Starting a discussion about self-archiving political movements and the international left

I have been in discussions with various people over the last few months about how movements ‘remember’ themselves and how they engage with their ephemeral history. I am interested in how these movements have often self-archived their materials and what they have done with these materials – are they open to researchers and people interested interested in the history of these movements? Some organisations and movements (as well as certain individuals) have donated their historical papers to various university archives or museums. These are valuable to researchers, but still privilege those who can gain access – usually academics and independent researchers who can afford to do archival research on site.

However some organisations and enterprising researchers are overcoming these obstacles by scanning and digitising the materials of the various progressive and left-wing movements across the Anglophone world. Sites such as the Marxist Internet Archive have been scanning many American, Canadian, British, Irish and Australian documents from the international communist movement, including various Trotskyist and anti-revisionist groups. A number of institutions across the globe have followed, such as the University of Wollongong’s Communist Party of Australia journals, the collection of South African radical material digitised by DISA, the Anti-Apartheid Movement collection at Oxford University, and the Amiel and Melburn Trust collection of British new left journals and the CPGB’s Marxism Today. As well as these institutional initiatives, others are digitising their historical documents at the grassroots level. This can be seen with the Red Mole Rising website, which is archiving online the materials of the International Marxist Group, the Irish Left Archive, the Red Action archive and the Anti-Fascist Archive, amongst others.

The wonderful thing about these online archives is that they are democratising the research of these movements. Anyone with a computer and an internet connection can now access these documents, without incurring the costs of doing archival research. This is particularly helpful for those conducting research internationally. The downside is that these initiatives are often costly in terms of equipment and labour, with individuals having to volunteer a lot of their time and effort to provide these resources for others. Also by relying on the efforts of individuals with access to certain collections, there are significant gaps in what is available online. For example, I would like to see more stuff from Militant and the Workers Revolutionary Party made available.

It is exciting to be conducting research in this era of increased digitsation, but there are limits to what we can access at the moment. More people need to get involved – either providing original documents, or offering their services in the scanning process, or by helping out with the costs of hosting the websites (particularly as Scribd and Dropbox are increasingly used to hold these large file depositories).

At the same time, many original activist documents are languishing in people’s attics, basements, garages and other storage areas. These need to be located and preserved. If you have a collection of left-wing ephemera stored away somewhere, do try to find it and think about donating (or selling or at least, lending) it to people who can digitise it and preserve this (often obscured) history.

I hope this starts a discussion about how historians and activists can work together to help ensure that the documentary history of the international left is not overlooked.


Thinking historically about acid house & early rave culture: The soundtrack to late Thatcherism


Most discussions of the soundtrack to the Thatcher years concentrates on the early-to-mid-1980s and the rise of Thatcherism. For example, many have referred to The Specials and The Beat at the time of 1981 riots, Duran Duran and Wham! as the Thatcherite hegemony won the 1983 election and Billy Bragg and the Style Council during the 1984-85 Miners’ Strike. But I want to think about the soundtrack to late Thatcherism (and the early Major years), particularly acid house and early rave culture.

Exported from the United States, house music made its way into the UK club scene in the mid-1980s and acid house became a phenomenon from around 1987 to 1991, before morphing into various strains of rave music in the early 1990s. The rise of acid house coincided with the opening of new wave of clubs across the UK and beginnings of the warehouse and open air ‘raves’, situated against a backdrop of high Thatcherism, which included heightened deindustrialisation and the growth of the high finance capitalism in the City of London

Thatcher was returned to office in 1987 after her third electoral victory and this could be considered the high point of Thatcherism as a hegemonic project. After defeating the trade unions during the Miners’ Strike in 1985, Thatcher unleashed a wave of privatisation and deindustrialisation across the country. Already under pressure, many heavy industries in the north of England, as well as Scotland and Wales, collapsed, leaving to massive unemployment in these regions. Where jobs were available to replace the traditional heavy industries, they were usually unskilled, low paid and short-term, leaving many without the stability of employment enjoyed by the previous generations.

Meanwhile in the south-east of England, especially in London, the economy boomed, fuelled by the deregulation of the finance industry in 1986. Heavy industry, especially around the East End of London and the docks, also dried up and the inner city began its path towards gentrification. The story since the mis-1980s was that London became too expensive for many workers and those who benefited from the boom in the finance industry moved in.

As the north and south of England diverged upon two parallel roads – one towards a post-industrial decline and one towards a post-industrial regeneration – the emerging youth subculture that rose to prominence at this time was acid house and rave/club culture. I believe that the subculture surrounding acid house and the early rave scene reflected this north/south divide and reflected the two Britains that were developing under Thatcher.

Coinciding with the emergence of MDMA (or ecstasy), the acid house and early rave scene became the focus of a moral panic about out of control youth on drugs and gathering en masse to celebrate this fusion of drugs and music. Unlike punk or reggae (or even rap), this subculture was seen to have no redeeming socio-political features and was viewed as just an excuse to indulge in social drug experimentation.

