C.L.R. James 1967

Che Guevara

Source: Speak Out, November, 1967.
Transcribed: by Christian Hogsbjerg, with thanks to Ian Birchall.

Remarks delivered at a memorial meeting in London - Editor.

Mr. Chairman, Comrades and Friends,

What we all must feel about the death of Che Guevara I would not attempt to express. Rather, I prefer to try to make clear some conclusions about him which I had developed during his life, and which, now that he is dead, assume an even greater importance in my political conceptions.

Guevara was born in the Argentine, arrived at political maturity in Cuba, and died fighting in Bolivia. I make bold to say that there is not a country, underdeveloped or advanced, whore Guevara would not have responded instantly to the call that he was requested. I could go further and say that there is no country in the world, underdeveloped or advanced, where his appearance would not have been welcomed by the great mass of the population. In the old days we used to speak frequently of the World Revolution: I have even written a book by that name. It has taken a man of the Third World to present us with a living embodiment of that idea. This is to be noted and treasured and imitated not only by people of the Third World and the formerly colonial countries. When, in Europe, for example, revolutionaries will look upon a front line, whether in France, Britain, Italy or Greece as their own, wherever circumstances and policy might need them, we would have arrived at the stage reached and embodied by this advanced citizen of the modern world.

Secondly. Another point in which Guevara left us all an example to be followed, a model to which we must aspire, and an ideal which we hope the great mass of the people will so embrace as to make it an inescapable constituent of their loaders. This is what I refer to: Guevara, not by vote, but by risking his life, achieved power in one country. But he left the seats of power to go back, to go and fight among the ranks in another country. Power was for him not an end, but a means to an end, and that end was the emancipation of all humanity from the heavy burdens which threaten to crush us down to nothingness. This attitude to power is badly needed by those who achieve power in the underdeveloped countries, and I think I can say such an attitude to power is even more required in the most advanced countries of the world, whore power can be won not by the rifle but by the ballot box and the by no means dangerous processes of parliamentary democracy.

Finally, the third heritage which Guevara leaves with us, and particularly with those of us who live and work in the advanced countries. We have known in the past, the traditional form of class struggle, the Trade union, the Labour Party, the revolutionary party of the Third International. Within this century, in Ireland, in Kenya and in other territories we have had, as always in the past, notable examples of guerrilla warfare as a means of revolutionary struggle. But I don’t think it can be questioned that with the advent on the political scene of the strategy and tactics and victory of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, guerrilla warfare has now been lifted to a status in the political struggle that it did not formerly enjoy: it is part of the Negro perspective in the very advanced United States. Let us bear in mind that if the masters of the world continue to prepare their weapons of destruction and destroy the material elements of the civilization we have reached, we may quite possibly find ourselves, even in the most advanced countries, in a situation where the only method of struggle open to us will be the method of guerrilla warfare. It is at that time that the name of Che Guevara will occupy a foremost status in our political plans, due to the supercession, in fact the impossibility of our depending upon the traditional means of struggle in the wreck of civilisation in which those of us who remain shall be compelled to work.

Finally, the best way in which to commemorate the death of Guevara is to devote all our thoughts, all our energies to seeing to it that the life and politics of Guevara will continue in the person and politics of Fidel Castro.