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MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl

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Brakn 05 Mar 06 - 07:24 AM
greg stephens 05 Mar 06 - 07:29 AM
akenaton 05 Mar 06 - 07:42 AM
Big Al Whittle 05 Mar 06 - 07:48 AM
GUEST,dax 05 Mar 06 - 08:00 AM
GUEST,DB 05 Mar 06 - 08:34 AM
sapper82 05 Mar 06 - 09:59 AM
GUEST,dax 05 Mar 06 - 11:25 AM
Joe Richman 05 Mar 06 - 11:45 AM
GUEST,J C 05 Mar 06 - 01:17 PM
ifor 05 Mar 06 - 01:59 PM
greg stephens 05 Mar 06 - 02:22 PM
Big Al Whittle 05 Mar 06 - 03:19 PM
greg stephens 05 Mar 06 - 03:24 PM
ifor 05 Mar 06 - 03:51 PM
akenaton 05 Mar 06 - 04:23 PM
Uncle_DaveO 05 Mar 06 - 04:48 PM
greg stephens 05 Mar 06 - 05:03 PM
Big Al Whittle 05 Mar 06 - 05:30 PM
ifor 05 Mar 06 - 05:35 PM
GUEST,dax 05 Mar 06 - 06:25 PM
GUEST,dax 05 Mar 06 - 06:28 PM
GUEST,smiler 05 Mar 06 - 06:40 PM
akenaton 05 Mar 06 - 07:07 PM
Folkiedave 05 Mar 06 - 07:26 PM
GUEST,dax 05 Mar 06 - 07:35 PM
The Badger 05 Mar 06 - 07:41 PM
GUEST,dax 05 Mar 06 - 07:50 PM
Leadfingers 05 Mar 06 - 09:48 PM
Malcolm Douglas 06 Mar 06 - 12:17 AM
greg stephens 06 Mar 06 - 02:53 AM
GUEST 06 Mar 06 - 04:28 AM
GUEST,J C 06 Mar 06 - 04:31 AM
Folkiedave 06 Mar 06 - 07:48 AM
GUEST,DB 06 Mar 06 - 09:04 AM
pavane 06 Mar 06 - 09:33 AM
shepherdlass 06 Mar 06 - 10:03 AM
GUEST 06 Mar 06 - 10:58 AM
Wolfgang 06 Mar 06 - 11:41 AM
GUEST,dax 06 Mar 06 - 11:46 AM
akenaton 06 Mar 06 - 12:15 PM
GUEST,J C 06 Mar 06 - 01:42 PM
Wolfgang 06 Mar 06 - 02:38 PM
Folkiedave 06 Mar 06 - 02:55 PM
GUEST,J C 06 Mar 06 - 03:08 PM
Dave Sutherland 06 Mar 06 - 03:42 PM
Folkiedave 06 Mar 06 - 04:00 PM
akenaton 06 Mar 06 - 05:27 PM
GUEST,Obie 06 Mar 06 - 05:47 PM
GUEST,J C 06 Mar 06 - 06:09 PM
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Subject: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: Brakn
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 07:24 AM

Can't say I'm surprised.

See here.


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: greg stephens
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 07:29 AM

Well, considering what Hitler was getting up to in Germany and Stalin was doing in Russia in the 30's, it is not particularly odd if the authorities tried to do a little monitoring on anybody trying to import the ideas into Britain. MacColl was a fanatastic singer, ideas man and song-writer. This should not blind us to the fact that his politics were indescribably loathsome.


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: akenaton
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 07:42 AM

Greg ...Get a grip   "indescribably loathsome".
That might apply to the politics of our present leaders, but not Ewan Maccoll.
He music and his politics inspired most of the folk movement in my youth, myself included.
The manner in which these "politics" were applied in Russia or China bears no relation to the vision that MacColl portrayed.

He was by far the finest of the "modern" singers and writers and it was his "indescribably loathsome" politics above all else which made him so ....Ake


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 07:48 AM

his politics were a bit unworldly, but he shared his empathy with the USSR with all sorts of other intellectuals. His left wing sympathies were shot through with great humanity and empathy for the downtrodden. he was an okay guy - and I don't like to hear any aspect of his character described as indescribably loathsome.

also its important to remember that his plays were not much performed on TV or anything, whilst he was a celebrated playwright behind the Iron Curtain. As an artist you are bound to feel some gratitude for people who recognise your work.

