The Diary of Che Guevara
Bolivia a la hora del Che
The Great Rebel: Che Guevara in Bolivia
The Complete Bolivian Diaries of Ché Guevara and Other Captured Documents
Nãcahuasu, La Guerrilla del Che en Bolivia
Bolivia bajo el Che
The Death of a Revolutionary: Che Guevara's Last Mission
The campaign “El Che” Guevara commanded in Bolivia in 1966-67 was a heroic project. It was only in part Fidelista, to reverse the long series of guerrillero defeats in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Argentina, and thereby reassert the validity of Fidelista strategy in Latin America (and Fidel’s independence from the Soviet Union). It was in its ambition characteristically Guevarista, conceived not from a Latin American’s concern for his own continent but, after the massive US intervention in Indochina, from a Latin American’s concern to share the fate of the “victim of aggression” on all continents, to accompany the most tormented “to his death or to victory.” The aim, as Guevara expressed it to the Tricontinental Conference, was “to create a second or a third Vietnam…”
The stakes were immense, as much larger than another Fidelista revolution as the provocation of US intervention in Latin America was beyond regular Fidelista strategy. To fight guerrillas in Latin America as well as in Indochina, the United States would have to institute a dictatorship at home, which would eventually collapse, and to disperse its armed forces abroad, which would eventually disintegrate. With the center of international capitalism in ruins, “new men” of comradely spirit could then build socialism in peace. The risks were also immense, culminating in the chance that the United States, in desperation, would resort to nuclear weapons. But they were the risks that Guevara welcomed as the moments of truth, and that he could move his comrades to accept.
If we—those of us who on a small part of the world map fulfill our duty and place at the disposal of this struggle whatever little we are able to give, our lives, our sacrifice—must someday breathe our last breath in any land not our own yet already ours, sprinkled with our blood, let it be known that we have measured the scope of our actions….
Bolivia was Guevara’s best prospect in Latin America. In comparison with other countries it did not present the disadvantage of Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, and Argentina, where Fidelistas had already suffered defeats; or that of Ecuador and Paraguay, too vulnerable to repression; or that of Chile, too stable; or that of Uruguay, too urban; or that of Brazil, the prize, but no place for Spanish-speaking guerrilleros to operate.
On its own terms Bolivia was in poor political condition, ripe for subversion. After a popular revolution in 1952 Bolivians had gone through major reforms, which many of them came to cherish as their dearest rights—universal suffrage, nationalization of mines (the country’s main industry), dissolution of large estates and distribution of land to peasants, militia of organized workers and peasants, national confederations of industrial and rural unions (under Trotskyist and Communist direction), participation of workers in the management of mines. Altogether this had been Bolivia’s “National Revolution.” But in the early 1960s the party that had enacted the reforms, the Movimiento Nacional Revolucionario (MNR), had broken into factions, and in 1964 had fallen from office…
This article is available to online subscribers only.
Please choose from one of the options below to access this article:
Purchase a print premium subscription (20 issues per year) and also receive online access to all all content on nybooks.com.
Purchase an Online Edition subscription and receive full access to all articles published by the Review since 1963.
Purchase a trial Online Edition subscription and receive unlimited access for one week to all the content on nybooks.com.