Did Rock Smash the Wall? The Role of Rock in Political Transition
Author(s): Jolanta Pekacz
Source: Popular Music, Vol. 13, No. 1 (Jan., 1994), pp. 41-49
Published by: Cambridge University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/852899 .
Accessed: 22/04/2011 20:41
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Popular usic(1994)Volume 13/1.Copyright(C)1994Cambridge niversityPress
A conviction that rock is the central manifestation of the post-War mass culture
and the most common form of mass cultural activity, seems undoubted for rock
analysts. The question as to whether rock music is able to play any significantrole
in a processof political change evokes, however, scepticism rather than endorsement (Rosselson 1979; Hibbard and Kaleialoha 1983; Orman 1984;Pattison 1987;
The breakthroughin East CentralEurope in 1989 opened an apparentlynew
perspective for reflection on rock's influence on political events and its potential
contribution to transition from one political system to another. This situationinspired some rock analysts to advance the argument that rock music in the countries of the former Soviet bloc effected one of the most significant social and political transformations in the history of Europe - the collapse of Communism.l
Accordingto this argument, 'rockmusicians were instrumentalin setting in motion
the actual course of events which led to the destruction of the BerlinWall andthe
disappearance of the GDR'; and 'rock music contributed to the erosion of totalitarian regimes throughout Eastern Europe long before the cracks in the system
became apparent and resulted in its unexpected demise' (Wicke, 1992, p. 81); rock
represented 'probablythe most widespread vehicle of youth rebellion, resistance
and independence behind the Iron Curtain' (Mitchell 1992, p. 187);andwas 'the
realisation of a democraticprocess' there (Ryback1990, p. 233). Thus, rock in its
Communist incarnation may be opposed to that in Western countries, where it
became clear as early as 1970 that rock was unable to provoke any major political
Examination of the reasons for the breakthrough in East Central Europe
undertaken by various analysts usually points to systemiccontradictionsof real
socialism in three spheres: the sphere of domination, of economy, and of the
colonial situation within the Soviet bloc. Contradictionwithin the sphere of domination came from the Communist party's claims to be an 'avant-garde'and to
represent the 'objective laws of history' on the one hand, and an anarchy inexorably resulting from such claims on the other. Contradictionwithin the...
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