Much of the working class has been
represented in the Communist
International and the music of that
movement. And much of the rural
working class has been represented in
Country and Western music.
The Communist International
Class Cuts Across Boundaries
In recent history, socialists have traditionally
believed social class to be the deepest and
most politically significant division in society.
Class is seen to cut across religious, ethnic,
racial and national boundaries, and as such,
socialists have often tried to foster
international working class solidarity.
For example, the First International
Workingmen’s Association was established by
Marx in 1864, a Second or `Socialist’
international was set up in 1889, and revived
in 1951. A Third International or Comintern’
was formed by Lenin in 1919, while a rival
`Trotskyite’ Fourth International came into
existence in 1936.’
As we have seen, the link between
socialism and the working class, however
it is defined, has weakened during the
20th century. In backward countries, such
as Russia, the industrial working class was
small and the Bolsheviks forged an
alliance between workers and peasants,
reflected in what was to become the
symbol of communism: the hammer and
However, in China in 1949 and in other
parts of the Third World, the peasantry
rather than the working class has been
regarded as the `revolutionary class.’ In
the industrialized West, material
prosperity has made the working class
progressively less radical, encouraging
some socialists, like Andres Gorz, to
predict `the death of the working class’.
During the 1960s, the New Left
increasingly abandoned any faith in the
working class or proletariat and looked
instead to the revolutionary potential of
groups like students, women, ethnic
minorities and the Third World.
Woody Guthrie - This Land Is Your Land
Leadbelly- Bourgeois Town
Some musicians have made definite
attempts to draw attention to the plight of
many people living 'down and out' in
cities, in what for some is sheer
hopelessness. Let’s look at some of this.
In the Kinks - 'Dead End Street' What is
this song saying? - "We are strictly second
class - we don’t stand a chance"
This is a song basically about the poverty
and hopelessness of the city - of those
working class in dead end jobs - on 'Dead
End Street'. It is for some, a song about
the hopelessness of class.
Take Billy Joel for a further example.
'Allentown' is about the impact of a
collapsing economy - about the impact of
a collapsing steel industry on a steel town
like Allentown in the United States.
The Kinks - Dead End Street
Billy Joel - Allentown
Billy Bragg - Waiting For The Great Leap Forward
Cat Stevens - Matthew & Son