Jon Halliday

Jon Halliday is the author of A Political History of Japanese Capitalism. He is a member of the editorial board of the New Left Review.

The Koreans and their Enemies

Jon Halliday, 17 December 1992

Over the past year evidence has been emerging that the Japanese kidnapped more than 200,000 young women into sex slavery during their occupation of East Asia. Those so enslaved were termed ‘comfort women’, about 80 per cent of whom were Korean. Some were as young as 12, hauled out of their schools, often under a quota system, and carted off to army barracks and outposts all the way from Manchuria to the South Pacific. All suffered indescribable brutality and hardship, and untold numbers died in frontline trenches. Almost none would ever return to their homes. So far no compensation has been paid for these atrocities, on the grounds that Japanese reparations to Korea for the occupation period (1910-45) were settled once and for all in the 1965 agreement which normalised relations between Tokyo and Seoul. The kidnappings, like many other outrages, are not mentioned in Japan’s official school textbooks.

The Strange Death of Mehmet Shehu

Jon Halliday, 9 October 1986

On 18 December 1981, Tirana Radio announced that Albania’s long-time premier Mehmet Shehu had committed suicide the previous night ‘in a moment of nervous crisis’. Although suicide is generally frowned on in the Communist countries – who, after all, could possibly wish to depart from paradise? – the radio referred to Shehu as ‘comrade’ and gave him his full ritual titles. Nearly one year later Albania’s paramount leader, Enver Hoxha, claimed that Shehu had been a multiple foreign agent: of the Gestapo, the SIM (Italian Intelligence), Yugoslavia, the KGB, the USA – and Britain. These allegations were widely greeted with derision as a figment of Hoxha’s paranoia. The credibility of his accusations was hardly enhanced by the fact that he claimed that Shehu had killed himself after being strongly criticised for arranging the betrothal of his son to a woman whose family allegedly contained ‘six to seven war criminals’, and thus attempting to create a scandal which would undermine the Albanian regime. Finally, a few weeks before Hoxha himself died in April 1985, the Albanian party daily said Shehu had been ‘liquidated’ – although a spokesman later denied that this meant executed (given the hyperbole of brutality, such expressions are hard to decode).’

How wars begin

Jon Halliday, 23 May 1985

On 5 July 1953, three weeks before the end of the Korean War, Winston Churchill was about to step out onto the croquet lawn with his doctor, Lord Moran, and with Field Marshal Montgomery, when Monty asked him: ‘What is our policy in Korea? It is no good making war without a policy.’ Churchill replied with a reference to the President of South Korea:


Jon Halliday, 2 June 1983

All writers know about lunch. A good lunch with one’s publisher is sometimes the only thing that keeps one going on a project threatening to go stale. The worst thing that usually looms over the soup is a missed deadline. The diaries of Parviz Radji, the Shah’s last ambassador to London, are largely about lunches and dinners, many of them spoiled by subjects weightier than missed deadlines. Abuse of civil rights, imprisonment without trial and, above all, torture ruin many a delicious meal. By the end a picture of Khomeini on the front page of the International Herald Tribune can cause Radji and his guests to gag before they have even finished peeling their artichokes.

Fear and Loathing in Tirana

Jon Halliday, 2 September 1982

Albania has distinguished itself for secretiveness even among secretive Communist governments, vouchsafing little information to either its own people or the outside world. Now, suddenly, out of this hermetically-sealed country has exploded a series of volumes unprecedented in the history of world Communism, more remarkable and much more revealing than Khrushchev’s Memoirs. Over several thousand pages, the Albanian leader, Enver Hoxha, vents his undying rage against ‘revisionism’, his wilfully blind adoration of Stalin, his fierce nationalism, in tones which are alternately aggrieved, suspicious and self-righteous. He is windy, vulgar and brutal. Yet within the rigid framework of 100 per cent Stalinism lurks a shrewd and lively observer who can quote hunks of Byron to visiting British Army officers during World War Two.

Can Gorbachev succeed?

John Barber, 4 December 1986

Where is the Soviet Union going? Despite the many striking changes since the death of Brezhnev in November 1982 and particularly since the election of Mikhail Gorbachev as General Secretary in...

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