The Ukrainian government has ordered the removal from libraries and schools and then the destruction of more than 100 million copies of works written in Russian, including the classics of world literature: Gogol, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Pushkin and Gorky will no longer be accessible. The fact that they wrote or composed their works before the first Ukrainian nationalism even existed does not matter: they have been declared enemies by the Ukrainian state and NATO propagandists.
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“Canceling” universal culture
The US and NATO propaganda machine has embraced the cause: there is no week without a “cancellation”, be it Tchaikovsky concerts in Canada, a version of Anna Karenina on Netflix or university courses on Dovstoevsky in Italy. In the U.S. “canceling” on grounds of “moral clarity” has become the routine way of imposing state ideology on the cultural industries and the university. Now, “moral clarity” targets “Russianness” in general.
Today’s the New York Times praises the removal from streets and public spaces of Russian literary and musical classics in Ukraine. It describes what is nothing but a cultural icing on the cake of a policy aimed at “de-Russifying” the Russian-speaking population (almost 50% of the country), as an expression of “decolonization”. And in order to justify the symbolic barbarism of Zelensky’s genocidal nationalism, he equates the great Russian creators with the slave-owning leaders and soldiers of the American Civil War, whose statues and names are also being removed from public spaces in the USA.
Why the denial and repression of Universal Literature matters
It may seem like an anecdote, just an example of the stupidity and pettiness of war propaganda. Nothing particularly remarkable in the midst of a massacre.
But it is not. Russian classical authors were until a few months ago a symbol of Universal Literature. And this is important because the very concept of “Universal Music” or “Universal Literature” is a historical result. The birth of this idea, the recognition of various authors from different countries as part of a common human construction, was a reflection of the progressive historical phase of capitalism.
The old national industries have been destroyed and are continually being destroyed. They are supplanted by new industries, the introduction of which becomes a vital question for all civilized nations, by industries which no longer employ indigenous raw materials, but raw materials from the most distant regions of the world, and whose products are not only consumed in one’s own country, but in all parts of the globe.
Instead of the former isolation and bitterness of regions and nations, a universal exchange, a universal interdependence of nations is established. And this concerns both material and intellectual production.
The intellectual production of one nation becomes the common heritage of all. National narrowness and national exclusivism are becoming more and more impossible; from the numerous national and local literatures a universal literature is formed.Communist Manifesto, 1848
Today we see the collapse of the global market under the pressure of imperialist interests. The international division of labor is crumbling to create trade and military blocs. As a result, enormous productive capacities are being lost. Millions of people are already in danger of starvation. And barbarism reigns in Ukraine.
We are living through a new escalation in the decadence of capitalism. The whole system shows with renewed ferocity its antagonism to human life. And culture reflects it by denying itself and destroying its universal aspirations.
Gogol, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Pushkin or Gorky are becoming culturally dangerous for the system because the system shows itself more and more openly, the enemy of Humanity.