January 24, 2013

“THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS” – Woody Guthrie’s enduring words…


WOODY’S FAMED ANTI-FASCIST SLOGAN:

“THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS”
      
Woody Guthrie (1912-1967)
       American folk musician and social activist
       The
legendary words he put on guitars he played
      
Some sources say Guthrie got his famous slogan from inscriptions painted on the sides of planes used by leftist Republican forces during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), in their ultimately doomed attempt to prevent General Francisco Franco from imposing a Fascist dictatorship in Spain.
       Guthrie was a committed leftist himself (even an avowed Communist at one time), so that claim may be true. However, I was unable to find any authoritative history books or sites about the Spanish Civil War or any historic photos confirming the presence of the slogan on Republican airplanes, either in English or in the Spanish form “ESTA MÁQUINA MATA FASCISTAS.”
       Woody owned many acoustic guitars during his musical career. Photographs of him show that he played at least two adorned with the slogan “THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS.” In the best-known, now-iconic photo, the words are hand-written in large letters on the body of a guitar Guthrie has in front of him, hanging by a strap around his neck. In other photos, the words are on what appears to a hand-lettered sticker at the top of a guitar he is playing.
       Guthrie was certainly sypmpatico with the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War. But unsurprisingly, in light of his strong pro-union and anti-racist activism, his definition of “Fascists” was broader than the political term applied to 20th Century political regimes in Europe. 
       The lyrics of his song
“All You Fascists” (which Guthrie once performed with the great African-American folk blues musician Sonny Terry on a radio show in 1944) say, in part:
          “Race hatred cannot stop us
          This one thing we know
          Your poll tax and Jim Crow
          And greed has got to go... 
          I’m going into this battle
          And take my union gun
          We’ll end this world of slavery
          Before this battle’s won
          You’re bound to lose
          You fascists bound to lose!”


PETE’S PEACENIK VERSION:

“THIS MACHINE SURROUNDS HATE AND FORCES IT TO SURRENDER”
      
Pete Seeger
       American folk musician
       Words written on Seeger’s favorite banjo 
       Seeger was a close friend of Guthrie. He was and remains an equally committed social activist. But he was always a strong believer in pursuing change through non-violent means and preferred to avoid even a metaphorical reference to the use of violence to achieve social change in America. In
a 2009 CBS News article, Seeger explained: “He [Woody Guthrie] had a sign on his guitar saying, ‘This machine kills fascists.’ I wanted something a little more peaceful.”


AN UPDATED VERSION FOR THE 21ST CENTURY:

“THIS MACHINE DRIVES NEOCON, HOMOPHOBIC, WAR-MONGERING, CORPORATIST, ANTI-INTELLECTUAL, POLLUTING, IMPERIALISTIC, CRYPTO-FASCIST, HATE-SPEAK, FAUX-POPULIST, THEOCRATIC, CHICKENHAWK PRIVATEERS FROM THE ROOM” 
      
Roy Zimmerman
       Musician and humorist
       Slogan written in a spiral on Zimmerman’s banjo
       One of the witty songs on Zimmerman’s 2010 album
Real American is “This Machine,” which ends with this funny final chorus: “This machine drives neocon, jingoistic, war-mongering, theocratic, faux-populist, anti-intellectual, drill-a-holic, social Darwinist, racist, sexist, isolationist, derivative insecurities, tax-cheating, C Street, hard line, strip mine, tea-bag, confederate flag, Birthers, Flat-earthers, hate-speak, crypto-fascists — and Brit Hume — screaming from the room.”


THE ROMNEY APPROPRIATION PLAN VARIATION:

“THIS MACHINE KILLS MUPPETS”
       A witty version shown on
the “Historical Romneys” Tumblr site
       This variation is on a guitar “held” by Mitt Romney in a Photoshopped version of the famous Woody Guthrie photo. It’s a satiric poke at the
infamous remark Romney made about the Muppet character Big Bird during his first presidential debate with President Barack Obama. Romney claimed to love Big Bird but said he would cut federal funding for PBS, which airs the hugely popular children's show that features the Muppets, Sesame Street.


A RECENT APPROPRIATION OF THE SLOGAN BY THE ANTI-GUN CONTROL SIDE:

“THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS”
       Sign held by a protester opposing a renewed ban on assault rifles in the US 
       The protester and his sign, which juxtaposed the slogan with a drawing of an assault rifle, were featured in a January 2013 story about the gun control debate
on Reuters.com.


A COUNTERQUOTE BY THE PRO-GUN CONTROL SIDE:

“This machine kills people.”
       Caption on a photo of an assault rifle posted
on the Social Polemics website

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