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Rock Against Racism: On the front line with The Clash, Specials, Undertones & Elvis Costello

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It all began in 1968 when an old Tory coot Enoch Powell gave a racist speech against immigration and anti-discrimination legislation at his West Midlands constituency in England. Powell claimed he was horrified at what he believed was an unstoppable flow of immigration that would eventually swamp the country where “in fifteen or twenty years’ time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man.” It was an incendiary and offensive speech full bile and hate, and became known as the “Rivers of blood speech” because of Powell’s quotation from Virgil’s Aeneid about “‘the River Tiber foaming with much blood.’”

Many of the white working class supported Powell, most shamefully the London dockers’ union staged a one day strike in his favor. Powell became the pin-up of the far right and his words appeared to sanction their rise, in particular the odious neo-Nazi National Front that promoted its racist policies with the boot as much as the ballot. Against this rose Rock Against Racism—“a raggedy arsed united front” co-founded by Red Saunders, Roger Huddle and others in 1976.

At first, Rock Against Racism was just an idea—a way to bring together a new generation of youth against the stealthy rise of the far right. It may have remained just an idea had it not been for Eric Clapton announcing during a concert in 1976 that the UK had “become overcrowded” and his fans should vote for Enoch Powell to stop Britain from becoming “a black colony.” Allegedly Clapton then shouted “Keep Britain white.” His racist tirade led to Saunders and Huddle writing a letter to the music paper NME pointing out that half Clapton’s music was black. The letter ended with a call for readers to help establish Rock Against Racism. The response was overwhelmingly positive.

In April 1978, 100,000 people marched across London in support of Rock Against Racism, which was followed by a concert at Victoria Park headlined by The Clash and the Tom Robinson Band. It was a momentous event, which singer and activist Billy Bragg correctly described as “the moment when my generation took sides.”

Photographer Syd Shelton documented the rise of Rock Against Racism during the 1970s and 1980s from its first demonstrations, the concert in Victoria Park, to the gigs, bands, musicians (The Clash, The Specials, The Undertones, Elvis Costello, etc), the young activists and supporters who stood up and proudly said: “Love Music, Hate Racism.”
 
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More rocking pictures against racism, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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James Baldwin asks ‘How are white Americans so sure they are white?’
12.04.2014
09:52 am

Topics:
Literature
Politics
Race

Tags:
James Baldwin
Dick Gregory


 
In 1963, James Baldwin wrote two essays that examined the role of race and racism in the history of America. Published in The New Yorker, Baldwin’s first essay, written in the form of a letter to his fourteen-year-old nephew on the 100th anniversary of Emancipation explained “the crux of [his] dispute with [his] country”:

You were born where you were born and faced the future that you faced because you were black and for no other reason. The limits to your ambition were thus expected to be settled. You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity and in as many ways as possible that you were a worthless human being. You were not expected to aspire to excellence. You were expected to make peace with mediocrity.

Baldwin developed his historical and political analysis in his second essay in which he described his own experience of religion, criticising both Christianity and Islam as being culpable in maintaining ethnic division and oppression—where the white oppressors had attempted to destroy black men and women:

...the truth about the black man, as a historical entity and as a human being, has been hidden from him, deliberately and cruelly; the power of the white world is threatened whenever a black man refuses to accept the white world’s definitions. So every attempt is made to cut the black man down—not only was made yesterday but is made today.

Baldwin’s essays proved so popular and influential they were collected and published book form as The Fire Next Time later the same year. This book placed Baldwin as one of the major figures in the American civil rights movement of the 1960s, and as one of the greatest public intellectuals of the twentieth century.
 

