|For good four months I did not know, unless I visited MRZine website today that Monthly Review website has carried review of my book-Understanding Bhagat Singh on 12th July 2014. Thanks MR|
THE GOD MARKET:
How Globalization Is Making India More Hindu
by Meera Nanda
CAPITAL ACCUMULATION AND WOMEN'S LABOUR IN ASIAN ECONOMIES
by Peter Custers
THE IMPLOSION OF CONTEMPO-
by Samir Amin
Consequences, Resistance, and Alternatives
by Martin Hart-Landsberg
GLOBAL NATO AND THE CATASTROPHIC FAILURE IN LIBYA
by Horace Campbell
THE ECONOMIC WAR AGAINST CUBA:
A Historical and Legal Perspective on the U.S. Blockade
by Salim Lamrani
GLOBAL IMPERIALISM AND THE GREAT CRISIS:
The Uncertain Future of Capitalism
by Ernesto Screpanti
RACE IN CUBA:
Essays on the Revolution and Racial Inequality
by Esteban Morales Domínguez
How Venezuela and Cuba Are Changing the World's Conception of Health Care
by Steve Brouwer
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Hugo Chavez Talks to Marta Harnecker
by Hugo Chavez and Marta Harnecker
THE ENDLESS CRISIS:
How Monopoly-Finance Capital Produces Stagnation and Upheaval from the USA to China
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An Illustrated Workbook for Studying Marx's Capital
by Valeria Bruschi, Antonella Muzzupappa, Sabine Nuss, Anne Stecklner, and Ingo Stützle
THE ROSA LUXEMBURG READER
edited by Peter Hudis and Kevin B. Anderson
TIONS OF "REAL SOCIALISM":
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by Michael A. Lebowitz
Toward a Theory of Transition
by István Mészáros
JOSÉ CARLOS MARIÁTEGUI:
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An Intellectual Biography
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A WORLD TO BUILD:
New Paths toward Twenty-first Century Socialism
by Marta Harnecker
|Bhagat Singh: Eighty-Three Years On|
by Radha D'Souza
Chaman Lal. Understanding Bhagat Singh. Delhi: Aakar, 2013. pp. 245.Left Traditions in South Asia
Bhagat Singh is to South Asia what Che Guevara is to Latin America -- a popular iconic figure who continues to inspire generations of youth in the subcontinent in their struggles against imperialism and the trajectory of national politics after independence. In India successive generations of social justice movements have taken the name Naujawan Bharat Sabha(Youth Society of India), the organisation founded by Bhagat Singh and his comrades in 1926. The Naujawan Bharat Sabha phase in the lives of many of us left an indelible mark in the kind of choices we made in later life. During Bhagat Singh's times the British Left were familiar with the figures in the nascent Indian Left movements. Three British communists were imprisoned and tried along with Indian communists in the Meerut Conspiracy Case decided in 1933 under the anti-terrorism laws introduced by the colonial government. The trial inspired the Red Megaphone street theatre group in Manchester to stage a play titled Meerut.1 International interest in the South Asian Left faded somewhat after World War II.
In India the radical Left tradition never died down. The first action by the Indian state after independence was to send armed forces to the Telangana region in Southern India to put down the revolutionary movement there. The Telangana armed struggle liberated 3,000 villages spread over 16,000 square miles, home to a population of 3 million people, and held the region from 1946 to 1951.2 It was put down by one of the bloodiest repressions in a context when independence was still under negotiation and the constitution was being written. The trials of 10,000 Telangana insurgents kept the movement alive until the Naxalbari, Srikakulam and other revolts from 1969 onwards infused the revolutionary tradition with renewed energy. Once again India witnessed one of the bloodiest armed state repressions, and India contributed a new phrase, 'encounter killings', to the English vocabulary. In the aftermath of the repression many on the international Left wrote off the radical Left in India. With globalisation and the renewed corporate invasion of India, however, the radical Left resurged again under the Communist Party of India (Maoist). The point to note here is that in India figures like Bhagat Singh are important factors in the resilience of the radical Left. Bhagat Singh does not leave a "legacy" in that he is not a memory from the past. Bhagat Singh lives in the struggles, its songs and stories, in Telangana, Naxalbari, the Central Indian plains and elsewhere in the subcontinent. His life and the lives of his comrades provide a frame of reference for contemporary youth to make sense of the nation they inherited after independence.
