This blog will document the research and writing of a book on the history, culture, politics and practice of the British anarcho-punk movement between 1977 and 1984. The book, provisionally entitled, The Hippies Now Wear Black: Crass and the anarcho-punk movement, 1977-1984 is being written by Rich Cross and will be published by AK Press. The Hippies Now Wear Black will be able to present a detailed account of the most important ‘restorative’ movement to emerge within punk, determined that its implicit world-changing potential should be realised.
Crass articulated arguably the most radical manifestation of the punk aesthetic, mobilising tens of thousands of youth in Britain and around the world and giving practical expression to the punk imperatives of ‘do-it-yourself’ activity and sub-cultural autonomy. Anarcho-punks swelled the ranks of the radical wing of the peace, disarmament and animal liberation movements of the 1980s; re-energised and reinvigorated the British anarchist milieu; and provided an unanswerable critique of the recuperation and evaporation of mainstream punk rock.
Crass’s uncompromising anarchist propaganda led to numerous prosecutions; the seizure of many of the band’s most ‘subversive’ record releases; ‘questions in the House’ about the group’s ‘scurrilous’ and ‘wicked’ anti-Falklands War single; and to political stunts that duped both the CIA and the KGB. Anarcho-punk inspired a new wave of anti-capitalist demonstrations in the City of London, and the establishment of new anarchist centres and squatted venues around the country. Behind the work of leading bands such as Crass, Poison Girls, and Flux of Pink Indians the movement was defined by the actions of a vast network of activists, writers, publishers and performers whose efforts came to life outside the confines of formal organisation and in defiance of the assertion that punk rock was a fleeting cultural distemper.
The Hippies Now Wear Black will combine an analytical history of the movement’s development, evolution and ultimate retrenchment between 1977 and 1984 with an assessment of the movement’s efforts to mobilise a new anarchist constituency and sub-culture. It will explore the movement’s efforts to give practical expression to its anarchist ambitions; examine the complex relationship which emerged between anarcho-punk’s assertion of punk authenticity and the claims of ‘mainstream’ punk; scrutinise the tensions between anarchist-punks and the anarchist movement’s traditional activists and thinkers; and assess the scope and limitations of anarcho-punk’s sub-cultural reach. Primarily a cultural-political, rather than a musical, history of punk, it will argue: that, despite its contradictions, the movement represented the most authentically radical expression of punk rock’s innate potential; that anarcho-punk has itself contributed to its own marginalization in the historiography of punk; and that, in reality, anarcho-punk represents a highly significant attempt to fuse a distinctive autonomous sub-culture with uncompromising revolutionary ambitions: a political-cultural approach to building a radical-libertarian milieu which continues to resonate and be revisited in numerous contexts in the present day.