Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Respect to John Lennon

Counterpunch have put online a transcript of 'The Lost John Lennon Interview' from 1971, where Lennon was interviewed by Tariq Ali and Robin Blackburn. As the editors of Counterpunch note:

'It was twenty-five years ago today that John Lennon was murdered outside the Dakota building on Central Park West in New York City. We doubt many CounterPunchers have read the following 1971 interview with Lennon done by CounterPunchers Tariq Ali and Robin Blackburn. It's a lot more interesting that the interminable Q and A with Lennon done by Rolling Stone's Jann Wenner. Tariq and Robin allowed Lennon to talk and spurred him on when he showed signs of flagging. Lennon recounts about how he and George Harrison bucked their handlers and went on record against the Vietnam War, discusses class politics in an engaging manner, defends country and western music and the blues, suggests Dylan's best songs stem from revolutionary Irish and Scottish ballads and dissects his three versions of "Revolution". The interview ran in The Red Mole, a Trotskyist sheet put out by the British arm of the Fourth International. As you'll see, those were different days. The interview is included in Tariq Ali's Streetfighting Years, recently published by Verso.'

Edited to add a short article from Socialist Review on Lennon's politics here

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At 4:31 pm, Blogger Frank Partisan said...

Lennon was the only Beatle, with real left leanings.

In USA the conservatives, say The Beatles were a rightist band. They sang against paying taxes, Maoism, etc. They are probably right, about the group as a whole. That is not really important, since that is not how to judge art.

Lennon was from a different mold than the rest, artistically and politically.


At 4:12 pm, Blogger Ed said...

He was. There's an interesting tension (contradiction?) in Lennon's work and his views. The radical in him is interestingly constrained and thwarted by the fact of his considerable wealth. I'm always struck by the jarring contrast between the sentiments of 'Imagine' and the setting of the song's video - a millionaire's mansion.

At 6:19 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The thing that makes Lennon the most fascinating, most talked about and most downright odd mainstream pop star of all time, is that he overflows with contradictions - especially during the first few years of his relationship with Yoko Ono.

Before he met Yoko, he didn´t really get into into politics or philosophy, except to say - quite truthfully - that the Beatles were bigger than Christ. Yoko was his intellectual (not certainly not artistic) superior and persuaded him to open his mind to a range of ideas, movements, artistic styles. John jumped into this pool of ideas at the deep end and absorbed everything.

In 1971, the thing he was absorbing happened to be a particular variety of Marxism (he was especially interested in the Black Panther movement at that time too). I can´t say I take his views on this any more seriously than I do on anything else - Lennon was, after all, notorious for voting Tory because he wanted to avoid paying taxes. But, bullshit or no bullshit, Lennon is always interesting. And while Ed is correct to point out that he was essentially a hypocrite (also known, perhaps, as a human being), he did have genuine radical sympathies and, like Dylan, always sided with the little man, at least in theory.

At 6:42 pm, Blogger Snowball said...

There is a short article on Lennon's politics in this month's Socialist Review - I'll add it to my initial post to make finding it easier...

At 6:20 pm, Blogger Imposs1904 said...

It has to be said that in the lyrics of both 'Imagine' and 'Revolution', Lennon was more revolutionary than any issue of Socialist Worker; Militant/Socialist; Newsline; Revolutionary Worker etc etc

At 11:03 pm, Blogger Snowball said...

That case can be made, but I am not totally convinced...

John Lennon 'Imagine':

Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

Socialist Worker:

At the most parliamentary activity can be used to make propaganda against the system. Only the mass action of the workers themselves can destroy the system

At 12:55 pm, Blogger Imposs1904 said...

Destroy the system, and replace it with what exactly? I think the SWP has always been a bit scant on providing a genuinely radical alternative.

And there call on mass action of the working class does sit ill at ease alongside the longstanding top down undemocratic nature of its organisation. If its leadership can't countenance the notion of its own rank and file having a real democratic say in its organisation, it doesn't bode well for the rest of us plebs. ;-)

At 10:25 pm, Blogger Snowball said...

Destroy the system, and replace it with what exactly? I think the SWP has always been a bit scant on providing a genuinely radical alternative

The SWP does rather follow the classic marxist tradition of not detailing utopias for after the revolution - socialism will be built by the workers who make the revolution themselves. That the SWP places its hopes in the 'immense majority acting in the interests of the immense majority' of the planet (rather than some utopian socialist blueprint drawn up by intellectuals) gives the lie to your idea that we (as Leninists) are elitists.


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