Skip to comments.Che's Secret Diary: The guerrilla hero as a dispirited racist.
Posted on 05/04/2002 1:11:14 PM PDT by LarryLied
Mike Tyson's mighty rib cage boasts a sizeable tattoo of the late Ernesto "Che" Guevara, a testament to Guevara's status as the marker of subversive cool. It's a safe bet that Tyson hasn't read The African Dream, Guevara's recently released "diaries of the revolutionary war in the Congo."
Indeed, Che's comments on his African brothers might just send Iron Mike to the nearest laser specialist.
"Given the prevailing lack of discipline, it would have been impossible to use Congolese machine-gunners to defend the base from air attack: they did not know how to handle their weapons and did not want to learn," noted Guevara in a typical moment of condescension.
Thirty-four years after Guevara was killed by a drunken Bolivian sergeant, Grove Press has finally brought out the legendary journal he kept during the time he spent with Congolese rebels in 1965.
Grove knows how to play to the fantasies of baby boomers who remember when they fit trimly into their Che T-shirts.
The cover of The African Dream includes a glam photograph of Guevara, cigar cocked, eyes slyly assessing the potential for victory. "This fascinating secret history at last illuminates the missing chapter of a revolutionary icon," promises a blurb from the Sunday Times of London.
As radical icons go, Guevara surely takes the beauty prize, with eyes that are sometimes dashingly romantic, sometimes starkly idealistic, but always captivating. The ever-present cigar and trademark commando beret complete the image, the ultimate in revolutionary chic. As evidenced by everything from Mike Tyson's torso to the placards waved by World Treaty Organization protesters in Seattle and beyond, Guevara's stock has hardly slipped in the years since his death.
But can his reputation survive the publication of his own words?
Back in the early '70s, while I was European acquisitions editor for Ballantine Books, I tried to get the U. S. rights to the Congo diaries, then one of publishing's holy grails. I managed to get a meeting with Regis Debray, the famous French celebrator of the Castro regime and one of the few people at the time who had some notion of their content. Debray had spent four years in a Bolivian slammer for having visited Guevara in the South American back country.
Debray's thinking about Castro and Cuba would undergo a major shift in the decades ahead. But when he and I met, he still claimed to be on the best of terms with Castro. He acknowledged the Congo diaries would certainly make for some very interesting reading, but, shaking his head sadly, said, "The Cubans will never let them out. They'll keep them in their archives forever." Debray was convinced that the diaries revealed too openly the great difficulty in fomenting insurrection among native populations, a grim reality which Che's Bolivian diaries also underscored.
Reading The African Dream, it's easy to understand Debray's conviction. Guevara casts serious doubts on the possibility of anything like world revolution. Everything went wrong, and the racial politics were hardly progressive.
The Congolese had decided that Guevara should not be viewed as the leader of the Cuban-Congolese forces, but rather as a Cuban "councilor," so it would not appear that a white man was giving them orders.
After discovering that so many of the African fighters were incompetent, Guevara took charge anyway, breeding bad blood. He had ongoing problems, too, with his black Cubans acting superior to and contemptuous of the native Congolese.
As for igniting revolutionary fervor among people he believed would lie -- and lie preposterously -- at the least provocation, Guevara found it just impossible. The beloved revolutionary icon sounds pretty much like an old-fashioned racist when it comes to evaluating his black brothers in arms.
And then there is the counterrevolutionary, existentialist angst: As Guevara and a small number of Cubans finally pulled out of the Congo, aware that their mission was a dismal failure, he noted, "During those last hours of our time in the Congo, I felt more alone than I had done even in Cuba or on any of my wanderings around the globe. I might say: "Never have I found myself so alone again as I do today after all my travels."
Perhaps the most interesting question raised by the diaries is one of timing. Castro kept the diaries under lock and key for years. Why did he decide to release them now? Could it be that in his old age, he is getting envious of Guevara's lasting fame? Can the sight of those glorious Che posters appearing wherever in the world there is a demonstration be getting to the old dictator?
One might have supposed that Guevara's memory would be undermined by Cuban refugees such as Armando Valladares, whose terrifying prison memoir Against All Hope was also reissued last year by Encounter Books. Who would have ever guessed that Che's demythologizer might turn out to be his oldest ally?
