Che Guevara's death
October 8, 2007 7:23 AM   Subscribe

Che Guevara's death
posted by Postroad (87 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's the thing about Che - his gun killed thousands of people. When I see a thirteen year old waving a Che flag, I wonder what the fuck is he doing.
posted by four panels at 7:40 AM on October 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


Those who live by the sword, etc.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:44 AM on October 8, 2007


From his death to icon status: The Importance of Being Ernesto

Also:
Che - the icon and the ad
In Pictures: Images of Che
Some other graphic images of Che.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:47 AM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Mr Rodriguez was present at [...] training the Nicaraguan Contras and advising the Argentine military government during the 1980s.
It is a history of which Mr Rodriguez is fiercely proud.


Seems like a nice guy.
Go CIA!
posted by signal at 7:58 AM on October 8, 2007 [3 favorites]


Che Guevara's dead?

You mean, he's not getting a cut on all the t-shirts?
posted by lodurr at 8:00 AM on October 8, 2007 [3 favorites]


Thanks, mjj, those are good links.

If only the original poster had bothered to do anything like that.
posted by Malor at 8:02 AM on October 8, 2007


Banksy's Che graffiti.
posted by cavalier at 8:04 AM on October 8, 2007


dear Malor: sorry about your complaints above but I do note that of 10 posts you have put up on this site, you have one-link posts to 7. Perhaps then we both can learn?
posted by Postroad at 8:11 AM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Seems like a nice guy.

World class. I bet he's got some geat stories for down the pub... "This one time, with the helicopter and the volcano...".
posted by Artw at 8:18 AM on October 8, 2007


One-link posts are perfectly fine. What would random links about che add to a piece about a man who was there at his capture? Seriously?

And that dude sounds like a real dick. Who takes pride in helping the Contras or Argentina's military junta?
posted by chunking express at 8:18 AM on October 8, 2007


That's the thing about Che - his gun killed thousands of people. When I see a thirteen year old waving a Che flag, I wonder what the fuck is he doing.

Yeah, unlike us capitalists, who don't celebrate anyone responsible for other people's deaths!
posted by delmoi at 8:23 AM on October 8, 2007 [12 favorites]


... oops, two of those links I posted were in the sidebar of the BBC article, Postroad. I had them bookmarked - but lo, there they were anyway ... sorry about that. But the article "The importance of being Ernesto" mentions Rodriguez and adds some details to Che's death and post-death and picks up on into the crafting of the legend status.

You're welcome, Malor, but you know, I do agree that single link posts are OK. Nice as those big fat posts with lots of links are, they take a lot of time and can be daunting. I like the variety!
posted by madamjujujive at 8:25 AM on October 8, 2007


When I first came to the Bay area I rented a room from a friend's mom on the Peninsula. She was a retired schoolteacher. So sweet when she answered the door. As she led me upstairs to my room, I noticed a big poster of Che on the staircase. Then another. Then I looked up to see a GINORMOUS cuban flag and a huge portrait of Castro. Turned out the entire top floor, sans my room, was a shrine to Cuba. Her bedroom looked like a teen girl's room... if you substitute Castro & Che for Zac Efron. She told me that she had gone to Cuba on vacation once and it was so amazing that she knew she had to get the embargo lifted. So she went back about 14 times, connecting through Mexico. She held communist meetings on Saturdays (I made a point to be gone). In the kitchen there were photos of her being dragged by policemen at protests and on her fridge there was a xeroxed pink piece of paper with a faux crossstitch design that said, "Mommies mommies don't be Commies, stay at home and fold pajamies."

I stayed there for about 4 months, and I know my chances at the Presidency are totally shot. I'm pretty sure it HAS to be on my FBI file that I cohabitated with a known communist sympathizer. It was weird though. At one point I told her, "Y'know, most people from CUBA don't love Castro..." But she was really dedicated to her cause.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:27 AM on October 8, 2007


To me, both Rodriguez and Che are/were dicks.
posted by Ber at 8:30 AM on October 8, 2007


"Y'know, most people from CUBA don't love Castro..."

Living in Miami for two years (with mostly the children of exiles as friends and co-workers) kind of put me off Fidel and Che for life.
posted by jonmc at 8:42 AM on October 8, 2007


Che reminds me of today's neoconservatives. Che accurately saw the terrible problem of poverty; neoconservatives were right that Saddam was a barbarous thug.

They're both wrong, though, because killing a lot of people doesn't automatically just make everything better.

Good post. What a chilling figure Rodriguez is. "Because of past oppression, I'm on the side of good, and can aid in the oppression and murder of whoever I like."
posted by ibmcginty at 8:43 AM on October 8, 2007 [5 favorites]


(as they say down there, when I see people in Miami building homemade rafts to float to Havana, then I'll believe how great they are. I'm not holding my breath)
posted by jonmc at 8:45 AM on October 8, 2007


I went to the May 1 parade / protest in Paris this year. And yes, Che t-shirts were available. Most of the crowd was born well after Che's death. Just goes to show what a strong logomark can do for you.

