© Shell Smith https://bit.ly/3kQw8GH CC BY-SA 2.0

Johnny Rotten never sought the holidays in the sun favoured by the left

While the Sex Pistols, led by John Lydon (Rotten) whose mother was from Cork whose father was from Galway, are recalled by many as an ephemeral almost circus act – and that is how they ended up after Lydon left – there was a lot more to them.

Lydon, unlike most leading punks – or indeed most rock musicians ever – was eclectically intelligent and obviously well read. He enjoyed being provocative, and exposing the pretensions of contemporaries like Joe Strummer of the Clash who was a one man source of slogans for all manner of Marxist ghouls who thrived in the 1970s.

One of the best examples of Lydon’s iconoclasm, for which he was eviscerated by the left, was Holidays in the Sun from 1977, which he wrote his time in Berline when it was a divided city. “I loved Berlin. I loved the wall and the insanity of the place. The communists looked in on the circus atmosphere of West Berlin, which never went to sleep, and that would be their impression of the West,” he said.

Remember this was the year of extreme repression in Czechoslovakia where Charter 77 had been signed by brave dissidents such as Vaclac Havel and Jan Sokol in response to the jailing of members of the rock band the Plastic People of the Universe by the Communist government.

The irony went over the heads of the pro-Soviet left, but they were irritated and embarrassed by others who claimed that one reason many British Communists and fellow travelling trade unionists and journalists stayed loyal to the cause was the access to basically free or very cheap holidays.

A long time member of the Communist Party of Ireland who managed, along with a number of others, to get a position of influence in Sinn Féin was highly irate when I referred to the holidays years ago.

I am not sure if it was in same response, but she somewhere mentioned having gone into “voluntary exile” to deal with her hurt after the victory of the pro life position in the 1983 referendum. She was involved in this self indulgent navel gazing at the same time people like Roger Scruton were helping to run an underground university in Czechoslovakia.

Ironically Scruton referred to his time there ” a holiday in hell”!

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