* *


"They (journalists) always ask stupid questions like 'What does mummy think?' you know. They ask 'What's behind it?' Stupid. There's nothing significant or shocking about what we do. We just play for ourselves, to kids like ourselves. There's nothing behind it."
Ian Woodcock of Eater.

"We're not pretending to be dole queue members. We're middle class and we go to school. I can't be a punk when I'm forty, so I'm learning to play tenor sax. Then I can go off and play at Butlin's when I'm past it."
Jeremy Valentine of the Cortinas.

"We don't want to get into a big intellectual thing. We just want to play rock 'n' roll. Just being original is showing intelligence."
Johnny Ramone of the Ramones.

A critique of previous works on PUNK ROCK

The three quotes used as epigrams at the front of this text can all be found in the coffee-table picture book Punk Rock by Virginia Boston (Penguin New York/Plexus London 1978). In some ways it is tempting to simply print these quotes on a post card and mail them around the world with the additional information that this is all that needs to be said about PUNK ROCK. Unfortunately, the more that's written about a subject, the more there is to say about it. With the growth of cultural studies in recent years, a great deal of quasi-academic literature has been produced around the subject of PUNK ROCK. Commentaries generate further commentaries and secondary sources proliferate like flies around a fresh turd.

It has thus become necessary to demonstrate that PUNK ROCK is/was not 'profound', is/was not a 'manifestation of the avant-garde' and that anyone 'looking for the meaning of life in a plastic platter' is wasting their time. I am not arguing that PUNK did/does not reflect the society that produced it; nor that, from the perspectives of cultural studies or sociology, it is pointless to pursue it as an object of study. Nor am I suggesting that those who participated in 'the movement' are able to fix its meaning once and for all. Indeed, as a musical genre I would suggest that rather than being stable and static, PUNK ROCK is fluid and its boundaries are subject to ongoing renegotiation. It is the failure of much quasi-academic writing on the subject to address these issues that invalidates them as works of criticism.

The most absurd book published to date on PUNK ROCK is Break All Rules: Punk Rock And The Making Of A Style by Tricia Henry (UMI Research Press, Ann Arbor 1989). This work appears to be adapted from a Ph.D. dissertation undertaken at New York University's Department of Performance Studies and can be most profitably (mis)read as a parody of academic research. One of the more ludicrous category errors made by Henry is to be found on page 134 of the book where she compares the Billboard chart placings of the songs I'm A Believer and Heroin. Since only the former song was released as a single it is hardly surprising that while it was a number one hit, the latter failed to gain a chart placing at all! It should go without saying that only songs released in a single format are eligible for a place in the Billboard singles chart, although Henry doesn't seem to know this.

Henry also appears ignorant of other books on the subject because she claims in the preface that 'a serious study of punk rock and the evolution of its style has not previously been undertaken' (page ix). The best academic text dealing with this subject is actually One Chord Wonders: Power And Meaning In Punk Rock by Dave Laing (Open University Press, Milton Keynes/Philadelphia 1985); this will be dealt with below. Fourteen of the sixteen research interviews conducted by Henry, and listed in the bibliography (pages 145-6) took place in 1986. Since the bulk of Henry's 'research' appears to have been conducted a year after Laing's book was published, it seems extraordinary that she should be ignorant of it.

Like other writers, Henry also suffers from an extremely simplistic notion of what constitutes both class and genre. On the latter, she sweepingly states that the Sex Pistols were the 'first and most notorious of the punk bands' (page 38). Later in this text I will outline the ways in which genre is socially negotiated, and shall argue against the notion of the Pistols being a 'PUNK' band at all, let alone the 'originators' of this genre. Here, it is enough to note that simply stating, as Henry does, that the Sex Pistols were the 'first' PUNK band, fails to establish the assertion as a fact.
Likewise, Henry takes the rhetoric about class made by various individuals associated with the PUNK ROCK 'movement' at face value, and as completely unproblematic. Thus she baldly claims that 'punk in Britain was essentially a movement consisting of underprivileged working class white youths' (page 67). Again, rather than being stable and static, class is actually a fluid category and the rhetorical use made of this notion by various individuals associated with PUNK can most accurately be described as a form of theatre. I will deal with this below.

