Archive for the 'culture' Category

22
May
14

Africa Liberation Day event, Goldsmiths, London 24 May 2014

Africa Liberation Day event, Saturday, 24th May 2014, 2.00 pm – 8.30 pm. Stalls, speakers, music etc.
Goldsmith University, Whitehead Building, Ian Gulland Lecture Theatre, Laurie Grove New Cross, SE14 6NW.
Supported by Caribbean Labour Solidarity and other groups.
Fur further details, see http://www.africanliberationday.net/node/772

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04
May
14

May Days in Moscow, 2014 – two demonstrations

Since I had a free day in Moscow on 1 May, it seemed appropriate to check out the May Day events. These days in Moscow, there are several parades, demonstrations and public events on May Day – not all of them political, and certainly not all of them of the left. This year there were three large enough to have streets closed off for them. I decided to take a look at two of them. I did not bother with the largest one, which culminated in a rally in and around Red Square. It was organised by the main (pro-government) trade unions together with the Edinaya Rossiya party, as a show of support for Vladimir Putin and his domestic and foreign policies. The press reports would suggest that it was slick, well-resourced, and largely lacking in spontaneity.

The first demonstration I went to was organised by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF). Compared to the Putin jamboree, its style and (some of) its messages are more easily recognisable to those of us familiar with May Day rallies in Western cities. Unfortunately, some other messages – see the pictures below – seem rather remote from the ideas of internationalist working-class solidarity that are supposed to lie at the heart of the May Day celebrations.

Some of Russia’s neo-Nazi ultra-right also held a march, later that day – a so-called “Russian May Day” – to disturb the peace of an otherwise quiet and pleasant suburb of north-west Moscow. Given the prominence of such characters in the Ukrainian events of the last few months, I was interested to see how many their Russian equivalents could mobilise. Happily, it was possible to observe that demostration without having to mix with it.

The KPRF-organised march numbered in the low thousands. It mainly consisted of KPRF members and associated organisations, but there were also small contingents from other groups. A (very) noticeable absence was the organised wider labour movement – apart from one contingent of Sheremetyevo Airport workers engaged in an industrial dispute there were no banners representing any trade union organisations.

KPRF leader Gennadiy Zyuganov (in the white cap) waits to lead the march off.

KPRF leader Gennadiy Zyuganov (in the white cap) waits to lead the march off.

The Nizhniy Novgorod Komsomol was one of the best turn-out contingents

The Nizhniy Novgorod Komsomol was one of the best turned-out contingents

Some of the more exotic groups on the march provided some different colour. The “Course of Truth and Unity” – whose programme combines religious, moral, social-justice and nostalgic themes with a somewhat eccentric economic theory – had a banner thanking Stalin for their happy childhoods, while a small contingent of supporters of the late Libyan leader Qadhafi, aided by the Red Youth Vanguard, held up the banner of Green Book socialism.

"Thank you, Comrade Stalin, for our happy childhood! From pensioners born in the USSR"

“Thank you, Comrade Stalin, for our happy childhood! From pensioners born in the USSR”

"Peace to Libya!"

“Peace to Libya!”

Other marchers took the opportunity to get particular issues off their chests, such as the dangers of feminism:

“Down with media propaganda of feminism and degeneration!”

“Down with media propaganda of feminism and degeneration!”

The proper internationalist spirit of May Day was represented by contingents, mainly of women, from Latin America, including Venezuela, and from Mozambique.

The international women’s contingent.

The international women’s contingent.

“Mozambican women against poverty, domestic violence, violation and sexual abuse of minors, human trafficking, HIV-AIDS and other scourges which afflict Mozambican society.”

“Mozambican women against poverty, domestic violence, violation and sexual abuse of minors, human trafficking, HIV-AIDS and other scourges which afflict Mozambican society.”

However, the KPRF is a diverse organisation containing many currents, including some chauvinist ones which call themselves “national patriotic”. These were also well represented on the march, although the worst examples seemed to have been the result of individual initiative rather than central party instruction. Large flags depicted the largely Russian-speaking districts of Ukraine. On the Ukrainian and Crimean questions, there is little to distinguish the mainstream KPRF position from that of Putin. Worse still, the anti-US rhetoric of official Russia these days can easily be served in a “left”-sounding “anti-imperialist” sauce, and extended to reject all sorts of “western” ideas, including, for example, anti-racism. Barack Obama’s race seemed to be an issue for some of the demonstrators. Translations of the slogans are given in the captions. Similarly, black shirts bearing old-style script, hailing the martial qualities of the Russians as a nation, seem strangely incongruous on people carrying communist banners.

