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Features - Che Guevara
simon skinner

In these times of "me, me, me!" culture perhaps the age old problem of incorporating the political with the personal isn't high in our agendas of concern. Do we still have agendas of concern or are they like Children In Need tacked on to entertainment schedules; voyeuristic rather than pragmatic desires? Only an ex-lawyer like Clive Anderson would fail to see the irony of using his celebrity to endorse a charity credit card! Have your generosity debited each month! And surely this mad need to increase the total on Children In Need each year points out how the distribution of wealth is getting worse? Do you give more by increasing the amount or isn't that just a way of segmenting the various comedians / celebrities and furnishing them with a false climax to their evening? And if by institutionalising this programme, making it like Xmas doesn't that suggest there will always be children in need and shouldn't we look at political ways to correct this anomaly? To quote the Zen saying,

"practice charity without thinking of the word."

Or to quote Marx in his The Communist Manifesto,

"charity is performed by a small section of the bourgeoisie desirous of redressing social grievances in order to continue the existence of the bourgeoisie."

Che Guevara would have approved. (finally! Ed)

Fun Lovin' Criminals / Rage Against The Machine… Uh yeah, guys…

How much money / how close to fame can I get? If it's celebrity / a record deal you're after think about how many T-shirts you need to sell to top Che. With the current craze for all things Cuba (see Buena Vista Social Club - and I mean go see it) perhaps some of the principles Che Guevara helped apply in the Cuban Revolution can be used to give us global capitalists a sense of something other than material concerns. (How much stuff have I got? How pretty / good looking is my wife / husband?) The most profound revelation of Buena Vista Social Club was not the music, but the look at Cuba it offered us. The spirit of the people, most of whom lived in relative "poverty", shone out from the screen and the open door policy they practised, with people sitting outside their houses and chatting to anyone walking by, puts the so-called communities we inhabit to shame. I live in the East End and for all its famous bonhomie, it's still - shut the door as quick as you can and wait to get another lift rather than share it with your neighbour - time. As the Cuban graffiti declared with proud defiance,


And to quote Che Guevara himself,

"This revolution is bound to fail if it doesn't succeed in reaching deep inside them, stirring them right down to the bone and giving them back their stature as human beings. Otherwise, what's the use?"

How many of us yearn for a refresher course which isn't trapped in the houses of God but actually spreads from us, out - enervating us all. In Hanuf Kureichi's latest collection of short stories he describes many of his friends seemingly "having it all" and yet appearing so "joyless."

Why is that?

Where are the revolutionaries now? The free thinkers? How many talk shop but do nothing? How many of New Labour's promises were kept? Is our Health System as National as Cuba's? Why do we now have to pay for dentistry, chiropody? What time did you leave work last night? Where are the Unions, why has this - no-one leaves until the boss leaves - plague become so prevalent? Are we all such cowards? Why has unemployment benefit not risen with inflation? The price of food certainly has…

How do we see Che Guevara now?

Terrorist or freedom fighter? Mug or international visionary? Socialist or egotist? Genial general or grumpy ghost? Why write like this? Why not? Why not go to Cuba? The package holidays are cheap and the Riviera's sublime; the hotels have an ancient grandeur and and

Go see for yourself…

How many beggars do you see, how many homeless, how much was that meal / beer? You mean I've still got change in my pocket? I haven't got to go to the cash machine again!!

I see Cuba on the horizon, my Buena Vista. Kissed her. I want it all to be like Cuba. My heightened, idealised outpost of all that this isn't London. With its faults and all. Which are not the faults that are crushing us but the fact that it's no-one's fault (or all of our fault.) Nothing matters. And that's the worst of it. Ah Cuba! Che Guevara. The revolution is eternal. Buena Vista, my friends, Buena Vista. I never had a sister. Kissed her.

There's only so much of this you can keep up. Good for the soul. I grow old, I grow old, I smoke my cigarettes rolled. Vignettes for a commercial age. She's an artist because she sells. Is successful, is famous. How many times have I heard this absurdity uttered? The black kids who play football below my window have more art in them. We've fallen behind. Get in line. They're handing out freedom at the post office. It's rubber stamping. Obviosity. The triumph of the moron. Tyranny of the obvious. It's gone platinum. Double platinum. It's gone through the roof. So has my TV set. Trust in your instinct.

Getting back to Che (Thank God! - Ed) maybe Cuba wouldn't be in the economic state it's in if Castro had followed Che's industrialisation plan. Fearing competition from the man, Che packed his bags and went to help out in Bolivia. Live the life. He was out there, laying down some military expertise for the insurrection. US trained Bolivian Rangers easily discovered the rebel group's hideout and Che was shot.

Che practised what he preached. He wouldn't allow his wife to use the car they'd been given by Castro as it was only meant for Government purposes. Che worked all week and on Sunday went and helped out "worker groups" in the communal fields. Back breaking work but he kept in touch with those who'd given him power. Bit different from John Major standing on his soapbox? Tony Blair walking with his shirt sleeves rolled up in Prîstina. Why's that Tony? Had a tough meeting?

To liberate yourself you must act or "If I don't like my life I can change it." Have you done anything today to change yours? It was but forty years ago when

Castro took over Havana 1959

And but thirty when

Ernesto 'Che' Guevara died 1967


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