Ideological Summer Camps

This amusing piece by Charles Davis on how he went to capitalist summer camp and became a communist reminded me of this old Yglesias approval of a pretty cheap shot at Pete Seeger’s communism seventy years ago. Yglesias’ major complaint with his summer camp was that he was forced to sing terrible folk songs, including many by Pete Seeger, and thus learned to hate him for it.*

There’s a whole historical literature on red diaper baby summer camps and how 20th century radicals attempted to inculcate their children into their value systems through these camps. I don’t know if there’s a similar literature on conservative camps. If not, someone should look into this. But I have to wonder how effective these camps are? How many commie kids turned into capitalists and how many Randian kids learned to hold human values as an adult? Not sure how you could quantify something like this, but it’s an interesting question. I’ve often wondered if the only way to give any children I might have in the future the values I cherish is to raise them to be cold-hearted capitalists.

* Although I recognize that I am ideologically wrong about this, I wholeheartedly share Matt’s disdain for sing-alongs. I was once at the Highlander Center in Tennessee, where Guy and Candi Carawan were still the resident folksingers. This was probably 1999 or 2000. Guy Carawan is the individual who taught the old spiritual “We Shall Overcome” to the SNCC students in 1960, making it the anthem of the civil rights movement. Despite recognizing that I was in the presence of greatness, I really didn’t want to sing along. Neither did most other people under the age of 30. Disdain of pure raw emotion is an unfortunate byproduct of the Ironic Age. Contemporary writers about the IWW like Nels Anderson noted the power that common song had to unite the poor. We’ve lost that. Part of that is the greater diversity of musical styles in the 21st century–even if there were anthems to sing along to, what could we agree on? But an equal or greater part is dislike of the style.

174 comments on this post.
  1. Jacob T. Levy:

    And why is it a cheap shot?

  2. Karen:

    I fell in love with my husband because he would play Beatles songs at parties so we could all sing along. Church hymns, camp songs, marching songs — all types of sing-alongs help to focus emotions. This can be used for both good or ill, but it’s powerful tool and we should use it.

  3. StevenAttewell:

    My lefty JCC summer camp when I was a nipper played the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and I enjoyed that just fine. But the main thing was that they didn’t make you sing – you sang if you wanted to.

    Wasn’t that the way it was supposed to work; you sang when the spirit moved you?

  4. Lee Rudolph:

    Way back when I worked at Columbia, one of the original Pennywhistlers worked in my department. She’d been to one of those red diaper summer camps, was definitely a commie, and when Pete Seeger came to town to give a benefit/reunion concert for it and its veterans, she invited me and my compañera. We had a great time (there wasn’t, if I remember right, all that much singing along). Anyway, as to how many commie kids turned into capitalists? I really couldn’t say, but I can tell you that there seemed to be an awful lot of embarrassed people in the auditorium when Pete sang The Internationale.

    Personally, I think it’s got a stirring tune and stirring lyrics, and just because it was used as an anthem by some pretty bad Bad Guys for a while, it shouldn’t be abandoned.

  5. Erik Loomis:

    Because being a communist during the Great Depression was an entirely sensible and reasonable position to take.

  6. cafl:

    Your post — head — stick.

  7. Malaclypse:

    Enough said.

  8. Linnaeus:

    Camp? What’s that? We just went up north to the cottage every summer for a week or two.

  9. Erik Loomis:

    I don’t think I ever even met anyone to went to a summer camp as a child. It was something people did in the movies.

  10. Linnaeus:

    Now I need to watch Cradle Will Rock.

  11. Linnaeus:

    I could count on one hand or less the number of people I knew who did.

  12. Eli Rabett:

    No way. This is the one that killed sing alongs

  13. Leeds man:

    I wholeheartedly share Matt’s disdain for sing-alongs

    Depends on the songs. The earnest maunderings of wishy washy huggy-folk, or John Lennon, just don’t do it. Needs more Sex Pistols, The Clash, and yeah, The Internationale.

  14. Thlayli:

    I went to day camps as a kid, but the only summer I spent at a sleepaway camp I was old enough to go to the general store down the road and buy beer after lights-out.

  15. Larry:

    Here’s one anyone the least bit to the left can agree on, and it’s good! Oh, and it’s mine. https://soundcloud.com/larry-piltz/the-flag-of-democracy-who-will

  16. jon:

    Kids tend to rebel against their upbringing and try to push the boundaries. So, it is very transgressive to be conservative when you have radical parents. I’d expect a good deal of that, particularly since the parents already occupied so much of the radical terrain.

    And it works in the other direction, too. A great number of my most committed young, radical friends came from families among the social, political and military elite, and very conservative society. Besides simple rebellion, they were personal witnesses to much of the moral bankruptcy and corruption of the military industrial complex, and were sickened by their association with it.

    As for those pink diaper camps, generational differences may have caused as much disaffection as anything else. What does the Civil Rights movement mean to a pubescent a generation or more removed from the circumstances? Most kids don’t hear a protest song unless they’re forced too, and it doesn’t sound much like Justin Bieber or whoever. It is an error of attending to form over substance. There are plenty of kids who are receptive to becoming radicalized: you have to meet them on their own terrain in order to get anywhere. Advertisers learned this long ago.

  17. Lee Rudolph:

    I am so glad to have that testimony from you two. The only kid of my acquaintance who went to a summer camp did so via the YMCA; but his parents were widely understood to be Upwardly Mobile (indeed, his father was a Junior Executive as well as a member of the Y—which certainly none of the other fathers of my friends were). But after I went away to college it became clear that summer camp was the norm in the circles I was now going to be exposed to. That might have been as much a function of my college being on the east coast (and home in Cleveland, back when Ohio was still the midwest), what with the New York Times’s Fresh Air fund and all, as it was of class; but it didn’t feel that way.

  18. Hogan:

    From my only venture to a comedy club:

    If I had a hammer
    I’d hammer in the morning
    I’d hammer in the evening
    All over this land

    If I had a bell
    I’d ring it in the morning
    I’d ring it in the evening
    All over this land

    If I had a shotgun
    I’d KILL THE FUCKING ASSHOLE WITH THE HAMMER AND THE BELL

  19. jeer9:

    Please don’t. It’s terrible. Me and Orson Welles, on the other hand, has the same cast of characters and is at least entertaining – provided you can stomach an overdose of Zac.

  20. NBarnes:

    Waiting until you really believe something before doing it is actually exactly opposite of what these camps are trying to achieve. Once you actually believe it, their work is done. Their job is to get you to the point where you think you want to sing; that’s what indoctrination is all about.

  21. Linnaeus:

    I’ll give it a try.

  22. NBarnes:

    Yeah, it’s basically all about class. Young upper classists in the making get sent out to places where the proletariat can’t get at them to make sure they all have a common base of shared experiences and cultural background. It’s not even about the networking; it’s simply about making sure that the next generation of Job Cremators knows all the right secret handshakes.