The Life of Bhagat Singh
Bhagat Singh was born on 28 September 1907 in Lyallpur district (renamed Faisalabad) in the part of Punjab that fell to Pakistan after partition of the country in 1947. His father and two uncles were involved in the freedom struggle. The Jallianwalla Bagh massacre in 1919 made a deep impression on 12-year-old Bhagat Singh. British troops 'kettled' (in contemporary policing vocabulary) protestors in an enclosed area and opened fire on unarmed people, killing many. He was executed in Lahore, also now in Pakistan, on 23 March 1931 at the age of twenty three. Bhagat Singh's trial is perhaps the only known judicial proceeding conducted under a special ordinance introduced by the British government specifically for the trail of a single case (p. 53).3 In his bookUnderstanding Bhagat Singh, Chaman Lal refers to Jinnah's speech on the issue (p. 83, ch. 10). New facts surrounding his trial continue to surface to this day. On 5 May 2014 newspapers in India and Pakistan reported that Bhagat Singh was not named in the First Information Report for the murder of John Saunders in 1928.4
Saunders, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, was murdered in December 1928 in retaliation against the death of Lala Lajpat Rai, a moderate nationalist who was killed in a baton charge during nationwide protests against the visit of members of the Simon Commission. The Simon Commission was an all English-parliamentary commission appointed by the British Parliament to recommend constitutional reforms in India. Until now it was widely believed that Bhagat Singh was responsible for the murder. The recent news throws another question mark over his arrest and execution. He was arrested in connection with a different case which came to be known as the 'Assembly Bombing Case' in 1929. While the Central Legislative Assembly, set up by the British as a controlled experiment to introduce democratic institutions in India, debated the Public Safety Bill (the 'anti-terrorism laws' of that time), and the Trade Disputes Bill on industrial disputes, Bhagat Singh and his comrades threw fireworks made to create a loud noise but without explosive materials. Their reason was 'it needs an explosion to make the deaf hear' (p. 13). Their symbolic actions were inspired by the French anarchist Auguste Vaillant (p. 13).
The Central Assembly action was organised by the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA). The HSRA was formed after Gandhi called off the popular nationwide upsurge against the visit of the Simon Commission because of an incident in Chauri Chaura where a group of protestors turned violent and burnt a police station. The loss of confidence in Gandhi's leadership in the country led Bhagat Singh and his comrades to form the HSRA. Their popularity outstripped Gandhi's. Bhagat Singh did not escape arrest even when he could well have done so. Indeed Lal points out that the organising committee of the HSRA had initially opposed sending Bhagat Singh for the Central Assembly actions because of fears that he may be arrested for the murder of Saunders. Sukhdev, another martyr, taunted Bhagat Singh for backing out of the action and that prompted Bhagat Singh to insist he should be sent on the Central Assembly action (p. 52). From that moment Bhagat Singh knew he would be a martyr and he embraced it. Contrast the extraordinary efforts that the Bolshevik Party took to provide security for Lenin because they recognised the importance of his leadership for the success of their political goals. Martyrdom brings near divine status in Eastern societies, even to atheists.
Understanding Bhagat Singh
Understanding Bhagat Singh is a collection of essays written by Chaman Lal since he launched a national campaign to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the martyrdom of Bhagat Singh which fell in 2006. The essays were written over a period of 5-6 years prior. Lal has published extensively on the life of Bhagat Singh and other revolutionaries in Hindi, Punjabi and English. In 2007, the birth anniversary of Bhagat Singh, Jawaharlal Nehru University, one of India's premier federal universities established the Bhagat Singh Chair to study revolutionary movements in India since 1757. 1757 was the year when, after the Battle of Plassey, the British East India Company first began to govern parts of India. Lal's persistent campaign no doubt contributed to the establishment of the Chair. It took 75 years for Bhagat Singh to gain official recognition and ironically it has come in the wake of renewed corporate invasions after the WTO trade regimes and new military alliances in the wake of the so-called 'global war on terror'. During the interim, the memory of Bhagat Singh's martyrdom in 1931 lived on largely through oral histories, in political movements and writings by intellectuals, most of them outside the English academia. There are over 400 books published on Bhagat Singh in India, Lal notes (p. ix), including ballads and epics (ch. 16), most of them in Indian languages, but very few attempt to understand or analyse his thought. The task has not been an easy one for those who have attempted it.
Facts about Bhagat Singh's life, political thought, British conduct of the trial and the nationalist leadership's ambivalence towards him have dribbled through in dribs and drabs over eighty-three years as the recent news report indicates. The opening of the archives, the discovery of new documents from the older generation of freedom fighters, the Supreme Court's exhibition of documents exhibited during the trials of revolutionaries, the centenaries and jubilees of various martyrs and other similar circumstances have contributed to a revivalism that seeks to take a fresh look at the revolutionary strand in India's struggle for independence. Lal reproduces some of these materials as Annexure to the book. The British government proscribed Bhagat Singh's writing (p. x). After independence the liberal intelligentsia in India and Britain privileged the elitist strand in the nationalist historiography led by Gandhi and Nehru and marginalised the contributions of the revolutionary strands.5 The collaboration between Indian and Western liberal intelligentsia continues to play out in particular ways under globalisation and to privilege certain political trends over others in India. The book is therefore a timely contribution.