Ian Campbell(who was in the Radio Ballads with Ewan, and was having his phone calls monitored by MI5) told me that Ewan thought Joan Littlewoods Oh What a Lovely War had to doing something wrong when retired Army Generals were coming out of the show saying, how marvellous! all those lovely old songs! - and obviously not getting any of the irony.


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: GUEST,dax
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 08:00 AM

I guess there was a stain of McCarthyism in Britain as well, but never the witch hunt that occured in post war USA. Some of the beliefs of people trying to improve the lot of the working poor were not so loathsome at all. Yes , the actions of both Hitler and Stalin were dispicable but wasn't Stalin on our side in the war?
Neither Britain or the USA really feared the violent invasion of their country from Russia. What they feared most was that the wealthy and powerful may have share with the less fortunate, through democratic implimtation of socialism. Of course this threat was from within, so many governments spied on their own citizens, especially those who had any kind of following. (musical or other)


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: GUEST,DB
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 08:34 AM

I see that the release of Ewan's MI5 file has given the British press a marvellous opportunity to get all of the facts of his life wrong (all they had to do was Google 'Ewan MacColl' the pathetic wankers!).
The first thing that hits you about the 'Independent on Sunday's' coverage is a picture of Peggy Seeger labelled 'Joan Littlewood' ...


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: sapper82
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 09:59 AM

Dax;
There are two sayings that pertain to the alliance with Stalin, "My enemy's enemy is my friend" and "When you sup with the devil you need a long spoon."
Regarding the abuses of McCarthy, there was a factual basis for the fears that the CPUSA was directed and funded by Moscow.


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: GUEST,dax
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 11:25 AM

Yes sapper, but I am sure that there were just as many British and American funds going the other way. The alliance with Stalin was only after the one between him and Hitler fell apart, so it was never one of friendship, but one of necessity.
People tended to equate socialism and it's advocates with external subversion, but many only wanted to remove the nest of rats in control of their own country. If Christ were alive in the USA between 1930 and 1955 he may well have been charged with Un-American activities as well. The parodox of all this is that the far right has always claimed to be the only true Christians. They never did figure out how to get that camel through the eye of the needle.


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: Joe Richman
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 11:45 AM

My Mother was a working member of the ILGWU back in the 40s (not a piecard). That union had leadership that mainly came out of the Socialist party. The Communist Party bitterly opposed them, and did everything they could to screw them over. (See the song "The Cloakmaker's Union".)

Tactically, I can't see much resemblance between Communists and Socialists at all!   Communists and Nazis use the same tactics. But the Socialists are committed to the same "will of the people" principle as other democratic political parties. So why didn't EMacC just join the Labour Party? Because the Communists in the east bought his plays?


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: GUEST,J C
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 01:17 PM

Can't see what all the fuss is about. MacColl never made any secret of his MI5 record – in fact he was quite proud of it and was often accused of romanticizing about it.
My father, because he fought in Spain, was also on MI5 files – as a 'premature anti- fascist' – he was proud of it too, despite the fact that he was blacklisted from work and excommunicated from his religion.
MacColl's 'crime', along with most of the other rank-and-file Communists – (the Communist Party leadership was another matter) and many of the Socialists of his generation, was to be fooled by what was happening in The Soviet Union under Stalin – it took Kruschev's 1956 congress speech to blow the gaff on that one, by which time he was out of party politics. If he was gullible, he was no more so than many of his generation. Nor were they any less gullible than those who more recently supported the McCarthy witch-hunts, the Viet Nam War and the invasion of Iraq (which has included the use of chemical weapons against civilians in these latter two).
MacColl devoted his life to the cause of working people and as one of those working people I've always been grateful for that fact.
As has already been said (by weelittledrummer, he was a humanitarian and also a pacifist, though he respected those who believed that the only way to change the world was through armed struggle – hence his support for revolutionary movements.
He threw his weight behind the Civil Rights Campaign, the Anti-Apartheid movement, CND, the anti-Vietnam war campaign and the Trades Union movement. His last big cause was the miner's strike.
I knew him as selfless and generous to a fault and think myself lucky to have spent time in his company.
MacColl was a great artist and was recognised as such by most people who knew him, even by many of those who disagreed with him.
There is a forthcoming biography in preparation that covers virtually everything that has been 'exposed' in these latest revelations; I for one look forward to the record being set straight.

