[Marxism] Tom Hayden and Bob Dylan

Louis Proyect 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 
at large.

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