No Ukraine-Russia war, no World War III!

This 26 November 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

Moscow & NATO Playing a ‘Dangerous Tit-For-Tat Game’ in Ukraine

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson says that the latest Ukraine crisis, in which Russia is holding Ukrainian navy boats, was foreseeable and likely, given NATO’s constant encroachment on Russia’s border region.

By Clara Weiss in Germany:

Russia-Ukraine stand-off over Azov Sea continues as Poroshenko declares martial law

27 November 2018

Following Russia’s capture of three Ukrainian vessels on Sunday in the Azov Sea, the Ukrainian government, at the behest of President Petro Poroshenko and the War Cabinet, has introduced martial law starting November 28 for 30 days. On Monday, the Ukrainian armed forces also announced that they were fully combat ready. Meanwhile, US media foreign policy and think tank officials have been beating the war drum, urging a “tough” response to alleged “Russian aggression” by Ukraine, NATO and the US.

The Azov Sea borders southwestern Russia, the southeast of Ukraine as well as Crimea, and enters into the Black Sea, which is of key geostrategic significance to both the US and Russia, as a water gateway to the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East.

The stand-off occurred at the Kerch Strait, which is the only link between both seas and has been largely under the control of Russia since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in early 2014.

From daily News Line in Britain today:

The Ukrainian navy vessels were sailing through the narrow Kerch Strait between Crimea and mainland Russia which connects the Azov Sea with the Black Sea. Under a 2003 treaty, ships from both Russia and Crimea have freedom to pass through the very narrow and difficult to navigate Strait on condition that they first contact the Crimean sea port for permission that it is safe to do so. All vessels are required to proceed directly through the Strait and not perform any manoeuvres that endanger other ships.

According to the Russian authorities responsible for safeguarding the Strait the three Ukrainian ships gave no warning that they were entering it, ignored repeated requests to leave Russia’s territorial waters, and entered a stretch that had been temporarily closed to navigation.

The Clara Weiss article continues:

In the most significant direct confrontation between the Russian and Ukrainian military since 2014, Russian warships fired at and captured three Ukrainian vessels after they entered Russian territorial waters. Several Ukrainian sailors were wounded. Russian media have called it a “veritable maritime battle.” Initially shut down by Russia, the Kerch Strait has now been reopened for civilian ships.

The Kiev regime, brought to power in an imperialist-backed, far-right coup in February 2014, had so far refrained from introducing martial law, despite an ongoing civil war in the east of the country that has claimed the lives of over 10,000 people. Poroshenko initially declared martial law for 60 days, but then reduced the duration to 30 days, following a public outcry. He also insisted in a statement that the declaration of martial law in response to Russia’s “aggression” did not mean an open declaration of war with Russia.

The introduction of martial law by Poroshenko is a transparent attempt to exploit the crisis to intensify the far-advanced drive toward dictatorial rule in dealing with an ever deepening domestic crisis. Martial law is being imposed in the midst of a campaign for the March 2018 presidential elections in which Poroshenko is performing worse than all other candidates in the polls and is almost certain to lose his bid for reelection.

Nearly five years after the beginning of the conflict with Russia, some one million Ukrainians are on the verge of starvation, hundreds of thousands have left the country to live and work abroad; and thousands of workers have been going on strike to protest starvation-level wages. There is also enormous anger about the government’s open ties to and reliance on far-right forces, as recently evidenced in the fascist assassination of a former Maidan activist.

Under these conditions, not only Poroshenko but the entire Ukrainian ruling class see the whipping up of militarism, nationalist hysteria and the promotion of dictatorial rule as the only means to deal with mass social discontent.

The escalation of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and the introduction of martial law by Kiev have triggered a devaluation of the currencies and a fall on the stock markets of both countries. The value of the Ukrainian currency, the Hryvnia, fell, trading at 27.89 to the dollar on Tuesday, compared to 27.79 to the dollar on Monday. The National Bank of Ukraine has called upon the country’s banks to guarantee cash supply at ATMs in an expected rise in demand because of the state of martial law. The value of several major Ukrainian companies also fell on the stock markets.

The Russian ruble experienced an even sharper devaluation, with the index of the Moscow stock market falling by 1.46 percent.

More details have since emerged about the stand-off on Sunday, suggesting that Ukraine consciously provoked some kind of response by Russia to use as a pretext for an escalation of the long-simmering military conflict.

The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), which fired at the ship on Sunday, released a transcript, according to which the Ukrainian vessels performed maneuvers in Russian territorial waters in the Azov Sea, staying in the waters for some 12 hours and refusing to leave upon the request of Russian authorities. The Ukrainian vessels, according to Russian officials, also entered waters that had been temporarily closed to navigation. In a statement, the FSB argued that the Russian warships were forced to open fire because the three Ukrainian ships had ignored “legal demands to stop” and were “performing dangerous maneuvers.” Footage released by the FSB shows one of the Ukrainian vessels ramming a Russian warship.

