The Hippies Now Wear Black

The anarcho-punk movement in the UK, 1977-1984

Projects

In addition to a growing list of writings on different aspects of the history of anarcho-punk, Rich is working on two separate but related book projects: Let the Tribe Increase and The Hippies Now Wear Black.

Let the Tribe Increase

More than ten years ago, Hawaiian-born musician and author Lance Hahn began work on what he intended to be an authoritative history of the first wave of British anarcho-punk – which he had entitled Let the Tribe Increase. Lance was keen to construct that history through the testimony of the band members, artists, organisers and publishers that were engaged with the anarcho-punk movement throughout those turbulent years. By letter and email, he contacted dozens of punk activists from that era, and put together a substantial but incomplete first draft of his manuscript.

Unfortunately, while he remained extremely active in the US punk scene, Lance had to battle with a number of long-term and debilitating health conditions. As the early 2000s progressed he found it more and more difficult to make further progress on the book. Sadly, in October 2007, Lance succumbed to his long-term health issues, dying at the tragically young age of 40, leaving the book, amongst many other creative projects, unfinished.

In the years since then, a number of authors have taken on the job of trying to progress Lance’s partial manuscript to completion. But it has proved to be a challenging task, for a number of reasons, and no notable progress has been attained.

Now, with the backing of anarchist publishers PM Press, writer on anarcho-punk Rich Cross has taken on that task. Since starting work, all of Lance’s drafted chapters have now been reworked and re-edited; chapters not yet started identified; and the contents of a number of additional chapters, intended to put the experience of participants into a number of wider contexts, agreed.

Updating and extending the manuscript involves (alongside many other things) contacting those that Lance interviewed during his research to give everyone fresh sight of their original answers given to his questions. That process is now underway, and will continue over the coming months.

More information will be forthcoming as things progress towards publication, but in the meantime, if you’ve any questions or suggestions about the project please get in touch at: tribe@thehippiesnowwearblack.org.uk.

The Hippies Now Wear Black

The Hippies Now Wear Black, a study of the history, culture, politics and practice of the British anarcho-punk movement between 1977 and 1984, is being written by Rich Cross and will be published by AK Press. Benefitting from many years of cumulative research, 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 trail-blazing 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 subculture. 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 subcultural 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.

More information will be forthcoming as things progress towards publication, but in the meantime, if you’ve any questions or suggestions about the project please get in touch at: info@thehippiesnowwearblack.org.uk

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