He certainly was, as well as a psychopath. It is an amazing phenomenon about how the most brutal of thugs becomes an icon to the "romantics" of the Left. I suspect a particular psychology is at work and in need of study.
It's not all that uncommon. Stalin dissed Lenin & Trotsky to improve his own status, Kruschev dissed Stalin to make himself look good, and 'ol bushy brows did the same for him.
Probably, the only reason Castro has not done the same for Che before this has to do with Che's martyr status, and the fact that there was no competition for power. But now its all about the "legacy" (hmmm, that sounds familiar), and Castro could care less about Che's image after he gone and it's no longer of use to him.
It's a safer bet that Tyson can't read.
LOL! We'll have to get him the illustrated "Big Book of Che."
Her son says she is simply "stuck in the '60's".
Whatever one may think of Che Guevara, Tyson isn't fit to carry his jock strap.
The American Right. Surely the computereze "LOL" was invented to describe them. The American Right, which is thoroughly colonized by the ideas, institutions and language it purports to despise. Observe the breathless, gossipy, catty way the author outs Che's supposed racism!!! And, by the way, no reasonable person would conclude that Che was a racist based upon the cited "evidence"
"... "Given the prevailing lack of discipline, it would have been impossible to use Congolese machine-gunners to defend the base from air attack: they did not know how to handle their weapons and did not want to learn," noted Guevara in a typical moment of condescension...."
This is the carefully cultivated squeamishiness, self censorship and pucker-buttedness that only the good little boys and girls in the "conservative movement" have internalized. And then they whine and wonder why no one holds the Left to "the same standards". Because the Left isn't stupid enough to adopt it's own standards, of course. Nobody would be that stupid....Almost nobody.
This phenomena of conservatives out mau-mauing the left can be observed on almost every other thread here at Free Republic. Accusing someone of racism or Hitlerism or any number of thought crimes based upon an acceptance of the received wisdom of Leftist identity politics! It's excruciating to watch conservatives dancing on a string. Especially since so many seem so comfortable doing so. It's also the reason that the most potent weapon the limp Left has in it's dwindling bag of tricks is "conservative" leaders like George W. Bush; or--to be perfectly honest--any of the so-called "hard right" Republican Presidents. Let's face it, conservatives were still capable of barking and snarling during the dark ages of the Clinton administration. But now, they've been put out of their misery, by a veterinarian of niceness.
The real reason conservatives hate folks like Che and, even in their jester roles (sometimes the only way to tell a king the truth was from the mouth of a jester, by the way), Sharpton and Jackson is that they actually did--and do--stuff. Conservatives can't even cough up an irritating jester.
It's odd. A book that might show the complexities and paradoxes that lie beneath an icon, is always greeted with the worst sort of Jerry Springer sneer and confidential tone. The American Ruling Elite (pretending to be left wing idealogues and right wing extremists in order to attract enough votes to grant it legitimacy as an authentic defender of freedom) has no use for any icons who might acutally have DONE something. Humans who want to DO something are the enemy. George Washington, Che Guevara, Simon Bolivar, Peter the Great, Robert E. Lee, Louis XIV--they're all in the same out-house as far as the global shopping mall people are concerned. No past worth thinking about. No future worth worrying about. Just the endless, dynamic now; running to keep up. Work. Consume. Die. That is all we know and all we need to know.
Bovine passivity, sneering contempt, outing of people for the sins of racism, condescension (!) frustration, complexity---basically for daring to try to DO anything. The American Conservative Way Of Life. ......
Oh, goody, goody gumdrops. Here's another one.
Confidentially, Commander8, I wish a few American male politicians would try wrapping themselves up in macho stereotypes. Unfortunately, they prefer female impersonation.
And I thank Che for staying in the closet. What a revolutionary concept! In this country if a guy hasn't yet come out of the closet, he is made to feel the need to build a closet just so he can come out of it.
I wonder if there is any way to compare how many times Che Guevara said he was "doing it for the children" as opposed to, say, the anti-macho leader of the conservative movement, Trent Lott?
A toast to men with balls.
Well, what he did was play a big role in putting into power a government so many millions of Cubans had to flee.
How about a little mercy for them?
I doubt Che Guevara was gay though some say Raoul Castro is.
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