Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life Comments

4 Jul

Sanyi001 at 2011-08-18 19:55 CET:

no political ideal is good when it is extreme. Not the extreme left of a North Korea, nor the extreme right of a Nazi Germany.
But when people are suffering from the machinations of, let’s say, the far right of Conservative America, you can only fight by going to other side.
Che wasn’t a politician who sought to be a dictator, he was a freedom fighter who sought to destroy oppressions.
He succeeded somewhat; the aggressive US policy into South America of the 1950’s+/- have long been reduced. The result: The United States itself has been forced to subjugate its own people instead and has become the Banana Republic that South America once was in terms of extreme inequality and plummeting wages/earnings for the middle and lower classes
a most in-depth account of Che Guevara’s life, November 23, 2011
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)

John Lee Anderson’s book is one of the most researched books on Che Guevara you will find anywhere. Although at 800 pages reading the book can look slightly daunting – it is an in-depth study of Che Guevara. The research is all documented in the back of the book. It is almost as fascinating following the research as it is to read the story itself.

This follows Che from birth to death and all the bits and pieces in-between. If you are looking for a book that enhances the popular Che of myth and legend this is not the book for you. This is a book of the good and the bad, the right and the wrong and as well balanced as any book could be.

It comes down to learning that Che wasn’t really a likable person at times – in some ways misguided, arrogant and selfish, -he is also a passionate and idealistic visionary who was dedicated to helping the fight against the injustices of the lives of the `lower-class’ citizens of South America -to start with.

The author provides an unbiased account of this idolised and basically unknown figure of recent history. He shows the human and humane side as well as the ruthless disciplinarian of the guerrillas, as he aided Fidel Castro in the takeover of Cuba and its almost disastrous change to communism. The insight into the relationship between Fidel and Che is fascinating.

Che brought to the forefront the awareness of the poverty and inequality of the people of the world. He was inspired by Marxism and was never swayed from his chosen path.

All in all it is a marvellously written book. It leaves it up to the reader to decide whether this man should be loved or hated and regardless of your decision you will have to admit that Che was an extraordinary person. A visionary of his time.

Tragic, October 16, 2011

How to respond to this book? Informative, objective, well researched, balanced, human. Yes, I know some would like to have Che’ rot in hell forever. And some would like to have him sit on the right hand of the Father. This book is for the rest of us.

The reality is that Latin America was a terrible, horrible, awful place to be poor during the time covered in this book. It still is. Reacting to that sort of abject poverty by picking up a gun in revolutionary zeal is understandable. That, I think, is the space to understand Che’.

I’d love to read the critique Che’ had of the Soviet system (which, even today, is too sensitive to be published). Che’ predicted the Soviets would return to capitalism. Hence, the book reads like a time capsule to different times. No longer do we have the industrial Soviet model on the scene. Good riddance.

Che’ comes across as a very moral man. Which makes his judgement of those he shot or condemned to die, all the more baffling. Frankly, the book is tragic in so many ways. Tragic that Che’ felt he had to purge Cuba because of his experience in Guatemala (remember 54?). Tragic that the region was so polarized at the time. And tragic that the region continues riled in horrible poverty.

I understand why Che’ did what he did. But it makes me feel grubby, sad, uncomfortable. There must be another way.

W. Buckner says:

How many people did FDR, and Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan kill? Better yet, how many people did the dictator Batista Zaldivar who ran Cuba before the communist revolution kill?It is an unfortunate fact of leaders — good and bad — that they kill people, innocent and guilty. I don’t like it, but as much as I wish the world was as black and white as you seem to think it is, it isn’t.

Che, like all individuals who tried to lead during times of strife, represented the best and worst of humanity.

Long and Ponderous, January 28, 2010
Jiang Xueqin (Toronto, Canada) – See all my reviews
This review is from: Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life (Paperback)

Despite the collapse of global communism and the revisionist toppling of the statues of Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, the legend of one Communist revolutionary has only increased in stature over the passing of time: Che Guevera. In his biography of the martyr “Che Guevera: A Revolutionary Life” Jon Lee Anderson, who is now one of the world’s most renowned journalists, promises to make knowable and human the myth, but instead with his sloppy analysis, belabored writing, and tedious style he manages to make the man even more mythic.

