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REMEMBERING CHE GUEVARA (June 14, 1928 – October 9, 1967)


Guided by Great Feelings of Love:



The Revolutionary Legacy of Che Guevara

by Mitchel Cohen


Che was captured, tortured and murdered in 
Bolivia under the direction of the CIA on October 
9, 1967. Fifty-two years have passed. Still Che 
is remembered, not as some ancient and hazy 
patriarch, but vividly, as one who exemplified 
the spirit of liberation … and the ideals of our 
own youth. He inspired so many ordinary people to 
commit themselves to their vision of a different 
world and called on us to persevere, even in the 
face of bureaucratic intransigence and the 
enormous power of U.S. imperialism, against all odds.

Che Guevara did not concern himself with 
“elections” as a means for transforming 
capitalist or authori­tarian states, unlike many 
in the U.S. and European “Left” today. But he was 
extremely concerned about finances, and how to fund the revolution.

There is a piece in the documentary film, 
“Ernesto Che Gue­vara: The Bolivian Diary,” which 
is eerie in that it shows Che as part of a Cuban 
delegation in Moscow begging for funds for Cu­ba. 
In the film, the 34-year old Che Guevara is 
barely able to bite his tongue and check his 
scathing sarcasm for the Russian bu­reaucrats, in 
order to gain funding from them.

I.F. Stone revealed that in 1961, at a conference 
in Punte del Este, Uruguay, Che Guevara ­ born in 
Argentina and a student of medicine there ­ 
huddled in discussion with some new left­ists 
from New York. A couple of Argentine Communist 
Party apparatchiks passed. Che couldn’t help 
shouting out: “Hey, why are you here, to start the counter-revolution?”

Like many in the emerging new left around the 
world, Che had first-hand experience with party 
apparatchiks and their attempts to impose their 
bureaucracy on indigenous revo­lutionary 
movements. He hated the Cuban revolution’s uneasy 
reliance on the Soviet Union. As the only one 
among the victorious guerrilla leadership in the 
Cuban revolution who had actually studied the 
works of Karl Marx prior to the Revolution’s 
victory in 1959, Che inspired New Left activists 
to take a critical stance towards the “socialism” 
of the Soviet Union and the local parties that 
blindly followed the Soviet line.

Indeed, contrary to the conceptions of many in 
the U.S. to­day, the revolution in Cuba was made 
independent of, and at times in opposition to, 
the Cuban Communist Party. It was not until 
several years after the revolution succeeded in 
taking state pow­er that an uneasy working 
relationship was established leading to a merger 
of the revolutionary forces and the Party ­ a 
merger that provided no end of problems for Che, 
and for the Cuban revolution itself.

We can learn something for our situation in the 
US today ­ particularly with regard to the role 
of non-governmental and not-for-profit 
organizations within progressive circles ­ by 
ex­amining Che’s strategies in Latin America. 
Fundamental to Che’s understanding was that 
“Yankee imperialism is like an octopus; its 
tentacles reach across the globe. We must cut 
them off: create two, three, many Vietnams.”

Cuba took that strophe to heart, and for a while 
gave materi­al assistance (at Che’s insistence) 
to anti-imperialist struggles throughout the 
world. However, in doing so Cuba became 
in­creasingly dependent upon the Soviet Union (in 
some ways simi­lar to radical organizations’ 
increasing dependence on Foun­dation grants and 
other hoop-providing jumpsters). In its 
des­peration for currency to buy needed items, 
the government ­ after stren­uous debate ­ 
decided to forego diversification of Cuba’s 
ag­riculture in order to expand its main export 
cash-crop, sugar, which it exchanged for Soviet 
oil, using some and re­selling the rest on the 
world market. Despite Che’s (and others) 
warnings, Cuba gradually lost the capability to 
feed its own peo­ple ­ a problem that reached 
devastating proportions with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

One crisis after another had beset the Soviet 
Union and other avowedly socialist countries when 
they pursued industrial mod­els of development 
and tried to pay for them by producing for and 
competing in the world market. Che argued that 
Cuba should reject cost/benefit analysis based on 
exchange values as the measure for what gets 
produced. But he also was in charge of Cuba’s 
economy, and the real immediate needs of the 
Cuban people were driving Cuba away from growing 
food primarily for local consumption and towards 
producing cash crops, hemming in the radical 
vision of Cuba’s leaders who wanted their 
revolution to set a different example of 
socialism for the Cuban people … and for the world.

