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Folk against fascism


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Interesting response to the British National Party (BNP) who are selling folk CDs etc from various performers and Vera Lynn who also resents it!

 

What is interesting is that the BNP in its 'Acivists and Organizers Handbook' advises getting involved in celebrations such as St George's Day and Pace Egging ( particularly in Northern Towns where this a large Muslim presence)

 

 

The first revival of the early 1900s was quite a nationalist one and the second of the 1950s had a lot of support by the British Communist Party with its focus on proletarian and civil rights songs. It took a lead from Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and later Bob Dylan etc. At the same time we got a lot of whaling, fox-hunting and jingoistic military songs too. Great tunes, iffy words!

 

Can or should folk and trad ever attempt to be non-political? How multicultural is our own movement?

 

 

www.folkagainstfascism.com

 

The logo is a guitar with an antifascist slogan like Woody's

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Hi Mike

 

No I don't think it's possible to separate and be non political. My understanding is it's been going on at least as far back as nursery rhymes have been sung and recited. One site suggests the 1300's.

http://www.rhymes.org.uk/

 

My own opinion on the multicultural issue: At one time, the US was referred to as "the great melting pot of the world". Now, there is a movement to push the diversity of multiculturalism. As far as I can see it's a great way to destroy a homogeneous society and keep everyone separated. I'm strongly against celebrating or promoting it.

 

Interesting subject.

 

Thanks

Leo

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A Nobel Prize for Pete Seeger:

 

http://www.nobelprize4pete.org/

 

 

Why a Nobel Peace Prize for Pete?

 

Pete Seeger is an ambassador for Peace and Social Justice and has been over the course of his 88-year lifetime. Using his prowess as a musician he worked to engage other people, from all walks of life and across generations, in causes to build a better and more civilized world: His work shows up wherever you look in the history of labor solidarity, growth of mass effort to end the Vietnam war, ban of nuclear weapons, work for international diplomacy, support of the Civil Rights Movement, for cleaning up the Hudson River and for environmental responsibility in general. Pete knit the world together with songs from China, the Soviet Union, Israel, Cuba, South Africa and Republican Spain. We learned that Crispus Attucks, born a slave, was the first man to die at the opening of the Revolutionary War, that the Farmer-Labor party in the mid-west had a socialist philosophy that lasted well into the 20th century, we learned that anti-slavery movements were often inspired by songs that indicated a map of escape, such as "Follow the Drinkin' Gourd," he popularized many of the IWW songs that helped in CIO organizing, and spread the Civil Rights Movement through promoting the SNCC Freedom Singers and making songs such as "We Shall Overcome," known all over the world.

 

When subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee in August of 1955, at the height of the McCarthy period, Pete defended himself on the basis of the First Amendment, the right of an American citizen to free association, not the Fifth Amendment, protection against self incrimination.

 

Pete also had his mentors: among them Paul Robeson, who said: "The Artist must elect to fight for freedom or slavery..." It is time that a cultural worker receives the acknowledgement that, as Bertolt Brecht points out, "Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it."

 

There's a lot more to be said. It's covered on the website mentioned. I know, no politics on the friendly forum. I won't belabor the point. But I will say that I agree with Leo, "I don't think it's possible to separate and be non political."

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What self-righteous git should arrogate to himself the right to decide what can and cannot be played or sung? Politically correct censorship is a far greater threat to freedom than the Horst Wessel Lied or the Internationale. :ph34r:

Edited by yankeeclipper
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What self-righteous git should arrogate to himself the right to decide what can and cannot be played or sung? Politically correct censorship is a far greater threat to freedom than the Horst Wessel Lied or the Internationale. :ph34r:

 

Answer=Adolf Hitler: Check out listen again for BBC Radio 4 Archive on 4. there is a repeat at 3:00pm on monday.

 

In 1929 five leading European conductors - Toscanini, Klemperer, Furtwangler, Erich Kleiber and Bruno Walter - met at the Berlin Festival at the height of the Weimar Republic, shortly before Hitler took power. Robert Giddings explores the confrontation between creativity and Fascism through the decisions made by these five musical giants.