    You’re not vulnerable to Equal Opportunity Act suits if you only hire the children of last generation’s Job Cremators.

  23. Tnap01:

    Holy shit Erik just admitting that you read Charles Davis will probably lead to you being put on the No Fly List or at least another apology from your weasel President. Dude makes Greenwald look like a cheerleader for the Great American Empire.

  24. Linnaeus:

    Spanish songs in Andualucia…

  25. DrDick:

    I knew a few who went to church camps, but that was it.

  26. Mike G:

    A friend went to a John Birch Society summer camp as a teenager back in the 80s. He wouldn’t give much detail, but didn’t speak well of it.
    He voted for Obama both times.

  27. Lee Rudolph:

    Just remembered, that Norwegian mass murder was at a social-democratic summer camp. The train of thought that that engenders makes me sort of glad that there don’t seem to be any red-diaper summer camps left…

  28. Michael H Schneider:

    Contemporary writers about the IWW like Nels Anderson noted the power that common song had to unite the poor.

    Not just common song; any shared activity tends to build solidarity, even among people who are not poor. I was just reading about the experience of bearing arms in a militia at the time the 2d amendment was written, and it made this point:
    http://chronicle.com/blognetwork/edgeofthewest/2012/12/21/a-community-of-arms/

    I remember being excited by the idea of the first Obama campaign, thinking it might be a shared struggle, so I went to one of the early organizing meetings for volunteers. The presenter talked about how this wasn’t going to be a top down operation but an organization of small cells. Of course, he spent the entire two hours saying this while speaking – no questions allowed – from the well of the largest classroom in the law school to about 200 people who weren’t allowed to participate. This rather undermined the message.

    But then, the guy in charge of the campaign here was this ass:
    https://secure.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/17/new-mexico-ofa-firebagger-lefty-blogosphere_n_929231.html
    so perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised.

    Shared experience of struggle just ain’t what it was in the good old days, before those kids kept ruining my lawn.

  29. Warren Terra:

    I don’t know if a summer camp can indoctrinate an unwilling subject (and the stories I hear about Bible Camps reminiscent of the Gulag make me rather dubious, at least of those attempts), but I think a camp that cheerfully and enthusiastically propounds a worldview (rather than trying to beat the viewpoint in) can build and reinforce in kids already sympathetic to it.

    I went to a couple of ideological summer camps that I remember especially fondly (among other summer camps I remember less fondly, which were more hobby-based), where the indoctrination was I think fairly effective – a Science Camp (and, yes, rationality and wonder in the natural world is an ideology) and a Zionist Socialist Peacenik camp. Even if not fully convinced by everything espoused at the latter, I certainly gained a lot of respect and affection for the idealists of the zionist Left simply from a well-constructed exposure to them.

  30. Hogan:

    and, yes, rationality and wonder in the natural world is an ideology

    That’s the saddest thing I’ve heard all day.

  31. Warren Terra:

    Congratulations. This may be the sickest thing I see on the internet for the remainder of 2012 (admittedly, I don’t try to seek such out). The notion that a bunch of kids who had gathered together to dedicate themselves to a more just and a safe society became the victims of a right-wing psychopath is an argument against the ideology they shared? Against gathering to share an ideology? What was your point, other than simply to demonstrate your utter inadequacy as a human being?

  32. Bill Murray:

    As could I, if you don’t count sports camps. Almost all my friends now and then did sports camps (mainly day camps). And I guess i did a summer academic workshop at West Point that probably counts as a camp

  33. Warren Terra:

    Really? I was just trying to be flexible in my definition, and the counselors at science camp were just at least as effective at promoting the idea that science and the natural world are worthwhile enthusiasms as the counselors at the Zionist Socialist camp were at promoting their ideology.

    And, after all, I’m not convinced that a majority of our countrymen share a belief in the importance of rationality and a wonder in the natural world. I’d argue that not only is science an ideology, it’s one we badly need to spread.

  34. Shawn:

    From “Bloom County”, gently mocking right wing college age revolutionaries:

    If I had a hammer
    I’d hammer a commie….”

  35. Murc:

    I don’t think I ever even met anyone to went to a summer camp as a child

    Maybe this is a socioeconomic thing?

    I went to Space Camp two years, and a more traditional ‘you live in cabins by a lake’ summer camp another thing.

    And it cost my parents a pretty chunk of change all three times. They were life-enriching experiences, but they were very ‘you’d better be upper-middle class.’

    Although there were one or two working-class kids at Space Camp, if I recall.

  36. Hogan:

    I’m not saying you’re wrong, just expressing how I feel that we’ve come to this. “Pleasure in learning about the natural world makes the baby Jesus cry” is not something I want to have to argue against.

  37. Murc:

    Disdain of pure raw emotion is an unfortunate byproduct of the Ironic Age.

    As a millenial, and thus, smack dab in the middle of the age cohort that thinks Generations X and Y are a bunch of try-hards when it comes to irony, I disdain pure raw emotion because usually the people I see exercising it are scumbags I want nothing to do with. I associate appeals to emotion with people trying to implement reactionary social policy based on hatred.

    This isn’t to say I don’t feel it. I get supremely pissed off an awful lot. But I try and channel it productively, and I immediately suspect anyone who I think is deliberately trying to angry me up, because when I’m full of emotion is when I do dumb shit.

  38. Andrew:

    To be fair, so would being a fascist.

  39. snarkout:

    I think he was imagining wingnuts coming in guns blazing.

  40. Erik Loomis:

    I’d really disagree with that. CPUSA is not exactly an organization one wistfully longs for, but being a communist in the US in the 30s carried a certain set of humanistic values that being a fascist did not. I realize that it was supporting a very non-humanistic leader in Stalin, but those things are easy to do when that leader is far away. Within the US, communists were doing things like fighting for union rights and against lynching.

  41. Erik Loomis:

    I’m sure it’s a socioeconomic thing. Not a lot of camps priced for loggers’ kids. Instead, we played baseball.

  42. Matt:

    Are you including Boy Scout Camp in that? I went to that. Otherwise, camp, especially for more than a week, is mostly a North East (and often Jewish) thing.

  43. Matt:

    There’s a whole historical literature on red diaper baby summer camps and how 20th century radicals attempted to inculcate their children into their value systems through these camps.

    Richard Posner was a red-diaper baby who turned against the left when his parents took away some of his Christmas gifts to give to the Rosenburg’s kids after they were executed. His parents had been friends with the Rosenburgs. A crazy but true story.

  44. Erik Loomis:

    Probably not but then I didn’t know anyone in Boy Scouts either.

  45. Emma in Sydney:

    The reason Pete Seeger played summer camps was because he was blacklisted by the House Unamerican Activities Committee and couldn’t get other gigs. It had the happy side effect of building an audience through the 1950s so that when he played for the Civil Rights Movement (Cargegie Hall 1963 being the recorded example) he could fill the hall.

