Billy Bragg

25th of April – La Liberazione

Italy – 25th of April 1945
Partisans won their war liberating last northern Italian cities. Nazis’ surrendered and left the country. Italian Fascists, the RSI army who was supporting the Nazis’, were finally defeated. Three days later Mussolini was killed, regime was over, Italy became a free country. On a Monarchy vs Democracy referendum Italians opted for the second. The Italian Constitution was written built on those values. It bans the formation of any fascist party. It is still valid and applicable.

Italy – 25th of April 2008
Italian elections sanctioned the end of any parliamentary delegation of a party originating from the values of the Resistance.
No party with a socialist, Marxist, anti-fascist, feminist, ecologist background will be represented in Italian politics next 5 years.
On the contrary many members of the next parliament belong to a post-fascist party and started their political activity as fascists. Among them, Mussolini’s granddaughter, openly proud of her grandpa. Their logo contains a burning tricolour flame. That flame symbolizes “the fire that never burns out” perpetually blazing next to Mussolini’s grave.

The nice thing of a blog, compared to a proper music magazine, is that I can use it in a slightly selfish way. Instead of writing just for readers, I let Billy Bragg sing for me.

“Stand up, all victims of oppression
For the tyrants fear your might
Don’t cling so hard to your possessions
For you have nothing, if you have no rights
Let racist ignorance be ended
For respect makes the empires fall
Freedom is merely privilege extended
Unless enjoyed by one and all”

(The Internationale, Billy Bragg)

Literally it would have been more appropriate to post a portfolio of the Welsh band “Future of the Left”, but I haven’t got them in my archive and, beyond their brilliant name, I don’t even know if they are politically meaning it.

I have been listening to protest songs quite a lot since Italian elections’ results.
Billy Bragg music has that powerful capability of making you feel better and stronger; it gives hope and that sense of belonging that only revolutionary songs can do.
I got the occasion to go deeper into the lyrics discovering how much, despite his undisputed “Englishness”, they are compatible with the Italian situation.

“The party that became so powerful
By sinking foreign boats*
Is dreaming up new promises
Because promises win votes
And being resolute in conference
With the ad man’s expertise
The majority by their silence
Shall pay for days like these”

*The Tories were returned to power with an increased majority following the Falklands War

(Days Like These, Billy Bragg)

Next Italian Prime Minister, thanks to a successful strategy, will be Silvio Berlusconi, again.
His success has been built thanks to the empire he owns. Among the other things, three national television channels, several magazines and newspapers, publishing, financial, insurance and advertising companies and even the most successful Italian football team. You can acknowledge that in over 20 years of subtle propaganda molding Italian minds to his childish values, it has not been too difficult to be backed by majority of the population.
Of course, this wouldn’t be possible in any other country of the world, call it Italian anomaly, it happened.

“When one voice rules the nation
Just because they’re top of the pile
Doesn’t mean their vision is the clearest
The voices of the people
Are falling on deaf ears
Our politicians all become careerists
They must declare their interests
But not their company cars
Is there more to a seat in parliament
Then sitting on your arse
And the best of all this bad bunch
Are shouting to be heard
Above the sound of ideologies clashing”

(Ideology, Billy Bragg)

Billy Bragg is English and, being English means, to an Italian being primarily honest with yourself and with others. It means a committed respect of the rules which is just another word for democracy.
Billy Bragg lyrics are strongly involved with the fight against the power, the desire of a better world, but they contain a deep romanticism and a dark humour that is an unsurpassed aspect of the British culture.

“I saw two shooting stars last night
I wished on them but they were only satellites
Is it wrong to wish on space hardware
I wish, I wish, I wish you’d care

I don’t want to change the world
I’m not looking for a new England
I’m just looking for another girl”

(New England, Billy Bragg)

My friends tell me it is not nice to leave your country then complain about its situation. True, although the reason why people are not conspiring against a regime, why a liberation war is not being fought in Italy at present is very simple: Italy is unquestionably a democracy. Italians could choose their government and they could vote for a change. They haven’t. One option on my table was to leave the country.

