Thursday, 30 July 2020

Ail Symudiad - Twristiaid yn y dre

This is a video of my local Welsh  language pop legends  Ail Symudiad (Second Movement) performing their track Twristiaid yn y dre (Tourists in the town). I think their fantastic, they have such a unique fresh sound, and have released so many great records over the years. The first record I actually  got by them  was a single called Geiriau (words) which  came out in 1981, and I've been fortunate to catch them play a number of times over the years, where they always manage to draw a loyal faithful crowd.
They were formed in Cardigan, West Wales in 1978. They were initially inspired by the punk movement that was sweeping the UK at the time. The band cites the Jam, The Undertones, the Buzzcocks, Y Trwynhau Coch and the Clash as primary influences.
The founding members of Ail Symudiad were brothers  Richard Jones, guitar, vocals; Wyn Jones bass, backing vocals and Gareth Lewis, drums. Though the personnel of the band has changed many times since its inception Richard and Wyn have remained the constant steady members since 1978, and the band is still going strong. Over forty years that's quite an achievement for any band.
They are also a good reason to learn the Welsh language  and  have helped  support  an array of other Welsh language bands over the years through their own record label Fflach records, such is their valuable contribution to Welsh culture.
 Here are links to their facebook page. and record label check them out.

Saturday, 25 July 2020

Rest Easy Peter Green (29 October 1946 – 25 July 2020)

Peter Green the influential and legendary lead guitarist, singer and original founder of Fleetwood Mac  has  passed away today (25 July). He was 73.
His family’s solicitors Swan Turton announced the news in a statement: “It is with great sadness that the family of Peter Green announce his death this weekend, peacefully in his sleep. A further statement will be provided in the coming days.”
The news on Saturday comes just two days day after Fleetwood Mac announced a forthcoming massive box set reissue of their first seven studio albums, some of which featured Green on guitar prior to the arrival of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks in 1975.
Born Peter Greenbaum, in Bethnal Green, East London in 1946, to  a Jewish working class family, , he was a sensitive child in whom music had always inspired powerful emotions. He would burst into tears when he heard the theme from Disney's Bambi because he couldn't bear to remember the suffering of the baby deer. He was sensitive in other ways too. As a Jewish kid in London's tough East End, he was constantly teased and taunted, and the scars remained into adulthood.
From an early age, he became enthusiastic about US blues musicians like BB King and Muddy Waters. At the age of eleven he  first learned the  guitar after  acquiring a cheap Spanish guitar from his brother. At the age of 15, the teenager started playing guitar professionally and five years later got the chance to be the lead guitarist for the instrumental band Peter B's Looners,where he met drummer Mick Fleetwood. By the time he was 20, Green had already made a name for himself in the British blues scene. His big break came when he was given the chance to stand in for Eric Clapton in John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers. .Green went on to record The Hard Road with The Bluesbreakers, adding two of his own compositions to the album. He left soon after to form what would become Fleetwood Mac. Already regarded as one of the best Blues guitarists on the scene, Green’s skills as a songwriter were also fast developing,having penned hits such as Albatross, The Green Manalishi and Black Magic Woman now quite rightly regarded as classics.
Sadly, being a sensitive soul it was partly this, combined with a rapid rise to fame and the lifestyle that came with it that led to Green’s deterioration.  Much has been written about this, and in particular about Green’s decline in mental health and his erratic behaviour.
To ignore the details of this would be wrong. Green’s struggle with mental health has come to define his life as well as much of the music he and Fleetwood Mac created.
With newfound stardom came excess. Green began experimenting a lot with psychedelic drugs. On a tour in California, Green became acquainted  with Augustus Owsley III. notorious supplier of LSD to the Grateful Dead and Ken Kesey and it was not long after  that  his mental health also began to deteriorate. In some of his last appearances with the band, he wore a monk’s robe and a crucifix. He became increasingly uncomfortable with his material wealth and vowed to give all of his money away, urging his bandmates to do the same. He was starting to exhibit some of the erratic behaviour that would manifest itself in a much more extreme way in the following years.
If Green was already mentally unstable, then it was the events of Fleetwood Mac’s European tour in 1970 that  really tipped him over the edge. On touching down in Munich, Green was targeted by members of what road manager Dennis Keane described as a ‘cult’. An extremely glamorous couple appeared at the airport and greeted Green like an old friend. They followed him around for the rest of the day, and went to watch Fleetwood Mac play that night.
After the gig, the mysterious couple took Green and fellow guitarist Danny Kirwan to a huge mansion in the woods, which they had turned into a hippy commune. Green and Kirwan took LSD and began jamming with members of the commune in the basement of the house.
When Mick Fleetwood, John McVie and Jeremy Spencer later arrived, they were met by a worried looking Keane, who warned them that Green was tripping out badly and the place had a ‘horrible vibe’. The band called their hotel and swiftly left.
Although Green had already started to show signs of mental illness, this particular incident was one from which he never fully recovered. Green left Fleetwood Mac after a final performance in 1970. Shortly after leaving the band, Peter Green released his first solo album, The End of the Game, it  marked a significant departure from anything he produced before or since."That was my LSD album," admitted Green  "I was trying to reach things that I couldn't before but I had experienced through LSD and mescaline." It was also to be his last creation for some years, as his mental health continued to decline from his LSD use.
Just a couple of years later,  following an outburst in which Green smashed an entire cabinet of crockery at his brother’s house,  he was interned at a psychiatric hospital, and was eventually diagnosed as schizophrenic .and spent time in hospitals undergoing electro-convulsive therapy during the mid-70s at St Thomas's Hospital in South London. This drastic treatment frightened him, but it stabilised his behaviour by reducing him to a level of docility in which he appeared to be almost in a trance
Sadly, he would go on to suffer through years of psychotic outbursts. At one point he grew his nails and hair long and wild and roamed around Richmond Park in London, howling and barking like a dog.  The most serious incident saw him smuggle a shotgun into the UK from Canada, threatening to shoot his accountant. Acording to legend, Green wanted him to stop sending him his royalty cheques for Fleetwood Mac's early work, worth around £30,000 a year.
Thankfully, as treatment for schizophrenia  advanced and Green’s own lifestyle settled down, so did his erratic behaviour. In the 1990s he went on to form the Peter Green Splinter Group. They recorded 10 albums during their time together, including Hot Food Powder and The Robert Johnson Songbook. The albums feature cover versions of every song Robert Johnson is known to have recorded.
It is quite amazing that after more than a decade of serious mental health problems, Green was able to produce two albums, both of which are eminently listenable.Green married Jane Samuels in January 1978; the couple divorced in 1979. They have a daughter, Rosebud Samuels-Greenbaum (born 1978).
While his career may have been cut short, his impact and legacy has been lasting.‘Without Peter Green there would be no Fleetwood Mac. Beyond that and in his own right, Peter Green produced music that continues to inspire and delight listeners. It is for this that we should remember him. He is without question one of the best and most underrated blues guitarists of all time.He released seven solo albums altogether, the final of which was A Case for the Blues (with Katmandu) in 1984.
Green  was among eight members of Fleetwood Mac,- along with Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, John McVie, Christine McVie, Danny Kirwan and Jeremy Spencer - who were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.
Rolling Stone ranked Green at number 58 in its list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time", and in 1996, Green was voted the third-best guitarist of all time in Mojo magazine.
In February before the coronavirus shut down large scale gatherings ,Mick Fleetwood  organised  a gig in celebration of Green, with artists including Fleetwood, Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons and guitarists Jonny Lang and Andy Fairweather Low performing  at the London Palladium. Mick Fleetwood said of the gig at the time: “Peter was my greatest mentor and it gives me such joy to pay tribute to his incredible talent. I am honoured to be sharing the stage with some of the many artists Peter has inspired over the years and who share my great respect for this remarkable musician.”
Because of his unigue talents he was loved by  friends and admirers in equal measure and musicians have been quick to pay tribute upon news of his death.
Whitesnake frontman David Coverdale called him "a breathtaking singer, guitarist & composer". Guitarist Bernie Marsden wrote that he was probably "one of millions" he [Green] touched.
Peter Frampton, a contemporary of Green's, tweeted: "Most sadly have lost one of the most tasteful guitar players ever."
Black Sabbath's Geezer Butler described Green as "one of the greats", while Mumford and Sons guitarist Winston Marshall thanked Green "for the music", describing him as a "#GOAT" (greatest of all time).
Film director Edgar Wright tweeted: "RIP Fleetwood Mac co founder and original lead singer Peter Green", linking to a performance of one of their hits, Oh Well.
Actor David Morrissey praised Peter Green's "fantastic soulful voice", saying he "loved his playing and his singing so much".
Goodbye Peter Green, tragic genius and one of the greatest  guitarists the world has known. Rest easy. Long may his legacy endure. I extend  my thoughts to the loved ones of Peter Green at this sad time. Below I present some of the best fom the inimitable Peter Green.

Man of the World - Fleetworld Mac

Green Manalishi -   Fleetwood Mac

Black Magic Woman - Fleetwood Mac

Oh Well - Fleetwood Mac

Peter Green - Fool No More

Peter Green  and the Splinter Group  - The Supernatural

Friday, 24 July 2020

John Newton (24/7/1725 -22/12/1807 ) - From Slave Trader to Abolitionist.

