Home / Karl Marx – Steve Earle’s Mentor

Karl Marx – Steve Earle’s Mentor

Please Share...Print this pageTweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook0Share on Google+0Pin on Pinterest0Share on Tumblr0Share on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

While reading a recently purchased music magazine ‘PASTE’, I came across an interview with alt.country, singer-songwriter, street-fighter Steve Earle. Apparently, he has a image of himself in the style of Che Guevera (uh-hem… something I have discussed in a previous blog) suitable for nailing up on telephone poles (or, the post office …)

“I’ve never belonged to a political party… I’m a lot closer to a Socialist than I am anything else, because I absolutely believe everything that Karl Marx said about economics”

I get damn tired of reading these kind of boneheaded quotes from artists…
especially artists I like.

Steve, have you really read everything Marx authored? Ever heard of The Communist Manifesto? In the treatise Marx promotes bloody violence and class warfare to reach his goal of a free and equal society.

Have you read Hegel? Marx’s mentor? Marx was a follower of Hegel, who was a statist. What that means is the State is supreme. The group has primacy over the individual and the state has primacy over the group. There are no individual rights. Individuals represent a lower form of reality. The State is absolute, a higher level of humanity. In Marxist thought individuals owe their obedience and compliance to this higher power.

Rights are socially defined. Rights are defined by the State, given by the State, taken away by the State. Individuals are not endowed by their Creator with unalienable Rights, among them Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, as our constitution states.

Marxist worldview does not tolerate the individual’s freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of choice, free markets, FREEDOM! The individual is subservient to the state and its ideals, whatever they are. And it doesn’t tolerate non-conformity, Steve.

Where has this form of government been successful at promoting anything except forced compliance to the state? Communist states have been mostly very successful at murdering and torturing the unruly, disobedient worker. Ever heard of Pol Pot, Stalin, Mao? They were all Communists of the Marxist ilk.

This system would not endure Steve Earle singing about “F the CIA, F the CC, F the FBI”. This kind of rhetoric would likely get him imprisoned, tortured or killed.

So what is it? Do Steve and other celebrities who spout off about Communisim being a better system than the freedom we have here in the US, REALLY know and believe what they are saying? Or, do they have no idea what they are talking about?

Utopia is not an option.

‘Splain it to me!

Powered by

About Diane

  • Eric Olsen

    I vote the latter: a very murky understanding of something that sounds swell on paper. Thanks and welcome Diane!

  • So if Steve Earle plays an NA sponsor to Bubbles in the first season of “The Wire”, this means what?

    You’ve taken one statement, out of context printed in a magazine, and then spun a whole rant based on nothing whatsoever, with no apparent understanding of economic philosophy at all. Tell me, is Red-baiting coming back into fashion in the Excited States?

    Sounds like one of Henry Rollins stories about slagging off Nelson (the twin sons of Ricky Nelson) in a magazine article, and then six months later, meeting them backstage at one of his shows, and them telling him how much they liked his music.

    So why don’t you tell Steve what you think here.

  • I posted these comments to his site a couple of days ago. I also sent the same as a letter to the editor to Paste.
    I don’t believe I’ve taken anything out of context. Those were his words. I also think one can like an artist’s music but not agree with his politics.

  • Of course, one can also accept Karl Marx’s class-based view of economics (which is all that Earle references in his quote) as a means of analysis – without buying the rest of the package.

  • I really get the feeling your friends, acquaintances and parole officer have to constantly explain to you that the characters on the teevee set ain’t the same as the folks who act the parts.

    Just because the Lucky Charms elf tells you to burn down the school doesn’t mean you should do it.

    Or as the Man said:
    We, the people, put ourselves in the shoes of the singer. We want to feel his pain, his loneliness. We want to be a part of that rebellion. So here is my personal selection of my recordings of songs of robbers, liars and murderers. These songs are just for listening and singing. Don’t go out and do it.
    — Johnny Cash

  • Eric Olsen

    I would agree that Diane did some extrapolating from Earle’s statement about socialism and Marx to full-blown totalitarian communism, but I also see overreaction to overreaction.