What were the liberals marginalising and privileging, though? In the received narratives of independence Bhagat Singh and his comrades are portrayed as idealists and utopian youth. Typically the argument goes: the hearts of Bhagat Singh and his comrades were in the right place but their thinking was misguided, if they thought at all, which is excusable given their age. What the articles in the book bring out clearly is that far from being 'misguided youth', a phrase widely used to discredit successive generations of political opposition to the state in India, Bhagat Singh and his comrades were intellectually astute and capable of providing a different type of leadership to nationalist movement in India after the Ghadar movement was brutally suppressed by the colonial administration.6 Indeed Bhagat Singh and his comrades were products of the Ghadar movement. The Ghadar movement originated among the migrant Indian workers and expatriate communities in North America and mounted a formidable challenge to the colonial state. Lal argues that Bhagat Singh's essay 'Why I Am an Atheist' written in Lahore jail in 1930 and published after his execution in 1931 and other jail writings demonstrate that far from being 'misguided youth' he was a mature intellectual with a good grasp of the revolutionary movements in Russia and elsewhere at the time. Lal has edited The Jail Notebooks and Other Writings (New Delhi: Leftword, 2007), a collection of Bhagat Singh's writings. 'A rebellion is not a revolution. It may ultimately lead to that end' writes Bhagat Singh and further that a revolution is the 'spirit of longing for change for the better' (quoted at p. 16).
Bhagat Singh and his comrades provide the bridges to understanding the anti-imperialist struggles in post-Independence India in the same way as the First War of Independence in 1857 (known as the Indian Sepoy Mutiny in Britain and in Marx's writings)7 provided the bridges to understanding the Ghadar movement in the early twentieth century. These crucial historical moments establish continuities in the anti-imperialist movements from 1857 to the present. Breaking crucial historical links dehistorisizes the present and mythologizes the past. In the process of ploughing through the voluminous publications on Bhagat Singh in India, Lal observes: 'I found . . . that Bhagat Singh is more misunderstood', and further 'my focus [for the book] is more on documentation to clear the air about many myths or half-truths' (p. x).
One of the many half-truths concerns the role of Gandhi at a critical juncture in the struggle for independence. That Gandhi did not intercede with the Lord Irwin to commute Bhagat Singh's execution is well known. His friendship and admiration for Lord Irwin is also well known. Gandhi's motivations for his silence over the executions were always opaque. The book (ch. 11) reveals the extent of Gandhi's complicity in the execution of Bhagat Singh stooping, according to Lal, even to outright lies. The book is full of interesting episodes. For example Lal corrects the record by pointing out the hunger strikes/fasts by political prisoners is not Gandhi's non-violent political innovation, another myth about Gandhi, but rather 'the real progenitors of fast/hunger strike as a political weapon are Irish revolutionaries' (p. 71). During 1916-1920 the conscience of the world was shaken by the fasts of Irish revolutionaries in prison. Their actions inspired Bhagat Singh and his comrades, one of whom, Jatin Das, died in prison. There are references to interesting details. For example the sister of the Irish martyr Terence MacSwiney sent Bhagat Singh and other political prisoners a solidarity message in support of their hunger strike in prison. These details give the reader the feeling of rediscovering Bhagat Singh.
Bhagat Singh's most significant contribution to the struggle for independence was to replace the earlier slogan of the nationalist movement which was 'Salutations to the Mother ' (i.e. India) with the slogan 'Death to Imperialism! Long Live the Revolution!' Both these slogans continue to echo at protests and demonstrations throughout the country to this day.
As a collection of articles published in newspapers and magazines over 5-6 years, each article addresses a target readership in a particular context. The book does not work as well as an edited collection. Facts are repeated in a number of different places and the book lacks a narrative structure. The author could have reworked the rich materials in the book giving it a thematic structure, clarified the aims, and provided a concluding chapter on how, according to him, the reader should understand Bhagat Singh. These shortcomings notwithstanding, the collection of articles is useful in the present context.
With the state aligned to the 'war on terror', fundamentalisms and dispossessions and a wide range of resistances to the state in the subcontinent, understanding the past holds the key to understanding the present. India stands at historical crossroads. Home to one sixth of humanity, the way India turns at the crossroads will undoubtedly have a wider impact beyond India. These are good reasons for international and national readers to know Bhagat Singh and through his life better understand a formative period in modern India.
1 See Working Class Movement Library atwww.wcml.org.uk/Main/en/contents/international/india/meerut--an-attack-on-indian-trade-unionism-19291933/ (accessed on 28 May 2014).
2 Putchalapalli Sundarayayya, Telangana People's Struggles and Its Lessons(New Delhi: Foundation Book Pvt Ltd, 2006 ).
3 The practice of setting up special tribunals to try specific individuals (as opposed to a general law applicable to all) in particular countries was revived in 1991 when the UN Security Council Resolution set up the International Court on Yugoslavia. The special ordinance to try Bhagat Singh, critical legal scholars will be interested to know, is another example of the incorporation of legal practices within the Empire into international law.
4 'Bhagat Singh Not Named in FIR for Saunders' Murder,' Hindu, 4 May 2014.
5 Radha D'Souza, R (2014), 'Revolt and Reform in South Asia: From Ghadar Movement to '9/11' and After,' Economic and Political Weekly(49.7, 15 February 2014), pp.59-73.
6 D'Souza (2014).
7 Karl Marx, 'Indian News,' New York Daily Tribune (14 August 1857),www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1857/08/14a.htm (accessed on 28 May 2014).
Radha D'Souza is Reader in Law at the University of Westminster.
