Tag Archives: politics

Step Forward Youth

Film about black youth in Brixton and Ladbroke Grove made by Menelik Shabazz in 1977. He was born in St. John, Barbados in 1954, and lived in the UK since the age of five. From an early age Menelik watched mobile cinema in his village in Barbados, but didn’t think about making films until aged 18. This was when he was introduced to the first portable video technology whilst studying at North London College. This revolutionary technology, the Sony portapak, demystified filmmaking and made the filmmaking process accessible. This is his first film, made when he was 21.

Pogo Not Goosestep

Rock Against Racism and the other lot in Melody Maker, 25 August, 1979.

Seeing Red At RAC
What’s white and thinks it’s all right? Yes, the NF’s new rock offshoot. VIVIEN GOLDMAN infiltrates the racist ranks.

There were two, three, sometimes four policemen chatting to each other with walkie-talkies at every corner of the peaceful Holborn square and at the back door of the Conway Hall, where Rock Against Communism were about to start their first gig.
The idea of an organisation called Rock Against Communism has a familiar ring – why, yes, it must have something to do with opposing Rock Against Racism! Yeah, that’s it – anti-racist equals Commie equals red-under-bed equals … in this case, the Young National Front, in the person of their fuehrer, Joe Pierce.
Now, according to my sources, of whom more later, the youth are coming to the forefront of the NF because the older stalwarts have been forced to retire by public pressure from “commies” or “reds” from the Anti-Nazi League. Hence it’s up to young sparks like Joe Pierce to realise that music is the rallying cry for youth, regardless of colour or creed.
And hence this RAC gig – the first, the pass-out says, presumably of many.
Those conversant with London venues may remember the Conway Hall as a home of humanist gatherings, lectures and the like. The posters dotting the Ethical Society Hall draw attention, ironically enough, to the plight of Sri Lankan refugees. Some very odd doublethink going on somewhere in the Conway hall.

That same Saturday night, London offered several events of several natures. There was the Black Prisoners’ Dance at the Acklam Hall, and the pre-Carnival Jump Up at the Commonwealth Institute. This Heat were supposed to have been playing at an Anarchists’ Ball in Wapping – but, being anarchists, they forgot to book a PA, so that was out.
Which partly explains why I was trailing a strange sound in a green square in Holborn. Oddly, it sounded like the Balinese Monkey Dance with heavy reverb, just percussive slashes of sound.
As we turn corner after corner, the sound grows more and more distinct – it’s rock’n’roll! The big Rock Against Racism truck blares through the neighbourhood, a very audible opposition to RAC’s nearby presence, drawing snap-happy American and Japanese tourists to grab a quick Polaroid of what a large phalanx of cute British Bobbies.
In fact, the dark green shadow-windowed Special Patrol Group vans are parked not very discreetly here and there suggest a less cuddly scenario to the locals in the RAR march. A true Seventies blend of styles: genuine-article turquoise-haired punks, hippies who looked straight out of a News Of The World special on Social Security scroungers, Asians in crimplene strides and turbans. Charge were on the van, performing great acts of heroism as leads fell out, amps played up, and so on. Their lead singer, looking like a miniature blond-haired Elvis Costello in a pork-pie hat, serenaded the SPG while the policemen marched alongside trying to maintain the patented police Great Stone Face as much as possible.
“Leave me alone,” the singer warbled, “they won’t just let me be what I want.”
RAR mainman Red Saunders, typically bubbly, yelled: “It’s the first time there’s ever been an electronic picket!” – a cheerful observation that lost some of its impact when the police called a halt two corners on, before the truck reached Conway Hall, and strolled alongside until they’d packed all their charges off safely down the Tube and out of harm’s way.
I’d vaguely assumed that the left-wing element would somehow infiltrate the Rock Against Communism show and express their sentiments, the way the British Movement are fond of doing these days, but it seemed like I was the only one with pinko tendencies walking towards the Conway Hall. The fresh-faced young cop who stopped me seemed to think so.
“Excuse me, which side are you on?” he asked with a charming smile. “If you don’t mind me saying so, you look like you’re on the other side. I wouldn’t like to go in there, Miss, if I were you. There’s a pretty rough lot in there tonight – skinheads and all that.”
Without wanting to damn every skinhead, I agreed with him. But what I’d noticed with alarm about the Conway Hall clientele was a super-abundance of beefy, red-faced, beer-bellied, thuggish types in black leather jackets with NF and swastika armbands giving myself and (black) photographer Vernon St. Hilaire some flame-thrower glances as we got out of the cab.

