Issue 195 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published March 1996 Copyright Socialist Review

REVIEWS
Real China--From Cannibalism to Karaoke

BOOKS

Leap into the dark

Real China--From Cannibalism to Karaoke
John Gittings
Simon & Schuster £16.99

'The result in many rural areas by the early 1990s has been a complete breakdown of the remaining trust between Party and peasants, which had survived even the upheavals of the Great Leap and the Cultural Revolution.' It's a stunning assessment of the state of rural China today, but one which the author backs up in detail in this excellent new book.
John Gittings is one of the clearest and most perceptive writers on China today. A Maoist in the 1960s, he welcomed the economic reforms of the 1980s but has become increasingly critical of their results.
Real China is based on his travels in south central China, a region he characterises as 'Middle China', both in terms of its history as China's heartland and its economic position today, midway between the booming coastal regions and the far west where little has changed. If there is such a place as 'typical China', he is saying, here it is. He argues that this is the best place to measure the real impact of the economic reforms on the lives of the majority of Chinese people.
Each chapter takes a particular aspect of changes in everyday life, putting them into a sharply drawn historical context. They cover such diverse themes as the rise of peasant unrest, the changing fortunes of city economies, the growth of religious sects.
On the surface, the gains of the economic reforms have spread deep into the countryside. Even in the smallest and most remote towns the arrival of karaoke bars, satellite television and Western fashions has changed life utterly for a minority of the population.
Yet underneath the surface the reality for most people is greater inequality than ever in living memory. Gittings has a sharp eye for the contrasts that show this up: the rural motorway swept by roadsweepers; the peasants queuing outside a railway station for two days on their way to look for work in the cities; the horrendous health and safety conditions in the booming sweatshops.
The chapter on peasant revolt analyses this inequality in greater depth. The growing mood of rebellion has two root causes--the limitless greed and corruption of local officials and the recent fall in peasants' incomes. A large part of that fall is due to the endless new taxes imposed by local officials lining their pockets.
The details he gives of the revolts against this--mass demonstrations, attacks on tax collectors and other officials, organised looting of state property--show the extent to which the state's control has broken down. Large parts of rural China are now engulfed in low level, semi-permanent simmering revolt.
The peasants' growing alienation also explains the mushrooming growth of religious and millenarian groups. In Henan Province alone there are between one and two million members of evangelical churches, overwhelmingly drawn from the very poorest peasants. They face fierce repression from the state--the ruling class knows how such groups have become organising centres for peasant rebellion in China's past.
Yet their growth also shows that there is no guarantee that peasant anger will necessarily turn against the ruling class. That anger can equally turn inwards to religious solace, or against other peasants. In 1991, for example, in just one month the police in Hubei Province stopped 176 gunbattles between peasants over water resources. Crimes of all sorts have soared in rural areas as people seek to get out of their misery in any way they can.
The conditions that Gittings describes have been going on for several years without mounting a fundamental challenge to the ruling class. They can ride out rural disorder, even on a large scale, far easier than they can cope with opposition from the working class in the cities. It's the one weakness of this book that the focus on rural China means too little space is given to what's happening among the working class.
Despite that, it's one of the best and most readable books on China today. It's also fascinating on aspects of recent history only now coming to light, such as the gruesome story of ritual cannibalism during the Cultural Revolution (which gives the book its subtitle), and the return of the cult of Mao. Anyone who wants detailed arguments about the damage that the free market does to people's lives will find plenty of ammunition here.
Charlie Hore