The beginning is very coherent and interesting. Che Guevera is born into an impoverish aristocratic Argentine family. Throughout his childhood Che must battle his asthma, and Anderson implies throughout the text that it was Che’s impossible overcoming of his affliction that led him to believe adamantly in the overwhelming strength of the human will. Another important characteristic that was evident in Che’s youth was that he was a romantic restless traveler: traveling throughout South America he witnessed first-hand the cruelty, injustice, and poverty wrought by economic inequality and American imperialism. Other important factors in the rising and education of Che Guevera were an unconventional imaginative mother and a strong desire for brotherhood.

In Mexico, Che Guevera would find brotherhood by joining Fidel Castro’s guerilla insurgency against the Batista regime in Cuba. Mr. Anderson believes that Che underwent a radical ideological transformation in Mexico: prior to Mexico Che profess no ideology, but in Mexico Che begins devouring Marxist and socialist texts.

Che would maintain an ideological purity throughout his life in a manner that Mr. Anderson may call naïve but which everyone else would call stupid. After the successful Cuban Revolution Che Guevera was responsible for constructing a new bank building, and he frustrated his architects by insisting that there be no elevators in the 34-floor building: people should climb stairs for their own good. Indeed, Mr. Anderson says that Che was very much an abstract thinker who discounted human emotions: Che believed socialism could mold a “new man,” and if socialism could not then guerilla warfare would. Mr. Anderson mentions quite frequently that Che Guevera made many “allies and enemies” in Castro’s Cuba, but given his relentless domineering personality it’s safe to assume that he made a lot more enemies than friends.

For Fidel Castro, Che Guevera was an obvious political liability whose indiscipline and indiscretion angered both the Soviets and the Americans. Che was using Cuba as a staging ground for his South American revolution, something that the fiercely nationalistic and practical Castro did not have time for. Given Che’s trouble-making it was both necessary and obvious for Castro to ship Che and his guerillas to the Congo, where Che would be frustrated and hopefully mature. No such thing happened, and upon his embarrassing defeat in Congo Che marched into his martyrdom in Bolivia.

Che Guevera is in many ways like Peter Pan, the boy who refused to grow up and insisted on inhabiting in his own fantasy world. Che the revolutionary roaming the world to bring social justice is no different from Che the young adventurer roaming South America for a good time: the name and ideology may have changed but the personality and motivation remained the same.

It’s frustrating to read the book as Mr. Anderson tries to defend Che Guevera. He insists that Che did not have a falling-out with Fidel Castro, and that Castro supported the idea of world revolution as much as Che did. This is entirely inconsistent with the picture that Mr. Anderson paints of Castro as a calculating, dominating, and practical politician. Could Castro tolerate a man more famous and popular than him? Castro’s beliefs changed according to the political situation, but Che’s beliefs never wavered. Che’s ideological purity is what drives his popularity today: he was never in a position of political power to commit great evil.

Che’s ideology purity does not inform me of the brilliance and nobility of his character, but rather the shallowness and stupidity of his infantile mind. Che Guevera supposedly devoured Marxist texts, but his writing clearly demonstrates a limited thinker with sloppy understanding of socialism. Every Communist thinker – in fact, every thinker of any religion or belief or discipline – has shown inconsistency, contradiction, and change as he wrestles with the altering political, social, and economic landscape around him. A desire to have his ideas be meaningful is what drives the thinker to constantly explore and renew his ideas. Che’s ideological purity demonstrates to me his completely apathy to ideas.

Where Che Guevera has made his mark is in guerilla warfare, which is after all his first love and where he has dedicated his adult life. In the early days of the Cuban insurgency, Che Guevera understood intuitively that guerilla warfare was a management issue: how to control, temper, and discipline the motley group of insurgents – the fiery nationalists, the clueless peasants, and the opportunistic criminals — gathered before you. He understood the importance of creating a proper management structure to create order, discipline, and authority, as well as the necessity of propaganda in recruitment and in warfare. He was as practical and driven in the insurgency as he was silly and confused in Castro’s Cuba. And ultimately Che Guevera could only breathe in war because in it he discovered a fraternity of warriors, the simplicity of life, and a purity of cause.

