‘No Fascist USA! ‘: how hardcore punk gas the Antifa movement

15 days ago

The anti-fascist motion describe on punks political awareness and network for activism and right now may be its most crucial moment

” No Trump! No KKK! No Fascist USA !”

When Green Day chanted the repurposed lyrics from Texan punk trailblazers MDC’s 1981 sung Born to Die during the 2016 American Music Awards, it dedicated the burgeoning anti-Trump, anti-fascist motion the slogan it needed- and it would soon appear on placards, T-shirts and be chanted by protesters in their thousands in months to arrived.

It was a tiny piece of punk history writ big on American cultural life- but it only devoted the merest hint of US hardcore punk’s influence on the current political landscape.

As political commentators struggle to nail down the exact nature of Antifa‘s masked legions, they’ve overlooked one thing: Antifa has been critically influenced by hardcore punk for nearly four decades.

From on the collectivist principles of anarchist punk bands such as Crass and Conflict, the political outrage of groups such as the Dead Kennedys, MDC and Discharge, Antifa depicts on decades of protest, self-protection and informal networks under the auspices of a musical motion.

Mark Bray, author of The Antifa Handbook, says that” in many cases, the North American modern Antifa movement grew up as a route to defend the punk scene from the neo-Nazi skinhead movement, and the founding fathers of the original Anti-Racist Action network in North America were anti-racist skinheads. The fascist/ anti-fascist struggle was essentially a fight for control of the punk scene[ during the 1980 s ], and that was true across of much of north America and in parts of Europe in this epoch .”

” There’s a huge overlap between revolutionary left politics and the punk scene, and there’s a stereotype about dirty anarchists and punks, which is an oversimplification but grounded in a certain amount of truth .”

Drawing influence from anti-fascist groups in 1930 s Germany, the UK-based Anti-Fascist Action formed in the late 70 s in reaction the growing popularity of rightwing political parties such as the National Front and the British Movement. They would shut down extreme-right meetings at every opportunity, whether it be a procession or a gathering in a room above a pub. Inspired by this, anti-racist skinheads in Minneapolis formed Anti-Racist Action, which soon gained traction in punk scenes across the US. Meanwhile, in New York, a movement called Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice jumped up.

The term ” Antifa” was adopted by German antifascists in the 80 s, accompanied by the twin-flag logo, which then spread around Europe, and finally pitched up in the US after being adopted by an anarchist collective in Portland, Oregon.

Singer
Singer Thomas Barnett of Strike Anywhere during a 2009 concert in Berlin. Composite: Jakubaszek/ Getty Images

For Thomas Barnett, vocalist with popular hardcore punk band Strike Anywhere, his punk ethics and the direct-action doctrine of Antifa go hand in hand, and, with Trump’s presidency emboldening the extreme right, the stakes couldn’t be higher:” This isn’t just a raft of right-wing notions- this is actual loathe and violence, and the demolition of entire sections of humanity. Of course, I don’t believe in the false equivalence[ between Antifa and the alt-right ]. I guess anti-fascists’ pre-emptive street violence against Nazis is righteous and important .”

Many adopt direct-action tactics, whether it be the recent Antifa protests across the US, the black-block tactics employed during the WTO and G7 protests around the world, or even the decision make use of Brace Belden to leave California to join the YPG, the far-left Kurdish guerrilla group battling Isis.

” Punk itself wasn’t a direct influence on my joining a guerrilla group, of course, but punk did help to cement my revolutionary politics. Being in their home communities with a certain degree of consciousness and solidarity between people helped vastly in that regard ,” tells Belden.

Bands, record labels, zine writers and venues around the world have co-operated to create a network that exists altogether outside of the mainstream, an off-grid template for Antifa activists to draw from. In America, there is Appalachian Terror Unit, a young band with heavy Antifa leanings from the Trump heartland of West Virginia. In Oakland, Antifa-related punk/ oi! band Hard Left have taken part in benefit shows for protesters involved in the events at Charlottesville. In Texas, Antifa are organizing community relief efforts for victims of the Houston inundations.

” There’s definitely an overlap between the leaderless politics and the DIY ethos and the notion that’ if there’s a problem in our punk scene, we’re not going to be able to count on the mainstream to necessarily give a shit ,'” explains Bray.

Strike Anywhere vocalist Barnett says:” It’s also about community self-defence. The punk experience is like the flow of water. You can put up dams, you can run it underground- it will still get through. It also carries on the folk tradition that was speaking truth to power before there was even electric power .”

