From the Stage of the Nobel Prize
Harold Pinter Delivers Blistering Condemnation of the Bush Regime
Revolution #027, December 19, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Harold Pinter is a highly acclaimed British playwright who has penned plays like The Caretaker, The Room,and The Birthday Party. Pinter wrote or adapted dozens of movie scripts, including writing the screenplay for The Handmaid's Tale, a chilling expose of what life would be like for women under a Christian fascist regime in America.
Pinter is an outspoken endorser of the call The World Can't Wait, Drive Out the Bush Regime. And, when Pinter won the Nobel Prize in Literature, he used his acceptance speech on December 7 to launch a blistering attack on George Bush and the British government, and a challenge to the conscience of people to not stand by in the face of Bush's crimes. Ill with cancer and unable to appear in person, Pinter spoke via video:
"Look at Guantánamo Bay," he demanded. "Hundreds of people detained without charge for over three years, with no legal representation or due process, technically detained forever. This totally illegitimate structure is maintained in defiance of the Geneva Convention. It is not only tolerated but hardly thought about by what’s called the ‘international community.’ This criminal outrage is being committed by a country which declares itself to be ‘the leader of the free world.’ Do we think about the inhabitants of Guantánamo Bay? What does the media say about them? They pop up occasionally--a small item on page six. They have been consigned to a no man’s land from which indeed they may never return. At present many are on hunger strike, being force-fed, including British residents. No niceties in these force-feeding procedures. No sedative or anaesthetic. Just a tube stuck up your nose and into your throat. You vomit blood. This is torture."
Pinter condemned the invasion of Iraq:
"a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public; an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading--as a last resort--all other justifications having failed to justify themselves--as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people."
Employing his cutting command of irony, Pinter volunteered to write a speech for Bush:
"God is good. God is great. God is good. My God is good. Bin Laden’s God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam’s God was bad, except he didn’t have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don’t chop people’s heads off. We believe in freedom. So does God. I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy. We are a compassionate society. We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection. We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is. I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are. I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don’t you forget it."
Pinter's speech exposed how the U.S.
"supported and in many cases engendered every right-wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven."
"The United States possesses 8,000 active and operational nuclear warheads. Two thousand are on hair trigger alert, ready to be launched with 15 minutes warning. It is developing new systems of nuclear force, known as bunker busters. The British, ever cooperative, are intending to replace their own nuclear missile, Trident. Who, I wonder, are they aiming at? Osama bin Laden? You? Me? Joe Dokes? China? Paris? Who knows? What we do know is that this infantile insanity--the possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons--is at the heart of present American political philosophy. We must remind ourselves that the United States is on a permanent military footing and shows no sign of relaxing it."
Early in Pinter's speech, he compared the crimes he was denouncing to
"what happened in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe during the post-war period: the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought."
This statement needs to be dissected. After 1956, a form of state capitalism was consolidated in the Soviet Union, and while retaining its socialist name and some of the formal trappings of socialist society, it became capitalist and imperialist in reality. So it is valid to equate crimes like the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan to the kinds of crimes being committed by the U.S. today. Before that point, while the Soviet Union had made great and inspiring advances as world's first socialist state during the 1920s and ’30s, it also had significant problems--with much of the socialist road being "undone," in Bob Avakian’s words, during and after World War 2. While the leadership, including Stalin, made mistakes--even grievous mistakes--going into and during this period under unprecedented and extremely difficult circumstances, it still remained overall socialist and mainly a force for revolution and progress in the world until the mid-’50s. This very complex process has been deeply examined by RCP Chairman Bob Avakian in Conquer the World--The International Proletariat Must and Will [available online at revcom.us/bob_avakian/conquerworld/]. Bob Avakian has also summed up how the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China, led by Mao, represented a leap beyond the Soviet Union. Beyond that, Avakian has gone into the ways in which any future socialist society must go beyond even the best of the past, including in the realm of doing better at fostering dissent and critical thought, as a key part of his "new synthesis" on communism and socialism. [See Dictatorship and Democracy, and the Socialist Transition to Communism at revcom.us/bob_avakian/new_speech/avakian_democracy_dictatorship_speech.htm]. We urge people who took heart from Harold Pinter’s Nobel speech to further engage these questions and to discuss and debate them as we link arms in the struggle to drive out the Bush regime, which (again) Pinter has correctly, courageously, and steadfastly compared to Hitler.
Near the end of his speech, Pinter posed an important challenge:
"Many thousands, if not millions, of people in the United States itself are demonstrably sickened, shamed and angered by their government’s actions, but as things stand they are not a coherent political force--yet. But the anxiety, uncertainty and fear which we can see growing daily in the United States is unlikely to diminish."
When Harold Pinter signed the Call for the World Can't Wait, Drive Out the Bush Regime before November 2, he explained:
"The Bush Administration is the most dangerous force that has ever existed. It is more dangerous than Nazi Germany because of the range and depth of its activities and intentions worldwide. I give my full support to the Call to Drive out the Bush Regime."
In taking that stand, and in speaking out from the stage of the Nobel Prize, Harold Pinter set an important example for people in the public eye. It is a stand that must be promoted, defended, and taken up as a model by many others.