Photo: Mass rally in Cuba marked ‘Che’ Guevara’s 50th death anniversary on October 9, 2017. Credit: CubaSi - Photo: 2018

Guevara and Marx: Critical Remake of an Old Film – 9

By Roberto Massari*

This is the ninth of a nine-part series. Read Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8.

BOLSENA, Italy (IDN) – FADE-OUT … Scene 9[ Vallegrande, October 9, 2017]

The scene is composite, polychrome and multi-sound. On the large clearing for what in the past was to become the Vallegrande airport in Bolivia, some thousands of people convened by the government of President Evo Morales are gathered to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Che’s fall in combat.

There are many multi-coloured flags, but mostly red with the silhouette of Korda’s famous photo, Andean and Caribbean music, and the banners of political, trade union and cultural associations of various Latin American origins. In the days that proceeded, scholars of Guevarism from various parts of the world had spoken: the author came from Italy but, incredibly, was the only one from Europe.

“Che lives” is the slogan most repeated, but the church-shaped building erected on the site where the bones of Guevara were found is there to testify to the contrary. And that tomb is mentally associated with the Cuban Mausoleum of Santa Clara, inside which the atmosphere is even more strongly mystical and religious according to a Cuban hagiographic tradition, already started in October 1967.

For those wishing to deepen or extend the discourse on this evolution of the figure of Guevara – anti-materialistic (hence anti-Marxian), mystical and popular-irrational – a fascinating study has been conducted for years by a professor emeritus of art history at the University of California (Los Angeles): David Kunzle (b. 1936), Chesucristo. The Fusion in Image and Word of Che Guevara and Jesus Christ .

Che is dead, of that there is no doubt. But through the reflection conducted so far what is dead is above all his relationship with Marx. And this did not happen fifty years after La Higuera, but while the famous Commander was still alive.

In fact, after the wealth of theoretical references contained in The Prague Notebooks, no further reflections by Che on issues related to Marxism can be found. We have the titles of the works that he would have liked to read or read again at the end of the Bolivian Diary, but the names of Marx, Lenin or other famous Marxists are totally absent from that famous diary. Trotsky is the exception but only because that day (July 31, 1967) Guevara complains of the loss of one of his books.

The reader can easily verify all this because since 1996 there has also been a name index for the Bolivian Diary: I put it together for the version I edited of the Illustrated Bolivian Diary and it is the only one existing in the world. And I have always wondered whether this incredible shortcoming – namely that there exists no edition of the Diary (not even in Cuba) with a proper index of names – is not a symptom of the theoretical disinterest in the last ideological evolution of Che.

If in the first years after the defeat in Bolivia the lack of interest could have had political reasons – since Guevara was totally indigestible for the capitalist countries, but even more so for the countries of the alleged “real socialism” (including China and indeed in pride of place given that there news was ever even given of his death) – as time passed there were other reasons that could explain why the Guevara/Marx union lost much of its potential theoretical attraction.

First, there was the fact that Che’s polemic against the USSR had lost much of its interest and its subversive potential after the collapse of the Soviet Empire in 1991 (and yet in Cuba it had long been forbidden to talk about it ever since the end of the 1960s). It should also be added that the Guevarian reflection on the theme of alienation (whether Marxian, Sartrian or humanist) was soon overwhelmed by the birth of the myth of his person and the hijacking of it by the mass society of the spectacle.

This reabsorption of the figure of Che which could not avoid sweeping away his relationship with Marxism has been magnificently described in one of the most beautiful books written on contemporary “Guevarism”, that is, on how the world of culture and entertainment lives on and exploits his figure so many years after his death: see Michael Casey (b. 1967),Che’s Afterlife. The Legacy of an Image.

If the communist and internationalist connotation of his political action, the fascination of his rebellion against any conformism, the ethical value of his renunciation of the management of State power (a unique case in the history of the twentieth century), and his original theorisation of the theory-priaxis relationship that I have defined as “revolutionary humanism” all have been lost, could his relationship with Marx have possibly survived?

Of course not.

All that remains is to close our remake of the old film with a famous aphorism by Woody Allen: “Marx is dead, Guevara is dead … and I’m not feeling too well myself”.


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Roberto Massari, an Italian publisher, graduated in Philosophy in Rome, Sociology in Trento and Piano Studies at the Conservatory of Perugia. He has been President of the Che Guevara International Foundation since 1998 and is moderator of the Utopia Rossa (Red Utopia) blog. Translated from Italian by Phil Harris. [IDN-InDepthNews – 27 August 2018]

Photo: Mass rally in Cuba marked ‘Che’ Guevara’s 50th death anniversary on October 9, 2017. Credit: CubaSi

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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