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!


Jedermann Sein Eigner Fussball: The mixture of Dada, Communism & ‘Zines’ in Weimar Berlin

I am in the (hopefully) final stages of putting together my monograph and have been lacklustre in posting much on this blog lately. In the meantime, I was looking through my old harddrive, looking for notes that I wrote for my PhD, and came across this I wrote for my zine back in 2003. I have always wanted to write about the pre-history of zines (as well as the connections between communism and Dada in Weimar Germany), but have never got round to it, so here’s a little something from my formative years…


In recent discussions on the history and characteristics of zines, there has been some debate on the development of the zine before the punk explosion of 1976-77. At a forum with other zine creators recently [in 2002], a notion was expressed that a history of zines before the 1970s was impracticable due to its splintered and unconnected predecessors. Although there is no simple chain of causality, a history of zines as merely ‘one damned thing after another’ with no correlation is unacceptable. Max Dvorak’s words on the development of art history are particularly poignant, that a history of zines is not the tracing of a single unbroken line of development, but rather a complex development, punctuated with stages of new conditions that provide new shoots from which new developments unfold.

Most histories of zines begin with the science-fiction fanzines that began in the 1930s, but leave many gaps between them and the punk zines of Sniffin’ Glue and Ripped & Torn. Fred Wright’s This Document Will Self-Destruct in 30 Seconds goes beyond this simplistic history and disregards the notion of total autonomous zine development, outlining the various zine predecessors such as beat poetry chapbooks, revolutionary war broadsides, Russian Samizdat and the publications of Expressionism, Dada, Surrealism, Futurism, Lettrism and Situationism. Keeping in mind that the photocopier was only patented in 1959, the zine that exists today is aesthetically and constructively different than earlier publications, but as Fred Wright states:

Many zine publishers have claimed affinity with these older publications, and apparently, like a whisper down the corridors of history, these works, just by the fact that they once existed, serve as both inspiration and influence to many of today’s zines.

One of the most influential of these early publications was the ‘journal’ by the Berlin Dadaists, Jedermann Sein Eigner Fussball or ‘Everyman His Own Football’. It is worthy to note this publication, for its timing, its iconoclastic appearance and its influence, direct or indirect.

In January 1917, Richard Huelsenbeck arrived from Zurich in Berlin, having been part of Dada’s Cabaret Voltaire. While the people of Zurich ‘sat in the restaurants with well-filled wallets and rosy cheeks’, Berlin was experiencing the collapse of social order under the pressure of the First World War. The German economy was collapsing with the Imperial Army of Wilhelm II failing to sustain the war effort and prevent the waves of hunger among its citizens. For Huelsenbeck, Berlin was a ‘city of tightened stomachers, of mounting, thundering hunger, where hidden rage was transformed into a boundless money lust, and men’s minds were concentrating more and more on questions of naked existence’.

In the last months of the war, Huelsenbeck met with several others forming the ‘Club Dada’. The others that were associated with Huelsenbeck included Raoul Hausmann, Walter Mehring, Franz Jung, Johannes Baader, Hannah Höch, George Grosz and the Herzfelde brothers, Wieland and Johann. (In protest of the war, Johann anglicised his name, becoming John Heartfield) Wieland Herzfelde had produced a wartime journal entitled Neue Jugend, which was heavily influenced by the Expressionists. Herzfelde founded a small publishing house, Malik Verlag, which produced Neue Jugend. Herzfelde believed that art was a powerful medium for portrayal of radical political ideas, although many doubted the political effectiveness of Herzfelde’s publications.

During the war years, many ‘humour’ journals printed in Germany had proliferated and became important means of spreading political ideas. The satirical nature of such liberal and socialist journals as Simplicissimus, Ulk (‘Joke’) and Der Wahre Jacob (‘The True Jacob’) had been changed by the First World War and strongly supported the war effort. In the months after the War, these traditional journals adopted a largely conservative position toward the political events. With the increasing disorder following Germany’s defeat in November 1918, an array of right-wing ‘humour’ journals started to appear, starting with Phosphor, Rote Hand (‘Red Hand’) and Satyr.

