Mike Gonzalez

A Better View than Buena Vista

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Review of 'Tropical Animal', Pedro Juan Gutierrez, Faber £7.99

'Filth, stink, disregard, neglect, everywhere you look. I do what I can to escape from this apocalypse. At least mentally and spiritually. My material, though, remains anchored amid the wreckage.' For some readers, the surprise will be that the human flotsam who populate Pedro Juan Gutierrez's novel live in Havana, Cuba. The fleeting sex in half-ruined buildings, overcrowded, noisy and competitive; the half-lit world of prostitutes, rent boys, petty thieves and peanut sellers are the setting of what Gutierrez calls his 'dirty realism'.

Theatre Enters Stage Left

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Theatre can be a forum for debate and encourage collective action.

Recently I was rereading some of John McGrath's essays on political theatre in his book 'Naked Thoughts That Roam About'. McGrath, who died last year, set up the 7:84 theatre group (7 percent owning 84 percent of the wealth) to create an agitprop theatre for the generation of anti Vietnam War protesters.

Land and Freedom

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Review of 'Cutting the Wire', Sue Branford and Jan Rocha, Latin America Bureau £14.99

The opening demonstration of this year's World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, was dominated by the red flags and banners of the Landless Workers' Movement--the MST. Not all of its one million members were there; not even the 100,000-plus who attend their schools and further education classes. But what they brought to the meetings and the debates was the experience of an extraordinary and in many ways successful movement that in just over 15 years has mobilised and led thousands of land occupations, protests and marches.

Picturing the Horrors of War

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Picasso's 'Guernica' depicts the cost of conflict. Mike Gonzalez explains why it's time it was discovered again.

We are surrounded by images of war. Real, imagined or remembered conflict is a constant in the kind of films that are shelved under 'Action' at Blockbuster's. Very few computer games have gone beyond the simple binary of good and evil, friend or enemy. Newspapers regularly carry stark and terrifying photographs of the victims of war in some unnamed place--as if only fear and terror can really be dramatic. And then there is the machinery of warfare, drawn out in loving scientific detail on the nightly news. Thus war is made part of our natural experience.

Assembling Our Forces

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Mike Gonzalez got a taste of people when he visited Argentina recently.

The wonderful thing about 15 February was that it felt like an exercise of power. But people's power is about much more than great gatherings in the streets. The demonstrations and meetings are enormously important. But our ambitions as socialists are much bigger than that. We are talking about a world where working people run their own lives directly--shape how wealth is distributed, what priorities govern what society produces, and how to develop new and freer lives.

New York, New York

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The city that has become an icon offers different views on life.

I remember arriving in New York and having the odd feeling that I'd been there before. Everything was familiar, even the faces on the street. But I'm not a believer in past lives, so I knew it was no echo from a previous existence. I had the same feeling recently watching 'Sex and the City', which now seems to be repeated eight times a week in various slots, and the return of 'NYPD Blue'--not to mention yet another 11 September documentary and 'Gangs of New York' reviewed on several pages of every Sunday paper.

Great Polls and Ire

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The great and the good form a self-selecting club which ignores the rest of us.

'Madness in great ones must not unwatch'd go' (Hamlet)

Recently, the air has been full of talk of greatness. Churchill, Brunel, Princess Diana, Darwin, Boy George were all candidates for the Great Britons award. It was predictable enough that Churchill ultimately won.

A Thunderstorm Against the Wind

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Byron struck an image that still enthrals many. Mike Gonzalez traces the sources of his popularity.

Lady Caroline Lamb's spiteful description of her ex-lover Lord Byron--'mad, bad and dangerous to know'--has remained with us in a cascade of society scandals. Now it is the title of a new travelling exhibition, linked to a new biography by Fiona McCarthy. Suddenly Lord George Gordon Byron is everywhere. In an age of tabloid fascination with 'celebrity', it is the flagrant, challenging homosexual, the athletic lover, the dandy with the club foot, the merciless satirist, the man who courted scandal by parading his love for his sister, who is rediscovered.

European Social Forum: A Forum for the Future

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The hugely successful Florence European Social Forum showed a new face of politics in Europe.

An elderly man spent his days at the European Social Forum in Florence with his multicoloured umbrella open above his head. It wasn't raining; for most of the time it was bright and cold. But his umbrella carried a message: 'Grazie ai ragazzi' (thanks to the kids). His point, I think, was not so much to celebrate this multilingual, multiethnic gathering. Rather he was acknowledging that this was a gathering of a new kind, with a new vision.

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