Che Guevara: Detonator Theory

There is an idea in politics call the detonator theory.

It says that discontented populations, particularly those under foreign occupation, are likened to explosive material which can be detonated by some external action.


In History we see this time and again. Detonator theory would describe the Gaul uprising against ROME, the Zealot uprising, also against Rome, the Black Hand assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and Lenin’s return to Russia from exile.

Each of these events were results of oppressive governments and angry populations set against each other by a spark from a small group of people.

The list of detonator examples goes on and on.

Comrade Che

Che Guevarra expanded upon the detonator theory. His proviso was called the Foco Theory.

According to Che, it wasn’t necessary to wait for a population to develop revolutionary conditions in reaction to an oppressive force, either foreign or domestic.

Che argued that a dedicated small group can ignite a revolution, thereby creating the conditions and the uprising at the same time.

In essence, create the climate of oppression, even when none exists.

In a way this is similar to the American Revolution, which was sparked by a committed group of elites, who created the conditions that fostered rebellion against England.

Think about it for a moment…



The French & Indian War was sparked by Washington when he led an invasion of the Ohio territory.

The French & Indian War made it necessary for England to raise taxes.

The colonists were told taxes were reason to rebel. (See Common Sense, by Thomas Paine)

The environment in Colonial America wasn’t ripe for revolution. Washington and a group of elites created the environment that fostered the feeling of tyranny.

Patrick Henry

Remember Patrick Henry? “Give me Liberty, or give me Death!”

In many ways, the Communist revolutionary Che Guevara and his theory of revolution was reflective of the American Revolution.

What do you think?

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Author: historydojo

I’m a National Board Certified Teacher with nearly twenty years of experience teaching high school history. I blog about teaching, history, current events, the law and social justice.

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