Friday, June 02, 2006

The conservative potential of communist songs

Now I stayed away from the John Miller's list of top 50 conservative rock songs, because it was too dorky to comment on (plus Amanda did a fine job). But he's done a second list of songs and included not just one, but two songs by people who would be on any blacklist you'd care to make. I happen to be quite dorky in my affection for folk style protest music and thems fighting words.

Lets start with the M.T.A. song, this song is a particular favourite of mine, because we sang it at my hippie primary school. In the 1940s an exit fare was introduced in the Boston subway, this meant that you had to pay to get onto the train, but also to get off again afterwards. The song is a story about a man who got on the train without his exist fare, and therefore had to ride forever beneath the streets of Boston and couldn't get off that train.

Now John Miller's reason for couching it as a conservative rock song was that it's "Against “a burdensome tax on the population in the form of a subway fare increase." Which is ridiculous in any case - anyone with any sort of left-wing credentials will oppose consumer taxes because they're regressive, they affect the poor more than the rich. Generally the left-wing is defined by its Robin Hood desire to rob from the rich and give to the poor. So his political analysis is lacking.

But it's also clear he has no idea of the history of the song. It was written in 1948 to support the campaign of Walter O'Brien of the Progressive Party (who was too poor to actually campaign). In 1948 the Progressive Party was endorsed by that well known conservative institution, the American Communist Party.

If that's not bad enough this is what he has to say about Turn! Turn! Turn!:

Originally written by Pete Seeger and sometimes interpreted as anti-war, the words are taken from Ecclesiastes and announce that to everything there is a season, including “A time to cast away stones / A time to gather stones together” and “A time of war, a time of peace / A time of love, a time of hate / A time you may embrace / A time to refrain from embracing.”
Sometimes interpreted as anti-war? I guess that could be considered correct if by sometimes you mean "by the person who wrote, and everyone who has every performed."

OK I'm going to get even dorkier and admit that I'm a big Pete Seeger fan. I have all three volumes of the recent tribute albums, and only wish I had more of his live albums. He's written a protest song for every major political cause for the last 8 decades. He seems to have been really generous with other muscians, and pretty dedicated in the work that he does. If he's earned anything it's the right that no to have upstart right-wing twits claim his songs as their own (plus if they wanted to it'd probably be better to claim some of the actual pro-war songs he wrote after Germany invaded Russia - the Almanac Singers followed the party line).

Just for the record when the bible talks about rich people camels and the eyes of needles, that doesn't make the redistribution of wealth conservative, it makes Jesus a commie.

If John Miller's interested I have another 5 conservative left-wing protest songs:

Love Me I'm A Liberal: The song is criticising liberals therefore it's conservative.

This Land is Your Land: A patriotic classic

The Young Woman Who Swallowed a Lie This song is critical of both artificial birth control and permissive parenting promoter Dr Spock.

Soldiarity Forever: "They have taken untold millions that they never toiled to earn" - clearly criticising those who claim welfare.

The Internationale The last verse talks about the need of those who work to do their duty, which is clearly a conservative notion.

1 comment:

  1. OK, now I'm laughing my head off. Actually, when you think about it, there's very little in the Internationale that a conservative could disagree with. It talks about doing your duty, and conservatives love telling people to do their duty. It calls for a pre-emptive strike, and conservatives love pre-emptive strikes. Of course, the atheist thing wouldn't go over too well, but I'm sure they could overlook it. After all, they overlook loads of things that are inconvenient to them, such as the medical facts of hormonal contraception, etc.

    Oh, I'm loving this. Talk about outreach. Talk about interfaith dialogue.