Skip to main content

Using Che's thoughts to melt 'hardened' ideological abstractions of neoliberal era

1959: Che Guevara with Jawaharlal Nehru
By Yanis Iqbal*
Today we live in a historical conjuncture, interspersed with the morbid symptoms of a socially venomous neoliberalism, with the spheres of sociality and culture increasingly and violently being colonized by the ever-expanding logic of capitalism. With the advent of augmented neoliberalism, the situation has worsened. Neoliberalism entails the aggressive extension of profit-motive to every non-monetized areas and the concomitant depoliticized commodification of these non-economic realms.
Neoliberalization continues apace, lethally and evilly stirred in the nativized notions of right-wing populism. What this has resulted in is best captured by the growingly authoritarian tendencies within the present-day global governmental structure of right-wing populism. Protests against George Floyd’s death, the progressively worsening chaos of Bolsonarian Brazil and the brazenly brutal despotism of Viktor Orban encapsulate the deteriorating state of contemporary political territory due to the pathologized politics of right-wing monomania.
Despite what seems as the “absoluteness of a dawning pessimism”, the spirit of revolutionary optimism never wilts under the onslaught of a vicious neoliberalism. The overarching history of Marxist revolutionary thought proves that through the cohesive combination of a critical concrete-real analysis and a dialectically illuminated optimistic will, a truly emancipatory praxis is possible.
One of the most radical and undaunted proponent of revolutionary optimism was Ernesto Che Guevara who had boldly asked the oppressed masses to “demand the impossible!”. On his 92nd birth anniversary, which fell on June 14, it is imperative to analyze and assimilate his revolutionary thoughts and use it to melt the hardened ideological abstractions of the neoliberal era. This would entail focusing on his revolutionary humanism which constitutes the core of his theoretical integrality.
Through this theoretically determinable construct of revolutionary humanism, Che was able to advance a causally interwoven and multi-accented programmatic politics of revolution. Because of its strategic significance and theoretical relevance, it is important that we examine its rich internal content and utilize it fruitfully.
Che was an ardent and a critically informed follower of Jose Marti, a radical Cuban national hero who was also a prolific poet and writer. It was from the universalistic humanism of Jose Marti that Che derived his own materialistic-Marxist humanism. Jose Marti had advocated for a radical humanism which solidly affirmed the equal moral worth of every individual and based itself on an ethical foundation of human dignity.
Marti’s radicality originates from his unadulterated love for justice and a relentlessly unqualified demand for equality. For example, on the question of racism, Marti declared that “there can be no racial animosity, because there are no races.” Moreover, speaking on the fundamental foundationality of a comprehensive ethics of dignity, he said that “When you say ‘men,’ you have imbued them with all their rights”.
From these examples, it is evident that Jose Marti possessed an intrinsic desire for the actualization of an untarnished humanity, deeply rooted in the conceptual extensiveness of equality. In the words of Fidel Castro, Marti was a man “who always stood at the side of the poor and who bitterly criticized the worst vices of a society of exploiters.”
Che was internationalist to the core. Despite leading successful revolution in Cuba, he was not bounded by regional limits of a country
In keeping with the essential spirit of Marti’s humanistic cosmopolitanism, Che developed a revolutionary universalism which thoroughly emphasized the materialist-economic origins of oppression. As a Marxist antidote to a de-materialized and moralized critique of subjugation, Che re-rooted Marti’s conception in the economically-defined ground of class division and class struggle.
Through this Marxianization of a moral-idealistic humanism, a new synthesization was generated which adequately foregrounded the economic substratum as the determinative-structuring principle of the interconnected material reality. Through this, oppression came to be viewed as emanating from the inherent class structures of society.
2011: Che Guevara poster during Occupy Times Square protest, New York
The inability of masses to comprehend themselves as subjugated subjects derived from their alienated conditions and mystified consciousness. Subsequently, Che considered it as his innate duty to liberate the fragmented fields of humanity from the immobilizing integument of “thinghood”.
Che’s revolutionary humanism contained within itself the seeds of a profoundly new ethic, completely uncoupled from the alienating essence of capitalism. This ethical edifice emphasized the core centrality of human agency and untiringly urged individuals to reclaim control over their own lives. The distinctive emphasis on the world-shaping capacities of people stemmed from Che’s lifelong commitment to a dialectical theory which, like Heraclitus, believed that “Change is the only constant”.
Dialectical materialism tells us that the whole word is in a constant flux, reality itself is a process, ever-lastingly fluctuating between stability and continuous transformative variation. In this way, stability becomes what Bertell Ollman has called the “paralysis of change” and it is incumbent upon us to radically reconstruct this suffocating stasis which is forcefully compressing change. Che replanted this dialectical thesis in the soil of human beings and correspondingly conceptualized a person who was dramatically different from an individualized bourgeoisie conception.
The “man and woman of the future” whom Che imagined were not static concretions on the immovable surface of earth. Rather, they were said to be dynamic open-ended subjects, invariably in a process of becoming. Che conceived of human beings as an agglomeration of social relations, internally related with the environs of the world, reciprocally interacting with and changing the material world.
Humanity was not just an objectified thingness, sealed in the ungroundedness of alienation. Instead, humanity was apprehended as a fluid social relation, enmeshed in the flexible fabric of endless change-stability-transformation. Along with this understanding of a human who recognizes the presence of constant change and uses its inexhaustible ideality to confront the concrete phenomenality of conditionedness, Che also considered revolutionary universality as an integral component of his radical ethics.
Che was a revolutionary who was internationalist to his core. Despite leading a successful revolution in Cuba, Che was not bounded by the regional limits of any country. When asked whether he was Cuban or Argentinean, Che replied that he was “Cuban, Argentine, Bolivian, Peruvian, Ecuadorian, etc… you understand." This type of communist cosmopolitanism was passionately impregnated with a revolutionary universality which was unbounded by any concrete particulars.
It was only because of this humanist universalism that Che was impelled to fight against imperialism in Bolivia and sacrifice his life for a cause which was unconstrained by any locally discernable limits. Che achieved this kind of dialectical interrelation between particularity and universality through what Pramod K Nayar in another context has termed as “affective cosmopolitanism”. Affective cosmopolitanism is effectuated through solidarity based on suffering and the omni-locationality of suffering ensures that a universal fraternal bond is forged.
Ashis Nandy, when talking about the universality of suffering, says that “while each civilization must find its own authentic vision of the future and its own authenticity in future, neither is conceivable without admitting the experience of co-suffering which has not brought some of the major civilizations of the world close to each other.” It was in this context of universally situated oppression and suffering that Che said that "Every true man must feel on his own cheek every blow dealt against the cheek of another.”
In the contemporary conditions of neoliberalism, we need Che’s ideas more than ever. His understanding of world as a changeable entity, historically transitory and capable of undergoing a revolution is indispensable in the neoliberal era wherein everything is being swathed in the veneer of permanence.
With the help of the view of world and humanity as a malleable process in which individuals reciprocally interact with material reality, Che was able to actualize a revolution which a bourgeois-minded person would have thought as impossible. His depiction of universal solidarity in terms of ubiquitous suffering allows us to build a revolutionary universality in which parochial particularities are simultaneously humanized and incorporated.
It is only through a Guevarist revolutionary humanism that we can surmount the boundaries of neoliberalism and move “ever onward to victory”.
---
*Student and freelance writer based in Aligarh, is interested in studying existential conditions of subaltern classes. A version of this article was first published in Eurasia Review

