Amy Fox

Writer. Editor. Feminist knitting designer.

Will One Direction survive in a socialist utopia?

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How will the world’s biggest boyband fair when the revolution comes? Amy Adams looks at what socialism might hold for Harry, Niall, Louis, Liam and Zayn.

Liam looks concerned but music won't necessarily die out after the revolution. Photo: Eva Rinaldi / Flickr

Liam looks concerned but music won’t necessarily die out after the revolution. Photo: Eva Rinaldi / Flickr

There are two things I truly believe. Firstly, that capitalism is an unsustainable and grossly unfair system in which the world’s 100 richest billionaires earned enough money to end extreme poverty four times over in one year.

Secondly, that One Direction, capitalism’s non-threatening poster boys, bring more pure joy to my life than any other musical artist (except Beyoncé).

And that got me thinking – when the revolution happens, and we live in a socialist utopia free from poverty and inequality, what happens to 1D?

To answer this extremely pressing question, we first must examine what a socialist society would look like, and it turns out this is actually quite difficult. After all, who can predict how or when the revolution will happen? Will it be led by workers’ unions, the Occupy movement, or Russell Brand’s skinny jeans? Only time will tell.

We can, however, apply the basic aims of socialism to our current society, and make some broad predictions.

Let’s start, like all good students of this subject, with Marx: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” Everyone works together to produce an abundance of goods and services, which are free for consumption.

The most common argument against this is that humans are too greedy to share resources, and are doomed to constantly screw each other over for personal gain. However, as Harry Ring points out in Socialism and Individual Freedom, humans have already proved that this is not the case. Think about availability of water in developed countries: it’s abundant, easy to access, and essentially free. No one thinks twice about giving a glass to someone in need, and no one is hording it by the bucketload in their garages. What would be the point?

If anything, this is good news for Directioners. Everything recorded so far will be free! No need to spend money on the songs, or risk downloading them illegally. And no more irritating DRM issues when you purchase digital content from companies like Apple! Perfect.

And while we’re talking about overly controlling corporations – you can kiss those goodbye too. As Hannah Sell argued in 21st Century Socialism in 2006: “a socialist economy would have to be a planned economy. This would involve bringing all of the big corporations, which control around 80% of the British economy, into democratic public ownership, under working-class control.”

No longer would moguls like Rupert Murdoch control politicians and newspapers simultaneously. And Simon Cowell’s label, Syco Music, will be in the hands of the people. So as long as we decide we still want music from the boys, future albums might not be ruled out either – overthrowing record companies doesn’t mean burning their equipment, after all.

Now, I know that a lot of people are sceptical about socialism. One of the most common arguments is that Russia already tried it, and it failed. That is why a sustainable socialist future must be one based on democracy.

Sell explains: “Nationally, regionally and locally – at every level – elected representatives would be accountable and subject to instant recall. Therefore, if the people who had elected them did not like what their representative did, they could make them stand for immediate re-election and, if they wished, replace them with someone else.”

Once again, things are looking pretty good for the loveable lads. After all, they lost the X-Factor final in 2010 – they’re no strangers to the power of the people. So far, I’m feeling good about the prospects of having the cherry on top of my revolutionist cake.

The difficulty, of course, comes when we stop examining socialist utopias, and start questioning One Direction. This is, after all, a band that rose to popularity by exploiting young girls’ insecurities. Although What Makes You Beautiful sounds like a call to arms against the evils of a sexist beauty industry telling women they’re nothing without their products, sadly it just replaces one form of sexism with another. It’s the approval of men that gives your life meaning, argues the song – not make up or self-belief.

There’ll be no place for sexism after the revolution, or any other oppression of minorities. As The Socialist Organizer puts it: “With the end of the patriarchal family and capitalist scapegoating will vanish the basis for discrimination against gay, bisexual, lesbian, and transgender folks.” The same goes for oppressive systems of racism, ableism, and ageism.

But if 1D gain most of their fans by reinforcing heteronormative narratives in which women are no more than mysterious, beautiful enigmas for men to win, won’t the magic be gone? Half the fun is that when they make broad, generalising descriptions about what makes “you” special, they really could mean you.

It’s true: One Direction would no longer be writing songs which depend on a patriarchal system. However, as the writer and activist John Molyneux points out, art will not die under socialism. In fact, it will find itself flourishing once free from corporate direction and the need to appeal to mass markets. Creativity will grow, and 1D – if they decide to go on making music now that it won’t make them richer than other people – will be free to record the same upbeat tunes and catchy hooks they always have. It’s just that, as my good friend Bethan put it, they will “sound like Feminist Ryan Gosling set to music” instead.

Viva la révolution!

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