A May Day march without Che Guevara posters and Mexican flags is like a fish with a bicycle. We observed the bemusing spectacle two weeks ago. Now it’s time to reflect.
Some marchers , apparently wracked with guilt between the primacy of the two symbols , devised a handy modus vivendi for their tortured consciences’.
It seemed that few groups of Mexican demonstrators forget to glorify the man on record (June, 1956) as dismissing Mexicans en masse as, “a rabble of illiterate Indians.” In 1956, while residing in Mexico and training with the Castro brothers for their "invasion" of Cuba, Che Guevara sneered at his hosts and the “rabble” of Mexican citizens surrounding the training camp in those exact words. So recalls one of Che’s military trainers of the time, the Cuban (but non-commie) Miguel Sanchez.
How many “Chicano activists," know this?
Labor groups were also prominent on May Day with their Che Guevara regalia. “The workers movement has no borders,” proclaimed their abundant posters.
But labor groups cursed by fate to attempt activism under the regime co-founded by Che Guevara viewed the matter somewhat differently. Don’t look for this on NPR, The History Channel, much less your college textbooks, but among the first, the most militant, and the most widespread opposition groups to the Stalinism Ernesto “Che” Guevara (who often cheekily signed his named as “Stalin II”) imposed on Cuba came from Cuban labor organizations.
And who can blame them? Here’s a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) report on Cuba circa 1957: “One feature of the Cuban social structure is a large middle class,” it starts. “Cuban workers are more unionized (proportional to the population) than U.S. workers. The average wage for an 8-hour day in Cuba in 1957 is higher than for workers in Belgium, Denmark, France and Germany. Cuban labor receives 66.6 per cent of gross national income. In the U.S. the figure is 70 per cent, in Switzerland 64 per cent. 44 per cent of Cubans are covered by Social legislation, a higher percentage than in the U.S.”
Humberto Fontova holds an M.A. in Latin American Studies from Tulane University and is the author of four books including his latest, The Longest Romance; The Mainstream Media and Fidel Castro. For more information and for video clips of his Television and college speaking appearances please visit www.hfontova.com.