There's a zillion groups marching in Paris on May 1, from practically establishment labour unions to fringe groups of anarchists and communists. The one that blew me away were the freakin Tamil Tigers. Marching for their right to be heard. And torture and blow up civilians and draft child soldiers, but they left that part off their signs.
posted by Nelson at 8:50 AM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


... when I see people in Miami building homemade rafts to float to Havana ...

In Miami, wouldn't they just buy a boat and set sail under cover of daylight?

[quip]And isn't that a little like building a raft to float from Candyland to Mashed Turnip City?[/quip]
posted by lodurr at 8:55 AM on October 8, 2007


Quotes from Che:
I ended the problem giving him a shot with a .32 pistol in the right side of the brain, with exit orifice in the right temporal. He gasped for a little while and was dead. Upon proceeding to remove his belongings I couldn't get off the watch tied by a chain to his belt, and then he told me in a steady voice farther away than fear: "Yank it off, boy, what does it matter." I did so and his possessions were now mine.

* Diary entry from Sierra Maestra on the shooting of fellow Eutimio Guerra which he suspected of passing on information (1957)

To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary... These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail. This is a revolution! And a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate.
posted by caddis at 8:57 AM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Felix Rodriguez is a pig... He wears a lot of jewelry and he tries to sell reporters Che memorabilia.

I'm looking forward to the Soderbergh's two movies, The ARgentine and Guerrilla that are filming right now.
posted by mert at 9:00 AM on October 8, 2007


The Cult of Che Guevara.

Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him.
posted by chlorus at 9:32 AM on October 8, 2007


Rodriguez sounds like a shallow sociopath puppet on the CIA payroll, who, incidentally, offed a revolutionary and sounds pathetically smug about it. Che was a lot more than that.
posted by nickyskye at 9:38 AM on October 8, 2007


The fact that Rodriguez obviously feels he is some sort of 'freedom fighter', despite having been instrumental in some of the more heinous totalitarian regimes of the past century, is a striking (and creepy) example of cognitive dissonance.
posted by signal at 9:41 AM on October 8, 2007


Rodriguez sounds like a shallow sociopath puppet on the CIA payroll,

agreed.

Che was a lot more than that


Not really. Just another rich-kid thug with an ideology.
posted by jonmc at 9:43 AM on October 8, 2007


There are useful idiots attached to just about every cause.

Sometimes they even end up running the show.

Occasionally they even turn on their masters.
posted by lodurr at 9:56 AM on October 8, 2007


It's important to remember that Che wasn't shot in because he was dangerous or violent. The CIA ignored or teamed up with plenty of Latin American murderers, many of them far worse than Che. I mean, they never needed a 500 code for Pinochet, did they? Guevera was killed because he stood a chance of putting more political power in the hands of the oppressed. If MLK had had a long talk with the guy and convinced him to take a non-violent approach, he would have ended up just as dead, just like all those other South American anti-fascist activists did. Hell, he probably would have died sooner.
posted by Clay201 at 9:56 AM on October 8, 2007 [4 favorites]


wasn't shot in because.

wasn't shot because
posted by Clay201 at 9:59 AM on October 8, 2007


Augustin Souchy's report on the Cuban revolution written in 1960 turned out to be quite prescient:
The Cuban Revolution achieved great social progress for the people, with a rapidity unmatched in any other Latin-American country. But all this is not the work of the people themselves. We must insist that the Revolution is rapidly turning into a dictatorship. The dictators, Mussolini, Peron, Perez Jimenez, (and how many others!) to justify their tyrannies and glorify their names, also built houses etc. for the poor, (public works in Russia).
Guevara played an active role in the suppression of independent workers' and other opposition movements after the revolution. It's not enough to appoint yourself knight-errant liberator of the ungrateful masses and then turn on them for having the temerity to have their own ideas on how they might want to live their lives.
Suspect I'd probably still have more time for Guevara if I met him than the odious cunt interviewed in the linked article. There's still something to be said for allying yourself with the poor and dispossessed, however cack-handedly, than a career as a death squad trainer and hired gun of spooks and dictators.
posted by Abiezer at 10:00 AM on October 8, 2007 [10 favorites]


Seconding Abiezer's comment.

"Witnessing the widespread poverty, oppression and disenfranchisement throughout Latin America, and influenced by his readings of Marxist literature, Guevara decided that the only solution for the region’s inequalities was armed revolution."

"The overthrow of the Arbenz regime by a coup d'état backed by the Central Intelligence Agency cemented Guevara's view of the United States as an imperialist power that would implacably oppose and attempt to destroy any government that sought to redress the socioeconomic inequality endemic to Latin America and other developing countries. This strengthened his conviction that socialism achieved through armed struggle and defended by an armed populace was the only way to rectify such conditions."

