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December 11, 2005



“maybe partly inadvertently”? Unless you want to argue that Lennon consciously set out to overthrow the rationalist traditions of the left (such as they were) and to promote emotionalism - presumably using music, interviews and all the other means at his disposal to pursue this far-reaching programme of ideological transformation - wouldn’t it be more plausible to write “probably wholly inadvertently”? He was a great singer and songwriter, but he wasn’t exactly a clear or consistent thinker.
Anyway, why blame Lennon for what his fans have turned him into? Why dump on a musician, who was only fitfully, if at all, a political activist, all or even any responsibility for the failings of the left, which surely have more to do with, well, the failings of leftists (oh, and rightists too, of course)?
Next week: how Mick Jagger, Keith Richard, Bryan Ferry and (probably) Kenny Everett persuaded the Conservatives to abandon Heathite “One Nation” Toryism in favour of Thatcherite neoliberalism.


I don't have any problem with Lennon. He was just a guy, you know? Investing him with too much significance is clearly not his fault.

On the other hand, there's a lot to be said for the emotional aspect of leftism. How about a quote from Gramsci?

“How many times have I wondered it it is really possible to forge links with a mass of people when one has never had strong feelings for anyone, not even one’s own parents: if it is possible to have a collectivity when one has not been deeply loved oneself by individual human creatures. Hasn’t this had some effect on my life as a militant - has it not tended to make me sterile and reduce my quality as a revolutionary by making everything a matter of pure intellect, of pure mathematical calculation”

But my own favorite kind of liberal is the hard-headed skeptic economist, like Paul Krugman. I only want a government program if it works. Good intentions ain't enough.

Chris Williams

Chris, you need to read _Rebel Sell_, which says all this and more. It's right up your street in about 3 different ways.

Phil E

"Rather than try to understand the world, they think it sufficient that the rest of us understand their pain, their sincerity.
Revolution, then, ceased to be a matter of hard work and asceticism, and became an opportunity for easy self-expression, for empty gestures like the bed-in"

You're describing the spectacularisation of radical politics - the replacement of active participation by spectatorship. How much sense it makes to *blame* John and Yoko for this process I'm not sure, but the passage from _Black Dwarf_ to "Revolution" to the bed-in - and all the self-congratulatory mass-media stunts which followed - can certainly be called exemplary.


The Webbs - the ones that worshipped Stalin? LIBERAL-left, you say? Lennon was rather a plonker, but infinitely less evil than those bastards.


I'd echo comments that JL became an icon of the left and liberal thought, when many would say that he'd probably find that laughable today himself.

Its easy to put words and thoughts into the mouths and heads of dead people. History is often conveniently rewritten by all sorts of people, and not just communists and fascists. There's a whole bunch of libertarians and marxists alike who exist on selective and semi-literate recastings of some good and not so good original ideas.

So why hate John? he produced some great music and songs, and I genuinely think he was well meaning in his attempts to influence the world, however naive, and in some ways, crap.

For me the 'bed in' was quite pathetic though. If staying in bed will change the world, will someone please invite Sky News round to my house at about 9am every Saturday or Sunday? At least when the wife tries to drag me out of my sack I can claim that the cause of World Peace demands I stay there.

andrew duffin

"Imagine no possessions, it's easy if you..."

If you are a multi-millionaire who'll never need to work again.

The man was an ass.

A good songwriter and a passable singer, but an ass nevertheless.

The mistake we all make is to take seriously those whose metier is merely entertainment.


"I’ve been trying to articulate why exactly I dislike John Lennon."

Hmmm, far too sophisticated for me. I think he was a tosser because he sang, "We're still fucking peasants as far as I can see" in a song called "Working Class Hero" and then drove home in his Rolls Royce; because only a dumb hippy would think staying in your bed a meaningful form of protest; and because "Imagine" is the most puerile, pathetic song ever written.

Phil B

The Beatles were tossers. They wore suits, had nice haircuts and your Mum liked them.

The Stones, however, dressed weird, took drugs, and your parents hated them, likewise the media and several senior police officers.

No contest really.

I get the feeling our host prefers some warm slippers and Glenn Miller on the Dansette. Or he's just looking for an excuse to knock down a pop star and the left with a single swipe. Missed!


The Webbs - the ones that worshipped Stalin? LIBERAL-left, you say? Lennon was rather a plonker, but infinitely less evil than those bastards.

They weren't always like that, though - they were lucid advocates of liberty and democracy from the late C19th until they lost faith in those ideals in the early 1930s, and were instrumental in keeping Bolshevism out of the Labour Party after the October Revolution and throughout the 1920s. I'm rather more alarmed to see Lenin included in the list.


Sorry, that first paragraph should have been in quote marks.

BTW, Chris, you wrote "most of the 1945-51 government" in your list. Who would you exclude, and why?

Tim Newman

Oh yes, when ever I think of Lenin I always think of his commitment to rational inquiry and empiricism as opposed to his mass murdering.

The sooner the left give up their worshipping of Lenin, the sooner they will find themselves taken seriously by the rest of us.


John Lennon is not the problem. People genuflecting at the views of pop stars is.

That certainly started in the sixties, although it's arguable who was first. Jagger arriving by helicopter to pontificate to the TV cameras certainly preceded the politicisation of Lennon.

The diefication of Lennon is particularly ludicrous. How can you take seriously someone who saw no contradiction in imagining no possessions being sung within a vast mansion, sent back an MBE for Cold Turkey dropping down the charts, appeared in public in bags, bed-in for peace et al. Good grief, the man would only need to claim he was Jesus to be seen as a complete fool.

Now Chris Martin. He's someone I can take seriously. Choke.