 
In 1968, along with comedian and activist Dick Gregory, James Baldwin gave a talk at the West Indian Student Center in London, where he and Gregory discussed the American black experience in relation to the Afro-Caribbean experience in Britain. The seminar was documented by a young filmmaker Horace Ové, who filmed the proceedings and later edited the footage into a documentary called Baldwin’s Nigger (1969).  Though there is nothing special in the way in which Ové filmed the meeting (mainly in a flat, news-report style), it is the content of what each participant said, in particular Baldwin, that makes Ové‘s film so important, as he had fortunately captured an important debate and conversation between Baldwin, Gregory and the audience about ethnicity, identity, politics and racism at a crucial moment in world history.

Baldwin began by talking about a visit to the British Museum where he got in conversation with a West Indian man who asked the writer where he was from.

I told him I was from Harlem. That answer didn’t satisfy him…
“Yes,” he said “But man, but where were you born?”
And I began to get it.
“Well,” I said, “My mother was born in Maryland, my father was born in New Orleans, I was born in New York.”
He said, “But before that where were you born?”
And I had to say, “I don’t know.”

Baldwin went onto explain why he doesn’t know—for his ancestral entry into America was by a “bill of sale, which stops you from going any further.”

But Baldwin wasn’t interested in just offering personal historical context of the black American experience, he also asked provocative and difficult questions about white ethnicity and the complex relationship between all Americans:

White men lynched negroes knowing them to be their sons. White women watched men being lynched knowing them to be their lovers… How are white Americans so sure they are white?

The point is racism damages everyone.

In light of the institutionalised racism exposed by the Michael Brown fiasco in Ferguson, the killing of Eric Garner in New York and the rise of racist and xenophobic politics across Europe and the Middle East, Horace Ové‘s film of James Baldwin and Dick Gregory is necessary viewing.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Obama is Nixon in ‘BUMF,’ cartoonist Joe Sacco’s wail of geopolitical despair
12.03.2014
10:16 am

Topics:
Art
Books
Politics

Tags:
Joe Sacco


 
In his essay about Jonathan Swift, George Orwell refers to “the irresponsible violence of the powerless,” a quotation prompted by recent publication of BUMF, Vol. 1, a surreal, undisciplined, ecstatically offensive bit of political satire by Joe Sacco.

Sacco has made his name as a cartoonist-journalist of sorts; his two best-known books, Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde, are first-person accounts of geopolitical atrocity on a massive scale. His staggering 2013 work The Great War was a 24-foot (and wordless) tapestry, for want of a better term, about the carnage of the Somme that had the emotional impact of, say, a collaborative effort between R. Crumb and Hieronymus Bosch.
 

 
BUMF is roughly what one would expect from someone who had been thinking about the Israeli-Palestine conflict, Bosnia, and World War I for way too long. Unlike his other works, BUMF is a pure flight of fancy, a surreal and gleefully anachronistic Mobius strip-style narrative in which a World War I colonel might breezily cite Garfield and discuss Sacco’s own Eisner-winning career. BUMF is a delirious exercise in mashup, working in references to 9/11, the Kaiser, “Bunga Bunga,” drone strikes, Nixon’s enemies list, the street execution of Nguyễn Văn Lém in Vietnam, Abu Ghraib, black sites, the Checkers speech, “Mission Accomplished,” the NSA, and whatever other outrage happened to cross Sacco’s field of vision. It’s completely undisciplined, but that’s part of the point, it’s just as irresponsible as Jonathan Swift was. And Sacco’s unearthly skills as a draftsman haven’t abandoned him either. If anything, BUMF reminds me of the surreal vignettes of the Firesign Theatre.
 

 
Sacco usually inserts his somewhat Steve Albini-like self into his works, and BUMF is no exception; given the punk rock subject matter of Sacco’s 2006 But I Like It, the Albini comparison may be more apt than is initially apparent. Sacco is nothing if not a self-consciously “pencil-necked” left-wing artiste type filled with more than the usual amount of righteous rage. BUMF is a scabrous howl from Sacco’s political id. The plot that occupies the first chunk of the book has to do with the aforementioned British colonel, named “Singo-Jingo,” and his (apparently successful) plan to “bugger” the German Kaiser Wilhelm as a way of bringing the unceasing butchery of the Great War to an end.

