Vasko Popa was a Serbian poet of Romanian descent. Born in modern day Romania, Popa spent his life between Serbia and Romania studying in both Belgrade and Bucharest. His poetic life was often concerned with Socialist Realism, an artistic form which focuses primarily on celebrating socialist life or uplifting the role of ordinary folk in contrast to romantic ideas of aloof heroes and divinely given gifts.
Che Guevara was an Argentinean-born, Cuban revolutionary leader who alongside Fidel Castro goes down in history as one of the greatest figures of the Cuban Revolution and arguably the 20th Century. One of his portraits, from the lens of Alberto Korda, is one the world’s most reproduced images.
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.