, but Guevara and the Castro brothers were among the twelve survivors who took refuge in the Sierra Maestra mountain range, and began to build the base for a long guerrilla insurgency. It was at this point that he gained the nickname ‘Che’ to his Cuban comrades. Soon after this he took up arms with the rest of the insurgents and displayed great leadership ability, so much that he was named commander of a second guerrilla column composed of local peasant recruits. He was by now, a trusted adviser to leader of the force, Fidel Castro and he was also responsible for organising military training camps, a radio station, a munitions plant, and a small network of schools in the territory controlled by the guerrillas.

But in 1958 Che’s soldiers met a much larger, better equipped Cuban militia at the battle of Santa Clara. After an intense skirmish Che’s guerrillas won a decisive victory the knock on effect of which forced the dictator Batista to flee the country, in 1959 Che’s forces took the fortress of La Caba�a in Havana the capital of Cuba and this signalled total military victory and the completion of the revolution. This gave the guerrillas a heroic place in history.

Guevara played held several powerful positions in the new Cuban government under Castro: serving first as military commander of La Caba�a fortress and successively as a top official of the National Institute of Agrarian Reform, he was then made president of the National Bank of Cuba, and Minister of Industries. In the last two posts, Guevara (who was awarded full citizenship rights by the Castro government) was largely involved in the immensely complex and difficult task of turning around a sugar-based, capitalist economy heavily dependent on the United States and setting it on the right track after years of corruption.

In 1960 Guevara helped negotiate a trading pact with the Soviet Union, exchanging sugar for capital goods; due to the fact that the United States had imposed an economic boycott of the island in that year, he also travelled to other Eastern European countries to develop new commercial relations. Che was much more knowledgeable in Marxist economic theory than Castro, and he dreamed of a socialist outcome for the Cuban Revolution and encouraged the Cuban leader to take the definitive step toward a state-run system by nationalizing virtually all of the country’s industry in late 1960. But as he was still intent on decreasing Cuba’s heavy reliance on the sugar industry, Che decided to industrialize the island with support from the Eastern Bloc, which provided generous aid and advantageous sugar prices.

However, Che also believed that a new ‘socialist morality’ among the Cuban people was also necessary for getting the country back on its feet, and not just the material aid of other countries. Because of this, he favoured moral rather than material incentives to raise production and pioneered voluntary work programs to strengthen revolutionary consciousness and national camaraderie.

In early 1965 Guevara mysteriously disappeared from public view, with many speculating that he had disagreed with Castro over the economic policy of the country and had subsequently been ‘replaced’ the official explanation that Castro gave was that Guevara had departed Cuba of his own will to advance the cause of the socialist revolution he was preaching, was proven when Guevara later appeared in Africa with two hundred Cuban troops to assist rebels in the Congo. On his return to the Cuban capital in 1966 he began to make plans to apply his guerrilla ideas on insurgency in South America. Che’s greatest ambition was to create “two, three, many Vietnams” to challenge the supreme power applied by the United States, his greatest ‘imperialist’ enemy. In late 1966, with the support of Castro, he assembled a force of Cuban and Peruvian guerrilla revolutionaries.

The force secretly entered Bolivia. Joined by a group of local Bolivian rebels, the group made its way through south eastern Bolivia in March 1967 after its presence was revealed to local peasants who were unexpectedly defensive and unhelpful. Sadly, Guevara’s ambitious plans proceeded disastrously since neither the local peasantry nor the Bolivian Communist Party provided the expected support. Eventually, the Bolivian army, actively assisted by the C.I.A., finally annihilated the guerrillas. Guevara was captured on 8 October 1967 in Quebrada del Yuro gorge and, after being identified by Cuban agents of the C.I.A., was executed at 1.30 in the afternoon the following day. His last words were:

“I knew you were going to shoot me; I should never have been taken alive. Tell Fidel that this failure does not mean the end of the revolution, that it will triumph elsewhere. Tell Aleida to forget this, remarry and be happy, and keep the children studying. Ask soldiers to aim well.”

On 18th October 1967 at Jos� Mart� Revolution Square in Havana, a solemn vigil is held in tribute to Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara. The great revolutionary was truly dead.

