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WE MEAN IT MAN: PUNK ROCK AND ANTI-RACISM
While Sabin suggests that some of the bands who played RAR benefits suffered from unconscious racist blind spots (Joy Division, Sham 69, the Art Attacks, and Adam and the Ants), his article would have been more illuminating if he'd examined the relationship between musicians who have been accused of expressing racist and/or fascist views and SWP front groups, as well as the effect (if any) this anti-racist organisation had on the subsequent development of those who supported it. (2) Since bands with managers were able to appear at RAR events without having any contact with the organisation, I will deal with an example of this type of "non-connection" before moving onto more complex interactions between punk rockers and Trotskyism. Edwin Pouncey who fronted the Art Attacks in the late-seventies was horrified to discover that Sabin considered his band's song Arabs In 'Arrads to be racist: "I didn't write the lyrics to that song, they were by our drummer John Haney. But all our songs were little stories, they weren't necessarily written from our point of view. We certainly never shopped in Harrods, so it didn't bother us who went there. We played Arabs In 'Arrads for RAR and no one complained about it. RAR phoned us up and asked us to play, our manager dealt with them. He thought it was a good idea to do RAR, we didn't have any problems with them, they paid our manager and he split the money between us." (3)
On the late-seventies punk scene the Art Attacks were not considered to have an image problem - indeed, since their bass player Marion Fudger worked for the feminist paper Spare Rib, they could even be seen as having a certain political cache. However, RAR was not averse to putting on bands that could draw a crowd but were considered politically suspect by the music press. The official RAR publication Temporary Hoarding ran a Lucy Toothpaste interview with Adam and the Ants, a band that Sabin takes to task for their song Puerto Rican. The feature is accompanied by a picture of the band playing a benefit for RAR on 17 June 1978. Despite allowing the Ants to play RAR benefits, the organisation nevertheless shows considerable hostility towards them: "Adam and the Ants phoned us up to say they wanted to play gigs for Rock Against Racism. This didn't seem to fit in with the accusations their reviewers are always making that this band have an unhealthy interest in the Nazis. Well, we don't believe what we read in the music press either, but we decided to interrogate - I mean, interview - them, anyway...." (4) The interview kicked off with the band being asked why they wanted to play RAR gigs. Drummer Dave Barbarossa explained:
"It's in my interest, isn't it! I'm a darkie! How can they call us a Nazi band when we've got a coloured drummer! I've got a jewish mother and the other side of my family is black. I mean surely I must be the most anti-Nazi and anti-racist bloke! If the National Front ever get in power I'll be kicked out of the country right away. I wouldn't go around supporting people who wrote songs in favour of Nazism. I've got a kid and wife you know. I've got a lot to worry about if they get in. That's why doing these gigs are good for the band because it's important to do this just to clear the air...
RAR: Well you've made it clear that you personally don't believe in fascism. But the whole Nazi thing is often treated as though it had a sort of sordid glamour about it, which might appeal to people who are fed up and frustrated and think it sounds more exciting than boring everyday life. Don't you think that doing songs like these might encourage that?
DAVE: The blokes I went to school with are all in the National Front now, they've told me to my face, and I've been beaten up by the NF, my brother has, because I live in Wood Green - and if I thought I was playing in a group that was furthering - bringing out their fantasies and making them a reality - or sort of helping the National Front, I'd leave. Fucking hell. They're just humorous songs, they're really funny, you can laugh at Nazism in those songs, instead of being frightened...
(RAR) Dave says the songs make fun of Nazism. But then Adam lets the cat out of the bag (and it is a tom cat). He finds little German girls appealing. Perhaps he finds the concentration camps appalling - but you wouldn't know it from the song...
(DAVE): I'm not a politician cos I can't get it together to think - the moment I start thinking about politics all these things start coming up, and I wonder how they got there in the first place. And so the only thing we can do is play these gigs and raise some money for you and support you publicly....
(RAR conclusion addressed to the reader rather than the band) So now you know."
While RAR were happy to take the money raised by Adam and the Ants, the organisation clearly felt nothing but contempt for the band, so it is perhaps not surprising that the alliance between this mismatched pairing didn't last long. (5) RAR enjoyed a longer term relationship with "political" punk band Crisis who not only journeyed to many parts of the UK to play RAR benefits, but also did a tour of Norway organised by this SWP front. The close relationship between Crisis and RAR was facilitated by the fact that the punk group's bassist Tony Wakeford was a dues-paying member of the Socialist Workers Party. Equally fortuitously, rhythm guitarist Doug Pearce belonged to the International Marxist Group (Tariq Ali's operation) which helped the band to get Anti-Nazi League gigs, since IMG members worked themselves into positions of power within this broadly based alliance. Wakeford's political affiliations served to secure yet more gigs connected to the Right To Work campaign (another SWP front) which with the lure of new wave rock music had no trouble attracting punks to events that might be viewed as conflicting with the subculture's anti-work ethos.
