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in the UK
General Election '97
Some pointed out the irony that the dying Conservative Government called the General Election on May Day. Messages came through in the UK hardcore scene that voting was consenting to be ruled and that boycotting on polling day was the best policy. Meanwhile, most people my age in London did not vote simply because they do not give a toss about the system of government. I am not allowed to vote so I was spared from deciding whether to lend my weight to the Labour bastard in my constituency.
The result of the election is that the first Labour Government in 18 years won a landslide victory and the new Prime Minister has at the time of writing an 82% popularity rating. EIGHTY-TWO PER CENT. Whatever one may think of opinion polls, Tony Blair does seem to have broken all records in the popularity stakes. Nevertheless, this election was the beginning of the end of party politics in Britain.
The political party is an anachronism. Party membership is in a terminal decline and there are no longer any reliable definitions of types of people who support parties or reliable distinctions between parties. Of the tens of millions of eligible voters in the UK, the entire 6 week election campaign (and the 4 years which preceded it) was geared towards winning the votes of approximately 60,000 people living in marginal constituencies - less than 4% of the population.
As if we needed more proof that democracy is irrelevant to British politicians we have Prime Minister Tony Blair. Blair is contemptuous of democracy even in his own political party. The Labour Party's autumn 1997 conference was widely described as a 'rally for Tony Blair'. His minions stitched up all challenging policy votes; intimidating and bribing delegates into dropping opposing motions. The conference also voted to remove power from the party's Executive Committee. When the party leader has no respect for democracy in his own party, he certainly will not on a wider national scale.
Germaine Greer has made the best estimation of the new Government: 'Blair is the product of market research, rather than ideology. Labour policy is deliberately vague because they are determined to give people nothing to vote against·Products are sold by packaging, not by content·This government could literally get away with murder, curfews for kids, parents punished for kids' offences, mandatory sentencing, paedophile registers, a muzzled press. The proposed inroads on civil liberties are appalling to contemplate. The backbenchers think their job is to sing woo-woo when Mandy gives them the high sign·'
I do not mind saying that I have been impressed with some of the things the new Government has done and with some of the intentions further down their priority list such as gay rights and anti-hunting. However as the conduct of Governments is decreasingly important to the political culture, government politics is increasingly becoming a marketplace where packaging is the sole task of political masters. Consumer politics is dangerous and more susceptible to the mood swings of a reactionary public. Pre-packaged, plastic politicians are on the rise, but remember when they come to your town to look for the quiet one with the mobile telephone hovering in the background. I wonder how someone as arrogant as a politician feels about having to follow the whim of a spin doctor. Public opinion seems to be moving against spin doctors as more people come to recognise their central role in policy making.
I am interested to hear how spin doctors operate in other countries. If those of you readers outside the UK have noticed a similar upsurge in the role of the spin doctor in your own country, why not write and tell us about it?
It is very important to remember that it is public opinion that created spin doctors. They are trying to tell us what they think we want to hear, so it is up to us to destroy the myths of the family as the supreme good and public spending as the supreme evil.
out of my way
It is simply impossible
for someone to smoke in my presence without my being forced to breathe smoke.
I do not find smoke offensive for straightedge or doctrinal reasons, but because
the experience is genuinely nasty and harmful. It is a filthy habit. The anarchist
dictum easily applies - your rights end where my rights begin. I acknowledge
that the practitioners are having a hard time of late what with many authorities
decrying the practice. However the point remains that what I do for fun should
not harm other people. You may notice that I am no longer addressing the subject
of the first paragraph, but rather a practice which is widely acceptable in
the straightedge/hc scene; violent dancing. Some boneheads in the scene may
claim otherwise, but punching and crashing into other people is not necessary
for the enjoyment of live music. I doubt these people feel the need to deliver
a sidelong punch to their friends when playing their favourite metal bands on
their home hi fi. If anyone has a natural right to be front and centre at a
gig, it is the shorter folk, it is certainly not a load of brats on blood lust.
I refuse to stand at the back to avoid these people and I refuse to accept their
macho posturing as a legitimate expression of music appreciation in the scene.
If that is what they want, they belong on a rugby pitch.