    As a child of socialists in far away Australia in the 1960s, I grew up on that album (my parents wore out three copies).

  46. One of the Blue:

    We had municipal summer camps where I grew up where I’m not sure there was any charge at all. Of course we also had socialist mayors between the mid-’20′s and the mid-’50′s.

  47. Erik Loomis:

    Denizen of Milwaukee I gather?

  48. Sly:

    After settling in to our dorm rooms, the campers—a diverse array of white middle-class nerds from eastern Pennsylvania—were broken into teams and ordered to establish the rigid hierarchy necessary for any exploitive power structure to flourish. With a local businesswoman as our mentor, we dutifully chose among ourselves a CEO, a CFO, and all the other assorted middle-management ways to say “asshole.” Our purpose? To compete in a fun and educational simulation of the business world where we’d sell undefined “widgets” to made-up clients.

    Until this moment, I could never quite imagine what Hell would be like were it real.

  49. Warren Terra:

    Sadly, these self-imagined Masters Of The Universe likely enjoyed themselves, or at least some of them did.

    What is Hell is that there’s a fair chance you’ll wind up working for these glib, entitled would-be sociopaths.

  50. Mike Schilling:

    being a communist in the US in the 30s carried a certain set of humanistic values

    And the ability to ignore the fact that every change in the CPUSA line exactly tracked Soviet policy. In 1939, that finally became too much for a lot of people to swallow, but not everyone.

  51. Jacob T. Levy:

    The degree to which that was true does not extend to “following Stalin’s shifts in attitude toward Hitler 1939-1941 was an entirely sensible and reasonable position to take.” And so Boaz’ column does not seem like a cheap shot.

  52. brandon:

    Yeah, I think he’s saying that if there were such summer camps still around, they’d be targets for the homegrown crazies.

  53. Erik Loomis:

    Let’s just say that I think there’s a certain amount of grey area there, although I agree that it was unfortunate.

  54. Leeds man:

    The notion that a bunch of kids who had gathered together to dedicate themselves to a more just and a safe society became the victims of a right-wing psychopath is an argument against the ideology they shared?

    I have no idea how you gleaned that from Mr Rudolph’s comment.

  55. Both Sides Do It:

    I associate appeals to emotion with people trying to implement reactionary social policy based on hatred.

    Or to sell something

  56. Warren Terra:

    Lee seemed to be saying that the camp engendered an atrocity, when it was the victim of an atrocity.

  57. salacious:

    This response doesn’t really wash. It’s not as if being a fascist would all of a sudden be less objectionable if they had been involved in some more community service projects. The magnitude of the villainy on both sides of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact tends to overshadow pretty much everything else, and rightfully so.

    I understand that individuals associated with the (Stalin-era) CP were often far more attractive people than those associated with he fascists. But I don’t see what the problem is in saying that this is so *despite* their alliance with the supporters of a mass-murdering dictator. Why can’t people admit that it’s a (significant) blemish on a perhaps otherwise admirable character?

  58. Leeds man:

    It was Lee’s train of thought that was engendered.

  59. Djur:

    Don’t worry, the Stalinists rewrote the Internationale substantially, and they used a different song as the Soviet national anthem.

    The Internationale belongs to the left, not to the Soviets, and it remains unstained by those “Bad Guys”.

  60. Djur:

    Never did summer camp, really. Like other people, went to various YMCA and sports-related day camps during the summer, and the schools here in Portland send you out to a camp for a week once when you’re in middle school. I had horrible allergies and got sent home halfway through.

    We did do outdoorsy stuff as a family, though. Camping, going to the coast, etc. But the idea of being sent away for an extended time seems crazy to me.

  61. Richard:

    Not after the show trials in 37 and the Hitler Stalin pact of 1939

  62. Richard:

    I went to the Max Strauss summer camp in LA. Actually a camp for wayward youth. I wasn’t a wayward youth but it was the only camp my mom could affird

  63. Djur:

    For me, it’s always the French Internationale. It sounds the best. Both of the traditional English versions are clunky in their own way, and Billy Bragg’s is awful.

  64. Richard:

    I think he was saying that in this day and age, left wing camps are easy targets for crazed right wingers with guns

  65. catclub:

    I am over 30, so not completely ironic, but have thought that Pete Seeger had the best job in the world.

    Getting large groups of people to sing and enjoy it.
    At least it _looked_ that way at Obama’s inaugural when he did This Land is Your Land.

    The religious version is: “he who sings, prays twice.”

    The non-religious version in “This is you Brain on Music”, is that music and dance are key parts of our evolution.

  66. Richard:

    I agree. Cradle Will Rock just isn’t good

  67. Uncle Ebeneezer:

    I only like sing-alongs when they are somewhat spontaneous. If the singer asks the audience or waves his/her hands encouragingly, I usually have no greater desire than to resist. Same goes for clap-alongs. I’ve been in a couple bands that have been real into that kind of thing, and it was always a source of contention between me and the rest of the band. I think it looks Vegas-cheesy, no matter who does it.

    Slightly off topic but: did anyone else out there ever have a military rock band come perform at their High School? We had an Air Force band that came and played all the current rock hits for an assembly. I remember the super-dorky guitar player explaining how great the military was as an option for becoming a musician and “getting paid to do you what you love!” We also had former Boston Bruin, Derek Sanderson come and give us an anti-drug lecture.

  68. Richard:

    Even without HUAC, Pete might have been playing summer camps in the 50s. His style of music had become passé until the folk revival of the late fifties and early sixties.

  69. Warren Terra:

    There’s an old Jeremy Hardy gag something like “God bless Billy Bragg, but you only have to hear him sing (song) to know that Extraordinary Rendition means Torture”

  70. Warren Terra:

    I’m fond of the soundtrack, at least parts of it, and have forgotten the film entirely.

  71. Linnaeus:

    I associate appeals to emotion with people trying to implement reactionary social policy based on hatred.

    That need not be the case. Just about any effective social movement, even a progressive one, encompasses some appeal to emotion.

  72. NonyNony:

    On a rational level, you’re correct.

    On an emotional level, I’m with Murc (though I’m in the Gen X crowd myself) – in my lifetime the folks who have most successfully used emotional appeals are scumbags using hate to sell reactionary politics. So emotionally I recoil against emotional political appeals.

  73. Linnaeus:

    Certainly reactionary politics in the US (and elsewhere) has included a potent emotional component. And I do think that appeals to emotion ought to be handled with care. At the same time, I am a little skeptical about claims about progressive politics that downplay the role of emotional appeals. I think that downplaying sometimes results from normalizing progressive emotional appeals and recasting them as “rational”.

  74. Richard:

    Not really true unless you are limiting yourself to white Protestants. Jews of every class went to summer camps. Whole networks of summer camps for Jews of every economic class were set up in the 30s and maintained for over fifty years.