Despite their anti-fascist activism - reflected in lyrics such as: "search and destroy, search and destroy the Nazis, the National Front, smash the National Front, annihilate, annihilate, annihilate" and "I am a militant, I am a picket, I fought at Lewisham, I fought at Grunwick" (6) - Crisis eventually became disillusioned with Trotskyism. At the time Doug Pearce bewailed: "But what I wish was that the left would see us on their side instead of the enemy. I mean we feel more alienated at their gigs than ordinary ones. They don't give us any credit and the money we get they don't even donate in our name! The left in general are really weird, they're still scared of punk, and that's why a lot of progress hasn't been made." (7) Wakeford speaking about the Crisis-ANL-RAR alliance many years later spat: "It ended because we were used by political parties, whose very nature, especially near the top, were full of self-seeking people. The stories are legend and it is too boring to go into. We got fucked." (8)
There appear to have been two interrelated problems in the relationship Crisis developed with organisations such as RAR. Despite their membership of Trotskyist groups, the lyrics Pearce and Wakeford wrote all too often show them sliding into anarchism - "I don't need your flag and I won't kiss it, I don't need your law, you can stick it up your arse..." from Militant; "Don't rebel you won't get thanked, you'll just get run over by a tank, don't wanna buy the Morning Star, just be a boss in your big black car.." from Back In The USSR; and "We hate all the coppers and they're just a bunch of Nazis, SPG, SPG..." from SPG. These anarchic tendencies were even more obvious in the way Pearce (with back up from Wakeford) ran the group - remaining staunchly "independent" and refusing to deal with managers or major record labels against the wishes of other band members. In the eighties, anarchist bands were to run campaigns against major record labels, whereas Trotskyists would sign the biggest deal they could get in the interests of putting their message across to the broadest possible audience. Despite the lip service they paid to Trotskyism, Pearce and Wakeford were in practice closer to Proudhonian anarchism.
The inability of Crisis to tow the party line was a problem for the SWPers who organised many of their RAR concerts, but it would have been resolved more readily if Wakeford had not been a "comrade" (blame was inevitably deflected from him). Incompatibility combined with the undisciplined nature of the band and their friends - who got in fights with fascists, rival punk gangs and even each other - created tensions. These pressures often resulted in the band being treated shabbily, for example not having their expenses fully covered and not being thanked for their work. There were even instances when the band turned up to do a RAR concert only to find that the PA they'd been promised had failed to materialise, or else the equipment was faulty (in one instance this resulted in Doug Pearce being hospitalised after receiving a serious electric shock).
There is a notion that explains a great deal not only about punk rock in general and Crisis in particular, but also the subsequent evolution of both Pearce and Wakeford. - and that is a hankering after "authenticity". The motive force in everything Pearce and Wakeford have done as "adults" is not politics but aesthetics. It was an aesthetic desire for "authenticity" that led them to join Trotskyist groups despite the fact that they were dandies. Pearce, in particular, has always behaved as though it is possible to live differently in this world - a prima donna act in which he pretends to have risen above capitalism while the commodity economy is still intact - and all of anarchism is evident in this aesthetic pose. Aesthetically (and therefore politically) Crisis were much closer to anarchist noise merchants such as Crass than later "Trotskyist" bands from the Redskins to Blaggers ITA (whose bolshevism was an outgrowth of Bakuninism, whereas both Pearce and the Crass are much closer to the anarchism of Proudhon). Crisis wanted to be "real" and utilised politics as a short cut to realising what is ultimately an aesthetic position. In chasing the chimera of personal authenticity rather than the reality of revolutionary transformation, Pearce and Wakeford came to believe their political posturing was sincere. This fanatical but nonetheless deluded self-belief in a political mission was the basis on which Crisis sold themselves to their fans (some of whom were actually attracted by the hilarious gap between what Pearce and Wakeford believed about themselves and what they actually represented). Given the inability of the aesthetically driven Crisis to deliver on what they'd declared as their political positions, it is hardly surprising that the dominant members of the band ended up breaking with RAR and ultimately conventional Trotskyism.
Despite their disillusionment with leftism and popular fronts, when Pearce and Wakeford formed a new band called Death In June (DIJ) their first gig was a benefit for Workers Against Racism (a cat's paw of the Revolutionary Communist Party) at Central London Polytechnic towards the end of 1981. At this stage, anyone puzzled by the para-military uniforms and fascist symbolism utilised by DIJ was offered reassurance along the lines of: "When we first formed we were investigating fascism, no bones about that. It's interesting to see what this tainted ideology which has been so powerful had to say in the beginning." (9) The fact that DIJ had publicly affirmed their support for anti-racism by playing a WAR benefit appeared to confirm this. While the lyrical content of songs such as Till The Living Flesh Is Burned betrayed an unhealthy interest in Nazism, for a time it seemed possible that DIJ had an anti-fascist agenda. However, interviews with Doug Pearce dating from the mid-eighties onwards make it clear that if DIJ set out with the intention of demystifying fascism, they were nonetheless confused about the issues involved.
