This collection is one of the many recent books devoted to Ernesto “Che” Guevara. Such publications were practically nonexistent before the death of the Cuban-Argentine guerrilla fighter in Bolivia, but the rising interest in the New Left and guerrilla tactics the world over has given them greatly increased currency.
Most of the pieces in Lavan’s anthology are speeches, articles, interviews, and letters spanning the years from 1959 to Guevara’s message “from somewhere in the world” to the Organization of Solidarity of the Peoples of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, made public in Havana on April 16, 1967. A number of the speeches were given to various meetings of Cuban workers and peasants during the first years of the Revolution. The Cuban Revolution was faced with concrete problems, and in these speeches Che sought to tell the people how these problems could be dealt with, while at the same time enunciating the basic principles of the Revolution. He was exceedingly frank about the mistakes of the Revolution, especially in the areas of economics and industrialization. Other speeches and articles in the book are concerned with the history of the Cuban Revolution, guerrilla warfare, socialism, the role of the artist, imperialism, relations between underdeveloped and industrialized nations, and the war in Vietnam. Included are speeches which Che delivered outside of Cuba at various international conferences.
As in his book Guerrilla, Warfare, Che gives us very little about his personal thoughts. Yet throughout the speeches and essays the warmness of the man comes through. He was intensely involved in what was going on throughout the world, especially in Latin America, and he used his talents and energies to channel what was happening toward his desired end—revolution of the oppressed. He was passionately convinced of the inevitability and justice of guerrilla warfare as the agency of revolutionary change along the course charted by Mao Tse-tung, Ho Chi Minh, and Fidel Castro. To carry his belief into effect, he left high positions in Cuba for the task—probably hopeless at the time—of leading a revolution among the wretched peasantry of Bolivia. Finally he died, young and almost alone.
Yet the legend of Che Guevara has created a mystical rallying point for the radical left, and especially the young. The students who demonstrated and seized control of the Sorbonne in May and June 1968 were not the children of Marx but of Mao and Marcuse—and especially of Che Guevara. Nor has his death dimmed confidence in his ideas, as I had the opportunity to discover in discussions with students in France during the summer of 1968. Growing numbers of young people who are discontented with the status quo are looking for a new hero, and Che Guevara is now the leading contender. This little book is a useful guide towards an understanding of why this has occurred.