Monday, 20 February 2017

Rock against Racism

Remembering Rock Against Racism—how music helped to fight the National Front

Photograph: the crowd at a Rock Against Racism concert in Coventry, 1981 &copy: John Sturrock    In a recent Socialist Worker article, Sadie Robinson examines how music helped to fight the National Front. 

Rock Against Racism (RAR) was formed 40 years ago. A new book, Reminiscences of RAR, gives voice to some of those involved

The Anti Nazi League confronted the fascist National Front (NF) on the streets. The NF and Nazi movement was developing at a frightening time and pace. In late 1970s Britain fascists were organising— racism was widespread.

Activist Jack Robertson recalls:- “Everywhere you went there were NF stickers and slogans. Encouraged by Enoch Powell’s inflammatory “Rivers of Blood” rhetoric, the Front had started to get big votes. Racist murders became a regular occurrence.”

A mass movement helped to burst the NF bubble. RAR gigs brought together black and white musicians: it used local, lesser-known bands and mixed punk with reggae artists. RAR tapped into a mood across Britain as people rushed to get involved. The message was that anyone could set up a RAR group and start organising. In 1978 a huge anti-Nazi march to Victoria Park, East London, saw 80,000 people demonstrate against the NF before attending a RAR gig headlined by The Clash.

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