Should we love Che Guevara? – By Paul Berman – Slate Magazine
The cult of Ernesto Che Guevara is an episode in the moral callousness of our time. Che was a totalitarian. He achieved nothing but disaster. Many of the early leaders of the Cuban Revolution favored a democratic or democratic-socialist direction for the new Cuba. But Che was a mainstay of the hardline pro-Soviet faction, and his faction won. Che presided over the Cuban Revolution’s first firing squads. He founded Cuba’s “labor camp” system—the system that was eventually employed to incarcerate gays, dissidents, and AIDS victims. To get himself killed, and to get a lot of other people killed, was central to Che’s imagination. In the famous essay in which he issued his ringing call for “two, three, many Vietnams,” he also spoke about martyrdom and managed to compose a number of chilling phrases: “Hatred as an element of struggle; unbending hatred for the enemy, which pushes a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him into an effective, violent, selective, and cold-blooded killing machine. This is what our soldiers must become …”— and so on. He was killed in Bolivia in 1967, leading a guerrilla movement that had failed to enlist a single Bolivian peasant. And yet he succeeded in inspiring tens of thousands of middle class Latin-Americans to exit the universities and organize guerrilla insurgencies of their own. And these insurgencies likewise accomplished nothing, except to bring about the death of hundreds of thousands, and to set back the cause of Latin-American democracy—a tragedy on the hugest scale.
CHE AT A GLANCE
BORN: Ernesto Guevara de la Serna in Rosario, Argentina, on June 14, 1928.
DIED: October 1967 in La Higuera, Bolivia, after his capture by the Bolivian army and CIA operatives.
EARNED HIS GUERRILLA STRIPES: Alongside Fidel Castro in the Cuban revolution, from 1956 to ’59, when rebels overthrew the government of strongman Fulgencio Batista.
JACK OF ALL TRADES: In the early years of the Cuban revolution, Guevara served as jail warden, minister of industry and – ironically for a militant who once urged “the struggling masses” to rob banks – as president of the National Bank of Cuba, during which time he issued bank notes signed “Che.” Guevara was one of the architects of Cuba’s totalitarian police state.
FAILED GUERRILLA MISSIONS: The rebel who wrote the ultimate guerrilla manual in his 1960 handbook, Guerrilla Warfare, embarked on several botched missions.
His secret operation to organize rebels in the Congo was so disastrous, the Castro government deep-sixed the details for years. Guevara left the Congo for his doomed – and final – mission, in Bolivia.
‘KILLING MACHINE’: Guevara described his guerrilla self as “bloodthirsty” and “violent” and a “coldblooded killing machine.” These were traits he put into action during the bloody rebel uprising of the late 1950s, with point-blank executions and other displays of brutality.
On what a good guerrilla must have:
“Hatred as an element of struggle; unbending hatred for the enemy, which pushes a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him into an effective, violent, selective, and cold-blooded killing machine.” (From Message to the Tricontinental, 1967.)
On the role of women in a guerrilla force:
“It is very pleasant for the soldier enduring the harsh conditions of life to count on a well-seasoned meal: besides, it’s easier to keep a woman in her domestic chores.”
On black people:
“The Negro is indolent and a dreamer, spending his meager wage on frivolity and drink; the European has a tradition of work and saving.” (Guevara in his Motorcycle Diaries, on black Venezuelans he encountered during his legendary travels.)
On targeting the United States:
“If the rockets had remained, we would have used them all and directed them against the very heart of the United States, including New York, in our defense against aggression.” (Guevara to the Daily Worker of London in the wake of the Cuban missile crisis.)
Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the mainstream media celebrate Che as a saint and a sex symbol – a selfless martyr with a love of humanity second only to Jesus Christ’s.
But their ideas about Che – Fidel Castro’s henchman whose face adorns hipsters’ T-shirts, posters, and ad campaigns – are based on a murderous communist regime’s outright lies.
As Humberto Fontova reveals in this myth-shattering book, Che was actually a bloodthirsty executioner, a military bumbler, a coward, and a hypocrite. This biographical account proves it’s no exaggeration to state that Che – who was captured and killed nearly forty years ago – was the godfather of modern terrorism.
And yet Che’s followers naively swallow Castro’s historical revisionism. They are classic “useful idiots.” the name Stalin gave to foolish Westerners who parroted his lies about communism’s successes.
Humberto Fontova interviewed the few people still alive who interacted with Che and can tell the truth about him, while overturning the myths and legends. In this book you’ll learn:
- How Che longed to destroy New York City with nuclear missiles. (So why does Angelina Jolie sport a Che tattoo, while denouncing violence as a U.N. ambassador of goodwill?
- How Che promoted book burning and signed death warrants for authors who disagreed with him. (So why did Jean Paul Sartre praise him as a “perfect” man, and why did Time Magazine name him one of the 100 most influential people of the century?)
- How Che made amazingly racist statements about blacks. (So why do Jesse Jackson, Jay-Z, and Mike Tyson say nice things about him?)
- How Che persecuted gays, long-haired rock and roll fans, and religious people. (So why do Carlos Santana, Madonna and Johnny Depp think he’s so cool?)
- How Che, the devoted Communist, loved material wealth and private luxuries. (So why do the mainstream media still depict him as an ascetic?)