A non communist cannot answer this question alone. Che Guevara was a communist because given the options of political systems which can defeat the evil of capitalism, Marxism Leninism (communism) is the only practical, time proven, effective means of doing so.
Che grew up in a wealthy family. He traveled while in medical school on a motorcycle with his friend. He saw great poverty, hopelessness, and oppression. This broke his heart. Why? Because Che Guevara was the most morally developed, empathic, and courageous person you would ever meet. In fact Sartre said that Guevara was the most complete human being of our age.
Guevara broke down his feelings into love. A true communist revolutionary is filled with love. And the opposite of this is hate. He hated injustice, and he savored getting rid of Batista’s torturers and executioners. Che was willing to risk his life for others. He knew that he could be killed in battle, and he accepted this. Ultimately he would pay the ultimate price—his life, in Bolivia.
Cuba remains a symbol of defiance and solidarity against capitalism and the evils of imperialism. During the Chernobyl accident only one country offered assistance to the children harmed by radiation—Cuba. Cuba sends doctors to help people during natural disasters. And the spirit of the revolution lives on. This year 86.5% of people ratified the Cuban Constitution, and they demanded the phrase “We are a socialist nation working toward communism” be included in the final draft language. Cuba remains the most solidly Marxist Leninist nation in the world, despite being 90 miles from the U.S. coast of Florida.
Lies about Che Guevara
Che fought in battles. In war there are firing squads. Che put Batista’s torturers, executioners, and other war criminals before the firing squad. He felt a sense of justice that those who had done so much wrong had finally gotten what they deserved. Because it was a revolutionary war there was no way to put them in jailand if he let them go they would simply turn around the try to kill the revolutionaries once again.
Jon Lee Anderson is the leading scholar on Che Guevara. He actually traveled to inquire into whether Che was the murderer of children and a mass murderer. He found these were lies about Che Guevara. There is no substance to them.
In his characterization of Che Guevara, Mr. Ravelo makes a number of sweeping and emotional assertions which are historically unsound.
For instance, he says that Che was “the executioner of innocents all the way from the Sierra Maestra to the Cabana prison.” To this I must point out that, while Che did indeed execute people [an episode I have gone into at length in my book] I have yet to find a single credible source pointing to a case where Che executed ‘an innocent’. Those persons executed by Guevara or on his orders were condemned for the usual crimes punishable by death at times of war or in its aftermath: desertion, treason or crimes such as rape, torture or murder. I should add that my research spanned five years, and included anti-Castro Cubans among the Cuban-American exile community in Miami and elsewhere.
Next, Mr. Ravelo asserts that Guevara “ultimately betrayed the [Cuban] revolution.” This is a novel concept indeed. Indeed, it is the first time I have heard such a claim. Mr. Ravelo is obviously confused: Che Guevara was a Marxist, and, even before the revolutionary victory in 1959, he was determined to see that Cuba’s “revolution” become a Marxist one.
He never concealed his beliefs, and never swerved from this course. I have never heard anyone – even his most bitter foes — accuse Guevara of betraying his beliefs in Marxist revolution. Indeed, there are many amongst the U.S. Cuban exile community who credit Guevara for having always spoken honestly about the aims of Castro’s revolution – while accusing Castro himself of having ‘betrayed’ the many anti-communist Cubans who once supported him.
U.S. declassified documents about Che Guevara
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
Che knew that being a freedom fighter meant he could lose his life. Later he was caught by the CIA and tortured to death. But his spirit lives on.
Che is celebrated for his soul. Che was a diarist, self aware and open. Read the diaries. You will find yourself coming to know him.
From some of the quotes I’ve seen from the mobsters who fled Cuba after the triumph of the revolution, there may be a forged set around. Look for an early publishing date. Ocean Press should still be selling the genuine article.
Che Guevara was not a murderer.
Che killed armed combatants.
Che was also the JAG of the Revolution, responsible for overseeing the trials of the torturers and murderers who had been too slow in leaving for Miami. (I have searched for pictures of them clinging to rising helicopters but couldn’t find any.) Perhaps they missed the last plane out trying to get their money out of a bank that was closed. Perhaps they were so used to being untouchable they couldn’t imagine anyone coming to power they couldn’t bribe.
Jon Lee Anderson, by far the most hard-working and thorough of Che’s biographers, looked long and hard at all cases where Che was supervising and concluded that all were charged with a crime that was internationally considered a capital crime at the time, and none were innocent. The Mafia, death squads, torturers and police who hung mutilated corpses from the lamp posts had impunity in Batista’s Cuba. They didn’t hide their crimes, they bragged about them.
They all had a trial, an opportunity to present a defence, and an opportunity to appeal. (97% of Americans charged with a federal crime do not get a trial.) There were, by Anderson’s estimate, around 500 of them.
When the earlier dictator Machado fled Cuba, unarmed mobs swarmed through the streets hunting for security police in their homes, and killed them with their teeth.
When Batista fled, Fidel’s forces were at the other end of the island. Radio Rebelde immediately began to run a looped tape:
People of Cuba, we are coming.
Wait for us. Wait for us!
We will give you justice.
How many people did Che Guevara kill?
Che didn’t do any fighting, IIRC, in Africa.
He did very little in Bolivia, where he was captured and murdered.
In Cuba, guerrilla fighting in the mountains, probably several dozen.
When the Revolution triumphed, Che’s iron will relaxed and he collapsed, having just walked across Cuba from the Sierras to the Escambrays under cover—swamps and forests—and used up his reserves. (Che had terrible asthma—it ran in his family and he had pneumonia when he was two. He’d have made a great Norwegian skiier.) He was taken out of Havana for bed rest. He had been appointed Judge Advocate General of the army and signed off on the court cases of the psychopathic butchers who failed to escape to Miami with the Mafia and the rest of the criminal class.
They drove out to his rest home every night with the day’s legal documents and he checked that all the papers were signed, counsel provided, appeal applied for or not. I don’t know if he signed the execution orders. There’s never been one on E-Bay. But if so, his signature was to attest that the convicted had received all his rights and the trial conducted fairly.
However, any gaudy stories you hear about Che in his office brutally ordering the shooting of a young boy in front of his weeping mother, told you by someone who learned it at his mother’s knee, are horseshit. Che wasn’t there.
There was one day when they executed the worst of the butchers in a sports stadium. They read the indictment, the spectators screamed “Al paredon!” and they were shot. This is often described as their trial. It wasn’t. Their trials were correct. Martial law.
Capitalist ideologues always demonize great communist leaders for political purposes. Lenin, Stalin, Mao, it doesn’t matter. All of them have to be vilified to ensure the people don’t become energized by their heroism.
Here are some links. I have written a few answers about him: