Ali: Your latest record and your recent public statements,
especially the interviews in Rolling Stone magazine, suggest that
your views are becoming increasingly radical and political. When
did this start to happen?
I've always been politically minded, you know, and against
the status quo. It's pretty basic when you're brought up, like
I was, to hate and fear the police as a natural enemy and to despise
the army as something that takes everybody away and leaves them
I mean, it's
just a basic working class thing, though it begins to wear off
when you get older, get a family and get swallowed up in the system.
In my case
I've never not been political, though religion tended to overshadow
it in my acid days; that would be around '65 or '66. And that
religion was directly the result of all that superstar shit -
religion was an outlet for my repression. I thought, 'Well, there's
something else to life, isn't there? This isn't it, surely?'
But I was
always political in a way, you know. In the two books I wrote,
even though they were written in a sort of Joycean gobbledegook,
there's many knocks at religion and there is a play about a worker
and a capitalist. I've been satirising the system since my childhood.
I used to write magazines in school and hand them around.
I was very
conscious of class, they would say with a chip on my shoulder,
because I knew what happened to me and I knew about the class
repression coming down on us - it was a fucking fact but in the
hurricane Beatle world it got left out, I got farther away from
reality for a time.
What did you think was the reason for the success of your sort
at the time it was thought that the workers had broken through,
but I realise in retrospect that it's the same phoney deal they
gave the blacks, it was just like they allowed blacks to be runners
or boxers or entertainers. That's the choice they allow you -
now the outlet is being a pop star, which is really what I'm saying
on the album in 'Working Class Hero'. As I told Rolling Stone,
it's the same people who have the power, the class system didn't
change one little bit.
there are a lot of people walking around with long hair now and
some trendy middle class kids in pretty clothes. But nothing changed
except that we all dressed up a bit, leaving the same bastards
Blackburn: Of course, class is something the American rock
groups haven't tackled yet.
they're all middle class and bourgeois and they don't want to
show it. They're scared of the workers, actually, because the
workers seem mainly right-wing in America, clinging on to their
goods. But if these middle class groups realise what's happening,
and what the class system has done, it's up to them to repatriate
the people and to get out of all that bourgeois shit.
did you start breaking out of the role imposed on you as a Beatle?
Even during the Beatle heyday I tried to go against it, so did
George. We went to America a few times and Epstein always tried
to waffle on at us about saying nothing about Vietnam. So there
came a time when George and I said 'Listen, when they ask next
time, we're going to say we don't like that war and we think they
should get right out.' That's what we did. At that time this was
a pretty radical thing to do, especially for the 'Fab Four'. It
was the first opportunity I personally took to wave the flag a
got to remember that I'd always felt repressed. We were all so
pressurised that there was hardly any chance of expressing ourselves,
especially working at that rate, touring continually and always
kept in a cocoon of myths and dreams. It's pretty hard when you
are Caesar and everyone is saying how wonderful you are and they
are giving you all the goodies and the girls, it's pretty hard
to break out of that, to say 'Well, I don't want to be king, I
want to be real.'
the time it was thought that
the workers had broken through,
but I realise in retrospect that it's
the same phoney deal they gave
the blacks, it was just like they
allowed blacks to be runners or boxers
or entertainers. That's the choice
they allow you - now the outlet is
being a pop star, which is really
what I'm saying on the album in
'Working Class Hero'."
So in its
way the second political thing I did was to say 'The Beatles are
bigger than Jesus.' That really broke the scene, I nearly got
shot in America for that. It was a big trauma for all the kids
that were following us. Up to then there was this unspoken policy
of not answering delicate questions, though I always read the
papers, you know, the political bits.
awareness of what was going on made me feel ashamed I wasn't saying
anything. I burst out because I could no longer play that game
any more, it was just too much for me. Of course, going to America
increased the build up on me, especially as the war was going
on there. In a way we'd turned out to be a Trojan horse. The 'Fab
Four' moved right to the top and then sang about drugs and sex
and then I got into more and more heavy stuff and that's when
they started dropping us.
there a double charge to what you were doing right from the beginning?