PS
The Labour Party sold out at the time of the General Strike and no longer pretended to be Socialist - New Labour was an inevitable outcome.
Incidentally, one of his big gripes was the fact that he was never paid for his plays being performed in Eastern Europe.


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: ifor
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 01:59 PM

Ewan McColl was one of the greatest songwriters to come out of the folk or any other tradition.The man was and is an inspiration.He has gifted a huge number of wonderful songs from Dirty Old Town to The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.
He was a communist I think because capitalism had "gifted "the 20th entury with the barbarism of the 1914-1918 war,mass unemployment and huge inequality.The 1930s has been described as "the dark valley and fascism was on the march with all its beatiality and horror.
Many socialists looked to the beacon of the bolshevik revolution in Russia and saw in it a way of opposing war ,poverty and fascism.One of the contributors rightly said that Khruschev blew the whistle on the crimes of Stalin although probably the first opponent of Stalin was Trotsky one of the leaders of the boshevik revolution.
Ifor


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: greg stephens
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 02:22 PM

I stand firmly by "indescribably loathsome" for my description of MacColl's politics. I fully understand, and totally support, the obvious decision to stand together with Russia in the 1939-1945 period to defeat the terror that fascism was unleashing on the world.
MacColl's slobbering adulation of Stalin's atrocities went way beyond that. He gave no support whatever (that I am aware of) to the pathetic working class victims of Stalin's terror. I am no historian no, I just rely on what I've read and experienced. If anybody can produce any contrary evidence, please do so. I would honestly love to change my mind, I deeply admire MacColl's work. He in many ways the greatest product of the folk revivals, his songs are fantastic, his Radio Ballad awesome. But as far as I know he admired a monster, and kept admiring him. He could make no "I didn't know" defence. He knew what was going on, he kept admiring. He was no repenting teenager, he just loved that "smack of firm government" stuff: I loathe it. A matter of personal taste: I never shared his. But of course, I keep singing "Dirty Old Town": a masterpiece.


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 03:19 PM

all i can say is that a lot of people( including my own parents who were quakers not communists) found the volte face rather hard to take when 1945 came around and Russia started being our enemy rather than an ally.

the choices weren't as easy as they look in retrospect. America was the only country to have used the bomb, talked about the possibility of doing it again, and really fucked us over at the time of Suez - appearing very self serving to a lot of Brits.

In a world where you were forced to choose sides, some people got it wrong. easy to see now. not so easy in the climate of fear that existed in the cold war.

ewan macColl was a humanitarian, a very decent guy and deserves the benefit of your doubts.


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: greg stephens
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 03:24 PM

Ewan Mac Coll made his decision pre-1939, wee little drummer. We are not talking about "understandable decisions in the cold war period". And are you serious in using the word "humanitarian" for a time-served brown-nosing Stalinist? Have you read any history ever? How could the word "humanitaian" be applied to a system that would make a dog vomit?


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: ifor
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 03:51 PM

Dear Greg
It was rank and file communists who went to Spain to fight the fascists when the liberal democracies of western Europe imposed an arms blockade on the democratically elected republican govt of Spain.
It was the communists in east London who led the working class of that city in the battle to stop the British Union of Fascists at the Battle of Cable St in 1936.A fight which basically stopped the British nazis from growing into a force that could take power in the late 1930s.

It was the Russian Red Army , created by Trotsky, that [in the words of Churchill ] "tore the guts out of the nazi war machine".

Have a listen to the Ballad of Jamie Foyers by Ewan McColl,his homage to the ordinary men from Scotlaand who went to fight in Spain to oppose the spreading threat of fascism.

