Why is it that the American left worships mass murderers like CHE
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.
But once there was a real Che Guevara: he is less well known than the fictional puppet that has replaced reality. The true Che was a more significant figure than his fictional clone – he was the incarnation of what revolution and Marxism really meant in the 20th century.
Che was no humanist. No Communist leader, indeed, ever held humanist values. Karl Marx certainly was not one. True to their movement's founding prophet, Stalin, Mao, Castro and Che held no respect for life. Blood needed to be shed if a better world was to be baptised. When criticised by one of his early companions for the death of millions during the Chinese revolution, Mao observed that countless Chinese die everyday, so what did it matter?
Likewise, Che could kill with a shrug. Trained as a medical doctor in Argentina, he chose not to save lives but to suppress them.
After he seized power, Che put to death 500 "enemies" of the revolution without trial, or even much discrimination.
Castro, no humanist himself, did his best to neutralise Guevara by appointing him minister for industry. As could be expected, Che applied Soviet policies to the Cubans: agriculture was destroyed and ghost factories dotted the landscape.
He did not care about Cuba's economy or its people. His purpose was to pursue revolution for its own sake, whatever it meant, like art for art's sake.
Indeed, without his ideology, Che would have been nothing more than another serial killer. Ideological sloganeering allowed him to kill in larger numbers than any serial killer could imagine, and all in the name of justice.
Five centuries ago, Che probably would have been one of those priest/soldiers exterminating Latin America's natives in the name of God.
In the name of history, Che, too, saw murder as a necessary tool of a noble cause.
But suppose we judge this Marxist hero by his own criterion: did he actually transform the world? The answer is yes – but for the worse.
The communist Cuba he helped to forge is an undisputed and unmitigated failure, much more impoverished and much less free than it was before its "liberation".
Despite the social reforms the Left likes to trumpet about Cuba, its literacy rate was higher before Castro came to power, and racism against the black population was less pervasive. Indeed, Cuba's leaders today are far more likely to be white than they were in Batista's day.
Beyond Cuba, the Che myth has inspired thousands of students and activists across Latin America to lose their lives in foolhardy guerrilla struggles. The Left, inspired by the siren call of Che, chose armed struggle instead of elections. By doing so, it opened the way to military dictatorship.
Latin America is not yet cured of these unintended consequences of Guevarism.
Indeed, 50 years after Cuba's revolution, Latin America remains divided. Those nations that rejected Che's mythology and chose the path of democracy and the free market, such as Brazil, Peru and Chile, are better off than they ever were: equality, freedom and economic progress have advanced in unity.
By contrast, those nations that remain nostalgic for the cause of Che, such as Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia, are at this very moment poised on the brink of civil war.
The real Che, who spent most of his time as Castro's central banker supervising executions, deserves to be better known.
Perhaps if Soderbergh's two-part Che epic succeeds at the box office, his financial backers will want to film a more truthful sequel. There is no certainly shortage of material for "Che, The Untold Story."
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