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"Saint Che," By Larry Gambone

category central america / caribbean | history | other libertarian press author Tuesday April 08, 2008 10:42author by m(A)tt - NEFAC, personal capacityauthor email circleamatt at gmail dot com Report this post to the editors

The Truth Behind the Legend of the Heroic Guerilla, Ernesto Che Guevara

I just finished putting this together after having scanned the document almost a year ago. Enjoy.

In this text, Gambone gives a unique and concise perspective on the life of Guevara, when there are precious few written anarchist perspectives on the Cuban Revolution in general, and helps us move beyond the baggage of the Marxist-Leninist Left, while keeping it in perspective. This pamphlet has been digitally reproduced in order to make it available to a wider audience via free download.

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author by Javierpublication date Tue Apr 08, 2008 22:21author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Comrade, I think this kind of articles do no good to the movement, calling guevara a fascist, an stalinist and all together painting it as a murderous bastard is not only dishonest and unfair to guevara but also promotes sectarianism on our ranks. He was indeed no libertarian but he was a conscious, determined and compromised revolutionary who put his life on the line as many times as it made sense and then even more and for this he was killed. In this he was consequent to the death, an internationalist of note who fougth in three continents against imperialism and capitalism. He also criticized the sole reliance on material incentives in the economy promoting moral compromise in the masses with the revolution, to do this he gave the example bearing the weigth of grunt work when he could have been a bureaucrat in a much more comfortable position. This was also part of his rejection to any privilege. He indeed actively participated in the destruction of all dissidents, many of those revolutionaries or opressed groups with specific demands, and also on the establishment of a hierarchical organization from the state to every sphere of cuban life, for this we must criticize him while acknowledging the context in wich he did it.. But all in all we must not forget that Che was an example of revolutionary socialist compromise, of radical egalitarianism, of personal coherence and principled internationalism

author by one morepublication date Tue Apr 08, 2008 23:07author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I´m agree with Javier.

For undestanding the article, we should know the personality of its author. Gambone is a "mutualist", a right-wing anarchist opposed to communist anarchism.

I cannot undestand why the comrade of NEFAC has selected this poor article and why this article appears in the right column of Anarkismo. There are much better analysis of the praxis of "foquismo" and the mistakes of the leninist model in the class struggles in Latin America.

This article, also, doesn´t contribute in anything to the advance of our movement in the class struggles in the continent, presenting us as sectarians who critize the whole experience of the revolutionarian struggle of that years, and this is not true, of course...

author by m(A)tt - NEFACpublication date Wed Apr 09, 2008 09:35author email circleamatt at gmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

I must start out by stating that I'm speaking for myself, individually. I'm a new official supporter to NEFAC, and speak for neither the federation or any of its locals.

I believe that taking the pamphlet as a whole, it is very useful in understanding the ideological development of Guevara as well as his personal growth, and ultimately what his fatal flaws were that led to his eventual downfall. At the same time, I think Gamborne was quite fair to him, recognizing him as idealistic and courageous, and the important place his memory occupies in the consciousness of the people of Latin America.

author by Josh Rhodespublication date Sun Apr 13, 2008 07:43author email perpetualelvismachine at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

For the record, Gambone is an "anarchist with adjectives." To call him, or mutualism for that matter, "right-wing" is downright slanderous. The following is a comment by Larry Gambone on the mutualist Kevin Carson's blog, relating to a post of Carson's about what he perceives as the inevitable bureaucratization that communism of any stripe would entail, which is certainly something worth considering.

"Libertarian communism is an oxymoron only for people who don't know what genuine communism is supposed to be. They confuse it with ML totalitarian state capitalism. I have seen other people say that libertarian socialism is also an oxymoron. Once again they do so because they think only of state socialism and not what socialism was thru the 19th Century which is a system of worker cooperatives.
At the same time I do not see any problem with supporting mutualism nor see any practical distinction between it an libertarian communism. It would be extremely unlikely for us to move in one jump from corporate-state capitalism to libertarian communism. The most likely outcome of major social change would be a mixed economy that included individualist, mutualist, syndicalist and libertarian communist aspects. In my opinion, mutualism is Marx's "first stage of socialism" At some later point after we have had several generastions of cooperating with each other, we might then choose to move to a more communist system. At any rate just getting rid of the corporate state is enough for us to deal with right now rather than deciding what will happpen long after I am dead and gone."

Now how can that possibly be conceived of as being "right wing" or "opposed to communist anarchism?"

author by Josh Rhodespublication date Sun Apr 13, 2008 16:25author email perpetualelvismachine at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Uh, I meant to write "anarchist without adjectives."

