Book review by Christoph Fringeli
Anton Shekovtsov, Paul Jackson (Eds): White Power Music – Scenes of Extreme Right Cultural Resistance.Mapping the Far-Right, Volume 2, Searchlight Magazine/Radicalism and New Media Research Group, August 2012.
This volume shines a spotlight on various far right musical scenes all over Europe. The first part of the book is made up of country-specific looks at the scenes in Germany, France, Sweden, Greece, Hungary and Romania, and the Czech Republic. The second part consists of three articles: one about the memory of Ian Stuart Donaldson, one about women in White Power music, and one about „White Power music and censorship in the Information Age“.
The articles differ a great deal in how they approach the issues. The article about the German „Rechtsrock“ scene limits itself largely to that particular brand of white power rock, and is basing itself to a considerable degree on the reports of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, BfV). These should be taken with a grain of salt as we have seen in the context of the murders of the National Socialist Underground. The author is staying close to the music associated with traditional neo-Nazism (NPD and DVU parties) and doesn’t investigate the more transversal forms of far-right subcultures. Nevertheless it can serve as an introduction to a particular field of German far-right music to a reader unfamiliar with the topic.
The second article is concerned with France, starting off with the phenomenon of „rock identitaire“, and the involvment of protagonist Fabrice Robert in various national-revolutionary and national-Bolshevik sects until his recent activities as a leader of Bloc Identitaire. The article traces the nationalist rock back to the 70’s and the influence of the Italian Janus group up to the present via skinhead hate rock and NSBM, expanding the spectrum into far right techno since the 90’s. Interesting to note here is the reference to the fanzine Lutte du Peuple, which according to the article was „concerned with the political potential of the Techno movement, the focus at that stage was not on the connection between music and politics, but rather on politics and a wider Weltanschauung“. While Datacide would be interested in more details of that strategy (I couldn’t find very much further information on Lutte du Peuple for example), it appears that the neo-fascist push into techno was not very successful. Neither were attempts to cash in on the rising anti-Globalisation movement. One example is the compilation CD „Anti-Mondial“ from 2001. This CD features „16 groupes en rage contre la mondialisation“ and was sold for just 2 euro. Although this might have found some buyers at the time, but apparently didn’t find many keepers, since only one single person has it in their discogs collection 12 years on.
The focus of the French extreme right music scene seems to have shifted in the mid-90’s from traditional RAC („Rock Against Communism“, i.e. standard Skrewdriver type skinhead/oi!-rock with Nazi lyrics) to a more refined strategy, much in the same way that the New Right in general revised their strategies in that period (see http://datacide-magazine.com/metapolitical-strategies-of-the-nouvelle-droite/ ). A „Europe of 100 flags“ rather than the „nation“, a focus on „Anti-Zionism“ rather than open anti-Semitism, mixed with holocaust denial and a rabid anti-Americanism. Added to the pantheon of idols were certain figures traditionally associated with the left, such as Che Guevara and Subcommandante Marcos, who were put alongside national revolutionary idols Strasser brothers and Ernst Jünger (see http://datacide-magazine.com/ernst-junger’s-“waldgang”/ ).
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Robert was a member of the notorious organisation Troisième Voie in its first incarnation (1985-92). This group was re-founded by Serge Ayoub in 2010, returning to its violent roots and later, in 2013, was dissolved to pre-empt a state ban spurred on by the murder of an anti-fascist by one of its members.
The following article about white power music in Sweden focuses more on the economic aspects than the other articles in the book while also giving an overview of the movement’s history. It is interesting to see here that WP music has also suffered from the trend towards downloads. On the one hand, merchandise is still sold by specialised mail order companies (often tied to political parties), and on the other hand concerts and events are still taking place.
In Greece, the topic of the following article, the neo-Nazi music scene is, unsurprisingly, profiting from the success of the Golden Dawn party. The article gives a good overview of the history of the skinhead scene since 1979 up to its present blossoming.
Equally unsurprising is that there is a somewhat thriving scene in Hungary, considering the huge success of the far and extreme right in this country. There, Antiziganism and homophobia abound as well as anti-Romanian or anti-Slovak slogans. It is not completely clear why the same chapter is covering both Hungary and Romania, when in Romania the scene seems barely existant.
The final article in the country-themed first section of the book gives an overview of the scene in the Czech Republic. Besides Oi! and NSBM there is also some emphasis given to Hard Bass. Hard Bass has musically not developed far from Hard Style, a mix of Trance and Gabber, and also draws many of its followers from a similar stratum of football hooligans. But it stands out with its activist use of street interventions, where masked people show up with, for example, anti-multicultural messages, often linked to „identitarian“ groups. Currently mostly active in Eastern Europe, but also in Austria, this phenomenon is something to keep an eye out for.
The second part of the book starts with an article by Paul Jackson on the cult around Ian Stuart Donaldson, who was the frontman of the seminal Nazi-Skinhead band Skrewdriver. After his death in a car accident in 1993 he was made into a martyr by his followers. Skrewdriver had their first record out on Chiswick, a pub-rock/early punk label in 1977 and broke up a year or two later due to lack of success. Ian Stuart re-formed the band, but after another unsuccessful record disbanded it again. As Stewart Home writes: „Stuart had never intended to take a political stand, he’d just wanted a career in the music industry, it took him five years to realise he was a talentless hack who might as well exploit the shock value of musical fascism. Like most bigots, Stuart’s political views were always completely incoherent, as we shall see.“ Indeed, deep statements from him include: „Whatever the vermin does, we’ll be there with a pint and a stiff right arm!“ Having found a home on the National Front’s White Noise record label, they released the single „White Power“. From that point onwards they became the quintessential neo-Nazi skinhead band. Soon enough they fell out with the „White Noise Club,“ which was run by Patrick Harrington, who was then – and now – a buddy of Nick Griffin. Harrington was accused of mishandling funds owed to Skrewdriver. The result was that Stuart founded the Blood and Honour nextwork and embraced the more extreme British Movement and later Combat 18 to the right of the NF so to speak. This became linked more and more with the paranoid idea of a „ZOG“ („Zionist Occupational Government“) which was running things behind the scenes and which (of course!) eventually assassinated Stuart. For a more detailed history of Skrewdriver consult: http://www.stewarthomesociety.org/cranked/skrew.htm
The second to last chapter in the book covers the (rather marginal) role of women in the WP movement, concentrating mainly on the cases of three more or less prominent examples: Tara, Saga, and Prussian Blue. It concludes that „Women are increasingly being used to provide a note of reassurance in an extreme right that remains as aggressive and as hyper-masculine as ever,“ and to „put an appealing face on an ugly ideology.“
The final paper discusses attempts at banning WP events or bands with hate speech legislation or other means. The bands are of course construing themselves as the victims of a left-wing/Jewish mainstream, even going so far as to insinuate that new concentration camps are being prepared for ‘patriots’. This is just another illustration of the tendency of the far right to „explain“ the failure of its culture and politics with an evil conspiracy. One result of using hate speech legislation against WP music is that there is increased „cloaking“ of the messages, a strategy that is already widely used in the more transversal approaches of Neofolk and Martial Industrial. The author is right to stress that much more wide-ranging strategies are necessary to fight neo-Fascism, anti-Semitism and racism in culture.
This 130 page collection of articles brings together some interesting research and information. It is far from comprehensive, however, and will hopefully mark a step towards a more complete overview of the European White Power music movement with a more unified approach.