Guevara was summarily executed - or murdered - 46 years ago today. For various reasons, including his own writings
, he is very well known to those with an interest in either the period or his brand of politics, but the general public knows little about him. Probably the best introduction to Guevara, and the only one you will need unless you have more than a passing interest, is the 2007 dramatised documentary The True Story of Che Guevara
, which can be found on YouTube
Like Karl Marx
himself, Guevara was noted both for his sexual adventures and for his lack of personal hygiene. One would be inclined to dismiss such claims as propaganda, but they were apparently grounded in fact. Marx impregnated the family maid, for which his wealthy buddy Engels took the blame; his aversion to cleanliness was legion. Likewise Guevara seduced or ravished the maid, but unlike Marx, who lived in fairly squalid circumstances while exiled in London a century earlier, Guevara had no such excuses.
Like so many communists, Ernesto Guevara was born into a privileged, Argentine family, June 14, 1928. Before completing his education, medical student Guevara and a friend toured South America, in particular Chile, on a legendary motorcycle ride in the style of Jack Kerouac
's On The Road
. It was the poverty he saw there and the apparent exploitation of this poverty by American multinationals that turned him into a committed Marxist.
Then he hooked up with Fidel Castro, and with a small but dedicated band of followers, hardly an army, they managed somehow to overthrow the Batista régime. The rest is history, but it is a history that few people really understand. Whether or not its makers intended it to be, this film is a deconstruction of world communism as a megalithic conspiracy.
It is clear that Fidel Castro was not a Communist when he met Guevara, and was interested only in righting perceived social injustices in a Cuba that at that time was the playground of the American rich. Here is a Soviet view of the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962 from the son of the man
who had to deal with it.
It is clear also from this film that the Soviets had no real interest in Cuba, but decided to humour Castro probably taking the view that it is better to make a definite friend than a possible enemy, even one as remote and insignificant as Cuba.
While Castro was content to consolidate power on his island fiefdom, Guevara wanted world revolution, like that other lunatic, Trotsky, and was soon off to Africa to ferment it there. To no avail. Next, he decided Bolivia would be a better breeding ground; he was wrong, and this was to be his last mistake.
Although a relatively poor country, its people had no interest in communism, and his guerilla war came to nothing. He was quickly captured and shot. This was a fitting end because the man who had qualified as a medical doctor had more innocent blood on his hands than Jack the Ripper. Those bloody hands were hacked off as proof of his death, and he was buried in an unmarked grave.
Guevara's last words
were said to have been: "I know you've come to kill me. Shoot, you are only going to kill a man."
Twenty years later his fellow murderer Huey Newton
made a similar utterance, probably consciously.
Although he looks more like a French onion seller than a revolutionary, Guevara remains an icon, but the bottom line is that he contributed nothing positive to humanity in spite of his early good intentions. This though is a path many have taken before and since, and undoubtedly many will continue to do so.