Guest Post by John Eden
[I have made my own statement about the LMHR petition as part of a previous post, and I disagree somewhat with John - my position is that, for all that I might criticise LMHR's formulations, I think we should not only call for the gig to be cancelled but, specifically, we should be supporting LMHR's demo and campaign, albeit critically, in the hope that they might take on board what we have to say. Still, John's arguments certainly reflect those of many other readers and contributors to this blog - in fact, judging by the comments and private mails I have received, his position probably has more support than mine-AS]
Even after reading some of the ridiculous comments on this site, I was amazed that someone would be stupid or brazen enough to wander around in broad daylight wearing what most people would recognise as the logo of the SS.
I couldn’t help staring, but decided that making a scene would be counterproductive. It’s possible that my anger was obvious, because she covered up the logo pretty sharpish with her jacket. As usual, my tales of anti-fascism don’t exactly bolster my reputation as a courageous warrior. Staring at a Goth isn’t really on a par with The 43 Group’s work in 1940s Hackney, but I suppose I simply made a judgement at the time about what an effective intervention would be. I know others who would have expressed their displeasure verbally, or even physically. People disagree on tactics. I am conscious that I am at the more “touchy feely” end of the anti-fascist response to Neofolk, probably because, as I explained in a previous article, I used to be a fan myself.
I mention this because I’ve been following the debate about the forthcoming Slimelight gig with some interest. While I am opposed to the bands involved and am quite happy for them to be inconvenienced, I am not entirely convinced that call for the gig to be cancelled is the right tactic. More particularly I feel that the way it has been done is not an effective intervention.
It should be clear to anyone who has read the articles on this website that there are fascist tendencies within Neofolk, but these tendencies generally express themselves obliquely and in the cultural sphere. This needs to be contrasted with the overt Nazism of the skinhead Blood & Honour groups who openly incite racial hatred and have inspired violence towards minorities after their events.
I am not aware of violent incidents taking place after Neofolk concerts, so we can probably assume that there is no direct threat to the communities that host them, apart from the distaste people rightly feel when they see idiots dressed like Nazis prancing down Upper Street.
Indeed I believe that this is the whole point, from a political point of view, of fascist involvement in Neofolk (and let me be clear that I don’t think everyone involved in Neofolk is a fascist or that it is an inherently fascist genre). It is about normalising fascist ideas and aesthetics, not actually establishing fascism in the here and now through violence or electoral politics.
As I said in my previous article on this site “One of the devices used by people who defend neo-Folk is the claim that its critics are outsiders who don’t understand the nuances of the genre.” Fascist currents within Neofolk require an informed anti-fascism, which is sadly lacking from some of the opponents of the Slimelight gig.
I hadn’t intended to voice my reservations publicly until after the date of the gig had passed because I didn’t want to undermine the campaign. Unfortunately I have now been forced to do so because of the petition being circulated by Love Music Hate Racism (LMHR). This petition includes a number of outright errors such as Death In June having “donated to” the National Front and half-truths such as “The Nazi organisation Stormfront is promoting the event and have declared that its supporters will descend on Islington for the night” when it’s more a case of a handful of Nazi keyboard warriors discussing the event on an internet forum. (I have seen no evidence that Stormfront, as an organisation, is promoting the gig – or indeed that Death In June have donated to the National Front. If there is evidence then I will of course retract my comments.)
Neofolk fans and their sympathisers will know that the claims are not true. This undermines anti-fascism in general. We should be exposing the lies of fascists, not creating our own.
LMHR seem more interested in playing to the gallery than effective anti-fascism in this case. I assume they are exaggerating and simplifying their claims to generate support for their campaign. In doing this they alienate the one crucial factor – the non-aligned (or not consciously fascist) Neofolk fans.
A protest outside the event by uninformed LMHR supporters will have the same effect – making the opposition to Neofolk appear ridiculous.
Furthermore I think it's entirely likely that whilst discussing the closure of the gig, someone (be it the Slimelight management, the Police, Islington Council or the media) will discover that the matter is more complicated than it first appears. This makes LMHR look hysterical and not a credible source, which means that the bands and promoters and their weasel-worded excuses may be seen as reasonable and proportionate by those who can actually determine whether or not the event goes ahead.
Ever since reading James Cavanagh’s “Shower of Shit Expected Over Islington” text I’ve thought it unlikely that the concert will actually be cancelled, precisely because of the complexity of the issue.
The key question is: if the gig does go ahead, will fascists operating in Neofolk be stronger or weaker? My feeling is that whilst they may be on the back foot temporarily, they will be in a much stronger position in future. People will be able say “Islington Council and the Police looked into all this and they couldn't find anything wrong". This will then be lapped up by fans and fascist apologists and quoted ad nauseum alongside Tony Wakeford’s content-free statement from 2007.
My position is that the main role we have is still to discuss, expose and theorise about Neofolk - to attack it on the cultural level that it operates. Perhaps that can include intervening at events (and count me in if any glaring at Goths is needed). But let’s get it right – taking shortcuts is completely counterproductive.