Inside the Conway Hall, there were about 150 youths – I say youths specifically because there were only about five women, including a couple of skins and a punkette in a Ramones T-shirt.
The lads were mostly skins with steel toe-caps and braces fresh from seeing Chelsea draw 0-0 or burly-looking characters in NF T-shirts looking like mercenaries gone AWOL ‘cos the army life was too soft. The deejay was playing Devo, the Sex Pistols, and – heaven help us – Tom Robinson.
I got talking to a gent in a black leather jacket and jack-boots pulled over his forage trousers. He was wearing a badge of NF supremo John Tyndall, taken from a youthful shot of the NF oberfuehrer in full Nazi regalia.
“Tyndall in his romantic days,” quipped my companion, one Tony Williams, the organiser of the Ipswich branch of the NF.
Williams, 22, looks suspiciously Latin, but assures me he’s of pure Welsh stock. He works in a wine and spirits firm, and informed me that the beer had already run out, and that it was only shandy anyway.
Williams reckoned it was a magnificent event: “The first time British men have ever been able to get together and enjoy themselves like this! It’s different from anything I’ve ever seen!”.
I remark that it looks like all too many (rather unpleasant) skin gigs I’ve been to – chaps bouncing up and down at 45-degree angles and butting one another. The only difference was – no women. Women, Williams explained, are frightened of coming out politically because of social pressures to be feminine.
“We do have some nice girls in the NF, but not enough. I mean, look at that one!” He pointed to a skinhead girl in braces. “Isn’t that the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen?”
What did Williams think of the popular conception of the NF as British Nazi Party?
“Well, of course, you do get all kinds of elements within any political party,” said Williams smoothly, obviously well versed in The Party Line. “I mean, frankly, we’re probably surrounded by Nazis tonight,” he added conspiratorially.
Just then, his friend Simon, an ultra-Aryan tub-like hulk in a forage jacket, came bouncing up to us excitedly. “I say, did you hear those lyrics? ‘We are the Master Race!’ Isn’t that terrific!”
White Boss were on stage, a combo best described as sub-punk. I was only astonished Simon had been able to hear the words. The group were suddenly swamped in wave after wave of shouts of “Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil!” from the audience. Simon bounded away, overcome. Williams gave me a weak smile.
Williams expressed great admiration for the lads who’d agreed to play. He prophesied: “They’ll probably never be able to get a record contract now. Those Reds can get up to some pretty nasty tricks, you know. What did you vote, by the way? I know it’s a personal matter. I,” he whispered, “voted Tory.”
Yes, well, so did my mother.
During the course of the evening, Williams gave me The Party Line on all number of things.
He expressed some sympathy with Chinese, Rastafarians and Jews – he appreciated the way those ethnic groups liked to stick together, close to their culture. He evoked the world of urban decay and squalor, forgetting that the rest of the planet’s in exactly the same position, and laid it fair and square on the heads of those black youths who terrorise and beat up that favourite NF archetype, “harmless old ladies”.
I say that I wouldn’t necessarily feel all that comfortable alone in a train carriage with some of the NF members in attendance. Williams takes my point, but says, “Don’t you see? They’re all looking for something! If there was a National Front government, all these types would have to be disciplined anyway. You’d be sure to be safe then.”

We adjourn to a pub, after Dentist deliver their “The Nazis are innocent” message from the stage. (“I say!” says Simon happily, “Did you hear that? Great, eh?”)
The pub is full of National Front men, wearing their Anti-Commie League badges with the arrow logo directly ripped off from the Anti-Nazi League design – in fact, this sudden cultural explosion of the NF is remarkable for its total unoriginality.
Williams expounds his theories of the irrelevance of the the concept of equality, based on the highly dubious statistic that all blacks have a 16 per cent lower intelligence rate than Caucasians. “Eight per cent, actually, old chap,” grins Simon.
Williams says that he doesn’t object to foreign travel as such; it’s just that he likes to go to Kuwait or Hong Kong or wherever and see the native culture, and he reckons all expatriates should be back in there contributing; this despite the fact that he numbers the proprietor of one Indian restaurant anong his acquaintances.
It’s not so bad if the “alien culture” works hard, makes money, and keeps themselves to themselves, but nonetheless, he invoked an Eighties world of endless battered crippled old ladies in fetid slums, and a population of “coffee-coloured mongols” – the hideous end result, he claims, of inter-breeding. I later discovered he’d lifted that colourful phrase from Enoch Powell’s recent rant.
About now, my tolerance level was pretty well worn down, amiable and chatty though my companions have certainly been. I say it’s time to head home.
“By the way, what do you do?”
“I’m a journalist from the Melody Maker.”
“Oh. Well, do write nice things about us, won’t you … ”
“By the way, what’s your surname?”
“Goldman.”
“Oh.” Pause. “Isn’t that a Jewish name?”
“Yes.”
“Oh. Well, the NF line is that if you’re not a Zionist, you won’t have to be sent to Israel.”
On the way out, Williams asks if he can come back to my place. I am, as I tell him, genuinely shocked – it would have been more understandable, more worthy of respect, if he’d have walked away in disgust, let alone after telling me about Jewish financiers and the anti-“goy” bias of such reputable Jewish firms as Marks & Spencers.
“Well”, says Williams with a cheerful shrug, “you can’t think about politics all the time.”

