New icon of Indian Communists: Is CPM contradicting its own past by appropriating of Ernesto Che Guevara?
   25-Sep-2019



Sivasankaran
Che Guevara was a bad omen for the CPM until the 1980s. Only after the 80s, CPM realised that Che Guevara could be marketed in India to expand its base. Till the 80s, the popular Communist demigods were Engles, Marx and Stalin. Moreover, the student wing of CPM had considered it blasphemous to observe the death anniversary of Che Guevara. It was only in the 1990s that SFI and DYFI officially chose to use Che Guevara as an icon.
 
Today, even in the villages of Kerala his pictures, columns and the names of Che Guevara are displayed very conspicuously. It makes one wonder if such a ‘young generation’ that worships Che Guevara exists even in Cuba or Argentina. This is the reason why the Kerala visit of Che Guevara’s daughter, Dr.Aleida, was celebrated by the CPM. But it remains a fact that when Che Guevara visited India on June 30, 1959, the then undivided Communist Party opposed and ignored him mercilessly. Now, what is the politics behind celebrating the visit of Che Guevara’s daughter? Surely it is not due to any respect to him. It is just a malicious attempt by the CPM to gain heirship and fake consideration.
 
In fact, CPM was not interested in Che Guevara, at least till the 1980s. That’s the reason why the then Kerala Chief Minister E.M.S Namboothiripad and the National Secretary of the undivided Communist Party and its PB members did not bother to visit Che Guevara, the so-called ‘Prince of the revolutionary movements of the world’, when he came to Delhi. While he spent many days and nights sitting idle in Delhi, Kerala was under the rule of the Communist Party. It is interesting to note that prominent leaders like Nehru, V.K.Krishna Menon, the then Commerce Minister Nityanand, S.K.Dev, A.P.Dev, etc. visited Che Guevara and held meetings with him even when he was not a representative of the Cuban government. The fact that when Che Guevara came near the Legislative Assembly constituency represented by Jyoti Basu in West Bengal, neither the young Jyoti Basu nor the comrades of West Bengal bothered to visit him proves how much hatred CPI/CPM had towards Che Guevara.
 
Was Che Guevara close to India?
 
The interview with Che Guevara, conducted by Akashvani’s Bhanumati, is an episode which the Communist leaders and historians want to cover up. The answers given by Che Guevara to the questions of Bhanumati, which were infused with deep political knowledge and nationalism, reveal his true outlook.
 
“You (Indians) have Gandhiji and a heritage based on an ideology. We Latin Americans have neither of the two. As a result, our mentality is developed in a different way,” Che said. To another question, he replied, “I would never call myself a Communist. I was born as a Catholic. I agree that there are many useful advice in Marxism and Leninism.” Throughout the interview, one could see that Che Guevara kept a safe distance from Communism.
 
Did Fidel oppose Che Guevara?
 
If we honestly look into the history, we can find that in post-revolutionary Cuba, Che Guevara too got much consideration and popularity along with Fidel Castro. But the inhuman manslaughters carried out by Che Guevara in the La Cabaña jail and his resentment towards Russia have made Fidel Castro to keep him aloof. Besides, he must have considered the position of the Chairman post of the Cuban Nationalised Bank to be inferior or he must have proved himself to be incapable of running that post. As a result of this, within a short span of time, Fidel Castro removed Che Guevara from all Governmental responsibilities. It was due to this that when he came to Delhi in 1959, he was mentioned only as the main leader of the Cuban revolution and not as a representative of the Cuban government. Moreover, his mortal remains were brought back to Cuba only 30 years after his death. The fact that Fidel Castro did not make any significant efforts to bring back the mortal remains of the “Cuban revolutionary star” shows that there existed a cold war-like relationship between him and Che Guevara.
 
When Indian Communists ignored Che
 
Che was not a persona grata for CPM until the 1980s. According to reports, one of the reasons for dissolving a Kozhikkode (Kerala) college unit of SFI during those days was their observance of solidarity with him. It remains a historical fact that the Naxalites and the far left-wing ideologists were the only ones who praised and supported him at that time.
 
Rise of Che Guevara as an icon of Indian Communists
 
It was during the 80s in Europe that the revolutionary political star Che Guevara rose up as a brand icon. There are several social changes which proved to be a catalyst for his rise as well as the rise of some other social icons. Hippism, which was a protest by the young generation against religions and extreme cultural control; the unchecked growth of drug use and the resistance against the existing social norms were some among them. The rise of Che Guevara as an icon was exploited by the European clothing brands as well. Due to this, he became an integral part of the T-Shirts targeted towards the young generation. The jeans – T-shirt combo which came along with this made Che Guevara internationally famous.
 
The Communists could not turn Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin into a craze among the youth. But when Che Guevara, without a political background, turned into a craze among the youth, it was exploited well by the CPM. It was only in the 1990s that SFI and DYFI officially chose to use Che Guevara as an icon. Another reason for this was that CPM had realised within a short span of time that after Lenin and Marx, the Chinese supremo Mao would not be received well by the Indian youth due to his differences in looks and heritage. After exhibiting the pictures of Mao in very few party congress meetings, they discarded the idea of using his images. The idea to fill the gap of Mao’s absence in Kerala by Che Guevara, who was a non-Russian and a non-Chinese man, was a historical blunder committed by the CPM leaders as well as the so-called intellectual historians and writers who were nothing but the sweepers of CPM. They hid the murderous acts of Che Guevara quite shamelessly and went on to make him a comrade even when he proclaimed himself as a non-Communist. The idea to raise Che Guevara as an icon, who was in fact mentally opposed by Fidel and was betrayed by him to the CIA, was a last-ditch effort by a party to remain relevant. The party which either had no historical images to uphold or had their projected icons demolished during the course of time tried hard to raise Che Guevara who was just an average revolutionary figure, a partial failure in revolution and a total failure in governance, as a historical icon. The drama of bringing in the daughter of Che Guevara to Kerala is nothing but a gimmick by CPM to expand his image as wide as possible in order to at least have a foothold for the party in Kerala.