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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

The truth about Che

A few days ago I nearly photoed someone wearing one of those idiotic Che T-shirts, but I missed the shot.

This is the kind of thing such T-shirts ought to be saying:


Although, I’m not quite sure about the wording, the bit at the bottom I mean. Truly, I’m not sure. It looks to me somewhat like an admission of defeat, rather than an assertion of victory. It’s like the bad guys really have succeeded in burying the truth about this appalling person, and the good guys are conceding this. But the first bit digs up that truth and proclaims it, and that’s good.

I found it here.

More about the real Che in this earlier posting here.

26 comments to The truth about Che

  • Midwesterner

    How about changing the bottom phrase to

    Be a hero to ‘Liberals’

    It has the added bonus of highlighting the hypocrisy of those who call themselves ‘liberals’.

  • frank

    Or, exist mainly as a marketing symbol for cheap t-shirts, made in China.

  • The Sage

    A Che T-shirt with the slogan “Communism killed 100 million people and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” has been around for years.

  • Robert

    Or there’s this one…


  • How about having Guevara’s head upside down in your proposed T-shirt design?

    It emphasises the difference, graphically as well as sarcastically.

    Best regards

  • His head doesn’t look terribly different upside down 😉

    I say this every time it comes up. Most people wearing che t-shirts have only the dimmest of notions of who he was. His visage has become a pattern, one that’s found on posters and t-shirts, of no more import than the Flock pattern. And a damn good thing too.

    He must be spinning in his grave.

    I can therefore wear a T-shirt with him on without a shred of regret, knowing that I am helping rob an icon of communism of it’s meaning.

    Also, I have one that says “freedom” at the bottom which is dreadfully ironic! It came from primark, a proof in itself that the market provides better for the poor (ie me) better than any collectivism.

  • I’ve said this before…

    Basically frank and wh00ps are on the right lines. The key point is that Che is not the icon here. The Warhol image is. It’s the only image of Che reproduced on millions of T-Shirts and posters. I know this is going to sound desperately postmodern but the image is now the thing in itself as wh00ps kinda suggests. It’s a general one-size-fits-all icon of youthful rebellion* designed by the ultimate art as a consumer good artist ever** (think the soup tins). That is deeply ironic. Whilst I suspect Che is turning in his grave at the use of his visage like this, Andy is chuckling in his. Its use is a complete subversion (I have seen such shirts in Primark) of what the real Che stood for and I suspect might have made the Warhol a mint***.

    * Think “Rebel Without a Cause”. ‘What you rebelling against?’ ‘What you got?’
    **Warhol of course started as a commercial artist.
    ***Having said that Warhol’s will was left in a terrible mess and they were still wrangling just a few years ago. I hope they sorted it because Warhol wanted it all to go to his brother.

  • Alisa

    Even if wh00ps is right, the truth about who the subject of that ironic subversion was still needs to be told.- otherwise the irony remains lost on the uninformed masses, rending the whole thing rather non-ironic and non-subversive. Irony is not the same as a lie.

  • Alisa,
    Does it matter if they don’t see the irony if they also aren’t wearing the shirt because they are fully paid up to Cuban socialism and i would bet my SR-71 T-shirt much fewer than 5% of wearers wear such T- shirts because they are with the “commie program”. It’s just something that has become “cool” in it’s own right without direct reference to the actual subject – an essentially arbitrary symbol.

    As to your point about the “uninformed masses”. I almost said in my comment that actually in many ways it could be a good thing. It might prompt people to look deeper. Alas, I suspect it’ll probably prompt more sales of “The Motorcycle Diaries” which are basically about Che on a spree as a middle-class kid which is the sort of thing that appeals to students a lot. On the other hand peraps that’s what I was saying about Jimmy Dean in “Rebel without a Cause”. No more political than getting a daft haircut to outrage your parents at 18. I dunno. I honestly gave little thought to politics as such until… Well, I first read Samizdata. Seriously. I mean i knew things were up the pole but it was like being in “Flatland” and not knowing there was also a 3D dimension.

  • I just remembered that episode of American Dad where Steve has the poster on his wall and Stan thinks it’s a Planet Of The Apes poster. Made me chuckle and I can’t stop seeing an ape now 🙂

  • Alisa – he’s a bad guy from the past, and that battle (against full -on state socialism) is won, it’s thoroughly discredited even among most of the left. Decry him by all means, as well as Stalin, Mao and the whole godawful Pantheon, but save some invective for the battles we are still fighting, against the corporatist, progressive “mixed economy” brand of socialism. That battle has hardly started.

  • The shirt is “being told” from Che’s perspective, I suppose, and is ironic. The wording is typical of these sort of visual memes, originating from the likes of 4chan or reddit.

