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As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Flogging a dead punk.

Surrealist manifesto

Whoever wishes to attain the profoundly marvellous must free images from their conventional associations, associations always dominated by utilitarian judgements: must learn to see the person behind the social function, break the scale of so called moral values; replacing it by that so sensitive values, surmount taboos, the weight of ancestral prohibitions, cease to connect the object with the profit one can get out of it, with the price it has in society, with the action it commands This liberation begins when by some means the voluntary censorship of the bad conscience is lifted, when the mechanisms of the dream are no longer impeded. A new world then appears where the blue-eyed passer-by becomes a king, where red coral is more precious than diamond, the toucan more indispensable than the cart-horse...

Paraphrasing Hermes assertion that 'all is below as what is above to make the miracle a single thing', it is permissible to assert that everything is in us just as that which is outside us so as to constitute a single reality.

A fragment from an excerpt by Pierre Mabille in the surrealist review 'London Bulletin , 1940', found in Rebel Worker 6, 1966 - in turn from Tom Vague's King Mob Echo: The English Section of the Situationist International: Vague 31: Dark Star: AK Press: 2000: page 13.

Mabille was a leading surrealist theoretician of the 1930s and 1940s.

For anyone interested in going deeper, I found that AK Distribution have a load of back issues of Vagues and bought a few. Tom Vague also sent me a wodge of stuff - like the King Mob Echo material. Tom has done a brilliant job of uncovering all these old texts.

Forgetting history
Gerard/ Flowers in the Dustbin has pointed out that in Crass in Context I started off with my daughter's history lesson which mentioned Greenham and ended by saying it will all be forgotten. Which is a contradiction. But as far as I can work out ( teenagers are not the world's greatest communicators) Greenham just got a name check. She never got the chance, even if she had wanted to, to write an essay on Greenham or discuss the anti-nuclear peace movement.

Even with Greenham, the impression created is that Greenham was the only peace camp - whereas I found a list once which gave about 40 - in Italy, in the USA, in Germany as well as the UK. Faslane is still going and there is still a protest focused on Menwith Hill. Earlier this year I read an article about a road protest camp which is sill active near Edinburgh. I guess one of the things I need to do is a bit of research and give a list of such current protest sites. Hang on, got to look for the Debord quote ... ah here it is in a letter I wrote to Tom Vague last year:

Society of the Spectacle 157
Another side of the deficiency of general historical life is that individual life as yet has no history. The pseudo-events which rush by in spectacular dramtizations have not been lived by those informed of them; moreover they are lost in the inflation of their hurried replacement at every throb of the spectacular machinery. Furthermore, what is really lived has no relation to the official irreversible time of society and is in direct opposition to the psuedo-cyclical rhythm of the consumable by-product of this time. This individual experience of separate daily life remains without language, without concept, without critical access to its own past which has been recorded nowhere. It is not communicated. It is not understood and is forgotten to the profit of the false spectacular memory of the unmemorable.

Individual life as yet has no history.
That is the quote which really got me going with this blogzine. It must be about five years ago that I managed (after I got a large back-payment for disability carers allowance) to get a second hand computer with internet access. I then found Google and started searching on 'anarcho-punk' and 'anarchy centre' and 'Centro Iberico' and related themes and found.... very little. Apart from what John Eden had put together on his Uncarved website, the biggest chunk of which was Andy Martin's version of events. Which, as Tony D. has pointed out to me, misses out quite a bit.

I had forgotten that Brett (of the Puppy Collective) used to make up lots of veggie food and take it to the Wapping A Centre, and that Wolfen/ Paul/ Woolfie was a trainee electrician and wired up 'our' bit of the Centro Iberico. Our part being the old gym hall on the ground floor. I had a photograph of Tony building the stage. It was made from old gas cookers brought down from the old kitchens and covered with carpet. There was also another stage, on the first floor, in the old assembly hall.

I haven't scanned it in yet, but for KYPP 5 (June 1982) I wrote an article about the Centro Iberico which included the following:

All for £1
On Sunday 2nd May 1982, after one mention in the gig listings, over 500 people turned up to see Rubella Ballet, Conflict, The Apostles, The Assassins of Hope and Amsterdammed. 400 managed to squeeze in. We made £35 [i.e. after groups and p.a. etc had been paid], but the important thing was that it happened.
So for that one event, there are 400 individual memories, 400 histories. 500 if you include the people who couldn't get in.

The challenge is - who writes 'history'? And why? Punk was part of counterhistory, and to the extent that it manage to inspire and enthuse the participants, it was 'revolutionary'. It was dangerous, it drew on the hidden history of popular revolts and uprisings, of each and every generation's resistance to the official narratives of authority and power. It was one of many moments of actual history when the discourse of power was powerfully challenged. No-one really- apart from maybe Jamie Reid- meant it to happen that way, it was meant to be a neat way to sell the clothes Vivienne and Malcolm were making - in the way that the Bay City Rollers boosted sales of tartan scarves and baggy trousers...

But in creating, in putting ( literally stitching) together the elements of 'punk' out of a ragbag of popular culture and situationist and surrealist and dada and whatever else lay to hand, punk in the UK, in London to begin with, was imbued with a revolutionary spark. Media exposure fanned that spark into a flame which seared out in a spectacular explosion.

Straight histories say this lasted only two years at the most - 76/77. Everything after the implosion of the Pistols in San Francisco was 'post-punk'. But the explosion sent showers of sparks up into the air and where ever they came down, they lit fresh fires. Some of these fires are still burning. The same is true of every revolutionary moment. In 1848, across Europe, there was a sequence of 'revolutions'. None lasted very long, but they inspired Karl Marx to de/re construct Hegel's cosmic philosophy as dialectical materialism. That spark ain't dead yet.

I could go on for hours, but not sure if I am just flogging a dead punk so will stop.


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