You were always very direct.
well, the first thing we did was to proclaim our Liverpoolness
to the world, and say 'It's all right to come from Liverpool and
talk like this'. Before, anybody from Liverpool who made it, like
Ted Ray, Tommy Handley, Arthur Askey, had to lose their accent
to get on the BBC. They were only comedians but that's what came
out of Liverpool before us. We refused to play that game. After
The Beatles came on the scene everyone started putting on a Liverpudlian
a way you were even thinking about politics when you seemed to
be knocking revolution?
sure, 'Revolution' . There were two versions of that song but
the underground left only picked up on the one that said 'count
me out'. The original version which ends up on the LP said 'count
me in' too; I put in both because I wasn't sure. There was a third
version that was just abstract, musique concrete, kind of loops
and that, people screaming. I thought I was painting in sound
a picture of revolution - but I made a mistake, you know. The
mistake was that it was anti-revolution.
On the version
released as a single I said 'when you talk about destruction you
can count me out'. I didn't want to get killed. I didn't really
know that much about the Maoists, but I just knew that they seemed
to be so few and yet they painted themselves green and stood in
front of the police waiting to get picked off. I just thought
it was unsubtle, you know. I thought the original Communist revolutionaries
coordinated themselves a bit better and didn't go around shouting
about it. That was how I felt - I was really asking a question.
As someone from the working class I was always interested in Russia
and China and everything that related to the working class, even
though I was playing the capitalist game.
At one time
I was so much involved in the religious bullshit that I used to
go around calling myself a Christian Communist, but as Janov says,
religion is legalised madness. It was therapy that stripped away
all that and made me feel my own pain.
analyst you went to, what's his name...
His ideas seem to have something in common with Laing in that
he doesn't want to reconcile people to their misery, to adjust
them to the world but rather to make them face up to its causes?
Well, his thing is to feel the pain that's accumulated inside
you ever since your childhood. I had to do it to really kill off
all the religious myths. In the therapy you really feel every
painful moment of your life - it's excruciating, you are forced
to realise that your pain, the kind that makes you wake up afraid
with your heart pounding, is really yours and not the result of
somebody up in the sky. It's the result of your parents and your
As I realised
this it all started to fall into place. This therapy forced me
to have done with all the God shit. All of us growing up have
come to terms with too much pain. Although we repress it, it's
still there. The worst pain is that of not being wanted, of realising
your parents do not need you in the way you need them.
When I was
a child I experienced moments of not wanting to see the ugliness,
not wanting to see not being wanted. This lack of love went into
my eyes and into my mind. Janov doesn't just talk to you about
this but makes you feel it - once you've allowed yourself to feel
again, you do most of the work yourself.
wake up and your heart is going like the clappers or your back
feels strained, or you develop some other hang-up, you should
let your mind go to the pain and the pain itself will regurgitate
the memory which originally caused you to suppress it in your
body. In this way the pain goes to the right channel instead of
being repressed again, as it is if you take a pill or a bath,
saying 'Well, I'll get over it'. Most people channel their pain
into God or masturbation or some dream of making it.
went to America a few times
and [Brian] Epstein always tried
to waffle on at us about saying
nothing about Vietnam. So there
came a time when George [Harrison]
and I said 'Listen, when they ask
next time, we're going to say we
don't like that war and we think
they should get right out.' That's what
we did. At that time this was a
pretty radical thing to do, especially
for the 'Fab Four'. It was the first
opportunity I personally took
to wave the flag a bit."
is like a very slow acid trip which happens naturally in your
body. It is hard to talk about, you know, because - you feel 'I
am pain' and it sounds sort of arbitrary, but pain to me now has
a different meaning because of having physically felt all these
extraordinary repressions. It was like taking gloves off, and
feeling your own skin for the first time.
It's a bit
of a drag to say so, but I don't think you can understand this
unless you've gone through it - though I try to put some of it
over on the album. But for me at any rate it was all part of dissolving
the God trip or father-figure trip. Facing up to reality instead
of always looking for some kind of heaven.
you see the family in general as the source of these repressions?
is an extreme case, you know. My father and mother split and I
never saw my father until I was 20, nor did I see much more of
my mother. But Yoko had her parents there and it was the same...
one feels more pain when parents are there. It's like when you're
hungry, you know, it's worse to get a symbol of a cheeseburger
than no cheeseburger at all. It doesn't do you any good, you know.
