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After his remains were dug up in Boliva and reburied in Cuba a few years ago, public interest in Che was rekindled. The heroic cult that has developed around him took on new life, as hitherto unknown photos of his Bolivian campaign and two new biographies were published.
Whilst his image - on T-shirts, posters, and beer labels- continues to make money for capitalists, there seems to be a revival among the young in the idea of Che as idealistic hero and fighter for freedom. This hero cult seems to have infected many young radicals, some of whom regard themselves as anarchists. We take a look at his life and ideas...
The truth may be unpalatable to many. After all, the Che cult is still used to obscure the real nature of Castro's Cuba, one of the final bastions of Stalinism. As jaded Stalinists and fellow-travelling Trotskyists celebrate Che's anniversary we take a look at the real man behind the legend.
Born in Argentina to a aristocratic family who had fallen on hard times but who still had much wealth, Guevara had a comfortable upbringing. When Juan and Eva "Evita" Peron started on their rise to power, using populism and appeals to workers and peasants to install a regime that had many fascist characteristics (1944-1952) Guevara was still a youth. At this period he seemed remarkably disinterested in politics and failed to offer any opinions for or against the Peron regime.
Events in Guatemala were to change this. Arbenz, a leftist army officer, was elected as President. In 1952 he nationalised the property of the United Fruit Company, a major US company which owned much land and had great economic and political influence. He also began to nationalise the land of the local big ranchers and farmers. Guevara was caught up in enthusiasm for this experiment in 'socialism' which infected middle class Latin American youth. Just before a trip to Guatemala he wrote: " I have sworn before a picture of the old and mourned comrade Stalin that I won't rest until I see these capitalist octopuses annihilated".
Guevara was in Guatemala when a US backed invasion force smashed the Arbenz regime. He was able to flee to Mexico. Here he joined up with the Cubans around Fidel Castro and his brother Raul. In November 1956, Che and 80 other members of the July 26 Movement (J26M) founded by Fidel had landed in Cuba to carry on a guerrilla campaign against the US backed dictator Batista. Here Che proved to be the most authoritarian and brutal of the guerrilla leaders. In fact Che went about turning volunteer bands of guerrillas into a classic Army, with strict discipline and hierarchy.
As he himself wrote: "Due to the lack of discipline among the new men... it was necessary to establish a rigid discipline, organise a high command and set up a Staff". He demanded the death penalty for "informers, insubordinates, malingerers and deserters".
He himself personally carried out executions. Indeed the first execution carried out against an informer by the Castroists was undertaken by Che. He wrote: "I ended the problem giving him a shot with a .32 pistol in the right side of the brain".
On another occasion he planned on shooting a group of guerrillas who had gone on hunger strike because of bad food. Fidel intervened to stop him. Another guerrilla who dared to question Che was ordered into battle without a weapon!
Apart from the drive towards militarisation in the guerrilla groups, Che also had another important duty. He acted as the main spreader of Stalinism within J26M. He secretly worked towards an alliance with the Popular Socialist Party (the Cuban Communist Party). Up to then there were very few Stalinists within J26M and other anti-Batista groups like the Directorate and the anarchists were staunchly anti-Stalinist.
The communists were highly unpopular among the anti-Batista forces. They had been junior partners of the regime and had openly condemned Castro's previous attacks on Batista in 1953. They belatedly joined the guerrilla war.
With the Castroite victory in 1959, Che, along with his Stalinist buddy Raul Castro, was put in charge of building up state control. He purged the army, carried out re-education classes within it, and was supreme prosecutor in the executions of Batista supporters, 550 being shot in the first few months.
He was seen as extremely ruthless by those who saw him at work. These killings against supporters of the old regime, some of whom had been implicated in torture and murder, was extended in 1960 to those in the working class movement who criticised the Castro regime.
The anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists had their press closed down and many militants were thrown in prison. Che was directly implicated in this. This was followed in 1962 with the banning of the Trotskyists and the imprisonment of their militants. Che said: "You cannot be for the revolution and be against the Cuban Communist Party". He repeated the old lies against the Trotskyists that they were agents of imperialism and provocateurs.
He helped set up a secret police, the C-2 and had a key role in creating the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution, which were locally and regionally based bodies for spying on and controlling the mass of the population.
Che was the main link, indeed the architect, of the increasingly closer relation between Cuba and the Soviet Union. The nuclear missile deal which almost resulted in a nuclear war in 1962 was engineered at the Cuban end by Che. When the Russians backed down in the face of US threats, Che was furious and said that if he had been in charge of the missiles, he would have fired them off!
By 1963, Che had realised that Russian Stalinism was a shambles after a visit to Russia where he saw the conditions of the majority of the people, this after "Soviet-style planning" in the Cuban economy had been pushed through by him.
