Chilean poet Pablo Neruda may have been murdered by the Pinochet dictatorship

November 11, 2017 at 5:55 pm (anti-fascism, assassination, Chile, culture, good people, Latin America, literature, murder, poetry)

Pablo Neruda
Above:  Neruda

By John Cunningham

Recent autopsies suggest that the death of the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda in 1973 was possibly caused by poisoning. This should surprise no-one even moderately acquainted with the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. Neruda, arguably South America’s greatest poet and a staunch champion of the oppressed, was admitted to hospital at the time of Pinochet’s military coup which overthrew the left social-democratic government of Salvador Allende elected in 1971. 12 days later Neruda died of a heart attack – at least that was the official version. There have been rumours for many years that he was poisoned by agents of the Pinochet regime who wanted this opposition voice silenced forever. It is well-known that the Mexican government had offered Neruda asylum and even had a plane waiting for him at a nearby airport.

Neruda, the son of a railway worker, was born in 1904 and his first poem was published when he was only 13. In the mid-1930s he was forced to flee Chile after his vocal opposition to US exploitation of the Chilean economy. Ending up in Spain he joined the Republican movement returning to Chile only in 1943. He became a member of the Chilean Communist Party in 1945 but four years later he was again in disfavour with the authorities and he, once more, went into exile, returning in 1959. His poetic output was prolific and he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971.

Ignoring the orders of Pinochet thousands turned out for his funeral in what was the first public display of opposition to the dictatorship. His spirit and example live on in his poetry. He once wrote:

‘On our earth, before writing was invented, before the printing press was invented, poetry flourished. That is why we know that poetry is like bread; it should be shared by all, by scholars and by peasants, by all our vast, incredible, extraordinary family of humanity.’

An excellent introduction to his poetry is The Essential Neruda published by Bloodaxe (in a Spanish/English bi-lingual edition). To give readers a flavour of his verse here are a few lines from my favourite Neruda poem, ‘El pueblo/The people’:

I think that those who made so many things
Ought to be the owners of everything.
That those who make bread ought to eat.

That those in the mine should have light.
Enough now of grey men in chains!
Enough of the pale souls who have disappeared!
Not another man should pass except as ruler.
Not one woman without her diadem.
Gloves of gold for every hand.

Fruits of the sun for all the shadowy ones!

Permalink 7 Comments

NUJ: Murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia must be investigated

October 18, 2017 at 5:03 pm (assassination, blogging, campaigning, corruption, crime, Europe, journalism, media, posted by JD, unions)

Statement from the National Union of Journalists (UK):

The NUJ joined the European and International Federations of Journalists in condemning the murder of Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed by a car bomb on 16 October in the town of Bidnija, near her family home.

Daphne Caruana Galizia, killed
© Running Commnentary

Daphne Caruana Galizia, 53, was known for her investigative journalism and her blog Running Commentary, which was one of the most widely read websites in Malta.

The journalist had been sued many times for her blog posts in which she revealed several corruption scandals involving Maltese politicians. In 2016, she was named by Politico as one of “28 people who are shaping, shaking and stirring Europe”, after being the first to break news of Maltese politicians’ involvement in the Panama Papers leak.

In February this year, The EFJ denounced the freezing of her bank accounts and libel suits filed against her by Maltese economy minister and his consultant, following a report revealing that both men visited a brothel during an official trip in Germany.

Mogens Blicher Bjerregård, EFJ president, said:

“We are appalled by yet another killed journalist in Europe. This killing and its circumstances must be swiftly and thoroughly investigated. It reminds us that the safety of journalists must still be considered a priority in the European Union.”

According to a media report, Daphne Caruana Galizia had filed a police report 15 days ago saying she was being threatened.

Tweet Justice for Daphne at  #DaphneCaruana

Permalink 1 Comment

Jo Cox: victim of ‘Leave’ hate crime.

November 23, 2016 at 8:33 pm (assassination, crime, Europe, fascism, immigration, Jim D, Migrants, murder, populism, Racism, RIP, terror, UKIP)

Nigel Farage with the poster
Above: incitement to hatred

The individual who murdered Jo Cox a week before the EU referendum shouted “Britain First” and similar slogans as he snuffed out her life. In court, when asked his name he replied “Death to Traitors.” We now know that in the bag he carried during the attack there was a leaflet about the referendum (from the ‘Remain’ side, but quite obviously not because that’s the side he supported).