By early 1919, Germany was in political and economic crises. The Kaiser had abdicated following the Imperial Army’s defeat with the Social Democrats forming Germany’s first democratic government, the Weimar Republic. A series of Communist uprisings followed and groups of delisted soldiers, the Freikorps, were used by the government to quash the revolutionaries. In January 1919, the Spartakists (members of the German Communist Party or KPD) started revolting in Berlin. Friedrich Ebert, leader of the Social Democrats, employed Gustav Noske as Minister of Defence, who used the violent and nationalistic Freikorps to crush the Communists. The Spartakist leaders, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, were murdered by Freikorps officers on January 15, 1919.

In response to the rise of counter-revolutionary publications appearing in Berlin, Herzfelde urged the KPD to employ pictures and drawings by the Dadaists in their official publications, but was told in response that the party press was not a humour magazine. A few days after the Spartakist murders, Herzfelde discussed the publication of a ‘new periodical of a literary, artistic and political character, brought out at irregular intervals, cheap… [with a] newspaper-style make-up’, intended to ‘sling mud at everything the Germans have so far held dear’. On February 15, a week after the First National Assembly of the new German Republic, Jedermann Sein Eigner Fussball was published, Malik Verlag’s first post-war production.

Jedermann Sein Eigner Fussball was only four pages long and only a single issue was produced, but it was the most concise collection of work by the Berlin Dadaists. John Heartfield designed the journal and created two photomontages for the cover. Photomontage was first developed by the Berlin Dadaists, although there is dispute over its invention. Hausmann and Höch claimed that photomontage was the pictorial extension of the static, simultaneous and phonetic poetry of Zurich Dada, developed on holiday on the Baltic Sea. On the other hand, Grosz and Heartfield claimed that in May 1916, they ‘pasted a mishmash of advertisements… cut up at will in such a way as to say, in pictures, what would have been banned by the censors if we had said it in words’. Hausmann’s photomontages were often random and aesthetically ‘wild and explosive’, while Heartfield’s works were classically composed, laden with revolutionary political expression. Both styles have been widely influential and the photomontages are distinctly recognisable as works of the Berlin Dadaists. As Hans Richter wrote, ‘they have been imitated and copied by thousands who have pocketed the financial rewards always denied to Hausmann and Heartfield, the creative artists’.

The cover parodied the layout of the conservative journals. In conjunction with the title, a sarcastic interpretation of the statesmen’s promise of ‘a chicken in every pot’, photo-monteur Heartfield spliced a picture of his brother Wieland in formal wear with a football, tilting his hat to the saying ‘everyman his own football’. The main photomontage depicted a fan, a vanity item popular in the 19th century, with portraits of the ruling elite. Alongside the Ebert-Scheidemann group, who controlled the Reichstag, the montage included Karl Kautsky, one of the founders of German social democracy (who V.I. Lenin had called a ‘renegade’ and ‘bourgeois reformist’) and General Ludendorff, leader of the Supreme Command of the Imperial Army and future participant in the Nazi putsch of 1923, as well as other military leaders. A caption above it read: ‘Open Competition! Who’s the prettiest??’, while below: ‘German Manly Beauty #1’. This ‘beauty competition’ for the ‘gifted beer bellies’ was in reference to the opening of the First National Assembly of the Weimar Republic that had opened only a week beforehand. The cover was the beginning of Heartfield’s use of photomontages in a coherent aesthetic, departing from the random structures of earlier montages. As Wieland stated, ‘In it he began for the first time to use photography consciously in the service of political agitation’.

As members of the German Communist Party since December 31, 1918, Herzfelde, Heartfield and Grosz used Jedermann Sein Eigner Fussball to attack their political and social enemies. The journal’s leading article, by Herzfelde, concerned the ‘socialisation of party funds’ and the choice that the Weimar Republic had to make, between the bourgeois Social Democrats and the Communists.