Southern and Eastern Ukrainian cities: Odessa, Kherson, Khar’kov, Donetsk, Lugansk, Dnepropetrovsk, Nikolaev

Southern and Eastern Ukrainian cities: Odessa, Kherson, Khar’kov, Donetsk, Lugansk, Dnepropetrovsk, Nikolaev

Slogan on the central placard: “The collapse of Darwin’s theory! A big-eared black monkey is trying to rule the world!” This example of Russian national-patriotic wit did not seem to be particularly controversial in the KPRF contingent which was carrying these placards.

Slogan on the central placard: “The collapse of Darwin’s theory! A big-eared black monkey is trying to rule the world!” This specimen of Russian national-patriotic wit did not seem to be particularly controversial in the KPRF contingent which was carrying these placards.

I wonder whether this person was the author of the placards – he proudly posed with two of them when I pointed my camera. The one on the left says, slightly cryptically: “Hitler did not like pork fat, Ukrainian fascists!”, while the one on the right declares: “Obama, you lie brazenly without blushing! It must be good to be a negro!” His KPRF badge completes the dispiriting spectacle.

I wonder whether this person was the author of the placards – he proudly posed with two of them when I pointed my camera. The one on the left says, slightly cryptically: “Hitler did not like pork fat, Ukrainian fascists!”, while the one on the right declares: “Obama, you lie brazenly without blushing! It must be good to be a negro!” His KPRF badge completes the dispiriting spectacle.

Black shirts with the slogan “Russians do not surrender!”, holding a KPRF banner.

Black shirts with the slogan “Russians do not surrender!”, holding a KPRF banner.

“A spoonful of tar spoils a barrelful of honey”, says the old Russian proverb. However, the ultra-right’s “Russian May Day” contained no honey at all. In fact, it had only three redeeming features:

  • It was pretty small – maybe only 500 people
  • It was very thoroughly policed, which gave them little opportunity for mayhem
  • The noted neo-Nazi band Kolovrat, which was to have caused noise pollution at the end of the march, was banned from performing
  • It is worth noting that neo-Nazism is not at all attractive to most Russian national chauvinists, given its association with a regime which regarded Russians as Untermenschen to be kicked off their land, deported, enslaved or exterminated, and which launched a war of annihilation against the USSR in pursuit of that aim. There are other Russian national chauvinist traditions which have far greater traction among the population, which would not associate with the sort of elements to be found on the “Russian May Day”. The pictures below largely speak for themselves.

    The far-right march began with some Orthodox imagery and the Imperial Russian flag...

    The far-right march began with some Orthodox imagery and the Imperial Russian flag…

    ...to be followed somewhat incongruously by a small troupe of drum majorettes

    …to be followed somewhat incongruously by a small troupe of drum majorettes…

    ...then the “Political Organisation ‘Russians’”, demanding expulsion of non-nationals...

    …then the “Political Organisation ‘Russians’”, demanding expulsion of non-nationals…

    ...and then a bunch with the slogans “Glory to the Heroes”, and “Sport, family, socialism”. What they understood by any of those words is hard to fathom.

    …and then a bunch with the slogans “Glory to the Heroes”, and “Sport, family, socialism”. What they understood by any of those words is hard to fathom.

    These were followed by a small group from the “National Union” (acronym in Russian: NS)...

    These were followed by a small group from the “National Union” (acronym in Russian: NS)…

    ...and the rear was brought up by the Russian Liberation Front “Pamyat”, with its slogan of “Faith, Race and Tradition”.

    …and the rear was brought up by the Russian Liberation Front “Pamyat”, with its slogan of “Faith, Race and Tradition”.

    It is clear that, compared to the size and influence of similar groups in Ukraine today, Russian neo-Nazism remains very marginal. There are however plenty of official channels through which entirely authentically Russian forms of authoritarian nationalism can be expressed, free from the taint of association with the foreign, and anti-Russian, ideology of Nazism. The danger in Russia is not that the open far right will get the sort of power and influence that it currently has in parts of Ukraine, but rather that authoritarian chauvinist ideas will further permeate the whole political spectrum, right, centre and left.

    31
    Jul
    12

    Book Launch: Caribbean Workers’ Struggles by Richard Hart – postponed!

