Anarcho-punk: Wikis


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Stylistic origins Punk rock
Cultural origins Late 1970s United Kingdom
Typical instruments Vocals - Electric guitar - Bass - Drums - occasional use of other instruments
Mainstream popularity Underground, with some bands gaining a cult following
Fusion genres
Crust punk - Folk punk - Grindcore - Hardcore punk - Digital Hardcore - Street punk
Other topics
Anarchism - Anarchism in the arts - Crimethinc - Music and politics - Punk ideologies - Punk rock subgenres - Red and Anarchist Skinheads - Riot grrrl

Anarcho-punk is punk rock that promotes anarchism. The term anarcho-punk is sometimes applied exclusively to bands that were part of the original anarcho-punk movement in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Some use the term more broadly to refer to any punk music with anarchist lyrical content, including crust punk, d-beat, folk punk, hardcore punk, garage punk or ska punk.



Crass in 1984. Crass played a major role in introducing anarchism to the punk subculture.

Prehistory (1965-77)

Some protopunk bands of the late 1960s had anarchist members, such as the German blues rock band Ton Steine Scherben and English bands connected to the UK underground, such as Hawkwind, Pink Fairies, The Deviants and the Edgar Broughton Band. These bands, along with Detroit's MC5, set a precedent for mixing radical politics with rock music, and established the idea of rock as agent of social and political change in the public consciousness (though the MC5 were socialists). Other precursors to anarcho-punk include avant-garde art and political movements such as Fluxus, Dada, the Beat generation, England's angry young men (such as Joe Orton), the surrealism-inspired Situationist International, the May 1968 uprising in Paris, and the CND. The hippie counter-culture was a significant influence on anarcho-punk. Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys has cited the Yippies as an influence on his activism and thinking.

Post 1977

A surge of popular interest in anarchism occurred during the 1970s in the United Kingdom following the birth of punk rock, in particular the Situationist-influenced graphics of Sex Pistols artist Jamie Reid, as well as that band's first single, "Anarchy in the UK." However, while the early punk scene appropriated anarchist imagery mainly for its shock or comedy value or at best as a desire for hedonist personal freedom, Crass may have been the first punk band to expound serious anarchist and pacifist ideas. The concept of anarcho-punk was quickly picked up on by bands like Flux of Pink Indians and Conflict.[1]

As the 1980s progressed, two new punk styles evolved out of anarcho-punk: d-beat and crust punk. D-beat was a faster, more brutal form of punk music, and was created by bands like Discharge and the Varukers and Diatribe from San Diego. Crust punk mixed anarcho-punk with an extreme metal sound, and was pioneered by bands such as Antisect, Sacrilege and Amebix.Indigenous activist bands like Riot 111 of New Zealand or Warumpi Band Australian with their antiwestern Anarcho-primitivism stance, tribalism and indigenous lyrics aginst white oppression broke new ground . Somewhat later on in the 1980s, grindcore developed out of anarcho-punk. Similar to crust punk, but even more musically extreme, grindcore employed blast beats and incomprehensible death growls. Grindcore was pioneered by bands such as Napalm Death and Extreme Noise Terror. Parallel to the development of these sub-genres, many bands in the American hardcore punk scene adopted anarcho-punk ideology, including MDC and Reagan Youth.

Simultaneously, anarcho-punk began to fuse with elements of the new age travellers movement and neo-hippies, as well as the older political squatting scene. Consequently, elements of folk music, country, spoken word, traditional Irish music and jazz were being incorporated by diverse performers such as Annie Anxiety, The Men They Couldn't Hang and The Levellers. By the end of the 1980s, the emerging rave culture had an influence on anarcho-punk, with travelling sound systems such as Spiral Tribe, Jiba system and the Bedlam sound system. Another related off-shoot is the UK travelling crusty scene, with bands such as Back To The Planet and Radical Dance Faction playing reggae/dance-tinged punk.

