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

Monday, October 24, 2016

Zounds by Lance Hahn

                            Lance Hahn 1967-2007

The Story of Zounds

“I don’t think we ever thought about why we did it. Career was a dirty word to us. Playing music was something we did like eating and drinking, breathing and shitting. It seemed to be a natural function.”
Steve Lake, singer - bassist

At the ULU venue in London, Zounds are tearing through their set. Songs about squatting and alienation become anthems for the choir (as opposed to sermons) as the gig is a benefit for the defendants arrested for passing out leaflets about vegetarianism in front of a McDonald’s. The audience is an enthusiastic and mesmerized stew of squatters, punks, hippies and all the gray area in between. But this isn’t a journal entry from 20 years ago. This is 1998.

Of the many bands, anarcho and otherwise, revisiting the past recently, Zounds seem especially current. This is partly because the lyrics about the aforementioned subjects are in many ways as relevant under Blair’s England as it was under Thatcher’s. But also because of their musical status as outsiders within the underground that prevented them from ever being typecast to one particular style. Of course, that same uniqueness kept them from benefiting of the recognition and success that many of their peers did. Unlike other bands also in that situation, this reunion gig was a one off affair strictly for the greater good.

Steve, “We never reformed. We just did a couple of benefit gigs for the McLible campaign. Dave Morris the defendant was an old friend of ours. I don’t know why but I have a particular hatred of McDonalds.”

Formed in 1977, Zounds started as a nameless “jam” band of constantly shifting personnel. The one central figure that would eventually take control of the band’s direction and give it form was Steve Lake.
His parents splitting up when he was five, what little contact he had with his Dad was characterized by jazz music.

Steve, “I was abandoned to my grandparents when I was five. My mother went to live with her family in the U.S.A. She was a dancing teacher. My dad ran a jazz club. He took me along once to see a New Orleans jazz band when I was about 6, that was probably a key experience. He introduced me to the band and it just seemed such a great thing to be in a band. But ultimately I didn’t have much contact with either of my parents.”

But he had an epiphany when he first heard the Beatles and ‘60s rock-n-roll. He became interested in taking part in the creative process of popular music early on.
Steve, “I was seven years old or something and heard the Beatles on the radio and I was so overwhelmed I still haven’t come down… The Beatles, Bob Dylan, the Byrds, the Who, Tamla Motown, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash. I always liked the good stuff.”
A few years later, he began learning how to play in order have a more physical connection to the music. At 15, he met a guitar player named Terry Small who gave him the right encouragement to pick up the bass.

Steve, “He and a drummer were trying to get a three piece heavy blues band together like Cream. We got on really well and he said I could play bass in their band. He said it was easy as there were only 4 strings and they were so big you couldn’t miss them. I got a bass and the rest as they say is history.”
The desire to play over-shadowed the “what” and “where” as the only things more dubious than some of the music he was playing were the venues where he would play them.

Steve, “(I learned to play the bass) when I was 16. I started playing in a rock’n’roll band, doing Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran and Presley stuff in brothels and Speedway club dances.”
Like many kids at that age in that time, he felt like he had been born too late. Being born in the ‘60s or late ‘50s meant you were too young for the birth of rock-n-roll. You were a bit too young for mod and a little too young for the hippies. You were truly a rebel (anti-establishmentarian) without a cause (youth culture). For many people, this was the psychic swamp that bred punk rock.

Steve, “I wanted to be a hippie but I was too young so when punk came along it just fitted in with our bohemian, anti-establishment view. I hitchhiked three hundred miles to buy Anarchy In The U.K. the day it was banned and withdrawn by E.M.I.”
Growing up in Reading, Steve eventually was drawn to what local counter-culture there was.
Steve, “I am from Reading. It was a market town with a cowboy mentality. Now it’s a bland software based shopping mall type of place. I had to come to London because it was and is the centre of many things I love and hate.”

Despite that, there was enough of a scene that Steve was able to find people to play music with. This original improvised music would be the building blocks of Zounds.

Steve, “Zounds originally evolved out of a series of jamming scenes that took place between various groups of friends of mine. First of all we were based around the Reading area, which is where I come from. Circumstances moved us to Oxford where we developed a very ‘peripheral’ lifestyle that consisted of a lot of jamming, a lot of painting and drawing, an enormous amount of dope smoking, and more than a passing interest in L.S.D. and psychedelia. None of us had jobs, we were unhealthily terrified of the police, and were unknowingly engaged in the process of transforming ourselves from happy-go-lucky, harmlessly mischievous teenagers into marginalized, paranoid wrecks who had become totally alienated from the ‘straight life’. Musically we were involved in a lot of weird free form jamming that was influenced by everything from the Velvet Underground and Can to the Grateful Dead and  the Byrds.”

From these “open” sessions, a proper band eventually took shape. Taking form around Steve’s organization and songwriting, Zounds was first documented in the public eye in 1977.

Steve, “The first incarnation of Zounds must have formed and started doing gigs in 1977 or ‘78. Lawrence was around then but wasn’t in the band. We didn’t meet Joseph until a couple of years after that. The idea of recording demos never crossed our mind. We were absolutely alienated from the world of record companies and mainstream ‘cultural business’. We were complete outsiders. I don’t mean in the sense of some Hollywood Rock ’n’ Roll leather jacket version of outsider. More in the sense that we had become social cripples, barely able to function and interact with anyone outside of our particular bohemian cesspit.”

In fact, it was the guitarist that preceded Lawrence who came up with the band’s name.

Steve, “Steve Burch, our original guitarist found it in a dictionary. We always mispronounced it to rhyme with ‘sounds’. It’s an exclamation; a corruption of the phrase ‘gods wounds’ which we thought was appropriate at the time. Though I grew not to like it pretty quickly and am still not keen on it. Actually God’s Wounds would have been a better name. I could start a Zounds tribute band and call it God’s Wounds.”

Though still in a sort of psychedelic funk, the band was aware and interested in punk from more than just a sociological perspective. The result was that their first gig was supporting a local punk band.
Steve, “Yes, the first gig was as a three piece and we didn’t have the name Zounds at that point. We supported a punk band at a village rock club near Reading. At that point the line up was me on bass, Steve Burch on guitar and Jimmy Lacey on drums.

“Then we added Nick Godwin on guitar for our second gig. This was at Oxford Polytechnic supporting Australian psychedelic fruitcake David Allen who had previously been in Soft Machine and Gong. We were still doing a lot of improvising and free form stuff at that point but they were really dynamite gigs, full of fire and power and energy. The Oxford Poly gig was the first time we played ‘Can’t Cheat Karma’ and Steve Burch came up with that great way of playing that riff. It was the best performance of it really. They were great gigs but you would have had to be there to get it I think. Tapes don’t do those kinds of events justice.”

While being self-described outsiders, the normal band activity of recording a demo tape was ignored. Despite not having an easy way to expose their music to promoters or booking agents, the band still managed to gig and the line-up continued to evolve.

Steve, “We just didn’t bother with demos. Despite our fragile, broken egos we were supremely arrogant and felt if the world deserved Zounds they would have to seek us out, we were not going to chase after anything.   In our childish, fantasy world we regarded it as inevitable that the world  would beat a path to our door. And at first things progressed in that way. Our fourth or fifth gig was reviewed in the New Musical Express, which at the time was pretty much the main voice of youth culture. It wasn’t a great review but it made us think we were on the map and recognized. It wasn’t really until we moved to London and got Lawrence in that I started to think we were going to have to make a record and somehow pursue that notion, as nobody was coming forward to offer us the chance to make a record.

“Anyway, after Steve Burch left and Lawrence joined, the band deteriorated terribly. We became directionless and  plodding. It took us a lot of playing and a lot of gigs to get good again. Which we did.”
With the band’s music evolving from jam sessions and free experimentation into more conventional song structures, there had to be a new concern about the process of lyric writing and what was to be written about. In writing about his surroundings, there was much fodder for angry expression in late ‘70s Britain as it’s economic and therefore political climate was a weather vane for what would become Thatcher’s England.
Steve, “Well my music and my songs have always been born out of my experience of living in and observing the world around me.

“As I said, we were pretty alienated from mainstream society, and consequently mainstream politics, including traditional radical left politics. But our experience was that the world of work was oppressive, tedious and destructive and offered us nothing but drudgery and boredom. We had constant hassles with the police for looking like freaks; it was becoming really difficult to find affordable places to live. We really started to understand that we had ‘no future’. At first we would not have even recognized this position as being political. But things were really hotting up in England during 1978/79. The ‘right’ were starting to exercise a lot of muscle and becoming noticeably and violently more of a presence. The National Front were gaining ground and the Conservatives were following them to the right. Ditching the old post-war consensus and preparing the way for hard Thatcherite, Corporate, market economy.

“At the same time elements of the police force were completely out of control. The S.P.G. in London, the West Midlands Crime Squad. Unemployment was rising and race relations were becoming a potent issue.

“On top of all of this we were becoming aware of the massive build up of nuclear weapons by the U.S.A and the Eastern Bloc, which led to the reactivation of C.N.D. and various environmental groups. No sensible, intelligent person could fail to see what was happening and how bad things could become. We couldn’t fail to become more politicized and see how political power was impinging on our lives.

“That is why things like Rock Against Racism and the Anti Nazi League started. We started to see ourselves as enemies of the state just because of the way we thought; we weren’t activists in any sense of the word. Yet we felt we were under attack by the forces of society. These things affected everything we did, how we lived, what we ate, who we slept with. And ultimately the songs we wrote and the way we played them.

“We were never attracted to the organized left with its infighting and dogma and rules. We were instinctively drawn towards anarchy. Not because we had much of a clue as to what it was about, but we just wanted to be left alone to pursue our own weird trip and not have people tell us what to do.”

