Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara: A half-hundred years of solitude

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo in Bookwitty:

Ernesto Che Guevara: A Half-Hundred Years of Solitude

Thursday, 28 September 1967. Ernesto “Che” Guevara writes in his diary of the Bolivian guerrilla campaign: First they spread the news of my death; then this was denied.

This was a premonition, of course. By then, the so-called “Guerrillero Heroico” had little more than a week to live. This is the first and only time that Che refers to his own death in the diary. His incisive instinct did not betray him: he knew it was the end, and that – after a daring decade of tempting fate daily – immortality was finally within reach. He knew his myth was now at hand, knocking on history’s door.

Guevara killed many people during his lifetime, most of them innocent or with their guilt far from having been proved. But Che didn’t care about such technicalities, a legacy of the capitalist past. Neither the Cuban revolution nor the revolution he felt was now sweeping the world could afford to pay attention to such decadent details of “democracy”, which Che’s vision of the New Man had a duty to ignore in the pursuit of a Marxist utopia – not tomorrow, but right away. Now was the moment. Death for Ernesto Guevara was the true locomotive of history. Justice was a class concept for him. Life, like Heaven, could wait.

In practice, Che killed almost no one on the battlefield. (He wrote some canonical pamphlets about guerrilla warfare, but he himself was not a successful guerrillero.) His victims, in the thousands, were political opponents in Cuba after Castro’s revolution of January 1959, most of them condemned to death in kangaroo courts, their trials lasting only a few minutes.

As President of the National Bank, Guevara signed (as Che) the new Cuban revolutionary currency, with the same swiftness with which he signed Che on these death sentences. What’s more, during the early Sixties he enjoyed leading night sessions of firing squads in La Cabaña Castle in Havana, casually inviting guests – including radical leftists from abroad – to witness this Dante-esque spectacle of “revolutionary justice” alongside him.

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