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(en) IMC Prague Interview - CHUMBAWUMBA

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sat, 14 Dec 2002 08:52:31 -0500 (EST)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

Alici z Chumbawumby jsme zastihli koncem zari 2002 na Stvanici,
kratce pred koncertem festivalu Music Beats Local Nazi(cely preklad
rozhovoru najdete zde).
We talked to Alice from Chumbawumba towards the end of september
2002 on Stvanice, shortly before their concert at the Music Beats
Local Nazi festival. (Read the complete interview here).


We talked to Alice from Chumbawumba towards the end of september
2002 on Stvanice, shortly before their concert at the Music Beats
Local Nazi festival. There were three of us, Alex, Slavek, and Mara.
Slavek had a cola, Mara and Alex had a beer, Alice had a whiskey and
coke. We sat on the floor in a dark hallway which was the quietest
place to record. At first there were some rather funny difficulties with
the recorder, but we managed to work them out, and here's what we

MARA: it vibrated but he missed it!(difficulties with recorder -ed;-)

ALICE: Oh, never mind.

ALEX: What are you doing in Prague?

ALICE: Let's sit down.

ALEX: good idea.

ALICE: We've come to play this anti-racist festival (Music Beats Local
Nazi). I've never come across an anti-racist festival which approaches
from the angle of "O.k. we're gonna try to do something that's really
human." Whether you agree with violence or not, it's an interesting
approach. Because it brings up the problem that Nazis are real people.
It's also interesting for us, we've got an anti-fascist section in our set.
One of the songs ends on "I'll never rest alive until every Nazi dies,"
and the other one has a chorus which gives the fascist man a gunshot,
which we're playing here. People think the only way you can be an
anti-fascist is to be a street fighter. This image of huge young males,
fighting on the street, no place for people that feel vulnerable in that
position, who have different things to contribute. Being a revolutionary
doesn't necessarily mean getting out in the streets. there's loads of
different things you can do, whether it's pushing ideas, or doing things
with friends or where you work, or setting up things in the

ALEX: Or having fun...

ALICE: Yeah, or having fun. Politics shouldn't just be a duty. I really
like this place because its free. When I was wandering round earlier, I
found a building at the end that's got settees. Oh, fantastic! I'll go sit
down and chill out there later. Normally when we go to festivals, I
have to watch loads of crap rock bands that are all blokes. "O.k., all
right, there's a beer tent and it's horrible." Whereas this has got a
political context. It's got a nice environment and loads of different
cultural things going on. Quite often things that have a political
context are mired in some sort of ghetto, so people think it's just punk
rock. Here you have these Brazilian dancers who are gonna do an 18th
century slave dance, a form of martial arts that the slaves developed as
a form of resistance. You never get that at a festival in England. You'd
be fighting your way through guitars.

ALEX: I've liked how people are reading the wonderful displays that
are set up, and really bieng moved by them...

ALICE: Did you see the picture of the baby with the handcuffs? It's a
bit disturbing isn't it?

ALEX: I haven't looked at a lot of it yet.

ALICE: There's an antifascist poster with a really tiny baby lying on its
stomach with a pair of handcuffs on its back, as in "You condemn
your kids to that." You look at it and think, "Christ, what's that?" You
never get that at a normal festival, I find it really disturbing, but I like
the fact that it's there.

ALEX: How does the relationship between Capitalism, Sexism, and
Racism relate your anti-Capitalist views?

ALICE: We originally come from Birmingham, where they've just
elected three Nazis to town council. The Nazis got in by exploiting
peoples fears and their poverty. All the jobs moved out of Birmingham
in the '70's. In the initial wave of shutdowns, Birmingham lost its
industry. So it's been suffering from a heroin epidemic since the '70's.
There's massive social deprivation and all the things that come with
that, like incest and awful problems. The racists have said, "Well, the
reason that you've got all these problems is because you're letting
asylum seekers in, because we've got blacks in our town." In fact, the
reason that people have got all these problems is that in the 70's
capital decided that people had too much power in the workplace, you
had all these wildcat strikes. They said "Ok we've got to do a turn on
this," so you got Thatcherism coming in '81. The people voting for the
Nazis truly believe that they're living in absolute fear wondering who's
gonna burgle them next, because two miles down the road there's an
asylum seeker - who they don't know, and are never gonna meet.
Capitalism scapegoats somebody with no power. The Nazis pick that
up for their own reasons. For the Nazis it's a way of having power in a
society where they feel powerless, it's that white-trash mentality. "At
least there's somebody under me."