While much of the anarcho punk movement at the start was referred to as being “hippy punk” or “peace punk”, the terms usually were meant in defining ideology and practice. But within the traveler scene that had been developing for some time, there were musical bridges being created with punk bands like Alternative Television and hippy bands like Here & Now. For Zounds, the mesh of musical ideas had more to do with the psychedelia of the ‘60s rather than the acid rock of the ‘70s.

Steve, “The very earliest incarnations of Zounds were really in to psychedelic San Francisco bands. We were also in to Can, the Velvet Underground, lots of weird stuff, the early Mothers of Invention. The Byrds, the Beach Boys, the Beatles… We were really into music. That was always the thing with us. I really got into Patti Smith early on, things like “Piss Factory”. The early punk stuff that was inspirational was stuff like the Fall, ATV, Patrick Fitzgerald, Buzzcocks, and American stuff like Pere Ubu and Television. But we were never trying to emulate anybody; we were trying to find ourselves through music… I think Robert Smith was also kind of marrying the weird and unusual with a pop sensibility, which I think characterizes Zounds in many ways.”

But Zounds were coming to both musical camps without prejudice to either side. While many eventually identified them as a punk band, their connection was one of camaraderie rather than of punk’s rank and file.

Steve, “We never saw ourselves as anything. But I personally felt very connected with the concerns of punk. The day Anarchy In The UK was banned and withdrawn by EMI I hitchhiked 300 miles to buy a copy. It changed everything and at last people had the courage and audacity to just get up and say, yea we are fucked up, but it’s our world too and we are going to do what we want, even if we’ve got no resources. It wasn’t unprecedented but at last people were sitting up and taking notice.

“I was never into the ramma lamma, identikit punk thrash sound that soon took over punk and was very tiresome and unimaginative. What was good about it was the scenes that started up all over. The metropolitan London glam-punk scene was nothing really. Just the usual old trendy, fashion crowd trying to get their pictures in magazines. That is the current official media history of punk; that it was all about these London trendsetters. But, there were more interesting things happening at the margins as usual. Us in Oxford, the Mob in Sommerset, The Astronauts in Wellwyn, The Instant Automatons in Hull… A whole load of weird, idiosyncratic bands creating their own lives and scenes and music.”

The Free Festival scene of the ‘70s in England was the perfect incubator for Zounds. Drawn to the scene both by the politics and the desire to play, they found themselves entrenched in that gray area of hippies, punks and activists. Through the free festival scene as well as Here & Now who were very involved in the regular details of those events, Zounds were introduced to the Mob, a band they would tour with and develop close ties with.

Steve, “We had met the Mob and had done a couple of tours with them and some other bands. And through them we met Joseph. We met the Mob at a thing called the Dursley Seventh Vale festival. And a guy called Jonathan Barnett put a tour together with us, The Mob, the Astronauts and the Androids of Mu. We all kind of were on the fringes of the Here & Now free music scene and were under the influence of their ex-drummer, a guy called Kiff-Kiff who was an amazing guy and went on to limited fame in England with a band called World Domination Enterprises. He and Jonathan Barnett put together this outfit called Fuck Off records, and us and the Mob put out tapes and stuff through them. We all hung out round Ladbroke Grove and Shepherds Bush. There were loads of gigs at the Acklam Hall and round West London. Then we did these mad free tours. During which we met Crass and Zounds dwindled to just Lawrence and myself.”

As much as with Crass, Zounds would forever be linked with the Mob from then on.
Steve, “I think we met in 1978. We toured with them, lived in houses and buses with them, had the same drug dealers and slept with the same people. Despite that we were never really close.”
Another band at the time were the Astronauts. More closely merging the musical ideas of punk and hippy, the band still maintains a bit of a folk edge mixed with anarchist politics.

An engine breakdown on the last free tour led them to their first meeting with Crass. While operating separately in the same small ideological and physical space, the two groups had never met despite similar ideas and practices.

Steve, “While on tour we kept playing places where Crass had just played or were about to play. And people kept saying we should meet them because they detected some sort of similarity in something.
“So we were playing near their house and we thought we would just visit them. But our bus broke down and we walked to their house across this weird submarine tracking station and they entertained us, we got on like a church on fire and they came and fixed our bus. They liked us, though I think they saw us as quite naive, naughty children who had their hearts in the right place.”

Whether or not that was the case, the meeting had a huge impact on Steve and Zounds. Crass deeply impressed him as people and how they lived. It ultimately would give Zounds a direction that had previously been missing in lieu of the comparatively casual path they had been organically following.

Steve, “Well I was tremendously impressed by all the people in Crass. They were really funny, very intelligent and had very powerful personalities. I admired their analysis and commitment and knowledge. But generally I remember just going round to their place and  chatting about stuff and having a laugh. I liked them a lot, and am very fond of my memories of them.”

That night ended with discussion of possible future projects together. While mostly talk, it left Steve and Lawrence with the idea that they would record a demo tape to send Crass. But by the end of the tour, they as well as the Mob were somewhat defeated by the grind of maintaining that type of idealistic free tour.

Steve, “Apart from meeting Crass that last ‘Weird Tales’ tour had been grueling. The Mob split back to Somerset and Zounds lost a guitar player (Nick Godwin) and decided to chuck out the drummer. After we did the demo we asked Joseph to join, he had followed the Mob up to London but didn’t follow them back. Joseph had been playing in a mod band at the time but we liked him and knew he was committed to playing music. He sort of looked like a punk too, which Lawrence and I didn’t. Anyway Crass liked our demo and asked us to do the record on their label.”

Joseph, “I joined just after they met Crass, and were presumably streamlining the band accordingly. I was drumming with a band called The Entire Cosmos, which featured members of Here & Now's road crew, and we did some of the Weird Tales gigs.”

With this new line-up, condensed to a three piece, the side of the band that lent itself to open-ended jams fell to the wayside and the more song-oriented material became the make-up of the band’s set. While in some ways it was turning the band into something new, it was also working on material more suited to the new line-up.

Joseph, “I moved to London to play music. I'd been drumming for Attitudes for about a year when Zounds asked me to join… All the jamming stuff ended then. It was pretty much down to short sharp songs, a lot of which were never recorded.”

At this stage, the band was living in the squatted area of Broughham Road. The block of squats would become home to them and eventually the Mob. But like many of these situations, it had a self-determined time limit.

With a new set of material worked out, the band met with Crass in the summer of 1980 to record their first single. Spending time with them out on their farm became an eye opening experience for Joseph who was still developing his own political ideas.

Joseph, “I had no intellectual concept of anarchism when I joined Zounds. I had a vague awareness of a lot of slogans, and a great fondness for cannabis resin. Steve on the other hand, while endorsing the latter, had a better grasp of the former. I didn't care. I just wanted to be in a band.”

Oddly enough, it was the discipline of Crass’ anarchism that made an impact on Steve.

Steve, “We were in a different scene entirely. Much more untogether. We were all a quite a bit younger than most of Crass. Us and the Mob, the Astronauts, the Androids of Mu, Here & Now, the Fuck Off Records crew, Grant Showbiz (who went on to produce the Fall and Billy Bragg and work for the Smiths). There were gigs on the Portobello Road, Ladbroke Grove. A lot of free festivals (which is another huge story in itself). Crass and Poison Girls were quite insular and very much in control of their scene.”

The recording process became as much Crass’ project as Zounds’. Their control over the production work on the record extended to having a session musician brought in to play Joseph’s parts!

Joseph, “Simple. I wasn't any good. While I was with Attitudes, they kept my drumming disciplined, but once free of that, and into the more laid-back atmosphere of Zounds, I regressed into a clattering nuisance. Penny, who cared passionately about production, didn't want to release a record with out of time drums on it. He was right.”

Years later, Joseph is surprisingly ambivalent about his replacement on their debut record.
Joseph, “None at all. It's one less gruesome skeleton in my cupboard.”
For their first proper recording session, the band was in for an odd experience.

Steve, “It was a bit weird. We did it at Southern Studios, which was owned by Crass’ business manager John Loder. At that time the studio was in his house and the control room was in the garage.

“Was there any pressure internally or externally to conform to a sound or style of Crass? They chose the songs from our repertoire. We played it and Penny and John did all the recorded and produced it. To some extent they directed the performances, particularly my vocals. Crass the band, and the Crass label were both Penny’s babies really. He was the man with the vision. They made us use a session drummer who played Joseph’s part. That was difficult to take as authenticity is quite important to me. After the recording they mixed it without us there and brought it to us for approval.”

The resulting record was “You Can’t Cheat Karma”. Released in early 1980, the three song EP starts with the mantra-like drone of “War”. It’s repetitious bass and guitar riff are more reminiscent of the first Modern Lovers record the UK punk. Like “Pablo Picasso”, the song becomes hypnotic and the list of war torn countries becomes a rhythm of it’s own.

This song leads directly into what could be the bands most known track, “Subvert”. Upbeat but with a very clever guitar part for a verse, the song is a cross between the Minutemen and “Jumping Someone Else’s Train” by the Cure. Lyrically, it’s a shopping list of small daily acts of subversion.

If you’ve got a job
You can be an agent
If you work in a kitchen
You can redistribute food
If you are a policeman
Ordered to arrest me
You don’t have to do it
You can refuse

The title track was probably the most unique song of the bunch. With a sing-song vocal pattern, the monotone vocals make for a twisted children’s song about ennui and paranoia.

But I just don’t know what I can do
You don’t trust me and I don’t trust you
I bet you wish you did
Cos I know I do
Why have you got secrets?
Well, I know you have
If you’ve got something to hide
Then it must be bad

The layout for the record was a simple black and white (like most of the Crass releases) with typewritten text and inked images including a fold out poster.

Steve, “Crass were a band who wanted things done a certain way. They had a vision and they were not into compromise. Which is not to say they were unreasonable, but if you wanted to work with them then obviously it was on their terms. Nobody forced us, or anyone else to do it. And anyway we liked them and dug what they were doing. We were happy to be associated with them. So they designed the cover, wrote the blurb and we wrote the songs and played them. Lets face it the main reason it sold so many was because of the association with them. If it had just come out anonymously maybe it would never have been heard.

