The city of Galway in Ireland is building a monument to Ernesto “Che” Guevara de la Serna y Lynch. That last word in his full nomenclature accounts for the honor. Che’s maternal grandmother, Ana Isabel Lynch, was born in Galway, and while still a lassie, moved to Argentina.
The City Council in heavily unionized Galway where the Labour Party holds a majority approved the plans for the monument unanimously. But the monument to labor union- buster (with firing squads, torture and forced labor camps) Che Guevara was proposed and championed by city Councillor Billy Cameron, who boasts of his credentials as a “trade union activist.”
Cuba’s Stalinist regime (that to this day outlaws trade unionism under the above-mentioned penalties) will fund the trade union-championed monument.
“By no means can Cuban workers go on strike!” declared Cuba's "Minister of Industries” on June 26, 1961.“Cuban workers must adjust to life a collectivist social order.” This Minister of Industries, in case you haven’t guessed, was Ernesto Guevara de la Serna y Lynch, famous “son” of union-loving Galway.
Don't look for this on NPR or The History Channel, much less in 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 groups.
And who can blame them? Here's a report from the International Labor Organization 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."
In 1958, Cuba had a higher per capita income than Spain, Austria or Japan. Cuban industrial workers had the eighth-highest wages in the world. In the 1950s, Cuban stevedores earned more per hour than their counterparts in New Orleans and San Francisco.
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.