As I Lay Dying

Through hell and high water

As I Lay Dying
William Faulkner
Vintage £6.99

I first read Faulkner two years ago on the recommendation of my daughter. She was 'stunned' by the novel she'd read--it was As I Lay Dying, written by William Faulkner in 1930. It is said that he wrote the book in six weeks while on night shift, working as a coal heaver in the local power station. Whether or not that's true, the power and originality of the book remain the same.
The novel charts the trail of a poor white family carrying the coffin of their dead mother on a 40 mile wagon journey to Jefferson, Mississippi, to be buried among her folks. They trek through hell and high water to fulfil their promise to a dying Addie Bundren. The journey is relentless, but there is no turning back. It is a test, a public affirmation of familial devotion--a heroic mission. Or is it a futile, proud, selfish gesture? Or is it both?
As one calamity follows another, the buzzards gather to accompany the ill-fated travellers to their destination. The narrative is carried by the characters: as they speak their thoughts, the heaving mass of contradictory emotions bred and buried within the family are exposed--and the growing stench is as oppressive as that of the rotting corpse.
In the 1930s the whole of American society was in crisis, particularly the South. Faulkner's characters are the people, the victims and the perpetrators who inhabit the South. Whereas other American writers reacted by justifying the values of the old slaveholding South, Faulkner, though no revolutionary, shares no such illusions. His characters, like the situation, are complex and contradictory.
Faulkner and his characters are at once fascinated and repelled by the mixture of legendary greatness, guilt and corruption, sin and redemption, that was the burden and legacy of the post Civil War South. In an atmosphere of social unease and moral confusion people live out their lives. If they are imperfect, mean, selfish, it is because the brutality of their world robs them of their humanity. Their strength lies in their endurance, and they are endowed with a fatalistic capacity to endure.
Here the tensions, the frustrations, the resentments, the anger, the secrets, the crushed and mutilated dreams, are all played out. What passes for family feeling is revealed to be dogged pride, duty, self denial. And all the while the backdrop intensifies the atmosphere--the land where 'everything, weather, all, hangs on too long. Like our rivers our land: opaque, slow, violent; shaping and creating the life of man, in its implacable and brooding image.'
William Faulkner is now recognised as one of the major American writers, though in the 1930s and 1940s his work was largely neglected and disparaged, and many of his works were out of print. His most significant series of novels (including As I Lay Dying) is set in a fictitious area in the Deep South, Yoknapatawpha County. The inhabitants are farmers, woodsmen, storekeepers, planters, ex-slaves, poor whites--a microcosm of Southern society. Faulkner's subject is the human condition and he writes about it where he knew it best. His subjects speak in the vernacular of the South and his works are steeped in authenticity.
His style is not always easy. He plays with time, uses multiple narrators, employs an introspective form of poetic prose. It can be confusing and demanding, but it also gives the novels a richness and depth that repays reading them over again. As I Lay Dying (newly reprinted) contains all the essential ingredients of Faulkner at his best, while being fairly short and very accessible. A good place to start.
Beth Stone


Blind Eye To Murder

Friends at the top

Blind Eye To Murder
Tom Bower
Little, Brown £20

In 1991 parliament voted to allow prosecutions for war crimes committed during the Second World War. It is likely that the first such trial will begin later this year. The reason for the delay is simple: successive governments have encouraged known war criminals to settle in Britain. immediately after the war, there was a massive shortage of labour. To meet the demand, the government encouraged 100,000 East Europeans to emigrate to Britain. Only 2,000 Jews were allowed to emigrate. By contrast, 9,000 members of the Ukrainian divisions of the Waffen-SS were allowed in.
At the end of the war Germany was occupied by four armies--British, French, American and Russian. Each claimed to be committed to the denazification of Germany--the removal of all Nazi party members and fellow travellers from positions of authority. Yet only a tiny minority of those that committed the crimes of the Holocaust were ever punished.
The reason was linked to the nature of the war. It was supposed to be a war against fascism and for democracy. However, each of the powers was determined to prevent the growth of revolutionary ideas, in Germany and throughout Europe. They took possession of a country with its pro-fascist ruling class still intact. Again and again they supported members of this old and 'trustworthy' elite--against what they saw as dangerous revolutionaries. Whether they were Jewish, Communist, or socialist, it was the anti-fascists who were the enemy.
One prominent pro-fascist who was protected by the British government was Hermann Abs. He was a director of Deutsche Bank, the main financier of the firms that had carried out the Holocaust. Abs had been part of the negotiations by which IG Farben was paid 250 million dollars (at 1941 prices) to set up a factory producing artificial rubber using slave labour from Auschwitz.
In 1945 Hermann Abs was on the list of those who were to be automatically arrested.
However, the British treasury was determined that he should be rescued, so that the links between German and British capital could be restored.
Hermann Abs was later made chairman of Deutsche Bank, a position he held until 1995.
Faced with the accusation that the authorities were doing nothing to prosecute former Nazis, the British secret service was commissioned to find prominent fascists still living in the Russian zone. They found one, and publicised the case. But the man concerned was actually a British spy--sent to Russia after he was 'pardoned' by the British authorities.
This is not to say that the Russian government was any more thorough in denazification. The Russians, like all the powers, were determined to find businessmen and scientists that they could deal with.
At times this book is hard to follow. Like most war literature, it often describes events in terms of 'Churchill then told the cabinet...' However, the author makes one point very well: even in the face of the hideous murders carried out in the name of the 'Final Solution', capitalism has always placed profits before justice.
Dave Renton


