Thousands across the world say ‘We Will Fight for Love’ after Cox murder

Thousands of people around the world have paid tribute to Labour MP Jo Cox, who was murdered yesterday outside her constituency surgery.

Over 150,000 people have now signed an online statement by Avaaz called ‘Jo Cox: We Will Fight For Love’, with messages of heartfelt thanks, sadness and compassion.

Later today, Jo’s friend’s and family launched a fundraising drive for three charities ‘close to her heart’, the Royal Voluntary Service, HOPE Not Hate, and the White Helmets (volunteer search and rescue workers in Syria). It has raised over £30,000 of its £50,000 target in just three hours.

Meanwhile online activism group 38 Degrees have launched a ‘Thank Your MP’ action, with thousands writing to their MPs after Cox’ killing to appreciate the work they do to help their constituents and their areas, while the group are also collecting hundreds of comments online to create a card of condolence.

The statement aims to counteract the hate that was shown yesterday with messages of hope, and is filled with comments from almost every country – including around a third from outside the UK.

Here are some of the tributes:

The Avaaz statement says:

‘Jo Cox was a mother, a campaigner, an MP, an advocate for the voiceless and those in poverty, and a passionate fighter for people and principles. She was also a friend to many in the Avaaz team.

‘Jo was passionately campaigning for Britain to stay in Europe. Not just because it was smart, or advantageous. Because she spent her life caring for Syrians, and Africans. She was a beautiful light of love for all people, for humanity. The man who took her life, stabbing her and shooting her over and over, screamed “Britain First”. Her life was taken by a kind of hate and selfishness that she devoted her time on this earth to fighting.

‘How would she want us to honour her? By coming together, sharing love for each other, and picking up the banner for love, for a truly Great Britain, that is great enough to love immigrants, and all people in our one human family.’

EU campaigning has been suspended until Saturday, while some MPs such as Rachel Reeves have temporarily closed their constituency offices. Flags are being flown at half-mast across the UK. British politicians have been paying tribute to Jo Cox.

The Avaaz statement, which has been shared over 7,000 times, also draws attention to the statement from Cox’ husband, Brendan, yesterday:

‘Today is the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. More difficult, more painful, less joyful, less full of love. I and Jo’s friends and family are going to work every moment of our lives to love and nurture our kids and to fight against the hate that killed Jo.

‘Jo believed in a better world and she fought for it every day of her life with an energy, and a zest for life that would exhaust most people.

‘She would have wanted two things above all else to happen now, one that our precious children are bathed in love and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her. Hate doesn’t have a creed, race or religion, it is poisonous.’

‘Jo would have no regrets about her life, she lived every day of it to the full.’

Tonight there are vigils in in honour of the MP in Parliament Square in London at 7.30pm (details on this Facebook page), in Edinburgh for 6.30pm, in Manchester at 7pm, and at similar times in Birmingham, Glasgow, Brighton, and Cardiff.


‘Live and Overcome’ – An Acoustic Tribute to Chavez

I’ve just recorded and uploaded my latest song (written tonight!), ‘Live and Overcome’. It’s an acoustic tribute to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who tragically passed away on Tuesday. He was, and is, an inspiration to millions world-wide seeking an alternative to the destructive free-market capitalism which has landed us in all this mess.

You can listen and download it for free (along with all my other stuff) from Feel free to share around – it’s all on a copy-left license (Creative Commons), so I won’t sue 🙂 You can listen to it below too, using Soundcloud’s fancy embedding stuff. Recorded rather quickly on my phone, but I hope it comes across OK.

If you’re around York, I’ll be playing on Saturday at York Social’s ‘The Gathering’, a night of radical acoustic music and poetry, at York’s only co-operative pub, the Golden Ball. It’s a great pub and it should be a fantastic night. It’s free (as far as I know!) and will start from about 8pm. See you there!

I’m also playing the University of York Amnesty International fundraiser ‘Jamnesty’ next Wednesday at Tramways Working Men’s Club from 8pm, billed as a night of decent local acoustic music, ‘because we give a folk’. Good stuff. Should raise a lot of money for a great (on the whole) organisation.

Anyway, hope you like the track. And maybe see you at a radical gig at some point in the future!

The Venezuelan people will ‘live and overcome’

Last night chants of “¡Chávez vive, la lucha sigue!” (Chávez lives, the battle continues!) erupted in La Plaza Bolivar, Caracas- a fitting tribute to a Latin American leader who represented not himself, but an idea, and a struggle. The next few months will determine whether ‘the battle’ will indeed continue, and whether ‘Chavismo without Chavez’ can survive.

Born in rural Venezuela, Chavez forewent university to become a history teacher at the Caracas Military Academy. In 1982, frustrated with the neoliberalism that condemned the lives of millions of poor Venezuelans, he formed a Bolivarian revolutionary movement that went on to lead a coup d’état at the end of the decade. His movement followed the path laid out by Simon Bolivar, the South American independence leader. The coup attempt failed, but Chavez’s apology for failure ended by saying the struggle was over “por ahora” (for now).

These two words gave hope to a nation that, on his return, would adopt an alternative to the dominant ‘Washington Consensus’ economic model of privatisation, deregulation and austerity. Consequentially, this alternative became known as ‘21st Century Socialism’. Upon his dramatic return to politics in 1998, his presidency showed that socialism could offer a ‘Third Way’ between discredited free-market capitalism and the flawed Soviet model.

It is not often that the facts speak for themselves, but in the case of Hugo Chavez, they do.  According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America, Venezuela now has the lowest level of inequality in the region. Poverty has fallen from 70% in 1996, to 23% in 2009, and over 90% of Venezuelans now eat three meals a day for the first time in the country’s history.

Chavez was vilified in Western media, invariably described as ‘controversial’, a ‘firebrand’, ‘egotistical’. But Chavez’s passion and anti-US rhetoric were reasonably motivated– the USA supported a coup attempt against him in 2002, a coup only stopped when millions of Venezuelans took to the streets to demand their elected President back. It worked, and the revolutionary leaders humiliatingly backed down. Had the coup succeeded, the ‘Pink Tide’ of Latin America would have crumbled and the region returned to the disastrous policies of the neoliberal era.

His death, of course, was not unexpected. A rally last week of more than 100,000 supporters, many carrying banners declaring “We are Chávez”, accepted his fate. But ‘we are Chavez’ represents a popular feeling among the majority of the country’s 19 million voters (81% of whom voted last Autumn) – that Chavismo is more than one individual.

Venezuela’s ‘threat of a good example’ will survive. His last tweet, ‘¡Hasta la victoria siempre! ¡Viviremos y venceremos!’ (Ever onward to victory! We will live and overcome!) has become one of the most popular in history, and his memory will live on beyond the grave-dancing obituary pages of our right-wing newspapers. Chavez will be remembered as an inspirational leader around the world for those who continue to look for an alternative to austerity. Chavismo without Chavez will indeed ‘live and overcome’. It is now up to the Venezuelan people to lead the way.

[I’ve now recorded an acoustic song – free to listen to and download from Soundcloud here – about Chavez and the Venezuelan people, called ‘Live and Overcome’, based on thoughts from this article and others. This comment piece is cross-posted from my obituary of Chavez for York Vision, a University of York student newspaper.]