As someone who insists on viewing pop music through the prism of the avant-garde, Henry consistently misapplies categories to her material. For example, she claims that transvestism was taken up by glam rockers who were 'preoccupied with subject matter and behaviour that shocked the middle classes' (page 34). This harping on 'épater les bourgeoisie' misses the point because transvestism is as likely to shock blue collar workers as their white collar bosses. Being more firmly rooted in generational than in class differences, rock usually sets out to shock parents in general, and not simply individuals who view themselves as belonging to the middle or upper classes.

Since I'm more interested in PUNK records than erroneous commentaries upon them, I'll skip going over books by the likes of Greil Marcus and Clinton Heylin. In any case, I've reviewed these tomes in magazines such as Variant and Here & Now, so it's pointless exposing their flaws yet again when anybody interested in what I have to say about the subject can read my opinions elsewhere. Unfortunately, Marcus in particular has had an influence on other writers, one example being Neil Nehring author of Flowers In The Dustbin: Culture, Anarchy And Postwar England (University of Michigan Press 1993). It is not worth dealing with this absurd book in any depth and I will confine myself to citing a single example of it's author's inability to differentiate historical fact from the shameless fictions perpetrated in secondary texts. Nehring states on page 276:

The SI [Situationist International] reached its apogee in the May Revolution of 1968, when it's slogans prominently decorated the walls of Paris. George Woodcock in his history of anarchism, cites in particular the slogan 'Imagination is seizing power!'

Of course, 'Power to the Imagination' (there are slight variations in the graffiti and how it was translated, but we can ignore these minor differences in wording) was a battle cry of the March 22nd Movement, and has no bearing on the subject under discussion. In fact, not only is this not a Situationist slogan, the SI criticised the formulation in an unattributed article entitled The Beginning Of An Era (Internationale Situationiste 12, English translation from Situationist International Anthology edited by Ken Knabb, Berkeley 1981):

The movement was... a rejection of art that did not yet know itself as the historical negation of art (a rejection expressed in the poor abstract slogan 'Power to the Imagination' which did not know the means to put this power into practice, to reinvent everything, and which, lacking power, lacked imagination).

It is on the basis of erroneous historical exegesis of this type, which anyone who bothers to read the source material can see is absurd, that a number of hacks have fallaciously claimed that the Situationists were a major influence on the events of May '68, and the PUNK ROCK phenomenon. Indeed, the process of 'historification' is in reality one of 'simplification', where a great diversity of facts are brought under a few clear, simple and hopelessly misleading headings. Thus many of the wilder aspects of sixties and seventies 'counter-culture' have been wrenched out of context and labelled as Situationist when they actually have nothing to do with the term.

Of more interest than the journalist jive churned out by Marcus and his imitators, is Dave Laing's One Chord Wonders: Power And Meaning In Punk Rock. In his introduction, Laing states that 'unlike nearly every other youth subculture (the Teds, Mods, Skinheads etc), punk began as music and punks themselves began as music fans and performers.' This is worth pursuing, because if PUNK is principally a musical genre we can concentrate on records and concerts.

Laing describes the music he views as having preceded and influenced PUNK – bands like the Who, MC5, New York Dolls and Stooges – as 'heavily rhythmic and richly chorded, guitar based with assertive vocals presented... with a white rock intonation, generally eschewing the mannerisms of soul singing.' By and large, this could also be taken as a description of PUNK. However, in PUNK, the singing lacks variety, it is straight rather than embellished. Despite a verse/chorus format, PUNK songs appear formless because heavy distortion is used on the guitar, so that the chords bleed into one another. Likewise, while the drums are syncopated, the bass is not, a break with previous pop traditions. Thus, depending upon which part of the rhythm section the listener concentrates on, a PUNK song may appear as forward driven or having reached a point of stasis.

