Notes on Che
- What was it about Che that so magnetized [his peasant fighters]? He could have not been more different from most of them. He was a foreigner, an intellectual, a professional, and he read books they did not understand. As their leader, he was demanding, strict, and notoriously severe in his punishments–especially with those he had selected to become “true revolutionaries.” … But Che was different, and they knew it. He demanded more of himself, so he demanded more of them, too. Each sanction he meted out came with an explanation, a sermon about the importance of self-sacrifice, personal example, and social conscience. He wanted them to know why they were being punished, and how they could redeem themselves. … [B]ecause he lived as they did, refusing extra luxuries due to his rank, taking the same risks as they did in battle, he earned their respect and devotion. (340-341)
- “In spite of everything, one can’t help admiring him. He knows what he wants better than we do. And he lives entirely for it.” (356)
- CHE GUEVARA, by Nicolás Guillén
As if San Martín’s pure hand,
Were extended to his brother, Martí,
And the plant-banked Plata streamed through the sea,
To join the Cauto’s love-swept overture.
Thus, Guevara, strong-voiced gaucho, moved to assure
His guerilla blood to Fidel
And his broad hand was most comradely
When our night was blackest, most obscure.
Death retreated. Of its shadows impure,
Of the dagger, poison, and of beasts,
Only savage memories endure.
Fused from two, a single soul shines,
As if San Martín’s pure hand,
Were extended to his brother, Martí. (380)
- “Why does the guerrilla fight? … The guerrilla is a social reformer. The guerrilla takes up arms in angry protest against the social system that keeps all his unarmed brothers in opprobrium and misery. He strikes against the special conditions of the established order at a given moment and dedicates himself to breaking the molds of that order, with all the vigor that the circumstances permit.” (398)
- Che, more than anything, is an example that encourages one to fight for morals, principles and ideals, to defy mediocrity and have the courage to do what is right.
- “Something which has really developed in me is the sense of the massive in counterposition to the personal; I am still the same loner that I used to be, looking for my path without personal help, but now I possess the sense of my historic duty. I have no home, no woman, no children, nor parents, nor brothers and sisters, my friends are my friends as long as they think politically like I do and yet I am content, I feel something in life, not just a powerful internal strength, which I always felt, but also the power to inject others, and an absolutely fatalistic sense of my mission which strips me of all fear. (433-434)
- “Che told me: ‘Look, revolutions are ugly but necessary, and part of that revolutionary process is in justice at the service of future justice.’ I will never be able to forget that phrase. I replied that that was Thomas More’s Utopia. I said that [mankind] had been fucked by that tale for a long time, for believing that we would achieve something not now, but in the future. Che looked at me for a long time and said: ‘So. You don’t believe in the future of the revolution.’ I told him I didn’t believe in anything that was based upon an injustice.” “Even if that injustice is sanitary?” To which Quintana replied: “For those who die I don’t believe you can talk of sanitary justice.” Che’s response was immediate: “You have to leave Cuba. You have three choices: You leave Cuba and there’s no problem from me; or thirty years [in prison], in the near future; or the firing squad.” (458-459)
- Che’s mystique had grown, and when the famous French couple [Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir] went to see him, they talked for hours. For Che, it must have been a very gratifying experience, playing host to the renowned French philosopher whose works he had grown up reading. For his part, Sartre came away extremely impressed and after Guevara’s death, gave him the highest possible tribute; to the Frenchman, Che was “not only an intellectual but also the most complete human being of our age.” (468)