“Ironically I think that Crass were an early example of what is now very fashionable and significant in western culture. And that is the whole total corporate identity. They were one of the first to have that sense of ‘total image’.”

With the release of their first record on the label run by one of Britain’s premier punk rock bands of the time, Zounds found themselves playing out to a much more enthusiastic crowd newly made aware of the band by the one single. The band also began connecting more with the young anarcho punk scene by playing gigs with Crass. The cross pollination would continue with the Mob eventually recording for Crass as well.

Steve, “After the record came out on Crass we did some gigs with them. They were great live. Especially when they had all the video monitors and banners and stuff. But actually it was more like a cross between some dubious political rally and a dark Brechtian theatre. Much better than on record.

“But our scene was less earnest and less developed. People coming to our gigs were kind of more bohemian than a lot of Crass’ audience. Other squatters and hippiefied punks. When we got our record out it expanded the audience, and outside of London there was a lot more working class kids who lived with their parents coming to the gigs.”

Joseph, “We didn't see them often, but they were always very friendly. I was too young really to understand most of what was going on then though, and probably too stoned as well to take it in.”
While always a bit cautious, Zounds found themselves apart from the traveler / hippy scene that they came from and in the middle of the anarcho punk scene. As is well documented, attempts at merging the two scenes had mixed results.

Joseph, “We almost played Stonehenge in about 1980 or 1981. We were just getting onstage when Bikers took over the generator, and decided to ban Punks from the stage. That was crap - that was the reality of Anarchy in the UK. Stonehenge was just about taking lots of drugs. That's the only reason most people went there.”
But even in their new scene, Zounds found themselves in a scene at times more anarchist by propaganda then by deed.

Steve, “Ironically there was a very strict hierarchy in the Crass camp that was acknowledged but accepted. Crass at the top, Poison Girls were their second in command and Zounds, Flux and the Mob were favored subjects. But in all honesty that was about right because Crass were phenomenally popular far beyond the Anarcho scene. Their significance has never been fully realized to my way of thinking.

“Outside of the Crass thing when we were gigging a lot with the Mob their was a lot of sharing and co-operation and working together. But I think there were definitely less benign forces at work below the surface. There were definitely jealousies and petty backstabbing going on. But I prefer to remember the good things, though that can be difficult sometimes.”

The band continued to exist mainly as a live act. Tours with Crass and the Poison Girls made them take more concern about their actual performance and the result was some of their best gigs.
Steve, “

With the one off single with Crass helping to establish the band nationally, they struck a deal with Crass’ old label at Rough Trade. This relationship would last the band through most of its recording career.

Steve, “Geoff Travis made all the decisions about who was signed and what was released. They tried to run all other aspects of the company like a workers co-operative. Which led to all the usual decision making problems most workers co-ops seem blighted with. Plus the banks wouldn’t deal with them in the way they would with a ‘normal’ client. Which led to cash flow problems. Geoff was an absolutely beautiful guy who I still admire and respect very much. I used to get a bit intimidated by the others though. Even the warehouse staff seemed far more trendy than us and use to regard us with something like disdain.”

Despite a lot of speculation about the Crass record being recorded afterwards (“I think when  I was putting the cover art together I was so stoned I put the wrong year on it,” Steve), Zounds then went into the studio to record their one and only full length LP. “The Curse Of Zounds” was recorded and mixed in five days, which, oddly enough, sets it apart from the Crass style of recording that often would go on for months.
These time limitations forced the band to work intensely on the recording. Despite the contrast in recording styles from that with the Crass camp, the band remained thrilled with the process.

Steve, “Weird but very exciting. We were pretty out of it most of the time but we worked pretty hard on it.”
Their one and only studio LP turned out to be a classic unlike anything else at the time. An incredibly dense and claustrophobic record, it captured the paranoia of the post-hippy counter-culture and feeling of outsider status and it’s personal affect on the human psyche. Songs like “Did He Jump” reinforced the specific nature of society’s reflected paranoia. It startles in its poignancy amidst the superficiality of most “punk” from that time.

Who was that on the window ledge
Did he jump or was he pushed
He left a note which no one read
In desperate hand the note just said
Didn’t turn my back on society
Society turned its back on me
I never tried once to drop out
I just couldn’t get in from the very start

“Dirty Squatters”, which was one of the more direct anthems on the record, was also one of the first direct acknowledgements of that scene and it’s connection with the underground.

Some dirty squatters moved into my street
With their non-sexist haircuts and their dirty feet
Their dogs and cats, political elite
They may have beds but they don’t use sheets
Furnishing their houses from the contents of skips
Things that decent people put on rubbish tips
They look quite harmless sitting out in the sun
But I wouldn’t let my daughter marry one

Steve, “Well paranoid is definitely a word that rings true with me, I think I have always been a paranoid person, and I don’t mean that metaphorically. I think I really do have clinical paranoia. For example I never fly (which means I will probably never return to the USA even though most of my family live there). I almost always avoid going in lifts, I hate the underground (subway) and many other things of that nature. I have always been terribly fearful of the police, though I have never really been involved in anything illegal. I am also something of a hypochondriac and worry like mad when my kids come home late. So in many ways it is no wonder that this tends to surface in my music.

“Claustrophobic is a great word to describe the album. And that’s the way I felt at the time. I think that is why I responded so well to going to Berlin. The way it was this small island surrounded and walled in by an ‘alien regime’.   I still have tremendous nostalgia for the cold war. I know Joseph does to. It’s not because I think the cold war was good, but because it echoes my state of mind. When we did the album I felt we were existing in our own little world, closed in and only in contact with similar scenes dotted randomly around Europe. I hated it when we were thrust into contact with the wider world. Everything seemed hostile to me. Not just the big global things like nuclear war, government corruption, corporate greed and media brainwashing, but even the everyday world of supermarkets, family life, little Hitler bosses, aggressive and insensitive teachers.

“I think that really comes through in the writing on ‘Curse Of Zounds’. The way in something like ‘This Land’ I try to take the narrative from the big global issues of ecology, pollution and environmental breakdown to the very personal, microcosmic, local world of the streets in which we walk and live.
“‘My Mummy's Gone’ is similar in that it is about the anguish and fiction of monogamous, nuclear family life expressed through a very personal experience.

“‘Target’ wasn’t just a tirade against nuclear war, but about the effect of the nuclear build up on people who had to live near the bases. It was a very significant feature of Zounds songs that the so-called political issues and social landscape was always related to the everyday ways in which we lived. I think that's the attraction for many people of Zounds, that it is not just sloganeering, but is born out of the frustration and powerlessness we actually felt (and still feel) everyday, and how that affects our personal behavior and personal relationships. I love the songs of American folk singer Woody Guthrie for much the same reason. Though of course I would never compare my own limited talents to his inspired genius. As Leonard Cohen said of Hank Williams, “he’s 100 floors above me in the tower of song”. Probably thousands of floors actually.”

Released in 1981, the record was like a film noir that starts off with unease and paranoia and ends with a collapsing world much worse and larger than first imagined. It was perfect that it would start with “Fear” and end with a re-vamping of “War”.

Steve, “Yes, we wanted it to be cohesive. We tried recording it in the order we wanted the tracks to appear, which is what happened with one or two slight changes. It had to start with ‘Fear’ as it set the whole context for the rest of the album. As you pointed out it is the worldview of someone blighted by paranoia, and the rest of the songs are very from the perspective of someone scared shitless by everything. It ends with ‘Target/Mr. Disney’ and a snatch of ‘War’ (re-titled ‘The War Goes On’). Because what ever was going on was existing in the shadow of the impending Nuclear threat and U.S. cultural and military imperialism, in particular the positioning of cruise missiles in the English countryside. At the time this was of massive significance in Europe and we all felt very close to the issue.

Many people believed that we were heading for a nuclear catastrophe and so it was very much an overriding concern at the time. Ending the album with the reprise of ‘War’ and letting it fade out in full flight was just to emphasize that war was not just an historical fact but an ongoing aspect of the human condition and that we shouldn’t forget that and needed to do something about it fast. The revised title refers to a song Scottish folk singer Donavon used to play called ‘The War Drags On’, I don’t know if he wrote it but I liked it a lot. It might be a Tim Harding song, I’d like to find out actually.”

Perfectly suited was the cover art by Clifford Harper. Known for his anarchist oriented woodcuts, Harper’s artwork both captured the urgency of the times as well as playfulness with the wrap around cover being utilized for comedic purposes.
Steve, “Love it. Love the joke and I have always been keen on comics so it was just right. Cliff had originally done it for a cover of a magazine called ‘Anarchy’ and redrew it for us. He did it during the fireman's strike of the late 1970’s. We thought fireman were heroic in that they did a dangerous and selfless job and were drawn from well-intentioned working class people. I think he ripped off the concept from a cartoon in the right wing London newspaper the Evening Standard. Lawrence and I helped publish a book of Cliff’s work and biography called ‘The Education of Desire’ which I still think is one of the best things I’ve been involved with.”

In the process of recording the record, the band involved themselves with Adam Kidron who was given production credits although his job was more a glorified engineer.

Steve, “We had a guy engineering called Adam Kidron, he was the millionaire son and heir of the Socialist publisher who owned Pluto Press. He was really funny and we were very naive and impressed by him. He talked us in to giving him producer royalties when we didn’t even know what royalties were and we thought we were producing the album ourselves. We recorded the album in the order we wanted the tracks on the final album, though we did revise the order slightly. I thought it was really important that it was a coherent record where the track order had some sort of internal logic. Adam hated guitars so we ended up with a far less powerful guitar sound than we would have liked. We were a guitar band after all.”

With Rough Trade behind the record, publicity and reviews were prevalent including a full color poster campaign in London.
Steve, “It got some good reviews and some not so good ones, but it didn’t get us known much beyond the anarcho scene.”
The band did their part by playing live as much as possible though they quickly went from proper channels to DIY methods.