The Kremlin has denounced the vessels’ maneuvers as “a dangerous provocation. On Monday, an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council took place. When the agenda proposed by Russia, including Ukraine’s violation of its borders, was voted down (only China, Kazakhstan, Bolivia and Russia voted for it, four abstained), the Russian representatives left the meeting. The UN Security Council instead adopted the agenda proposed by Ukraine.

The British ambassador to the UN denounced Russia’s refusal to participate in the meeting as “provocative.” The president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, condemned the use of force by Russia and insisted that it had to release the Ukrainian vessels. Tusk later met with Poroshenko to discuss the situation. Federica Mogherini, the EU High Representative of Foreign Affairs, echoed Tusk’s statements, calling upon Russia “to immediately de-escalate the situation.”

The US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said: “As President Trump has said many times, the United States would welcome a normal relationship with Russia. But outlaw actions like this one continue to make that impossible.” In reality, the US has helped ratchet up tensions in the region in recent months by supplying Ukraine with missiles and patrol boats, including ones to be used in the Azov Sea. Trump and Putin are set to meet later this week.

Behind the scenes, more open discussions about a military escalation are taking place among the strategists of US imperialism. In a publication by the Atlantic Council, a leading foreign policy think tank in Washington, Michael Carpenter, former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, urged the US to “respond immediately by giving Ukraine radars to boost its maritime domain awareness and land-based anti-ship missiles so it can defend its Azov Sea littoral.”” Ukraine insists that it had the right under international law to transit the strait and called Russia’s firing on its vessels an “act of aggression.”

Taras Berezovets, a Ukrainian TV host and founder and CEO of Free Crimea, said: “The US should sanction Nord Stream 2 [pipeline]. NATO should increase its military presence in the Black Sea to send a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Ukraine should declare martial law, impose visa regime, and break the 2003 Azov Sea Treaty.” The Azov Sea Treaty from 2003 regulates relations between Ukraine and Russia, dividing up both the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait between the two, and provides for a ban on foreign ships—including NATO—unless their passage is sanctioned by both countries.

Phillip Karber, who was worked for various US government agencies and now heads the Potomac Foundation, an American NGO that has close ties to the State Department, was even more explicit: “It’s time to spell it like it smells—it’s war!” He demanded “full wartime level of mobilization” in Ukraine; the re-equipment of the Ukrainian military “with modern Western military technology”; that NATO include Ukraine in the alliance, and that the US provide Ukraine “with the hardware needed to sustain a long-term competitive posture.”

The dangerous developments in the Black Sea region underscore the warnings of the ICFI of the danger of a Third World War. Neither the Putin regime, which is the outcome of the Stalinist destruction of the Soviet Union and fears the socialist mobilization of the Russian working class more than any assault by imperialism, nor any other section of the bourgeoisie can be relied upon to fend off the threat of war and dictatorship. Only an independent movement by the working class against capitalism and the nation-state system can put an end to the danger of another imperialist world war and nuclear annihilation.

Over the past several days, Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister of Ukraine and head of the All-Ukrainian Union “Fatherland” party, has toured Washington to garner support for her presidential bid in the elections in March 2019. Early polling sees her as the front-runner, leading the rest of the potential candidates in a crowded field by nearly twofold: here.


Willow warblers’ long-distance migration record

This video from Britain says about itself:

This bird ID video gives useful tips on how to distinguish between Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff. It is one of a series of bird ID videos produced by the BTO.

From Lund University in Sweden:

Songbirds set long-distance migration record

November 15, 2018

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have studied flight routes to determine how far willow warblers migrate in the autumn. The results show that the willow warbler holds a long-distance migration record in the ten-gram weight category — with the small birds flying around 13,000 kilometres or longer to reach their destination.

The recently completed study investigated willow warblers that breed during the summer in north-east Russia. Biologists at Lund University together with Russian researchers from Magadan, close to the Kamtjatka Peninsula, managed to get a good overview of the route and distance travelled by the small birds during their autumn migration.

The measurements were taken by small data loggers attached to the backs of the birds. The next year, the birds were recaptured and the researchers downloaded and processed the data.

From their breeding habitats in eastern Siberia, the willow warblers fly to staging areas located in south-west Asia and the eastern Mediterranean. From there, they continue to their winter destinations, located in Kenya and Tanzania — a distance of around 13,000 kilometres.

“Our measurements show that they migrate 13,000 kilometres, but we have not been able to measure the entire distance because the data logger batteries ran out. My guess is that they fly at least another 1,000 kilometres to south-east Africa,” says Susanne Åkesson, professor at the Department of Biology at Lund University.

