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Musicians & tQ Writers On Anti-Fascist Anthems
Luke Turner , October 4th, 2016 08:32

Featuring contributions from Ben Durutti, Penny Rimbaud, Bobby Barry, Jeremy Allen, Ben Myers, Kevin McCaighy, Stewart Smith, Neil Cooper, Matt Evans, Tony F Wilson, Leo Chadburn, Emily Mackay, David Bennun, Phil Harrison, Arnold De Boer, Joel McIver, Russell Cuzner, Jeremy Bolm, John Doran, TV Smith, James Sherry, Jonathan Meades, Tristan Bath, JR Moores, Julian Marszalek, Captain Sensible, Andy Moor, Christine Casey, Nic Bullen and Stewart Lee

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Cornelius Cardew & People’s Liberation Music – ‘The Spirit Of Cable Street’

The late career of Cornelius Cardew has tended to get a pretty short shrift. Academics decry what they perceive as an ignominious descent for the brilliant young composer of Autumn 60, Octet 61 for Jasper Johns, and Treatise into the grubby world of pop music. Those more sympathetic to rock, have tended to see the strident agit-pop of the People’s Liberation Music band as evidence of someone completely out of touch who simply had no idea what modern pop music was really about. In some ways, I think this might be precisely the source of the group’s peculiar attraction for me. ‘The Spirit of Cable Street’ was written by the group’s bassist Laurie Baker, not Cardew, but it’s his slightly ungainly voice that drives the rousing chorus of “They shall not pass, wipe the fascists off the street … Unite in the spirit of Cable Street.” Formed in 1973 by members of the Scratch Orchestra, all of People’s Liberation Music’s songs were political in word and agitational in intent. ‘The Spirit of Cable Street’ is probably the most explicitly anti-fascist, commemorating the 1936 rout of Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists (backed by the Metropolitan Police), by an anti-fascist defence led by the Communist Party of Great Britain. There’s a rather lovely mural to the event just round the corner from Shadwell Station. But PLM didn’t stop at historical remembrance. They explicitly link the struggle of the 30s with a then-recent clash with the National Front in Red Lion Square that led to the death of a maths student named Kevin Gately. “Now at Red Lion Square the people fought with bare hands … Keep alive the fighting spirit of Kevin Gately … Unite in the spirit of Cable Street.”
Bobby Barry


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