Rodriguez was a low level CIA thug.

Che deserves demystification and to not be worshipped in a cult of personality. He was a mass murderer, came from an aristocratic lineage, was a Marxist revolutionary, who would have had monstrous Stalinist rule in Cuba, was a political figure and leader of Cuban and internationalist guerrillas.

Not really.

He was more than Rodriguez and that is why Rodgiguez keeps Che's relics.
posted by nickyskye at 10:07 AM on October 8, 2007 [4 favorites]


You guys with your balanced and insightful comments. Can't you see you're spoiling all the fun? We want a [hero / demon], not a human being!
posted by lodurr at 10:11 AM on October 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


Could someone recommend a reasonably balanced biography of Che? I hear all kinds of shit about him, good and bad, have no idea what's true and what's not. My little brother wears his t-shirts but says nothing beyond "He was a freedom fighter" and "He fought against poverty".
posted by schroedinger at 10:19 AM on October 8, 2007


I like the Che shirt for the same reason I like Mao posters: I love iconography.
posted by klangklangston at 10:21 AM on October 8, 2007


Well, Che stood up for what he believed, and was willing to fight for it, which is admirable. True, it involved a lot of killing, but Batista was a pretty despicable dictator.

Which is not to say that Castro hasn't ended up a despicable dictator himself.

One thing you can say, though, that's pretty telling of Che's character. When the other Cuban revolutionaries stayed in Cuba to enjoy the fat of the land as dictators, Che wanted to spread the revolution, and so went places like the Congo and Bolivia to help free other people from oppression.

While we can certainly disagree with his methodology (and I do, I'm a pacifist, frankly), for him, ideology was more important than personal power, which is more than you can say for Castro.
posted by MythMaker at 10:22 AM on October 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


Yeah, unlike us capitalists, who don't celebrate anyone responsible for other people's deaths!
posted by delmoi at 11:23 AM on October 8


Dude, you are like the 75,000 comment king of Tu Quoque.

Do you like have a Fallacious Firefox extension that automatically posts for you?
posted by four panels at 10:22 AM on October 8, 2007 [8 favorites]


He was more than Rodriguez

That's not saying much.
posted by jonmc at 10:30 AM on October 8, 2007


I've not read Guevara's Congo diaries, but apparently his time there was quite a shambles. He would insist on leading the ill-equipped rebels against much better armed and entrenched government forces. Working through a translator didn't help either, though he left a good impression on some. He did identify Laurent Kabila as a drunken arse, so he obviously wasn't all that daft.
posted by Abiezer at 10:37 AM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


...and so went places like the Congo and Bolivia to help free other people from oppression.

Although his time in Bolivia was marked by the complete lack of interest "oppressed" Bolivian peasants had in his revolutionary plans.
posted by PenDevil at 10:39 AM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Mythmaker: Well, Che stood up for what he believed, and was willing to fight for it, which is admirable. True, it involved a lot of killing, but Batista was a pretty despicable dictator.

The story is a hell of a lot more complex than that. If you tunnel-vision the story a bit and only consider Fidel and Che, sure, Che was the one with charisma. But in the larger context, Che was the foreigner who didn't have a damned clue about how Cuba worked beyond knowing that Batista was an asshole. He was given far too much power after the war on the basis of being a 'hero,' and did a fantastic amount of damage not only through being bloody-minded but also through being agriculturally and economically inept and unwilling to learn. You can say that he "stood up for what he believed in," but "what he believed in" clearly wasn't allowing the Cubans themselves to rule the country they clearly knew more about than he did. I believe he was simply lazy and brutal. It only takes a few photos, the endorsement of the dictator, and some lousy translation to turn an inept asshole into an icon. So much could have been achieved in Cuba; Che was one of the reasons that nothing was.

Che wasn't what people want to think he was.

By the way, if anybody wants a good account of the revolution in Cuba, I found this highly interesting.
posted by koeselitz at 11:12 AM on October 8, 2007


By the way:

Mythmaker:"One thing you can say, though, that's pretty telling of Che's character. When the other Cuban revolutionaries stayed in Cuba to enjoy the fat of the land as dictators, Che wanted to spread the revolution, and so went places like the Congo and Bolivia to help free other people from oppression."