Leaving your native land is not an easy choice. You leave your origins to explore something new. It is as personal as geographical. You are perceived as a foreign in your new place and you feel disoriented visiting back home. A lot of pros and cons go on either England vs Italy balance pans.
When I went for England in 2001, Berlusconi’s second government was just starting, my English pan was quite rich. April 2008, he is back there, stronger, my Italian pan has become even weaker.

“What will you do when the war is over, tender comrade
When we lay down our weary guns
When we return home to our wives and families
And look into the eyes of our sons
What will you say of the bond we had, tender comrade
Will you say that we were brave
As the shells fell all around us
Or that we wept and cried for our mothers
And cursed our fathers
For forgetting that all men are brothers

Will you say that we were heroes
Or that fear of dying among strangers
Tore our innocence and false shame away
And from that moment on deep in my heart I knew
That I would only give my life for love

Brothers in arms in each other arms
Was the only time that I was not afraid
What will you do when the war is over, tender comrade
When we cast off these khaki clothes
And go our separate ways
What will you say of the bond we had
Tender comrade”

(Tender Comrade, Billy Bragg)

So this is the perfect period to listen to Billy Bragg new album.
Mr Love and Justice is a brilliant work. He is coherent with his belief. He never lose contact with the present. He adapts his view to the up-to-date news without giving up hopes for a better future.

“The policemen broke my door down
Dragged me from my bed
I asked them what was happening
They just ignored the words I said
They waved their guns in my face
Kept screaming out my name
Something terrible had happened
And somehow I was to blame

My accusers formed a jury
The Judge and the defence
The charges were made known to me
But not the evidence
There was no guilty verdict
Yet still I was detained
Flown to another country where
Their methods are less constrained

In our determination
To defend democracy
We must not destroy the safeguards
That underpin our liberty
For who will pay the price if
Injustice such as this
Turns our protectors to oppressors
And angry men to terrorists

O freedom, what liberties are taken in thy name
In thy name
O freedom, what liberties are taken
What liberties are taken
What liberties are taken in thy name”

(O Freedom, Billy Bragg)

Five years, Italy, five more years than you’ll have your chance again. I’ll be waiting listening to good music, never giving up hope.

“People are on the move
People got a lot to prove

People are moving on
George Bush will soon be gone

Co-operation, not competition
Co-operation, is not sedition”

(The Old Clash Fan’s Fight Song, Billy Bragg as Johnny Clash)

Discover Billy Bragg here [myspace] [website] [bragg-topia]

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~ by Valerio on April 25, 2008.

26 Responses to “Billy Bragg”

  1. Stunning pictures…wonderful reading.
    It gave me goosebumps. Going home is not the same for me either…we crave for a more just world. Will we ever get? I have my doubts.
    I shall be listening to Billy Bragg’s new album. Cheers Valerio. Ciao

  2. Hi Valerio, your description of the Italian political situation is perfect (unfortunately!). I remember seeing BB live something like 15 years ago, or even more: it was a “Festa dell`Unita“` in Treviso; as you can imagine – not so much people attending but great live performance. It was nice to sing out loud together “the power of the unions“…

  3. Hi Valerio,
    Billy Bragg has been striking chords since 1974 and now, more than 30 years later, I still hope his unique story and music strike one, too.
    He’s one of the most famous left-winger in England… even if, as he always says, at school he was just an 0 Level.
    It would be a swiz if, like Bob Dylan, Billy Bragg turned out to be just a bloke who wrote songs.
    He’s become a British instituction who wont’t never go out of fashion, even if he was never in fashion in the first place.
    His songs talk of a personal connection with a great tradiction…
    I saw him almost 15 years ago in Arezzo Wave, he was absolutely great, as he should be.
    He used to say:
    “It’s important not to observe politics, but to be politics. Generate ideas. It’s not just writing about it, you’ve got to engage”
    We all not these are hard times…
    Can you catch water in a net?

    A big hug

    PS: the new album is gorgeous, it seems to me he’s just the one I met 25 yers ago..

  4. ooops…
    not = Know


  5. 8th of September 1943.
    The Italian Fascist Party decides to ditch Mussolini and signs an armistice with the Allied Army.
    They betray their leader in exchange for personal immunity.

