Che Guevara: No InspirationToday is the 44th anniversary of the execution of Che Guevara. The Cuban guerrilla leader was shot nine times in total at 1:10pm, Bolivian time. Good riddance to bad rubbish, as far as I'm concerned; here was a man would have seen the whole of Cuba burned in nuclear fire to satisfy his ideological longing for a new society. In his own words, 'the victory of socialism is well worth millions of atomic victims.' He was a raving narcissist; a maniac who spoke of creating a 'cold-hearted killing machine.' He should be but a footnote in Latin American history, studied only by Marxist ideologues, military historians, and psychologists. He would be, were it not somehow fashionable to be seen in public wearing T-shirts emblazoned with his face.
All the rage among students, celebrities, and professional activists thought it may be, it is the moral equivalent of (and I call Godwin's Law here, as for once it's applicable) walking out of the house in the morning with a tattoo of Heinrich Himmler. In 1959, a Romanian journalist and poet was treated to a view out of Che Guevara's newly-constructed window: it looked out over the execution yard of La Cabana prison, from the revolutionary ideologue's head office. The show he was called to witness was the execution of one of around nine hundred men that Guevara sent to the firing squad in his brief stint as prison commander. Another episode in this grisly drama, recorded by Pierre San Martin, a prisoner himself at the time, recounts how Hollywood's favourite Marxist personally executed a fourteen-year-old, almost blowing off his head with a single round from a pistol. His 'crime' was defending his father from the same summary justice, but, as Che would later remark to Llana Montes, a journalist who had the audacity to remark that he'd moved into one of Cuba's most luxurious houses, 'we don't need proof; we manufacture the proof.'
Che Guevara is hardly an appropriate role model for future generations. Yet celebrities - people who thousands of young people around the world try to emulate - all adorn themselves with 'revolutionary chic.' You can hardly go a day in any major city without seeing someone wearing one of the many variants of that Alberto Korda photo, with Che Guevara peering out with a self-righteous stare at the 'promised land' of socialism. The face of a sadistic and self-confessed mass-murderer. Yes, Guevara is - regrettably - a symbol of 'youthful rebellion' - a notion that that murdered fourteen-year-old wound find absurd. Yes, his face is one of the iconic photos in the world - and, yes, there is a certain amount of irony in it being mass-produced in sweatshops for some of the most successful companies on earth (Guevera himself did heartily approve of slave labour). But do we really need to see it everywhere we go? In three minute's time, forty-four years ago, the first of nine shots would strike the Cuban revolutionary leader, and, one minute later, he'd be dead.
That should have been the end of it.