Eh, bullshit. He served as a fantastically horrible Minister of Industry and was in Cuba until 1965. Aside from a few brief junkets, he spent those five years in Cuba in various positions at the behest of Castro.
posted by koeselitz at 11:19 AM on October 8, 2007


Nothing screams "wannabe" like adopting iconography that which you know nothing about. But, besides that. This talk of Marxism an communism seems really beside the real point. As I have come to understand it, the banner of democracy is an excuse to flex on everyone. Representation or organization by the oppressed in anyway must be quelled. By and large Democracy in South America, indeed, the whole of the western hemisphere will NOT be tolerated outside of the united states.
posted by Student of Man at 11:19 AM on October 8, 2007


And a lot of people say that the reason he finally left Cuba in 1965 was because his industrial plans were such a miserable failure.
posted by koeselitz at 11:21 AM on October 8, 2007


Just watched this short video clip of contemporary Chinese factory workers *inside* a huge metal press and it makes visceral sense why there would be violent revolutionaries.
posted by nickyskye at 11:26 AM on October 8, 2007


the complete lack of interest "oppressed" Bolivian peasants

Regardless of your position on Che, I don't think the term opressed ever needs scare quotes when it's next to Bolivian peasants.
posted by signal at 11:29 AM on October 8, 2007


> Che wanted to spread the revolution, and so went places like the Congo and Bolivia to help free other people from oppression.

Where his world-class competence as a revolutionary provided the model for the Cuban guy in The Gods Must Be Crazy.
posted by jfuller at 11:42 AM on October 8, 2007


jonmc, it's like with slavery apologists back home in the South: Whenever I hear how wonderful the slaves supposedly had it, I note wistfully how the Underground Railroad was helping smuggle all those free blacks from Up Nawth down to their much-desired lives of leisure as chattel in Dixie.
posted by pax digita at 11:44 AM on October 8, 2007


I would have kept the pipe as well.

Also, one link posts are totally groovy when you can only tune into metafilter for short durations. Thanks for the article!
posted by NotInTheBox at 11:48 AM on October 8, 2007


"Y'know, most people from CUBA don't love Castro..."

Maybe, but most people still living in Cuba think pretty highly of Fidel and Che. The fact of the matter is the vast majority of Cubans live better under Castro than they ever would have without the revolution. And those exiles living in Miami will be surprised at how unwelcome their homecomings will be.
posted by three blind mice at 11:57 AM on October 8, 2007


I know it's been said before, but something about mass-marketed images of Mao and Che at the megamall is deeply, deeply funny.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:07 PM on October 8, 2007


> something about mass-marketed images of Mao and Che at the megamall is deeply, deeply funny.


"The Capitalists will sell us the rope"

and the "Been there, done that, got the T-shirt" T-shirt.
posted by jfuller at 12:42 PM on October 8, 2007


To make a somewhat obvious point, the Cubans in Miami are the people running away from Cuba. Of course they didn't like it. That's like me getting so pissed off at America that I move to Norway. Whenever someone there asks me about the US, chances are, I something like "fuck that shithole, NORWAY FOREVER." 1: because who wants to be around the guy who thinks Norway sucks? and 2: I hated the US enough to move away.

Not to say that Cuba is some kind of paradise. I don't know, I've never been there and I know very little about it. But the guys who flee the island probably aren't going to give you a straight answer on the advantages & disadvantages of living there. They probably think it sucks.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 12:49 PM on October 8, 2007


So much could have been achieved in Cuba; Che was one of the reasons that nothing was.

This is a pretty poor attitude to adopt towards something like the Cuba revolution. "What could've been" is what you say when you don't make the varsity baseball team and it's just stupid to apply it to the turning point of an entire nation. As for the historical legacy of Che, frankly, the fact that the CIA assassinated him is enough to earn him high marks with anybody familiar with the agency's other Latin dates. But the great thing about men like Felix Rodriguez, about all men who commit crimes on command and then insist they are "proud of their service," is in reality they are total failures. One pities them because it's so very clear that they are no better then the supposed monsters they battle. The loss of the moral high ground hollows always hollows out all victories because moral battles are the ones that really matter.
posted by nixerman at 12:52 PM on October 8, 2007


interesting that we have another terrorist thug who is also a doctor, in the mold of zawahiri, the latest london bombers, and so many others.

Strange how all these folks apparently take mulligans on their hippocratic oaths. At least Castro was a ballplayer.
posted by jenkinsEar at 12:56 PM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


"So did Mr Rodriguez have any regrets about what happened in 1967, I asked him.

Yes, he smiled. "I would have kept that pipe." "


Murderer. Heartless, petty murderer.
posted by tehloki at 1:14 PM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


In Providence there's a restaurant called Cuban Revolution that has pretty good Cuban food and, as far as I can tell, is run by Cubans. The place is drenched in Che and Fidel and all that. I've never figured out whether they're doing it to cash in on Che Fiebre or they're really big supporters of the whole thing. Anyway, it used to be this really great fast food place, but now it's gone upmarket. More power to them and all, but I miss my little cognitive-dissonance-hole-in-the-wall.

The communist iconography stuff, Che & Mao et al, reminds me of Byzantine icons. It's always the same damn image, reproduced endlessly, sometimes with tiny variations, laden with meaning that has little to do with the human being being depicted. Anyway, I once wrote a poem about that.
posted by Kattullus at 1:15 PM on October 8, 2007


Ho Chi Min, now there was a playa.
posted by cazoo at 1:36 PM on October 8, 2007


Dude, you are like the 75,000 comment king of Tu Quoque.

