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

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Persons Unknown Anarchist Conspiracy

Persons Unknown Anarchist Conspiracy Film

Reading through the ‘Crass’ forum on the Southern Records website and found a link to a 1979 tv documentary on the Persons Unknown trial. It is 21 minutes long and contains snippets of Crass playing - at the Conway Hall?

Link to film

[Note- updated 11 April 2011 -see comment below]

There is also quite a bit of footage of Stuart Christie running his anarchist distribution business in Orkney. Although it is Black Flag (anarchist newspaper) which gets mentioned, Stuart and Brenda Christie were also running the Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Publishing Project - which I subscribed to.

I have only just skimmed through the bit of film, but it does mention the anarchist/ punk cross-over and gives the background to Ronan Bennet’s involvement. Ronan, now a respectable novelist, had been imprisoned in Long Kesh as a suspected Irish Republican terrorist and started reading Black Flag in prison. He began writing to Black Flag and Iris Mills replied. On release from prison in 1976, Ronan went to stay with Iris in Huddersfield. The possibility of a link between Irish Republicans and Anarchists worried the State. Attempts were made to get Ronan deported. These failed, but in 1977 Iris and Ronan went to Paris. This was even more worrying - now the fear was of a European link. So when they came back to live in London in 1978, it was believed they were about to set up a new Angry Brigade… their house was raided and a conspiracy discovered (created)…

For anyone interested in the evolution of anarchist/ anarcho-punk, this is a ‘must watch’ video clip. After being acquitted of ‘conspiracy to cause explosions ‘ in 1979 [there were no explosions] Ronan and Iris decided to set up an ‘Anarchist Centre’ in London.

This eventually emerged in 1981 as the Wapping Warf Autonomy Centre, financed by the Crass/ Poison Girls single Bloody Revolutions/ Persons Unknown. To help pay the rent, punk gigs were put on there in late 1981. These paid the rent but broke the lease [no music, no alcohol ]and so the Autonomy Centre closed with some bitterness between the respective parties.

The punks moved on to the Centro Iberico on Harrow Road. This was an old school squatted by Spanish anarchist refugees - including some veterans of the Spanish Civil War. After the Centro was evicted, other squatted punk venues were opened. There were many of these.

I have mentioned these squatted spaces here before. The St. James Church on Pentonville Road was the first I know of. It was squatted by Islington ‘hippies’ rather than punks in 1980 (?). There was the one-off Zig Zag squat and many more. Even Psychic TV put on a squatted gig. Others continued through the eighties as ‘warehouse parties’ which became part of the acid house rave scene.

Free festivals like Stonehenge were massive rural equivalents of these urban collective squats… and if you think about it, Peace Camps like Greenham and Molesworth were also part of this ‘rural squatting’ movement. The road-protests of the nineties carried on this tradition of collective/ political squatting.

I haven’t really thought of it this way before, but if you think of squatting as being political in itself, as being ‘practical anarchism’ - as people reclaiming space from the world of commodities ( = spectacle, see previous blogs) then it is quite impressive. It also goes some way to explaining why the ‘new travellers’ who emerged out of the free festival/ anarcho- punk crossover were seen as such a threat.

To get historical and to make connections with ideas I have been picking up from recent readings like Hetherington’s book on New Age Travellers and Taussig’s book on The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America… people in pre-industrial, pre-capitalist societies do not willingly become urban/industrial wage slaves. They have to be forced off land where they can get by by growing their own food and making most of what they need themselves.

With punk , the DIY - Do It Yourself - ethic started to undermine the logic of capitalism. Rather than buy punk as a manufactured commodity, the idea was to make it yourself and/ or exchange it as a gift.

Punk as a gift economy? Or as an attempt to create an anarchist economy-society.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Julie's been working for the drug squad

Julie’s been working for the drug squad…

…. Is a song by the Clash off their second album ‘Give ‘em Enough Rope’ and is about Operation Julie which was major police operation designed to shut down the UK’s LSD suppliers. Bit hippy for the punks? There is also a possible Free Festival connection...

By the late 70s/early 80s, young punks were a regular presence at the Stonehenge festival as well as on the London squatting scene. Although punk in general was anti-hippy, the anarcho-punk band CRASS and their influential lifestyle politics was largely an updated extension of the earlier 'hippy' festival and squatting scene of which they'd been a part before their punk mutation. In the last few years of Stonehenge there were 40-50,000 people attending an event that went on for a month, and the free market ethic became completely dominant; with signposts pointing to dealers of the drug of your choice, it was like a surreal scene from some extreme right-wing libertarian fantasy- an economy with no restraints. Hundreds of thousands of pounds must have passed hands in drug transactions.

