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.