Ukrainian government bans newspaper for quoting Marx


European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (right) receives a medal from Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko

On this photo, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (right) receives a medal from Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko.

By Steve Sweeney in Britain:

Friday, May 17, 2019

Ukrainian newspaper faces ban – for quoting Marx

UKRAINIAN journalists have called for international solidarity as press freedom comes under attack, with workers’ newspaper Rabochaya Gazeta facing closure under reactionary anti-communist laws.

The newspaper’s editor Anatoly Krivolapov appealed to progressives across the world to protest against the attacks on freedom of speech and the legal measures being used against media organisations critical of the Ukrainian government.

“Your principled position and support will contribute not only to the preservation of our publication, but also to enhance the role of other media in the achievement of rule of law, social justice, public order and peace in our long-suffering country,” he said.

Rabochaya Gazeta was first published in August 1897 and aims “to honestly and fully disclose the real situation in Ukraine” including exposing the activities of government bodies and a critique of state policies.

However, authorities are seeking to ban the newspaper using a law that outlaws the use and display of communist symbols. The Ministry of Justice cited articles in Rabochaya Gazeta quoting Lenin and Marx, along with commentary praising the achievements of Ukraine during the Soviet period.

Ukraine has previously been warned by the Council of Europe over the introduction of the legislation. The council said that it must protect freedom of expression and comply with international laws.

The Vienna Convention said the law, On Condemnation of the Communist and National Socialist (Nazi) Totalitarian Regimes in Ukraine and the Prohibition of the Promotion of Their Symbols

This law has a hypocritical name. On the one hand, what happens to an Ukrainian singing the Internationale; the song not just of communist, but also social democrat parties all over the world? That Ukrainian gets a two year prison term if singing it alone. Fife years imprisonment for singing it in a choir.

On the other hand, Ukrainian officers of Adolf Hitler’s SS get honoured with governmental monuments. And it is illegal to criticize World War II nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera and similar politicians.

As for symbols: see the logo of today’s Ukrainian Azov battalion.

Azov battalion symbol

This picture (also reproduced on the Facebook page of the Dutch NVU nazi party) shows the symbol of the Ukrainian Kiev government’s Azov battalion; source: here. It is the wolfsangel, or wolf’s hook. Which used to be a symbol in Adolf Hitler’s Waffen SS. It was also the symbol of the Dutch nazi party NSB in the 1930s and 1940s.

The Azov battalion logo has, behind its black wolfsangel, also another nazi SS symbol, depicted in white: the ‘schwarze Sonne‘ or black sun; ‘taken from the pattern on the floor of the northern tower of Wewelsburg castle, which Heinrich Himmler had rebuilt. It looks like a combination of a spider web and a swastika.’

– was a breach of human rights, in particular the right to freedom of expression, freedom of association and assembly, and voting rights.

However, Mr Krivolapov warned that under the regime of former president Poroshenko, “totalitarian methods of government were introduced…an open struggle was started against dissent and freedom of speech, journalists were persecuted and killed.”

“Our publication criticised the national oligarchic group headed by president Poroshenko for total corruption…unemployment and the sharp impoverishment of the majority of the population…the war in the Donbass, the propaganda of fascism”, he said.

He said the attack on Rabochaya Gazeta was also a threat to “other newspapers, magazines and TV channels attacked by the regime” and the basic principles of press freedom.

“We call for authoritative international organisations and colleagues abroad to express their protest against the legal arbitrariness against the media, and to stand for the protection of freedom of speech in Ukraine.”

Babi Yar, Shostakovich’s anti-fascist symphony, performed


This video from the USA says about itself:

Preview for Shostakovich‘s Babi Yar Remembering the Holocaust | April 27 & 28, 2019

In a powerful performance not to be missed, MSU [Michigan State University] Symphony Orchestra, Choirs, soloist Mark Rucker, baritone, and a trio of expert scholars present Shostakovich 13, Babi Yar, with selections from Davidson’s I Never Saw Another Butterfly.

