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This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to music from… the documentary ‘White Riot’, the story of Rock Against Racism November 14, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Finally caught up Rubika Shah’s fine documentary, White Riot, last weekend and more on that in another post, but as a snapshot of a certain point in popular music and the way in which different strands of music came together in struggle it is unsurpassed. As noted here the bands shown included:

X-Ray Spex (fronted by the biracial Poly Styrene), 999, Steel Pulse, Gang of Four, Matumbi, Misty in Roots, Sham 69 and the Clash…

And more, including the very interesting Alien Kulture.

Unlike some restrospective views which over-emphasise the punk side of the equation it shows just how important all those strands were – reggae and punk being brought together on the same bills at RAR gigs across the UK. As an aside the popularity of reggae in the early to mid 1980s in working class Dublin is hard to over-emphasise.

So here’s some tracks from those bands…note the last track where The Clash were joined by Jimmy Pursey of Sham 69 on stage at the RAR Victoria Park London gig.

X-Ray Spex – Oh Bondage! Up Yours!

999 – Homicide

Alien Kulture – Culture Crossover

Tom Robinson- Winter of 79

Steel Pulse – Handsworth Revolution – Live 1979

Gang Of Four – Damaged Goods

Matumbi – Blue beat and ska

Misty in Roots – Six One Pennys

The Clash w/ Jimmy Pursey – White Riot (Live1978 Victoria Park London)

Comments»

1. AdoPerry - November 14, 2020

Jimmy Pursey singing on stage with The Clash was a very strong statement and turned many young people away from the racism that was building across Britain. Great documentary.

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WorldbyStorm - November 14, 2020

It was v important, definitely agree. And a smart guy too. He was asking questions about why young people went that way. Still think the Sham 69 albums hold up.

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2. alanmyler - November 14, 2020

The film Rude Boy is pretty good at capturing the mood of the times. I think the Jimmy Pursey / Clash footage was in that too if I’m not imaging it. One of the WP comrades from London was telling me he was involved with organising RAR locally down Croydon or Guilford direction, I think he was in the CPGB at the time, so I’m presuming there was a pretty broad front going on politically against the NF.

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WorldbyStorm - November 14, 2020

Must check the Rude Boy doc out. Yeah, got the sense the RAR crew were quite diverse politically – possibly some from anarchist backgrounds?

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alanmyler - November 14, 2020

Rude Boy is more fiction than fact I think, it’s a strange pretend documentary formula based on the Clash but with the fictional character of one of their fans overlaid onto it. I really liked it, it really captures how grim Britain was in that period.

I’d always assumed that RAR was a Trot front up until the comrade had set me straight, only because of the clenched fist symbolism on the cover of the TRB album!

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3. Brian Hanley - November 14, 2020

The individual politics of the original group around RAR were probably mixed but the driving force behind it and the ANL were the SWP, something acknowledged at the time by friend and foe. They were very eager to involve the CPGB etc in a united front and eventually did so through the ANL. Until 1977 the CP had been opposed to physically confronting the NF and this had been a major bone of contention with the SWP. This changed somewhat after Lewisham in August 1977 and was partly driven by CP members themselves disagreeing with their leadership’s previous stance. There’s lots of accounts of the time- Daniel Rachel’s Walls Come Tumbling Down is very good in interviews with RAR people. David Renton’s Never Again is a very fair history of the ANL (originally written from an SWP perspective but his second edition is much more inclusive and critical at the same time). The best account from a rank and file perspective is probably contained in the pamphlet ‘We Are Red Action’ which really conveys the excitement felt by young activists drawn to the SWP in that era. Other activists accounts feature in Dave Hann’s Physical Resistance and Sean Birchall’s Beating the Fascists.

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WorldbyStorm - November 14, 2020

That’s really handy – thanks a million – fair dues to the SWP, if they never did another thing this one was important

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sonofstan - November 14, 2020

Yep – when people dismiss the ‘far’ left as fringe, they forget what they bring to campaigns like this. Same with the ARC mor recently.

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4. gypsybhoy69 - November 18, 2020

BBC 4 recently did a special Friday night on Anne Nightingale, her career but mostly spotlighting on her taking over the Whistle Test. She had good things to say about The Clash and RAR.

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