From British daily The Morning Star:
Parting of clouds
(Monday 15 December 2008)
Red Folk with Mike Newman
TWO people looking forward to the long overdue departure of George W Bush with a greater degree of satisfaction than most will be folkies George Mann and Julius Margolin.
The “pro-labour and anti-Bush” pair have produced four remarkable compilation CDs featuring some of the best and the bravest left-leaning folk musicians singing out for peace and justice under the banner Hail To The Thief – a reference to the “extremist minority of rich oil thieves” in the US.
Many of the leading lights of the radical musical scene have appeared on this series, including Utah Phillips, Tom Paxton, Emma’s Revolution, Jim Page, Anne Feeney and Billy Bragg, alongside many more not so well-known names. This mix-and-match approach has created a truly inspiring combination.
I caught up with Mann just after he returned from performing at the annual protests against the School of the Americas and asked how hard it was being a dissenting voice during the darkest days of the Bush years.
“Which days were those?” he asks.
“I kind of think of it as one long cloud from the day the election was stolen in Florida by the Supreme Court.
“But, just as you see at the end of several days of stormy weather, those clouds are parting.
“But it’s bitter-sweet,” Mann adds.
“We questioned Bush’s competence and intelligence from the very first Hail to the Thief! CD.
“People need to remember that many US citizens protested and created art to oppose the Bush regime.
“One of Bush’s only legitimate legacies is that he was responsible for a resurgence of people’s art and especially songs of protest.
“It’s just sad that the exposure of that truth has come at the expense of so much suffering, death and destruction in both Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The Hail series highlights the way that music and musicians can, and should, lead and encourage dissent against authoritarian regimes.
The final CD is titled Farewell To The Thief – Mission Accomplished.
I ask Margolin how he feels as the Bush regime nears its end.
“It is very important for the United States and the world to be rid of the Bush dictatorship,” he says.
“The Bush gang stole the elections with illegal help from a corrupt majority on the Supreme Court.
“The Bush war criminals should be tried in a world court for their crimes against Iraq and the world, also for torture in Guantanamo and their contempt for US citizens and the world.
Funding this grass-roots project must have been difficult, I point out.
“If we were in this for the money, we wouldn’t be in it.” Mann laughs.
“We work and use the money we earn to produce and promote this music of protest.
“The Hail CDs were created to help people cope with the Bush years, to renew their spirits a little.
“By that measure, they’ve been a success.
“We offer the CDs at relatively low cost and personally ship most of them ourselves. That’s one of the best parts of it, having contact with our supporters.”
Even though Dubya is soon to leave office, Margolin reveals that the fight will continue.
“For me, after 92 years on Earth, I will continue activity in the labour movement and work to unite labour internationally to bring socialism, peace and security to the world,” he says.
“Capitalism has proved itself to be corrupt, bankrupt, war criminal and imperialist. It must go.”