“Nothing is Too Good for the Working Class”


1. This piece had its origins in a talk at the James Connolly Forum in Troy, NY, on March 15, 2013. I would like to thank Connolly Forum director Jon Flanders for the invitation and the Connolly Forum audience for questions which precipitated many of the ideas that are discussed herein. Also, thanks to Anton Vishio, Karl Lerud, Mark Mishler, Noam Chomsky, and Alex Ross for commenting on the draft.

2. John Halle, “Occupy Wall Street: Composers and the Plutocracy,” New Politics (14/1 2012): 85-96.

3. Lawrence Levine, Highbrow/Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990).

4. Michael Denning, The Cultural Front: The Laboring of American Culture in the Twentieth Century (London: Verso, 1996).

5. I am indebted to Anton Vishio and Alex Ross for reminding me of this oversight in an earlier draft.

6. See here for an excellent discussion of Wagner’s political commitments and alliances.

7. E.g., Schoenberg described himself as a “royalist,” and Stravinsky expressed “veneration” for Mussolini, as did Webern (somewhat more ambiguously) for “this unique man” Hitler.

8. For Eisler’s views on these matters, see James Wierz-bicki, “Hanns Eisler and the FBI,” Music and Politics (2/2: 2011), and R.G. Davis “Music from the Left,” Rethinking Marxism (Winter 1988): 7-25.

9. Stanley Aronowitz, Roll over Beethoven: The Return of Cultural Strife, (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1993), 107.

10. See here.

11. See here.

12. I am grateful to Joel Kovel to bringing these remarkable institutions to my attention.

13. Marvin Gettleman, Lost World of U.S. Labor Education: Curricula at East and West Coast Community Schools, 1944-1957.

14. See here.

15. “ILGWU: A Great and Good Union Points the Way for America’s Labor Movement,” Life Magazine (August 1, 1938): 45.

16. A concise formulation of the idea is attributed to the late journalist and labor scholar Robert Fitch: “The bourgeoisie takes very bad care of its cultural inheritance.”

17. Richard Taruskin, “Double Trouble,” The New Republic, (Dec. 24, 2001): 26-34.

18. Lawrence Squeri, Better in the Poconos: The Story of Pennsylvania’s Vacationland (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002).

19. Milton Babbitt, “Who Cares if You Listen?” High Fidelity, Feb. 1958.

20. Grant Wiggins, letter to the editor, New York Times, Nov. 25, 2012.

21. Documentation provided in, for example, Jeff Madrick, Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011).

22. R.G. Davis, “Music from the Left,” Rethinking Marxism (Winter 1988): 7-25.

23. Quoted in Pete Seeger, Where Have All The Flowers Gone: A Singer’s Stories, Songs, Seeds, Robberies (Bethlehem, PA: Sing Out, 2005).

24. Richard Sennett and Jonathan Cobb, The Hidden Injuries of Class (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1972).