John Newton, slave trader turned abolitionist and author of the hymn Amazing Graze was born on 24th July 1725 in  Wapping, England. His father was a master mariner. His mother. a pious Dissenter, taught him to read Scripture and memorize Reformed catechisms and hymns. Together they attended an Independent (Congregational) church in London, at a time when barely 1 percent of that city's population went to churches associated with that Puritan-derived group. At age 7, however, Newton's mother died of tuberculosis, and he fell under the less religious and more distant care of his sea-captain father.
His father remarried after his mother's death, but John did not enjoy a good relationship with his stepmother. In 1733 Newton was sent to a boarding-school at Stratford, and at the age of eleven he went to sea with his father, after losing  his first job, in a merchant's office, because of "unsettled behavior and impatience of restraint"—a pattern that would persist for years. He spent his later teen years at sea before he was press-ganged aboard the H.M.S. Harwich in 1744. Newton rebelled against the discipline of the Royal Navy and deserted. He was caught, put in irons, and flogged. He eventually convinced his superiors to discharge him to a slaver ship bound for West Africa. Espousing freethinking principles, he remained arrogant and insubordinate, and he lived with moral abandon: "I sinned with a high hand," he later wrote, "and I made it my study to tempt and seduce others."
Eventually he reached the coast of Sierra Leone where he became the servant of an abusiveslave trader. In 1748, he was rescued by a sea captain and returned to England.
He became a slave ship master himself, working with slave traders to transport people, treating them as cargo. Newton later explained: "The slaves, in general, are bought, and paid for. Sometimes, when goods are lent, or trusted on shore, the trader voluntarily leaves a free person, perhaps his own son, as a hostage, or pawn, for the payment; and, in case or default, the hostage is carried off, and sold; which, however hard upon him, being in consequence of a free stipulation, cannot be deemed unfair. There have been instances of unprincipled captains, who, at the close of what they supposed their last voyage, and when they had no intention of revisiting the coast, have detained, and carried away, free people with them; and left the next ship, that should come from the same port, to risk the consequences. But these actions, I hope, and believe, are not common."
Newton argued that it was important to have as many slaves as possible on board the slave-ship: "With our ships, the great object is, to be full. When the ship is there, it is thought desirable, she should take as many as possible. The cargo of a vessel of a hundred tons, or little more, is calculated to purchase from two hundred and twenty to two hundred and fifty slaves. Their lodging-rooms below the deck, which are three (for the men, the boys, and the women) besides a place for the sick, are sometimes more than five feet high, and sometimes less; and this height is divided towards the middle, for the slaves lie in two rows, one above the other, on each side of the ship, close to each other, like books upon a shelf. I have known them so close, that the shelf would not, easily, contain one more. Let it be observed, that the poor creatures, thus cramped for want of room, are likewise in irons, for the most part both hands and feet, and two together, which makes it difficult for them to turn or move, to attempt either to rise or to lie down, without hurting themselves, or each other."
Newton admitted that conditions on board ship were appalling: "The heat and the smell of these rooms, when the weather will not admit of the slaves being brought upon deck, and of having their rooms cleaned every day, would be, almost, insupportable, to a person not accustomed to them. If the slaves and their rooms can be constantly aired, and they are not detained too long on board, perhaps there are not many die; but the contrary is often their lot. They are kept down, by the weather, to breathe a hot and corrupted air, sometimes for a week: this, added to the galling of their irons, and the despondency which seizes their spirits, when thus confined, soon becomes fatal."
On one occasion Newton kept a record of how many slaves died on a journey from Africa to South Carolin: "The ship, in which I was mate, left the coast with two hundred and eighteen slaves on board; and though we were not much affected by epidemical disorders, I find, by my journal of that voyage (now before me) that we buried sixty-two on our passage to South Carolina, exclusive of those which died before we left the coast, of which I have no account. I believe, upon an average between the more healthy, and the more sickly voyages, and including all contingencies, One fourth of the whole purchase may be allotted to the article of mortality. That is, if the English ships purchase sixty thousand slaves annually, upon the whole extent of the coast, the annual loss of lives cannot be much less than fifteen thousand."
Newton also took slaves to Antigua.  He later recalled a conversation with a man who purchased slaves from Newton: "He said, that calculations had been made, with all possible exactness, to determine which was the preferable, that is, the most saving method of managing slaves". He went onto say that they needed to decided: "Whether, to appoint them moderate work, plenty of provision, and such treatment, as might enable them to protract their lives to old age? Or, by rigorously straining their strength to the utmost, with little relaxation, hard fare, and hard usage, to wear them out before they became useless, and unable to do service; and then, to buy new ones, to fill up their places?" Newton added: "He farther said, that these skillful calculators had determined in favor of the latter mode, as much the cheaper; and that he could mention several estates, in the island of Antigua, on which, it was seldom known, that a slave had lived above nine years."
It was during a storm on 21st March 1748, when Newton thought his ship full of slaves may sink, that he prayed to God for deliverance. While this was the beginning of his desire to embrace Christianity, it was later, on another slave ship that he became deeply ill and prayed again for God’s intervention. This experience is what he touted as the moment when he began to realize the horror of his trade. But despite this he continued to work on ships taking slaves from the Guinea coast and the West Indies (1748–9)  and he became master of slave-trading ships, The Duke of Argyle (1750–51) and The African (1752–54). His biographer Bruce Hidsmarth argued "Newton has sometimes been accused of hypocrisy for holding strong religious convictions at the same time as being active in the slave trade, praying above deck while his human cargo was in abject misery below deck."
Newton married Mary Catlett on 12th February 1750 and in 1754 suffered a convulsive fit and was forced to leave the maritime trade. Later that year he attended religious meetings addressed by George Whitefield and John Wesley. In August 1755 Newton took up a civil service post as tide surveyor at Liverpool. He also became a leading evangelical laymen in the region. This included hosting large religious meetings in his own home.
Newton was considered a Methodist and was unsuccessful in several applications for orders in the Church of England. He sent the first draft of his autobiography to William Legge, 2nd Earl of Dartmouth. With his support Newton received deacon's orders, on 29th April 1764, from the Bishop of Lincoln. Newton became curate-in-charge of Olney in Buckinghamshire.
Newton had become friends with the poet, William Cowper and in 1771 they began to collaborate formally on a project to publish a volume of their collected hymns. Olney Hymns was published in 1779. Newton's most famous contribution Amazing Grace  is included."
The irony of Newton’s lyrics is that part of history is that the song was adopted as a spiritual sung by black African slaves to engender strength, hope and encouragement. It was performed by Liwana Porter during George Floyd's memorial service in Minneapolis and  is probably  one of the best known hymns across a variety of Protestant denominations. The song was originally known as "Faith's Review and Expectation."
 In 2015, President Barack Obama, a man with no previous history of public singing, sang the hymn at a memorial service for the nine African Americans killed by a white supremacist shooter inside one of the nation's oldest black churches, Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The moment seemed to resonate with a wide variety of Americans.
In Newton’s age, slavery was an economic reality, as it has been at many times in human history, including today. There is always a profit to be made from human servitude. Newton knew both sides of the economic divide. Having endured slavery, he apparently for some years had no qualms about profiting from it. He knew what it was to be a wretch in two senses: first, to lose physical agency, and then to fail to assume moral agency. But he changed.
In January 1780 Newton accepted the offer from  John Thornton of the benefice of St Mary Wolchurch in Lombard Street, where he wholeheartedly supported the work of the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, formed in 1787. He became close friends with William Wilberforce and became involved in his campaign against the slave trade.
Wilberforce, a Member of Parliament, was the nephew of one of Newton's London friends. Inspired by the former slave trader, and paralleling Newton's own conversion, Wilberforce began to question his role in life. Although Newton, then a lowly Olney curate, was convinced that Wilberforce was just another wealthy politician, he persuaded him to crusade for change and use his station in life and his powerful friends (including Prime Minister Pitt) to seek reform. One of the chief topics for such advocacy was abolition. In fact, Wilberforce wrote in his journal on October 28, 1787, that one of the two goals that had been set before him was "the suppression of the Slave Trade."
Newton joined in the fight for the abolition of slavery by publishing the essay "Thoughts upon the African Slave Trade." in 1787. He admitted that this was "a confession, which... comes too late....It will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me, that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders." Newton explained why he had become involved in the campaign against the slave trade: "The nature and effects of that unhappy and disgraceful branch of commerce, which has long been maintained on the Coast of Africa, with the sole, and professed design of purchasing our fellow-creatures, in order to supply our West-India islands and the American colonies, when they were ours, with slaves; is now generally understood. So much light has been thrown upon the subject, by many able pens; and so many respectable persons have already engaged to use their utmost influence, for the suppression of a traffic, which contradicts the feelings of humanity; that it is hoped, this stain of our National character will soon be wiped out."
Because Christians still felt that slavery was justified in the Bible, Newton and Wilberforce wisely avoided building their protests on a religious platform. Instead, they condemned the practice as an inhumane treatment of their fellow men and women. Newton, speaking strongly from his own experiences, also proposed that the captors were in turn brutalized by their callous treatment of others and cited offences including torture, rape, and murder. Newton's friend, William Cowper, joined their fight by writing pro-abolition poems and ballads.
In 1789 Wilberforce introduced a "Bill for the Abolition of Slavery" in Parliament. The bill faced opposition in both Houses, but the forces against enactment became weaker each time it came up for a vote. The bill finally was passed by the House of Commons in 1804 and by the House of Lords in 1807 after which King George III declared it law.
John Newton died on 21st December 1807  aged 82 a few months after the Act abolishing the slave trade throughout the British Empire had been passed. It did not bring slavery itself to an end, as this was only outlawed completely in British territory with the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833. However, the 1807 Act was an incredibly important step in that direction, that encouraged abolitionists around the world.  Newton  was buried by the side of his wife in St Mary Woolchurch on 31st December; both bodies were reinterred at Olney in 1893.
As far as I am aware, there isn’t a statue to Newton in any significant place. If there were then, although I applaud the sentiment behind the pulling down of Edward Colston’s statue, I would be much more startled to see the same thing happen to Newton’s statue if it existed. The Black Lives Matter campaign has been  focussing on educating people about systemic racism and on changing hearts and minds.
After the senseless death of George Floyd and others has awakened an anger and a widespread undeniable feeling of injustice, a feeling that people from black and minority ethnic groups do face discrimination and we cannot ignore. As a result it is possible to wholeheartedly support the Black Lives Matter movement and campaign to stamp out racism but also to acknowledge that we can’t just wipe things out without learning and we also need historical examples of people that can and do change. In Newton’s age, slavery was an economic reality, as it has been at many times in human history, including today. There is always a profit to be made from human servitude. But Newton, a man who had enslaved others, at least changed into a man fighting against the very thing he had been been so much part of. This is why I believe it is important to remember him.

