Che Guevara was no hero, he was a racist
“The black is indolent and a dreamer; spending his meager wage on frivolity or drink" - Do these sound like the words of a left-wing hero?
When Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., chastised celebrity couple Jay-Z and Beyonce in a TV interview for their recent trip to Cuba, he especially criticized Jay-Z for his adoration of Che Guevara.
“I think Jay-Z needs to get informed,” Rubio said. “One of his heroes is Che Guevara. Che Guevara was a racist. Che Guevara was a racist that wrote extensively about the superiority of white Europeans over people of African descent, so he should inform himself [about] the guy that he’s propping up.”
Jay-Z, Carlos Santana, and Johnny Depp — who have all been spotted in Guevara t-shirts in the last decade — have, as Rubio correctly noted, largely ignored the issue. Yet, some leftist defenders of Guevara do occasionally deal with Guevara's views on race. A blogger named Faraji Toure at “Afro-Punk” notes a troubling passage from Guevara’s 1952 diary:
“The blacks, those magnificent examples of the African race who have maintained their racial purity thanks to their lack of an affinity with bathing, have seen their territory invaded by a new kind of slave: the Portuguese.”
“The black is indolent and a dreamer; spending his meager wage on frivolity or drink; the European has a tradition of work and saving, which has pursued him as far as this corner of America and drives him to advance himself, even independently of his own individual aspirations.”
Toure is quick to defend Guevara, noting that he was then only 24 and that this was his first experience with the African diaspora. But this is an unlikely excuse. Jon Lee Anderson, who recounts the incident in his oft-cited biography, Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life, notes that Che had already visited Trinidad and Brazil prior to making this statement. Indeed it is quite likely that Che in his travels had already encountered scores of Latin Americans of African heritage in Colombia and Bolivia.
The other argument often made in defense of Che is that he wrote such racist language before his participation in the Cuban Revolution and that he subsequently condemned racism. Guevara did just that in a number of post-revolutionary speeches after overthrowing Cuban leader Fulgencio Batista.
Jeanette Alcon, whose grandfather was a member of the unit that eventually captured Che Guevara in Bolivia, offered this rather balanced view of Guevara’s racial history:
“Che Guevara was a doctor that helped villages cope with leprosy before the revolution,” Alcon explained. “A lot of the villages had indigenous people living in them. I don’t think he was racist per se, but then again I don’t think he cared much for the Bolivian people. Communism needed to spread and Bolivia was seen as ripe for communist revolution.”
Che’s views on racism smack of similar political opportunism. When it was useful to abandon his previous racial views to fight in the Cuban revolution, he readily did so. When it was convenient to use racial stereotypes to cover-up the deficiencies of his fellow Cubans he didn't hesitate.
In fact, an increasing number of modern leftists and anarchists are waking up to the fact that Che was not a 'revolutionary hero', but just one of a long line of communist murderers of the 20th century.
Che should be remembered for the political terror he was involved in and publicly defended on a number of occasions. This was a man who was a defender of the North Korean regime and who deeply mourned the death of Joseph Stalin.
Even sympathetic biographers, such as John Anderson, concede that Che oversaw many executions at Cuba’s notorious La Cabaña prison following the 1959 revolution. Though the exact number of killed is unclear, thousands were killed in Cuba’s post-revolutionary purge and forced labor camps. There is even some evidence that Guevara personally carried out some of the murders associated with the revolutionary period.
And, as the Huffington Post points out, Guevara hoped the Soviets would launch nuclear attacks on American cities, for some reason confident that the communists would win a nuclear war that would have killed millions.
Perhaps the best reason for condemnation of Guevara then isn’t the racist statements buried away in his diaries but in fact the very visible blood on his hands.
Joseph Hammond is a former Cairo correspondent with Radio Free Europe and former editor for a publication focused on the energy sector. A version of this article was published on DoubleThink
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