A truly new society, Che believed, must aspire to 
and imple­ment immediately, in the here and now, 
what its people dream for the future. And to get 
there, REAL communist revolutions must reject an 
“efficiency” that maximizes profits (but not 
“efficiency” by some other measure) and instead 
nur­ture communalistic attempts to create a more humane society.

“How can one apply the term ‘mutual benefit’ to 
the selling at world-market prices of raw 
materials costing limitless sweat and suffering 
in the underdeveloped countries and the buying of 
machinery produced in today’s big, automated 
factories?… The socialist coun­tries have the 
moral duty of liquidating their tacit complicity 
with the exploiting countries of the West [in trading products].”(1)

Che considered himself a Marxist, but he 
ridiculed mercilessly the officials of Marxdom 
and bureaucrats of every stripe, breaking with 
the numbing mechanistic economics that Marxism 
had become. With the success of the Cuban 
revolution, the new left inspired by Che placed 
“Revolution” back onto the historical agenda.

Che’s critique of the so-called “Communism” 
prac­ticed by the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe 
came with a reassertion, not negation, of what 
“real socialism” could be. Given the reali­ties 
of the situation in Cuba with the hostile United 
States gov­ernment and giant industrial economy 
just 90 miles to the north, Che proposed 
utilizing a state-planned economy (“the 
bud­getary finance system” he called it) as a 
weapon in the battle to break the chains of 
neocolonialism. Che viewed neocolonialism as “the 
most redoubtable form of imperialism ­ most 
redoubtable be­cause of the disguises and deceits 
that it involves, and the long experience that 
the imperialist powers have in this type of 
con­frontation.” In a world with two competing 
superpowers, Che’s support for pricing terms that 
favored the poor were made possible by the state 
monopoly of for­eign trade in Cuba as well as in 
the Eastern European/Soviet bloc. Trade from the 
so-called socialist bloc assisted the Cuban 
revolution in resisting the U.S.-imposed blockade 
and provided funding to meet Cuba’s fundamental social needs.(2)

Che’s internationalism and identification with 
the poor and downtrodden everywhere, his refusal 
to recognize the sanctity of national boundaries 
in the fight against U.S. imperialism, in­spired 
new radical movements throughout the world. Che 
called upon radicals to begin the process of 
transforming ourselves into new, socialist human 
beings BEFORE the revolution, if we were to have 
any hope of actually achieving one worth living 
in. His call to begin living meaningfully NOW 
reverberated through an entire generation, 
reaching as much towards Sartre’s existentialism 
as the latter stretched towards Marx. Through 
action, through wringing the immediacy of 
revolution from the neck of every oppression, of 
every moment, and by putting one’s ideals 
immediately into practice, Che hammered the 
leading philosophical currents of the day into a tidal wave of revolt.

For Che, Marx’s maxim: “From each according to 
their ability to each according to their needs,” 
was not simply a long-range slogan but an urgent 
practical necessity to be implemented at once, 
occasionally rubbing the wrong way against the 
slower, long-range plans of Fidel Castro and 
other Cuban government officials. On the other 
hand, the harrowing constraints of trying to 
develop a small country (or even a radio station, 
food coop, daycare or alternative education 
center) along socialist lines ­ in Cuba’s case in 
the context of continued attacks by U.S. 
imperialism (including a blockade, an invasion, a 
threatened nuclear war, and ongoing economic and 
ideological harassment) ­ militated against 
achieving Che’s vision and boxed-in the 
revolutionary society into choosing from equally unpalatable alternatives.(3)

It was amid such contradictory pressures that Che 
tried to set a different standard for Cuba, and 
for humanity in general. As Minister of Finance, 
he managed to distribute the millions of dol­lars 
obtained from the USSR to artists and to 
desperately poor farmers – after all, these were 
the people who had shed their blood to liberate 
Cuba. In the U.S. they would have been consid­ered, shall we say, “poor risks.”