This is what Pearce had to say about the Night of the Long Knives to the music paper Sounds in 1985: "Our interest doesn't come from killing all opposition, as it's been interpreted, but from identification with or understanding of the leftist elements of the SA which were purged, or murdered by the SS. That day is extremely important in human history... They were planning execution or overthrow of Hitler, so he wouldn't be around. We'd be living in a completely different world, I should imagine... It's fascinating that a few people held the destiny of the world and mankind in their hands for those few hours and let it slip, and it could've gone either way." (10) It is clear from this that Pearce lacks not only any understanding of politics and history, but plain common sense. Since the brownshirts represented the "left-wing" within National Socialism, they were necessarily fascists. It is the nature of fascist movements to expand or collapse. If Hitler had been replaced as head of the German state by another Nazi leader in 1934 it would have made little difference to "the world" and "mankind" - since resentment about the Versailles treaty was one of the things that brought the Nazis to power and was leading inextricably to war. Likewise, the culture of anti-semitism that had poisoned much of Europe for hundreds of years was exploited by the Nazis for propaganda purposes and the entire National Socialist leadership was eager to take this racism to a murderous conclusion.
What is going on beneath Pearce's meaningless bluff about "the destiny of the world" is so obvious that it hardly needs explaining: the Trotskyist myth of betrayal is being attached to National Socialism with Hitler becoming Stalin and Ernst Rohm becoming Trotsky. As if to notify the world that his conversion to "left"-fascism is complete, Pearce raved elsewhere: "At the start of the eighties, Tony and I were involved in radical left politics and beneath it history students. In search of a political view for the future we came across National Bolshevism which is closely connected with the SA hierarchy. People like Gregor Strasser and Ernst Röhm who were later known as 'second revolutionaries' attracted our attention." (11)
However, being a firm believer in contradictions, Pearce has offered other explanations for his interest in fascism when it has been broached via the issue of his enthusiasm for dressing up in Nazi uniforms: "The question did arise but they (the music press) approached it from the right angle, the fetishistic side, the attraction within of a uniform, there's a certain kind of appeal, a sexual power to the thing." (12) This is a rather hackneyed tactic. Pearce defends his interest in Nazi uniforms on the basis that it is a manifestation of his sexuality. If Pearce merely dressed up in fascist togs at home, one would certainly think of him as sad but he would attract less criticism than he does by projecting this "fetish" in public. Being gay does not justify a liking for the garb of fascist oppressors. A distinction needs to be made here between commoditised sexual fetishism and gay liberation. The so called pink pound and the commercialisation of sex do not threaten capitalism, they buttress it, whereas the struggle for human emancipation from the commodity economy - which must necessarily include gay liberation - attacks the sexual fetishisation of oppression and its master Profit.
Pearce has consistently marketed DIJ on the basis that aesthetic fascism can be sold as pornography. The technique is simply now you see it, now you don't, or as Pearce puts it: "Our subjects have a political significance, but in a much more oblique way, we don't say, it's this or it's that, like the way Crisis did. It's in this way we're different." (13) More accurately, DIJ are sold - and it is necessary to emphasise salesmanship since this is Pearce's forte (he is a businessman who runs a record label which releases both his own output and that of other "artists") - on the basis that the "group" might be politically dodgy. Contradictory messages are circulated and the fans can then spend hours wrestling with the problem of whether or not DIJ are fascists. DIJ's game-plan for increased market penetration entails a constant slippage between the aesthetic and the political. Pearce uses symbols associated with Nazism but champions right-wing anarchism as a political creed, often articulating his free market doctrine in occult or religious terms: "I am my own religion. I am my own faith. To believe in oneself is the final cult. It's the only real magic which really works. That's why it's also the most difficult." (14) But given the principle of contradiction on which he works, Pearce has also claimed: "The work itself was always deemed more important than the cultivation of individual egos or personalities. Symbols are more suggestive of DIJ's work than bland mug shots." (15) Or spinning off in a slightly different direction: "My actions are instinctual. I feel sometimes I am too much a puppet of my destiny. But my path is constantly re-affirmed, so... I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing!" (16) In other words, drumming to the beat of commodity fetishism, making money by shifting product.
