Issue - February 2007

February 2007
Canarito Pampeno

For the last nine years the children of La Cancha have had an opportunity to escape from the busy streets of the market into the care of the Centro Canarito Pampeño where they are given assistance with schoolwork and have the chance to play safely in a protected more...

February 2007

Che Guevara, Sartre and the Humanistic Interpretation of Marxism

In one of his various statements, the French philosopher and play writer Jean-Paul Sartre defined the Argentinean born revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara as "the most complete man of the 20th century."

What lied at the bottom of this personal appreciation was the French intellectual's philosophy, existentialism, and a sense of failure which subsequently the revolutionary erased.

The fundamental theoretical issues of this philosophical movement are an absolute conception of freedom, a humanist approach, and a theory of "nothingness" which extends to the phenomenological field. Furthermore, the theories expounded in his most notorious book, Being and Nothingness, deal with the branch of philosophy denominated as ontology, in a few words with the question of the being.

Since the human being is a permanently free being and lives in an inescapable condition of having to take perpetual decisions, she/he cannot escape personal responsibilities. These can come in different forms: from a simple daily life event to a huge duty we cannot ignore.

Using an excuse to justify the fact that we did not undertake a burdensome action is what Sartre called bad faith. Having given these introductory remarks about the existentialist world-view, I want to show why the French philosopher regarded Che Guevara as such an extraordinary man.The latter was born in Argentina in 1928 from a leftist wealthy family. This permitted him to study medicine at the University of Buenos Aires. The young Ernesto Guevara was also a tireless reader. His auto-didactical learning included literature by authors such as Pablo Neruda, Jules Vernes, Jack London and Emilio Salgari. He also read Sigmund Freud's sexual theories and Russel Bertrand's social philosophy.

He himself wrote much poetry. Clearly enough, his education and cultural knowledge were of a certain level. A year before receiving his prestigious medical degree, his 29-year-old friend Alberto Granado convinced him to undertake a journey to Peru with destination the San Pablo leper colony where they would have volunteered as doctors. They left their hometown Alta Gracia on the famous motorcycle La Poderosa II.

When Guevara came back, he was not the same. Throughout his trip he had witnessed the socio-economical inequalities between the people living in misery and the middle and higher classes, just like himself. He could have turned his back and left these injustices be handled by some other person, since the future which was waiting him could only have brought a quiet, safe and upper middle-class life.

But he refused to seek refuge in that world. As a consequence, he decided to terminate his studies, gaining his degree, and immediately leave for Guatemala. He had taken this decision because of being influenced by his Marxist readings, since in the latter country the populist left-wing leader Jacobo Arbeny Guzman was devising reforms against the discrepancies between the social classes. His statement was that "In Guatemala I will perfect myself and accomplish whatever may be necessary in order to become a true revolutionary".

In Guatemala he met Hilda Gadea Acosta, which would later on become his wife. She was not only an economist, but also a member of the American Populist Revolutionary Alliance (APRA). In this way Che Guevara would gain his first political contacts which in a long run would take him to the socialist icon he is nowadays.

As we have learned in the paragraph preceding the summarized description of the nature of Guevara's mission, bad faith is the unwilling of taking any responsibility. Che Guavara not only did not ignore the facts he witnessed, but he paid his involvement with his own life. In fact, Guevara was executed by the Bolivian Army on the 9th of October 1967 in La Higuera, near a village called Vallegrande, when organising a revolution against the exploitation of the campesino on behalf of the padrones.

Ernesto Guevara showed how we are free beings living in a world where there is nothing (hence the concept of Nothingness) which can impede us to pursue our ideologies.

Jean-Paul Sartre, in the second phase of his philosophical life, defined as the idealist phase, tried to find compatibility between the Marxist theories and his own humanist existentialism. In those years, in the 60's, the practical side of Marxism was represented by the Soviet Communist regime. Of course, the main criticism was that what theoretically had to be a philosophy claiming equality between people, resulted in a dictatorship where civilians were sent to concentration camps (the famous Gulags) for expressing their ideas.

The French philosopher was a sympathiser of the Communist French Party. This is why in his book Critique of the Dialectical Reason, he tried to prove how Marxism in reality was a philosophy which had a humanitarian principle. The difficulty aroused in the fact that Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels were influenced by Hegel's philosophy who expounded a theory where human beings were subjected by the laws of history. This was a dialectical law (hence Sartre's title) meaning that there is a thesis which is contrasted by an anti-thesis and eventually combine into a synthesis. The synthesis would then become the thesis and so on until there would be a final synthesis.

Marx and Engels saw in this the truth and applied it to their materialistic and economical perspective: the bourgeoisie were the thesis, the working class the anti-thesis and communism was the final synthesis. In fact, Marxism is also known under the name of historical determinism because of the determinist approach towards the human being.

As mentioned, Sartre's existentialism viewed the person as endowed with free will and not as a passive individual subjugated to true historical laws. So how could there be a successful, ironically speaking, synthesis between Marxism and existentialism?

The theory proposed by Sartre was that people freely decided to act as they did, meaning that they freely exploited the working-class and were not forced doing it by a historical law. This reasoning was never accepted as the highest possible achievement. Thus there was always a doubt about his proof.

This is where the figure of the Argentinean revolutionary comes into play. The character of Che Guevara, which comprised the Marxists ideology and massive dose of humanism, was probably the clearest proof that in human beings Marxism and humanism were a possible combination, hence the philosopher's failure was transformed into success. This is why Jean-Paul Sartre considered Ernesto "Che" Guevara as the "most complete man of the 20th century".

The "Inca Trail"
In August 1990, archeologists Antonio Paolillo and Ricardo Céspedes organized an expedition to the Parque Nacional Carrasco to cover the Inca trail regarding the "cocales" situated in the Yungas of Arepucho. An article published in the Ligabue Magazine tells about the discovery of this pre-Hispanic trail and the presence of a rock with petrography situated in the community of San Pedro...
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