By Nancy Hanover in the USA:

Michigan State University performs stirring rendition of Babi Yar, Dmitri Shostakovich’s anti-fascist symphony

1 May 2019

I am
each old man
here shot dead.

I am
every child
here shot dead.

Nothing in me
shall ever forget!

The ‘Internationale’,
let it thunder
when the last anti-Semite on earth
is buried forever.

In my blood there is no Jewish blood.
In their callous rage,
all anti-Semites
must hate me now as a Jew.

For that reason
I am a true Russian!
[From “Babi Yar” by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, translation: George Reavey]

After nearly two years of preparation, the Michigan State University (MSU) Orchestra and Choral Ensembles performed Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13 in B-flat minor, based on Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s poem “Babi Yar” (1961), last Saturday in East Lansing, Michigan, and Sunday at Detroit’s Orchestra Hall. It featured well-known baritone Mark Rucker, who also serves as professor of voice in the MSU College of Music.

Yevtushenko’s “Babi Yar” is a poem that memorializes the Nazi massacre of 34,000 Jews at Babi Yar, just outside Kiev, Ukraine, on September 29-30, 1941, one of the single largest instances of mass murder carried out during the Holocaust. It took place soon after the invasion of the Soviet Union.

The rapidly intensifying political atmosphere today—including the rise of anti-Semitism and authoritarianism nationally and internationally—heightened the emotional and artistic significance for musicians and listeners alike. One of the most enduring and powerful musical protests against fascism and anti-Semitism, Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13 was performed in Detroit one day after another brutal anti-Semitic murder at Chabad of Poway, just north of San Diego, on the final day of Passover. The killer issued a statement that denounced Jews “for their role in Marxism and communism.”

The contemporary resonance of MSU’s production “Babi Yar, Remembering the Holocaust” was noted by several speakers who introduced Shostakovich’s work. They referenced the fascist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, the terror bombing in Sri Lanka and the slaughter of 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh last October. Concert-goers included more than a dozen Holocaust survivors and a busload of older members of the Jewish Community Center, as well as many young musicians.

Socialist Equality Party campaigners distributed materials on the rise of the fascist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party and the fight against the extreme right and were warmly received by many. “It’s not just in Germany, it’s here—it’s here”, one older concert-goer repeated, with unmistakable alarm.

The concert began with Charles Davidson’s “I Never Saw Another Butterfly” (1968), in slightly abbreviated form. The piece is written for orchestra and treble choir and based on poems by Jewish children who perished in the Holocaust. The children were among the 150,000 Jews imprisoned in the Terezin concentration camp (also known as Theresienstadt). After the occupation of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, the Nazis converted the Czech town of Terezin into a Jewish prison. It was not an extermination camp, but about 33,000 would die of hunger and disease there. The Soviet army liberated the camp in 1945.

The evocative poetic lines of the children were displayed above the orchestra and chorus. “The heaviest wheel rolls across our foreheads, To bury itself deep somewhere in our memories. We’ve suffered here more than enough, Here in this clot of grief and shame” begins the poem “Terezin.”

The piece is alternatively haunting and mournful and lively and hopeful, as the powerful choirs give voice to the children’s contradictory feelings. Davidson, trained as a cantor and with a doctorate in sacred music, has created an ethereal and entrancing melodic sound in this now widely performed piece.

Sophia Franklin

Sophia Franklin, a Music Education and Physics major at MSU, who sang alto in the 100-plus member chorus, later told a reporter from the World Socialist Web Site, “Our piece was about Terezin. It was a concentration camp, but designed by the Nazis to be the public ‘face’ of the camps for visits by the Red Cross. It looked like a nice camp, but really it was just as bad. People were disappearing. They [the Jews] knew there was something very wrong even though the murders weren’t happening there. They were living in constant fear.”

Echoing the thoughts of many of those in the hall, Sophia said, “I have learned about the history of the Holocaust in middle and high school. This has happened before. Can’t we learn from that?”

