How British Teenagers Blended Pop and Politics

Rock Against Racism in Trafalgar Square, London, 1978

In modern society, pop music and politics combine freely—from voter registration drives at music festivals, to celebrities like Taylor Swift weighing in on elections. Again in 1970s Britain, nevertheless, that mixture created controversy inside political organizations.

Historian Evan Smith writes that within the late 1960s, a brand new group shaped, often known as the Nationwide Entrance (NF). Interesting to some far-right members of the Conservative Celebration, it referred to as for the expulsion of non-white immigrants from England. When an financial disaster hit the nation within the 1970s, the NF started looking for assist from white, working-class Labour voters, arguing that nonwhite immigrants have been inflicting financial issues. Quickly, NF members have been holding avenue marches and generally violently attacking folks in black communities.

In response, the British far left, together with the Communist Celebration of Nice Britain and the Socialist Staff Celebration (SWP), started organizing antifascist and antiracist campaigns. Whereas the Communists targeted on peaceable protest and cooperation with native authorities to curb the Nationwide Entrance, some SWP activists straight confronted them within the streets.

Some younger activists with ties to the SWP wrote an open letter in response to racist feedback made by Eric Clapton. Past criticizing a person musician, they referred to as for “a rank and file motion towards the racist poison in rock music.” This was the start of the Rock Towards Racism (RAR) motion.

Smith writes that, whereas the SWP was a vital supporter of RAR, it didn’t fully management it, or use it as a recruiting device. As a substitute, RAR constructed a tradition on the celebration of working-class, mixed-race punk and reggae music scenes, fanzines, and occasions that mixed reside music with activism.

In distinction, the Communist Celebration had lengthy distrusted pop music, which it noticed as a type of capitalist propaganda, bringing American materialism and ethical decadence to the nation. Communist organizers favored people music, thought of an genuine artwork type of the folks.

Beginning in 1978, RAR organized a collection of huge carnivals, drawing anyplace from 2,000 to 100,000 folks every. Smith writes that the SWP hailed the occasions as a victory that drew a whole lot of hundreds of younger folks into antiracist organizing.

Finally, the outcomes of Rock Towards Racism have been combined. The Nationwide Entrance declined in affect after the mid-1970s. RAR didn’t essentially lead youths to affix socialist organizations or the Labour Celebration but it surely did encourage many younger folks to determine with antiracist and left-wing politics. Pop music has been vital in political organizing ever since.


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By: Evan Smith

Journal for the Research of Radicalism, Vol. 5, No. 2 (FALL 2011), pp. 85-117

Michigan State College Press

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