If there was ever a person unafraid to speak truth to power, it would be Jello Biafra, former singer of the Dead Kennedys and the man responsible for their 1981 call-to-arms Nazi Punks Fuck Off. So it might come as a surprise that he is withering in his criticism of Antifa’s actions in recent months.

” I’m not down with confronting[ the extreme right’s] provocations of violence with actual violence. I entail, self-defence is one thing, but going to a Trumpist rally with the express purpose of beating up fascists- what does that accomplish? Who’s the fascist now? It plays right into their hands ,” he says.

” More than ever, we have to keep our heads right now. And I am all about freedom of speech, but I believe protesting these people non-violently is the way to go, because it lets the targets of the fascist speakers know they’re not alone and lets the fascists who show up know that there’s an nasty plenty of people who are not down with them, and a chorus of raised middle fingers is better than presenting up with some kind of a weapon. Intensifying the violence is not the way to go .”

With his current band, the Guantanamo School of Medicine, he has updated his 1981 ballad and called it Nazi Trumps Fuck Off, but it comes with a caveat: Trump is the target , not his supporters.

” I usually talk about the anthem on stage for a while before we play it, pointing out that almost everybody in the audience, especially if we’re playing in Texas or Southern California, know people in their family, close friends, at school or run, whatever, who think that Trump is really cool. And I point out that the last thing we should do is to dismiss these people as rednecks or stupid or’ I’m not running being your friend anymore, fuck you’- that’s not going to persuade anybody of anything and it helps Trump divide the country. My phase is that you don’t do that, you sit down and talk to somebody , not blog in an echo chamber. It might be stomach-churning, but you might plant a seed, and if anyone wakes up three weeks, three months, three years later and thinks,’ Wow, that person that called me on my bigotry was right .’ All this racist, anti-immigrant fascism isn’t getting us anywhere. I don’t want any part of it anymore .”

Author and punk historian Jon Savage, a champ of the Dead Kennedys during his stint as a music journalist in the 70 s, isn’t so sure:” It’s very idealistic and very laudable, but it’s like arguing with Brexiters over here( in the UK ). You’re not going to get any change out of that. There is a proportion of people who can discuss things in a rational way, but here you’re talking about core beliefs and wishes and feelings, and these are irrational, and they are even less rational when they are tested against reality .”

For Savage, Antifa’s direct action tactics are as legitimate a tool as Biafra’s more measured approach:” If you don’t protest the way the situation is, then nothing is going to change. You’re reacting to fascism and entropy. You need a variety of approaches, and in politics I wouldn’t discount any approach. It’s probably useful to have sensible people because they can say,’ Well, look what happens when you don’t listen to me and consider what the nutters are going to do.’

Klaus
Klaus Fluoride and Jello Biafra of The Dead Kennedys perform at The People’s Temple in 1978 in San Francisco, California. Composite: Richard McCaffrey/ Michael Ochs Archive/ Getty Images

For Barnett, even the present nomenclature is under debate.” Calling it’ Antifa’ is like calling it this weird exotic cult, instead of calling it’ everyday life ‘. Every aspect of media coverage of it is insidious, turning public opinion against us, inducing us a violent sight that’s both something terrible and un-American, when this is the fucking Boston Tea Party ,” he tells.” If people want to talk about how the heritage of American culture and our patriotic fate fits in[ to anti-fascism] – it’s basic math to me, and to many, many others .”

Biafra and Strike Anywhere’s Thomas Barnett at least find some accord on the rebranding of the right, however.” You know what they called the alt-right two years ago? Neo-fucking-Nazis !” says Biafra.” Now it’s alt-right, like alt-country or alternative pop music .”

Barnett concurs:” They don’t get to be alt-right. They just get to be digital-age Nazis, or white supremacists or terrorists. And that’s what[ the media] are doing to anti-fascist action .”

Regardless, Barnett says the antifascist motion isn’t taking anything for granted.” These rallies, whatever the next one is, whatever form it takes, are Trojan-horse events to invite and welcome white terrorist groups, and are just platforms for them to go into communities to hurt and intimidate people. And that’s what anti-fascist action has always known, and that’s what the punks have always known .”

Or, in the bald words of someone who set his teenage years in a punk band called Warkrime behind him to go and fighting in an actual war, former YPG militia member Belden tells:” When I was younger my friends and I used to beat the shit out Nazis that would roll out to punk demonstrates[ in California ]. And guess what? They’d leave and never come back. Violence runs .”

Read more: www.theguardian.com