In one of the concert’s introductory lectures, MSU Assistant Professor Dr. Amy Simon explained that the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, in Operation Barbarossa, beginning a war of annihilation. Recognizing the genocidal implications, Simon said, approximately 100,000 Jews fled Kiev before the fascist occupation. Those who remained were the sick, the elderly and many children. These Jews were forced to walk to a ravine on the outskirts, now called Babi Yar, lined up in groups and systematically machine-gunned to death.

After the wholesale slaughter of the Jews, who constituted the largest proportion of the dead, the killing would continue for months abetted by the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). Tens of thousands of Communist Party members, Soviet prisoners of war, Roma and other anti-Nazis also perished there. It is estimated that the total number of dead thrown into the pit at Babi Yar would grow to more than 100,000 during the years of German occupation. Of the 6 million Jews who were exterminated by the Nazis, more than 2 million died in the Soviet Union as a result of mass executions similar to that at Babi Yar.

Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s famous poem “Babi Yar” was written in protest. It begins, “No monument stands over Babi Yar. A steep cliff only, like the rudest headstone. I am afraid. Today, I am as old, As the entire Jewish race itself.”

The poem is a brilliant and defiant attack on both anti-Semitism and the Stalinist bureaucracy. The nationalist bureaucracy pandered to anti-Semitism and was hostile to its exposure; it opposed any remembrance of the genocidal treatment of the Jews, insisting there be no special mention of the Nazis’ determination to eradicate Jewry. Yevtushenko’s poem laments, “O, Russia of my heart, I know that you, Are international, by inner nature. But often those whose hands are steeped in filth, Abused your purest name, in name of hatred.” Unsurprisingly, the poem was officially denounced by Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

Kevin Bartig, MSU associate professor of music, who also spoke before the production, related the extraordinary first exchange between the poet and composer. Shostakovich, he explained, approached Yevtushenko for permission to set “Babi Yar” to music. The poet immediately agreed, and Shostakovich, relieved, then told him the piece was already composed.

Bartig recounted Yevtushenko’s words when he first heard the composition, “Some of my poems were set before, but the music hardly ever coincided with the melody I heard in my inner ear when writing my poem. I hope it doesn’t sound like conceit, but if I were able to write music, I would have written exactly the way Shostakovich did. By some magic, telepathic insight he seems to have pulled the melody out of me and recorded it in musical notation.”

Wonderful and apt words! Sitting in the audience of this concert, one felt an emotional and seamless unity between the music and words—each heightening the power of the other.

Bartig noted that there were attempts to prevent the premiere of the 13th Symphony in 1962, but “it was a sign of the times, that the idea of censoring a performance—as would certainly have been the case a decade earlier [prior to Stalin’s death]—would have been more of a provocation or scandal than allowing it to go on.” This was during the period of the so-called Thaw in the USSR.

The music scholar noted, “The work is a meditation on repression, from anti-Semitism to the take-down of self-interested bureaucrats in the final movement. It was a risky project in the USSR. Even a few years earlier, Shostakovich might not have risked it. …

“Stylistically, Shostakovich is himself as ever here using a tonal idiom, dressed up with the things that make his voice so distinctive: creating dissonances, exaggerated contrasts, and sarcasm.” He concluded by noting, “The themes we confront in the 13th, which sadly remain relevant in 2019, make the work one of the most unsettling and powerful in the symphonic repertoire.”

Explaining his decision to create the work, Shostakovich said, “I was overjoyed when I read Yevtushenko’s ‘Babi Yar’; the poem astounded me. It astounded thousands of people. Many had heard about Babi Yar, but it took Yevtushenko’s poem to make them aware of it. They tried to destroy the memory of Babi Yar, first the Germans and then the Ukrainian government. But after Yevtushenko’s poem, it became clear that it would never be forgotten. That is the power of art.”

