Che Guevara was definitely evil, almost certainly a moron, and possibly also a psychopath.
This is worth noting because Monday is the 50th anniversary of Guevara’s death.
Consider the Che’s life story.
In his early years, Guevara seemed genuinely moved by the injustices visited upon the rural peoples of South America. Unfortunately, he took his righteous anger and translated it into a pursuit of perpetual war. Cuba was his first major adventure.
As soon as Castro’s revolution had been effected, Guevara became the proud servant of communist moral delusion. Acting as Castro’s Treasury Secretary, Guevara ignored the failures and associated moral hardships his collectivist policies imposed. But like Napoleon the pig, Guevara was convinced of his own innate better-knowledge. In Cuba, Guevara’s economic leadership would set the tone for the horrors yet to come.
That’s important to note, because Guevara’s Cuba period is that most idolized by his fans. Yet the history shows that Guevara in Cuba wasn’t a Robin Hood for the people, but rather, an ideological fanatic. Indeed, the Latin American Nikita Khrushchev was determined to one-up the Soviet overlord. When Khrushchev removed nuclear warheads from Cuba and ended the Cuban Missile Crisis, Guevara was furious: he hated America and would never yield to compromises for peace.
This evil fanaticism to a broader point: Guevara may have been a psychopath.
In Jon Lee Anderson’s biography of Guevara, the author notes a little-noticed excerpt from Guevara’s diary in which the Che describes executing a peasant, Eutímio Guerra. Accusing Guerra of betraying him, Guevara explains, “The situation was uncomfortable for the people and for Eutimio so I ended the problem giving him a shot with a .32 pistol in the right side of the brain, with exit orifice in the right temporal. He gasped a little while and was dead.”
Why such detail in the description?
Either because he was a psychopath, or because for ideological zealots like Guevara, purifying the Earth of non-believers is an act of the highest moral order. In Guevara’s blood lust, we see his mental union with the propaganda offerings of ISIS: both revel in the artistry of taking lives.
Nevertheless, Guevara was also intellectually defective to the point of being a moron. Once, lamenting the support for capitalism in the United States, Guevara lamented that “it is not always possible to make the people in general see this.”
Here we see Guevara’s triumph of ideological intransigence over introspection and honest analysis. In many ways, Guevara’s fervent obstinance planted the roots of far-left delusion that prevail today. It doesn’t matter that every population that tries out capitalism, such as that of Vietnam, does better than under communism. Instead, whether Venezuela or the United States, the far-left embraces the Che’s myth of a delusional public in need of an omniscient “more equal” class to rule over them.
In turn, this myth helps the far-left excuse Guevara’s military and moral incompetence on the battlefield. He might have murdered hundreds of political prisoners, but as biographer Jon Lee Anderson, explained to The Nation, Guevara isn’t that bad a guy, because “He didn’t execute anybody in the Congo, or Bolivia, and militarily speaking he probably should have.” Incidentally, The Nation has another piece out today, worshipping Guevara as a glorious heir to Jean-Paul Marat. Yes, Marat, the original ringleader of the French reign of terror.
But as I say, Guevara can’t just be judged on his moral failings. Assessed against the entirety of his insurgent experience, Guevara’s success in Cuba was an exceptional to the rule.
In the Congo, 1965, Guevara’s arrogance, lack of local cultural and linguistic knowledge, and his pathetic operational security prevented him from mobilizing an effective insurgency. But instead of looking in the mirror, Guevara blamed the locals.
The next year, Guevara proved his incompetence once and for all. Entering Bolivia with a small band of fighters, he quickly alienated the local Bolivians and other rebel groups operating near his hideouts. Having broken the most basic rule of an insurgency (establish a safe haven for supply and concealment), Guevara could do little but wander around the mountains. By October 1967, the game was up. With the assistance of the CIA, Guevara was surrounded, captured, and executed. Guevara’s courage in face of execution was undoubtedly the most notable element of his campaign.
Congo and Bolivia point to the truth of Guevara, the guerrilla. In tactics and strategic effect, he was a very poor man’s T.E. Lawrence (or, moral considerations aside, Mao Zedong/Ho Chi Minh).
So ultimately, the true metaphor of Guevara’s cigar smoking face is not one of moral courage, insurgent glory, and resolute intellect, but of a useful idiot for totalitarian propaganda. Put another way, the photo below is worth one hundred words.