  • Jim Allison

    How does one not conclude support for a Communist state from this statement “I absolutely believe everything that Karl Marx said about economics” The Communist Manifesto is about economics. Karl Marx authored that work. How hard is it to draw the connection here?

  • I’ll take Steve Earle over any hat-act any day. So, I don’t get this red-baiting about his supposed “politics”. Most of his songs are pretty plain-spoken about what he thinks, which includes changing his mind as situations change.

    He writes about what he knows and has experienced and what he thinks given what he’s told.

    So instead of blathering about something you apparently know nothing about (the writings of Karl Marx), how about his experience with drugs?

    His album “Copperhead Road” is mostly about drug smugglers and users. He’s hit bottom and bounced back, he’s played a recovered junkie in “The Wire”.

    So, what’s your take on that, given the drug hysteria in the Excited States, and the current #1 with a bullet of Afghanistan as the leading drug state in the world.

    Who’s your smack daddy?

  • Eric Olsen

    I think one could reasonably argue, like Bill, that Earle’s statement could be read to apply to Marx’s theories of economics as a method of describing history rathre than as a political system, but I don’t think Diane’s reading is unreasonable either

  • Well, now that John Ashcroft has more time on his hands (what to do … what to do?) I’m sure you won’t mind me turning over the information and statements I’ve culled from BC to Ashcroft. Nothing to worry about, and if there is, they have ways of making you talk and can show you how much.

    Look, if you want to engage in red-baiting, just come out and say so, it makes you look less foolish. It isn’t as shameful as it used to be. It’s not like you get any respect for it from credible sources.

  • Rob

    “In the treatise Marx promotes bloody violence and class warfare to reach his goal of a free and equal society.”

    A few comments (to take one sentence out of context, something the author appears no stranger to doing):
    – Have you yourself read the Communist Manifesto? Can you point me to the “blood”? Or is this merely an allegorical reading which depends more on what people quoting Marx have said than what he actually said. In which case, don’t you feel you are negating your point rather?
    – Regardless of how stupid Steve Earle’s comments were, isn’t it a bit sad that the book you come up with to discuss Marx’s economics is the Communist Manifesto, rather than the Grundrisse, Capital, or ANY of his primary works on economics? The Manifesto self-consciously served clear contemporary political purposes, and is certainly not the basis of any serious consideration of Marx’s economics.
    – Can you tell me please how “warfare” and “blood” are any less central to alternative pursuits of “free and equal societies”; after all, isn’t this what the US, the “free state” you admire so much, demanded as the cost of democracy in Afghanistan or Iraq (regardless of your position on the war, surely you must admit this)?

    The long slow death of serious intellectual debate on Marx is mirrored as much by this blogpost as by Steve Earle’s comments themselves.

  • Not to mention Diane’s sourcing of Henry David Thoreau as the inspiration and source of the Khymer Rouge.

    Imagine if somebody near Walden Pond had shot that evil bugger, mistaking him for a deer! Think of the terrorist atrocities which could have been avoided.

  • Diane

    Yeah, well, I can tell the difference between a doctor and one who plays a one on t.v. And, Comparing me to Henry Rollins, well, I thank you for that!
    Steve ‘believes’ everything Marx ever wrote on economics. He said so.
    I didn’t make that up. Why do people say stuff that they really don’t understand.
    You can’t just pick a part of what Marx extolled and throw out the rest of it.
    It’s so typical of leftists to think that “that dictator did it wrong, I could do it (socialism/communisim better!”
    One only needs to look to history to see how these theories play out. It’s never good. Steve wouldn’t need to diet on Stalin’s collective farms, he would starve to death!
    And, as to the U.S. , don’t understand me too quickly. I do not agree with the war. I don’t believe that we belong there or should have EVER been involved there.
    Geeze, I can’t wait till you guys hear what I have to say about Che Guavera!

