[News] The Right to Live in Peace

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Mar 4 11:09:03 EST 2021

https://www.thetricontinental.org/newsletterissue/8-victor-jara/ The Right
to Live in Peace: The Ninth Newsletter (2021)
Vijay Prashad - March 4, 2021

Dear friends,

Greetings from the desk of the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research

On a warm late February day in Santiago, I went to the grave of Victor Jara
to pay homage to the man who was brutally killed on 16 September 1973. A
theatre director, songwriter, and communist, Jara was arrested after the
coup d’état against the socialist government of Salvador Allende. He was
tortured and then murdered. At the rear of the Cementerio General in
Recoleta, Jara was buried with other victims of the military dictatorship
of General Augusto Pinochet. In 2009, Jara’s body was exhumed as part of
the investigation into this murder and he was reburied a short distance
away. On the original tomb in simple paint are the words *el derecho de
vivir en paz* (‘the right to live in peace’).

These words are from the title song of Jara’s 1971 album. The song, which
opens the album, is an homage to the Vietnamese people, who were led by Ho
Chi Minh in their fight against US imperialism. It is a simple song, which
starts with this line of dignity about the right to live in peace. It then
reflects on Ho Chi Minh, the poet, who strikes from Vietnam for all
humankind. Vietnam’s people declared independence in 1945 when Jara was
thirteen. Before they could advance their socialist agenda, a war was
imposed on them, first by France and then by the United States. The United
States used its entire arsenal – short of nuclear weapons – against the
Vietnamese people, who fought with great determination to free their

Two things about this war were clear to revolutionaries around the world.
First, that the defeat of the Vietnamese people would result in a great
setback for the national liberation agenda around the world, since it would
give the United States and its allies confidence to smash other liberation
movements. Second, that every sensitive person who was committed to
decolonisation and freedom had to ‘create two, three or many Vietnams’, as
Che Guevara wrote <https://www.thetricontinental.org/text-che/> in his *Message
to the Tricontinental* (1966). Che Guevara was assassinated in 1967 at the
age of 39; Victor Jara was only 40 when he was murdered.

By 1971, the Vietnamese had gained great confidence, holding the north of
the country despite ruthless aerial bombardment and the use of chemical
weapons. They pushed into the south – including with the 1968 Tet Offensive
– towards Saigon. Ho Chi Minh died in 1969, steadfast to the end. Jara’s
song is a tribute to Ho Chi Minh and the Vietnamese fighters; it
demonstrated the necessity for an internationalist attitude to freedom.
This song is the fire of pure love, an international song that declares the
right to live in peace.

[image: René Mederos (Cuba), Como en Viet Nam, Mes de la Mujer Vietnamita
(‘Like in Vietnam, Month of the Vietnamese Woman’), 1970; Save the Country,
Save the Youth (Vietnam), no date.]

René Mederos (Cuba), *Como en Viet Nam, Mes de la Mujer Vietnamita *(‘Like
in Vietnam, Month of the Vietnamese Woman’), 1970; *Save the Country, Save
the Youth *(Vietnam), no date.

Songs such as this never disappear. Within them lie the principle of hope,
the inspiration for struggle, and the anticipation of a world beyond our
own. Walking around the Plaza de la Dignidad in Santiago, Chile, one sees
images of Jara and quotes from his songs on the walls. These are painted by
various political groups and muralists who feel a direct connection to
their radical past and who feel that the residue of the dictatorship
remains. Every Friday evening, a large group of people gather there not
only to protest the meanspirited government of Sebastián Piñera that came
into power in 2018, but more broadly to protest the general neoliberal
orientation of governments since 1973. Piñera, a conservative who opposed
the prosecution of Pinochet, has run an austerity government that has
provoked mass protests, first from school students and then from the
general public. The government’s response to this wave of protests was
harsh repression, as well as illegal detentions and police violence of all
kinds (including sexual violence). Protesters and journalists such as
Gustavo Gatica were hit in the eye with rubber bullets, which reminds me of
Mohamed Sobhi el-Shenawy, the ‘eye sniper’, who shot protestors in Tahrir
Square in Cairo, Egypt in 2011.

Despite a court ruling in 2018 that sentenced eight retired officers to 15
years imprisonment for Jara’s murder, genuine justice for him lives only in
those advancing his call. In 2019, Jara’s song returned as the anthem of
this new movement, sung with great feeling by his peers in Inti-Illimani at
the Plaza. At the protest in Plaza de la Dignidad on a typical Friday
evening last month, I watched the police fire their water cannons and march
with the full swagger of impunity towards protestors who have become
familiar with this routine of their democracy and the repression of state
forces. Jorge and Marcello Coulón told me of the immense emotion they felt
as they walked through the enormous crowd onto the stage to sing Jara’s
song to Ho Chi Minh.

