Note: This post was taken down by Blogger after they received a 'DCMA Takedown Notification' on the grounds that the post infringed copyright. According to the notification I received I should have been able to find out the details of the complaint in order to rectify the mistake by searching the site ChillingEffects.Org. In fact I could not find any reference there to the complaint, so I am reposting this, adding a credit to the photograph of Tony Wakeford on Brick Lane, as this could conceivably be the subject of copyright claim. Another image has been removed as I am not sure of its legal provenance. The authors of the complaint did not seek to contact me directly before registering their complaint. Therefore I currently have no way of knowing what the precise nature of their complaint was, and no way of addressing any concerns they might have had regarding copyright or anything else.
Weather Warning: Shower of Shit Expected Over Islington, by James Cavanagh - briefly described the backgrounds of some of those playing at the Slimelight gig by Sol Invictus, 6 Comm and others, scheduled for Sat 25th June, arguing that "anti-fascists everywhere should be making their objections loudly", and (implicitly) calling for the gig to be called off. That post has received more comments than any other since the blog was launched, reflecting the anger and confusion on both sides about this issue.
Some time later the (newly formed) anarchist group Islington Alarm posted an article, Stop the Fascists in Islington, which also called for people to contact the venue to demand that the gig be cancelled - as did, for example, the journal Principia Dialectica. Then, Love Music Hate Racism (LMHR - probably the biggest UK group campaigning against fascism and racism in music, and associated with Unite Against Fascism, who have been heavily involved in campaigning against the BNP, EDL, etc.) called for the management at Slimelight to cancel the gig because of the racist & fascist connections and connotations of some of those involved. As the management have declined to do this, LMHR have called a protest at Slimelight on the evening of the gig. The intention of the protest, as far as I understand it, is to take the argument about far-right infiltration of their 'scene' to those attending the gig as well as those who use Slimelight generally (the venue has separate dance floors and gig areas, so the majority of those turning up on the night will not be going to the gig itself). I guess the idea is that they want to talk individuals into boycotting the gig, and probably also the club generally, on the grounds that this will put community pressure on Slimelight not to host such events in future. I am told that the LMHR campaign has the support of various local trade unions, anti-racist and anti-fascist campaigners, possibly the Trades Council, local political campaigners, etc. In other words, I believe that it has real roots in the local community.
At the same time, the Slimelight management have created a page on Facebook, None So Deaf as Those Who Will Not Hear, stating their case and encouraging fans of the club to air their views. Most of the comments there are solidly in favour of the gig going ahead. However, at least one supporter of Slimelight - 'Lilith Mort' - also voiced opposition to the gig (indeed, she called for people to contact the police with their concerns, leading a commentator on this blog to accuse us of doing the same. We didn't. Lilith has no connection with this blog, and has never posted or commented here, as far as I can see) on the grounds that it will give the club a bad reputation. She subsequently received a series of responses - primarily, but not exclusively, from Patrick Leagas - which she perceived to be threatening enough for her to say that she was taking legal action in response. Whether she will actually do so is anybody's guess, but she claims to be a barrister, so you never know. Leagas is also threatening people with legal action, though he doesn't specify precisely who. He says that "We as a group are going to seek legal advise (sic) and will go to the highest places in law if we have to", adding that they will also be approaching "the authorities and the police". Lilith Mort's comments seem now to have disappeared from the site. The administrators say that they have not deleted them. Possibly Lilith deleted them herself after the way she was abused and intimidated.
Yesterday Islington Alarm posted a follow-up article, Love Slimelight, Hate Racism, affirming their opposition to the gig, but drawing back from any mass protest, arguing that "We do not seek to create a mass public campaign that is why we stated that individuals should voice their concerns... No anti-fascist lightly takes the decision to propose cancellation of a gig, or prevent artistic expression. However we feel that unfortunately seeing as the far-right has used art, in particular music over the past few years to engage younger audiences, it is necessary to oppose fascism in music, the best means being cancellation. We are not fascists or totalitarian, however we feel a need to oppose fascism wherever it may be and in whatever context... If Slimelight were to cancel the gig it should be and would be entirely their decision."
Islington Alarm wish to distance themselves from the LMHR campaign, but their arguments seem wrong-headed to me. Most anarchists I know would laugh at the idea that a mass campaign constitutes some sort of 'totalitarianism', and they would find it even stranger than an anarchist site should argue that, in dealing with these matters, the final decision should be entirely that of management (in this case, the management of Slimelight). I actually find it quite bizarre.
As is inevitable, different groups and individuals have different arguments about why the gig should not be held. Just as predictably, those defending the bands simply lump all of their opponents together into an amorphous mass despite the considerable disagreements that exist between the various groups and individuals who are concerned about the concert. Not only that, but the arguments in favour of stopping the concert are misrepresented entirely. And since, in the online commentary and in the press, this blog, LMHR, Islington Alarm, Lilith Mort and various other individuals and organisations are considered somehow to be working in concert, when in reality they all have their own beliefs and agendas and are largely working entirely separately, I thought it would be useful, as the administrator of this site, to lay out my own take on some of the issues.
