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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Che it ain’t so

    Stan Molevercolumnist
    Stan Molever
    columnist

    Forced work camps. Prisoners sent involuntarily to hard labor for dissidence and crimes against the moral standards of the regime. Homosexuals, Catholics and Jehovah’s Witnesses all enslaved by authoritarian command in order to serve the narrow goals of a tyrant. No, I’m not talking about Nazi Germany. Instead, it’s something a little more near and dear to the hearts of college students everywhere. I’m talking about Cuba’s Guanahacabibes labor camp, administered by revolutionary darling Ernesto “”Che”” Guevara.

    At Club Crawl over the weekend, I noticed several attendees sporting familiar T-shirts emblazoned with the image of Che. My frustration was multiplied a day later when I realized how many supposedly educated college students on our very own campus purchase Che shirts with the currency of capitalism.

    It seems that people who wear Che shirts generally fall into two categories: hardcore Marxist-Leninists who are inspired by the romantic notion of revolution, and those just looking for a trendy T-shirt that they can buy off Amazon.com. (While shopping, you revolutionaries and destroyers of capital might be interested in a Che wallet, $13.00 for a limited time. No joke.)

    Unfortunately, in a short column, I probably couldn’t convince the hardcore Marxist that his romantic notion of revolution is misplaced and that Western economic liberty is really a more plausible solution for impoverished peasants in Latin America (although I would relish the opportunity if anyone is interested).

    But to all those who wear the Che shirt because it looks neat or reminds everyone how hip you are, maybe it’s time to spend a minute thinking about who you are idolizing on your chest once a week.

    The most prevalent myth surrounding Che Guevara is that he was a justifiably violent freedom fighter or modern-day Robin Hood. The fact that Guevara was more than just a thief is not controversial. Even Che supporters acknowledge that he was a prolific killer – the argument being over whether his murders were justified revolutionary sacrifice or simply cold-blooded executions.

    The truth is that Guevara was never much of a freedom fighter. He was not representing the downtrodden or an oppressed class like Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr., at least not by the early- to mid-’50s. Instead, he was a hate-filled sociopath who became obsessed with collectivism, killing and his own legend.

    In 1954 he wrote to his mother that a Guatemalan revolution “”was a lot of fun, what with the bombs, speeches and other distractions to break the monotony I was living in,”” and three years later referred to himself as “”bloodthirsty.””

    By 1967, he preached “”unbending hatred for the enemy, which pushes a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him an effective, violent, selective and cold-blooded killing machine. These are what our soldiers must become.””

    But the truth about Che includes more than just hate-filled rhetoric. His diary includes random executions of peasants throughout the Cuban countryside in the ’50s and ’60s, incidents when Che shot farmers himself and ordered the executions of men in his company that he suspected of dissent or of supplying information to the authorities.

    So, unlike leaders like Gandhi or King, who used peaceful demonstrations to promote reform and fight injustice, Che set about murdering anyone who disagreed with his worldview in the name of the great Communist utopia.

    But on top of his murderous ways, Guevara didn’t accomplish much of anything as a Cuban leader. Unlike his Communist forefathers Stalin and Mao, Che exercised brutal tactics that didn’t have the effect of rapid industrialization. In fact, during Guevara’s stint as Minister of Industry, Cuba’s large sugar production collapsed and the unstable economy had to begin rationing goods to its citizens.

    Indeed, Che’s management of the Cuban economy gave rise to a bright future for the Cuban population, full of billions and billions of dollars in Soviet subsidies and an inability to become self-sustaining.

    So not only was Che a brutal guerilla who killed or ordered the executions of at least 200 (and possibly as many as 1,000) people in the jungles of Cuba and labor camps like Guanahacabibes, but he helped to create a Cuban economy that enslaved hundreds of thousands in the bonds of collectivism and Soviet reliance.

    So before you go and spend 20 bucks on a shirt with a famous killer’s face on it – from a company that doesn’t donate a penny of your pay to the proletariat cause in a transaction that just puts dollars in some capitalist’s pocket – think about who, and what kind of actions, you are implicitly endorsing.

    What you wear reflects what you believe. Social change is all well and good, but model your revolution after someone who actually affected powerfully beneficial change in a non-murderous way.

    You think that description sounds like Che Guevara?

    Grow up.

    Stan Molever is a senior majoring in philosophy. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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