Heroes and Villains
Che Guevara and the Injustice of Communism
Students will explore the vice of injustice in this lesson on civic virtue. Students will examine the revolutionary life of Ernesto “Che” Guevara in establishing a Communist regime in Cuba with Fidel Castro. Students will analyze a historical narrative, discussion guide, primary sources, and other activities to explore the effect of injustice during the Cuban revolution and under the Communist regime established by Guevara and Castro.
Freedom of Religion
The freedom to exercise one's own religious beliefs without interference from the government is essential to the existence of a free society.
Freedom of Speech
The freedom to express one's opinions without interference from the the government is critical to the maintenance of liberty within a free society.
Inalienable / Natural Rights
Freedoms which belong to us by nature and can only be justly taken away through due process.
Except where authorized by citizens through the Constitution, the government does not have the authority to limit freedom.
Citizens are best able to pursue happiness when government is confined to those powers which protect their life, liberty, and property.
The natural right of all individuals to create, obtain, and control their possessions, beliefs, faculties, and opinions, as well as the fruits of their labor.
Rule of Law
Government and citizens all abide by the same laws regardless of political power. Those laws respect individual rights, are transparently enacted, are justly applied, and are stable.
Suggested Launch Activity
Humans recognize the vice of injustice from an early age and yearn for justice. A simple example might be a child protesting that a sibling or friend was given a much bigger piece of pie. Similarly, they can read stories or watch movies in which they understand that a character such as Cinderella is being treated unjustly.
In addition, young people can recognize the virtue of justice. They understand that they will be rewarded for virtuous behavior and reprimanded for bad. While watching the Star Wars trilogy, they applaud the valiant struggle of the hero, Luke Skywalker, to defeat the Empire and establish a just galaxy where individuals live free from oppression.
Ask students, What are some commonsense examples of injustice that young people can understand? Name some stories that focus on an injustice and how it is remedied justly.
- Break the students up into groups of four or five. Have them fill out the following continuum of justice or injustice. They will mark a spot on the continuum.
- Ask the students to share their answers and explain why they chose their answers.
- Ask the students to re-write the statements to reflect a change in the hypothetical scenario and decide if they arrive at a different answer. This exercise will help them explore how different circumstances can affect the justice of a decision or action.
About Launch Activities
This optional introductory activity is designed to support you in the classroom. However, the primary narratives and photos in the section that follows can be used with or without this introduction.
Ernesto “Che” Guevara (1928 – 1967) was an Argentine former medical student and often unemployed wanderer who traveled around Latin America as a young man. He witnessed dismal poverty and great inequality of wealth in repressive regimes and blamed the troubles on American imperialism….
Sources and Further Reading
Anderson, Jon Lee. Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life. New York: Grove Press, 2010.
Conquest, Robert. Reflections of a Ravaged Century. New York: Norton, 2001.
Guevara, Ernesto Che. Guerrilla Warfare.
Guevara, Ernesto Che. The Motorcycle Diaries.
Guevara, Ernesto Che. Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War.
Llosa, Alvaro Vargas. The Che Guevara Myth and the Future of Liberty. Independent Institute, 2006.
Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto.
Panné, Jean-Louis, et al. The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999.
Pipes, Richard. Communism: A History. New York: Modern Library, 2001.
Service, Robert. Comrades! A History of World Communism. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007.
Virtue Across the Curriculum
The Dark Knight Rises (2012), directed by Christopher Nolan
In the movie, The Dark Knight Rises, the villain, Bane, takes Gotham City hostage with a nuclear weapon. In one scene, he promises a utopia of equality and an end to oppression. However, his new society is filled with great oppression as he sets up “courts” that sentence all “enemies” to death without a trial, all prisoners are released from jail and steal whatever they want from the wealthy, and millions live under the impending threat of detonating a nuclear device.
“We take Gotham from the corrupt! The rich! The oppressors of generations who have kept you down with myths of opportunity, and we give it back to you… the people. Gotham is yours. None shall interfere. Do as you please. Start by storming Blackgate [prison], and freeing the oppressed! Step forward those who would serve. For an army will be raised. The powerful will be ripped from their decadent nests, and cast out into the cold world that we know and endure. Courts will be convened. Spoils will be enjoyed. Blood will be shed. The police will survive, as they learn to serve true justice. This great city… it will endure. Gotham will survive!”
F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
Arthur Koestler, Darkness at Noon
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (2010), directed by Zack Snyder
Lois Lowry, The Giver
George Orwell, 1984
Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Gulag Archipelago
Alexander Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Star Wars: A New Hope (1977), directed by George Lucas
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), directed by J.J. Abrams
- Activity: "Just or Unjust?"
- Injustice: Che Guevara and the Injustice of Communism - Essay
- Discussion Guide
- Che Guevara, "The Social Ideas of the Rebel Army," January 27, 1959
- Virtue In Action
- Injustice Worksheet
- Implementation Guide
- Defining Civic Virtue
- What Is Virtue? – Historical and Philosophical Context
- What Is Virtue? – Defining the Term
- Clarifying Civic Virtue
- Identifying and Defining Civic Virtues
- Teacher’s Notes for Launching Heroes & Villains
- Heroes & Villains Curricular Planning
- Primary Source Activity: Benjamin Franklin and Civic Virtue
- Answer Key