By the 2000s, anarcho-punk had become more musically diverse than in the 1970s. In addition to previously established sub-genres, anarcho-punk encompasses punk blues artists like Darren Deicide, pop punk artists such as Girlband and the Bus Station Loonies, heavy metal influenced Propagandhi, New Wave performers such as Honey Bane and folk punk bands such as The Weakerthans. Some anarcho-punk bands incorporate indie rock or indie pop, such as the Nation of Ulysses, Blyth Power and The (International) Noise Conspiracy. Bands such as Axiom, Destroy and Disrupt have fused the grindcore and crust punk sounds. Digital Hardcore often takes an anarchist stance in their lyrics, as typified by genre pioneers Atari Teenage Riot. Digital hardcore mixes punk (and sometimes rap) vocals with elements of many different genres, mainly hardcore techno, thrash metal, and noise music. One of the earliest precedents for this diversification were Rudimentary Peni and TSOL, who eventually became pigeon-holed as deathrock acts (there is some overlap between anarcho-punk and deathrock, even though the latter is largely apolitical). There is also anarchist ska-punk (Leftöver Crack), garage punk (The (International) Noise Conspiracy), and thrashcore/powerviolence (Capitalist Casualties, Dropdead).


Anarcho-punk bears very close resemblance to anarchism without adjectives, in that it involves the cooperation of various different forms of anarchism. Some anarcho-punks are anarcha-feminists (e.g. Poison Girls), while others were anarcho-syndicalists (e.g. Exit-Stance). The Psalters are an anarcho-punk band with an affiliation with Christian anarchism.

Post-left anarchy is common within modern anarcho-punk. CrimethInc., one of the major proponents of post-leftism, is strongly connected to the anarcho-punk movement. Class War is a British post-left federation with close ties to the anarcho-punk movement.[1] Many anarcho-punks are supporters of issues such as animal rights, racial equality, anti-homophobia, feminism, environmentalism, worker's autonomy, the anti-war movement, and the anti-globalisation movement.

Anarcho-punks have criticized the flaws of the punk movement and the wider youth culture in general. Bands like Crass and Dead Kennedys have written songs that attack corporate co-option of the punk subculture, people who are deemed to have sold out, and the violence between punks, skinheads, B-boys and other youth subcultures[1][2] and within punk itself. Some anarcho-punks are straight edge, claiming that alcohol, tobacco, drugs and promiscuity are instruments of oppression and are self-destructive because they cloud the mind and wear down a person's resistance to other types of oppression. Some crust punks also condemn the waste of land, water and resources necessary to grow crops to make alcohol, tobacco and drugs, forfeiting the potential to grow and manufacture food. Some may be straight edge for religious reasons, such as in the case of Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or Hare Krishna anarcho-punks (see Anarchism and religion for more background).

Although Crass initially espoused pacifism, this is not necessarily the case for all anarcho-punks. Despite the broader punk subculture's reactionary antagonism towards hippies, the ideals of the hippie counterculture were an influence on anarcho-punk. Crass were explicit regarding their associations with the hippie counterculture,[1][2] and this influence has also carried over to crust punk.

Direct action

Anarcho-punks universally believe in direct action, although the way in which this manifests itself varies greatly. Despite their differences in strategy, anarcho-punks often co-operate with each other. Many anarcho-punks are pacifists (e.g. Crass and Discharge) and therefore believe in using non-violent means of achieving their aims. These include peaceful protest, refusal of work, squatting, economic sabotage, dumpster diving, graffiti, culture jamming, ecotage, freeganism, boycotting, civil disobedience, hacktivism and subvertising. Some anarcho-punks believe that violence or property damage is an acceptable way of achieving social change (e.g. Conflict and D.O.A.). This manifests itself as rioting, vandalism, wire cutting, assault, hunt sabotage, participation in Animal Liberation Front- or Earth Liberation Front-style activities, and in extreme cases, bombings. Many anarchists dispute the applicability of the term "violence" to describe destruction of property. Destruction of property etc. is done not to control an individual or institution but to take its control away.[3][4]

Some anarcho-punks, notably in North America, have sought to use the electoral process in order to bring their respective areas closer to anarchism, although none of them walked for office as members of an anarchist party. Notable anarcho-punks who have run for office include Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra for mayor of San Francisco; T.S.O.L. singer Jack Grisham, for governor of California (he became disillusioned with anarchism and became a social democrat[5]); and D.O.A. lead singer Joey Shithead. Jello Biafra, argues that humans are not ready for anarchy, and that some form of government is needed until certain social changes are implemented.[6] Many anarcho-punks vote, and several anarcho-punks, such as Jello Biafra, and Thought Riot have expressed support for Ralph Nader and the Green Party.