The Dentists at the Conway Hall gig.

Bangladeshi Workers

This was written, and translated, by Abdus Salique. It was performed by Dishari and published in the 1980 collection Bricklight, Poems from the Labour Movement in East London, edited by Chris Searle.
Abdus Salique, the founder of Dishari, a Bengali musical band was born in Sylhet in 1950. He was already an accomplished musician by the time he arrived in Britain in 1970. His passion for singing and writing songs came from his mother who was also known for her musical talent. Growing up in rural East Pakistan (modern day Bangladesh), intoxicated with the socialist fervour of the renowned Bengali politician Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani (1880 – 1976), Mr Salique became naturally drawn towards the activities of the local Trade Union. In 1976, in response to the horrific condition faced by Bangladeshi factory workers in East London, he produced the Trade Union Song – calling for the Bangladeshi works to join the union to resist and take action. In 1979, he set up Dishari Shipli Goshti (Dishari group of artists) funded by Inner London Education Authority to deliver Bengali music and poetry workshop at local schools with a view to tackle racism

Trade Union Song of Bangladeshi Workers

We were called from a distant land,
Counting the waves
Of thirteen rivers and seven seas
With hopes of better life.
We are the workers!
We labour in the factories and the workshops,
If we unite
We can grasp our rights in our hands
.
Of course we must unite
If we want to defeat the racist
If we want to break the teeth
of the bloodsuckers who exploit us.
We must stand together
Under the trade union banner!
Trade Union!
Trade Union!
Trade Union!
TRADE UNION!

Abdus Salique

Puerto Rican Obituary

This poem was first read in 1969 at a rally in support of the Young Lords Party, an anti-imperialist Latino youth group in New York. Along with the Black Panthers, the Young Lords worked in their community supporting demands for fair and affordable housing and decent health care, and ran free breakfast programs for children. They linked their neighbourhood militancy to a call for the end of U.S. involvement in Vietnam and elsewhere, third world liberation, an end to the oppression of the poor and people of colour, and the building of a socialist society. The Young Lords were destroyed by U.S. government provocations in the mid 1970s, but Pedro Pietri continued on as a radical activist and poet. He saw no distinction between these roles.
“I realised who the real enemy was, and it was not the Vietcong in their black pajamas, but the mercenaries who invaded their country.” On fire with rage against the system, he wrote, “Puerto Rican Obituary,” first published in a collection of his work with the same title by Monthly Review Press in 1973, as well as eight other volumes of verse. Pedro Pietri died of cancer, aged 59, on March 3, 2004.
The New York Times commented that “three decades ago, a poem ignited a movement.”

Puerto Rican Obituary

They worked
They were always on time
They were never late
They never spoke back
when they were insulted
They worked
They never took days off
that were not on the calendar
They never went on strike
without permission
They worked
ten days a week
and were only paid for five
They worked
They worked
They worked
and they died
They died broke
They died owing
They died never knowing
what the front entrance
of the first national city bank looks like

Juan
Miguel
Milagros
Olga
Manuel
All died yesterday today
and will die again tomorrow
passing their bill collectors
on to the next of kin
All died
waiting for the garden of eden
to open up again
under a new management
All died
dreaming about america
waking them up in the middle of the night
screaming: Mira Mira
your name is on the winning lottery ticket
for one hundred thousand dollars
All died
hating the grocery stores
that sold them make-believe steak
and bullet-proof rice and beans
All died waiting dreaming and hating

Dead Puerto Ricans
Who never knew they were Puerto Ricans
Who never took a coffee break
from the ten commandments
to KILL KILL KILL
the landlords of their cracked skulls
and communicate with their latino souls

Juan
Miguel
Milagros
Olga
Manuel
From the nervous breakdown streets
where the mice live like millionaires
and the people do not live at all
are dead and were never alive

Juan
died waiting for his number to hit
Miguel
died waiting for the welfare check
to come and go and come again
Milagros
died waiting for her ten children
to grow up and work
so she could quit working
Olga
died waiting for a five dollar raise
Manuel
died waiting for his supervisor to drop dead
so he could get a promotion