Comments

TRENDING

Tracing roots of Hindutva Zionism: cannon fodder for 'warped' nationalist pretensions

By Shamsul Islam*  Those who believe in a world free of hegemonic ethno-nationalism, racism, religious bigotry and hatred have rightly taken note of Zionism and its ally Christian Zionism, major perpetrators of ethnic cleansing of ‘Others’. However, the civilized world with its core belief in multi-culturalism and peaceful co-existence is oblivious to a no less dangerous threat to the present human civilization: the Hindutva Zionism. As the term reads it is part of the Hindutva world-view which stands for an exclusive Hindu India minus Muslims and Christians. The other religions like Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism will have no independent status but treated as part of Hinduism. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS; National Volunteer Organization) is the most prominent flag-bearer of the Hindutva politics whose cadres presently rule India, the largest democracy in the world. RSS was founded by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar (1889-1940) in 1925 who was disillusioned with the Indian freedom st

Regional parties, anti-Congress progressives, civil society groups 'joining' Bharat Jodo

By Harshavardhan Purandare, Sandeep Pandey*  The Congress party declared Bharat Chhodo (Quit India) movement against the British regime in 1942. The Congress party has now launched a movement Bharat Jodo (Connecting and Uniting India) against the Modi regime in 2022. Indian people have had a journey of 80 years since Mahatma Gandhi gave that Quit India call to the British and we have to agree that we stand most divided in our modern history when Rahul Gandhi is giving this Bharat Jodo call to the nation. And back then, Congress was a thriving idealistic political movement against the British rulers and now it is an ever weakening political organization electorally defeated several times. However, it is India at stake, not just the Congress party. That is why so many regional political parties, civil society organizations, traditional anti-Congress progressive forces like socialists and communists, intellectuals and civil servants have declared their support and are proactively partici

Shocking? No Covid vaccine trials conducted on pregnant, lactating women: RTI reply

By Rosamma Thomas*  A Right to Information applicant who sought details of safety trials conducted in India on pregnant and lactating women for three Covid vaccines in use in India – Covishield, Covaxin and ZyCov-D -- was shocked to learn from the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) that Serum Institute, manufacturer of Covishield, and Cadila Healthcare, manufacturer of the ZyCov-D vaccine, had not sought permission for such trials.  Bharat Biotech, manufacturer of Covaxin, had sought permission for trial on pregnant women and later withdrawn its application. This response , provided after the applicant was initially unsatisfied with the response and went in appeal, is from the joint drugs controller, CDSCO. It was dated September 13, 2022. One researcher closely following the vaccine rollout, however, is of the opinion that the lack of a trial on pregnant and lactating women is a blessing; potential trial participants and their unborn babies thus escaped harm. Aruna Ro

