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June 16, 1971 - Image 5

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Michigan Daily, 1971-06-16

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Wednesday, June 16, 1971


Page Five

Resurrecting Gh

Rolando E. Bonachea and Nelson
P. Valdez, MIT paper, $3.9:3.
Andrew Sinclair, CHE GUE-
VARA, Viking paper, $1.65.
* Matija Beckovie and Dusan Ra-
TRAGEDY, (published in same
volume with essays of Matija Bee-
kovic entitled RANDOM - TAR-
GETS), $5.75.
;r These three titles are samples,
indicating the variety of literesty
forms and diverse geographic or-
igin of publications about Ch"
Guevara, hero of the 1959 Cuban
Revolution who died as a guerilla
fighter in Bolivia in October,
1967. Geuvara is a figure whose
ideas, values and total career are
destined for re- i nterpretation
throughout a long period in the
future. Now that three and a half
years have elapsed since he
ceased active participation in the
revolutionary scene, the coler-
tion of publications about Gue-
4 vara is already impressive. Out-
side the United States, volumes
have appeared in France, Ger-

a poem dedicated to Fidel Cas-
tro, and a comprehensive bibli-
ography. Some of these items
are of distant origin,-an interview
made in Algeria, a denunciation
of the Alliance for Progress de-
livered in Uruguay, and transla-
tion of an article from a Chinese
newspaper. Most touching are the
farewell letters to his parents and
to his five children.
In the course of the writings,
interviews and speeches, Che
Guevara presents his own view of
the Cuban Revolution as an ex-
ample of the universal struggle
against imperialism throughout
Latin America, and the first step
in the liberation of underdevelop-
ed peoples of the world. At the
peak of his optimism, Guevara
believed that Cuba could be the
inspiration for w o r k e r s and
peasant sectors throughout Latin
America, Africa and Asia. Mini-
mizing national and cultural dif-
ferences, he appealed to Alger-
ians, Venezualans and Southeast
Asians to recognize a common
bond. But he made a fatal error
in predicting that the Andean
Cordillera would be a spring-
board for successful revolution in
South America in the same way

'peace" and socialism" are used
together, just as imperialism,
capitalism and aggression seem
virtually synonymous. In look-
ing at political development of
Latin America, he found regret-
able the association of bourge-
ousie national governments with
the imperialism aggressor. He
castigated the moderate Latin
American leaders of the 1950's,
Romulo Betancourt in Venezuela
and Jose Figueres in Costa Rica.
G u e v a r a, the irrepressible
idealist, developed some novel
and utopian concepts. Looking at
laboring situations, he decided
that a "work center" should be a
place where the "desire to serve
society is molded." He exhorted
individuals to achieve a sense of
social duty. Presented with a
choice, he urged investment in
projects according to their "so-
cial utility" rather than the mon-
ey value of production or the re-
lationship between supply and
demand. He candidly admitted
his own errors, and the errors of
the Cuban Revolution.
If Guevara's economic theory
was hazardous and his view of
history often faulty, these failures
will probably become mere foot-
notes to the Geuvara story. His
life more than his writings indi-
cates his superior commitment
to the endless battle against pov-
erty, hunger and disease. Not
much biographical information
comes through in the selections.
Guevara does refer to his "on
the spot" experience in Guate-
mala in 1954, when American
airpower destroyed the left-wing
Arbenz revolution. He also tells
of his conversion to Castro's
cause following an all-night con-
versation in Mexico in 1955.
Fidel and his followers were in
exile, following their unscccess-
ful attack on the Moncado Bar-
racks on July 26, 1953-the event
that made "M-26" a revolution-
ary symbol. Even then, plans
were under way for a renewed
revolution in Cuba, precariously
launched in November 1956 when
all but twelve of 82 invaders were
killed shortly after landing. Cas-
tro, Guevara and the other sur-
vivors fled to the mountains of
southern Cuba and began or-
ganizing the movement that ove-
threw the Batista regime by
January 1, 1959.
Guevara documented the end
of his Cuban career in a moving
letter to Fidel Castro made pub-
lic on October 3, 1965. He tem-
porarily disappeared, and the fol-
lowing year reached the heart of
the Andes. Bolivian peasants re-
mained aloof from the dedicated
nucleus of Cuban leaders who set
up their base in the highlands in


bike, worked as volunteer in leper
colonies, and in 1953 finally r-
ceived a medical degree from the
University of Buenos Aires. The
chronology is more complete in
the Bonachea - Valdes introduc-
tion which also mentions his ear-
ly enthusiasm for soccer, rugby
and French poetry. Neither men-
tions that he acquired his iden-
tity as "El Che", the Buddy, dur-
ing his early political activities
in Guatemala. For Guevara, this
affectionate title became a vital
part of his personality.
Sinclair goes beyond a discus-
sion of Guevara's life to specu-
late about his influence, and the
world-wide reaction to his mur-
der and cremation in November,
1967. He sees Guevara as the per-
sonal symbol for student strikers