Pearce's trick of sliding from one thing to another quickly becomes tiresome, particularly when it is premised on such a shallow manipulation of symbols. Nevertheless, done as if in earnest this con attracts an audience on the Gothic and Industrial scenes (youth subcultures). A typical example of Pearce's sales pitch is given by former Crass fan Robert Forbes in his book Misery and Purity: A History and Personal Interpretation of Death In June where the title track of the album Brown Book is discussed as "a trap that was set and sprung." (17) The title "was taken from the books of the same name which were published before WWII reporting the conditions in Nazi Germany and then after that war by the East German authorities listing Nazi and war criminals supposedly living in West Germany and their influence over that country." Over a vocal rendition of the Nazi battle anthem The Horst Wessel are various voices taped in German, including a shout of "Achtung" (warning). Doug Pearce is allowed to explain: "No matter what I did I was accused of being this, that and the other, by the music press. I thought, alright, let's go all out. On that album I went for contradictions... A Brownshirt is talking about a variety of matters and taking an idiotic stand on some things that were completely anti-SA and much more SS. He accused the SS of being homosexuals which is what the SA were infamous for. That speech was juxtaposed by the half-jewish grandmother saying that life was like jumping from one ice float to another, with each jump they get smaller and smaller. The end is inevitable."
So, by juxtaposing obvious and well known Nazi symbolism with some relatively obscure anti-Nazi elements, Pearce imagines he has sprung a trap! Forbes quotes him as saying: "Some people view the name, image and words of a group on such a superficial level that misinterpretations are bound to occur. However, that happens all the time in life - there are loads of stupid people about." (18) Elsewhere, Pearce defends his use of fascist imagery by saying: "Obviously people have fallen into the trap of taking it on a surface value. That is their problem." (19) This cuts two ways, firstly there are those who identify with the symbolism Pearce is utilising, then there are those who oppose it. Pearce imagines he benefits both ways, since hysterical attacks upon DIJ fuel speculation that he is dodgy and thus help shift units of his product to those wanting to consume fascism as pornography. Pearce is a businessman and it is a matter of indifference to him if his fans join far-Right groups such as White Aryan Resistance or Green Anarchist - all that interests him is making money: "Too many people rely upon others to carry them - to accept their responsibilities for them. That is one of the reasons why I now work alone in DIJ. If I need help I work with other leaders. There is no room for passengers. Everyone must speak for themselves. The time for excuses is at an end." (20) From the quotes that are laced through Forbes' book it is apparent that as time has gone on, Pearce became increasingly immersed in fascist modes of thinking. What Pearce might imagine is his Great Wall Of China - a split between aesthetic and political positions - turns out on examination to be as flimsy as the supposedly impregnable Maginot Line: "DIJ unlike the past have nothing to do with conventional politics. We have nothing to tell or offer anybody in that department." (21) The right-wing (individualistic) anarchism to which Pearce subscribes politically was one of the main currents that fed into ideological fascism. Rather than being separate and distinct, Pearce's political and aesthetic positions are very closely related. Indeed, Proudhon was acclaimed as the founder of National Socialism during the Nazi occupation of France, and Pearce's xenophobic views are very close to those of the founding father of anarchism: "I think European culture is the most important in the world and it's threatened by other principal cultures, for example American, Soviet. Whereas it has so much to offer, we should be proud of it." (22)
Rather than Pearce controlling the symbolism he is using, the symbolism controls him - as long ago as January 1984 he had to sack his song writing partner Tony Wakeford from DIJ for getting involved with Patrick Harrington and the Strasserite faction of the National Front. (23) Likewise, for Pearce all recent history revolves around Hitler: "The most influential man of this century has been Adolf Hitler! He's shaped the world we live in today with his hate and destruction." (24) Pearce has no understanding of historical causality, the hate and destruction Hitler exploited was produced by a wide range of factors that cannot be attributed to a single man. Asked why he wears the death's head, Pearce produced a reply that was every bit as stupid as his outburst about Hitler: "I just do, that's all. The identification for me in those elements is like total belief, that's why I'm fascinated, y'know? I'm still searching for total belief." (25) There is a stage in child development where babies who are totally dependent on the care of others believe they are omnipotent, and despite reaching middle-age Pearce is unable to dispense with this delusion. His desire to believe that a handful of men shape history reflects his inability to grow up. Since Pearce would like to be a great man, he is unable to accept that such men do not exist and that rather than being "destined" to join them, he is simply an ego-maniac. While Pearce has been doubly infantalised by his job as a pop singer and involvement in a commoditised fetish culture which places a premium on youth, this does not excuse his crass manipulation of fascist tropes to sell records. While there are commentators who have become hysterical about Pearce, the best way of dealing with his scam is to expose him for what he is - an anarchist dry goods salesman.
