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Revolution and Culture

Revolution und Culture

AREVOLUTION, I.E. A REBELLION AGAINST THE PREVAILING SOCIAL SYSTEM, MORE OFTEN THAN NOT BREAKS OUT FOR POLITICAL REASONS, EXPLOITING THE PRETEXT OF SOCIAL INEQUALITIES. TRADITIONAL MEANS TO SECURE AND THEN EXERCISE POWER RELY ON RADICAL AND VIOLENT BEHAVIOUR. THE FATE OF INDIVIDUAL PEOPLE DOESN’T COUNT; THE SPIRITUAL NOTION THAT HUMAN RELATIONS SHOULD BE GOVERNED BY REASON HAS NO PLACE IN POLITICAL GAMES AND POWER STRUGGLES.

The 1789 French Revo­lu­ti­on repla­ced the King with a Repu­bli­can government until the com­man­der of the army, Napo­le­on Bona­par­te, sei­zed power for hims­elf and tur­ned into an abso­lu­te ruler. As if that weren’t enough, he then went on to pro­c­laim hims­elf Emperor. Howe­ver, we’ve got to give credit whe­re credit is due as, after all, he did con­tri­bu­te to Europe’s deve­lo­p­ment. In fact, the call to arms of ‘liber­té, ega­li­té, fra­ter­ni­té’ see­ped across the bor­ders and spread like wild­fire, lea­ding to an appeal for chan­ge. Napoleon’s mili­ta­ry vic­to­ries ended with his Rus­si­an expe­di­ti­on, whe­re he was defea­ted by the united for­ces of Eng­land, Ger­ma­ny, and Rus­sia.

In memo­ry of Napoleon’s defeat in Rus­sia, Peter Tschai­kow­sky com­po­sed Ouver­tu­re 1812: a batt­le sce­ne fea­turing the clash bet­ween the Rus­si­an and French­man against the back­drop of the song Gott sei des Kai­sers Schutz (God Save the Emperor) raging against the melo­dy of the Mar­seil­lai­se, until Napo­le­on is bea­ten to the sound of can­non thun­der and bells. Lud­wig van Beet­ho­ven com­po­sed the sym­pho­ny Eroi­ca in 1805, and dedi­ca­ted it to Napo­le­on and then pro­cee­ded to tear it into the pie­ces when the com­man­der pro­c­lai­med hims­elf Emperor. When it comes to French pain­tings, Jac­ques Lou­is David was the most important repre­sen­ta­ti­ve who also somehow con­tri­bu­t­ed to the revo­lu­ti­on. With his pain­ting, The Death of Marat, he crea­ted a homage to the revo­lu­ti­ons’ heroes.

Fast-for­ward 100 years and the Rus­si­an revo­lu­ti­on mur­de­red the Czars. Lenin, moved by his revo­lu­tio­na­ry spi­rit, came back to Moscow from Switz­er­land. The Com­mu­nist Par­ty then sei­zed power. Same old, same old: they mur­de­red and kil­led off dis­sen­ters, and the situa­ti­on only worsened, beco­m­ing more gru­e­so­me after Lenin’s death, when Sta­lin beca­me the dic­ta­tor. A meas­ly 50 years ago, May 1966, the ‘cul­tu­ral revo­lu­ti­on’ took place in Chi­na and las­ted for a good 10 years. The poli­ti­cal cam­pai­gn was devi­sed by Mao Zedong and ser­ved the pur­po­se of remo­ving the old cad­re of the Com­mu­nist Par­ty and secu­re him infi­ni­te power. The cul­tu­ral revo­lu­ti­on had been in the making for years befo­re it was actual­ly imple­men­ted.