many, Italy, Spain, Mexico and
The first of the three books be-
ing reviewed in this article, the
selections by Bonachea and Val-
des, is probably the best single
volume on Guevara available in
English. The second work, the
biographical essay by Sinclair,
belongs to the Modern Masters
series that includes accounts of
the lives of such men as Clastde
Levi-Strauss, cultural anthro-
pologist, and Herbert Marcuse,
influential philosopher currently
identified as the mentor of An-
gela Davis. The third title (Che:
A Permanent Tragedy) is a short
but provocative play by two
Yugoslavian authors.
The selections by Bonachea
and Valdes may have particular
interest for the Ann Arbor cain-
pus, since they represent the
work of two students of Martin
C. Needler, a member of Michi-
gan's political science depart-
ment from 1960 to 1965, now di-
rector of the Division of Intor-
American Affairs at the Univer-
sity of New Mexico in Albuquer-
que. As Needler points out in his
foreward, both Bonachea and
Valdez had the advantage of a
Cuban educational backgrousl.
They personally recorded one of
the speeches chosen for publica-
tion. Their volume includes
useful introduction, e x c e r p ts
from e i g h t e e n of Guevara's
writings, fourteen speeches, nine
interviews, six personal letters,
Today's writer .. .
Helen Tanner has taught
Latin American history at the
University and is currently do-
ing research on the cultural as-
pects of the Cuban Revolution
for Queens University in Kings-
ton, Ontario.

that the Sierra Maestre provided
a mountain base for the peasant
revolution in Cuba.
Although in his writings on
revolution he advised attention
to differences in environment, he
seriously miscalculated the situ-
ation in Bolivia. There, a gen--r-
ally conservative peasantry had
already acquired land after the
1952 National Revolution and the
miners-rather than the peasants
-have been the revolutionsiy
population segment.
Although Guevara has little to
say about the United States othcr
than his freocent condemnation
of "Yankee imperialism," bis
comments are always those of a
sharp and good-natured observ-
er. "The North American gov-
ernment is obsessed by Cuba,"
he accurately concluded in the
early years of the Castro regime.
Yet he declared without reserva-
tion that Cuba desired the friend-
ship of the United States. Refer-
ence to a new kind of tourism
for Cuba, different from the gam-
bling casino emphasis of the pre-
Castro era, appears in his dis-
cussion of economic development
for the island.
Guevara's political and eco-
nomic views evolved along with
the progressive stages of the
Castro Revolution in Cuba. In
1958 before Castro achieved
power, he declared, "This Revo-
lution is exclusively Cuban." He
described the Rebel Army as a
"liberating army", true follow-
ers of Jose Marti, poet and pa-
triotic hero of Cuba's late nine-
teenth century War for Indepen-
dence. After taking over major
responsibility for Cuban econom-
ic development, Guevara be-
came increasingly preoccupied
with ideology and adopted many
of the key phrases used in com-
munist exposition. The terms

Che Guevara is the John Wayne
for people who like that kind
of thing
a big ad for seeing South Amer-
a tourist attraction.
Visit South America!
Take a trip to our mountains!
Play the guerilla!
We killed the man who killed
He came for his bullet.
Cowards die, heroes live.
This play belongs in the class
with Becket's "Waiting for Go-
dot," and if it is as widely pro-
duced, Guevara's legend may
become confused. The script
should provide an attention-coin-
pelling performance, with ludi-
crous moments balancing the
bitterest of irony. The message
is tersely stated near the end,
"We are confronted by a blank
wall," and there is no future.
It seems quite probable that
Guevara has left not a single but
a kalaidescopic image. No defi-
nitive story of his life has yet
been published. With added in-
formation and the elapse of time,
Guevara may become more ieal
and also more legendary, a chal-
lenge to biographer, historian, or
political theorist.
Today's illustrations were se-
lected from DIEGO RIVERA:
The Shaping of an Artist, 1889-
1921, by Florence Arquin (Uni-
versity of Oklahoma Press,
Of Arquin's art criticism,
Diego Rivera wrote a personal
note to the author following a
visit to his home in Mexico in
1949. "I want to thank you for
the admirable article which you
have written about my work. It
seems to me that it is the best
that has even been said about
it as an analysis of the evoli-
tion of my painting and as an
evaluation of its plastic and so-
cial aspects."
In tracing the evolution of
Rivera's formative years, Ac-
quin provides insightful com-
mentary on the complex rela-
tionship between Rivera's paint-
ing and his politics.

1966. Lack of peasant support
contributed to Guevara's defeat
and death as much as the c'un-
ter - revolutionary military
campaign aided by CIA agents
and American Special Forces in-
structors beginning April, 1967.
For biographical information
on Guevara, one can turn to ott-
er sources. Andrew Sinclair's
Che Guevara provides a simple
introduction to the life of a very
complex personality. He includes
the basic information that Gue-
vara came from a middle class
family in interior Argentina, al-
ways combatted asthma, covered
miles of South America by motor-

in many nations during 1968, bis
martyrdom placing him above
Castro, Ho Chi Minh or Mao Tse-
But the international impact
of Guevara's death is not uni-
form. In the play by Beckovic
and Radovic, Guevara is a syum-
bol of the futility of struggle Io:
any good cause. Cuba's hero is
represented on stage only by a
canful of ashes, and the lines re-
ferring to his life and death al-
most go beyond sarcasm to the
point of insult:
.. ..He was
a living parody of a social

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