Jo Cox was, of course, a well-known ‘Remain’ campaigner and had also been outspoken in demanding that the UK did more for Syrian refugees. She was murdered on the very day that Farage unveiled his notorious ‘Breaking Point’ poster.

At the time of the slaughter, it was pretty obvious that the killer was a ultra nationalist, driven into action by the extreme nativist and anti-immigrant rhetoric of the Farage/Banks wing of the Leave campaign (which the likes of Johnson and Stuart were, of course, quite happy to go along with). But the Remain side pulled our punches on this – mainly, I suspect, because it felt distasteful to seem to be making political capital out of a human tragedy. Even Shiraz Socialist was hesitant about making the link in plain language. The likes of the SWP and Morning Star, usually quick off the mark in pointing out that politicians’ racist language (eg Cameron’s use of the word “swarm”) can have practical consequences in the streets, avoided pointing the finger – for the obvious reason that they found themselves on the same side as Farage, Johnson and Stuart, however different their motives may have been

But now it can be said – indeed, must be said: although the killer is a far from being a typical ‘Leave’ voter (he is a neo- Nazi and may well be mentally ill), he was undooubtably stirred into action when he was by the ‘Leave’ campaign. In the wise words of Alex Massie (one of the few journalists to make the link at the time, though he stopped short of holding Farage personally responsible):

When you encourage rage you cannot then feign surprise when people become enraged. You cannot turn around and say, ‘Mate, you weren’t supposed to take it so seriously. It’s just a game, just a ploy, a strategy for winning votes.’

When you shout BREAKING POINT over and over again, you don’t get to be surprised when someone breaks. When you present politics as a matter of life and death, as a question of national survival, don’t be surprised if someone takes you at your word. You didn’t make them do it, no, but you didn’t do much to stop it either.

Sometimes rhetoric has consequences. If you spend days, weeks, months, years telling people they are under threat, that their country has been stolen from them, that they have been betrayed and sold down the river, that their birthright has been pilfered, that their problem is they’re too slow to realise any of this is happening, that their problem is they’re not sufficiently mad as hell, then at some point, in some place, something or someone is going to snap. And then something terrible is going to happen

Permalink 7 Comments

“Death to traitors, freedom for Britain”

June 18, 2016 at 1:55 pm (assassination, crime, Europe, immigration, Jim D, populism, Racism, statement of the bleedin' obvious, Tory scum, UKIP)

The man accused of murdering Jo Cox gave his name in court as “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain”. As he (allegedly) shot and stabbed the MP to death he cried “Britain First” or “Put Britain First”.

It is now established that he had links with the far-right. It seems very likely that he is mentally ill. We do not know to what extent the anti-Europe campaign fuelled his murderous hatred, but those of us who believe that political rhetoric inevitably has practical consequences are obliged to point out that the poisonous, racist campaign for Brexit has created precisely the political context for murderous violence of this kind. Just a few hours before the murder, Farage unveiled a poster showing Syrian refugees fleeing to Slovenia as though this was a threat to the UK: a clear incitement to racial hatred:

Nigel Farage with the poster

Remain campaigners have, on the whole, been reluctant to publicly link the murder with the racism of the Brexit campaign, but some have now had the guts to start doing so. I recommend Polly Toynbee here, Alex Massie here and Jonathan Freedland here.

Alan Woods at Socialist Appeal makes some good points here, but eventually bottles it by trying to argue that the official Brexit and Remain campaigns are equally culpable – something that is demonstrably untue.

Permalink 18 Comments

‘Bitter fruit’ this time as well?

May 22, 2013 at 11:45 pm (apologists and collaborators, assassination, crime, fascism, islamism, Jim D, London, mental health, murder, reaction, SWP, terror)

Remind you of anything?

This, for instance:

Horror in the United States: Bitter fruit of US policy

Socialist Worker, Sat 15 Sep 2001

The full horror of the attacks in the US was breaking as Socialist Worker went to press. Very many innocent people had been killed or injured.