Jon Lee Anderson’s book offers a lot of pictures of Che Guevera, and I couldn’t help but think how clownish and childish the man looks. Yes, he’s rugged and handsome, but he also looks he’s enjoying himself too much and that life is all just a game to him.

Che Guevera is a real life Peter Pan whose death has turned into Jesus Christ.

(Every Communist thinker – in fact, every thinker of any religion or belief or discipline – has shown inconsistency, contradiction, and change as he wrestles with the altering political, social, and economic landscape around him.)It’s too bad that Republican leaders in the U.S. haven’t stopped showing inconsistency, and contradiction after the lessons learned from eight years under the Bush administration! I guess those tendencies apply to more entities than just communists.

>>It’s too bad that Republican leaders in the U.S. haven’t stopped showing inconsistency, and contradiction after the lessons learned from eight years under the Bush administration! I guess those tendencies apply to more entities than just communists.<<Nice Straw Man argument.

actually, it’s too bad that both Republicans and mainstream Democrats have shown too little inconsistency in their unwavering support since the 1980’s of neclassical, Chicago School economics. If any dominant non-religious political ideology of any period of history has ever been responsible for more suffering, I have not heard of it. This is not to defend totalitarian ‘leftist’ regimes; quite the opposite. It is merely to point out that more of a thing after it has clearly failed 80% of us (most especially those of us whose blood and sweat actually go into producing things, eg, the workers) is one of the definitions of insanity.
I’m not surprised to see that you end with a comparison to Jesus Christ. When you wrote, “Every Communist thinker – in fact, every thinker of any religion or belief or discipline – has shown inconsistency, contradiction, and change as he wrestles with the altering political, social, and economic landscape around him,” I was thinking, “True, except for Jesus Christ.” Absolute purity leads to one’s physical destruction. For many people, Che is an ideological savior, someone who is appealing because he did not compromise even while in the halls of power.Jesus responding to Pilate with “What is truth?” is remarkably similar, in spirit, to Che’s final words, “You’re just killing a man.” Those were acknowledgements of the fleeting, hazy nature of life, words from men who understood that living for a long time is not the same thing as living a meaningful life.

GHIGGS says:

“Paper Tiger”? “Communist Tyranny”? “Evil Deeds”? I defy anyone to throw stones at the Cuban Revolution and disavow these same events never happened in our own country’s history! Revolutions are always bloody, cruel and fraught with tears! It’s the price that must be paid to change a nation! American history is replete with the exact same events that transpired in the Cuban Revolution! In fact, our own country’s Civil War Revolution was even more brutal and cruel. (To say nothing of the even more monstrous Reconstruction Period). The tyrannical shadow of racist oppression is still felt in this country even today!Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life, is a thorough and objective text on El Che’s life and experiences. The problem with critics such as yourself is your own denial and refusal to find a balanced perspective of historical figures and persons. You have already drank the Kool-Aid of American ideological rhetoric.

Let’s not forget, Che Guevara actually went out and risked his life to help bring change and improvement to an impoverished and repressed people. Where’s your critique of that?

GHIGGS says:

TKEMIKE, Thank you for your response. You are correct in that the Revolution was a success. However, the Reformation/Reconstruction was an obvious failure when compared economically to other western countries. (Namely, the United States).However, there are other successes you might have overlooked which are still very relevant and important, even today.

The proliferation of the U.S. National Organized Crime Syndicates in Cuba had an extreme deleterious effect on that country. So much so, that it fomented the Cuban Revolutionary Leaders efforts to take back their nation. These leaders have been forced to maintain a hyper-vigilance so stringent and pervasive they can’t enact the fluid reparations and initiatives which would allow for their country to advance and thrive.

I would personally opine that Cuba is in a perpetual state of Post Traumatic Shock/Stress Syndrome that continues to debilitate their administrations’ intentions and efforts to see to their nation’s needs. In order to fully understand the severity of this dynamic, one must review the documented historical records of United States Syndicated Organized Crime figures [headed by the like of Salvatore Luciana (“Lucky Luciano”) and Meyer Lansky] and their activities in Cuba at the time.

Everyone focuses on Che’ Guevara as some sort of murderous monster when Cuba was in the grips of the murderous American Mafia. The National Crime Syndicate (American Jewish-Italian Mafia) of the United States made Cuba a Norco-Terrorist state much like the Drug Cartels of Mexico and Columbia of the 1980’s.