It's unclear why the state allowed it to continue and expand for so long, but in at least one instance their motives later became clear; in 1976, after the massive (brutal and controversial) suppression of the 1974 Windsor Free Festival - which was located in the Great Park in the Queen's back garden - Sid Rawles, self-appointed hippy spokesman/politician, negotiated the use of Watchfield, a disused airfield in Berkshire, as an alternative site. As later recounted by one of the cops involved (see 'Busted´ by Detective Pritchard, one of the books written by undercover 'hippy cops' involved in the operation) this festival was used as a starting point for Operation Julie, which succeeded in smashing the major LSD manufacturing organisation in the world at that time.

And then? I don’t know. But what I have already picked up from the ‘New Age Travellers’ book (see blog below) is the suggestion that the Traveller subculture was based around ethnicity rather than class. The idea that the Travellers were the ‘tribes of Albion’ - as in the title of The Mob’s 1983 album ‘Let the Tribe Increase’ - and Mark of The Mob making himself a tipi in the front room at Grosvenor Avenue. It was/ is a powerful myth - the idea that out of Stonehenge and the festivals the ‘indigenous/ native people of Britain’ had remembered / rememoried themselves. Had somehow come back to reclaim the land from which their ancestors had been dispossessed . This idea survived the post Stonehenge Free Festival Battle of the Beanfield attempts to ‘destroy ‘ the Travellers way-of-life to help inspire the road-protest movement of the early 90s - via the ‘Dongas’ of Twyford Down. [from ‘Donga’ = an African / Matabele word for ‘gully’ given to deep track ways on Twyford Down by a retired colonial… allegedly]

Here is a letter from 1994 sent to Do or Die (Earth First!) 5

The Rise (and Fall?!) of the Ego-Warrior
Two years ago in the rain and mud, the Dongas Tribe were defending Twyford Down. Apart from visits from local EF!ers and campaigners, the direct action anti-road campaign nationally numbered 25 people and a goat. We were calling out for people and publicity... it was hard enough to get local papers to cover the story. And when the land was raped on 'Yellow Wednesday' we told the shites in nylon armour and their sinister employers that they would reap their Karma for destroying such a sacred site. Two years on and the "whirligig of time has bought in its revenge" - the anti-road movement is huge, the government is being forced to listen - there are protests all over Britain.

There are hundreds of people who have given all of their time, love and energy to stop the machine of 'progress'... who have sat in trees for months enduring weather and forcible eviction - the incredible Mad Max barricades at the Mll, hours of hard work and dedication; people who have cooked meals for hungry hundreds, been arrested, assaulted and imprisoned; spent their giros on nails for tree platforms and D-locks... the list is endless. Not to mention all the PR with the local communities, education and communication on both sides, the establishing of an understanding and a common cause. I'd like to pay tribute to the amazing colourful many faceted chaotic fractal of people who have come together to keep the earth green; it's an ever-expanding movement with many directions, a plant growing from a strong seed. And we'd all like to see it flourish. Which is why I feel I should write about the DOWNSIDE to it all.
Why do people join protest camps? There are many reasons. It's probable that like the Dongas, many people see the earth as sacred, a living body of which we are part, and see themselves as guardians of the earth. There are many reasons why people protest - political, ethical, moral - some of the motivations, however; are misdirected and often dangerous.

These days security guards are hired from day one. It's a potentially heavy situation and some people arrive prepared for a tussle - expecting, almost willing, a confrontational scene. I think it's true to say that quite a lot of people like to show how badly hurt they got, how grim it was, etc. Sometimes getting hurt is unavoidable. But glorifying it is dangerous. A successful action is where NO ONE IS HURT, when security has been talked to, and lastly if work has been stopped. People guilt-trip themselves into believing that if they don't get dragged off by their hair at least three machines a day, then they are not doing anything. If possible, it's better to save your energy and wait for more numbers, than to do an action hopelessly outnumbered - there's plenty of other things that need doing. The washing up for instance. Designing a new leaflet.

It boils down to what you are in it for. The glory? Newcomers to campaigns have sat around for DAYS waiting to be told what's going on, while newspaper reporters are frowned on. The poor sod who actually bothers to clean the porridge pot never gets their picture in The Guardian....