The Sleaze File

Back to Old Corruption

The Sleaze File
Judith Cook
Bloomsbury £10.99

Everyone knows that standards in public life have seriously deteriorated under the Tories. Judith Cook's book provides a handy round up of the most recent stories of corruption and profiteering that have come to light in high places.
She details the rise of the quangocracy, scandals within the NHS, the pillage that accompanied privatisation and the profiteering that has followed, the Westminster Council affair led by Lady Porter (without doubt the biggest scandal in the history of local government), the secret funding of the Tory Party, the cash for questions scandal, the Matrix Churchill affair... The list goes on and on.
Let us look at a couple of her case studies more closely. Despite repeated denials, it is absolutely clear that the Tory Party continues to sell peerages and knighthoods for cash.
Between 1979 and 1993 the Tories awarded 18 life peerages and 82 knighthoods to businessmen connected with 76 companies that over the same period gave £17.4 million to the Conservative Party or its front organisations.
Judith Cook also provides numerous examples of newer corruption, none of it actually illegal. Consider, for example, the sale of the port of Medway. A management buyout purchased the port for £29.7 million, way below its estimated value. The workforce loyally collaborated in pushing up productivity and many of them invested their savings, buying shares at £2.40 each.
Their reward was large scale redundancies that cut the workforce from 668 to 260 and the compulsory sale of their shares to the company at £2.50 each. This was at a time when the market value of the shares was a phenomenal £35. Only 18 months after privatisation the management team sold the port for £103 million, a profit of over £70 million.
The evidence Cook presents is absolutely overwhelming. Where she falls down is in assessing the significance of the rising tide of sleaze. Is it something marginal that a simple change of government will put right or something more fundamental?
A good case can be made that what the Tories have been doing is to create a 'New Corruption' comparable to the Old Corruption that governed the country in the 18th century.
They are overthrowing many of the reforms associated with the so called 19th century revolution in government and going back to a system dominated by patronage and licensed monopolies.
The rise of the quangocracy has gone a long way to reversing the Whig reforms of local government carried through in the 1830s. Instead of elected representatives we have an ever growing number of Tory placemen and women running affairs, whoever wins the local elections. This year it is estimated that nearly 8,000 quangos will dispose of £54 billion in public funds.
Privatisation has seen the establishment of rich powerful monopolies that are actually licensed to pillage the consumer. Electricity, gas, water, and, of course, the National Lottery are all providing huge profits for shareholders and obscene salaries.
One last crucial component of this New Corruption is the close inter-relationship that exists between the state, the arms industry and the Tory Party. The decisive event here is the rolling AI Yamamah arms deal with Saudi Arabia, the biggest arms deal ever. This £20 billion deal involved secret commission payments of over £200 million.
The extent of this interpenetration between state, arms industry and Tory Party has been graphically demonstrated by Michael Howard's decision to deport the Saudi dissident Dr Mohammed al Mas'ari. This was done at the insistence of the arms industry.
How will New Labour cope with the New Corruption? Given that Tony Blair has no intention of carrying through any programme of reforms and is dedicated to making Labour acceptable to business, we can confidently expect that Blair and co will do little to challenge the set up.
John Newsinger


The End of Innocence: Britain in the Time of Aids

New prejudices for old

The End of Innocence: Britain in the Time of Aids
Simon Garfield
Faber & Faber £7.99