  • It’s so typical of leftists to think that…

    ah, look how long it took for that broad brush to come out.

    if you knew anything at all about Steve Earle then you wouldn’t have gone out shooting straw men.

  • diane

    I only claim to know about Steve Earle what he says in magazine interviews………

  • Geeze, I can’t wait till you guys hear what I have to say about Che Guavera!

    Oh, man, I love their smoothies, and their guacamole is the best! I bet you’re a big Mango fan. Did you catch his farewell tour? I bet you did, you saucy little minx! Stuffing those increasingly worthless US dollars into his glitter equator. Salsa! Muy picante!

  • Why do people say stuff that they really don’t understand.
    You can’t just pick a part of what Marx extolled and throw out the rest of it.

    Marx said this:
    Women should be obscene and not heard.

    Care to refute? Or is this just a workshop in people saying stuff they don’t really understand?


    I really liked Earle’s Copperhead Road and his work with the Del McCoury (sp?) band; I look to musicians for good music, not political or economic info.

  • a) Conditions – work and social – were far more horrendous when Karl Marx wrote his books than now. Applying theories valid in a certain social context may not be valid in another

    b) Do you agree that the world is in a state of constant transformation from lower to higher orders of existence? If you do, then you are Hegelian – I, for one, find no reason to disbelieve this principle, else I might as well return to the jungles.

    c) The success of the American bourgeois is a validation, at least in part, of the principles of the US Labor struggle. Thus, to diss all of socialism is to deny the social contract that makes capitalism strong.

    d) I think Steve’s statement was over the top, but so is extreme tarring and feathering of the artist and his work.

    Thanks for the opinion – it is valid.However, I would suggest not forming an opinion purely from magazine interviews (ref Comment 15)

    Finally, ref Earle’s “Amerika v. 6.0 (The Best We Can Do)”

  • Just a note, Diane, your URL on your blogcritics id – http://www.panicindetroit.blogspirit.com does not work – the additional www is causing an error.

    Is that a reference to the David Bowie song, perchance?

  • Eric Olsen

    the URL works now, this page had to be rebuilt

  • I’m not surprised that Steve Earle adores Marx. A couple of months ago I bought the Brit music magazine, UNCUT, because it came with a CD full of tasty tunes, the first of which was by Earle. This is the blurb inside describing Earle’s contribution:

    “Ever since he got out of jail in the early ’90s, Earle has been attempting to prompt, prod or otherwise provoke his fellow artists into joining his stand against the reactionary forces threatening to engulf modern America. Now those forces are running amok, and in the wake of the unpopular war and the terrifying prospect of another four years of a Bush presidency, it seems his call is belatedly being heeded. Is it too late? Early remains defiantly optimistic, and ‘The Revolution Starts…’ is a typical manifesto of hope in desperate times…”

    “Typical manifesto, huh? I guess one that was inspired by old Uncle Karl.

  • Is he too late ot too Early?

  • Eric Olsen

    though I can understand the response to the doctrinal imprecision of this post, my reaction to it is based upon the much more broad truths, which Diane also expressed, that I really love much of what Earle does musically, especially over the last 10 years, but he is an absolute blithering idiot when it comes to politics and current events. You could not ask for a more perfect emobodiment of the “artistic temperament” rampaging uncomprehendingly through alien terrain

  • i dunno, his commentary and stand against capital punishment always seemed well thought out to me.

  • Rob

    Response to Diane:
    I don’t think that ‘the dictator did it wrong, i could do it better’. I would not call myself a Marxist, and have almost zero interest in Marxist politics. I don’t even ‘buy’ Marxist economics. As for Che Guevara, I wouldn’t be so quick to pass me off as a member of the hero-worshipping fashionistas of the contemporary left. I simply think the basis of your comparison was deeply flawed.