Nobody knew for sure on Tuesday who was responsible. If it was people from the Middle East it will be because they believe, wrongly, that it is the only way to respond to the horrors they have suffered from the US and other governments. The tragic scenes in New York and Washington are the bitter fruits of policies pursued by the US state.

US president George Bush spoke of terrorist outrages on Tuesday. Yet the state he heads has been responsible for burying men, women and children under piles of rubble. Ten years ago his father sent hundreds of US planes to bomb Iraqi civilians night after night during the Gulf War. They killed over 100,000 civilians and conscripts—’collateral damage’ in the US’s war for oil.

Two years ago the US and NATO bombed towns and cities in Serbia and Kosovo for 78 days. Children, hospital patients, old people—all these and more had as little warning that bombs were about to drop on them as did those who died in the US this week. And the US, backed by Tony Blair, imposes a murderous embargo on the people of Iraq, backed by frequent bombing raids.

In Israel the US supports Ariel Sharon, a war criminal. Israel has murdered over 600 Palestinians in the 11 months of the intifada (uprising). Faced with the might of the US, some people can become so desperate that they try to fight back against this military giant with the limited weapons they have to hand.

They do not have Cruise missiles—so they take to turning a hijacked airliner into a suicide bomb instead. It is not a method that can break US power. Some military officials would have suffered from the explosion at the Pentagon. But many more innocent civilians were killed in New York and Washington. Tuesday’s suicide raids were born of desperation at the supreme arrogance and contempt of the rulers of the most powerful capitalist state on Earth.

In 1998 the US responded to a bomb attack on its embassies in Kenya and Tanzania by blowing up the only medicine factory in the desperately poor country of Sudan, and by bombing Afghanistan. It will be looking for similar revenge now. That will drive more people to hate the US.

It is the responsibility of everyone who is revolted at the lethal world order the US and its allies sit at the top of to offer a way forward. It needs to be based on the mass collective power of ordinary people across the world, and targeted precisely at our rulers.

Permalink 17 Comments

Taliban kill (another) teacher

March 29, 2013 at 4:39 pm (assassination, crime, Education, fascism, Human rights, islamism, Jim D, misogyny, Pakistan, secularism, terror, thuggery, tragedy, women)

Shahnaz Nazli, a teacher at a girls’ school in the Northwestern Khyber district of Pakistan, was murdered earlier this week. Officially, the motorbike-riding  killers are “unknown” but they are clearly the same brand of  gynaephobic fascist bastards who tried to kill Malala Yousufzai. The killing was quite widely covered by the likes of CNN, but I could find nothing in the Guardian or on the main liberal-leftist websites.

Can it be that sections of the Western liberal-left have come to simply accept that this kind of thing is inevitable in certain cultures? Or that sections of the so-called “left” even harbour a degree of sympathy with the Taliban as some kind of “resistance” movement?

Maybe Nick Cohen has a point.

And this book is essential reading.

Permalink 2 Comments

Toulouse: tragedies are not provided to bolster our prejudices

March 25, 2012 at 9:22 pm (Anti-Racism, anti-semitism, assassination, France, imperialism, islamism, Jim D, multiculturalism, murder, Racism, relativism, terror)

Anders Behring Breivik

Above: Anders Breivik, who killed 77 at a Norwegian Social Democrat youth camp last year.

It’s always unwise and often downright irresponsible to jump to conclusions about the motives and political profile of terrorists. When 77 people were picked off at a social democratic youth camp in Norway last year, there was a widespread assumption that this was the work of Islamists. It turned out, of course, that Anders Behring Breivik was a far-right anti-Muslim, probably acting alone. Exactly the opposite mistake has now been made by mainstream and left-wing commentators on the tragic events in Toulouse. Fiachra Gibbons wrote a piece in the Guardian that managed to get just about everything not just wrong, but wrong by 180 degrees:

Police are a long way yet from catching, never mind understanding, what was going through the head of someone who could catch a little girl by the hair so he wouldn’t have to waste a second bullet on her. But some things are already becoming clear. He shouted no jihadist or anti-Semitic slogans, going about his grisly business in the cold, military manner oddly similar to Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian gunman who massacred 77 people at a social democrats summer camp last summer.

As with Breivik, politicians will be quick to the thesis of the lone madman. Another lone madman influenced by nothing but his own distorted mind, like the lone gang of neo-Nazis who had been quietly killing Turks and Greeks in Germany for years unbothered by the police, who preferred to put the murders down to feuds or honour killings.