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Out of the Shadows.

The world swiftly rearranges
Moving faster than a runaway train,
As the draw bridges shut down
And children grow older faster,
We all stand at the crossroads
Watching each pivotal step,
Kindling hope, igniting rainbows
The pipes of pan serenading,
Beyond the whips and chains that bind
Eternity in mothering bridges,
Delivering confirmation, validation
Following contracts of good and evil,
Gravity of mercy shared
Dynamics of existence,
Between hours of prepared purpose
Shrouds of twisted navigation continue,
As cherry blossom powder the earth
Greed of old, keeps infecting,
We must keep searching for answers
Make magic out of days,
From blue armchairs in sad suburbs
Without inhibition, keep on believing,
Keep on easing minds, bending the rules
Releasing knots, making wishes come true,
Like the old black and white movies
Old wild world keeps on spinning,
Specks of rain softly soothing
Interrupting dragons fangs,
Take to the river at full moon
In the force of currents, believe in change,
Upon the stair cases of ink
Paint flowers, get drunk on imagination.

Friday, 17 July 2020

Anniversary of the Spanish Civil War

Today marks the anniversary of the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, a moment in time that has come to represent the defining struggle of the age: a clash between not just between the opposing political ideologies of socialism and fascism, but between civilization and barbarism, good and evil. The fascists launched a coup against the democratically elected Popular Front Government in Madrid on the night of 17th July 1936 inspired mostly by General Franco. A central goal of the rebels was the destruction of left-wing organisations. Franco’s fellow officer, General Queipo de Llano, instructed his subordinates on how to treat the ‘Bolshevik’ activist with this chilling sentence: ‘I authorise you to kill him like a dog and you will be free of all responsibility." The Nationalist rebels' initial efforts to instigate military revolts throughout Spain only partially succeeded. In rural areas with a strong right-wing political presence, Franco's confederates generally won out. They quickly seized political power and instituted martial law. In other areas, particularly cities with strong leftist political traditions, the revolts met with stiff opposition and were often quelled. Some Spanish officers remained loyal to the Republic and refused to join the uprising.
Within days of the uprising, both the Republic and the Nationalists called for foreign military aid. Initially, France pledged to support the Spanish Republic, but soon reneged on its offer to pursue an official policy of non-intervention in the civil war. Great Britain immediately rejected the Republic's call for support.
Faced with potential defeat, Franco called upon Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy for aid. Thanks to their military assistance, he was able to airlift troops from Spanish Morocco across to the mainland to continue his assault on Madrid. Throughout the three years of the conflict, Hitler and Mussolini provided the Spanish Nationalist Army with crucial military support.
Some 5,000 German air force personnel served in the Condor Legion, which provided air support for coordinated ground attacks against Republican positions and carried out aerial bombings on Republican cities. The most notorious of these attacks came on April 26, 1937, when German and Italian aircraft leveled the Basque town of Gernike (Guernica in Spanish) in a three-hour campaign that killed 200 civilians or more. Fascist Italy supplied some 75,000 troops in addition to its pilots and planes. Spain became a military laboratory to test the latest weaponry under battlefield conditions.
The Spanish conflict quickly generated worldwide fears that it could explode into a full-fledged European war. In August 1936, more than two dozen nations, including France, Great Britain, Italy, Nazi Germany, and the Soviet Union, signed a Non-Intervention Agreement on Spain. The latter three signatories openly violated the policy. Italy and Germany continued to supply Franco's forces, while the Soviet Union provided military advisors, tanks, aircraft, and other war materiel to the Republic
But the people rose, millions of people around the world felt passionately that rapidly advancing fascism must be halted in Spain; and more than 35,000 volunteers from dozens of other countries went to help defend the Spanish Republic, forces of red and black fought back united against fascism. In the countryside, peasants took control of the land, redistributing large estates and, in many places, collectivizing the land and setting up communes and a civil war was was waged, the workers immediately set up barricades and within hours the rising had been defeated. Arms were seized and given to workers who were dispatched to other areas to prevent risings. Madrid was also saved because of the heroism and initiative of the workers. Hearing of what had happened in Barcelona they had stormed the main army base in the city. Workers' militias were established. Workplaces were taken over and for ten months after July 1936, the people held power. Taking over the factories and the running of the whole of society. They organised workers’ committees in enterprises and streets. They believed that they had power and fought to defend and extend it.
But in a series of tragic events were sadly defeated aided by the British government who had agreed to a policy of 'non-intervention'  along with the help of fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.
The town of Guernica situated 30 kilometers east of Bilbao, in the Basque province of Vizcaya. Guernica was considered to be the spiritual capital of the Basque people and had a population of about 7,000 people. On 26th April 1937, Guernica was bombed by the Germab Condor Legion.. As it was a market day the town was crowded. The town was first struck by explosive bombs and then by incendiaries. As people fled from their homes they were machine-gunned by fighter planes. The three hour raid completely destroyed the town. It is estimated that 1,685 people were killed and 900 injured in the attack.

Pablo Picasso, Guernica (1937)
Pablo Picasso, Guernica (1937)
General Franco denied that he had nothing to do with the raid and claimed that the town had been dynamited and then burnt by Anarchist Brigades. Franco issued a statement after the bombing: "We wish to tell the world, loudly and clearly, a little about the burning of Guernica. It was destroyed by fire and gasoline. The red hordes in the criminal service of Aguirre burnt it to ruins. The fire took place yesterday and Aguirre, since he is a common criminal, has uttered the infamous lie of attributing this atrocity to our noble and heroic air force."
The Spanish church backed this story and its professor of theology in Rome went so far as to declare that "the truth is there is not a single German in Spain. Franco only needs Spanish soldiers which are second to none in the world." After the war a telegram sent from Franco's headquarters was discovered and revealed that he had asked the German Condor legion to carry out the attack on Guernica. It is believed that the attack was an attempt to demoralize the Basque people. Germany had agreed as they wanted to carry out "a major experiment in the effects of aerial terrorism."An earlier post on this tragic event can be found here
By April 1939, all of Spain was under fascist control and Franco declared a victory .Solidifying his power with a brutal dictatorship by oppressing and systematically killing any political opposition.Over half a million people were killed in the war, and in the next few years many tens of thousands more were executed, not forgetting all those who died from malnutrition, starvation, and war-engendered disease. General Franco's military regime remained in power until his death in 1975 depriving  Spain of freedom for several decades afterwards, and former Republicans were subjected to various forms of discrimination and punishment. Victory for the Francoist side brought economic and political isolation for Spain until the 1950s and the denial of basic rights until the late 1970s. Only in recent years have relatives of the executed started to learn where their loved ones are buried.
The fighting and persecution resulted in several million Spaniards being displaced. Many fled areas of violence for safe refuge elsewhere. Only a few countries, such as Mexico and the Dominican Republic, opened their doors to Spanish refugees. Nearly 4,000 Basque children arrived in the UK in 1937, fleeing from the terrors of the Spanish Civil War. Over 200 were accommodated at colonies in Caerleon, Swansea, Brechfa and Old Colwyn, and they were warmly welcomed by Welsh people who considered that Welsh miners and the Basques were fighting the same enemy - fascism.
When the Spanish Civil War ended in 1939, with Franco's victory, some 500,000 Spanish Republicans escaped to France, where many were placed in internment camps in the south, such as Gurs, St. Cyprien, and Les Milles. Following the German defeat of France in spring 1940, Nazi authorities conscripted Spanish Republicans for forced labor and deported more than 30,000 to Germany, where about half of them ended up in concentration camps/ Some 7,000 of these became prisoners in Mathausen; more than half of them died in the camp.
About 300 people volunteered from Wales against the tyranny of fascism, with 35 of whom not returning home .When the Welsh volunteers returned home they were greeted in their communities as heroes, but many felt betrayed by the British government and were at first unwilling to share their experiences.However, as time went on, plaques were erected, memoirs and biographies were written and historians began to carefully curate the individual  stories of  idealism and bravery
The important historical truth is the international flavour of those who volunteered to fight in this brutal war.A total of 59,380 volunteers from fifty-five countries served during the Spanish Civil War joining.the  International Brigade, to fight selflessly  side by side for the ideas of liberty and social justice, solidarity and mutual aid .Rallying to the republican cause.The International Brigade, were so called because their members (initially) came from so many different countries. The International Brigaders were recruited, organized, and directed by the Cominterm (Communist International), with headquarters in Paris. A large number of the mostly young recruits were Communists before they became involved in the conflict; more joined the party during the course of the war. This included the following: French (10,000), German (5,000), Polish (5,000), Italian (3,350), American (2,800), British (2,000), Yugoslavian (1,500), Czech (1,500), Canadian (1,000), Hungarian (1,000) and Scandinavian (1,000). Battalions established included the Abraham Lincoln Battalion, British Battalion, Connolly Column and the George Washington Battalion among others.

