World: Che: A Myth Embalmed in a Matrix of Ignorance

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Autobiographical Bent. Che's Bolivian diaries have since been published, as have portions from the other notebooks. A good deal of the writing, however, has never appeared in print. Andrew St. George, a former LIFE contract reporter who accompanied Che in Cuba's Sierra Maestra, was later invited by the Bolivian government to read and copy parts of Che's papers. From St. George's material emerges a fascinating if fragmentary glimpse of Che Guevara's final days of life.

During the Bolivian campaign, Che roughed out the first draft of a short story whose hero, Pablo, shares important characteristics with the author and illustrates Che's own lifelong obsession with overcoming challenges and seeking social approval. Like Che, who grew up in a middle-class Buenos Aires family and was asthmatic, Pablo is citified, deracinated and afflicted with a physical handicap: poor sight. In the story, entitled Prueba Superada (Passing the Test), Pablo becomes almost overwhelmed by fear, anxiety and doubt after joining a guerrilla column in an unnamed Latin American country. On one terrible march, his shoes give out, his feet become badly blistered, his rifle jams and he breaks his glasses. In despair, Pablo, who is ignored by the other guerrillas, decides to desert at the first opportunity, but a veteran member of the band finally befriends him. Under the influence of the older guerrilla, Pablo stands his ground in a firefight with the guardia.

"Pablo knew now that he would never leave the column," wrote Che. "He had passed the test and become a fighter of the people."

Stalinist Influence. On a more serious plane, Che wrote in a green spiral notebook the outline for a five-part book on the evolution of political thought from the start of human society to the present.

Che noted that Marx perceived "by intuition," but never fully foresaw the great changes that happened to capitalism. "Nowadays," said Che, "the workers of the imperialistic countries are minor associates in the business." Che intended to end the book with a chapter comparing "the personalities of socialism": Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Khrushchev, Tito and Fidel.

Che is often said to reflect the theories of Mao, Ho Chi Minh and General Vo Nguyen Giap. To the extent that he sought to establish a rural, peasant base for revolution, that is true. His Bolivian papers, however, betray a pervasive Stalinist influence. Che sneered at the late Sociologist C. Wright Mills (The Marxists) for his "stupid anti-Stalinism," describing him as "a clear example of North American leftist intellectuals." He dismissed New Left Ideologue Herbert Marcuse because his concepts "are of little relevance in the national liberation struggle and nation-building as it had to be carried out under Stalin."

In another green-covered spiral notebook, Che set down his detailed plans for a supply system for the guerrillas.

He proposed that sympathizers buy supermarkets in the major Bolivian cities to insure the guerrillas a source of food and profit. Wrote Che: "A truck rolling anywhere along the desolate Bolivian roads could unload five or ten metric tons of supplies for a guerrilla column without arousing the slightest suspicion."

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