Instead of coming to some libertarian critique of Stalinism, he embraced Chinese Stalinism. He denounced the Soviet Union's policy of peaceful co-existence, which acknowledged that Latin America was the USA's backyard, and gave little or no support to any movement against American control. Fidel was now obsessed with saving the Cuban economy, himself arguing for appeasement. Against this Che talked about spreading armed struggle through Latin America, if necessary using nuclear war to help this come about!
It was on this basis that Che left Cuba never to return. He went to the Congo, where he worked with the Congolese Liberation Army, supported by the Chinese Stalinists. This was a shambles of a campaign, and Che ended up isolated with many of his band dead. Despite this, Che still believed in guerrilla struggle waged by a tiny armed minority. His final, fatal, campaign was in Bolivia.
Yes, Che was very brave physically. Yes, he was single-mindedly devoted to what he saw as the revolution and socialism. Yes, he refused the privilege and luxury granted to other leaders of Castroist Cuba, taking an average wage and working hard in his various government jobs. But many militarists, fascists and religious fanatics share these characteristics of bravery and self-sacrifice.
Che's good looks and 'martyr's' death turned him into an icon, an icon duly exploited by all those wanting to turn a fast buck selling 'revolutionary' chic.
But good looks and bravery camouflage what Che really was. A ruthless authoritarian and Stalinist, who expressed admiration for the Peronista authoritarian nationalists, Che acted as a willing tool of the Soviet bloc in spreading their influence.
Even when he fell out with the USSR about the possibility of guerrilla war in Latin America, he still remained a convinced Stalinist with admiration for China and North Korea. He had no disagreements with the Soviets about what sort of society he wanted - a bureaucratic authoritarian state-capitalist set up with contempt for the masses.
Che may look like the archetypal romantic revolutionary. In reality he was a tool of the Stalinist power blocs and a partisan of nuclear war. His attitudes and actions reveal him to be no friend of the working masses, whether they be workers or peasants.
Taken from Organise!, the theoretical journal of the Anarchist Federation
The following is one possible solution to the problem.
War as it has been played out throughout so much of history and into the present day accepts a basic authoritarian assumption that quite possibly accounts for almost the entire horror of warfare. That assumption is that a nation's leadership, and by implication the individuals who are instrumental in enacting a state of war, should be immune from the fray. The idea that warfare should consist of a clashing of arms between soldiers and often the populations of the afflicted countries is accepted without question, when in truth the first front of warfare should be against the perpetrators of war themselves...its leaders, architects, and profiteers.
If Nation A declares war on Nation B, then the most astute response on the part of the population of Nation B is to target the leadership of Nation A, given their initiative in creating a state of war. Not only is this the most direct and least tragic solution, it is hard to imagine a better deterrent to war than the knowledge that those who perpetrate it will be targeted in proportion to their culpability.
The rub in the above example is that while the above actions on the part of Nation B may be the wisest for the general population, they are not necessarily the best solution for the heads of state of Nation B, since Nation A will likely retaliate by trying to target the Nation B leadership as well. Thus a certain "king's agreement" of mutual protection, one where the leadership is not directly targeted, has reigned through so much of history. Exceptions in the modern world are mostly confined to the conclusions of full-scale wars, where one country is largely at the mercy of the other and hence not deemed a threat in its ability to respond in kind 1; or in cases where a nation's government is already inculcated in activities that could be perceived as evoking an assassination threat against a nation's head of state, hence abrogating the king's agreement.
It is important to note, that I am using the term "king's agreement" to describe not so much a conscious awareness of the mechanism described, but what is apparently a feature of conditioning by authority that applies to all of us in accepting the status quo of war.
What is fascinating is that, while we more or less accept the true nature of war, it is not the image that is usually sold to us in the West as justification. What both the government and the media commonly do is focus upon particular personalities, usually the active or titular head of the opposing nation, as malefactor and cause for the current aggression. There is often a backdrop of a hostile governing elite, e.g., Taliban, Politburo, etc., that is painted in to complete the picture, but animosity towards entire populations is a relatively minor theme, at least in the West. 2
The media and government don't focus on leadership personalities primarily as an exercise in deception, but in response to what is ultimately a humanitarian impulse. Few people really want to focus on mass slaughter of the enemy population as the goal of warfare...rather, they want a limited number of specific culprits who can be blamed for hostilities. Unfortunately, even the best-intentioned modes of contemporary warfare fail to show the same extreme prejudice in choice of targets. I think we can do better. A system of war by assassination effectively rips the facade off of war in that you are actually fighting the perceived enemy, and not those under the enemy's rule.
One of the most important features of war by assassination is its portability to the needs of stateless and even cashless societies. The issue of war by hostile states has been perhaps the hardest conundrum for primitive societies, as well as proposed anarchist societies. 3 While not necessarily a panacea for all the problems these societies might face on this front, it is far more credible an approach in facing off against the state than using conventional warfare, and much more appealing than guerilla warfare. A more decentralized society may even have a slight advantage in implementing this against a state, as the latter is relatively more dependent on a particular leadership.