A great idealistic cause of the first half of the twentieth century, that has been of great interest to me over the years. Two local people from my neck of the woods went to serve Arthur Morris and a Percy Jones. More information here , I have yet though to see a monument erected to them.
For many it was not just a war to defeat the fascists it was the beginning of a new society. A revolution in fact, unfortunately revolutions do not succeed when the people are divided. There are many lessons to be learnt from this struggle, a struggle that continues to do this day.
Lets not forget all those who were killed serving with the International Brigades who nobly fought bravely in a spirit of solidarity, and political and moral awareness to try and save us from fascism's threat that still sadly lingers and haunts us  today.The dark shadow cast by the Spanish Civil war, still matters, and the wound inflicted on Spain still within living memory for many has yet to close. We must continue to resist oppressive forces, with our shout of no pasaran.
The poet and political activist John Corford was just 21 years old when he died in Spain in August 1936, I will leave you with these two poems by him written in the teeth of death.


Heart of the heartless world,
Dear heart, the thought of you
Is the pain at my side,
The shadow that chills my view.
The wind rises in the evening,
Reminds that autumn is near.
I am afraid to lose you,
I am afraid of my fear.
On the last mile to Huesca,
The last fence for our pride,
Think so kindly, dear, that I
Sense you at my side.
And if bad luck should lay my strength
Into the shallow grave,
Remember all the good you can;
Don’t forget my love.

A letter from Aragon

This is a quiet sector of a quiet front.

We buried Ruiz in a new pine coffin,
But the shroud was too small and his washed feet stuck out.
The stink of his corpse came through the clean pine boards
And some of the bearers wrapped handkerchiefs round their faces.
Death was not dignified.
We hacked a ragged grave in the unfriendly earth
And fired a ragged volley over the grave.

You could tell from our listlessness, no one much missed him.

This is a quiet sector of a quiet front.
There is no poison gas and no H. E.

But when they shelled the other end of the village
And the streets were choked with dust
Women came screaming out of the crumbling houses,
Clutched under one arm the naked rump of an infant.
I thought: how ugly fear is.

This is a quiet sector of a quiet front.
Our nerves are steady; we all sleep soundly.

In the clean hospital bed, my eyes were so heavy
Sleep easily blotted out one ugly picture,
A wounded militiaman moaning on a stretcher,
Now out of danger, but still crying for water,
Strong against death, but unprepared for such pain.

This on a quiet front.

But when I shook hands to leave, an Anarchist worker
Said: 'Tell the workers of England
This was a war not of our own making
We did not seek it.
But if ever the Fascists again rule Barcelona
It will be as a heap of ruins with us workers beneath it.'

reprinted from  Penguin Book of Spanish Civil War Verse, edited by Valentine Cunningham (Penguin, 1980)

Two further posts related to the Spanish Civil War can be found here :-

Further Reading ;-

Vernon Richards - Lessons of the Spanish Civil War, Freedom Press

The Spanish Civil War- Hugh Thomas , Penguin

The Spanish Civil War - Antony Beevor, Cassel

Miners Against Fascism, Wales and the Spanish Civil War - Hywel Francis, Lawrence and Wishart

Fleeing Franco- Hywel Francic, University of Wales Press

And here is a link to the International Brigades Memorial Trust :-

Thursday, 16 July 2020

The Awful Legacy of the First Nuclear Bomb Test

Before nuclear weapons were used on the populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, at 5.30 a.m, on July 16, 1945, Los Alamas scientists detonated a plutonium bomb at a test site located on the U.S. Air Force base at Alamogordo, New Mexico. J. Robert Oppenheimer chose the name "Trinity" for the test site , inspired by the poetry of John Donne.
When the bomb was finally detonated atop a steel tower, an intense light flash and sudden wave of heat was followed by a great burst of sound echoing in the valley. A ball of fire tore up into the sky and then surrounded by a giant mushroom  cloud stretching some 40,00 feet across. With a power equivalent to around 21,000 tons, the bomb completely obliterated the steel tower on which it rested, destroying everything in its vicinity and melting huge swathes of sand into sea-green glass. The Nuclear Age had begun,,
Less than a month later, the United States would drop a nearly identical weapon on the city of Nagasaki in Japan. The bomb, named Fat Man, fell three days after Americans dropped a uranium bomb called Little Boy, on Hiroshima. Both weapons immediately killed tens of thousands of Japanese people and forced Japan's surrender on August 14, bring an abrupt end to the war.
Many of the scientists who witnessed the Trinity blast quickly realised the "foul and awesome" power they had set free, according to historians. Mr Oppenheimer said a Hindu scripture ran through his mind at the sight of the explosion: "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."
Kenneth T. Bainbridge, the test director, was less poetic. "Now we are all sons of bitches," he said.
The Trinity test exposed the communities in the areas downwind from the blast to dangerous levels of radiation and fallout. In the following decades, the "Downwinders" from the Tularosa Basin who were not even informed about the test have faced long-term health consequences including cancers, even across generations. Like the Hibakusha,a term widely used in Japan, that translates as ' explosion effected/Surrvivor of the Light' and global victims of nuclear tests, the Downwinders have raised their voices to fight for a better future.
The thousands living  downwind from  the Trinity Blast were knowingly exposed to extremely high levels of radioactive fallout . Many New Mexicans living in the vicinity of the Trinity test were ranchers, Native Americans, Hispanic settlers who lived a rural and substinence lifestyle. Unbeknownst to them their land, their water and their food was severely contaminated to radioactive fallout. The effects of this exposure are still evident 75 years later in the physical, economic and mental hardships of survivors and their families. Downwinders developed certain types of cancers at rates that far exceed the general population. In many case, entire families have developed cancer at rates that far exceeded the general population. Many downwinders were also forced into debt and poverty from costly health treatments, none of which were compensated by the federal government.
 Since the Trinity Test 75 years ago, at least eight countries have   have detonated over 2,000 nuclear weapons at more than 60 locations around the globe,according to data released by More than half of these tests have been conducted by the United States, most have have taken place on colonized land and the lands of indigenous and minority people, never close to those who made the decisions to conduct them.People living in the vicinity of these tests exposed to radioactive fallout are part of the under acknowledged ;collateral damage' of our nuclear industry. The history of nuclear testing also exposes the oppressive and racist nature of relying on nuclear weapons for “security”.
Radiation from nuclear tests harms children more than it does adults. Infants and young girls run the highest risk of cancer across their lifetime after exposure and teenage girls will suffer almost double rates of cancer compared to boys.
In 2017, the UN adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which is the only international treaty to require for all victims of nuclear weapons use and testing to receive adequate victim assistance. 39 countries have already ratified this Treaty. Has yours? It compels states to address the needs of victims and impacted environments and acknowledges the disproportionate impact of nuclear weapon activities on indigenous peoples. Justice for survivors is an essential part of the quest for a word free of nuclear weapons.
While the number of atomic warheads in the world has fallen considerably since the darker days of the cold war, the club of nuclear armed countries has expanded. With countries including the U.S, updating their nuclear arsenals and arms control treaties in danger of collapsing, many experts believe the risk of nuclear conflict is rising. 75 years after the first nuclear weapon was tested, we must stand with the affected communities, press our leaders to take the actions necessary to ensure  these immoral, illegal weapons are never used again and to negotiate in good faith the global elimination of these most devastating weapons of mass destruction.
Trinity Downwiders will be hosting a virtual event recognising the 75th anniversary of the Trinity test. I encourage people to attend  Here is a link to the video  which will go live when it takes place :-

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Capitalism as religion - Walter Benjamin

Walter Benjamin  who was born on July 15, 1892 in Berlin was a German Jewish Marxist literary critic, essayist, translator, philosopher and renaissance man of letters, who wrote on topics ranging from art history and aesthetics to linguistics, politics, and psychedelic drugs, who is now considered to have been the most important German literary critic in the first half of the 20th century.He was influenced by the critical theory of the Frankfurt School, by Marxism, by German idealism  and by Jewish mysticism.In his brief life, Benjamin developed many of the themes that now serve as an indispensable foundation  for literary and cultural criticism. "Criticism" he observed, "is a matter of correct distancing. It was at home in a world where prospectives and prospects counted and where it was still possible to adopt a standpoint. Now things press too urgently on human society." This could have been written yesterday, it was published in 1928.
Born into a Jewish middle class family his education took him to Berlin, Munich and Bern before he returned back to Berlin in his late twenties,  student of philosophy, Benjamin had been intent on a career as an academic but his ambition was thwarted when the University of Frankfurt dismissed his doctoral thesis on the origins of German tragedy as outlandish.
Because of his anti-fascist advocacy, the Gestapo requested Benjamin’s expatriation from Paris in February 1939. When France declared war on Germany, all Germans living in France were interned in camps. Benjamin was sent to the village of Nevers in Burgundy, but was released due to interventions by his friends. He continued to work, but in June 1940 he was forced to flee Paris.
He then attempted to travel through neutral Spain by crossing the Pyrenees on foot. On the night of September 26, 1940, he was falsely alarmed when he was stopped by General Franco’s border guards near Port-Bou. In his hotel room, unaware that he was not under suspicion and could have escaped to freedom he took his own life with an overdose of morphine, which he carried for in such an eventuality. The local doctor, however declared it a natural death and Benjamin was given a Catholic burial in the municipal cemetery, under a wrong name.
His tragically short life became the subject of Jay Parini's novel Benjamin's Crossing. Charles Bernstein and Brian Ferneyhough wrote the opera Shadowtime based on his life.His dislocation, his not at homeness and willful alienation, mark him as a kindred spirit to Kafka and Baudelaire.More than 70 years after his death his work continues to speak compellingly to the modern reader.
In the following excerpt from an unfinished essay, Capitalism as Religion  by Walter Benjamin written in 1921 and published in the Volume VI of his Collected Writings (in German). Here, Benjamin characterises capitalism not as something that resembles a religion, but as an actual religious cult,without mercy or truth, leading humanity to the house of despair.
Directly based on Max Weber's Protestant ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, but – in ways akin to Ernst Bloch or Erich Fromm – it transforms Weber's 'value-free' analysis into a ferocious anti capitalist argument, probably inspired by Gustav Landauer's romantic and libertarian socialism. The translation is by Chad Kautzer.
Beginning in the late middle ages and reaching its first plateau in the late eigthteenth century, the capitalist market began to assume an autonomous, god-like existence. Since then we have made fetishes out of commodities as we believe we can derive sensuous pleasure from their magical properties. We sacrifice our time, our families, our children our forests, our seas and our land on the altar of the market., the God that some owe their deepest allegiance.
Capitalism is a totalitarian system that engulfs the entire social and cultural structure at considerable cost to this fragile earth of ours. Under it's influence people plunder,kill, steal , ravage nations and wage wars. Capitalism isn't about  bringing you contentment, it's about making you feel discontentment and under the Tory Government they have already shown us that they want pure privatisation  through unfettered Capitalism. So those who already have, will increase their wealth and those who do not will struggle to live. The altar of greed is truly where they worship. Thanks Walter for reminding me.