Other studies have shown that there are birds that migrate farther, but they looked at larger birds that weigh more. Willow warblers weigh 8-9 grams during the breeding period and about 10 grams when they migrate.

“I think it’s fascinating — they are so small and migrate at least 13,000 kilometres one way. There are no other studies that show that birds of that size can migrate that far. Even more impressive perhaps is that they make the journey alone in their first year of life”, says Susanne Åkesson.

In addition to the record for long-haul migration, the study is also the first to show where the most easterly willow warblers spend the winter in east Africa. Moreover, the researchers compared alternative compass routes with the routes the birds actually take. Based on this, they identified two alternative mechanisms that the willow warblers can use during their long migration — a solar compass that compensates for time shifts during the migration, and a magnetic compass based on the assumption that the birds can measure the inclination angle of the Earth’s magnetic field.

No Trump/Russia collusion evidence, Woodward says

This 13 November 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

Woodward: No Evidence Of Trump Russia Collusion

Bob Woodward, in an interview regarding his latest book, Fear, admits to not finding any evidence of Trump/Russia collusion. Here is his perspective.

Meanwhile, there is plenty of evidence of Trump’s homophobia and transphobia; of his shredding of the nuclear missile treaty; of  his shredding of the Iran deal; of his shredding of the Paris climate agreement; of Trump’s biggest military budget of all time; of his tax cuts for billionaires including himself; of his attack on ‘Dreamer’ young immigrants; of his threats to shoot women and children; of his re-starting of the controversial Dakota Access pipeline; etc.

Evidence which the newly elected Democrat majority in the United States House of Representatives might use to wage opposition to Trump from the left; if they would want to do so.

Trump cancels G20 meeting with Putin amid rising tensions. By Andre Damon, 30 November 2018. As world leaders head to the G20 Summit, the United States is poised to intensify its conflicts with Russia, China and Europe. Commenting on the fast-approaching event, the German weekly Der Spiegel called American President Donald Trump the “terror” of the assembled world leaders. No one, perhaps least of all Trump, knows the outcome of the summit in advance, or which part of the world will be the main target of US threats: here.

Rather than being a symptom of Russia or some other foreign country, Trump is a symptom of the domestic situation in the USA.

This 13 November 2018 video from te USA says about itself:

Judge Blocks Keystone XL Pipeline In Blow To Trump

A judge has blocked the Keystone XL Pipeline. This is great news for the environment but will it stand?

Trump’s anti-Russia nuclear escalation

This video from the USA says about itself:

Trump Tears up Treaties Pushing for War on Iran, Using Bush-Style Iraq Lies

10 October 2018

As the US ramps up aggression against Iran, withdrawing from agreements and imposing crippling sanctions, Iranians fear Trump and the neocons he surrounded himself with want war – and are echoing Bush-era Iraq “WMD” lies to justify it.

And it is not just Trump’s aggressive policies against Iran. Also against Venezuela. Against Canada. Against Africa. Against China. Against Yemen. Against Syria. Against Afghanistan. Etc.

And now, against Russia. Which may be a bit of a surprise to people who have heard again and again that Trump supposedly does not represent a clique of United States billionaires, but the Russian government. Instead of attacking Trump from the left, eg, about his militarism, his tax cuts for the rich, his homophobia, his misogyny and his witch-hunting of immigrants, eg, the Clintonites in the United States Democratic party usually attack Trump from the right: claiming that Trump is not pushing hard enough for escalation between nuclear armed USA and nuclear armed Russia. The United States establishment is roughly divided into two camps: the Clinton camp primarily anti-Russian; the Trump camp primarily anti-Iranian and anti-Chinese.

When in Stalin’s Soviet Union there was internal criticism and conflict, that was usually blamed on the CIA and other foreign interference. Similarly, now, eg, the Clintonian Democratic establishment in the USA blames internal conflicts in the USA on ‘Johnny Foreigner’, on Ivan (or Vladimir) the Russian. Not just Trump is then attacked as supposedly a Russian puppet; also, eg, the Black Lives Matter movement, or anti-fascists banned from Facebook for supposedly being ‘tools of Russia’.

The main cause of problems of the USA is not that outside it, there is Russia and many other countries. It is that three billionaires are richer than the poorest 50% of people in the USA.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV, 20 October 2018:

President Trump threatens to cancel the treaty with Russia on nuclear missiles for the short and medium range (500-5000 kilometers). Trump says that Russia does not keep to the agreement, without giving any further explanation.

“We will end the agreement and start producing these weapons”, Trump said. …

The INF Convention has been in force since 1 June 1988. This was the result of negotiations between the then US President Reagan and the Secretary General of the Soviet Union Gorbachev. It prohibits the possession, production and testing of missiles with this range, which are fired from the ground.

