“Socialism and man in Cuba” is a tremendous little essay on how socialists should strive to achieve their ends. Che Guevara gives an insightful view on the use of culture, the younger generation’s role in the revolution and the individual’s role to the whole.
Che begins by explaining just how the Cubans succeeded in overthrowing their corrupt leadership: The masses rallied around a central figurehead that acted as the spear point of progress. Che states that it is the role of revolutionary elite—Lenin would call them the Bolsheviks—to lead the workers to freedom and to an end of oppression by the imperialist forces set against them. It has been proven time and time again that it often falls to a few select men to set events into motion. Look to American history even: The American Revolution was sparked by a few pissed off colonials and led by the agrarian elite. As tempting as it may be to desire a direct democracy right off the bat so everyone can be heard, the truth of the matter is that the system of direct democracy is too cumbersome in war-time and too open to perversion. True democracy can only come when communism has been achieved and the state has withered completely away.
That is not to say that a small cabal of revolutionaries cannot fall victim to foolishness just as easily as a mass of people can. To combat this danger, Che wanted the vanguard to be as perfect as possible. To be an inspiration for everyone around them, to help those in need, instruct those lacking in knowledge, feed the hungry, etc. Be perfect and the people will follow. I’ll let the man speak for himself:
“Fidel gave the revolution its impulse in the first years, and also its leadership. He always set its tone; but there is a good group of revolutionaries who are developing along the same road as the central leader. And there is a great mass that follows its leaders because it has faith in them.”
The vanguards of the party and the workers must be a soldier, scholar, giver, protector, etc.
Che later speaks about the role of the younger generations, those that come after the revolution. The youth that are pure from the corruption that capitalism brings.
I’ve been victim to the laziness that capitalism breeds into its young. Everyone has. The system rewards those that fall into the average—we seem to shower the intelligent and creative, but think about what they produce. Does it fall into the realm of social protest or social conformity? Sure, at times of social unrest more leftist doctrine or art can take the spotlight. However, most of the time popular art is nothing, but a celebration of the free market or the acclimation and abuse of wealth. Look at the reality television programs that demand we be successful at the expense of others or the stories we hear in school glorifying the moneyed. We are told from our birth that we have the whole world in front of us. In this we are gravely mistaken.
We must be producers or else we fall into nothing, destitute. Che states that it is only the exceptional who are allowed anything even remotely close to freedom of expression while everyone else is turned into producers left with art as a means to express our frustration at the system. This use of art also marginalizes art as an effective means to combat capitalism. It becomes vulgar, angry at a symptom instead of the cause.
I could well go on, but in this inaugural article of The Socialist Library I’ll keep the dissection of the text short. All the same, what can we learn from Che’s words?
It is this: All communists must be shining examples of goodness. We must help those that cannot help themselves, give to those without. By helping others, we help the cause of the workers. We must also constantly push against the wills of capitalism through shows of protest whether it is in artistic displays, physical presence/action or literary enlightening. I haven’t even delved into the slew of other topics el Che touches on, but I’ll leave that to you to read.
Text to take away from the essay:
“We socialists are freer because we are more fulfilled; we are more fulfilled because we are freer.
The skeleton of our complete freedom is already formed. The flesh and the clothing are lacking; we will create them.
Our freedom and its daily sustenance are paid for in blood and sacrifice. Our sacrifice is a conscious one: an installment paid on the freedom that we are building.
The road is long and, in part, unknown. We recognize our limitations. We will make the human being of the 21st century — we, ourselves. We will forge ourselves in daily action, creating a new man and woman with a new technology.
Individuals play a role in mobilizing and leading the masses insofar as they embody the highest virtues and aspirations of the people and do not wander from the path.
Clearing the way is the vanguard group, the best among the good, the party.”
As an added bonus, I can offer a link to the full text with everything I review for those so-inclined to read which should be everyone. Here’s this episode’s: [link]