Monthly Archives: October 2018

Cold In England

This poem in support of the Republicans fighting the Spanish Civil War was published in the Daily Worker, 22 December, 1938.

Cold In England

It’s bitterly cold in England today
And I crouch over a heaped-up fire and still
Can’t get warm.

Over there in that front line held by a miracle
An army shaped by a people’s will,
Crucible-tested,
Faces, with stern but hungry jaws,
Well-fed, well-clothed barbarians,
And shivers – with cold, not fear …
Somebody opens a door and the icy wind
Cuts through the room and the razor-thrusts my back,
Can’t get warm.

Over there they will jump out of bed tonight
– They are hungry, had no supper before they lay down –
They will put on those summer frocks and hide underground
They will be cold with the gnawing cold of ill-clad hunger,
Before they are cold with the peaceful cold of sudden death
Sent from the sky by the well-fed barbarians.

Shall I ever get warm again?
Can I ever be warm again?
Not till my comrades and I Have sent that foodship,
Sent those clothes,
To carry warmth,
Warmth of body,
And the rich warmth of comradeship,
Warmth.

It’s bitterly cold in England today
And I crouch over a heaped-up fire and still
Can’t get warm.

H. M. King

Tower Block

This poem comes from the first Hackney Writers’ Group anthology, 1977.

The Tower Block

Our leaders taught us that it was magnificnt and high
A piece of heaven sliced from the sky
In droves we left our hovels on the ground
To take these homes so safe and sound
But now so lonely and in despair
From our tombs up in the air
They must hear our desperate cry
Bring us down before we die
Once more to see the black and grey
Before in our graves we lay.

Dave Barnes

Anarchism 1962

This look at British anarchism comes from Anarchy, number 18, August, 1962.

The Anarchists: From Outside

Brief article by Nicholas Harman on aspects of the contemporary UK anarchist movement in 1962.

ANARCHISM is “permanent revolution”, easier to define by its opposites (fascism, capitalism, communism, for instance) than by its positive qualities. It is no longer (if ever it was such a thing) a movement of bearded central Europeans stuffing, with tears in the eyes, indiscriminate bombs into letter-boxes in order to bring society crumbling about our ears. Nor, perhaps, is it the movement of wet idealists that it may indeed once have been; anarchists now may well argue for the abolition of present forms of social organisation, though not because they believe that men will, if left alone, run their lives successfully. The contemporary anarchist may resist rule by others simply on the grounds that others are too stupid and too self-interested to be allowed to run any lives other than their own.

Such a pessimist would, in Britain now, belong to one of the individual-anarchist groups. On another wing of anarchism, equally respectably descended from Proudhon through Bakunin, come the remaining anarcho-syndicalists, believing in control by the workers of units of production, and often campaigning (perhaps together with members of the Independent Labour Party) for a re-humanisation of the trade unions. Anarchists, of whichever wing or of neither, are extremist libertarians; they are in revolt against large-scale organisation because it has failed to provide for the sick and the old, because it has failed to produce beautiful things, because it has destroyed human relationships between human beings, because it has blighted sex or craftsmanship or kindliness. The main centre for anarchist thought in Britain is a bookshop in Fulham; the main organs of anarchist thought are the weekly FREEDOM and the monthly ANARCHY. The latter has a circulation of some 1,000 in Britain and 1,000 abroad; but the quality of the writing it contains deserves better.

For anarchism has among its supporters far more than its share of dons, writers, architects, typographers, and other applied artists (not unexpectedly, the best jazz musicians in Britain are apt to turn up to blow at the Anarchists’ Ball). Schools run on anarchist principles have won themselves, together with the salacious interest of the popular Press, the respect (as experiments, if not as achievements) of many non- anarchist educationists. The social malaise expressed by so many disillusioned social-realist writers in Britain (say, Colin MacInnes, Alan Sillitoe, Adrian Mitchell) has been hailed by anarchists as a vindication of what they have been saying for years: American beatnikery, as distinct from the British bowler-hatted trad jazz variety, represents a similar disillusion with society.

This, no doubt, is the growth strain in anarchism. For anarchists have found in the Bomb the ultimate support for the proposition that the State is always wicked. To sit down in front of the American and Russian embassies and in front of the Ministry of Defence all at once would be the ideal act for an anarchist of our time. Whitehall, the Bayswater Road, and Grosvenor Square are too far apart for this to be possible; but the anarchists, rather than any more conventionally organised political movement, can claim sincerely that the young sitters from the art schools of Britain are with them in spirit — whether they know it or not.

NICHOLAS HARMAN
(Political Quarterly, July-Sept. 1962).

Mr Landlord

A traditional east end ditty proving that things were better in the old days; you could at least afford a beer then.

Oh Mr. Landlord,
I’ve got news for you;
my fire’s gone out,
Mum’s gone too.
Mother’s gone to the Pawn shop
to pawn the lodger’s clothes.
My father’s getting his nose red
in the pub across the road.

No Medals

Seven years after the end of the Spanish Civil War, the French government at last granted passports to Spanish refugees in June 1945.

No Medals

The reluctant hours
Gathered to the restless days,
The limping weeks, the crawling months,
Till seven, seven years
Have gnawed at hearts,
And the great ones, burdened with decorations,
Give papers to prove them free.

Let us not call them heroes
– there are too many heroes –
But let us call them men,
They who cherished a dream
And did not ask for medals.