‘A Colossal Mistake’: Experts Sound the Alarm After Trump Plans to Ditch Nuclear Arms Control Treaty With Russia
The move “would be reckless and stupid”. By Jessica Corbett.

Noam Chomsky on corporate media’s ‘Russia’ obsession

This 27 July 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

Noam Chomsky on Mass Media Obsession with Russia & the Stories Not Being Covered in the Trump Era

The New York Times reports special counsel Robert Mueller is scrutinizing President Trump’s tweets as part of Mueller’s expanding probe into Trump’s ties to Russia. This latest revelation in the Mueller investigation is part of a nearly 24-hour stream of headlines about Trump, Russia and the administration’s various scandals. But is the mainstream media missing the real stories amid its obsession with “Russiagate”? For more, we speak with world-renowned political dissident, linguist, author and professor Noam Chomsky on media manipulation in the Trump era.

A comment on this video says:

MSM [Main Stream Media] Isn’t Covering Climate Change, Teacher’s Strike, Income Inequality, Police Terror, illegal Foreign Wars, The Effect Of The Tax Cuts, Student Debt Crisis, Homelessness, Electoral College, Super Delegates, Gerrymandering [three factors helping Trump ‘win’ the 2016 election, apart from the Clinton factor], Supreme Court Hurting Worker’s Right Joining Unions

I might add the recent passing of Trump’s Pentagon budget, the biggest military budget in United States history, by the United States House of Representatives. Apart from the Republicans, 139 Democratic representatives voted for Trump’s budget; only 49 against.

I might add Donald Trump’s attack on ‘Dreamer’ immigrant young people; let down by corporate Democratic politicians, who, instead of attacking Trump from the left, prefer screaming ‘Russia! Russia!

In the early summer, the Clinton Foundation released hundreds of pages of newly declassified documents about conversations between US president Bill Clinton and Russian president Boris Yeltsin between 1996 and 1999. The documents show the extent of US meddling in Russian domestic politics in the 1990s, and are a stark testimony to the groveling of the Russian oligarchy, personified by Boris Yeltsin, before US imperialism. Under conditions of a thoroughly hypocritical and right-wing media hysteria about alleged Russian “meddling” in the 2016 US elections, and a massive NATO military build-up against Russia, these documents acquire special significance. It is telling that hardly any US newspaper reported on the newly declassified records which contradict almost every element of their anti-Russian propaganda: here.

New York Times’ fraudulent “election plot” dossier escalates anti-Russia hysteria: here.

Chekhov’s Seagull, new film

This video says about itself:

10 May 2018

The Seagull starring Saoirse Ronan, Annette Bening and Corey Stoll directed by Michael Mayer is reviewed by What the Flick?!

One summer at a lakeside Russian estate, friends and family gather for a weekend in the countryside. While everyone is caught up in passionately loving someone who loves somebody else, a tragicomedy unfolds about art, fame, human folly, and the eternal desire to live a purposeful life. Adapted by Tony-winning playwright Stephen Karam (“The Humans”) from Anton Chekhov‘s classic play and directed by Tony-winner Michael Mayer (“Spring Awakening”), THE SEAGULL explores, with comedy and melancholy, the obsessive nature of love, the tangled relationships between parents and children, and the transcendent value and psychic toll of art.

By David Walsh in the USA:

The Seagull: Is there a “Chekhovian mood” at present?

30 June 2018

Directed by Michael Mayer; screenplay by Stephen Karam, based on the play by Anton Chekhov

Michael Mayer has directed a new film version of Russian writer Anton Chekhov’s play, The Seagull, written in 1895 and first produced in 1896.

Mayer’s film, with a screenplay by Stephen Karam, begins at a Moscow theater in 1904. The actress Irina Arkadina (Annette Bening), after a triumph, is told that her elder brother is dangerously ill. In the middle of the night, she rushes to his estate outside the city, accompanied by the celebrated writer, Boris Trigorin (Corey Stoll).

Irina finds her brother, Sorin (Brian Dennehy), on death’s door. Her son Konstantin (Billie Howle), a would-be playwright, who lives with his uncle, is also present. When Konstantin finds himself alone for a moment, there is a knock at the window. It is Nina (Saoirse Ronan), a young woman with whom Konstantin was much in love and who left to become an actress two years before …

Other than making these brief scenes, which in Chekhov’s play come close to the conclusion, into the opening of their film (and repeating them later), Mayer and Karam remain faithful to the original drama (or comedy, as the playwright termed it).

It is two years earlier. Konstantin is staging his foolish, grandiose Symbolist-Decadent play, set tens of thousands of years in the future (“All is cold, cold. All is void, void, void. All is terrible, terrible”), at dusk on the grounds of his uncle’s estate, with Nina in the lead role as the “soul of the world”. His mother, the author Trigorin—with whom she has begun a relationship—and Sorin are in the audience, along with the local doctor, Dorn (Jon Tenney). Also present are the estate manager, Shamrayev (Glenn Fleshler), his wife Polina (Mare Winningham) and daughter Masha (Elisabeth Moss). The latter is being pursued by the ineffectual, poverty-stricken schoolteacher, Medvedenko (Michael Zegen).

