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Red StrainsMusic and Communism Outside the Communist Bloc$
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Robert Adlington

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780197265390

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197265390.001.0001

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‘Workers’ Music’

‘Workers’ Music’

Communism and the British Folk Revival

(p.89) 8 ‘Workers’ Music’
Red Strains

Ben Harker

British Academy

Communists loomed large in the first decade of Britain's post-war folk music revival, and cultural historians have been quick to suspect a central Communist Party cultural policy co-ordinating activity. This chapter revisits the folk revival's communism, unsettling the received narrative. It challenges the usual periodization, which finds the revival's origins in the post-war period, by restoring to view pre-war communist engagements with folksong. It argues that once the revival was underway in the 1950s, the relationship between the Communist Party leadership and individual folk activists such as A. L. Lloyd and Ewen MacColl was more conflicted and removed than the standard narrative implies. At the same time, distinctly communist ideas about social formations, class, and oppositional culture became a co-ordinating common sense for the revival's left flank, taking on a new lease of life in the context of the emerging folk music scene.

Keywords:   communism, CPGB, folk music, Ewen MacColl, A. L. Lloyd, Popular Front, Workers' Music Association, Maoism

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