Friday, 10 October 2014
Thursday, 9 October 2014
The Bolivian Diaries-Authorized edition, Ernesto Che Guevara, Introduction by Fidel Castro, Preface by Camilo Guevara, 1st ed. 2006, Ocean Press, Melbourne-New York, Pages 303, Indian price, Rs. 450/
This is one of most important book of world revolutionary movements. This is Che Guevara’ diary notes in his Bolivia mission. Beginning 7th November 1966, the diary has regular entries for exact eleven months, until 7th October 1967, one day before his capture by Bolivian army, propped up by US rulers. On 8th October 1967, Che Guevara was captured and no courtesy was shown to the world’s most respected revolutionary figure, a former minister in Cuban Government, known to all the world’s most powerful men—UNO, Mao Ze Dong, Khrushchev. Except for Cuba and Fidel Castro and world’s revolutionary people, having no influence over the events at that moment, no bourgeoisie politicians of the world, expressed any sorrow or condemnation at the brutal cruel treatment to a wounded Che and brutal murder of him next day at the behest of US imperialists and that US lackey in Bolivia dictator Barrientos. Che Guevara was at his marvellous best even during his one day custody, bearing all the pains heroically and challenging his killers to shoot him, as the killers had no courage to do that. Though diary is not important in terms of any theoretical foundations, but it is most important to know in a matter of fact manner, that how selflessly and heroically Che Guevara led this most difficult mission of makin revolution in Bolivia; despite his serious asthmatic problem, leaving Cuba at a time, when he was providing marvellous leadership in building socialism as Castro’s most trusted comrade; with most of the circumstances in Bolivia being hostile and conditions not favourable to advance the revolution. But Che was Che, he could not agree to Fidel’s assessment to wait for more favourable circumstances and ground preparation, before he could join the forces there. And equally great was Castro, who kept his word with Che, to allow him to leave the Cuban Government and let him organise Cuban like revolution in the rest of latin American countries, a dream nurtured by Simon Bolivar to create a revolutionary United states of South America. Che wished to begin in his motherland Argentina first, but conditions were not yet ripe there to lead such movement. Bolivia was also not ripe yet, but taking inspiration from Cuban victory, the struggle started by just 82 men on Granma and left with only 15-16 people, yet within two years defeating the 80 thousand army of dictator Batista in Cuba and leading first successful socialist revolution in Cuba on 1st January 1959. Fidel castro not only relieved his comrade and close friend Che to lead the revolution, he provided men and arms from his early Cuban revolutionary expedition, including many senior Communist party cadres, who sacrificed their lives in Bolivian mission like Che himself.
The Bolivian diary has been edited very meticulously. Apart from Diary entries of Che, it includes rare photographs of that period, editor’s brief note, Maps of the area, including guerrilla zones; glossary of people and terms/events, Preface and Introduction and five communiqués issued by National Liberation Army (ELN) of Bolivia, fighting under the leadership of Che. The actual diary entries are covered in about 220 pages. Life sketch of Che is also given in beginning.
Camilo Guevara, eldest son of Che Guevara has written brief but moving preface to the diary. Camilo rightly observes that 7th October 1967 last entry of Che in diary are-‘there is not the slightest tone of discouragement, pessimism, or defeatism; on the contrary, these words seems to be a beginning, a prologue..(page1) Camilo describes 8th October, Che’s wounded body in captivity as-‘Yet his body is still upright and armed with conviction, preparing for another battle’ (page 2). Camilo is sure that the enemies could have never capture Che, despite his wounded leg, broken rifle and no other weapon, but for he could not leave his other sick and wounded companeros. Camilo describes the scene on 9th October as well, when Che was murdered as the ‘order to murder him came from Washington’. Che never mistreated his captives, most of the times the prisoners of Bolivian army were released after warning them, no one was ever tortured or killed as he never believed in committing cruelties even on enemies. Camilo beautifully concludes that –‘Without a trial, without a thought, the new man Che Guevara represented is killed. But what is born is a yearning for the new human being, who is neither an illusion nor a fantasy. xxx A dream, dormant for many centuries takes shape: an ethical, virtuous selfless human being. This time stripped of all myth and mysticism; this person must be fundamentally human. (Page 8)
Fidel Castro wrote –A necessary Introduction to the dairy in 1968, when the diary was first time published in original Spanish in Havana, of which two lakh copies were circulated free to Cubans; and is part of diary in this edition, which has been included in his memoir on Che as well. In this introduction Fidel narrates the story iof acquiring diary of Che from interior minister of Bolivia, who lost his job for this and establishing its authenticity. Introduction underlines the intense human character of Che and his immense bravery, it also exposes the brutalities of Bolivian regime, which was lackey of US imperialism and was playing a puppet’s role. Castro also exposes the treachery of Mario Monje, secretary of Bolivian Communist party at that time, who ditched Che. Even the other group led by Oscar Zamora became venomous critic of Che Guevara. Moises Guevara, miners leader joined the movement and sacrificed his life. Other comrades of Monje like Inti and Coco Perado also joined and proved their bravery, but Monje went to the extent of sabotaging the movement. Che knew many peasant sin Bolivia but was suspicious and cautious of their character. Despite so many difficulties Che and his comrades performed marvellous feats and Bolivian army could succed only 26th September 1967 against Che’s detachment and Che’s group could never overcome that damage. Despite heavy risk Che kept on helping the Doctor Moro, who was in very poor physical health.Castro opines that never in history has so small a number of men set out such a gigantic task. Castro has also highlighted the bravery of Che in fighting his last battle on 8th October, trying to save his poor health two comrades and fighting even he was wounded. In La Paz, dictator Barrientos and defence chief Ovando decided to murder Che, that was done in most cruel and brutal manner. It was Che, who said firmly to his killer—‘Shoot! Don’t be afraid’, still the drunk killer could shoot him in side, Che’s agony for last few hours of his life was very bitter and Fidel puts it aptly-No person was better prepared than Che to be put to such a test’. Castro reveals that diary of Che was obtained without any financial payment and was published simultaneously in France, Italy, Germany, US; and in Chile, Mexico in Spanish.Fidel concludes by famous slogan of Che- Hasta la victoria siempre!-Ever onwards to Victory.
