While walking along Botanic Avenue this afternoon, I noticed something quite odd. There were a succession of big posters of Che Guevara adorning the lampposts. “The revolutionary ideas of Che Guevara”, they proclaimed. On reflection, this wasn’t necessarily odd. The students are back at Queens and the left will be trying to run meetings that might entice a few punters in.
But who was puffing Che? I know the IRSP claim an affinity with old Ernesto, but they haven’t done any student work in living memory, if indeed they ever did. The Shinners perhaps? Maybe in Dublin, but the Tyrone farmboys at Queens don’t go in for that sort of thing – a night of rebel music with a Wolfe Tones tribute band would be more their scene.
For a minute or two I thought it might be Militant. Socialist Youth occasionally use Che’s image in recruitment drives, which is a bit bemusing as I can’t readily think of an organisation less like Che Guevara than Militant. The kids tend to figure this out, if not immediately then when an adult SP member tells them Cuba is a Stalinist dictatorship and the CWI wants to overthrow the regime.
On close examination, I discovered at the bottom of the posters, in extremely small type, the legend “Socialist Worker Student Society”. Now this really had me scratching my head. As Mike Gonzalez will happily tell you, or at least did the last time I saw him, Che went from guerrillaism to, during his time in government, being far more Stalinist than the pragmatic Fidel, then reverting to guerrillaism during his Congo and Bolivia adventures. Neither brand of politics is something that the SWP has historically been keen on, and, much as they might recognise Che as an inspiring figure, they never much rated his revolutionary ideas.
It’s a puzzler all right. Maybe, what with the insurrection in Iraq, the comrades have revised their opinion and come out in favour of armed struggle, except in Ireland where it’s illegal. Or perhaps, with a commercial nous more Ben Dover than Swiss Toni, it’s just a matter of finding a sexy image that will pull in the punters. It’s unfortunate that I have to work tomorrow, or I might have toddled along to hear the new line. But if you’re a Queens student reading this, don’t let an old cynic put you off. Go along by all means, and enjoy yourself. Just remember to ask questions.
And no, the posters didn’t feature Che playing golf. It might have been more fun if they did.