There is a continuity between Crisis and DIJ in terms of both imagery centred on fascism/anti-fascism and a desire for authenticity that is aesthetically driven. It is difficult to imagine Crisis ever making much of an impression without RAR to mediate their presence on the punk scene, or DIJ existing at all without Wakeford and Pearce being slowly seduced by the ideas and imagery RAR set out to oppose (a seduction that began with these two musicians learning the power of political symbolism - at least partially - through their involvement with RAR). I would stress symbols and imagery in all this, both Crisis and DIJ were aesthetically overloaded to the detriment of both their politics and their music. Although very much a product of RAR, Crisis were also in many ways an anomaly - within a punk culture that thrived on confusion about identity and political belief, Crisis were far more confused than most of their peers. The Art Attacks appear to have been unmoved by their brush with RAR, Adam and the Ants merely ruffled. In contrast to this, Wakeford and Pearce provide examples of "individuals" who were transformed by RAR, but their deep involvement produced effects at odds with the avowed intentions of those who'd set up the organisation. (26) That said, to properly evaluate the role RAR and anti-racism played within both the punk scene and the broader political culture of the seventies and eighties, we need further studies of people touched by and/or involved in these campaigns. It would be wrong to generalise solely on the basis of Crisis/DIJ.
1. Punk Rock: So What? The cultural legacy of punk edited by Roger Sabin (Routledge, London 1999).
2. I will focus on RAR since Paul Gilroy has already produced an incisive critique of ANL in 'Two Sides Of Anti-Racism', Chapter 4 of There Ain't No Black In The Union Jack (Routledge, London 1992): "The definition of racism which guided RAR's practice was not narrow but extensive. It recognized that racism had become a condensed sign for all the unacceptable social relations of "Krisis Time 1977'... The attempt to impose the elimination of Nazism as a priority on the diverse and complex political consciousness crystallised by RAR was a miscalculation. The narrow definition of the problem of 'race' - as a product of fascism... imposed a shorter life and more limited aims on the movement... The Rasta-inspired pursuit of 'Equal rights and Justice' was being forsaken... It was replaced by the more modest aim of isolating and eliminating the fascist parties at the polls... the exclusive identification of racism with Nazis was to create problems for anti-racism in the future..." (pages 129-132) From what I have to say about RAR it will be obvious that I consider Gilroy's analysis of the organisation a little too sanguine. Likewise, while I concur with Gilroy's criticisms of the ANL, I would hasten to add that I do not feel this analysis should be extended to groups such as Anti-Fascist Action - whose engagement in community self-defence against fascism is useful and necessary despite the obviously limited nature of the political objectives involved.
3. Phone interview 2/11/99.
4. Temporary Hoarding #6, London Summer 1978.
5. RAR's disinterest in those who are unlikely to tow a party line and the unwillingness of its activists to engage in debates that might help recalcitrant individuals develop progressive political positions is evident from the Ants interview: "ADAM: There's one other number in the set that I must tell you about. I do a song Light up a beacon on a Puerto Rican and I'll tell you why I called it that. The Puerto Ricans in New York are on the bottom, on the floor, and lowest. You've only got to see West Side Story to know that number. If you get robbed by a Puerto Rican he nicks all your shoes and everything, they're really desperate people cos they're treated like fucking shit by the whites. Anyway, in my song, the story is about a white woman who has actually got a pet Puerto Rican. I saw Roots, and what shocked me in that wasn't the slavery, wasn't the conditions, it was when that guy went into the black slave community, and they said to him, 'Look, we're animals' - they'd accepted being fucking animals. The old black guys were going 'Don't do nothing don't react' because it had been drummed into them. And that really made me sick, that really got to me. The fact that a human being can accept that he's garbage! So my song is about a white woman who has reduced a human being to dog status - because I thought that was a damn sight more powerful in a lyric than saying look at those poor Puerto Ricans. I've sung that song to Puerto Ricans from New York, and they loved it man. Because it was singing about Puerto Ricans, and they just don't get sung about. RAR: Can we talk about something else now..."
6. The Crisis singles and mini-album are collected with a few additional tracks on the CD We Are All Jews And Germans (Ourbouros, London 1997). Lyrics are either taken from this source or in the case of songs not included on this CD (Search And Destroy, SPG), from privately circulated live recordings.
7. Cited in Misery and Purity: A History and Personal Interpretation of Death In June by Robert Forbes (Jara Press, Amersham 1995) page 212.
8. Forbes ibid. 212.
9. Doug Pearce cited in Forbes ibid. 36.
10. Forbes ibid. 15.
11. Forbes ibid. 15.
12. Forbes ibid. 23.
13. Forbes ibid. 17.
14. Forbes ibid. 21.
15. Forbes ibid. 28.
16. Forbes ibid. 130-131.
17. Forbes ibid. 100-101.
18. Forbes ibid. 23.
19. Forbes ibid. 36. Clearly there comes a point in the reception of cultural artefacts where those responsible for them feel a need to explain their intentions if they perceive them to have been misunderstood. For example, the subject positions in some of my novels (for example Pure Mania, Defiant Pose and Red London) were and sometimes still are misread as my own - as a result, I felt it necessary to correct this impression in an number of interviews and essays (see for example "Anarchism Is Stupid' in my book Confusion Incorporated, Codex, Hove 1999). I did not - and do not - want to be mistaken for an anarchist. Pearce, who patently is an anarchist, doesn't seem much bothered when he is also taken to be a fascist (the labels anarchist and fascist are not necessarily incompatible). He sets out to create confusion on this score without ever realising that his right-wing anarchism is largely indistinguishable from fascist politics.