    ‘You can’t just pick a part of what Marx extolled and throw out the rest of it.’ – I don’t, but I don’t see what’s wrong with people who do. After all, part of what’s so stupid about Earle’s comment is that he accepts ‘everything’. Marx as an author went through theories and ideas as much if not more as any other writer, to accept ‘everything’ he says, as you are demanding I do, would be an exercise in contradiction. Your idea that Marx’s theories should be read as holistic is an analytical standpoint, rather than a given based in the texts themselves. Can I not agree with Voltaire’s claims for free speech without his latent antisemitism? Recognising inherent contradictions and assumptions is a valid pursuit, but taking chunks: isn’t that what having our *own* ideas is all about?

    I didn’t claim you were pro-war, merely used the war on Iraq as an example of how your opposition between US ‘freedom’ and ‘bloodshed’ in the name of democracy was hardly fair.

  • The Manifesto is about the historical example that violence has always promoted one mode of production over another. Anyone who tsk-tsks violence should remember that without it, we would still be serving the King of England in a feudal mode of production right now.

  • The Dude

    That’s correct, Barry. Thank god for violence; instead of serving the King of England, we rubbed out the Indians and Mexicans, so we can ship over Africans serve us. All hail violence!
    As for Steve Earle. I’ve always been a huge admirer of his music and his activism. So keep on rocking, Stevie, and don’t take shit from nobody.

  • Eric Olsen

    hey Mark, I don’t see Earle’s stance against the death penalty – which I agree with – as political so much as moral. Even flakey artists can make sound moral decisions

  • Eric, did you really mean to infer that politics, morals and ethics can only exist when they are isolated from each other?

    I wouldn’t call Steve Earle “flakey” because he has actually lived and experienced a lot of what he talks about.

    He’s all cattle, no hat to paraphrase Randy Newman (who has also sung about Karl Marx, and has a connection with Groucho Marx).

  • Diane

    I don’t think you can separate morality from Economics. Is it moral to Steal? Of couse it isn’t. So, that’s one place where Communisim is immoral. And that is where our Tax laws are Immoral.
    Taking (stealing) money,involuntarily from one person and giving it to someone else, no matter what the reason,and no matter if it’s the government doing the “stealing”, is theft.
    Those who believe in communisim should get togather and live in a community of people who share that belief system, sharing everything from bills, to work, to guitars and royalites.

    P.S. I don’t believe in Capitol punishment either.

  • diane

    And, oh yeah, that thing about blood and violence and war…there are good and just reasons for a bloody war.I think that one back about 200 or so years ago had something to do with independance and taxation……

  • The Dude [sarcastic voice]: ‘Thank god for violence; instead of serving the King of England, we rubbed out the Indians and Mexicans, so we can ship over Africans serve us. All hail violence!’

    One can only presume a life of farm work for the benefit of a monarchy would suit the Dude. And funny his tears shed for ‘Indians and Mexicans’ and ‘Africans’ – without those bloody phases of capitalism, there wouldn’t be his internet connection right now.

    Diane [best Ayn Rand imitation]: ‘Is it moral to Steal? Of couse it isn’t. So, that’s one place where Communisim is immoral’

    Let’s return to those ‘Indians and Mexicans’ and ‘Africans’ now, eh? That’s one place where Capitalism is immoral. Of excuse me, incoming news: ‘There are good and just reasons for a bloody war.’ Moving back to the real world, Marx’s point (in the Manifesto) is: All new modes of productions come into the world through violence (class struggle). Violence, like science, is neutral.

    BTW, posting an image of the Manifesto is misleading. Earle obviously emphasized Marx’s economic stuff, meaning ‘Capital’ volume 1, 2 & 3. There’s nothing communist and scary in those pages – although I doubt Diane knows much about those writings. Most critics of Marx have read little, if nothing of his work. All power to Steve Earle for doing some reading and some thinking; his future stuff will be richer for it.

  • Those who believe in communisim should get togather and live in a community of people who share that belief system, sharing everything from bills, to work, to guitars and royalites.

