Ché fires a Stechkin APS. The peculiar full-auto pistol increased the throughput of "revolutionary justice."
Ireland’s broke, following Greece down the drain of insolvency, but they’re still just liquid enough to plan to erect a statue to that greatest of Ireland’s diaspora — Ernesto “Ché” Guevara.
Now this will probably occasion in you the same reaction it did in us — initially a “Whaaa?”; next a “Lord love a duck”; and ultimately, perhaps, a bone-deep shudder of revulsion. Where you stop on the continuum depends on whether you are more gobsmacked that the Irish claim the soap-shy and trigger-happy Argentine as a countryman, or that anyone would erect a statue to him.
Let’s give Mr Microphone to one Darragh McManus of the Independent, a major Irish newspaper:
Galway City Council is considering a proposal to erect a statue in Che’s honour. There are direct family links to the area — Che’s great-grandfather was Lynch from near Claregalway; his father’s name was Ernesto Guevara Lynch.
Oh, well, that’s alright then. And you’re black, because you once stayed at a Holiday Inn Express and singer Billie Holiday was black. See how Irish journo logic works? His father’s mother’s father was an Irish rover, or reiver, as rhe case may be; that makes him as Irish as red hair and unpalatable boiled food. Now you probably feel bad about not kissing him on St. Paddy’s day. (It’s not like he’s entirely missing any more: they found the parts of him that are not in a drawer in Langley and reinterred them in Cuba about 15 years ago).
So what other ties to Ireland has Guevara?
He also visited Ireland in 1962. During a stopover in Shannon Airport Che toured Co Clare and met the young Jim Fitzpatrick, then a student working in a Kilkee hotel. He later flew to Dublin where he was interviewed by RTE; an Aer Lingus flight attendant translated.
Oh, my, it was practically the Great Man’s home away from home. Can McManus do any better than that?
These are presumably not the only reasons, though, Che’s allure is incredibly potent. He’s still seen by millions as a symbol of hope, a voice for the powerless, a brave and compassionate warrior-poet who gave his life for the people — and probably always will be.
My dear McManus, that is not a sign of the brilliance of Ché at all, but rather a billboard for the dullness of the millions. “A voice for the powerless?” For the love of God, read about his Congo or, especially, Bolivian campaigns. His companions and his local acolytes were not, as Communist mythology would have it, “the workers and the peasants,” but rather radical university professors and students (well, drop-outs and flunk-outs, mostly). And there were few of them — most of his “guerillas” were Cuban mercenaries. Everywhere they went they treated the actual peasants cruelly and stole from them. The peasants in Bolivia had little love for the military government, but cheerfully ratted out Ché’s revolutionary-army-turned-starving-foraging-party.
So what’s the next thing McManus says of Ché? “Brave.” Yes, there are many indicators of his bravery, like his bugging out on his men when they made contact with the Bolivian Army. Oh, wait, maybe not that. Well, there’s pleading for his life and begging to give information when captured, that’s pretty fearless… eh. Not really, is it? Well, there is his resigned acceptance when he realized the Bolivians were going to permanently improve South America, and the world, by shooting him. He did stop begging at that point. Brave? Well, remember, this is a newspaper guy’s idea of what bravery is, so he probably hasn’t seen the examples we have. We ought to cut him a little slack.
Then, “compassionate.” It’s true! Ché was so compassionate that he spared tens of thousands the sufferings and indignities of old age. By shooting them while they were young. These are not people who faced him in combat; Ché’s military prowess was such that they were mostly safe, and the Deliverer of the Peasants would be run to ground and given a crushing defeat, by a unit made up mostly of Quechua and Aymara peasant draftees who spoke the Spanish of their officers as a second language. Ché, like all Marxists, was “compassionate” towards various theoretical classes of downtrodden, as abstractions. His interactions with real, breathing concrete instances of the downtrodden frequently left them no longer breathing, with him doing the downtreading.
And then McManus throws out “warrior-poet.” We thought the Irish had the gift of blarney — an ability to exploit words and use their connotation and denotation for best emotional effect. Not feeling it right now. We’ve already said a few words about Ché’s deficiencies as a warrior, and we’ll add a few more: he never won a contested fight; his career is a mixed bag of riding others’ coattails, or striking out on his own to disaster and defeat in detail. He wrote (or had ghostwritten, it’s not clear) a book on guerilla warfare which is at once both pedestrian pabulum, and sensible troop-leading advice cribbed from a thousand military manuals written by dry doctrine departments; he might still be alive if he had personally read his own book and taken it to heart. He’d probably be a professor in the Education department of some second-string university. But to call Ché a poet is to slander the composers of Hallmark cards and rest-stop graffiti. Guevara’s prose is dull and pedestrian, and it’s packed with more Marxist jive than a North Korean press release. Don’t take our word for it, go read some of his stuff. How about “The Cadres: Backbone of the Revolution“? What’s that? You’ll pass?
