Mudcat Café message #789620 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #51714   Message #789620
Posted By: MikeofNorthumbria
23-Sep-02 - 11:44 AM
Thread Name: Ewan MacColl and Stalin
Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl and Stalin
Hi folks!

Look, can we try and get this story in some kind of historical perspective?

Yes, it's true that Ewan, like several other prominent folk singers of his era, was a committed Marxist. It's easy enough - with the benefit of hindsight - to criticise them for this. But try looking at the world from the position they were in.

When MacColl was a teenager, the world was gripped by a massive economic depression. Millions of people couldn't earn enough money to feed themselves, while food was being dumped or destroyed because prices wouldn't cover the cost of hauling it to market. ("The harvest is in, and the crops are all rotten…" Woody Guthrie) Many people (not all of them Marxists) believed the global economic system had broken down irretrievably.

Some leaders - Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, etc - claimed the only answer was an authoritarian government with the power to eliminate anyone who disagreed with it. They justified this repressive policy by claiming that their nations were threatened by "racially inferior" enemies, within and without. Their admirers included Sir Oswald Moseley and his aristocratic friends in Britain, the Action Francaise movement in France, Henry Ford and Father Coughlin in the USA, Major O'Duffy and his Blueshirts in the Republic of Ireland, and many others.

Meanwhile, the rulers of the Western democracies had few remedies to offer, beyond waiting patiently for the slump to end, and praying that the dictators would only gobble up far-off countries about which "we" knew little and cared less. No wonder so many concerned and energetic young people joined a radical movement which seemed to have more constructive policies, and the will to carry them out.

In those days, the full extent of Stalin's terror was still concealed. His lesser crimes were excused as tragic necessities by plausible advocates. Of course, we know better now. Lucky us. How pleasant it is to live in an era when there are so many intelligent leaders with stainless records! How happy for us that genocidal dictatorships, indecisive democracies, economic slumps and mass poverty are merely subjects for historians to debate!