Bertolt Brecht was a German Marxist poet, playwright and theatre director. Brecht lived through a turbulent era. Narrowly avoiding conscription at 16 during World War One, he worked prodigiously through throughout the period of the Weimar Republic. Brecht was forced to flee with the rise of the Nazis in 1933. He left the USA during the McCarthyite “Red Scare” returning to what was then the German Democratic Republic. He died on the 14th of August 1956.
‘Du Ydwyf, ond Prydferth’ (Negro a fu’n cydweithio â ni am wythnos yn y carchar) ‘Niclas y Glais’ (1879-1971)
‘Black am I, but Beautiful’ (A Negro who worked with us in prison for a week) by TE Nicholas (1879-1971).
TE Nicholas ‘Niclas y Glais’, congregational minister, pacifist, champion of the disadvantaged, initially a member of the Independent Labour Party and then a founder member of the Communist Party, remaining in it till his death. Niclas was an internationalist who loved the Welsh language and the culture of the Welsh people. Writing almost entirely in Welsh, he won 17 eisteddfod chairs. In July 1940, during the Second World War, he and his son Islwyn were arrested on trumped-up charges of fascism during his 4-month imprisonment in Brixton, he wrote 150 sonnets, from which the following are selected. aWe present here the original Welsh and the English translation of his work side by side; the latter of course cannot capture the full expression of the former.
Pablo Neruda was a prominent Chilean Communist, as well as a Nobel prize-winning poet in both literature and peace (slightly more deserving than the current warmongering president of the US). Neruda played key roles in two Chilean governments and experienced the outlawing of Communism in 1948 and later became a close adviser to the Socialist President Salvador Allende only to die in hospital of cancer at the time of Pinochet’s US-backed coup.
Born in Bristol, Angela Tuckett became involved in progressive politics from an early age. She supported the Welsh contingent to the 1931 Hunger March, the League of Progressive Writers and Bristol’s Unity Theatre. In 1940, as a solicitor, she took charge of the legal department of the National Council for Civil Liberties (now Liberty). She joined the staff of the Daily Worker in 1942, then worked on Labour Monthly from 1948 to 1978. She was a member of the editorial committee of the William Morris Society, and with her husband Ike Gradwell worked tirelessly to build up the Swindon branch of the Communist Party. This poem uses metaphor to illustrate what the struggle is all about.
“Che Comandante,” by Nicolás Guillén (1902 – 1989), Cuba’s National Poet Laureate, read on that solemn evening of October 18, 1967, in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución José Martí, shortly after Che’s death was announced to the world.The first verses were prophetic.
Over twenty years ago, Che’s remains were found where they had been hidden following his murder and were transferred to Cuba. Che was laid to rest, with six of his fellow combatants with military honors in a specially built mausoleum in the Cuban city of Santa Clara, where he had commanded over the decisive military victory of the Cuban Revolution.
Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930) was a Bolshevik revolutionary and came to be one of the most celebrated communist poets in the Soviet Union and internationally. He was also a talented playwright, artist and actor who used art as a medium to convey the politics and ideals of the new socialist state.
Christopher Caudwell was a Communist Party member, poet and influential Marxist thinker.
Born into a relatively well to do Catholic family, Caudwell worked as a journalist before working on Marxist critiques on a variety of subjects from poetry to his book The Crisis in Physics.
Like many of his contemporaries, such as John Cornford, Caudwell volunteered for the International Brigades in Spain. Caudwell was killed in the fighting on the first day of the Battle of Jarama, 12th February 1937
Much of his work was published posthumously including his best known book Illusion and Reality.
Mao Tse-Tung is a man who needs little introduction, especially to members of the Young Communist League. However, despite being a remarkable leader and philosopher, his poetry is often overlooked. This is partly because many pass it off as ‘poetic politics’, namely just a fruity disguise of his politics. Others simply ignore it because he was ‘authoritarian’, so they would not demean themselves by pandering to it.