Kyiv Calling

How a Clash song was remade as a pro-war anthem by a band with fascist links

The Ukrainian hardcore band Beton recently released “Kyiv Calling,” a reworked version of the Clash classic “London Calling” as a call to resist the Russian invasion, apparently with the blessing of the former living Clash members. However, one wonders if the approval was granted before or after reading the lyrics.

Left-wing musician Billy Bragg initially signaled his support for the remake on his Facebook page. Did he also ignore the lyrics? Then Bragg was made aware of their fascist links. A photo from Beton’s Facebook page made the social media rounds showing the band members wearing Ramones-style shirts, with “Ramones” replaced by “Banderas,” the name ‘Stepan’ visible on one of them.

“This is deeply troubling. Stepan Bandera was a far-right Ukrainian politician who collaborated with the Nazis during the occupation of Ukraine and whose followers were complicit in the Holocaust,” commented Bragg.
“We can argue about the meaning of ‘London Calling’ and what Joe Strummer would or wouldn’t have said about the lyrical changes, but we can be damn sure that he would not have allowed his song to be utilized by a band that expressed their support for fascists,” he continued.

Several people commented Joe Strummer is rolling in his grave and would have objected to the song being used as a pro-war anthem sung by neo-fascists.

In response to the criticism, Beton initially doubled down and defended their support for Bandera, noting he “is a hero to many Ukrainians.” Then, a couple of days later, the band issued a belated apology in a statement that seemed to satisfy Billy Bragg, who posted it on his Facebook page. But to some, it still reeked of Nazi apologias.

Beton removed the images from their Facebook page and sought to clarify their position in the statement noting “perceptions of Bandera around the world are different from those held by many Ukrainians.” So, what exactly are they suggesting? That a murderous fascist and Nazi collaborator isn’t controversial for many Ukrainians?

Then there is the issue of the lyrics. The band is calling for NATO intervention (Kyiv calling to the NATO zone/forget it brother, we can’t go it alone). They are also advocating a significant escalation of violence (clear our skies) and escalation of the war (won’t you give me an air force?).

Calling for a no-fly zone enforced by NATO is tantamount to declaring war with Russia and dramatically increases the threat of a nuclear exchange. Encouraging steps towards nuclear confrontation and calling for an expansion of the war would involve considerably more suffering and loss of innocent civilians. It’s also counterproductive.

Andrew Cockburn in CounterPunch pointed out: “A no-fly zone over Ukraine was always a terrible idea and making it into a political issue has advantages for Russia because it shifts focus from the Russian invasion to the prospects for World War III. Leaving aside the fact that Ukrainian cities are largely being bombarded by artillery and missiles and not from the air, it would inevitably mean NATO air strikes on Russian S-400 anti-craft missile batteries and airfields inside Russia, inviting retaliatory Russian airstrikes on Poland and other east European states.”

The military escalation and widening of the war that the band is advocating isn’t in the original spirit of The Clash. Instead, it’s just pro-war propaganda by phony punk rockers who have bitten the dust.

Tom Wheeler is a musician and whistleblower who successfully avoided jail time. He can be reached at Read other articles by Tom.