Countercurrents.org | June 14, 2017
Che is unvanquished. Proletarian revolutionaries and revolutions don’t get vanquished as they move from one phase to another through class struggle. So, the torch of liberation that Che Guevara carries never gets eliminated; the flame of freedom that Che ignites never gets extinguished; the dream of equality that Che livens never gets wiped out.
Today, the day Che Guevara looked for the first time at the sky over the earth, June 14, 1928, in Argentina, his birthday, is the time to reiterate these messages of freedom-liberation-equity-equality, is the time to reenergize the act of materializing the dream Che lives for and sacrifices his life for as life and nature on our planet are being threatened and tormented by the global capital with accelerated speed and dangerous force, as capital is widening inequality with increasing rate, as capital is carrying on exploitation in an unrestrained way, as divisive ideology and politics are being infused in the rank of peoples. Che stands against all these – exploitation, inequality, divisive ideology and politics of all color, global capital and imperialism. Che stands for a radical change of exploitation-based society. Che stands for abolition of private property, which is at the root of human suffering and destruction of nature, and which is not even mentioned for a single time by today’s preachers and practitioners of divisive ideology and politics – a basic and essential line demarcating people and capital.
Che was one of Fidel’s closest comrades-in-arm, and this makes Fidel one of best teachers to explain Che. Fidel recollects: “The circumstances in which my relationship with Che developed were so unique – the almost unreal history of the brief but intense saga of the first years of the revolution when we were used to making the impossible […]” (Speech delivered on October 8, 1987 at the ceremony held in the city of Pinar del Rio marking the 20th anniversary of the murder of Che) It was “making the impossible”, and Che was within the task. Proletarian revolutionaries embark on similar tasks.
In Che, the proletarian revolutionary, Fidel finds:
“[T]he image of that human being if we want to talk about a communist society, if our real objective is to build not just socialism but the higher stages of socialism, if humanity is not going to renounce the lofty and extraordinary idea of living in a communist society one day. If we need a paradigm, a model, an example to follow to attain these elevated ideas, then people like Che are essential, as are men and women who imitate him, who are like him, who think like him, who act like him; men and women whose conduct resembles his when it comes to doing their duty in every little thing, every detail, every activity; in his attitude toward work, his habit of teaching and educating by setting an example, his attitude of wanting to be first at everything, the first to volunteer for the most difficult task, the hardest ones, the most self-sacrificing; the individual who gives his body and soul for others, the person who displays true solidarity, the individual who never lets down a comrade; the simple person; the person without a flaw, who doesn’t live any contradiction between what they say and what they do, between what they practice and what they preach; a man of thought and a man of action – all of which Che symbolizes.” (ibid.)
Economies overwhelmed with lumpen practices influence many in pro-people camp with lumpen attitude, a complete opposite to Che’s. Lumpen practices resort to lethargy and negligence in carrying on “duty in every little thing, every detail, every activity”, not setting example while “teaching and educating”, not “wanting to be the first to volunteer for the most difficult task, the hardest ones, the most self-sacrificing”, not sacrificing “body and soul for others”, not displaying “true solidarity”, letting down a comrade, not a “simple person”, having contradiction between practice and preaching, not be “a man of thought and a man of action”, and not reaching the masses of people. The lumpen practice is boosting self by donning a T-shirt emblazoned with an image of Che, mongering slogans and keeping away from essential task of building up organization, carrying on haphazard activities and increasing indiscipline. The total practice goes against people. And, Che stands against the lumpen practice.
Revolution in Cuba is one of the basic processes that provide scope to understand Che Guevara as Che was an integral part of the revolution, and the revolution shaped Che in many extents. Fidel characterizes the revolution in the following way:
“Our revolution is an example of what faith in human beings means because our revolution started from a scratch, from nothing. We did not have a single weapon, we did not have a penny, even those who started the struggle were unknown, and yet we confronted all that might. We confronted their hundreds of millions of pesos, we confronted the thousands of soldiers, and the revolution triumphed because we believed in humanity.” (ibid.)
This was one part of the perspective that chiseled Che within a socio-economic-political reality. There was imperialism clutching a people in a continent; there was exploitation and deprivation in the continent; there was a dominance of backward ideas in the continent, and the island-country – Cuba – is part of the continent. Fidel, Che, their comrades, and the people in Cuba had to revolt against these. They had to build up an organization to organize the revolution.
Strength of the exploited classes in organizing their revolution is here, in the statement of Fidel: “faith in human beings”, “revolution started from a scratch, from nothing”, “not have a single weapon”, “not have a penny”, and yet confront “all that might”, and keeping trust in humanity. It’s rational for the exploited. Their ideas neither fall down from the sky nor crop up from a hollow ground of imagination. The exploited classes never weave gossips of imagination as they don’t ignore class struggle while the exploiters have to resort to fabrication as that’s their only path to deceive others and to conceal their exploitation process. This fire of reality tempers proletarian revolutionaries. Che breathes within reality.
Fidel’s observations on Che also help identify burning issues related to the task of radical transformation of human society.
Fidel said in 1992:
“Che […] was categorically opposed to the use of capitalist methods for the construction of socialism. [….] Che had a prophetic vision when, as early as the first few years of the 1960s, he foresaw all of the drawbacks and consequences of the method that was being used to construct socialism in Eastern Europe. He said there was no need to resort to those methods and to that capitalist philosophy. [….] I tried to spread Che’s ideas widely when we saw that the Soviet Union and the rest of the socialist camp were taking a different path, […] when they were heading toward ever greater use of the categories and mechanisms of capitalism. In their efforts to improve socialism, they were using larger and larger amounts of the poison that was killing socialism. That’s one of the causes of what happened in the camp of socialism.” (Interview with Tomas Borge from Nicaragua, in Face to Face with Fidel Castro)
Che’s antagonism with capitalism, as Fidel tells, is unequivocal. It’s fundamental, and, it upholds interests of the exploited. It’s Che’s class position, forgotten by a section during the days of Khrushchevites, and now, being overlooked by a section temporarily hostile to a faction of imperialism, which has possibility of allying with imperialism in future to safeguard property interests.
These realities make Che relevant, essential and urgent today as he is uncompromising in upholding interests of the exploited. These realities make practicing lessons Che imparts an imperative. And, it will be losing Che’s lesson if someone sees Che with a narrow viewpoint, if someone interprets him with an outlook of adventurism.
Farooque Chowdhury, writing from Dhaka, has not authored/edited any book in English other than Micro Credit, Myth Manufactured (ed.), The Age of Crisis and What Next, The Great Financial Crisis (ed.), and he doesn’t operate any blog/web site.