However, Laing does not understand the lyrical content of PUNK (or indeed other forms of rock and pop music) which he tends to treat with a gravity that they do not deserve. Likewise, he has failed to grasp the fluid nature of PUNK as a musical genre and does not understand the forces that set it in motion or the direction in which it moves. Much of what Laing treats as PUNK simply doesn't cut it as such today, for example, the Stranglers (they have keyboards all over their records rather than being dominated by guitars, which Laing himself describes as defining the PUNK sound), or the Fall (art shit).

There are major problems with the table of lyric contents in Laing's book (page 27) which compares the first albums by the Damned, Clash, Stranglers, Sex Pistols and Vibrators to the Top 50 best selling singles in Britain in 1976. Most obviously problematic is the categorisation of London Lady by the Stranglers as belonging 'on the borderline between the "romantic" and "sexuality" categories, since the vocalist describes his "lady" in a highly objectified and hostile manner' (page 28). Clearly, Laing has difficulty in understanding rock lyrics (and as I've already observed, the Stranglers are not a PUNK band), because this song is actually a character assassination of the journalist Caroline Coon and should therefore be placed either in the novelty or personal feelings categories, it has nothing to do with romance.

Likewise, PUNK is assigned 0% novelty lyrics as opposed to 8% of the Top 50 records. Many of the PUNK lyrics attributed to other categories could equally well be understood as novelty items. Indeed, the genesis of PUNK itself is best understood as a dialectical interplay between the notions of novelty and genre which are projected further and further backwards as the world races into the future. Certainly, when I was fourteen years old and stumbled across the Sex Pistols in the autumn of 1976 on the So It Goes TV show, the group and their music appeared unprecedented to me. Two years later, when a seventeen year old told me that upon hearing Anarchy In The UK he thought it was going to cause a revolution, I could not refrain from laughing. Such literalism is ludicrous. Nevertheless, I must admit that at the close of 1976 I considered Anarchy In The UK and Teenage Depression by Eddie And The Hot Rods to be the best records ever made because, to my young ears (used to Chuck Berry, Geno Washington and T. Rex), they appeared to be the most novel songs ever recorded. However, this opinion was soon to change. Having begun reading the music press, I quickly became hip to the existence of Patti Smith, the MC5, Iggy And The Stooges, the New York Dolls, the Dictators, Richard Hell etc.

What I'm saying here is that our perceptions change over time. Thus, when I first heard Anarchy In The UK, on a TV show several months before it was released as a record, it appeared unprecedented, but within a year I realised that there were all sorts of precedents for it... Today – sod it, I'm gonna have to break my flow, get up and put the damn thing on my record player. The last time I can actually remember hearing the whole record in a single sitting was sometime last year in a pub called the Sugar Loaf, opposite the Masonic Grand Lodge in Holborn.

Problems, problems, I no longer have a seven inch copy of the Anarchy In The UK single and, in any case, I seem to remember there being two different mixes. Instead, I located my copy of Never Mind The Bollocks which includes the single. Listening to it again, it sounds a bit leaden and I'm left thinking how much I dislike Paul Cook's drumming, real meat and potatoes stuff, awful! Anyway, half way through the song the needle starts jumping all over the place, the platter is scratched.

Next, I pull out my copy of Kiss This plus bonus Live In Trondheim CD which I picked up for a fiver. The track sounds better on CD, tinnier, trashier. Has it been remixed or is this just the effect of two listenings in a row? I can't be bothered to work this out. Anyway, I still hate the drumming. Musically it comes across as an average to good rock record (the drumming really pulls it down); lyrically it still sounds like a novelty production (one great rhyme 'anarchist' with 'get pissed', which is almost as good as the Modern Lovers rhyming 'Picasso' and 'asshole'). Part of the problem seems to be that familiarity breeds contempt. More than anything else, Anarchy In The UK sounds like history.