Capitalism as religion - Walter Benjamin

One can behold in capitalism a religion, that is to say, capitalism essentially serves to satisfy the same worries, anguish, and disquiet formerly answered by so-called religion. The proof of capitalism’s religious structure – as not only a religiously conditioned construction, as Weber thought, but as an essentially religious phenomenon – still today misleads one to a boundless, universal polemic. We cannot draw close the net in which we stand. A commanding view will, however, later become possible.

Three characteristics of the religious structure of capitalism are, however, recognizable at present. First, capitalism is a pure religious cult, perhaps the most extreme there ever was. Within it everything only has a meaning in direct relation to the cult: it knows no special dogma, no theology. From this standpoint, utilitarianism gains its religious coloring. The concretization of the cult connects with a second characteristic of capitalism: the permanent duration of the cult. Capitalism is the celebration of the cult sans rêve et sans merci.¹ Here there is no “weekday”, no day that would not be a holiday in the awful sense of exhibiting all sacred pomp – the extreme exertion of worship. Third, this is a cult that engenders blame. Capitalism is presumably the first case of a blaming, rather than repenting cult. Herein stands this religious system in the fall of a tremendous movement. An enormous feeling of guilt not itself knowing how to repent, grasps at the cult, not in order to repent for this guilt, but to make it universal, to hammer it into consciousness and finally and above all to include God himself in this guilt, in order to finally interest him in repentance. This [repentance] is thus not to be expected in the cult itself, nor in the reformation of this religion – which must hold on to something certain within it – nor yet in the denial of it. In the essence of this religious movement that is capitalism lies – bearing until the end, until the finally complete infusion of blame into God – the attainment of a world of despair still only hoped for. Therein lies the historical enormity of capitalism: religion is no longer the reform of being, but rather its obliteration. From this expansion of despair in the religious state of the world, healing is expected. God’s transcendence has fallen, but he is not dead. He is drawn into the fate of man. This passage of “planetary man” [Planeten Mensch] through the house of despair is, in the absolute loneliness of his path, the ethos Nietzsche describes. This man is the Übermensch, the first who knowingly begins to realize the capitalist religion. The fourth characteristic [of the religious structure of capitalism] is that its God must become concealed and may only be spoken of in the zenith of his culpability. The cult becomes celebrated before an immature deity, [while] every image, every idea of it injures the secret of its maturity.

Freudean theory also belongs to the priestly rule of this cult. It is thoroughly capitalistic in thought. The repressed, the sinful imagination, is, at bottom, still an illuminating analogy to capital – to which the hell of the unconscious pays interest.

This type of capitalist, religious thinking magnificently reconciles itself in Nietzsche’s philosophy. The thought of the Übermensch loses the apocalyptic “leap” not by changing its ways, atonement, purification, [or] penitence, but in the apparently continuous, but in the end, rupturing, discontinuous intensification. That is why intensification and evolution are incompatible in the sense of “non facit saltum.” The Übermensch is the one who without changing, arrived, who streaked through the heavens – historical man.

Capitalism is a purely cultic religion, without dogma. Capitalism itself developed parasitically on Christianity in the West – not in Calvinism alone, but also, as must be shown, in the remaining orthodox Christian movements – in such a way that, in the end, its history is essentially the history of its parasites, of capitalism. Compare the holy iconography of various religions on the one hand with the banknotes of various countries on the other: The spirit that speaks from the ornamentation of banknotes.

Christianity in the time of the Reformation did not encourage the emergence of capitalism, but rather changed itself into capitalism.”

¹ The translator suggests this should actually read “sans trêve et sans merci”

Walter Benjamin, 1921

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Happy Birthday Woody Guthrie ( 14/7/ 1912 -3/10/1967) - Folk Revolutionary

Today marks the  birthday of legendary left-winger, songwriter, poet of the people and musician Woody Guthrie. A man who celebrated the little guy, the marginalized, and the disenfranchised.
Tragedy first struck when Woody was still a young child. His father was a land trader, and soon made enough money in oil-mad Okemah to build a nice six-room home for the family; yet shortly after the Guthries moved in, the house burned down. By then, the depression was already beginning to bite, and his father couldn't afford another one. For the next few years, the Guthries moved from house to house as their fortunes got worse; and as if the falling family fortunes weren't enough, human tragedy struck too. Woody's favourite sister, Clara, died after being horribly burned by the explosion of an oil stove.
 Not long after, this  Woody's mother suffering from Huntingtons disease was sent to a mental asylum where she later died. A saddened and a broken man, Woody's dad did his best to keep happiness alive in the broken family: he would sing to his children, but, remembered Woody, "I could tell by the sounds of his voice that he was not singing to make his own self feel good, but to try and make us kids feel better." Then the family home burned down for the second time.
A growing youth by then, Guthrie  overcame his own  personal hardship and tragedy and set of to seek  his fortune far from the sad memories of his childhood. Hitch-hiking across America with a guitar on his back and paintbrushes in his pocket, he made for  California, joining the crowds of Okies seeking a better life in the West. He mixed with the migrant farm workers, and learned their trade, singing about it in some of his finest "Dustbowl Ballads"; He became a spokesman for those Americans affected by the Great Depression and the dust storms. and sung out to sufferers of the Depression, the Dust Bowl era, and the second World War. He advocated the unions and scorned the corporations. But the formulas for writing the “people’s songs” didn’t rest in social justice alone; Guthrie’s wit, humor and home-spun vernacular attracted too and avoided pretension.
In the 1930s, Guthrie was among the many who climbed out of the western states’ disastrous Dustbowl; he brought with him original songs that catalogued the sights and emotions of the day: “So Long, Its Been Good to Know You”, “I’m Blowin’ Down This Old Dusty Road”, “Talking Dust Bowl Blues”, among many more. Once in California, Woody soon learned that it was no land of milk and honey. However, instead of toiling in fruit orchards, he became a radio performer, offering his old-timey and topical music to the southerners who’d migrated to the West Coast. While the station manager tried desperately to hold Woody to the country standards, somewhere in the mix was an original called “Mr. Tom Mooney is Free”. This 1939 composition told of the recently pardoned labor activist, a cause celebre in Left circles, who’d been wrongly imprisoned for 22 years. Very soon, he got a reputation as an outspoken defender of the poor and the exploited, and a well-armed enemy of those who exploited them. "I saw the hundreds of thousands of stranded, broke, hungry, idle, miserable people that lined the highways.... I heard these people sing in their jungle camps, and I sang songs I made up for them," he wrote.
Soon, Woody was renowned as a militant labor unionist, a champion of the public cause against private greed.In 1941, he was taken on by the Bonneville Power Administration, a state-run organisation, to help them win public approval for two vast dam projects on the Columbia River. The BPA project was hotly contested by the owners of private power companies, who did not want to lose their monopoly over the electricity supply in the region. Woody's collection of "Columbia River Songs" is a major contribution to the social history of the American West in the 1930s and early 40s, fixing in song and poetry the trials of a generation of rural Americans. In part thanks to Woody, the dams were built.
From his first song, “So Long, It’s Been Good to Know Ya” which he wrote about a huge dust storm while living in Pampa, Texas, Woody Guthrie chronicled the changing world that he saw.
He could describe the deprivations of migrant workers but still insist that "pastures of plenty must always be free.” his songs touch on issues ranging from immigration (“Deportee”) see earlier post, about this song here,

to corrupt financial institutions (“The Jolly Banker”)

to the plight of the working class (“Union Maid”) — age-old problems that continue to dominate the modern news. He re-wrote some of his songs, lambasting the racist developer/landlord, Fred Trump, father of  president Donald J. Trump. A developer who made a fortune, not only through the construction of "public" housing projects but also through collecting the rents on them. Woody used his songs and other creative works as social commentary, promoting social justice issues such as treating all people fairly no matter what colour or economic status, political belief or place of origin.
The radicalism he brought into his songs was seldom forced; it was organically and seamlessly connected with a kind of humanistic appreciation of working people’s everyday struggles. He was, in his own words, “out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world.” songs that were made for you and me. Although he was unblinking in the face of suffering and injustice, he had a persistent streak of optimism. He seemed really to believe that music could change the world for the better, confidently writing on his guitar, “This machine kills fascists.” He was a radical, a revolutionary who believed if imperialists raised their ugly heads, it was time to battle them in bloody struggles. To the Fascists, he sent the ultimate warning:

“I’ll bomb their towns and bomb their cities
Sink their ships beneath the tides,
I’ll win this war, but till I do, babe,
I could not be satisfied.”

Guthrie’s ‘machine’ indeed ‘killed Fascists’. And he appealed to human reasoning through radical folk renditions that founded the landscape of protest music worldwide. And he never faltered from why he needed to sing what he did.

Woody Guthrie - Tear the fascists down.

Woody Guthrie - All you fascists Bound to lose. 

