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August 04, 2006

Christie Davies sneers at the death of Che Guevara, laughs at Che's admirers and urges a boycott of the V&A Guevara exhibition - Che Guevara: Revolutionary and Icon at the V&A

Posted by Christie Davies

Che Guevara: Revolutionary and Icon
Victoria & Albert Museum, London
7th June - 28th August 2006
Daily 10am - 5.45pm (Wednesdays until 10pm)

That the V&A should have run an exhibition on heroic image of Che Guevara, even though it has later been appropriated for laudable commercial uses is a disgrace. Decent people should boycott it. Cuban refugees in America were angry enough to try to get it closed down when it was shown at the Fowler Museum of Cultural History in Los Angeles. However, even though they are victims and refugees who have suffered, they are not defined as such by the politically correct minority, so they got nowhere.

Imagine by contrast the hypocritical fuss there would have been over an exhibition of official portraits of General Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte, the hero of the free world who overthrew the KGB supported Allende (an ex-Nazi), saved not only Chile but Latin America from Communism and with the Chicago Boys created the economic "miracle of Chile". Pinochet was responsible for far fewer deaths, mistreatments and infringements of human rights than those evil monsters Castro and Guevara who are feted by our left-wing media. Viva Pinochet!

Che Guevara was an absolute bastard. He lived the life of a murderous psychopath and died in an obscure ditch, shot by an insightful Cuban exile attached as a CIA adviser to the Bolivian armed forces. If only Lenin, Hitler and Osama bin Laden could have been disposed of in the same way at an early age.

Like those who later worshipped his portrait, Guevara was a privileged urban leftist who believed, as he wrote in 1957, that:

the solution to the world's problems is to be found behind the Iron Curtain.
In other words, the solution of the world's problems was to be found in mass murder, famine and slavery. Guevara fought in Castro's guerrilla movement where he was responsible for shooting without trial a child in his unit who had stolen a little food. After Castro won he became state prosecutor in charge of executions and even had many of his former comrades killed. As minister of the economy he ruined it and introduced Soviet style forced labour camps. His ideology was terror and he praised:
the extremely useful hatred that turns men into effective, violent merciless and cold killing machines.
Himmler could not have put it better. It tells us a lot about the ranting and snivelling leftists of Britain and America in the 1960s and 1970s that this man became their poster icon.

Needless to say we are told none of this in the exhibition. We are merely told of how Alberto Diaz Gutiérrez better known as Korda took a photograph of the greasy long-haired Guevara in beret and zippered Gestapo-chic jacket at a meeting in Havana in 1960 where he had gone to photograph Castro with Stalin's evil apologist Jean-Paul Sartre, accompanied by his ageing mistress Simone de Beauvoir. It was used as an image in Cuba but not widely known until after Guevara's sordid death in Bolivia in 1967 during the second of his farcical attempts to spread the Cuban revolution, the first having been in the Congo. So much for the great revolutionary strategist and master of guerrilla tactics. After his death he became a charismatic hero like Horst Wessel or Pavlik Morozov and this poster was part of the process.

The late 1960s in Britain saw a rapid growth in tertiary education - worthless new lecturers, teaching worthless new subjects to worthless new students in worthless new institutions - the so-called "polytechnic left". They were passionately committed to equality and to self-indulgence. Like Earnesto Guevara Lynch de la Serna, they had nothing better to do but to sit around talking revolutionary politics at the state's expense and going on what they called "demos", demos against the polis (gardai) as distinct from the demos that upholds the polis.

The Guevara poster was ideal for them - an unkempt long-haired fellow in a funny sort of military gear just like them but handsome where they were ugly, heroic where they were cowardly, famous where they were obscure. They still love him. You can see them slouching out of the V&A exhibition, now bald but still with dirty long hair, pony tails that begin two inches up from their necks.

You can still recognize them by their squidgy toad like faces and pebble-lens hard-black plastic rimmed spectacles. Their faces now show the effects of decades of illicit drug use, of the chain smoking of proletarian-mimicking woodbines and Capstan extra strong in the manner of Howard Kirk and of repeated doses of venereal disease to the point where they no longer look much like their old photographs in the files of the "Special Branch" down at the Yard. Both are yellowed with age but in rather different ways. They have forgotten nothing but then they haven't learned anything either. The fall of the Soviet Union, China's going capitalist and Castro's Brezhnev-style senility have passed them by and Guevara's poster still sits on the wall in their squalid bed-sits for the flies to shit on, like the famous portrait of Old Prochaska in the Good Soldier Svejk.