  75. RhZ:

    I realize that the term is used somewhat ironically here, but I would like to remind all of you that communism is a horrible political system that invariably involves a lack of human rights and personal freedom, and seemingly always involves torture.

    I live in a big communist country and know whereof I speak. Secret police, disappearances, black jails, all of this goes hand in hand with modern day communist ideology.

    Again, I don’t think anyone here is using the term literally. Except the trolls.

  76. Marek:

    Harrumph.

    Seriously, racial equality is a “community service project”? Paul Robeson has a two-word reply for you.

  77. Marek:

    I respectfully disagree about Billy Bragg’s version. My son wondered, once, why it wasn’t in a restaurant’s jukebox.

  78. Warren Terra:

    The professed ideals of the fascists were terrible; the professed ideals of the communists were not. Both ideologies turned out to animate massively murderous totalitarian empires, but we shouldn’t forget the difference in how they chose to appeal to their audiences.

  79. Marek:

    Pete Seeger is our greatest living American. WTF is wrong with singing, or sing-a-longs? Insufficiently ironic?

  80. Warren Terra:

    The Hitler/Stalin pact of 1939 was of course a total deal-breaker, but while some people close to the situation saw the show trials clearly (Louis Fischer, say), others saw the alleged exposure of massive malign and underhanded conspiracies against the Communist state, and had their perceptions colored not only by their tribal loyalties but also by their accurate knowledge that massive and sneaky forces had been deployed against the Communist state, and against progressive forces all over the world and closer to home, making the lies of the Show Trials easy to believe.

  81. joel hanes:

    That would have been me, a week each summer for two summers at the Presbyterian Church Camp on the north shore of beautiful Lake Okoboji. I don’t think it did me any harm, and maybe some good: I learned to expose and develop and print black-and-white photos, how to make friends in a group of strangers, and how to keep silent.

    And how to sing all twelve verses of “Green Grow The Rushes”

  82. John Revolta:

    I remember an article in Mad magazine in the ’60s
    that used this as an explanation for why you
    always get along with your grandparents………

  83. John Revolta:

    Large groups of people singing together in public used to be a big thing in this country just because it’s fun (see: Max Fleischer, Mitch Miller, etc.). Still happens fairly often in English pubs. Don’t know how it got to be so uncool here but I agree that you can’t force people into it or you kill it.

  84. Vance Maverick:

    There’s a puzzle. I can think of a very big country in which the party in charge is called communist, but which seems in practice to have swung over to 190-proof capitalism. (Not that life there was all rainbows and unicorns back when the party was worthier of the name.) So I wonder just where it is you live.

    But in any case, I don’t see anyone here talking up communism unqualified (take the discussion above on the attractions of various political systems to ordinary folk in the ’30s).

  85. Murc:

    That need not be the case. Just about any effective social movement, even a progressive one, encompasses some appeal to emotion.

    Well, you are, of course, correct. Even my rejection of pure raw emotion is based on my visceral dislike of those I associate those appeals. And of course my desire for social justice and economic equality stem from basic pulls towards justice and fairness.

    But, basically… I’ve spent a lifetime in which the angry crowd being whipped into a lather by a demagogue have been the people who want to turn the country into a theocracy, rather than the guys who are mad as hell at being kept down by the man and aren’t going to take it anymore. And even notwithstanding that, whenever people make a direct emotional appeal to me that is devoid of any other substance (that clause is key), I tend to find myself thinking “you don’t have an argument. If you did, you wouldn’t need to resort to trying to manipulate me emotionally.”

  86. Murc:

    I would like to remind all of you that communism is a horrible political system that invariably involves a lack of human rights and personal freedom, and seemingly always involves torture.

    You’re thinking of state socialism, which is indeed a thoroughly discredited ideology. Although most of the regimes that practiced (or continue to practice, in the case of North Korea) this did indeed label themselves communist, so there’s debate over what the useful meaning of the word is.

    Actual communism is probably a pipe dream, as it requires the absence of the state.

    I live in a big communist country and know whereof I speak.

    I highly doubt this.

  87. Vance Maverick:

    What’s the substance of disagreement here? You seem to be saying that there can be too much emotionality, while Linnaeus is saying there can be too little. Both claims, to understate, should be acceptable to anyone.

    Maybe it would help to get concrete. Are there cases where strong emotion helps put across progressive politics without dulling thought? I can think of some journalism that qualifies, but I’m not sure about gatherings.

  88. Capt. Trollypants:

    I presume Yggie was just triangulating: “10 Can I be made fun of for singing these songs? IF YES, GOTO 20; 20 REJECT, GOTO 30 30 CONTRARIAN COBAG”

    He’s the kind of guy that would secretly want to play Dungeons and Dragons but would be too afraid of what the other kids would say, and then would find a way to slam that crowd as to his left, or worse, participate and then place bus on top of them when convenient. SHIPPING McMATT TIL I DIE

  89. arguingwithsignposts:

    I did not go to summer camp as a child, but I have known quite a few people who did, and not all were upper middle class. There were summer camps for all the varieties of Christianity, apparently – Lutheran, Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, etc.

    Interestingly, later on, I was a chaperone for a group of underprivileged inner-city kids who went to a camp – their fees were paid for entirely by the camp. it is somewhat unfortunate (looking back) that the camp was a “bible camp,” but the kids were able to see clear river water, go on nature hikes, enjoy various activities with kids from all around the country, and have a good time for a week or so.

    Most of them I know had never been beyond the boundaries of the city they’d been born in.

    I think every child should be able to go to a summer camp at least once.

  90. Colin:

    Same here – a Methodist church camp one summer. All I remember from it was having a good time canoeing out on the lake, swimming, and playing soccer; I definitely don’t remember any particularly heavy-handed religion. Though one of the camp counselors was Australian and convinced us to try vegemite, which was a particularly hellish experience.

  91. Linnaeus:

    Good point. I should say that I don’t disagree so much as I was adding a caveat. The point I was making was probably pretty obvious to the folks here. I think I’ve just run into a lot of people (particularly on internet forums) who really affect a sort of idealized rationalism that doesn’t reflect how people across the spectrum actually think about politics.

  92. Linnaeus:

    I would look to the civil rights movement for examples of that. Granted, there’s a powerful social justice argument that is rooted in history and philosophy, but the emotional appeals are also pretty clear, IMHO.

  93. Lee:

    My brother and I were unusual because we were Jewish kids who didn’t really go away to sleep away camp till we were 12. Our parents were pretty busy during most of the school year, so they wanted us around in the summer so they could spend time with us.

  94. Lee:

    The parks department of my town ran the camps for kids.

  95. Lee:

    Washington Bullets would be a pretty good sing a long if the leader is skilled enough to get everybody in rhythym.

