Why not honour Guevara when we honour Collins and Mellowes?
As a Galwegian overseas, I have been trying to keep up to date with the Che Guevara statue debate from overseas. Frankly, I find the reasons for not putting up the statue to be ridiculous:
• Guevara was a killer
• Guevara silenced political opponents
I am not contesting the factuality of these criticisms, what I am contesting is that these are reasons not to commemorate Guevara.
Consider Michael Collins, William Wallace or George Washington...these people were directly involved in the exact same activities. Collins had The Squad murder British intelligence officers and later, Republican soldiers in the Civil War. Wallace was a Scottish nobleman who led a war of Scottish noblemen against English ones, for one king against another. Who did the dying? Peasants and landless workers. And Washington? How about the fact that he owned slaves? He looked at some human beings the way we would look at a kettle or a window; property
The point I´m trying to make is that anyone who is against the commemoration of Guevara because of the fact that he killed people should be against statues of any of the people named here. They all killed people. They all suppressed their opponents. They should be campaigning to dismantle the statue of Liam Mellowes that we have in Galway while they´re at it! He was a socialist revolutionary too after all. Why are these people so silent on these people and so loud on Che?
You could argue “They´re completely different situations”, but the fact is that Guevara was part of a war against a ruthless dictator, Fulgencio Batista, who was essentially the United States’ man in Havana. Under Batista, Cuba was basically a rich man´s playground of booze, prostitutes and casinos. Guevara, an Argentine, decided to fight for an ideal he believed in, socialism, in Cuba (and later elsewhere, including Bolivia and what was then called The Congo). And make no mistake, literacy, healthcare, the entire standard of living in fact rose dramatically under the revolutionary government. So much so that Cuba later sent medical aid workers abroad to Nicaragua and Yemen. The revolutionaries did some negative things, yes. And I do believe there ought to be free elections in any country, but if I had a choice between starving under Batista (or if I were an “attractive” enough girl, prostituting myself to foreign businessmen) or fighting under Castro, I would choose fighting every single time.
But my argument doesn´t rest on the many achievements of the revolution. It rests on this observation; the people who are against commemorating Che,
• If they have a problem with violence during a revolution they should also write Dublin City council to get them to dismantle any statue commemorating the 1798 Rebellion´, the Emmet Rebellions, the Young Ireland Rebellion´s, the 1916 Rising´s, the Anglo-Irish War´s and the Civil War´s protagonists.
• If their problem is with how the revolutionary government consolidated itself after the revolution, (assuming you are willing to ignore the cause of these undemocratic means, ie: how much money and arms the US spent trying to undermine a massively popular regime), then I think you should write to the US ambassador, ask him to take Washington´s face off of money, because he denied thousands and thousands of people their rights.
Guevara did things which you or I may not be able to do, (we are fortunate enough to live in a more comfortable time in more comfortable parts of the world), so I will remind the reader that context is everything. I´m going to close this letter with a quote from Michael Collins when he was speaking of the executions and assassinations of his enemies in the British intelligence community, part of which I have underlined:
“By their destruction the very air is made sweeter. For myself, my conscience is clear. There is no crime in detecting in wartime the spy and the informer. They have destroyed without trial. I have paid them back in their own coin.”