Crisis music

The cultural politics of Rock Against Racism

Author: Ian Goodyer

Rock Against Racism (RAR) operated between 1976 and 1981, and was a mass campaign that combined anti-racist politics with popular culture. Throughout this period RAR used the medium of concerts featuring black and white musicians as a focus for, and practical demonstration of, its politics of 'inter-racial' unity. This book deals with important theoretical issues that are particularly pertinent to the party's relationship with RAR. It covers three areas: the theory of state capitalism, the relationship between the party and the working class, and the united front. The book then examines the state of the Socialist Workers Party - formerly the International Socialists (IS) - during the mid- to late 1970s. The youth cultures with which RAR most closely identified were contested between political tendencies and music industry interests before RAR appeared on the scene. Punk had emerged as a significant, if somewhat ambivalent, radical phenomenon in its own right and reggae was implicated in the politico-cultural struggles between black people and the British state. Furthermore, it is clear from the testimony from the far-right that black culture was not immune to co-option by forces opposed to the kind of multiculturalism that RAR espoused. The book also looks at some of the political and social influences on the organisation's politics. It argues that RAR's approach entailed a rejection both of the Communist Party's Cold War-inflected point of view and of those theorists who despaired of any attempt to break the grip of bourgeois ideology on the working class.

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