Monday, October 09, 2006
From Print Edition
“You know how much I admire Che Guevara. In fact, I believe that the man was not only an intellectual but also the most complete human being of our age: as a fighter and as a man, as a theoretician who was able to further the cause of revolution by drawing his theories from his personal experience in battle.” — Jean Paul Sartre
Time magazine, selecting Che Guevara (Oct. 9 Oct is his thirty-ninth death anniversary) as one of the hundred heroes and icons of the twentieth century, writes: “Though communism may have lost the fire, he remains the potent symbol of rebellion and the alluring zeal of revolution.”
Every one knows that Time magazine is not a radical publication. The first and universal truth about Che is that he lives. The reality of the Third World today is far more desperate than it was in 1967, when he was assassinated on October 9 in the remote Bolivian village of La Higuera — only emphasises the validity of Che’s ideas regarding the national and social liberation of the teeming millions of the Third World. The new generations will walk in the footsteps of Che Guevara and march confidently and tirelessly towards true and absolute independence. The twenty-first century is destined to be the people’s century as proclaimed by the recent Havana Congress of the Third World.
Some people are more dangerous when they are dead. The then president of Bolivia, Barrientos, therefore resolved that every trace of Che must be obliterated. Before cremating his body, his hands were cut off at the wrist and preserved. Barrientos also ordered the building of the school where Che was shot, be destroyed lest it become a site of pilgrimage. Che’s Bolivian Diary and his hands ultimately found their way to Fidel Castro, because the Bolivian minister of interior affairs, Antonio Arguedas, decided to cut his link with the Bolivian government and hand them over to Cuba to which they truly belonged.
These were the hands, which belonged to Che who suffered from asthma and who would put one hand on his chest writhing in asthmatic agony but the other hand would not let go of his guerrilla’s rifle.
These were the hands by which wrote the last letter to his family: “Dear Hildita, Alaidita, Comilo, Celia and Earesto. If some time you read this letter, it will mean that I am no longer with you. You will not remember much of me and the little ones will recall nothing.
“Your father was a man who acted according to his views and certainly lived according to his convictions. “You should grow up to be good revolutionaries. Study diligently and master the technology, which enables you to control nature.
“Remember that what is most important is revolution and that each of us individually is insignificant. “And most important always retain a deep sensitivity to all injustice, wherever and whenever takes place in the world. That is the most admirable quality of a revolutionary.
“Your Papa sends you a huge kiss and a big hug.
The letter he wrote to Fidel Castro, when he left Cuba for Latin America to carry on the struggle for social and political liberation, epitomises his insatiable thirst to serve suffering humanity.
At this moment I remember many things, when I met you at Maria Antonia’s house, and you asked me to come and join the struggle; all the excitement of getting ready.
One day they came and asked who was to be notified in case of death, and the real possibility of this struck us all. Later we learned that it was real, that in revolution (if it is a genuine one) you either win or die. Many comrades have fallen along the path to victory.
Today everything seems less dramatic, because we are more mature but the fact repeats itself. I feel I have fulfilled that part of my duty, which bound me to the Cuban revolution on its own territory, and I bid farewell to you, to the comrades and to your people, who are now mine.
Other nations are calling for my modest efforts. The time has come for our separation.
I want it to be known that I do this with a mixture of joy and sorrow. Here I leave behind the purest of my hopes for building socialism and the dearest of my beloved ones and I leave a people who have accepted me as their son.
In new fields of battle, I will bear the faith that you instilled in me, the revolutionary spirit of my people, the feeling that I am fulfilling the most sacred of duties to fight against imperialism wherever it may be. Wherever I may be I shall remain conscious of the responsibility of being a Cuban revolutionary and shall act as such. I have left no material possessions to my wife and children and I do not regret it. I am happy it is this way. I ask nothing for them, since the state will provide for their needs and their education.
On to victory! Liberty or Death.
I embrace you with all my revolutionary zeal,
The hands which wrote these letters have been preserved for eternity.
Why is Che Guevara so popular with the young people all over the world?
Ariel Dorfman says: “Perhaps in these orphaned times of incessantly shifting identities and alliances, the fantasy of an adventurer who changed countries and crossed borders and broke down limits without once betraying his basic loyalties provides the restless youth of our era with an optimal combination, grounding them in a fierce centre of moral gravity while simultaneously appealing to their contemporary nomadic impulse.” He goes on to say: “To those who will never follow in his footsteps, submerged as they are in a world of cynicism, self-interest and frantic consumption, nothing could be more vicariously gratifying than Che’s disdain for material comfort and every day desires.”
Che, who was asked just before his execution, what he was thinking about, replied:
“I am thinking about the immorality of revolution.”
He epitomised the spirit of resistance against tyranny and injustice just as Imam Hussain (A.S.) did centuries ago.The Cuban poet, Nicolas Guillen wrote:
Your light has not been quenched/Though you have fallen
You move, Guerrilla/A figure on a flaming steed
Through the mountains, wind and clouds/Silenced, you are not silent.
Though they burn your body/Though they hide you away,
They cannot keep us from you/ Che, commandante,
Friend and brother
Only thirty-nine years have passed since his death, Bolivia is already following in the footsteps of Che Guevara.
The writer is a former principal of Gordon College, Rawalpindi. Email: [email protected]