Recently I became aware that many people today don’t know who Che Guevara was, what he stood for or how he died. This became clear to me last night when my wife and I were browsing the aisles of Blockbuster Video, finding a two-part film on Che’s life. My wife admitted to me that she really didn’t know anything about Che.
Most people recognize his image because it has become an iconic “brand” for promoting a variety of populist causes. We rented the movies.
Che: Part One
covers the period of the Cuban Revolution
. Part Two
is a portrait of his Bolivian
misadventure that resulted in Che’s violent death at the age of 39.While the movies are entertaining, it helps greatly to know something about the history of Cuba to understand the backdrop that created Castro’s Cuba.
I highly recommend the book Havana Nocturne by T.J. English as an interesting primer to the corrupt conditions leading to the ouster of the dictator, Fulgencio Batista. The early formation of his ideas can be better understood by reading his book, The Motorcycle Diaries, an autobiographical account of a trek he made though South America in his early 20’s. A recent (2004) biopic is also available about this formative part of Che’s life.
Ernesto Che Guevara is a mythical figure in the history of human struggle. While I completely disagree with his prescription for improving the plight of the poor you have to admire him for his dogged determination and the purity of his beliefs. Che was an intellectual and man of action. Time Magazine put him on the cover of their August 8, 1960 issue, also naming him to the Time 100 list of the most influential people of the 20th Century.
A writer, poet, athlete, adventurer and Marxist Revolutionary, Che is a riveting historical personality. But, being interesting doesn’t make his political and economic philosophies effective. History has shown that the Marxist/Communist experiments of the 20th Century were not successful in raising the standard of living for the poor in these counties. Che’s brief involvement with civil government responsibilities were not successful and ended in failure.
I think that Che should be remembered. And, I would have loved to debate with him, talk about the books he was reading, and argue the merits of free markets for rising standards of living. It’s unfortunate the a figure with Che’s combination of intellect, romanticism and courage became the product of the corrupt governments of South and Central America. The foreign policy decisions that our country has made during the last 60 years have contributed to turning passionate people against the United States government.
Che is the world’s most interesting poster child of this phenomena.