25 pages spread Glossary gives details of almost all people involved in this epic struggle on both sides. In Appendices the first Appendix refers to Instructions to Urban cadres, which is mentioned as Document III, it is dated 22nd January 1967. This document was written by Che and was Loyola Guzman, when she visited Che on 26th January. According to this document’s reference National Liberation Army(ELN) was established in March 1967.Che has given detailed instructions in this document regarding all organisational aspects for the army like supplies, finances, transport, contact with sympathisers etc. Appendix II, refers to Document XVII of ELN and is issued as Communiqué no.1 to the Bolivian people, it is dated 27th March 1967. The general title of the regular communiqués is given as ‘Revolutionary truth against Reactionary Lies’, under this very title there is Communiqué no. 2, issued on 14th April 1967, and given the document no. as XXI. Communiques no. 3, 4 and five issued as Documents no. XXII, XXIV and XXV are also included in Appendices , issued on May 1967 and two in June 1967. In the communiqués it is made clear that ELN is the only responsible party for the armed struggle. In one of these communiqués, Che Guevara makes an impassioned plea to join ELN, as ‘we are restructuring the worker-peasant alliance that was broken by an anti plebeian demagoguery.’ Che is confident at this moment that ‘we are converting defeat into triumph.’
The Bolivian dairy of Che begins on 7th November with the inspiring first sentence-‘Today begins a new phase... The diary gives brief description of the day and makes an interesting entry on 12th November-‘ My hair is growing, although very sparsely, and the grey hair are turning blond, and beginning to disappear; my beard is returning. In a few months i will be myself again.’(Page 38). How much revolutionaries like Che and Fidel love their beard that they feel lost without it!.Che entered Bolivia with fake passport and with clean shaven shape, which could not be recognised even by Fidel castro and Che’s comrades in Havana, when Castro gave him a farewell lunch! Manila is fictitious word for Cuba and Che refers to the existence of 12 insurgents on 27th November. Che made it a point to write review of the each month’s ddiary at the end of every month and November’s anaylysis records Che’s opinion –Everything has gone well; my arrival was without incident and half of the troops have arrived , also without incident...
In diary for December, on 7th December Che notes that ‘I will give the summaries at the end of each month’. In 12th December’s entry, Che made certain appointments in the group, giving charges to various people. 19th December’s diary tells us about almost whole night discussion in the group without sleeping a bit. 24th December was celebrated as Christmas eve. On 31st December, all important meeting with Monje takes place. There was discussion on each point and some understanding was reached, which was not followed by Monje later. In the analysis of the month, Che notes with satisfaction that Cuban team has been successfully completed, but Bolivians are few in numbers. Che is satisfied at the morale of the group.
In January diary , Che plans Tania’s trip to Argentina, On 6th January, Che notes-‘importance of study is indispensable for the future..On 26th January Che noted—Loyola made a very good impression on me, she is very young and softly spoken but one can tell she is very determined. In the analysis of the month, Che notes with anguish—‘As i expected, Monje’s position was at first evasive and then treacherous; Che notes with concern that party (Communist party) has taken up arms against us...Che concludes ironically-‘Of everythins that was envisioned, the slowest has been the incorporation of Bolivian Combatants.’ (Page 78)
In February diary, 13th February entry is father’s birthday date. 18th February diary notes wife Josefina’s birthday, 24th February is Che’s youngest son Ernesto’s birthday. February was not a very conducive month for the group. Group is divided into two. They had been walking miles and miles. Che has also noted the death of Comrade Benjamin.
