Love and Hate in the Time of Che
Che Guevara is my last hero. He was what Errol Flynn only pretended to be in "Robin Hood" and a couple of pirate movies. Che was a self-confessed "soldier of fortune" but he was not a mercenary. Guevara's adventurous and courageous ways were rooted in his idealism and utopian visions of a just and classless society. And he died young in the year of 1967 just before the Pentagon Demonstration where his blown up photograph was displayed by thousands of demonstrators as we laid siege to the war makers and their evil building. Che died young and without a hint of compromising corruption or dishonesty. And yes he was handsome and could turn a literary phrase. He was perfect.
After all these years and so much death, despair and sleazy selling out, a pure Che still lives on in our collective imagination. Highly publicized biographies are coming out and look for a Mick Jagger produced feature film - of course you certainly will want a Che Guevara wrist watch. Yup the Commandante may be on his way to becoming a bonafide millennial commodity. Perhaps there may be some good news in this if a few few people come to consider the meaning of his true life and actual ideas.
And this brings me to a personal sore point. If you've been around the block a couple of times you are probably familiar with this Guevara quote. "At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love." This is the most reproduced quote and it was something he penned in an essay on morality and art. But if these sentences are left alone, and so many "Christ-like" poster representations of Che, combined with the love quote do exactly that, it creates a misleading impression, since it makes him sound like a simple hippie or maybe a Jesus freak.
Che certainly believed in the transformative power of love but I'm sure he never hummed "love is all you need." Consider this quote from another essay written about the same time: "A people without hatred cannot vanquish a brutal enemy," or how about this golden oldie: "the oppressor must be killed mercilessly...the revolutionary must become an efficient and selective killing machine." Tough love wouldn't you say?
Che Guevara believed in selective love and hatred, not abstract philanthropy. He belonged to an era when revolutionaries really did commit themselves to loving the oppressed and hating their oppressor. And many like Che put their ideas in to practice and wound up being buried in unmarked graves in very obscure surroundings. It was the CIA and their allies who proved to be the more effective, if unselective "killing machine." Guevara's revolutionism was daring and dangerous. And it shouldn't be turned into sentimental pap and wind up someday as am image promoting Nike. It's definitely difficult these days to garner much support for "revolutionary hatred," with only right wing militia maniacs using and mocking the concept, but Che lived in a time when the game was played for real, and he was its high mountain of heroism. Let's leave him that way.
This article appears in the Number 136 issue of Paul Krassner's Realist