John Pilger | Photo: walnut whippet | CC BY-SA 2.0 | cropped from original John Pilger | Photo: walnut whippet | CC BY-SA 2.0 | cropped from original

The entire radical left is shorter by a head, writes John Rees

I am very sad to have lost a great friend and comrade in John Pilger. I talked to him only a couple of weeks ago when he was in hospital but I hoped his great fighting spirit would see him through. Sadly he lost this last struggle. He was a great investigative journalist, as the world knows. He was an unrepentant socialist, naturally a radical. And he was a loyal and warm friend and comrade.

I knew him first through my great friend and his Paul Foot, the only peer John had as a journalist. When Paul was ill John was his great champion in getting him the treatment he needed in the NHS, of which they were both fierce advocates.

It was typical of John that I would suddenly get a call with some project in mind. Walking in the Welsh Marches a sudden call saying he was helping PJ Harvey guest edit the BBCR4 Today programme. Would I do a 5 minute segment on the City to go where the business news should be?

Another call: Roger Waters wanted to play the Pink Floyd anthem Wish You Were Here for Julian Assange live in London. But they had no one to organise it. Would I do it?

Then there were discussions on his last great film, the Coming War with China. He was a firm ally of the Stop the War Coalition and the Palestinian cause. In that last phone call from hospital he asked me if I’d been involved in organising the Gaza demos. ‘Thought they had your hallmark’, he said. That was, as often, too generous.

John was a towering anti war voice, from the legendary Vietnam war journalism to Iraq. He was an exceptional tabloid journalist in the very best sense. He wanted to communicate complex issues clearly to working people.

He really despised the rich and powerful, their cant and hypocrisy. He detested cowards and traitors on the left. He had all the right heroes and all the right opponents. The entire radical left is shorter by a head, and I’ve lost a kind and generous comrade.

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John Rees

John Rees is a writer, broadcaster and activist, and is one of the organisers of the People’s Assembly. His books include ‘The Algebra of Revolution’, ‘Imperialism and Resistance’, ‘Timelines, A Political History of the Modern World’, ‘The People Demand, A Short History of the Arab Revolutions’ (with Joseph Daher), ‘A People’s History of London’ (with Lindsey German) and The Leveller Revolution. He is co-founder of the Stop the War Coalition.