The Russian bureaucrats, like any capitalist 
banker, were fu­rious with Che’s “take what you 
need, don’t worry about paying it back” attitude. 
(They also bristled at the freedom of Cuba’s 
artists, who, following Che’s example, spared no 
metaphor in critiquing the USSR almost as much as 
they did the U.S.) They leaned on Fidel to 
control Che and to regulate the “proper” 
dispersal of funds, just as twen­ty years later 
they leaned with Brezhnev on Poland to pay back 
its inflat­ed debt to the western banks, causing 
cutbacks and hardship and leading to the working 
class anti-Soviet response: the formation of 
Soli­darnösc. Indeed, the Soviet Union at that 
time was the second-best friend Chase Manhattan 
had! And it paid the ulti­mate price.

U.S. Involvement in the Cuban Revolution

In 1959, the guerrillas, headed by Fidel Castro, 
swept into Havana having defeated the military 
dictatorship of Fulgencio Batis­ta. Although the 
U.S. government armed and funded Batista, the CIA 
had its agents in Fidel’s guerrilla army as well.

One lieutenant in the guerrilla army, Frank 
Fiorini, was actu­ally one of several operatives 
for the Central Intelligence Agency there. 
Fiorini surfaced a few years later as a planner 
of the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, two years 
after that as one of three “ho­bos” arrested in 
Dallas a few moments after President Kennedy was 
assassinated and immediately released (one of the 
other “hobos” appears to have been none other 
than CIA-operative E. Howard Hunt), and again as 
one of the culprits involved with the dozens of 
CIA assassination attempts on the life of Fidel Castro.

Fiorini became quite famous again in 1973 as one 
of the bur­glars at the Democratic Party 
Headquarters at a hotel known as the Watergate, 
under the name Frank Sturgis. Indeed, it was 
pre­cisely when the Watergate hearings had just 
begun to raise serious questions about the Bay of 
Pigs and U.S. covert opera­tions in Cuba that, 
suddenly, the existence of secret White House 
tapes was “unexpectedly” revealed. From that 
moment on, all we heard was “What did Nixon know 
and when did he know it?”, and the potentially 
explosive investigation which had been on the 
verge of revealing the secret history of illegal 
CIA interven­tions in Cuba, the murder of John F. 
Kennedy and attempted as­sassinations of Fidel 
and war against Cuba were effectively sidetracked.(4)

And yet it was under the constant threat of 
warfare by the U.S. ­ overt as well as the 
ongoing covert operations ­ that the Cuban 
revolution (which was not yet avowedly 
“Communist”), especially under the instigation of 
Che, took some of its boldest steps in introducing “socialism of a new type.”

Che opposed the strategy of luring capitalist 
investment, which some in the government believed 
would enable Cuba to gain much needed currency 
and compete in the world market – a policy that 
would later become a factor in the downfall of 
the “Communist” states as they sacrificed 
visionary socialist features to ensure 
investment. As head of the Cuban na­tional bank, 
Che made Cuba’s new bank­notes famous by signing 
them simply “Che.” The first question Che asked 
of his colleagues when he took over running the 
bank was “Where has Cuba deposited its gold 
reserves and dollars?” When he was told, “In Fort 
Knox,” he immediately began converting Cuba’s 
gold re­serves into non-U.S. currencies which 
were exported to Canadi­an and Swiss banks.(5)

Che was a practitioner of sound accounting 
principles and a version of “efficiency” based on 
two things: weakening the hold of U.S. 
imperialism on Cuba’s economy, in this instance 
by re­moving the revolution’s gold from the 
clutches of the United States government (which 
could all too easily invent an excuse to 
confiscate it, as it later did with other Cuban 
holdings. Che was prescient in understanding that 
this would happen); and, of equal importance, 
finding ways to foster and fund the creation of a 
new socialist human being without relying upon 
capitalist mechanisms, which he observed were 
undermining the best of ef­forts in socialist 
countries throughout the world. Che best put 
forth his outlook, which came to be that of the 
new left interna­tionally as well, in a speech, “On Revolutionary Medicine”:

“Except for Haiti and Santo Domingo, I have 
visit­ed, to some extent, all the other Latin 
American coun­tries. Because of the circumstances 
in which I traveled, first as a student and later 
as a doctor, I came into close contact with 
poverty, hunger, and disease; with the inability 
to treat a child because of lack of money; with 
the stupefication provoked by continual hunger 
and punishment, to the point that a father can 
accept the loss of a son as an unimportant 
accident, as occurs often in the downtrodden 
classes of our American homeland. And I began to 
realize that there were things that were almost 
as important to me as becom­ing a famous 
scientist or making a significant contri­bution 
to medical science: I wanted to help those peo­ple.
“How does one actually carry out a work of social 
welfare? How does one unite individual endeavor with the needs of society?
“For this task of organization, as for all 
revolution­ary tasks, fundamentally it is the 
individual who is needed. The revolution does 
not, as some claim, standardize the collective 
will and the collective initiative. On the 
contrary, it liberates one’s individual talent. 
What the revolution does is orient that talent. 
And our task now is to orient the creative 
abilities of all medical professionals toward the tasks of social medicine.
“The life of a single human being is worth a 
million times more than all the property of the 
richest man on earth. … Far more important than a 
good remuneration is the pride of serving one’s 
neighbor. Much more definitive and much more 
lasting than all the gold that one can accumulate is the gratitude of a people.
“We must begin to erase our old concepts. We 
should not go to the people and say, `Here we 
are. We come to give you the charity of our 
presence, to teach you our science, to show you 
your errors, your lack of culture, your ignorance 
of elementary things.’ We should go instead with 
an inquiring mind and a humble spirit to learn at 
that great source of wisdom that is the people.
“Later we will realize many times how mistaken we 
were in concepts that were so familiar they 
became part of us and were an automatic part of 
our thinking. Often we need to change our 
concepts, not only the general concepts, the 
social or philosophical ones, but also sometimes our medical concepts.
“We shall see that diseases need not always be 
treated as they are in big-city hospitals. We 
shall see that the doctor has to be a farmer also 
and plant new foods and sow, by example, the 
desire to consume new foods, to diversify the 
nutritional structure which is so limited, so poor.
“If we plan to redistribute the wealth of those 
who have too much in order to give it to those 
who have nothing; if we intend to make creative 
work a daily, dynamic source of all our 
happiness, then we have goals towards which to work.”(6)

The goals that Che set for himself took him first 
to the Congo in support of Patrice Lumumba, soon 
to be murdered by mercenaries funded, armed and 
instructed by the CIA. He next went to Bolivia, 
where he organized a band of guerrillas to serve, 
he hoped, as a catalyst in inspiring revolution. 
Che once again had to battle Official Marxdom. He 
struggled with the head of the Bolivian Communist 
Party for leadership of the guerrillas over the 
question: “Who should set policy for the 
guerrillas, Che and the guerrillas themselves or 
the head of the Bolivian Communist Party?” The 
guerrillas voted for Che ­ perhaps the only 
election Che was ever involved in. Not just 
anybody was allowed to vote, not those who 
happened to live in the area, for example, but 
only people who were actively engaged in the 
struggle. Once Che won that election against the 
Communist Party attaché ­ an election that was 
not only about which individual should lead, but 
a plebiscite on competing revolutionary 
strategies ­ the Communist Party, which carried 
great weight in the working class, abandoned the guerrilla movement.

Should we view Che’s decision today as the 
correct one? What if the Bolivian CP leadership 
had not been so irresponsible and doctrinaire, 
speaking in the same heavy-handed manner as had 
the Bolshevik Party leadership in the USSR to the 
sailors’ uprising in Krontstadt 45 years earlier 
and which fed the very nightmares the sailors had 
been opposing? (Can there be a vanguard party 
that does not act in such a manner?) The question 
still haunts: To whom is the guerrilla 
responsible ­ the guerrilla movement and its 
leadership or the larger radical organizations 
and movement? Who sets the framework? And what 
happens when those levels of responsibility clash?