Bad motivation affects the energy of the camp as a whole, especially on actions (as does bad communication, many people do their first action totally unprepared) - if people are going on site expecting a fight, or wanting to earn brownie points by being arrested, then it normally happens. It's called SYMPATHETIC MAGIC and the opposite can also apply. Believing in your own psychic/physical protection, knowing that you are trying to protect the Earthspirit and that it in turn is protecting you, ensures that you radiate safety and love. A group of people with this feeling is incredibly strong. Wearing facepaints, playing drums, singing songs, isn't a side issue. It's essential. Music can defuse potentially violent situations. Singing empowers you and makes security perceive you as less as a threat. Police and workers respond differently to happy, smiling, singing people than to bolshy, mouthy, self-righteous ranters. Sometimes, anyway. It's worth trying. I've been on several actions this year where work has been stopped for a few minutes, but in a terrible atmosphere, with insults hurled at security and very little in the way of colour, energy, let alone music, from protesters.

People were totally miserable and tired. Two things - firstly, people get put off and they don't come back. Secondly - back to guilt tripping. If you are physically and mentally exhausted, you are not doing yourself or the group any favours by going on an action. ENERGY in campaigns is a precious resource, often abused. If you go on a site with no energy, you drain it from those around you. You can't run as fast, you lose your temper quicker; you're more likely to get hurt. You become a liability and what is worse you affect how other people behave too. Don't guilt trip yourself; none of us are indispensable, a day chilling out and cooking a meal would benefit everyone more (sometimes you just have to keep going - tree squatting etc. These are different situations. Most of the time people make a conscious decision to go on actions). It is worrying to see so many people with the attitude that anyone not going on site is 'lunching out'. Sometimes they are (see below). Often they're getting wood, water, putting up communal dwellings, taking rubbish off site - jobs that are just as vital to the campaign.

...Back to energy levels. If your base is full of stoned people, littered with food wrappings and brew cans something is wrong. If people don't care about their personal environment, why are they trying to save the earth? It's hard but piss takers have to he asked to get it together or LEAVE. It drains energy - you've got to clean up after them and they've eaten all the food. It creates a bad impression for visitors. These people are blagging into festivals, calling themselves road protesters (and Dongas) and giving us all a bad name - even amongst the hippies!

Something else is putting people off. PROTESTERS' EGOS. Someone's been on a camp for a month and suddenly they know it all - hey, they've been arrested four times and been bitten by a security guard - they're too important to talk to shy newcomers or to wash their bloody plate up. It's the holier-than-thou attitude of the 'Summer Campaigner', who assumes that every 'straight' person knows bugger all and is doing bugger all about the situation. I heard a horror story that a Newbury woman who had been campaigning for years was sneered at because she lived in a house with her two kids and not in a bender!! The fact that she had been coping with campaigning work as well as being a single mother is, I suppose, not relevant. Well where were these wonderful 'tribal' bender-dwellers last winter? Fair enough if you can't hack it, but don't ponce around being 'ethnic' if it is not genuine. Certainly not at other people's expense. A lot of people who have spent years either researching local issues or living alternative lifestyles have been alienated BY US. Get humble! LISTEN to other people, don't assume you know it all - you don't. Our role is not to muscle in, take over and assume that you're somehow better than everyone else.

So there you have it - THE EGO WARRIOR.. On every campaign there are these people strutting around, showing off, snubbing others, grabbing the glory. Most of them do nothing to help with the running of the campaign, and they are a real danger on site with their macho-aggressive attitudes (it comes from taking the word warrior too literally. Battles are to be avoided wherever possible - violence comes from thoughts as well as deeds). People who aren't instantly put off tend to start behaving similarly. Luckily the majority of campaigners, bonded to Mother Earth, simply get on with it. It's up to all of us, however, to start thinking about WHY we are doing it. If you have felt the wild wet spirit of Nature call you'll do anything to protect it... start by protecting YOURSELF, as part of Nature, and the group. Help keep energy levels high in whatever way you choose. If you think there's a problem, TALK about it.

Our attitude to the campaign, ourselves and each other must surely be based on the idea that we are all one, bound to the laws of nature, moving in harmony. The Earth is our focus. At their worst, campaigns merely reflect all that is wrong with society - at their best, they contain the hope and seed for the future of the planet.
May the Dance Go On!
Alex Donga

Ego- warriors… makes me think of the ‘Ultraculture’ problem. The word was invented by Jason Louv in 2004 since :

That which identifies itself as “counterculture” is doomed to fail by definition and can only find “pure” expression in acts of violence (in which case it acts only to further validate reactionary forms of government) or in “selling out”; its internal contradictions are far greater than any detectable within late capitalism, if a “counterculture” can even be said to truly exist at all.

Following its utter collapse into self-contradiction at the end of the 1990s, the counterculture in the West is re-emerging as a magical power battery, now acting as a full replacement and upgrade for culture instead of a critical voice within that culture. Everything culture can do, Ultraculture can do better. Applies specifically to anybody using magic to improve the world. The full form is Global Alchemical Ultraculture.

