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Guevarism is a theory of communist revolution and a military strategy of guerrilla warfare associated with Marxist revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara, a leading figure of the Cuban Revolution. During the Cold War, the United States and Soviet Union clashed in a series of proxy wars, especially in the developing nations of the Third World, including many decolonization struggles.
After the 1959 triumph of the Cuban insurrection led by a militant "foco" under Fidel Castro, his Argentine-born, cosmopolitan and Marxist colleague Guevara parlayed his ideology and experiences into a model for emulation (and at times, direct military intervention) around the globe. While exporting one such "focalist" revolution to Bolivia, leading an armed vanguard party there in October 1967, Guevara was captured and executed, becoming a martyr to both the World Communist Movement and the New Left.
His ideology promotes exporting revolution to any country whose leader is supported by the empire (United States) and has fallen out of favor with its citizens. Guevara talks about how constant guerrilla warfare taking place in non-urban areas can overcome leaders. He introduces three points that are representative of his ideology as a whole: that the people can win with proper organization against a nation's army; that the conditions that make a revolution possible can be put in place by the popular forces; and that the popular forces always have an advantage in a non urban setting.
Guevara had a particularly keen interest in guerrilla warfare, with a dedication to foco techniques, also known as "focalism" (or "foquismo" in Spanish): vanguardism by small armed units, frequently in place of established communist parties, initially launching attacks from rural areas to mobilize unrest into a popular front against a sitting regime. Despite differences in approach--emphasizing guerrilla leadership and audacious raids that engender general uprising, rather than consolidating political power in military strongholds before expanding to new ones--Che Guevara took great inspiration from the Maoist notion of "protracted people's war" and sympathized with Mao Zedong's People's Republic of China in the Sino-Soviet split. This controversy may partly explain his departure from Castro's pro-Soviet Cuba in the mid-1960s. Guevara also drew direct parallels with his contemporary communist comrades in the Viet Cong, exhorting a multi-front guerrilla strategy to create "two, three, many Vietnams."
In Guevara's final years, after leaving Cuba, he advised communist paramilitary movements in Africa and Latin America, including a young Laurent Kabila, future ruler of Zaire/DR Congo. Finally, while leading a small foco band of guerrilla cadres in Bolivia, Che Guevara was captured and killed. His death, and the short-term failure of his Guevarist tactics, may have interrupted the component guerrilla wars within the larger Cold War for a time, and even temporarily discouraged Soviet and Cuban sponsorship for foquismo.
The emerging communist movements and other fellow traveler radicalism of the time, however, either switched to urban guerrilla warfare before the end of the 1960s, and/or soon revived the rural-based strategies of both Maoism and Guevarism, tendencies that escalated worldwide throughout the 1970s, by and large with the support from the communist states and the Soviet Union in general and Cuba's Castro regime in particular.
Another proponent of Guevarism was the French intellectual Régis Debray, who could be seen as attempting to establish a coherent, unitary theoretical framework on these grounds. Debray has since broken with this.
It was criticized from a revolutionary anarchist perspective by Abraham Guillén, one of the leading tacticians of urban guerrilla warfare in Uruguay and Brazil. Guillen claimed that cities are a better ground for the guerrilla than the countryside (Guillen was a veteran of the Spanish Civil War). He criticized Guevarist movements of national liberation (like the Uruguayan Tupamaros, one of the many groups that he helped as a military advisor) for trying to impose a dictatorship instead of self-management.
- Revisionism (Marxism)
- Frantz Fanon
- Carlos Marighella
- Cuban Revolution
- Guerrilla warfare
- Protracted people's war
- Urban guerrilla warfare
- Wars of national liberation