Saturday, August 11, 2007


The popularity of Che Guevara's image is a mystery to me. Why celebrate the image of an unapologetic murderer? I've known firmly anti-Communist teens who wore Che T-shirts, but wouldn't have considered wearing any other fascist or communist symbol - or indicating any admiration for Hitler or Stalin, or Lenin or Mao, or even tin-pot dictators like Castro. If style simply trumps everything else, there should be a lot more totalitarian chic - design was something propaganda departments could do. Ilya Somin at The Volokh Conspiracy:
One communist icon...still has staying power: Che Guevara. Go to any college campus or hip hangout and you'll find no shortage of Che T-shirts, Che posters, and even Che cell phone messages. The truth, however, is that Che was no less a brutal killer than other communist leaders. If he failed to rise to the same "heights" as Lenin or Mao, it was largely for lack of opportunity. ....
  1. Che was responsible for the execution of thousands of political prisoners in Cuba (most of them purely for their opposition to Castro's communist policies or for no reason at all).
  2. Che enjoyed torturing and abusing the prisoners, including children.
  3. Che was instrumental in setting up the Castro regime's massive forced labor camps and secret police apparatus.
  4. Che tried to organize campaigns of terrorism against civilians in the US and elsewhere (though he largely failed in these efforts).
  5. Far from being merely a Third World nationalist or pragmatic leftist, he was a committed, hard-line Stalinist, even going so far as to call himself "Stalin II" early in his career.
However, as Vargas Llosa points out in this New Republic article, Che was no uncritical admirer of the Soviet Union. To the contrary, he thought the Soviets had not taken communist totalitarianism far enough. In his travels through the Soviet bloc, Che was, by his own account, most impressed with North Korea - not coincidentally also the most oppressively totalitarian of all communist states at the time. ....
.... Che's continuing popularity does matter as an indication of our failure to fully recognize the evil of communism and the magnitude of its atrocities. With some 100 million victims, communist regimes killed more people in the 20th century than all other forms of tyranny combined. Cuba's was not the worst communist regime, but its crimes were great nonetheless, if we take account of the country's small size. As Fontova points out, during the 1960s alone, the regime Che helped set up executed over 100,000 people, and incarcerated some 350,000 political prisoners out of a Cuban population that numbered only 6.3 million in 1960 ....

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