A piece against hatecore, steel boots and the men who apologise for them
From trendy leftie pubs to that co-op dive bar that seems to accept everyone (unless you like that Clash album), most alternative venues will declare a zero tolerance towards bigotry and prejudice of every kind; with such strict policies, it would be easy to assume that every shaved head, spiked hairdo and pierced mullet would not only be open-minded but a staunch anti-fascist. However, go to any gig, protest, or vegan potluck near these venues and there will be a faction of dissenters, ranging from the edgy anti-PC punks and their subtle xenophobic, sexist and anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments to the actual far right, complete with overt swastika, nationalist and death skull patches (not to be confused with the popular FC St Pauli flag). These subgroups are always present and a reminder of the wider issues with the resurging punk scene and society as a whole.
Nazi punks have indeed existed from the start, dragging impressionable youth raised in an insular scared society to violent groups including the now-aged Blood and Honour scene and independent pockets of bigots. And whilst they have always had minimal success and aggressive opposition, they have gained footing in a society and scene that has come to normalise their harmful views. Once, the likes of the Bad Brains, Ruts DC and the Dead Kennedys would be stamping out these toxic attitudes, but in the wake of fascist-sympathisers like Milo Yiannopoulos and Paul Joseph Watson claiming to be the new punk movement, as well as old legends like John Lydon openly supporting Brexit and the Trump presidency under the guise of populism and being ‘contrarian’, these ‘punks’ now feel that they have a place in any alternative scene. This and any dialogue regarding fascism being normalised already excludes queer and feminist punks, not to mention people of colour, and risks a growing fascist faction that a weakened punk scene cannot defeat.
After observing this issue with the scene, optimists may view these overt Nazis as the only threat, but as with wider society, these groups are in fact symptoms of the racism, misogyny, homophobia and transphobia that run much deeper within. Punk has always been dominated by cisgender heterosexual white men (albeit mostly left-wing ones), and this has certainly made the push for progressive attitudes and the very meaning of ‘punk’ very narrow and limited. Some punks view these safe spaces as infringements on their own rights to not only have reactionary attitudes but voice them loudly – political correctness is a threat, and as with any group that proclaims a distaste for ‘liberals’, there will be those fighting on behalf of extreme right and left-wing ideas. A second aspect to this disproportional representation is that those not scared off by the bigotry will be at great risk of violence and abuse that will not only be excused but blamed on the survivors whilst the predators retreat back into the very scene that is meant to protect and defend the oppressed – The King Blues and PWR BTTM are but more recent examples of this.
Such information can be disheartening, but it is positive to know that punks, by their nature, will resist and make good music whilst doing so, from Riot Grrrl to Queercore which can still be seen today. The scene may still be dominated by the same voices commanding society, but anti-fascist, queer and feminist punk bands have been on the rise since the late 70s and have gained popularity; these punks not only have older bands like MDC (Millions of Dead Cops) and Oi Polloi to remember, but around the world the post-hardcore scene is as strong as it’s ever been. Bands like the Petrol Girls, War On Women, Leftöver Crack and Against Me! battle not only the Nazis in the scene with steel boots and iron lungs, but the problematic self-proclaimed male feminists mansplaining gender issues, anti-refugee sentiments and bands too keen on celebrity than social causes. These bands can unfortunately be sparse, and whilst anti-fascist skinhead and punks scenes are uniting against both extreme and casual bigotry, they must be loud and proud for a true punk scene to survive and be deserving of such an array of diverse people. As much as the more elitist punks would like to deny it, those outside the punk scene are also important in the battle against Nazi punks; the more these extremists feel safe with their views normalised in society, the more confident they will be to infiltrate all music scenes with fear and hatred. Unless, of course, we tell them to fuck off.