If we want to tell how we hope our revolutionary fighters, our militants, our men should be, we should say without hesitation that they should be like CHE;

if we want to tell how we want the men of future generations to be, we should say they should be like CHE; if we want to say how we want our children to be educated, we should say without hesitation they should be reared in the spirit of CHE, if we want a pattern of a man, a pattern of a man that does not belong to this time, but to future times, from the bottom of my heart I say that pattern with not a stain in his behavior, not a stain in his attitude, nor in his actions, that pattern is CHE;

if we want to know how we want our children to be, we should say from the bottom of our heart we want them to be like CHE. If we want to tell how we hope our revolutionary fighters, our militants, our men should be, we should say without hesitation that they should be like CHE;

if we want to tell how we want the men of future generations to be, we should say they should be like CHE; if we want to say how we want our children to be educated, we should say without hesitation they should be reared in the spirit of CHE, if we want a pattern of a man, a pattern of a man that does not belong to this time, but to future times, from the bottom of my heart I say that pattern with not a stain in his behavior, not a stain in his attitude, nor in his actions, that pattern is CHE;

if we want to know how we want our children to be, we should say from the bottom of our heart we want them to be like CHE. ” – Fidel Castro

The Life of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara

What do people think of Che?

The Good……

“Che was the most complete human being of our age.” – Jean Paul Sartre

“A Christ taken down from the Cross.” – Peter Weiss

“An inspiration for every human being who loves freedom.” – Nelson Mandela

An “Infinite revolutionary” – Hugo Ch�vez

“�Pioneros por el Comunismo, Seremos como el Che!” (English: Pioneers for Communism, We will be like Che!) – Chant that Cuban children across the country begin each school day with.

And the Bad……

“Killing Machine” – Alvaro Vargas Llosa at www.independent.org

“He achieved nothing but disaster.” – Paul Newman at www.slate.com

“…Che Guevara is not a free-floating icon of rebellion. He was an actual person who supported an actual system of tyranny, one that murdered millions more actual people.” – Johann Hari

“Argentine-born M.D. has become a far more vibrant memory than any of the causes he pursued.” – Anon

But Should We Admire Him?

Yes

No

Without the revolution cuba would probably be destitute and crime-ridden like many of it’s neighbouring carribean islands.

Many view him as a ruthless and dogmatic marxist – personally signed off on the execution of as many as 500 people. Men, women, children. Not all merely loyalists to overthrown Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. Also executed were political prisoners, dissidents, artists, intellectuals and homosexuals.

A large contingent of historians and philosiphers alike do not think of him as a Communist in what we think of as the heavily exaggerated, and widely condemmed Cuban mold. But as an anarchist. Che was restless in post-revolutionary Cuba because his anarchist morals were to blame for his dismay at the emerging bureaucracy. He was, like Trotsky in his dispute with Stalin, skeptical that the kind of socialism that truly served the poor could survive solely in Cuba; So, he died attempting to internationalize the struggle and thereby spread the revolution.

His romantisized and corporate pimped image (which he would have hated) has been a thorn in the side of the left wing politics he supported.

Inspiring, natural and iconic military leader and tactician.

Left Cuba in a totalitarian dictatorship which has lasted to this day.

Powerful politician, brightened the futures of many Cubans, and helped the country out of an economic crisis.

In his lectures he encouraged his men to have an modern islamic extremeist-esque hate for the enemy.

Fought heroically for the rights of the poor across the world.

His greatest military victory, at Santa Clara, may not have may have been partly down to bribery.

In My Opinion

Although it has been a difficult decision I believe that a subject of such controversy and high emotion cannot be suitably concluded in three thousand words.

Although I condemn Che’s the ruthlessness and double crossing attitude, and the atrocities that were committed through him and Fidel Castro. I believe that Che had the welfare, and the love of his people at heart, and it is sad that his brilliant legacy has been tarnished a little in this way. I also believe that many of the greatest, most inspiring leaders the world has ever seen l have had their dark side, and have made that sacrifice for the sake of spreading what they believe to be the truth. I am certain that anyone that wears the T-shirt should be aware of the history behind it.

I honestly think however, that it is essential for the human race to push the boundaries, to keep pursuing them through thick and thin, for the sake of improving the world for everyone.

And that’s just what Che did.

“Ever onward to victory! Our country or death!

I embrace you with all my revolutionary fervour.” –

x

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