Guevara did not in fact die a heroic death. After his failed wanderings in the Congo where his hair no doubt got tangled in the spiky lower branches of the trees, he headed for Bolivia where the peasants had been given their land in the 1950s in a CIA sponsored land reform. Guevara hoped they would spontaneously rally behind his call for collectivisation and Cuban corvée. They didn't.

Che who was a chronic asthmatic as well as an incompetent doctor ran out of inhalers. He could no longer even walk a few paces without collapsing into wheezing idiocy and crawling through the mud gasping "Ventolin" and seeing shimmering blue plastic cylinders appear hovering in the air like a Fata Morgana. A crate of inhalers were bought from a respected multi-national pharmaceutical company and a Buenos Aires cocaine dealer paid in dollars was asked to deliver them. All the Bolivian special forces had to do was to follow him. Guevara was soon captured. An officer in a bright uniform with a peaked cap and epaulettes and wearing reflecting mirror black sun-glasses threw an inhaler in the dirt in front of the recumbent Guevara and told him to crawl towards it. As it was almost within his grasp the officer stepped on his fingers; Guevara had met someone just like himself.

A humane Cuban exile working for the CIA, which had trained the Bolivian counter-insurgency forces, had Guevara shot the next day. Who knows what he thought, this man whose innocent family had been tormented and driven into exile by Guevara and his pals; for all I know some of his relatives had been tortured and killed. Did he now see this as a settling of an old score? It matters not. Shooting Guevara without trial was both wise and just.

It was wise because he would have used the trial as a propaganda platform and there would have been rows about whether a Bolivian court had jurisdiction to try this vile monster for murders carried out in other countries. There would have been world-wide protests and riots at the prospect of Guevara's being executed and he would have been sentenced to comfortable imprisonment to write a memoir and manifesto about his struggles. After a while some prominent Bolivians travelling abroad would have been kidnapped and Guevara's release negotiated in exchange for freeing them. He would have gone back to being an even more deadly romantic revolutionary nutter than before. He would have been one of the many Cubans in Ethiopia who propped up the Marxist-Leninist dictator Mengistu who slaughtered half a million of his own citizens. The utilitarian case for shooting Guevara without trial is overwhelming.

Besides, what right did he have to a trial? Terrorists claim to be soldiers, even though they obey none of the rules that restrain conventional war and murder innocent civilians at will. Why should they have the rights of uniformed soldiers, rights that soldiers reciprocate but which terrorists do not? Yet neither do terrorists have the rights of criminals, for they do not acknowledge the legitimacy of even democratic governments and an impartial judiciary.

In Guevara's case he received exactly what he had been used to handing out to others innocent of any crime at all, people who were merely political or even social opponents of Castro's regime. He had it coming. What happened to Guevara was more justifiable than what happened to Mussolini, for the latter's career of viciousness had come to an end anyway and he could do no more harm.

It is a grim story but there are two amusing tales that can be appended to lighten it a little. The first is that the Cuban official photographer, Korda, as he called himself, made very little money out of all the millions of posters, mugs, and banners based on his Guevara portrait that were sold to the grubby little lefties. The photo was stolen from him by a crooked Italian left-wing publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli who without even acknowledging the name of the photographer made a fortune out of the picture. Feltrinelli later blew himself up with a home made bomb while trying to destroy a pylon in the suburbs of Milan. He became an unintended suicide bomber who killed himself through sheer incompetence. You shouldn't really, ay, but you can't help laughing can you? Give him a Darwin award.

The picture was now annexed by the capitalists who used it to push all manner of consumerism which must have had Guevara pin-wheeling in his obscure grave. Finally it was used to advertise vodka and Korda sued for copyright to stop Guevara's memory and image being "demeaned". And here we come to the funniest bit. It was vodka made from Cuban sugar that brought about the fall of the Soviet Union and the collapse of communism and put an end to all of Castro's nonsense. The Soviet Union had provided its Cuban ally with vast quantities of armaments which Cuba paid for in sugar.

In the old Soviet Union endless Georgian tea, Cuban sugar and diabetes were a substitute for the healthy fruit and vegetables always missing from the shops. During the Brezhnev era the consumption of vodka increased six-fold since money wages were rising but there was nothing to buy. Vodka brought in a good revenue to the Soviet state which had a monopoly of the sale of liquor but the workers and the bureaucrats regularly got drunk and work discipline and quality control collapsed.

Gorbachev desperately tried to reduce the level of vodka consumption by closing the vodka shops but the workers simply switched to distilling rot-gut "samogen" from Cuban sugar. The state lost all the revenue from the vodka sales but could not reduce vodka drinking which rose to the point where the life expectancy for men fell dramatically, confirming Russia's status as a third world country. The state was bankrupt and the people continually sozzled, a working-class paradise but not a sustainable one. The inevitable transition from communism to alcoholism had occurred and the key material force driving it, comrades, was Cuban sugar. Vodka demeaning to Che? It was the price of Cuban aggression and the Russians paid it.

