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Occupation of Wall Street—What Would Che Guevara Do?

Posted By Humberto Fontova On October 11, 2011 @ 12:10 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 20 Comments

Guevara would clear the occupation of Wall Street in a New York nanosecond. His colleagues of the time recall Che cheering the Soviet tanks slaughtering Hungarian freedom-fighters in the streets of Budapest. The youths they machine-gunned and blasted were all “fascists and CIA agents!” he raved.

“I’m a Stalinist,” Che Guevara boasted to Cuban colleague Carlos Franqui in 1957. That sniveling speech by Khrushchev denouncing Stalin’s crimes was nothing but “imperialist lies.”  But Khrushchev’s subsequent spunk in sending tanks and battle-hardened Siberian troops to massacre Hungarian protesters, Che later conceded, certainly helped ameliorate his speech’s doctrinal errors.

Forty-four years ago this week, Ernesto “Che” Guevara got a major dose of his own medicine. Without trial he was declared a murderer, stood against a wall and shot. If the saying “What goes around comes around” ever fit, it’s here.

Two years ago, the U.K. Guardian interviewed Oscar-winning actor Benicio del Toro regarding his Cannes-winning role as Che Guevara in Stephen Soderbergh’s movie Che. “Dammit This Guy Is Cool!” was the interview title. “I hear of this guy, and he’s got a cool name, Che Guevara!” says del Toro. “Groovy name, groovy man, groovy politics! So I came across a picture of Che, smiling, in fatigues, and I thought, ‘Dammit, this guy is cool-looking!’”

There you have it. In effect, Benicio del Toro probably revealed the inspiration (and daunting intellectual exertion) of millions of Che fans, including hundreds currently “occupying” Wall Street.

As a celebrity-hipster fan of Che Guevara, del Toro has plenty of company. Johnny Depp often wears a Che pendant and in a Vibe Magazine interview proclaimed his “digging” Che Guevara. In fact, had del Toro or Depp been born earlier and in Cuba and attempted a rebel lifestyle, their “digging” of Castroite Cuba would have been of a more literal nature. They’d have found themselves chained and digging ditches and mass graves in a prison camp system inspired by the man they “dig.” Had their digging lagged, a “groovy” Communist guard might have shattered their teeth with a “groovy” Czech machine-gun butt, or perhaps slashed their buttocks with some “groovy” Soviet bayonets.

In a famous speech in 1961, Che Guevara denounced the very “spirit of rebellion” as “reprehensible.” “Youth must refrain from ungrateful questioning of governmental mandates,” commanded Guevara. “Instead, they must dedicate themselves to study, work and military service, should learn to think and act as a mass.”

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.”

In 1958, Cuba had a higher per capita income than 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.

Thousands of these took up arms against Che Guevara. The MRP (Movimiento Revolucionario del Pueblo) was among these Cuban resistance groups of mostly laborers. But don’t take it from me. Here’s how the FBI and CIA described them (emphasis added):

Heavily weighted labor membership, with socialistic leanings. Aimed for Castro overthrow from within; advocated nationalization of economy, agrarian reform, utopian social reforms.

In a TV speech on June 26, 1961, when Che Guevara was Cuba’s “Minister of Industries,” he proclaimed: “Cuban workers must get used to live in a collectivist regimen, and by no means can they go on strike!”

Che Guevara also denounced those who “choose their own path” (as in growing long hair and listening to “Yankee-Imperialist” rock & roll). These were vilified as worthless “roqueros,” “lumpen,” and “delinquents.” In his famous speech, Che Guevara even vowed “to make individualism disappear from Cuba! It is criminal to think of individuals!”

Tens of thousands of Cuban youths learned that Che Guevara’s admonitions were more than idle bombast. In Guevara, the hundreds of Soviet KGB and East German STASI “consultants” who flooded Cuba in the early 1960s found an extremely eager acolyte. By the mid-’60s, the crime of a “rocker” lifestyle (blue jeans, long hair, fondness for the Beatles and Stones) or effeminate behavior got thousands of youths yanked out of Cuba’s streets and parks by secret police and dumped in prison camps with “Work Will Make Men Out of You” emblazoned in bold letters above the gate and with machine-gunners posted on the watchtowers. The initials for these camps were UMAP, not GULAG, but the conditions were quite similar.

Today, the world’s largest image of the man whom so many hipsters sport on their shirts adorns Cuba’s headquarters and torture chambers for its KGB-trained secret police. Nothing could be more fitting.

One day before his death in Bolivia, Che Guevara — for the first time in his life — finally faced something properly describable as combat. So he ordered his guerrilla charges to give no quarter, to fight to their last breaths and to their last bullet. With his men doing exactly what he ordered (fighting and dying to the last bullet), a slightly wounded Che sneaked away from the firefight and surrendered with fully loaded weapons while whimpering to his captors, “Don’t shoot! I’m Che. I’m worth more to you alive than dead!” His Bolivian captors viewed the matter differently. On the following day, Oct. 9, 1967, justice was served.


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