19 Oct 2007


Crass was an English anarchist punk rock band, formed in 1977[1][2] and based around Dial House, an open house community near Epping, Essex.

Whereas the Sex Pistols might have mentioned 'anarchy' for shock value (thereby furthering the common misconception that it is simply a synonym for chaos), Crass actually promoted genuine anarchism as a legitimate political ideology, way of living, and as a resistance movement, popularizing the seminal peace punk movement and touching on such overtly far left political issues as anti-consumerism, direct action, animal rights, feminism, anti-war, anti-corporatism, environmentalism, LGBT rights, anti-globalization, reproductive rights, anti-racism, squatting, and the separation of church and state.

Taking literally the punk manifesto of "Do It Yourself", Crass combined the use of sound collage, graphics, song, film, and subversion to launch a sustained and innovative critical broadside against all that they saw as a culture built on foundations of war, violence, sexism, prejudice, capitalism, religious hypocrisy and unthinking consumerism. They were also critical of what they perceived as the flaws of the punk movement itself, as well as wider youth culture in general. Crass were amongst the progenitors of the anarcho-pacifism that became common in the punk music scene
From here

Been reading Ian Bone's biography 'Bash the Rich', which I guess is not something in Nick Clegg's briefcase, Ian who I used to run into on demos during the 1980s, was an arch anarchist provacteur exploiting the tabloid press and being exploited by them with his mix of violent threat and humour. In fact Class War, according to Ian's book, tended to be all about violent threat mixed with a lot of alcohol, the autobiography is pretty funny and honest, talking about how class war activists disrupted CND events, for example, heckling Bruce Kent before picking a lift with him, to everyones embarrassment. Ian, the drunken advocate of violent anarchism, admit that he thought Bruce, the arch pacifist had a lot of 'bottle'. Ian loved EP Thompson's work, (I agree with him here) especially the 'making of the working class', which celebrated the 'mob' however one of the class warriors nearly brained the socialist writer by drunkenly chucking stuff at him during another CND event in the 1980s. I suffered at his hands, he recently mixed me up with Rupert Read in Freedom (insisting that I was an ex member of the SDP who went to Oxford rather than a former member of the Ecology Party who went to the University of London) and notably when he spotted me on the march for social justice proclaimed 'I always see you with a different women' which did not impress the mother of my kids. We were then charged myself, the women formerly known as Mrs Wall and the toddlers by mounted police, oh happy days. Ian, he has rude word for everyone, bless him.

Actually there is lot of interesting material from corruption in Swansea to Welsh repulican socialist politics to various bits of anarchist sectariana in the book...violent, pissed publicity seeking anarcho...but he tells a good tale...

The 1980s played out to a back drop within radical politics of black clad youthful anarchists who were often into radical animal rights campaigns, I was never an anarchist and even if I had been would have lacked the street cred but it was all going on in the background, I used to go and listen at meetings of the UCL anarchist society, watched the usual SI videos....did go and sab a bit as well and made a few anarchist book fairs (one on next weekend by the way).

So intrigued to read a very bizarre story in the Guardian today about some american guy doing cover versions of Crass numbers. All a bit odd...see what you think here.

It is said They were the most extreme band of punk's first wave, influencing everyone from the DIY movement to, er, David Beckham which seems as likely as Chris Huhne being influenced by Durruti or Vincent Cable mugging up on Tony Negri while listening to the Poison Girls.

Crass the great vegan pacifist anarcho revolutioneries who lived in a commune in Essex were underground classics, although a bit difficult to listen too...I guess most greens are nearer to their non violence but they were pretty violent in their non violence...and it took may while to work out the gender of Penny Rimbaud.

"How does it Feel to Be the Mother of A Thousand Dead" was their famous anti-Thatcher track, much banned...read more about them on the wiki oracle here

Nostalgic...may because I am in Bristol tommorrow...


Alistair Livingston said...

Dear Derek - although I am now a Scottish Green Party member, I was an 'anarcho-punk' 1978-1985. I have just cut and pasted a selection of Crass's lyrics with quotes from the Guardian/ Crass article- see


The cut- up {William Burrough's style] reveals the contradictions the Guardian text elides.
Alistair Livingston

aigaiopelagitis said...



Miles said...

I think the influence of punk on current radical politics is undersestimated.
There are as many Strummerists fighting the law as Marxists.
And the coming to influence of forty-something ex punks is reflected in wider popular culture.
TV news reporters not wearing ties for example.

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