What could be the link, they ask, between Jewish children and French military personnel? The link is they are both seen – and not just by a far-right fringe – as symbols of all that has sabotaged la France forte, to borrow Sarkozy’s election slogan. Confessional schools, be they Jewish or an informal weekend madrassa, are seen as actively undermining the secular Republic by activists of groups like the Bloc Identitaire and the Front National, as well as some members of Sarkozy’s UMP, and even some on the left.

Now, I have no idea who Mr Gibbons is, and he is certainly not the only commentator to get this incident badly wrong, but I’ll bet you that he is on the “multicultural”/liberal/”left” and so predisposed to assume that the killings were the work of the white European far-right. His easy dismissal of the possibility that the killer might have been an Islamist jihadist (“He shouted no jihadist or anti-Semitic slogans“) suggests a predetermined inability to even entertain such a possibility (the article was published on 20 March, one day before the identity of the killer became known).

And that possibility was always there and fairly obvious. Just because the killer had struck at Muslim servicemen did not make it impossible that he was himself a Muslim, as anyone who has studied the form should know. As Nick Cohen notes in today’s Observer:

Breivik’s [and, as it turns out, Mehrah’s – JD] mentality matched that of Parviz Khan, a bloodthirsty fanatic from Birmingham. At his trial in 2008, the police provided tapes of Khan saying that he would behead a British Muslim soldier like “you cut a pig”. Then he would “put it on a stick and say, this is to all Muslims, [you] want to join the kuffar army, this is what will happen to you”. In his study of the case, Shiraz Maher of King’s College London said that most terrorists spread fear indiscriminately. Khan and his fellow plotters were different. They aimed to terrify Muslims who choose to integrate, identify themselves as British and serve British institutions; to let them know that it was an act of “betrayal” to support their own country.

The first lesson from all of this is not to jump to conclusions before sufficient facts are known. The second is that it is not just unwise and distasteful, but also irresponsible, to seek to use tragedies like this to bolster your own political preconceptions. The third is that vulnerable minorities (Muslims in Europe, especially) are now at greater risk than ever, and we must all weigh our words carefully.

Just because it turns out that the killer was not a member of the far-right (actually, I’d argue that he was, but that’s another matter) does not make the nationalist racism of Sarkozy, as he attempts to steal votes from the fascist Front National, any less criminal. It just means that the simple cause-and-effect link to the killings that we on the left wanted to prove, has not been the case. That fact should not be a cause of pleasure or satisfaction to anyone, and it doesn’t invalidate our condemnations of Sarkozy. But, undoubtably the electoral gainers will be the Front National (who are, predicatably, cashing in already) and Sarkozy himself.

But we on the left – and, especially, that section of the left that was inclined to put the killings down to the “political context” – now have some explaining to do. As the simplistic “It is no coincidence that Sarkozy’s racism has been followed by one of the worst racist attacks in France in a generation”  explanation has been blown out of the water, we are now obliged to offer our more considered analysis and explanation, in the light of what we now know.

I am not the first to note that when a terrorist is a white neo-Nazi, the liberal-left will focus on his ideology, beliefs and any evidence of a supportive mainstream discourse. However if a terrorist is an Islamist, the same people focus exclusively on his grievances and deprivations. Here’s a particularly crass example, all the more unpleasant because it doesn’t even mention antisemitism as a factor in the equation. Note, also, that the (non) “explanation” given in this dreadful little piece of hackery and insult-to-the-intelligence, could have been wheeled out just as well, had the perpetrator been a member of the white far-right.

The problem with much of the “left”, when it comes to Islamist terrorism, is that they (the “left”) deny any autonomy to the perpetrators. Unlike white far-right terrorists, Islamists are not (it would seem) thinking individuals, autonomous actors, motivated by any coherent ideology. They’re merely victims who react to external forces – racism, “islamophobia,” alienation, poverty, imperialism, etc, etc. The “left” (or at least, a large part of it) effectively infantilises these people, denying them even the perverse dignity of being responsible for their own actions, and of having their own internally coherent political agenda.  And that is, ultimately, a form of racism in itself.