 

- John Wild

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What self-righteous git should arrogate to himself the right to decide what can and cannot be played or sung? Politically correct censorship is a far greater threat to freedom than the Horst Wessel Lied or the Internationale. :ph34r:

 

Agreed. Mind you I suppose they have the right to at least ask for censorship even if we then ignore them. Takes all sorts.

 

How about:

 

Folk against Safety Nazis?

 

Folk against the Continuing Reduction of All Things to the level of the Lowest Common Denominator (not very snappy that one, I admit).

 

Folk Against Chewing Gum?

 

Folk Against Everyone We Disagree With?

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Folk song is often political, but when it becomes "party political" it usually stops being folk song.

 

The best political songs arise from the issues, rather than political dogma. A couple of quick examples off the top of my head: Oh The Hard Times of Old England; This The Dutchmen Know; I am the Man, the Very Fat Man Who Waters The Workers' Beer; Union Miners, Stand Together.

 

The problem with this BNP thing is not that they are encouraging folk song,or encouraging political folk song, but that they appear to be attempting to hijack folk song for their own purposes - and let's be honest, most of us are more upset by who's doing it than by what they're doing it. If it were some comfortably liberal centre left pressure group rather than a far right group, would we be so upset?

 

But at various times in history, music and arts have been "appropriated" by one group or another for their own purposes. With sufficient distance, this gives us an "interesting historical detail" - but when it is happening around us we tend to dislike it.

 

One of the problems is within the (so called) folk community itself: a shared assumption that "folk" before a certain arbitrary period was somehow "real", but that we ourselves are somehow not "folk": people living in our own culture in our own time, and with our own cultural assumptions, problems and prejudices.

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Whatever we do is within the domain of politics. Politics are how we agree to make our lives better by depending on others to do the right thing. Roads, forests, crops, space, air, movies, books—all are affected by political decisions. The songs we sing, the books we read, the films we watch, are all connected and reflect our political beliefs. Even people from different cultural and governmental structures share some of these political beliefs. But fairy tales from, say, England will be reflective of very different political beliefs than those from Native Americans or Congo tribal people or Tibetan yak herders. It is arguable that there is not a single thing humans do that does not in some way reflect political decisions. The idea that we have a "private life" is a myth. Doesn't exist. Can't exist. We are each of us the sum of political decisions made on our behalf through centuries of governmental, cultural, and familial values and agreements. Whenever one person does something that has an impact on another person, politics is born. Anyone who thinks politics is not relevant really has no clue—no awareness of how our lives are so connected.

 

I haven't yet decided how this all affects pure melody. When we play a tune we think we are doing something essentially non-political. Wilhelm Furtwangler was a musician in Germany during the Third Reich. He was criticized for playing concerts for those in command and for staying throughout the horror years. He later wrote,

I knew Germany was in a terrible crisis; I felt responsible for German music, and it was my task to survive this crisis, as much as I could. The concern that my art was misused for propaganda had to yield to the greater concern that German music be preserved, that music be given to the German people by its own musicians. These people, the compatriots of Bach and Beethoven, of Mozart and Schubert, still had to go on living under the control of a regime obsessed with total war. No one who did not live here himself in those days can possibly judge what it was like.
Which takes us back to Pete Seeger and the relevance of the artist to society. People who think politics are irrelevant are really saying they don't care what other people do. It's either a kind of deep faith in humanity, or a head in the sand kind of approach. You can trust others to keep your interests in the forefront. I would rather have more of a say and believe that politics is always relevant.
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It's not a question of whether or not folk music is, or should be, political. It's not even about the rights of people to sing what they choose. Rather it's about the attempt by the BNP to appropriate English music and customs to their own ends.

 

Mike asked the same question on melodeon.net. Here's what I posted in reply on there:

 

The Right is just as entitled to use music to support its cause as the Left is. If BNP supporters wish to use songs to put over their point of view, there's nothing to stop them - whether they'd find a sympathetic audience amongst most folkies is another matter.

