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Eamonn McCann

The answer is pissing in the wind

(July 1985)

From Socialist Worker, 20 July 1985.
Reprinted in In the Heat of the Struggle, London 1993, p.217.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

ANYONE WHOSE life long ambition was to become very unpopular had an easy time of it last weekend.

All you had to do was slag off Live-Aid and perfectly intelligent people would treat you to their full range of frowns, glowers and dark looks.

Even Cliff Richard was fireproofed from criticism for the duration. There, strumming his acoustic in the studio and crooning tunelessly, We got the skill/to end all the ills. And only at the peril of your life could you remark that it’s a great pity he didn’t have the skill to write a decent lyric.

There was Mark Knoppfler, who many of us will have regarded as an intelligent and very talented man answering the question, What can we do as a follow up? by suggesting that rock bands should now raise money for the Prince of Wales trust.

Flashing on the screen at regular intervals came the logos of Lloyds Bank, William and Glynns, the Halifax and so on, the central pillars of the capitalist system solidly rooted in the enterprise.

There on the stage, bathed in the warm approbation of the multitudes were Prince Charles himself and his stupid simpering wife, representatives of the British royal family in whose name the continent of Africa was laid waste and its peoples slaughtered and subjected to appalling suffering for more than two centuries.

Billy Connolly wept on screen after the showing of the video of a child in a refugee camp stumbling like a dying stick insect while on the soundtrack the Cars sang: Who’s gonna take you home?

Who indeed. The truth of the matter is resoundingly simple. Untold millions of people in the third world, and some in what styles itself at the first world, are born into misery. And as things are organised at the moment, doomed to die amidst the filth in which they first saw the light of day. This does not happen because of the accidental circumstances of their birth, or because of unfortunate climatic conditions which prevent the land they live on yielding up food, nor because of the primitive or stupid or corrupt nature of the governments which rule their territories.

It happens only because the food and resources which exist in the world in marvellous abundance are owned and controlled by a relatively small group of rotten rich people, who precisely calculate how exactly to deploy them to ensure that they remain rich and rotten.

If this means, as it does, that food – which could make children dying in misery strong and healthy – remains stored in warehouses surrounded by barbed wire, then so be it.

There will always be famine until these people’s control of the world’s wealth is ended.

The single most constructive thing which can be done by any one concerned about the plight of children dying dreadfully in Africa, is to engender in the widest possible section of the population an implacable hatred of those responsible and an intelligent means of organising hatred so as to overthrow them – so instituting in place of their system one based on the proposition that the needs of human beings are paramount over the interests of profit.

Live Aid didn’t do that. Through the involvement of the royal family, the banks and the bourgeois press and through the explicit statements of Geldof, Knoppfler, Bowie and others, it invited a belief that the politics of class struggle are extraneous to the effort needed to deal with mass hunger.

For this the rich and the rotten are profoundly grateful to the organisers of Live Aid This gratitude may well be expressed in the bestowal of honours in the near future. Live Aid, like rock and roll generally, was full of bullshit.

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