    As a consequence, when WWII ends, they don’t go on trial for war crimes, but gain protection by the new government instead.
    Italy never had anything comparable to the Nurnberg Trials: Fascism was seen, and is still perceived today in Italy as a benign dictatorship, despite having caused hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths during WWII.

    Marshal Badoglio, the same person who signed the armistice, was a criminal who cynically ordered the butchering of the civilian population in the Italian colonies in Africa.
    Despite calls for extradition from the Abyssinian government, he was allowed a peaceful retirement in his countryside villa, in Italy.

    The Italian PM of the times, the Christian Democrat Alcide De Gasperi, always refused to sign the extradition papers.
    In 2005, the Roman Catholic Church began a process of beatification of Alcide De Gasperi: he is going to be made a saint.

    As early as the 1950’s, the Christian Democrat government headed by Tambroni was relying on the votes of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), the party which arose from the ashes of the Italian Fascist Party, to keep a majority in parliament.

    In July 1960, a riot police corp created by another Christian Democrat, Mario Scelba (and formed almost entirely by former hardcore fascist), close all access to the main square of the town of Reggio Emilia, where a crowd was demonstrating against the government.
    Having made sure that nobody could escape from the square, they then proceeded to shooting at the assembled crowd, leaving 5 dead people on the ground.
    All of them were card-carrying members of the Italian Communist Party.

    Now, if you’re asking yourself again why, in 2008, it is OK in Italy to be a Fascist, read again.
    And think: think, that they made you believe that they were not there.
    Except they were closer, much closer, than you might have thought.

    “I never thought that I would be
    fighting fascists in the southern sea
    I saw one last night
    And in his hands
    Was a weapon that was made in Birmingham”
    Billy Bragg – Island Of No Return

    All best,

  6. Hey thanks Vale. He looks younger than I thought.
    Gionpì, in Milan I heard an old tale being naively re-told by a 20 year-old man. It goes that both fascism and communism are political ideals, and you should not think they are just Mussolini and Stalin. You can take what is good of fascism: a feeling for order and authority, respect for private property, development and laicity. Mainly, respect for those who really work. If you let someone call himself a communist, I can call myself a fascist.
    You hear that, Gionpì, and you have to answer with something else than i morti di reggio emilia. The guy was born in 1988 and Scelba sounds to him as familiar as Cavour OR Badoglio for that matter. I think you have to point to HIS OWN death (which I do in my job).
    But I didn’t know about Sant’Alcide de Gasperi: very interesting.

    But listen you all. It’s the first time I have had a relaxed day in ages and am preparing the play list for Malaysia. 47 days. I might end up buying the bloody aipod.
    I would like to bring things I don’t know or not enough, which leaves a vast choice.
    I tell you what is already in the program:
    thin white rope and dream syndicate. REM murmur and the last one.
    Afterhours. A Japanese thing I heard on the radio with clouds in the title. Eva Cassidy (don’t tell Angelo). I would like some electronics good and nice, but I know it’s not the kind of thing I can ask you.
    Any ideas?

  7. Hi Airid,
    Without wanting to turn this blog into a class in Postwar Italian
    History, maybe you should point out to your friends that two wrongs (Sovietic Communism and Fascism) don’t make a right.

    What should follow here is a long tirade about how one of the founding myths of the Italian Republic, namely that the Italians are “A good people” (Italiani brava gente…) which was betrayed by the man in which they put all their faith, has worked only as a cheap cover for those who should have only be made to pay for their crimes, but weren’t.
    And it was in fact a convenient lie for both left and right, but I’ll spare you and everyone else that.

    And maybe you should tell him also that Hitler was a vegetarian and a kind man who loved children and dogs, but that doesn’t make nazism any more acceptable…

    And now for something completely different… nice Electronic?
    Some To Rococo Rot, maybe some Boards Of Canada or, for something newer and mellower, you could check out Glass Candy and Chromatics.
    For something older, I would reccomend Harmonia and Cluster, both German bands from the ’70es which sound as if they were recorded tomorrow.