I often wish my mother had died so that at least I could get some
people's sympathy. But there she was, a perfectly beautiful mother.
Yoko's family were middle-class Japanese but it's all the same
repression. Though I think middle-class people have the biggest
trauma if they have nice imagey parents, all smiling and dolled
up. They are the ones who have the biggest struggle to say, 'Goodbye
mummy, goodbye daddy'.
relation to your music has all this got?
is only a way of expressing pain. I mean the reason Yoko does
such far out stuff is that it's a far out kind of pain she went
lot of Beatle songs used to be about childhood...
that would mostly be me...
they were very good there was always a missing element...
would be reality, that would be the missing element. Because I
was never really wanted. The only reason I am a star is because
of my repression. Nothing else would have driven me through all
that if I was 'normal'...
only reason I went for that goal is that I wanted to say: 'Now,
mummy-daddy, will you love me?'
But then you had success beyond most people's wildest dreams...
Jesus Christ, it was a complete oppression. I mean we had to go
through humiliation upon humiliation with the middle classes and
showbiz and Lord Mayors and all that. They were so condescending
and stupid. Everybody trying to use us. It was a special humiliation
for me because I could never keep my mouth shut and I'd always
have to be drunk or pilled to counteract this pressure. It was
It was depriving him of any real experience, you know...
was very miserable. I mean apart from the first flush of making
it - the thrill of the first number one record, the first trip
to America. At first we had some sort of objective like being
as big as Elvis - moving forward was the great thing, but actually
attaining it was the big let-down. I found I was having continually
to please the sort of people I'd always hated when I was a child.
This began to bring me back to reality.
I began to
realise that we are all oppressed which is why I would like to
do something about it, though I'm not sure where my place is.
Well, in any case, politics and culture are linked, aren't they?
I mean, workers are repressed by culture not guns at the moment...
the culture that's doping them is one the artist can make or break...
what I'm trying to do on my albums and in these interviews. What
I'm trying to do is to influence all the people I can influence.
All those who are still under the dream and just put a big question
mark in their mind. The acid dream is over, that is what I'm trying
to tell them.
pretty hard when you are Caesar
and everyone is saying how
wonderful you are and they are
giving you all the goodies and
the girls, it's pretty hard to
break out of that, to say
'Well, I don't want to be king,
I want to be real.' So in its way
the second political thing I did
was to say 'The Beatles are
bigger than Jesus.' That really
broke the scene, I nearly got
shot in America for that."
in the past, you know, people would use Beatle songs and give
them new words. 'Yellow Submarine' , for instance, had a number
of versions. One that strikers used to sing began 'We all live
on bread and margarine' ; at LSE we had a version that began 'We
all live in a Red LSE'.
like that. And I enjoyed it when football crowds in the early
days would sing 'All together now' - that was another one. I was
also pleased when the movement in America took up 'Give peace
a chance' because I had written it with that in mind really. I
hoped that instead of singing 'We shall overcome' from 1800 or
something, they would have something contemporary. I felt an obligation
even then to write a song that people would sing in the pub or
on a demonstration. That is why I would like to compose songs
for the revolution now...
We only have a few revolutionary songs and they were composed
in the 19th century. Do you find anything in our musical traditions
which could be used for revolutionary songs?
When I started, rock and roll itself was the basic revolution
to people of my age and situation. We needed something loud and
clear to break through all the unfeeling and repression that had
been coming down on us kids. We were a bit conscious to begin
with of being imitation Americans. But we delved into the music
and found that it was half white country and western and half
black rhythm and blues. Most of the songs came from Europe and
Africa and now they were coming back to us. Many of Dylan's best
songs came from Scotland, Ireland or England. It was a sort of
must say the more interesting songs to me were the black ones
because they were more simple. They sort of said shake your arse,
or your prick, which was an innovation really. And then there
were the field songs mainly expressing the pain they were in.
They couldn't express themselves intellectually so they had to
say in a very few words what was happening to them. And then there
was the city blues and a lot of that was about sex and fighting.
A lot of
this was self-expression but only in the last few years have they
expressed themselves completely with Black Power, like Edwin Starr
making War records. Before that many black singers were still
labouring under that problem of God; it was often 'God will save
us'. But right through the blacks were singing directly and immediately
about their pain and also about sex, which is why I like it.
say country and western music derived from European folk songs.