20. Forbes ibid. 75.
21. Forbes ibid. 21.
22. Forbes ibid. 22.
23. A signed letter from Pearce stating his reasons for sacking Wakeford from DIJ appears on page forty-nine of Forbes' book. The evolution of the fascist fraction Wakeford involved himself with is instructive. The former NF leader Patrick Harrington ended up as a confidant of Green Anarchist associate and occasional article contributor Larry O'Hara. Another Green Anarchist supporter David Black has bizarrely claimed that Patrick Harrington isn't a fascist (see the article 'Green Anarchists Fall Out' in Student Outlook #11, Summer Term 1995). Meanwhile another splinter from the Harringtonian faction of the NF went through several name changes before briefly emerging as Radical Shift and then merging with Alternative Green, a splinter from Green Anarchist. As far as one is able to identify the politics of DIJ, they appear remarkably similar to those of Green Anarchist. For example the track 'Bring In The Night' on the album Wall of Sacrifice begins with a 'Psalm Of Destruction': "Man destroys his own life while also destroying all life on earth, neither admitting to his destruction nor even recognising it. Man has squandered his powers and our scorn for him has grown boundless. By its pitiful motions mankind has demonstrated its unworthiness, let the destruction it has unleashed devour it."
In a similar vein Green Anarchist has advocated mass murder in a series of articles on what it calls irrationalism (this one from Green Anarchist # 51, Spring 98): "They cannot jail us for we do not exist. The Irrationalist is the man or woman sitting next to you in the tube train. We have sarin canisters in our pockets and hatred in our minds... It doesn't matter what Joe and Edna Couch Potato think about it. They weren't there, they won't do anything to stop it, and yet the government automatons of Oklahoma are still dead and the building has been reduced to a pile of dust... The Irrationalists do not claim to act on behalf of anybody except themselves. Why should Joe and Edna couch Potato derive any benefit from what the Irrationalists do? They can either join in somewhere, or fuck off and die, it's up to them, it's up to you. It's not whether you agree or disagree that counts, but what you do..." Despite vehement condemnations of this series of articles, some of it even coming from other anarchist groups, Green Anarchist have persisted with their chosen theme and as I write have recently reiterated their position in 'The Irrationalists 71' (Green Anarchist # 57-58 Autumn 99:, pages 15-17) "ACE and the others are so very upset about Aum Shin Rikyo. Commuters and City of London financial sector components, dedicated to turning the wheels of capitalism, rushing to work on the underground... Or perhaps they work in the media, pushing out yet more lies, bullshit, propaganda, pacifying chat shows, crap shows, soap opera for sheep to consume, all travelling on the underground. Tax payers one and all. How just and proportionate that they should breath sarin..." At the end of this article there is an advert which states: "We're issuing Steve Booth's Irrationalists in pamphlet form as a big 'fuck you' to all the so-called anarchos who can't face the future and don't understand what free speech is. With all the fuss they've kicked up, it should sell like hot cakes."
24, Forbes ibid. 15.
25. Forbes ibid. 20.
26. In the context of this article, I didn't consider the music of DIJ to be of any consequence. However, a brief description might save readers the trouble of searching out the records. Early DIJ is basically Joy Division with trumpets. After Tony Wakeford was kicked out of the band DIJ sounded more like The Stranglers (albeit with a hint of a "dance" influence). Later on acoustic guitar became a major element and the records can be compared to singer/song writers such as Nick Drake (but with a lot less talent and much lower production values). In the absence of a book that collects together a wide range of Tony Wakeford interview quotes, I have concentrated on Doug Pearce. Hopefully somebody with access to the relevant materials will deal with Wakeford more extensively than I can right now. Wakeford currently fronts a band called Sol Invictus and claims to have abandoned his former political affiliations.
Published in Datacide summer 2000.
Stewart Home gives the inside dope on pre-Death In June Trotskyist punk band Crisis in his book Cranked Up Really High" - Genre Theory & Punk Rock. He also mentions Death In June in his out of print satirical novel Defiant Pose. Not many Death In June fans realise that the song Come Before Christ & Murder Love is about the great love of Douglas Pearce's life - since Pearce is said to change his ideas every time he gets a new boyfriend, it perhaps isn't surprising that Home should have used Come Before Christ & Murder Love (Serpent's Tail, London 1997) for the title of a novel in which the narrator's personality changes every time he has an orgasm! Home has also written a piece about another industrial band Whitehouse, which is also on this site.
