Barry Miles’ 1978 NME Article: Excerpt

Editor’s note: Prior to this point in Barry Miles’ 1978 interview with Neil, Geddy, and Alex for the New Musical Express, Miles provides his impressions of the band’s London performance and begins to report on his conversation with them. The conversation has turned to economic ideology.

Do you really think [English protestors are] a product of socialism?

“Yeah! What else? What are they fighting against if they’re not fighting that?”

Fighting against socialism? I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

“Yeah! Why is there no future in England? What other reason is there? I really think that’s the root of it. You could find all sorts of fancy answers but when it comes right down to the root of it, the reason that these kids are growing up and feeling that there’s no future for them is because there simply isn’t. If they don’t join the union, and go to work with all their mates, then they’re lost. There’s nothing else they can do.”

I didn’t really see how there would be much else for them to do under a capitalist free-for-all such as he was advocating. I said that the multi-national corporations—the most developed form of capitalism—infringed human rights all the time. This annoyed Neil, who responded,

“How? By giving you a job? You can just quit!”

So now I understood the freedom he was talking about: freedom for employers and those with money to do what they like and freedom for the workers to quit (and starve) or not. Work makes us free. Didn’t I remember that idea from somewhere? “Work makes us free.” Oh, yes, it was written over the main gateway to Auschwitz concentration camp.

Neil: “You have to have principles that firmly apply in every single situation. I think a country has to be run that way. That you have a guiding set of principles that are absolutely immutable—can never be changed by anything. That’s the only way!”

(Shades of the 1000-year Reich.)

“The government’s only functions are to protect the rights of the individual. Therefore you need a police force and an army. You need an army to protect the individuals and a law court to settle their disputes . . .

“You set up this subjectively defined law, system of laws, that are immutable and incontrovertible and the economy is totally laissez faire capitalism and everybody’s free. That’s it. Bing! Boom! Go for it. You’re on your own, Jack! And things like trade unions can still exist. I don’t think those things are wrong—obviously they’re necessary when you have a group of a few thousand people bargaining with one—but not government sanctioned and government supported and government involved trade unions.

“Just one trade union for one factory. One group of employees has one person that deals with their affairs.”

I had to ask the obvious. If it was true freedom for the workers at a factory to bargain with the boss, why wouldn’t they be even more free if they did away with him altogether and simply run the place themselves as a workers’ council—after all, they do the work.

Neil: “because then your freedom is negated. You have no freedom. You do what you’re told to do: by the socialists, by the good of the people.”

I really didn’t see the difference between doing what the boss told you to do for the good of his fat bank account and doing what was best for the workers at the factory. Neil spelled it out. It was quite country simple . . .

“The guy next to you may have four kids, needs clothes, and he may have an aunt who has dispersia of the spine who needs $10,000 for an operation . . . ”

So my fellow worker’s needs might influence my own financial position? But the factory owners’ need for a Rolls Royce, a mistress, and a yacht also influences my position. What made the boss right?

“He’s taking steps to achieve his needs, through his own initiative. I’ve got problems too, but I take care of them.”

Where does the boss’s influence over the factory come from? He didn’t build it. He may not work in it.

“He owns it. Private property: the most inviolable private right of all. If you own it, it’s yours. Simple truth. If you own it, it belongs to you. You do what you want with it. How can you say it’s otherwise?”

Well, I didn’t want to get into an argument about ownership of the means of production being a different matter from personal property—particularly since I’d had to wait some time at the Holiday Inn bar before Rush could see me. The trouble with this argument was that Rush hadn’t the faintest idea of what socialism is. I said there were no truly socialist countries but Neil thought otherwise.

“Well, most of Europe is, isn’t it? Canada is.”

What, a few nationalized industries? That’s at best state capitalism.

“State capitalism? What’s that?”

Instead of multi-national as boss, you have the government.

“You have the government that owns airlines that lose money, school systems that lose money, build roads that lose money, hotels that lose money . . . ”

You don’t think free medicine a good idea?

“Again, obviously not. Where are all the good British doctors right now?”

The good ones are still here.

“Oh yeah? You think so? Where are all the good British scientists?”

Probably in the States.

