Che Guevara was born as Ernesto Guevara de la Serna in 1928 to a middle-class family (Castaneda 1998, 3). He was Argentinean by birth but was later awarded with an honorary Cuban citizenship in recognition of his contribution towards the armed struggle in the Cuban revolution. Studying to become a doctor, Guevara became influenced by Marxist ideals and teachings upon a motorbike trip across South America at the age of twenty-four where he observed the exploitation and deprivation of the poor people under capitalism (Castaneda 1998, 50). He became a champion of the class struggle against capitalism on an international level. He joined Fidel Castro in 1955 in overthrowing the Cuban government of Batista. Subsequently, he became an important figure in Cuban diplomacy and a vocal critic of the United States and the Soviet Union. Later on he helped revolutionary groups in Congo and Bolivia until he was captured and executed by the Bolivian Army and the CIA in 1967 (Castaneda 1998, 326).
What Individuals Thought of Che Guevara
Che Guevara was a controversial figure even within the communist world. People who were his friends and those who were opposed to him held differing opinions on him and had varying interpretations and explanations of his motives for participating in the revolutions against capitalism and imperialism all over the world.
The Views of Fidel Castro
Che Guevara had met Fidel Castro in 1955 after having made a trip to Mexico. Alongside Castro, Guevara participated in the guerrilla wars and proved himself to be an effective and charismatic leader. As a result, the movement known as the 26th July Movement was successful and the forces of Castro were successful in throwing up the government of Batista (Castaneda 1998, 80). Under the guidance of Castro, Guevara continued to perform as an effective administrator of the movement. He was awarded with an honorary citizenship of Cuba. He was made the president of the National Bank of Cuba and later he was made the minister if industry for Cuba (Castaneda 1998, 170). Both of these positions were required a high level of responsibility and competence. However, Guevara did not achieve much success in both these positions.
Despite the moderating influence and leadership of Castro, Guevara's enthusiasm and boundless passion prevented him from making serious policies or the improvement of the country. As a result, within a few years, he began having disagreements with other leaders of the movement and later on he left the country to pursue his ambitions in other countries where movements against capitalism and imperialism were gaining momentum.
Castro always expressed a fraternal affection for Guevara despite there being wide differences in their approach. Castro wanted to align the country towards the Soviet Union in order to stand its own against the United States. On the other hand, Guevara did not view the Soviets as true loyalists to the cause of communism and had an inclination towards China (Havelin 2007, 73). Having seen closely that Guevara was driven by passion more than anything else, Castro viewed his participation in revolutions in countries like the Congo and Bolivia as an outlet for releasing his energies and a fascination with the use of aggression and confrontation against the exploitation of the poor of the world by capitalists and imperialists.
The Views of African Leaders
After his brief stint in running the administrative affairs of Cuba, Guevara felt restless and dissatisfied with the shape of things as were taking place in the communist world. He was often against the tilt of his government towards the Soviet Union favored by his benefactor Fidel Castro. He was also disillusioned with the philosophy of peaceful coexistence with the United States that the Soviet Union had adopted. Guevara was more of a confrontationist than anything else and was a champion of armed struggle and warfare as part of a revolution. Therefore, after being disillusioned by the state of things in the Northern Hemisphere, he moved to the Southern Hemisphere to give shape to the ideal of communism as embodied in his interpretation of the works of Stalin.
In 1965, just six years after the Cuban revolution had been successful Guevara arrived in the Congo to assist the local revolutionaries against the Belgian imperialists who were ruling the country then. The president of Algeria, Ahmed Ben Bella, who was a good friend of Guevara's viewed this move of Guevara's which was ultimately to be a big failure, as indicative of an idealistic attitude that was devoid of pragmatism. Bella has been reported to have remarked that the reason for Guevara's decision to help the revolutionaries in the Congo was to defeat capitalism in Africa because he probably though that Africa was where capitalism had weaker roots and would be easier to defeat than elsewhere such as Latin America, where Guevara had himself seen the exploitation of the indigenous populations and the poor at the hand of white settlers and the corporate interests of the United States. He had underestimated the power of the capitalists and imperialists in the Congo and had overestimated the discipline and passion of the Congolese rebels who had faced a crushing defeat just a few years ago (Harris 2010, 140).
The Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, another close friend of Guevara's and one of the most notable leaders from Africa also expressed a pessimistic view of Guevara's adventures in the Congo. He was also quick to apprehend the passion for confrontation and idealism over pragmatism that had become a defining trait of Guevara. Having met Guevara on one of his earlier visits to Egypt, Nasser was well aware of the romantic ideals that Guevara nurtured with regard to communism and the armed struggle for the assertion of the proletariat over the exploiting class (Harris 2010, 140).
Also, being a visionary world leader himself, Nasser was well aware of the dynamics and social forces in the Congo than Guevara was. He felt that Guevara was mistaken in his belief that he could transplant the experience of the struggle in Cuba in the geographically, politically and culturally different landscape of the Congo. He felt that Guevara was being driven more by persona ideals and ambition rather than a clear understanding of the dynamics and momentum of the power struggle among the classes in the Congo. Nasser felt that Guevara was trying too hard to become a hero and this desire would lead him to failure in his revolutionary attempts and ultimately to his doom. Unfortunately, his views proved to be right when Guevara was arrested and executed for trying to organize an armed struggle against the government in Bolivia just two years later (Harris 2010, 143).
It can therefore be said that Castro and other world leaders did not have a very favorable view of Guevara's participation in attempted revolutions around the world. They felt that Guevara was motivated more by personal ambition and passion rather than a rational commitment to a global movement.
What Countries Thought of Che Guevara
During his term as minister of industry for the newly established Cuban government, Guevara was also sent abroad on diplomatic missions. As a key participant and leader in the armed struggle, it was though that Guevara would be the right person to build diplomatic ties with other communist and non-communist states around the world and to strengthen the communist bloc. During that period, Guevara made several visits to important countries of the time including China and the Soviet Union that were both communist nations inspired by the ideas of Marx but had modified those ideals to suit their local conditions.
The Views of China
Disillusioned with the way communism was being practiced in the Soviet Union, Guevara warmed up towards China in an attempt to strengthen relations with the emerging power and to validate the shape communism was taking place in China. He visited China in 1961 where he met with the leader of the Chinese revolution, Mao Zedong, and developed a warm friendship with him (Anderson 2010, 147). This became a concern for Castro and the regime in Cuba that was trying to stabilize itself by entering into economic cooperation arrangements with the Soviet Union, which was the leader of the communist block at the time (Anderson 2010, 150). Guevara's stint at the National Bank had not done much to help the Cuban economy to recover and there was a need to get external help for it to stand on its own two feet.
China itself was in a period of isolation with the West, in particular with the United States. Guevara was also anti-American and this concordance of ideas brought China and Guevara closer. At home, Guevara advocated policies to align the economy of the country with China and to wean it away from the Soviet Union, which according to him had corrupted the ideals of Marxist communism. This caused problems at home for Castro and his government which had already entered into assistance programs for providing…