Many viewed acid house and early rave culture as hedonistic and the pretext to (publicly) waste a lot of money of partying. This was probably true to some degree in the south, where the more affluent young people could indulge in this hedonism and spend a considerable amount of money on weekend activities.

But in the north, acid house also exploded – in Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield and other cities. In the northern acid house scene, it was not just hedonism, fuelled by a large disposable income, but a chance to escape from dreary post-industrial world that had been delivered by nearly a decade of Thatcherism. Not sites of resistance to Thatcherism, but a withdrawal from engagement with it.

Furthermore, with the decline of heavy industry in the north, factories and fields, once the sites of a booming industrial sector, were transformed from empty spaces into potential venues for clubs and raves – the economics of putting on a show was merely finding a suitable sound system. An enterprising person, the kind of whom was praised under Thatcherism, could hire (or buy) a large PA system, bring in some local DJs and with a little promotion, make a lot of money from those entering (and possibly the selling of illicit drugs).

Unlike punk, reggae or folk music, acid house and early rave culture did not really get political and for most, was more an apolitical rejection of the Thatcherite status quo, using music (and the drugs) to collectively cast off the burden that Thatcherism brought down on young people in the late 1980s. Although I would say that acid house was given a political edge by its crossover with the gay scene in Britain in the 1980s. Under Thatcher, gay men and women were persecuted for their sexuality and the AIDS epidemic and Clause 28 were used by those in power to publicly harass gay men and women, arguing that their lifestyles were deviant. Acid house became the dominant sound in many of Britain’s gay clubs and this deviancy and portrayal as the ‘folk devils’ of the 1980s was transformed into a particular subcultural identity, combining the hedonism of acid house culture with the ‘deviancy’ of being gay in Thatcherite Britain.

However the apolitical nature of acid house and rave culture changed in the early 1990s. Concerned about the amount of illicit drugs being allegedly sold and used in the scene, the government and the police cracked down on raves and dance clubs, using the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and a revised version of the Public Order Act 1986 to shut down underground raves and strictly monitor licensed clubs. In 1992, the Major Government started to draft the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill (which eventually became law in 1994), which included an entire section dedicated to the policing of raves. This led to significant political resistance and raves became part of a political battle over the use of public space. Taking some inspiration from the anarchist ‘Stop the City’ protests of the 1980s, a serious protest movement developed, using the method of occupying public spaces and putting on ‘free parties’. This crossed over at stages with the rise of the Reclaim the Streets movement and other green/anarchist protests.

This post has attempted to give an overview of how acid house and early rave culture fits within the wider history of Thatcherism and that of contemporary Britain. What I need to do is delve into primary sources of the period, primarily the documents produced by the subculture itself – the zines, the magazine interviews, the flyers, media reports and government files, as well as any oral history and reminisces of the period. Any suggestions for where to find relevant materials would be greatly appreciated – however, as usual, there are a million other projects that I need to finish beforehand!

June 4, 1976: Sex Pistols play Manchester for the very first time…

In the history of British popular culture, June 4, 1976 is a significant date. The Sex Pistols played at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall to a small room of people. It is one of their first gigs outside London. Like the saying about the first Velvet Underground LP, nearly everyone in the audience that night went on to have a cultural impact on Britain (and beyond). Here is a collection of what several people have written about that gig.

From Tony Wilson, 24 Hour Party People: What the Sleeve Notes Never Tell You (London: Channel 4 Books, 2002) pp. 23-24:

4 June, 1976. Lesser Free Trade Hall. People dotted around. Desultory. Strange.

A thin, handsome mekon appeared on the small proscenium stage. ‘Hi, we’re the Buzzcocks but we’re not ready yer, so we’re not playing tonight, but this is the Sex Pistols.’

A band emerged. Who knows what the drummer, bass player and guitarist looked like. The guy who took centre stage took the mike, took your mind. A swagger to make John Wayne look a pussy. A sneer so dismissive of everyone and everything, of God and civilization, in just one pair of twisted lips. And then they started playing…

They stared, open-mouthed, transported to a place where you didn’t need to pogo (it wasn’t invented till three months later). That place was real life; that place was the clearing in the undergrowth where meaning and elucidation live, that place where the music came from and the place it would take you back to.

But they knew nothing, these forty-odd strangers, gathered by chance and chat, they just knew their world would never be the same again. A past obliterated and No Future.

From Peter Hook, Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division (London: Simon & Schuster, 2012) pp. 35-37:

Reading the small ads in the MEN was how I found that the Pistols were playing the Lesser Free Trade Hall, 50p a ticket…

So that was it anyway, the group of us who went and saw the Sex Pistols at Lesser Free Trade Hall. A night that turned out to be the most important of my life – or one of them at least – but that started out just like any other…

There to greet us was Malcolm McLaren, dressed head to toe in black leather – leather jacket, leather trousers and leather boots – with a shock of bright-orange hair, a manic grin and the air of a circus ringmaster; though there was hardly anyone else around… Look at the photographs of the gig and you can see that everybody in the audience was dressed the same way, like a Top of the Pops audience. There were no punks yet. So Malcolm – he looked like an alien to us…

The Sex Pistols’ gear was set up and then, without further ceremony, they come on: Johnny Rotten, Glen Matlock, Steve Jones and Paul Cook. Steve Jones was wearing a boiler suit and the rest of them looked like they’d vandalized an Oxfam shop. Rotten had on this torn-open yellow sweater and he glared out into the audience like he wanted to kill each and every one of us, one at a time, before the band struck up into something that might have been ‘Did You No Wrong’ but you couldn’t tell because it was so loud and distorted…

We just stood there, stock still, watching the Pistols. Absolutely, utterly, gobsmacked.

