Ukraine has officially severed diplomatic ties with Russia, and declared martial law, after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an attack on the neighbouring nation on February 24. Since then, The United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has estimated that the conflict has claimed 1,900 civilian casualties. The UN (via BBC) also estimates that there are nearly 1.85million internally displaced people within Ukraine.
Beton’s song was mixed and mastered by Danny Saber, who worked with Clash frontman Joe Strummer prior to his death in 2002, with all proceeds from the song going to the citizen-led organisation FURM (Free Ukraine Resistance Movement), which you can donate to directly here.
However, after sharing the track on his Facebook page, Billy Bragg was reportedly made aware of photographs of the band wearing t-shirts that seemed to celebrate far-right leaders.
The image in question sees members of Beton wearing Ramones-inspired t-shirts, with the word ‘Ramones’ at the top of the logo replaced with the word ‘Banderas’. “Although all of the names within the circle were not visible, there was one that clearly read ‘Stepan’,” explained Bragg.
“This is deeply troubling. Stepan Bandera was a far-right Ukrainian politician who collaborated with the Nazis during the occupation of Ukraine and whose followers were complicit in the Holocaust. That he did these things in the name of Ukrainian independence from the Soviet Union has led some present day far right nationalists to adopt his image in their decade long struggle with Russia.”
“The knock on effect of this has been to allow Putin to smear all those who want a democratic Ukraine, free from Russian influence as neo-nazis.”
Yesterday evening I posted a clip of the Ukranian band Beton performing their rewrite of 'London Calling'. According to…
According to Bragg, he left a message on the band’s Facebook page asking them to explain why they were wearing t-shirts that appeared to support Bandera, “but after 24 hours, I’ve had no response, so I’ve deleted my post.”
“We can argue about the meaning of ‘London Calling’ and what Joe Strummer would or wouldn’t have said about the lyrical changes, but we can be damn sure that he would not have allowed his song to be utilised by a band that expressed their support for fascists,” he added.
Responding to the criticism on Facebook, Beton wrote: “This night we had some attacks with blaming our band in fascism and nazism. Especially because of our T-shirts with Stepan Bandera’s name.
“Stepan Bandera is a hero to many Ukrainians, a symbol of resistance to Russian occupation, a symbol of Maidan. He also spent many years in a Nazi concentration camp as a prisoner. We understand and we condemn that some people could do some atrocities while using Bandera’s name.”
“Up to our band – we recorded the track because we love The Clash and their stance on resistance to oppression. Like them, we are anti-fascist and anti-racist. We want to live in a democratic country free from war where everyone is welcome from every race and creed Anyone who listens to our songs will see that we write about resistance, consumerism and freedom. We sing about drunk drivers and mean oligarchs. We have no time for extremist politics,” they added.