    This event has been postponed, regrettably, owing to insufficient time. It will be rearranged later. Watch this space for announcements; apologies for any inconvenience or disappointment.

    02
    Jan
    12

    FREE ZARAKOLU AND HIS COMRADES-IN-LETTERS AND HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGNERS IN TURKEY

    By Khatchatur I. Pilikian

    23 November 2011, Houses of Parliament, Parliamentary Offices at 1 Parliament St.
    SOLIDARITY WITH PRISONERS OF CONSCIENCE IN TURKEY
    KURDISH FEDERATION UK, KNK, PEACE IN KURDISTAN CAMPAIGN
    Meeting Sponsored by Michael Connarty MP
    To Support Ragip Zarakolu
    Detained by the Turkish State in a High Security Prison

    How well John Seeley, the Scottish historian, has said: “History is past politics, and politics present history.” To grasp well the motives why the valiant intellectual and human rights publicist Zarakolu is now one of the latest victims of the oppressive Article 301 of the Turkish penal code, we have to appreciate the historical background of oppression, the oppressive rulers and their governments’ terror of the truthful word.

    The truthful word is indeed the main target of every anti-democratic authority anywhere, and in all ages. What Shakespeare portrayed about the censorship of Art is surely relevant of Truth too, because “Art [and Truth] made tongue-tied by authority” gratifies the vanity of the grotesque actors of power politics. No wonder when censorship, which in essence is bureaucratic vandalism, eventually fails, the oppressor decides to physically eliminate the author who acts with intellectual dignity to enliven the awareness of reality.

    Once upon a time there lived one of the great poets of the East, named Sarmad, thought to be on a par with Khayyam and Hafez. Sarrmad’s outspoken verses of social and moral criticism angered the supreme authority of the Mogul Empire, Shah Aurengzeb. Aurengzeb had deposed and imprisoned his own father, Shah Jahan of the Taj Mahal renown. Ruling over 150 million people, counting nearly one fourth of the entire world population in the 17th century, Aurengzeb was unable to confront let alone accept the truth uttered by his own poet laureate, Sarmad. Failing to silence him, the Shah ordered the beheading of the poet in 1661. Aurengzeb’s own biographer, Ali Khan Razi, wrote down Sarmad’s last verses. Here they are:

    Dark was it all
    All around me,
    When from deep slumber
    I opened my eyes anew
    I saw the entire world
    Engulfed in darkness.
    Thus tired of it all
    I closed my eyes anew.

    Sarmad was not a revolutionary poet. No matter. When his words truthfully reflected the reality of the world he was living in, that frightened the hell out of the oppressor, the most potent ruler of the Mogul Empire of 17th c.

    During the first quarter of the 20th c., a revolutionary leader in the Middle East founded a new republic — Turkey. Albeit, the founder potentate was unable to face the truth uttered by a revolutionary poet, Nazim Hikmet, the poet laureate of the Turkish people. On June 1st, 1933, Mustafa Kemal, the President of the new Republic, ordered the poet’s arrest and sent him to prison to face the death penalty. Why? The poet himself had the answer:

    They want to slaughter my songs
    And quench the blazing flame of my wrath.

    Meanwhile, just few months later, on October 29, 1933, Mustafa Kemal, in pomp and circumstance and accompanied by Stalin’s official envoy, Voroshilof, inspected the Republican Army.

    Sentenced in 1938 to 28 years imprisonment, the poet was kept in Bursa prison in 1942, the year Nazi Germany’s Fuhrer restored to Turkey, as a gesture of good will, the ashes of Talaat Pasha. Mind you, it was Talaat, the Young Turk’s Interior Minister, who had telegraphed the genocidal order to the Governor of Aleppo, on September 15, 1915, saying:
    “The Government has decided to exterminate entirely all the Armenians living in Turkey […] Without pity for women, children and invalids […] without heeding any scruples of conscience, their existence must be terminated.”

    Talaat Pasha was, in fact, articulating his government’s ongoing actions.
    On April 24, 1915, in Istanbul, around 300 Armenian intellectuals, of all professions, were all arrested and deported, and soon nearly all of them were butchered. Until mid May, 1915, the Armenian civic population was practically depleted of its intellectuals; 196 writers, 575 musicians, 336 doctors, 176 teachers and college professors, 160 lawyers, 62 architects, 64 actors…all arrested, deported, disappeared for good… The culminating act of the genocidal scheme was thus set in motion. Having also depleted the Armenian nation of its able-bodied male population by conscripting Armenians before the First World War broke out, Talaat’s Young Turk government ordered out what remained of the Armenian population of Asia Minor — the elderly, the women and the children — southward towards the deserts of Northern Syria. Vandalism, rape, extortion, sadistic torture, starvation, murder raids and all ad infinitum. The rest is the scream of humanity at its most infernal…

    Let me confess, both of my parents, who dared outlive the Genocide of 1915, never entertained any sentiment of hatred towards the Turkish people. And I feel serenely proud of that ethical heritage.

