An update for you on the controversy surrounding the banning of the bilingual Scottish punk band Oi Polloi from a music festival in eastern Germany organised by a Left-Wing socio-cultural collective. The reason for the ban? Because Oi Polloi performs songs with lyrics in Scottish Gaelic as well as English and for some on the Ultra Left of European politics minority languages and cultures impede the development of a borderless, homogenised Europe (which is at least consistent with modern German history). A report from Britain’s Left-leaning Morning Star newspaper:
“A German social centre has come under a barrage of criticism for barring a band from playing because of its advocacy of oppressed languages.
Edinburgh-based punk band Oi Polloi had been due to play at the Strausberg Horte in eastern Germany on March 1 but were told last week that their gig was cancelled because some of their songs are in Gaelic.
The self-organising social centre’s “ruling gathering” finally responded on Tuesday accusing the band of “backward” political demands that meant they shouldn’t be allowed on stage.
And the Horte’s “clarification” caused a further storm, saying that the only people who support indigenous language rights in Germany were “the guys and gals of the NPD” – a neonazi party linked with violent racist attacks.”
The full statement from the supposedly anti-fascist youth centre in Strausberg plumbs the depths of ideological myopia, expressing the sort of intolerance for diversity and pluralism that one would normally associate with the Far Right:
“In einer einstündigen Debatte haben die etwa 20 Anwesenden festgestellt, das ein Teil der Mitglieder die kulturpolitischen Forderungen von “Oi Polloi” für rückschrittlich hält und ein Auftritt in unserem Haus nicht gewünscht ist.
Oi Polloi” fordert die “unterdrückten Völker”oder “indigene Gemeinschaften” auf, sich gemeinsam gegen den Kulturimperialismus zu erheben. So soll “Unterschiedlichkeit” verteidigt werden, um in Gemeinschaft und Volk einer besseren Welt entgegen zu sehen. Das “Ursprüngliche” soll gerettet, die indigene Sprache geschützt werden. So positiv auf Volk und Gemeinschaft beziehen sich bei uns eher die Jungs und Mädchens der NPD. An dem “Europa der Vaterländer” wollten wir eigentlich nicht mitmachen. Genauso wenig wie an einem “Europa des Kapitals” (Anmerkung für die Schwarz-Weiß-Fraktion).
[Translation from Sozialen Zentrum – Horte]
About 20 attendees debated for about an hour. In that process we realized that a part of us consider some of Oi Polloi’s cultural [and] political demands as backward. And therefore do not wish an appearance of the band on our stage.
Oi Polloi demands that oppressed nations or indigenous collectives arise together against cultural imperialism. This way they want to defend diversity in order to look collectively and folkish towards a better world. The primordial/original should be rescued, the indigenous languages saved. In our world only the guys and gals of the [Neo-Nazi] NPD refer positively like this to folk and collectives. We don´t want to participate in a “Europe of the Fatherlands” and in a “Europe of Capitals” neither (as a note for the Black-White-Fraction).”
Meanwhile another community group, this time in Ireland, finds itself under threat from right-wing British terrorists as the Skainos Centre in Belfast is subject to a campaign of intimidation from known associates of the extremist UVF. The centre is of course the home to a highly successful Irish language education project which has emerged from within the Protestant and Unionist community. One wonder what the activists at the Horte would make of finding common cause with terror factions on the western edge of Europe, factions who embody the sectarian and racist values of colonial-era Europe?
I’ve been following this kerfuffle on the interwebs for awhile, though it seems a more complex mixup than you’ve portrayed. On the Horte side there is a mixture of their inability to to see language and cultural difference/protection issues other than through their traumatic German historical lens. This then leads them to apply concepts and labels like “Volk” and “indigene Gemeinschaften” to a situation where it doesn’t apply.
On the Horte site one of the English language replies to their latest statement does a good job of glossing this in more detail (I just tried to get a direct link to it, but couldn’t locate the specifc comment).
One complicating factor that commenter didn’t highlight is that not everyone who defends minority language or cultural practices is automatically open to other languages and cultures. Some language revival or cultural defense groups have and do use monocultural, ethnic and even racist ideas and arguments. One doesn’t need to look far in our own past to see examples of those who defend the Irish language in this way. Personally, I’ve seen it in online debates about Spanish, Quebeçois French, Galician, Catalan, German, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Aramaic and Hebrew.
If you don’t believe me, a cursory Youtube search of any minority linguistic or ethnic group will reveal some examples of “X language is the best, most holy, beautiful, older than all others”.
The other dizzying factor is this whole “Anti-german” strand in German left activism, which I’ve not managed to get my head round yet.
Apologies, the comment (at the Horte site) I mentioned above is actually excerpts from a very relevant interview with the band. Their responses and interoggation of the assumptions of the questions are well worth reading.
Acutia, thanks for the Comments and the link. Unfortunately at the beginning we only had one side of the controversy (Oi Polloi’s) and we were deducing the Horte’s view via the band’s statements or various message boards examining the matter (German and Polish). However broadly speaking the band’s view of the issue do seem to stand up to scrutiny.
Despite some claims to the contrary the Strausberg social-centre does seem to be at the heart of a Far Left and anarchist collective, albeit from within the amorphous anti-German movement. Like you I find myself more than slightly perplexed by the Antideutsch philosophy. Pro-Israel but anti-volk? I would have thought that the former is the prime example of the latter?
A chara, some of the replies on the Horte site are stating that they have actually nothing to do with the German left but are in fact a right wing cultural grouping, which would explain their stance.
@RG, yes there is some confusion but I’ve had it confirmed to me over the weekend that the Horte is definitely a left-leaning, anarchist collective. Albeit one with some very odd ideas. Very odd 😉