From Mick Middles & Lindsay Reader, Torn Apart: The Life of Ian Curtis (London: Omnibus Press, 2009) p. 35:

In the summer of 1976, Terry [Mason] convinced Barney [Bernard Sumner] and Hooky [Peter Hook] to go along with him to the Sex Pistols gigs at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall.. Although some believe that the importance of the Lesser Free Trade Hall Pistols gigs have been somewhat overstated, they were almost certainly a trigger for the musical ambitions of many in attendance.

Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto famously shelled pout the necessary £32 to hire the hall on FRiday June 4, 1976, and, to more poignant effect, on Tuesday July 20 where they would make their debut appearance as Buzzcocks. The first gig… saw Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, clad in black rubber, accosting pedestrians on Peter Street like some downbeat and desperate spiritual street hawker. Even when he succeeded, many of the wary Pistols gig goers were immediately swamped by the music of the support band, a progressive rock act called Solstice.

From James Nice, Shadowplayers: The Rise and Fall of Factory Records (London: Aurum Press, 2010) pp. 8-10:

Situated upstairs from the much larger Free Trade Hall, the venue was small, seated and salubrious, yet sufficiently unorthodox, and city central. The Sex Pistols date was set for 4 June 1976…

Lacking a regular bassist and a drummer, Buzzcocks were unable to perform at the Lesser Free Trade Hall on 4 June, and instead drafted ina local heavy rock group called Solstice to open for the visiting Pistols. Most present number the audience at around forty, although Devoto maintains the figure was closer to 100… Future musicians present in the room included Mark E. Smith (of The Fall), Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook (Joy Division) and Steven Morrissey (The Smiths), then a New York Dolls obsessive, who afterwards sent an ambivalent ‘epistle’ to NME describing ‘discordant music’ by ‘bumptious Pistols in jumble sale attire.’ Others included Steve Diggle, soon to join Buzzcocks on bass, fanzine editor Paul Morley, photographer Kevin Cummins, Eddie Garrity (better known as Ed Banger) and Alan Hempsall, a progressive rock fan later to form Crispy Ambulance.

From Morrissey, Autobiography (London: Penguin Classics, 2013) p. 115:

Back on Manchester’s inscrutable streets I find a tatty leaflet stuck on a Peter Street lamppost telling me that the Sex Pistols will play the Lesser Free Trade Hall. They are not the saviors of culture, but the destruction of it – which suits me quite perfectly…

Morrissey also wrote a ‘review’ of the gig as a letter to NME (reproduced on the Passions Just Like Mine website):

Review by Steven Morrissey of a Sex Pistols concert: “I pen this epistle after witnessing the infamous Sex Pistols in concert at the Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall. The bumptious Pistols in jumble sale attire had those few that attended dancing in the aisles despite their discordant music and barely audible lyrics. The Pistols boast having no inspiration from the New York / Manhattan rock scene, yet their set includes, “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone”, a number believed to be done almost to perfection by the Heartbreakers on any sleazy New York night and the Pistols’ vocalist / exhibitionist Johnny Rotten’s attitude and self-asserted ‘love us or leave us’ approach can be compared to both Iggy Pop and David JoHansen in their heyday. The Sex Pistols are very New York and it’s nice to see that the British have produced a band capable of producing atmosphere created by The New York Dolls and their many imitators, even though it may be too late. I’d love to see the Pistols make it. Maybe they will be able to afford some clothes which don’t look as though they’ve been slept in.”


Here is Paul Morley’s recollection of the same gig (via The Guardian). The Huffington Post also did a piece on the same gig here.

People might also be interested in this paper written by cultural studies scholar Sean Albeiz on the popular memory of this gig, and my article on how the Manchester music scene (including this gig) has been portrayed in film.


Who made Radelaide? More ephemera of a music scene past

Here we go again with another collection of flyers from the Adelaide music scene from 2001 to 2010. I’ve extended it out to 18 this time as I couldn’t choose which ones to post. As usual, any gig flyers or recollections of these gigs are most welcome.


Debbie was in Sound of Mercy Killing with Seb (from Hit the Jackpot, Love… Like Electrocution). I don’t really remember Fabulous Diamonds.


Bird Blobs were a post-punk band from Melbourne. I remember that they ended up on a Beyond Punk! CD given away with MOJO.


This is an old business card from Brillig. Much more sturdy than the average flyer.