It's Not Simply About Fascist Iconography
First, I'd like to address the argument that comes up most often from those who oppose any action at all; the idea that the entire campaign is inspired by the belief that anyone who wears or uses fascist - or even just militaristic - clothing and iconography, must be a fascist. This, the argument runs, would mean banning the Sex Pistols, the Banshees, the Skids (remember them? Probably not) and - perhaps more pertinently - Throbbing Gristle, and many other similar 'transgressive' bands who have used such imagery.
Now, the use of such imagery is fraught with dangers, and most people who use it do not deal with or take into account these problems, and probably shouldn't be using the imagery the way they do. But I also think it is trivially obvious that many of them are neither racist or fascist. This means that, contrary to what you will read elsewhere, the blog does not believe that anyone using such imagery must a fascist. Maybe they should be argued with on other grounds, but the goths, neo-folk fans and fetishists, etc., who use such imagery are not usually fascists. Indeed, many (most?) of them would consider themselves anti-fascist.
But the arguments about Sol Invictus and similar groups is much more sophisticated than that, and they hinge around the claim that certain strains of fascism (and revolutionary traditionalism, 'national anarchism', etc.) have adopted a strategy by which they deny being fascists and concentrate instead, not on promoting fascism but on promoting cultural concepts, etc., that will help normalise and make acceptable key elements of fascist belief. The intention is not to recruit directly to fascist organisations but to create communities, sub-cultures, currents of opinion, etc., that are more conducive to fascism, thus preparing the ground for future fascist growth. I don't want to talk about this - admittedly, key - idea at length here, but will just refer to Anton Shekhovtsov's excellent essay on the issue, Neo-Folk, Martial Industrial and ‘Metapolitical Fascism’.
Now, you may reject these arguments entirely but, even if you do, the fact remains that, at least as far as this blog is concerned, the case against the Slimelight gig does not hinge on the bare fact that some of the musicians make heavy use of fascist iconography. Therefore it makes no sense at all to say - as one commentator on the Slimelight event page did - that stopping this gig will lead to actors being prevented from wearing Nazi uniforms in films. Such gross misrepresentations of the argument do nobody any favours; nobody apart from fascists, that is.
Note too, that apart from all that, the arguments against Sol, etc., also address matters that go beyond the use of imagery - discussing, for example, lyrics, essays, statements made by the musicians concerned, and so on. In some cases we are also talking about membership of, or support for, fascist organisations. In any case it is disingenuous to argue that this blog wants to stop the gig simply because the musicians use unpleasant imagery. I'd very much defend their right to do so, if that is all that was involved.
But Aesthetics are Important
On the other hand, I don't accept the defence which says that the use of fascist imagery is acceptable because it is simply a matter of aesthetics, and that aesthetics has nothing to do with politics. One of the defining ideas of this blog - which may well not be shared by many of its readers - is that fascist aesthetics are just as much a part of fascism as fascist ideas. The aesthetics express and articulate a fascistic, authoritarian sense of one's place in the world - as discussed, eg., in this article by Susan Sontag. As above, this doesn't mean that the use of such imagery should always be opposed on principle, nor does it mean that the people who use it are necessarily fascist, but it does mean that the aesthetics of these groups are part of a wider picture, and are not wholly neutral and unremarkable.
One thing the defenders of Slimelight have to get to understand that, while it is true that there are many people who use fascist imagery without being either racist or fascist, there is another group of people who may also be keen on this music and also keen on fascist imagery; namely... fascists. Does anyone seriously believe that, while there may be fascists in your workplace or your housing estate, and while fascists can get elected to local councils and even to parliament, it is inconceivable that they might also go to concerts or play in bands?
Fascists Not Necessarily Socially Conservative
And then there are those who imagine that being a fascist means being socially conservative, and therefore that fascists could not, by definition, be involved in anything even vaguely 'counter-cultural', and would not be seen within a mile of a place like Slimelight. Such a position is only possible if you ignore the history of fascist modernism - for example, the fact that some of the Italian futurists were enthusiastic fascists. It also ignores more recent developments in which fascists have tried to move precisely into 'counter-cultural' movements. For instance, Troy Southgate, of the martial industrial band H.E.R.R, happily manages to combine denying that he's a fascist with hosting meetings of the New Right which feature notorious fascists and antisemites - see this article from Searchlight on The Men Who Are Creating a New BNP Ideology, and this article by Graham Macklin, Co-opting the Counter Culture: Troy Southgate and the National Revolutionary Faction, printed originally in the academic journal Patterns of Prejudice.