There are numerous undercurrents. Irina Arkadina is bored in the country, jealous of Nina’s appearing in Konstantin’s play and hostile to the latter’s attempts to create “new forms of art”. She ridicules the play and succeeds in ruining her son’s experiment. Konstantin dislikes Trigorin, the short-story writer, whose works he finds insubstantial. Sorin, already ill and musing about death, regrets that he never succeeded in fulfilling his two greatest desires, to become a writer and to marry. Polina and the doctor have had an affair at some point. She is unhappy in her marriage to the boorish Shamrayev. Masha, her daughter, appears destined to follow in her footsteps. In fact, Chekhov’s play begins with Medvedenko asking Masha—who is unrequitedly in love with Konstantin—why she always wears black. “I’m in mourning for my life”, she replies. “I’m unhappy.”

For Konstantin things only get worse in the following days. In a fit of anger, he shoots a gull (not a “seagull”, in fact, the drama takes place on an inland lake) and places it at Nina’s feet. He warns her he will soon end his own life in the same way. Trigorin determines to make Nina, lovely and naïve, his latest conquest. Prophetically, he tells her an idea for a new story: “A young girl grows up on the shores of a lake, as you have. She loves the lake as the gulls do, and is as happy and free as they. But a man sees her who chances to come that way, and he destroys her out of idleness, as this gull here has been destroyed.”

Konstantin does attempt suicide, but fails. Nina falls in love with Trigorin and tells him she has decided to take the plunge—she will leave for Moscow and become an actress. He arranges to meet her in the city.

Two years later. Masha and Medvedenko are married, miserably. Sorin is fatally ill. We learn that Nina and Trigorin lived together and had a child, who died. Nina has not proven to be an especially brilliant actress, although she has something of a career. Trigorin has returned to Irina Arkadina. Nina, as before, knocks on Konstantin’s window. They talk, she begins to compare herself to the gull. She is still hopelessly in love with Trigorin. She has a second-rate acting engagement for the winter, in the provinces. She leaves …

Anton Chekhov

Chekhov’s plays, wrote the famed Russian-Soviet theater director Vsevolod Meyerhold years later, “corresponded to the general mood of the Russian intelligentsia at that time.” Meyerhold, who became a friend of Chekhov’s, played a leading role in the legendarily successful 1898 Moscow Art Theatre production of The Seagull (the original production, two years previously at a different theater, was an abject failure). Konstantin Stanislavsky directed—and performed in—the 1898 production, which also featured Olga Knipper, Chekhov’s future wife.

Nina’s tragedy, wrote Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, Stanislavsky’s colleague and co-founder of the Moscow Art Theatre, specifically spoke to the situation of many girls “from the provinces at the time—girls whose ambition it was to escape from the dullness of their environment … to find something to which they might ‘give themselves’, all of themselves; flamingly and tenderly to sacrifice themselves to Him, the gifted man who had stimulated their dreams. As long as women’s rights were rudely limited, theatrical schools were full of girls like these.”

The “general mood of the Russian intelligentsia” in question, if one accepts Chekhov’s drama-comedy as a guide, contained discouragement, disillusionment and the sense of one’s personal insignificance and the pettiness and egoism of one’s concerns and ambitions. Add to that the dullness and stagnation of life in the country, where the only interruption of the boredom apparently extending to the end of time takes the form of desperate intrigues and pointless, doomed (and sometimes destructive, as in the case of Trigorin-Nina) love affairs, and the picture of life for this layer of society that emerges in The Seagull, and in Chekhov’s stories and plays generally, is not an attractive one.

As Elisaveta Fen wrote, in a 1959 introduction to a volume of Chekhov’s plays, “the characters … behave and talk as if they have lost their way, lost faith in themselves and in their own future.” Of course, other social forces and “moods” would shortly exert themselves explosively and eloquently in the 1905 Revolution.

American director Michael Mayer (born 1960) has done a competent job with The Seagull. This is an effort at a straightforward presentation of Chekhov’s play. The basic themes and ideas come through. The actors are generally fine. There are moving and even insightful moments. Saoirse Ronan, who seems a little over her head at certain points, makes an emotional and troubling final appearance as the now experienced and wounded Nina. Elizabeth Moss is also moving as Masha, who “voluntarily” enters into a marriage she knows will make her life nearly unbearable.

But this Seagull never rises to any great height. It is largely uninspired. There is no particular indication that Mayer, who describes himself as a man of the theater, has any strong film sense. The many close-ups and quiet conversations, if the truth be told, become a bit tedious. It is a film made without strong purpose.