This gig would’ve been organised by Lara (mixer extraordinaire and guitarist in Star Ten Hash).


I organised this gig and played in two bands that night – Awesome Welles and Stroszek. Another band, whose name escapes me at the moment but morphed into The Clap, opened the show, with a dazzling stage set-up. They had banners claiming ‘band practice is counter-revolutionary’ posted to the wall and the drum kit I seem to remember.


Another flyer for the final Paddington Bear Affair show. Space Horse were amazing.


The Jade Monkey hosted Patterns in Static shows once a month during 2004-05 (I think). I believe that Dj Steph was Steph from No Through Road, Birth Glow, Batrider and now Summer Flake.


All I remember about Group Seizure was hiring a DI for their bass player. The place I hired it from still send me texts about their sales (8 years later).


I Want a Hovercraft were a pretty cool two piece from Melbourne. I saw them support Josh Pyke at the Gov once. I don’t think I stayed from Josh Pyke’s set.


The Rhino Room was an odd venue, now more known for its comedy. Kick was a monthly night run by Joel and Louie, who also organised Sunday soccer. Great for hangovers!


Another Patterns in Static gig at the Jade Monkey.


This flyer cracks me up. I don’t know why.


No Through Road were essentially the house band for the Prince Albert. There wasn’t much room for bands to play at the PA, which made it difficult for bands like NTR (with 6 people), but created a wonderful atmosphere.


All I remember about this gig is that it ran horribly late and I had to teach the following morning. But seeing Miss Golly Gosh (Adelaide’s answer to Bikini Kill) was always good.


Downtown Art Space occasionally hosted gigs, but like Avalon/SEAS Gallery, suffered from not being licensed. A great flyer designed by Ringo.


I’m not sure who NUN were. But a nice looking flyer.


Lizard Lounge was where Le Rox used to be after it moved out of the Hindley Street Pizza Hut. Apparently Le Rox was the place to be in the late 1980s and early 1990s, so it was like an Adelaide tradition. I’m not sure what is there now.


Your Wedding Night had that song ‘L-A-C-H-L-A-N’ which was pretty big on Triple J. I remember that most of their other songs were fairly lewd.

So there you go. Another bunch of flyers. I have nearly exhausted my collection at the moment, but there are a few other boxes at home that are full of ephemera that need sorting. If I find anything cool, I will post it in the near future. I hope you’ve enjoyed these posts. Please get in touch if you have. And like Hatful of History on Facebook!

From the Jade Monkey to the Grace Emily: An ephemeral history of the Adelaide music scene, pt 3

This is the third post in an ongoing series on the ephemera on the Adelaide music scene, 2001-2010 – essentially it is some old gig flyers that I’ve collected. I’ve been photographing 10 at a time (see other posts here and here) to record a discreet moment in the history of the Adelaide music scene, in a particular subculture. Although in Adelaide, many people would argue that there was considerable subcultural crossover – punk, indie, metal, electronica, goth, folk – because there weren’t enough venues/bands to sustain completely independent subcultures. So here goes with another ten.



The Grey Daturas were a guitar/noise band from Melbourne. I remember being blown away by the volume of them, especially at the usually noisy Cranker.


This gig shows the origins of some quite successful bands. Henry Wagons pops up on Spicks n Specks and Rockwiz, while Wolf & Cub (in some incarnation) signed with 4AD Records. But I think Matt Banham’s (No Through Road) tweets are the best.


Dr Ianto Ware is now some high-flying government agency type, promoting Australian music around the place. The Prince Albert was a great venue for music and football watching. I remember seeing Italy kick Australia out of the World Cup in 2006 at the PA.


The Jade Monkey has now been knocked down to make way for some hotel. We won’t see gigs like this anymore.


The Grace Emily was a good venue for promoting female-led gigs and this may have been part of a series of gigs put on by Cookie Baker to promote female musicians in Adelaide. Leigh Stardust was awesome – great music and even better on-stage banter. She should really come out of retirement.


This was one of the few punk shows that played at Urtext. As I mentioned in a previous post, Urtext was notoriously difficult to find, so flyers sometimes had directions to the venue on the back (see below).



Snap! Crakk! were ex-Adelaideans making electro-indie-pop in Melbourne, although they were more humorous when they were Snap! Crack! Le Pop! Daggerzz Sound System was a monthly night at the Cranker run by Tom and Brett from Love Like… Electrocution. It made for a great Thursday night.


This was the first gig I ever organised and was one of the few times that the Lizard Lounge was fully occupied. A great gig, although Uberstomp and Sound of Mercy Killing didn’t play. Nick and I were The Hated Salford Ensemble (taken from the name given to the synthesiser Johnny Marr used on The Queen is Dead), and we also played several songs with Ringo Stalin and the drummer from The Paddington Bear Affair for an encore of ‘Every Day is Like Sunday’ and ‘The Last of the Famous International Playboys’.


Karl’s event that combined the hawking of DIY wares during the day with great bands at night. Avant Gardeners were unusual in that they used an overhead projector and ink as part of their backdrop, which made for a visual, as well as aural, experience. I remember Karl sold me a rare green vinyl version of PiL’s first record for $15 at this event.