Of those that fell
Few had flowers on their graves,
And the flowers are long withered,
And blown dust on the wind.
These, and those that lingered,
In the twilight between Life and Death
– we few at least shall remember them.

Hugo Dewar

Hugo Dewar, 1908 – 1981, was a Trotskyist and poet. This poem appeared in his 1981 Bookmarks collection Arsy-Versy World.

80s Skinheads

Backs Against the Wall zine, number 5, 1989 looks back at skinhead through the turbulent 80s. The zine’s editor, Dudley, was at the forefront of ‘sussed’ skinhead.

In the last four – five years in Britain there has been a fundamental shift in the evolution of the Skinhead phenomenon. There have always been skinheads, since the revival in 1977, that have been predominantly interested in dressing to much the original way of ’69 – ’72, and listening to a lot more to 1968 – ’73 reggae (tagged together to be known as skinhead reggae) than punk/oi.
In the early 80s these skinheads were, let’s say, ‘content’ to live their own lives while the racist punks who call themselves skinheads fooled the media, and therefore the public, that a stiff right arm was essential to being a skinhead, of course to people in the know this was more of a fairy-tale than someone suggesting that Engand had a good football team.
The main focus of the inevitable split that was coming was Hard As Nails zine and Skrewdriver. Skrewdriver were and are the big motivators of the underground (very underground) nazi movement that the racist punk ‘skinheads’ flocked to, more interested in racist politics, banal music and paramilitary uniforms than the years old natural idea of skinhead as lovers of slick dress, football and melodic beat music as in early ska, reggae, two tone, soul, and some punk and oi.
Hard As Nails took the views that a large number of skinheads held, and became the vocal point for the premise of 1969 style and music updated to the 80s through the then emerging new ska bands. As it was the first zine inside the skinhead scene that openly questioned the nazis right to use the name of skinhead when it was plainly obvious that they were not skinheads, HaN came in for the expected moronic criticisms that they were splitting the skinhead scene and were commies anyway. The logic being that anyone who is not a nazi must be a commie, it takes more than one brain cell to see through this pathetic attitude, unfortunately nazis brain cells do not often exceed the singular. As for splitting the scene, it is repulsive to most normal thinking people (and skins) to associate in any way with nazis.
Since then Skrewdriver have continued to sink lower and lower into out and out stormtroopers and even further away from an accepted skinhead way. While Hard As Nails is long gone, other zines have taken up its message, Spy Kids, Backs Against The wall, Street Feeling, Rough & Tough, Traditional Lemonheads and perhaps the best Zoot. Ska bands have sprung up in abundance and most encouragingly from all corners of the world, Britain, USA, Germany, Italy etc. Ska gigs have in the last six months become the norm rather than the exception, including the highly successful series of ska festivals held in London, which look set to continue, for the rest of the year at least.
There are regular do’s and events up and down Britain playing non-stop 6Ts ska, soul and skinhead reggae. The talk of who’s got the best gear, Bens/Brutus/crombie etc is as of much interest as the latest record release or how your football team did on saturday.
The numbers of these true skinheads in Britain is growing every day, enough to make the optimistic feel that 1989 is gonna be our year again, first 1969, then 1979, it’s gotta be ain’t it.
From California to Paris, London to Munich, Cardiff to Savona, Glasgow to Dublin, Manchester to Tokyo, it’s the sound of NOW, fuck the goose-step, DO THE MOONSTOMP.

Give Them Enough Dope

This poem by the much missed Jon Beast, along with Daz Brown, featured in Wake Up, number 5, 1985.

Give Them Enough Dope

From the skinheads who like kicking mods
To the ‘arty’ punks in black
‘Anarchy’s’ become another term
To stencil on your back

The music is just a catalyst
To get the message across
Try teaching these diffrent factions
And the message will be lost

The Pistols didn’t mean it maaaaaaan
I’m sure that they all knew
They were being marketed
Now can’t you see that too?

You pay five quid to stand and pose
With three hundred more like you
You swear you’re all individuals
Just WHO is conning WHO?

Buy a tee shirt for five ninety nine
Be moody, never smile
You’ve seen Alien Sex Kitten 14 times
And think that punk is vile

So you think you are all rebels
But underneath you’re all the same
It’s not the way you wear your clothes
It’s the way you use your brain

You’re always worried about your eye make up
Or the right soap for your hair
If the revolution started tomorrow
You’d be discussing what to wear

The Exploited didn’t mean it maaaaaaan
They only did it for the glue
They learnt it from the Pistols maaaaaaan
And now they’re exploiting you
AND NOW THEY’RE EXPLOITING YOU

Jon Beast and Daz Brown

When The Beloved Drinks Wine

Rudaki was born in 858 in Rudak (Panjrud), a village located in the Samanid Empire which is now Panjakent, located in modern-day Tajikistan. His name was Abū ‘Abd Allāh Ja’far ibn Muḥammad al-Rūdhakī and he was also known as “Adam of Poets”. He is regarded as the first great literary genius of the Modern Persian language. Rudaki composed poems in the‌ modern Persian alphabet and is considered a founder of classical Persian literature. His poetry contains many of the oldest genres of Persian poetry including the quatrain. He was the court poet to the Samanid ruler Nasr II (914–943) in Bukhara, although he eventually fell out of favour; he died in poverty in 941.

When the beloved drinks wine

Flowers bloom on her cheeks, it’s no wonder:
Flowers always bloom when she drinks wine.
Her hair falls in curls but she stands up straight.
She has a healthy body but feverish eyes.

Rudaki