Steve, “We just tried to play all the time. Rough Trade’s agents booked us some gigs but they were all wrong for us so we just got fans and likeminded individuals to book gigs at community centers and such places. We hated getting involved with music biz types and promoters and agents and the rest of the hangers on.”

Yet, by the time the record was released, the band had grown sour on it. Their concerns about the mix, they felt, were confirmed with the final product.

Steve, “We thought it sounded great when we did it, but as soon as it came out we went off it I think. We thought the guitars weren’t big enough and it was all a bit lightweight. When we first met Geoff at Rough Trade Joseph told him we wanted to sound like the Dead Kennedy’s and I think we would have been happier with that sort of powerful sound. In retrospect though I think it is probably better the way it is. But I’m speaking as someone who feels they have heard enough rock guitar to last several lifetimes. That’s why I no longer have a guitar in my band.”

Just prior to the LPs release, Rough Trade issued the “Demystification / Great White Hunter” single, recorded at the same time as “Curse Of Zounds”. At the time, they described the record themselves as “Velvet Underground meet white liberal guilt”.

Steve, “I can’t remember whether it was Joseph or I that came up with that, but we would both have shared that point of view. We were nothing if not self aware and self-critical. A lot of my songs tended to be about striving and failing and not making it, not being brave enough, not being able to live up to ones own expectations.”

Though recorded at the tail end of the session that produced the full length, the band insisted that the tracks from the single not be on the LP.

Steve, “We recorded ‘Demystification’ and ‘Great White Hunter’ at the end of the album sessions, by which time I think we were starting to get the hang of it. I would have liked to have started the whole thing again at that point. We never wanted the single on the album. Partly because of my slavish devotion to rock n roll folklore. When I was a kid the Beatles and Stones and such groups never put singles on albums. We associated it with the rip off tactics of the music biz. Selling the same thing twice. I always thought singles were cool and something different from albums. I don’t know why it came out before the album. Probably something to do with Rough Trade’s clever strategic marketing policy, which also remained a mystery to us.”
As strong as anything on the LP, ‘Demystification’ in this context does stand out as a single. Almost reminiscent of an even more depressed ‘She’s Lost Control” era Joy Division, the record is quick paced with an effectively memorable chorus. The b-side, which they described as a “hot dance number”, took advantage of the rhythm heavy mix using it to sparse advantage. If anything, it was more reminiscent of Quine era Lou Reed than the Velvets. In some ways, it was the band’s most accessible record. But that wasn’t necessarily a plus when coming from a scene that mostly drew hardcore punks.

Joseph, “(the anarcho’s reaction was) blank incomprehension.”
The record cover wasn’t your typical anarcho fair either instead using a black and white photo staged to convey the song’s idea rather than constructed, message oriented collages.

Steve, “Lawrence is very visually oriented and the concept was his. Just the idea that we are all ‘mystified’ and can’t see what is really going on in the world. So everyone is blindfolded except for the central figure who is tearing off their blindfold and has a look of horror at the harsh reality of life. We trooped off down to Kings Cross Station with a friend of ours called Googy Pete who was to be the Demystified star. We stood him on some sort of plinth and took the shot. When Lawrence did the artwork painting the blindfolds on to the crowd it became apparent that Pete didn’t have the right expression on his face. But in the corner of one of the shots was me making the right sort of face in an effort to will Pete to do it right. So Lawrence got busy with the paste and scissors and put my head on Pete’s body. A situation neither of us would have liked in real life.”

While a greatly underrated record, the songs still stand the test of time especially well.
Steve, “Well there was no peak for me. We never made a record I was really happy with. Our live gigs in Berlin were the experience that has stayed with me more than anything else from the Zounds period. My favorite Zounds record is ‘Demystification’.”

1982 started with the band still gigging and touring on the continent not knowing that it would be their final year as a band. The touring motivated the band as well as eventually, like so often is the case, burned them out.
Joseph, “It was fun most of the time. Playing in Holland allowed us to binge out without fear of arrest, which was pleasant. Low points must include a tour of the UK in which the only cassette in the van was the first UB40 album.”

The year also started with the release of their third single. ‘Dancing / True Love’ marked the first use of outside instruments on a Zounds record with the addition of keyboards. On ‘Dancing’, it introduces a Brechtian circus bounce that would make Kurt Weil proud.

Steve, “Well I wrote Dancing on a friend’s keyboard. It wasn’t even meant to be a Zounds song. Jonathan Barnett from Fuck Off Records asked me to do a solo thing for a tape he was putting out called “Folk In Hell”, which I’m told is quite sought after now.

“When Lawrence and Joseph heard it they wanted to do it with Zounds and thought it would be a good single. When we played it live though it was very different. More like a kind of Neil Young and Crazy Horse tune. When Geoff Travis of Rough Trade heard us play it at a gig he was keen for us to do it as a single. We got Brian Pugsley, a friend of ours who lived in our house in Brougham Road, to play keyboards on it. We were keen to develop our musical ideas so we approached it completely differently and got him playing all that nice piano. As he was in the studio with us we thought he might as well play on ‘True Love’ as well. I have to say Joseph was completely against the whole thing. He was much more of a purist punk than us. We could have carried on churning out 300 mph guitar stuff like ‘Subvert’, but we were more adventurous than that. I’m not saying we were adventurous in the way Can or Faust were, but we didn’t want to be an identikit punk band. ‘Dancing’ is a very dramatic song and we wanted to conjure up that dramatic, dark, nightmarish and sad world of living in a fascist state. We wanted it to be Teutonic with a whiff of Berlin Cabaret about it.”

‘True Love’ on the other hand was an upbeat track with enough detached irony to find its place welding Gang Of Four’s ‘Anthrax’ to any of the Buzzcocks’ singles going steady. The song was as much a critique of the process as it was a reflection of the protagonist’s predicament.

Steve, “As with most of these things it was a bit of both. It was a difficult time because we were all intellectually against sexual jealousy and possessiveness, but emotionally we were not very good at handling it. So while there was a lot of sexual freedom and experimentation going on, people were getting very fucked up about it. This coincided with my girlfriend getting pregnant and me having to face up to the fact that I was going to be responsible for another life. I wasn’t really mature enough to handle it, and in fact I am still not, and I’ve got three kids now.”

The recording, especially on ‘Dancing’ was especially creative. The open-ness of that song and its minimal percussion can directly be linked to some of the dub ideas brought in by producer Mikey Dread. Known for his work with the Clash on ‘Sandinista’ as well as his work as a DJ in Jamaica, what on the outset seemed like an odd choice for a producer worked to the record’s advantage at least in the mixing stage.

Steve, “It was bizarre because it was going to be produced by Mickey Dread, a Jamaican DJ who was quite well known at the time and worked a lot with the Clash. He hardly ever turned up and when he did he spent the whole time on the phone. I didn’t know that many Jamaicans at the time and I don’t think I ever understood a word he said. His accent was so strong. We wanted to build up the drum track by laying one drum at a time so it didn’t sound like traditional kit playing. Joseph despised this approach and walked out before we even got to doing “True Love”. In the end the drums on “True Love” were played by a guy called Tim who at the time was playing drums for the Mob, he was Mark’s sister’s boyfriend.

He just came down the studio to check it out and ended up playing on it. It was an incestuous little scene at times. I wasn’t there for the mix. My girlfriend’s pregnancy meant she was under a lot of pressure from her parents to get married. So I did the decent thing any working class boy with my upbringing would do and ended up getting married on the day we mixed “True Love”. No wonder I was writing an anti-love song. I don’t think Joseph ever got it, it was supposed to be an anti-love song that sounded like a conventional poppy love song.”

Not having played on half of the record, Joseph still involved himself with the cover art drawing of a scene somewhere between a ball and a battle.

Steve, “That was great. Joseph drew it. I love Joseph’s drawing. I don’t know if he did it especially for the cover or whether I just saw it and thought it was great and really appropriate. We use to give out these posters that Lawrence and I made up by cutting up loads of covers and sticking them back together like a big collage. I ended up with thousands of the posters and I tried to get my kids to use the back of them as drawing paper. The trouble was my kids were frightened of the picture and wouldn’t use them. In the end I threw them all away.”

The follow up single would be their last for Rough Trade. ‘More Trouble Coming Every Day / Knife” came out that summer and Joseph calls it his favorite “by a mile”.

Oddly enough, this record represents the only documentation of the five-piece line-up. Keeping Brian on as keyboardist, they decided to also keep Tim on as bassist with Joseph back on drum duties. But the mood was already sour.

Steve, “Deteriorating. In an attempt to save the band Joseph suggested we get Tim in to play bass and I move on to guitar. So we did that and Tim was promptly sacked by the Mob for being in both bands. And then they asked Joseph to drum for them, it didn’t seem to matter that he was now in both bands. Tim was a great drummer though, really powerful, not to take anything away from Joseph but Tim was a virtuoso musician who was great on loads of instruments. He was not only better than Joseph on drums but he was better than me on bass and better than Lawrence on guitar. He did that one record with us and a couple of tours and then we split up. I never really considered him part of the band. He was just along for the ride. Zounds was just me and Lawrence and Joseph.”

‘More Trouble’ was a great juxtaposition of anguished lyrics with upbeat, pop music. The infectious, tune mixed with the brood was a great mixture that was more reminiscent of the old New York punk scene especially Television or the Talking Heads. The coarse rhythmic structure and almost funk bass part of ‘Knife’ put that song way ahead of it’s time preceding certain musical ideas utilized later and across the ocean by the Minutemen on ‘Double Nickels’.