How much of this is Mayer’s fault and how much of it is the fault of the conditions under which this interpretation of Chekhov’s work takes place?

Meyerhold repeatedly refers to Chekhov’s theater as a “theatre of mood” rather than Realism or Naturalism.

There is something to this. One indelibly associates Chekhov (1860-1904), for better or worse, with the quiet desperation and feelings of impotence and ineffectiveness of his leading characters. Chekhov brought tremendous honesty and sincerity to his stories and plays (“Life unfolded in such frank simplicity that the auditors seemed almost embarrassed to be present”, Nemirovich-Danchenko said of the opening night of The Seagull in 1898), but not the widest range of situations and emotions.

The Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy, who liked Chekhov personally, once complained to him, “A playwright should take the theater-goer by the hand, and lead him in the direction he wants him to go. And where can I follow your character? To the couch in the living-room and back—because your character has no other place to go.”

Elisaveta Fen, in her introduction to Chekhov’s letters, wondered how it was possible for “so profoundly Russian … moods, characters and dramatic technique” to have been so well received, for example, in England between the world wars. She suggested the answer might lie “in the social temper of the periods concerned.” Fen argued that for the typical, educated middle class Englishman, “few would deny that the intellectual and emotional climate of the years 1919-39 was one of disappointment and depression … The two periods [in Russia and England] … are stamped with spiritual discouragement.”

This strong association with definite moods, of course, works both ways. Because of his specific characteristics as a writer, Chekhov inevitably seems somewhat out of place under certain social circumstances, circumstances of rapid social upheaval and transformation, for example.

In Literature and Revolution, written in the early 1920s, Leon Trotsky referred to Stanislavsky’s Moscow Art Theatre as belonging to the “islanders”, that section of “the intelligentsia who live on an island in the strange and hostile ocean of Soviet reality.” He went on, in more astonishment than anger, “Just imagine: these people are living, to this day, in the mood of the Chekhov Theater. The Three Sisters and Uncle Vanya [two of Chekhov’s other major dramas] today!” In other words, how incongruous this subdued “Chekhovian mood” was in convulsive, ferociously energetic, post-revolutionary Russia, where the masses were still quivering in every fiber.

In a later passage in the same work, Trotsky pointed to “the passive realism of the Chekhov school” and suggested that “the experiences of Uncle Vanya” may well “have lost a little of their freshness.”

But the pendulum didn’t stop there either. The emergence and eventual domination of the Stalinist bureaucracy had created new political and cultural conditions by the late 1920s. In the name of “proletarian culture”, a great deal that was superficial, vulgar and “narrowly rationalistic” came to the fore in Soviet literature and drama.

Konstantin Stanislavsky

Aleksandr Voronsky, the editor and literary critic, Left Oppositionist and Trotsky’s co-thinker, felt it necessary in 1927, in his essay, “Notes on Artistic Creativity”, to come out forcefully in defense of Stanislavsky (whose theater had responded in the meantime to the artistic implications of the Bolshevik-led workers’ revolution), the Moscow Art Theatre and Chekhov. In a comment on Stanislavsky’s My Life in Art, Voronsky argues in favor of the theater director’s painstaking efforts—his book, Voronsky writes, “is permeated with blood and sweat”—and great artistic creativity.

He specifically and pointedly takes note of Stanislavsky’s emphasis on intuition and the need of the artist to “turn away from one’s common, everyday mood and become infected with the creative mood” and to “forget himself and yield to the flow of other feelings.” Again, Voronsky is taking aim here at pragmatic, utilitarian, cheap, purely “external” realism, which the national-minded ruling caste in the Soviet Union was encouraging. Here, under these conditions, Voronsky was promoting psychological insight and “inner realism” too, a secret which, he insists, the great literary artists—including Chekhov—understood.

“It is not hard to strut about”, Voronsky continued, almost provocatively challenging the advocates of so-called proletarian art, “or to write and say with a condescending expression that the Art Theatre represents the past. Perhaps it does represent the past, but this past was wonderful, we haven’t yet grown to its height, and our writers and actors have something to learn from it.”

There are a remarkable 475 films or television programs based on Chekhov’s works or associated with them somehow, many of them in the postwar period, when disappointment and discouragement were widespread sentiments. And other feelings too. It’s not necessary to identify Chekhov simply with a “retrograde” sensibility. But he seems to come to the fore at more socially quiescent times, which also allow perhaps for reflection and regret.

The Soviet film The Lady with the Dog (Iosif Kheifits, 1960), based on one of Chekhov’s most memorable short stories, would likely have been inconceivable in an earlier period of Soviet history. A man and women, both unhappily married, meet at a resort. They have an affair, but return to their old lives. They meet again, and make tentative plans to go on meeting, but the reality that they cannot get out of their marriages oppresses them. In the final scene, the audience is only aware of the Russian winter and the couple’s hopeless situation.

