They matter no more than the politics of Bono, or Barbra Streisand; less actually, because Strummer never tried to influence policy. If artists become important in politics, the fault lies not with the idiots themselves but with the even bigger idiots who attend to them. They achieve significance, like the devil, only insofar as people believe in their existence.

So scholastic disputes about the politics of Sandinista!, the xenophobia of “Safe European Home” and Strummer’s alleged evolution into a conservative are utterly beside the point. The Clash, which even had the good grace to break up early, made London Calling and Give ‘Em Enough Rope, great records for reasons that had nothing to do with their politics, which were mostly incoherent when they were even decipherable. That’s what Strummer should be remembered for, and it’s a great deal.

Aaron Haspel | Posted December 25, 2002 @ 11:46 AM | General

4 Responses to “The Politics of Joe Strummer”

  1. 1 1. Aaron Haspel

    Narrow as the limits of Bono’s understanding may be, he trespasses them more often you think. His cause is Africa, and he stumps for debt relief and foreign aid, when Africa has had plenty of both for decades to no discernible good effect. The one thing Africa desperately needs is capitalism, which, not coincidentally, is the one thing you never find Bono campaigning for.


  2. 2 2. Howard Owens

    To me, the politcs of the Clash mattered only in that there was an underlying sense that no matter how fucked up things where, there was always hope for something better. To go any further than that is to tread too heavily on ambiguity and poetic license. The spirit mattered more than the cause.

    As for Bono, I hate it when people lump him in with the "rock star poser political activist." Unlike the Will Ferrell’s of the world, Bono really knows what he’s talking about, understands how the system works, and is actually doing something about the cause he cares about (and rarely strays far beyond the narrow limits of his understanding).


  3. 3 3. Howard Owens

    Actually, Bono has made it quite clear, repeatedly, that capitalism is the very thing Africa needs. I wouldn’t support his efforts otherwise. Bono is quite the free marketer.


  4. 4 4. Aaron Haspel

    You’ve forced me to the extremity of research. Bono’s political site is categorized by issue: debt, AIDS and trade. Each issue has a special "What Must Happen" section.

    Under debt: "There needs to be much deeper debt cancellation for Africa’s poorest nations, starting with those which have already pledged to use the money to fight poverty. This would cost each citizen of the richest countries approximately $1.70 per person per year.

    "We need to ensure that no country is spending more on old debts to the richest nations than on the health and welfare of its people."

    In other words, more cash from rich countries. As Calvin Coolidge once remarked, "They hired the money, didn’t they?"

    Under AIDS: "We must act now to get Africa the money to effectively fight AIDS. The newly-established Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is a significant step toward a large-scale international response to AIDS. But it urgently needs much more funding from rich countries."

    Uh huh.

    Under trade: "The richest nations must open their markets quota and duty free to African exports and remove agricultural subsidies which hurt African farmers.

    "African countries must be allowed to harness the power of trade in their own way to maximise poverty alleviation and economic growth there is no cookie-cutter trade policy to force on poor countries."

    Close but no cigar. I certainly agree about elminating tariffs and trade subsidies, but they do not discriminate against Africa; all foreign manufacturers labor under the same handicap. And the business about "harnessing the power of trade in their own way" sounds like a disguised plea for retailatory tariffs by African countries, which would just make matters worse.

    As a bonus, we have "the development assistance crisis": "The quantity of aid needs to be increased so that no country with a clear and accountable program lacks the necessary resources to provide basic healthcare or education. In particular special emphasis must be placed on increasing resources for the fight against HIV/AIDS. The quality of aid needs to be improved by untying it from the provision of goods and services by donor nations. The quality can also be improved through better coordination amongst donor countries and by including groups which represent the poorest people into the process which decides how increased aid is to be spent."

    More foreign aid. Now there’s a novel idea.

    Where’s all that capitalism stuff you were telling me about?


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