The tra­di­tio­nal Bei­jing Ope­ra was rene­wed fol­lowing the advice and Gui­de­li­nes of Mao Zedong and his wife, Jian Qing. The sta­ge was clea­ned of clas­sic cha­rac­ters such as the Emperor, ruler, sage and they were repla­ced by the work­man, far­mer, and sol­dier: pro­le­ta­ri­an peop­le were to be cele­bra­ted by the pro­le­ta­ri­an mass. After the down­fall of the Com­mu­nist Par­ty, Mao’s poli­ci­es were imple­men­ted, and the class strugg­le took cent­re sta­ge. For the actu­al start of the cul­tu­ral revo­lu­ti­on, a num­ber of dif­fe­rent mass cam­pai­gns were car­ri­ed out. On 16 May 1966, the youn­ger genera­ti­on under the sway of Mao’s doc­tri­ne were mobi­li­sed in Bei­jing to free socie­ty from the bour­geois and revo­lu­tio­na­ry ele­ments – accord­ing to reli­able sources, the con­se­quen­ces of that day resul­ted in more than 2 mil­li­on peop­le dying, 30 mil­li­on being poli­ti­cal­ly per­se­cu­t­ed and 100 mil­li­on mem­bers were impr­i­son­ed becau­se of their rela­ti­ves’ poli­ti­cal alle­gi­an­ce. Stu­dents beat their pro­fes­sors to death, uni­ver­si­ties were clo­sed for 10 years, wes­tern goods were des­troy­ed; a vio­lin tea­cher, who had hid­den his instru­ment away, was tor­tu­red until he reve­a­led its hiding place try­ing to pro­tect his fami­ly. The vio­lin was des­troy­ed and he was bea­ten to death. The Com­mu­nist Par­ty not only gave inst­ruc­tions to renew the Bei­jing Ope­ra House: it also com­mis­sio­ned the com­po­si­ti­on of sym­pho­nies and scores for pia­no music. One such work is the pia­no con­cert com­po­sed by a collec­ti­ve of four com­po­sers bet­ween 1968 and 1969, The Yel­low River: it’s row­dy, burs­t­ing with pathos, loud, a melo­dic patch­work remi­nis­cent of Rach­ma­nin­off und Tschai­kow­sky. Should you be so unlu­cky to hear it, you too would grie­ve for the mis­hand­led pia­no, a pathe­tic attempt which, luck­i­ly, we’ll never have to hear in a Euro­pean con­cert hall.

And today? What has beco­me of the cul­tu­ral revo­lu­ti­on? Capi­ta­lism and its trus­ty com­pa­n­ion cor­rup­ti­on, once hated, have now made a come­back. The num­ber of mil­lion­aires and bil­lion­aires keeps on gro­wing. The Polit­bu­ro of the Com­mu­nist Par­ty has learnt not­hing. The worst chap­ter in Chi­ne­se histo­ry wasn’t used to teach a les­son: nost­al­gic natio­na­lists still hum the old hymns for today’s Pre­si­dent, Xi Jin­ping. In occa­si­on of a gala evening for the 50th anni­ver­s­a­ry of the cul­tu­ral revo­lu­ti­on you could still read the fol­lowing on some pos­ters: ‘Peop­le of the Earth, unite to defeat the Ame­ri­can inva­ders and their mini­ons.’ The gala evening took place in May 2016. Fana­ti­cism and con­tempt for other peop­le are the hall­marks of a Revo­lu­ti­on car­ri­ed out in the name of a god. Not­hing new under the sun, and it‘s actual­ly qui­te a repe­ti­ti­ve ele­ment in some reli­gious inter­pre­ta­ti­ons. What isn’t right is that, in our day and age, an ‘Isla­mic Sta­te’ and the Tali­ban go around des­troy­ing men and cul­tures – pro­ving how litt­le we’ve learnt from our past. Once upon a time, the­re was also a revo­lu­ti­on which didn’t kill: not one human life was snuf­fed out. The Fall of the Ber­lin Wall in 1989, which reu­ni­ted a Ger­ma­ny divi­ded sin­ce 1945. Con­duc­tor Leon­hard Bern­stein arran­ged for the text of Fried­rich Schiller’s Ode to Joy to be chan­ged in occa­si­on of the per­for­mance of Beethoven’s 9th sym­pho­ny: ins­tead of Freu­de, schö­ner Göt­ter­fun­ken the sin­gers had to sing Frei­heit, schö­ner Göt­ter­fun­ken. With this con­tri­bu­ti­on, I fol­lo­wed some thoughts which rose to my con­scious­ness upon hea­ring the word ‘revo­lu­ti­on’. Memo­ries of what was read, remem­be­red, expe­ri­en­ced. I hope this moves the rea­der, too, to con­ti­nue this flow of con­scious­ness.

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Jahrgang 1939, Erstausbildung kaufmännische Lehre, anschließend private Gesangsausbildung und kunstgeschichtliche Studien in Leipzig. 1961 erstes Engagement (Bass-Bariton) als Solist am Theater in Eisenach. Nach 12 Jahren an verschiedenen Theatern, 1973 Eröffnung einer Kunstgalerie in Basel. Seitdem im Kunsthandel, als Experte für Versicherungen und Berater privater Sammler tätig. Gleichzeitig und bis heute als Sänger in Oratorium, Kirchenmusik und besonders im Liedgesang aktiv.

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