Persons Unknown Anarchist Conspiracy
Persons Unknown Anarchist Conspiracy Film
Reading through the ‘Crass’ forum on the Southern Records website and found a link to a 1979 tv documentary on the Persons Unknown trial. It is 21 minutes long and contains snippets of Crass playing - at the Conway Hall?
Link to film
[Note- updated 11 April 2011 -see comment below]
There is also quite a bit of footage of Stuart Christie running his anarchist distribution business in Orkney. Although it is Black Flag (anarchist newspaper) which gets mentioned, Stuart and Brenda Christie were also running the Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Publishing Project - which I subscribed to.
I have only just skimmed through the bit of film, but it does mention the anarchist/ punk cross-over and gives the background to Ronan Bennet’s involvement. Ronan, now a respectable novelist, had been imprisoned in Long Kesh as a suspected Irish Republican terrorist and started reading Black Flag in prison. He began writing to Black Flag and Iris Mills replied. On release from prison in 1976, Ronan went to stay with Iris in Huddersfield. The possibility of a link between Irish Republicans and Anarchists worried the State. Attempts were made to get Ronan deported. These failed, but in 1977 Iris and Ronan went to Paris. This was even more worrying - now the fear was of a European link. So when they came back to live in London in 1978, it was believed they were about to set up a new Angry Brigade… their house was raided and a conspiracy discovered (created)…
For anyone interested in the evolution of anarchist/ anarcho-punk, this is a ‘must watch’ video clip. After being acquitted of ‘conspiracy to cause explosions ‘ in 1979 [there were no explosions] Ronan and Iris decided to set up an ‘Anarchist Centre’ in London.
This eventually emerged in 1981 as the Wapping Warf Autonomy Centre, financed by the Crass/ Poison Girls single Bloody Revolutions/ Persons Unknown. To help pay the rent, punk gigs were put on there in late 1981. These paid the rent but broke the lease [no music, no alcohol ]and so the Autonomy Centre closed with some bitterness between the respective parties.
The punks moved on to the Centro Iberico on Harrow Road. This was an old school squatted by Spanish anarchist refugees - including some veterans of the Spanish Civil War. After the Centro was evicted, other squatted punk venues were opened. There were many of these.
I have mentioned these squatted spaces here before. The St. James Church on Pentonville Road was the first I know of. It was squatted by Islington ‘hippies’ rather than punks in 1980 (?). There was the one-off Zig Zag squat and many more. Even Psychic TV put on a squatted gig. Others continued through the eighties as ‘warehouse parties’ which became part of the acid house rave scene.
Free festivals like Stonehenge were massive rural equivalents of these urban collective squats… and if you think about it, Peace Camps like Greenham and Molesworth were also part of this ‘rural squatting’ movement. The road-protests of the nineties carried on this tradition of collective/ political squatting.
I haven’t really thought of it this way before, but if you think of squatting as being political in itself, as being ‘practical anarchism’ - as people reclaiming space from the world of commodities ( = spectacle, see previous blogs) then it is quite impressive. It also goes some way to explaining why the ‘new travellers’ who emerged out of the free festival/ anarcho- punk crossover were seen as such a threat.
To get historical and to make connections with ideas I have been picking up from recent readings like Hetherington’s book on New Age Travellers and Taussig’s book on The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America… people in pre-industrial, pre-capitalist societies do not willingly become urban/industrial wage slaves. They have to be forced off land where they can get by by growing their own food and making most of what they need themselves.
With punk , the DIY - Do It Yourself - ethic started to undermine the logic of capitalism. Rather than buy punk as a manufactured commodity, the idea was to make it yourself and/ or exchange it as a gift.
Punk as a gift economy? Or as an attempt to create an anarchist economy-society.