XA Modest ProposalX
Ever notice the way really stupid people react to new
ideas? 'I do not drink' I say. 'Well I am not ever going to give up drinking
I am afraid' says stupid person. All I did was express a personal preference,
I am not a missionary and I do not set out to convert people, but stupid people
get defensive when they find out that someone thinks differently. Well I am
fed up with walking on eggshells trying to prevent people from feeling challenged
and offended by my personal choices. So I hereby announce the inception of the
Straight Edge Consciousness Terror. Our mission- to convert the world to the
Straight Edge and to destroy all resistance. Phase ONE: You do not have to be
a hardline tosser, in fact there is no sexism, racism, homophobia allowed, you
just have to be a bigmouthed fekker and make sure that everybody knows that
you are POISON FREE, TRUE and (this is optional) VEGETARIAN or VEGAN. Phase
TWO: Cough loudly and make nasty faces at smokers, constantly tell people that
they stink of beer and look like they are hungover. Make as much difficulty
as possible for drinkers, smokers, meat-eaters etc. Sabotage off-license deliveries,
bump the wine shelves with your supermarket trolley etc. So remember next time
you meet stupid person: 'No I certainly do not want a beer you alcoholic troglodite.
I do not want to become enslavened by a poisonous substance and piss my life
away the way you are obviously doing. Why don't you stop drinking now and begin
a life of no hangovers, more time, money and energy at your disposal and no
regrets about the person you shagged last night?' We will shame or smug the
non-believers into submission. xS.E.C.T.x
Hardcore Journal presents·
22-Jan 20) You knock your front teeth out, but it will serve you right for stagediving
at a Bob Tilton show.
xxx Your Stars for 1998xxx
aquarius (Jan 21-Feb19) Your age dawns and you decide it is time to start your much-touted distro. You decide to carry only zines and by August you have 57 titles on offer and cannot afford to make flyers.
pices (Feb 20-March 20) You leave your metal hesher phase and have a dalliance with rave until you decide that energy drinks are not xxTRUExx.
aries (March 21-April 20) You Aries are a musical lot, and you are torn between singing for an emo band and playing bass for a post-hc, Misfits-tribute band. In the end you settle for being the barefoot singing drummer for an old-school christian communist band.
taurus (April 21-May 21) Split your deck at Canteloes and in your grief spend four months at the Krishna temple before you realise what a load of old codswollop it is.
gemini (May 22-June 21) While bedding down on the floor of the 1 in 12, you come to terms with your homosexuality and immediately make a pass at the kid lying next to you in a Congress shirt. BIG MISTAKE.
cancer (June 22-July 23) You devote the year to toting up punkpoints and in December celebrate the world revolution you helped to instigate.
leo (July 24-August 23) You receive a letter on Revelation-headed paper telling you there is a copyright on using images of your starsign in your zine. Decide to use a cusp motif instead as soon as you can figure out what a 'cusp' looks like.
virgo (Aug 24-Sept 23) Like the tidy virgoan you are, you cut down on your record collection and flog those old YOT records for 5000BEF at the Vort'n'Vis to a load of 15-year-old metalheads who will be feeding McDonald's hamburgers to their brats in 15 years.
libra (Sept 24-Oct 25) Beware of a boy in a Mainstrike t-shirt.
scorpio (Oct 24-Nov 22) You spend £45 for a YOT 7" and give 50 Groschen left over from your visit to Vienna to an old man with cardboard shoes sleeping behind the bus stop and tell him not to spend it on alcohol.
saggitarius (Nov 23-Dec 21) You decide that all this astrology is bunkum and decide to become a follower of the new old school christian communist band.
BECAUSE WOMAN'S WORK
IS NEVER DONE AND IS UNDERPAID OR UNPAID OR BORING OR REPETITIOUS AND WE'RE
THE FIRST TO GET THE SACK AND WHAT WE LOOK LIKE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN WHAT
WE DO AND IF WE GET RAPED IT'S OUR FAULT AND IF WE GET BASHED WE MUST HAVE PROVOKED
IT AND IF WE RAISE OUR VOICES WE'RE NAGGING BITCHES AND IF WE ENJOY SEX WE'RE
NYMPHOS AND IF WE DON'T WE'RE FRIGID AND IF WE LOVE WOMEN IT'S BECAUSE WE CAN'T
GET A 'REAL' MAN AND IF WE ASK OUR DOCTOR TOO MANY QUESTIONS WE'RE NEUROTIC
AND/OR PUSHY AND IF WE EXPECT COMMUNITY CARE FOR CHILDREN WE'RE SELFISH AND
IF WE STAND UP FOR OUR RIGHTS WE'RE AGGRESSIVE AND 'UNFEMININE' AND IF WE DON'T
WE'RE TYPICAL WEAK FEMALES, AND IF WE WANT TO GET MARRIED WE'RE OUT TO TRAP
A MAN AND IF WE DON'T WE'RE UNNATURAL AND BECAUSE WE STILL CAN'T GET ADEQUATE
SAFE CONTRACEPTION BUT MEN CAN WALK ON THE MOON AND IF WE CAN'T COPE OR DON'T
WANT A PREGNANCY WE'RE MADE TO FEEL GUILTY ABOUT ABORTION, AND BECAUSE WE ARE
VIRTUALLY INVISIBLE IN THE HARDCORE SCENE, AND BECAUSE EQUALITY IS PREACHED
BUT NOT PRACTICED IN THE STRAIGHT EDGE SCENE, AND BECAUSE WE ARE STILL COATRACKS
AT GIGS ... FOR LOTS AND LOTS OF OTHER REASONS WE ARE PART OF THE EUROPEAN STRAIGHT
EDGE SISTERHOOD. hardcore feminism
For years I have
hated travel. The planning, hassle, packing and repacking, stress, filth etc.