You realize that by not clicking there, you’re depriving your eyes of sentences like this:
We should say that a cadre person is an individual who has achieved sufficient political development to be able to interpret the extensive directives emanating from the central power, make them his, and convey them as orientation to the masses, a person who at the same time also perceives the signs manifested by the masses of their own desires and their innermost motivations.
Whew. One sentence, that. And not the longest. (It makes you understand where the meaning of the word in the sense of judicial confinement comes from… by the time you get to the end you’re ready to volunteer for Old Sparky just to make it stop). But if this stuff quickens your pulse and imbues you with revolutionary ardor, we hope you have time, for there’s plenty of it out there.
As a poet, then, Ché was, perhaps, a decent typist: in other words, functioning at pretty much the same level as he was as a warrior. Maybe that’s what McManus meant about Ché as a “warrior-poet”: he stank at both.
And then, the most rebarbative of McManus’s many ill-informed sallies, this: “who gave his life for his people.” If you read the Bolivian Diaries and any of the mountain of contemporary sources, Ché did what he did not for some abstract class of “his people,” but for one person, himself. (And what made Congolese and Bolivian university radicals his people, and why should they be elevated over their countrymen?) But “he gave his life for his ego,” which has the benefit of being factual, won’t get that staue built in Galway. Let’s see what else McManus has to say.
A certain “guerrilla chic” also clings to the man and his deeds, and though we may not like to admit it, that can be very attractive on some subconscious level.
via He’s the face that launched a thousand T-shirts, but was Che a villain or a hero? – Lifestyle – Independent.ie.
And here, we had no idea that Darragh even rolled that way. And, in the section of his essay that’s been pilloried by Stephen Green at PJM, Matt Welch at Reason, and elsewhere, he rolls into purest teencrush admiration. First he disposes of an inconvenient Ché quote:
Che declared, chillingly: “To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary. These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail… A revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate.”
Ane then he explains that, well, the end justifies the means.
However — and it’s a big however — we must assess these actions in context. It’s easy to retrospectively damn terrorist violence, unfortunately though, people rarely cede power voluntarily or solely on account of political agitation.
Or as Supervisory Special Agent Hope McAllister reportedly said, contemptuously dismissing as “collateral damage” the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry with guns she and her agency put in the killers’ hands: “You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.” (Like the Terry family, the Cubans are still waiting for the omelet. For 53 years).
Certainly not a vicious dictator like Batista, and the CIA spooks and corporate interests supporting him. But it’s amazing how quickly people will listen when you carry a big stick into negotiations. Violence, sadly, is often a necessary precursor to liberation.
Let’s take a bit of a time out here for some numbers. Being Iriah, and a newspaper guy, Darragh McManus is a word guy, innumerate as a stick of wood, but that doesn’t mean we have to be. “A vicious dictator like Batista” was so vicious that his police killed tens of people, and forced a hundred or two into exile. Cruel, huh? Ché shot a couple thousand himself, of the tens of thousands that the Cuban regime whacked (and is still whacking).
Yes, Che was ruthless and fanatical and sometimes murderous. But was he a murderer? No, not in the sense of a serial killer or gangland assassin. He was one of those rare people who are prepared to push past ethical constraints, even their own conscience, and bring about a greater good by doing terrible things.
Yeah. Let’s ask the parents of young Terry, shall we? Hope McAllister had him killed so she could advance a political goal of the incumbent President, and climb the career ladder of her organization, which promotes — much like Ché’s, now that you think about it — on political orthodoxy. She was just doing a greater good by doing terrible things. McManus makes it so clear!
Whether morally justifiable or not, there is something admirable in that — pure principle in a world of shabby compromise. Maybe this is why Che remains such an icon, both in image and idea.
“Admirable.” Lord love a duck. Words fail.
You do see, though, why Ireland exports glib wordsmiths, strong-back-and-weak-mind laborers, and drunks, but hasn’t ever claimed a science Nobel except for Ernest Walton (1951). And you see why the Irish for decades romanticized the bestial IRA terrorist group and its offshoots, whose goal of a society where Ché would be at home was thwarted primarily by their own incompetence and corruption.
So, this Irish project to memorialize Ché with a statue, whether it succeeds or fails, is the sort of boneheaded thing that has given the Irish a global reputation for thickheadedness. But if the project comes a cropper, Ché’s fans in Ireland and around the world have the comfort of knowing that there are plenty of statues that memorialize the impact Ché made on the world. Most of them are in the shape of a cross, and they are on the twenty thousand or more graves of Ché’s and his government’s victims.