Rage Against the Machine Reviews


Maoist Review of BOLA, by the Maoist International Movement
reviewed by MC5, November 2, 1999

The release of "The Battle of Los Angeles" in October and November, 1999 is a great artistic event for the proletariat of North Amerika to celebrate. Every song is political. Not one is a love song, sucking up to the romance culture. Hard-driving and artistically excellent and consistent this album will uplift the spirit of many in the just struggles of the oppressed and exploited.

The first subject of the first song "Testify" is the ongoing bombing of Iraq by the United $tates. The media and temples are soothing those who should be uprising: "I'm empty please fill me/mister anchor assure me/That Baghdad is burning/Your voice is so soothing/That cunning mantra of killing."

The second song "Guerrilla Radio" takes the line we share that the world is in the midst of the "third world war." It also contains the first of the album's mentions of Mumia.

"Voice of the Voiceless" says "So long as tha rope/Is tight around Mumia's neck/Let there be no rich white life--We bound to respect/Cause and effect/Can't ya smell tha smoke in tha breeze/My panther my brother we are at war until you're free."

Although Mumia belonged to what used to be a Maoist party, the Black Panther Party, there is one barb thrown at us communists in the album. It's not surprising, because the vocalist Zack De La Rocha is a great internationalist but still an anarchist. In "Sleep Now in the Fire," Zack interchanges Jesus and "The Party" in a description of oppressive stewardship of the planet.

According to Zack, Marxist-Leninist communism's organization known as the vanguard party can be used to commit all the atrocities that the imperialists already commit right now. Hence Zack comes off as against all authorities. MIM would say in response that the worst authority is the authority that does not claim to be one: it is unaccountable. Since Zack speaks consistently of the need for armed struggle in various contexts, he should dump anarchism's lack of accountability. Once people organize force in armed struggle, they have a state or proto-state whether they know it or not.

Zack is not a lousy libertarian. He speaks for the humyn needs of the hungry and homeless. His internationalism shines through, but what he is talking about has set back movements for the satisfying of humyn needs. No movement against all authorities has ever succeeded in advancing the survival needs of the people. Such movements end up falling back into support for the status quo.

As an artist, Zack has plenty to talk about negating the oppression in this capitalist world. It's just that his solutions lack in actual strength in the world. To the extent that Zack negates the status quo and takes stands on individual issues, we at MIM say "excellent." To the extent that his solution has shown no promise in the world, we say that he has failed to take sides in a general ideological way. The best politics integrate all the issues across-the-board and do not require the shopping approach where one checks out this or that issue while ignoring the others. For example, there are many others in the same position as Mumia and Leonard Peltier.

Marxism is still the best all-around integration of the issues of oppression and exploitation. Because it has no record of success, anarchism can be a way of escaping responsibility for what happens in the world and dragging us back to fighting one issue at a time while the ruling class attacks on all fronts simultaneously.

Sometimes such anarchists as Zack are called "communist anarchists" to separate them from the libertarians. Zack is the real kind of anarchist, the original kind, not like the many fakers calling themselves anarchists today. His vision of the "black flag and a red star" in "War within a Breath" is the symbolism of communist anarchism. The song ends chanting "land or death" for the starving peasants. Zack understands the reality of the world's starving people unlike most calling themselves anarchist.

The success of Rage Against the Machine that makes it a mega multinational corporation has not caused it to mellow musically or politically. The fact that it has held firm has given Rage the chance to be a rallying point for further advances, including by newer or less-popular artists. MIM hopes to spend most of its time reviewing bands that are not giants like Rage.

While Rage's musical health is not to be doubted, of somewhat more concern is the list of political action groups that Rage has endorsed in its CD jacket. They leave the impression of the shopping approach to single issues and a refusal to confront oppression across-the-board.

The first group is "Unite!" a sort of AFL-CIO type outreach to young people. We approve of the work being done in connection to sweatshops in the Third World, but labor aristocracy issues from the imperialist countries have been thrown in as well. It has a heavy reformist bent that will sidetrack people.

We certainly can't object to the committees working for Mumia and Leonard Peltier featured. There is also "Rock for Choice," the RCP-front group "Refuse & Resist" and a non-profit for wimmin suffering from HIV/AIDS.

Perhaps the most representative site is the one that finally delves into the kind of anarchism seen in Rage, the AK Press at www.akpress.com. This site is potentially the deepest, and one where MIM's disagreements with Zack will come out most clearly. If Zack wrote newspapers, we would disagree often, but music is usually not as didactic and analytical and hence MIM can share great unity in spirit with Rage Against the Machine.


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