It is just so much less convenient than staying home with the telly and Tesco's.
Nevertheless, I seem to do a lot of travelling and I never regret my journeys
even when I meet with a bit of chaos.
North Europe is what I like. Italy, Iberia, and Greece do not attract me at all, and at any rate I have spent three years studying German. Zrich was a particularly safe bet for me since I have a friend there. One of my earliest impressions of the city was that, if I were to build a city it would look like Zrich. A lovely clean lake, mountains, ace transport, nice architecture. There is also 'Rote Fabrik', a former squatted autonomous arts complex which is now run officially by the local council but is still pretty nifty. The caf was veggie friendly, there was a cool bike shop and the Shedhalle which housed artist studios and a sizeable gallery. The exhibition at the time was called 'If I ruled the world' and seemed to be generally about women in pop music. There was a corner devoted to 'Tic Tac Toe' the German Spice Girls who have a song which seems to consist mainly of the word 'schei§e' and judging by the video is a critique of men with small willies. Then there was a table with handouts about Bjork and Kim Gordon among others. But it got better as I saw a wall covered with record sleeves of homocore bands. A small telly showed a couple of UK bands not taking themselves very seriously. The adjoining wall had Riot Grrrl record sleeves and there was a table covered in Riot Grrrl and Homocore zines. These included the UK's very own Chimps and Simba. That was somewhat unexpected.
Two wheels good
If there was one thing I wanted to do on holiday it was bicycle. That is how I get around London, and I have long since realised that there is no better way of touring city or country. Here are the top five cycle rides on my 1997 summer holiday:
1. Vaduz, Principality Liechtenstien to Feldkirch, Austria along the East side of the Rhine. Amazing.
A perfectly straight, flat, well-maintained cycle track with mountains in every direction and a strange-looking shallow, grey, silty Rhein.
2. Feldkirch to Vaduz on the motorway through the mountains Downhill all the way! Dramatic scenery so you could fall off your bike taking it all in and the cars do not hassle you.
3. Zug, Switzerland around the Zugersee, Rigi the mountain, along lake Vierwald and to Luzern.
Not perfectly bike-friendly, but quite nice. Luzern is brilliant.
4. Kruezlingen, Switzerland to Stein-am-Rhein.
Along the Unter Lake at Bodensee, stopping for a swim, nicking apples and pears from the orchards along the way, and listening on my walkman to an AM station which plays strictly kitsch from the 1930s-1950s.
5. Rorschach, Switzerland
I do not even know what most of these hills were called, but I went painfully straight up from Rorschach and eventually got to a 'Five land outlook' and I got somebody to take my picture. Then I rode down along various twisting roads down lots of different hills. Much of the time I was coasting with Sensefield on my walkman and quite a bit of the time I rode with 'no hands' such as when I had a Red Shark ice lolly.
Well it is inevitable isn't it. Mosquitoes never fail to eat me alive on my summer hols although I never get them at home. Repellent works (but stinks), but the post-bite medicine was no good. My first full day at Bodensee I burned my skin off. Two cold sores, one on each lip which lasted for a week oblivious to the medicine I kept applying. Red blotches on my back from my rucksack which seemed unwilling to go away for a day or two after the wearing of the offending item.