I’m not sure what incarnation of Aviator Lane this was – Mike played a solo performer, as well as in a three/four-piece band – but Princess One Point Five was a pretty good act to be playing with.

If you have any flyers that you’d like to see preserved on the internet, or if you attended (or played at) any of these gigs, please get in contact or comment below.

From the vaults of Evan pt 3: Independent publishing and the resistance to Nazi Germany

With a new addition to the household and the end of semester rapidly approaching, I feel I have been neglecting this blog and that my posts will be intermittent for the next few weeks (and I’ve still gotta write that last Young Ones post). So I thought in the meantime (great Helmet song, btw!) I’d post up something that I wrote back in 2003-04 on the pre-history of zines and the printed resistance to the Nazis. The first half (up to 1933) was published on the Vibewire website, but as far as I can remember, the second half was never published. The article is a bit brief and not entirely scholarly in style, but there are few ideas that I think still hold up contained within. I hope you enjoy what the 2004 me wrote…


This article originally appeared in my zine She Cheated On College Exams, along with another article on the pre-history of the zines, Jedermann Sein Eigner Fussball. The intention of these articles was to demonstrate that the history of zine doesn’t merely start with the science fiction fanzines of the 1930s or the UK punk zines of the late 1970s. As a student of history, I disregard the notion that the zine (or fanzine) is an unconnected phenomenon that ‘just happened’, completely detached of other developments in the history of independent publishing. Equally I disregard the simplistic teleological history that a single unbroken connection can be drawn, starting with science fiction fanzines through punk zines such as Sniffin’ Glue, bringing us to the zine that we are familiar with today. As a sympathiser of Marxism, I consider the history (and pre-history) of zines to contain a narrative that includes beat poetry chapbooks, revolutionary war broadsides, Russian Samizdat and the publications of Expressionism, Dada, Surrealism, Futurism, Lettrism and Situationism. Furthermore, as much as some who have written on the subject assert, the history of zines is not a history of independent and revolutionary writing that only existed in a opposition to censorship from governments and big business, but a history of the ownership of the means of production and the distribution of published material to the public. An important part of the pre-history of zines (and perhaps in an academic sense, a controversial part) is the history of independent publishing in the resistance to the National Socialist regime in Germany. The explosion of independent and revolutionary publishing from both ends of the political spectrum in the days of the Weimar Republic is significant in a pre-history of zines by itself, however the dramatic changes that occurred under the Nazi dictatorship is just as poignant. Due to the almost symmetrical nature of this period of history, the first half of this article will deal with the history of independent publishing prior to 1933 and the rise of Adolf Hitler to Chancellor of Germany, followed by the second half which will deal the deconstruction of any independent publishing under the Third Reich.

Part 1: The ‘Golden Years’ of the Weimar Republic

The history of independent publishing and the pre-history of zines is the history of ownership of the means of production and the access of published material to the public, rather than any political regulation or conscious ideological motives. Although government control is a factor in the history of independent publishing, it is negligible compared to the mainstream publishing world. A history of independent publishing is a continued juxtaposition between the economics of producing a publication and a publication’s distribution through the public. Depending on the size of the publication’s impact on its readership, government interference is rarely a major concern in independent publishing. Economic pressures and the accessibility of a publication are more immediate concerns.

However, a history of independent publications cannot exist in a vacuum and one must consider its relation with the mainstream publishing world, particularly the mainstream press and the socio-economic conditions that a publication is created in. The following article examines the publishing world, both the mainstream press and the independent political journals, in Germany from the mid-1920s until the late 1930s. What was the relationship between the mainstream press and the independent publishing world like and what changes occurred as Germany transformed from a liberal democracy into a fascist dictatorship under the National Socialist regime? Who was producing independent publications and what function did they serve, in relation to the function of the mainstream press? What impact did the independent publications have on the resistance movement within Germany in the pre-Second World war period?

Unlike the British Press that had been monopolised into a group of nationally circulated dailies, the German press was much more varied. In Weimar Germany, there was at least 4,700 daily papers and nearly 10,000 journals or periodicals. At this time, to reach a large readership required a much more substantial investment in print production and although the amount of papers and journals was large, Press trusts and publishing houses monopolised the means of production, with the bulk of material syndicated in the ‘district papers’. This meant that only five per cent of papers had a produced more than fifteen thousand copies. Parish-pump papers and one man printing operations, using plates rather than rollers were widespread and as Michael Burleigh wrote, relied heavily on ‘advertisements, announcements and items written by keen amateurs’. The varied structure of the German press meant that Germany’s leading liberal daily paper, the Berliner Tageblatt sold only an average 130,000 copies in the early 1930s, which was roughly matched by Nazi Party’s daily paper, the Völkische Beobachter.

