16 January 2007

Somali Guernica

Pablo Picasso was a Communist. In 1937 he created a mural for the Spanish Pavilion at an International Exhibition in Paris held in the northern summer of that year. In Spain, the rebellion of the fascist Francisco Franco with his army of askaris, supported by German Nazis, was attacking the Spanish Republic. Here is one account from the many on the Internet:

On April 27th, 1937, unprecedented atrocities are perpetrated on behalf of Franco against the civilian population of a little Basque village in northern Spain. Chosen for bombing practice by Hitler's burgeoning war machine, the hamlet is pounded with high-explosive and incendiary bombs for over three hours. Townspeople are cut down as they run from the crumbling buildings. Guernica burns for three days. Sixteen hundred civilians are killed or wounded.

By May 1st, news of the massacre at Guernica reaches Paris, where more than a million protesters flood the streets to voice their outrage in the largest May Day demonstration the city has ever seen. Eyewitness reports fill the front pages of Paris papers. Picasso is stunned by the stark black and white photographs.

Alas, there are not even any photographs of the killing of 70 (or less? or more?) so-called nomads in southern Somalia by the cowardly US AC-130 gunships in these last few days. There is only an account by Oxfam charity workers in the area. But it is clear enough from this account that the US forces are as crude as any other such force in history. Like the Nazi Stuka pilots in Spain in 1937, they simply had to have blood, and indiscriminate blood at that, the better to show off the cruelty of their power.

Southern Somalia is a land of bush without fences, but it is a human landscape, walked over by people all the time. People keep camels but do not ride them. In that place it is understood that a two-legged human can go further and quicker than any other creature on land, loaded or free. The camels are milked, and sometimes slaughtered. The people are beautiful, and proud. They walk beautifully.

Last week’s horrible events in Somalia will have to be imagined, like those of Guernica, with the help of the frankness of artists like Picasso, like Francisco de Goya in his series
Disasters of War, and with the help of poets of the past and to come. The truth of artists is indeed a greater and more powerful truth than that of our fickle mass media, corrupted as they are by purveyors of untruth.

For that reason, Picasso’s Guernica was reproduced in the halls of the United Nations in New York, because the United Nations was created after the defeat of the Nazi fascists, to make sure of peace in the world, and never to allow the repulsive atrocities of war to be forgotten. But when Colin Powell came there four years ago to present his notorious, lying PowerPoint presentation prior to the US aggression on Iraq (for which he failed to get UN permission) he first made the UN officials cover up the old Communist’s painting. And so the Guernica was draped on that day, to cover the shame of Colin Powell and that of the Imperialist United States of America.

The South African Communist Party has issued a full statement (see below) condemning the US brutalities in Somalia and calling, inter alia, for the withdrawal of all US troops and facilities from the entire continent and for a new continental movement for peace, against Imperialism and for economic justice.

If we should need a sign for this movement, let us please return to the peace-doves, the palomas, of our beloved Communist Picasso, and not return to the contrived and antiseptic British “peace sign” of the 1960s.

Click on this link:

SACP Condemns US military attacks on Somalia (801 words)


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