This book has been described as the British And the Band Played On, but any comparison with Randy Shilts's, powerful account of the growth of Aids in the US shows up the weaknesses of Garfield's project. Not that he hasn't gathered together interesting facts and anecdotes about everything from the discovery of the Aids virus, and the search for a cure, to the radicalisation of a generation of gay men who have attended the funerals of too many friends and lovers.
But the book lacks the sense of outrage and struggle that gave And the Band Played On its structure and focus. Instead we have pages devoted to an apparently serious appreciation of Princess Diana's contribution to the public's awareness of Aids (!) alongside a useful section on class and health. Throughout the book there is this continuous flitting between serious analysis and the completely superficial.
The facts behind the government's stance on Aids throughout the 1980s are revealing. Garfield shows that its reluctance to take responsibility for scientific research and safe sex publicity reflected its prejudices about Aids being a gay plague that didn't affect 'ordinary' people. So cynical was the cabinet at any attempt to address the problem that when John Patten was the health minister and began to pay attention to Aids he was referred to by Kenneth Clarke as 'the minister for gays'.
Health workers saw the number of people ill with Aids increasing yet had trouble convincing narrow minded Tories that open discussion about sex was necessary to save lives. Tortuous discussions took place before the first official public information was produced in the form of a closely typed newspaper ad. Every word was picked over--Thatcher refused to allow the phrase'anal intercourse' to be used and asked why the ad needed to be in all the national papers and not just 'on lavatory walls like the old information they used to have on VD'.
Despite the numerous examples Garfield gives of government ministers blocking effective public information he remains uncritical. For instance, he reports that when Virginia Bottomley became health secretary she impressed the voluntary organisations with her 'compassion and enthusiasm'. One official in the Department of Health points out that she spoke up about Aids because she realised it made the headlines. Then 'that all changed when that boy climbed into the lion's den; then mental health was the big headline and she could run with that'.
The book does show that attitudes to Aids have come a long way since the early 1980s. One doctor describes the fear and ignorance that surrounded the first patients. 'It was very difficult to get them hospitalised... to get patients treated as normal human beings... We treated people extremely badly. It was like medicine 600 years ago.'
In one Scottish hospital a patient was only fed Ryvita as it was the only food that staff, who had no knowledge or training in how the disease was spread, could push under the door. As a home help in central London in the mid-1980s I remember long debates at shop stewards' committees about whether union members should refuse to work in the home of someone with Aids, and being in a minority of one when it came to volunteering for such work. Some of these fears were based on lack of information but, because press coverage at the time focused on Aids as the 'gay plague' spread through a 'perverted lifestyle', suspicion and fear often masked prejudice and homophobia.
Today the majority of people with Aids across the globe are heterosexual, poor and living in Africa and Asia--new prejudices replace old ones and, although treatment has vastly improved, a cure seems as distant as ever. This book contains some useful information but does little to shed light on wider arguments about the values of a system which watches people die rather than spend money on a determined search for a cure.
Judith Orr


The New Italian Republic

The shock of the new

The New Italian Republic
Eds: Stephen Gundle and Simon Parker
Routledge £14.99

As I write, news of further corruption charges against Silvio Berlusconi are reported in the British press. Yet Berlusconi was supposed to be the 'Mr Clean' of Italian politics. The media tycoon stormed into politics less than three years ago to fill a vacuum left by the collapse of the discredited governing parties.
Berlusconi cobbled together a coalition comprising his own Thatcherite Forza Italia, the racist Northern league and the fascist National Alliance. It was the first time western European fascists had been in government since 1945.
The coalition was unstable from the outset, with the fascists standing for a 'strong' unified state while the Northern League urged its breakup. At first, it seemed successful but within months Berlusconi's attack on state pensions triggered huge protests, including a 10 million strong general strike and a massive demonstration of 1.5 million. Under this pressure the government collapsed.
The traditional postwar governing parties, the Christian Democrats and the Socialists, were the principal victims of the Tangentopoli (Kickback City) crisis from the moment it erupted in early 1992. The parties' support collapsed in the wake of revelations of their corruption and links with organised crime. By the end of 1995 hundreds of politicians, including former prime ministers Andreotti and Craxi and bosses such as fashion designer Giorgio Armani, had been charged and tried.
Each ruling class attack on workers has met with working class militancy, often on a huge scale. At the centre of the resistance have been resurgent rank and file organisations together with a growing and influential Rifondazione Communista--a left reformist split from the PDS (the relaunched Communist Party).
The New Italian Republic is the most substantial (English language) account to date of the present crisis. Its editors have produced a collection of 20 essays which survey the range of economic, social and political aspects. Like most edited collections, it suffers from the lack of an overall analysis. Nevertheless, there is a general agreement that the crisis was principally triggered by the collapse of Europe's Stalinist regimes and the unsustainability of systematic corruption in politics and business. What it does not do is offer a thorough class analysis. John Foot's chapter on Rifondazione Communista and the anti-Mafia grouping La Rete provides a start but is heavily skewed towards electoral politics. Even the chapter on industrial relations, whilst very useful, concentrates on union leadership politics rather than the turbulent developments at rank and file level.
The best analysis comes in the chapters on the judiciary, the mass media, the 'economic elites' and the Neapolitan Camorro, when the book looks at the crisis of the ruling class and its divisions over Berlusconi's strategy. And if you want useful introductions to the full range of old, new and fragmenting Italian parties this is a good place to start.
The New Italian Republic is a comprehensive and up to date book. This is no small achievement given the scale and complexity of the crisis. All the same, it is probably better used for reference; a cover to cover reading left me reaching for the political equivalent of Milk of Magnesia. If you want a more gripping read of the 'story' as it unfolded, try Mark Gilbert's The Italian Revolution.
Paul Brook


