The Day The Country Died

Dec 27th, 2012 by Nicholas Pell in Sociology

Courtesy of YouTube, enjoy The Day The Country Died, a documentary about the UK anarcho-punk movement of the early-to-mid 1980s. Click under the cut for my thoughts.

I got to catch some of the fallout from this scene in the early 90s, but actually hadn’t heard most of these bands until the last few years. Conflict and Crass were among my “Punk 101″ records, but I never much explored the scene. Apart from Penis Envy (which I loved) and Crass’ singles’ collection (which I didn’t hear until years later), anarcho-punk has never done a lot for me, musically. Flux of Pink Indians and Rudimentary Peni are all right, but that’s all I got.

Socially is a complex question. At 14 I was a leftist, a pacifist and (if you’ll forgive the mangled linguistic construction) pist. The anarcho-punk thing was basically done, though the robust crust scene which took its visual and political queues from anarcho-punk attracted me. I went vegetarian for the first time at 14 and harbored a lot of dreams about dropping out of high school, running away and moving into C-squat in New York. It’s fair to say that a lot of my view of the world was informed by an anarcho-punk perspective.

All that said, this documentary left me with two main takeaways: First and perhaps most interestingly, is how influential Crass and their ilk have been over time. I don’t so much mean the direct Crass ripoffs like Conflict and their ilk, but rather the more experimental, noisier bands like KUKL or even — dare I say it? — Chumbawumba. One need look no further than bands like Pissed Jeans or Tinsel Teeth or any other chaotic, jerky noise punk band to get a sense of the deep influence of anarcho-punk’s more chaotic side.

The other thing I noticed is just how empty the politics of the anarcho-punks were. They had nothing in the way of political analysis, and it seems about as “anarchist” as the adherents of Naomi Klein. It’s interesting to get the perspective of the people involved in the scene then, especially those who are still involved; But I’d bet my bottom dollar that to a man these guys came from comfortable, middle-class art school families. The anarchism of anarcho-punk is highly individualist and ultimately nothing more than a counter-cultural movement with a political veneer.

The Day The Country Died is an interesting little peek into the world of lifestyle anarchism that highlights both the aspirational aspects of the movement and, ultimately, its limitations.

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