    They are all on youtube, with plenty of samples (hope BC never reads this…)

  8. Hi Valerio.
    Great, amazing job!
    And Hi to Gionpì and Airid….i noticed that BC phantom is fluttering even here….
    Airid: when are you starting to Malaysia?

  9. Valerio,

    I really hope the Almighty Dwarf will be falling flat on his face *long* before those five years are over. (“It’s the communists who dunnit!!!” but ironically speaking my best hopes would be for the Senatur to mess things up for him) Fat chance, you’ll say… ma la speranza è sempre l’ultima a morire.

    Thanks for the lovely pics and the heads-up.

  10. Oggi ero ad una commemorazione. Un vecchio Partigiano mi ha commosso.
    Grazie Valerio.

  11. Quello che mi ha sempre maggiormente intristito è l’assoluta mancanza di condivisione del momento fondativo dell’Italia moderna, la sua appropriazione indebita per schermaglie nel migliore dei casi da bottegai. Tutto questo ha generato mostri e difatti mi rimane il retrogusto amarissimo dell’impressione che a nessuno freghi più un cazzo di niente, che una corda tirata troppo a lungo si sia definitivamente spezzata.
    Great post, Valè, as passionate as it should have been. Thank you for sharing your opinions. These opinions.
    Un abbraccio, Andrea
    PS Fortunately Billy Bragg is still talking with the taxman about poetry.

  12. (x Airid, who, including in her playlist Thin White Rope and Dream Syndicate, deserves my everlasting esteem)
    Minimal? Field, From Here We Go Sublime. Neo-classical? Stars of The Lid, And Their Refinement …. “Historical”? DJ Shadow, preferably Endtroducing. Dubstep? Burial, Untrue. Ethnical? Byrne & Eno, My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts.

  13. x Airid

    Matmos – Supreme Balloon

  14. x Airid
    Panic at the disco, they are simply nice!
    Ciao, buon viaggio.

  15. ZENCS!
    where cacchio has vanished my intelligent commentary?

  16. (I.C. reassumed)

    Gionpì: ZENCS! Boards of Canada are good for me. The mule is fusing.
    Porì: I leave on the 1st of June, come back 18th of july. Shall we go to Pistoia together?
    Andì: (for pair opportunities): ZENCS!The mule is fusing (II). What is your ethnos? My life in the bush is not ethnic at all.
    Sonia: are you really Sonia-sonia? Ok Panic at the disco, even though what was in the podcast was too poppy for my old skin.

  17. “old skin”: if I say it it’s allright. Don’t you dare.

  18. ZENCS anche a Pori, bai ze uei.

  19. where did we fail, what kind of an error we made in the past years?
    In the last 30 years the italian social, political, economic, cultural life turned slowly, little by little, toward an revisionistic process of historical involution.
    On this days we are asking ourselves, how could it happen that the mussolini’s sons and nephews are beck on italian political leading stage. Which will be the end of this chain of facts and which price we shall pay to become a normal society?
    The marriage of berlusconism with the Northern League is one of the most dangerous political experiments in the european scene and I have a subcountious sensation that it will lead o an economic and social disaster even disorders or at least argentinian stile Big Finale.
    God saves Italy, (if he exists!).

  20. Sarebbe troppo populista dire che siamo noi il problema?
    Oggi parlavo con mia nonna di 95 anni e un piede in the vault.
    Moglie di un nonno deportato. Non in un campo di concentramento ma in un campo di lavoro.
    Mi raccontava di quando viveva gomito a gomito coi vicini e che lasciavano sempre la porta aperta e se uno stava male correvano tutti a dare una mano.
    Mi raccontava di quando un giovane soldato tedesco si mise davanti a lei impedendo ad un ufficiale di spararle.
    Mi raccontava di quando suo marito nonchè mio nonno perse il lavoro perchè infortunato ma tutti gli davano del lavoro per aiutarlo (sapeva fare il falegname).
    Cose semplici, banali, dimenticate.
    Oggi la razza italica merita di essere rappresentata da questi personaggi.
    Perchè noi li abbiamo creati, li abbiamo nutriti e diamo ancora oggi le energie per andare avanti.
    Col nostro menefreghismo, col nostro tirare-a-campare, col nostro pressappochismo.
    Col nostro, udite udite, berlusconismo.
    Chi più, chi meno.
    Sì è vero, sono populista e demagogico.
    Ma finchè guarderò con sospetto i miei “fratelli” e finchè tenterò di vincere la lotteria della vita da solo le cose non cambieranno.
    Spero solo di trovare la forza per cambiare, quella cosa che arriva violenta quando guardo mio figlio e che se ne va strisciante quando devo pagare le bollette.