However, it was Grosz’s cartoons, along with Heartfield’s photomontages, that stood out as violently political as well Dadaistically absurd. Under the title ‘Der Kirchenstaat Deutschland’ (‘The Church State of Germany’), Grosz depicted the Pope controlling puppets of Chief Minister Erzburger and Chief Press officer Viktor Naumann, instructing them on the evils of Bolshevism. In Grosz’s illustration, the Pope’s portrayal of the Bolshevist as a destructive ogre lead workers to be devoured by the jaws of Church officials. Grosz’s cartoons also appeared in an article, ‘Die Latrine’, which depicted a toilet with the dictum ‘A German symbol’ underneath. The article sarcastically asked whether An die Laterne, a paper produced by a government propaganda agency, needed a cartoonist, offering Grosz’s illustration in jest. Surrounding the illustration were statements ridiculing the Social Democrats, the utopian Rat Geistiger Arbeiter (Council of Intellectual Workers) and Max Pechstein, the ‘people’s fine artist’. It was shrewd inversion of the accusation by the conservative press that the ‘Die Sensationspresse’ (‘The sensational press’) was siphoning a toilet’s contents into press articles. For the Dadaists, An der Laterne, a government paper, was the publication to be consigned ‘an die Latrine’.

On February 17, 1919, the six man strong editorial team proceeded with a char-a-branc and funeral band through the streets of Berlin, bearing bundles of Jedermann Sein Eigner Fussball. The procession resembled the numerous funeral processions in Berlin in the months after the War, following the route to ‘the dreary east side’ that Karl Liebknecht’s funeral had taken a month earlier. In east Berlin, the Dadaists sold most of the 7,600 copies printed as, in the words of Walter Mehring:

Our Dadaist procession was greeted with delight as spontaneous as the ‘on y danse’ of the Paris mob in front of the Bastille. And ‘every man his own football’ entered the Berlin language as an express ion of contempt for authority and humbug.

The Dadaists were arrested on their way home from serenading the government offices in Wilhelmstrasse.

On March 3, 1919, a general strike called by the Communists led to heavy fighting between workers and the Freikorps troops, employed by Noske to crush the strike, which lasted until March 13. On March 7, Wieland Herzfelde was arrested for the publication of Jedermann Sein Eigner Fussball, charged with seeking to bring the Armed Forces into contempt and distributing indecent publications. Walter Mehring’s poem, ‘Der Coitus im Dreimäderlhaus’, referring to metaphorical ‘coitus’ of the Weimar Republic was one the offending articles from the journal cited. Mehring’s poem, which he suggested as the new national anthem, was, as he himself described, ‘a really distressing, obscene piece of anti-militarism for which there was no excuse even as a product of Dadaism’.

The other article which contributed to the charges against Herzfelde was ‘Against the White Terror’, which condemned the actions of the Bavarian Soldier’s Councils in its war against the Munich Communists. It warned the revolutionaries of the newly formed Bavarian Soviet: ‘The revolution is in danger! Revolutionary soldiers of Bavaria! Close ranks around your flag and for the fight against the White Terror of Berlin!’

Herzfelde remained in prison during the two weeks of fighting and was released on March 20. In the following months, the same Dadaists behind Jedermann Sein Eigner Fussball published Der Pleite (‘Bankruptcy’). The second issue was entitled ‘Schutzhaft’ (‘Protective custody’), an account by Herzfelde of his time in prison. It was a sober and informative report of the conditions for political prisoners during the Freikorps terror, relating his experiences of witnessing the mistreatment and even murder of other political prisoners at the hands of the Freikorps. The intervention of Harry Graf Kessler, an Anglo-German diplomat who helped finance Malik Verlag, may well have prevented further imprisonment for Wieland Herzfelde.

Although it was only a single four-page journal, Jedermann Sein Eigner Fussball was an influential publication. It marks the beginning of photomontage as a aesthetic for the printed medium and as revolutionary as any words that could be written. As Greil Marcus wrote, ‘punk-as-dada did not even mean this much… the history-in-nutshell parallels always need to explain something new, or explain it away’. Although a direct line can not be drawn between Dada and the punk explosion, one just has to look at the first UK punk fanzine Sniffin’ Glue to see the revolutionary and anarchic fervour of the Berlin Dadas embodied in its pages. While the Talking Heads were setting a Hugo ball sound poem to music or other punks were looking at Kurt Schwitters’ Merz collages, the aesthetics and political content of Jedermann Sein Eigner Fussball was the most apparent in the ‘image’ of punk and more importantly, the punk fanzine. While Herzfelde had had to raise funds for a small publishing house to produce his independent publication, the readiness of the photocopier helped the creators of Sniffin’ Glue and Ripped & Torn to achieve the same goal as the Berlin Dadaists – to create something outside the media empires that was provocative and uncensored, an independent work untouched by the sensibilities of the money-makers and the status quo. The ethos that still drives many zine makers today.

