It’s important that you know this fine example of d.i.y. punk rock is brought to you by genuine revolutionary anarchists determined to overthrow all governments and hierarchical power structures.
When we say overthrow, we mean overthrow. We want to destroy racism, wage slavery, corporate power, state control, binary gender, and all other forms of domination and submission—and we’re ready for fires and fighting in the streets if need be. But we also mean overthrowing the patterns of inactivity and indifference that make us spectators in our own lives, that cheat us of the chance to explore our full potential in our interactions with the world. In this sense, do-it-yourself punk rock is an example of such overthrowing: when people make music themselves rather than only receiving it as a product to be purchased, when communities form in which people support each other in developing the freedom to create their own culture and become their own heroes, that’s anarchy in action, whether or not anyone uses the word.
What does all this mean in practice? I can offer a couple quick examples out of my own experiences relating to this record, in hope that these might point to the unique options you have to choose from.
My relationship with the members of The Spectacle dates back a few years. We became aware of one another through the network of the international d.i.y. underground. This is not by any means the only network connecting people across continents and cultures—since the advent of the internet, such networks have become more common than relationships between neighbors—but the important distinction is that when we interacted, we did so in reference to projects we generated ourselves, rather than shared spectatorship of the projects of others. It doesn’t mean anything for people to communicate with one another from Boston to Beijing if all they have to talk about is Hollywood movies; we punks, on the other hand, make up our own ideas, mythologies, and adventures—so what we came to know about one another cut through the usual bullshit of small talk and social rituals to the profound truths that only passionate art can express.
I met some of the members in person in 1999, at a punk show at the Blitz squat in Oslo. Such social centers, in which people can gather and interact outside the dictates of the marketplace (or, in Scandinavia, the constraints of state-sponsored activity), are precious bastions of freedom; that such centers exist at all is itself a tribute to the power of people to realize their own potential and organize their own lives, even in the face of corporate and governmental opposition. Four years later, hoping to continue building that power by engaging in a little mutual aid, and deeply inspired by the music they were making, our collective offered to help them produce their next record.
Back here in the U.S., it happened that I took this recording to a studio to be mastered the day before a fascist rally was to take place on the steps of the state capital building. The government had spent tens of thousands of dollars on police to protect the fascists—an infuriating gesture, considering that they usually put aside that same amount of money for police to attack us and prevent us from using our freedom of speech.
In our years participating in the d.i.y. music community, my friends and I learned that we can come up with our own projects, and build networks to make those projects happen; that lesson has been critical to my development as a political activist. Instead of just thinking that it was too bad that the Nazis and the Klu Klux Klan were going to have a rally to recruit new members, or waiting until election time to find a politician to vote for who might share my opposition to them, I knew that if I wanted something to be done about this, I could do it myself.
So in between the mastering of each of these songs, I called all my friends, and they called all their friends, and we made plans to meet that night. After the mastering session was over, I went to a punk show, and announced that the fascists were having a state-sponsored rally the next day, but that we punks could stop them if we wanted to; this is another way in which the d.i.y. underground is connected to more explicitly political projects, in that it provides a space where we can gather to trade ideas for actions as well as music. Afterwards, we had a long discussion, with maps of the area and lists of equipment at our disposal, about what we could do to make the whole experience so bad for the city that they would never again offer to pay so much money to host a fascist rally.
The next afternoon, charging at a line of riot police with my friends, holding broad wooden banners in front of us for protection from their blows, I once again felt the sensation of adrenaline pumping in my veins, familiar from years of singing and dancing to exhilarating punk rock. Whenever, wherever, and however you do it, the feeling of making your own decisions, applying your own capabilities, and reclaiming your life in the face of risks is one of the sweetest things life has to offer.
The irony of my friends dubbing their band “The Spectacle” is not an accident. The danger whenever you do something yourself is that others will sit back and watch rather than doing things themselves as well. Their name is a challenge to you, listeners. Please enjoy the beautiful music and lyrics of this record—but use that enjoyment as a source of inspiration for making beautiful music of your own, whether you do so with drums, spraypaint, caresses, cooking pots, or cobblestones. Heaven knows we need your music as much as we need theirs, or mine—for the more of us lift our voices in song, the sweeter life will be.
Yours for real rock around the clock—
__, CrimethInc. Ex-Workers’ Collective, first week of spring 2004