Is a long ride
from Spanish Harlem
to long island cemetery
where they were buried
First the train
and then the bus
and the cold cuts for lunch
and the flowers
that will be stolen
when visiting hours are over
Is very expensive
Is very expensive
But they understand
Their parents understood
Is a long non-profit ride
from Spanish Harlem
to long island cemetery

Juan
Miguel
Milagros
Olga
Manuel
All died yesterday today
and will die again tomorrow
Dreaming
Dreaming about queens
Clean-cut lily-white neighborhood
Puerto Ricanless scene
Thirty-thousand-dollar home
The first spics on the block
Proud to belong to a community
of gringos who want them lynched
Proud to be a long distance away
from the sacred phrase: Que Pasa

These dreams
These empty dreams
from the make-believe bedrooms
their parents left them
are the after-effects
of television programs
about the ideal
white american family
with black maids
and latino janitors
who are well train
to make everyone
and their bill collectors
laugh at them
and the people they represent

Juan
died dreaming about a new car
Miguel
died dreaming about new anti-poverty programs
Milagros
died dreaming about a trip to Puerto Rico
Olga
died dreaming about real jewelry
Manuel
died dreaming about the irish sweepstakes

They all died
like a hero sandwich dies
in the garment district
at twelve o’clock in the afternoon
social security number to ashes
union dues to dust

They knew
they were born to weep
and keep the morticians employed
as long as they pledge allegiance
to the flag that wants them destroyed
They saw their names listed
in the telephone directory of destruction
They were train to turn
the other cheek by newspapers
that mispelled mispronounced
and misunderstood their names
and celebrated when death came
and stole their final laundry ticket

They were born dead
and they died dead

Is time
to visit sister lopez again
the number one healer
and fortune card dealer
in Spanish Harlem
She can communicate
with your late relatives
for a reasonable fee
Good news is guaranteed

Rise Table Rise Table
death is not dumb and disable
Those who love you want to know
the correct number to play
Let them know this right away
Rise Table Rise Table
death is not dumb and disable
Now that your problems are over
and the world is off your shoulders
help those who you left behind
find financial peace of mind

Rise Table Rise Table
death is not dumb and disable
If the right number we hit
all our problems will split
and we will visit your grave
on every legal holiday

Those who love you want to know
the correct number to play
let them know this right away
We know your spirit is able
Death is not dumb and disable
RISE TABLE RISE TABLE

Juan
Miguel
Milagros
Olga
Manuel
All died yesterday today
and will die again tomorrow
Hating fighting and stealing
broken windows from each other
Practicing a religion without a roof
The old testament
The new testament
according to the gospel
of the internal revenue
the judge and jury and executioner
protector and eternal bill collector

Secondhand shit for sale
learn how to say Como Esta Usted
and you will make a fortune
They are dead
They are dead
and will not return from the dead
until they stop neglecting
the art of their dialogue
for broken english lessons
to impress the mister goldsteins
who keep them employed
as lavaplatos porters messenger boys
factory workers maids stock clerks
shipping clerks assistant mailroom
assistant, assistant assistant
to the assistant’s assistant
assistant lavaplatos and automatic
artificial smiling doormen
for the lowest wages of the ages
and rages when you demand a raise
because is against the company policy
to promote SPICS SPICS SPICS

Juan
died hating Miguel because Miguel’s
used car was in better running condition
than his used car
Miguel
died hating Milagros because Milagros
had a color television set
and he could not afford one yet
Milagros
died hating Olga because Olga
made five dollars more on the same job
Olga
died hating Manuel because Manuel
had hit the numbers more times
than she had hit the numbers
Manuel
died hating all of them
Juan
Miguel
Milagros
and Olga
because they all spoke broken english
more fluently than he did

And now they are together
in the main lobby of the void
Addicted to silence
Off limits to the wind
Confine to worm supremacy
in long island cemetery
This is the groovy hereafter
the protestant collection box
was talking so loud and proud about

Here lies Juan
Here lies Miguel
Here lies Milagros
Here lies Olga
Here lies Manuel
who died yesterday today
and will die again tomorrow
Always broke
Always owing
Never knowing
that they are beautiful people

Never knowing
the geography of their complexion

PUERTO RICO IS A BEAUTIFUL PLACE
PUERTORRIQUENOS ARE A BEAUTIFUL RACE

If only they
had turned off the television
and tune into their own imaginations
If only they
had used the white supremacy bibles
for toilet paper purpose
and make their latino souls
the only religion of their race
If only they
had return to the definition of the sun
after the first mental snowstorm
on the summer of their senses
If only they
had kept their eyes open
at the funeral of their fellow employees
who came to this country to make a fortune
and were buried without underwears

