Che Guevara: a Biography: James, Daniel Paperback – 20 Mar 2001
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Full of revealing details--Selden Rodman "Saturday Review "
What makes James's book interesting is that it gives readers not only a glimpse of a political attitude from the 1960s that is often overlooked, but also a view of Guevara that they will not get elsewhere. James's biography was, and remains, remarkable because of its point of view. He was frankly out to debunk Guevara's Myth.--Henry Butterfield Ryan, from the Introduction
About the Author
Daniel James is the editor of The Complete Bolivian Diaries of Che Guevara, also available from Cooper Square Press. Henry Butterfield Ryan is a retired foreign service officer, an associate of Georgetown University's Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, and the author of The Fall of Che Guevara. He lives in Washington, D. C.
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His was a life dedicated to violence on behalf of a ruthless ideology--Communism. An ideology that has been cast off by almost every nation that adopted it--or was forced to adopt it. In its wake--especially in the former Soviet Union and China--it left literally millions of slaughtered men, women and children.
Much has been made by Guevara's idolaters about his willingness to die for his beliefs. But fanaticism has always been proof of the intensity of a belief, never its correctness. Less publicized has been Che's willingness to make others die for his beliefs.
In November, 1962, during an interview with the "London Daily Worker," Guevara raged against the Soviet Union’s recent withdrawal of nuclear missiles from Cuba. Those “thirteen days” of the Cuban Missile Crisis that October had brought the world to the brink of nuclear holocaust.
But if President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev shrank from launching nuclear missiles, the same could not be true for Guevara.
“If the missiles had remained we would have used them against the very heart of the United States, including New York,” said Guevara. “We must never establish peaceful coexistence. We must walk the path of victory even if it costs millions of atomic victims.”
"Millions of atomic victims." How different is this from the mindset of the Islamic terrorists who threaten Western civilization today, as the Soviet Union once threatened it? The only difference between Ernesto "Che" Guevara and Osama bin Laden is that the former served an atheistic ideology posing as a religion, while bin Laden served an actual one--Islam.
First published in 1969, "Che Guevara" differs sharply from the standard "I was with Che" memoirs. It also differs from those biographies that seek to glorify a life based on violence. An additional virtue of this book is that it seeks to put into historical perspective Guevara's actual status as a revolutionary.
For example, James compares the length of time that Che spent as a guerrilla with that spent by such other revolutionaries as Mao Tse Tung, Emiliano Zapata and Francisco "Pancho" Villa. He says that if you add up the entire time Guevara served in the field, it might come to four years--two years in Cuba, perhaps six months in the Congo and possibly Vietnam, and the 11 months he spent in Bolivia before he was captured and executed.
Compare this to the decade of fighting spent by Villa and Zapata and more than two decades spent by Mao. Moreover, Villa at one time commanded 50,000 men; Zapata maybe 30,000. Mao's forces were in the millions. Guevara, by contrast, fought in small-unit formations.
Che, in one sense, was lucky to die as he did--and when he did. The violence of his death has obscured a great many embarrassing truths his disciples and admirers would like to ignore.
He was only 39, but he was already running to fat and increasingly troubled by his lifelong asthma. His Don Quixote-like venture into Bolivia proved a failure from first to last. Peasants didn't flock to his banner; in fact, some of them betrayed his movements to the Bolivian army
Just before he died, he told one of his captors, "Tell Fidel he will soon see a triumphant revolution in America." This never happened. And 24 years after Guevara's execution, Communism died a violent death in its birthplace--the Soviet Union. It wasn't killed off by invading capitalist forces, but thrown off by the Russian people themselves.
Nor would Che be pleased with the course of "revolutionary" events in Cuba. Until the death of the Soviet Union, the island remained dependent on what amounted to Soviet welfare. Since then, Cubans have supported themselves by turning their island into a privileged playground for the rich--especially rich Americans.
Fidel Castro forced the Mafia to close its casinos and brothels when he took power in 1959. But with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba has tried to make itself as attractive to foreign tourists as possible--including providing them with brothel services.
Finally, Che would be disappointed and enraged that his credo of "create two, three, many Vietnams" throughout Latin America has not been heeded. While many Latin American countries have expressed outrage at the continuing American boycott of Cuban goods, only Chile and Venezuela have elected a genuine Communist.
Salvador Allende, elected president of Chile in 1970, was overthrown and murdered in a CIA-engineered coup in 1973. His regime was followed by a Right-wing military junta that was in power from 1973 to 1990. Hugo Chavez, elected president of Venezuela in 2002, remained in power until his death by cancer in 2013.dent. And Chavez' death has cast doubt on how long his legacy will live.
All in all, Daniel James' "Che Guevara" remains a timely antidote to the myths still being spun around a man who lived and died by the gun--and left only a legacy of violence and failure.
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