Beyond that there is the fact that fascists elsewhere have been able to build the beginnings of large-scale movements that have something of the tone and flavour of counter-cultural movements - see, for example, this article by Moyote Project on Casa Pound and the New Right in Italy. It is true that the fascists in this country have not been particularly successful in this regard - but that is only because they faced serious organised opposition from the likes of the Anti-Nazi League and Anti-Fascist Action. With regard specifically to fascist influence in culture, Rock Against Racism was crucial to helping defeat fascist influence in music when it was on the rise in the late 70s and early 80s. In calling for the Slimelight gig to be cancelled, this blog stands in the same traditions which have proved successful in the past in countering the growth and influence of fascism and racism.
Neo-Folk Itself is Not Fascist or Racist
I have no doubt that the vast majority of neo-folk fans are not fascists, and neither are they deliberately covering for fascists. Some people consider the genre itself as problematic, but I don't. As is made clear in the 'About' pages for the blog: "It is not a matter of condemning these subcultures [Neo-Folk, Industrial, Martial - AS], which in fact contain many non-fascist, liberal, socialist, anti-fascist, etc., supporters, but rather of drawing a clear line between the fascists and non-fascists within them by showing the latter the nature and extent of the problem, in the hope that they will themselves marginalise and ultimately reject fascist participation in their 'scene'."
Therefore it is my belief that we should be arguing with fans of the genre (and of related genres such as martial industrial) about the problem they have of neo-fascist, 'revolutionary traditionalist', 'national anarchist', etc., influence and infiltration. The fascists and racists believe that a culture with such an enthusiasm for transgression, and in which 'art' is seen as an end in itself, is a perfect place to spread their ideas and build alliances and contacts, and the best response to that is for the people within the culture to spew them out and refuse to have any truck with their ideas, refuse to play on the same bill, and to boycott their records.
However, that doesn't mean that other anti-racists and anti-fascists should simply sit back and wait for the fans to get their act together. It is the job of anti-racists, etc., to take the argument above to the fans - which is what LMHR will be doing at their demo.
Are They Really Fascists?
|Tony Wakeford (left) with Ian Anderson (right) and|
the NF on Brick Lane, London, 29th Aug 1982
© David Hoffman, Hoffmanphotos
It's well known that Wakeford - after coming under a lot of pressure - issued a statement in which he says: "Many years ago I was a (sic) once a member of the National Front. It was probably the worse decision of my life and one I very much regret. However, I have no connection with, sympathy for, or interest in those ideas nor have I had for around 20 years." Some people take this at face value to mean that he has had no connection with fascism in the last twenty years. But that is not true - he has collaborated with racists, fascists and anti-Semites in various ways, and he continued to sell the openly fascist 'Above the Ruins' recordings long after that. He says that he has had no connection with the ideas of the National Front - but, then, he wouldn't, since he adopted the position of the ITP / political soldier faction before leaving the NF - and their ideas were completely at odds with the NF drive to make themselves respectable and electable, much as the BNP has tried to do more recently. The political soldier faction - led by people such as Nick Griffin, current leader of the BNP - believed that the NF was merely a radical version of the Tory Party, and argued for a revolutionary fascist strategy that embraced violence and illegality. This faction was very much influenced by a group of Italian fascists, led by Roberto Fiore, who had fled to Britain to escape the Italian police. According to Wikipedia: "In England Fiore became a close friend of Nick Griffin and following Griffin's departure from the National Front he helped to organise the International Third Position, becoming a founding member. Fiore had connections with the traditionalist philosopher and has written about topics such as traditionalism and the third position.Julius Evola"
I do not have the time to go into the details of this argument now, but this review of an academic treatment of neo-folk takes up the argument as to why Wakeford's claims are dubious, and tries to show how ideas drawn from revolutionary traditionalism (an offshoot of fascism that, via the work of Evola, for example, was influential on the fascist milieu Wakeford was a part of) continue to influence the lyrics and themes he and some of his friends deal with. Incidentally, his group, 'Above the Ruins', was named as a tribute to Evola's work 'Men Among the Ruins'.
Comments on the LMHR Petition and Campaign
LMHR have issued a petition as follows, asking people to sign and support it:
No to Slimelight’s Nazi-fest in IslingtonSeveral people have contacted me to say that, while they support the campaign for the gig to be cancelled, they cannot sign the petition because it contains a number of errors. For instance, Tony Wakeford is not the organiser of the gig (that's Gaya Donadio, aka Hagshadow) and neither is it true that "All of the acts on the night use racist lyrics and decorate their set with swastika symbols and Nazi images". The fear is that such errors exaggerate the charges against the performers in a way that will make it harder to win the support of some of the fans because they will see that some of these charges can't be sustained.