  21. Sorry Major, we don’t speak italian here. Translate into English when you play the carpet crawlers in front of the little Billies.

  22. Viva la Resistenza.

    un caro saluto

  23. Thanks to all your contributions

    I just want to add something about a misunderstanding that has been going on for ages in Italy and looks to permeate here.
    It is true that 25th of April in Italy is wrongly felt as a festivity of just “the left” and not a festivity of every Italian.
    What is not true is that this is the fault of “the left” that wanted to keep it for them.
    The truth is that “the right” (any right) has never wanted to celebrate 25th of April, they never wanted to acknowledge its importance, they always downgraded it’s meaning with the unacceptable equation communism=Nazism.
    25th of April in Italy, is not considered by any right-wing democratic party. Reasonsare are sadly electoral. Supporting that day it is seen not as supporting the importance of the day but a support and a political shift towards left, not a good move for the many electors of those party.
    When you see the Major of Milan and government authorities taking part in official celebrations of the day, you see they would clearly avoid that.
    Obviously I am not talking of fascists and ex-fascists because they always celebrated the 25th of April the other way round, mourning and glorifying the fascists army that fought on the other side, going to Mussolini’s grave and organizing demonstration against 25th of April.
    It is not only “the left” wanting the celebration for them, it is also “the right” not wanting to celebrate it.

    So very true, on the 2nd of June in Italy it happens the opposite. The Celebration of the repubblic is considered has a right-wing festivity. There is an army parade that is glorified with “imperial” show off (especially when right-wing government are in power) and “the left” tends to minimize it.

  24. Airid, I attempted to write in Elnglish but it was half past one in the night and it would take too much time.
    A brief summary.
    We all Italians are Berlusconi.
    We let him grow, become richer and richer, politically stronger
    and stronger.
    Berlusconi is the dark side of our soul, it’s part of us.
    The willing to fame and fortune inside everyone of us.
    Only we can beat him.
    Changing or way of thinking.

  25. Majjie, Berlusconi yourself and berluschini i tuoi bambini!
    Bear in mind this address: via dei transiti 4.
    Akab, ti ho scritto anch’io un caro saluto, per fartelo.
    Anyhow. Look what Dal Molin has achieved. What is Dal Molin? VAlerio can you explain it in my name, I have to go to bed.

  26. Hello Valerio!

    I’m a Brazilian teacher/student with Italian citzenship and a great fan of Billy Bragg work (well, I’m a new fan, since I knew his songs only this year). I’m sorry for my English, but I really loved your text and the relations between Bragg songs and the Italian political problemas.

    As a socialist, I found myself dazed with the right wing turn in Italy, it’s like this country (which had one of the most influent communist parties in the West) all of a sudden accepted the TINA logic so well that they can accept fascism, xenophobia, intolerance, corruption, greed and exploration. At this point, Bragg doesn’t speak only with the soul of his listener, but speaks with his beliefs and scars.

    It was great to find your text…the song “Ideology” was so well remembered! “And all our politicians became carreerist” it’s such a great line to understand the problems of some of the left wing parties. And yet, it’s like it reveals the power of some kind of mind control that’s trying to force itself to the throat of the Italians.

    I know that Brazil’s situation it’s not that best either. Many Bragg songs speak themselves with Brazilians reality. But what happened in Italy has a more deep meaning to all of us who struggle for a liberation project like the Partisans. I understand that you’ll kepp listening Bragg songs and thinking in a better tomorrow for Italy and, perhaps, for the whole Europe and the world. And yet, I pledge to you that you keep writing and, somehow, keep struggling for a new day to come.

    Sincerely yours,

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