Steve, “Well we got Brian to play keyboards on it again and it made it a lot lighter than the way we played it live. I liked the 60’s pop feel of it. It’s a bit of a clichéd chord sequence based on quite a common 4-chord turn-around. We probably did think it was commercial, but we didn’t concoct it to be. It was just teenage angst really. I wrote it because I loved the phrase ‘more trouble coming everyday’. The line ‘the smell of burning...etc’ refers to the riots that were going on in England’s major cities at the time. More knowledgeable listeners would know immediately that I ripped off the title from a Frank Zappa song, which I think is on Freak Out, his first album.”
Again, Joseph supplied the cover art.

Steve, “Joseph drew the cover to “More Trouble” as well. I thought it really complemented the song, a scruffy bored teenager. The P.R. people at Rough Trade hated it. Joseph really should have stuck with the drawing; he’s good.”

By October of that year, the band was just about done. With one last tour of Europe, the band released a final record that had all the signs of a band split. A mish mash of different recordings, the record seems like a last effort to collect some remaining songs.

Steve, “’La Vache Qui Rit’. By the time that came out I had pretty much lost interest in Zounds. It is undoubtedly our worse record, I wish in some ways it had never come out. Its genesis and history is actually more interesting than the record itself.

“It was put out by a very, very good friend of mine who is a beautiful guy and still a close friend. Originally it was supposed to be a double release with us on one side and The Mob on the other, and it was supposed to be a benefit record for a draft resistance campaign in Belgium (my favorite country by the way). The Mob was going to do a version of “No Doves Fly Here” in French. That would have been good; Mark always had a lot of style for a farm boy. (In fact as I perform a lot of songs in French myself now I have considered covering it that way).

“Anyway the Mob never got it together and I don’t know what ever happened to the draft resistance angle. We went ahead and did it anyway.”
‘Biafra’ starts the record off on a promising note. Its upbeat and catchy tune again, is undermined perfectly by a much more sordid lyrical tale. It could have been seen as advancement on the idea that sparked ‘More Trouble’.

Steve, “No, sadly the band had lost all direction at that time. We always had a bit of a pop sensibility. It was a fun song to play but I don’t think it was so much fun to listen to. It was basically the riff from the Elvis Presley record ‘His Latest Flame’ married to my synopsis of a short story by one of my favorite authors Kurt Vonnegut.”

‘Not Me’ follows with a relentless riff that is reminiscent of the opening Coltrane-derived sequence on the Byrds’ ‘Eight Miles High’. The noise could easily also be equated with a ‘White Light, White Heat’ outtake.
Steve, “Yes that is an interesting observation. The riff was one of Lawrence's and I just put lyrics to it. I had never noticed the similarity to “Eight Miles High” before but I see what you mean. “Eight Miles High” is one of my favorite records and the Byrds are still one of the groups I listen to. I was really in to 1960’s psychedelia, in all its forms. A lot of people involved in Punk were into that. When Caroline Coon (ex manager of the Clash and founder of Release) said Punk was the hippie’s revenge I don’t think she was far from the truth.”

The flipside of the record features an updated version of ‘Fear’ and an old track called ‘Wolves’ both recorded live.

Steve, “It wasn’t planned. On our final European tour someone recorded the gig in Leiden in Holland. And the guy who was putting the record out asked if he could put two live tracks on and make it an E.P. We just said do what you want. So he did. I was really ill at that point. Just exhausted by everything. We were cold all the time. We were staying in squats with no water and inhabited largely by speed freaks who never slept. The van kept breaking down. The whole Zounds/Mob scene was riven by petty jealousies, conspiracies and bad blood. I had just about had enough of it all. The song ‘Wolves’ on that EP was a really old song we had done before Joseph was in the band. Tim who played bass with us on that last tour and persuaded us to play it. God knows why. I was past caring.”

In that kind of atmosphere, it was obvious to all parties involved that there was little remaining interest in the band internally. Burned out by the grind of touring in harsh conditions was becoming a drag. The high points of touring at that stage were equalled by the lows.

Joseph, “Cheap and Nasty, from Leiden in Holland were pretty unforgettable. The Androids of Mu were friends - I think - of Here And Now. I know their drummer, Susie, was one of Here & Now's singers at one point. We also toured with Theatre of Hate, which was pretty awful…”

Steve, “On that final tour of Europe. Lawrence just said to me one day that he thought it was all a bit of a drag and he and I should do something else that was musically a bit more adventurous and a bit more fulfilling than churning out “Subvert” for ever more to people who really didn’t want to hear anything different. Anarchists can be a conservative lot I’ve discovered. Flux Of Pink Indians had the same problem. I went along with Lawrence and when we got back we spoke to Joseph and it was clear he didn’t want to do the same kinds of things as us and was much happier playing with his old mates from the Mob.”
Steve’s growing disaffection with the anarcho scene or any of Zounds’ audience for that matter was also a heavy factor.

Joseph, “Basically, Steve's measured and intelligent approach to anarchism, and life in general, was lost on the anarchos, who didn't understand Zounds at all. I think Steve got fed up with that. My involvement with The Mob was turning me into a bit of a prat as well, and in the end I think we were all relieved when he decided to call it a day.”

Steve, “I seemed to be getting older and the audience seemed to be getting younger. The whole Zounds trip had been so exciting and brilliant for me in the beginning but it was becoming a dull routine, and very unpleasant. We never had any money, my girlfriend was having a baby and I was musically very unsatisfied. I always liked loads of music, pop, country, psychedelia, Krautrock, just loads of stuff. The thing about the punk scene in the beginning was that it had been really open and fresh and interesting. But it had become stagnant and formalized and predictable. I had to move on in my life.”

The band finally just ceased one day at the end of 1982.

Steve, “We were supposed to go to a gig in Colchester and none of us could raise the enthusiasm to actually go. We phoned them up and said the band had split up and we were not coming. Our name is still mud in Colchester. There was a bit of a falling out with Joseph after that, but it all got sorted out and I have nothing but respect and admiration for him and loads of fond memories of the times we had together. We still do the occasional gig together, in fact the last time we were on the same bill I sang “Dancing” with Blyth Power, which was great.”

By 1983, the band was completely done. As a last release, Rough Trade encouraged them to license some songs for an Italian only singles collection. Base Records released the LP using much of the same dubious practices they’ve used for years with punk and jazz records.
Steve, “Just after we split. Rough Trade suggested we do it and they arranged the licensing. Joseph refused to have anything to do with it, which is why he is absent from the cover. It was supposed to be limited to 1500 copies, though I know a couple of distributors that took as many as 4000 each. They do things differently in Italy. It goes without saying that we saw no money from it.”

At the same time, Steve and Lawrence had started a new band called The World Service. Something of a continuation of Zounds, the band was quick to record for Rough Trade.
Steve, “It was the name of a band that Lawrence and I formed with original Zounds member Nick Godwin. This was immediately after Zounds split up. We released one record called “Celebration Town” on Rough Trade. The B-side of that record was fantastic actually, it was called “Turn Out The Lights” and would probably been the next Zounds single if we had continued.”

But that band soon collapsed leaving Steve on his own. Before the end of the decade he had put out two solo records as well as numerous compilation and live appearances. It wasn’t until the ‘90s that Steve played music in a band again, this time with a group called the Relatives.
Steve, “That was a band I was in in the 1990s. It started off as a drab anonymous indie band but after a while we went acoustic and became England’s greatest ever country band. We had Eric Mingus (son of jazz legend Charles) on bass for a while. A very beautiful guy.”

When that band ended, Steve went back to being a solo artist though his coming to terms with his musical frustration did allow for him to want to do the reunion gigs in ’98.
Steve, “I’ve always been artistically unsatisfied. Though what I am doing now is finally getting close to what I want to do. For years I found Zounds cringing-ly embarrassing, but I have come to terms with it more now.”

While a remaining benefit single for the McLibel camaign is still in the works as well as a possible live record, there’s no looking back or nostalgia with Zounds.
Steve, “No. That is it. It would not be possible. I am a different person. I’ve learnt to love Zounds but I can never go there again, it just fucks it up.”

“…Mind you our life was like a 24-hour art workshop. When we were not playing we were painting, writing, clay modeling, making ecologically unsound plastic structures that we would set fire to and pollute our lungs, brains and living environments. People would come round to our house in Oxford and be amazed that every bit of space was covered in  paint, paper, clay and musical instruments. It was such a groovy scene. Our life was our art, but we would never have seen it like that at the time.

“…Well in a lot of ways it was the most exciting time of my life. We just had such great times. It all got a bit much by the end but generally it was a great time. Essentially I still believe most of the stuff and ideas that informed those records. I still am deeply suspicious of capitalism, Christianity and religion, consumerism, the family, the education system, the whole thing that in my childhood was called the military industrial complex. I wasn’t as good a lyricist then as I am now. But the words had a simple, naive charm and they were from the heart. The music I am less sure about. There are some good moments, but we didn’t really have much clue. If you stand it next to Can or Tom Waits or Captain Beefheart or the Byrds or whatever it doesn’t really stand up for me. But it touched a lot of people so something must have got through. John Lennon said he was never a Beatles fan and I guess I am not a Zounds fan.”

Friday, October 21, 2016

War of Position, War of Attack

Antonio Gramsci's Fingerprints, November 1926.

In this post I have brought together revolution, history, politics, punk, Scottish independence and Brexit through an anarcho-Marxist matrix inspired by Friedrich Engels and Antonio Gramsci, the number 69 and the colour red.

Part 1 : A Failed Revolution
In the summer of 1842 in Manchester an English Revolution, more bloody and world changing than the French Revolution, almost began. Manchester/ Lancashire was where an Industrial revolution had started 50 years earlier when steam engines were first used to power textile making machines. Conditions for the children, women and men who lived and worked in this region were appalling. Simply to survive the new industrial workforce had to struggle against the new industrial factory owners.

By 1842 the industrial system had spread far enough for the idea of a ‘general strike’ to emerge. Instead of actions being directed against individual millowners who cut wages /laid-off workers/ increased hours, the aim was to force a general reduction in hours worked and/or increase pay. If workers in all the factories and workplaces went on strike, this would force the owners as a group or class to respond to the demands of the workers acting as a group or class.