The piece is not easily classified. Requiring a bass soloist, men’s chorus and large orchestra, it has five movements. Babi Yar has been variously described as a choral symphony, a song cycle or a giant cantata. The first section, “Babi Yar”, the Adagio, is a funereal elegy, opening with a solemn chime, dramatically invoking the Dreyfus affair in France (1894-1906), the savage Bialystok pogrom of 1906 and the story of Anne Frank. The emotional music moves from the spiritual to the literal, in the breaking down of Anne Frank’s door. The use of the bass soloist, the impressive Mark Rucker in this case, a male chorus and the frequent effective use of chimes and bells is widely attributed to the influence of 19th century Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky.

The second movement, “Humour”, is a livelier piece, but its message is just as pointed: oppression cannot silence the masses and their mocking of authority. It ends, “three cheers for humour—he’s a brave fellow.” The third (“In the Store”) is an ode to Soviet women, endlessly forced to line up to secure provisions for their families, ending with a quasi-religious motif. The fourth movement (“Fears”) evokes the menacing atmosphere under Stalinism, opening with a highly chromatic tuba solo that anticipates the composer’s later experiments with twelve-tone dissonance. “Career”, the final movement, condemns censorship and the ever-present Stalinist toadies with a lopsided opening waltz and beautiful woodwind solos, ending with a chilling final strike of the chime. It makes a bitter analogy to the Catholic Church’s trial and imprisonment of Galileo.

Attending the Orchestra Hall event, Joseph Jankowski, a student at the Detroit Institute for Musical Education, told us, “I knew this would be powerful. But when the conductor lowered the baton, no one clapped. Then everyone started clapping and didn’t want to stop—that was amazing.

“It was a beautiful portrayal and 100 percent relevant. Humanity-wise we face a serious issue today in this country and around the world. Events like this are extremely important because they should serve as a reminder that not all is as it should be. Large events like the Holocaust—even smaller events like Sandy Hook—we’ve allowed them to happen. We forget.”

“It was amazing, absolutely amazing,” said Edie, another audience member, “A person just feels more emotional about it all [in the setting of] such impressive music.”

International Youth and Students for Socialist Equality (IYSSE) member James said he was deeply moved by both the music and poems: “In Charles Davidson’s piece, the first poem, ‘I’d Like to Go Away Alone’, began with heavenly violin strings that captured the feeling of hope. But when the alto choir sang ‘Somewhere into the far unknown there, where no one kills another’, the vocals were a musical suggestion of such an un-worldly place.”

He continued, “The lyrics captured the feelings of children who had to watch this tragedy as it happened. … The gong and flute were used a lot to symbolize the blows that Nazi soldiers used against the Jewish prisoners of war. The orchestra members walked off in a single file line to symbolize what the Jewish people experienced at that time in these concentration camps.”

James also noted, “The [Shostakovich] music really felt uneasy, as the poem portrays things. The baritone singing, ‘Let the Internationale thunder as the last anti-Semites on earth are buried’ had me in tears. I hope the working class has more access to cultural events like this one in the future. This was a great experience for me.”

“The greatness of Shostakovich,” Fred Mazelis notes in his WSWS article on the composer’s legacy, was “to reflect the great struggles of his time, to find the musical language, in abstract, personal and emotional terms, through which to express not only his personal travail, but that of many millions of others.”

Many of those of us who attended the soul-stirring MSU performance would strongly concur. Indeed, the struggles of his time remain the struggles of our own.

The author also recommends:

The Soviet poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko (1933-2017) and the fate of the ‘60s generation
[3 May 2017]

Berlin exhibition—“Mass Shootings: The Holocaust from the Baltic to the Black Sea 1941-1944”
[28 October 2016]

The legacy of Dmitri Shostakovich
[7 April 2000]

Government censorship means no Ukraine at Eurovision 2019


This 23 February 2019 music video from Ukraine shows the song ‘Siren song’ by ‘Maruv’, the stage name of singer Anna Korsun. With this song, Maruv won the Ukrainian final for the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest. Maruv was supposed to go to Tel Aviv in Israel for the international final.