  96. Lee:

    Most leftward politics are based on emotional appeals, its just not usually phrased in those terms. Leftward politics usually speak in terms of justice and fairness These aren’t direct emotional appeals because people usually do not associate the word justice or fairness with emotion. However, these are indirect emotional calls to people’s better natures.

  97. JoyfulA:

    I went to church camp (UCC) at 12; Camp Michaux had previously been a Japanese POW camp and still had their art, which was interesting. Otherwise, I didn’t like being out in “nature.”

    My late husband, a Catholic, went to Salvation Army camp. When a neighborhood priest demanded that the local SA send no more Catholic kids to camp, he took the trolley to another SA and enrolled in summer camp there.

    My camp was cheap, and the church paid half; his camp was free. Most of the working-class and lower-middle-class kids I knew from being a child circa 1950 had gone to some sort of summer camp.

  98. J. Otto Pohl:

    To me the fact that the communists had “good ideals” makes them worse rather than better. It has allowed Stalinism to live on and be resurrected in a way that German National Socialism can ever be. Germany and Austria are never going to have a revived cult around Hitler the way Russia and Central Asia have around Stalin.

    Also the term fascist here is really too broad. Italian Fascism for all its faults ranks rather low on the evils of the 20th century compared to German National Socialism. What we are really talking about here is not fascism vs. communism, but Naziism vs. Stalinism and what ever “ideals” they may enshrine in practice they both inhabit the same level of evil.

    What completely distorts the historical record is that Stalin and his regime are given full credit for the defeat of Naziism. Thus all of his crimes have in places like Russia become justified as necessary and good due to their role in the defeat of Hitler. Because Hitler is portrayed as the ultimate evil every single crime by Stalin becomes white washed as part of some greater “anti-fascist” struggle.

    This argument ignores two things. First, Stalin’s crimes probably hindered rather than helped the war effort. A great deal of war material was diverted from the front to deport racially stigmatized minorities like Volga Germans, Kalmyks, Chechens, and Crimean Tatars. Not the least the fact that tens of thousands of men from these groups were removed from the active ranks of the Red Army.

    Second, Stalin and the NKVD did not win WWII. The men and to a lesser extent women fighting in the Red Army including Volga Germans, Kalmyks, and Crimean Tatars defeated the Nazis. Confusing the efforts of ordinary Soviet citizens with Stalin and his regime is common today. But, it was not in the 1950s and 1960s in the USSR when there were still a lot of Red Army veterans who had also spent time in GULag camps around. The post-Stalin leadership and “Thaw” having recently released them from incarceration.

  99. Lee:

    China isn’t really 190% capitalist. The actual Chinese economy is somewhat hard to describe but the closest example is the NEP-era Soviet Union. Like the NEP area Soviet Union, the Chinese state is still heavily involved in the economy both in terms of ownership and regulation of certain industries and overall directing the economy. At the same time, they allow private business to do what they want at other levels of the economy.

    Its kind of like a combination of the NEP and Gilded Age American capitalism.

  100. J. Otto Pohl:

    Paul Robeson is an interesting example of an intellectual who was rather blind when it came to the USSR. He was a very talented singer and actor who was unjustly discriminated against in the US due to his color. But, he could not see the faults of Stalin’s USSR because their brand of racism did not target the very small population of African descent for persecution.

    This lack of discrimination against “negroes” has more to do with their very small numbers and Soviet propaganda strategies than any real commitment by Stalin in support of their struggle. The expulsion of George Padmore from the Profitern over his commitment to African liberation from France and the UK rather than to “anti-fascist” popular is evidence of the low level of real support from the USSR to opposing racism outside its borders.

    Interestingly enough Robeson did an MA in Swahili at SOAS and the graduate residence where I lived for two years is named after him. Historically, Robeson can probably be forgiven for his failure to see the Soviet reality. It is his music that he is rightfully remembered for. But, I think he was typical of a fair number of US intellectuals including W.E.B. Dubois in his attitude towards the USSR.

  101. J. Otto Pohl:

    Bruce Cockburn did a serious update of the song called “If I had a Rocket Launcher.” I think he said it was inspired by the crimes of Salvadorean death squads. The chorus goes “If I had a rocket launcher I’d blow some son of a bitch away.” While definitely a man of the left, Bruce Cockburn is also a practicing Christian so I am assume that this song was metaphor.

  102. J. Otto Pohl:

    I am going to have to say I think what you had in the 1930s was a number of people doing good things despite their membership in the CPSU. Jim Thompson would still have been a great writer and Paul Robeson as mentioned below a great singer if they had not joined the party. But, their party membership did not really dictate their art.

  103. J. Otto Pohl:

    But, 1939 was not a total deal breaker. Not even the denunciation of Stalin by Khrushchev at the 20th Party Congress and the invasion of Hungary in 1956 were complete deal breakers for some. W.E.B. Dubois for instance remained in the CPSU despite these events. I think he had the same distorted view of the USSR as Robeson. Although interestingly enough he chose to emigrate to Ghana not the USSR.

  104. Leeds man:

    Guatemala. The original has “some son-of-a-bitch would die”. Don’t see the serious update.

  105. J. Otto Pohl:

    oops the end of the second paragraph should read

    “anti-fascist” popular fronts

    not

    “anti-fascist” popular

  106. bloix:

    This is bullshit. Seeger’s music became “passé” because the Red Scare shut it down. Singing folk songs in the early 50′s pretty much tagged you as a subversive.

    Pete Seeger’s group, The Weavers, was huge in the early 50′s. They topped the charts with Goodnight Irene (25 weeks on the Billboard Best Sellers in 1950, and the #1 song for the year), Tzena Tzena (#2 on the Billboard chart in 1950), Kisses Sweeter than Wine (#19 on the 1951 Hit Parade), On Top of Old Smokey (#2 on the Billboard chart in 1951), and many other hits. They were headed for years and years of popularity.

    In 1952, they were blacklisted. Their label, Decca, cut them. They could appear on radio or TV and could not get bookings in concert halls.

    In 1955, they were able to book Carnegie Hall, after other more appropriate halls for a popular group would not have them (Carnegie had a practice of renting itself out in addition to booking acts, and the management didn’t know who it was getting.) They sold out, and the recording of the concert (produced by Vanguard Records, a tiny label that refused to comply with the blacklist) went to number 24 on the Billboard Top 200, without any airplay or support from a national tour.

    Segar didn’t appear on national media for 16 years – not until 1968! - when the Smothers Brothers brought him on.

    (And of course the Smothers Brothers themselves were cancelled in 1969 because of their opposition to the war, and their careers never recovered.)

  107. J. Otto Pohl:

    Yes, there were admirably CPUSA members that produced good books and music. Although a lot of them like Fredrick Pohl (no relation) and Jim Thompson did their best writing considerably later than the 1930s.