The next thing I do is put on the Bollock Brothers version of the song. It sounds much better than the Sex Pistols, this is a full blooded novelty record! Johnny Rotten's voice is too expressive to work well on novelty or PUNK songs, he sounds like an artiste. Finally, I pull out a copy of The Great Rock 'N' Roll Swindle and play the Sex Pistols medley by the Black Arabs, which kicks off with a disco rendition of Anarchy. I like this even more than the Bollock Brothers. It still sounds fresh, partly because I've never been subjected to it in a pub. Whenever I've listened to the medley, it was after making a conscious decision to utilise it as a piece of entertainment.

What I'm establishing is that my perception of Anarchy In The UK and the Sex Pistols has changed over time. I'm not an essentialist. As far as I'm concerned, objects and ideas derive their meaning from their relationship to each other. There are no Platonic ideals or stable meanings. If PUNK, as the odd 'critic' has absurdly claimed, was a modern day version of Dada, I could conclude this discourse right now with the following observations: Anarchy In The UK was a novelty record; Anarchy In The UK was a PUNK record; therefore all novelty records are PUNK records. Unfortunately, the relationship between Dadaism, Situationism and PUNK is more elliptical than self-styled 'contemporary cultural critics' make out and so there remains much that needs to be said about it.

Part of the problem with PUNK is that as soon as strict definitions are applied to the subject, it begins to disappear. Common sense dictates that what we're dealing with is obvious, and yet, when we add the dimension of historical consciousness to our discussion, the subject eludes us. However, this problem isn't insurmountable, the differences between PUNK, new wave, hardcore etc, are socially negotiated. There is a good deal of agreement in the way specialist record shops categorise the goods they sell. What I've got to say here is based on the record shops I frequent, London branches of Record and Tape Exchange, Rhythm Records, Wreckless Records, Rough Trade, Select-A-Disk, Mr CD etc. For a start, there is a well established distinction between PUNK, hardcore and indie. Likewise, a distinction is sometimes made between PUNK and new wave, or seventies PUNK and later (which tends to be hardcore, or at least veering that way). Similarly, much of the output of groups who would have been considered 'PUNK' in 1977 (for example the Sex Pistols, Clash, Damned, Stranglers, Television, Blondie, Talking Heads, Boomtown Rats, Wire) has been assimilated into the rock and pop sections of specialist record shops, and can also be found in ordinary high street outlets. So again, we're seeing that PUNK as a musical genre is fluid, that it changes over time and that one of the ways in which it is socially negotiated is in the way record shops categorise the music they're selling. Of course, the social negotiation of a genre such as PUNK is also visible in the music press and specialist magazines such as Record Collector, in the interaction between musicians and their audiences, in the activities of record companies etc.

Before I began writing this text it seemed logical to take the position that, in fact, there was no such thing as a PUNK band, there were only PUNK records. However, since the subject is proving pretty elusive as it is, adopting such a rigorous approach would require too much hard work. After all, it is in itself fairly perverse to write thousands of words to prove that PUNK ROCK, something a few idiots (such as Groovy Greil Marcus) consider profound, is actually trivial. Partly my desire to make this point stems from an ingrained opposition to 'serious culture' and a wish to overthrow it. The decadence of high cultural discourse is revealed by the fact that its apologists feel the need to shore it up by appropriating PUNK ROCK and similar phenomena. Since the theorising of imbeciles such as Marcus is so inept, sabotaging his reactionary project does not require much effort. The fact that I am able to take 'intellectual' short cuts reflects my attitude to the subject under discussion, which as I have already said, is not of any great consequence. Of course, insisting that there were no PUNK bands, only PUNK records, would resolve the difficulty of how to treat the output of the Clash, but it would also create fresh problems. How, for example, do you deal with a band like Generation X, in many ways an archetypal PUNK band, who made pop rather than PUNK records?

