Is John Lennon’s imagine a trick?

Updated: 21 May 2008, 23:19

Originally written: 10 December 2005

The following letter to the editor appeared on 8 December 2005, the 25th anniversary of the murder of John Lennon.

The truth behind Lennon’s lyrics

While admittedly John Lennon’s Imagine has a compelling message of pacifism and anti-violence, few people also recognize the anti-capitalist, Marxist message dressed up in one of the most beautiful melodies of all times. The lyrics indulge a utopian socialist romanticism, insinuating how much better off the world would be without countries, religion or possessions.

Socialism has hidden behind such warm, fuzzy idealizations for the past 40 years and it is high time we strip away this façade and recognize it as the ideology (as manifested under Communism) responsible for the extermination of well more than 100 million people during the 20th century.

How many of us and our children truly understand that these numbers dwarf Adolf Hitler’s best efforts?

I would urge people (especially the young) who enjoy John Lennon and Rage Against the Machine — or even don a Che Guevara T-shirt without a second thought — to contemplate the historic reality behind the alluring romance of socialist revolution.

Mark Deshaw,

Capitalism’s Gravediggers responds:

Socialists hide behind nothing.

John Lennon’s message, in imagine, is clear and does indeed reflect the society which socialists work to establish.

However, socialists and Marx have nothing to do with the murderous state capitalist regime set up by Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, et al. Within a year of the Bolshevik Revolution, the Socialist Standard was able to state, without reservation, that the Bolshevik regime was not socialist. Socialists were never been fooled by Che Guevara, or any of the other fakers, either.

By the way, Lenin himself admitted that the Bolsheviks intended to, and did, set up state capitalism. See Left wing childishness and petit-bourgeois mentality pages 360 and 365 in Selected Works, Volume VII.

If you come upon someone attempting to support the Leninist approach or its results, run away! No matter what they call themselves, they have as much in common with socialists as does Lenin: nothing. Mouthing the words, and setting up a dictatorship over the proletariat, or supporting that dictatorship, disqualifies one as a socialist.

Socialists have long attempted to strip away the façade of “socialism” or “communism” masking state capitalism. The façade is the work of Leninists and fellow travellers, and capitalists and their apologists. They keep the façade in good repair to prevent serious, honest, consideration of socialism/communism. They have been extraordinarily successful.

The truth behind Lennon’s lyrics is inescapable and the desirability is undeniable. That is part of the reason imagine is so beautiful. So let us listen to imagine, and heed its call to build a future worthy of humanity. The longer you put it off, the more Stalins, and Lenins, and Hitlers, and Saddam Husseins there will be.

Deshaw accuses Lennon of “insinuating how much better off the world would be without countries, religion or possessions.” That sounds as if Lennon is attempting to trick us, which fits with Deshaw’s allegation. There is no trick. Anyone who takes the time to think about the lyrics will clearly understand the motivations, and the possibilities of a society which John Lennon knew we could build.

People cannot be forced or tricked into socialism. The Leninists and the other dupes of capitalism, such as Deshaw, do not understand that. People can be forced and tricked into many social arrangements, but none of them will be socialism. To quote Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who understood the “Marxist message” much better than Mark Deshaw:
All previous historical movements were movements of minorities, or in the interest of minorities. The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interests of the immense majority.

The Communist Manifesto,
Marx, Karl; Engels, Friedrich,
(SPGB, 1948, p. 71)

We have seen above that the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy.

The Communist Manifesto,
Marx, Karl; Engels, Friedrich,
(SPGB, 1948, p. 79)

These are not the words of a trickster, nor are they words counselling forcing the working class. These are not words supporting the Leninist concept of leaders who will lead the workers into “socialism” (against their will). They are the words of a socialist explaining a solution for us to implement. They are not words which guided those whose contributions to history Deshaw reasonably wants to avoid repeating.

imagine is not, as Deshaw alleges, “fuzzy idealizations.” imagine is a list of concrete, easy to understand, practical, well thought out, necessary, attributes of the society the working class must build to free itself. That society is socialism.
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