    Why, when you scratch the great, rugged individualists, do you find a sour, hateful, miserable crank. A crank who can’t get along with their neighbours. And their house probably smells of cat-piss.

    So, on the first night of Chakakhan, Bone-button Soup.

  • Shark

    Ah. Thank gawd for the internet! Another ‘expert’ unleashes her vast intellect on BC. Shades of HUAC. Welcome to the glorious 1950s. Joe McCarthy as cosmic DJ.

    Disinformation at the speed of light.

    Diane: “It’s so typical of leftists to think that… “

    Next issue: Diane does an in-depth sociological, economic, philosophical, moral analysis of the lyrics of Darryl Worley — where she’ll adress the question:

    “Are admirable right-wing reactionary patriotic sentiments negated by the use of the *WORST FUCKING RHYME IN THE HISTORY OF HUMAN LANGUAGE?”


    I hear people saying we don’t need this war
    I say there’s some things worth fighting for
    What about our freedom and this piece of ground?
    We didn’t get to keep ’em by backing down
    They say we don’t realize the mess we’re getting in
    Before you start preaching
    Let me ask you this my friend

    Have you forgotten how it felt that day
    To see your homeland under fire
    And her people blown away?
    Have you forgotten when those towers fell?
    We had neighbors still inside
    Going through a living hell

    *And you say we shouldn’t worry ’bout Bin Laden
    Have you forgotten?


    Bin laden?


    (Hey, you can complain about Steve Earle all you want, but I say we lock this Worley fucker up in Gitmo and chop off his writing hand for unpardonable poetic violations.)

  • Eric Olsen

    as a songwriter and artist I’ll take Earle over almost anyone, and certainly over some hat dildo like Darryl Worley, but that’s the point: Earle is (or at least can be) a great artist, but his typical take on politics is generic, unnuanced, selectively informed and wildly naive, kind of like Worley

  • Hateful? Cracky? Me? At least I ain’t protesting in the streets over the size of my welfare check………

  • You might if you were earning minimum wage, a single mother and hungry

    Mosh it!

  • Diane

    Been there, done that…..

  • Hey, the upper classes have declared talking about class warfare as verboten! You proles better just shut the hell up and start listening to Fox News. There is no class system in America, George Bush got into college on merit! Marx was a foreigner, we don’t listen to foreigners with radical ideas about sharing, and we don’t listen to people with radical ideas about sharing from the middle east either (except Jesus of course).

  • Eric Olsen


    forced sharing=bad

  • JR

    I’d like to drive down the center of the road, but the government forces me to share with the people in the other cars. Bad government!

  • JR: James Dean liked to play Chicken in his hot-rod, and look where it got him, a goddamn ‘murrican icon, I tell you what.

    Okay, it was a foreign vehicle, but he was probably on his way to buy a good Chevy V-8, the same as Jebus drives on the Roy Cohn Memorial Expressway.

  • Shark

    Just wanna point out that Jesus, Prez Bush’s ‘favorite philosopher’ — was a Socialist.


    Diane: “At least I ain’t protesting in the streets over the size of my welfare check…”

    First it was ‘commie connections’ — and now this?

    Jeez, Diane, your reactionary playbook is about four decades out of date.

  • The Dude

    Sorry friends for the late response. I actually have a life outside of the blog world.
    But to respond to Barry, I never said that capitalism was bad. So don’t make up shit you don’t understand.

    And by the way, I’ve read Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto, and guess what, it didn’t make me a violent communist.
    Hell, I’ve even read the Bible and the Koran, and believe that both religions are great concepts. And yet I know that blowing up abortion clinics and flying planes into buildings are completely insane ideas.

    Don’t you think that sane, smart people can actually listen to music and read books and can come up with original thoughts, and can use those thoughts to benefit their lives and their communities without doing harm to others?
    Or do you not trust people?

  • wang

    “Communisim”, “independance” “Capitol “punishment”, “togather”…

    I can’t help wondering whether a bit more careful reading of Marx on Diane’s part might improve the state of spelling in this corner of the blogworld.