Do you like have a Fallacious Firefox extension that automatically posts for you?


At the risk of pointing out the obvious: How is your comment any different?

Are you insinuating that delmoi's comment is illegitimate or incorrect? Then rebut it.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 1:46 PM on October 8, 2007


"The fact of the matter is the vast majority of Cubans live better under Castro than they ever would have without the revolution."

It must be nice to make claims that are impossible to prove. I believe that the vast majority of faeries would love to give me thousands of dollars. It seems to me that our beliefs are just about equally justified.

You seem to be all to willing to brush aside the human rights violations, the incarceration of political adversaries, and the severe poverty. Cuba is not a tropical paradise. It's people do not struggle valiantly against US hegemony. It is not some noble experiment. It is a poor, devastated island whose people have been abused for generations.
posted by oddman at 1:49 PM on October 8, 2007


It is a poor, devastated island whose people have been abused for generations centuries.

Fixed that part for you.

The intensity of feeling around Castro (and Che) never ceases to amaze me. (And here I thought we were at risk of actually having a balanced appraisal of [at least] Che.) Seriously, if we hadn't been opposing the guy so fiercely for so long, is there really any serious question that he would have been deposed years ago? The exiles need Castro to justify the consuming passion of their lives, and he needs them to justify his nation's institutionalized (and largely justified) paranoia.

As for unprovable claims: Sure, it's an unprovable claim. At some level, every claim anybody ever makes on MeFi is un-provable. Who really gives a crap about it? If you want that kind of discussion, this is not the place you should be coming to get it.
posted by lodurr at 2:21 PM on October 8, 2007


More on Che, Felix Rodriguez, Bay of Pigs, JFK, Watergate, etc. from E. Howard Hunt. I'm sure this article has been posted before, but it is still one of the scariest things I think I've ever read.
posted by sbrollins at 2:21 PM on October 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


... the fact that the CIA assassinated him is enough to earn him high marks with anybody familiar with the agency's other Latin dates.

High marks for what -- timing? For being in front of the right gun at the right time?

Or are you arguing that being chosen by the CIA for assassination is a de facto proof of virtue? That would be a really silly thing to argue, of course, since the CIA has certainly killed a lot of bastards along with the saints over its sordid history....
posted by lodurr at 2:23 PM on October 8, 2007


Whoa, Che is STILL dead?


Metafilter: every claim anybody ever makes on MeFi is un-provable.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:46 PM on October 8, 2007


E. Howard Hunt and his murderous puppetmaster pals - surely they are better and more noble than any commie "freedom fighter".

The deck is stacked. Che would be a reviled loser even if he'd been as pure as the driven snow.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:50 PM on October 8, 2007


Metafilter: every claim anybody ever makes on MeFi is un-provable.

I don't believe you.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:53 PM on October 8, 2007


Murderer. Heartless, petty murderer.

One murderer, murders another murderer, and the world's smallest violin plays on.
posted by caddis at 3:17 PM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


interesting that we have another terrorist thug who is ...

What's interesting is how "terrorist" has become the de rigeur epithet for all kinds of undesirables in the new world order. A few decades ago, he would have been a "commie" thug.
posted by signal at 3:22 PM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


That's the thing about Che - his gun killed thousands of people. When I see a thirteen year old waving a Che flag, I wonder what the fuck is he doing.
Yeah, unlike us capitalists, who don't celebrate anyone responsible for other people's deaths!
Dude, you are like the 75,000 comment king of Tu Quoque.
Seems to me that ad hominem in response to an ad hominem works pretty well. I mean, it's fair and all. And both did it.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:57 PM on October 8, 2007


Metafilter: a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:10 PM on October 8, 2007


Che is idolized because he looked cool. It's that simple.
posted by jayder at 6:22 PM on October 8, 2007


He was cool because he had passion (so did Hermann Goring). He had a message to the oppressed that sold well and he was effective militarily. Overall, his penchant for killing ruins what could have been a brilliant radical legacy. Dr. Death.
posted by caddis at 6:36 PM on October 8, 2007


I published a piece a couple months ago (on the larger of the two sites I produce, not my personal blogs) on a woman learning more about Che than she had previously been aware of (ie, that he wasn't all hero, but killed some people too). There is, of course, a little more to the piece, but that's the heart. I got an email from some one totally freaking out, because the piece portrayed him in something other than completely cultish adoration.

I rarely get comments on the pieces I put up. This is only the second time I've received such a hysterical response. It was bizarre. The freaker claimed to be a librarian & that they were going to keep buying his bios & writings for the library. I think that's fabulous, but I think the freaker needs to actually read some of those books...
posted by susanbeeswax at 12:00 AM on October 9, 2007


oddman, it is demonstable that the health and wellbeing of the Cuban population is better than that of other Caribbean countries.