R. Fiore at the Comics Journal put it well when he wrote that BUMF expressed “the helplessness of what you might call the genuine left to transfer its revulsion at targeted killing and government metadata collection to the general public.” BUMF may be fueled by impotent rage at the atrocities of 1914 (the Somme) and 1994 (Bosnia), but the proximate cause for the anger in BUMF are above all the disappointments of the current occupant of the White House. A central trope of the narrative is that of deceased and disgraced President Nixon waking up in the body of Obama; while Sacco takes aim at George W. Bush as well, the underlying point seems to be that all presidents, no matter how liberal or idealistic, are Nixons in the end. Obama has left Gitmo in place, did nothing to stop the information-gathering of the NSA, and has approved the use of drones to murder even (in theory) American citizens under the right circumstances.

If nothing else, BUMF is the ideal holiday gift for your favorite unruly political crank.
 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Fascist groove thang: Mussolini’s granddaughter recorded a disco number, 1982
12.01.2014
06:26 am

Topics:
Music
Politics

Tags:
disco
Alessandra Mussolini


 
Before she went into politics, Alessandra Mussolini, the granddaughter of Il Duce and the niece of Sophia Loren, had a short-lived disco career in Japan. She and Japanese producer Miki Curtis formed an axis of funk on 1982’s Amore. With a dagger between their teeth, a bomb in their hands and an infinite groove in their hearts, the pair dropped this tautological single, “Love Is Love.” Listen for my favorite lyric: “The chains of your love make me free.” Nonno would have been so proud.
 

 

 
Mamma mia! That’s-a some spicy meatball!

Ms. Mussolini spent most of the ‘70s and ‘80s acting and modeling, but she’s stuck to politics since she was elected to parliament in 1992. As you might expect, she’s just a real nice kind of a person.

YouTube user PannaCottaTrash has collected the whole Amore LP in this playlist.

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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Russell Brand hits back at critics by singing his own version of ‘Parklife’
11.10.2014
09:05 am

Topics:
Amusing
Politics

Tags:
Russell Brand
Parklife

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It may be a week late, but Russell Brand has eventually responded to tweeters who commented on his political writing style with the tag “Parklife!” by singing his very own version of Blur’s 1994 hit single.

Dan Barker who has been credited with starting the Russell Brand “Parklife” meme reviewed the video for BBC’s Newsbeat where he said:

“I enjoyed the video and found it pretty funny, though I’m not totally surprised that a week of difficult brainstorming with his vast PR army, and a Hollywood-sized production budget resulted in a funny response to a mild 140-character observation.

“I was surprised the video content is all about politics and class though.

“The tweet that went viral had nothing to do with either - just an observation about his writing style (though I’m sure the state schools I went to in Whitley Bay would love to be compared to Eton, they were sadly lacking that kind of money).

“If I’m honest I think he’s done a great job of turning it round from a PR point of view, and hopefully boring people so much with the word ‘PARKLIFE!’ that it may limit the amount of times people shout it at him in future.”

I suppose some may see this as case of ‘If you can’t beat them, join them…’
 

 
H/T BBC

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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If you really think it matters which party controls the Senate, answer these simple questions
11.06.2014
11:37 am

Topics:
Class War
Politics
U.S.A.!!!

Tags:
Republicans
Democrats


 
This is a guest post from Charles Hugh Smith. Read his essays daily at his Of Two Minds blog. Smith’s latest book is Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy.

Please don’t claim anything changes if one party or the other is in the majority. Anyone clinging to that fantasy is delusional.

If you really think it matters which political party controls the U.S. Senate, please answer these questions. Don’t worry, they’re not that difficult:

1. Will U.S. foreign policy in the Mideast change from being an incoherent pastiche of endless war and Imperial meddling? Please answer with a straight face. We all know the answer is that it doesn’t matter who controls the Senate, Presidency or House of Representatives, nothing will change.

