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

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Anarchy in UK: Crass interviewed: 1979

"But there's not many situationists left"

Following all the excitement generated by the recent Crass revival, the Spice Girls are to release a cover version of 'Shaved Women' - and here's the photo to prove it!

Found the photo on a blog site http://invereskstreet.blogspot.com/
which has a 2005 archive article from New Society 1979- it is an essential bit of history, including a section on the Persons Unknown trial and an interview with Crass - pasted below.

Here is part of the introduction:

An A in a circle, spray painted on walls in city streets, is the nearest most citizens come into contact with anarchism. The media spectacle that the anarchists themselves find comic and tragic, has no room in its schedules for the ideas and actions of the anarchists. But they have chosen to live on the margins, in a kind of political exile, and that is the way it must be. The support group set up on behalf of the five anarchists now facing conspiracy charges at the Old Bailey is called, appropriately, Persons Unknown. Marxists say that anarchists don't live in the real world. But a lighthouse is as real as a supermarket.Some of those who shop in the supermarket of ideas are attracted to anarchy, but most aren't. It does not have the academic respectability of Marxism. (Students, after all, answer questions on alienation under examination conditions.) Yet the anarchists have always had an influence, even in Britain, out of all proportion to their numbers...

Hundreds of thousands of words produced for publication by this libertarian movement have been typeset by Ramsey, a worker at the Bread 'n Roses co-op in Camden Town which, he says, is 'the premier left typesetter'. But Ramsey, after a long involvement in anarchism, has now turned his back on it.

'It's the politics of individual paranoia.' He now believes what most Marxists believe, that anarchism is an idealist philosophy. 'It's rooted in ideas of wouldn't it be nice if . . . Instead of saying, this is the present, this is how we got here, this is how things change, the whole materialist approach. On the continent, anarchy is a more collectivist, class-based politics. Here anarchy was to do with the youth revolution, and the consumer society of the fifties and sixties.'

The most imaginative of the critics of consumerism, as Ramsay prints it, were the Situationists (who were the catalyst for the events of May '68 in France). 'They turned Marx on his head. Instead of saying that consciousness was determined at the point of production, the Situationists said it occured at the point of consumption: this is the consumer society, the society of spectacles, spectacular commodity production. But there's not many Situationists left. It fizzled out when the boom ended, and there was no longer any scope for talking about never-ending commodity production.'

Here is the interview with Crass

Anarchy in the UK was a Top Ten hit for the Sex Pistols in 1977. It introduced the word 'anarchy' to a new generation. It became fashionable again, for a time, to say you were an anarchist, to spit in the face of the normaloids. But most punk bands who attached themselves to anarchy were merely boarding the gravy train. That is why I went over to a cottage in Essex to talk to one punk band, Crass, who seemed to have thought more seriously about their anarchism.

A man in black with dyed blond hair - his name is Pete - pours tea for an old farm worker in the living room. Someone upstairs has Dr Robert, by the Beatles, at high volume. We're waiting for the rest of the band to come back from wherever it is they are; and when the farm worker has gone, Pete explains the various activities they have going here at Dial House. One of the women, he says, is away in New York, printing the latest issue of their magazine, International Anthem. Two other publications produced here are called The Eclectic and Existencil Press.

A film maker lives and works in the cottage.There is, too, what Pete calls a 'graffiti operation'. He says they have taken over a section of the Underground. 'We don't just rip the posters down or spray them. We use stencils, neatly, to qualify them. Especially sexist posters, war posters and the sort of posters for sterile things like Milton Keynes.' He spits those two words out.'A few of us going round and spraying with stencils reaches more people than the band ever could. It gives the people the feeling that something is going on; that there's a possibility of something happening; that things aren't all sewn up. You're bombarded with media which you don't ask for when you go from A to B and a lot of it is insulting and corrupt.

"But what have you got against Milton Keynes? What's wrong with it?' I asked.'I was actually working on the plans for the place. I started discovering what a complete shithole the place is. Cardboard houses, no facilities. It's just a work camp, totally sterile, offers nothing.'

It was Steve who was playing the Beatles. He comes downstairs, runs his fingers through his Vaseline-spiked hair as he tells me he ran away from home seven years ago, and has lived in this cottage for two years. A woman who drifts in says that her name is Eve and that she sings in the band.We talk about the various gigs that Crass have done - for Person's Unknown, the Leveller, Peace News, Birmingham Women's Aid - and the violence that has plagued their gigs of late. The band, it seems, has developed a following among British Movement skinheads. But Crass blame this on Rock Against Racism which, they allege, has polarised youth. 'If you're not in RAR then you're a Nazi. Now we're sandwiched between left-wing violence and right-wing violence.'

The rest of Crass show up: Andy, Phil and a man called Penny Rimbaud. Two children appear at the door and look around with interest. 'Racism and mohair suits,' says Steve, who has not said much up to now. 'That's the difference in punk music. Two years ago, you had Johnny Rotten standing on stage saying, "I am a lazy sod." So where's it all gone?'What's wrong with mohair suits, and anyway why is everyone in this room clothed in black? 'Lots of reasons,' Pete says. 'Convenience. Anonymity. I'm doing the washing at the moment; it's very convenient.'We're drinking tea in his room, which is filled with books, and I'm wondering which writers have influenced . . . 'Zen and all its offsprings,' interrupts Penny. 'Existentialism.''Zen and punk,' smiles Andy.'The American beat movement,' continues Penny. 'Kerouac or Ginsberg.' Pete says he hasn't read Kerouac or Ginsberg. Andy goes off to make another pot of tea and when he comes back announces that, 'Anarchy to me means living my own life, having respect for other people, respecting their right to do what they want to do.'

This is a long way from Black Flag, Freedom and anarcho-syndicalism. I doubt if Andy has read many books on anarchism, but he speaks of the kind of anarchy which has always been at the heart of rock'n'roll. It's my party. Do anything you want to do. I can go anywhere, cha-chang, way I choose. I can live anyhow, cha-chang, win or lose. Anyway, anyhow, anywhere I choose . . . Take your desires for reality and make your reality your desires was, I think, one of the slogans of the Situationists.


Blogger Nuzz Prowlin' Wolf said...

Have you heard the album, 12 Crass songs by Jeffery Lewis, it's like it says on the tin 12 Crass songs but done accousticly, worth a listen, think it was released recently by Rough Trade.

9:27 pm  
Blogger Imposs1904 said...

Cheers for the mention, Alistair.

For a direct link to Ian Walker's article, 'Anarchy in the UK', click on the link.

7:23 pm  
Blogger musicisloud said...

Contact me if you would like a copy of my fanzine `No One Rules Ok` which features a 9 page interview I did with Steve Ignorant before his Last Supper gig in Birmingham. Zine is a punk zine and also include Drongos For Europe, John Robb, The Warriors, Rose Tattoo, Fire Exit. Glasgow Punk. Punk in Ulster etc. Fanzine is £2.00 via paypal to me at - musicisloud@yahoo.co.uk

overseas or those who prefer paying through the mail , email or contact me.

Issue came out Dec 2010.


6:56 pm  

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