[Marxism] Bush and ... Che?!
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Sun Nov 6 13:34:48 MST 2005
>From the Christian Science Monitor
Bush and Che: different concepts of freedom
Tepid reception for US leader at Argentina's Summit of Americas.
By Howard LaFranchi | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
BUENOS AIRES - In the birthplace of Ernesto "Che" Guevara - one of the 20th
century's great icons of liberation - and in a nation where most adults
remember life under a brutal military dictatorship, you might think there
would be greater appreciation for a world leader who champions freedom
through prosperity and democracy. But no.
President George Bush finds little respect in Argentina. In some ways, the
Guevara comparison is unfair. History hasn't judged Bush yet, and analysts
here note that Argentina's favorite son benefits from a mythological status
that allows vendors to sell Che T-shirts for $40 in London and New York. But
there are revealing distinctions about Latin Americans' views of the freedom
"Che's liberty was not individual freedom, it was the independence of
countries and the liberation of the collective poor of those countries,"
says Manuel Mora y Araujo, director of Ipsos-Mora y Araujo, a prominent
public-opinion analysis agency here. "But for Bush it is about individual
freedoms. He is the archetype of the conservative, whereas Che was the
archetype of the socialist."
That does not mean Argentines wish to emulate Guevara's political and
economic ideology, experts explain. "The admiration for El Che no longer
extends to his politics and ideology, certainly not to his Marxism," says
Martin Krause, dean of the Graduate School of Economics and Business
Administration in Buenos Aires and a longtime analyst of Argentine society.
"It's a romantic idea of one man going to battle against the windmills, he's
Several years ago, when there was fresh intrigue about where Guevara's
remains were buried, Mr. Krause wrote that the socialist icon's spiritual
tomb is Cuba. "That's where his ideas found their final resting place," he
says, "and it's a disaster."
Some, including Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, would disagree with that
assessment. But Guevara was certainly integral to Fidel Castro's revolution.
He fought alongside the Castro brothers when they seized control of Cuba in
1959. Later, he was a key participant in the socialist reforms, and became
known for his fiery attacks on US foreign policy. He also wrote the
influential manual "Guerrilla Warfare," which advocated peasant-based
Today, what remains of Guevara in pop culture is often a figure stripped of
political ideology, an "icon of rebellion," Krause says, which explains why
youth wear his face on shirts and put his poster on college dorm walls.
Ricardo López Göttig, a young Argentine historian, says Guevara was
basically about "freedom from" - from the survival-of-the-fittest nature of
capitalism, from the crushing wearing-down of poverty - while Bush is about
"freedom to" - to make one's own life.
"Che wanted a return to a simpler, communitarian life where there was no
property and the individual was absorbed in a protective, collective whole,"
Mr. Lopez says. "Bush stands for a freedom for the individual, but it is a
freedom exposed to competition, conflict, and without protection from
failure. At a time of globalization and increasingly complex living," he
adds, "the discourse of Che Guevara has a certain attraction."
The challenge for what Mora y Araujo calls a "current" would-be liberator is
that he is judged against the backdrop of current events - a fact that
exposes Bush to charges of hypocrisy that Che the myth doesn't face. For
example, Mora y Araujo says, people look at Iraq and conclude there is no
And there is the example of the US. "Bush is no longer just the post-9/11
president, he is now the post-Katrina president," says Oscar Raúl Cardoso, a
political analyst and radio talk show host here, referring to the "gaps" in
American society exposed by the hurricane. "People hear that Bush's tax cuts
benefited the wealthiest 4 percent of the population, then they see what
Katrina revealed," he says. "There are some people in Argentina who lend an
ear when Bush talks about freedom," he adds, "but the majority by far has a
hard time swallowing it."
A recent telephone poll in four Latin American cities - Buenos Aires,
Brasilia, Santiago, and Montevideo - showed that antagonism toward Bush was
highest in Buenos Aires, with 64 percent saying they have a "poor" or "very
poor" opinion of Bush.
The news kiosks here in the capital reflect those feelings. While carrying a
full line of "El Che" postcards, biographies, photographs, and the latest
investigations into the revolutionary's death in the Bolivian jungle in
1967, also sell newspapers with full-page ads calling on all Argentines to
"Ah, you can't compare Bush to our Che," says José, who runs a newsstand on
bustling Corrientes Avenue where he sells a variety of Che memorabilia. "Che
was a doer, he carried out his words of liberation. But Bush just talks."
What about Iraq, which Bush describes as a war of liberation from a detested
dictator? "He did that for the oil," says the affable vendor. "Surely people
in America know that."
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