Aren't these folk songs sometimes pretty dreadful stuff, all about
losing and being defeated?
As kids we were all opposed to folk songs because they were so
middle-class. It was all college students with big scarfs and
a pint of beer in their hands singing folk songs in what we call
la-di-da voices - 'I worked in a mine in New-cast-le' -
and all that shit. There were very few real folk singers you know,
though I liked Dominic Behan a bit and there was some good stuff
to be heard in Liverpool. Just occasionally you hear very old
records on the radio or TV of real workers in Ireland or somewhere
singing these songs and the power of them is fantastic.
folk music is people with fruity voices trying to keep alive something
old and dead. It's all a bit boring, like ballet: a minority thing
kept going by a minority group. Today's folk song is rock and
roll. Although it happened to emanate from America, that's not
really important in the end because we wrote our own music and
that changed everything.
album, Yoko, seems to fuse avant-garde modern music with rock.
I'd like to put an idea to you I got from listening to it. You
integrate everyday sounds, like that of a train, into a musical
pattern. This seems to demand an aesthetic measure of everyday
life, to insist that art should not be imprisoned in the museums
and galleries, doesn't it?
I want to incite people to loosen their oppression by giving them
something to work with, to build on. They shouldn't be frightened
of creating themselves - that's why I make things very open, with
things for people to do, like in my book [Grapefruit].
there are two types of people in the world: people who are confident
because they know they have the ability to create, and then people
who have been demoralised, who have no confidence in themselves
because they have been told they have no creative ability, but
must just take orders. The Establishment likes people who take
no responsibility and cannot respect themselves.
I suppose workers' control is about that...
Haven't they tried out something like that in Yugoslavia; they
are free of the Russians. I'd like to go there and see how it
tried to change that with Apple
but in the end we were defeated.
They still control everything.
EMI killed our album Two Virgins
because they didn't like it.
With the last record they've censored
the words of the songs printed on the
record sleeve. Fucking ridiculous and hypocritical - they have
to let me
sing it but they don't dare
let you read it. Insanity."
they have; they did try to break with the Stalinist pattern. But
instead of allowing uninhibited workers' control, they added a
strong dose of political bureaucracy. It tended to smother the
initiative of the workers and they also regulated the whole system
by a market mechanism which bred new inequalities between one
region and another.
It seems that all revolutions end up with a personality cult -
even the Chinese seem to need a father-figure. I expect this happens
in Cuba too, with Che and Fidel. In Western-style Communism we
would have to create an almost imaginary workers' image of themselves
as the father-figure.
That's a pretty cool idea - the Working Class becomes its own
Hero. As long as it was not a new comforting illusion, as long
as there was a real workers' power. If a capitalist or bureaucrat
is running your life then you need to compensate with illusions.
people have got to trust in themselves.
the vital point. The working class must be instilled with a feeling
of confidence in itself. This can't be done just by propaganda
- the workers must move, take over their own factories and tell
the capitalists to bugger off. This is what began to happen in
May 1968 in France... the workers began to feel their own strength.
But the Communist Party wasn't up to that, was it?
they weren't. With 10 million workers on strike they could have
led one of those huge demonstrations that occurred in the centre
of Paris into a massive occupation of all government buildings
and installations, replacing de Gaulle with a new institution
of popular power like the Commune or the original Soviets - that
would have begun a real revolution but the French C.P. was scared
of it. They preferred to deal at the top instead of encouraging
the workers to take the initiative themselves...
but there's a problem about that here you know. All the revolutions
have happened when a Fidel or Marx or Lenin or whatever, who were
intellectuals, were able to get through to the workers. They got
a good pocket of people together and the workers seemed to understand
that they were in a repressed state. They haven't woken up yet
here, they still believe that cars and tellies are the answer.
You should get these left-wing students out to talk with the workers,
you should get the school-kids involved with The Red Mole.
You're quite right, we have been trying to do that and we should
do more. This new Industrial Relations Bill the Government is
trying to introduce is making more and more workers realise what
don't think that Bill can work. I don't think they can enforce
it. I don't think the workers will co-operate with it. I thought
the Wilson Government was a big let-down but this Heath lot are
worse. The underground is being harrassed, the black militants
can't even live in their own homes now, and they're selling more
arms to the South Africans. Like Richard Neville said, there may
be only an inch of difference between Wilson and Heath but it's
in that inch that we live...
