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Billy Bragg Benefit Concert "Smashing"

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The Nov. 26 Billy Bragg benefit concert for AGENDA was a great success. For this, we would like to thank Lee Berry , Rae Cline, and the hard working folks at Prism Productions. We'd also like to thank Billy Bragg and his rocking Red Star band, The Disposable Héroes of Hiphoprisy, and comedian Barry Crimmins for their wonderful performances and generosity. And of course, a big thanks to all of you who attended. Anyone who knows Billy Bragg' s music also knows that Billy is a deep thinker, an artist with a well developed idea of what the world is about and a visión of what it could and should bc. What follows are excerpts from an interview with Billy by David Batstone from "Monthly Review," (New York, NY, 42: p. 20-29). DB: Ok, let's be political for a while. Af ter the events which have taken place in Eastem Europe, why do you say that socialism, an ideal that some have said is dead, is a better altemative? BB: Well, it depends on what it is that you think is dead and gone. If we are talking about the horrendously negative aspects of what' s gone down in Eastern Europe in the name of socialism - which was really nothing but to-. talitarianism - hopefully those things are dead. But at the same time the ideáis of what socialism is about, the cali of socialist feelings and humanitarian hopes which existed long before Marx, as far as I am concerned are still valid. We need to trace back before Prague'68,beforeHungary'56,beforeStalin, before the Russian Revolution, before Marx, before the whole industrial revolution, to look at the collective societies which existed then. Take the Nati ve Americans. They know how to deal with the environment and the relationship of the individual to one's surroundings. We've lost that because capitalism demands individualislic materialism. But we can't all be individuals all of the time. Margaret Thatcher said last year that there is no such thing as a society- that' s the most frightening thing she has ever said. Now I, as a socialist, think that our individuality is the most iportant aspect which we each have; socialism isn't anti-indi vidual. But unless we have the opportunity for collective education, collective health care, collective housing, unless we do things collectively and responsibly, then only the rich and the privileged will have the opportunity to express their individuality and the rest of us will be exploited by it. Socialism, then, needs restating, reforging. The situation is there - you only have to walk by all of those people sleeping in doorways in nearly every city, who are physically , emotionally , or mentally ill. They've been rejected by our society. They've been thrown out to die, that's the law of the jungle. We're supposed to be higher than that. I think we need to go back, then, before the black and white world of communism and capitalism, which never really was black and white, of course, because the East-West divide was totally false. The real divide is North-South, that's the gap we should be bridging. DB: During all of your concerts you really push people to register for their right to vote, in a sense using ballots as a weapon for change. Many people on the left, however, often say "Don't vote, it only encourages them." BB: I reckon that's bullshit. DB: Do you really think that elections are going to make a difference? BB: As you know, politicians don't often do what they promised in the campaign. So, though democracy isn ' t perfect, it' s the best thing we' ve come up with so far. I just think we should have democracy in the workplace, in housing, in the schools, all throughoutour society . People should have to take responsibility for their society, by expressing a view instead of copping out and just drifting along. We end up with people like Bush and Thatcher because no one cares. So, I say to my leftist friends, "111 come into the streets with you when it's time if you'll come to the ballot box with me." It's not an eitheror.