Strikers shot, Manchester 1842

In 1842 a call for a general strike was made. Support for the general strike was very strong in Manchester/ Lancashire.

At the same time as this new approach to the economic struggle was being attempted, the central committee of a political organisation, the Chartists was due to be held in Manchester in August 1842. The Chartists were heirs to a much older struggle, one with its roots in the revolutionary ferment of the seventeenth century. The question then was ‘Who makes the laws- king or parliament?’

Charles I had inherited from his father James I (of England) and VI (of Scotland) the argument that since there were kings before there were parliaments, kings had the right to make laws and parliaments had the duty to put them into practice. There was a religious element to this argument which justified the power of kings by God worked his magic on the world back in Bible times through kings not parliaments, which do not feature in the Bible.

But by 1649 God seemed to have changed his mind and Charles I lost his head to Parliament.  No doubt this bit of history was remembered by his son James II (and VII) in 1688. Rather than find out if God was really on his side, Roman Catholic James fled to France rather than confront his Protestant son in law William of Orange. It was called the ‘Glorious Revolution’.

Forward/ back to 1842. The fight between Parliament and King was long over, but the fight for a representative/ democratic Parliament was not. The Chartists proposed  six modest demands to make Parliament more representative/ democratic. Unless you were a woman.

1.A vote for every man twenty-one years of age, of sound mind, and not undergoing punishment for a crime.
2.The secret ballot to protect the elector in the exercise of his vote.
3.No property qualification for Members of Parliament in order to allow the constituencies to return the man of their choice.
4.Payment of Members, enabling tradesmen, working men, or other persons of modest means to leave or interrupt their livelihood to attend to the interests of the nation.
5.Equal constituencies, securing the same amount of representation for the same number of electors, instead of allowing less populous constituencies to have as much or more weight than larger ones.
6. Annual Parliamentary elections, thus presenting the most effectual check to bribery and intimidation, since no purse could buy a constituency under a system of universal manhood suffrage in each twelve-month period.

One of my local heroes, Peter McDouall from Newton Stewart in Galloway, managed to persuade the Chartist’s central committee at their meeting in Manchester in August 1842 to pass a motion in support of the general strikers.

The next step would have been for the Chartist’s committee to declare themselves a provisional government, call upon the troops sent to suppress the general strike to defend democracy instead… and by now we would be happily living in the Revolutionary Year 174.

Instead as August 1842 gave way to September, the Chartists delegates  left Manchester to report back to their local branches, the new railways were used to rush troops to the striking districts and pacify them and the fires of revolution which had been lit from London to Dundee were extinguished.

It was in the wake of this failed revolution that a young German arrived in Manchester in November 1842. On 30 November he jotted down his first impressions of  the August events ...

…the whole thing fizzled out; every worker returned to work as soon as his savings were used up and he had no more to eat. However, the dispossessed have gained something useful from these events: the realisation that a revolution by peaceful means is impossible and that only a forcible abolition of the existing unnatural conditions, a radical overthrow of the nobility and industrial aristocracy, can improve the material position of the proletarians.
They are still held back from this violent revolution by the Englishman’s inherent respect for the law; but in view of England’s position described above there cannot fail to be a general lack of food among the workers before long, and then fear of death from starvation will be stronger than fear of the law. This revolution is inevitable for England…
From  http://marxists.anu.edu.au/archive/marx/works/1842/12/09.htm

He fired off this report to the editor of a German newspaper who published  it on 10 December 1842. The young man was Friedrich Engels and the newspaper editor was Karl Marx.

Part 2: The Next Revolution Has Been Delayed

Was an English revolution inevitable? Apparently not, although it may be too early to tell. In the article quoted above, Engels had anticipated that competition from rapidly industrialising France and Germany would damage the British economy. The Engels’ family business in Germany and Manchester was cotton. What Engels missed was that the cotton was only one of the industries which had been revolutionised in Britain. Iron was another

Iron was essential for a global transport revolution pioneered in Britain- railways. The boom in railway construction across Britain, then mainland Europe and the rest of the world led to a huge demand for iron rails, iron bridges and iron horses. This was followed by the development of iron steam ships, again another development pioneered in Britain. The growth of these industries along with coal mining created new jobs. For example, in 1842 about 216 000 children, women and men worked in the coal industry, producing 40 million tons of coal per year. By 1913 a mainly male coal industry employed 1 128 000 workers and produced 287 million tons of coal. At the same time, wages had risen and working hours become shorter than they had been in 1842.

After 1845 the price of bread was kept low by allowing imports of wheat. As railways and steamships opened up whole continents to trade, Britain was able to import food and export manufactured goods. The British economy was therefore able to grow throughout the nineteenth century.
Through the nineteenth century and into the twentieth parliamentary democracy was also extended.

This combination of economic growth and political concessions allowed the British nobility and industrial aristocracy to keep the revolution Engels had thought inevitable at bay.  But why should the workers who produced the wealth and who formed a majority of the population accept these limited gains? Why give up the revolutionary struggle which had the potential to liberate themselves and future generations from an economic and political system which offered them only ‘crumbs from the table’ as Lenin was later (see third quote below) to put it?

Part 3: From ‘False Consciousness’ to the Manufacture of Consent

By 1893, Engels had come up with one possible reason which was extended and developed by 20th century Marxists. It is ferociously complicated but the quotes below should help. I will then move on to the 1960s and 1970s via  the Situationists and punk. Finally I will look at the present and the fallout from the 2014 Scottish independence referendum and 2106 EU referendum.

Here are the quotes, starting with Engels and ‘false consciousness’ in 1893, then its development by Lukacs and Marcuse. Marcuse’s  book ‘One Dimensional Man’ who brings in a counterculture angle. Finally there is Gramsci’s development of ’false consciousness’ into the more subtle idea of ‘hegemony’ aka ‘the manufacture of consent’.

UK coal production

"Ideology is a process accomplished by the so-called thinker consciously, indeed, but with a false consciousness. The real motives impelling him remain unknown to him, otherwise it would not be an ideological process at all. Hence he imagines false or apparent motives. Because it is a process of thought he derives both its form and its content from pure thought, either his own or that of his predecessors. He works with mere thought material which he accepts without examination as the product of thought, he does not investigate further for a more remote process independent of thought; indeed its origin seems obvious to him, because as all action is produced through the medium of thought it also appears to him to be ultimately based upon thought."

"In 1920, Lukács introduced the notion of “false consciousness” as a necessary concept in order to understand how it is that all working class people are not ipso facto, socialist revolutionaries. He defined “false consciousness” in contrast to an “imputed consciousness,” meaning what people themselves would think if they had sufficient information and time to do so properly. In his famous essay on Class Consciousness, Georg Lukács commented as follows:
 “It might look as though ... we were denying consciousness any decisive role in the process of history. It is true that the conscious reflexes of the different stages of economic growth remain historical facts of great importance; it is true that while dialectical materialism is itself the product of this process, it does not deny that men perform their historical deeds themselves and that they do so consciously. But as Engels emphasises in a letter to Mehring, this consciousness is false. However, the dialectical method does not permit us simply to proclaim the ‘falseness’ of this consciousness and to persist in an inflexible confrontation of true and false. On the contrary, it requires us to investigate this ‘false consciousness’ concretely as an aspect of the historical totality and as a stage in the historical process.”
and Lukács continued always to use the inverted commas whenever he used the term ‘false consciousness’. 
It was Herbert Marcuse who revived the use of the term ‘false consciousness’ in the early 1960s, as part of his analysis of the stability of capitalism after the post-WW2 settlement.
“To the degree to which they correspond to the given reality, thought and behaviour express a false consciousness, responding to and contributing to the preservation of a false order of facts. And this false consciousness has become embodied in the prevailing technical apparatus which in turn reproduces it.” [One-Dimensional Man, Chapter 6]."
From https://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/f/a.htm

False consciousness and hegemony
"False consciousness, in relation to invisible power, is itself a ‘theory of power’ in the Marxist tradition. It is particularly evident in the thinking of Lenin, who ‘argued that the power of ‘bourgeois ideology’ was such that, left to its own devices, the proletariat would only be able to achieve ‘trade union consciousness’, the desire to improve their material conditions but within the capitalist system’. A famous analogy is made to workers accepting crumbs that fall off the table (or indeed are handed out to keep them quiet) rather than claiming a rightful place at the table.
The Italian communist Antonio Gramsci, imprisoned for much of his life by Mussolini, took these idea further in his Prison Notebooks with his widely influential notions of ‘hegemony’ and the ‘manufacture of consent’. Gramsci saw the capitalist state as being made up of two overlapping spheres, a ‘political society’ (which rules through force) and a ‘civil society’ (which rules through consent). Gramsci saw civil society as the public sphere where trade unions and political parties gained concessions from the bourgeois state, and the sphere in which ideas and beliefs were shaped, where bourgeois ‘hegemony’ was reproduced in cultural life through the media, universities and religious institutions to ‘manufacture consent’ and legitimacy."

Hegemony is a class alliance by means of which one, leading [hegemonic] class assumes a position of leadership over other classes, in return guaranteeing them certain benefits, so as to be able to secure public political power over society as a whole.
The term was then developed and popularised by Antonio Gramsci who demonstrated that every nation state requires that some class is able to establish a hegemony capable of unifying the nation and resolving its historical problems…Gramsci associated the term hegemony with the idea that the working class had to establish “intellectual and moral leadership” of an “historic bloc” of classes, capable of forming a new state. He accused Rosa Luxemburg and Leon Trotsky of underestimating the depth of resources of the capitalist state, which required a protracted “war of position” in order to undermine it, remove from one social position after another, and eventually overthrow it, rather than a rapid “war of movement”, by which the revolutionaries could hope to smash the bourgeoisie's defences and demoralise them all in one blow: rather, the working class had to build a new hegemonic bloc.
From https://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/h/e.htm#hegemony

Get the picture?
Yes we see… or perhaps not.