  108. J. Otto Pohl:

    When I was involved with the NWU (National Writers Union – UAW local 1981) back in the late 1990s there were some people there that tried to instill a Union heritage into their kids. One way was to force them to listen to 1930s folk music. The predictable reaction is that the kids rebelled against the folk music being foisted upon them by their parents. If your “uncool” parents support something you are not going to like it as a teenager, especially music.

  109. J. Otto Pohl:

    Okay, the song is a couple of decades old and that is when I heard the interview. At least I was in the right geographical region.

  110. seeker6079:

    I’d agree, and add only that for GenX et seq. these emotional “appeals” are often less appeals than they are impositions: they aren’t sweeping us up in the moment, we’re being told to feel something. It’s mandatory! And the fact that we all have to do it together makes it genuine!

    This is true whether it’s the obligatory hug folksie Jesus song at mass, played by the deeply suspicious man with the acoustic guitar, the 4 trillionth boomer exhortation to their own magnificence, or the times we have to BANZAI! at the beginning of the day to keep our shitty Walmart jobs.

  111. Richard:

    I disagree. It was rationally impossible to believe that the original Bolsheviks, the defendants in the show trials, had all joined in a vast conspiracy to destroy the Soviet Union and ever harder to believe the obviously scripted confessions

  112. seeker6079:

    “Singing folk songs in the early 50′s pretty much tagged you as a subversive.”

    Hmmm…. If vicious McCarthyism was responsible for the social ostracism of oh-so-earnest people with acoustic guitars singing hyper-earnest solidarity ditties then maybe there’s something to be said for deranged anti-communism after all.

  113. Richard:

    That’s my point. It was possible to be a sincere but naive member of the CPUSA before the show trials and the pact. The members who remained after 39 were willing to support anything Stalin did, even the pact with Hitler and the rape of Poland

  114. Richard:

    Don’t have time to argue with you but I disagree. Yes, the Weavers were big for a while and had their career shortened by the Red Scare but the Weavers, as opposed to the Almanacs, soft pedaled or eliminated the political songs.

    And musical styles change. Folk songs didn’t become less popular only because of the Red Scare. Burl Ives remained popular but changed his style to more pop. As did the Weavers who used Gordon Jenkins as their producer and arranger for their big hits

  115. seeker6079:

    Just a thought on Bruce Cockburn and “rocket launcher” . in that Reagan era he was pretty much of a type, i.e. the leftwing twin to folks who cheer America-is-always right songs: when your side kills innocent people it’s a crime but when my side does it it’s justice.
    For those of you who live PS (post-Stewart) it’s easy to forgot that the 80s produced some of the most smug, sel-righteous and TOTALLY humourless lefties imaginable

  116. Richard:

    not sufficiently ironic and, to some people like myself, just too hokey. I dont like singing along to the type of folk songs that Seeger championed (with the exception of This Land). As far as Seeger goes, I like, for the most part, what he has done with his life (the exception is toeing the Stalinist line from 39 to the late 50s) but dont much enjoy his singing. Its too sweet and pure for my tastes. I like a lot more of the rough and ragged.

  117. Hob:

    What’s wrong with “sing-a-longs” is that there shouldn’t be a hyphen after the “a”. People are singing along, they’re not singing a “long.” Grr, hopeless pet peeve…

  118. Leeds man:

    when your side kills innocent people it’s a crime but when my side does it it’s justice

    How does that apply to Cockburn? If I Had A Rocket Launcher was a cry of rage. See Loomis brouhaha.

  119. Richard:

    And one correction. The Weavers disbanded in 1953 because of the blacklisting and then reunited in 1955 for the Carnegie Hall concert. Seeger then left the group in 1958 because he believed they had sold out to commercial interests (agreeing to record a cigarette ad). And Carnegie Hall in 1955 would have been an ideal place for a Weavers concert. It had been used for pop/jazz concerts for nearly two decades and, in the heart of NYC, was the optimum spot for a Weavers reunion.

    Slight irony – Vanguard Records, with a name taken from the CPUSA lexicon, and home to the Weavers, Robeson, Baez, Country Joe and numerous other heroes of the left, is now owned by the Lawrence Welk Music Group.

  120. seeker6079:

    It’s a wider picture of his politics at the time. His home base was Toronto (and still is, afaik) and he was very much out in the public centre square of the political debates of that era, much more of a more-than-music celebrity than he is now. American-backed contras murdering people? Evil! Russians leaving booby-trapped toys for kids? Blink blink blink subject change. American missiles pointed at Western Europe? Evil! Russian missiles pointed at Western Europe? Blink blink blink subject change. And I worked and studied with folks juuust like him for years. The lefties of that era are the only folks I’ve ever seen match or top today’s American evangelicals for sheer smug self-righteousness and holy certainty.

  121. seeker6079:

    Correction: American missiles pointed at eastern Europe. Even Reagan wasn’t that out of it. ;)

  122. seeker6079:

    You’re thinking of state socialism, which is indeed a thoroughly discredited ideology. Although most of the regimes that practiced (or continue to practice, in the case of North Korea) this did indeed label themselves communist, so there’s debate over what the useful meaning of the word is.

    Meeeehhhh…

    Aren’t you getting awfully close to AndrewSullivanitis on this one? X (in Sullivan’s case, “conservatism” or “catholicism”, in your case “communism”) isn’t what it actually is or does, it is whatever idealized or academic platonic construct of it is.

  123. seeker6079:

    bloix: Why need it be an either/or? Yes, folks of the left were hustled off the national stage. (Still are, for that matter.) But that doesn’t necessarily mean that people’s tastes didn’t change. Maybe folks got tired of that kind of folk music. IIRC R&B and rock were breaking out then, and that miiiiight have had something to do with it.

    Bias alert: My reaction to folk music is the same as Wednesday’s. It’s the one art form that makes me want to reach for Goering’s revolver, no matter what the lyrics. (Exception! Christine Lavin who has a sense of humour, something otherwise forbidden to folk musicians since the Earnestness Act of 1962.)

  124. joe from Lowell:

    There were more communists than the CPUSA, though.

    In Fitchburg, Massachusetts, for instance, the local Finnish-immigrant communists were divided into pro- and anti-Stalin factions in the 1930s.

  125. Anonymous:

    supplemental:

    The lefties of that era are the only folks I’ve ever seen match or top today’s American evangelicals for sheer smug self-righteousness and holy certainty.

    This is why I roll my eyes when people say from the safety of 2012 things like “political correctness on campus is a myth and always was!” Phooey. Anybody who can say that wasn’t actually on (at least a Canadian) campus in that era.

  126. Richard:

    For good reason. Far too episodic. And the big finale -everybody going to the other theater and performing The Cradle Will Rock from their seats is just not inspiring (in large part because the lyrics and score to Blitzstein’s The Cradle Will Rock is preachy and not very good)

  127. Chris Goff:

    I think your aversion to the sing-along is more an aversion to the institutional sing-along. I’ll freely admit to being kind of uncomfortable and squirmy when the union meeting ends with the singing of “Solidarity Forever.” I’ll also admit to lustily belting out all of the verses to it with 40 or 50 people at the bar after a day of activism and loving it.