All you fascists bound to lose  - Woody Guthrie

I’m gonna tell you fascists
You may be surprised
The people in this world
Are getting organized
You’re bound to lose
You fascists bound to lose

Race hatred cannot stop us
This one thing we know
Your poll tax and Jim Crow
And greed has got to go
You’re bound to lose

You fascists bound to lose.
All of you fascists bound to lose:
I said, all of you fascists bound to lose:
Yes sir, all of you fascists bound to lose:
You’re bound to lose! You fascists:
Bound to lose!

People of every color
Marching side to side
Marching ‘cross these fields
Where a million fascists dies
You’re bound to lose
You fascists bound to lose!

I’m going into this battle
And take my union gun
We’ll end this world of slavery
Before this battle’s won
You’re bound to lose
You fascists bound to lose!

Woody Guthrie is also remembered for “This Land is Your Land”, his anthem reclaiming America for ordinary people. It was his own contemptuous response to the success of “God Bless America. It is often considered the nation's second national anthem

Many of the things he concerns himself with in song in the late 1930s are still with us today and though its disconcerting to know we haven’t solved those things, at the same time it’s reassuring that Guthrie’s music is still there to shed light on these issues. During hard times, people who are struggling to find a emotional accessible moral philosophy that can give hope can still find it in the words of this poet of the people Woody Guthrie. He taught us that an artist must not be confined to the world of imagination alone. The battlefield is an unequal world and the war against injustice is absolutely on. Until that war is won, the artist must not be satisfied!
In the 1950s, Woody was one of the many artists and writers to fall victim to the McCarthyist witch-hunts for supposed "Communists". Publishers gave up publishing his collections, and his most famous songs, such as "This Land is My Land", were presented as "anonymous".
By the late 1940s, Guthrie's health was declining, and his behavior was becoming extremely erratic. It was finally determined that he was suffering  himself from Huntington's disease, this terrible genetic disorder inherited from his mother. Increasingly unable to control his muscles, an incurable victim of a slowly spreading paralysis he  was hospitalized at Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital in Morris County, New Jersey, from 1956 to 1961, at Brooklyn State Hospital (now Kingsboro Psychiatric Center) in East Flat Bush until 1966, and finally at  Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens Village, New York, until his tragic death in 1967 aged only 55.
During the last years of his life, he lay in bed, a dying hero, forgotten by many but regularly visited by a small band of family and friends and acolytes, including a 19 year old Bob Dylan, many of whom were later to make sure that after his death, Woody would not be forgotten.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, a new generation of young people was inspired by folk singers such as Guthrie. These "folk revivalists" became more politically aware in their music than those of the previous generation.  By the time of his death, his work had been discovered by a new audience, introduced to them through the likes of Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger and Ramblin Jack Elliot,
Thank you Woody Guthrie, a folk revolutionary who continues to inspire and strike a chord or two. His songs and time remain eternal.

Revolutionary Mind - Woody Guthrie

Night is here again, baby,
I'm stretched out on my bed
Seeing all kinds of crazy notions
Running through my head

I need a progressive woman;
I need an awfully liberal woman.
There ain’t no reactionary baby
Can ease my revolutionary mind.

One hand is on my pillow,
One hand is on my head,
I see a million nightmares
Tearing around inside my head;

I need a progressive woman
I need an awful liberal woman
I need a social conscious woman
To ease my revolutionary mind.

If I could only make you see, babe,
I ache and pain and bleed,
I know you’d come a runnin;
If you blistered both your feet.

I need a progressive woman
I need an awful liberal woman
I need a social conscious woman
To ease my revolutionary mind.

Monday, 13 July 2020

Slow Dance

We get torn and broken
In days of confusion,
As tears keep falling
In every passing season
Will you take my hand
Come take a slow dance,
To console, comfort and heal
Allow love to reveal,
Blended with emotion
Our eyes locked together,
Lips nearly touching
Breaking social distancing,
Feeling alive, beyond bitterness
While sun sets, and we kiss,
Remember time is short
Nothing lasts forever,
Lets gently move to music
Before the days are over,
Embracing tenderness
Instead of constant sorrow,
Holding hands, feeling warmth
Clinging on, to this source of passion.

Saturday, 11 July 2020

Remembering Srebenica massacre 25 years on.

25 years ago Serb forces captured the Bosnian town of Srebrenica, and carried out Europe's worst worst atrocity on European soil since the  Second World War.. Around 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed there over several days. They had been forcibly separated from the women and children. The Bosnian Muslims had found shelter in Srebrenica during the Bosnian War because it was supposed to be under UN protection. On 16 April 1993, one year into a civil war that began when Bosnia sought independence from Yugoslavia, the  Security Council had passed Resolution 819 requiring all parties to treat Srebenica and its surroundings as a safe area which should be free from any armed attack or any other hostile act. 
However in July 1995, General Ratko Mladić and his Serbian paramilitary units overran and captured the town,  Dutch  UN peacekeeping forces were at the time accused of  failing to do enough to prevent the massacre.The Muslim men and boys were told by the Dutch peacekeepers they would be safe and handed over to the Bosnian Serb army. They never returned. The Netherlands  has since been found  partly liable for the deaths of 300 Muslims killed in the Srebrenica massacre, The Hague appeals court upheld a decision from 2014 that ordered the Dutch state to pay compensation to the victims families. In August 2001 the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) concluded that a crime of genocide was committed in Srebrenica. Ever since, the survivors and the victims’ families have been fighting to obtain justice and recognition. 
Srebrenica  happened during a war with seemingly few rules of engagement, bitter fighting, indiscriminate shelling of cities and towns, ethnic cleansing and systematic mass rape. Essentially a territorial conflict, one in which people of difference looked back on times of peaceful coexistence, however fragile, and forward to ethnic separation, exclusion and to living apart.
When the attackers overran Srebrenica on July 11 and took peacekeepers hostage, about 25,000 Bosniaks fled to the UN base at Potocari on the city's outskirts. They sought refuge despite the scorching heat and catastrophic hygienic conditions. A day later, the attackers began to assault, rape and kill them. On July 12 and 13, girls, women and elderly refugees were loaded onto buses and driven to regions under Bosniak control. After murdering thousands of Srebrenica’s Muslims, Serbs dumped their bodies in numerous mass graves scattered throughout eastern Bosnia, in an attempt to hide the crime. Body parts are still being found in mass graves and are being put together and identified through DNA analysis. Almost 7,000 of those killed have been found and identified. Newly identified victims are buried each year on 11 July, the anniversary of the day the killing began in 1995.
 Nine newly identified victims were buried at a flower-shaped cemetery near the town, where tall white tombstones mark the graves of 6,643 other victims. "After 25 years we succeeded in finding his mortal remains, so they can be laid to their final rest," said Fikret Pezic, who buried his father Hasan.
The remains of some 1,000 victims of the massacre in the eastern town during Bosnia's 1992-1995 war are still missing.
Thousands of visitors usually attend the commemoration service and funerals but this year only a small number of survivors would be allowed at the cemetery due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Dozens of world leaders, who were prevented by the coronavirus pandemic from attending the commemoration service in person, sent video messages Saturday in which they urged tolerance and reconciliation in Bosnia, a nation that remains deeply ethnically divided. They included Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prince Charles.
The UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, and the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, paid tribute to the victims on Saturday. Johnson said in a video posted on Twitter: “I want to join with you once more in mourning the victims of those terrible events, and to stand with the families in their fight for justice.
“As in so many cases from this conflict which brought violence and destruction across the western Balkans, many families still do not know what happened to their loved ones. Many perpetrators have still not been held to account.
“And there are those who would prefer to forget or deny the enormity of what took place. We must not allow that to happen. We owe it to the victims and to future generations to remember Srebrenica and to ensure it never happens again.”
Raab said in a statement: “On the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide, we remember the victims and the anguish of their families. During my time in The Hague between 2003 and 2006, pursuing those responsible for this dark chapter in European history, I was reminded daily of the heinous cruelty perpetrated against the innocent. The UK is determined to end impunity and help rebuild those countries affected – as our commitment to the ICC and UK investment and support for Bosnia demonstrates.”
Johnson, however, is facing calls from 30 MPs to apologise for comments he made in the Spectator in 1997 regarding the genocide. In a letter to the PM, the cross-party group led by Labour’s Tony Lloyd wrote: “In 1997, when you were a political columnist for the Spectator, you wrote an article challenging Bianca Jagger’s support for more direct intervention against the Serbian Army in the Bosnian war.“You wrote: ‘Alright, I say, the fate of Srebrenica was appalling. But they weren’t exactly angels, these Muslims.’ As we commemorate the 25th anniversary of the atrocity, it is unthinkable that you would publicly attend national memorial events, without having apologised for such comments.”
Some international speakers also addressed the continued refusal by Serb leaders in Bosnia and neighboring Serbia to acknowledge the extent of the Srebrenica slaughter and the ongoing suffering of its survivors.
Judge Carmel Agius, president of the U.N. court that is completing war crimes trials stemming from the breakup of Yugoslavia, warned in his video message that the victims of the Srebrenica massacre “continue to be tormented by those who attempt to deny their lived experiences, and, thereby, their very existence.
Bosnian Serb wartime political leader, Radovan Karadzic and his military commander Ratko Mladic were both convicted of and sentenced for genocide in Srebrenica by a special U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague. In all, the tribunal and courts in the Balkans have sentenced close to 50 Bosnian Serb wartime officials to more than 700 years in prison for the Srebrenica killings.
Bosnian Serbs, however, still celebrate Karadzic and Mladic as heroes. Some were even staging celebrations of “the 1995 liberation of Srebrenica” on the anniversary of the crime.
The Serbian Orthodox Church supported Mladic. Serbs celebrated the notorious  paramilitary commander Zeljko Raznatovic, better known as "Arkan," as a hero. Now, a quarter of a century after the slaughter of Srebrenica, most Serbian leaders and many citizens still refuse to recognize it as a genocide; streets, schools and student dorms in Serbia are named after the convicted war criminals Mladic and Karadzic; and many of the men who were directly or indirectly involved in the 1995 massacre hold key positions in the country's political and economic sphere.
In fact, Bosnian Serb political leaders have consistently prevented the country from adopting a law that would ban genocide denial, with the Serb member of Bosnia’s presidency, Milorad Dodik, even publicly describing the Srebrenica slaughter as a “fabricated myth.” 
Humanity has lived through the darkest of times, but few events have stained our collective history more than the Srebrenica genocide.Today we remember the victims, survivors and those still fighting for justice.The lesson from Srebrenica is that no society is invulnerable to prejudice and intolerance. We must all remain vigilant against these forces, and take positive action to build stronger, more resilient communities. We must continue to learn lessons from this tragic event, never forget and recognise the dangers of what can manifest when racism, prejudice,  religious-hatred and discrimination go unchallenged and ethnic divisions are exploited by political leaders. We must  reaffirm our commitment against all forms of hatred and prejudice which targets people because of their religion, ethnicity, gender, sexuality or beliefs
Here is a link to the official site of rememberance.:-

