Fidel Castro is near death, and it is important to realize that with his death one of the last hardcore communist totalitarian states may fade—remaining only as a bad memory. It is ironic that the man that helped Castro enslave Cuba, Che Guevara, is lauded by the campus Left. College professors present him as a heroic doctor who departed his homeland of Argentina to struggle for the release of the people of Cuba from the rule of dictator Fulgencio Batista. After succeeding there by accomplishing the first and only socialist revolution this hemisphere has ever seen, Che later moved to Bolivia to aid the Left. He died as a martyr in Bolivia.
Che has become a figure etched deeply into the public conscience. It began during his time. Pundits, authors, and television hosts including Walter Lippman, Ed Murrow, Jean Paul Sartre, Norman Mailer, Jack Paar and Ed Sullivan glorified him. The promotion of Guevara continues today. From coffee mugs to posters to jingles at the end of key rings to t-shirts, everywhere one turns one’s head, he finds the face of Che staring back. In 2004 at Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival, The Motorcycle Diaries, a film about Che, received a standing ovation. This was the only such ovation at the festival. However, nowhere is the promotion of Che as intense as it is on America’s colleges and university campuses. Courses promote him, professors extol him, and undergraduates suffer through learning his radical ideas.
However, several problems lurk for those who would consider Che to be a shining moral example. Topping the list is evidence that Che was a mass executioner who conducted many of his executions without a jury. Che said, “To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary.” Such a judicial procedure in his mind was “just an archaic bourgeoisie detail.” He reminded those who listened that “this is a revolution! And a revolutionary must be a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate.” Che’s firing squads employed a .45 slug and fired from a distance of five paces, splattering blood, brain, and bone on the wall behind, which was later shown to the friends and relatives of the recently deceased.
Che also specialized in the psychological torture of those who he had in his clutches. He would bind and blindfold prisoners yanked from their cells to stand against the firing wall. Several seconds would tick away, the rifle bolts would snap, and the command to fire would be given. However, the shots would just be blanks. A Cuban by the name of “Tocayo” describes in his book how he watched a man who had just experienced this return to his cell. The man was grimly determined to meet his death with honor only to come back to the cell as a mentally shattered individual who crawled into a corner of the cell for several days. Such was the power of Che’s psychological terror.
Unlike many of the early leaders of the Cuban Revolution who favored a democratic or democratic-socialist government to replace the one presided over by Batista, Che supported the hard-line Soviet faction which eventually triumphed. Che also inspired tens of thousands of middle class Latin Americans to leave their homelands and join insurgencies. This, in turn, triggered the deaths of hundreds of thousands and severely injured the cause of Latin American democracy.
Today, Che’s writings make little or no sense. Although he used high-sounding Marxian phraseology, the content of the writing is incoherent, bumbling, and vapid of real meaning. Che writes:
The past makes itself felt not only in the individual consciousness – in which the residue of an education systematically oriented toward isolating the individual still weighs heavily – but also through the very character of this transition period in which commodity relations still persist, although this is still a subjective aspiration, not yet systematized.
If you understand this sentence then you are either smarter than most or a Marxist scholar on an American campus.
The Che of action proved a mixed bag of ideologically driven heroism and Stalinist brutality. The Che of ideas proves only to be a rehash of his intellectual Marxist progenitors and a badly presented rehash to boot.
The negative consequences of Che’s struggle for the communist cause in Cuba still echo today. Che helped the revolution which transformed Cuba from a tempting Caribbean paradise and the party capital of the Western Hemisphere into a place with the highest youth emigration and suicide rates on this side of the globe. The Cuban government which Che helped bring about has been accused of numerous human rights abuses, including torture, arbitrary imprisonment, unfair trials, and extra-judicial executions. To this day, the International Red Cross is denied access to Cuban prisons, and many human rights groups, including Amnesty International, cannot gain entry. All trade unions which are not part of the Communist party-affiliated CTC are banned.
Unsurprisingly, the free expression of religion is also curtailed. Restrictions are levied against both written and electronic sources of communication by the church. All donations made to the church must come from state approved funding sources.
Such an unfree society, one that maintains stringent control over rival institutions which could potentially challenge it—including the church and labor unions—and callously disregards the rights of its own citizens, is the society Che Guevara helped create. Many Marxists today still call Che a freedom fighter, but the oppressive society left in his wake belies that title. We can only hope Castro’s death soon ends the tragic consequences of Che’s work.