For me the fantastic thing about the anti-globalization movement is all
these diverse interests coming together and becoming a movement.
The '80's were a complete mess. People got mired in single issues.
You had people who were INTO animal rights and JUST into animal
rights, and nothing else mattered "I don't like abortion, because I'M
into animal rights, and if the animal's sacred, then the fetus...."

ALEX: Idealistically framed...

ALICE: Religiously framed, all about denial, all about saving
somebody, when the reason to be political is to save your own life.
Eastern philosophies are so fucking popular because people think
"Right, there's something wrong with the world, I can't understand
what it is, maybe if I chant." Instead of actually studying Western
philosophy and capitalist economies to work out why life is as it is,
because that's what we're living under, they read some mystic book.
"The answer's gonna come from from the East." It seems mad to me.
In some ways it's easier, "Well I don't actually have to move into the
outside world, all I have to do is sit in front of this dresser with some
beads in my hand."

MARA: Do you think that capitalism is sexist in some ways?

ALICE: I don't think Capitalism has any influence at all. I think it
bends in the wind. It has to survive and carry on making a profit. So if
sexism is no longer profitable, it'll abandon sexism. In the same way
that the World Bank and the IMF are saying "Actually, we're quite
benevolent. We'll let you not pay back some of your debts." They'll
find another way to grab the money back. Capitalism does whatever it
has to do to stay in power, I don't think it has an ethos. It's core ethos
is that it must carry on making a profit. And if that means giving
people a few rights here and there, it'll do it. But it'll take them away
somewhere else. I think that it's racist and sexist as a by-product. If
you're gonna exploit people, then people need to feel powerless.

MARA: That's where racism and sexism start...

ALICE: Yeah, because they need to be in a position where people
think "I can't organize against working in a factory in Thailand for 16
hours a day, for 60 cents a day."

MARA: "But I can beat the shit out of a black man."

ALICE: The whole thing is that people need to be powerless. Once
people start to gain power, it's like what happened to Britain in the
'70's. It?s much easier to fight back when you're feeling optimistic and
hopeful. In the 70's they was a real Union movement, where people
had wildcat strikes, demanded less working hours, more money, and
Capitalism had to adjust. The reason we have the 40 hour week isn't
because Capitalism is benevolent, it's because people fought for it.
The reason that we have any welfare state at all (which is going), is
that people came back after the Second World War, still armed, "OK
we want a land fit for heroes. We haven't got one, so we'll fucking
fight for it!" Capitalism realized that every so often you've got to give
out a few prizes. We make a mistake in thinking that capitalism is all
powerful, in always reacting to it. I look at it as the Italian
Autonomists look at it: Capital is reacting to us. It's always on the run
from us, it's always in flight. That's why it's moved its factories from
Shipley and Yorkshire over to Mexico, because people in Shipley and
Yorkshire demanded too many rights. Now people in Mexico are
making links with these people in Shipley, and that's really dangerous
for Capitalism. It changes and becomes more oppressive, or less
oppressive, as a reaction to us.

MARA: Do you think there's an Answer, like some people are
Anarchists -

ALICE: I call myself an Anarchist, but I don't think it's that important.
I've done things with some Anarchists who are so right-wing and so
conservative that you're shocked. I don't think it matters what you call
yourself, I think it matters what you do. Over the years, I've become
suspicious of people in parties. They're never allowed free thought,
which is really dangerous. As long as you've got a party line you're
restricted from being truthful and having contradictions. That's a part
of the problem with politics, it's much easier for people to feel pure
and feel there are no contradictions. We live with loads of
contradictions, and you've got to be truthful about it. Otherwise, you
end up telling lies.

ALEX: The whole idea of "selling-out" is a really strange concept to

ALICE: It's a punk concept. I'm a forty-odd year old punk mother,
because I think it's an ethos and not a style of music. When you talk
about selling out, quite often people think they haven't sold out
because they're living in some sort of self chosen ghetto.

ALEX: ...a shit job.

ALICE: They don't think its a shit job...

ALEX: ...or no job.

ALICE: Yeah, or no job. People don't have the option of not doing shit
jobs most of the time. It's a fact of life. Especially as soon as you've
got kids, then you have to provide. There's lots of ways you can fight
back against capitalism. People are part of the capitalist society
whether or not they do a job for it. We're enmeshed in it. You have to
recognize you're part of it and at the same time stand against it. The
only way you're not going to be a part of it, is to do a "Unabomber,"
which I think is bummer. The last thing that I want to do, is become a
primitive. Technology is amoral, it's what we do with it, technology
itself doesn't have a morality.

ALEX: I'm not a primitive, but...

ALICE: Look at the internet, it's got a fantastic communist strand in
it. Look at free software, how people are sharing information, it's miles
more successful than Microsoft, and it's free. There's a whole
community there using the ethos of the Yippies. The first computer
stuff was influenced by the Yippies, they worked collectively and did
things for trade...