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Scavenging Among The Wreckage

This is not a love song, though by end might turn into one
There's  a virus on the loose,and the pubs are opening,
Incredulously our Prime minister blames the dead for dying
While at same time wants us all to applaud for capitalism,
He is a cowardly man, so downright bloody irresponsible
Just a horrible obnoxious blobbish chaotic tentacle,
Many of us have been left with a heavy dose of cynicism
On grey gloomy days, still conjuring up another horizon,
Thinking of refugees stuck in camps with no sanitation
People in poverty, the homeless. sadly long forgotten,
The oppressed of the world seeking liberation
Casualties of war, disease and globalisation,
Revolutions of heart and mind keep revealing
Searching for common sense, safety nets of protection,
Building a brand new world together, beyond subjection
Through united disaffection, time now for insurrection;
Lets not clap for financiers or bankers of humiliation
Time to chase them through our streets of suffocation,
Until no one is struggling to feed themselves in babylon
And we stop the system  destroying the world we live in,
With compassion on lips  our hopes carry on swirling
Arms entwined, keep looking for tomorrow's intoxication,
Struggling past hostile environment's path of destruction
Attached to kisses bright, future delivering happy ending.

Monday, 6 July 2020

Frida Kahlo (6 July 1907 – 13 July 1954) - Revolutionary Icon

Legendary artist Frida Kahlo was born Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderón on July 6, 1907, in Coyoacán, Mexico City,
Mexico.Frida grew up at a time when Mexico was in the throes of a revolution, seeking to find its own identity. Frida always claimed to be born on 1910, the year of the outbreak of the Mexican revolution, so that people could directly associate her with the modern Mexico.The political revolution against the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz was the spark that set in motion a deeper social revolution, in particular a peasant uprising under the leadership of Emiliano Zapata and a popular rebellion in the north led by Pancho Villa. In Baja California, the anarchist Flores Magon brothers attempted to drive forward a militant workers struggle.
The rebels in part rejected a European-style cultural template as the ideal, in favour of promoting indigenous Mexican culture. The political fervour and reclaiming of a more authentic national identity not only informed and inspired Kahlo´s own political perspective but, in turn, would have a major influence on her later artworks, After nine and a half years of conflict, the revolution resulted in a dramatic shift in Mexican politics and culture. The ousting of the ruling elite paved the way for a new constitution, which in turn resulted in radical land reforms, equal pay laws for women, and the introduction of socialist currents to the country’s political landscape and by the time the turmoil ended, the Mexican people embraced a heritage of mixed cultures – European, Indian and Spanish, to name just a few.
Kahlo's  Jewish  father, Wilhelm (also called Guillermo), was a German photographer who had immigrated to Mexico where he met and married her mother Matilde ( of Spanish and indigenous P’urhépecha descent ). She had two older sisters, Matilde and Adriana, and her younger sister, Cristina, was born the year after Kahlo.At  the agee of six, Kahlo suffered from polio, leaving her with a withered right leg and a lifelong limp.
 In 1922, a 14 year old Kahlo enrolled at the prestigious Escuela Nacional Preparatoria (National Preparatory School) in Mexico City, an elite high school. Of 2,000 enrolled students, Frida was only one of 35 young women admitted, a testament to her talent. She studied biology with hopes of becoming a doctor and became trilingual in Spanish, English and German, and also became known for her jovial spirit and her love of colorful, traditional clothes and jewelry. .
Frida became a member of “Los Cachuchas”, a campus-based radical group named after the style of caps they wore in rebellion against the dress code of the period. The group voraciously read Lenin, Marx, Hegel, Kant, Russian literature and Mexican fiction. Frida, who considered herself a “daughter of the [Mexican] Revolution” (1910-1920) had profound and heated debates with her peers who came from the most elite families in the country.
Frida was a lifelong socialist and Marxist-Leninist. By the age of 16, she had joined the youth group of the Mexican Communist Party (PCM). In 1928, in her early 20s, Frida joined the PCM even though it had become outlawed (1925-1935).  Frida was an active organizer in the party. She wrote and gave speeches, attended meetings and led union rallies.
After being expelled in 1929 for politically supporting the Left Opposition within the Soviet Communist Party, Frida would rejoin the PCM in 1948. She campaigned for peace against the U.S.-initiated Cold War, which had begun with the nuclear incineration of Japanese civilians, and aimed at opposing the Soviet Union, the worldwide communist movement and all colonized peoples struggling for independence. As a member of the party Frida collected signatures for the Stockholm Appeal, a 1950 peace initiative anchored by the Soviet Union promoting nuclear disarmament and opposing the first-strike “nuclear diplomacy” of the United States.Some  273,470,566 signatures were gathered worldwide.
On September 17, 1925, Kahlo and Alejandro Gómez Arias, a school friend with whom she was romantically involved, were traveling together on a bus when the vehicle collided with a streetcar. As a result of the collision, Kahlo was impaled by a steel handrail, which went into her hip and came out the other side. She suffered several serious injuries as a result, including fractures in her spine and pelvis. After staying at the Red Cross Hospital in Mexico City for several weeks, Kahlo returned home to recuperate further. She began painting during her recovery and finished her first self-portrait the following year, which she gave to Gómez Arias.
Kahlo took a progressive approach to gender and sexuality, rejecting  the social norms of the time concerning romantic and sexual relationships as well as gender expression and identity.She took part in wrestling and boxing, activities which were considered to be unsuitable for girls at the time. She embraced her Mexican identity and natural beauty; celebrating her upper lip hair and her marvellous unibrow – which became a symbol of her identity through her self-portraits. She once wrote in her diary: Of my face, I like my eyebrows and eyes. Clearly, such an image does not conform to a patriarchal society’s image of a woman who has perfectly shaped eyebrows and definitely no moustache.
Another particularly artistic element of Frida’s personal life was her distinctive and extravagant clothing,very different from the Mexican women of that time whose attire consisted of pearls, suits, and hats. Frida’s fashion consisted of gay, Mexican tradition clothes, she adorned herself with clips, bows, ribbons, jewellery, scarves and costumes, and such dressing became an entrenched part of her identity. She sometimes also painted her dresses herself. Hence, she never bowed down to the required attire for “cultured” women in Mexico at that point of time. She challenged patriarchy in her own way, and in wrapping herself in traditional Tehuana clothing, an homage to her mother’s birthplace, thus Frida’s figure became a reference to her indigenous roots and her quest to personify them. Women today have been conditioned in a manner whereby they project themselves in the manner demanded from them by society. Frida, even then, refused to do so. She set her own standards. She valued and celebrated characteristics that patriarchal society has labelled unfeminine and ugly. And so, she was a feminist.
Frida Kahlo also took a liberated approach to love and was openly bisexual. She had affairs with both men and women throughout her life and during her long and complex marriage to fellow artist, and famed  Mexican muralist Diego Rivera.They first met in 1922 when he went to work on a project at her high school. Kahlo often watched as Rivera created a mural called The Creation in the school’s lecture hall. According to some reports, she told a friend that she would someday have Rivera’s baby.
Kahlo reconnected with Rivera in 1928 marrying in 1929. He encouraged her artwork, and the two began a relationship. During their early years together, Kahlo often followed Rivera based on where the commissions that Rivera received were.

From 1930 to 1933, Frida lived in the United States, which she dubbed “Gringolandia.”
The experience was transformative. Frida was living in the United States at the height of the Great Depression and Jim Crow apartheid. In 1931, while living in San Francisco, Frida spurned racist anti-Asian and white-supremacist social conventions, spending her free time in Chinatown, where most of the San Francisco Chinese community lived, and long before Chinatown became a popular tourist attraction., and while living in Detroit between 1931 and 1932, Frida became indignant by the city’s widespread poverty, hunger and blatant racism, which she characterized as “absolutely medieval.”
In a letter home during this time, Frida summarized what she saw, “High society here turns me off and I feel a bit of rage against all these rich guys here, since I have seen thousands of people in the most terrible misery, without anything to eat and with no place to sleep, that is what most impressed me here, it is terrifying to see the rich having parties day and night while thousands and thousands of people are dying of hunger.
By 1933, Frida and her husband Diego Rivera were in New York City. In another letter home she wrote about Fifth Avenue, where the “filthy rich” reside: “There is so much misery at the same time, that it seems incredible that people can endure such class differences, and accept such a form of life, since thousands and thousands of people are starving of hunger while on the other hand, millionaires throw away millions on stupidities.”
Kahlo and Rivera’s time in New York City in 1933 was surrounded by controversy. Commissioned by Neson Rockerfeller, Rivera created a mural entitled Man at the Crossroads in the RCA Building at Rockefeller Center. Rockefeller halted the work on the project after Rivera included a portrait of communist leader Vladimir Lenin in the mural, which was later painted over. Months after this incident, the couple returned to Mexico and went to live in San Angel, Mexico.
Her “Self-Portrait on the Borderline Between Mexico and the United States” (1932). The painting vividly represents the psychological cultural crossroad upon which Frida Kahlo viewed herself during her first years living abroad in the United States with Diego Rivera after being recently married. The artist portrays herself at the borderline between the industrial, prosperous, yet mechanical and polluted cityscape of the United States. The America cityscape is contrasted with the agricultural and historic richness of the Mexican landscape, yet stricken with poverty. Kahlo stands in the middle of the two landscapes wearing a modern dress while holding a Mexican flag in her hand. It is noteworthy that the American flag is different in scale to the Mexican one, arguably symbolizing the prosperity of the United States in comparison to that of her homeland. Nevertheless, the Mexican flag though smaller in proportion is depicted as being personally held by the artist. The scene represents her never-ending love for her homeland.

