The Sunday Independent, 8th March 1998
Rodriguez and communism's anti-establishment clarion calls still resonate
by Darryl Accone
Two phenomena, reports of whose demise have been exaggerated greatly, returned in quiet triumph in the past weeks. One was the reappearance of the cult folk singer Rodriguez, ending a pervasive and persuasive urban myth that he had killed himself on stage. The second was the 150th anniversary of the publication of the manifesto of the Communist Party. They are bracketed together, not merely because of chronological coincidence, but because of the cold fact that both are passionate anti-establishment clarion calls. To hear Rodriguez sing, This is Not a Song it's an Outburst, is to be reminded of the capacity of folk music to analyse and criticise society in ways that the cacophonies of today's popular music are incapable.
The mayor hides the crime rate council woman hesitates /
Public gets irate but forget the vote date.../
Garbage ain't collected, women ain't protected /
Politicians using people they've been abusing /
The mafia's getting bigger, like pollution in the river/
And you tell me this is where it's at.../
Gun sales are soaring housewives find life boring/
Divorce the only answer smoking causes cancer/
The system's gonna fall soon, to an angry young tune/
And that's a concrete cold fact.../
The little man gets shafted, sons and monies drafted/
living by a time piece, new war in the far east...
To read again the astonishingly pithy but potent 23 pages that constitute the distillation of Marx's and Engels's socialism is to be reminded of its enduring relevance. Naturally, capitalist critics will scoff at that claim, pointing out, misguidedly, that the manifesto predicts the inevitable collapse of capitalism. It does not. What Marx and Engels posit is that human agency has to break down the capitalist monolith; it will not crumble because of inherent systemic weaknesses. In that, they are at least several strides ahead of Rodriguez's looking forward to the demolition of the system by an angry young tune when he recorded The Establishment Blues nearly a quarter of a century ago.