Friday, July 31, 2020

Pete Seeger

Dear Editors

Concerning Roy Beat’s letter (June Socialist Standard), I (mis)spent the 1960s immersed in the Folk Movement and recall nothing positive vis-à-vis the dissemination of Socialist knowledge. Politically the scene was one Leftist/Nationalist mess. Significantly Roy Beat fails to produce any contrary evidence.

The banjo’s early multi-racial history is common knowledge. However in the wake of the Minstrel Shows its image to many Negroes was tarnished and seeing one in the hands of yet another “condescending white, liberal Yankee” arriving to “emancipate” them was further aggravation.

The significance of the inverted commas around “good causes” appears to have evaded him. Socialists recognise the serious limitations of the Civil (and Woman’s, Gay etc) Rights Movements and how at best they can only aspire to parity with their white, male, heterosexual Working Class counterparts within Capitalism. The solution, of course, is Socialism. Who would need “rights” where common ownership and free access prevailed? Likewise, the anti-Vietnam War Movement dealt only with the specifics of that event; not the underlying causes of war at large. On what possible basis therefore could criticising all of this be deemed “sectarian”?

I have much time for Pete Seeger both personally and musically: politically, I have little.

Andrew Armitage, 


Heath Watts said...

Are you suggesting that women and black people who could not vote, and black people who faced terrible racist slavery and then violence in the South should have waited to another 50 or 100 years before they fought the system? They didn't attain a perfect socialist society, so should they have forgone suffrage and continued to suffer violence, racism, and misogyny?

There was a 0% chance in the 1860s (American Civil War), 1920 (Women's Suffrage US), or the 1960s (Civil Rights, Women's Rights, and anti-War) movements would eliminate capitalism in favor of socialism. Should we still live in a society with black people as slaves, women who cannot vote, and GLBTQ+ people who fear for their lives because their predecessors did not create a socialist society but only attained "parity"? Should we eliminate all government controlled healthcare plans in the US, because they are not available to all citizens yet?

Do you think that eliminating all of the rights that Americans have fought for since our so-called Founding Fathers created their white, male, property owning oligarchy would inspire everyone to revolt en masse to create a socialist system? It would not. Most people are out for themselves, and if particular groups want to be recognized they have to fight to acheive "parity" as you call it. Which is worse, slavery or emancipation of black Americans without the creation of a socialist society?

ajohnstone said...

The position i think is that we take what we can get. We take what we can grab. The more stronger and more powerful the workers' movement becomes, the bigger the gains will be.

However -

But we are neither grateful that improvements were granted to us nor are we going to be satisfied with what has been achieved.

Every concession is compromised in one way or another. What the ruling class may lose, they are very adept at re-couping that loss in some way or other.

Regards specifically the USA, working people have been divided by what sociologists describe as white privilege but put more accurately by LBJ, “If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll empty his pockets for you.”

What has to be understood is the demand for socialism should not be relegated to some far-off future time but become an immediate goal. It is the only way that change is not undermined and will be permanent, and not a temporary amelioration.

If it is liberation and emancipation we seek, as the article concludes, only socialism will suffice.