Thoughts on Che: James Fearon

In this new series, we ask Stanford professors what they think about the legacy of Che Guevara, a Cold War-era leftist guerrilla who remains a celebrity among campus lefties today. In this issue, we hear from James Fearon in the Political Science department.

1. What are your thoughts on Che as a symbol of revolution, power to the people, and the struggle against oppression?

I am not an expert on Che Guevara by any stretch of the imagination, and don’t want to pretend otherwise. All I would say is that I think it is clear that he has been heavily romanticized on the basis, in large part, of a cool graphic image. His reality was complicated and quite nasty in many respects. He was an advocate and user of extreme violence. He was known for his brutality. He did not believe in the rule of law and was happy to summarily execute large numbers of people he deemed to be “counterrevolutionaries.”

2. If you could replace the image of Che with an image of someone else, who would it be?

Maybe Mahatma Gandhi.

Interview conducted by email and edited by Tristan Abbey.

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