As economic uncertainty fluctuated during Weimar Germany, some of the papers that were financially unkempt were taken over by industrialists and other big businesses. Multi-media magnate Alfred Hugenberg oversaw a large publishing house as well as interfering substantially in the political process, openly backing conservative politicians in the Reichstag. Other industrialists such as Paul Reusch of the Gutehöffnungshütte, Carl Bosch of IG Farben and Hugo Stinnes all had controlling interests in papers in Munich, Frankfurt and Berlin respectively.

On the other hand, each political party produced its own journals and papers, paid through party funds. To counter the concentration of ownership by the conservatives and the big businesses, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) produced at least 200 papers throughout the years of the Weimar Republic, alongside the German Communist Party’s (KPD) thirty-five. In the mid-1920s, Willi Münzenberg was appointed by Lenin to direct the Workers’ International Relief (Internationale Arbeiter Hilfe or IAH). The IAH was not officially part of the KPD, which helped during anti-Communist repressions and sought to bring relief to the German working class during the times of economic hardship. In 1924, Münzenberg also set up a publishing house, Neuer Deutscher Verlag (NDV), separate from the IAH or the KPD, who published the Communist daily paper, Die Rote Fahne (‘The Red Flag’).

In 1927, the NDV started the publication, the Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung (‘Worker’s Illustrated Paper’), a weekly paper that was explicitly Communist but embraced the avant-garde art of Weimar Germany. Alongside artists such as Tina Modotti, Käthe Kollwitz and the anonymous Fuck, the most prominent artist of the AIZ was photomontage artist John Heartfield.  Heartfield’s brother, Wieland Herzfelde, also owned a small publishing house named Malik Verlag, which began as a forum for the Dadaists in the early 1920s, but continued to produce avant-garde and revolutionary publications throughout the years of Weimar Germany. Compared with the mainstream journals such as Berliner Illustrierte and Münchner Illustrierte Presse, which had circulations of 1.6 million and 500,000 respectively, the AIZ had a considerable readership. By the early 1930s, the AIZ had a circulation of around 280,000, aimed at a less affluent readership that was increasingly ignored by the mainstream press. According to the AIZ, 42 per cent of its readership was skilled workers and 33 per cent unskilled workers, with less than 20 per cent of its readership in bourgeois professions.

Despite its large readership, the A-I-Z was unable to muster the support amongst the working class to resist the Nazi rise to power. Although the NDV was technically independent of the KPD, like the Party itself, Münzenberg was indeed heavily directed by the Third Communist International, which from 1928 until the assumption of power by Hitler in January 1933, asserted the notion of ‘social fascism’. Instead of uniting with the Social Democrats in a united socialist front against the Nazis, the Communists believed that the Social Democracy was the ‘twin brother of fascism’. While some, such as the exiled Leon Trotsky, appealed for a united front, Münzenberg declared:

Nothing could be as detrimental to the German working class and communism and nothing would promote fascism so much as the realisation of so criminal a proposal [of Social Democrat-Communist unity]… He who proposes such a bloc only assists the social-fascists. His role is indeed… plainly fascist.

The A-I-Z capitulated to the Comintern’s direction and promoted the idea of ‘social-fascism’. The Communists also failed to understand that fascism was more than the ‘rule of monopoly capitalism in its purest, most untrammelled, most invulnerable form’ and was a mass movement with great middle-class support as well as successfully attracting votes from the working class. The A-I-Z maintained the view of fascism as a mere instrument of capitalist rule. John Heartfield’s montages of Hitler taking a bribe from an industrialist (‘Behind me, there are millions’) and Hitler as a puppet of industrialist Fritz Thyssen (‘Tool in God’s hands? Toy in Thyssen’s hands!’) remain powerful images, but underestimated the Nazi’s expendable ideological notions of big business. For these reasons (and indeed many more), the German working class suffered one of the greatest defeats when Adolf Hitler assumed the position of Chancellor on January 31, 1933. The effect of the Communist press on the defeatism and wrongly directed political action of the working class should not be underestimated. However, as we will see in the second half of this article, the rise of the national Socialist regime did not end all resistance.

kleine mann

Part 2: Beyond 1933

By November 1932, the National Socialist party was polling 33 per cent of the vote and was the largest single party in the Reichstag, holding 196 seats, compared the KPD who held 100. The conservatives in the Reichstag were convinced that Hitler would be able to ebb the socialist tide in Germany. Hitler was invited to join a conservative coalition and on January 31, 1933, he became the new Chancellor of Germany. The next day, the Reichstag was dissolved for seven weeks in preparation for new elections, held against a background of political pressure, terror and intimidation, accompanied by an ‘overpowering propaganda campaign’. Despite the intimidation and illegal operations, the Nazi Party only gained 43.9 per cent of the vote and was never returned to power with a clear majority, although the conservative Nationalists provided the necessary votes for a coalition to govern. The basic political rights of the Weimar constitution had already been abolished on February 28, after the Reichstag was set fire to, but the final action that transformed the Weimar Republic into the Nazi dictatorship was the ‘Enabling Act’, which removed all authority of parliament and gave the Nazis full powers to quash all opposition. By July 1933, the Nazi Party was declared the only official party in Germany, although it was not until the summer of 1934 that Hitler assumed the position of Führer and the terror system of the Schutzstaffel (SS) rid the Third Reich of its most immediate opponents. The second half of this article examines how the resistance and the remnants of the independent press continued under the fascist dictatorship of the Nazi regime.