And here's the page from Carson's blog that I mentioned:

author by Pat Murtaghpublication date Mon Apr 14, 2008 03:23author address author phone Report this post to the editors

To echo the last poster I challenge anyone to go to Gambone's Porkupine Blog ( and find anything that might be construed as "opposed to communist anarchism". In actual fact there are numerous instances of his sympathy for those who have chosen the platformist way of organizing. You may disagree with his assumption that there are other ways of organizing that are also valuable, but you would be hard put to deny against all the evidence that he is sympathetic to anarchist communism and its organizations.
I also notice that at least one of the critics concedes that Gambone's FACTS are true while saying that one shouldn't give such facts their appropriate label. Is this an instance of saying that there are inconvenient truths that shouldn't be mentioned in public for political reasons ?
If you actually read the pamphlet you will see that Gambone never calls Guevara a "fascist". He merely says that his world view has many of the psychological elements of this ideology as it was formed under the influence of Peronism which had fascist roots. As to the term "Stalinist", THIS gambone actually uses. I merely ask the reader to look at both Guevara's acts and thoughts and tell me if there is ANY other name that is more apt. Of course there isn't !! As to whether he was personally courageous and aethetic or not, this is irrlevant. ALL ideologies have their courageous and aethetic adherants.

author by anarchist from Bostonpublication date Tue Apr 22, 2008 13:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I am very happy that someone has made this pamphlet available online. Che Guevera was a red fascist, opposed to anarchism, had anarchists jailed and liquidated, and helped delegitimize socialism just as the other authoritarian socialists have. Gambone is no enemy of anarcho-communism, and has done valuable writing. Mutualism is not "right wing", even if capitalists and marxists try to pretend it is. It is not "Sectarian" to oppose Che, to throw the stupid che t-shirts in the trash. We need shirts with Sabate, Durruti, and Makhno. Down with Che.. down with leninism, down with marxism. Che and Castro suck.

author by Waynepublication date Wed Apr 23, 2008 04:16author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I disagree somewhat with Javier on this issue. True, Che was a genuine anti-imperialist revolutionary, but we can see the limits of his program. The regime he helped to set up in Cuba was a state capitalist dictatorship, one which resisted US imperialism but which had no way out of the domination by the world market. He was, in a sense, an internationalist, but his was an internationalism of nationalisms; his program did not go beyond many national struggles, each setting up a new national ruling class. His belief in so-called moral incentives, in the context of state capitalism, meant that the workers should work harder without getting paid more, under the drive for capital accumulation of a national state. He opposed a revolutionary working class struggle, identifying it with the reformism of the CPs. He died for his beliefs, killed by the soldiers, for which I can respect him, but he lead other revolutionaries and peasants to their death with a wrong revolutionary strategy.

author by Karl Blythepublication date Thu May 22, 2008 14:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Since I have not yet read the Gambone pamphlet, I will not attempt to comment on its substance. However, I want to say a few things about this overall subject which I believe are quite important for revolutionary anarchists and communists, if we are to have a proper and intelligent approach to understanding history.

About Marxism: Strangely enough, for all the talk of "Marxist-Leninist baggage" and such that has become standard practice among anarchists and many radical leftists (as though it still dominated the left, which it clearly has not done for some time -- as its adherents well recognize), more often than not I have found the individuals making such comments to be quite (sometimes remarkably) ignorant of actual Marxist perspectives except a handful of frequently inaccurate cliches.

Let us note a couples things here: first, that revolutionary Marxism (including Leninism) has a long and rich tradition in the class struggle, not only among the urban proletarian but also among peasants, which is often forgotten in the course of denouncing Leninist betrayal of the revolution; second, that Marxism-Leninism is an extremely broad term (despite the specificity of its chosen "prophets"), so much that is, in fact, a highly ambiguous label possibly including a very range of political groupings often quite divergent in their theoretical positions; third, that there is, in fact, a far greater deal of commanility between Marxism and anarchism than is often admitted in either grouping, with powerful influences going both ways since the earliest debates between Marx and Bakunin.

With that in mind, let us consider the specific person of Che in the Cuban Revolution. To begin with, it is ridiculous to claim that he "opposed a revolutionary working class struggle" -- unless you only wish to place "working class struggle" within the narrow parameters of labor syndicalism (the main anarchist influence in Cuba, if I understand correctly). Che was an untiring champion of agrarian revolution, and as such he looked to a peasant guerrilla war as the primary mode of revolutionary struggle in the countries with which he dealt (mainly Latin America). That line of thinking, in my view anyway, was then and remains essentially correct. Furthermore, that line of thinking, if only accidentally, has more in common with anarchist teachings than with orthodox Marxism, as should be clear to anyone even loosely familiar with the Marx-Bakunin contraversy. Ironically, it might even be said that anarcho-syndicalists in Cuba (and eslewhere) who rejected guerrilla war and favored labor organization as the mode of class struggle, were in fact taking the line of Marx against Bakunin!

As far as Che Guevara's authoritarianism, that certainly must be denounced by any serious anarchist, but at the same time it should not be forgotten that that is not in any way unusual, and in fact it was largely in agreement with the majority of Cuban workers and peasants. To write off the oustanding theoretical and practical contributions of a real revolutionary to the real class struggle on account of his (almost remarkably ordinary) "revolutionary"-statism, would require that we discount nine tenths of the proletariat as "state capitalists."