  128. Richard:

    In most areas, there were the Stalinist Communists and the Trotskyist Communists but the Stalinists won all the battles and totally dominated the CPUSA . As access to Soviet files later revealed, the CPUSA was almost totally funded by cash from Stalin

  129. Hogan:

    Jackrum sighed. ‘There’s a song,’ he said. ‘It starts “Twas on a Monday morning, all in the month of May—’

    ‘Then it is about sex,’ said Polly flatly. ‘It’s a folk song, it starts with ‘twas, it takes place in May, QED it’s about sex. Is a milkmaid involved? I bet there is.’

    ‘There could be,’ Jackrum conceded.

    ‘Going for to market? For to sell her wares?’ said Polly.

    ‘Very likely.’

    ‘O-kay. That gives us the cheese. And she meets, let’s see, a soldier, a sailor, a jolly ploughboy or just possibly a man clothed all in leather, I expect? No, since it’s about us, it’ll be a soldier, right? And since it’s one of the Ins-and-Outs . . . oh dear, I feel a humorous double-entendre coming on. Just one question: what item of her clothing fell down or came untied?’

    ‘Her garter,’ said Jackrum. ‘You’ve heard it before, Perks.’

    ‘No, but I just know how folk songs go. We had folk singers in the lower bar for six months back hom—-where I worked. In the end we had to get a man in with a ferret.’

  130. Richard:

    Large groups of people singing together in public still occurs. Fenway Park and Sweet Caroline. Any Springsteen concert with Hungry Heart and Born To Run. Any baseball park with Take Me Out to the Ball Game. Not so much with political songs

  131. Hogan:

    You seem to be misinformed about practicing Christians.

  132. Hogan:

    By the late ’20s most of the Trotskyists had left the CPUSA and formed other organizations. They were still active and still communists, just not Communists.

  133. Leeds man:

    Russians leaving booby-trapped toys for kids?

    He didn’t write a song about that? He must be a commie, and obviously exactly like the folk you knew. Not sure he’d have been too happy about their atheism, though.

  134. RedSquareBear:

    And how is the weather today in Nigeria, Otto?

  135. Colin Day:

    And Stalin’s failure to prepare for Barbarossa didn’t help either.

  136. Murc:

    I’ll be honest, I’ve always been sympathetic to Sullivan’s main point here.

    The meaning of words can change over time, and it’s important that words reflect their practical usage, but at the same time… well, I can only say that I would be really angry if “liberal” or “progressive” were defined out from under me to mean something else.

    Example: there have been a whole shit-ton of repressive dictatorships that put ‘People’s Republic’ or ‘Democratic Republic’ in their names. That doesn’t mean that countries which actually ARE democracies and republics should abandon the term, does it?

    In this specific instance… if I’m meant to abandon the term communism as it was originally defined by Marx and instead apply it to the state socialist countries which emerged much later, what word SHOULD I use to describe Marx’s theorized system in order to differentiate it? And, should we go back and edit his texts to reflect that for modern readers so they don’t get confused?

  137. Uncle Ebeneezer:

    You had to bring up Sweet Caroline at Fenway…now I want Neil Diamond’s head on Pesky Pole.

    I think my main reasons for generally disliking sing-alongs comes down to: 1.) the fact that I don’t like people prompting me to do something (especially in public), 2.) most of the music where big sing-alongs happen, tend to be the music that I’m just not that into (or I was at one point but now I’m totally sick of it: Hey Jude, We Are The Champions, etc.), 3.) it is usually a staple of BIG concert events (I largely prefer seeing music in more intimate venues, 4.) it’s almost always totally obviously staged, and I find the staged aspects of live music far less interesting than the improvised elements, 5.) it has become a crutch used by many performers to be perceived as “professional”, and is entirely overused. Audiences love it, and many musicians are so desperate for positive feedback that they also believe that this shtick is somehow a positive reflection on their talent/performance/artistry, whereas I see it as a gimmick that any band can use (including some great ones, admittedly.) Ironically, my last band won a battle of the bands and the thing that probably put us over the top was crowd response.

  138. seeker6079:

    Weird. I could have sworn that I specifically mentioned his public celebrity political activities. I can even see it written right there, but since you feel all I was talking about was his songwriting then you must, naturally, be utterly right and thus internet victorious.

  139. Colin Day:

    But you might as well say that about public schools.

  140. Colin Day:

    The word “ideology” has the connotation of pushing ideas too far. While science is a set of science, do we push them too far?

  141. seeker6079:

    If you aren’t asking rhetorically, perhaps “Marx’s Communism”? “Manifesto Communism?” “Theoretical Communism”? “Sugarcandy Mountain”?

  142. Leeds man:

    No, I’d just like some indication of what he actually said which lent tacit approval to Russian atrocities. You know, evidence. A link would be great, and then you can declare victory. Cool.

  143. Leeds man:

    I was at the U of T 74-80. Saw plenty of sexism, especially among the faculty, and science/engineering students. PC, not so much. Same at the University of Alberta in the years following. Maybe I should have hung out at Sidney Smith Hall more.

  144. seeker6079:

    You will note that you’ve changed the dynamics of the debate: you’re asking for a link to support a point that I didn’t make, i.e. tacit approval of Russian atrocities. I spoke not of that, but of his only wanting to talk about American and rightwing wrongdoing during that era; that was his focus, that’s what he talked about if he was in the news. Moreover, it’s totally cute how your world seems only to start when hyperlinks do. Do I have access to hyperlinks conveniently proving every time I saw Cockburn on the news, or commenting on issues that were important to him? No. Did I actually live at that time, hear him, see him and know of his public views and priorities? Yes. You’re free to treat that as invalidating my points, if you wish.

  145. Manju:

    …reminded me of this old Yglesias approval of a pretty cheap shot at Pete Seeger’s communism seventy years ago.

    According to William Hogeland, Seeger had a fake apology for Stalinism…

    http://williamhogeland.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/apologies-and-apologetics-pete-seeger-absolves-himself/

    …which he compares to WFBuckley’s fake apology. I should really get this guy up to speed on Byrd’s fake one.

    Yg is right. I’d like to see Seeger’s head on a stick.

  146. Leeds man:

    I’m not invalidating anything, and I didn’t realize it was a debate. I was around back then, and don’t remember Cockburn avoiding questions about Russian atrocities.

    Russians leaving booby-trapped toys for kids? Blink blink blink subject change.

    Isn’t that tacit approval?

    Moreover, it’s totally cute how your world seems only to start when hyperlinks do.

    We’re communicating on the internet. Weird that I should ask for a link.