I don't know about that; Labour brought in racialist immigration
policies, supported the Vietnam war and were hoping to bring in
new legislation against the unions.
may be true that we live in the Inch of difference between Labour
and Conservative but so long as we do we'll be impotent and unable
to change anything. If Heath is forcing us out of that inch maybe
he's doing us a good turn without meaning to...
Yes, I've thought about that, too. This putting us in a corner
so we have to find out what is coming down on other people. I
keep on reading the Morning Star [the Communist newspaper] to
see if there's any hope, but it seems to be in the 19th century;
it seems to be written for dropped-out, middle-aged liberals.
be trying to reach the young workers because that's when you're
most idealistic and have least fear.
revolutionaries must approach the workers because the workers
won't approach them. But it's difficult to know where to start;
we've all got a finger in the dam. The problem for me is that
as I have become more real, I've grown away from most working-class
people - you know what they like is Engelbert Humperdinck. It's
the students who are buying us now, and that's the problem. Now
The Beatles are four separate people, we don't have the impact
we had when we were together...
Now you're trying to swim against the stream of bourgeois society,
which is much more difficult.
Yes, they own all the newspapers and they control all distribution
and promotion. When we came along there was only Decca, Philips
and EMI who could really produce a record for you. You had to
go through the whole bureaucracy to get into the recording studio.
You were in such a humble position, you didn't have more than
12 hours to make a whole album, which is what we did in the early
think they are in a wonderful,
free-speaking country. They've got
cars and tellies and they don't want
to think there's anything more to life.
They are prepared to let the bosses
run them, to see their children
fucked up in school. They're dreaming
someone else's dream,
it's not even their own."
it's the same; if you're an unknown artist you're lucky to get
an hour in a studio - it's a hierarchy and if you don't have hits,
you don't get recorded again. And they control distribution. We
tried to change that with Apple but in the end we were defeated.
They still control everything. EMI killed our album Two Virgins
because they didn't like it. With the last record they've censored
the words of the songs printed on the record sleeve. Fucking ridiculous
and hypocritical - they have to let me sing it but they don't
dare let you read it. Insanity.
Though you reach fewer people now, perhaps the effect can be more
Yes, I think that could be true. To begin with, working class
people reacted against our openness about sex. They are frightened
of nudity, they're repressed in that way as well as others. Perhaps
they thought 'Paul is a good lad, he doesn't make trouble'.
Yoko and I got married, we got terrible racialist letters - you
know, warning me that she would slit my throat. Those mainly came
from Army people living in Aldershot. Officers.
are more friendly to us, so perhaps it's changing. It seems to
me that the students are now half-awake enough to try and wake
up their brother workers. If you don't pass on your own awareness
then it closes down again. That is why the basic need is for the
students to get in with the workers and convince them that they
are not talking gobbledegook. And, of course, it's difficult to
know what the workers are really thinking because the capitalist
press always only quotes mouthpieces like Vic Feather* anyway.
[Ed. Note: Vic Feather 1908-76 was General Secretary of the TUC
So the only
thing is to talk to them directly, especially the young workers.
We've got to start with them because they know they're up against
it. That's why I talk about school on the album. I'd like to incite
people to break the framework, to be disobedient in school, to
stick their tongues out, to keep insulting authority.
We are very lucky really, because we can create our own reality,
John and me, but we know the important thing is to communicate
with other people.
more reality we face, the more we realise that unreality is the
main programme of the day. The more real we become, the more abuse
we take, so it does radicalise us in a way, like being put in
a corner. But it would be better if there were more of us.
We mustn't be traditional in the way we communicate with people
- especially with the Establishment. We should surprise people
by saying new things in an entirely new way. Communication of
that sort can have a fantastic power so long as you don't do only
what they expect you to do.
is vital for building a movement, but in the end it's powerless
unless you also develop popular force.
