Cornelius Cardew on David Bowie

Cornelius Cardew on David Bowie


norman lebrecht

January 12, 2016

After Bowie appeared to give a Nazi salute in 1976, the composer Cornelius Cardew – a member of the Marxist-Leninist breakaway Communist Party of England – put up a motion at his Central London branch to expel Bowie from the Musicians Union.

The Cardew motion (all misspellings from the original):

This branch deplores the publicity recently given to the activities and Nazi style gimmickry of a certain artiste and his idea that this country needs a right wing dictatorship. Such ideas prepare the way for political situations in which the Trade Union movement can be destroyed, as it was in Nazi germany. The spreading of such ideas must be considered as detrimental to the interests of the Union and any necessary steps should be taken to prevent such ideas from gaining credence in the community. We propose, therefore, that any member who openly promotes fascism or fascist ideas in his/ her act or recorded performance should be expelled from the Union.

According to the MU historian, the vote was a 12-12 tie.

A second, more radical motion, below, was carried by 15-2:

When a pop star declare that he is ‘very interested in fascism’ and that ‘britain could benefit from a fascist leader’ he is influencing public opinion through the massive audiences of young people that such pop stars have access to. Such behaviour is detrimental to the interests of the Union,since it prepares the ground for a political system in which the Trade Union movement can be smashed, as it was in Nazi Germany. This Central London Branch therefore proposes that any member who uses his professional standing or stage act or records to promote fascism should be expelled from the Union.

More here from the MU historian.

cornelius cardew


  • Hilary says:

    I wonder where Cardew stood in relation to Mao Tse Tung’s dodgy trackrecord on human rights (he was an admirer)?
    As for Bowie, he repudiated his enthusiasm for Nazism and explained that it was all drug fuelled. Perhaps, it’s surprising the extent to which this was accepted. Other figures would perhaps haven’t escaped quite so unscathed! On balance, I’m inclined to give DB the benefit of the doubt.

  • Ellingtonia says:

    You couldn’t make those motions up, sound more like something by the Judean Peoples Front……………..or is that the Peoples Front of Judea?

  • Dennis says:

    A bit rich for a Communist, Marxist/Leninist to denounce a pop-star for supposedly advocating a fascist dictatorship and harming the interests of the “working class”! Of course, the Nazi-Communist battles were also so intense precisely because they were so alike in their essentials.

    I wonder, did this Cardew guy ever apologize for or repudiate his Communism the way Bowie did his flirtations with Nazism? Bowie was merely a pop-star making gestures on a stage. Certainly Cardew’s active membership in a Communist Party and active support for Communism did far more political harm than Bowie flirtation Nazi imagery ever did.

    • George Porter says:

      What harm was that?

      • Dennis says:

        Being an active member of a Marxist-Leninist Party, and thus a supporter of said ideology, is in itself the harm, especially since this clown was an active member and supporter even decades after the utter evil of Marxist-Lenism had been exposed for all the world to see. It’d be one thing if he were an early supporter in the late 19th or early 20th centuries, before real world experience of that ideology in control of the destiny of half the world. To be an ardent Marxist -Leninist into the 1970s and 1980s bespeaks sheer evil in one’s political and moral orientation.

  • Pooroperaman says:

    ‘political situations in which the Trade Union movement can be destroyed’

    If only…

  • Stereo says:

    And who apart from a very few can even remember C. Cardew compared with DB? Mind you he’d probably get on with J. Corbyn!

  • Elmira Darvarova says:

    ANY composer who moronically DECIDED to be a communist (as opposed to composers who were born into a communist society and/or were forced to belong to communist ideologies) is a mindless idiot who deeply stains and disgraces the art of music.