The increasingly widespread perception of Death In June as a Nazi band has not been without consequences for Doug 'Snake Oil' Pearce. Concerts have been cancelled in both Europe and the United States, while in December 2005 the German government agency Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien restricted sales of the record "Rose Clouds of Holocaust". UK eBay has also stopped the sale of Death In June records due to this material being hateful and discriminatory. For more on the eBay story click here.
Stewart Home on:
The McGonagall Syndrome (on the intellectual and aesthetic failings of a sad man who enthuses about Death In June, Sol Invictus and neo-folk)
To update the page I'm posting under this a slightly edited version of an article about Death In June from libcom.org. Despite my editorial interventions the English is still a little faulty in places, and while I don't agree with absolutely everything it contains the analysis is on the whole very good. So this is definitely a worthwhile piece but also check out the page here on another Death In June founder member and known Nazi activist Tony Wakeford.
Death In June Are Nazis!
The name "Death in June" refers to June 30, 1934, the "Night of Long Knives", when Hitler had Ernst Roehm and other leaders of the SA (Nazi stormtroopers) murdered. Roehm and his faction were highly critical of Hitler's policies (make no mistake - they were still fascists) and are associated with a branch of fascist ideology spearheaded by Gregor Strasser. The Strasserites argued for a more socialist version of fascism and criticized Hitler's reliance on industrial capitalists. (Today, this branch of 1920s/1930s fascism is often found merged with other far-Right currents of that time such as National Bolshevism in neo-Nazi grouplets describing themselves as Third Position, National Anarchist, National Revolutionary etc.).
DIJ repeatedly use fascist and Nazi symbols on their albums and on stage, including the Death Head (worn as a pin by Nazi SS soldiers), the Life Rune (a pagan symbol commonly used by fascists) and the Black Sun (another rune used by the SS). Likewise, members of DIJ have often worn Nazi Waffen-SS uniforms on stage.
On their "Brown Book" LP, DIJ published the Horst Wessel song, the marching anthem of the SA and later the official song of the Nazi party. Their song "Circo Massimo" from their "Take Care and Control" album loops a chorus from a fascist marching song. The title of their "Operation Hummingbird" album comes from a Nazi military operation aimed at creating anti-gravity aircraft.
In 1992, during Yugoslavia’s bloody civil war, Douglas Pearce visited the frontline and the HOS Miliz (Croatian fascists). Pearce made several live recordings in Croatia and then released them as a two-CD set called "Something Is Coming: Live and Studio Recordings From Croatia" that carried the red-white national flag of Croatia. Proceeds from the CD went to a Croatian (fascist) military hospital.
Also in 1992, DIJ backed out of the Dark X-Mas festival in Hamburg after the organizers issued a statement condemning a spate of fascist attacks on immigrant asylums in Germany. Likewise, DIJ also refused to play a 1994 Festival of Darkness because the show was promoted as being against racism and neo-Nazism.
DIJ songs were published on a 1996 tribute to Leni Riefenstahl, a well-known Third Reich director/cinematographer. The CD was published by VAWS (Verlag und Agentur), a rightist record label run by Werner Symanek, who is part of the far-Right in Germany and active in cultural work. VAWS has released similar tributes to Nazi artists such as Arno Breker and Josef Thorak.
DIJ/Pearce have often collaborated and played with proto-fascist industrial artist Boyd Rice/NON. Pearce and Rice have also associated with fascist/Satanist Michael Moynihan of the band Blood Axis. Patrick Leagas AKA "Kill", a former member of DIJ (now with Mother Destruction), disassociated himself from Pearce due to racism and intolerance within; but at the this didn’t prevent Leagas from sharing housing with and making music with hardcore Nazis such as Gary Smith of No Remorse (the band name is short for No Remorse for the Holocaust) both before and after his tenure in Death In June – and it was Leagas who introduced Nazi imagery and insignia to Death In June having employed it as an integral part of his pre-DIJ band Runners From 84.
DIJ shows have been cancelled and shut down or suffered protest numerous times on the grounds that DIJ supports fascism - in Chicago, Portland, Seattle, Germany, Switzerland and Norway, among others. In Chicago last year, the Metro cancelled a scheduled Death in June show, though it was rescheduled elsewhere (according to a promoter from American Gothic Productions, fascists did indeed attend the show).
DIJ have a fan base among modern fascist activists, many of whom actively encourage other fascists to attend DIJ shows.
Douglas Pearce Quote "I prefer to suck, white, uncircumsised cocks of a certain age so I suppose that rules out quite a few races and religions in one huge act of sexual discrimination. However, that's natural selection for you. It follows on that, of course race is important to me!" (source interview with Dagobert's Revenge).
Some would argue that DIJ does not support fascism/Naziism, but that they just use fascist imagery and symbolism either for shock value or because they simply find them aesthetically pleasing.
