Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Che’s “Heart of Darkness,”

 An interesting article on Che Guevara's involvement in the Congo in 1965. After the defeat of the guerrilla army he had assembled, Che spent six months living clandestinely at the Cuban Embassy in Dar es Salaam and at a “safe house” in Prague, before returning to Cuba. 

The Congo, he explained, was the setting for “the cruelest and most bitter liberation struggle.” Black Africans who had led anti-colonial movements were now sadly the “lords of the revolution” who enjoyed “princely holidays.” Neo-colonialism was as bad as colonialism itself. The agents of empires aimed not just for enslavement and exploitation, but also “for the negation of the individual human being.” 

In his Congo Diary he wrote that the Congolese were  “the worst example of a fighter I have encountered.”  He criticizes the entire military expedition and most of the operatives, both the Cubans, who were in the Congo with him and the ill-equipped and unprepared Congolese soldiers who joined them some of the time. In Che’s eyes, the Congolese soldiers were unfit for guerrilla warfare or combat of any kind. They didn’t know how to fire a rifle, or make ready to ambush the enemy. They ran away from battle at the first sounds of gunfire.  Also, they were superstitious, believed in magic and in spells, went to prostitutes in the towns, contracted venereal diseases, and, like “parasites,” lived off the peasants. “A war is not won with such troops,” Che decided early on. The longer he stayed in the Congo the more he was convinced of the futility of his dream. “We cannot by ourselves liberate a country that does not want to fight,” he wrote.

The reviewer, Cynthia Grenier, wrote, “The beloved revolutionary icon sounds pretty much like an old-fashioned racist when it comes to evaluating his black brothers in arms.” 

“To replace colonialism with neocolonialism, or one group of neocolonialists with another group that does not look so bad,” Che wrote, “is not a correct revolutionary strategy.”

Heart of Darkness: Che Guevara's Congo - CounterPunch.org

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