[Marxism] Tom Hayden and Bob Dylan
lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Oct 25 12:29:42 MDT 2016
Pete Glosser comment on my article about Hayden:
Hayden's trajectory illustrates the futility of believing there can be
radicalism with no grounding in socialist class analysis. This was an
important legacy of the antiwar movement of the sixties and is an
important source for the weird Manichean self-righteousness of the
Putin- and Assad-loving "anti-imperialists" who are lurking behind every
bush not thoroughly peed upon by the Democratic Party.
We should not forget that the Emerson-and-Thoreau blind individualism
and moralism rampant in the antiwar movement in which Hayden figured so
prominently, was the key to popularizing a highly moralistic (and
self-serving) anti-imperialism, even though it made use of themes
offered by Stalinist left-wing formations; e.g., the so-called Maoists.
One of the obscene consequences of this fusion has been the awarding of
a Nobel Prize to Bob Dylan, whose major achievement was to appropriate
the great socialist legacy of the folk music movement--e.g. Woody
Guthrie--and to substitute for it a sort of Gaussian blur whereby the
listener was invited to project his own image against a bokeh of
unfocused word salad with radical and mystical connotations and no real
substance. This theft made BD an immensely wealthy man (which seems to
be all he every really cared about).
The resulting mix had great appeal to young male college students who
wanted encouragement to use drugs and get laid. Being in demonstrations
was a useful path to achieving both goals.
Most of these dabblers were both harmless and useful, and many took
courageous action. But to call their favorite song lyrics great
literature is to glorify the midddle-class adolescent white male
narcissism and selfishness which ultimately is the main theme of Bob
Dylan's alleged art.
Bob Dylan, cynical prick that he is, has written a lot of catchy (if
meaningless) songs, and Tom Hayden, who worked tirelessly all his life
for what he thought was right, did a lot of great organizing before he
repented and joined the neoliberal throng.
In any case, it's important to debunk any tendency toward idolizing
these useful opportunists. Both figures, in different ways, illustrate
how shallow and fragmentary the radical synthesis of the Sixties really
was, and how important it is to reach beyond the Eurocentricty of
American radical culture, with its obsessive nostalgia for the recent
past, to achieve a truly world-historical perspective on the changes
that must come if we are to avoid the rapidly closing jaws of barbarism
in the Nobel-wielding "advanced" countries of the West and in the world
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