Related to the changes in our perception of PUNK, are changes in consumer technology, most obviously in terms of the introduction of the Walkman and the CD. The Walkman put music right in my ears and enabled me to decipher lyrics that I'd been hearing for years without ever being able to work out what was being sung. Since I generally listen to my Walkman when I'm travelling on the underground, it's a waste of time playing spoken word cassettes or experimental music because of the background noise. As a consequence, this technology greatly increased the amount of PUNK ROCK that I heard. Again, PUNK is ideally suited to functions such as random play on CD, because track order is generally not of much consequence to the genre. Likewise, a great many PUNK songs that have been deleted for years are suddenly available again on CD.

Staying with the forces that shape PUNK as a genre, it's obvious that perception of a genre changes not only over time, but also according to the level of interest any given individual has in a particular area of music, or whatever. Thus, in recent years, there have been television advertised 'PUNK' compilation albums featuring groups such as the Jam, Stranglers, Members etc, whose individual records long ago moved out of the PUNK category and into the rock (or in the Jam's case perhaps the Mod) section of specialist record shops. In 1977, Phonogram was able to pass off its New Wave album (featuring the Ramones, Dead Boys, Patti Smith, New York Dolls, Runaways, Skyhooks, Richard Hell, Little Bob Story, Boomtown Rats, Talking Heads, Damned and Flamin' Grovies) as a PUNK platter. Such a record would not appeal to dedicated punk collectors today. The last punk compilation I bought (as opposed to blagged) was Back To Front Volume 4 featuring Tits, Pekinska Patka, Standbys, Eat, Hurskas, P!I!G!Z!, Ignerents, M'n'M's, News, Fast Cars, Lightning Raiders, Johnny Concrete, Knots, Anorexia, Windows, Rocks, City Kent, Tot Rocket And The Twins and Victimize. This CD was first issued in 1994, and the tracks it contains were recorded between 1978 and 1981. While I can recall seeing features in the British music press about everyone on the New Wave compilation, with the sole exception of the Skyhooks, and many of these acts achieved UK chart placings, I've never seen any coverage of the bands featured on Back To Front Volume 4. Indeed most of them have never had any product released in the UK. The tracks were originally issued in runs of a few hundred, selling to a very limited market in various parts of Europe, Australia and the United States, while the CD was compiled by Incognito Records of Germany.

What I'm beginning to expose is why the subject under discussion is so elusive; 'opposition' to the 'mainstream' is one of the things that defines PUNK to those engaged with the discourse. 'Real' PUNK tends to be invisible, because as soon as a group gains a mass audience, they cease being a PUNK band and become a rock or pop act. Of course, the idea that PUNK is 'underground', or at least 'oppositional', is problematic in terms of those post-modern theories that view our epoch as a time of proliferating margins. But then that part of the PUNK audience that has any interest in post-modernism is more than capable of resolving this 'contradiction' by adopting a pose of 'ironic' consumption. Besides, coherence is death, whereas living cultures are generated from the tensions generated around clusters of contradiction. With PUNK, one such cluster of tensions is formed around the twin poles of popularism and elitism. While late seventies PUNK musicians, as 'dole queue rockers', indulge(d) in a great deal of rhetoric about accessibility and equality, many of the figures associated with the 'new wave' explosion were eager to join the jet-set rock elite, with their original fans being equally happy to abandon their 'heroes' to a mass audience, denouncing these 'idols' as sell-outs while simultaneously transferring their allegiance to less commercially successful bands.