2. Will basic civil liberties be returned to the citizenry? You know, like the cops are no longer allowed to steal your cash when they stop you for a broken tail light and claim the cash was going to be used for a drug deal.

Or some limits on domestic spying by Central State agencies. You know, basic civil liberties as defined by the Bill of Rights and the U.S. constitution.

Don’t make me laugh—you know darned well that it doesn’t matter who controls the Senate, Presidency or House of Representatives, nothing will change.

3. Will the predatory, parasitic policies of the Federal Reserve that virtually everyone from the Wall Street Journal to what little remains of the authentic Left understands has greatly increased income and wealth inequality be reined in? Please don’t claim either party has any will or interest in limiting the Fed’s rapacious financialization. There is absolutely no evidence to support such a claim—it is pure wishful thinking.

4. Will the steaming pile of profiteering, corruption, waste, fraud and ineptitude that is Sickcare in the U.S. be truly reformed so its costs drop by 50% to match what every other developed democracy spends per person on universal healthcare? It doesn’t matter if ObamaCare is repealed or not; that monstrosity was simply another layer of bureaucratic waste on an already hopelessly dysfunctional system.

If you answer “yes,” please run a body scan on yourself to detect the biochips that were implanted while you voted Demopublican.

5. Will the influence of Big Money be well and truly banned from politics? If you answer yes, please pick up your tin-foil hat at the door.

6. Will the incentives in the Status Quo be reset to punish rapacious financialization and gaming the system and reward productive investment and labor? Before you answer, check out who’s buttering the Senators’ bread. Hint: Wall Street does not qualify as productive unless we’re talking about the production of life-draining parasites. Virtually none of the vast armies of skimmers and scammers, from those pursuing bogus disability claims to lobbyist leeches, will suffer any consequence.

Moral hazard is the Status Quo’s Prime Directive.

7. Will anything be done to dismantle the Neofeudal Debt-Serfdom known as student loans? You are delusional if you think either party has any interest in limiting the predation of an academic Upper Caste that came to do good and stayed to do well.

8. Will any prudent assessment be made of unaffordable weapons systems like the F-35 Lightning—$1.5 trillion and counting for aircraft that will soon be matched by drones that cost a fraction of the F-35’s $200 million a piece price tag? No way—parts of those insanely costly jets are made in dozens of states, so the pork is well-distributed. Never mind the plane is lemon, built to fight the wars of the past. It’s jobs, Baby—that’s all that counts. Never mind the $1.5 trillion—we can always borrow another couple trillion—the Fed promised us.

Do you really think the Senate controlled by either party will ask why the F-35’s price tag dropped to $120 million from $200 million? That’s easy—the revised estimate left out the engine and avionics. They’ll be added back in after the Senate approves open-ended funding.

If none of these key dynamics will change, you got nothing. Please don’t claim anything changes if one party or the other is in the majority. Anyone clinging to that fantasy is delusional.

If you doubt this, please take the above quiz again.

This is a guest post from Charles Hugh Smith. Read his essays daily at his Of Two Minds blog. Smith’s latest book is Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Handy tips from the 1970s on how to survive a nuclear attack

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For some inexcusable reason, I have merged the first time I saw one of these Protect & Survive infommercials with watching kids TV on a Saturday or summer holiday morning. Let’s say, I saw them after re-runs of The Banana Splits and before My White Horses. I’m no doubt wrong but that’s how I like to remember these “chilling” ads instructing the plucky British nation on how best to “protect and survive” a nuclear attack. Fat chance, I hear you say, and I would certainly agree—as the government’s suggestion of some quick DIY (taking doors off their hinges to form a makeshift shelter) and stockpiling food, water and medical supplies within the allotted four minute warning before a nuclear attack was highly optimistic.