Such questions are not easy to resolve, and 
recent history has provided an array of vexing 
examples. In Vietnam, for example, contrary to 
Che’s guerrilla army, the National Liberation 
Front’s military arm took their policy from the 
party’s political bureau, not the other way 
around. And in Chiapas, Mexico, the Zapatistas 
throughout the 1990s and early 2000s invited 
“citizens of the world” to participate in 
decision-making over which way forward for their 
movement. The Zapatistas were (and remain) 
concerned with democratizing “civil society”; 
they explicitly rejected attempting to wrest 
state power from those who now control it.(7)

The relationship of organization to mass-movement 
is THE problem that has always plagued radical 
movements when they get to a certain stage, and 
this was the case with Che in Bolivia, as it is 
everywhere. To whom is the affinity group, for 
example, responsible? Or, for that matter, the 
artist? The radio station? The “local” or “cell”? The newspaper editor?(8)

On the one hand, decentralization is attractive, 
allowing for the greatest small-group autonomy, 
individual freedom and creativity (one’s 
individual radio show, perhaps; one’s need for a 
paying job to support the family; an artist’s 
need to freely express herself and propagandize 
her writings, music, art). On the other hand, the 
larger movement must not only be able to 
coordinate the activities of many local groups 
acting independently but frame the actions of 
smaller groups who purport to be part of the same 
movement within a larger collective strategy, 
thus in some sense limiting or even undermining their autonomy.

In Bolivia, isolation of the guerrillas from a 
many-pronged social movement led to their demise. 
In his last days Che was rueful and frustrated at 
the lack of working class uprising in the mines, 
which he had hoped to incite as there was already 
much unrest there, along with Communist 
influence. An uprising would have enabled the 
guerrillas to have had much greater impact. 
Eventually ­ too late for Che and his guerrilla 
army there ­ the miners overcame the official 
Communist Party’s obstructions and they went on 
strike ­ a result of intense pro-guerrilla 
committees that had formed among the tin miners. 
But the peasants did not revolt, contrary to the 
guerrillas’ expectations. As a result, the 
guerrillas were isolated and their ranks 
depleted. Che began to question his strategy of 
the “foco” for Bolivia, which in Cuba had worked 
so effectively. He also (and perhaps 
contradictorily) wished for just 100 more 
guerrilla troops ­ that rather small number (he 
believed) would have made the difference.

Would it? Could adding more troops compensate for 
the qualitative refusal or inability of the 
miners and peasantry ­ or any social force ­ to 
join the revolt and defeat the massive 
mobilization of pro-imperialist forces that was underway?(9)

These are serious and complicated questions that 
apply to our social movements today. 
Understanding ­ let alone resolving ­ such 
matters is not helped by the demagoguery and 
grand-standing that plagues the left. It COULD BE 
helped by a transformation in the way radical 
projects (again, by “proj­ects” I mean physical 
entities such as radio stations, daycare centers, 
food coops, shelters, alternative educational 
institutions, etc.) see themselves and their 
mission. That transformation could be assisted by 
conscious attempts to develop a revolutionary 
culture in which all participants see their 
project in that light, and not simply as a “job”. 
The world ­ or at least OUR world ­ depends upon 
whether we are able to resolve (or at least live 
with, while we build our forces) the 
contradictions into which we are thrust and which 
we reproduce, whether we mean to or not.

In Bolivia in the Summer of 1967, the guerrillas 
were picked off one by one. Without additional 
revolutionary forces Che and the others were 
forced to deal with the reality that, at least in 
Bolivia at that moment, their strategy for 
catalyzing a mass-based revolutionary uprising 
had failed. Under the presidency of Lyndon 
Johnson (a Democrat from Texas), the U.S. 
government sent military “advisers” and arms to 
the Bolivian junta. It became only a matter of 
time, a few months, before Che’s forces were 
defeated, Che was captured and assassinated, and 
the guerrilla struggle ­ at least for that period ­ was wiped out.

A true picture of Che is not that of the 
flamboyant posters nor the hagiography of 
Hollywood, but of a man dedicated to the poor 
internationally, who tried with a small band of 
guerrillas to spark a revolutionary uprising of 
peasants and workers to create a better life for 
themselves. During the latter part of his life, 
Che met with numerous frustrations amidst some 
successes, the biggest being the victory of the Cuban revolution itself.