In the 1930s it seemed that nothing could stop Hitler from taking over the whole of Europe.McColl's generation stood up to be counted and his work is on the side of humanity in all he did .

Read Phil Piratin's book "My Flag Is Red " for an insight into left politics and the Communist Party in Britain in the 1930s and 1940s.
Ifor


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: akenaton
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 04:23 PM

Read somewhere today, that MacColl fought in the Spanish Civil War??

Ifor thanks for that post. I worked for years with an old railwayman who was a CP member during the General Strike and who helped battle the fascists in East London.
He was so proud of what he and his brothers and sisters had achieved.

He loved to quote Burns...and one of his favourites was

Its comin' yet for a' that, their Atom bombs and a' that.
When man tae man the world ower shall brither's be for a' that.

Doesn't sound like a Nazi mantra to me!!


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 04:48 PM

GUEST,Dax said:

Yes , the actions of both Hitler and Stalin were dispicable but wasn't Stalin on our side in the war?

The short answer is NO, he was not "on our side". He and Russia were on their own side, and we merely shared an enemy. But we were what might be called "the enemy in reserve".

The old wheeze, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" is seriously flawed in this instance. Soviet Russia (and Stalin) was never our friend.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: greg stephens
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 05:03 PM

What the communists did in the Spanish Civil War is pretty well documented by now, and I am sure wqe are all pretty familiar with what happened there. Maybe if they should have stuck to fighting Franco? I have no quarrel with what the rank and file communist heroes did, in Spain or the second world war, or on the streets of the East End. My contempt is for their leaders (primarily Stalin), and his unrepentant running dogs like MacColl.


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 05:30 PM

okay, you're right Greg. Stalin and his regime were unpleasant. However Ewan MacColl was a decent guy and if you study the general themes through his songs you will find that he had a very humanitarian attitude and really was against the bosses getting away with acting like thugs. and moreover he was just the guy who would have told Stalin that face to face.

he had a lot of bottle, a lot of integrity and you want to hear my music.... I am a million miles away in my ideas of what constitutes folk music. the wide acceptance of his ideas has made it really difficult for people with divergent views to get a hearing in folk clubs. I disagreed with him on a million subjects, but just cos he wasn't as politically astute as you think you are, you shouldn't disrespect him. That's one thing in a very hardworking life.

Perhaps he got some ideas wrong, but he did his best. I remember martin Carthy talking about working with him not too long before he died, and poor old Ewan was suffering with angina onstage - but still doing his damndest to finish a song. Measure yourself by that kind of committment not just cos you were lucky enough to be born at the cushy end of a bloody rough century.


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: ifor
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 05:35 PM

Greg
You call Ewan McColl "an unrepentent running dog"...you ve been spending to long with the likes of those M15 agents!
Ifor


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: GUEST,dax
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 06:25 PM

Och, if only a mirror were a crysyal ball perhaps the world would have had no Hitler, Stalin , or Joe McCarthy. How comforting it is though to think of all three sitting around the fireside together in Hell!


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: GUEST,dax
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 06:28 PM

.......................for eternity


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: GUEST,smiler
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 06:40 PM

However much we respected his songs, it was shameful that he toadied to Stalin, and as far as I am aware he was Stalinist to the end of his life.

When you sing songs of peace and freedom, it takes the edge off a bit when you support a regime that may have killed 20 million people for having a dissenting opinion.


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: akenaton
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 07:07 PM

Soviet Russia (and Stalin) was never our friend.

Dave Oesterreich

Well "UncleJoe" had at least one thing to be proud of.
Our list of political "friends" since the end of WW2 leaves a lot to be desired.


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: Folkiedave
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 07:26 PM

I doubt Ewan needed to renounce Stalin. By his other political stances he was clearly not interested.

I am far more fascinated by the time between joining up - (1940) and coming back - (1945)

Joan tells us he was writing a song a day.

Where are the songs and where was he?


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: GUEST,dax
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 07:35 PM

I wonder what songs they choose to sing around that fireside? Maybee Ring of Fire! Does any of the three play guitar. It is well documented that the Devil plays fiddle. :-)


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: The Badger
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 07:41 PM

Apparently he deserted from the army and managed to hide out until the war was over - and then resumed normal life. Interesting!


