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(en) Organise #61 - Anarchy in the UK

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Wed, 22 Oct 2003 09:03:31 +0200 (CEST)

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Over the years the anarchist and radical political movements have
had a huge, mostly positive, effect upon punk scenes around the world.
Punk Rock (an aggressive raw rock musical style) has since its
birth in the mid 70’s, declared its rejection of and deep hatred
for authority. It was also the lack of emotion and variation in the
music of the time that helped shape the Punk sound. The 5 minute
guitar solos, and unoriginal sound plus the complete falseness and
macho posing that was 70’s prog-rock led groups like The
Ramones in the US to revert back to something simpler. Something
that was more expressive of the feelings of youth.

It is a much-debated topic whether Punk started in the UK or the
US. However, as the American Punk scene seemed to be active
before the British, it makes sense to call the Americans the
pioneers. Nevertheless, the harsh new style of rock spread to UK
soon after and was taken up by bands like the Sex Pistols and The
Clash. Punks had by now started to form their own style of dress
too. The stereotypical safety pins and ripped clothes were as much
down to poverty as it was a desire to look different. Many, if not
all, Punks came from working class backgrounds and weren’t
able to afford all the fancy clothes bearing designer labels that
were fashionable at the time. So when clothes wore out it was a
case of fixing them or finding replacements the best you could,
which inevitably meant that you could end up looking extremely

By now the Punk phenomenon had spread like wildfire. Bands were
popping up everywhere, especially in London where a huge scene
was in full swing. A vast movement of rebellious Punks were now
the new arch-enemy of the Establishment and showed deep
suspicions to anyone claiming to rule them – most notably, the
Royals. The growing youth movement was, to some, a genuine
revolution, that had to be stopped. The infamous `Anarchy in the
UK` tour proved just how scared the State had become. Show after
show was cancelled nationally by disapproving councils, and the
shows that did go ahead were met with protests from local
residents and more often than not, the Church. It was no longer
safe for Punks to walk the streets alone as a national hate
campaign by the press, amongst others, meant that the fear of
violent attacks by members of the public was very real.

Within the movement, `rebellion` soon became exploited beyond all
belief. The once alternative `trends` were fast adopted by the
fashion industry, capitalised upon and became mainstream fashion.
Punk shops started emerging in most big cities selling bondage
gear, hair colours, badges etc. Many of the most influential bands
were also being signed up as a consumer product by the major
record labels. It was around the time the Sex Pistols split that
proved to be one of the final blows to Punk, with the fashion and
much of the movement dying out soon after. Those that were
`Punks` had now moved onto the next fashion, Two Tone, albeit a
style of music many Punks had roots in.

The Punk movement, far from being dead, had now gone
`underground`. Those who hadn’t moved on to another fashion,
had stayed behind to create something that was as much political
as it was musical, inspired by the rebellious attitude of the earlier
movement. The new Punk bands (mainly European) injected radical
political, often anarchist, ideas into the music. This resulted in
many youths calling themselves `anarchists` and showing a
healthy contempt towards the governing order. People were now
questioning and giving alternatives to the current regimes in a way
that the early punk movement didn't. Bands such as Crass and
Discharge in the UK, The Ex and BGK in Holland, and MDC and
Dead Kennedys in America, turned many punks into rebellious
thinkers rather than just rock 'n' rollers. Conflict were one of the
most notable anarchist bands of the time (still going strong to this
day). Their gigs attracted some of the most fiercely political
crowds from all around the country, many of which ended in riots
with police with hundreds of arrests. Conflict were active in both
the anarchist and animal rights movement and continually
supported direct action. In an interview in May 2001, Colin
Jerwood, the bands singer noted that they measured their success
in not how many records were sold but in the level of direct action
taking place. Conflict as a band were banned from performing in the
UK, forcing them underground and overseas.

The current Punk scene is still very much alive and kicking and
underground. The movement is now, theoretically, self-sufficient.
Whether bands choose to use the resources within the movement
is a different matter.

There now exists a high level of inter-movement communication, in
the way of fanzines (primarily) originally inspired by Sniffin’
Glue. The two most notable in Britain being Frakture and Reason
To Believe and a flick through either ones fanzine review pages
reveals a whole load more. It is fair to say that at least one fanzine
exists in almost every city in the UK, many of which take the
standard cut and paste, A5, photocopied small pamphlet style.
Many of which are inspiring and a good read. Fanzines such as
Reason To Believe (who published an interview about the
Anarchist Federation between two AF members) are also very
political, focusing on prisons and war to name but a few issues

Beyond the photocopier, there exist a small number of independent,
not for profit record distributors and record labels. And when the
record is finished, there are people that will press the record for
only the bare minimum costs. There are even social centres
popping up, like Emmaz in London (inspired by the 1 in 12,
Bradford) for Punks to put gigs on without having to play at
corporate venues.

The politics behind Punk are simple – anti-capitalist,
anti-authoritarian and co-operative. It’s an example of a
cultural movement working along anarchist lines, regardless of
whether the participants openly call themselves `anarchist` or not.
Punks have done a lot over the years to help a variety of courses
and organisations (including the AF), by putting on benefit gigs,
selling benefit CDs and promoting the aims of various groups. Far
from being chaotic, punk has actually done a vast amount over its
25 years to promote the ideas and practices of anarchism to a
section of society that many anarchist organisations pay little
attention to.

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