    Lo and behold, Ataturk’s Turkish Republic is now honouring the remains of Talaat Pasha, as the ‘fallen hero’, on the Hill of Liberty in Istanbul. Perhaps it is hoped, ideally with NATO’s blessing, to enshrine, in the mausoleum, the remains of other ’Young Turk heroes’… After all, on his 50th birthday, in 1939, a year after Ataturk’s death, speaking to some Turkish generals, Hitler had eulogised, in memory of the first President of the Republic of Turkey who once was a Young Turk comrade, by saying: “Ataturk has two great students in this world–Mussolini and me.”

    And Nazim Hikmet continued to be imprisoned even in 1948, the year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and also, most tellingly, of The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The Turkish people’s poet, the comrade-in-Arms and in-Lettres of Aragon, Mayakovski and Pablo Neruda, continued writing twelve volumes of verses, considered among the best in world literature, while in prison for nearly one third of his entire life. The poet warned his beloved people

    Your own hands hold this world
    Oh my working people
    They feed you lies
    While you are starving to death.

    Nazim Hikmet’s voice rang loud and clear in mid 20th century.
    What is happening now in the 21st century is that an outspoken admirer of the poet Hikmet is raising his voice in support of the national minorities of his homeland, Turkey. Furthermore, Ragip Zarakolu is denouncing, among others, the fascistic styled article 301, as if remembering what John Milton, the revolutionary republican poet, had once declared in his Apology of 1648: “they who have put out the peoples eyes, reproach them of their blindness”.

    Here is what the Canadian Action has recently written on the Kurdish Conflict in Turkey:
    “Since 1993, over four thousand Kurdish villages have been destroyed and more than seventeen thousand killings of innocent Kurds have been carried out by The Turkish Special Forces. Following the March 29, 2010 municipal elections, fifteen hundred politicians, intellectuals, elected representatives, mayors and human rights activists have been jailed to date. As unacceptable as it is, hundreds of Kurdish children have been killed by The Turkish Security Forces since 1993 and today, about three thousand Kurdish children (aged 6 to 17) are in jail.”

    What the Canadian Action describes is nothing less than a latter-day enactment of the new Republic’s genocidal massacre in Dersim between 1937-1938, when the Turkish army, its land and air force, annahilated 80 thousand mostly Alevi kurds, icluding women , children and the elderly.

    It is obvious, and sadly so, that the Turkish government relentlessly continues its undeclared war, yet again, against its own citizens, but failing, nevertheless, to “put out the people’s eyes”, particularly in this case, the Kurdish people’s eyes, or, for that matter, the Turkish people’s eyes too, as I tend to believe, having met personally the humanist and couregeous Turkish intellectual, Ragip Zarakolu, here in London, sharing with him a platform at the House of Commens in memory of Hrant Dink, Zarakolu’s comrade-in-letters, assassinated by a fascist thug in 2007.

    Here is an Appeal just circulated on November 17, 2011, addressed to the Arab World, Europe and International Public Opinion, by the Armenian Assembly of Europe:
    “Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoghan is increasing his pretensions to the role of judge in regional issues. Erdoghan reached the peak when he called on the Syrian regime “not to massacre” people, adding that “otherwise history will always remember it as sanguinary”.
    Mr. Erdoghan has no right to teach morality to others unless he listens to the appeals of the European leaders and comes to terms with the dark pages of Turkish history. […] Turkey is urged to abolish the notorious medieval Article 301, the latest victim of which became the publicist Zarakolu, who used to voice about the sufferings of national minorities -victims of the Turkish discriminatory policy. ”

    Let us remember how dignified and emphatic the intellectual giant Bertrand Russell was in his Closing Address to the Stockholm Session of the 1967 War Crimes Tribunal on Vietnam, saying among others:
    “The long arduous struggle for decency and for liberation is unending. A Tribunal such as ours will be necessary until the last starving man is fed and a way of life is created which ends exploitation of the many by the few. Wherever men struggle against suffering we must be their voice. […] We will be judged not by our reputations or our pretences but by our will to act.“