In March diary Che notes on 14th March, ‘we heard parts of Fidel’s speech in which he makes blunt criticism of Venezuelan communists and harshly attacks the position of Soviet Union on Latin American puppets.(Page 102).’ Inthe same month on 16th, Che mentions about eating horse. On 17th, Che notes another loss for revolutionaries, lot many crucial weapons on backpacks were lost in crossing river. On March 23&24, they make gains, they capture many weapons from enemy and kill and arrest many. There is mention of French leftist Regis Debary visiting ELN. In March 25th meeting of the group, liberation army is given the name as National Liberation Army of the Boloivia, ELN in short. Che made a detailed analysis of March month activities and notes that ‘The phase of consolidation and purging of the guerrilla force-fully completed’.(Page 118) Che also notes that there is slow development in incorporation of some Cuban elements, als0 as initial phase of struggle precise and spectacular blow, but gross indecision. Che notes that enemy is totally ineffective so far and is trying to moblise peasant s to isolate us. Che organises guerrilla force into vanguard, Rear guard and Centre group, keeping himself in centre.
In April, Che notes of ‘total disaster’ on 4th, ‘great tension’ on 6th, on April 10th Rubio’s death is noted, April 11th records radio news of ‘new and bloody encounter’ with mention of nine dead from army and four guerrillas. On 12th April Che notes with some pride that first blood spilled was ‘Cuban’. April 22nd is noted for ‘making mistakes’, 25th as ‘Bad day’ with the best guerrilla Rolando dyeing in ambush. Summary of the month confirms death of Rubio and Rolando as a ‘severe blow’. April analysis opines the certainty of North America’s heavy intervention, already sent helicopters and Green Berets; but Che notes the morale of combatants as good.
May Day is celebrated by clearing vegetation in guerrilla camps8th May ambush by guerrillas got them three army men dead and ten prisoners. The dead include Second lieutenant Henry Larado, whose wife had asked to bring ‘a guerrilla fighter’s scalp’ to adorn in their living room. On 16th May, Che suffers intense abdominal pain with vomiting and diarrhea. They walk some 15 kilometers on 17th may. 20th May is noted for Che’s son Camilo Guevara’s birth day. The day also mentions Debray’s status as journalist being rejected by dictator Barrientos, Debary is facing trial now. Summary of the month is worrisome- Che notes total loss of contact with Manila (Cuba), La Paz and Joaquin (Other guerrilla group) of ELN, reducing the strength of group to 25; complete failure to recruit peasants, though they now admire ELN, Che notes that it is slow and patient task. Che is happy at clamour on Debary’s case, which has given momentum to ‘our movement than 10 victories in battle’; Che is also happy that ‘ mprale of the guerrilla movement is growing stronger.’(Page 164)
In June diary 14th is mentioned as birthday of Che’s youngest daughter Celia Guevara, but which is his own birthday as well, which he notes simply as-‘i turned 39 (today) and am inevitably approaching the age when I need to consider my future as guerrilla, but for now I am still “in one piece”. (Page 171). June 17th is noted for 15 kilometers walk in five and half hours. June 21st is birthday of Che’s mother Celia de la Serna, referred as ‘The old lady’. Che notes on 23rd June that ‘asthma is becoming a serious problem for me and there is very little medicine left’, 24th is noted for worsening of asthma, 25th-asthma continues to grow worse and now it will not let me sleep well. 26th June brings the sad death of Tuma,, who was bodyguard to Che and Che felt about him ‘as if he were my own son’. Tuma is painfully buried on 27th June. On 29th, Che notes that they are now 24 men and counts Chino to be among ‘examplary men’. On 30th June, Che notes that ‘Debary apparently talked more than was necessary’. Bolivian army commander in chief Ovando made official announcement about Che being in Bolivia is also noted. In analysis of the month, Che notes the total lack of contact, continued lack of peasant recruitment, lack of contact with Bolivian communist party, Debary’s case and Che’s recognition as ‘the leader of the movement’. Che again notes about the morale of guerrilla force being strong and their commitment ot the struggle increasing, emphasising that ‘all the Cubans are exemplary in combat. Che notes the urgent task of recruiting at least 50 to 100 men in the movement.
