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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: L’univers du Che revisité

by Cathy Ceïbe

Che’s World Revisited

Translated Friday 29 June 2007, by David Lundy

Conference. An international conference, held in Pau in south-western France, has brought together specialists and highlighted the relevance of the thought of the famous guerrillero.

"The Che posters must be taken down!" This was the gist of an international conference devoted to the principles of the thought of this revolutionary, organised jointly on 5 and 6 April, by the universities of Pau and Havana, and bringing together some 20 academics and researchers. This conference was the high point of the 15th Latin American festival of the CulturAmerica Association. A two day event, this "popular and scientific" meeting (to paraphrase one of the organisers, academic Jena Ortiz) was concerned with overcoming the clichés, the Che myth, laying bare the innovative aspects of his thought.

Firstly, it’s best to define the concept of ethics to understand Che’s world. "A permanent construction (…) collective and individual, of values around a parameter: life in all its dimensions", suggested François Houtart, president of the board of governors of the Tricontinental Foundation. Travel companion of Fidel Castro and of the barbudos of the Sierra Maestra, in the difficult but successful struggle to free Cuba from the Batista dictatorship, Che served as Minister for Industry, an internationalist at heart. A revolutionary whose views on what constituted real socialism set a precedent. But, as eminent Cuban specialist Carlos Tablada recalled, Che "did not limit himself to critical analysis (…). he developed an alternative philosophy and culture, distinct from the capitalist vision". This critical analysis, constantly evolving, was "against the mainstream" of his times, "sometimes in contradiction with itself", researcher Janette Habel pointed out, recalling the origins of communism, where the human emancipation and the construction of an alternative to capitalism are consubstantial.

Don’t the recent political upheavals observed in Latin America finally show the freshness of Che’s declarations in spite of the "end of history" discourse, proclaimed since the collapse of the Soviet Union and of the socialist camp by the ideologues that have maintained a stranglehold over our opinions?

"Mummified, Che becomes less dangerous", Jean Ortiz said. While next October will mark the 40th anniversary of the death of Che, this conference was an invitation to enter the living substance of Che’s heritage, notably by avoiding two pitfalls: mystification and undervaluation. Che remains synonymous with revolt and subversion. "The mere choice of this symbol is not so frivolous", insisted Nestor Kohan from Argentina: a clarion call to penetrate Che’s world in order to better explore the freshness of his thought.

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