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: GUEST,dax
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 07:50 PM

Rumour has it that he spent the remaining war years with his buddy Willard Kitchener MacDonald ( who had also deserted ) in the deep forests of Nova Scotia.
   For more information type "hermit of gully lake" into google.
             LOL,
                   Dax


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: Leadfingers
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 09:48 PM

Another thread that has got lost in the way people want to remember !!

OK - Ewan MacColl was a humanitarian - He was also a hypocrite ! If you wanted to sing at his club you had to convince him that your song was relevant to YOUR background and origins , while HE sang songs from Scotland , Lancashire , Yorkshire or whereever !

Yes , he wrote a lot of superb songs , and , through the Radio Ballads
gave inspiration to God knows how many other writers ( By the way - catch the NEW series of Radio ballads on Aunty Beeb) , BUT he still antagonised a fair proportion of the UK Folk Scene .

I am still undecided as to wether Ewan macColl did more harm than good to the UK Folk Scene , but we are at least to the good with some superb songs from him .


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 12:17 AM

Every idol has feet of clay, but one thing is for sure: whatever his faults -and it's true that he had his share, though the policy of the Singers' Club is often misrepresented- MacColl did more for folk music (or whatever you prefer to call it) than any of us have, or are ever likely to.


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: greg stephens
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 02:53 AM

I agree with Malcolm.


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: GUEST
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 04:28 AM

" If you wanted to sing at his club you had to convince him that your song was relevant to YOUR background and origins , while HE sang songs from Scotland , Lancashire , Yorkshire or whereever"

Where the hell did this come from???
I was a regular at the Singers Club for over 20 years and more than often cringed at some of the singers who turned up casually.
The Club policy - IE - the type of singer who was booked as GUEST - was decided on by an audience committee and by ALL the residents of the club.
MacColl's view, along with that of Alan Lomax Bert Lloyd and all the people that brought the club (and the revival) into being, was that it was important to explore your own national repertoire rather than all try to sound like Guthrie, Leadbelly, Broonzie and the other American artists who were influencing the scene in the early days. The end result was a blossoming of the British and Irish reperoires. I saw The Stewarts, Joe Heaney, Walter Pardon, Doc Watson, Seamus Ennis, Paddy Tunney, Bobby Casey, and scores more traditional performers at the Singers Club - they were always given a great welcome and they were all perfectly comfortable performing there (except on the night Harry Cox had to take his new false teeth out because they were affecting his singing!)
The club policy was that the songs performed there by the residents or by the booked guests should be traditional or traditionally influenced and that it should be performed to a reasonable standard - they (and I) had no time for the 'near enough for folk' school of thought that once (and still, to some extent) permeates the folk scene. It wasn't, and didn't pretend to be a singaround club and you invariably came a way with a night of good songs well sung under your belt. Ewan and Peggy always played to a packed house.
Would that there were more clubs with policy and standards today.

PS
I agree totally that Stalin's policied were loathsome (though, as Ifor has well pointed out, he managed to fool a lot of the people a lot of the time). But I have problems in deciding whether those policies are any more loathsome than those of a country that has persistently armed and financed some of the worst tyrants in history (including Saddam Hussain), has dropped bombs on more than 50 countries since the end of WW2, has invaded numerous (usually poor, 3rd world) countries, has used chemical weapons such as napalm, agent orange and phospherous on civilians, has interfered with the internal politics of scores of countries throughout the world and has helped overthrow democratically elected leaders (and helped rig their own presidential election). This (unnamed) country is at present illegally holding prisoners without charge and subjecting them to abuse and torture - I suppose one man's monster is another man's cuddly toy.
PPS Where was MacColl after he deserted - do I sense another urban legend in the making?


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: GUEST,J C
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 04:31 AM

Sorry - forgot to sign the last one - J C


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: Folkiedave
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 07:48 AM

There is absolutely no doubt about the poicy of the Singer's Club.

First of all it was Peggy whose idea it was not Ewan.

