Moscow Death Brigade: no to machoism and russian nationalism
Moscow Death Brigade is a hardcore band from russia. For years now, they have been heavily criticised, primarily by people from russia as well, for sexism, homophobia, racism, nationalism, and russian patriotism. Despite this, they have continued to enjoy wide popularity in the leftist and music scenes across Europe. Shortly before Fusion Festival this year, we found out Moscow Death Brigade was going to play there and, what is more, it had been scheduled to play at the stage run by Sound Systers, a feminist sound engineering collective. We reached out to Sound Systers and shared our concerns about the band. What followed has already been described by Sound Systers in their statement (1). We are now following up with our own text to clarify and give more background to the situation.
First of all, we want to thank Sound Systers for their solidarity and for taking our concerns about Moscow Death Brigade seriously. Sound Systers have heard our voices and acted upon what they learned from us, something that has never happened before in the long history of debates around Moscow Death Brigade and similar bands. This is true feminist solidarity, and we are deeply grateful for it. We can only wish and hope other collectives involved learn to show as much solidarity and consistency in their support for feminist emancipatory politics as Sound Systers.
MDB were first criticized for sexism, homophobia, racism, nationalism, and Russian patriotism in 2015. The critical article published on linksunten (2) analyzed in detail the band's lyrics and quotes from interviews, exposing their misogyny, slutshaming, overt racism, and russian nationalism. In the same year, MDB published a response statement (3). Despite what they have claimed, this response statement did not adequately address the criticisms but rather dismissed them. MDB alleged that the quotes were taken out of context or mistranslated. As to the calling-out for sexism specifically, MDB claimed that their misogynist slutshaming lyrics were not intended as such. They portrayed themselves as victims and referred to political criticisms they had been receiving for several years as "hatemail."
Although the article stirred some discussion in the leftist scene, this has never led to any real practical results. No clear consensus was formed in the scene and MDB have still enjoyed wide popularity and invitations to leftist events and spaces. With their manipulative statement, MDB seems to have fooled the german and european scenes because they did not understand russian and could not verify the quotes. We have always known, on the other hand, that there has never been any mistranslation. The translations provided by the authors of the critical article were thorough and accurate. MDB published their response in english but they have never made any similar statement in russian. Of course, in russian they could not have claimed mistranslation or misunderstanding.
Time and again, feminists have raised our concerns about MDB and their shady politics. Time and again, we have tried to explain to the german Left that these are people whom we try to avoid because we feel unsafe around them, because their language and their politics harm us. Yet even despite the efforts our comrades made to translate their harmful words into your native language, you have ignored this evidence. While we avoided these people, you have invited them into your spaces, offered them the spotlight, let them make money off your self-organized structures.
In all these years, MDB have never learned to do better. They have never taken the time to educate themselves on the basics of feminist politics or on why misogynist slurs are harmful even when not "intended" to harm. They have never taken full accountability for the sexist language they have used, never publicly apologized or distanced themselves from this kind of misogyny. What is more, not once have they addressed their russian-speaking audience about these political matters. However insufficient and manipulative, their response was only ever meant for the european public.
This year, MDB referred to the same manipulative arguments when confronted with renewed political criticism at Fusion festival. They repeated what they said in their old statement, and just like before, they used namedropping, referring to alleged supporters across the world as if this were an ultimate defense from all criticisms. What is even more disturbing, their reaction became even more hostile this time. They now present the feminists who criticised them as a conspiracy seeking to undermine them. All the while, they have been careful to avoid using the word "feminism," masking what the conflict was really about. Moreover, MDB has instrumentalized a woman friend of theirs, using her as a token to dismiss the accusations of sexism. Repeatedly, they have referred to the fact that they have supported the Sisters crisis center in Moscow and participated in a campaign under the slogan of "No Means No." How ironic that when they heard a clear "no" from Sound Systers who refused to work with them, they ignored this completely and proceeded to paint feminists as aggressors. Saying "no means no" is easy, practicing it and respecting a "no" from women and queers is apparently a very different matter.
In fact, what else should be expected from a band that comes from russia and is shameless enough to still play publicly under the name "Moscow Death Brigade" after 24 February 2022? After russia started its fully-fledged war against Ukraine, the band only issued their statement about this in April (4). In the statement, they position themselves vaguely against all wars, including those "in Donbass and Ukraine." By naming the Donbas region and Ukraine as two separate entities, MDB actually reproduce russia's justification for the war. In all these years, MDB have claimed an anti-fascist belonging all while promoting what they called a "healthy patriotism." Now that it has become clear for the entire world how dangerous russian patriotism really is, it is high time for MDB to rethink what it is they actually stand for.
We call on all german leftists and anti-fascists to do the same and seriously ask themselves whom they choose to support. Even if a band has a vaguely progressive appearance and plays music that appeals to you, this is not enough reason to close your eyes on their sexist and nationalist politics. A band that has never learned how to deal with political criticisms, a band that lashes out against women and queers as soon as it meets actual resistance should not have a place at leftist festivals.
This statement was posted on the forum of the Fusion website on 22/07/2022 but has not passed premoderation.