The assumption of power by the Nazi Party in January 1933 dramatically changed the structure of the German press.  In March, the ‘Enabling Act’ was granted under duress, which rid the Reichstag of all authority and constitutional control, giving Hitler and the Nazi Party the ‘right’ to act outside the bounds of legal norms. The primary enemy of the newly formed Nazi State were the elements of the Left. On May 2, 1933, trade unions were effectively abolished. Trade union headquarters throughout Germany were occupied, funds confiscated, unions dissolved and the leaders arrested, with most beaten and sent to the newly built concentration camps. On May 1, the Social Democrats suffered the same fate as the trade unions, before being legally banned on June 22. The KPD had all property and funds seized on May 26 before sending the leaders and main agitators to the concentration camps. Workers’ clubs and co-operatives were banned and within six months of Nazi rule, the largest workers’ movement in Europe had been dismantled.

As much as the systematic raids on working class districts, the deconstruction of the independent and anti-Nazi press was the result of the deprivation of the Left’s access to the means of production and the economic ability to print and distribute their publications. With the appropriation of the Leftist parties’ funds into the Nazi Party, the SPD and KPD found it difficult to produce material within Germany and many of its members moved abroad to places such as Prague, Paris and Vienna to continue their work.

At first the Leftist groups remaining inside Germany, partly on the assumption that the situation was analogous to that created by Bismarck’s anti-socialist legislation in Imperial Germany, transformed their political work from the public domain where the police could observe it to the semi-privacy of the working class social environment. This assumption turned out to be wrong and destructive for any organised resistance by the remnants of the KPD or SPD. The now illegal groups hid their working equipment with trusted fellows and colleagues, setting up illegal print shops and storerooms for anti-Nazi documents and leaflets. However, after waves of arrests by the various agencies of Nazi terror, the remaining leaders of the organised resistance were sent to concentration camps and the means of producing anti-Nazi literature were seized.

A number of journals and papers were illegally and independently produced by pockets of organised resistance inside Germany or brought in from places such as Prague, although the average lifespan of one of these publications was not terribly long and their readership was considerably low. One of the first to appear was Neuer Vorwärts, which was produced by exiled members of the SPD. It was printed on thin paper in small format, yet aesthetically superior to the literature produced inside Germany under illegal conditions. It first appeared in June 1933, just before the mass arrests of the SPD leaders and supplied to former Party members, to provide ‘clear and visible evidence that the Party lived on’. However, stricter conditions imposed upon the Prague Executive of the SPD led to the eventual discontinuation of the paper.

Inside Germany, a group of socialist students originating from Berlin University started producing Der Rote Stosstrupp (‘Red Shock Troop’). First mimeographed in private homes, the paper was then printed in a commercial agent’s office run or alternatively on a motorboat on the Wannsee. Appearing regularly in eight or ten day intervals, its readership grew to around 3,000 copies. It was funded initially by members of the Roter Stosstrupp group at great personal expense, but after the summer of 1933, the paper was helped by grants from the Prague Executive, however Der Rote Stosstrupp was independent of both the SPD and the KPD. Sadly, the paper’s production was destroyed by the Gestapo in December 1933.

After 1933 and up until the outbreak of the Second World War, anti-Nazi press continued to appear for short amounts of time, but few survived the systematic arrests by the Nazi terror agencies. One of the last publications to be produced was the Berliner Volkszeitung. Willi Gall, leader of an illegal KPD group in Adlershof, produced 200 copies of the Berliner Volkszeitung in November 1939, believing it would make a ‘strong impression’ on the remaining Communists in Berlin. However, before the next issue could be produced, Gall and the other members of the Adlershof group were arrested. The economic conditions of the Nazi war effort, along with the increased terror threat, effectively destroyed the last chances for any use of print media in the form of organised resistance.

That is not to say that opposition, dissent and resistance did not occur in Nazi Germany, but it is true that working class opposition was not extensively linked with any organised resistance group. As Tim Mason wrote in ‘The Workers’ Opposition in Nazi Germany’, organised underground activism was generally separated from class conflict in the workplace, much to the ‘considerable doubt and puzzlement of the regime’. Despite the dismantling of the working class parties and lack of organised resistance, workers’ opposition continued through absenteeism, strikes low ‘work morale’ and various other means.

At the time of the Nazi assumption of power in 1933, around 4,700 daily papers 10,000 periodicals existed, with the Nazi Party controlling less than three per cent of these publications. By 1938, the number of periodicals had been reduced to 5,000 and by 1944, out of the 977 newspapers that existed, the Nazi Party controlled 82 per cent. This decline symbolizes the anti-intellectualism of the Nazi party and the decimation of intellectual life under the Nazi regime. The independent journals and papers published during the years of Nazi rule, despite their considerably low impact upon the anti-Nazi resistance, are an integral part of the history of independent publishing and the pre-history of zines.