I get very sad when I think about Vietnam where there seems to
be no choice but violence. This violence goes on for centuries
perpetuating itself. In the present age when communication is
so rapid, we should create a different tradition, traditions are
created everyday. Five years now is like 100 years before. We
are living in a society that has no history. There's no precedent
for this kind of society so we can break the old patterns.
No ruling class in the whole of history has given up power voluntarily
and I don't see that changing.
violence isn't just a conceptual thing, you know. I saw a programme
about this kid who had come back from Vietnam - he'd lost his
body from the waist down. He was just a lump of meat, and he said,
'Well, I guess it was a good experience.'
didn't want to face the truth, he didn't want to think it had
all been a waste...
But think of the violence, it could happen to your kids...
Yoko, people who struggle against oppression find themselves attacked
by those who have a vested interest in nothing changing, those
who want to protect their power and wealth. Look at the people
in Bogside and Falls Road in Northern Ireland; they were mercilessly
attacked by the special police because they began demonstrating
for their rights. On one night in August 1969, seven people were
shot and thousands driven from their homes. Didn't they have a
right to defend themselves?
That's why one should try to tackle these problems before a situation
like that happens.
Yes, but what do you do when it does happen, what do you do?
Popular violence against their oppressors is always justified.
It cannot be avoided.
But in a way the new music showed things could be transformed
by new channels of communication.
Yes, but as I said, nothing really changed.
Well, something changed and it was for the better. All I'm saying
is that perhaps we can make a revolution without violence.
But you can't take power without a struggle...
That's the crucial thing.
Because, when it comes to the nitty-gritty, they won't let the
people have any power; they'll give all the rights to perform
and to dance for them, but no real power...
The thing is, even after the revolution, if people don't have
any trust in themselves, they'll get new problems.
After the revolution you have the problem of keeping things going,
of sorting out all the different views. It's quite natural that
revolutionaries should have different solutions, that they should
split into different groups and then reform, that's the dialectic,
isn't it - but at the same time they need to be united against
the enemy, to solidify a new order. I don't know what the answer
is; obviously Mao is aware of this problem and keeps the ball
danger is that once a revolutionary state has been created, a
new conservative bureaucracy tends to form around it. This danger
tends to increase if the revolution is isolated by imperialism
and there is material scarcity.
the new power has taken over they have to establish a new status
quo just to keep the factories and trains running.
but a repressive bureaucracy doesn't necessarily run the factories
or trains any better than the workers could under a system of
but we all have bourgeois instincts within us, we all get tired
and feel the need to relax a bit. How do you keep everything going
and keep up revolutionary fervour after you've achieved what you
set out to achieve? Of course Mao has kept them up to it in China,
but what happens after Mao goes? Also he uses a personality cult.
Perhaps that's necessary; like I said, everybody seems to need
a father figure.
been reading Khrushchev Remembers. I know he's a bit of a lad
himself - but he seemed to think that making a religion out of
an individual was bad; that doesn't seem to be part of the basic
Communist idea. Still people are people, that's the difficulty.
If we took
over Britain, then we'd have the job of cleaning up the bourgeoisie
and keeping people in a revolutionary state of mind.
...In Britain unless we can create a new popular power, and here
that would basically mean workers' power - really controlled by,
and answerable to, the masses, then we couldn't make the revolution
in the first place. Only a really deep-rooted workers' power could
destroythe bourgeois state.
That's why it will be different when the younger generation takes
I think it wouldn't take much to get the youth here really going.
You'd have to give them free rein to attack the local councils
or to destroy the school authorities, like the students who break
up the repression in the universities. It's already happening,
though people have got to get together more.
And the women
are very important too, we can't have a revolution that doesn't
involve and liberate women. It's so subtle the way you're taught
It took me
quite a long time to realise that my maleness was cutting off
certain areas for Yoko. She's a red hot liberationistand was quick
to show me where I was going wrong, even though it seemed to me
that I was just acting naturally. That's why I'm always interested
to know how people who claim to be radical treat women.
There's always been at least as much male chauvinism on the left
as anywhere else - though the rise of women's liberation is helping
to sort that out.
It's ridiculous. How can you talk about power to the people unless
you realise the people is both sexes.
can't love someone unless you are in an equal position with them.