The story is here


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: GUEST,DB
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 09:04 AM

We shouldn't forget that Ewan MacColl was brought up in Salford between the Wars. Salford, at that time, was the archetypal "Classic Slum" with high levels of poverty, unemployment, environmemtal pollution and sub-standard housing. Those of us born after the 2nd World War can only guess at what it might have been like (although I did catch a glimpse of the last of this world, in the early 70s, and could only give thanks that I wasn't brought up in it).
In the face of such adversity intelligent people were often drawn towards radical politics - and who can blame them? Unfortunately, the most radical of these political groups, the Communist party, demanded absolute discipline and obedience to the party line. It also pushed the concept of 'Socialism in One Country' ie. The Soviet Union. Many people seem to have been fooled by this and turned a blind eye to what was actually happening in the Soviet Union.
Remember, though, it wasn't just politicised working men and women who were fooled by Joe Stalin. I've just read a book about the experiences of the Polish Nation ('Rising '44: The Battle for Warsaw' by Norman Davies). The Poles put up an heroic resistance to Hitler but were ultimately smashed. Stalin just sat by and let it happen so that his armies would meet no resistance when he took over after the War. When he did take over, Polish men and women, who had fought bravely against Hitler, were rounded up, imprisoned, tortured and executed. Western governments knew very well what was going on but they, in their turn, just sat by and let it happen. They only had themselves to blame when Stalin got himself a Bomb.
I still occasionally meet old Communists who believe that Stalin was a hero and that the Allies couldn't have won the War without him. I, personally, think that it was ordinary Russian people who turned the tide and that they did it in spite of Stalin who considerably worsened their sufferings.
I don't honestly know what Ewan thought of all this towards the end of his life; I hope he had a more balanced view - but I'm sure someone will tell me different.


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: pavane
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 09:33 AM

I appreciate the many fine songs that were written by Ewan MacColl but on the one occasion when I saw him with Peggy live (1971), they were full of songs like Ho Ho Ho Chin Min. Opposing the Vietnam war is one thing, but glorifying the other side is a different matter. Not an enjoyable evening for me, and it doesn't look as if his views had altered much.

It appeared to me as if Peggy Seeger was even more left-wing, but that was only an impression I got.

That gig in Stratford (London) was recorded and extracts televised by the BBC in a series on expatriates living in the UK.


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: shepherdlass
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 10:03 AM

There's another article on this in yesterday's Observer (you can get it from the Guardian online site). Not much more enlightening, but it all adds to the picture.

So many people were seduced by Stalinism before WWII it seems unfair to single out MacColl just because he became a leading voice in the revival. The Communist ideal must have seemed so wonderful in those years that it was probably convenient to overlook the fact that the USSR didn't live up to it in practice. In a fantastic BBC4 show, "My Dad Was A Communist", Alexei Sayle talked with horror about his own parents' state of denial after 1956: (something like "they kept saying you can't make an omelette without breaking a few hundreds of thousands in the gulags"). It looks so clear-cut in hindsight to those of us born after 1950, but a betrayal of such huge dimensions must have been much harder to accept at the time.

This isn't really to defend MacColl, who seems to have been in part an inspirational genius and in another part a divisive and destructive force. He was at least very vocally linked with (even if not sole originator of) "the policy" and can be held personally responsible for that. But being just one more dupe of Stalin after living through the Depression? How many people could we castigate for that?


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: GUEST
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 10:58 AM

I have read the BBC report linked to the first post, and a couple of things interest me. How can you Maccoll fans revere a man who deserted his country in the blackest time in its history? And how can you revere a man who pretended to be scottish?


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: Wolfgang
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 11:41 AM

The ballad of Stalin (Ewan McColl)

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: GUEST,dax
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 11:46 AM

No urban legend here, or even suburban. Deep woods sticks legend! :-)


http://www.pottersfieldpress.com/books/hermitgully.html


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: akenaton
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 12:15 PM

Folkdavie...Thanks for posting that piece by Peggy. Hadn't read it before and found it really inspiring, just like the man himself.

Peggy encapsulates in her writing what's going wrong with the music.

Relate what Peggy says to the thread on "BBC4 Folk "and its easy to see that were going in the wrong direction.

