Rich Men North of Richmond: Country Hit Captures Rising Class Anger

The explosive popularity of Oliver Anthony’s country song, “Rich Men North of Richmond,” shows that the rising class consciousness and anger in the US isn’t limited to the millions of youth who consider communism their “ideal economic system.”

The song opens with the lyrics “I’ve been sellin’ my soul, workin’ all day, overtime hours for bullshit pay.” It goes on to blame the “rich men north of Richmond”—a clear reference to Washington, DC. It became a number one hit overnight and has topped the charts for two weeks.

The overall message of the song is clear: the working class is getting screwed while the people in power get rich. The fact that this message resonated immediately with millions of people around the country is evidence that the working class is more than a little angry at being exploited—and at the people who benefit from it.

The song has been particularly popular in rural areas and among right-leaning workers, and includes some popular right-wing talking points, such as blaming people on welfare for high taxes. Conservative media and politicians were quick to praise “Rich Men North of Richmond,” and it was even played and discussed at the recent Republican presidential debate.

However, such lyrics and their praise by the far right reflect the fact that class consciousness and anger are often expressed through and alongside confused, distorted, and even reactionary sentiments. This is especially true in the US, due to the lack of a genuine mass working-class party or fighting labor leadership. Donald Trump’s rise on the basis of his anti-establishment rhetoric and promises to “drain the swamp” exemplifies this phenomenon, and how the right has been able to fill the vacuum.

But this confidence in the far right can only last so long. Like the Democrats and Biden, the Republicans and Trump represent and serve to protect the interests of capitalism. They have no way of actually solving the problems facing American workers, no matter what rhetoric they use. Ordinary workers are learning this through hard experience and millions will abandon Trump and the GOP once given a fighting working-class alternative. Once a mass working-class party fighting for quality jobs, housing, healthcare, and education for all joins the political fray, divide-and-rule tactics like blaming poor people who are forced to survive on welfare will lose their grip on workers’ minds.

As Anthony himself said, the song “is about corporate-owned D.C. politicians on both sides.” He also stated, “It’s aggravating seeing people on conservative news try to identify with me like I’m one of them,” and added about the song being played at the Republican debate, “I wrote that song about those people, so for them to have to stand there and listen to that? That cracks me up.”

Liberals and pessimists tell us that a revolution is impossible in the US, that there is too much division and hatred, and they’ll even point to lyrics like those referencing welfare as proof.  But we recognize the essence and significance of the popularity of songs like this—a boiling class consciousness and rage in all layers of society that can unite the entire working class and smash through all other divisions. Given a clear way forward through a mass communist party and program, there is nothing that can stop this force, once unleashed.

If you want to help build this communist party and give a clear expression to the growing class consciousness in the US, join the IMT!

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