Friday, March 25, 2011

Fidel and Che - A Revolutionary Friendship by Simon Reid-Henry

Fidel and Che - A Revolutionary Friendship
By Simon Reid-Henry
Sceptre, 2008
Review by Ramona Wadi
A compelling biography of the companeros, Fidel and Che - A Revolutionary Friendship brings to light the struggled for a united Latin America, and the bond between the two historical leaders of revolution. A narrative historical testimony of a friendship that was as revolutionary as the lives they lead, embracing a struggle for justice. Simon Reid-Henry portrays their unique place in the history of the world, as their politics shaped not only Cuba, but the struggle for revolution worldwide.
Fidel Castro and Che Guevara met in 1955, during exile in Mexico. Fidel had left Cuba after his release from the Isle of Pines, where he was imprisoned for orchestrating the failed attack on the Moncada Barracks. The trial and his famous History Will Absolve Me defence speech had ensured him a place in the Cuban political sphere. In his speech he had already outlined his philosophy, and his name had become synonymous with the promise of overthrowing the corrupt Batista dictatorship.

Che Guevara had left Guatemala, already having been in contact with trade union movements and rebel groups. The path of revolution had spread before him, affirming that the only solution against foreign intervention is to fight. Indicative of a view expressed in his travels was his disregard for borders and citizenship. Revolution was a universal concept to Che. When he aligned himself alongside Fidel and the Cuban revolution, Che did so on the condition that once the Revolution triumphed, he would spread the revolution to the rest of Latin America.

The triumph of the Cuban revolution in January 1959 also signified the battle of the revolution against imperialism - a cause common to both Fidel and Che. Countless assassination attempts against Fidel, the Bay of Pigs invasion, the US embargo and Che's cowardly assassination by CIA trained soldiers in Bolivia also ensured that the philosophy of the Cuban revolution strengthened.

Throughout the years in which the companeros worked towards a common goal, certain differences stemmed in the perception of how these goals would be achieved. Whilst Fidel was impressed with the Soviet Union, Che was drawn to the Chinese model of communism. Fidel was the leader of the Revolution, with a responsibility towards the nation. Che was the guerrilla revolutionary who wanted to spread the revolution.

Their lives took on different paths when Che formally renounced his Cuban citizenship to prepare for revolution in Bolivia. However, the murder of Che in Bolivia failed to bring about any permanent consolation for the imperialists who had for so long awaited the destruction of communism in Cuba. Fidel remained, now a solitary figure of revolution and with the responsibility to ensure that the ideals they had both shared would not be corroded with time.

Reid-Henry's book evokes a bond which few people can claim to share, and which may, indeed be unique to these extraordinary individuals. Despite the realisation that the companeros achieved greater milestones when they worked together, the permanent separation brought about by Che Guevara's death ensured that the ideals lived on, embodied in Fidel and Che - a struggle that endures, resonates in the cries of revolution and a realisation that tragedy and its repercussions can transcend the confines of imperialist politics.

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