When it comes to guerrilla warfare and insurrection, nothing is more important than political mobilization behind your cause. As Clausewitz said, “War is the continuation of politics by other means”. If war is an instrument of policy, it needs social mobilization. In traditional wars this was the nation state and its army, in the era of small wars you need popular mobilization behind an ideology or cause. In the absence of this, well… you lose. Ask Che.
Che believed that revolutionary momentum could be sparked off by a small group of fighters who demonstrated the inherent brittleness of the state through direct action. Strutting his revolutionary stuff in Bolivia, he failed to take into account what happens if you never create that momentum. Without cultivating any sort of ties to the population they showed his revolutionary dreams the middle finger. Like the scenes at Piers Morgan’s birthday party, no one joined him and he was left completely alone in the Bolivian jungle.
This got me thinking. How could Che Guevara – the poster-boy of revolution – not have mobilized enough support? History books will tell you it was the peasants loyalty to the state and his inability to secure an urban network. The network and infrastructure of a guerrilla band is incredibly important; it provides recruits and a platform. Che never marketed himself properly. Che needed Twitter.
I can picture his profile now, although I’m sure he’d have requested a red verification tick.:
Ernesto “Che” Guevara
Argentine-born Cuban Revolutionary,
and part-time continental guerrilla.
…the kind of wildfire Che could have utilised…
Demonstrations in the Arab spring and even the London riots saw social media play a prominent role for it’s unrivaled networking capability. Twitter would have given Che a significant platform for recruitment and given his campaign some much needed political momentum once he was settled in Bolivia. Twitter’s ability to sell and proliferate ideas was the kind of wildfire Che could have utilised. Che needed his very own #SUSANALBUMPARTY or #RIMJOBS to sell his ideas of continental revolution.
In Bolivia, Che never got #Revolution, #CheInBolivia and #AskChe trending. Although he famously stated “Here, I am advisor to no-one” there is one person, that given the opportunity, he should have listened to eagerly…
…he could readily mobilize an insurgent force larger than that of his own nation…
The greatest candidate for a 21st century guerrilla leader would be Justin Bieber, with his 34,000,000 followers (10 times that of the Chinese PLA). On an average tweet, Bieber secures approximately 30,000 retweets. One tweet I came across simply read: “GREAT DAY” and garnered 36, 639 retweets and counting. Obviously his fans were keen to share with the world that Justin was well entertained. But with one call to arms of his Beliebers, the numbers suggest he could readily mobilize an insurgent force larger than that of his own nation – Canada’s – military
In reality, Che’s social network was less Justin Bieber, more your Mum’s repeated friend request you just want to ignore and hope goes away. Che was never the mythical guerrilla he was built up to be, and didn’t command the aura he believed he possessed – in Bolivia at least. I never thought I’d say this, but Che could have learned something from Senor Bieber, whose ability to utilise mechanisms of public mobilization is an asset any guerrilla should welcome with open arms.
Perhaps if his career ever landslides – fingers crossed – he’ll pop over to Bolivia and get the job done. Less #VivaLaRevolution, more #BieberLaRevolution.