There is a long tradition of snobbish individuals attempting to derive social status from the cult of obscurity, and the results are at times hilarious. Series of punk compilation albums such as Killed By Death or Back To Front appeal to the elitism of those who enjoy listening to records that their neighbours don't own. Of course, a lot of the music is damn fine but the fact that no one has heard of the bands enables those buying the records/CDs (or cassettes in the case of the Hardcore History series issued by Destroy Tapes of Hackney, London) to feel that they aren't part of the herd and are capable of searching out rare gems of culture. However, while I'd never heard of a good many of the bands featured on the Back To Front series before their music was issued on these compilations, the very first track on the first side of volume one was not only by a band that were familiar to me, I'd also seen them play live. The sleeve notes for Idi Amin by the K9's (1979, UK) are intended to reassure purchasers that this track is suitably obscure, thereby confirming their 'esoteric' tastes: 'this band is from England. They released only one 3 track EP, which was limited to 1000 copies.' I can imagine listeners who didn't attend late seventies PUNK gigs in south-east England thinking the K9's were seriously unknown, whereas I had a strange sense of deja vu. Not only had I seen the band supporting someone bigger, and possibly more than once, but at the time I hadn't thought much of them. Actually, I was pleasantly surprised by the song, which was much better than I remembered the band being live. Maybe it was just a bad gig or perhaps I wasn't in the right frame of mind.
However, it's not as though at least some of the people putting out and/or buying this stuff aren't consciously aware of these contradictions. Perhaps the best album of this type is the bootleg Feel Lucky Punk? which features the following sleeve notes:

Greetings, Collector Scum! And welcome to the world of SNOTTY, OBNOXIOUS, 2-CHORD PUNK ROCK! This here album contains 22 fine examples o' straight-ahead, hard hitting, loud-fast-stupid '77-'78 rarities from AUSTRALIA, the USA and even 1 from a crew o' Swiss alpine yoddlers! No faggy speed-metal guitar virtuosos, no Dischordian 'awareness' – just plain ole violent, simple and sexist hate-mongering PUNK-ROCK, recorded while Henry Rollins was 'rocking' to Kansas.

Here, of course, we find another of the contradictions out of which PUNK ROCK is generated, the dialectical interplay between the 'authentic' and the 'counterfeit.' The problem with self-styled 'contemporary cultural critics' is that they are so concerned with the former that they inevitably expose themselves as the latter. Imagine actually liking the Au Pairs and the Gang Of Four! Groovy Greil Marcus doesn't seem to realise that his enthusiasm for bands with university backgrounds, combined with a deeply intolerant attitude towards phenomena such as Oi!, exposes him as an exponent of class prejudice and petit-bourgeois values.

Previous: Introduction to the Spanish edition

Next: Chapter II: Blood Splattered With Guitars

Cranked Up Really High contents

Cranked Up Really High cover
UK 2nd edition

Cranked Up Really High cover first
UK 1st edition

Cranked Up Really High cover Italy
In Italian

Cranked Up Really High by Stewart Home Spanish cover
In Spanish

Cranked Up Really High by Stewart Home in Italian, 2nd edition
2nd edition in Italian

Roger Sabin, editor, Punk Rock: So What? The cultural legacy of punk, Routledge, London and New York, 1999, 258 pp, 40b/w illus, pb, 0 415 17030 3.
The editor of this book hopes it will '(re)construct punk in a new and exciting way.' Sabin's anthology is filled with tensions and contradictions but both the editor and his contributors tend to retreat from the unorthodox positions they set out to champion. This failure can be illustrated by David Huxley's evasion of my claim in the book Cranked Up Really High that the Sex Pistols weren't a punk band. Huxley baldly states that: "Although Home's argument is interesting, the fact that the Sex Pistols are widely held to be synonymous with punk makes this a difficult position to maintain." Huxley's ruminations stop there and he might just as well assert that since under feudalism many people in Europe believed the earth was flat, it was de facto flat at that time.