Twenty of these short Protect and Survive films were made in 1975, and were certainly screened at some point during that decade and during the 1980s. I know because I recall thinking it very unfortunate that my parents had glass doors throughout their house, which meant any unhinging or using of these doors as possible shelter was utterly pointless. It struck me then that such makeshift bunkers made from leaning a door against a wall and reinforcing it with furniture, suitcases, bedding and, er, sandbags (as if anyone had these lying around) were in reality coffins, graveyards for the millions of English, Scots and Welsh who would have been wiped out in an attack.

Of course the UK government knew this as they had secretly run a mock nuclear attack to estimate the actual number of dead and injured. Called “Operation Square Leg,” the exercise assumed that “131 nuclear weapons would fall on Britain with a total yield of 205 megatons: 69 ground burst; 62 air burst.” This would leave 29 million dead or 53% of the population; with 7 million or 12% seriously injured; and 19 million or 35% of the population remaining as “short-term survivors.” In other words, we were all fucking doomed.

Still, perhaps those in charge hoped these little films would offer a tiny glimmer of hope to those who thought the government knew best, or in my case some scary Saturday morning entertainment. The voice-over for these infomercials was supplied by Patrick Allen—-who was also at this time presenting a host of adverts selling timber-framed homes to first-time buyers. Some of his lines from these films were re-recorded and inserted into “Two Tribes” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood notably:

“Mine is the last voice you will ever hear. Do not be alarmed.”

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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The Russian Revolution in color
10.27.2014
10:47 am

Topics:
History
Politics

Tags:
photography
Lenin
Russian Revolution

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Lenin was a headbanger, quite literally. As a baby he would bang his head repeatedly on the floor. His parents thought little Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov might injure himself or that his actions suggested something wrong. According to his biographer Robert Service, Lenin was a troublesome child—needy, demanding attention and resentful of his family and other children. He always wanted to be the center of attention and this he later achieved on a grand scale when he turned the events of the Russian Revolution to his advantage, and became head of government of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Lenin had campaigned and encouraged the revolution from afar, from his base in Switzerland, where he spent his days writing manifestoes and political pamphlets and his evenings watching DADAist performances offending the audience at the club Cabaret Voltaire, which left Lenin pondering who was the more revolutionary DADA or himself? The events of 1917 were to answer that.

These color images were uncovered by Russian-born photographer Anton Orlov when he was asked to clear out storage crates in the basement of a home in California. In amongst the personal items and assorted junk were hundreds of hand-colored glass slides taken by an American pastor named John Wells Rahill during the Russian Revolution of 1917.
 
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Pastor John Wells Rahill with three young boys at a Russian village.
 
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Members of the YMCA entertain a crowd at a train station.
 
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Soldiers at Omsk train station.
 
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Damaged buildings in the center of Moscow.
 
More color photos plus ‘The Russian Revolution in Color’ documentary, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Prankster in Chief: LBJ liked to fool people with his amphibious car
10.27.2014
06:56 am

Topics:
Amusing
History
Politics

Tags:
Lyndon Johnson


Lyndon Johnson takes his Amphicar out for a spin

Aside from being perhaps America’s best post-WW2 president in domestic policy and America’s worst post-WW2 president in foreign policy, Lyndon B. Johnson has also proved to be perhaps our most entertaining president, with memorable moments like showing off his gall bladder surgery scar, holding meetings while he was on the toilet, and, as we posted in July, hilariously talking about his “bunghole” with his tailor.

Maybe it’s not too surprising that Johnson also engaged in pranks that, had more people known about them, would surely have had media scolds worrying that his behavior was insufficiently “presidential.” For instance, few people know that, much like James Bond, Johnson actually owned an amphibious car. The Quandt Group produced the amphibious convertible (!) known as the “Amphicar” in the German city of Lübeck and at Berlin-Borsigwalde. The car functioned by engaging “the two propellers, located under the rear engine compartment.” The company made 3,878 of them between 1960 and 1968. It came in four colors, “Beach White, Regatta Red, Fjord Green (Aqua), and Lagoon Blue,” the latter one being the hue that Johnson favored. For Johnson owned an Amphicar. The black-and-white picture on this page is of Johnson driving one in April 1965.
 