The other good laugh is that Gerry Adams was banned from the opening of the exhibition because of objections from the sponsors of the exhibition Sixties Fashion taking place at the V&A at the same time. The curator of Che, a Miss Ziff (now Mrs Meyer) from Leeds was furious. It was after all in her home town Leeds where the little Polish schneider Seymour Dupa had invented the mini-skirt. But why had that man of Good Friday peace Gerry Adams been invited so inappropriately to a celebration of the life of a hideous, callous terrorist like Che Guevara. What could they possibly have in common? Adams stands for the ballot box and disarmament and for co-operating with British and American imperialism and Guevara stood for guns, bombs and knee-capping. Not for nothing does Guevara appear in murals in Crossmaglen and the Falls Road.

It turns out that Trisha Ziff (or Meyer or Ziff Meyer of Ziffmeyer) is obsessed with radical Irishness and in particular Irishmen who hate the United States and that Earnesto Guevara Lynch de la Serna's middle name was Lynch, the name of an Irish ancestor. When you hear this don't say Che? Say Que?

Ziffers is completing a PhD in Irish studies at London Metropolitan University (the V&A coyly refer to her place of study as the University of London) on "Ireland, Mexico and the United States: a Rashamon approach to the narrative of the San Patricios". The San Patricios were a group of Irish immigrants to the United States who joined the U.S. army and took an oath of allegiance to serve it loyally. During a war between the USA and Mexico they deserted in the face of the enemy, indeed went over to the enemy and, tempted by offers of free land, joined and fought for the Mexican army, rather in the manner of Vlasov's army fighting for Hitler. They were later captured by the Americans, tried by court martial and - as would have been the case in any other army in the world at the time - shot. In Mexico where Miss Ziff now lives they are heroes but they are seen in the United States as vile traitors, as dishonoured and dishonourable.

The Irish-Americans - a community that has produced such notable patriots and anti-Communists as Senators McCarthy, McCarran and Moynihan and the Kennedy who faced down Krushchev over Cuba - hate the very thought of such treason, particularly in the light of Mexico's subsequent lurch towards Marxism and anti-clericalism. Miss Ziff would have done better to work on the Irish ancestry of that pious Roman Catholic, General Pinochet, a descendant of Bernardo O'Higgins the liberator of Chile from the Spaniards.

Dr Christie Davies wrote and took part in a film made in Mexico about an ancestor who worked as an iron-founder in the silver mines of Guanajato and has travelled extensively in Latin America from Trelew to Santiago de Chile. He is the author of The Strange Death of Moral Britain.


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The example of Miss Ziff - yet another proof that sensible folk avoid any discipline (or rather "discipline") with the word "Studies" in the title. God Almighty what foolishness are these Irish Americans not capable of?

Posted by: james mcqueen at August 4, 2006 07:25 PM
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the extremely useful hatred that turns men into effective, violent merciless and cold killing machines.

Cybermen?

Posted by: The Doctor at August 4, 2006 10:54 PM
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In his Commentary on Galatians, Martin Luther writes:

The two fiends that torment us are sin and conscience

Marxism has well known how to make use of this phenomenon, inveigling itself into the Liberal conscience the way toxoplasmosis affects the brains of rodents to modify their behaviour and put themselves into the path of cats, thereby continuing the parasite’s lifecycle. The C of E, by flipping from emphasis on sin to that on conscience, has unwittingly acted like a ‘useful idiot’ in this respect.

The mention of Senator McCarthy allows me to let off another bit of steam. Hollywood produced the film “Inherit the Wind” as a complaint against McCarthy, thereby grossly misrepresenting the Scopes “Monkey” Trial, and so exacerbating the present tension in the USA between Creationism and Evolutionarianism. But they should have been the last to whinge. It was observing the activities of Commies in the film industry that determined Ronald Reagan to enter politics

The Commies also knew how to flatter intellectuals, and so many of them became party members. In this context, I recommend Maurice Wilkins - The Third Man of the Double Helix: An Autobiography (Paperback ISBN: 019280667X). A fascinating book – according to him the mutual antipathy between him and Rosalind Franklin arose as a result of their boss using them both as pawns in his own power game. And it is sobering to think that the Soviets would have regarded Emmy Noether, one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century, as a “useful idiot”.

Posted by: Robert H. Olley at August 5, 2006 11:33 AM
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