The very first day of July diary mentionsBolivian dictator Barrientos’s press conference calling guerrillas as ‘rats and snakes’ and wiping out Che Guevara and punishing Debary. On July 3rd Che notes in irony that ‘my asthma continues to wage war’, again on 7th, my asthma is getting worse. On July 14th Che notes with concern that Bolivian ‘government is disintegrating rapidly. Such a pity that we do not have 100 more men right now.’ (Page 191). From 15th to 17th, Che is relieved as asthma is much better, but on 27th, he mentions-My asthma hit me hard and those measly few sedatives are just about gone. July 30th comes with the death of Ricardo. On 31st, mention is made of loss of a book by Trotsky, Debrays’s book with Che notes on it and finally ‘ We are 22 men with two wounded, and me with full blown asthma.’ Analaysis of the month focuses upon continuous negative points, three encounters causing army 7 dead, taking of Samaipata, lost two men. Important features- Total loss of contact continuoing, lack of peasant recruitment continuing, guerrilla force is becoming legendry, morale and combat experience of guerrilla force increasing with each battle. The most urgent tasks noted as-‘ To re-establish contact, to recruit combatants, and to obtain medicines.’ (Page 204)
Month of august starts with asthma worries, on 2nd, Che notes-my asthma is hitting me very hard and I have used up my last anti asthmatic injection, all I have left are tablets for about ten days.’ August 3 is as bad, but on 4th it improves a bit. On 6th August Che speaks on Bolivia’s independence day and on 7th he notes-‘Today marks exactly nine months since I arrived and we established the guerrilla force. Of the initial six, two are dead, one has disappeared, two are wounded and I am suffering from asthma with no idea how to overcome it.’(Page 207). On August 8th, Che makes a speech to his comrades and mentions the difficult situation of them, Che admits that ‘I am a complete wreck and the incident with the little mare shows that I am beginning to loose control....but Che speaks further-‘This is one of those moments when great decisions have to be made, this type of struggle gives us the opportunity to become revolutionaries, the highest form of human species, and it also allows us to emerge fully as men.....(page 208). On 9th, Che is down with fever and painful heel with abscess. On 10th, mention is made of Fidel’s speech attacking the traditional communist parties, Che still n ot well. On August 12, another guerrilla lost-Antonio Fernandez. Che foot recovers by 13th, but asthma is mentioned on 14th as ‘condemned to suffer from asthma indefinitely, the news of cave being found out and seizure of all photos and documents makes it bad day with worst blow. August 28th mentioned as ‘distressing day’, so are 29th and 30th. Summary of the month mentios blow of loss of all he documents, medicines, loss of two men, one desertion(first one) Other features of the month remain same, but morale factor changes to ‘decline’, though Che hopes it to be ‘temporary’. Che underlines about guerrillas being at ‘low point in our morale and in our revolutionary legend’, but concludes with recognition of ‘inti and Coco becoming ‘more and more outstanding as revolutionary and military cadres’.(Page 222)
Month of September begins with much worse news,2nd September mentions the radio broadcast of ‘annihilation of 10 guerrillas led by Cuban Joaquin in Camiri area’, this includes the killing of Tania as well. Che does not feel like believing it as local radio did anot announce, but Castro in Cuba could believe it. On 3rd Che thinks it to be a ‘trick’. Again on 7th September, Che is not inclined to believe the news of radio Cruz that body of guerrilla Tania recovered from Rio Granade bank, even as 8th entry mentions the attendance by Barrientos at the internment of remains of Tania the guerrilla, given as ‘Christian burial’. Mentioning 10th as bad day, Che makes interesting and funny entry-‘ I forgot to mark an event: Today I took a bath after more than six months. This constitutes a record that several others are already approaching.’(Page 232)11th entry mentions of Barrientos claim of Che being ‘already dead’.13th entry mentions a shot fired on Debary’s father’s head, his documents for defence being confiscated. 15th and 17th entries mention about Lyola’s arrest and protest over it. It seems Che reconciles with Joaquin’s group’s annihilation around 22nd, when he mentions Barrientos-Ovando press conference announcing their ‘wiping out’. 26th entry begins with word ‘Defeat’, 28th begins with the words’Day of anguish’, perhaps Coco is annihilated, 29th is ‘another tense day’, so is 30th. This month’s summary is sad- loss of Miguel, Coco and Julio in ambush, ruined everything and left us in ‘perilous position’, losing Leon as well, losing Camba is a net gain. Che now accepts –‘we must consider Jouquins group wiped out, still hoping the report to be ‘exaggerated’ and ‘small group wandering around’. Che mentions the bitter fact that army is now more effective and peasants are becoming ‘informers’. Che underlines most important task as ‘to escape and seek more favourable areas; then focus on contacts, despite the fact that our urban network in La Paz is in shambles, where we also have been hit hard. Che still mentions the morale of rest of the troops as ‘fairly high’.
October 2nd mentions the birthday of another guerrilla Antonio Pantoja Tomao.3rd entry is ironic, capture of two ‘guerrillas-Antonio(Leo) and Orlando(Camba0, both betray and give information. Debary is praised for his courageous stand in the trial.5th entry shows che taking care of Benigno and El Medico given an injection. The last entry of diary on 7th October begins as-‘The 11 month anniversary of our establishment as guerrilla force passed in bucolic mood with no complications. Che mentions that ‘the 17 of us set out under a slither of a moon, the march was exhausting, no nearby houses..Last lines—The army issued an odd report about the presence of 250 men in Serrano to block the escape of the 37(guerrillas) that are said to be surrounded. Our refuge is supposeddely between the Acero and Oro rivers. The report seems to be diversionary. Altitude=2000 meters.
These were the last words penned by Che Guevara before his capture next day 8th October and subsequent brutal murder on 9th October.
