The Latymer School History Magazine - page 43

The Jam
reggae band Steel Pulse. The
second was even larger, with
100,000+ seeing Sham 69
headline. The far-right
response organisation, Rock
Against Communism, was
pathetic in comparison.
To highlight the influence of
Rock Against Racism, it is
informative to look at the
relative sizes of the National
Front before 1976, and after
1981 when the campaign
disbanded. Shortly before
the first RAR gig, the NF
marched through Lewisham,
and in the battle that
followed 270 policemen and
200 protesters were injured.
This year represented the
high-point for the party, and
included winning nearly one
in five votes in the Leicester
local elections. They stood a
record number of candidates
at the 1979 general election.
When RAR made it clear that
fascists were unwelcome in
punk, the NF became
demoralised and split into
radicals (including Nick
Griffin and Patrick
Harrington) and ‘Flag Group’
traditionalists (including
Andrew Brons). So began
their descent into
irrelevance.
Some contrarians argue that
punk was apolitical, that it
was simply a reaction against
bands like Queen and ABBA
and that most punks cared
little for politics and just
wanted to hear the same
three chords played over
and over again while being
spat at. John Lydon summed
this up well: 'Well, with the
Pistols, there were a lot of
books that came out by
people who weren’t there,
didn’t know us and
exaggerated the whole thing
into being some political
movement. Which it wasn’t.
This was a bunch of people
who had opinions on things,
very important opinions it
turns out. But nothing more
than that. And all covered up
in pop music.' With all due
respect to the great man, this
is patently untrue. Punk was
inherently anti-
establishment, from both far-
left and the far-right
perspectives. In the end,
neither extremist movement
succeeded in influencing the
wider political climate. The
two lasting effects of punk
were to make racism
unfashionable among
working-class youth, and to
emphasise how detached
those same people were
from traditional institutions.
Punk was a protest, but its
purpose was vague.
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I...,33,34,35,36,37,38,39,40,41,42 44,45,46,47,48,49
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