“The enormity of our task is almost beyond comprehension. Sometimes state oppression, red opposition, and treachery by traitors in our midst makes us all feel like giving up – but at all costs we must continue our battle.” – Ian Stuart Donaldson.
I recently watched the Disney+ series ‘Pistols’ on TV, a dramatised story based on guitarist Steve Jones’ memoirs of the infamous punk band the Sex Pistols, and it set me thinking about how Rock Against Communism (RAC) started in this country.
Having been active in racial Nationalist politics throughout my entire adult life, I thought I would like to share a few of my memories of those early days in Leeds.
Today, the Nationalist music scene is a world-wide phenomenon, with thousands of bands and millions of followers. The success of White Nationalist music can be traced back to its humble beginnings in the late 1970s in the UK and the Rock Against Communism organisation set up by Joe Pearce. One man in particular was instrumental in its growth and success. Ian Stuart Donaldson.
At the time I was an activist with the National Front in Leeds and we had already dipped our toe into the water by printing the Punk Front zine, a tatty newsletter which was aimed at supporters who were into punk but not yet active. The brainchild of Eddy Morrison, it was probably the first attempt by any modern racial Nationalist organisation to involve itself in the alternative music scene.
“Leeds was so right-wing. It was such a heavy town for the National Front. I was there between 1977 and 1981. I remember them in their black jackets, skinheads, they were scary.”Dave Ball, Soft Cell
The PF had only limited success, but it was enough to get the reds frothing at the mouth and a mention in Sounds, one of the largest music papers in the UK. Up until this point, the left considered music and youth culture to be their preserve.
Around about this time the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) had set up ‘Rock Against Racism’ in an attempt to recruit gullible youngsters into marxist politics. The first RAR concert was held in London, the second was in Leeds. A few months later the same group set up the Anti Nazi League for the same reason.
A couple of lads with multi-coloured Mohican haircuts (ok, Mohawks if you want to be factual!) began selling NF News with us every Saturday morning at our spot in Leeds City Centre, much to the dismay and anger of the reds. Not the ideal NS look admittedly, but I’m sure those lads now have ‘normal’ lives, with families and a mortgage. And normal haircuts!
One day whilst handing out NF leaflets to the unemployed outside of the Eastgate dole office (unemployment exchange) in Leeds city centre, we were approached by a young lad who had come to sign on. He was happily surprised to see us and wanted to get involved. He quickly proved himself when some bourgeois SWP types objected to our presence on ‘their’ turf. The lad turned out to be a member of a Leeds band called The Dentists, all of whom were also supporters. He eventually left the NF and joined the BM and became its Leeds organiser.
The Dentists were invited to play at a ‘Rock Against Communism‘ concert in central London in the summer of 1980, supporting another White Nationalist band called White Boss. Leeds NF took a minibus of activists down to London for the gig. It was not the quality of the music that made the event memorable, but the fact that it was the first ever RAC concert. The reds in the music business were outraged. From small acorns as they say…
Other bands were eventually formed containing NF/BM members, although most didn’t openly admit their allegiance, and played regular gigs around the Leeds pub circuit. A number of alternative music venues in Leeds played host to bands who supported the ‘Rock Against Racism’ marxist umbrella organisation. Inevitably, there were regular disruptions when Nationalist music fans in the audience became involved.
In the book ‘Walls Came Tumbling Down: the music and politics of Rock Against Racism‘, the following quote sums up the atmosphere in Leeds at the time:
“Leeds was a very big industrial city then. It was very monochrome, and the buildings were really black with over 100 years of pollution and lots of the streets were derelict. The whole place looked like a building site. There was this real sense of fear. The National Front were vicious and running riot… There was ‘NF’ graffiti all over… They were absolutely brutal… We’d be selling Socialist Worker on a Saturday and they would come down… It ended up in fights all the time.”
Leeds became known as one of the ‘happening’ places around the country for Nationalist music. Leading on from that reputation, I received a letter from Nick Griffin, the serial destroyer of Nationalist political parties. In it he asked if we would like to book a venue in the Leeds area for a band called ‘Skrewdriver’ who were willing to travel up to Leeds to play a gig. Any monies raised would go to Leeds NF.
Unfortunately the gig never took place, although I did meet Ian Stuart at a number of NF activities and also on nights out in the Angel pub in Islington. As they say, the rest is history!
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