John Pilger on the Coming War. Speak Up, Now

By John Pilger, May 01, 2023

In 1935, the Congress of American Writers was held in New York City, followed by another two years later. They called on ‘the hundreds of poets, novelists, dramatists, critics, short story writers and journalists’ to discuss the ‘rapid crumbling of capitalism’ and the beckoning of another war. They were electric events which, according to one account, were attended by 3,500 members of the public with more than a thousand turned away.

Arthur Miller, Myra Page, Lillian Hellman, Dashiell Hammett warned that fascism was rising, often disguised, and the responsibility lay with writers and journalists to speak out. Telegrams of support from Thomas Mann, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, C Day Lewis, Upton Sinclair and Albert Einstein were read out.

The journalist and novelist Martha Gellhorn spoke up for the homeless and unemployed, and ‘all of us under the shadow of violent great power’.

Martha, who became a close friend, told me later over her customary glass of Famous Grouse and soda: ‘The responsibility I felt as a journalist was immense. I had witnessed the injustices and suffering delivered by the Depression, and I knew, we all knew, what was coming if silences were not broken.’

Her words echo across the silences today: they are silences filled with a consensus of propaganda that contaminates almost everything we read, see and hear.  Let me give you one example:

On 7 March, the two oldest newspapers in Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, published several pages on ‘the looming threat’ of China. They coloured the Pacific Ocean red. Chinese eyes were martial, on the march and menacing. The Yellow Peril was about to fall down as if by the weight of gravity.

No logical reason was given for an attack on Australia by China. A ‘panel of experts’ presented no credible evidence: one of them is a former director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a front for the Defence Department in Canberra, the Pentagon in Washington, the governments of Britain, Japan and Taiwan and the west’s war industry.

Beijing could strike within three years,’ they warned. ‘We are not ready.’ Billions of dollars are to be spent on American nuclear submarines, but that, it seems, is not enough. Australia’s holiday from history is over’: whatever that might mean.

There is no threat to Australia, none. The faraway ‘lucky’ country has no enemies, least of all China, its largest trading partner. Yet China-bashing that draws on Australia’s long history of racism towards Asia has become something of a sport for the self-ordained ‘experts’. What do Chinese-Australians make of this? Many are confused and fearful.

The authors of this grotesque piece of dog-whistling and obsequiousness to American power are Peter Hartcher and Matthew Knott, ‘national security reporters’ I think they are called. I remember Hartcher from his Israeli government-paid jaunts. The other one, Knott, is a mouthpiece for the suits in Canberra. Neither has ever seen a war zone and its extremes of human degradation and suffering.

How did it come to this?’ Martha Gellhorn would say if she were here. ‘Where on earth are the voices saying no? Where is the comradeship?’

The voices are heard in the samizdat of this website and others. In literature, the likes of John Steinbeck, Carson McCullers, George Orwell are obsolete. Post-modernism is in charge now. Liberalism has pulled up its political ladder. A once somnolent social democracy, Australia, has enacted a web of new laws protecting secretive, authoritarian power and preventing the right to know. Whistleblowers are outlaws, to be tried in secret. An especially sinister law bans ‘foreign interference’ by those who work for foreign companies. What does this mean?

Democracy is notional now; there is the all-powerful elite of the corporation merged with the state and the demands of ‘identity’. American admirals are paid thousands of dollars a day by the Australian tax payer for ‘advice’. Right across the West, our political imagination has been pacified by PR and distracted by the intrigues of corrupt, ultra low-rent politicians: a Johnson or a Trump or a Sleepy Joe or a Zelensky.

No writers’ congress in 2023 worries about ‘crumbling capitalism’ and the lethal provocations of ‘our’ leaders. The most infamous of these, Blair, a prima facie criminal under the Nuremberg Standard, is free and rich. Julian Assange, who dared journalists to prove their readers had a right to know, is in his second decade of incarceration.

The rise of fascism in Europe is uncontroversial. Or ‘neo-Nazism’ or ‘extreme nationalism’, as you prefer. Ukraine as modern Europe’s fascist beehive has seen the re-emergence of the cult of Stepan Bandera, the passionate anti-Semite and mass murderer who lauded Hitler’s ‘Jewish policy’, which left 1.5 million Ukrainian Jews slaughtered. ‘We will lay your heads at Hitler’s feet,’ a Banderist pamphlet proclaimed to Ukrainian Jews.

Today, Bandera is hero-worshipped in western Ukraine and scores of statues of him and his fellow-fascists have been paid for by the EU and the US, replacing those of Russian cultural giants and others who liberated Ukraine from the original Nazis.

In 2014, neo Nazis played a key role in an American bankrolled coup against the elected president, Viktor Yanukovych, who was accused of being ‘pro-Moscow’. The coup regime included prominent ‘extreme nationalists’ — Nazis in all but name.

At first, this was reported at length by the BBC and the European and American media. In 2019, Time magazine featured the ‘white supremacist militias‘ active in Ukraine. NBC News reported, ‘Ukraine’s Nazi problem is real.’ The immolation of trade unionists in Odessa was filmed and documented.

*Featured Image: Ukrainian nationalists carry torches during a rally in downtown Kiev, Ukraine, late Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. (AP / Efrem Lukatsky)


John Pilger is an Australian-British journalist and filmmaker based in London.  In 2017, the British Library announced a John Pilger Archive of all his written and filmed work. The British Film Institute includes his 1979 film, “Year Zero: the Silent Death of Cambodia,” among the 10 most important documentaries of the 20thcentury.  His website is JohnPilger.com

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