Ultraculture aims simply to be a space in which individuals and groups can be free to dream on the social and global level, in the company of supportive others, and find the tools necessary for manifestation of those dreams.

Ultraculture the magazine was launched earlier this year, but almost immediately self- destructed due to ‘ego-warrior overload’. Possibly a bit more time spent working out why (and if ) the counterculture utterly collapsed into self-contradiction at the end of the 1990s might have helped. If you think about it, at least in the UK (Ultraculture is US based) the counterculture did-eventually - win a few victories. Greenham Common - no cruise missiles there now, base once more common land. Stonehenge - no festival, but access to the Stones now won. Road -protests - the original £20 billion road building programme halted…

Ultraculture was also rather full of ‘unearthed’ magic. Fair enough, the type of practical magic Alex Donga was talking about in the context of road-protests, or the eco-feminist magic of the Greenham Women or even the paganish celebrations at Stonehenge may be a bit dull for hardcore mages, but so what? Maybe the ‘Western Esoteric Tradition’ of magic is part of the problem? It is a bit like the British Museum, full of stuff nicked from other times and places during the heyday of the great British Empire upon which the sun never set… Egypt and India, Africa, Australasia, the far east, the near east , the middle east… we came, we saw, we conquered.

Imperial magic. Capitalist magic. The magic of globalisation. Even chaos magic, which was supposedly meant to be the antithesis of the Western Esoteric Tradition turned into more of a supermarket sweep:

So when selecting from the Supermarket of Belief, the critical question for the Chaoist is: how effective are the accompanying magical techniques? Hence Chaoist magic is characterised by its cavalier attitude to metaphysics and its puritanical devotion to empirical techniques. [Pete Carroll Liber Pactionis]

The magic of Tesco… cue another Clash song

I’m all lost in the supermarket
I can no longer shop happily
I came in here for that special offer
A guaranteed personality…

The kids in the halls and the pipes in the walls
Make me noises for company
Long distance callers make long distance calls
And the silence makes me lonely

And its not here
It disappear
I’m all lost…

But don't worry, honey don't worry
This is just a fairytale
Happening in the supermarket [Raincoats]

And now? After the Ultraculture ‘ego-wars’, I have found many of the debates and discussions on Barbelith http://barbelith.com more fruitful. For example - on ‘post-modern magick’ -


It also appears that a book by contributors to the Barbelith Temple is in the pipeline.

Sounds like fun.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Middle Aged Travellers

Tinsel has just given me this book, published in 2000. According to the small print "New Age Travellers offers the first major book length academic study of new Travellers in Britain. " Dr Paul Bagguley, Dept of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds sez " It should be used on a variety of undergraduate and postgraduate courses as a theoretically sophisticated and empirically unique study of an important political and cultural movement'.

Fast forward to page 175 and the Conclusion....

Over the past twenty years New Age travellers have been important figures in the English landscape. Even when they have chosen to live in Wales, Scotland or other parts of Europe, it is still the issue of England that is affected by them. The anxieties that Travellers have created and the legislation that has subsequently been introduced in an effort to destroy their way of life in recent years have been based around a contested sense of social space that informs our understanding and ways of representing it. The cultural politics that Travellers engage in is a distinctly spacial politics . It is one where ideas of freedom, nomadism, tribalism and harmony with nature are expressed through a carnivalesque, disorderly and mobile outlook on society. The social space that Travellers come to occupy is seen as paradoxical, uncertain and ambiguous, in a word a heterotopia - a place of alternative order , an as-yet-uncertain order....

Destruction of a way of life through legislation. Or as The Mob said in 'Witchhunt'

Killing off anything that's not quite known
Stubbing out progress where the seeds are sown

Still living with the English fear
Waiting for the witch hunt, dear...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

When Darkness Dawns... Cthulhu as Christ

In early November 1983 the Cold War almost went incandescent thanks to Operation Able Archer. It was meant to be a test of the USA 's ability to rapidly respond to any signs of USSR moving into First Strike mode. But USSR mis-read it as USA moving into First Strike mode, so they went on full scale alert... Luckily this persuaded USA to scale back Operation Able Archer and so the crisis passed.

Coincidently, in November 1983 I published the Encyclopaedia of Ecstasy Volume 2: When Darkness Dawns which was a rather apocalyptic poem loosely based on Kenneth Grant's version of H.P. Lovecraft and ... the sense of living in a city on the edge of annihilation.

The cover art was by Fod.

The poem ends "Rejoice, Patriarchy is No More"