Monday, December 18, 2017

Ernesto Che Guevara, R.I.P.

By Murray Rothbard

Che is dead, and we all mourn him. Why? How is it that
so many libertarians mourn this man; how is it that we
just received a letter from a briIIiant young libertarian,
a former objectivist and Birchite, which said, in part:
"if they did finally get Che . . . I am sure that his memory
will live to haunt both Latin America and the U. S. for
decades to come. Long live Che!. How come? Surely
not because Che was a Communist. Precious few people
in this country or anywhere else will mourn the passing,
for example, of Brezhnev, Kosygin, or Ulbricht, Communist
leaders all. No, it is certainly not Che's Communist
goals which made his name a byword and a legend
throughout the world, and throughout the New Left in
this country.

What made Che such an heroic figure for our time is
that he, more than any man of our epoch or even of our
century, was the living embodiment of the principle of
Revolution. More than any man since the lovable but entirely
ineffectual nineteenth-century Russiananarchist, Mikhail
Bakunin, Che earned the title of "professional revolutionary."
And furthermore, to paraphrase Christopher Jencks in a recent perceptive, if wrongheaded, article in
the New Re~ublic, we all knew that his enemy was our
enemy--that great Colossus that oppresses and threatens
all the peoples of the world, U. S. imperialism.
Trained as a physician in Argentina, witnessing CIAfomented
counter-revolution by the thug Castillo Armas
in Guatemala, Guevara dedicated the rest of his life to
the Revolution. He found a promising field first in Cuba,
where, as everyone knows, che was second only to Fidel
Castro in waging and then winning the revolution there.
Che was a notable revolutionary, but not a distinguished
administrator, and even poorer as an economist. It was
Che who led the policy of coercively shifting Cuba from
specialization in sugar toward a greater self-sufficiency--
an arbitrary and uneconomic gesture that almost wrecked
the Cuban economy until Fidel, spurred by the economic
realists in Russia, called a halt and. reversed the trend.
Frustrated as an administrator, realizing that such work
was not his forte, Che left Cuba to follow his chosen
career of revolutionary, to ignite and spur revolutionary
combat throughout Latin America. But before he did so,
Che distilled his own experiences to become a distinguished
theorist of revolutionary warfare, his book of =- -rilla Warfare coming to rank with the writings of Mao
and General Giap in this new and burgeoning discipline.
Che's disappearance for years ignited and accelerated
the living legend that grew about him. It was a great and
romantic legend, but it would all too quickly grow to destroy
him. For as the cause of the Revolution began to
become increasingly wrapped around the person of Che,
Guevara began to forget his own vital principle that the
revolution must grow out of the indigenous consciousness
and struggles of the local peasantry. In his head
Che knew full well that he and a handful of Cubans, no
matter how carefully trained, could never export revolution,
could never impose revolution upon a Bolivian
or a Venezuelan peasantry who were not ready for the
struggle. But in his mighty heart Che could not refrain
from leaping a whole raft of stages, from plunging romantically
but recklessly into the premature adventure
of armed struggle in Latin America. And so, with tragic
irony, Che Guevara, in his daring and courage, was betrayed
by the very Bolivian peasantry whom he was trying
to liberate, and who barely understood the meaning
of the conflict. Che died from violating his own principles
of revolutionary war.
There are other ironies in the death of Che Guevara.~
It was reported that as Che's martyred body was brought
in triumph to Vallegrande, Bolivia, a Cuban emigre and
CIA-agent rushed over, and, on the public streets, began
to embalm the body. The ubiquituous CIA was there to
claim its own.
The CIA might claim Che's body, but it will never be
able to shackle his spirit. The most fitting memorial to
Che was the intensely moving speech about his death de-
livered by his old comrade-in-arms, Fidel Castro. In
that speech, Fidel declared:
No matter how difficult it may be to imagine that
a man of his stature, of his prestige, of his personality,
could have died in a clash between a guer- rilla patrol and an army force, no matter how illogical
it may seem, we who know him well realize,
however, that it is not at all strange. Because he
was always, during the whole time that we knew him,
characterized by an extraordinary daring, by an absolute
scorn of death, by his way, in every difficult
and dangerous moment, of doing the most difficult
and dangerous things. He did this many times during
our struggle ....
We were always worried lest his temperament, his
habit of always being present during the moments of
danger, should lead him to his death in combat.
No one could ever be sure that he would take even
the slightest precautions. Many times he went forward
with the advance patrols ....
Above all else we would have liked to have seen
him as the builder of the great victories of the people
rather than as the precursor of those victories. But
the fact is that a man of that temperament, of that
personality, of that character, of that way of reacting
before certain circumstances, is unfortunately
usually destined to be the precursor rather than the
one who realizes the victories. And the precursors
are also, of course, the builders of victory, the greatest
builders of victory ....
It should not surprise anyone that he was among
the first to fall in a guerrilla combat, since it would
have been almost a miracle, almost impossible for
it to have been otherwise ....
The imperialists' cries of victory in which they
say that this will discourage revolutionary struggle
will be shortly disproven by actual events. The imperialists
also know the power, the impact of an example,
and they also know that even though a man can be
physically eliminated, an example like that can never
be eliminated by anything or anyone....
Newspapers of all tendencies have univermlly recognized
Che's virtues... . He is an almost unique example
of how a man could win the recognition and
respect of his enemies, of the very enemies he faced
with his arms in his hands, of those who have been
ideological enemies and have nevertheless expressed
feelings of admiration and of respect toward Che ....
Has the history of revolutions or of revolutionary
peoples been characterized perhaps by the absence
of hard blows? Aren't true revolutionaries the ones
who rise above those blows, those setbacks, and are
not discouraged? Aren't we revolutionaries precisely
the ones who proclaim the value of moral principles,
the value of example? Aren't we revolutionaries
the ones who believe in the durability of man's works,
of man's principles? Aren't we revolutionaries the
first to recognize how ephemeral the physical life of
man 16 and how durable and lasting man's ideas,
conduct and example are, when it has been man's
example that has guided the people throughout history?
Tide1 Confirms Death of Che., National Guardian
October 21. 1967). p. 5.