Does Mayer’s new film indicate the presence of a “Chekhovian mood” in the American intelligentsia today? The election of a Trump and the general and unprecedented filthiness of the political and cultural atmosphere have undoubtedly generated disquiet and unease. Feelings of impotence in the face of the growth of the far-right may exist in certain intellectual and artistic quarters.

And from the point of view of the issues raised by Voronsky, Chekhov and his circle as the representatives of a more serious, principled approach to art and to the audience, there may be something there as well. Each time a “classic” is filmed at present, no matter how inadequately, one has the feeling that the actors (and probably others involved) give a sigh of relief, appreciating that they have the opportunity for once to do something other than an empty, stupid superhero movie.

On the whole, however, the upper middle class in the film and entertainment world has done well for itself economically in recent years. Identity politics, among other things, has the function of offering this affluent layer the illusion it is “socially engaged” and “influencing things.”

Complacency and a lack of urgency largely prevail. Mayer’s Seagull reflects this in its own way. It is not done with tremendous passion or commitment. Chekhov’s work, to be effective, must suggest the cruelly, tragically suppressed feelings and drives under the surface. The quietness or even “half-heartedness” of the characters merely expresses the force of that suppression. Here, too often, there is merely passivity. American filmmaking hasn’t yet grown to the height of this “wonderful” past, far from it.

As noted, Chekhov is not for every time and place, or for every taste, but he was a serious artist. He wrote in a letter, “I hate lying and violence in all their forms—the most absolute freedom, freedom from force and fraud in whatever form the two latter may be expressed, that is the programme I would hold to if I were a great artist.” Who do we have like that today?

United States anti-racist black woman smeared as ‘Russian tool’

This January 2016 video from the USA is called Anoa Changa on Young Women for Bernie Sanders.

In Britain, the Conservative party and the Rupert Murdoch media have seen too many James Bond spy movies, making them unable to distinguish between fiction and reality. So, they are smearing Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn as a supposedly ‘communist’ spy for the no longer existing Warsaw Pact. This way, they want to distract people from the disasters which Theresa May’s Conservative government is causing in Britain.

Meanwhile, in the USA, the political establishment smears the leader of the Green party, Ms Jill Stein, and the former chairwoman of the Democratic party, Ms Donna Brazile, as supposedly being Russian spies.

And they don’t limit their lying to just these lies. Senator Bernie Sanders, who might now have been a progressive president of the USA, after having beaten Trump, if the Democratic party establishment would not have used dirty tricks against him, is being smeared as a Russian tool as well.

Anyone differing from establishment views seems ‘therefore’ in right-wing eyes supposedly to be a ‘Russian tool’. Like the Black Lives Matter movement is smeared.

From Jewish daily The Forward in the USA, 23 April 2018 , by Anoa Changa:

I Was Smeared By Public Radio For Being A Black Activist Trying To Get My Message Out

In 2018, the most important indicator of power might just be the question of who has a platform. Access to a platform means having your voice heard, something traditionally marginalized people have often struggled with, seeing as those who tend to have access haven’t been too anxious to let us in.

We take it where we can get it. Which is why it’s especially galling when a man with a huge, institutional platform uses his to impugn a woman of color trying to get her message out there.

That’s exactly what happened to me. But what makes it more that just an awful experience is what it tells us about the current political climate.

There’s nothing new about American institutions attacking and delegitimizing the work of Black activists and organizers. What’s new is that in the age of Russian election interference, journalists at establishment media companies are now using the Russia investigation as an excuse to mainstream these smear tactics. And it’s an affront to the activism of people of color that must be identified for what it is.

I am a Black activist. I was raised by politically conscious Black parents who believed in community-centered change. Following in their footsteps, my concerns are issues like racism, police brutality, and raising up marginalized people and those who would represent them.

As you can imagine, there isn’t much appetite for this kind of work in mainstream media. So I have my own podcast, and when I’m invited to speak to larger platforms, I do so, gratefully.

Recently, I took such an invitation and appeared as a guest on “By Any Means Necessary,” a radio show hosted by Eugene Puryear and Sean A. Blackmon on Radio Sputnik. Sputnik is a news agency established by the Russian government-controlled news agency Rossiya Segodnya. And yet Eugene, Sean, and their producer maintain editorial freedom in developing and producing their content.

I certainly maintain my independence when I go on their show, talking about the issues that matter to me. I do not consult with the Russian government before I speak my mind, nor do I care what they think about what I say. There aren’t a lot of mainstream platforms that give voice to left-wing Black activists, and Puryear and Blackmon do. On the most recent interview we discussed the glaring issues with Trump’s Economic Executive Order.

