[Marxism] Cornelius Cardew

Ruthless Critic of All that Exists ok.president+nbsy at gmail.com
Thu Mar 5 21:48:50 MST 2009

On Sat, Jun 14, 2008 at 1:39 PM, Angelus Novus

<fuerdenkommunismus at yahoo.com> wrote:
> A nice Marxist appreciation of the English composer
> Cornelius Cardew:
> http://www.solidarity-us.org/node/1558

Liberation Music

Richard Gott

Review of : _Cornelius Cardew: A Life Unfinished_ by John Tilbury

LRB 12 March 2009

[...] Cardew had by now taken up the Maoist cause with enthusiasm,
influenced by Keith Rowe, a fellow ‘Scratcher’ and member of AMM who
had become an ardent and persuasive member of a Maoist groupuscule,
originally known as the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist).
In the obscure and largely forgotten interstices of the British left
during the upheavals of the 1970s, when hundreds of actors, artists
and musicians took up the cudgels (usually Trotskyist) in support of
what they hoped was an imminent revolution, there were few more
perverse and irrelevant political groupings than this particular sect.
Cardew was to devote the last ten years of his life to promoting its

The CPE(ML)’s prophet was a Punjabi-born Communist called Hardial
Bains, one of the first Communists anywhere to set up a ‘revisionist’
Party in the early 1960s, designed at the time of the Sino-Soviet rift
to support the pro-Chinese cause. From his base in Canada, Bains
helped to establish pro-Chinese parties in India and the United
States, as well as in Britain and Ireland. A flavour of Bains’s
uncompromising stand can be gleaned from the title a Maoist study
group at London University gave to a meeting held in November 1971:
‘Alan Sillitoe and David Mercer: Traitors to the English Working
Class’. Further meetings, with more innocuous titles like ‘Seek Truth
to Serve the People’, were held in December that year, and Cardew and
Tilbury, with other members of the Scratch Orchestra’s ‘Ideological
Group’, were persuaded by Rowe to go along. Soon the Ideological Group
began to criticise the inadequacies of the Scratch Orchestra itself.
‘The message of Yenan’ is clear, Cardew wrote in his journal in
January 1972: ‘We must associate with, talk to, study, know deeply,
live with, make intimate friends amongst, work with, the working
class.’ In practice, he went on, we have regarded ‘our petty bourgeois
comrades and friends as more important than workers’.

Obsessed with the Maoist command ‘to serve the people’, Cardew now
began to condemn avant-garde and ‘elitist’ music – his own and
others’. The main focus of his attack was Stockhausen, his old friend
and mentor. [...]

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