Phil J

There is a sense in which, by the 1960s, all the intellectual work had been done and it was becoming counter–productive to think any further. The Left had already come up with answers to all the big questions, having discovered even those underlying social mechanisms the knowledge of which (precisely because they were invisible to most citizens), provided a sense of superiority for the Left intellectual. In fact thought itself was now becoming painful for the Left: how, for instance, 20 years after Attlee's victory, could replacing a centralized board of capitalist directors with a yet more distant committee of state functionaries still be credibly described as ‘public ownership’? Even to ask such a question was to begin the unravelling of thought that had painstakingly rationalised the mainstream Left’s weird obsession with statism and central planning. Better not to think at all and simply take refuge in emotiveness.

Lennon was not to blame, of course. He was simply a purveyor, supplying the goods which had now come into demand. Tiresome as he was, it was (and is) the demand for his brand of drivel that is the true mark of the Left’s degeneracy.

Andy M

"Lennon was not to blame, of course. He was simply a purveyor, supplying the goods which had now come into demand. Tiresome as he was, it was (and is) the demand for his brand of drivel that is the true mark of the Left’s degeneracy."

Ah yes, that annoying old false consciousness of the proles again. If only more of them had had the good sense to see through the shallowness of people like Lennon. I mean, "I want to hold your hand" - just how exactly is that going to bring about worker control of the means of production, distribution and exchange? As for 'I am the Walrus' - well, full marks for the environmental consciousness, but is 'goo goo goo joob' really the most appropriate response towards the rape of Antactica? Plainly, the man was an idiot.

I wholly agree with the other commentators here that 'Imagine' is a truly reprehensible work. How could Lennon not have realised the irony attendant on his sitting singing about 'no possessions', when, if nothing else, he demonstrably owned a white piano which could easily have provided firewood lasting several days to a family of asylum seekers? The cheek of it - imagine asking people to imagine things! He should have known that the last thing the proles want is to have to use their imagination. If he had simply given everything he possessed to the poor, global inequality would now be a thing of the past. What a wanker!


he was a pop artist full stop

okay he behaved like a tosser but most do! that's what we like about them

only country and western artists can sing about poor folks with any conviction and mean it I think. kids need to get into C&W for decent role models these days...

Phil J

Andy M.

1. “his brand of drivel…” refers to Imagine and other examples of Lennon’s phony-profound sloganeering. I have no problem with the stuff he turned out before the transcendence of his inner walrus;

2. My 1st two sentences are largely ironic (“...counter-productive to think any further…”). The proles are just fine; it’s the Left I have it in for.

Larry Teabag

Please can we have another called SLAYER and the decline of the Republican Party?

Andy M

Phil J, sorry to come back at this so late. Your points are taken. The thing is, nobody has a monopoly on irony - John M asked "How can you take seriously someone who saw no contradiction in imagining no possessions being sung within a vast mansion". To which I say, hang on - how do you know he saw no contradiction in it? Lennon was certainly street-smart enough to see the contradictions in his own position. In a way, he ended up a bit like the hapless Brian in Monty Python's 'Life Of' - shouting at the crowd following him 'You're all individuals' and hearing a small voice shout back 'I'm not'. What tees me off so much about this very tired debate is the notion that 'Imagine' is somehow meant to be read as a manifesto, instead of what it quite explicitly is - a song about dreaming. Part of what makes it such a very great song is the recognition contained within it of the sheer unlikelihood of any of the ideas in it actually coming to pass. Maybe that's the real reason why earnest lefties hate it so much.

Gil Swesnon


Gil S


geoff hardy

shite.lets all live

geoff hardy

shite he should not be dead,power to the people

Luke Basile

John Lennon was cool. Freaking cool. Freakin'.

Does it matter to you?

Slogans DO have the power to make a difference. Quite a huge power in fact. People tend to listen to slogans if they find them good. So if you get the message of PEACE and LOVE across to the people, no one will want to fight. The fact of the matter is that war and conflict can be avoided. All you need for that is love and acceptance. It's people that make wars, and it's people that can end them and avoid them. It's that simple. I personally don't think it's so unbelievable that eventually one day everyone will learn to be respectful of others. Unfortunately I don't see positive changes in people's attitude as of late, but I'm hoping that will someday change. I don't know if it'll happen, but what I do now it's not impossible and it's far from difficult.

keith brohan

A really excellent movie is out about Lennon, The Killing of John Lennon. In my opinion this is one of the greatest movies of all time. Lennon had a lot of charisma and appealed to people who wanted to be someone else, in his case they wanted to be him. He had the image thing down and could write some great songs. Where he was leading people who knows, if he was in fact trying to lead them, off a cliff maybe. I think Dylan said it best, dont follow leaders, watch the parking meters. Thats better advice than to imagine no possessions when the person writing that is paying extremely close attention to how much he has. I recall he and Yoko saying they were beginning to feel a little secure with 167 million so that speaks volumes about how they felt deprived in some way. Lennon made some good points however, and in his prime would be hard to one up as he could spit out millions of images of himself that would leave others envious.


A lot of people with followings try to swing thins to their beliefs look at Rush Limbaugh, and the truth has nothing to do with what they believe. I know he, Cheney, Bush, Rumsfield, and Hannity are all cowards, and would never fight for what they belive in

Joe Laginestra

Let all the intellectuals write their manifestos about the shortcomings of Mr. Lennon, when all is said and done it his voice that will be heard in 500 years not theirs. Although the man may have come on a little strong and his ideals tended to be off the beaten track, the truth is his life meant something to alot of people and influenced the world like no other singer/songwriter/artist before or after. Thank God for John Lennon and his visions. We all should be thankfull he came along.
Peace and Love

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