  • diane

    I think it’s interesting when people comment on spelling, not content.

  • wang

    What’s the point in commenting on content when you deal with those criticisms in such an ears-closed, bigoted way, replying with tired cliches rather than responding to specific points? You appear about as pragmatic as a melon. Which is fine, if that’s how you want to be remembered. But “a sinister cabal of superior bloggers”? Hardly.

  • you want class war?

    go visit one of your local union’s picketlines.

    diane is an idiot. marx was not a ‘statist’ – an ambiguous term at best. marx, in ‘das kapital’ actually develops the thesis that the State is based on the class divisions of society. that the State is an instrument of CLASS WARFARE. that the State, with its ‘special bodies of armed men’ and other ‘coercive’ institutions (jails, courts armed bodies of men; ie: police) acts in the interests of the RULING CLASS (in modern ‘bourgeois democratic republics’ that ruling class is the capitalist class. in a socialist republic, that ruling class would be the masses of workers).

    it is obvious to someone who actually HAS bothered to read marx that the author of this nonsense has never read more than the opening paragraphs of the ‘manifesto of ’48.

    oh, but at least i did learn about steve earle. i’d never even heard of him before. perhaps i’ll give his music a listen.

  • kid presentable

    Diane, I found your critique of Steve Earle to be succinct and insightful. Sure, the morally-relative among us can engage in “goal post moving” and attempt to parse statements ad nauseum, but “I’m a lot closer to a Socialist than I am anything else, because I absolutely believe everything that Karl Marx said about economics” is a pretty clear statement in itself.
    It’s kind of the same dilemma the uber-liberal fringe (to the left of Ted Kennedy, even) Democratic presidential candidate ran into when he said on the floor of the Senate, “The memory is seared…SEARED into me” about “President Nixon” lying about American soldiers being in Cambodia at the time. Not only was Kerry proven to be lying about his whereabouts and Nixon wasn’t president on Christmas of ’68, but Kerry’s apologists never could stop backpedaling from his statements. Same with Steve’s apologists. When a guy performs an entire show bashing Christians and standing before a projected communist hammer and sickle symbol on-screen (as he did here last week in my homestate of TN), the leftists can backpedal all they want…at least they’re getting in a lot of good cardio. ; )
    ps. “bolshevik bob,” you sound like a good little socialist/communist. hey, you guys should really give it another try in your own utopia far, far away from America. After all, it’s only killed 100 million to date!

  • Nick Jones

    Jim, what Johnny Cash album is it that you mention? Sounds like an album I’d like to hear and/or own.

  • Hey, better late than never, Kid.

    Steve didn’t mean anything by that flag that was hanging behind him, it adds to the ambience.
    Words mean nothing.

  • BolshevikbBob

    capitalists killed many hundreds of millions to date (and add a few more notches to your bedpost with the recent deaths of those miners in utah)

    when communists slaughter 90 percent of any given population, as did the spanish conquistadores, then we can talk


  • Mar

    Between 1917-1953 20 000 000 people were murdered by Communists in the Soviet Union.

    2 000 000 were murdered by the Kymer Rouge

    40 000 000 by communists in China.

    The list goes on……….

  • diane

    I’m surprised that people are still commenting on this blog 4 years later…..Just saw Earle and His lovely wife at the Michigan Theatre. Great show! could have done without a lot of the DJ stuff. Expected to hear lots of political rhetoric but didn’t!! Thank you, Steve for a great night of MUSIC!

  • Rob

    Note that you quoted him as saying “I absolutely believe everything that Karl Marx said about economics” He didn’t say he believed everything Marx said about revolution, or states, or anything else.

  • Ray

    Karl Marx knew nothing about economics. His entire experience of “capitalism” was in the dealings he had with loan sharks in London. The only unpaid “worker” he ever knew in London was his own housekeeper (also the Mother of the son he never acknowledged.) Marx was a fool.