Attila the Stockbroker on the history and impact of Rock Against Racism and Love Music Hate Racism
Punk, reggae, ska, hip-hop, bangra, jazz, and yes,
Elgar too - our music!
Local council elections coming up, BNP filth standing, targeting the white working class who have been utterly neglected by New Labour's New Tory policies, using the 'socialist' rhetoric that the Labour Party should never have abandoned to disguise their fascist agenda.
What used to be Rock Against Racism is now Love Music Hate Racism - and they are organising gigs all over the country. I'm doing two, in precisely the kind of 'out of the way' areas the BNP are hoping to gain support, areas neglected by the main parties: St Neots and Chatham. I was organising gigs for RAR in 1977 and I'm playing for LMHR 30 years on!
I just put out this press release:
It makes me PUKE that after 30 years we are still having to deal with this shit but deal with it we will! For younger readers (and people who have fond memories!) here is my account of RAR in the Seventies....
RAR and its sister organisation, the Anti Nazi League, came about as a result of four main factors. These were the punk explosion and the resultant politicisation of the music scene: the powerful links between punk and reggae epitomised by the likes of the Clash, the Ruts and Misty in Roots: the massive growth in support for the fascist National Front in the late Seventies: and the obscenely stupid behaviour of two members of what was by then seen as music's 'old guard'.
In 1976 David Bowie had given a magazine interview saying he was sympathetic to fascism and had later made a Nazi salute at Victoria Station on arrival back from a tour. Even more astonishingly, given that he was/is a blues guitarist and had just revived his career with a cover of Bob Marley's 'I Shot The Sheriff', Eric Clapton interrupted a concert in Birmingham to make an infamous speech supporting the racist Tory MP, Enoch Powell. All this in a year when the National Front was at its political zenith, achieving 200, 000 votes across the country in local elections. What absolute cretins!
The impact on many music fans, and especially people involved in the developing punk scene, was enormous. I had never had any time for Eric Clapton, but I loved Bowie's early stuff, and his references to 'supermen' and the 'homo superior' - which at the time I had passed off as arty, sci-fi posturing now took on a new, sinister meaning. The National Front of course tried to cash in, and for a time after this I hated Bowie with a vengeance. There is no doubt that both he and Clapton soon realised how contemptible their behaviour had been and recanted, but the damage had been done, and to their immense credit, some people responded straight away.
Photographer Red Saunders (of whom more later) Roger Huddle and Dave Widgery, among others, orchestrated a host of letters to the music press in protest. They then started putting on concerts under the banner of Rock Against Racism, the first of which was at the Royal College of Art in December 1976 and featured reggae band Matumbi and singer Carol Grimes. Allied as it was with the developing punk scene, the RAR movement quickly spread all over the country.
At Kent University we took up the cause with gusto by mid 1977, ordering loads of copies of the RAR fanzine 'Temporary Hoarding', plus badges and stickers, and a group of us started planning gigs, using RAR's format and inviting all kinds of bands (mainly punk and reggae) to play side by side. As the slogan went: 'Reggae, soul, rock 'n' roll, jazz, funk, punk our music!' Our sporadic events were incredibly successful, even though many just featured Brighton and Kent coast bands (The Depressions, The Provokers, The Infested among others) and lesser known reggae bands like The Enchanters (from the legendary Ruts/Misty In Roots 'People Unite' collective in Southall). At these gigs I met RAR activists from other areas and went to the events they were organising elsewhere: as a white 19 year old from the Sussex coast I learned a lot, very quickly. Rastas and punks joined together at the gigs People Unite indeed!
It was a heady time. I immersed myself in the new music and learned an awful lot about organising gigs, which would stand me in very good stead a few years later, when I started to promote my own. Our Brighton Riot Squad gig happened that summer. Then, on 13 August 1977, Max and I, along with Joby & the Hooligans and members of various other Brighton punk bands, travelled to South East London to join thousands of others opposing a huge National Front march at what came to be known as 'The Battle Of Lewisham'. It was a defining moment in modern British anti-fascist history: the Front had never been stronger, and they came to Lewisham boasting that they would control the streets of London and, in the words of wannabe Fuhrers John Tyndall and Martin Webster, 'kick their way into the headlines'
'Black and white, unite and fight! Smash the National Front!'
'Punks and teds and natty dreads, smash the Front and join the Reds!'
Multicultural Britain turned up to stop the fascists in their tracks.
At Clifton Rise bricks rained down on the 'master race' from all directions and when a wedge of anti fascists split their so called 'Honour Guard' from the rest of the march, leaving the coach loads of bigots who had travelled down from NF strongholds like Leicester confused and isolated, the result was never in doubt. They got battered. Mainly, I am happy to say, by locals who were angry beyond belief that scum like that had dared to set foot there in the first place.
In the aftermath of Lewisham the Anti-Nazi League was formed, to play the same role in everyday political life that RAR did in the music scene, and all kinds of local ANL groups were set up: Teachers Against the Nazis, Football Fans Against Nazis (I was in there!), Left Handed Vegetarians against the Nazis .
Then came the huge RAR/ANL Carnivals. The first one took place on 30 April 1978 at Victoria Park in East London: The Clash, Tom Robinson Band, Steel Pulse and X-Ray Spex (plus the Ruts and Misty in Roots playing on a flatbed truck at the other end of the park I remember that very well) with more than 80,000 people there to listen and celebrate. We marched to Victoria Park from Trafalgar Square, some 6 miles, and when we arrived they told us people were still leaving the departure point. The second one was 6 months later, at Brockwell Park in South London: Aswad, Misty, Elvis Costello and Sham 69, and even more people!
RAR and the ANL, plus Thatcher stealing the Front's clothes at the 1979 General Election ('we are being swamped by an alien culture') saw to it that the NF would never again be the electoral force they had been although the fascists didn't go away, far from it. On the very day of the second Carnival they organised a march through the East End of London which we didn't even hear about till afterwards, because the Carnival organisers took the decision not to tell us: this caused serious and lasting divisions in the anti-racist movement. Fascists were already causing trouble at RAR gigs, especially in London, and as the British Movement took over from the National Front as the main rallying point for the boneheads, Nazi violence at gigs would become a real problem.