the Disillusioned kid: Guerilla Warfare
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Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Guerilla Warfare

I've just finished reading Che Guevara's Guerilla Warfare (Souvenir Press, London, 2004). The book was intended both as an account of the Cuban war against the Batista dictatorship and as a manual for other guerilla movements in Latin America. While its success with regard to the latter is questionable it remains a fascinating insight into the ideas, values and commitment of a man who has become the icon of resistance.

Che argues that the "Cuban revolution contributed three fundamental lessons to the conduct of revolutionary movements in America":
(1)Popular forces can win a war against the army.
(2) It is not necessary to wait until all conditions for making revolution exist; the insurrection can create them.
(3) In underdeveloped America the countryside is the basic area for armed fighting. (p. 7)
On this basis he believes that his book can serve as a guide to other revolutionaries. He imparts his experiences of guerilla warfare and the lessons that he and his comrades learnt during the 1956-9 war.

Fascinating as it is, there are serious questions as to how useful the book is as a guide to action, quite beyond debates about the merits and morality of political violence. The book discusses urban fighting only briefly, because he believed it could only be of limited effectiveness. The reason for this is that "the suburban guerilla must be considered as situated in exceptionally unfavorable ground, where the vigilance of the enemy will be much greater and the possibility of reprisals as well as of betrayal are increased enormously" (p. 36). Instead he focuses, as did the Cuban struggle until its last days, on efforts in the jungle and mountains. As such it is of limited use to those in the developed west, and more specifically the UK, who seek to transcend the status quo.

Additionally there are questions about its value as a guide given Che's escapades subsequent to the writing of the book. These saw him travel to the Congo and later to Bolivia to try and help burdgeoning revolutionary movements. Both of these missions ended without success, the latter ultimately claiming Che's life.

The real value of the book lies in its presentation of the ideas which drove Che and his fellow revolutionaries. The idealism, the faith in a better world, the anger against US imperialism and the determination. Che's image has become an icon borne by those seeking a better world, providing inspiration. His writings provide similar encouragement and remind us that the struggle for justice and human dignity does not and will not die.

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