“Yeah! Hahaha. So why is Britain in the shape it’s in? If it’s not socialism, what is it? Why is British technology 25 years behind America? If free enterprise had come in after the war this country would be fine . . . ”

I won’t bore you with our discussion about the war and American capitalism but it turned out that Neil didn’t even think America was capitalist.

“It doesn’t exist anywhere. Even in America it’s a mixed economy now. It’s not true laissez faire capitalism.”

I went back to the national health question and grumbled: suppose I was an orphan and I was sick. I’d like to think that I would get free medical care.

“At whose expense?”

At the state’s expense.

“The state? Well, where does the state get this marvelous magic money?”


“Exactly. Well, maybe I don’t wanna pay tax. There’s the Salvation Army and all those voluntary organizations. Don’t you think all those could look after those welfare systems where they are necessary? I’m not talking about the dole or all those kinds of things, which are abused, obviously.
“Are you aware of the medical care that the people at IBM get, for instance? I think that you’ll find that they get taken care of very satisfactorily.”

Oh, God, sell your soul to company. I hope none of you went to the Rush concert on dole money. That wouldn’t fit in with Rush’s philosophy at all.

Even though he had just told me that Europe and Canada were already socialist countries he went on to tell me the full horror of what happened to art under socialism:

“Ayn Rand makes a statement in one of her books about art—that any artist who thinks the businessman is his enemy is a fool.”

(Well, I’m sure that every musician or group who has been ripped off by his manager, record company, or promoter will be pleased to know that.)

Neil continues:

“What would you advocate instead, an artists’ guild? Say there was a guild of musicians and all the musicians in the world belonged to it and then, say, they wanted to run a concert here in London. They tell the artists’ guild and say, ‘Okay, we need a band.’ They pick five people at random, put ‘em together and bring ‘em to Hammersmith Odeon and put on a concert for the people.”


“That’s the only way it could be done. How would you do it then? How is the government gonna put bands together and send them out for people?”

To me, this is getting too absurd to answer, because the whole extreme right position is so illogical and irrational.

The thing is, these guys are advocating this stuff on stage and on record and no one even questions it. No one is on their case. All the classic hallmarks of the right-wing are there: the pseudo-religious language (compare their lyrics to the Ayn Rand quote at the head of this article), which extends right down to the touring crew: road masters instead of road managers; the use of a quasi-mystical symbol—the naked man confronting the red star of socialism (at least I suppose that’s what it’s supposed to be). It’s all there.

They are actually very nice guys. They don’t sit there in jack boots pulling the wings off flies. They are polite, charming even, naïve—roaming the concert circuits preaching what to me seems like proto-fascism like a leper without a bell.

Neil: “The example that we’re trying to create, we live by. We don’t want to get upon stage and be like John Lennon, for instance, and ram the message down people’s throats.

“Again, it comes down to choice. These things are in our lyrics and if people feel like paying attention to our lyrics and trying to get something out of it, it’s there for them. If they don’t, fine and well—we’ve got other things to offer them as well.”

Geddy: “Exactly. It’s trying to have that kind of depth, that kind of range in what we present. The choice is strictly up to the individual in regards to what level they’re going to choose to be entertained by us . . . whether they’ll be stimulated by, entertained by what we have to present visually, or interested in what we have to play. It’s all choice.”

Just before my tape ran out, Neil scoffed at the idea that a welfare state could provide the things needed to make people free.

“For some people freedom is freedom from worry about medical care, for instance. But those things cannot appear magically, you know. That is the overlooked factor.

“For me, if I’m gonna be free, I have to be free from worrying about medicine, free from worrying about a job, free from worrying about food, and free from worrying about a home. You provide that to me. That’s what a government as to provide me to make me free. Obviously that’s ridiculous, that’s ludicrous . . . “

Funny—I would have thought it was something to work towards—as a human right in the technological age. Rush would like to return to the survival of the fittest jungle law, where the fittest is of course the one with the most money.

Make sure that next time you see them, you are there with your eyes open and know what you see. I, for one, don’t like it.

Back to main article on Miles’ 1974 interview.

~ by rvkeeper on July 27, 2011.

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