Do They Owe Us a Fucking Thing?
“Fuck Crass!” is the sentiment that is currently running rampant on the internet. I can respect the criticism from certain points but mostly I feel defensive. For those who don’t know the story, Crass has been called out by Anarcho-punk.net for filing complaints to Mediafire about 7 Crass records that were available for free on the site. What I optimistically assume was an attempt to simply remove the Crass catalog from the site had catastrophic results. After the complaints (allegedly from Crass) Mediafire forced Anarcho-punk.net to take down all of it’s unlicensed music. From what I can tell, the band Crass is being held accountable for the actions of what may be as few as one member. From the die hard D.I.Y. purists to the a-political punks who revel in anarchist hypocrisy, everyone is bashing Crass. Since the dawn of activist music there have been nonconstructive people focusing their energy on tearing down the activists and bands that do participate rather than contribute to activism themselves. Before you go tossing your Crass catalog into a Nazi book burning pile, consider a few things...
Crass has not been a band since 1984, this was twenty eight years ago. Everything they did as a band is just as pure, relevant, and important as it ever was. Whether or not the current criticism of the band is legitimate, nothing changes the fact that Crass not only revolutionized punk in a positive way, they changed the face of music forever! Their d.i.y. approach has been adopted by underground bands for the past thirty years. Does any of this count, or is it all tarnished now?
There’s a reason I didn’t go see “Steve Ignorant’s Crass” when they toured the States. I didn’t have to be an anarcho-punk purist to see right through the intentions of this tour. Steve Ignorant wanted to party and make some money. If the intentions of this tour were pure, if it was about sharing music and information then Steve Ignorant would have started a new band. I didn’t need to see a watered down opportunistic version of Crass. And I was cynical about this tour because like or not, in this world of aging and retired punks Crass has become quite hip. That being said, no matter how unreasonable the ticket prices for these shows were, anyone who thinks that Steve Ignorant was making more money than any of us do at our low wage retail/food service jobs has very little understanding of how tour really works.
Once the heat dies down, I think that the general consensus will be to point the finger at Steve Ignorant and Southern. You don’t have to approve of Steve Ignorant’s actions but it might give you some perspective to recognize that he was basically a teenager when he started the band. I’m not justifying or excusing his actions, I still disagree with them. All I am trying to point out is the fact that a man pushing sixty (and likely living below the poverty line) doesn’t usually care to be held accountable for the things they believed when they were twenty. I know a handful of reformed white power activists who probably feel the same. But again, this devil’s advocate does not condone Ignorant’s actions.
Bands go through line up changes all of the time. I am all too familiar with this phenomenon. Often times band members leave because they disagree with the direction that the band is taking. This is not however what happened with Crass. Crass broke up. If one considers the actions of Steve Ignorant to be the actions of Crass, that person must also believe that Axle Rose is Guns and Roses. Everyone knows that Chinese Democracy and the new G n’ R lineup are garbage but I didn’t see anyone tossing their copies of Appetite and Use Your Illusion. (note: I do recognize that to the die hard anarcho punk Crass critics, a G n’ R reference might make me seem completely lost and out of touch. I am just trying to draw a parallel.)
To label Crass as “capitalists” as many people are now saying, is completely fucking ridiculous. We’re talking a band who’s logo has likely generated millions upon millions of dollars in t-shirt, patch, and pin/badge/button sales without even knowing who made the merchandise or where the money went. I say “millions” with confidence. It could be more it could be less. It would be impossible to track all of the money generated by the popularity of Crass because none of that money has ever gone to any single entity, but this only furthers my point. Ironically by refusing to copyright their music and images, instead of going to the band millions of dollars have gone to corporations like Hot Topic or just to crummy opportunistic punk kids with a silk screen and a taste for McDonald’s.
I visited Anarcho-punk.net, where this controversy all began. In the spirit of radical/anarcho/d.i.y. punk (in the spirit of it’s reality rather than it’s ideology), I searched for hypocrisy in the organization that is Anarcho-punk.net. I didn’t have to look further than the home page of this “anti-capitalist” website to find the following corporate logos: Visa, Master Card, American Express, Discover, Facebook, and Myspace. Most people would rather watch a hero fall than rise. I am anxiously waiting to hear more developments in this story but for now Crass is still my hero.