What might a system of war by assassination look like?
For most nations, it would involve some kind of bounty system, usually involving the payout of very large sums of money (although still small relative to the costs of traditional modes of warfare). The sums of money would have to be substantive to warrant the effort...they should in fact be representative of the value of that individual's death to the paying nation. Moreover, there should be ransoms of varying amounts placed on multiple key individuals within the target government or terrorist organization. Not only can this potentially cut a broad swathe through the target's leadership, which will often be necessary anyway, but it considerably increases the likelihood that any private mercenary efforts can recoup capital investments and, naturally, be well rewarded for the considerable risk of their undertaking.
In cashless societies, the reward may involve goods like land, or such intangibles as being a national hero and the gratitude of the peoples rescued from the horrors of invasion. While this may sound ineffectual in comparison with the cash bounty system described above, cashless societies are generally far smaller in population and land area than are societies utilizing some form of cash. Hence, they tend to be much less valuable to an aggressor nation. 4 This reduced value can balance out their reduced capacity to generate a thorough and effective response. And of course, idealism and the desire to effectively protect one's homeland for invasion may be other relevant factors.
The existence of special forces to implement assassination policies as needed. These forces can be either governmental or private or both. Private mercenary groups that would implement specific assassination policies can be funded as necessary by speculators.
A guarantee of safe haven for individuals who implement assassination policies. This can involve disappearance via identity changes similar to those performed by the United State's Witness Protection Program, and relocation to parts of the country or the world that would afford them minimum risk of exposure.
In the event of death while successfully implementing assassination policies, allowance should be made for the bounty to be paid to the assassin's family or designated beneficiaries.
It is not the author's intent to emphasize a particular approach to warfare as an adjunct to conventional warfare or warfare by any other means, but to elucidate a method that effectively targets the individuals concerned with creating war, thus giving them a powerful incentive to avoid war, including war by assassination, altogether. In upping the ante by making the act of war more personal for those involved in its initiation and maintenance, it makes the use of diplomacy and a more considered foreign policy far more appealing to a country's leadership. At its best, the acceptance of war by assassination is a powerful check on the growth and depredations of governments. At its worst, it is a sometimes useful tool to avoiding the needless deaths of innocents, i.e., "collateral damage," when nations clash.
1. And even these instances usually involve some form of trial, e.g., those at Nuremburg following WWII.
2. It is, however, much more common in wars with a religious or ethnic basis, i.e., where the differences between cultures can't be credibly ascribed to a particular leadership. Conflicts of this nature may be more resistant to resolution by an assassination approach, but the open adoption of this method as a valid means of warfare does gives the leadership a powerful incentive to forestall the breakout of hostilities.
3. To give but one example, in The Machinery of Freedom, anarcho-capitalist David Friedman titles the relevant chapter "National Defense: The Hard Problem" to denote the very real difficulties the issue of war poses for an anarchist society, and writes "I would not try to abolish that last vestige of government" should his proposals for defending an anarchist society against a hostile state be inadequate.
4. However, this safeguard can be overridden if any particularly valuable resource is found on the land of a primitive society that does not wish to capitalize on it, or in any small society occupying an area that attains a crucial strategic importance to much greater powers..
...The Iraqi journalist has "a broken arm and ribs, and cuts to his eye and arm". The sectarian Quisling gang of warlords and mafia hoods who've been pimping in the Green Zone for the past six years will never be able to forgive this Iraqi hero who's shown the world their infamy. For this reason he needs all our support.
Katonai-történelmi beszámoló a Horvátországi Függetlenségi Háborúról. Az un. Nemzetközi Brigád története
(Társ szerzők: Tihanyi Tamás és ifj. Kricskovics Antal)
Publicisztikák - cikkek - riportok a délszláv háborúról
Meghaltunk, és mégis élünk
Eduardo Rózsa-Flores - Földi József
Hűség - Versek a háborúról
"Ez csak néhány azokból a versekből, amelyeket megítélésem szerint életem legjelentősebb, legtermékenyebb időszakában írtam. Könnyekkel, izzadtsággal és vérrel fizettem értük. Mindegyikük olyan, mint egy-egy darab szétszaggatott szívünkből, amely aknavető gránát repeszeiként szóródott szét megannyi lerombolt városban, a hamuban, a frontvonal hosszú kilométerein."
Háromnyelvű kiadás (magyar-spanyol-horvát)
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Állapot: Két háború között
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A kalandos sorsú szerző kémekről, albán szefárdokról, az ördögről, a halálról és más nyalánkságokról versel...
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Versek szerelemről és egy magyarazát
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47 szufi vers -versos sufi
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Karácsony Sándor utca 24.