The level of poverty in all the capitalist countries in the area is much harsher than that in Cuba due to the lack of healthcare, government food and housing for all.

So, it is fair to say that they are better off than their neighbours and certainly their antecendents who were the slaves of the land owners.

All countries have issues around human rights and the incarceration of political adversories. Take a look around you. Cuba has some very rich and powerful adversories are openly funding campaigns to overthrow the Cuban governement.

Which Caribbean capital are you least likely to be physically attacked and robbed in? They don't have street lights, but they do have safety that is unlike that of many cities in the world.

lodurr - the CIA has certainly killed a lot of bastards along with the saints over its sordid history

I am interested to learn which bastards the CIA have killed in the political sphere. People who were political actors that the CIA didn't like and were also bastards.
posted by asok at 2:25 AM on October 9, 2007


So, it is fair to say that they are better off than their neighbours and certainly their antecendents who were the slaves of the land owners. - by asok

I spent some time talking with some ppl in Hondura this past summer. Che is a hero; Cuba is David to the US Goliath.

Honduras is frozen in the "banana republic mode" of great inequity, corruption, poverty and foreign exploitation (+ US military influence). They have watched from the sidelines as the socialist revolution swept through Central and South America in recent years. It passed them by.

In Honduras the poor are still slaves -- and they know it. The "iconography" of Che is not lost on them. Perhaps Americans should pay more attention to this phenomena.

As a matter of fact, there are a hell of a lot of really pissed off poor people all over the world. I doubt the US can ever build a fence big enough to protect itself from them. There is a whole army of people who have lived through (and are still living through) CIA torture led by people such as that bastard Rodriguez.

Cuba is a beam of hope for Central America; I proudly wore my Che shirt in the Miami airport.
posted by Surfurrus at 3:26 AM on October 9, 2007


I am interested to learn which bastards the CIA have killed in the political sphere. People who were political actors that the CIA didn't like and were also bastards.

I'm sure you would be. I'm sure we all would be. We're not going to, just as we're not going to learn about the saints. (Neat dodge, btw.)

Nixerman was implying that being killed by the CIA was a reliable indicator of (positive) virtue. I was simply pointing out what a silly idea that was.

Whether someone was killed by the CIA (or Mossad or the KGB or Ford Motor Company or the state of Minnesota) tells us exactly one thing: That at some point enough of the instrumentality of those institutions was marshalled against that person that they ended up dead. The reasons are completely opaque to us unless, as with the high-profile case of Che, we know something about the history.

And from the history of Che, for example, we know that he was no saint. Instead, he was a dogmatist who was willing to sacrifice others for his idea of what he thought was right.

One might argue for a certain ironic appropriateness about two groups of dogmatic assholes (global revolutionaries and global anti-revolutionaries like the CIA) killing one another off and leaving the rest of us in peace. Except that they usually end up killing a lot of the rest of us (or at least making our lives miserable) in the process. So I say, let's just admit that these clowns all need one another to keep on playing their "(counter)revolution" games, and stop painting one side or the other as heroes. In the end they're all just men with guns.
posted by lodurr at 3:27 AM on October 9, 2007


Whether Cuba today is a nice place to live, btw, is a distraction from the main issue: It's more or less irrelevant to the cult of Che, except insofar as they've particiapted in it.

Put another way: Unless "Che-ism" has had a substantial contribution to Cuba's relative lawfulness, health and literacy, then I fail to see what the relevance is. If Hondurans find Che's image helpful in resisting oppression, bully for them; it's still ironic in the "first" world.
posted by lodurr at 3:36 AM on October 9, 2007


I very much agree that the sensible comparison to judge Cuba by are its Caribbean and Latin American neighbours with similar histories, and it does indeed stand up well under those circumstances. What's always tragic is the thought that it could be all that and so much more - really, what does the persecution of homosexuality do for the revolution?
There are debates to be had of course, and they're familiar on the left. Is a certain amount of post-revolutionary brutality required to consolidate a new regime? There will be many enemies domestic and foreign. Do we have to kill some kulaks before we can institute land reform? Entrenched local oligarchies can derail progressive changes in their local areas of influence.
I fall into that school of thought that says you can't beat a man into heaven with a stick, which is why I prefer my revolutionaries to be like Souchy who I quoted above, champions of our own agency. It strikes me as best to always have a clear eye on the prize and not to abandon fundamentals for expedients.
Then you get into the "utopian" versus "scientific" arguments, and the accusation of the more Bolshevist left that you are a do-nothing liberal. There's merit in much of the criticism, but for me history shows that it's best to concentrate on building the right thing rather than capturing power by any means (necessary or otherwise), and then becoming trapped in the logic of your own transgressions. Some of the apparent defeats of the left have yielded better outcomes than some of the alleged great victories.
Violence is the same. I share nicky's view above that there are outrages that call to the blood, and it seems facile to adopt a holier-than-thou attitude from a distance of thousands of miles or many decades. But again, when assessing a career, it is legitimate to judge whether someone took violent action only as the situation demanded and without ever making the killing an end in itself, or whether their easy resort to it was symptomatic of an urge to power that lost sight of its original purpose. Ends and means are inextricably intertwined for me - there is no "final triumph," only the way we live and continue to live.
posted by Abiezer at 3:55 AM on October 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


The reasons are completely opaque to us unless, as with the high-profile case of Che, we know something about the history.

