Date: Thu, 27 Nov 97 09:31:28 CST
From: David Silver <email@example.com>
Subject: Critique of Che New York Times article
Critique of Che New York Times article
Letter to the Editor of the New York Times by David Silver, 27 November 1997
November 27, 1997
Editor, The New York Times
Richard Bernstein (Critics Notebook; Looking Back With Cooled Passions at Che's Image 11/26) makes unsupported allegations that flies in the face of documented sources. Bernstein says that "Mr Castro and his Soviet supporters were at least indirectly responsible for Che Guevara's death" and that he (Castro) was "eager for him to go off to the Bolivian jungle..."
In a letter from Che to Fidel, 2 years before his assaination and read at a public ceremony presenting the Central committee of the newly created Communist Party of Cuba, Che says that "Other nations of the world call for my modest efforts. I can do that which is denied you because of your responsibilities at the head of Cuba, and the time has come for us to part." This statement is hardly consonant with a Fidel Castro "eager" to send Che away to other shores.
Bernstein claims that when confronted with a superior Bolivian army "Castro made no effort to rescue him." If one looks at the historical context of the Bay of Pigs invasion followed shortly thereafter by the "Missile Crisis", and beginning to feel the negative effects of the U.S. blockade, Havana was in no position to offer the kind of military assistance suggested by Bernstein without running the risk of open military confrontaion with Washington. However your readers should be aware of the fact that the Cuban leaders took the question of internationalist solidarity very seriously. Che's biographer Jon Lee Anderson indicates that a "Liberation Department" was set up within months of the triumph of the Revolution which was directed by Manuel Pi ero Losada, a close aide to Raul Castro. Its purpose was to "organize, train and assist foreign guerrilla ventures."
Tad Szulc's biography Fidel, A Critical Portrait largely based on a year long series of interviews with Fidel and other leaders points out that Fidel had serious misgivings about Che's venture into Bolivia "given the fact that he would be fighting in terrible mountain and jungle territory where he did not speak the local Indian languages." Szulc notes that Fidel went along with the idea to the extent of "assigning Rebel Army fighters, to Che's guerrilla detachment, equiping and finacing the expedition, and maintaining regular radio contact until the end."
Finally Bernstein observes that Che's former supporters in the New Left "have their own embarrassments" and that Che "comes across as a kind of embodiment of the illusions of youth." It wasn't the pasionate and principled idealism which Che contributed to the victory and consolidation of the Cuban Revolution that created illusions. It was rather a "greed is good" individualism and a culture that sends a message for them to conform in order to take advantage of the consumerist society that has alienated many former New Left youth and have abandoned the notion of improving the human condition and traded it in for pragmatism.