A lot of women have to cling to men out of fear or insecurity,
and that's not love - basically that's why women hate men...
if you have a slave around the house how can you expect to make
a revolution outside it? The problem for women is that if we try
to be free, then we naturally become lonely, because so many women
are willing to become slaves, and men usually prefer that. So
you always have to take the chance: 'Am I going to lose my man?'
It's very sad.
Of course, Yoko was well into liberation before I met her. She'd
had to fight her way through a man's world - the art world is
completely dominated by men - so she was full of revolutionary
zeal when we met. There was never any question about it: we had
to have a 50-50 relationship or there was no relationship, I was
quick to learn. She did an article about women in Nova more than
two years back in which she said, 'Woman is the nigger of the
course we all live in an imperialist country that is exploiting
the Third World, and even our culture is involved in this. There
was a time when Beatle music was plugged on Voice of America...
The Russians put it out that we were capitalist robots, which
we were I suppose...
They were pretty stupid not to see it was something different.
Let' s face it, Beatles was 20th-century folksong in the framework
of capitalism; they couldn't do anything different if they wanted
to communicate within that framework.
I was working in Cuba when Sgt Pepper was released and that's
when they first started playing rock music on the radio.
hope they see that rock and roll is not the same as Coca-Cola.
As we get beyond the dream this should be easier: that's why I'm
putting out more heavy statements now and trying to shake off
the teeny-bopper image.
I want to
get through to the right people, and I want to make what I have
to say very simple and direct.
latest album sounds very simple to begin with, but the lyrics,
tempo and melody build up into a complexity one only gradually
becomes aware of. Like the track 'My Mummy's Dead' echoes the
nursery song 'Three Blind Mice' and it's about a childhood trauma.
The tune does; it was that sort of feeling, almost like a haiku
poem. I recently got into haiku in Japan and I just think it's
fantastic. Obviously, when you get rid of a whole section of illusion
in your mind you're left with great precision.
showing me some of these haiku in the original. The difference
between them and Longfellow is immense. Instead of a long flowery
poem the haiku would say 'Yellow flower in white bowl on wooden
table' which gives you the whole picture, really...
How do you think we can destroy the capitalist system here in
I think only by making the workers aware of the really unhappy
position they are in, breaking the dream they are surrounded by.
They think they are in a wonderful, free-speaking country. They've
got cars and tellies and they don't want to think there's anything
more to life. They are prepared to let the bosses run them, to
see their children fucked up in school. They're dreaming someone
else's dream, it's not even their own. They should realise that
the blacks and the Irish are being harassed and repressed and
that they will be next.
As soon as
they start being aware of all that, we can really begin to do
something. The workers can start to take over. Like Marx said:
'To each according to his need'. I think that would work well
here. But we'd also have to infiltrate the army too, because they
are well trained to kill us all.
to start all this from where we ourselves are oppressed. I think
it's false, shallow, to be giving to others when your own need
is great. The idea is not to comfort people, not to make them
feel better but to make them feel worse, to constantly put before
them the degradations and humiliations they go through to get
what they call a living wage.
Tariq Ali's new book, Pirates Of The Caribbean: Axis Of Hope,
is published by Verso. He also wrote Rough Music: Blair,
Bombs, Baghdad, Terror, London (Verso); Street Fighting
Years (new edition) and, with David Barsamian,Speaking of
Empires & Resistance. He can be reached at email@example.com
Blackburn, a frequent contributor to CounterPunch, is the
former editor of The New Left Review and author of the excellent
history of the slave trade, The Making of New World Slavery
and the new book from Verso Banking on Death: the Future of
here to order Tariq Ali books.
Other articles by Tariq Ali:
Venezuela And The Bolivarian Dream
A Bavarian Provocation
A Protracted Colonial War
On The Death Of Pramoedya Ananta Toer
Iraq's Destiny Still Rests Between God, Blood And Oil
A Despised Leader Suffers His First Loss
Pakistan Will Never Forget This Horror
The Logic Of Colonial Rule
A Viler Barbarism
The Price Of Occupation
The New Ultra-Imperialism Of The World
"They Think God Runs The IMF"
Imperial Delusions: "Domocracy Promotion" And Resistance
The New Model Of Imperialism: Saddam On Parade
The Importance Of Hugo Chavez: Why He Crushed The Oligarchs
Getting Away With Murder
The War Is Not Going Well For Bush