Archive for Victor Jara

Justice for Victor Jara

Posted in Communist Movement, International Affairs, Poetry, Literature, Art with tags , , , , on June 17, 2008 by Umer

It would have strained credulity to imagine during the orgy of terror unleashed by the US-backed coup on the other 9/11, in 1973. But 35 years after Richard Nixon gave the green light to the Chilean military to drown Salvador Allende’s elected socialist government in blood, the net is finally closing on the man who personally machine-gunned to death one of the outstanding political songwriters of the 20th century.

This week, Judge Juan Eduardo Fuentes agreed to re-open the investigation into the murder of Victor Jara, Chile’s most famous musician, killed by an army officer in the Estadio Chile stadium in Santiago, where he had been interned, beaten and tortured with 5,000 other “subversives” in the wake of General Pinochet’s fascist takeover.

Last month, Fuentes closed the Jara case after finding a retired army colonel, Mario Manriquez, guilty of the murder as commanding officer at the stadium after the 1973 coup, while accepting that Manriquez had not pulled the trigger.

Within days, a concert was held in the same stadium where Jara was killed, now renamed Estadio Victor Jara, to protest at what is widely regarded as a military cover-up of those guilty of the atrocity. Among those taking part were the radical folk group Inti Illimani, who played with Jara, and the singer’s widow, English-born choreographer Joan Turner Jara, who appealed to witnesses to come forward with information about the killer. Now the judge has reversed his earlier decision and agreed to look at 40 pieces of new evidence provided by the family and lawyers.

Jara famously had both his hands broken with soldiers’ rifle butts so he could never play guitar again. “Sing now, if you can, you bastard,” an officer spat at him. Despite four days of beatings, torture and food and sleep deprivation, Jara managed to sing a verse of the revolutionary anthem Venceremos to his fellow prisoners before being dragged away to be shot. His body, riddled with 44 bullets, was dumped in the street.

The military junta prohibited any public reference to the leftwing singer and his records were banned. But the same night, a TV technician risked his life by playing Jara’s La Plegaria a un Labrador – a reworking of the Lord’s Prayer, but addressed to a worker – over the soundtrack of a Hollywood film.

Former political prisoners say Jara’s murder was carried out by a notoriously brutal officer nicknamed “El Principe” (The Prince) and the pressure is now on the military to reveal his identity – just as hundreds of former army and security officials are finally being prosecuted for crimes previously protected by the Pinochet regime’s amnesty of the late 1970s.

More than 3,100 people were found by an official Chilean commission in the 1990s to have been killed by the Pinochet dictatorship in the aftermath of the 1973 coup, while tens of thousands were imprisoned and tortured – including Chile’s current president, Michelle Bachelet.

But it is Jara – a writer of songs of great passion and poignancy, combining street language, traditional Andean music and the western pop idioms of the time – who has come to symbolise them all. His brutal martyrdom was foreshadowed in one of his most beautiful songs, Manifiesto: “A song has meaning when it beats in the veins of a man who will die singing, truthfully singing his song”. And like that of Che Guevara, it has come to haunt both those who ordered it – and those who carried it out.

Courtesy: The Guardian

So will our fist strike again!

Posted in Pakistan, Poetry, Literature, Art with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 29, 2007 by Umer

What horror the face of fascism creates!
They carry out their plans with knife-like precision.
Nothing matters to them.
To them, blood equals medals,
Slaughter is an act of heroism…
How hard it is to sing when I must sing of horror.
Horror which I am living,
Horror which I am dying.

So wrote Victor Jara in his immortal poem Estadio Chile, moments before his death by the hands of one of the most brutal dictatorship that the world has ever seen – the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet in Chile; a tyranny sponsored, as ever, by the U.S.A. While repeating Jara’s words again, I remain convinced that the social-realist literature makes immensely more sense to people who have gone through the experience that the particular literary piece is talking about. I have read the quoted verses of the Jara’s last song countless times, but never before it generated so much strength and meaning for me as it does when I read it today.