I’ll leave the last words to Nick Cohen, who in today’s Observer nailed down many of the points I was mulling over prior to posting this piece:

For conservatives, opposition to radical Islam and indulgence of the white far right allows them to ignore the persistence of racism, most notably in France. They want to comfort their voters by telling them that whatever charges their critics throw at them, they are not as misogynist, homophobic or anti-Semitic as their Islamist enemies are. For leftists, opposition to the white far right and indulgence of radical Islam allows them to hide the descent of their programme of identity politics into squalor and shame, most notably in Britain. As long as they have the British National Party and English Defence League to fight, leftists can forget about their failures to help liberal Muslims and ex-Muslims in their struggles against theocratic power.

Many on both sides will not admit that the motives and targets of totalitarian movements are often identical. After what Europe went through in the 20th century, their ignorance is beyond disgraceful. It is astonishing.

Permalink 32 Comments

A fitting tribute to Anna Politkovskaya

October 8, 2009 at 8:31 pm (assassination, Free Speech, good people, Guardian, Human rights, Iran, Jackie Mcdonough, media, Russia, terror, women)

Just over three years ago the Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya was murdered – one of at least 17 journalists to have been murdered in the last decade under the regime of Putin and his sidekick Medvedev. In only one of these 17 cases have the killers been brought to justice, even though in many instances – especially those (like Anna’s) where there is a connection with Chechnya – the direct responsibility for the killing, below Putin and Medvedev, is an open secret.

Reach All Women in War has established the  Anna Politkovskaya Award to honour her memory by recognising women who stand up for human rights in war and conflict situations throughout the world. The first recipient of the award in 2007, Natalia Estemirova (another Russian journalist who covered Russia’s dirty war in Chechnya) was then herself murdered.

Now, Reach All Women in War have honoured the  One Million Signatures Campaign for Equality in Iran, the campaign  to change the filthy, misogynistic laws of Iran and to stop elementary, basic  discrimination against women in the so-called “Islamic Republic”. Courageous Iranian women have suffered vicious persecution and imprisonment because of their support for this campaign (see link above).

I can think of no better memorial to Anna Politkovskaya.

H/t: this letter to the Graun

Permalink 1 Comment

The deadly valentine

December 4, 2008 at 6:15 pm (anti-fascism, assassination, immigration, literature, Max Dunbar, reaction, religion)


It’s been twenty years since the open bounty on Salman Rushdie and Bernard Henri-Levy (via Kammo) has an eloquent essay in Index on Censorship.

The truth is that a world where we no longer have the right to laugh at dogma would be an impoverished world. The truth is that a world where we are not permitted to write fiction on any and every subject would be a much sadder place where whole areas of freedom will cave in. Dark times. The darkening of the spirit. The spirit of the times.

I’ve just finished volume 3 of The Paris Review Interviews in which Rushdie talks about the initial reaction to the contract.

The most extended thing I’ve ever written about England is The Satanic Verses, which no one thinks of as a novel about England, but is actually, in large part, a novel about London. It’s about the life of immigrants in Thatcherite London… in 1989 there was a widespread tabloid belief that I was this troublemaker who had to be saved from his own kind by a government he’d opposed – the Thatcher government. And then when I decided to make a life for myself in New York, that proved my ingratitude. As if, in order to be grateful, I had to live in London for the rest of my life.

Permalink 10 Comments

For Grynszypan

November 7, 2008 at 1:07 am (Anti-Racism, assassination, Europe, fascism, good people, Jim D, Marxism, music, socialism, trotskyism, truth)

Seventy years on, it remains a tragedy of the highest order:

“The Stalinists shriek in the ears of the police that Grynszpan attended ‘meetings of Trotskyites.’ That, unfortunately, is not true. For had he walked into the milieu of the Fourth International he would have discovered a different and more effective outlet for his revolutionary energy. People come cheap who are capable of fulminating against injustice and bestiality. But those who, like Grynzspan, are able to act as well as conceive, sacrificing their own lives if need be, are the precious leaven of mankind.”

Read the rest of Trotsky’s masterful and humane essay, (“For Grynszpan”), here

 … two days later Hitler used Grynzspan’s desperate action as the excuse for this

Michael Tippett commemorated the young man thus:

Permalink Leave a Comment

Next page »