  • Laird

    Personally, I view the (non-ironic) use of this image as a sort of scarlet letter emblazoned on whoever is displaying it: “M” (for moron). It’s useful because it identifies people with whom there is absolutely no point in conversing, and whose opinions on any other matter can be safely dismissed without the need for consideration.

  • Paul Marks


    whOOps and Nick are wrong on this.

    The people who wear the shirts know that Che was a socialist and they think they know he was a good guy.

    Hence – left=good.

    That is what the propaganda is designed to achieve.

    Sure it does not to educate the young about the details of Marxism, that is not its purpose.

    Not of the shirts, or the films, or anything else.

    Left = good.

    Socialist = good.

    Social Justice = good.

    That is enough. As I think Alisa has worked out.

    Enough for another hundred and fifty million (or more) murders. Especially as the world “capitalist” economy collapses – which is comming soon.

    And enough for more moderate socialists to benefit also – whilst wainting for the collapse.

    Midwesterner and The Sage both have good suggestions.

  • pst314

    Dissident Frogman had a shirt with Mickey Mouse ears on Che’s head.
    ThoseShirts.com has one with the diagonal “no parking” slash over Che’s face.
    And somebody used to sell one with sniper cross hairs superimposed on Che’s forehead.

  • Alisa

    It’s useful because it identifies people with whom there is absolutely no point in conversing, and whose opinions on any other matter can be safely dismissed without the need for consideration.

    I can agree with the second part of that statement, Laird, but not with the first. I think that it would have to greatly depend on the wearer’s age: young kids have a reasonable excuse for their ignorance, and so a conversation with them can be productive.

    Sorry wh00ps, but I think that those distinctions are pointless: all these various kinds of socialism are just reincarnation of collectivism, and the worst, as well as the surest thing about collectivism, is that virtually all of its forms are bound to produce monsters like Stalin, Hitler, Mao and Che. It’s the same thing every time, only with different window dressing.

  • Laird

    I disagree, Alisa. Young kids in general (especially products of government schools) may indeed have a “reasonable excuse for their ignorance”, but anyone who wears such a shirt (absent the Mickey Mouse ears or sniper cross hairs) is doing so precisely to flaunt his supposed moral superiority and intelligence. He’s already certain that he knows all he needs to know, and that tells me unequivocally that he’s not ready for intelligent discourse.

    Stupid is as stupid does.

  • David Gillies

    NickM: Warhol? Shome mishtake shurely. Alberto Korda.

    I made my own Che with crosshairs and the caption “El Socialismo ha matado a cien millones de personas en el siglo XX.” I was going to make some posters up and stick them on lampposts last May Day to piss off some Lefties. I once asked a Che-wearing twerp in a bar if he thought it would be appropriate if I were to wear a t-shirt with a picture of Heinrich Himmler on it, since both he and Guevara were the enthusiastic executionors for a murderous dictator. The sarcasm fell flat, since he was such a pathetic ignorant cretin he had no idea about whom I was talking.

  • Alisa

    David: the photo was by Korda, the graphic image that is commonly seen on t-shirts, such as the one in Brian’s post, was by Warhol, who derived it from Korda’s photo.

  • Alisa

    You may have a point, Laird.

  • Ernie G

    I’m a little late to the party, but here’s my favorite Che Guevara picture:


  • Ken

    I want one like this:

    “Don’t shoot! I’m Che! I’m worth more to you alive than dead!”

    Maybe I’ll make a poster, along with the last words of Nathan Hale and a couple of other appropriate counter-examples.

  • * Think “Rebel Without a Cause”. ‘What you rebelling against?’ ‘What you got?’

    Nitpick: That’s actually Marlon Brando (a terribly overrated actor) in The Wild One.

    Of course, I think James Dean is overrated too, and Rebel Without a Cause is lousy.

  • Mea culpa Ted!

    I thought it might have been and didn’t bother checking despite (obviously) being connected to the ‘net at the time.

    You are right about Brando. Perhaps his best performance was in The Godfather where he played a fat, mumbling Italian-American with an inflated sense of importance. Now if any casting directors out there have a project that needs a slim Northern Englander who knows a bit about computers but can’t be bothered to fact check something…

    Personally, I also think De Niro is over-rated. Dean was by all accounts a good actor but “Rebel” is drivel and his filmography is so small it’s hardly rateable.

    But this is my point about “student” icons by which I mean the posters sold in student union “fresher fayres” – they are all degraded into meaninglessness and the same come round and round again… Che, De Niro in Taxi Driver, Jimmy Dean, Jim Morrison, Monroe over a grating. It is an ersatz counter-culture. I couldn’t find Clint in hat, poncho, cheroot and toting pistols. Bah!

  • David Gillies

    Alisa, the ‘Warhol’ image was a fake by Gerard Malanga. Warhol offered to acknowledge it as one of his if the faker gave him all the revenues from it.

  • Alisa

    David: what do you mean by ‘fake’?