I had a depressing realization the other day: Bernie Sanders is not a threat to the system.
Because, if he was, they’d have killed him long ago.
Let me back up a bit. When I was a kid my dad had a year’s sabbatical that he spent at the National Archives in Paris – right in the swirl of the student riots and the Algerian revolution (France’s other Vietnam). I had a lot of time wandering the city, mostly looking at the things a kid looks at; in spite of the riots in those days it was safe to be an American kid wandering around. It was one of those summers that I fell in love with a graphic that I did not understand:
I bought a poster, which brought some muffled giggles from my dad, who said something about “remarkably effective propaganda.” And, it was! It wasn’t until many years later that I read a biography of Guevara and discovered that he was ill-groomed, smelled bad, and was pretty stupid. But, damn, did that poster make him look like a superhero.
By the way, if you’re into the semiotics of political posters, you may wish to consider this knock-off of the Che poster:
It’s nowhere near as effective, but then I now see it as unintentionally revealing a lot about the man it portrays.
I’m still mostly happy that Obama was president, but only because – as usual – the alternatives were worse. But he was not a president who brought change. Che Guevara had more change in his stinky, poorly groomed little toe than Barack Obama had in his entire sweet-smelling, well-groomed, slick body. My current political awareness assumes that Che would have turned out to be a real piece of shit, eventually – men who see power coming out of the barrel of a gun usually a) see clearly b) want to wield that power to solve all problems, because it’s easy. The clarity of their ideological vision blurs in the details of implementation and eventually they fail and force remains an answer.
None of that is to imply that Sanders would be lining people up on Central Park to have them shot. In spite of what the breathless cheerleaders in the media say, Sanders is simply not that effective. I’m not saying that death squads are a reliable way of getting worthwhile things done; historically they aren’t. And, usually the people who order the death squads are squeamish little sociopaths (like Himmler) who are traumatized by observing the effects of their own orders.
But, the people who have the history of shooting the other side are not the socialists. It’s the establishment. In fact, the establishment has a long history of killing socialists in the US, which I suppose you can set on the scales of judgement alongside of the fairly few attempts by leftist radicals to bring violence to the police and the power structure. As I have written before, 1968 was marked by thousands of domestic terrorist bombings within the US – a few of which hurt people, but many of which were provoked by undercover FBI agents. The real violence came from the establishment, which send the National Guard with loaded weapons to go sort out pathetic rioting white university kids; and that was their big mistake. The really serious violence was the establishment cracking down on egalitarian movements (which, yes, had their socialist component) in the South: Selma and Atlanta. It strikes me as suspicious that establishment mouthpieces try to claim that Bernie Sanders is going to start the shootings, when it’s the establishment that has been doing most of the shooting all along. I’m comfortable with assuming that the establishment killed Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. (even though MLK was more aligned with the establishment than a revolutionary like Malcolm) probably Bobby Kennedy and maybe even his brother John. It was the establishment that locked Eugene V. Debs up for saying the US should stay out of WWI (hint: Debs was right! The US had no business in that family spat among European imperialists) – let’s say the establishment killed him, too: it was in prison that his health was broken, while he was running for president from his cell. It ought not escape anyone’s attention that it was the establishment that has set up and profited from the carceral state, in which America re-invents slave labor in the form of low-wage extorted prison work for capitalists. That is actually one invention from the nazis that the US has adopted; usually the adoption was the other way around. The US establishment made multiple attempts to assassinate Castro, possibly Hugo Chavez, and there was all that awkward assassinating stuff with the death squads in Colombia.
It was the establishment that decided, under Barack Obama, that the US should clandestinely assassinate its own citizens, and kill their children too – a thing which I see as some kind of Rubicon of badness that demarcates the establishment’s finally declaring open war on dissenters.
What I’m trying to say is: if you’re a socialist who threatens the US establishment, you can tell that you threatened them, because you’re dead.
So, the reason Bernie’s alive at all is that he’s useless and ineffective and the establishment is sure that he’d accomplish nothing even if he managed to make it to president. If he had actually be rocking the boat, as a socialist, he’d have been buried long ago like the others.
Which brings me back to the bearded young god with eyes of fire. In the 80s, when I read a few biographies of Che, he was generally described as going down to foment rebellion in Bolivia, but was captured and killed there. The implication was always that, like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Che died in some kind of action down in the deep bush and was buried in an unmarked grave. But now we find out that the establishment killed him, too. That Che was run down and killed by a CIA death squad which was sent for the specific purpose of silencing him and closing those eyes. Because the US establishment was terrified that there might be another Cuba.
CIA operative Felix Rodriguez is interviewed on BBC Witness podcast [bbc]:
At home in Miami, Felix Rodriguez shows of souvenirs from one of the proudest moments in his long career fighting communism.
“That’s the last picture of Che, taken with me, before he died – maybe an hour, hour and a half before he was killed.”
The slightly faded photograph shows a scowling Che Guevara, his hands tied in front of him, looking straight into the camera. Beside him, a young and stern-looking Felix Rodriguez, in uniform. [Those are US-issue Vietnam-style BDUs]
“To see a man who was so powerful at one point in time, and to see the way that he was at that point in time – he looked like a beggar; a completely different image than what people perceive of him in the world.”
Rodriguez was one of the Cubans who fled to Miami, who became a recruit pool for the CIA in anti-Cuba activities. He’s probably lucky he didn’t wind up dead in the Bay of Pigs. Guevara was less lucky.
The revolutions in Cuba and Che’s attempt to export revolution to Bolivia, were huge threats to the US establishment. There were vast monied interests that were threatened by socialism (which, in my opinion, blurred into de-colonialism).
Felix Rodriguez says that his instructions were clear: the CIA wanted him [Guevara] alive so that he could be interrogated properly. The Bolivian military wanted him dead.
“And then they said ‘Mi Capitan, there is a phone call from the high Bolivian command.’ When I answered the phone, there was a simple code that we had developed and they gave me 500 then 600. The code was 500=Che, 600=Dead and 700=Keep him alive.
I stood in front of him and said ‘Commander, I am sorry.” And he said, ‘It is better this way; I never should have been captured alive.”
Please spare a hearty “fuck you” when you hear some establishment mouthpiece nattering about whether the US can cope with socialism or a socialist candidate. The US has been coping with socialism for a long time, using what can only be described as a campaign of repression and terror.