Today is Che Day

June 14 is the birthday of Ernesto Guevara de la Serna known to most of us by his nickname "Che".

If all you know about Che is stuff you’ve picked up from US media, then take some time today to educate yourself about the other side of the Che story. I’ve added Jon Lee Anderson’s "Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life" to my book recommendations.

I dare anyone to read that book, along with Che’s diaries, and still think this man was a violent, bloodthirsty dictator.

I’ve read them both (along with a few other books about Che) and it just doesn’t add up in my mind. Violent dictators rarely talk endlessly about social justice. Che (and Fidel too, for that matter) spent his life arguing eloquently for the need to equal rights for all people. He put his life on the line to fight for the rights of the poor people in Cuba and Bolivia.

If all he wanted was power (which is usually what motivates dictators), why leave Cuba at the height of his success to go into the jungles of Bolivia? It doesn’t make sense.

Compare Che’s words to the speeches and writing of Hitler or Stalin or even the last half dozen American Presidents and you’ll spot the difference.

And, if you can, watch Steven Soderbergh’s recent film about Che. I don’t think it’s out on DVD yet but I’ve seen Part One and it’s terrific.

The Che Store - . . . For All Your Revolutionary Needs

4 thoughts on “Today is Che Day

  1. First off, I’m with you in your admiration of Che. I think of all the famous Marxist revolutionaries in the 20th Century, he is the most fascinating. He is not even close to the depravity of Stalin or even Lenin. That said, I disagree with your comment that Che’s trip to Bolivia (and Africa before that) at the height of his power not making sense in any way. I think part of it was no doubt his love for the revolutionary struggle and spirit but I also believe a lot of it had to do with the threat he posed to Castro. There is no smoking gun that exists to prove this (or that is known anyway) but Castro for a fact pushed him into those trips. And it does makes sense in the context: Castro wanting to rid Cuba of a figure that rivaled his own popularity. It is what it is.

    I definitely would have loved to see what would have happened if he wasn’t killed and also what would have happened in Cuba if it wasn’t essentially blockaded for 50 years by the US.

    Sorry this is comment is coming late. I was looking for a link for an audio version of Vincent Cronin’s “Napoleon” and somehow ended up here. But really, that’s when the internet can be at it’s best. When a quest for one thing leads you to something entirely different and fascinating. Excellent blog.

  2. Colin, thanks for your comment. What I meant by the trip to Bolivia not making any sense, was that if Che was, as he’s often portrayed by his detractors, a power mad dictator, then why would he give up the power he already held in Cuba to go to Bolivia and fight jungle warfare for years? That doesn’t make any sense. I agree with you that he went because he believed in the cause of the revolution. However I *don’t* think the evidence shows that Castro pushed him to go. In fact, I believe it’s the opposite. Castro tried to talk him OUT of going.

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