Billy Bragg – To Have And Have Not

The melody seems to come from Rudy Can’t Fail by the Clash, or maybe their version of I Fought The Law. Like the Clash, Bragg is British, and his folk and protest music is punk-tinged.

This song communicates that the privileged aren’t better people than those less well off. It tries to correct a stereotype that those out of work aren’t in all cases lazy, but that they just have less opportunities than the upper class.  It came at a time of hardship for the working class in the 1980s, when even if industrious, may have found themselves struggling to get by, unemployed.

In politics “haves” and “have nots” are popular ways to describe economic classes of people in a fixed social structure. Here, the “haves” accumulate more and more wealth, at the expense of the “have nots.” In Marxist terms, these would be the bourgeosie and proletariats. Today, we have seen the division described as the 1 percent and 99 percent, from the Occupy Movement.

The title is also from the 1937 Ernest Hemingway novel, which became a film with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.

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