I have also been a guest on another Sputnick show, Loud and Clear, hosted by Brian Becker, about which I make no secret. On that show I debated non-existent voter fraud with a Heritage Foundation staffer.

Of course, it would be wonderful if American Public Media would host people like me at roundtables with robust discussions between people of color about topics like education, political engagement and organizing in a Post-Trump America. But they don’t, so we often find ourselves on other platforms.

So I was pleased when in early March, I was approached by an American Public Media reporter, Johnny Kauffman, after he ran across a piece of mine in The Nation called “Please Stop Calling Black Activism ‘Divisive’.” I was pleased that Atlanta’s public radio would be interested in my work, and happy to reach a wider audience.

In fact, that was how Kauffman sold the piece. I have sometimes felt that my message is being distorted by mainstream press, and after a conversation about that with Kauffman, I agreed to be interviewed.

I gave him hours of my time. My colleagues also gave freely of their time. I allowed him in my home.

What he put out there in the world in a four-minute radio clip was a staggering smear of me, my work, and my integrity.

The main point was summed up early on: “By agreeing to appear on two Sputnik programs, Changa gained something hard to find: a bigger platform to broadcast her political views”, Kauffman said. “But Changa’s association with Sputnik may put her credibility at risk, while furthering Russia’s effort to create chaos in the U.S.”

Instead of a reflective and nuanced account of who I actually am, the piece argued that I was simply a tool of the Russians. Who I am and what I stand for were simply swept aside because a professor Kauffman interviewed said that the radio shows I appeared on “are set up for the sole purpose of promoting the Kremlin line.”

In four minutes, Kauffman destroyed my credibility and my reputation, for the crime of not having access to the kinds of American state funded media that he, a white man, is freely given access to.

Instead of trying to raise up a Black woman activist, he chose to tear her down, from his perch atop Atlanta Public Media.

Of course, this episode was personally devastating. But it’s about more than just me. The way we frame narratives matters. And it becomes even more important when the person in charge of framing the narrative does not value or respect the individual who is subject to their analysis.

For this was Kauffman’s biggest mistake: a fundamental lack of respect for the struggle of being a person of color trying to get a platform for racial and social justice causes. And it was this fundamental lack of respect that led him to see me as a boob manipulated cynically by the Russian government, rather than a Black woman making a canny choice about growing her audience where she can — which is obviously not at Atlanta Public Radio.

So what if I think the Russia interference gets too much attention, robbing topics like Black Lives Matter and police brutality of airtime? Does this make me a stooge of the Russian government? Or is Sputnik the only place that would let me say something like that?

Independent commentators and journalists exist outside of mainstream spaces for exactly this reason. The innate need to uphold and defend the status quo limits meaningful discourse and dynamic conversations. Merely asking questions and expanding conversations leads to attacks.

At the end of the day, this was a poorly done story in which a white man with a powerful platform sought to smear and tear down a Black woman.

And as such, it’s a familiar one.

Any student of history could tell you how anti-communist scares were used to attack Black writers. There were attempts to undermine Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with allegations of communism. History is repeating itself with the rise of Cointelpro 2.0 in the guise of Black Identity Extremists and the use of social media to spy on Black activists.

But today’s model is a little more insidious, implying that Black activists are easily tricked. This is the subtext of the discussion around Russians who tried to trick Black Lives Matter activists during and after the election. But as Florida-based organizer Donna Davis, an organizer with BLM Tampa and the Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, said, “calling unsuspecting Black Americans the culprit in all of this illustrates the emergence of Cointelpro 2.0.” She went on, “When did earned media with an [international] outlet come to indicate espionage or collusion with a foreign power to bring about this country’s downfall? This is ridiculous.”

I’m not going to be silenced because of fear. People need to understand the nature of social media but also how little access Black people have to traditional forms of media before admonishing me for participating in a platform that is respectful of my insight and voice.

Acting as if there is a single bogeyman or that everything is automatically tainted is a real problem. There is nothing wrong with scrutiny and asking questions. There is everything wrong with distorting and misrepresentation Black women particularly when Democrats are content to ride on our backs.

Media outlets covering politics and how members of traditionally marginalized communities are engaging in these spaces should take a step back and do the internal reflection and work necessary for consistency and journalistic integrity.

Yes, we should question and critique platforms and those who engage in them. But to simply dismiss content and attack my work without context, nuance, or respect is unconscionable, and plays into some of America’s worst history.

Anoa Changa is an Attorney, host of The Way with Anoa podcast, and editor of the Peach Perspective blog.

This Pennsylvania golf club called the cops on five black women members — for playing golf.

Democrats’ anti-Russia campaign leaves most Americans unmoved: here.

Gender inequality is ‘drowning out’ the voices of women scientists: here.