Editor Roger Sabin also fails to engage satisfactorily with some of the works he cites. In the footnotes to his essay "I Won't Let That Dago By: Rethinking punk and racism" Sabin states: "The best theoretical background to race politics, for our purposes, is Gilroy." In There Ain't No Black In The Union Jack, Paul Gilroy argues for broadly based black liberation struggles. Rather than developing Gilroy's critique of a narrow anti-racism that falls back on bigoted stereotypes, Sabin sets out to disprove the ridiculous contention that 'punk was essentially solid with the anti-racist cause'. Given the propensity of those involved in punk towards 'extremist' provocation, it is difficult to imagine anyone outside a tiny coterie of ideologically motivated revisionists claiming - let alone believing - that taken en bloc punk is 'anti-racist'.

Sabin's sensationalist approach leads to distortions. He stresses the prevalence of racism in the British Isles during the seventies, for example: "The Labour government itself was far from non-racist... Culturally, racist gags were everywhere..." The implication is that British society has become less racist over the past twenty years. Unfortunately, while the ways in which racism is configured has changed, bigotry does not appear to have diminished. One only has to think of Stephen Lawrence or the recent nail bomb attacks in Brixton, Brick Lane and Soho. Likewise, Tony Blair's current labour government is 'far from non-racist', particularly in terms of its immigration policies, while racist jokes and stereotypes are still common currency on the comedy circuit.

While I agree with Sabin's criticism of the racism in songs such as Puerto Rican by Adam And The Ants, it is disappointing that he should choose to take an offensive line from this ditty to use as the main title of his essay, where it appears detached from the context of critical discussion. I talked to the band about the song in the late-seventies at a time when they were still performing it. They claimed it was anti-racist and ironically confronted the listener with bigotry. Regardless of the group's intention, the result was still racist. Puerto Rican has never been officially released and Sabin uses this as evidence that 'punk's racist leanings (intentional or otherwise)... has been 'edited out' of history over the years." Describing this process as 'editing' implies complicity between too many people - rock journalists, publishers, record companies, musicians - to be credible. The factors involved are considerably more complex.

Sabin's argument is cleverly but not convincingly constructed. Perhaps the most basic blunder is Sabin's misreading of anarchism: "there's the... question of the politics of punk... One major strand has centred on (1976-79) punk's supposedly 'left-wing' credentials, and what kind of anarchism it stood for - if any." Contra Sabin, anarchism covers a broad range of political positions, many of which are far removed from anything that could be described as 'left-wing'. Indeed, academics such as Zeev Sternhell have produced whole books about how fascism first emerged from the convergence of anarchist and monarchist currents in France at the turn of the twentieth-century.

Anyone who has read the major anarchist propagandists is unlikely to view this doctrine as left-wing or progressive. Proudhon, the nineteenth-century founder of anarchism, wrote in his diaries: "The Jew is the enemy of the human race. This race must be sent back to Asia or exterminated." Bakunin, a towering figure within the anarchist movement, was also virulently anti-Semitic. Rapports personnels avec Marx: provides a typical example of Bakunin's racism: "This whole Jewish world, comprising a single exploiting sect, a kind of blood sucking people, a kind of organic collective parasite... (is) at the disposal of Marx on the one hand, and Rothschild on the other..." If Sabin's reading of anarchism was a little more informed he might have found himself drawing out the ways in which both this political doctrine and punk rock produce white identities and white subjectivities. Such an approach would provide a more effective challenge to punk racism than rhetoric that daisy chains the terms left-wing, progressive and anti-racist, and through such associations falsely implies anarchism is a bulwark against bigotry.

While Sabin is more sophisticated than many of his contributors, as the editor of this collection he must accept some responsibility for the outpourings of Robert Garnett. Having discussed Jamie Reid's interventions during the course of mass working class struggles such as miners' strikes, Garnett opines: "When... Reid received the call... to work for the Sex Pistols he seized the opportunity to put the above strategies into practice in the context of pop culture on a much larger scale. This time it was for real..." (my emphasis). I do not view producing advertising material for a second rate pop group as more significant than participation in struggles that culminated in the three day week and the fall of a government. It is difficult to take this book seriously precisely because it propagates such preposterous and reactionary nonsense.
First published in Art Monthly #229, September 1999.