  147. Jacob T. Levy:

    “unfortunate”

    Just in case anyone thought that Erik Loomis was *always* prone to rhetorical overstatement.

  148. rea:

    Cockburn’s politics are a bit more complicated than you suggest.
    Link to photo of Cockburn in Afghanistan, getting handed a rocket launcher by Canadian general

  149. Hogan:

    Most leftward politics are based on emotional appeals

    Most politics of any kind is based on emotional appeals, because people are not fundamentally rational creatures. The difference is largely in the set of emotions appealed to: the anger/fear groups, or the hope/compassion groups.

  150. seeker6079:

    We weren’t in Afghanistan during the Reagan era, which was the only one that I was talking about.

  151. Mpowell:

    Exactly

  152. seeker6079:

    I think my main reasons for generally disliking sing-alongs comes down to: 1.) the fact that I don’t like people prompting me to do something (especially in public)…

    Oh lord I agree. That’s why I loathe with a deep passion all of those too-hearty group enthusiasm team building exercises. Why can’t I like and work with my co-workers without some ever-smiling faux-laughing facilitator prompting us into group exercises?

  153. Mike Schilling:

    Very non-humanistic leader to describe Stalin is pretty understated too.

  154. seeker6079:

    Try York in the 1980s. Yikes. It actually got a bit worse after I left, going into the early 1990s. What it was like for the rest of the 90s or now I couldn’t tell ya.

  155. Richard:

    I generally agree. Although there’s still a thrill at a Sprinsteen show with seventeen thousand middle class adults singing “tramps like us baby we were born to run”.

  156. Uncle Ebeneezer:

    Totally. And I would sing along with that too. But if Bruce is holding the mic up to the crowd and gesturing for everyone to sing, that’s where it crosses the line of hooey-ness, to me. Especially if he points the mic at the audience and he doesn’t sing. As much as the audience participation and sense of community is cool, I paid good money to hear the artist on stage sing that awesome chorus. Not to hear everyone in the stadium except the artist, sing it.

    Don’t even get me started on clap-alongs (which never go more than two bars before the crowd speeds up exponentially.)

  157. Richard:

    Bloodthirsty tyrant is the better description

  158. Richard:

    Well he always does the pointing the mic at the audience and not singing after hitting the opening notes for Hungry Heart. I like it because its part of the show, everybody anticipates it and everybody hassle practiced those first lines in order to do it right. And he then joins in for the chorus

  159. Uncle Ebeneezer:

    Well yeah, i should have noted with much of this stuff, I grant a pass to the likes of Bruce, McCartney, Bowie etc. Speaking of big concert sing alongs I did always think this was pretty cool.

  160. Leeds man:

    Try York in the 1980s

    Yes, I can believe that.

  161. Richard:

    Yeah. I was never a big Queen fan but that was cool. And the bass riff to Under Pressure was incredibly cool

  162. RhZ:

    Yes Lee you are right, the closest match would be the old USSR. The SOEs (state-owned enterprises) dominate a very large part of the economy, and what is left is largely dominated by those with the relationships to get government approvals and so on. Families are then privileged to open small shops to sell clothes, cigarettes, and so on. And pay their rent to the connected class…

    My point is, I really hope no one here thinks that communism is a viable political system. Unless one were willing to chuck individual rights out the window, because afaik the two have never co-existed.

    Its kind of like a combination of the NEP and Gilded Age American capitalism.

    Yup exactly right, and its a terrible combination.

  163. bloix:

    “If I had a Hammer” was a song of the civil rights movement. It was made a hit first by Peter, Paul and Mary by Trini Lopez in 1963, one of the very few Mexican Americans to cross over to mainstream popularity. His version went to #3. It communicated to a mass audience that America was not free, that it was not just, that things had to change. The “asshole with the hammer and the bell” was a 26-year chicano from the Little Mexico barrio of Dallas, and he changed the country.

    Folk music was crucial to the civil rights movement, absolutely central to it. Singing along was something a person could do with others. It awakened emotions of solidarity, empathy, commitment. It led people to do courageous things that they might not ever have done otherwise.

  164. RhZ:

    I don’t even know what you two are on about. And Murc, what do you highly doubt? Is your point that no actual communist country exists? Or do you doubt that I am writing to you from Shanghai? Or do you doubt that I know what I am talking about??

  165. Warren Terra:

    I think the idea that China is functionally Communist at this point is debatable, to the point that I don’t even know how you’d make the “pro” case. Sure, it’s a one-party state ruled by the “Communist Party”, but – at least from the other side of the ocean and based on reading newspapers – I can’t see how modern China even attempts to follow any of the ideas of “Communism”.

  166. spencer:

    Really? Wow. My parents were about as mid-middle class as you can get, and they sent my brother and me to camp every summer in the late 1970s through the mid-1980s. Granted, for six years or so it was to a “day camp” in suburban Detroit, but once we relocated we spent a couple of weeks each summer at a YMCA sleepaway camp in the woods of central Florida (a quantifiably worse experience than the day camp, fwiw). I only did that for two years before I aged out, but my brother kept at it for a few more years.

    It never seemed like a class thing to me, though. There were a lot of kids at both camps who were identifiably poorer than my family was.

  167. Bloix:

    Burl Ives was blacklisted in 1950 and couldn’t work until he testified in 1952 before HUAC, after which his old folkie friends wouldn’t have anything to do with him. He had a solid career as a film actor and then re-positioned himself as a counry singer.

  168. J. Otto POhl:

    I have no idea. I live in Ghana. But, I assume Nigeria is just as hot as here.

  169. J. Otto Pohl:

    I am pretty sure that the scriptures of the New Testament call upon the followers of Christ to abjure violence. Things like “turn the other cheek” and what not. There have been lots of people claiming to be Christians that have not abjured violence, but usually the theological justification is based on the Old Testament. It is hard to see anything in the NT where Jesus calls for violence among his followers. Certainly Christian groups like the Mennonites who are radically pacifistic have a pretty strong basis in New Testament scripture for their beliefs.

  170. Malaclypse:

    Rarely does theory inform praxis quite so woefully as in American Christianity. See also.

  171. J. Otto Pohl:

    Didn’t Trini Lopez also sing the Christmas hit, “Feliz Navidad” which I have been hearing everywhere for the last week?

  172. J. Otto Pohl:

    Okay there are lots of bad Christians. But, my original point was that I think Bruce Cockburn is sincere in his Christian beliefs and that would include abjuring from violence. Hence the song “If I had a Rocket Launcher” is metaphorical rather than literal.

  173. Bloix:

    You’re thinking of Jose Feliciano, the Puerto Rican singer-songwriter.

    There’s a truly charming video of the two of them singing La Bamba (a hit for Lopez) at an outdoor concert 35 years ago.

    http://nostalgeros2010.bligoo.com.ar/content/view/1096290/Jose-Feliciano-Trini-Lopez-La-Bamba.html

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