- 21 Mar 22
Ukrainian outfit Beton responded to Billy Bragg's criticism over The Clash cover with a Facebook post last night.
Billy Bragg has called out Beton, the Ukrainian hardcore band who repurposed 'London Calling' into 'Kyiv Calling,' after a photo resurfaced of them supposedly praising a far-right leader.
Last week, Beton — with blessings from the surviving members of The Clash — reworked the classic hit into a protest anthem against the Russian invasion. It was mixed by Danny Saber, who worked with band member Joe Strummer prior to his death in 2002, and was a fundraising project for the Free Ukraine Resistance Movement.
'Kyiv Calling' was aimed at mobilising listeners both in Ukraine and around the world, changing the lyrics into a message of hope.
The track quickly spread after being promoted on The Clash's twitter — eventually making its way onto Bragg's Facebook page. Then, he was reportedly made aware of an image of Beton wearing t-shirts supporting a far-right Ukrainian leader.
The photo has the band members wearing Ramones stylised shirts, with the 'Ramones' replaced by 'Banderas,' the name 'Stepan' visible on one of them.
Bandera remains a highly controversial figure in Ukraine, with some Ukrainians hailing him as a liberator who fought against the Soviet, Polish and Nazi states while trying to establish an independent Ukraine. Other Ukrainians, as well as Poland and Russia, condemn him as a fascist and a war criminal who was, together with his followers, largely responsible for the massacres of Polish civilians and partially for the Holocaust in Ukraine.
“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," commented Bragg. "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.”
According to Bragg, he commented on the band's Facebook page asking for clarification, but received no response after 24 hours, and deleted the 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 continued.
In response to the criticism, Beton wrote in a Facebook post: "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. SLAVA UKRAYINI!"