 Frida Kahlo, Self-portrait on the Borderline Between Mexico and the United States, 1932,

Never a traditional union,Kahlo and Rivera kept separate, but adjoining homes and studios in San Angel. It is well known that while she professed a deep love and affection for Diego, Frida also accepted Diego’s love on his terms, even when it was deeply painful for her (which it often was). She was saddened by his many infidelities, including an affair with her sister Cristina. In response to this familial betrayal, Kahlo cut off most of her trademark long dark hair. Desperately wanting to have a child, she again experienced heartbreak when she miscarried in 1934. While her artworks focused on her inner experiences, in her relationship with Diego, Frida ceased to be the subject of love and instead became its object, thus reproducing the patriarchal captivity of women. Added to this romantic captivity was the restriction her disabilities placed on her physical freedom.
During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), Frida played a vital role in fighting for the rights of Spanish Republican refugees seeking asylum in Mexico. In 1936, Frida, along with other socialist organizers, founded a solidarity committee that fundraised money for the Spanish Republicans fighting against fascism. In this committee, Frida was responsible for helping refugees find places to stay and ensuring that they were able to secure employment.
Kahlo and Rivera went through periods of separation, but they joined together to help exiled Soviet communist Leon Trotsky and his wife Natalia in 1937. They managed to persuade the leftist government of President Lázaro Cárdenas to grant Trotsky and his wife, asylum in Mexico and invited the couple to stay with them in La Casa Azul.,Frida Kahlo’s family home. Nonetheless, Rivera’s discovery that Trotsky and Kahlo were having an affair, one of many infidelities that marked the couple’s troubled marriage, forced Trotsky to seek refuge elsewhere.
Upon moving out of Casa Azul, at the request of his wife, Trotsky left behind a self-portrait that Kahlo had painted for his fifty-eighth birthday. In the painting, Kahlo presents herself in a stately and seductive manner, holding a paper that reads “To Leon Trotsky, with all my love, I dedicate this painting on the 7th of November 1937. Frida Kahlo in San Ángel, Mexico.” The Russian couple eventually managed to find a  residence not far from Casa Azul, but in May 1940 a failed attempt on Trotsky’s life was carried out by the Soviet agent Iosif Grigulevich and the muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros, who remained loyal to the Mexican Communist Party after Rivera’s departure. Nonetheless, the second attempt, this time executed by the Spanish agent Ramón Mercader in August of the same year, was successful. Leon Trotsky died in Mexico City on August 21st, 1940. Despite the death of Trotsky and the ever-widening schism in the international communist movement, Kahlo remained dedicated to her revolutionary ideals for the rest of her life.
Kahlo divorced Rivera in 1939, but they did not stay divorced for long, remarrying in 1940. The couple continued to lead largely separate lives,both becoming involved with other people over the years.
While she never considered herself a surrealist, Kahlo befriended one of the primary figures in that artistic and literary movement, Andre Breton, in 1938.. That same year, she had a major exhibition at a New York City gallery, selling about half of the 25 paintings shown there. Kahlo also received two commissions, including one from famed magazine editor Clare Boothe Luce, as a result of the show.
 In 1939, Kahlo went to live in Paris for a time. There she exhibited some of her paintings and developed significeent friendships with such artists as Marcel Duchamp, Marc Chagall, Piet Mondrian and Pablo Picasso..
Kahlo received a commission from the Mexican government for five portraits of important Mexican women in 1941, but she was unable to finish the project. She lost her beloved father that year and continued to suffer from chronic health problems. Despite her personal challenges, her work continued to grow in popularity and was included in numerous group shows around this time.
Lots of her works were painted laying in the bed. Drawing on personal experiences, her miscarriages, and her numerous operations, Kahlo's works are often characterized by portrayals of pain that she otherwise hid from the world.Of her 143 paintings, 55 are self-portraits which often incorporate symbolic portrayals of physical and psychological wounds.

The Two Frida's 1939

Frida also used her body as a canvas, endlessly rewriting her experiences of illness and recovery, repeatedly translating her feelings, emotions, suffering and ideals into color and art. The chronic pain she experienced was part of life just like any other feeling and emotion. “Pain, pleasure and death are no more than a process for existence. The revolutionary struggle in this process is a doorway open to intelligence,” she once wrote in a diary. There are of course many more themes in her work. Motherhood, political participation, bisexuality and gender representation also feature heavily in her practice,a patchwork of experiences that, woven together, make up the woman and extraordinary life of Frida Kahlo.

The Broken Column 1944

Kahlo’s health issues became nearly all-consuming in 1950. After being diagnosed with gangrene in her right foot, Kahlo spent nine months in hospital and had several operations during this time. She continued to paint and support political causes despite having limited mobility. In 1953, part of Kahlo’s right leg was amputated to stop the spread of gangrene.
n 1953, Kahlo received her first solo exhibition in Mexico. While bedridden at the time, Kahlo did not miss out on the exhibition’s opening. Arriving by ambulance, Kahlo spent the evening talking and celebrating with the event’s attendees from the comfort of a four-poster bed set up in the gallery just for her.
Deeply depressed, Kahlo was hospitalized again in April 1954 because of poor health. She returned to the hospital two months later with bronchial pneumonia. No matter her physical condition, Kahlo did not let that stand in the way of her political activism. Eleven days before her death, Frida participated, in a wheelchair and against her doctor’s orders – in a July 2 protest against the United States’ intervention in Guatemala. Over 10,000 people in Mexico took to the streets to denounce the CIA-led coup of Guatemala’s democratically elected President Jacobo Arbenz, whom the United States had decided was a communist and therefore must go.
The centerpiece of Arbenz’s program was land reform that distributed uncultivated land to landless farmers. This, as well as his unwelcome attitude toward multinational corporations, the expansion of social and labor rights and his “tolerance of communists” made him a marked man. The United States installed a new government headed by Gen. Castillo Armas who celebrated by torturing and killing thousands of suspected communists, and overseeing decades of bloody repression.These events would radicalize a young doctor from Argentina, Ernesto Guevara, who was in Guatemala at the time of the CIA coup.Both Ernesto “Che” Guevara and Frida Kahlo share the struggle of having their intellectual ideologies subdued to popular culture.
In her final days, Kahlo painted her last political work, Marxism Will Give Health to the Sick. Suffering from constant pain, declining health, and the impediments of heavy medications, Kahlo depicts Marx as a god-like being who is about to take her to heaven while at the same time punish the unjust forces of capitalism and imperialism. Knowing that she is about to die, Kahlo strips her top to reveal the leather corset that had been supporting her broken back since the bus accident and drops her crutches to grasp not a Bible but a little red book—the Communist Manifesto. Serving to remind us that  long before Kahlo became a global commodity, she was a communist.

Marxism Will Give Health to the Sick

Frida died on July 13, 1954 at her beloved Blue House.The official cause of death was given as pulmonary embolism, although some suspected that she died from overdose that may or may not have been accidental.  The last words in her diary read ' I hope exit is joyful and I hope never to come back.'Hundreds escorted her coffin draped with the flag of the Mexican Communist Party to the ceremony where a rousing  chorus of the International was.sang.
Kahlo a woman who defied the confines of gender under capitalist society, as a Mexican, as a survivor of great personal trauma and disability, knew only too well the meaning of the struggle to be free, and live her life on her own unrestricted terms, an ideal she saw as embodied in Marxism. Her political beliefs, in addition to her art, her country and her lifelong endurance, defined the artist. Over 50 years after her death, this enigmatic trail-blazing artists approach to life, love and art,, characterized by a deep sense of independence, rebellion, sensuality and passion. has inspired generations around the world  because  of the revolutionary  way in which she lived. Reproductions of her artwork can be found on mouse pads, furniture and clocks. In 2001, the U.S. Postal Service placed her image on a 34-cent stamp, making her the first Hispanic woman to receive such an honor. Kahlo’s life  has been featured throughout multiple documentaries, Hollywood movies, prints, postcards,and other memorabilia. and she was the subject of a 2002 film entitled Frida, starring Salma Havek as the artist and Alfred Molina as Rivera. Directed by Julie Taymor, the film was nominated for six Academy Awards and won for Best Makeup and Original Score. Among her numerous biographies I would suggest "FRIDA. A Biography of Frida Kahlo" by Hayden Herrera.
The family home where Kahlo was born and grew up, later referred to as the Blue House or Casa Azul, was opened as a museum in 1958. Located in Coyoacán, Mexico City,
Happy birthday to one of the most quintessential Latin American artists whose revolutionary assertions in favor of feminism, nationalism and cultural identity resonate with us today. Lets remember her as a revolutionary politically  committed artist and standard-bearer for women's inner strength and for courage in the face of adversity who was above all true to her convictions, beyond her great art, hated fascism and wanted to overthrow capitalism, whose work continues to show that we cannot avoid pain, but can mold it into something more beautiful.