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Che, the revolutionary thinker and organizer whosebirthday falls on June 14,  has left us two major elements of his legacy. One: Revolution is everything and we as individuals, in isolation, are nothing. And two: Injustice anywhere against anyone is injustice against all of us everywhere.

“Dear Hildita, Aleidita, Camilo, Celia and Ernesto,

If you read this letter one day, it will mean that I am no longer alive. You will hardly remember me, and the smallest among you will have entirely forgotten me.

Your father was a man who acted as he thought best and who has been absolutely faithful to his convictions. Grow up into good revolutionaries. Study hard to master technique, which gives you mastery over nature.

Remember that it is the Revolution which is important and that each of us, taken in isolation, is worth nothing. Above all be sensitive, in the deepest areas of yourselves, to any injustice committed against whoever it may be anywhere in the world.

Yours always, my children. I hope to see you again. A big strong kiss from Daddy”

[Source: 1965/]

Che wrote this letter to his children around the time he was leaving for Bolivia to continue the struggle there. Of course at the time no one knew where Che had gone.

In this letter, Che has left us two major elements of his legacy. One: Revolution is everything and we as individuals, in isolation, are nothing. And by Revolution is meant a fundamental transformation of society to build a new social order – a humane social order based on human equality and social equity. The second element is: injustice anywhere against any one is injustice against all of us everywhere.

Salim Msoma’s and my generation were inspired by this legacy and we tried to live that legacy. We were at the University of Dar es Salaam during the period when there was great revolutionary turbulence all over the world. We felt a part of that great struggle for socialism and against imperialism and capitalism. We considered ourselves part of the African Revolution. We demonstrated against the US Embassy when it was raining napalm on Vietnamese people. We demonstrated against the Soviet Embassy when it invaded Czechoslovakia. Some of our comrades went to live in liberated areas of Mozambique. We closely followed student struggles in France against De Gaulle. We celebrated the achievements of the civil rights movement in the US. The humanity in us was one, undivided by caste, colour or creed.

We consumed radical and revolutionary books like it was our daily diet, for we took seriously Amilcar Cabral’s dictum that there cannot be a successful revolution without a revolutionary theory. Mine was the first post-Arusha Declaration generation when not only the country, but the continent was shaken by liberation movements and the world was at the apex of the revolution. Then came the rude interruption – neo-liberalism. The neo-liberal generation does not know Che nor his legacy but they wear Che T-shirts. Che’s image has been commoditized, individualized and privatised like much else. In the neo-liberal age you live for yourself. “Kila mtu abebe msalaba wake!” [Everyone carries their own cross].

Remember the notorious saying of Margaret Thatcher, the political spokesperson of neo-liberalism: “ ... there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families.” The individualism of neo-liberalism is narcissist. It is not even the enlightened individualism of liberalism which stood for individual freedom and the flowering of the individual. Neo- liberalism knows only one freedom – freedom to choose from commodities on offer.

Che left us with not only the notion that there is society which cares for and is cared by the individual - for individual is a social being – but his conception of society was wider than his own. Che was a fine example of an internationalist – for him society was human society. He not only fought with Cubans and Bolivians but also with Congolese. That reminds me of an anecdote.

In the sixties and seventies the Hill [as the University of Dar es Salaam was affectionately known] was a site of important debates and many prominent intellectuals from foreign countries were based here. On this, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere took an internationalist position contrary to some of us, young militant leftists. I remember a group of University Students African Revolutionary Front (USARF) and TANU Youth League (TYL) visiting Mwalimu at his Msasani residence. In the course of the conversation, a couple of our comrades raised concern in relation to ‘expatriate lecturers.’ Mwalimu listened and then came a barrage of questions.

‘Who was Che Guevara?’ Mwalimu asked.
‘Argentinean’, one of us replied enthusiastically exhibiting knowledge and acquaintance.
‘Where did he fight?’ Mwalimu queried.
‘In Cuba’, another of us militantly interjected even before Mwalimu had finished his sentence.
‘Where did he die?’ Mwalimu continued interrogating.

By this time the message was sinking in as one of us timidly replied, ‘In Bolivia’.

‘You, see, an internationalist!’ the teacher-intellectual closed the debate decisively. Never again did we raise the issue of ‘expatriate lecturers’ in a public forum.

So comrades and friends as we remember Che, let’s also recover his legacy – his love of Revolution – and his unrelenting and uncompromising fight for justice.

* Issa Shivji, Emeritus Professor of Public Law at Dar es Salaaam University, spoke on June 14, 2016 during Che Guevara Day at the Cuban Embassy in Tanzania.



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Comments (2)

  • mknmxo001's picture

    Pambazuka Africa!

    Jun 23, 2016
  • Moses Mwakas s's picture
    Moses Mwakas s

    Che was and he is an international revolutionist Icon all over the world. he fought for his home country later his continent and all over the world. I love his slogan, " Injustice against anyone anywhere, is injustice against all of us everywhere".

    Jun 28, 2016