SPD and Greens seek to gag rock musician Roger Waters and silence critics of NATO war in Ukraine

Members of Munich City Council, a coalition of the SPD and the Green Party, seek to prevent Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters from performing his This is not an exercise show at the city-owned Olympiahalle on May 21, 2023. Presales for the concert have already started.

[Photo by Roger Waters / CC BY 4.0]

Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter (SPD) said he was very upset to learn that the municipal company Olympia Park had allocated its rooms to Waters and that he had been unaware of the move. Reiter called on the company to review and reverse its decision. The city’s deputy mayors, Verena Dietl (SPD) and Katrin Habenschaden (Greens), expressed similar views.

Removing the hall, which has more than 15,000 seats, would be tantamount to banning Waters from performing in Munich, under conditions where no comparable facility is available. This blatant attempt at censorship is justified only by Waters’ political position, which goes against the interests of the ruling elite in Germany.

As the WSWS wrote of Waters’ concert tour, which began in the United States in July, almost every song “deals with the pressing issues of our time: imperialist war, fascism, poison nationalism, the plight of refugees, the victims of state oppression, global poverty, social inequality, the assault on democratic rights and the threat of nuclear annihilation.

The SPD and the Greens – in addition to governing in the city of Munich, the two parties are also partners in the federal government – ​​are absolutely determined to prevent any discussion of these issues and will stop at nothing to discredit Waters. They denounce him as an anti-Semite and a supporter of Putin, although such accusations are patently false. The conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), which governs the state of Bavaria, and mainstream media also support the campaign against Waters.

In 2018, the city of Munich had already tried to prevent a concert by Waters at the Olympiahalle, but lost its case. He relied on a city council resolution from the previous year that the city denied access to its facilities to organizations and individuals who, like Waters, support the BDS movement, which campaigns for Palestinian rights. . At that time, Mayor Reiter had already declared that no more Waters concerts would be allowed in the Olympiahalle in the future.

In January 2022, however, the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig ruled in a separate case that the BDS resolution adopted by the Munich City Council in 2017 was unconstitutional and violated the fundamental right to freedom of expression. Access to public spaces could be restricted for certain purposes, but not on the basis of unpopular opinions.

After this decision, the Olympiahalle company awarded the hall to Waters, after delaying any decision. The company had to accept because “legally, there was no longer any reason not to offer the date”, explained general manager Nils Hoch. The fact that the Munich City Council nevertheless tries to prevent the concert demonstrates the cruelty with which it flouts the right to freedom of expression.

When the SPD and the Greens try to muzzle Roger Waters, one can imagine how they respond to less influential artists and political activists. Internationally acclaimed, Waters is one of the most successful musicians of the past 50 years.

He is respected not only for his musical creativity but also for his political activism. Over the course of his career, and particularly over the past two decades, he has combined the two elements to establish himself as one of the most popular and influential musicians in the world. Waters’ This is not an exercise The tour is expected to draw an audience of one million in North America alone.

He is one of the few artists to have repeatedly denounced the oppression of the Palestinian people by the Israeli government and to uncompromisingly defend WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange against the cabal of imperialist powers led by the United States. who seek to silence and destroy it.

In 2018, the SPD-Greens campaign to gag Waters focused on his opposition to the Israeli government’s reactionary policies. This time, the musician’s open opposition to the war in Ukraine has increasingly been singled out. In addition to accusations of “anti-Semitism”, Waters is now being wrongly accused of being “pro-Putin” and spreading “conspiracy myths” (Miriam Heigl, head of the City of Munich’s Democracy Office) on NATO’s responsibility in the war in Ukraine.

As previously reported on the WSWS, Waters strongly condemned the role of the United States and NATO countries in fomenting war in Ukraine, while making it clear that he has no mandate for the Russian president.