I'll say it for the last time, Ewan's love for the music was driven first and foremost by his political philosophy and I wish there were more of his kind around today. The critics on this forum should read and understand what Guest JC has to say, instead of whining about ideas political and musical which they can barely grasp...Ake


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: GUEST,J C
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 01:42 PM

Much of the discussion around MacColl's politics is totally irrellevent - MacColl devoted the last half century of his life to the passing on of traditional music an I, for one am grateful that I was one of the recipients of his knowledge and his experience.
I would hate anybody to hold me accountable for what I was saying and doing fifty years ago (I was on an anti-aparthied march one time next to Peter Hain - I bet he feels the same way now).
MacColl was a dedicated anti-facist but I once heard him remark that he couldn't understand how killing German workers was going to rid the world of Facisism - I'll drink to that.
As for 'deserting his country in its hour of need' for gods sake
Wrap the union jack round me mother,
For I'm to be queen of the May.
You'll be handing out white feathers next.
MacColl's earliest influences were Scots. I met his mother on many occasions and quite often had difficulty penetrating her accent.
His family moved to Salford when he was a few months old - the community he lived in was Scots, the ealiest singers, including a lodger in their home, was Scots and the earliest songs he heard were Scots.
Was it the Duke of Wellington who said "Being born in a stable doesn't make you a horse".
Perhaps if we spent more time talking about his work and ideas, and less abound inconsequention sidelines we might understand a little of what he was about - take my word for it - it's worth the effort.


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: Wolfgang
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 02:38 PM

Another sideline:

J C: His family moved to Salford when he was a few months old

from Peggy Seeger's online biography of MacColl: In 1910 the Millers moved to Salford in search of work.
MacColl was born five years later, in 1915.

Well, I see no one who would not admire what MacColl has done for the music we love. He's a brilliant songwriter, a fine collector of songs, and his contribution to the Radio Ballads will considered outstanding for all times to come.

Now this is a thread about politics and not music, for I doubt the MI5 would have monitored him only for the music part of his life. The interesting point is what his political ideas have to do with his music?

I read J C Much of the discussion around MacColl's politics is totally irrellevent and I read
Akenaton Ewan's love for the music was driven first and foremost by his political philosophy and I read
Greg Stevens MacColl was a fanatastic singer, ideas man and song-writer. ...his politics were indescribably loathsome.

That is (for me) the interesting part of the discussion. Do we have to buy his ideas about politics if we love his music? I think his politics have influenced which he chose to write about (to collect) or not but the brilliance of his songs comes not from his politics but from closely watching and describing everyday life. He's best as a songwriter where he describes (and gives the listener free rein). He's worst where his politics enter into his songwriting (like in the incredibly bad Stalin song).

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: Folkiedave
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 02:55 PM

It seems that MacColl's life was in a number of phases almost separate and yet interlinked. We sometimes forget how good a playwright he was:

Most of MacColl's plays are extraordinary. George Bernard once quipped that other than himself, MacColl was the best living playwright in Britain.

I am grateful to JC for the close-up of the man.


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: GUEST,J C
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 03:08 PM

Sorry, I was interrupted and didn't finish. This is taking far too long, but I'm getting very verbose in my old age and I think there are some points that are worth making.
Back in the late eighties my wife and I recorded a long interview with MacColl stretching over six months. One of the questions we asked him was did he regret having written The Ballad of Stalin. He said he didn't - not that he still held those sentiments – he certainly wouldn't have written it again - but "If you go through life worrying if you will still think the same in ten – twenty – thirty – forty years time, you would never put pen to paper.
My own family was made up of a mixture of Socialists, Communists, Irish Republicans, and those who didn't give a toss one way or the other.   I can remember when Stalin died in 1953 some of them wept; as far as they were concerned the world had lost the leader of the world's first worker's state. On the basis of the information they had available to them then, they were right. The fact that later information led them to change their minds is really beside the point. I was lucky enough to have that information available to me so I didn't make the same mistakes they did, but I hope I'm not smug enough to castigate them for not knowing what I know.
On MacColl's nationality – again from personal experience.
I was born and brought up in the North of England to an Anglo-Irish family. I never really thought about whether I was a Brit or a Paddy, but I got numerous kickings when I was at school for being the latter. I now live in the west of Ireland where I am regarded (I think) as a returned Brit. In the summer we are visited by hundreds of people with London, Birmingham, Bronx, Sydney (you name it) - accents, all pleased to have made it 'home' – sometimes for the first time in their lives: (any Yanks out there named Murphy or Kennedy who know what I'm talking about?).
Finally, there was a wonderful Monty Python (remember them) sketch about a composer named Arthur 'Two-Sheds' Jackson.   He was invited onto an arts programme to discuss his work, but the interviewer insisted on asking him why he was called 'Two Shed', did he compose his music in one of his sheds, what colour were they, why did he need two and on, and on, and on, and on – a bit like this thread really!   
Let's talk about the man's work, not his youthful indiscretions, his politics, where he was born or why he changed his name (or whether he picked his nose). Freeborn Man, Shoals of Herring, The Tenant Farmer, and the 137 Child ballads he put back into circulation tells me everything I want to know about him