The unforeseen and sudden death of Benazir Bhutto led to some of the most agonizing moments of my life. My first reaction when I heard the news of Bhutto’s death over the phone from a friend was utter disbelief – it has to be a rumor. But the news was soon confirmed as I switched on my TV set and messages started pouring in on my cell phone. What happened was horrific. For the first time in my life, I felt shocked to the extent that I was wordless.

To my young mind concerned with the good of my people, the assassination of Bhutto brought immense confusion and horror. As I stayed glued to the TV screen, there were a number of questions that cropped up, but I could not find an answer to any of them. It was like my thinking half died with Benazir. What will happen next? How will the powers that rule Pakistan use this event to their favor? What will happen to our struggle for democracy and social justice? How will people respond to the sense of insecurity that the assassination of Benazir has created? How will this event contribute towards the prevailing threat of religious extremism? Somewhere between all these questions was also a deep sense of sympathy for all those who once witnessed and mourned the death of great leaders like Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and President Salvador Allende. I was living through the ordeal that they once went through. I could comprehend what it is to deal with political uncertainty and insecurity and what it is to live under the shade of fascist terror.

Confusion, however, is temporary, particularly if your mind is equipped with the tools of Marxist theory and revolutionary practice defines the motto of your life. So, I started explaining to myself what might be there behind the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in order to reach a conclusion about what needs to be done.

In my view, as I have written elsewhere, the murder to Bhutto resulted in collusion between the Islamic Extremism and the pro-Taliban lobby in the ruling establishment of Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto was not as much a threat for the former for the lack of effective power as she was for the latter. The pro-Taliban lobby in the armed forces knew very well that their defacement would be construed as the disgrace of their institution internationally and, therefore, enjoyed a strong cover through this blackmail. They also knew well that Benazir Bhutto, with a history of opposing the military rule of General Zia-ul-Haq that killed her father and with the patronage of Washington, will not miss a chance to publicize the activities of the remnants of Zia era in the international arena. Had that happened, the armed forces would have lost the much needed international image with which they justified its continuous rule over the people and resources of Pakistan. Benazir became, as Aitzaz Ahsan correctly pointed out, a threat for the establishment of Pakistan.

The retributive struggle against the death of Benazir, therefore, has two main forces to blame: Islamic Extremism and Armed forces. Without ending the power of Army, the pro-Taliban elements within the Army responsible for the assassination of Bhutto can not be brought to justice. The struggle for democracy is now not just a struggle against Pervez Musharraf, but a struggle to bring the clandestine activities of intelligence wings of armed forces under public scrutiny. Army must no longer benefit from the privilege that it has been enjoying since the colonial era. People should not merely throw the Army out of power, but must conduct its post-mortem to see where the problem lies. Our struggle is no more about the separation between Army and politics, but about the subjugation of the former to the latter.

At this point in the history of my country, I humbly will call upon all my people to heighten their effort for democracy and resistance against military dictatorship and religious extremism. It’s time to refurnish long lost popular unity built on the foundations of democracy and social justice. It’s time to refresh our resolve for a better world. It’s time to renew our commitment for people’s rule. It’s time to live, for slavery is no better than death.

The water is transparent
White between our fingers
it flows
“El Fascismo-el Fascismo”

-Take your guitar
and play play
until our arteries brust
don’t let the dust
swallow your brain
the women
will give birth to grenades.

– Andrée Appercelle, To Chile, To Allende

The task that the history sets out for us is difficult but it’s crucial. Without struggle and unity, we will perish, and history will never forgive us. Hope, we can not loose. Struggle, we can not put down. And when we move forward, let the verses of Victor Jara, ready to embrace death for his cause, give us strength and courage:

To see myself among so much
And so many moments of infinity
in which silence and screams
are the end of my song.
What I see, I have never seen
What I have felt and what I feel
Will give birth to the moment…
So will our fist strike again!