Part 4: The Authentic Spectacle of Punk

The Situationists’ ‘Society of the Spectacle’ is perhaps a more familiar example of ‘false consciousness’ and an illustration of how ‘hegemony’ works.

# 59 Under the shimmering diversions of the spectacle, banalization dominates modern society the world over and at every point where the developed consumption of commodities has seemingly multiplied the roles and objects to choose from…The smug acceptance of what exists can also merge with purely spectacular rebellion; this reflects the simple fact that dissatisfaction itself became a commodity as soon as economic abundance could extend production to the processing of such raw materials.

This quote takes us neatly on to punk. Was it a ‘purely spectacular rebellion’? Or was it an ‘authentic’ rebellion?  But if the first wave of punk was an example spectacular rather than authentic rebellion, was anarcho-, which emerged from 1979 onwards, the real ‘revolutionary’ deal?

As a rationale for starting Crass, Penny Rimbaud claims that when ‘the Pistols released “Anarchy in the UK”, maybe they didn’t really mean it ma’am, but to us it was a battle cry' [Rimbaud, 1982] Implicitly this classifies The Sex Pistols as poseurs – a horrific crime in subcultures – and Crass as the real punks. When a member of one punk faction criticises other elements within the same subculture – for selling out, promoting violence, or defending different political views – they demarcate themselves as the authentic punks. Other punk movements retaliated against the anarcho-punks’ righteous attitude. The discourse of authenticity is rife in these relationships. [Ana Raposo in ’The Aesthetic of Our Anger’ 2016 pp 57/8.

Before answering these questions, we need to work out where the belief  that punk could be ‘authentic ‘ rather than ‘spectacular’ came from.  Here is what the SAGE Dictionary of Cultural Studies (2004, p 9)  has to say about ‘authenticity’ and ‘spectacular youth subcultures’.

The question of authenticity can be grasped through consideration of the study of youth within the field. Here cultural studies has tended to explore the more spectacular youth cultures; the visible, loud, different, avant-garde youth styles which have stood out and demanded attention. These activities have commonly been understood as an authentic expression of the resistance of young people to the hegemony of consumer capitalism and arbitrary adult authority. Subcultures have been seen as spaces for deviant cultures to re-negotiate their position or to ‘win space’ for themselves. In particular, youth subcultures are marked, it is argued, by the development of particular styles which, as the active enactment of resistance, relied on a moment of originality, purity and authenticity.

Aha! The reference to the ‘hegemony of consumer culture’ gives us a clue. I turns out that in the 1960s, British Marxists Tom Nairn and Perry Anderson writing in the New Left Review adopted Gramsci’s work to analyse and critique the ‘archaic’ political structures of the United Kingdom. Raymond Williams  and E P Thompson ( author of ‘The Making of the English Working Class, 1963) also found Gramsci useful.

Although the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, founded in 1964 was careful to distance itself from Marxism, Gramsci’s theories became a useful and much used tool as the centre engaged with popular and youth culture. In 1979, Dick Hebdige of the Birmingham CCCS released what was to become the foundation for all (well, nearly all) later studies of punk- ‘Subculture the Meaning of Style’

By page 15, hegemony has already put in an appearance, preceded by a quote from Marx.

The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas; hence of the relationships which make the one class the ruling class, therefore the ideas of its dominance. (Marx, 1845) 
This is the basis of Antonio Gramsci’s theory of hegemony which provides the most adequate account of how dominance is sustained in advanced capitalist societies. [Hebdige, 1979, p. 15]

But is Hebdige right here? The subtlety of Gramsci’s ‘hegmony’ or the Situationists’ ‘spectacle’ is that what we take to be our own ideas are in fact the ideas of the ruling class. We do not see the ideas of the ruling class as being imposed on us. If we did we could reject them.

Hebdige goes on to say-

We can now return to the meaning of youth subcultures, for the emergence of such groups has signalled in a spectacular fashion the breakdown of consensus in the postwar period… However, the challenge to hegemony which subcultures represent is not issued directly by them. Rather it is expressed obliquely, in style. The objections are lodged, the contradictions displayed (and, as we shall see, ‘magically resolved’) at the profoundly superficial level of appearances: that is, at the level of signs. [p. 17] 
My review of Hebdige/ Subculture from KYPP 4 Sept 1981

Part 5: That Option No Longer Exists

The ‘breakdown of consensus’ is the subject of John Medhurst’s book ‘That Option No Longer Exists Britain 1974-176 (Zero Books, 2014).
 As one reviewer noted, it-

recalls a febrile period when the left came close to implementing a radical socialist economic strategy. Medhurst’s absorbing essay argues that the first few months of that Labour government were the pivot on which post-war British politics turned, the point at which the social democratic consensus broke and neoliberalism moved in. It could have been different. Had the ‘Alternative Economic Strategy’ (AES) pushed by Benn been implemented, even in part, the centre of gravity of British politics might have shifted to the left rather than the right.
The AES sought to extend the democratic principle beyond the sphere of politics in the belief that sovereignty over the direction of the economy should rest with the elected government rather than global markets, and that the balance of power within industry should be recalibrated towards workers. For Medhurst, Labour’s abandonment of the strategy opened the way for the right to set Britain on a wholly different course.

Where does punk fit in here, in the 1974-1976 period out of which it emerged? Was the ‘postwar consensus’ the mainstream, that is hegemonic, position? Was the 1974 Labour manifesto an attempt to break with that consensus, or strengthen it? The 1974 Labour manifesto was a response to the 1970-74 Conservative government which started off with a shift to the right but then had to back track -the original ‘U-turn’ Margaret Thatcher later derided- under pressure from organised labour/ trade unions.

This would place Labour within the consensus so that the pressure from the right which led to the election of Margraet Thatcher in 1979 can be described as ‘counter-hegemonic’- designed to break the postwar consensus.

Part of Medhurst’s argument is that the right-wing press helped to manufacture a sense of crisis during the 1974-79 period. If punk acted as a symbolic representation of this crisis, then it was counter-hegemonic; that is it helped the right gain power by supporting a ‘this country is going to the dogs’ narrative.

Part 6 : Punk as Counterculture

Alternatively, punk can be seen as emerging out of what was still a vibrant and dynamic counterculture in the mid-1970s. Richard Dudanski was part of the west London squatting scene and a drummer for the 101’ers 1974-76. In his book, Dudanski describes the day Joe Strummer said he was leaving the band and Bernie Rhodes came round to their squat…
If punk meant anything, to me it came down to a simple postulation: "Think for yourself, act on the conclusions that you come to, and don’t be put off by the powers that be" 
But there was nothing particularly new in that. Isn’t it a fact that this was exactly the unwritten precept that had under pegged any free thinking person from time immemorial through to us squatter/musos who were there and then attempting to create our own world? The point was that Bernie [Rhodes, manager of the Clash], following in the close footsteps of his former friend Malcolm Maclaren, realized that to achieve success on a wide scale a new movement had to be created, in the same way that, say, the 20th Century art movements such as Dadaism and Surrealism had been founded. To create a new movement the dialectic demanded replacement of an old one, and looking around I suppose the remnants of the 60’s Hippies were the only young person cultural group that they could find to fill that role! Rather pathetic really, couldn’t have chosen a weaker more ineffectual opponent. Besides which I don’t think that in 1976 the notion of a Hippy had much meaning for more than a miniscule percentage of young people. Richard Dudanski, 'Squat City Rockers Proto-Punk and Beyond' (2013, p. 117)
The 101'ers

In her Introduction to ‘Goodbye to London- Radical Art and Politics In the Seventies’ (Hatje Kantz, 2010, p. 10) Astrid Proll, former member of the Baader-Meinhof Gang wrote an appreciation of the pre-punk counterculture she encountered in London.

Before fleeing to London [in 1974], I was not particularly interested in the English  left; now I experienced their  solidarity. The great majority of comrades were far more pragmatic  than the leftists in germany. They did not lose themselves in theories; they wanted  to put concrete projects into action. German idealism and the German predilection for ideologies was not for them…
   The rebellion against the Vietnam War and against capitalism was not as strong or as militant in London as it has been in Paris or West Berlin.; the sixties in London were ‘swinging’, they were first and foremost pop, not politics. However, the alternative subculture in seventies London exceeded, in size and diversity, what had emerged in other Western cities. Women’s and gay rights groups, food -coops, the Poster Collective, All London Squatters, film collectives, underground magazines.
   In the collective memory, the counterculture of the seventies has taken a backseat between the revolt of 1968 and the appearance of Punk in 1976; unjustly, in my view , since the counterculture of the seventies was decisive in the liberalization of British society. The counter culture had a strong appeal for a long time for society at large…
    Solidarity was the precept of the counterculture. The squats were the material basis and precondition for the emergence  of political activism, art and alternative life. These houses, removed from the circulation of capitalist valorization [valorize- to give value to], were open spaces  for experimentations of all kinds towards a life lived without economic constraints.

In his chapter on anarcho-punk (which emerged in 1979) fanzines in ’The Aesthetic of Our Anger’ (2016, pp. 157-8)  Matt Grimes draws on another aspect of Gramscis’s work - the organic intellectual
A useful way of investigating the role and practices of zine editors/ producers is through the Gramscian concept of the ‘organic intellectual.’ Antonio Gramsci, writer, Marxist politician and philosopher, argued that every social class forms its own group of intellectuals whose role is to develop and maintain a model or pattern of ideological thoughts, that functions as a means of directing and giving purpose to that class.
He further posited that what emerges from society are two types or groups of intellectuals. The first are ‘traditional’ intellectuals such as teachers, priests, politicians; people who are bound to the institutions of the hegemonic order and serve to legitimate that current system or order. Although at times they articulate the voice of dissent, by asking probing questions of the existing hegemony and its functions, they can never lead the revolutionary class, for them there is no power for revolutionary change. The second type is the ‘organic intellectuals’, those
individuals whom naturally emerge from a social group, or whom that social group extemporaneously creates, in order to advance its own self-awareness and to ensure the interconnectivity and cohesive unity within that social group. The ‘organic intellectual’ must break with the traditional intellectuals of the current hegemonic society and, in doing so, must form his or her own hypotheses to fulfil his or her purpose in providing a revolutionary ideology to that movement.