 

What FaF is objecting to is the attempts by BNP to associate all English traditional music and customs iwith its cause. The Nazis succeeded in doing this with German folksong, which to this day remains tainted by the association. I'm all for celebrating St George's Day - but in the right way and in a spirit of inclusiveness for everyone who considers themselves to be English, whatever their origins.

 

The other thing FaF objects to is that the BNP is marketing folk performers' albums through its website, implying that they support its aims - in most cases nothing could be further from the truth. Unless the performers have retained the rights, they cannot take legal action to prevent this. What they can do, through FaF, is to disassociate themselves, and one of the initiatives is the creation of a logo for artists to display on future albums.

 

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Even a "racially insulting" ban is restrictive and dangerous. Who gets to decide what is or is not insulting? Theo van Gogh was murdered by someone who thought he was racially insulting. Certainly some gangsta rap is racially insulting (toward whites). And what about "gender insulting" and "nationality insulting" and every other kind of "insulting" that the perpetually offended choose to ban? In a society where free speech is honored, the BNP has a right to sing whatever they want, and we have a right to think that they're idiots. <_< Ooops - could that be banned as "politically insulting"? :o

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Hehe, yes Dick, sort of like I'll avoid IRA songs (I love 'em) if playing to a pub full of British Squaddies. Or I'd lay off the "Soldiers of the Queen" genre when playing in a fiercly republican pub in Eire. If playing in Argentina I'd also self-censor the playlist of English music and leave in nothing heavier than "I do like to be beside the Seaside".

 

As would all of us possessing a sense of diplomacy.

 

Brixton South London (being Ten Thousand Miles away, may as well be on the moon) may be unkind to performers, but it could be no tougher on singers of racialist songs than my home turf.

Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever set foot in a pub where one could play a concertina & get anything but at the best, dark looks.

 

I sympathise with the griping about the BNP hijacking folk music, and privately wish they'd lay off. But I have yet to encounter similar outrage at (the far more prevalent) left of political centre use of music, leaving me rather cold toward the one-sided objections.

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...historically Fascists have a way of silencing their opposition...nobody wishes to prevent right wing parties from singing their songs providing they dont sing songs that are racially insulting,or incite people to violence...you might find they prevent you from playing certain kinds of music, as Hitler did...

 

Does anyone else find it ironic that folks who cite the evils of Hitler's music censorship are the same ones who want to restrict or ban certain types of song? :ph34r: It's tempting to paraphrase George Orwell's dictum: "All music is created equal - but some is more equal than others."

:lol:

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I have yet to encounter similar outrage at (the far more prevalent) left of political centre use of music, leaving me rather cold toward the one-sided objections.

 

Read the recent discussion on Mudcat - there were plenty of posters who challenged the widespread assumption that folkies are all left-wing.

 

It's one thing to sing sings which put forward a particular point of view, whether that's of the Right or the Left. It's another to make a deliberate attempt to associate all folk music with a particular point of view, and it's dishonest to market artists' records in support of political aims when they have made it very clear that they find those views offensive.

 

We can't say it's OK for one political point of view to use folk song but not for another. This isn't a case of trying to silence right-wing singers while still allowing left-wing singers. The BNP aren't claiming only specific songs which they feel carry their message, they are trying to set themselves up as the natural defenders of English culture, including its folk music and traditions.

 

The far Right has already dispossessed us of our own flag, so that for a while it was impossible to display either the Union Flag or the St George's Flag without it being interpreted as a right-wing political statement. This has started to be reversed (although the interpretation now is that you must be a football fan). We cannot allow them to do the same with our folk music and traditions, otherwise it will be impossible for us to play, dance or even listen to it without being seen as right-wing bigots.

 

Artists whose work is being misrepresented have a right to try to prevent that from happening.

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It's a bl@@dy disgrace to see the far right using folk music like this!

 

In fact, it's just as distasteful as it is to see all those far left singer/songwriters using folk music to ram their bl@@dy politics down our throats, at concerts & festivals!

 

 

:(

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