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

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He also wanted the guerrillas to control a shoe factory, a clothing factory and shopping outlet and a sporting-goods store.

Such ideas were hardly original. During his Sierra Maestra days, Che carried in his knapsack the Spanish edition of an obscure two-volume Soviet manual called The Clandestine Regional Committee in Action. Written by Aleksei Fyodorov, a World War II Russian guerrilla leader, the book spells out methods for establishing sources of supply as well as discussing such everyday guerrilla problems as how to handle a hard-drinking subordinate, how to check out a supply runner suspected of double-dealing, and how to use propaganda. "You see?" Che would say of Fyodorov's ideas. "It's all come true!"

Apparently Che copied passages from Fyodorov's book as a source of comfort and instruction.

General Decline. As some of Che's other notebooks poignantly show, he needed all the comfort he could get in Bolivia. Che's band, which never numbered more than 51, included 17 Cubans, who held nearly all the command positions. The Cubans were unable to speak the Quechua language of the Indians, who, Che noted, are "as impenetrable as rocks."

In a brown leather notebook, Che kept track of the conduct and efficiency of his chief lieutenants. At first the notations were sprinkled with encouraging evaluations. "Very good," wrote Che of one of his troop leaders, the former director of the Cuban special warfare center whose code name was Joaquín. But three months later, Che noted that Joaquin was "decaying physically and morally," and with his physician's eye, he diagnosed lymphangitis (inflammation of the lymph vessels). Of Tuma, a Caban who was Guevara's executive officer, Che noted that after six months in Bolivia, he suffered "an almost general decline, but he has overcome it." Seven weeks later, however, Tuma was fatally wounded in an ambush, and Che penned a red cross by his name. He wrote: "It is a considerable loss for the guerrilla force, but most of all for me in that I lose the most loyal of my companions."

The hardships and sense of isolation demoralized Che's men. The Bolivian army, which proved to be much better than Che imagined, relentlessly pursued the guerrillas, forcing them to abandon most of their supplies, including Che's asthma medicine. Wandering aimlessly within an ever-tightening perimeter, the guerrillas fell to quarreling and fighting one another. During this time, Che wrote a poem called "A Memory," which Bolivian authorities allowed St. George to copy from one of his notebooks:

Now that we are few, we move almost

like brothers, and like brothers, we

quarrel, sulk and groan.

The struggle is a painful path of

curses But victory a white road glittering

with politeness, with white smiles

on empty white faces with flattery

oiled by endless white lies.

Why, then, in the glittering midst of

triumph, Do we remember these sweaty sullen

faces So painfully—why does their

memory shine sweeter than all

those white smiles?

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