Grave error? Scholar blames ex-Gujarat babu for anti-Christian riots 'citing fake report'

By Rajiv Shah  A few days back, I received a message from one of the finest former Gujarat government bureaucrats, PG Ramrakhiani, a 1964 batch IAS official, who retired in November 2000. I would often interact with him in 1997-99, even later, after I was sent to Gandhinagar as a Times of India man to cover Sachivalaya. Those were turbulent times. Shankarsinh Vaghela was the Gujarat chief minister, under attack from two sides – from the BJP, which he had left to form a separate breakaway party, Rashtriya Janata Party (RJP), one one hand, and the Congress, which was supporting him from outside, on the other. Ramrakhiani, in his message, referred to the book authored by Ghanshyam Shah and Jan Breman, both top-notch scholars who have known Gujarat in and out. Called “Gujarat, Cradle and Harbinger of Identity Politics: India’s Injurious Frame of Communalism”, I reviewed the book in January 2022.  It claims that Muslims in Gujarat have been turned into “new untouchables”, thanks to the Hin

Excess to cheetah in Kuno to increase 'woes' of local people, 'disturb' wildlife balance

Bharat Dogra*  The release of eight cheetahs into the Kuno National Park ( Madhya Pradesh) by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 17, although accompanied by a media blitz, has raised several questions. The animals were flown from Namibia to Gwalior and from there they were taken to the release site in a helicopter. Official sources have stated that this is the first time a large carnivorous species has been moved across continents for establishing a new population. This first release will be followed by others under this project. However, precisely for this reason, it is important to be cautious because if such translocations have been generally avoided in the past, there may have been reasons for this and at the same time we do not have much learning experiences from the past. The Cheetah became extinct in India in 1952, although this very fast moving animal is still remembered in the folklore of many areas. Hence the first impulse is to say that trying to introduce and revive

Rajasthan cops 'halt' Gujarat Dalit women's rally: homage to untouchability victim boy

By Our Representative  In a surprise move, the Rajasthan police stopped a Dalit women's rally from Gujarat on the borders after it crossed Gujarat alleging that it would "disturb peace" in village Surana, Jalore district, where the gruesome incident of death of a Dalit boy took place on August 13 after he was brutally beaten up by his teacher on touching the drinking water pot. Sources said, while the Gujarat government had "no objection" in allowing the rally, which originated from the Dalit Shakti Kendra (DSK), an empowerment-cut-technical institute for teens founded by human rights leader Martin Macwan, on September 24 morning, the Rajasthan police stopped it for two and a half hours before allowing it to proceed to Surana. The decision to take out a women's rally was taken at a DSK meeting on September 5 following a condolence meeting of the NGO Navsarjan Trust, also founded by Macwan, activists committed to work against caste-based discrimination, orga

Introducing non-native cheetahs is 'not equivalent' to restoring pride in the nation

By Bappaditya Mukhopadhyay*  The Cheetahs from the African continent has finally been introduced to India by the Indian Prime Minister on his 72nd birthday. The process had started with the previous Government in 2009. However, the Supreme Court clearance was pending owing to the objection by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) plea to reintroduce cheetahs. Finally the clearance was obtained in January 2020 and thereafter Kuno National Park (KNP) was chosen for the reintroduction of first set of Southeast African Cheetahs. In the near future, depending upon the success story of the current reintroduction, more cheetahs from South Africa may also be introduced. This exercise has generated a lot of interest among various stakeholders with opinions on both sides galore. It is important to pose some questions that surround the whole exercise. Let us evaluate some of these arguments. The first set of arguments are quite detached from the issues of conservation as they most

'Military diplomacy': US praises Bangladesh Army for leadership role in UN operations

By Kamal Uddin Mazumder* As the Indo-Pacific region represents the world’s economic and strategic center of gravity, the Indian Ocean today is becoming the centerpiece of all geo-strategic play. Cooperation in the region is crucial to implementing the international community’s global agenda, including achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Major powers like the US have enhanced and deepened their strategic engagement and leadership roles with countries in the region. The Indo-Pacific Army Management Seminar, or IPAMS, is a U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) initiated conference that is aimed at facilitating and enhancing interactions among the armies of the Indo-Pacific region. This year's 46th Indo-Pacific Armies Management Seminar (IPAMS)-2022, co-hosted by the Bangladesh Army and US Army Pacific (USARPAC), concluded in Dhaka. The objective of IPAMS is to promote peace and stability in the region through mutual understanding, dialogue, and friendship. It is the largest confer

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.