November 14, 2007

The Economist Takes on the Myth of Che

The wider the cult spreads, the further it strays from the man. ... Guevara was a ruthless and dogmatic Marxist, who stood not for liberation but for a new tyranny. In the Sierra Maestra, he shot those suspected of treachery; in victory, Mr Castro placed him in charge of the firing squads that executed “counter-revolutionaries”; as minister of industries, Guevara advocated expropriation down to the last farm and shop. His exhortation to guerrilla warfare, irrespective of political circumstance, lured thousands of idealistic Latin Americans to their deaths, helped to create brutal dictatorships and delayed the achievement of democracy.

Sadly, Guevara's example is invoked not just by teenagers but by some Latin American governments. In Venezuela, Hugo Chávez wants to create the guevarista “new man”, just when Cuba is having second thoughts. As Jorge Castañeda, one of Guevara's biographers, notes, Che's lingering influence has retarded the emergence of a modern, democratic left in parts of Latin America. Sadly, most of those who buy the T-shirt neither know nor care.

Good for the Economist. A few years ago, Abu Muqawama saw a kid at the American University of Beirut wearing $200 designer jeans, $150 Adidas trainers, and a t-shirt with Ho Chi Minh's face on it. No kidding. With revolutionaries like these..., Abu Muqawama thought to himself.

And seriously, while you're at it, why don't you just wear a t-shirt with Mao's face on it? Or Stalin's?

But whatever you do, don't forget the designer jeans. Jackass.