In the Name of the Law: Collapse of Criminal Justice

Down to earth

In the Name of the Law: Collapse of Criminal Justice
David Rose
Cape £17.99

Under the Tory Party a curious anomaly has emerged in the criminal justice system. Crime has risen but prosecutions have fallen. In 1983 2.2 million people were convicted. Ten years later the figure was 1.4 million. John Patten tries to explain rising crime by a decline in church attendance. David Rose has a more earthly approach. He spent six months on secondment with Kilburn police and found a surprisingly sober mood, as expressed by one officer. 'Crime isn't a disease--it's a symptom. Cops are like a doctor that gives you aspirin for a brain tumour.'
Rose brilliantly describes the police of a decade ago; shoddy. complacent and brutal. It was a force that coerced confessions out of people on a regular basis to get convictions. As a result of the string of people released from prison in the early 1990s, Lord Lane, the Lord Chief Justice (who had refused appeal to the Birmingham Six), was removed. Interestingly, his replacement, Peter Taylor, led the prosecution against Judith Ward and Stephen Kiszko, both of whom were convicted when the prosecution concealed evidence which proved their innocence.
Rose argues the police have changed. In 1968 there were only 0.1 percent graduates. Now there are 5.4 percent. The average age has risen to 27 from 21 and broadsheet newspapers are seen alongside the Sun in the canteen. These changes, however, do not affect the role the police have in trying to control and dampen struggle.
There is some fascinating stuff in this book. Drawing on his time as home affairs correspondent for the Observer, Rose gives startling individual horror stories to show up the general weaknesses in the criminal system. He tells the appalling story of racism against the Deols family, who ran a general store on an estate in Stoke. After calling for police protection Mr Deol was arrested himself. The family were brutally forced off the estate by racist youth.
Rose shows the thin line between use by police of informants and collaboration with criminals. The attorney general, Nicholas Lyell, was involved in dropping charges against a known drug smuggler because he was a police informant.
The overall line of this book, however, is disappointing. Rose discovers that the 'daily experience of police officers is coercion, imposing their will where consent is notably absent'. He has faith in the future of the police and is keen to see them given some increased power to bring in more prosecutions. It is almost as if Rose has been working with his subject too long and cannot discuss in depth the wider issues.
Having put the case for a collapsing criminal justice system, the reforms he offers for change appear meek, even reactionary. He even wants to allow phonetapping as evidence for prosecution.
Matt Foot


Making Silent Stones Speak

Tools of the trade

Timewalkers
Clive Gamble
Penguin £8.99

Making Silent Stones Speak
Kathy D Schick and Nicholas Toth
Phoenix £8.99

The central theme of Gamble's book is the spreading out of early humans from their evolutionary place of origin in Africa. Gamble argues that the fact that our ancestors came to occupy virtually the entire globe is the key to understanding our humanity.
There are some good things about the book. For example, Gamble argues that there are few genetic rules for behaviour in humans. Human nature is not fixed, it is flexible: we are cultural beings.
But I found myself disagreeing with one of his main arguments. This concerns the origins of human consciousness and intelligence, and of the 'purpose' which he says motivated the human colonisation of the globe.
Most writers agree that an interaction of three factors stimulated the development of the large human brain: tool making (labour), social life and language. But there is disagreement about which of these factors was the key one in getting the ball rolling.
Many scientists, including Schick and Toth in their book, argue (as Engels did) that tool making was the initial spark. But Gamble supports a currently trendy argument which plays down the importance to tool making and claims that social skills were the crucial element.
He claims that 'Machiavellian' social interaction was the main cause of the growth of human intelligence. Competition with the social group (for example, for mates) led to the need to form alliances, to try to look into opponents' minds, and to use devious tricks to outwit them.
This is a view of social interaction which is strongly tainted by the ideology of capitalism. His focus is on competition. But in early human societies and, for example, in the case of our nearest living relatives the bonobo ('pygmy') chimpanzees, the key social element seems to be cooperation, not competition.
Then there is the fact, as Schick and Toth point out, that upright stance evolved long before the brain grew large. And what did upright stance crucially do? It released the hands for the later development of tool making.
Of course, social life is an important factor. Tool making took place in a social context and there was a feedback loop between labour, language and social skills. But it seems to me that tool making was the crucial element which enabled humans not only to occupy the entire world but also to transform it.
The leading evolutionary biologist John Maynard Smith is quite impressed by the 'social skills' argument. But he has also pointed out that it is not clear why humans should have evolved a higher level of intelligence than other social animals, such as dogs, if it had not been for the tool use made possible by grasping hands.
It is this theme of the central importance of tool making in human evolution which runs throughout Schick and Toth's book. I would recommend it much more than Gamble's.
Phil Webster