John Heartfield

John Heartfield

Works used:

Dawn Ades Photomontage (Thames & Hudson, UK, 1976)

Stephen C Foster & Rudolf E Kuenzli (eds) Dada Spectrum: The Dialectics of Revolt (Coda Press, USA, 1979)

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

Greil Marcus Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century (Harvard University Press, USA, 1990)

Joanne Moser (ed.) Dada Artifacts (University of Iowa Museum of Art, USA, 1978)

Hans Richter Dada: Art and Anti-Art (Thames & Hudson, UK, 1997)

Robert Short Dada & Surrealism (Chartwell Books, USA, 1980)

‘Political Journals and Art 1910-1940’ Art Journal 52/1 (Spring 1993)

Jedermann Sein Eigner Fussball 1 (Feb 1919)

‘Editorial’ Past & Present 1/1 (Feb 1952)

Fred Wright The History and Characteristics of Zines (http://www.zinebook.com/resource/wright1.html)

Against the Grain: The British far left from 1956 – chapter list announcement

The proofs have been handed back to Manchester University Press. The index has been compiled. All we need to do now is wait until the book is published.

And with that, I’d thought I would finally publish the list of chapters and authors contributing to the collection. We are very happy with the wide range of topics and of authors, both activists and academics, as well as young and more established scholars. Matt and I have enjoyed putting this collection together and hope it will be widely read by all of those interested in the British far left, from either an academic or activist perspective (or both).

So here it is:

From the third issue of 'The Reasoner' (Nov 1956) by E.P. Thompson and John Saville

From the third issue of ‘The Reasoner’ (Nov 1956) by E.P. Thompson and John Saville

AGAINST THE GRAIN: THE BRITISH FAR LEFT FROM 1956 (Manchester University Press, 2014)

Evan Smith & Matthew Worley (eds)

Introduction: the far left in Britain from 1956

Evan Smith and Matthew Worley 

Part I Movements

1 Engaging with Trotsky: the influence of Trotskyism in Britain

John Callaghan 

2 The New Left: beyond Stalinism and social democracy?

Paul Blackledge

3 Narratives of radical lives: the roots of 1960s activism and the making of the British left

Celia Hughes

4 Marching separately, seldom together: the political history of two principal trends in British Trotskyism, 1945–2009

Phil Burton-Cartledge 

5 Opposition in slow motion: the CPGB’s ‘anti-revisionists’ in the 1960s and 1970s

Lawrence Parker

6 Dissent from dissent: the ‘Smith/Party’ Group in the 1970s CPGB

Andrew Pearmain

7 British anarchism in the era of Thatcherism

Rich Cross

Part II Issues

8 Jam tomorrow? Socialist women and Women’s Liberation, 1968–82: an oral history approach

Sue Bruley

9 Something new under the sun: the revolutionary left and gay politics

Graham Willett

10 ‘Vicarious pleasure’? The British far left and the third world, 1956–79

Ian Birchall 

11 Anti-racism and the socialist left, 1968–79

Satnam Virdee

 12 Red Action – left-wing pariah: Some observations regarding ideological apostasy and the discourse of proletarian resistance

Mark Hayes

13 Anti-fascism in Britain, 1997–2012

David Renton


Hopefully the book will be out in the next few months. As soon as publication date has been set, be sure that I will announce it on this blog.


Anzac Day and Protest Culture in Australian History

As usual, the run up to Anzac Day is filled with debate over the importance of the Anzac ‘legend’ (or ‘myth’) is to Australian culture and history and how (of if) the events of 1915 in Gallipoli should be remembered. The purpose of this post is to highlight that Anzac Day has also served as a lightning rod for protest against war since the 1930s and that the reverence shown to Anzac Day in recent years (particularly since John Howard’s Prime Ministership) has not always been the case.