This suggests that if Hebdige had applied a different Gramscian model, a different understanding of punk could have emerged. In this version, the Year Zero rhetoric of |Malcolm Mclaren and Bernies Rhodes is set against the influence of organic intellectuals from the pre-punk counterculture who passed on their experiences, understandings and values to the punks, facilitating the emergence of punk’s own organic intellectuals.

But then, as we all know, punk is dead so lets us move on from necromancy to the present.

IT Punk is Dead February 1977

Part 7: The Wars of Position- Gramsci In Practice

The “war of position” implies a multi-dimensional conception of political radicalization. Since political subjects are constituted by all social relations not just class ones, political struggle must be waged around all these social relations–race, sex, residence, generation, nationality, etc.–to the extent that they embody relations of oppression and domination, in addition to the class struggle which has a primary role in relation to all the others in the Gramscian system. And since the integral State has bastions of defence throughout civil society, the struggle against the State must be carried on throughout civil society; to isolate the State from without and exacerbate its internal contradictions.  
At the same time, for Gramsci the ability of the working class to develop into a hegemonic force capable of successfully challenging capital depends entirely upon its capacity to develop a new political practice which is not symmetrical with that of the dominant classes. This is to say that, under capitalism, bourgeois politics in a broad sense is the practice of reproducing relations of exploitation and oppression. It is a bureaucratic practice which seeks to enhance the power of the dominant class at the same time that it reduces the dominated to objects, passive actors or supports, accepting subordination or actively consenting rather than providing leadership. 
The working class, if it is to reorganize itself into a hegemonic nucleus and rally around itself the popular forces, cannot simply reproduce within its own institutions and discourses this practice of bureaucratic politics and forms of anti-democratic leadership and organization. Instead, it must consistently produce relations of democratic control and mobilization wherever possible, together with institutions of direct democracy which are consciously antithetical to bureaucratism in all its aspects.  
Only by preparing this asymmetrical practice of politics well before the “war of movement” can the working class insure that once the proletarian State is established it will not degenerate from a leadership of the masses to a dictatorship over the masses.
From https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/periodicals/theoretical-review/19833101.htm

Part 7.1 : Scotland

Over the past four years the future of the archaic United Kingdom has been fought over with a ferocity unseen since the emergence of the neoliberal consensus nearly 40 years ago. As occurred in the seventeenth century, the first phase of the struggle occurred in and with Scotland. The second took place across the UK and its full consequences are as yet unknown.

In Scotland between 2012 and 2014 the reality of ‘hegemony’, the manufacture of consent, was revealed as the full weight of media, politicians and business was directed towards ensuring that Scotland did not vote for independence. Significantly though, support for independence actually grew by about 15% during the campaign and, in the closing days, a Yes vote became a real possibility. In response the No campaign suddenly and unexpectedly offered a whole range of new powers for Scotland.  Wavering voters were told ‘ Vote No and Scotland will have so much autonomy it will be virtually independent anyway.’.

On the 18 September 2014 the result was 55% No, 45% Yes. Scotland remained in the UK, but the result was close enough to leave the door open for a second referendum. This possibility has seen a huge surge in support for the SNP. In the 2015 UK general election, the SNP gained 56 out of Scotland 59 Westminster constituencies. The once dominant Labour party were reduced to one MP in Scotland.

During the 2012-14 independence campaign, the SNP, via their influence over the ‘official’ Yes campaign were very careful to keep a lid on the more reactionary/nationalist elements of the independence movement. This created a space where radical non-nationalist support for independence could develop.

The Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) in particular, with their slogan ‘Another Scotland is Possible’ argued that independence offered Scotland an alternative to the neoliberal austerity policies of the then Conservative/Liberal Democrat UK government.

RIC saw/sees the independence movement as process (war of position) which builds up the strength of the social foundations of a future Scotland by creating alternative institutions and alternative intellectual resources within existing society.

But during the 2016 Scottish election campaign the SNP slogan was ‘Both Votes SNP’. Former allies now became enemies. This ‘bureaucratisation’ of Scottish politics has led to a resurgence of reactionary nationalism which proclaims ‘Independence First’ and argues that parties like the Scottish Green Party or groups like RIC are divisive elements aiding the Unionist cause.

In Scotland then, there are two fronts in the war of position. One front is the struggle is to secure independence. It is a counter-hegemonic struggle directed outward against the UK state and aims to break-it up. This in turn requires building up solid support for independence among the doubtful, people who voted No in 2014 but are no longer certain if that was the right decision. It also requires keeping the ’non-nationalist’ Yes voters on board, especially the more active ones who campaigned for a Yes vote 2012-14.

The second front is the runs parallel with the first. Here the struggle is internal and is another counter-hegemonic struggle, directed against the forces of reactionary nationalism. This struggle ’ must consistently produce relations of democratic control and mobilization wherever possible, together with institutions of direct democracy which are consciously antithetical to bureaucratism in all its aspects.’ The aim is to ensure that, when it comes, will involve substantially more than simply hauling down the Union flag and raising a Saltire in its place.

Part 7.2 : Brexit and the UK’s Internal Crisis

I will leave our old friend Friedrich Engels to have the last word. With a bit of editing, what he had to say in 1842 could easily be applied to the Brexit crisis as moves towards actuality. Of course Friedrich got it wrong in 1842, but if there is a ’hard Brexit’ leading to economic meltdown, could he be right about 2020?

Is a revolution in England possible or even probable? This is the question on which the future of England depends. Put it to an Englishman and he will give you a thousand excellent reasons to prove that there can be no question at all of a revolution. He will tell you that at the moment certainly England is in a critical situation, but thanks to her wealth, her industry and her institutions, she has the ways and means to extricate herself without violent upheavals., that her constitution is sufficiently flexible to withstand the heaviest blows caused by the struggle over principles and can, without danger to its foundations, submit to all the changes forced on it by circumstances.  
He will tell you that even the lowest class of the nation is well aware that it only stands to lose by a revolution, since every disturbance of the public order can only result in a slow-down in business and hence general unemployment and starvation. In short, he will offer you so many clear and convincing reasons that finally you will believe things are really not so very bad in England, and that people on the Continent are indulging in all kinds of fantasies about the situation of this state, which will burst like soap-bubbles in face of obvious reality and a closer acquaintance with the facts.  
And this is the only possible opinion if one adopts the national English standpoint of the most immediate practice, of material interests, i. e., if one ignores the motivating idea, forgets the basis because of the surface appearance, and fails to see the wood for the trees. There is one thing that is self-evident in Germany, but which the obstinate Briton cannot be made to understand, namely, that the so-called material interests can never operate in history as independent, guiding aims, but always, consciously or unconsciously, serve a principle which controls the threads of historical progress. It is therefore impossible that a state like England, which by virtue of its political exclusiveness and self-sufficiency has finally come to lag some centuries behind the Continent, a state which sees only arbitrary rule in freedom and is up to the neck in the Middle Ages, that such a state should not eventually come into conflict with the intellectual progress that has been made in the meantime. Or is that not the picture of the political situation in England?  
Is there any other country in the world where feudalism retains such enduring power and where it remains immune from attack not only in actual fact, but also in public opinion? Is the much-vaunted English freedom anything but the purely formal right to act or not to act, as one sees fit, within the existing legal limits? And what laws they are! A chaos of confused, mutually contradictory regulations, which have reduced jurisprudence to pure sophistry, which are never observed by courts of law since they are not in accord with our times; regulations which allow an honest man to be branded as a criminal for the most innocent behaviour, as long as public opinion and its sense of justice sanctioned it.  
Is not the House of Commons a corporation alien to the people, elected by means of wholesale bribery? Does not Parliament continually trample underfoot the will of the people? Has public opinion on general questions the slightest influence on the government? Is not its power restricted merely to isolated cases, to control over the courts of law and administration? These are all things which even the most obdurate Englishman cannot totally deny, and can such a state of things persist? 
But let us leave aside questions of principle. In England, at any rate among the parties which are now contending for power, among the Whigs and Tories, people know nothing of struggles over principles and are concerned only with conflicts of material interests. It is only fair, therefore, to do justice to this aspect as well. England is by nature a poor country which, apart from her geographical position, her iron and coal mines and some lush pasture-land, has no fertility or other natural riches. She is, therefore, entirely dependent on trade, shipping and industry, and through them she has succeeded in rising to her present heights. By the very nature of things, however, a country which has adopted this course can remain at the heights it has reached only by constantly increasing industrial output; any halt here would be a step backward. 
Further, a natural consequence of the premises of the industrial state is that, in order to protect the source of its wealth, it has to keep out the industrial products of other countries by means of prohibitive import duties. But since the home industry raises the prices of its products in step with the import duties on foreign products, this makes it necessary also to increase import duties constantly, in order that foreign competition shall continue to be eliminated, in accordance with the accepted principle.  
Hence the result would be a two-sided process going on to infinity, and this alone reveals the contradiction inherent in the concept of the industrial state. But we do not need these philosophical categories to show the contradictions in which England is enmeshed. Other people besides the English industrialists have something to say on the question of the two kinds of increase — production and import duties — that we have just considered. 
In the first place, there are the foreign countries, which have their own industry and do not need to turn themselves into an outlet for English products; and then there are the English consumers, who refuse to reconcile themselves to this endless increase in import duties. That is precisely how matters stand as regards the development of the industrial state in England. Foreign countries do not want English products since they themselves produce what they need, while English consumers unanimously demand the abolition of the protective tariffs. From the above, it is clear that England is caught in a twofold dilemma which the industrial state as such is incapable of solving; this is also confirmed by direct observation of the existing state of affairs.