Uh, we do know the history. The CIA in Latin America was not a "democratizing force" and their deliberate targeting of Che does contribute, if not essentially validate, the freedom fighter/martyr complex that's grown up around him. What was the point again? Oh yeah, that when government agencies resort to brutal, dirty tricks it does nothing but yield the moral high ground to their enemies. One need look no further than Abu Gharib (the CIA strikes again!) to see this same dynamic is still very much at work.

And from the history of Che, for example, we know that he was no saint. Instead, he was a dogmatist who was willing to sacrifice others for his idea of what he thought was right.

You'll find that, surprisingly, many of history's nationalist/revolutionary heroes are not saints except for the actual, well, saints. This criticism of revolutionary agents for being revolutionary is never especially convincing because violence in the service of one's own freedom is a (potentially) universally accepted idea. This is why a revolutionary is a revolutionary and not a common criminal or a terrorist. The brutal tactics employed against Che only confirm Che's brutality and push it further and further into the realm of self-defense. Ironically, people who criticize Che on the basis that he wasn't Jesus Christ only further confirm his position -- Jesus Christ would've lasted all of a day against the CIA and its South American client states. That Che succeeded against such great odds and then was martyred would be just enough to elevate him to the same icon status enjoyed by other revolutionaries.

(Though it's a testament to the Founding Fathers that, even though they were fundamentally just treasonous, tax dodgers, no real cult of personality has developed around them. They were always quick to emphasize that their struggle was purely political and had no interest in "liberating the oppressed" in the way that Che and other (French) revolutionary agents did. One positive criticism that can be applied to Che and all such revolutionaries is that they failed to achieve their political goals to a large extent because they didn't really have any.)
posted by nixerman at 6:14 AM on October 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


Way to misread, nixerman.

You'll find that, surprisingly, many of history's nationalist/revolutionary heroes are not saints except for the actual, well, saints.

So, tell me again why having the good luck to be killed by the CIA instead of, say, dying in a freak jeap accident, should "earn him high marks"? And earn them with whom? God? Marx? The International Court of Justice? Jesse Ventura?

Anyway, you seem to want to have it both ways: We condemn the men with guns, but we forgive some of them because we like their rationalizations?
posted by lodurr at 6:33 AM on October 9, 2007


We condemn the men with guns, but we forgive some of them because we like their rationalizations?

Well, yes. Hasn't it always been thus? That's how we have heroes and villains, despots and freedom fighters. Is bloodshed in the defense of the oppressed equal to bloodshed in the name of aggregation of more power?

I realize it's not quite that simple, but motivation (or rationalization) has much to do with our determination of whether a person, or group, or society, was "good" or "bad".
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:49 AM on October 9, 2007


It's also more complicated if we say that the fact of who kills you makes you more or less worse. I maintain that Che would have been exactly as bad (or good, or evil) if he died by accident.

We can certainly feel differently based on who does the killing. But it doesn't change the facts about the deceased's personal history one jot.
posted by lodurr at 7:09 AM on October 9, 2007


It's also more complicated if we say that the fact of who kills you makes you more or less worse. I maintain that Che would have been exactly as bad (or good, or evil) if he died by accident.

Straw man, I think. The thought was that someone in Latin America who pissed off the CIA enough to kill him must be doing something right, not that being killed by the CIA changed the course and meaning of his life. Selection vs. causality, i.e. You're arguing here that it isn't causal; the poster was just looking at a marker.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:53 AM on October 9, 2007


Could someone recommend a reasonably balanced biography of Che? I hear all kinds of shit about him, good and bad, have no idea what's true and what's not. My little brother wears his t-shirts but says nothing beyond "He was a freedom fighter" and "He fought against poverty".
posted by schroedinger at 10:19 AM on October 8 [+] [!]


A friend of mine suggests:

Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life, by Jon Lee Anderson. It presents multiple points of view and doesn't ever descend into idolatry.
posted by craniac at 11:54 AM on October 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Well, I have been to Cuba. There was a short window for a few years, started during the Clinton administration, and closed a few years later during the Bush administration, when Americans could legally travel to Cuba if they were with an educational group.

I was there for several weeks, and we got lectures daily. Admittedly, these were pro-Cuban lectures (or at least, not anti-Cuban). I have to say hearing from a Communist economist is a really interesting point of view.

