Is Moscow Death Brigade for me?
Moscow Death Brigade (MDB) is a band well known in Germany. Russian antifascists singing against homophobia, sexism, racism and for everything good. I rarely met people from western european left who didn't like them. It became quite annoying to answer every person the question what i think about the band. So the decision was made to write a text.
We are russians
Although wikipedia proudly says that MDB was born in 2007 i managed to get to know them only in 2009. It was a rally in Moscow against fascism. I was not there, but the news about the rally came all around russian speaking area. There was a new antifascist movement formed in Moscow that day that was branded “Russians against fascism” – apolitical split from antifascist movement. It would be fair to say that apolitical current inside antifa movement in ex-USSR Russia, Ukraine and Belarus existed for quite a while, however it never had any kind of serious influence or was somehow organized.
In 2009 things have changed.
“Russians against fascisms” was infusion of right-wing ideas into antifascism. It was about reclaiming patriotism from the right wing and getting it back into the hands of the true russians – grandchildren of those who were fighting nazis in Europe in the Great Patriotic War™. It was also one of the reaction of some of the antifascists on criticism from extreme right that the antifa movement is rusophobic and thus doesn't belong in Russia.
The rally i was mentioning on top was the first hard push for the patriotic antifa. During the rally one of the speaker said following:
”...I'm a russian boy, I'm a patriot of my country and I'm not ashamed of that. That's why i believe that fascism can't exist in this country, because our grandfathers fought against fascism. And you can't find more anti-patriotic person in this country than the one wearing swastika on his arm.”
This speaker was one of the singers of Moscow Death Brigade. Later on at the video from the rally i first time heard their bestseller song “Твои карты биты”(Cards of the table). Lyrics of this song include following:
”...Russophobes and traitors with brains killed by fear We don't fall for Nazi nonsense and ultra-left dogmas... Politics for the weak, your opinion for the brave, Who's busy doing business isn't talking on the Internet. Guys pick up the movement, whores fight like kids. To do something that wouldn't embarrass grandfathers and fathers. My Moscow, Russia, together with you to the end.”
In punk zine “Punkway” report appeared from the action. In it author was mentioning that singers from MDB were saying that we should stop associating patriotism with fascism. They were also pointing that they are apolitical band and are not antifascists because there are more problems to get focused on.
For me after this event the band got associated with apolitical camp in Russia. For several years MDB and some other core band of Russians Against Fascism were pushing the agenda of depoliticizing movement not only in Russia, but in other russian speaking areas. From one side it was extremely annoying, but from the other the anarchist movement was not taking them in account and just moving on. At some point the band finally stopped coming to our city and they were successfully forgotten till i visited a friend in France. It appeared that MDB is now true antifascist band touring around Europe and becoming extremely popular among the local political community. For locals lyrics of the songs in russian were not really understandable, but the english songs were quite good.
To be honest, I was a bit lost to hear that. After all, the true russian patriots are not going to do such a betrayal and give up tours in East in exchange for Western Europe. It appeared that the band did change their selling point. They were not talking anymore about patriotism and their negative attitude towards politics. They were making some positive political messages that the public was eating. I guess everybody was satisfied but i was really confused taking in account the past of the band. I was not alone. In 2015 someone published quite a bad text in German about the band and their connection to right wing structures in Russia at some point in their history. It was chaotic and sometimes hardly to understand with some screenshots from the social network. Criticism was not taken seriously by the fanboys of the band, however some collectives organizing concerts for MDB suggested to have discussions before the show. As one of the older friends (who was part of the antifascist movement in ex-USSR even before MDB was there) told me later this discussions were more proforma. The band was there but they were making more a presentation about how horrible the things are in Russia with nazis and “we are getting killed every day so what do you want from us” concept.
Description of this discussion made me believe that the band didn't change that much since their appearance at the patriotic event in 2009. Texts about their opposition to different forms of discrimination didn't make me believe that it was really honest. Looked more like an attempt to do damage control after defamation.
For quite a while I forgot about it. After all, fanbase of MDB in Western Europe didn't interest me so much to actually react to the band. However, more and more people knowing that i'm coming from Eastern Europe were always asking me about the band. I guess today was the last drop to write this summary.
Since the text in 2015 band have released some songs in english to show their support for struggle against homophobia and sexism. This is for sure positive development. However from live videos online the band also didn't seem to have a hard reflection period – in 2018 they were still performing the hymn of “Russians against fascism” that they were singing at the rally in Moscow in 2009. The text got a bit modified but apolitical core is there as well as attacks on ultra-left politics and clearly sexist language.
The raise of the band in Germany was made possible due to Fire and Flames who were eager to support russian antifa and antiracsist movements. Facts about MDB were given to them on multiple occasions by different people (at least I was told so). One of the discussion I had with people from the distro was of the level “we didn't know about it”.
Till this day i never found any text that would address the problems of promotion of patriotism and apolitical attitude towards social struggles from the band. Critical attitude towards the past doesn't seems to be important for the band or for the fans that already read the text from 2015.
So should everybody start boycotting the band, burn their shirts and start listening to some good anarchist or antifascist hip-hop? I don't have an answer for that. It is after all your own decision to love or hate them. My role here is to tell you the story of the band and maybe ask the question how the russian patriots who were actually fighting against political antifascism ended up to be one of the biggest love stories for the german antifa from Russia?
1: “Great patriotic war” is a term from soviet history books that nicely goes around the role of soviet union in the second world war before nazis invaded USSR. According to concept Great Patriotic War started on 22 June 1941 and ended on 9 May 1945. Although originated in USSR, the term is still used in Russia, Belarus, Kazahstan and some other ex-soviet union countries to address the second world war. 9 May for example is a day of victory in the Great Patriotic War. 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFeSxI6Jkmg 3: https://books.google.com/books?id=zdH3BQAAQBAJ&pg=PA20&lpg=PA20&dq=%D1%80%D1%83%D1%81%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B8%D0%B5+%D0%BF%D1%80%D0%BE%D1%82%D0%B8%D0%B2+%D1%84%D0%B0%D1%88%D0%B8%D0%B7%D0%BC%D0%B0+Moscow+Death+Brigade&source=bl&ots=YUaAnGNR3W&sig=ACfU3U0hbbFSrgE3GyNE6x4H8eC3O4xiOQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiKvPvL5ZjoAhU74aYKHU4mA6wQ6AEwDHoECAkQAQ#v=onepage&q=%D1%80%D1%83%D1%81%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B8%D0%B5%20%D0%BF%D1%80%D0%BE%D1%82%D0%B8%D0%B2%20%D1%84%D0%B0%D1%88%D0%B8%D0%B7%D0%BC%D0%B0%20Moscow%20Death%20Brigade&f=false 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zg8PkNVwY0A 5: https://www.fireandflames.com