    It is good to know that such an act was forged and an international committee was created in Paris, presided over by the poet Tristan Zara, to campaign for the release of the imprisoned writer Nazim Hikmet. The committee succeeded. The poet was freed in 1950. But his odyssey continued. Hikmet tells us about the nature of his odyssey:

    I went to the Forum
    I convinced people anew
    -Do not kill your brothers
    -Do not be killed by your brothers
    Down with the war

    I believe Zarakolu and all his comrades-in-letters and all the human rights campaigners just recently imprisoned in Turkey have all gone to that same Forum for that same reason. Their odyssey now continues in prison. Let us rage against this injustice and demand freedom for the Turkish people’s valiant humanist intellectual, Ragip Zarakolu, and for all his comrades-in-letters and all the campaigners for human rights who are the victims of the notorious Article 301. The latter’s place ought to be surely not in the Turkish Penal Code but in the dustbin of history, I humbly believe.
    ——————————————————————-
    Khatchatur I. Pilikian. Sometime university professor of music (USA), Kh. I. Pilikian is a performing musician, painter, research scholar, lecturer and a writer. He has studied art and music at the Fine Art and Music Academies in Rome and Siena. Leonardo da Vinci on voice, music and stage design was the title of Pilikian’s research as a Fulbright scholar. In 1976, in addition to his academic responsibilities, Professor Pilikian designed and directed, at Wayne State University, an original public radio WDET-FM series entitled HARC-The Heritage of Armenian Culture. In 1984 Pilikian published; Refuting Terrorism—Seven Epistles From Diaspora (in English and Armenian), London. His Labour 100—Panegyric on Old-New-Future Labour (epic poetry in English, with original illustrations in Chinese ink), was published in 2000 by Brentford & Isleworth Labour Party. He has contributed the entry Music and Turner in the 2001 Oxford University Press encyclopaedic publication titled THE TURNER COMPANION. The Spokesman 88 for the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation published his paper for the 2005 European Network for Peace and Human Rights Conference in Brussels titled, The Spectre of Genocide. Pilikian’s latest book is, UNESCO LAUREATES: Nazim Hikmet & Aram. Khatchaturian.

    15
    Jul
    10

    Khachatur Pilikian – Yeraz (Dream)

    I would like to share with you this magnificent Armenian song, (live performance recording here below) titled: YERAZ (Dream) – a most treasured song of the Armenian students in foreign lands, during the second half of the 19th century, dreaming of home, mother and motherland. Recently I performed it yet again in my vocal recital in Athens, last November 2009.

    I first heard this song as a child from my mother, Tefarik, born in Khaskal-Izmit (Nicomedia), who had survived the genocide and lived as a child with her mother. Her father Hagop (Jacob) was dragged to serve the Ottoman army as hard labourer (amele tabourou) in Jerusalem. Knitting to survive with her mother in Thessalonica, my mother was ‘found’ by my father when she was in her twenties. My father, Vahan/Israel, born also in Khaskal, survived the Der el Zor hell on earth in the Syrian desert. Orphanaged in Baghdad, he decided to find his childhood beloved come rain or sunshine. He did. They stayed together for over 65 years -now buried together in London (father 95, mother 87). Both parents had very beautiful voices – I have learned many songs first from them. I remember vividly my father’s singing to raise funds for the families of the Armenian soldiers fighting against the Nazis…

    Khachatur Pilikian

    Here is the poem in English

    THE DREAM
    Poem by Smpad Shahaziz (1840-1897)
    Translated by Zabelle Boyajian (1872-1957)

    Soft and low a voice breathed o’er me,
    Near me did my mother seem;
    Flashed a ray of joy before me,
    But, alas, it was a dream!

    There the murmuring streamlet flowing
    Scattered radiant pearls around,
    Pure and clear, like crystal glowing—
    But it was a dream, unsound.

    To her heart she pressed me yearning,
    Wiped my eyes which wet did seem;
    And her tears fell on me burning—
    Why should it have been a dream?
    ——————————————————————–
    Yeraz (Dream): performed by Khatchatur I. Pilikian and Sona Kupelian accompanying on the piano. Recorded in February 1985, Beirut, in Pilikian’s vocal recital of Fifteen Centuries of Armenian Song.
    Enjoy!

    Click on the this link to listen to the song




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