Che Guevara Not for nothing has the image of Che Guevara stayed a hallmark of revolution and every expression of democratic, radical dissent, in to the 21st century. Behind the T-shirt image lies the reality of a man whose vision of liberation was at once romantic, ruthless, personal, poetic and compassionate.
Born to a middle-class Argentinian family in 1928, Guevara explored Latin America’s poverty on his motorcycle while training as a doctor, vowing to fight and change what he beheld, and masterminding Cuba’s revolution as a vision for the world.
Maximilien Robespierre Among the historical figures after whom the France name boulevards and squares, one is inexplicably rare: the father of their republic and all modern revolutionary politics. History has given Robespierre a bad rap for his role in what it knows as the Terror. A great orator with a brilliant mind, but an ascetic man, Robespierre drove the great French Revolution, opposing Girondin revolutionary factions that disastrously declared war on the rest of Europe. The wars, and betrayal by others, required Robespierre to defend that revolution with a device proposed along with his friend Joseph-Ignace Guillotin as a humane alternative
Rosa Luxemburg Rosa Luxemburg’s mugshot from Warsaw prison in 1906 – she was jailed for her political activities on several occasions.
History happens, but only just. What would the 20th century have looked like if the German leftist insurgency of 1918-19, in which Luxemburg played her part, had succeeded? No Hitler? No Stalin? A naturalised German of Polish-Jewish origins, she co-founded the Spartacus League, which opposed the first world war and later became the German Communist party.
Mahatma Gandhi Gandhi became the guru and inspiration of nonviolent resistance, after deploying its tactics and principles to lead India’s independence from imperial Britain. Born to a Hindu family, he first experimented with nonviolent resistance in South Africa, before returning to India to organise peasants and workers against land taxes and…