The Clash's music was often charged with left-wing ideological sentiments. Strummer, in particular, was a committed socialist. The Clash are credited with pioneering the advocacy of radical politics in punk rock, and were dubbed the "Thinking Man's Yobs" by NME. Like many early punk bands, the Clash protested against monarchy and aristocracy; however, unlike many of their peers, they rejected nihilism. Instead, they found solidarity with a number of contemporary liberation movements and were involved with such groups as the Anti-Nazi League. On 30 April 1978, the Clash played the Rock Against Racism concert in London's Victoria Park for a crowd of 50–100,000 people;Strummer wore a T-shirt identifying two left-wing revolutionary groups: the words "Brigade [sic] Rosse"—Italy's Red Brigades—appeared alongside the insignia of West Germany's Red Army Faction.
Their politics were made explicit in the lyrics of such early recordings as "White Riot", which encouraged disaffected white youths to riot like their black counterparts; "Career Opportunities", which addressed the alienation of low-paid, routinised jobs and discontent over the lack of alternatives; and "London's Burning", about the bleakness and boredom of life in the inner city. Artist Caroline Coon, who was associated with the punk scene, argued that "[t]hose tough, militaristic songs were what we needed as we went into Thatcherism". The scope of the band's political interests widened on later recordings.
The title of Sandinista! celebrated the left-wing rebels who had recently overthrown Nicaraguan despot Anastasio Somoza Debayle, and the album was filled with songs driven by other political issues extending far beyond British shores: "Washington Bullets" addressed covert military operations around the globe, while "The Call-Up" was a meditation on US draft policies. Combat Rock's "Straight to Hell" is described by scholars Simon Reynoldsand Joy Press as an "around-the-world-at-war-in-five-verses guided tour of hell-zones where boy-soldiers had languished."
The band's political sentiments were reflected in their resistance to the music industry's usual profit motivations; even at their peak, tickets to shows and souvenirs were reasonably priced. The group insisted that CBS sell their double and triple album sets London Calling and Sandinista! for the price of a single album each (then £5), succeeding with the former and compromising with the latter by agreeing to sell it for £5.99 and forfeit all their performance royalties on its first 200,000 sales. These "VFM" (value for money) principles meant that they were constantly in debt to CBS, and only started to break even around 1982.