7 questions to Irvine Welsh

Irvine. Hi. I’d like to frame an interview with you, like a Kerouac kind of, random flow; two humble intellectuals (with outstanding wit and most marvellous humour) having an easy chat on politics, anarchism, punk, football and swearing if we were in any of your favourite pubs (or mine) in Scotland, or a dive bar in LA.


SB — What really interests me nowadays is propaganda in politics, the distorted media, and social responsibility. What do you think is the responsibility of an average civilian when it comes to taking actions not only choosing their government but questioning the actions of their government?

And what is the responsibility of an intellectual? (Foot note, in the existentialist way I mean it, not the misinterpreted fascist nonsense. We dig Nietzsche.) What do you say the responsibility of an artist is?


Irvine Welsh — I think we all have the responsibility to speak the truth to power. They don’t know what they are doing, or where we are going –just like the rest of us- and we should question them and ridicule them until they drop the façade and arrogance and hold their hands up.


SB — Do you think Jeremy Corbyn or Bernie Sanders can win in countries where freedom of press and speech is looking more and more like a utopian notion? Is there anyone with the kind of profound insight that can lead to tangible global changes?


IW — I think Corbyn and Saunders are the left-wing version of the general myth perpetuated by right-wing politicians: that we are not moving into a post-capitalist (and therefore post-socialist, as the two are children of industrialism) world. That we can get back to a society where everybody could get a wage and/or make a profit. Capitalism and socialism, as traditionally conceived, are dead in the water, destroyed by technology.


SB — I’ve been in Berlin lately, and came across some of the remnants of the Berlin wall. I have a very sharp memory of it crumbling, the whole concert, loving that Pink Floyd song but I was shitlessly scared of that pig (maybe it was a reference to Animal Farm?)

Anyway, my point is, the wall coming down was such a strong symbol of people power. If you say to one of my old folks in the 80’s Transylvania that communism would end and Ceaușescu would be killed, they would have called you crazy. Do you think we can change the ‘system’? Do you think millions of people can end capitalism & the monetary system?


IW — The system will change anyway, irrespective of what we do. It’s changing now. It’s changing for a lot of reasons, but the key one is because goods are moving towards zero cost, so there is no profit or wages available. The big companies and tech companies are primarily monopolistic; once they destroy all competition, they effectively become part of a monolithic state that exists to rip off its citizens.


SB — When I came to Budapest to do something about the refugee crisis (listening to my heart vs my head for the first time in many years) I didn’t foresee how much it would change my life, nor what kind of pile of fucking huge shit I was potentially diving into.

The solutions seem obvious – as do the non-solutions, as do the causes of the crisis. It was humbling to spend time with these amazingly brave people who’d been walking across many countries in danger to get to Europe only to be treated as animals, or criminals.

You know that many refugees are in prisons in Hungary? Reminds me of Guantanamo where people are still rotting without being officially charged with a crime for over 14 fucking years. If we don’t find solutions now, where do you see the European Union say in 5 years time? And our societies in 50 years time from now on? Do you have kids? (I know the answer, but let’s pretend I don’t)


IW — I think the European Union is tarred with all the big-scale organizations, (I include nation states in this) with being a child of imperialism. To that end it’s tied into an old world thinking, one which gives the state primacy over the community. We are in transition from one mode of production to another. Kids coming up now will stop going to colleges and they will start closing like pubs and churches are. That’s because there will be no paid employment for anybody but the children of the very elite. Therefore, education will only exist to get you into debt. So the education institutions are tied in with the banks and governments. Once kids rumble to that scam, things will change quickly. I’m glad I don’t have kids, but I have kind of stopped pitying the younger generation for the way they’ve been fucked over, and started to envy them a little – the next 50 years could be the most dynamic and interesting in human history.


SB — As for swearing. What is your most used/favoured swear word? I’ve been told that people who are more honest, loyal and trustworthy swear a hell of a lot more, as they are more ‘in touch with their emotions’. Do you agree? Or is it utter horseshit? Which personal traits do you value in people? And what is the joy of swearing in your case? Being Scottish can’t be an answer..;)


IW — Cunt is my favourite swear word. In the UK it’s an emphasis, and can mean anything good or bad ‘He’s a great cunt’ or ‘I had a cunt of a time’. In the USA I don’t use it as it’s generally deployed in a manner derogatory to women.


SB — Once we met in LA you were wearing a St Pauli t-shirt, which is one of my favourite football teams, then you told me you support Hammarby (that was the moment you stole my heart completely haha). I’ve never met a foreigner who knew these two small football clubs and supported both, (to the extent you went to a Bajen game in Stockholm?) Amazing. Why Hammarby and why St Pauli? Does it have to do with punk & left wing politics? That being said you’ve got to visit me in Berlin and we can go to Hamburg together. Should be hell of a lot of shits & giggles.


IW — I don’t like big globalized clubs; whatever their fans think, they function like corporations and pull in people who have nothing to do with the local community. If you are in South Stockholm or Hamburg, you get a feel for those communities by attending Hammarby and St Pauli games. I follow Hibs, who come from Leith. I like Bohemians, from North Dublin and West Ham, from East London, though I fear I might lose that club when the Olympic Stadium move comes through.


SB — Closing our imaginary beer session, (we’re definitely pissed by now)… what is punk for you? What is punk in your writing? I consider you a fellow punk, a rebel, beyond just our shared love of the Clash and the Adverts. Henry Rollins recently said on Colbert’s show that he’s taking ‘his punk anger into political activism’, does this relate to you too? Do you think punk movements and anarchism could be a solution to save our planet from ‘decivilization’? Oh and I can’t resist. What’s going on with Trainspotting 2? I bet many people are dying to know.


IW — Like everything else, punk is primarily a state of mind. It’s doesn’t really matter if you’re a punk, mod, casual etc, the point is sticking with the ‘fuck them all’ attitudes you acquired in your youth. On TS2, well, we’re shooting in the summer. I am Mikey Forrester.


Irvine, see you soon in Germany!



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