Wednesday, December 13, 2006


On Sunday 26 November 2006, at 17-45, BBC Radio 3 had a programme entitled "Is Communism bad for art".

It is obvious from the blurb, see below, that the focus of the programme was to discuss the "horrors of communism". However, the, so called, discussion was little more than a crude rant against an invented "communism" which it was clear that Lebrecht knows nothing whatsoever about.

When John Sanderson, a jazz musician and communist rang in to point out that capitalism has murdered untold millions of people he was quickly taken off air and told, by Lebrecht, that his view was "historically inaccurate".

After complaining about this blatant censorship the comrade was rung by the shows producer apologising for the 'mistake' in cutting him off and no, she did not know who had cut him o ff and it must have been due to lack of time!

The comrade was promised that his letter protesting against BBC censorship would be put on their website.

It will be interesting to see if this does happen. If so, comrades can certainly intervene.

The programme is still available to hear on the BBC website for the next few days.

Comrade Sanderson's Letter to the BBC


It is ironic that the BBC Radio 3 programme, Lebrecht Live, on the effects of censorship on art should itself censor a member of the public who had called in to air his views on the subject.

For the benefit of those who did not hear "Is Communism Bad for Art?", R3, Sunday, 26th. November, the preface to the programme in Radio Times stated that "The 20th. Century’s dominant ideology was inherently suppressive. It silenced, imprisoned and murdered millions of people and in a few countries where it still prevails freedom of speech is under severe restraint. But was Communism bad for Art? Much of the work has been appalling propaganda, but some of it could not have come into being under any other conditions...".

But why was this programme being broadcast now? My first thought was that it may have been prompted by the failure of the now capitalist Russia to produce the promised land of Liberal democracy. Perhaps the BBC was worried that those artists and intellectuals who had been so keen to see the end of the Soviet Union were beginning to have second thoughts. As such, the time may have seemed ripe for The Beeb and Norman Lebrecht to engage in a bit of old-style Commie-bashing, with an intellectual veneer, of course. It was obvious from the start that rubbishing Communism was the real point of the programme. The longer it went on, the more it seemed that Lebrecht’s views were not going to be challenged.

I ra ng the programme requesting to put some points to Mr. Lebrecht and his guests and, somewhat to my surprise, was contacted by the BBC to go on air. Given the short space of time, my primary consideration was to counter the assertions against Communism by presenting a few facts about capitalism’s record on suppression, imprisonment and murder which, as far as I can ascertain, has been responsible for far more deaths than Communism . Unfortunately, Mr. Lebrecht (or some higher authority at the BBC) would have none of it. I was quite pointedly faded out, with Mr. Lebrecht retorting "You are historically incorrect". Quite apart from the real content of the programme, essentially a diatribe against Communism, he also put forward some spurious notion about the "purifying fire of Marxism-Leninism" having a beneficial effect upon Art. It is a pity that he did not let me finish my point, because he could have applied his "theory", arguably with more success, to the experience of Afro-Americans.

In the annals of capitalism’s bloody colonial and imperialist history, the slave trade must surely rank as one of the most heinous crimes against humanity. It has been suggested that as many as 25 to 30 million Africans died at the hand of the British slave trade alone. It is reasonable to suggest that no group in modern history has ever been so oppressed or had their culture and identity so rigorously suppressed. Never mind, their particular ordeal in the "purifying fire" of slavery, so central to capitalist development in Europe, gave Blues, Gospel and Jazz to the world. As a Jazz musician myself, I don’t think the creation of Jazz can compensate for the life of even one slave.

Quite apart from this particular, what of the deaths in both the First and Second World Wars, which were, ultimately, about the continuing division of the world into capitalist spheres of influence?

The First World War accounted for about 8.5 million military deaths, over 21 million wounded, over 7 million prisoners and missing. Still, at least we got the War Poets. As to the Second World War, estimates suggest that up to 60 million died. And what of the millions suppressed, worked to death, starved and neglected in the development and ascendancy of capitalism : the nameless and numberless workers in the sweat-shops, mines and mills of Britain in the 18th. and 19th. centuries? Post-1945 alone, Imperialist adventures in Aden, Afghanistan, Egypt, Ireland, India, Kenya, Malaya, Korea, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, Vietnam - the list could go on - account for many millions of deaths. Added to this are the miserable and stunted lives of those still being economically exploited as cheap labour in the Imperialised countries of the world. Moreover, in the states of the former Soviet Union, most notably Russia, drug dependancy is rife and the vulnerable are simply dying on the streets. Life expectancy for the Russian male population fell from 64 years (in the last years of the Soviet state) to 58 years in 2003 (source : Wall Street Journal, February 4th. 2004); this is even below the level of Bangladesh and well below that of Cuba : 74 years in 2002.

It is estimated that this reduction in life expectancy has led to over 15 million premature deaths and that, should this trend not be reversed, Russia’s population will decline by 30% over the next few decades.

As far as anyone with any understanding of history is concerned, it is not I and my fellow Communists, but Mr. Lebrecht who is "historically incorrect". Moreover, whilst the Russian Revolution may have been a defining moment ,it is a sad fact that it was not Communism that was the dominant ideology of the 20th. Century, but Capitalism. But equally,it must be remembered that the first attempt to create a Communist society may have failed, but the existence of the Soviet Union led, directly or indirectly, to the end of Colonial rule in Africa and Asia , and the defeat of Fascism and Nazism.

I rest my case.

J. Sanderson, Derbyshire.

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