Inti-Illimani, *El derecho de vivir en paz*, Plaza de la Dignidad,
Santiago, Chile, 2019.

Since 1980, Chile has functioned with a constitution put in place during
the dictatorship of Pinochet. It made sense, therefore, for the waves of
protests to crash down on the demand for a new Constitution. In 2020, 78%
of the country voted
to draft a new constitution; in April 2021, they will vote in the
constituent assembly to frame it.

What does it mean that Jara’s song returns as an anthem in our time, its
call for the right to live in peace laden with meaning across generations?
This is a song by a Chilean written for the Vietnamese revolution, but with
the sensibility that both Vietnam’s struggle and the song are
international. Nothing in the struggles in Chile suggests an insular story,
since the pressures borne on the population are not unique to Piñera and
his government, nor to the Chilean oligarchy. Austerity programmes result
from a tax strike <https://www.thetricontinental.org/working-document-1/>
by the elites, who prefer their wealth to be hidden in illicit tax havens
than be used productively. They disregard the long-term suffering of
workers who struggle to survive as the pandemic deepens their already
perilous existence and provoke the kind of protest movement that has marks
Chile’s reality.

The sight of jubilant non-violent crowds singing songs of resistance are as
familiar as the sight of police trucks firing high-pressure water and tear
gas. No wonder that Roger Waters’ version of *El derecho de vivir en paz*
in 2020 carried the full flavour of this international song being tasted
from the streets of Delhi to New York.

Roger Waters, *El derecho de vivir en paz*, 2020.

On 28 February, a million people gathered under red flags at Kolkata’s
Brigade Ground as the Indian state of West Bengal began an election
campaign. ‘We demand our rights’, said communist leader Mohammed Salim, the
right to live in peace. There are echoes everywhere of the Chilean anthem
to Ho Chi Minh. Not far from where Salim spoke is a US consulate, which
sits on Ho Chi Minh Sarani, the street renamed during the US war on Vietnam
as an act of solidarity.

[image: Pablito PLA (Chile), Mural at FAUG Concepción University, 2019.]

Pablito PLA (Chile), *Mural at FAUG Concepción University*, 2019.

Today, there is no longer that kind of clarity in the left about the nature
of our fights and the need for international solidarity. US imperialism’s
sharp attacks
against Cuba and Venezuela continue, whilst US president Joe Biden – in the
absurd name of ‘self-defence’ – authorised the bombing of Syria. Where
there should be a straightforward defence of the people’s right to chart
their own agenda, there is instead a policy of hybrid war
<https://www.thetricontinental.org/dossier-36-twilight/> that suffocates
and delegitimises entire populations. I asked Marcelo Coulón of the
legendary band Inti-Illimani, which sang Jara’s song in front of one of the
massive manifestations in Santiago, what it meant to sing Jara’s
anti-imperialist, internationalist anthems in our context:

To sing to Ho Chi Minh today is a very special moment for me, because it
makes me go back to the times when we were connected to the world, the
solidarity world, the anti-imperialist struggle. And this shows me the
terrible damage neoliberalism has done, transforming people into deeply
individualist beings in which they don’t think beyond their own noses,
their own interests. I think in the social outburst, people sang this song
not only for the right to be able to live in peace, but for the right to
live in comprehensive peace with dignity and solidarity. I don’t want to
explain why [Jara wrote about] Ho Chi Minh, but I think everyone should
understand this solidarity gesture…I gave blood for Vietnam, but now
nothing happens.

The standoff between the Indian farmers and the government of Prime
Minister Narendra Modi enters its fourth month. The agendas of both Modi
and Piñera are squeezed by their fealty to their corporate allies. Neither
have the temperament nor the ability to retreat from their hard positions
of privatisation, cronyism, and state repression. The farmers and
agricultural workers are experiencing the same kind of obduracy experienced
by the people of Venezuela and Cuba. Despite the liberal pieties about
human rights, there is a greater commitment to the interests of the few
over the lives of the many. The necessity of ‘two, three or many
Venezuelas’ or ‘two, three or many farmers’ uprisings’ has never been
clearer, nor has solidarity been so essential.

The right to live in peace is not a meaningless phrase; it is effectively a
challenge to the system now managed by people such as Biden, Modi, Piñera,
and others. It is a call for a simple right that provokes war because it
encroaches on the ability of the few to appropriate the greater share of
social wealth.

As they say in Chile, *Fuera Piñera*, or ‘Quit Piñera’, a slogan as much
for him as for the system that he – and others like him – uphold.



Download as PDF
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://freedomarchives.org/pipermail/news_freedomarchives.org/attachments/20210304/546b0693/attachment.html>

More information about the News mailing list