However, then right-wing Ukrainian government politicians intervened.

According to them, the Ukrainian representative at the song contest should make far-right Ukrainian nationalist ‘patriotic’ propaganda. And Ms Korsun did not do that.

So, Maruv was banned.

According to Dutch NOS TV today, the consequence is that there won’t be any Ukrainian singer at the final in Israel.

Authorities asked other Ukrainian singers to scab as substitutes for Maruv. But they refused.

With less than two weeks left in the presidential campaign, the Ukrainian Interior Minister has mobilized against incumbent president Petro Poroshenko the very same far-right forces that were instrumental in the imperialist-backed 2014 coup that brought Poroshenko to power. Last week, Poroshenko, who currently sits in third place in Ukraine’s Presidential election polls, behind comedian and leading candidate Volodmyr Zelenskiy and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, was accosted by members of the far-right Azov Battalion-affiliated National Militia in the city of Zhytomyr during a campaign stop. In a photo that was widely shared on social media, Poroshenko was seen fleeing reporters and the far-right thugs while jumping through puddles in the street: here.

Comedian Volodymyr Zelensky won the Ukrainian presidential elections Sunday with over 73 percent of the vote, in a massive repudiation of the incumbent president, Petro Poroshenko, and the imperialist-orchestrated 2014 coup that brought him to power: here.

Ukrainian censorship of winning Eurovision singer


This 8 February 2019 music video from Ukraine is called MARUV – Siren Song (Lyric video) Eurovision 2019.

Well … Eurovision Song Contest 2019 … Ms Maruv did win the Ukrainian competition, so she was supposed to go to the international final in Tel Aviv.

However, then far-right Ukrainian ruling politicians intervened.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Ukraine must look for a new artist for the Eurovision Song Contest. The [Ukrainian] public broadcaster has withdrawn 27-year-old Maruv as their candidate after a fuss about her performances in Russia.

Immediately after her victory at the national qualifying round last weekend, several politicians said they did not want Maruv to represent Ukraine. As the singer sings regularly on Russian stages. Those performances are controversial

A commenter at Maruv’s YouTube video mentions that meanwhile, to Ukraine’s far-right warmongering billionaire oligarch president Poroshenko, the profits of his own businesses in Russia are not controversial at all; contrary to Maruv’s singing.

The singer and the public broadcaster sat around the table yesterday to come to a solution. Maruv offered to cancel her shows in Russia in the coming months. But that was not enough for the broadcasting authority, whom she accused of censorship.

“I am a Ukrainian citizen, who pays taxes here and I love Ukraine with all my heart”, she writes on Facebook.

One should hope that Facebook will not censor her now as well.

“But I refuse to parrot slogans and use my participation for the honour and glory of our politicians. I am a musician, not an instrument in the political arena.”

Patriot

The broadcaster states that the Eurovision participant is a cultural ambassador for the country and that the opinion of the Ukrainian people

Especially the opinion of rich oligarchic people like Poroshenko

must be propagated. The Ministry of Culture takes that even further and says that “only patriots who are aware of their responsibility” should be allowed to participate in the song competition as long as “thousands of heroes die for the territorial integrity of Ukraine”.

Hey President Poroshenko and Poroshenko Ministry of Culture: if you have a few seconds time to listen in between your censoring of the internet and counting your profits from military weapons production and from tax dodging in Panama: then I will tell you that you might inspire far-right politicians in other European countries with your censorship.

Eg, ABBA won the Eurovision song contest with Waterloo. But they oppose the Danish extreme right abusing their music. And they are not members of the Swedish neofascist party ‘Swedish Democrats‘, as far as I know. So, not patriots at all according to extreme right standards. ABBA should give their Eurovision trophy back immediately.

Dutch Eurovision contest singers have sometimes been of African or Asian ancestry. Dutch racists don’t like that. How can they ever be real right-wing Dutch patriots? That kind of singers should be banned forever. Etc. [Sarcasm off]