A poet who has contributed to Dispatches will be present at the below event, on April 28th, at the Brower Center, in Berkeley. He wrote us and asked if there was anything we thought he should ask the participants during the discussion period. We wrote him back right away with a few suggestions. We hope he will pose them. It is high time the matter of Pablo Neruda’s complicity in mass state terror be put on the table.

Dear X,

Yes, you should stand up against all polite protocol at this obscene panel and ask why it is that Neruda gets a pass and someone like Ezra Pound, for example, doesn’t. You should specify that Neruda, unlike the crazed, loose-cannon Pound, was sanely and intimately associated with a regime of mass, counter-revolutionary murder (he was a Comintern and NKVD agent, paid handsomely by Stalin’s police state, without which his spectacular curio collection and three mansions in Chile do not exist). Ask what people think about his complicity in the attempted murder, in Mexico, of one of the leading figures of the Bolshevik revolution, and his probable participation in the successful second attempt (he arrived in Mexico on the day of Trotsky’s murder). Or ask what they think about his full awareness of the Show Trials, which killed off a whole generation of revolutionaries, many of them fighting for some semblance of socialist democracy. Or of his epic, pornographic “Ode to Stalin,” wherein a monstrously evil man is presented as a kind of compassionate god. Then you should ask the panel how it is that a self-confessed rapist (of his lower caste personal toilet cleaner) still gets hero-worship academic tributes devoted to him in the United States, and in the midst of the #MeToo moment, at that. And maybe ask, as well, what it means to honor a poet who was a spokesperson for a dictatorship that systematically censored literature, sent writers to the Gulag, or outright shot them?

The value of a good deal of his poetry is beyond dispute. The issue is that soft-headed liberal American poets and casual shoppers at Barnes and Noble seem uncaring about, or oblivious to, his conscious role as apologist for one of the most genocidal regimes in history.