ALEX: Your talking about W.E.L.L and stuff?

ALICE: Yeah. And now you've got Richard Stallman, who's still
writing computers...

ALEX: I don't know about that.
You get on the Internet and there are so many advertisements. One of
my email accounts gets just shitbombed every day, with.. ALICE:
Junk. (to Slavek) I think you're drinking a Whiskey and Coke.

SLAVEK: I know.

ALICE: Can I have it back, here's your coca-cola. (laughs)

ALEX: Smooth, Slavek.

ALICE: That is funny - you guzzled that!

ALEX: So, where were we...

SLAVEK: It was very good.

ALICE: You're gonna be staggering around all over!

ALEX: Do you have any questions Slavek, or any thing you wanna

SLAVEK: Nothing.

ALEX: What about fun and the revolution, and dancing and working?
How does music relate? I've learned a lot of the history you were
talking about from listening to Woody Guthrie...

ALICE: The reason Woody Guthrie did what he did was the joy of
doing it. He loved creating. He got to sing, which is a fantastic thing.
Creative ideas and the ablility to put them down enriched his life.
Woody Guthrie didn't write songs because he thought he was Jesus.
People do what they do to save their own life. It's fun for me, and
hedonism, not being religious, not seeing politics as another form of
denial. The best reason to be political, to be involved, is that you
recognize that the quality of life could be enhanced. And not just for
you, but for everybody.

ALEX: There's ways of doing it structurally and there's ways of doing
outside the structure...

ALICE: If people have lives that are more fulfilled and more happy,
then it's a lot easier to be good to other people, isn't it?

ALEX: It seems like it should be.

ALICE: Which sounds really simple and hippyish and ridiculous, but
you don't have the option of being happy if you're struggling to eat, or
you're worried sick that you can't pay your bills, or working in a
sweatshop, or you have a shit job. Because it's not just sweat shops,
let's not pretend that you've got to work under those sort of conditions
to be incredibly unhappy. You can be incredibly unhappy with
whatever you do, if you do not choose.

ALEX: Marx talked about that in his theory. I don't know that I've
even read it, but I've probably been told about it... that the master also
feels oppression from the relationship.

ALICE: Well it's that surplus-value thing. If you wanna go on to
Marx...that idea that you've got to work and you're only paid a fraction
for what you do, because the surplus value is taken off by the boss.
The rest of the time that you could spend doing things for yourself is
the time that the boss takes. You've already earned what you need to
survive, say in six hours and the other 34 hours are his. They've been
stolen. And it's not even work anymore, that's the other thing...

MARA: But if somebody doesn't have a creative thing to do in their
spare time, then they won't make that time for themselves.

ALICE: Don't matter whether it's creative...

MARA: Yeah, but do something for themselves.

ALICE: But we never get the option of doing things for ourselves.
When I talk about the creative life, I'm not talking about making
things. I'm talking about having the choice over how you spend your
time and what you do. The problem is that people do not choose. One
of the choices you should have is to walk from here to Patagonia. Or
to stay at home and be involved in some sort of committee. The
problem is that people don't choose how to spend their time. We sell
this idea of happiness that never works. So you're always thirsting for a
bit more of it. I'm not particularly anti-consumer, because I'm a mad
shopper. I'm anti- the way Capitalism sells you an idea of happiness,
but I'm not a purist. I love style, which is part of fun I think. I love the
aesthetics of things. For me, that's a creative thing as well, the
aesthetics. There's so many parts of our lives that are completely
ordered, where you never really get the chance to break out of some
little box.

What you said about the internet - there are loads of adverts - but over
the last five years, I've been in contact with more people than the
fifteen years before that. Because the Internet makes it possible. The
way that you e-mailed us, suddenly the world's much smaller. One
day, in the space of ten minutes, I might send an e-mail to Germany,
another to Italy, another to Idaho - there are all these networks. We've
just done a book, and it wouldn't have been possible without the
Internet. We wanted to get all these artists and activists and put them
in the same space. To show that, even though you might not consider
yourself to be part of this movement, we're actually all in the same
movement. We just don't know each other exist. We couldn't have
done that without the Internet. Obviously if you're living in a small
village in India, with no computer access then obviously you're not
gonna be part of it. But it isn't just young white men using the internet
anymore. The Zapatistas could not have survived without sending
bulletins over to the West, they fought a propaganda war via the

ALEX: ...and beautifully.

ALICE: Yeah beautifully. Sorry. Warren?

WARREN: Last minute, if you're going to continue, you need to
continue after.

ALICE: OK. Do you need to continue? or do you just want to have a

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