Thursday, 14 June 2018

The Right Wing Never Sleeps So Nor Do We: Punk and confidence part 3

You still think swastikas look cool

The real Nazis run your schools
-Nazi Punks Fuck Off Dead Kennedys

On Saturday the Scarborough & Whitby branch of the English Defence League held a ‘protest’ to free Tommy Robinson, a man jailed for jeopardising a court case which could have led to a grooming gang go free.  The EDL believe themselves defenders of an England, and any opposition to their patriotism (see:  nationalism) is an attack on free speech.  Really, the EDL ubiquitously criticise, and subsequently demonise non-white people which leads them to attack and call for segregation/deportation/genocide.

York's antifascists came out to oppose them, a combination of the local Stand Up To Racism group, York Anti-Fascist network and many random people who either left the main Pride march to keep an eye on the EDL, or were curious about what was occurring and decided to stay to offer solidarity.

Whilst the Branch could only muster a small handful of 8-12 people on the 9th, many more gathered in London, marched peacefully for the cameras and then, unprovoked, began to try and storm Downing Street, smash up a tourism bus and assault Police.  The EDL’s claim they are not racist is difficult to swallow when they have persistently failed to root out, and thus embrace, seig heiling neo-nazis.

Punk briefly flirted with fascist imagery 76-77, though I believe this was messy of shock tactics from certain corners to appear rebellious and monstrous which soon fizzled out.  Examples include the very name Joy Division, Siouxise Sioux’s swastika or the name London SS as a potential and name.  The Ramones’ song Today Your Love, Tomorrow Your World is uncomfortable listening in 2018.   There is absolutely no excuse for flirting with this fascist iconography, and, like all corners of society, all the corners of punk have wrestled with racist elements, both for and against.  After this initial way, most punk bands at least rejected the right-wing ideology, some maybe could have done more to challenge it.

There’s a circuit of of Oi! bands embracing a blood-soaked flag and obviously there’s bands like Skrewdriver who birthed a wave of racist and neo-nazi punk under the banner Rock Against Communism and Blood & Honour.

There are many decent examples of anti-fascism in the early history of punk.  This has been well-documented with white bands like The Clash, Stiff Little Fingers and Tom Robinson Band playing Rock Against Racism, and of course the variety of punks of colour in Death, Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys, X-Ray Spex.

So in this series of blogs, I want to touch on the confidence that comes from anti-fascist punk music.

I don’t do enough to fight fascism.  It scares me.  I don’t like confrontation at the best of times, I’m a scrawny guy and never been in a proper scrap in my life.  But I know that this is something we need to oppose, and we need to find the confidence.

Facing the right-wing is a scary prospect.  They have a history of murdering, from the New Cross massacre to Blair Peach to the vile activities of Combat 18.  MP Jess Phillips received over 600 death threats in a single night, MP Josie Cooper was the target of National Action and of course MP Jo Cox was murdered by a man shouting “Britain first!”  Often their protests are male jumped with adrenaline, toxic masculine energy, the lessons learnt from football hooliganism and (sometimes illegal) substances.  Though Red Watch is very much out of date, the right-wing use spotters, cameras and social media to monitor and track not only those that oppose them directly, but Trade Unions, anti-cuts groups, refugee support networks and even environmental groups.

So punk songs need to inspire a confidence to face this evil down, and do so in many ways.
There are the simplest form of anti-fascist song which boils down to:  Fuck them.
Here’s just a small handful of songs from recent years:

Fuck The EDL by Lab Rats,
Picket Fence by Atterkop
British Nazi Parade by Stand Out Riot
Milk by Random Hand
No Pasaran by Joe Solo
This article on the Guardian is useful for some American anti-Trump hardcore.

Other songs are a slight more pointed about nationalism and the language of borders and nations. ONSIND’s BA77 tells the story of Jimmy Mubenga murdered by G4S, and their song Pigs In The Green Room is about an encounter with racists at a service station.  Loyalty Festers from their latest album dissects the grimy violence of patriotism.  KINKY’s Legal Fucking Murder is about state violence in the name of border control, and Efa Supertramp has written about detention centres, whilst Petrol Girls’ song Treading Water has cutting imagery of water, waves and refugees.  Propagandi’s Fuck The Border does exactly what it says on the tin, as does Downtown Boys' timely A Wall.

There are other songs which posit historical moments, WEGROWBEARDS are experts at this, and one of my favourite anti-fascist songs is The Ghosts of Cable Street by the Men They Couldn’t Hang.  On The Day The Nazi Died by Chumbawamba is the band’s response to the death of Rudolph Hess.

What is rarer are songs which, rather than being on the offensive, do celebrate what we have and should defend.  Kids of the Multiculture by Sonic Boom Six is one, I can’t really think or others but please let me know others.

The right wing have an alchemy of privilege:  white, western and mostly male.  This evolution from patriotic pride to nationalist zeal to white power ideology gives the right a huge bulk of confidence.  They employ the romanticised notion of Empire, as well as nonsense like eugenics and blood purity, to empower their chants and violence (though cans of Fosters does help too).

So that’s why we need to make these songs:  To nurture and empower our own confidence. Whether with a blunt and simple message which reinforces the need for anti-fascist thoughts and action or something more complex to allow us to unpack the racism in our heads and deconstruct the state-sponsored borders, both physical and sociological.

Let’s not forget the punk scene is mostly white, and us white punks need to challenge our own preconceptions, assumptions and in-built prejudices.  This article talks about those experiences  much better than I could ever articulate.

This is an amazing zine, apparently sold out but maybe messaging the (sadly split up) band Fight Rosa Fight you might be able to find a copy or PDF

Today, bands like The Tuts, Shopping, Screaming Toenail, Big Joannie are challenging these conceptions alongside Decolonise Fest, Afropunk and the Latinx punk scene.  Little Fists and Fight Rosa Fight have recently split up, but two amazing bands to check out. 

Oh, and if you’re reading this and are someone of the right-wing disposition, and you haven’t been convinced to give up your racist ways then I recommend giving this song a good, hard listen.

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