The difference between Tracy Chapman’s 1988 original and the Jonas Blue remix spans the entirety of ideology.

The cyclical perpetuation from the singer’s ‘old man’ to her partner is a product of the father’s lack of labor power to sell as an aged person. He cannot exploit himself on the market and there are not adequate social resources in place for those in such a position (the frail, elderly, mentally unfit, etc.) Thus the singer is compelled to quit school in order to sell her own labor for a minimum, non-living wage. She is coerced out of a future.

In the remix, stanzas 6 through 8 are excised, but such stanzas index precisely the forms of societal subjugation: ‘I work in the market as a checkout girl. You’ll find work . . . We’ll move out of the shelter . . . You stay out late drinking at the bar’. The fact that the American dream, ‘buy[ing] a bigger house and liv[ing] in the suburbs’ was never anything more than a delusion: ‘I’d always hoped for better’. In their absence, the one stanza of critique which remains, ‘Somebody’s got to take care of him so I quit school’, becomes senseless in its out-of-placeness.

The song instead becomes an ode to escapism rather than precisely a critique of a society that bars any escape for its subjects. For capitalist ideology needs you to believe you are freely selling yourself, and here pop music falls in step with the official ideology. The only truth that remains would be dialectical: the subject must desire a liberated escape precisely because it knows itself to be unfree.


Let’s take our cue from Marx. In the ‘Address to the Communist League’, Marx wrote:

‘II. That everywhere workers’ candidates are nominated in opposition to bourgeois-democratic candidates. That as far as possible they should be League members and that their election should be pursued by all possible means. Even where there is no prospect whatsoever of their being elected, the workers must put up their own candidates to preserve their independence, to count their forces and to bring their revolutionary position and party standpoint to the public. They must not allow themselves to be seduced by such arguments of the democrats as, for example, that by doing so they are splitting the democratic party and making it possible for the reactionaries to win. The ultimate intention of all such phrases is to dupe the proletariat. The progress which the proletarian party is bound to make by such independent action is infinitely more important than the disadvantages that might be incurred by the presence of a few reactionaries in the representative body. If from the very beginning the force of democracy take decisive, terroristic action against the reaction, the reactionary influence of the latter in the election will already have been destroyed.’

Of course Trump is pure reactionism, but Bernie Sanders was the truly revolutionary candidate whom the bourgeois-democracts like Wasserman Schultz couldn’t allow to be elected. This is when the Democrats lost, before even any vote was cast. Those who, like Rachel Maddow, argued that one had to vote Hillary in order not to split the democratic vote betrayed a pure false binary, a totalitarianism covered up by calls for ‘solidarity’. But too of course, if American democracy were truly a democracy, it would be capable of the terrorism of destroying Trump (and as we know, democracy and terrorism aren’t at all mutually-exclusive);  if American democracy were truly a democracy, it would not even be a structure that could allow such a reactionism to take root.

It’s of course a boon that Twitter, Lyft, etc. are giving millions of dollars to work against Trump, but we would not have to rely on a few big businesses doing the right thing (as a reaction to another business profitting from Trump’s policies and having to deal with the subsequent financial backlash, namely Uber; that is, this is a business rather than purely ethical decision) if we the people owned and controlled the means of production. That is, if the USA were a socialist government. Then the protests, rallies, etc. would be backed by such ownership. This is what makes, in Europe, a syndicat’s protest means something politically. Rather than being, as protests in the USA, mere cries in a vacuum.