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: Dave Sutherland
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 03:42 PM

Well said J.C.in similar vein would he have written "China Rag" in the sixties had he forseen the events of Tiananman Square at the end of the eighties "China me old China, your kids have gone astray"?


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: Folkiedave
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 04:00 PM

Dirty Old Town, Manchester Rambler, Ballad of the M1, First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, Ballad of Accounting, Browned Off, Champion at Keeping 'em Rolling, Big Hewer, Moving-on Song, Joy of Living, My Old Man.............,

Dave


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: akenaton
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 05:27 PM

Wolfgang...."He's worst where his politics enter into his songwriting (like in the incredibly bad Stalin song)."

First time I,ve seen you affect naivety as a debating device Wolfgang!!
MacColl was a revolutionary socialist. I don't know if you've ever been of that persuasion, but I can tell you it gets into your blood and consumes every waking moment.

From what I have read, MacColl believed the Capitalist system to be the biggest impediment to the happiness and fulfillment of humanity and made that point over and over again in his songs.

As I'm sure you know for a song to be "political" it doesn't require to contain the names of political figures

MacColl knew that Capitalism destroyed any culture which didn't fit the pattern (The Travelling People.) Destroyed working folk (They killed him...my old man) and will destroy the music we love if we don't heed MacColl's advice.

His work songs are full of political comment and his celebration of the working man and woman in dozens of songs is socialist to the core.

Can you seriously argue that songs like Dirty Old Town, where he contrasts the joy and expectancy of young love with the squalor and hopelessness of youth in a Northern industrial environment has no political content?

To a socialist of MacColl's mould, politics are everywhere. In the books you read, the songs you sing and the air you breathe.

You cant have MacColl without his politics and he needs to apologise to no one for his beliefs, as most of his fears for the future of society and of folk music have been proven correct...Ake


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: GUEST,Obie
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 05:47 PM

Communism started out as a form of socialism. However it was derailed by human greed for power and wealth. If people demand too much shoot them on the protest line!
Capitalism was more up front. Give the lions share to the greedy and wealthy and use others as servants to the system. If people demand too much shoot them on the picket line!
The bottom line is that neither gives a shit about the little guy, although lying bastards on either side would argue otherwise!
However, capitalism today is the greatest threat because it wields the most power. Capitalism has money and governments of the western world in it's arse pocket. Today it is growing into the more dispicable of the two.
       Obie


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Subject: RE: MI5 monitored Ewan MacColl
From: GUEST,J C
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 06:09 PM

Nice one Akenton - that sums MacColl up nicely.
Just one more word on something raised earlier. The Ballad of Ho Chi Mhin isn't my favorite song - MacColl wrote many better ones.
However, our tradition is full of hero figures, (not all deserving) from Bonnie Prince Charlie to Willie Brennan, Captain Kidd and Ben Hall - even bodysnatcher William Burke has his say in verse.
A song about the leader of a small impoverished peasant country that stood up to and eventually kicked the arse of the most powerful and avariciously aggressive nation in the world (having already seen off Japan and France) has my vote as a candidate for a song, and as far as I'm concerned Ho Chi Mhin certainly wasn't 'the other side'.
Cheers to all


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