In the U.S., we portray heroes as all-knowing 
exceptions to the impotent (and rather dumb) 
masses. In so doing, we reinforce our dependence 
upon the myth of the heroic individual and 
maintain the impotence of the multitude. In our 
culture, we are taught that change takes place 
not through mass-action but through single 
moralistic or righteous figures (think of how Dr. 
King or Malcolm X is portrayed today) who are 
able to make the system respond positively to the 
rationality, importance and moral force of his or her arguments.

Such illusions are dangerous to any radical 
movement and its participants. On the one hand, 
the Bolivian peasants who are still living in the 
areas in which Che and his guerrilla band were 
operating were clearly touched by the brush of 
history. In the film “Ernesto Che Guevara: The 
Bolivian Diary,” the filmmakers interviewed many 
of them who were still alive. They movingly 
recounted that one world-historic experience of 
their lives: their encounter with Che. Some 
remembered his kindness towards them. One peasant 
woman was an apolitical young teenager in 1967 
and had risked her life to bring Che food and 
look after him in his last hours after he was 
captured. Now around 50 years old, she remembers 
Che’s kindness towards her, and how this 
profoundly affected her life. Although no one in 
the film says it in so many words, clearly Che 
was something of a Christ figure to them, even to 
those who betrayed him or fired on him. It’s 
quite a comment on our present condition that 
human touches that were once quite ordinary seem, 
in today’s world, exceptional.

As Che put it, in his most famous quote: “At the 
risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that a 
true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love.”

John Gerassi describes Che’s capture thusly:

“Defeated by 1,800 CIA-trained and CIA-led 
Bolivian Rangers, Che was caught wounded but 
alive in October, tortured then summarily shot 
through the heart by a Cuban veteran of the Bay 
of Pigs who had become a CIA officer. He was then 
displayed bare-chested (neatly patched up so as 
not to show torture marks) in the hope that no 
more such attempts would ever again be initiated 
against pro-U.S. regimes. Instead, Guevara became 
a quasi-religious symbol of justice and 
liberation to the poor and exploited all over the 
world and to many of the socially conscious new 
generations, then and today. ‘Be like Che,’ Fidel 
boomed to Habaneros on the day he announced his 
death. ‘May our children be like Che,’ he still says today.”(10)

Che was captured, tortured and murdered in 
Bolivia under the direction of the CIA on October 
9, 1967. Forty-six years have passed. Still Che 
is remembered, not as some ancient and hazy 
patriarch, but vividly, as one who exemplified 
the spirit of liberation … and the ideals of our 
own youth. He inspired so many ordinary people to 
commit themselves to their vision of a different 
world and called on us to persevere even in the 
face of bureaucratic intransigence and the 
enormous power of US imperialism, against all odds.

Such a vision seems extraordinary today. It seems 
inconceivable that there are people who would 
take huge risks, acting out of their love for 
humanity. Yesterday’s commonplace behavior seems 
beyond comprehensible. And yet, people act in 
such ways ALL THE TIME. We just don’t see it, or 
report it. The media suppresses that information, 
or frames it in such a way as to make that 
individual the “exception” in an era of robots. 
But that humanitarian spirit persists. It’s what 
enabled the new Bolivian revolution to elect Evo 
Morales to the Presidency, much to the chagrin of 
the US government. That, too, is part of Che’s legacy.

And, hopefully, it’s what inspires us to continue 
“risking rid­i­cule,” regardless of where it 
comes from, to make our radical efforts 
successful. For many of us, it’s not only the end 
result that mat­ters, it’s the way we live, what 
it means to live a meaningful life.

– Mitchel Cohen

NOTES

1. “At the Afro-Asian Conference,” Che Guevara 
Speaks, Merit 1967, p. 108. But as one Marxist 
critic writes: “I’m sure this was a very popular 
speech in certain nations. Nevertheless, the only 
possible way the U.S.S.R. could have ‘abolished’ 
the law of value, to Guevara’s satisfac­tion 
anyway, would be through SURRENDERING value FROM 
the U.S.S.R. ‘Moral duty’? Value, for those 
acquainted with Marx, is creat­ed either by 
nature, monopolization or by labor (MAINLY 
labor)­-NOT morals or what someone says it OUGHT 
to be. As far as the ‘limitless sweat and 
suffering in the underdeveloped countries’ and 
the ‘big, au­tomated factories’ of the U.S.S.R., 
did Guevara forget how much limit­less 
sweat­-nay, limitless blood­-went INTO those 
‘big, automated factories’ built in the 1930s, 
1940s and later which supported Cuba from 
immediate imperialist plunder at the hands of 
United Fruit, etc.? I mean, what made him such an 
expert on just how many resources the Soviet 
Union had to give? Or does MATERIAL assistance 
sponta­neously arise from moralistic platitudes 
and popular speeches?” (Paige Angle & Chuck 
Davis, letter to author, January 2004.)