My first time in Germany, I quickly learned that 'Reformhaus' means health food shop. Vegan fruit sorbets
Bread nicked from the youth hostel breakfast with jam nicked from breakfast and veggie pate purchased from the Reformhaus
An all you can eat lunch buffet at a chinese restaurant in Lindau, Germany which had such ace vegetarian food that I smiled the rest of the day
Falafels from the Turkish takeaway
Lots of fruit juice after a day of cycling in the sun
Youth hostel breakfasts: Bread and jam for three weeks
Youth hostel dinners: 'Is it made with eggs?' 'I asked for it without cheese' 'Do you have chips?' 'Do I have to pay full price since I can't have the schnitzel?'
Loud American idiots down the hall, army barrack washrooms, top bunks with no ladders! A Swiss German boy working in the kitchen of one tried flirting using his only English phrase 'What's your name?' over and over again. Rorschach youth hostel is the best in the world though.
At home I do not usually remember dreams. I suppose it is because I am too busy. On the 16th of August, I dreamt I was playing an Archbishop in a play and I forgot my lines. Two nights later I was a different character in a different play but I forgot my lines again. That same night I dreamt I was at University and forgot to do my homework. The night after that I was visiting the town in which I lived at the age of 14 and I saw my best friend from that time. The next dream accounted for in my journal was a week and a half later on the last night of my holiday of meeting up with another long lost friend.
On the platform in Rorschach, I saw a two likely lads and when I spotted the X Swatch on one of them, I introduced myself. They did not seem pleasantly surprised at first, but we had time for a fairly friendly chat before I gave them copies of my zine and we took our separate trains. In Zrich I met up with Alfredge, who told me of the bad feeling between the Rorschach and Zrich straightedgers. Al showed me to some rad vegan food and we discussed our mutual appreciation of Morrissey.
I made a return journey to Vienna, a town which did not take my fancy the previous summer. But this time I stayed with Melanie, the perfect host, and could scarcely believe this was the same city.
I am good at getting free stuff, and I am always in blag-seeking mode, particularly on holiday. I am not proud of the fact, but at the time I tend to be quite pleased when I get into museums free. When I cross the threshold, I take on an aura of confidence as if I simply belong there. I end up not paying an entrance fee. When I got to Salzburg, the Salzburg Festival was on and I intended to see a play or two, so when I walked past the Landestheater, I sought out a side door to the hallway for the stalls. I got in easily, but I went a bit to far and walked to the other end where I was spotted by security and was obliged to go into stupid tourist mode and scurry out. I got 200 Schillings knocked off a theatre ticket by mentioning (truthfully) that I was a poor student. Whenever possible, I nicked food from youth hostels which I reckoned was perfectly justified considering the appalling conditions I was paying for. I did not rip off Rorschach because that was an awesome hostel. Other stuff I got for free:
Entry to two swimming places in Lake Zrich during a cross-lake swimming event
Two nights at a youth hostel because of the manager's incompetence
Two day's bicycle rental in the same town as the above hostel
A jacket belonging to a member of the Sparkasse Feldkirch football team
I fetched out a red and black hardcover book of lined paper for use as a journal. I have kept a daily journal for four years, and it is much less complicated than a boyfriend. I sent at least three postcards from each place I visited. Virtually always I sent one to David in Lancashire. Second most often was my gran, followed by my parents and then my other gran. One or two were sent to about six other folks and my flatmates.
I brought a couple of zines, 'The Age of Revolution' by Eric Hobsbawm and 'Postmodernist Culture' by Steven Connor. Perhaps I could improve my mind as well as my cultural experience. Also I had a small German dictionary, a phrasebook, maps of Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and a few copies of my zine just in case. Hobsbawm is a Marxist historian and the book I brought was the first of four he wrote covering the French Revolution to 1992. I had no idea history could be such gripping reading. I was enthralled and after a couple of weeks of sleepless nights in youth hostels, I knew how European feudalism was brought to an end and loads about the social effects of the beginning of the industrial revolution. Then I was back in Zrich where I found James Joyce's 'Ulysses' on a bookshelf at my friend's house. This turned out to be 'Father Ted' with a Jewish element and I had a laugh reading about the first third of the novel. Then I found 'The Pillars of the Earth' by Ken Follett on another shelf, and being a sucker for anything medieval, I got down to that instead. That was so engrossing I found it difficult to pay much attention to my surroundings when I got my own copy in Austria. I also read German language newspapers every chance I got, and I did quite a nice job of grasping the contents. On the journey home, I got started on the Postmodernism book. I am still not past the first chapter.
As Kosjer D expressed so well. This was a new one for me. I had never been homesick for London while on holiday before. I missed my friends, the Indian vegetarian restaurants, my own bicycle, London theatres, working on my zine· Trains
are the best way to travel long distance.
