by Dan Taylor
Not many take the time to acknowledge Sting’s contribution to the discourse of a vision beyond a world of capitalism. From his earliest work with the Police, a name critiquing the totalitarian nature of the state, to his “Fields of Gold” middle period envisioning full communism in the dark days of post Reagan dawning neo liberalism, to his more recent blant popular front style polemizing proclaiming a “Brand New Day,” and the proletariat musings of “The Last Ship.”
This piece will focus briefly on Sting’s “golden” middle period, and the uniquely powerful utopian socialist vision that he offered, through the lens of three songs. “An Englishman in New York,” “Russians,” and the aforementioned “Fields of Gold.” Hopefully this can lead to a more broad future discussion of the implications of Sting’s work and its relevance for for a future liberated society. Another world is possible and we must demand “Fields of Gold” or forever live in the chains of capitalist masters.
A work speaking directly to alienation in the globalized society, “Englishman in New York,” presents a stark narrative of life in the heart of finance and exploitation, after Sting had escaped .Thatcher’s England Fighting against this world, Sting states “It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile, Be yourself no matter what they say.” Later commenting on the decedent morals of late period capitalism, Sting comments, “Gentleness, sobriety, rare in this society, At night a candle's brighter than the sun.” So, while Sting fights against this harshness and social breakdown in a blighted 1980’s Ed Koch administration New York that brought about cultural critique such as “The Warriors” he is still working to develop a full vision of a better future and in the end he laments, “I'm an alien, I'm a legal alien, I'm an Englishman in New York.”
“Russians” is one of the most obvious political works of Sting’s middle period. The Cold War was bankrupting both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., poverty and disenfranchisement were widespread, and the threat of a nuclear holocaust hung in the air. Sting, filling the role of artist and poet spokesman of the people, stepped in to make his voice heard. “In Europe and America, there's a growing feeling of hysteria, Conditioned to respond to all the threats.” really spoke to the fears of the people in this era where burgeoning neo-liberal capital battled corrupted state capital for world hegemony, with the proletariat caught in the middle. Sting, always the humanist, wondered, “How can I save my little boy from Oppenheimer's deadly toy?” The real answered was through full communism and overthrowing the militarized hierarchical state, whether controlled by corporate interests or by a party dictatorship, through class struggle.
This brings us to Sting’s masterwork, “Fields of Gold,” a stunning call for something beyond commodification and marketization. His utopian socialist vision recalled the writings of Charles Fourier, a French philosopher whose ideas spawned numerous intentional communities, or “phalanxes” in earlier America. Sting makes the same call, asking the listener, “Will you stay with me, will you be my love among the fields of barley?” Agricultures communes, producing what is needed for the people by returning to the land, was a needed alternatives to the hyper urbanization and financialization of the times. Sting realizes the road will not be easy and that we will makes mistakes along the way, but it is the self determinization of people that is important. “I never made promises lightly and there have been some that I've broken, But I swear in the days still left we'll walk in fields of gold. We'll walk in fields of gold.”
So, only through self determination and the will of the people to create a system of full communism that lies beyond the walls of our current capitalist exploitative ethos can we fully realizes the promises that musician/poets like Sting have made. The bourgeois cannot do it for us, we must do it ourselves, and then we will all walk in fields of gold together.