This reexamination of Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s thoughts on socialism, democracy, and revolution is a must-read for today’s activists—or anyone longing to fight for a better world.
Fifty years after his death, Guevara remains a symbol to legions of young rebels and revolutionaries. This unique book provides a way to critically engage with Guevara’s economic views, his ideas about revolutionary agency, and his conduct as guerrilla commander and government administrator in Cuba.
Samuel Farber was born and raised in Cuba. He has written extensively on Cuba and the Cuban Revolution and is author of Cuba Since the Revolution of 1959.
“In his previous books, the respected Marxist scholar Sam Farber has explored the paradoxes of the Cuban revolutionary experience with acute insight. Now, using sources unavailable to previous biographers, he scrupulously reconstructs the political thought of the twentieth century’s foremost revolutionary icon, illuminating the contradictions between Che’s radical egalitarianism and his austere elitism. Although he will always be revered for his heroic internationalism, Che’s ideas diverged sharply from classical Marxist conceptions of self-emancipation and workers’ democracy. Therein, as Farber shows so brilliantly, is the real tragedy of Third World revolution.”
—Mike Davis, Professor Emeritus, University of California, Riverside, and author of Planet of Slums
“Across the world, Che Guevara is either branded a demon or idealized as a saint. Sam Farber chooses neither route, offering a complex and serious analysis of Guevara—a passionate and honest radical who could unfortunately never embrace socialism in its most democratic essence.”
—Bhaskar Sunkara, editor of Jacobin
“In this erudite, clear-headed, and unsparing account of the life and thought of one of the twentieth century’s iconic revolutionary and anti-imperialist figures, Samuel Farber writes from the left, as someone genuinely sympathetic to the stated goals of the Cuban revolution. He shows that Che Guevara’s concept of socialism included an inordinate sympathy for the single-party state of the Russian model, and that this led him to an elitist dismissal of independent trade unions and of worker’s democracy. In counterposing Guevara’s social vision to that of Karl Marx and of later anti-Stalinist leftists, Farber evokes unrealized emancipatory possibilities for Cuba in the 1960s, possibilities that have again become real for us today, in the era of Occupy and the Arab revolutions.”
—Kevin B. Anderson, author of Marx at the Margins
“With characteristic precision, and methodical attention to detail, Samuel Farber interrogates the writings and politics of perhaps the most widely recognized revolutionary figure of the twentieth century — Che Guevara. Farber’s biting, but measured, critique of Che’s ideas and practice, deserves to be read widely and debated at length. The unity of socialism, democracy, and revolution to which this book hopes to contribute in theory, has never been more urgently required in praxis.”
—Jeffery R. Webber, author of Red October: Left-Indigenous Struggles in Modern Bolivia
“This book by Samuel Farber, a scrupulous historian and committed socialist, is indispensable and should be a part of the library of every young person who, impelled like Che, by a rebellious mind and a sense of justice, searches for an alternative to the inhuman, unjust, and predatory system that its high priests want to present as natural.”
—Guillermo Almeyra, Argentinian columnist for the Mexican journal La Jornada