A is for Anarchism
(B is for Bakunin)
(C is for Chomsky)
Have you read Bakunin? If you call yourself an anarchist, you should have since he has been called the 'Father of modern Anarchism' and similar patriarchal titles. Bakunin was a contemporary of Marx and each of them led the two main factions in the First Socialist International. Obviously Marx won out (what if the anarchists had?!).
Bakunin and Marx had slightly though significantly different approaches to the overthrow of oppression and the way to a utopian social order. Marx thought communism was the way to an anarchic utopia and Bakunin thought anarchism was the path to communism or anywhere else desired by a society. Bakunin reckoned that a state founded on Marx's principles would be the most oppressive authoritarianism ever seen. Noam Chomsky points out that this is one of the few predictions in the social sciences to have been proven correct.
Bakunin, Proudhon and the other anarchist thinkers in the last century founded anarchism on the principle of transcending and ending governance. Governance obviously is a wide-ranging phenomenon meaning everything from your parents' suppression of your personality to your employer's control over your daily schedule. It is the Criminal Justice Act and the police power that comes from it. It is patriarchy and the suppression and oppression symptomatic to it. It is the preferential treatment by institutions of people in marriages. It is the existence of laws against private individual choices and the presence of video cameras in every public place.
'Anarchism' has come to have a limited connotation particularly as used in punk/HC for the past twenty years. The governance which anarchism was meant to smash was never and is not exclusively that of national governments. Anarchists have always been aware that the State is only one of many oppressive institutions which interfere with personal freedom and liberty, but nevertheless the message has remained that governments are the primary enemy to freedom and liberty. I believe the time has come for anarchists to redefine and refocus our activism. Freedom and liberty are not primarily undermined by politicians, the State or Government institutions, but money institutions; big business; multinational corporations.
Politics, meaning State governments. has been called 'the shadow cast by big business'. In other words, Power is held by big business and is invisible and intangible to the majority in society. Society is only aware of those they elect and see on television passing policy. Meanwhile the decisions ratified by politicians are actually being made by those who fund political parties, promote politics in their media, and manipulate politicians in other ways. The evening news does not report that 'Today the Chairman of Thorn EMI (bribed/blackmailed) the Prime Minister with (carrot/stick) if he (withdraws/promotes) policy X.' Instead the evening news reports 'Prime Minister's policy U-turn' or 'Government's new campaign'. This is how the 'shadow' works. We do not vote for the Chairman of Thorn EMI, we do not know his name, he only turns up on the business pages which we do not read because we are not Thorn EMI shareholders. These people and their influence are invisible and untangible.
For more information, read EVERYTHING by Chomsky (even the linguistics stuff is cool) and of course Bakunin, Proudhon etc.
A is for activism
So what should anarchists do about it? First of all we have to stop letting ourselves be distracted by the Liliputian goings-on in Parliament. The most powerful businesses are not limited to state boundaries anymore and certainly not limited by state governments. By no means ignore Government, but do not imagine that vote-boycotting or marches will directly hit the pressure points of policy and power. As with any cause, activism can be proactive or passive destructive or constructive. Increasingly in the UK, activists have taken to buying shares in dodgy companies and then interrupting shareholders meetings with demonstrations. On the side of passive direct activism, I include straightedge.
Some of us are already SxE for anti-consumerist and/or anti-capitalist reasons. SxE is essentially ethical boycotting and the rejection of consumerism as a practice and an indoctrination is the basis to a fight against the corporations which hold, use and abuse power. If you want to hurt people, so the saying goes, hit them in their pocket. The same is true of any institution, but that does not rule out more direct activism. In the past three years since the start of the McLibel trial here in London, worldwide anti-McDonald's action has had a cumulative effect and made a chink in the armour of that particular Mammon.
Consciencious consumerism is probably the only form of activism significantly increasingly in practice in the West, and it is widespread across classes and political outlooks. The practice is having the remarkable effect of forcing people to recognise the relationships economic and otherwise between people and issues which they previously would not have connected. People are ready to be informed about the evils of Nestle, McDonalds etc. This barrage of information will eventually get to be too much for most people and there will then be a reaction, but in the mean time we may get some working practices changed for good.
For more information, the best anti-multinational website is McSpotlight
It is possible for a single individual to defy the whole might of an unjust empire to
Save his honour, his religion, his soul and lay the foundation for that empire's fall or its regeneration.