[Marxism] Rejoinder

Peter McLaren drpetermclaren at gmail.com
Mon Oct 15 10:15:50 MDT 2007

Dear nestor and anthony and others:

I'm in the process of updating my book, Che Guevara, Paulo Freire,  
and the Pedagogy of Revolution and doing a left primer for colleges  
on Che. A friend sent me this message (below) and hoped that I could  
help him respond to the charges therein (I am certainly no fan of  
Casteneda, having given a talk with him in 1997). Anybody have any  
insights on this -- would welcome your comments.


The "Revolutionary Tribunals" were political show trials, pure and  
simple. And while many of those executed were ruthless thugs for  
Batista, some of those over whose executions Ché presided at La  
Cabaña prison were former revolutionaries who had been part of the  
opposition to Batista.

Ché is certainly an icon. When he isn't a fashion statement. But who  
was he really?

Ché  adored another one-time icon. A letter he wrote to his Aunt  
(cited by Anderson on page 167) was signed "Stalin II" and, against  
the advice of the Cuban Ambassador to the Soviet Union, Ché placed  
flowers on Stalin's tomb on a visit to Moscow in November 1960 (p.  
181). This four years after Khrushchev's famous "secret speech"  
denouncing the old dictator. He not only approved of Stalin's brutal  
and murderous collectivization, he urged that this be done in Cuba,  
and it was, to a great extent - resulting, ultimately, in more  
executions, labor camps and exile for some of the very peasants the  
revolution was supposed to assist.

Even someone as pro-Cuban Revolution as the Mexican writer Jorge  
Castañeda has noted (in La vida en Rojo, una biografía del Ché  
Guevara. , published the same year as Anderson's book, that Ché  
believed in the harshest version of Stalinism. For instance, he spoke  
out against allowing private plots of land and financial incentives  
for farmers in the Soviet bloc.

Ché founded the labor camps of Cuba in 1960-61. Used for non- 
judicial, administrative detention, the first of these was at  
Guanahacabibes, in the western part of the island. Those sent rarely  
had trials.

<blockquote[We] only send to Guanahacabibes those doubtful cases  
where we are not sure people should go to jail. I believe that people  
who should go to jail should go to jail anyway. Whether long-standing  
militants or whatever, they should go to jail. We send to  
Guanahacabibes those people who should not go to jail, people who  
have committed crimes against revolutionary morals, to a greater or  
lesser degree, along with simultaneous sanctions like being deprived  
of their posts, and in other cases not those sanctions, but rather to  
be reeducated through labor. It is hard labor, not brute labor,  
rather the working conditions are harsh but they are not brutal... 
(Castañeda, p.178). <blockquote>
Later, these camps were used to confine gays and other "social  
deviants," and, in the 1980s'-90s, Cubans with AIDS.
As a student of Latin America (my undergraduate degree is in that  
field) and a firsthand witness to the U.S.-assisted slaughters in  
Central America in the 1980s, I am more than sympathetic to the need  
for massive change in the region, a change that has always been made  
more difficult by the nature of U.S. imperialism. I've also been to  
Cuba six times - from the mid-1960s to the early 1990s and seen some  
of both the good and the bad. Although Ché was certainly a foe of the  
U.S. empire, deifying him - turning him into an icon and finding that  
praiseworthy - is a giant mistake.

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