Cuba wasn't what I expected. I'm not sure what I expected, but what was there wasn't what I expected.

It's the only place I've ever been to where people were dancing in the streets. All over the place. Nearly daily.

People went out of they way to help each other out. Where we have billboards advertising some crap to buy, they have propaganda, much of it political, but also surprising amounts of "help each other out and share" kinds of messages.

On the other hand, there is no free speech, no free press, no free elections, your housing is assigned to you (and costs exactly 10% of whatever your income is), and private enterprise is severly limited. It is legal to have tiny businesses, a small restaurant in your home, for instance, but you can't have employees.

Also, every single business (other than these few private ones) is run by the government. All hotels, all restaurants, all stores (again, other than a few tiny ones in people's homes) are really the Cuban government. Everyone's paycheck comes from the government.

It seems like a mixed bag. There was terrible racial inequality before Communism, whereas now there isn't, for the most part. Santeria was prosecuted, whereas now it's the most common religion.

For the poverty-stricken, pre-revolution, they are doing better. For the rich and the upper middle class, they are doing worse.

They have a surplus of doctors because everyone gets free university, everyone gets free healthcare.

But the country is POOR POOR POOR. Havana looks like a demilitarized zone in places. There is no money for paint or repairs, so beautiful old buildings damaged in hurricanes are left as ruins.

But the biggest reason for the lack of money is the U.S. embargo. Plus, the U.S. pressures other countries to embargo them, too.

Cuba has been in it's "special period" since the fall of the soviet union. Their economy was propped up by the U.S.S.R., who needed the ally on the U.S. border, by paying way above market prices for Cuba's sugar. When that support stopped, Cuba found it couldn't compete in the world market, and has spent the last decade and a half trying to figure out how to exist in the world.

I think if the embargo were lifted, you'd see some of the same kinds of advances we see with China. Maybe not all the human rights advances we'd like, but at least a lot less poverty.

But Che is EVERYWHERE is Cuba. He's revered as a Saint. His martyrdom was used very powerfully by Castro.
posted by MythMaker at 12:05 PM on October 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


I just ordered Anderson's Revolutionary Life from the Providence library. The reason I had to order it is because it goes "missing" from the library more than any other book I've searched for. It seems that people like to steal Che biographies.
posted by Kattullus at 12:11 PM on October 10, 2007


Some of this mefi discussion has been rattling in my mind the past two days. And then, I listened to the Democracy Now podcast (10/9/07) on the anniversary of Che's death . The interview with Greg Grandin, author of Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism, is particularly interesting.

Che was fundamentally committed to social equality and the distribution of wealth -- Che is a symbol. And, again, he's become more of a universal symbol of certain different kinds of values than what he represented while he was alive. Those values are anti-imperialism, standing up to the United States, defense of Latin American sovereignty, a certain kind of revolutionary purity, a search for values that aren't rooted in the marketplace and aren't quite as commodified as the neoliberal world that has been imposed on Latin America in the last twenty years. - Grandin.

One word in this mefi discussion stands out for me - irony . For all the harranging about the "misguided symbolism" and "naively misplaced justification" for honoring Che, little has been said about our own 'legacy' -- how we have benefited (and still benefit) from exploitation. ALL of the obscene wealth and high standard of living in the 'first world' today is directly related to the exploitation and suffering of the world's poor. Of course the 'first world' sees fervid Che-ism as 'ironic'. It is such an easy way to dismiss our own complicity.

(from the transcripts):

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES of Bolivia:
[translated] "First of all, in the ’40s, in the ’50s, in the ’60s -- of course, when I hadn’t been born yet -- my first perception was that people rose up in arms to struggle against the empire. Now, I see quite the opposite, that it’s the empire that’s raising up arms against the peoples. What I think is that back then, that the peoples, they got organized and struggled, looking for justice, for equality. And now I think that these transformations, these structural transformations, are being forged through democracies.

And from these two points of view, Che Guevara continues to be a symbol of someone who gave his life for the peoples, when in Bolivia and in other countries around the world reigned military dictatorships. So that's why it's amazing to see that all over the world Che Guevara is still there, forty years later. But now, we're living in other times. But to value and recognize that thinking, that struggle, and if we recognize and we value it, that doesn't mean it means to mechanically follow the steps that he took in terms of military uprising."
http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=07/10/09/1349235
posted by Surfurrus at 6:36 PM on October 10, 2007


The fact that idiots in the US think Che is a logo doesn't reflect poorly on Guevara, but rather on the idiots themselves and the people (one hesitates to use the term 'parents') who give them money to spend at hot-topic, etc.
posted by signal at 7:24 AM on October 11, 2007


The fact that idiots in the US all over the world think Che is a logo ...
posted by lodurr at 8:10 AM on October 11, 2007


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