The Bolivian Diary of Che Guevara records the eleven month glorious struggle to liberate Bolivia from the crutches of dictator Barrientos and its brutal army working directly under US imperialists as its lackey. I fone look at The Motorcycle diaries and The Bolivian diary of Che Guevara together, though two diaries entirely different in content and style, one can understand Che guevara’s marvellous and heroic character, which made him the best icon of international revolutionary in each part of the world. Wherever the resistance movements have erupted in any part of the world after 1967 murder of Che Guevara, everywhere Che’s photographs/posters/souvenirs have been the most visible part of demonstrations/processions etc. Che has become an icon, most ideal for the youth. One can see it from the conduct of Che’s life. Even from The Bolivian diary, it is amply clear that how selfless and caring Che’s personality has been towards his comrades. How despite his horrible asthmatic conditions suffered all the hardships of guerrilla life, walking 15-20 kilometers a day, performing all the duties of a guerrilla, like giving guard duty etc. and never complained, always remained full of optimism, even when things were going completely beyond control. Though Che has realistically analysed the weaknesses of the movement through his diary. Che was an idealist, despite being a Marxist, conditions were not ripe for him to go to Bolivia, this was the opinion of Fidel Castro also, but Che was restless to go. Che Guevara and Bhagat Singh like personalities create role models for youth or struggling people by their complete selfless conduct. Che was probably hoping to create another Cuba by his 25 men or so, as in Cuba just 15 or 16 of them mobilised whole of Cuba and defeated 80 thousand army of Batista. But Che underestimated US role after Cuban revolution. It would not allow another Cuba in Latin America at any cost and that is what it did in Bolivia by killing Che and many more senior Cuban revolutionaries in Bolivia in 1967. Yet the saga of Che Guevara’s bravery and struggle became a legend for long term inspiration for liberation of human kind from all kinds of oppression. Che could be impulsive in Bolivia, but by his sacrifice, he created a much more powerful Che for US imperialism, to which it can never kill with bullets as it has become idea personified and you can kill persons, people, but not an idea, that is what Che is today, to live forever and as a burning shot in the eyes of imperialism! Same is the icon of Bhagat Singh is South Asia, with similar characteristics of the character.
Che: A Memoir –by Fidel Castro, edited by David Deutschmann, Preface by Jesus Montane, National Book Agency, Calcautte, first Indian ed. 1994 , original ocean Press Melbourne, price Rs. 100/ Pages 168
This is the book, which I have read for second time, but it was worth reading again. These days I am trying to make regular reading on Cuba, Venezuela and the Caribbean in general. In the beginning life sketches of both Che Guevara and Fidel Castro are given, then Che’s life’s Chronology is given. Later preface by Jesus Montane Oropesa is given and then David Deutschmann’s introduction is given. Then in seven chapters Castro’s writings or lectures relating to Che Guevara are put up together and after Post script, Glossary of persons and events is given.
Castro’s speeches start with sharing with Che Guevara’s farewell letter written to him by Che before proceeding to start revolution in Africa and Latin America. As Che was not seen in Havana, all kinds of rumours and scandals were spread by bourgeoisie media and Castro made the letter public only when Che Guevara reached Bolivia in 1966 to make revolution and get his life sacrificed in 1967. Second speech was made by Castro on Cuban television on 15th October 1967 to announce the death of Com. Che and third chapter includes his speech in front of one million people in Revolutionary Plaza Havana in memorial meeting for Che. Chapter four includes Castro’s introduction to Bolivian Dairies of Che, which were published in 1968, after these were recovered from Bolivia after Che’s killing at the hands of US mercenaries Bolivian army. Chapter five includes Castro’s speech in Chile, where the first statue of Che Guevara was inaugurated by castro, it was his inaugural speech. Chapter six is Castro’s interview with Italian journalist Gianni Mina on the occasion of 20th anniversary of Che’s martyrdom in 1987 and seventh and last chapter includes Castro’s speech on that occasion at Electronic factory named after Ernesto Che Guevara at city of Pinar del Rio.
If i have to take notes of this book, I may have to copy almost half of the book, suffice to say that very important book to understand both Che and Fidel. I can say that I understand both better with the reading of this book. It confirms my earlier conviction that Che and Bhagat Singh have lot much in common, which have been aptly described by Castro in context of Che, but which description is largely applicable to the personality of Bhagat singh.
Friday, 3 October 2014
There are two kinds of confusion on this essay. Rightists attack this essay by saying that is interpolation by 'lefties', whereas leftists are confused about its original print. No handwritten manuscript is yet found of many writings of Bhagat Singh, including this one. Marxists.org still carries it as translation from Punjabi, whereas this essay was penned originally in English and its first print is safe in Nehru Memorial Museum and Library(NMML), New Delhi. During partition days, for some years its original print was not transferred from Lahore, so there is reference to the effect that this essay was re translated in English from its Tamil translation done by Comrade P. Jivanandam, at the behest of Periyar way back in 1934, perhaps the first ever translation of this essay, before even Hindi or Punjabi translations were done. Tamil translation published as booklet in 1934 has run into more than 30 editions by now. Here the original first print is being reproduced in scanned form, which is also included in my 2013 book from Aakar Delhi-Understanding Bhagat Singh, which was released by Prof. Randhir Singh. This print carries the small note of assigning the copyright to Bhagat Singh's father S. Kishan Singh from whom editor got the copy and permission to publish. This shuts the mouth of those RSS type rightists, who dub this essay as interpolation of 'leftists'. Alas! to the sorrow of these rightists, Bhagat Singh indeed himself was a confirmed 'Leftist'!