Thursday, August 14, 2008

Two views of Shostakovitch and Gandhi


Revolutionary Democracy, Vol XIV, No 1, April 2008. From NCP Lit, PO Box 73, London SW11 2PQ. £3.50 pus 50p P&P (cheques to New Worker).

by Ray Jones

ANYONE who has listened to Soviet music on the British media will know that you can rarely escape an anti-Stalin diatribe to go with it. This is particularly the case with the great work of Dmitri Shostakovich who bourgeois propagandists are still trying to claim as one of their own.
In this Rev Dem issue there is a short piece by Shostakovich (translation thanks to Vijay Singh) which for some strange reason is rarely quoted on Radio 3: “Soviet people, small and great, own the name of Stalin and connect it with all that is best on earth....Soviet artists devote all of their creative energy to fulfil the calls of our own Joseph Vissionarovich. His words: write the truth!”
And this was written after Stalin’s death when others were ready to lable him a monster.
Among the many other interesting and diverse articles so usual in any Rev Dem, are two to mark the 60th anniversary of the murder of the Indian leader Gandhi.
The first is by Y Roslavlev, published in 1932 by the State Socio-Economic Publishing House, Moscow/Leningrad, and is a blistering attack on “Gandhism” which concludes that it is “…from beginning to end…a reactionary factor and a better servant of the Indian bourgeoisie and of British imperialism.”
The second is by the British communist leader Rajani Palme Dutt and was written in 1948 on Ganghi’s assassination and strikes a very different note, beginning: “Gandhi died as he lived – battling in the cause of India and humanity.” But it is not a mere eulogy and does have a critical analysis – suggesting that his murder was prompted by a shift in his politics to the left (something we have seen since with leaders like Martin Luther King and Malcom X).
It is fascinating to compare the two views and I’m sure it would reward a lot of work.