Works referred to:

Michael Burleigh The Third Reich: A New History (Pan Books, United Kingdom, 2001)

Norbert Frei National Socialist Rule in Germany (Blackwell Publishers, United Kingdom, 1993)

Richard Grunberger A Social History of the Third Reich (Penguin Books, United Kingdom, 1974)

Douglas Kahn John Heartfield: Art and Mass Media (Tanam Press, USA, 1985)

Tim Mason ‘The Workers’ Opposition in Nazi Germany’, History Workshop Journal 11 (Spring 1981)

Detlev JK Peukert Inside Nazi Germany: Conformity, Opposition and Racism in Everyday Life (Penguin Books, United Kingdom, 1987)

Hans-Joachim Reichardt ‘Resistance in the Labour Movement’, in Walter Schmitthenner & Hans Buchheim The German Resistance to Hitler (BT Batsford, United Kingdom, 1970)

David Welch The Third Reich: Politics and Propaganda (Routledge, United Kingdom, 1993)

An ephemeral history of the Adelaide music scene (ie some old band flyers), part 2

Following on from this post in January, this post is the second installment in my series of curating the music flyers of the Adelaide scene between 2003 and 2008. Here we go again down memory lane…

Snap Crack

Minke was a bar underground below the Rosemont Hotel on Hindley Street. It wasn’t really a band-oriented venue, but a place to go at the end of the night. Snap! Crack! Le Pop! were a great three-piece who played electro, tongue-in-cheek songs. The band became simply Snap Crakk when Michael and Yama moved to Melbourne.


The Underground was a Christian-run music venue that was used by a lot of hardcore/straightedge bands. As it had no bar, it was all ages. Hardcore kids used to line up all down Waymouth Street for gigs. The Paddington Bear Affair were a great band – a six piece of underage kids (when they started) that played screamo styled music. Their drummer ended up playing in my crappy band.

Calvin Johnson

K Records’ legend Calvin Johnson played an ‘unplugged’ (literally) set at Rocket Bar on Valentines Day 2005. As he only played acoustic guitar with no PA, the audience had to be very quiet or they drowned him out.


Jacques Chirac Attacque was my band’s name for this show only. We had a policy of changing our name for each gig. As the flyer says, we were also Space Horse and Go Black Panthers! at different shows, as well as Jimmy Floyd and the Hasselbainks, Not in the Face, Time for a Tiger, Hot to Trotsky, the Hated Salford Ensemble, Stroszek, and Mike Rann and the Mechanics, amongst others. This show sticks out in my memory for two reasons. Firstly, while the Jade Monkey was a well-known Adelaide music venue, our drummer had never played there and got lost, only arriving two minutes before we were supposed to go on stage. Secondly, we took the French theme seriously and had a fight with baguettes on stage during our last song.

My Disco

This is an alternative flyer to the gig at Avalon featured in the last post. It was probably designed by the guys from My Sister the Cop, who always had very intricately drawn flyers.


Jemima Jemima were quite an avant-garde band, with Michael from Snap Crakk on guitar. They released one CD on Unstoppable Ape Records and broke up very shortly afterwards I believe. Sweet Raxxx were Adelaide’s answer to Gravy Train!!!

Ltd Exp

Limited Express (Has Gone) was a Japanese band that was touring with The Roger Sisters. The night before their show at the Grace Emily, the kids from Paddington Bear Affair organised a secret show for them. The venue was supposed to be the squat on Coromandel Place (next to the Historian Hotel), but some of the occupants of the squat refused to let people in. The bands thus played in the lounge room of a small flat on Hindley Street. It was the debut gig of I’m Gonna F**king Kill You, who were practising in the flat when a whole bunch of people rocked up, having walked down Hindley Street after finding out that the show at the squat was not going ahead.

No Thru Rd

No Through Road were a regular feature at the Jade Monkey. As they were headlining, I’m assuming it was the full six piece version of the band at this particular gig. When No Through Road debuted the full band at the Jade Monkey, the lead singer Matt apparently fell of the drum kit and hit his head during their cover of Weezer’s ‘Say It Ain’t So’. Very rock n’ roll.


The Proscenium was a goth/electro club off of Hindey Street that had been a famous Adelaide venue since the 1980s. The basement wasn’t used that much, but occasionally had bands. This show was the last gig for Love Like… Electrocution with their original guitarist Tim, who ended playing in Snap Crakk.

Brutal Snake

Brutal Snake started off as a solo act featuring Tom (from 1984, St Albans Kids and Love Like…) playing very noisy guitar, before becoming a full band. Artax Mission had a similar noisy post-rock guitar sound. I am assuming that this was still when The Exeter had gigs in the back beer garden, rather than in the front room. Brutal Snake in the front room would have been, well, brutal.

So there you have it – another round of flyers. Hopefully this shows some of the subcultural history of Adelaide, which often goes undocumented. If anyone has any memories of these shows, or have any other flyers that they’d like to see up on the web, please comment below.