Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews,
Thanks to John Barzman for translation assistance.
Che was murdered in Bolivia fifty years ago. He was 39 years old.
On many continents, he remains one of the few positive figures among the revolutionary leaders of the 20th century. Is that why in Paris this anniversary was a pretext for an outburst of gross slander against him? Targeted, beyond him were the Cuban revolution and everything related to communism.
Che certainly played a decisive role in the Cuban revolution. Janette Habel underlines how much of a “geostrategic anomaly” it was: taking power by armed struggle, in a poor island, 200 kilometers from the shores of the American empire, and wanting to build socialism there!
Guerilla, then minister, Che was a central figure in the Cuban experience. However, it is difficult to attribute to him responsibility for the latter’s subsequent trajectory.
Janette Habel developed the themes that seem important to her when we look back at the history of this revolution and refrain from rewriting it.
First, the issue of armed struggle to conquer power. The foco strategy was not theorized by Che as a model that can be reproduced everywhere. The failures suffered in Latin America cannot therefore be explained on the basis of an alleged error on this point. All the more so as the other strategies – [such as] “changing the world without taking power”, parliamentary and electoral channels to change society… – have not demonstrated that they are a viable alternative and tend to lead to dead ends as well.
Then there is the difficult question of how much democracy is possible in situation of revolution and war with imperialism. The repressive aberrations of a government that quickly took authoritarian forms are indisputable. It remains to resituate them in this context and to understand the obstacles to this revolution and the limits of those who led it.
The third theme, on which Che has contributed a lot, is that of transition. As Minister of Industry, Che organized discussions with Bettelheim and Ernest Mandel to reflect collectively on these difficult issues. Criticism of the USSR was central, and was explicit in the discourse of Algiers. And it was on the challenges of economic diversification and industrialization that Che (and Cuba!) was to fail.
Dismissed from power and Cuba under Soviet pressure, Che made his move to Congo, then into the Bolivian adventure. Isolated, he was to fall under the blows of murderers. His call to “create two, three, many Vietnams” resonated powerfully in this century, but without allowing him to escape a lonely and tragic death…
A rich exchange followed Janet Habel’s presentation, confirming that Che is not only a romantic icon, let alone a demonic character as nreaction claims, but a revolutionary fighter and thinker of emancipation.
Janette Habel, member of Attac’s scientific council, lecturer, researcher at the Institut des Hautes Études d’ Amérique latine, specialist in Cuba.
PLEASE NOTE: The video below is in French.