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The African Dream: The Diaries of the Revolutionary War in the Congo Paperback – 11 Sep 2001

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Product details

  • Paperback: 244 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press (11 Sep 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802138349
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802138347
  • Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 2.1 x 21.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,634,661 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 13 Sep 2000
Format: Paperback
Che was a trotskyist no matter what people say, from his critique of the soviet economy to his disgust of the wealth of soviet beuracratic caste. This book is masterpiece of self critiscism and showss us how Che's own formulated theory of guerrilla wagrfare will not work without the key ingredients of dedicated revolutionaries, the right amount of political education of the soldiers and the importance of being able to speak the language and the importance of not taking advantge of the peasantry who so often will supply the rural guerrilla movement until it is self sufficient. This book shows how everyone makes mistakes even people who are put on a pedestal and used as icons, that through self-critiscism we can become better revolutionaries and better people. It is just a shame Che never faced up to the fact that precise planning is needed before the leader of a revolution goes into battle, something he should have learned from Fidel, also from Trotsky himself who led the Russian Civil War although reading Trotsky would have been very hard for him ( getting hold of it).
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 8 reviews
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Entertaining 7 Dec 2005
By sigfpe - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
While it might not have been intended as such this is actually a pretty funny read. 'Che' may have been motivated by high ideals but in his diaries he documents the nitty gritty of daily life and the trials of trying to whip a revolutionary army into shape. Frequently beset by attacks of 'the runs' (many times a day) and having to deal with Congolese soldiers who wanted nothing more than to run away from the first sign of trouble unless they had consumed their magic drink that made them impervious to bullets, the campaign seems to have been doomed from the start. If you want to get a different view of the reality of revolution from that presented in manifestos this strikingly honest diary seems like a great place to start.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Heart of Darkness? 10 April 2010
By Keith A. Comess - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Unfortunately, many political ideologues of both the Right and the Left (especially the latter) are prone to expressing their perspectives in the form of strident and uncompromising catchphrases, opaque analysis and jargon-laden paragraphs. Lacking are the pithy insights that come from nuanced and objective scrutiny of complex situations which, like everything political are neither the one way nor the other. Surprisingly, given his pedestal on the Olympus of the Left, Ernesto Guevara manages in "The African Dram" to have crafted a generally subtle, sophisticated and perpetually topical analysis of the problems faced by "interventionists" in the Third World's Third World, Africa.

Guevara, noted mostly for his romantic self-sacrifice (having renounced a life of privilege as a physician to embark on a probably quixotic endeavor to overthrow the Batista dictatorship in Cuba and later on, abandoning a comfortable life as a high-ranking Cuban government official to foment revolution in The Congo and later on in Bolivia) maintained diaries of both his Bolivian and African adventures. "The African Dream" is a blunt and honest appraisal of the Cuban effort to install a socialist regime in yet another pre-capitalist (pre-industiral, even) society. In it, Che catalogues the endemic problems which persist in the region to the current date: rampant superstition, tribalism, conflicted loyalties, disease, corruption, theft, inability to absorb the necessarily dispassionate commitment to a professional organization (military, political, governmental), substitution of seductive First World ideologies and agendas for genuine reforms...the list of problems is almost endless and the catalogue of difficulties has grown exponentially over the almost four decades since the diary was written.

Interestingly, the Cuban regime under Castro suppressed the publication of the diary for many years, due to Che's acerbic observations not only on the "revolutionaries" he worked with in Africa, but also and most especially those he made on the Cuban enterprise, itself. Certainly, it was not due to an infusion of democratic liberalism that Fidel relaxed control of this book; rather, it was the lapse of time and the withdrawal of Cuban forces from the continent that allowed its relatively recent release.

So, aside from the fact that the diary was kept by a famous and charismatic revolutionary (an icon, in fact), why is it worth reading now? The persistence of corrupt, "kleptocratic" regimes, the brutal massacres resulting from inter-tribal disputes, the competition over scarce food and water resources, the burgeoning population, the ravages of infectious diseases have nothing to do with the relevance of the continent to the First (and "Second", i.e. the states of the Former Soviet Union) World. Instead, it is the presence of strategic \minerals (oil, for one) and the importation of a new ideology, Islamism, which garners current interest. So, the US, the Chinese, the French, various "Non-Governmental Organizations" and others are all present, sometimes in the form of proxy forces (the US, with private military contractors) or with armies of technicians (China) or combat troops (France), all endeavoring to "make changes". As "The African Dream" astutely notes, while short-term gains may be realized, long-term changes are most unlikely to occur. This is true even in the case of "altruistic" NGOs, as astutely noted by Paul Theroux ("Dark Star Safari"), whose perspectives closely parallel those of Guevara.