Adventures with the Amphicar
 
Even better than owning one, Johnson liked to fool visitors to his ranch in Johnson City, Texas, that the brakes had failed and that they were powerless to prevent the car from plunging into a lake and drowning the passengers. One of Johnson’s LBJ’s top domestic aides, Joseph A. Califano Jr., tells the following story:
 

The President, with Vicky McCammon in the seat alongside him and me in the back,was now driving around in a small blue car with the top down. We reached a steep incline at the edge of the lake and the car started rolling rapidly toward the water. The President shouted, “The brakes don’t work! The brakes won’t hold! We’re going in! We’re going under!” The car splashed into the water. I started to get out. Just then the car leveled and I realized we were in a Amphicar. The President laughed. As we putted along the lake then (and throughout the evening), he teased me. “Vicky, did you see what Joe did? He didn’t give a damn about his President. He just wanted to save his own skin and get out of the car.” Then he’d roar.

 
That’s right, the President of the United States liked to drive his amphibious car into a lake and then shout, “The brakes don’t work! We’re going under!” just to see what would happen. In the anecdote above, note how LBJ twits Califano for worrying only about his own skin. I suspect as a politician, Johnson liked learning about the character of the people he was with, to see what they were “really” made of.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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John Butler: Changing the world one animation at a time
10.23.2014
10:37 am

Topics:
Animation
Politics

Tags:
Marxism
John Butler

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Award-winning speculative fiction animator John Butler, one half of the Butler Brothers, will be making a rare appearance at the Exchange Rates Expo in Brooklyn, New York from October 23rd to 26th. John will be exhibiting alongside artist and filmmaker Patrick Jameson and artist Ellis Luxemburg, as part of the Glasgow’s Queen’s Park Railway Club at the Fuchs Projects, 56 Bogart Street.

Exchange Rates is an international expo of art and art galleries in around the Bushwick area of Brooklyn presenting work by exchange artists from around the world:

Conceived and produced by arts organizations helmed by artists and curators in Bushwick, Brooklyn and London, England, Exchange Rates—known also in this inaugural iteration as The Bushwick Expo—is an international exposition of artworks and curatorial programs in which host spaces in one art community open their doors and share their walls with kindred spaces on visit from elsewhere.

Some exhibits will be integrated, some collaborative yet autonomous, some even spontaneous or virtual.

The rates of exchange, as such, will fluctuate, while the currencies of exchange—ideas and culture—remain fixed.

 
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As regular readers to Dangerous MInds know, I am a big fan of John Butler’s work and have been banging the drum for his speculative animations for some considerable time. For those who don’t know his work, Butler, to give a snapshot, is a hybrid of J. G. Ballard, John Carpenter via Stanley Kubrick—an imaginative and intelligent dystopian, who has an exacting and precise style to his animated films.

Today, Butler will be premiering his recently completed speculative science fiction animation, the so-called Amazon cycle of four films (a reference to working practices of the company rather than the South American river) contained in Descention along with The Terminal Node. Butler’s recent work examines the processes by which capitalism uses technology to dehumanize a workforce.
 
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As Butler explained via email:

Descention draws a straight line from military robotics to retail cybernetics, from DARPA to Amazon.

Refusnik, G.O.L.E.M., M.O.N.A.D. and Mutator are all episodes in an adaptive odyssey that evaluates human utility in the age of artificial indifference.

Through a series of mutations, the human candidate is gradually purged of all non-essential attributes in an attempt to meet the imperatives of growth.

This process of adaptive degradation eventually leads to the distillation of human demand into an intelligent algorithm, fully able to realise it’s own destiny.

It is similar to The Incredible Shrinking Man except that his mutation is driven by the market rather than radiation.

 
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Below the Butler Brothers Descention which will be screened at Exchange Rates. More information here.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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