Juan
Miguel
Milagros
Olga
Manuel
will right now be doing their own thing
where beautiful people sing
and dance and work together
where the wind is a stranger
to miserable weather conditions
where you do not need a dictionary
to communicate with your people
Aqui Se Habla Espanol all the time
Aqui you salute your flag first
Aqui there are no dial soap commercials
Aqui everybody smells good
Aqui tv dinners do not have a future
Aqui the men and women admire desire
and never get tired of each other
Aqui Que Paso Power is what’s happening
Aqui to be called negrito
means to be called LOVE

Pedro Pietri

My God

This Anarchist poem, Moi Bog in Russian, was published in Ekaterinoslavskii Nabat, 7 January, 1920.

My God

I do not bow before that idol
To whom the wretched of the earth,
The world’s enslaved, downtrodden children,
Convey their gifts and beg rewards.

Such a God gives me no comfort
Who pits the strong against the weak,
Who burdens men with trial and hardship
And makes suffering a cult.

The gaze of the forbidding visage,
The pallor of his mournful brow
Ignite no fires within my bosom,
Nor warm my spirits late at night.

My God is an idea: a new life,
The dawn of bright and happy days,
To struggle, to ferocious struggle,
It summons all courageous men!

It brings revenge on the oppressors
Who deal with men by shedding blood!
My God is great and glorious freedom,
Self-awareness, strength, and love!

E Zaidner-Sadd

Abraham Sutzkever

Poet and partisan fighter Abraham Sutzkever talks about his poetry and life as a partisan.
There is an excellent book about the Jewish partisan movement: A Secret Press In Nazi Europe by Isaac Kowalski. The book includes the story of Izik Wittenberg, the poem about Wittenberg was written by Sutzkever’s friend and comrade Shmerke Kaczerginski, and also tells of female partisan leader and poet Malka Epstein. The book focuses largely on Vilna partisans.
Just because you’re victimised doesn’t mean you have to be a victim.

Tim Daly

A really dangerous person – Tim Daly, poet.
Sentencing Tim Daly to four years in prison, a Judge Thesiger said: “One who endangers other people’s property is a very, very dangerous person.”
In November, 1968, Tim was twenty years old. He took two petrol bombs to the Imperial War Museum and started a fire believing that the Museum glorified war to children.
Freedom brought out a collection of his prison poems, Jump, My Brothers, Jump. The poems came inside ANARCHY 110 Vol l0, Number 4, April, 1970.
They were edited and introduced by Adrian Mitchell. A copy is now part of the Imperial War Museum collection.
IDEALIST

his hair
Shining and Auburn
a degree
slowly seeming
to him to be
now Less important

under-cynical under-graduate
a belief
in Peace
dear to him

his Suburban Mother
putting away
both cars
Hopes

that his Peace
will wear off in
time for his Degree

DON’T WORRY MOTHER
IT WILL!

Tim Daly

David Oluwale Poems

Taiwo Ogunyinka, Kim Ho, and Abdullah Adekola, performing as Akt3, read a poem each at the event headlined by Linton Kwesi Johnson commemorating the 50th anniversary of the drowning of David Oluwale in the River Aire in Leeds. The event took place in 2019. You can see hear poems by Ian Duhig, Jackie Kay, and more here.
Information on remembering David Oluwale.

Tory Funerals

Class War’s Ian Bone was in a band called Living Legends. Their cassette is reviewed in Punk Lives, number 9, 1983.

LIVING LEGENDS: ‘Tory Funerals’ (£1 from Box 200 108 Bookshop 108 Salisbury Road, Cardiff)

Good God man it’s absolute filth! These chaps just ain’t true blue! I can hardly credit that the youth of today who are, after all, treated so well by the Tory Government, should stoop so low by celebrating the death of one of the Government by dancing on his grave and chanting ‘Drop Dead Michael Roberts’ over and over as church bells ring sweetly in the background bringing tears to my eyes. They want the corpse dug up to kick around and all the Tories cremated. I can’t I quite agree. Or do I? We Tories won’t stand for this? Or will we? Not too strong on decision making I’m afraid.
The music is, I believe, what the youth of today call Runk Pop. Something like that. A tad too noisy for me I’m afraid. Give me a slow rumba any day. There’s plenty of lift and bounce but I don’t like their tone at all. Mind you there’s a song called ‘Trendy Left Drop Dead’ so maybe things are looking up. Wild, esoteric rebellion someone has just told me. Does that make sense? Ramshackle but spirited they say? I give up. Or do I! Pitt the Ironmonger