DIY punk ethic

Many anarcho-punk bands subscribe to a do-it-yourself ethic. A popular anarcho-punk slogan is "DIY not EMI," a conscious rejection of a major record company.[citation needed] Many anarcho-punk bands were showcased on the Bullshit Detector series of LPs released by Crass Records and Resistance Productions between 1980 and 1994. Some anarcho-punk performers were part of the cassette culture. In this way, an attempt was made to bypass the traditional recording and distribution routes, with recordings often being made available in exchange for a blank tape and a self-addressed envelope. The anarcho-punk movement has its own network of fanzines or punk zines which disseminates news, ideas and artwork from the scene. These are DIY productions, tending to be produced in runs of hundreds at most, although there are exceptions such as Toxic Grafity [sic].The zines are printed on photocopiers or duplicator machines, and distributed by hand at punk concerts, in radical bookstores and infoshops, and through the mail.

Musical style and aesthetics

Generally speaking anarcho-punk bands play fast songs that are less focused on musical delivery than the average punk band is. The message is considered to be much more important than the music.[1][7] It is not uncommon for anarcho-punk songs to lack the usual structure of verses and a chorus. One of the bands to take this to the extreme was Crass with their release Yes Sir, I Will, a raging and almost free-form improvised musical backing over which the lyrics are shouted. However, there are exceptions to this. For example, later Chumbawamba songs were more pop oriented and had a pop song structure that made their message more accessible, even gaining chart hits in the process.

With these exceptions, anarcho-punk is stylistically diverse with bands having different musical aesthetics. Folk-punk bands break with punk convention by performing ballads and traditional folk songs, often with acoustic and folk instrumentation. Some anarcho-punk bands even subvert regular pop song structures, lyrics and pop corn conventions either for artistic reasons and/or also to show how these are part of a repressive system of production and culture.[citation needed]


  • Geoff Eley - "Do It Yourself Politics (DIY)", Forging Democracy: The History of the Left in Europe, 1850-2000, chapter 27: "The Center and the Margins: Decline or Renewal?." Oxford University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-19-504479-7 p. 476-481.
  • Ian Glasper - The Day the Country Died: A History of Anarcho Punk 1980 to 1984 (Cherry Red publishing, 2006 ISBN 978-1901447705)
  • Craig O'Hara - Philosophy of Punk: More Than Noise (AK Press, 1999 ISBN 978-1873176160)
  • George Berger - The Story of Crass (London: Omnibus Press 2006, ISBN 1-84609-402-X)

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e George Berger - The story of Crass
  2. ^ a b ...In Which Crass Voluntarily Blow Their Own... CD booklet.
  3. ^ On August 1999, a small crowd in the French town of Millau descended on a McDonald’s restaurant under construction
  4. ^ Fringe anarchists in middle of violent demonstrations
  5. ^ "What I realized about anarchy is that we are not responsible enough to be without government. There’s no way possible. We’re not responsible enough to be that. That’s a heavy concept." Grisham on his disillusionment with anarchism and becoming a social democrat
  6. ^ "I am an anarchist in my personal life. I try to live my life in a way that I don't need cops or baby-sitters to keep me from infringing on others. But I don't feel we have evolved far enough as a species to make anarchy work in society itself. We still need government to transfer the wealth from those who have too much to those who have too little, to make sure important projects get done, and keep territorial humans from screwing over and killing each other." – Biafra, Jello (2000), "Jello Biafra's Statement for Synthesis/Regeneration Magazine"
  7. ^ allmusic

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