The new Eric Clapton/Van Morrison single "Stand and Deliver" wants to be a rebel anthem. Instead these nationalist bards have delivered little more than a reactionary side note in a rising cacophony of Covid-19 denialism just at the moment the vaccines are dropping, argues Comrade Motopu.
"This is England, this is a white country, we don't want any Black w—s and c—s living here. We need to make clear to them they are not welcome."
--Eric Clapton, 1976
Isn't it strange, we never changed
We've been through it all yet we're still the same
--The Kinks, Rock & Roll Fantasy
Reading the lyrics of this anti-lockdown ditty reveals all the standard talking points of the Tommy Robinsons and Spiked cadre, the nationalism, the xenophobia, the small business identification with the ruling class mission of opening the economy as if that’s what is needed to help the “working class” as capitalist bosses and Right-wing fanatics imagine them.
Stand and deliver
You let them put the fear on you
Stand and deliver
But not a word you heard was true
They look at the science based analysis of the spread of the airborne, highly contagious, and deadly Covid-19 virus, and behind lockdowns to stop the plague spreading, and dismiss it with "Not a word of it was true.” Rather than media critique we get the standard “fake news” MAGA talking point. The "lying press" (lugenpresse) line from the Nazis, revived by Richard Spencer and Trump voters is not media critique, it's propaganda.
And the implication that “fear” is what makes people wear masks, that it’s a form of hysteria from above, is an insult to the vigilance of those who wear them to protect both themselves and others, including essential and frontline workers. Their efforts have been consistently stifled and counteracted by the contrarian Claptons and Morrisons of the world, and the Malthusian governments insisting on the allegedly more cost efficient Right-wing version of “herd immunity.” We don’t like masks, too “woke.”
But if there's nothing you can say
There may be nothing you can do
This is the standard Right-wing appeal to "free speech.” As wielded by the far right, this is almost always designed to place conspiracy theory on the same level as sources assessed as trustworthy through actual media critique. They want to put reactionary talking points on the same level as expertise, experience and data from healthcare professionals, epidemiologists, etc. It is precisely this kind of confusion that allowed the Trump administration to bully scientists and the Center for Disease Control into softening the urgency of their messaging. This cost lives and created doubt in the federal institutions that were in many ways, best placed to protect people and mobilize effective measures to fight the spread of the plague.
Do you wanna be a free man
Or do you wanna be a slave?
Do you wanna wear these chains
Until you're lying in the grave?
Next they compare isolating and mask wearing to slavery. The implication is that caring about stopping the spread is not only unfreedom, but bootlicking. This is supposed to go along with these artists being rooted in the tradition of the blues (hear the country tinged blues music of this song) and their legitimacy as artists who relate to the oppressed and some kind of righteous resistance. It really just diminishes and distorts the history of slavery, a favorite pastime for British nationalists these days, who insist that Black Lives Matter is irrelevant to England’s history of slave trading globally. It ignores the current disproportionate impact of the Corona virus on working class people, especially people of color, and on migrants. When a rockstar whose racist, xenophobic rant became the reason for launching “Rock Against Racism” in the mid 1970s wants to teach you about slavery, check his footnotes.
I don't wanna be a pauper
And I don't wanna be a prince
I just wanna do my job
Playing the blues for friends
They sing that they don't want to be rich or poor, but just want to do their jobs, as if this is an appeal to some work ethic of authentic salt of the earth folk who don't want a handout. Let’s put to one side Clapton’s Royal Honours as a Commander and Officer of the British Empire, and “Sir” Morrison’s Knighthood, and both artists’ vast wealth (and hence lack of need to work to survive) when assessing this lyric about just wanting to play the blues with all of us “friends.” The idea that normal people just want to go to work right now is four- goose-Bozo crazy. The point is that the capitalist economy, the drive to reopen and send people out into the plague environment is what drives the spikes in cases and deaths, and puts those who have to show up as frontline and essential workers at far greater risk. They may as well sing “I just wanna be a compliant worker, dyin’ for the man.”
The real solution is, as has been noted millions of times but almost completely ignored, paying people to stay home until the vaccine establishes science based herd immunity rather than the Malthusian version that demands we let the virus rip through the population until "the strong" are left to live on. For those who have to work to maintain social infrastructure, we provide PPE, temperature checks, free healthcare, hazard pay, testing and tracing, social distancing via things like curbside pickup where possible as well as increased staffing for healthcare workers. In short, do everything possible to protect and support them along with the elderly and other extremely vulnerable groups. Isolating protects them by lessening the spread of Covid-19. The fact Clapton and Morrison are portraying this anti-lockdown/anti-masker single as a defense of live music and the arts is shameful. The only solution for the arts is the same that applies to everyone else, pay them to isolate and fund alternative projects involving their skills that can be done safely away from super-spreading environments until the vaccine takes effect.
Magna Carta, Bill of Rights
The constitution, what's it worth?
You know they're gonna grind us down, ah
Until it really hurts
Is this a sovereign nation
Or just a police state?
You better look out, people
Before it gets too late
Then they make the appeal to the Constitution, now an empty dog whistle word for "kill the poor" and or leftists, and various voter suppression schemes when uttered by the far Right. "Is this a sovereign nation?" they ask, alluding to border controls, Trump’s Muslim ban, anti-China hysteria, and Brexit. Borders function first as capitalist labor controls, and exacerbate outbreaks by, among other things, herding sick and ill people together into detention and deportation centers where viruses spread rampantly, then sending the infected back to their alleged countries of origin to further spread the virus globally. In this logic, there is no priority to save human life and no respect for workers specifically. The nationalist exclusion of outsiders, those who "don't belong" to a place and should therefore be denied rights, decent living conditions, healthcare, and basic social services, makes it all worse. The implication is that they are "leeches" rather than hyper-exploited workers generating profits for the bosses and politicians who demonize them. This is standard fascist nationalist rhetoric. It has ensured the virus would spread rapidly and largely unrestricted. “More of this!” the rebels yell.
Stand and deliver
Stand and deliver
Dick Turpin wore a mask too
They end their song with a weird “gotcha” (and the source of the title) by offering a counterpoint hero from the early eighteenth century, singing: “Dick Turpin wore a mask too.” This is to counterpose the outlaw to the mask wearing sheeple, duped by elites and globalists, Clapton and Morrison are trying to wake up. Turpin was the son of a butcher who was also an inn keeper, meaning the son of a small business man and skilled artisan. He probably was a small business man himself at certain periods in his life, a perfect hero in the model of Trump’s and the new Right’s base, and perhaps any remaining Clapton fans. Turpin became a “highwayman” and here the musicians again try to portray themselves in a Robin Hood vs. the “police state” for the good of the workers. I guess Clapton can’t really say “I shot the Sheriff” (apologies to Bob Marley) since Sheriffs have become so important to the sovereign citizen movement. The “Constitutional Sheriff” is supposedly the highest authority with the power to disregard federal laws among Posse Comitatus type outfits in the US. These are the states’ rights and white nationalist folks that would probably love this “Stand and Deliver” single. Turpin, whose gang sometimes murdered and raped their victims, stole mostly from his own class for himself, not out of any “resistance” or rebellion against the system. It’s a real whimper of an ending to the song, and hopefully to the careers of these two confused Covid Denialists.