Love Music Hate Racism has discovered that the Slimelight club in Islington has booked bands with deep links to fascist and neo-Nazi groups. They will play on Saturday 25 June. All of the acts on the night use racist lyrics and decorate their set with swastika symbols and Nazi images. The Nazi organisation Stormfront is promoting the event and have declared that its supporters will descend on Islington for the night. The event is organised by Tony Wakeford, who is founding member of Nazi band 'Sol Invictus' and an ex-member of the Nazi National Front (NF). He continues to move in fascist circles. Wakeford is the founding member of known fascist bands such as 'Death in June' and 'Above the Ruins' both of which have donated to the NF and are promoted in fascist magazines. We believe that these Nazi bands represent a threat to community cohesion in Islington are an insult to those that have suffered at the hands of fascists. We call on the organisers cancel this Nazi-fest. It is in all our interests to keep Islington free from racism, violence and fear.
Now, I think that the reason they have taken this approach is because, with groups such as the NF, BNP and EDL it has been important to establish that, despite their denials, they are essentially fascist organisations (and 'Nazi' is here used as a synonym of 'fascist'). I think they were right about that. However, in this situation the problem is that many of the fans of these bands (and most of the fans of Slimelight) are neither racist nor fascist, but they believe that people should be allowed to say and do whatever they like without being opposed, even if what they are saying promotes racism and fascism.
Therefore this blog has always argued that the key to the situation is to win the argument with the fans that clubs, etc., should not be providing a platform for artists who promote racist and fascist ideas. The problem is that the really dubious performers already understand perfectly well that most fans will not accept racism and fascism, and so they deny that they are either fascist or racist. In that situation the job is to 'patiently explain' to the fans what the issues are. If they are approached with the claim that they are willingly attending a 'Nazi-fest', as if it were the BNP summer camp, they won't find it credible and will therefore be more inclined to support the gig.
Despite all this I would encourage people to support the call to stop the gig, not because I agree with the text of the petition but - given that Islington ALARM have decided against any sort of mass action (see above) - it is now the only game in town in terms of an active campaign. People should either compose their own statement as to why the gig should not go ahead and send that to LMHR (which you can do here), or, if you don't want to go through LMHR, make a comment below or contact me directly with a statement and I'll collect them and send them to the press, the venue, etc. But if you don't want to do either of those things I hope you sign the LMHR petition itself despite its exaggeration.
The danger is that people take a purist, abstract position on all this. We have to realise that it is a step forward for activist campaigners such as LMHR to take the issue seriously. At the same time, they are new to this territory and are bound to get the details and emphasis wrong to start with, and it seems to me abstentionist to refuse to support their effort until they get it right. Hic Rhodes! Hic Salta!
The job of the LMHR picket/demo is to argue with the punters about why Slimelight should not provide a platform for such gigs, hoping that enough pressure can be put on the venue management to make them back down. This simply isn't going to work if they assume that the people attending the gig (and, even more so, those attending the venue generally) are willingly participating in a 'Nazi-fest' - the vast majority of the attendees are not the enemy, but are potential friends and allies, and if the campaign isn't aimed at convincing these people then it will be counter-productive.
A Question for Slimelight Supporters
I may add to this post later, as more thoughts occur to me concerning the campaign against the Slimelight gig, and in response to later developments. In the meantime I would like to ask supporters of the Slimelight management: if you really want to have nothing to do with racism and fascism, and if the artists playing on the 25th have nothing to do with racism and fascism, can you explain why Gaya Donadio (in her guise as 'Hagshadow') - who is, I believe Patrick Leagas's partner, and who is promoting the Sol Invictus / 6 Comm gig - has managed to book a gig at Slimelight for later this year featuring Sutcliffe Jugend and Peter Sotos?
To give an idea of the lyrical and literary themes dealt with by Peter Sotos, I will merely quote some extracts from a review by Trevor Blake of Sotos's fanzine 'Pure';
"Kiddie Torture" speaks of "the sublime pleasure" of child abuse and the "added pleasure" in witnessing the pain of the parents whose children are murdered. It focuses specifically on Ian Brady, whose domination of Myra Hindley is glorified as is their murder of Lesley Downey (age 10) and Marie Payne (age 4).The arguments around Sotos are different to those about Sol Invictus - while the content of his work is much more extreme, the political context is more complex. I mention him not because I think it is problematic in the same way, but because it too raises complex issues about what is and isn't acceptable. My point is that I find it completely irresponsible to take the position that any and all art should be welcomed just because it's called 'art'.
The twelve pages headed "Nazi Triumphs" are mostly photographs of emaciated dead people and victims of medical experiments, with one page of commentary by the editor and scattered quotes from concentration camp commandants and Hitler.
Sotos describes women as dogs, garbage, dirt, shit... yet must somehow delight in Myra Hindley's role in the Moors murders. He accomplishes this by ignoring the fact that she is a woman. Women to Sotos are victims or they do not exist.