The feverish efforts of the SPD and the Greens in Munich to crush opposition to the war in Ukraine are not limited to rock musician Waters. In March this year, the city council sacked the conductor of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, Valery Gergiev, for not explicitly condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin. More recently, the city council fired the same orchestra’s first violinist, Lorenz Nasturica-Herschcowici, after Munich Green Party member Florian Roth claimed Nasturica-Herschcowici was “part of Putin’s propaganda machinery.” “.

The political offensive to silence Roger Waters also enjoys the support of the country’s mainstream media. The daily Suddeutsche Zeitung, published in Munich, ran numerous articles repeating Mayor Reiter’s slander, echoing the claim that Waters “supports Putin.” In a comment from October 12, Süddeutsche journalist Moritz Baumstieger slandered Waters by fabricating an association between him and such reactionary figures as American singer and Trump supporter Kanye West and German singer and right-wing conspiracy theorist Xavier Naidoo.

In 2018, the Süddeutsche magazine published a multi-page interview with Waters in which he justified his rejection of Israeli government policy. “BDS does not deny Israel its right to exist,” he said. He added that the movement pursues three goals: “an end to military rule over Palestinians in the occupied territories, which began in 1967”, “full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel” and “the application of the right internationally recognized return for Palestinian refugees”. who were expelled from their homes at the creation of Israel and thereafter. Today, in the midst of growing war hysteria against Russia, the publication of this interview would be unthinkable.

Germany’s main news radio, Deutschlandfunk, has also joined the fray. On her regular program “Corso”, Deutschlandfunk journalist Susanne Luerweg repeated claims that Waters was anti-Semitic and pro-Russian, shamefully describing Waters as a “frustrated old white man”.

The hysterical reaction of the German media to an artist who had constantly and courageously warned of the danger of the proxy war between the United States and NATO in Ukraine turning into a third world war fully confirms the own judgment of Waters, following the recent cancellation of two concerts due to take place in Poland. Waters wrote, “Western mainstream media seem determined to encourage public support for the escalating US-Russian proxy war raging in Ukraine, even to the point of considering playing nuclear chicken.

Significantly, the Deutschlandfunk report also linked its slander against Waters to the recent campaign to shut down the notorious art exhibition Documenta, based on claims that a handful of works on display were anti-Semitic.

Attacks on art, culture and dissenting opinions in Germany are taking on new forms in the country’s post-World War II history. A brief look at German history confirms that opposition censorship has always been an integral part of preparing for new wars. In Munich, at the instigation of the National Socialists, book burnings of progressive and anti-war authors took place in May 1933 on the city’s central Königsplatz. Four years later, Munich was the first stop for the Nazi exhibition on so-called “Degenerate Art”, which disparaged all German artists who opposed the war.

In his interview with the Suddeutsche Zeitung in 2018, Waters himself made the same comparison: “To want to silence me, as the mayor would have done if he could, is like burning a book. Books are burned to silence authors and destroy ideas.

The decisions taken by the SPD and the Greens in Munich to censor any opposition to the war in Ukraine were no doubt coordinated with their party colleagues in the country’s capital. In Berlin, the federal coalition led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck (Greens) and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) is recklessly pushing Germany’s intervention in the war in Ukraine .

On October 12, the coalition announced that it would send anti-aircraft defense equipment to Ukraine as part of its rapid transition to a direct part of the war. On the same day, the German press reported that the Berlin Court of Arbitration had decided that the ruins of Russian tanks destroyed by Ukrainian troops could be placed provocatively in front of the Russian Embassy in Berlin.

The campaign against Waters also exposes the false claim that support for war in Ukraine is based on defending the rule of law and democracy. While President Putin is continually accused of suppressing dissent, the fact is that the same forms of repression are taking place here.

Against a backdrop of growing social crisis, galloping inflation and growing opposition to war, the SPD and the Greens are determined to silence any criticism of their policies. It’s behind the frantic attempts to silence Roger Waters. The fight against the censorship of art and culture by the SPD and the Greens must be a central part of a new anti-war movement of the working class and youth.