Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Revolutionary Warfare 101: Che, Benicio and Libya



At the funeral for Ernesto Che Guevara in 1967 Fidel Castro read the eulogy, describing Che as an "Artist of Revolutionary Warfare," a title well earned by the Commandante, who had risen to become the most important figure in the Cuban revolution, arguably above even Castro himself. Part of it is that the charismatic physician from Argentina had become a legend even before the revolution had seized control of the country. His style of what we now call community organizing, one village at a time was the second phase of the revolutionary code. The other phase was guerilla warfare.


The life of Che, using his career as a revolutionary for the backdrop, was brought to the big screen in the Steven Sordoberg directed film Che, starring Benicio Del Toro as Che Guevara. First of all this is not a movie review. This is a catalyst to discuss and describe the components necessary to implement a successful revolution when the establishment has failed the people. In light of the recent events occurring throughout the Middle East the success of the Cuban revolution and the legacy of Che Guevara suddenly seem quite relevant all over again. Beyond the movie, which by the way was fantastic and beyond the great performance by Del Toro, and even beyond the cool Che t-shirts that Jay had everyone sporting, Che was a complex man who's belief in the freedom of all men was manifested in his unflinching decision to sacrifice his own life, so that freedom for all people could be possible. His compassion, and genuine love for the people turned out to be his greatest weapon. His last words "You are killing a man" was both an oracle and a reinforcement of what we know to be true. You can kill the revolutionary, but you cannot kill the revolution.

So you are discontent are you? Anti-establishment blues got you ready to kamikaze? Fret not comrade because you are about to learn some key revolutionary principles to ensure that your revolution is successful well beyond the transfer of power.

It's not a Coupe it is a revolution.

The primary difference between a revolution and a coup is that a SUCESSFUL revolution is almost always an armed struggle. A coupe can and has often times been implemented through the threat of violence or perhaps an internal transfer of power as the result of a switch in military loyalty. Either method will usually stem from a radical political ideology. Not necessarily radical in truth, but usually radical for the era or in the location of the uprising.

A revolution isn't a revolution if the people are not prepared. This basic principle is what distinguishes a Revolution from a Coup. The Cuban revolution could not have been successful without the help of the peasants, whose everyday hardships were the most visibly affected by the Batista Dictatorship, under the guises of Western Imperialism. In many cases the guerrilla movement while traveling through villages during the war, would set up schools, provide medical treatment and teach them about their role in society and the reason for the need to have an armed struggle revolution. In many cases adult peasants were taught to read and write and educated in the ideology that the Guerrilla Army had embraced, which in the case of the Cuban Revolution was Communism.

It must be understood and remembered at all times that a revolution is for the people. If you do not have a strong love and desire for the people than you will not be able to endure the physical and emotional hardships that come with an armed struggle revolution. Che’s genuine love for oppressed people around the world and to see them free is what drove the success of the Cuban Revolution and has kept his name alive all of these years, particularly in a time of tremendous social upheaval and at least one recent successful revolution.

Guerilla Tactics
The word guerrilla is a Spanish term meaning “little war” and refers to the use of hit and run style attacks, usually by rebel forces against traditional, less mobile military. Guerilla tactics are usually implemented by small bands of peasants or what they may refer to as “irregulars,” who plan strikes, raids and ambushes essentially using the element of surprise as their greatest weapon. Most recently the people of Libya have proven to be soldiers of Guerilla Warfare. Unfortunately they have encountered tremendous roadblocks stemming from the lack of organization and training. Although they are also experiencing a lack of adequate nutrition by surviving on junk food and there aren’t enough weapons to go around, these are also factors that the 26th of July Movement in Cuba had to face during there fight against Batista’s army, the difference was that the Cubans were very well trained. This could make all the difference in the success of their uprising, especially against Gaddafi's brutality.

The one thing never to be mistaken is that in a Revolution, particularly an armed struggle revolution, people will inevitably perish. However in a revolution villagers should not be harmed or robbed, surrendering enemies are spared, but captured and injured comrades are never left behind.

The revolution has only begun with the transfer of power.
After you have managed to raise the consciousness of the people and implemented a successful insurgency you are now ready to take control of the country. Hopefully you have the support of the masses. Now the real work begins. The Revolution must now move into the phase where the country rebuilds, initiating the plan that was developed as an alternative to the fallen regime. In Cuba, under the reign of Fidel Castro, all citizens are provided free equal medical care, education and higher education as well. A higher standard of living implemented as a result of the success of the revolution. Under the leadership of Batista, Cuba was an American Colony, thriving on the surface, in typical Capitalist fashion, but exploiting and denying basic necessities to the majority of the Cuban people.

Che Guevara, after helping to successfully defeat Batista’s army, decided that it was time to spread this revolution into other parts of the world. He therefore, resigned from his post in the newly formed Cuban Government and traveled to the Congo, where he attempted to organize rebels to implement another Guerilla style war against the current establishment. Unfortunately this mission was unsuccessful. Che described the Congolese has a “poor excuse for soldiers” and ended up being forced to abandon the mission.

In the movie there is a scene where where Castro and Che meet briefly after Che had left the Congo. In the scene Castro tries to convince Che to hold off on starting another war until the smoke cleared in Cuba and the government is able to settle in. Che replies that a failure to act now, would result in having to wait another 50 years. Che and Castro never see each other again, Che organizes in Bolivia along with a few other Cuban soldiers and is capture and killed months later by a CIA backed Bolivian army. The lesson in this is to always obey the command of your higher ups, even after the war is over.

Sometimes revolution is necessary and sometimes revolution is a means to exploit a bad situation in order to create an even worse situation. Either way, once the people decide to unite, as is the case in Libya, the government has no choice but to stop and listen to their legitimate concerns. Once those concerns are heard, if they are not honored than the people have a right to remove that leader from office, weather peacefully or violently. 

Is an armed struggle revolution, as is the case in Libya the most affective means of removing an unworthy regime?


What are some historic movements whether peaceful or violent that were able to successfully remove a government?


Additional Reading

Guerilla Warfare: Che Guervara
On Guerilla Warfare: Mao Tse Tung
The 48 Laws of Power: Robert Greene
The Art of War: Sun Zhu
Seize the Time: Bobby Seale


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