2. Economics and Politics in the Transition to 
Socialism, by Carlos Tablada (Pathfinder), an 
analysis of Che’s economic thought and poli­cies 
as director of economic planning and president of 
the Cuban State Bank in the early years of the Revolution.

3. In a sense, many of our organizations face 
similar false “alternatives” today, based on the 
need to stay alive “in the meantime” while 
attempt­ing to withstand the effects of 
compromises one must make in order to do so. As 
one correspondent, Joe Dubovy, writes: “The 
lesson that Che and all revolutionaries had to 
teach us was that revolutionary radio was 
underground, pulling up antennas and equipment as 
soon as the au­thorities could sniff out their 
locations. These radio stations became a key part 
of the revolution, spreading hope and supplying 
inspiration. … Today’s ‘progressives’ fool 
themselves into believing that Wall St., 
gov­ernmentally licensed, high cost radio will 
save them. They are about to learn that so-called 
progressive media can become merely a disgust­ing 
safety valve. Highly centralized radio is not the 
answer. Decentral­ized communication ­ either 
carrier current AM or low power FM has not been 
taken seriously. Yet, that is the only means of 
dis­tributing the message of human dignity to 
neighborhoods and communities… True social change 
will take place only when the air waves belong to the people.”

4. See, for example, James Bamford, Body of 
Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National 
Security Agency, which discusses Operation 
Northwoods, a plan drawn up by the Joint Chiefs 
of Staff for launching a secret and bloody war of 
terrorism against the U.S. in order to trick the 
American public into supporting an invasion of 
Cuba. It called for shooting innocent people on 
American streets; for sinking boats carrying 
refugees fleeing Cuba; for launching a wave of 
violent terrorism in Washington, D.C., Miami, and 
elsewhere; for framing innocent people for 
bombings they did not commit; and for hijacking 
planes. Using phony evidence, all of it was to be 
blamed on Fidel Castro, providing the excuse, as 
well as the public and international backing, the 
U.S. government needed to launch its war against Cuba.

5. John Gerassi, “Venceremos! The Speeches and 
Writings of Che Gue­vara,” Introduction, Simon and Schuster, p. 14.

6. ibid. This is an edited and abbreviated 
extract from a 1960 speech by Che Guevara, “On 
Revolutionary Medicine.” The entire speech can be 
found in the Gerassi book, pp 112-119.

7. In 2005, the Zapatista leadership announced a 
turn towards greater electoral focus by 
criticizing all parties in the electoral arena, 
without directly participating in the elections 
themselves ­ a stance for which they were widely 
criticized by many Zapatista supporters.

8. This was a main theme in the movie “Reds”, in 
which the revolutionary writer, John Reed (played 
by Warren Beatty), clashed repeatedly with Party 
officials both in the U.S. as well as in the 
Soviet Union. It is also a question that comes up 
at listener-sponsored radio stations like WBAI.

9. See “Fertile Ground,” the memoir of Rodolfo 
Saldana (Pathfinder), a communist miner and 
organizer of the pro-guerrilla circles in Bolivia, for debate on these issues.

10. John Gerassi, ‘The True Revolutionary Is 
Guided by Strong Feelings of Love,” Los Angeles Times: December 16, 2001.


A number of people sent comments to an earlier 
version of this article. I did not necessarily 
agree with them, but they were provocative and 
helpful. Thanks to Peter Anestos, Peter McLaren, 
Paige Angle & Chuck Davis, Barbara Deutsch, Brian 
LeCloux, Fazal Rahman, Joe Dubovy, John Gerassi. 
I’d also like to thank Counterpunch.org for publishing it.


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