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

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Situ-punk vs anarcho-punk?

Anarcho-punk or Situ-punk? With the benefit of hindsight, I reckon there was a tension / contradiction right from the start. But as this anonymous comment on my Situationists vs. Anarchists in 68 blog (see below) points out, the Wapping Autonomy Centre may not be a very good case study.

I don't think the disagreements between Situationists and anarchists in May 68 can really be compared to the tensions between punks and mainstream anarchists at The Autonomy Centre etc. The former were political disagreements, the problems at various squats and centres were not so much political rows between old school anarchists and anarcho-punk pacifist idealogues (although these existed) but between both these groups and some of the less political 'anti-social' 'brew crew' types who tended to trash everything they came across. Hippy, punk and subsequent scenes (e.g. anti-road camps) have often attracted people with nowhere else to go and with heavy alcohol and drugs problems (sometimes mental health too). Many a space has been destroyed by the difficulty in dealing with this and the behaviour that results.

So I have tried to develop the theme here.

In 1978 I became a supporter of Stuart Christie’s Ceinfeugos Press - for £2 a month got sent copies of all their publications. Still got one or two. In 1979 moved to London and got invite to Cienfuegos/ Black Flag Readers Group - in Roebuck pub on Kings Road, later in Conway Hall. Here I met Albert Meltzer, Iris Mills, Ronan Bennett and Stuart Christie. This was at time of Person Unknown trial, with minor echoes of Angry Brigade trial. Through these meetings I knew about plan to set up an ‘Anarchy Centre’ - still have (will find and scan) copy of my membership card.

But then, after Crass got involved, some punks turned up at one of the meetings in late 78 - including Tony, Brett and Val of Kill Your Pet Puppy. We chatted in the pub after the meeting and … I jumped ship. I don’t recall going to any more of the ‘proper’ anarcho meetings. Instead I became a part time Puppy / part time punk (la la la la as the Television Personalities song goes see / hear http://freespace.virgin.net/reggie.vardy/punk1.htm )

I was 21 and KYPP was much more fun / exciting than the Ceinfeugos/ Black Flag meetings . As a result I never visited the Wapping Autonomy Centre until it became a punk venue.

As I recall the situation, the straight anarchist version failed to get enough members to pay the rent. To help keep the place going, in late 1981 a series of Sunday afternoon benefit gigs were held in the Centre. These raised enough money to pay the rent. I went along as part of the Kill Your Pet Puppy Collective’s contribution - we provided veggie food, sold fanzines and books and beer. However, the landlord was not amused by this alternative use of the space and pulled the plug in early 1982. This led to the relocation of the punk aspect to the Centro Iberico.

Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, this parting of the ways does connect with the French 68 situ/ anarcho conflict. Traditional anarchists could not see the revolting youth as part of their revolution. The Situs could (just about). The Situationist ‘s understood that 19th century / early 20th century political and economic analyses were no longer relevant in the society of the spectacle - in the era of mass popular culture. The failure of 1968 reveals the usefulness of the Situationists approach. By using/ abusing Situationist theory (esp. via Jamie Reid’s input), punk developed and extended the Situationists’ French intellectual theory into English/ British practice. As such, punk was ‘Situationism’ - the very thing proper Situationists held in abhorrence. The first issue [ 1957] of the journal Internationale Situationniste defined situationist as "having to do with the theory or practical activity of constructing situations. One who engages in the construction of situations. A member of the Situationist International".
The same journal defined situationism as "a meaningless term improperly derived from the above. There is no such thing as situationism, which would mean a doctrine of interpretation of existing facts. The notion of situationism is obviously devised by antisituationists."

On the difference between anarchist and Situationist theory practice , here is Debord from Society of the Spectacle http://www.bopsecrets.org/SI/debord/4.htm

The illusion more or less explicitly maintained by genuine anarchism is its constant belief that a revolution is just around the corner, and that the instantaneous accomplishment of this revolution will demonstrate the truth of anarchist ideology and of the form of practical organization that has developed in accordance with that ideology. In 1936 anarchism did indeed initiate a social revolution, a revolution that was the most advanced expression of proletarian power ever realized. But even in that case it should be noted that the general uprising began as a merely defensive reaction to the army’s attempted coup. Furthermore, inasmuch as the revolution was not carried to completion during its opening days (because Franco controlled half the country and was being strongly supported from abroad, because the rest of the international proletarian movement had already been defeated, and because the anti-Franco camp included various bourgeois forces and statist working-class parties), the organized anarchist movement proved incapable of extending the revolution’s partial victories, or even of defending them. Its recognized leaders became government ministers, hostages to a bourgeois state that was destroying the revolution even as it proceeded to lose the civil war.

To conclude - I don’t know. But maybe I should throw a new cliché - situ-punk - into the mix as a way to distinguish Crass influenced anarcho-punk from KYPP style punk?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi AL

fair eough if you want to call KYPP situ-punk, but not really accurate to lump crass in with the 'traditional' anarchist 'movement' IMHO.

i think crass came more from (on one hand) the peace movement and (on the other) the avant-garde art world. with steve ignorant adding the punk bit -


12:05 am  
Blogger Unknown said...

Good point Gerard, Crass certainly not part of the Black Flag/ 121 Railton Road version of anarchists - and Bloody Revolutions was a strong blast against revolutionary rhetoric - ' the truth of revolutions is year zero...'

Once school holidays over will have time to explore theme in more depth. At moment just flagging up some possibilities which I had not thought about until now.


11:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After reading your last few posts last night I read "On the Poverty of Student Life" again. What an inspiring piece of writing, a total assault on one's subjectivity. It was probably as influential as Traité du savoir-vivre or La Société du spectacle in the uprisings of 68, given its circulation and the scandal it caused.

You said "The Situationist ‘s understood that 19th century / early 20th century political and economic analyses were no longer relevant in the society of the spectacle - in the era of mass popular culture."
I disagree with that one because the situationists, in contrast to other non-academic leftists and anarchists, were primarily a theoretical current built upon late 19thC / early 20thC marxist analysis, critique and theory. Because of this very few people can understand where they are coming from. They were an 'occult' movement.

From 'On the Poverty of Student Life' (1966): "As for the various anarchist groups, they possess nothing beyond a pathetic and ideological faith in this label. They justify every kind of self-contradiction in liberal terms: freedom of speech, of opinion, and other such bric-a-brac. Since they tolerate each other, they would tolerate anything." (translation Nicholson-Smith & Gray)

12:29 pm  

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