Bedside Reading #2 Che Guevara: Guerilla Warfare

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I don’t know where I bought this. Or, indeed, why I bought it.

I remember having a badge of Che Guevara as an eleven year old in the early seventies: the romantic image of the revolutionary hero. Then I grew up.

This book is a bit like that. As a historical document it’s quite interesting, giving an insight into guerilla warfare techniques c.1961. (It even has diagrams about how to fire a molotov cocktail from a rifle). But in its own way it’s just as hopelessly romantic as those badges and T-shirts were about the man himself. It’s a sanitised, idealised account. In Guevara’s eyes, the guerilla is an heroic, noble figure, an inspiration to the peasant. ‘The guerilla fighter, as the conscious element of the vanguard of the people, must display the moral conduct of a true priest of desired reform,’ he writes. ‘The guerilla soldier should be an ascetic.’ The use of anyone less than 16 is rejected ‘except in very special circumstances’.

Having recently come back from Colombia, where guerilla soldiers recruit children as young as eleven, where, far from inspiring the populace, they rule through fear and intimidation, and where the ‘revolutionary struggle’ is inherently linked to the drugs trade, this ‘noble’ picture made me feel a bit sick. Maybe Guevara lived and died in a more heroic age.

But somehow I doubt it.

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