National Effrontery

Politics and violence were all part of the mix at gigs in the late 70s/early 80s. They were the arena where fascism and anti-fascism slugged it out. This response to a racist is from the letters page of Sounds, 25 October, 1980.

I’m not ashamed of being white or of my British heritage either, but that doesn’t equate with the National Front.It does, however, mean a desire to preserve the free speech and democracy we supposedly enjoy in Britain and no doubt the NF do encounter a healthy and venomous opposition, but mainly because there is a realisation that were the NF to gain sufficient impetus, they may not extend the same courtesy of free speech as you and I would perhaps grant them.
You can hardly expect me to defend those who would not have the slightest qualms about denying me the ‘free speech’ that the NF enjoy anyway; I’ve seen one of their political party broadcasts on TV myself.
“Never any outcry about the homeless, jobless, whites?” Every time I turn the television on, a politician or trade unionist is decrying the obscenity of 2 million unemployed. The number is, I assume inclusive of all races. And what about the ‘inter-tribe fights in African States?” that’s no justification of racialism in this country.
“Proud to be white, so are my mates, and if that makes us racist, well so what?” So everything. If you ARE a racist, admit it. If you’re not you should realise the implications of glibness on the subject when compared to the rest of your letter. And I’m sure Sounds writers don’t wish they were black, even though they may well be biased; they’d probably rather be what they are: white and affluent.

Marc, Wotton-Under-Edge, Glos.

Glasgow Slums

A poem from the 1969 Corgi anthology Doves For The 70s

Glasgow Slums

Rats run, unheeding, through the court
or stop to drink
from scum-topped, stinking pools
that make the place a bog.

A dog rakes, mindless, in the waste
from dustbin dropped
and scatters a he goes
a swarm of buzzing flies.

And overall, a smell, a stench
of dump, disease, decay.
The crumbling walls,
the shattered panes,
the filth, the muck.

And, in the midst of this
a child plays, heedless and content,
never questioning
that this is right, or kind, or just.

George Hardie

Nothing But Poetry

Sentenced to ten years solitary confinement in Stalin’s purges Evgenia S. Ginzburg’s book Into The Whirlwind is about the survival of the human spirit. She makes many references to how poetry affected the lives of those imprisoned.

According to the rules displayed on the wall, books were allowed at the rate of two every ten days. But throughout the first month the library remained closed for stock-taking, so I had sixteen hours a day to fill in as I saw fit. I tried to establish some sort of routine to stop myself from going mad. The important thing was not to forget how to talk. The warders were trained to silence and spoke only about half a dozen words a day – reveille, washroom, hot water, exercise, bread…
I tried to do gymnastics before breakfast. The flap-window clicked open:
“That’s forbidden!”
I tried laying down after dinner. Another click:
“That’s forbidden except from lights-out to reveille.”
So what remained? Nothing but poetry – my own and other people’s. And so I paced my five steps up and five steps down, composing:

Between these walls of stone
All roads are just as short:
By any count this cell
Is never more than three by five.

No good without a pencil! Clearly, I wasn’t a born poet.
After dinner was my time for Pushkin. I gave myself a lecture about him, then repeated all I could remember oof his poems. My memory, cut off from all impressions from outside, unfolded like a chrysalis transformed into a butterfly. Wonderful!