Yes, Che’ was responsible for the deaths of many people in Cuba. However, one must retain the necessary, objective historical context of such events and the circumstances which provoked them.

The Revolutionary Leaders were literally in a fight for their lives whether they succeeded of not! History is replete with the shattering events of revolutions and the even more precarious consolidation of power and leadership of the newly reformed government.

It’s not necessarily the war that is as dangerous as much as the reformation after such wars. Our own Untied States history during our Reconstruction post-Civil War and the more recent Iraqi Regime Change are classic examples of such a dynamics.

The American Mafia (with the help of their puppet tyrant-despot Fulgencio Battista) turned Cuba into their own personal casino and brothel. The needs of the people were totally ignored. The voices of the Cuban people were silenced ruthlessly with murder and torture. Infant mortality was over 40%! The people were treated without any dignity or equanimity. In short, Cuba was raped and kept in a perpetual state of assault.

One cannot amicably negotiate with such unscrupulous people! They are not interested in negotiation! They must be culled from society! And let’s not forget; these people who ruled Cuba were Americans! They were literally foreign invaders who insinuated themselves into the Cuban government. Basically, the American Mafia colonized a country. These Syndicated Organized Crime leaders were so prolific, they nearly took over the United States of America. In fact, it was the spoken intention of some of these Mafia leaders to do just that!

So one can understand why the Cuban leadership is so averse to initiating capitalist measures and building a more diverse market economy. They don’t perceive capitalists as benefactors! They perceived capitalists as slavers!

Think of Cuba as a “Rape Victim” or newly emancipated slave (Which isn’t far from the truth, actually) who is struggling to reclaim their dignity, personal freedom and power.

This is not always easy to do when the trauma has been so severe and egregious. The victim wants to become free. They want to heal and they want to reclaim their lives and future. However, if the threat of violation continues to present itself, then this victim will be arrested in a state of perpetual fear, suspicion and reactionary or hysterical aversion to anyone whom they perceive as a threat to themselves.

In the case of Cuba, the rapists got away with their crimes only to be threatened by others who acted similarly (The United States Government).

Cuba has been “Locked up in the House” ever since. And like many rape victims or former slaves; they resort to extreme measures to ensure their personal safety such as buying a big gun to keep on their person or in their homes or some other radical measure to insure their personal safety. Cuba did exactly that by bringing in ballistic missiles from the former Soviet Union. They were “Rape Victims” and they perceived the United States as their rapists.

Che’ was just one historical figure during these events but he was a very relevant one. Remember, he was not Cuban! His ideology was against the socio-economic oppression of all peoples. His medical education and philosophy allowed him to perceive capitalism as a “socio-economic disease” that consumes the “Body Politic” of the host nation. To him, “Capitalism” was a cancer, that if caught early, could be treated and the body could recover. However, if the cancer has grown and flourished into an aggressive tumor which presents mortal danger to the body, then a radical surgery must be performed to literally cut the cancer out!

The prescribed treatment to address this social malady was all at once radical and traumatic. This was “Socio-Economic Surgery” to remove the “Cancer” of capitalism. Many challenge Che’ as being a brutal murderer who coldly and ruthlessly killed those he felt were “Enemies”.

Che’ actually behaved as a medical professional during these times. The patient with the cancer must be subjected to radical, traumatic surgery and chemotherapy to remove the cancer and allow the patient to heal and eventually thrive. The physician understands the suffering of the patient. However, the physician must suppress his own emotions and empathy and act without emotion so that he may rid the patient of the cancer. Surgery is trauma! The patient will suffer at first. But it is intended they will eventually heal once all of the cancer is removed. This is what Che’ perceived and did.

Only his medical instruments were not in a medical kit. He rationalized, in order to decrease medical patients; he had to remove the capitalism (Disease) that predisposed the patient’s medical vulnerability. So he put down his scalpel and hypodermics and picked up firearms and grenades.

He attacked the infected environment in order to prevent future sickness. Most people forget this. I don’t worship Che’ Guevara. Rather, I try to keep an objective and balanced perception of the man and his efforts to help solve world problems. Say what you will about the man. But I think you can agree, he was profoundly human!


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