An anti-fascist movement is growing in Scotland and culture has become a key weapon in the emerging battleground. A writer with Interregnum, an independent radical online blog run by activist reporters, researchers and dissident writers based in Glasgow, speaks on the importance of building a sense of solidarity in underground scenes and looks ahead to this weekend's major anti-fascist hip hop event...
“Nazi falls amidst a hall of fists and feet
Stomping out the rhythm of the cable street beat
With our boots on the scumbag's head
The only good Nazi is one that's dead”
Oi Polloi – Bash The Fash (1993)
Societal change doesn't just come through political action and movement; culture and art play an important role in shaping our world. All major political movements have had cultural elements which helped bring people together to fight a common cause and show the energy and power of the people involved. Fascists attempt to use culture as a tool to recruit and to push their ideas of superiority, but culture and music also have played vital roles in queer and black liberation movements. Music can be used to celebrate and remember the struggles of the past. It's vital for us as antifascists to understand and respect the role music has in our fight against the far right.
I've been left wing my whole life, but it was listening to punk that introduced me not only to antifascist politics but antifascism as an identity. Bands like Antiflag and Propaghandi screaming “kill them all and let a Norse God sort 'em out!” foregrounded the importance of stating your intent to take action against fascism, rather than just passively being against it. When I moved to Edinburgh and started going to the regular benefit gigs around the city, I started seeing local punk bands with a heavy antifascist message.
Oi Polloi, the legends of the DIY punk scene, who've been rocking crowds with their anarchist crust punk, oi!, and D-beat anthems since the 80s, are still a firm favourite. Nothing gets you riled up to go resist the Scottish Defence League on the streets like jumping around with your pals in a sweaty mosh pit screaming “when we see the fash, let the boots do the talking!”. They also make important calls for antifascists to reject macho posing and instead build a welcoming punk scene that holds anti-homophobic and feminist politics at its core.
Punk is not the only scene with a strong anti-fascist culture. Music genres like hip-hop, reggae and soul have strong roots in black liberation and anti-racist struggle. Punk, by contrast, has historically appealed to disaffected young white people, mainly men. Despite its origins with the afro-Caribbean skinheads and reggae, punk's smartly dressed cousin Oi! and the skinhead scene was a ripe for infiltration by fascists and was used a recruitment tool for the National Front. This is what makes being an antifascist punk or skinhead such a statement.
Walking into a gig with a Skinheads Against Racism and Prejudice (S.H.A.R.P) jacket on, or a Nazi Punks Fuck Off t-shirt, could result in you getting your head kicked in. But by turning the tables, and refusing to concede space, it's now dangerous to cut about with a Skrewdriver shirt (the most popular white supremacist band to come out of the fascist skinhead movement). The handful of fascist gigs that do happen in Scotland are small insignificant affairs, held secretly outside of cities and drawing ever smaller and older crowds.
There's no room for complacency though. This year fascist black metal band Infernal War from Sweden were booked to play at the Glasgow venue Audio. A quick response from antifascists saw them removed from the bill and similar action was taken across the band's entire UK tour. These bands cannot be given space to recruit. By contrast, it's now common to find bands with explicitly anti-fascist messages playing gigs in Scotland.
Feminist punk bands like Bratakus or The Farting Suffragettes are regularly on stage pushing their politics with anger and noise. Initiatives like Edinburgh's Girls Rock School or the Rock'n'Roll Summer School for Girls Glasgow help women learn instruments and form bands with an inherently DIY and political message at its core. Gallo Rojo, the Edinburgh based band playing Spanish Civil War folk with a punk and metal influence, are just as likely to be found on the streets opposing the far right as on stage singing about it (see also Conter's Radical Music Guide).
Antifascist music is not just limited to punk by any means. Derek Ide of the Hampton Institute comments that: “Hip-hop was born from the ashes of a community devastated by a capitalist economic system and racist government officials.” On September 8 (McNeill's Bar, 7-11pm), Glasgow-based blog Interregnum and Edinburgh Antifascist Action will host the first of what we hope will be many antifascist hip hop night. The bill – which features leading lights in the hip hop scene such as Jackal Trades, Futurology, Texture and Tickle – demonstrates the prevalence of radical sentiment in Scottish hip hop.
Later this month, Scottish sound system BBL will team up with crews from down south for an antifascist free party, bringing rave culture and antifascists together. The event will be held the weekend of the 28th at a secret location announced closer to the time so check your networks for more information. Subsequently, Interregnum is to organise another hip hop night for mid-November which will bring together antifascist acts from all over Europe.
These nights are vital: underground scenes provide space for people alienated from society and suffering under capitalism. They make spaces where people can feel belonging and acceptance; spaces where they can experience their collective power. They provide a powerful platform for individuals in the scene to influence young people. This can be dangerous in the wrong hands, but it's also an important way to build strong movements. We should work to amplify voices not given a place in the mainstream, spaces for working class people, women, queer people, trans people and people of colour to be angry as fuck about the state of the world, and to find other people who feel the same. We can use these opportunities to show the alternative world we want to build, and why we fight against not just the status quo but the world of hate and bigotry put forward by the far right.