The Anzac myth and the ‘sacrifice’ of Australian soldiers for the greater British Empire was alive and well during the inter-war period. In the lead up to the Second World War, those involved in anti-fascism and the peace movement in Australia highlighted that the First World War was an imperialist war and that those who were pushing for war in the 1930s were also imperialists (the Soviet Union was viewed as the driver of peace in this period). Communist Party of Australia member, Len Fox, produced this pamphlet in 1936 for the Victorian Council Against War and Fascism (a CPA front organisation). Regarding Anzac Day, Fox called those who gathered around the Cenotaph as ‘militarists’ who ‘use the traditions to bring about a repetition of these blunders’. Digital versions of Fox’s pamphlet can be found at NLA website or the Reason in Revolt website.


The Reason in Revolt website has also produced an issue of Communist Review from 1939 which contains an article with a similar argument to Fox’s. The article, by Communist historian James Rawling, concludes with a robust criticism of Anzac Day:

Anzac day commemorates one of the foulest crimes that has ever been committed against the working class of this country. And yet, so powerful are the agencies of capitalist propaganda that thousands still surround the day with dreams of glory and accolades of honour. But there is one atom of satisfaction and one ground for hope amid all the celebrations and the jingoes’ rant. And that is that Anzac Day has so captured the imagination of the masses, the people of Australia so highly estimate the deeds done and the sacrifice made at Anzac, that this very day must be seized upon and covered with all the camouflage of noble sacrifice and worthwhile suffering. Far more suffering and slaughter occurred at Ypres, but that can be forgotten – Anzac Day cannot. And, once the masses of Australia understand fully the horror of that crime at Anzac, the obscenity of the offering to God Capital, then their indignation will be so much greater for all the bombast and talk of glory that surround its celebrations.

With the anti-Vietnam War protests in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Anzac Day became, once again, the focal point of protest in Australia against war and imperialist aggression. But it was in the early 1980s that protest against Anzac Day reached a new height, with the feminist organisation Women Against Rape (WAR) conducting protests across Australia on  April 25th.

A protestor is arrested by the police at Anzac Day demo in Canberra 1981.

A protestor is arrested by the police at Anzac Day demo in Canberra 1981  (courtesy of ACT Public Library Photo Collection).

The history and significance of these protests against rape and violence against women during war by the Women Against Rape organisation and their challenge to the myths surrounding Anzac Day have been discussed elsewhere by Catriona Elder and Amy Way. This article from ANU student paper, Woroni, states that these protests had began in Canberra in the mid-1970s and had grown gradually in size until 1980, when protestors clashed with police, leading to a number of arrests.

From 'Woroni' (1981)

From ‘Woroni’ (1981)

This confrontation escalated in at the 1981 Anzac Day in Canberra and in the aftermath, Federal Parliament debated (in the days before the ACT had self-government) whether legislation should be put in place to curb protest in the ACT and to protect the ‘sanctity’ of Anzac Day. This 1985 paper by Robin Handley shows that these protests were an important episode in the history of public order policing in Australia and caused significant problems for the Fraser Government, who were unwilling to use the existing Public Order (Protections of Persons and Property) Act 1971. As I wrote in an earlier blogpost, the result of this was that the Fraser Government brought in the Public Assemblies Ordinance 1982 (ACT), which is the only piece of legislation that has recognised the right of Australians to peacefully protest – although it was repealed by the Hawke Government the following year.

From feminist zine 'Treason' (1985)

From feminist zine ‘Treason’ (1985)

Feminist activists, such as those who produced the zine Treason in Melbourne during the mid-1980s, continued to protest against Anzac Day during the 1980s and also cited considerable intimidation by the police. The website Reason in Revolt has scanned two issues of Treason which describe the events of Anzac Day protest marches in 1983 and 1985.

Protest at Anzac day may have subsided in recent years, but these episodes from the history of Australian protest show that Anzac Day has been, and will continue to be, contested by many outside of mainstream politics.


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)