Apropros of his belief in moral incentives, I will say two things. First, despite its statist character (stemming from his beliefs that state and the masses could be indentified with one another -- akin to the "general will" concept as applied in revolutionary France, albeit somewhat tamer), it is certainly a step or two ahead of typical Marxist state-capitalist methods (which Che vehemently denounced, including as it was applied in Cuba), not to mention Gambone's (!) "transitional phase" rhetoric in the quote posted above, which is contradictory to revolutionary anarchist-communist ideas and clearly a step away from class-struggle communism (anarchist or otherwise).

The second point may be taken as a general explanation of Marxism's limitations, often felt more so where it has pushed furthest ahead in its communist ideals. The sad fact about any sort of state-communism, is that is an extreme paradox of the kind that can destroy both ends of itself. Economically speaking, Che's ideas were extremely advanced in a communist direction,* so much that he was even accused of trying to "skip the transitional phase" (a slight overstatement, but nonetheless telling). On the other hand, his application of those ideas to the state was self-contradictory, in that he sought to put the means of production and distribution under the collective control of the state (which he mistakenly identified with the masses), thinking that to be the means toward complete socialism, and in so doing turned socialism upside down (i.e. completely seperated the masses from economic control).**

Apologies for the long post, but a shorter one would not adequately address the issue. As it is this is a highly oversimplifies argument, and a more thorough examination would undoubtedly reveal some flaws.

*Although, it must be said, in his writing he defended the distribution of land in individual plots, since that was desired by most of the peasants -- as was similarly the case in revolutionary Ukraine during the Makhnovschina.

**Even here we are talking more of principle than practice, for Che Guevara's ideas were in many cases not applied by the government. Furthermore, it should also be noted that some of his own thinking was also contradictory, in the sense that on the one hand he negated the individual, and on the other hand he recognized the fundamental role of the individual as a subjective social actor in the revolutionary process.

author by Karl Blythepublication date Sun May 25, 2008 12:56author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Now that I've read the pamhplet, I thought I'd follow up my last comment with a couple short remarks.

First of all, it is very poorly written and not very scholarly. It flies back and forth from one point to another, not giving a good sense of Che's ideological evolution. Also, more importantly, it is dishonest in my opinion: it isolates only the more "hateful" and "destructive" aspects of Che's ideas, not really taking account of his more sophisticated and socially constructive ideas (which have been much more influential), such as those outlined in "Socialism and Man." As a result, it is far from a "unique and concise perspective," unless by that we mean thoughtless, sloppily written piece.

Also, a lot of the author's statement strike me as being, indeed, of a rather liberal, bourgeois character, not in any related to a class-struggle anarchist perspective. In fact, some of his criticisms of Che could easily be applied to the likes of Makhno or Durruti. And his concluding remarks about how "Che died for our sins" as some meaningful symbolization of Che into what we should never be, are simply ludicrous. Finally, I should say I entirely disagree with his interpretation that (paraphrasing, since I'm too lazy to get the exact quote), stripped of his heroic qualities, Che was an "ordinary man." By that logic, there is no such thing as an extrordinary man. The appeal of Che stems precicely from his being an extraordinary man -- whether or not we agree with or even condemn his beliefs.

On the other hand, I will say I am quite interested to read in more detail about Peronist roots and to what degree he kept to those roots. Also, the author makes a good point in highlighting the government's attack on the anarcho-syndicalists and the take-over of the unions. At the same time, he says nothing of the very important constructive programs of the Cuban government at that time, and thus does not provide any sort of complex analysis. In short, this pamhplet is of little value given that it would only discredit anarchist scholarship in many people's eyes while misleading others who gullibly believe every impression put forward in anythign they read.

Sorry to be so negative, and it is sincerely not out of a defensiveness towards Che (I agree entirely with the author in denouncing his ultra-statist ideology). But I see a poorly written pamphlet such as this as a waste of writing, and I think anyone who starts off a project claiming to shatter historical myths had better do so thoroughly, intelligently, and most of all, honestly -- none of which seem evident to me in this author's writing.

author by Oroborospublication date Mon May 26, 2008 13:07author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I personally dont judge Che as harshly as I would judge Stalin. He certainly wasnt an Anarchist or even a council communist. He was an authoritarian and Castro displays many of the negative traits of other authoritarians and fascists.

The reason I dont judge Che as* harshly is because my subjective feeling is that he actually cared about the common people, while the subjective feeling I get from Stalin and Mao are of people who are entirely consumed by the lust of power and are not moved by the same passion.

Subjective feeling aside, Che was a brutal authoritarian and an opponent if not an enemy of Anarchism. We should not candy coat this fact just because of his cult hero status.

My feelings towards Fidel are significantly less positive than my feelings towards Che who I view as a mixed bag at best.

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