To put it bluntly, Africa is a mess no matter what perspective its viewed from. The miasma of problems is just too complex to be solved by application of simple nostrums, infusion of cash, grafting of alien ideologies and influx of weapons to the newest strongman. While that all seems self-evident, it also seems to be forgotten, again and again and again. Is Africa the "heart of darkness"? Maybe so, but the same darkness is also present in the Middle East (Ahmadinejad's Iran, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez are but two examples). Despite the boundless optimism in the West that enlightenment is just around the next corner, there is nothing in Che's diary to impart any element of genuine hope that such may be the case.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Comments on "The African Dream" 23 Oct 2007
By Andrea Dealmagro - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I must commend Guevara for his courage and idealism. I also believe that the diary was a candid appraisal of the circumstances and events of the Congo war in 1965. The book is easy read, interesting, and at times funny (his description of the Congolese guerrillas shooting with their eyes shut was hilarious.) The book is not overburdened with ideological mombo-jombo.

Having read a detailed history of the Cuban Insurrection (Bonachea), the History of the Cuban Revolution (Thomas), and Guevara's own Bolivian Diary (which is also a very interesting book), I find Guevara to be a much better writer than he was military commander.

My reasoning is the following: The books speak for themselves; they are reasonably well written and honest. On the other hand, his military career started with a triumph; the Cuban Revolution. There was a country-wide insurrection going on in Cuba by the time both Castro and Guevara landed in Oriente in 1956. While most other anti-Batista leaders were killed during the next two years, Castro and Guevara survived to lead the insurrection to victory against the terminally corrupt and incompetent army of Batista at the end of 1958. As the old say goes: "the courage of your enemy honors you"...not much honor in that triumph. Batista's troops did not fight.

Six years later Guevara abandons everything in his quest for other struggles and revolutionary glory. It is now 1965 and he goes to Congo. He clearly (from his writings) counted on his fame rallying all the guerrillas to his banner and do an encore of the Cuban rout of 1958. He was wrong on both counts. Government troops fought well. He had to flee and he blamed the Congolese. Then he tried again in Bolivia. Once more he faced a determined enemy, his ego alienated the Bolivian communists, he blamed the Bolivians, and met his end.

Guevara was more of a Robespierre than of an Alexander.
But the book is good.
The history of a failure? 14 Sep 2014
By Marc Lichtman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book has the wrong title (the subtitle "The Diaries of the Revolutionary War in the Congo" should be the title). And it has an introduction by liberal "Cuba expert" Richard Gott, who shows his expertise by writing "In her foreword to this book, Aleida March, Guevara's widow reveals how Castro had found the text "extremely interesting...." But anyone familiar with Spanish names or who even reads the foreword (you can skip the introduction, but definitely read the forward), can tell that the forward was written not by Che's widow, but by his daughter, Aleida Guevara March!

Aleida Guevara March starts out by disagreeing with Che's words "This is the history of a failure." She's not the only one with that assessment. Víctor Dreke, in his book From the Escambray to the Congo: In the Whirlwind of the Cuban Revolution says that "I think today, thirty-four years later, we see the positive result of that action. The action of those compañeros who fell in the Congo was not in vain. As Raúl Castro said in 1985, the Congo operation was multiplied in other actions in Africa. The experience we gained made it possible for us to aid the liberation struggles in Guinea-Bissau, Angola, and other places." Dreke's book should be read as a supplement to this.

Piero Gleijeses traces the history of Cuban involvement, including the importance of the Congo mission in Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959-1976 and it's sequel Visions of Freedom: Havana, Washington, Pretoria, and the Struggle for Southern Africa, 1976-1991 (New Cold War History). It shows the the role Cuban troops played in defeating the South African Army in Angola, about which Nelson Mandela said in a speech in Cuba:

"The decisive defeat of the aggressive apartheid forces destroyed the myth
of the invincibility of the white oppressor. The defeat of the apartheid army
served as an inspiration to the struggling people of South Africa. Without the
defeat of Cuito Cuanavale our organizations would not have been legalized. The
defeat of the racist army in Cuito Cuanavale made it possible for me to be here
with you today. Cuito Cuanavale marks the divide in the struggle for the
liberation of southern Africa. Cuito Cuanavale marks an important step in the
struggle to free the continent and our country of the scourge of apartheid."

(You can find the full text and Castro's response in How Far We Slaves Have Come! South Africa and Cuba in Today's World).

For a popular account of Cuba's role in Angola, read Cuba and Angola: Fighting for Africa's Freedom and Our Own. For background on the Congo, read The Assassination of Lumumba.

And for more Che, read Episodes of the Cuban Revolutionary War, 1956-58 and The Bolivian Diary of Ernesto Che Guevara. The Pathfinder editions include material that is not in any of the other editions.

And for more on what Cuba in doing in Africa today, and on Víctor Dreke's later life, read Capitalism and the Transformation of Africa. And everyone interested in social change in Africa should read Thomas Sankara Speaks: The Burkina Faso Revolution 1983-87, which includes Sankara's tributes to Che and to Cuba.

Cuba just sent 165 doctors and nurses to Sierra Leone to combat Ebola, the biggest commitment of personnel to the health crisis so far by any country in the world! Then 9/26/2014, they announced they're sending close to 300 more!
Enlightening-Profound 20 Feb 2014
By che handala - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An excellent guide int Che's 'adventure' into the dark continent. As usual Ernie is honest and truthful about what he sees are his faults(smoking and reading) and why this mission was a 'failure......
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