This argument can be taken several ways. On one hand, we are to believe that because it is artistic, that there is no political content to it. Though we question this notion (in our view, everything is political), even if we didn't we would question the wisdom of spreading an aesthetic that is the basis for a fundamentally anti-human, anti-freedom philosophy without offering any sort of critique whatsoever. An exploration of fascist imagery could be interesting if it were juxtaposed with an exploration of the inherent dangers of fascism, but DIJ does nothing of the sort. In fact, their handling of Nazi symbolism can be more accurately pinpointed as a celebration of fascist ideals. Nazi uniforms look idiotic and demonstrate a complete lack of style, but more importantly the people that wear them are either fascists or at the very least stupid beyond belief. Considering the growth of fascist movements in both Europe and North America over the past decade, and the attempts these fascists are making to spread their ideology, we can only view the promotion of fascist aesthetics as naive at best, dangerous at worst.
On the other hand, we are to believe that DIJ's use of Nazi symbolism is just a tired, old marketing gimmick, a form of fascist pornography that uses controversy to garner attention and sales. According to this view, DIJ's pro-fascist stance started out as a meaningless marketing ploy but ended up with the both the group and the ostensibly 'non-political' majority of its audience embracing fascism. Even Douglas Pearce has said, "Obviously people have fallen into the trap of taking it on a surface value. That is their problem." Unfortunately for Pearce, it is a problem for him as well since the use of such symbolism has and does attract the attention of actual fascists (see above). By creating an atmosphere where fascist aesthetics and philosophy are supported, Pearce and DIJ are drawing fascists in - and they do nothing to discourage this, despite being called on it for over a decade. At best this is irresponsible, at worst reprehensible.
Ultimately, we believe that all arguments in defence of DIJ are bogus, as we feel there is enough evidence regarding DIJ's political stances, projects and activities to show that they are doing more than just flirting with fascist imagery.
Some would argue that by trying to shut down DIJ shows, that we are being "fascist" and that we are engaging in censorship. This is not a question of free speech. Bookers, promoters and club owners decide everyday what bands they want to play in music establishments. This is no more censorship than choosing a rock group over a country act. Do you support fascism? If not, then why would you support Death in June?
Douglas Pearce is gay, so how can he be a Nazi/fascist? There is a documented history of homosexual participation and support within fascist movements, despite the fact that most fascists count homosexuals as enemies. There is also the distinct possibility that Pearce is so interested in Ernst Roehm because Roehm was homosexual, just like Pearce is.
Wasn't Pearce's visit to Croatia and the benefits he did for humanitarian reasons? In an interview with Descent magazine (issue 3), Pearce stated that it wasn't a "purely a humanitarian gesture. It was a cultural one. A socio-Euro political one." The people he visited were fascists.
Info on Death In June Associates Michael Moynihan , Der Blutharsch and Changes
Der Blutharsch (a synonym for "dried blood") is an Austrian white power music act headed by Albin Julius, formed in 1997, with the assistance of Death in June leader Douglass Pearce. The band takes great pride in their use of fascist symbols, and is well known for its use of Nazi imagery. Der Blutharsch attracts neo-Nazi's and right wing extremists across Europe. In March 2003, a concert in Clausnitz, Germany was cancelled by the German government. In a statement released by the security police concluded that Der Blutharsch has "right wing extremist tendencies." (The statement has significant weight in Germany, given the legal impermissibility of such extremism.) Those tendencies are evident in the packaging and music of the band. The Der Blutharsch logo is a symbol with a Sig-rune, like the Waffen-SS used. Their website also relies on the Nazi Iron Cross and the logo of the Hitler Youth. The covers of their albums are also adorned with Nazi art. The cover of the CD "Der Sieg des Lichtes ist des Lebens Heil!" (The triumph of light is the life's Heil) is a part of a picture about the Varus battle, painted by the Nazi painter Werner Peiner. The cover of the CD "The pleasures received in Pain" is a reprint of the painting "Defense eastern Einfdle" by Nazi artist Ferdinand Staeger. Their songs also sample lyrics from the Hitler Youth marching anthem "Forward!" and other speeches and marches. The EP "Adesso viene IL bell" even contains eight songs from Italian fascism. On a live-video, published in 1999, named "Gold gab ich fcr Eisen" (I gave gold for iron) of the second tour, a "Finnish version of Lili Marleen," a popular song in Germany during World War II, was played (called "Lisa Pien"). The song was dedicated to the Freiwillige der Waffen SS and Marsch des Sturmatillerie, European volunteers of the Waffen SS march of the storm artillery. The second tour was together with Death in June. At the end of the video, the second singer Wilhelm Herich shouted "Free Pinochet".
And don't forget to check out our page on another Death In June founder member and known Nazi activist Tony Wakeford.
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