Mutiny at Salerno

In dubious battle

Mutiny at Salerno
Saul David
Brassey's £19.95

In 1943, with the Second World War turned firmly against Hitler, the Allies planned and executed the invasion of Italy by a mass landing on the beach head at Salerno. The invasion did not go according to plan. German units, well dug into high ground, caused the invasion party heavy casualties. The need for more experienced troops to push the invasion on provides the background to this extraordinary story of the Salerno mutiny.
The events leading up to the mutiny are simple enough. The army, panicking about reinforcements, picked out hundreds of veterans from a rest camp to be used for immediate duty. Instead of telling these men that they were to be used at Salerno, the army simply lied to them and told them that they were being transferred to their own units and possibly returned home. These few hundred soldiers, many of them wounded or suffering from shell shock or malaria, were halfway to Salerno before they were told of their true destination. It's probable that the soldiers were lied to, as it was supposed that they wouldn't wish to go into battle with units other than their own.
It was further presumed that once they were given a direct order, they would fall in and obey. Badly equipped, they refused. Nearly 300 men were then tried in the biggest court martial in British military history. All were found guilty of mutiny and the harshest sentences were passed in order to deter others. Yet, despite this being the rationale behind the sentencing, the incident was quickly hushed up and the survivors of the mutiny--still serving soldiers--had to endure a whispering campaign that they had refused to fight at Salerno because of cowardice.
What makes the Salerno mutiny exceptional is that those involved were not in any real sense mutineers. They were rebellious. They were annoyed at being lied to by the commanding officers they had been taught to trust.
The mutiny is a neat example of the divisional and battalion loyalties the army works so hard to foster turning into insubordination. The mutineers were horrified at the idea of not fighting with their own units and friends, and insulted at being lied to.
The author of this book obviously loves the army and the reputation of 'our' troops, but this makes his case for the men and against their military superiors the more damning. What comes out is a portrait of a disgusting class ridden organisation, where the misplaced sense of duty and honour of a few hundred men was ruthlessly punished by commanding officers covering their own backs.
Pat Riordan


Rave review?

Club Cultures
Sarah Thornton
Polity £11.95

There haven't been many books on rave. But this sociological study, with its cover of blurred cyber-optics, may attract many students. Thornton uses Pierre Bourdieu's idea of 'cultural capital'. With Bourdieu, 'capitals' proliferate: social capital, linguistic capital, artistic capital. It sounds radical, even Marxist, but it obscures Marx's crucial insight: that modern society is driven by the inhuman requirements of economic capital, and that capital depends on exploiting labour. Instead Bourdieu develops a reactionary vision of culture as a tool for competition and upward mobility.
Thornton felt uneasy in clubs; this is her revenge on the concept of 'hip'. But 'hipness' and 'street credibility' aren't just snobbery. They testify to an extraordinary state of affairs: in this century the bourgeoisie has been incapable of generating its own musical forms. It has to steal them from those it exploits and oppresses. Despite infinitely greater resources, no 20th century composers have emerged to compare with John Coltrane and Jimi Hendrix. Culture from below! This fact--an inspiration for socialists--eludes Thornton, who avoids discussion of music completely.
In the early 1990s Sarah Thornton's research showed that clubbers, far from developing a 'culture of resistance', just wanted access to 'subcultural capital', an excuse to despise the 'Sharons and Traceys' next door. The best way to reply is to criticise Thornton from a Marxist perspective.
Trotsky said that 'the struggle against pretence in art always grows to a lesser or greater measure into the struggle against the injustice of human relations.' This accurately describes how the amazing raves of 1988--dance events that trashed pretension, petty exclusiveness and profit making--led to the Freedom To Party and anti Criminal Justice Bill mobilisations. But, according to Thornton, such events 'pale in comparison with dance activities of any Saturday night'.
Empirical sociology always concentrates on 'business as usual', rather than on social developments which contradict the capitalist society that produced them. Luckily, revolutionaries are hipper to both music and class struggle than sociologists like Thornton.
Ben Watson


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