Che- Part One, produced by Steven Soderbergh and Benicio del Toro, chronicles Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s participation in the Cuban Revolution with Fidel Castro and his UN address speaking out against American imperialism. The film highlights the guerrilla style warfare that Che was so famous for and gives a better look at his political bias against America and other capitalist countries than Motorcycle Diaries offered audiences.
Che- Part One illustrates the important concepts of his book Guerrilla Warfare. It follows his efforts through the three full stages of a successful guerilla campaign as outlined in his guide. The first stage is one of strategic defense. Guevera and additional troops make light attacks and then retreat, as shown by the assault on the army barracks. The second stage takes place as the fighting advances and the revolutionary army has grown. The army becomes more vulnerable and it leads to an assault on their base. In the final stage the guerilla army has garnered enough support and numbers to outmaneuver the opposition and capture Santa Clara. Fighting tactics are not the only guerrilla principles illustrated by the film, the importance of education and community support are also included. Throughout the film, Che makes a point to meet the peasants the army encounters on their travels. He provides medical attention to many and reassures them that the revolutionary army is not there to bring them trouble; he want to promote the revolutionary cause as a beneficial one to Cuba’s poor and disenfranchised. The necessity for this community outreach is outlined in Guevera’s Guerilla Warfare: A Method, ”The peasants’ aspirations or demands must be satisfied to the degree and in the form that circumstances permit so as to bring about the decisive support and solidarity of the whole population…If a single military error can liquidate the guerrilla, a political error can hold back its development for long periods.” His emphasis on education is shown throughout the film especially when picking the soldiers that would join the army. They had to be able to read and write and he frequrntly was shown assigning them homework. When a woman wanted Guevara put her to work as a school teacher (because she did not have a gun to contribute) inside the camp to help educate the illiterate community: “By teaching those who are not able to read and write, the population becomes less likely to remain in a peasantry state of being.” (Guevara, Guerrilla Warfare)
Another important element is the speech Che delivers to the UN about the wrongs of imperialism. This speech based off of his “Message to the Tricontinental Congress.” In this speech Guevara does not accept the United States’ excuse that it is combating communism, rather he feels that the US government is power-hungry and materialistic. These leaders, according to Che, will stop at nothing to achieve their goals, even exploiting the innocent, like the South Koreans. This very political Che is refreshing to see because as Eric Zoloz explains in his article, “Between Bohemianism and a Revolutionary Rebirth”, Guevara was not a radical for as long as the film made him seem. He explains that during Guevara’s time in Mexico he was “apolitical…expressing an apethitc attitude towards the revolutionary cause until his chance meeting with Fidel Castro.” And it was this meeting and friendship with Castro that helped form Che into the radical he is remembered as today. This Che is completely present when delivering his speech, going so far as to say: “We must carry the war into every corner the enemy happens to carry it: to his home, to his centers of entertainment; a total war.” This quote shows that Che was totally committed to the cause of revolution and according to Kornbluh, author of Death of Che Guevara: Declassified, who reported that after the revolution, Guevara planned to export the revolution to different parts of Latin America and Africa with the hope to fix the injustice occurring in those areas as well. And Zolov comments that this commitment to revolution means that now Che “lives on as a symbol of internationalist solidarity with revolutionary, progressive movements everywhere.”