Nearly four decades after his death, manifestations of the new cult of Che Guevara are everywhere. From The Motorcycle Diaries film depiction of a young Che’s formative journey through South America, to the mugs, baseball caps, bandanas and T-shirts of Che being worn by celebrities like Carlos Santana, Che Guevara is enjoying a revival. But the myth is firing up people whose causes, for the most part, represent the exact opposite of what Guevara was, says Alvaro Vargas Llosa. In his new book, The Che Guevara Myth and the Future of Liberty (The Independent Institute, February 2006), Vargas Llosa separates myth from reality and sets the record straight about the legend of Che.
In his opening essay, “The Killing Machine,” which originally appeared in The New Republic, Vargas Llosa exposes the real Che: his lust for power, his obsession with totalitarian and collectivist control, his homicidal idea of justice and his failed social and economic experiments. “There are many disguises for tyranny,” says Vargas Llosa. “One of the ironies of choosing to distinguish between freedom and oppression rather than between socialist and conservative, left and right, pious or impious, is that one stumbles upon the fact that Che Guevara had a lot more in common with the men and systems he fought than would seem conceivable. He was in essence no different from the Batista dictatorship he combated as a young guerilla in the Cuban jungleexcept that he was more efficient and ideological about being a callous dictator himself.”
Vargas Llosa uses eyewitness accounts as well as Che’s own writings to reveal Che’s murderous legacy, brutally crushing any and all dissent and concentrating wealth in the hands of the elite.
In the book’s final two essays, “Latin American LiberalismA Mirage?” and “The Individualist Legacy in Latin America,” Vargas Llosa further elaborates on the attempts by both the left and right to suppress liberty, and examines the Latin American spirit from early indigenous trade to today’s enterprising communities overcoming government impediments. In the process, the book points to the real revolution among the poorthe liberation of individuals from the constraints of state power in all spheres.
“There are myriad forms of oppression,” notes Vargas Llosa in The Che Guevara Myth and the Future of Liberty, “some much more subtle than others, sometimes adorned with the theme of social justice and at other times obscured by the language of security. Recognizing and denouncing the deceitful psychological mechanisms with which the enemies of liberty attempt to bamboozle us into voluntary servitude is one of the urgent tasks of our times.”
Alvaro Vargas Llosa is Senior Fellow at The Independent Institute and the author of Liberty for Latin America (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). A native of Peru, he graduated from the London School of Economics and has worked as a journalist and writer in Latin America, Europe and the U.S. for over fifteen years.
The Che Guevara Myth and the Future of Liberty
By Alvaro Vargas Llosa
Trade Paper, $11.95
Date of Publication: February 2006
Published by The Independent Institute, Oakland, California