Tactics for Evolution: Industrial socialist pioneers Test Dept, live in Berlin, 1997
12:03 pm

When Test Dept were at the end of their first incarnation, performing at the Island Open Air Festival in Berlin, during August of 1997, the group had progressed from their hard industrial sound (hammers hitting metal) to a more experimental electronica much related (a second cousin twice removed, perhaps) to rave culture.

Some artists and musicians need pricks to kick against in order to produce great art—otherwise they would all end up being as anodyne as Justin Bieber or as deluded as Kanye West. Test Dept had the extreme machinations of the British Conservative government to kick against when they formed in south London’s docklands in 1981. Test Dept described themselves as “an urgent reaction to the materialistic drift and reactionary conservatism of the prevailing musical and political culture.” They were the antithesis of the moronic inferno of commercial music and the perniciousness of right-wing politics. Their motto was:


Test Dept were in opposition to the extreme conditions being created by the ruling Conservative party under the prime ministership of Margaret Thatcher. Mrs. T. had been elected in May 1979 on a campaign that claimed the previous Labor government had created high unemployment. By 1981 the irony fairy had been working overtime and Thatcher’s policies doubled the number of unemployed. It eventually reached a massive high of over 3 million people by the mid-1980s.

Across the country, industries and businesses were closed. Essential social services were devastated by the Tory’s cuts, which will sound familiar to younger generations. Thatcher operated on the belief that the previous Labor government had made the British far too dependent on state hand-outs (welfare) and this was why she hacked away at the benefits system like a drunk gardener uprooting roses to kill the weeds.

Test Dept were a response to the obscenity of a new political order and the decay and poverty left in its wake. TD scavenged for the tools to make their industrial sonic attack—discarded sheet metal, hammers, oil drums. They were aligned to political activism—seeking like-minded collaborators—filmmakers, sculptors, dancers and politically active groups—to produce site-specific works to fight back and bring change. In 1984, at the height of the miners’s strike—when Thatcher closed the mines and starved the miners out of work—TD collaborated with miners and their families to draw attention to their plight and raise money for their funds.

Anyone who saw TD during this decade felt emboldened and empowered to fight back against the Tories and bring about a fairer more equal society. They are very much needed again now.

As if responding to some psychic Bat signal, Test Dept regrouped for the release of a book to commemorate their involvement with the miners’ strike. Next month they’ll premier their soundtrack to the recently rediscovered and restored Soviet silent film masterpiece An Unprecedented Campaign by Mikhail Kaufman. Test Dept will appear at the film’s premiere in Newcastle, details here.

Previously on Dangerous Minds
EXTREME CONDITIONS DEMAND EXTREME RESPONSES: Test Dept’s industrial strength Socialism

Posted by Paul Gallagher
12:03 pm
Glenda Jackson denounces ‘heinous’ Thatcherism in House of Commons tirade

For a moment, I thought I was watching a film—perhaps a re-make of Peter Barnes’ The Ruling Class? You know the scene where a demented Jack Gurney, 14th Earl of Gurney (Peter O’Toole) gives an insane speech in favor of the death penalty to a parliamentary chamber that is received with the most rapturous applause from his decrepit audience, the literal-living dead—the rotten, skeletal, cobweb-covered corpses of the House of Lords?

This was the only way I could make sense of what I was watching, as the British House of Commons gathered at a specially convened session to eulogize the evil dead—Margaret Thatcher.

By turn, all three leaders (Cameron, Clegg, Miliband) of the main electoral parties (Conservative, Liberal, Labour) praised the politician whose policies callously attacked the poorest, the weakest and least able, destroyed families, communities and industries, divided a country, and created mass unemployment for generations of Brits.

The vile stench of greed, hypocrisy and fear was almost palpable, as each bland politician paid homage to evils of Thatcher and Thatcherism.

I suffered through more than 3 years of unemployment during the Thatcher era—and know first hand, the evil Thatcherism inflicted on the UK. And yet today the faceless, forgettable MPs came to sing her highest praises.

Thank goodness then, to Glenda Jackson, the former actress-turned-politician (MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, London), who did not follow the sheep, but stood up and told the British Parliament the truth about Margaret Thatcher and her evil policies.

“There was a heinous social, economic and spiritual damage wreaked upon this country, upon my constituency and my constituents.”

“I tremble to think what the death rate for pensioners would have been this week if that version of Thatcherism had been fully up and running this year.”

“By far the most dramatic and heinous demonstration of Thatcherism was not only in London but across the whole country in metropolitan areas, where every single shop doorway, every single night, became the bedroom, the living room, the bathroom for the homeless.”

Ms. Jackson went on to explain how Thatcherism promoted the vices of greed and selfishness as virtues.

“That everything I had been taught was a as vice, and I still regard them as vices, under Thatcherism was a virtue.”

“Greed, selfishness, no care for the weaker. Sharp elbows and sharp knees, this was the way forward.”

“People saw the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

“What concerns me is that I am beginning to see possibly the re-emergence of that total traducing of what I regard as the basic spiritual nature of this country—where we do care about society, where we do believe in communities, where we do not leave people to walk by on the other side.”

If only more Members of Parliament, these so-called elected representatives of the people, were as honest and as courageous as Glenda Jackson was today, then there would be genuine hope for a better tomorrow.


Posted by Paul Gallagher
06:16 pm