Anarcho-punk (or anarchist punk)[1] is punk rock that promotes anarchism. The term "anarcho-punk" is sometimes applied exclusively to bands that were part of the original anarcho-punk movement in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Some use the term more broadly to refer to any punk music with anarchist lyrical content, which may figure in crust punk, hardcore punk, folk punk, and other styles.


Crass, shown here in 1984, played a major role in introducing anarchism to the punk subculture.

Before 1977

Some protopunk bands of the late 1960s had anarchist members, such as the German blues rock band Ton Steine Scherben and English bands connected to the UK underground, such as Hawkwind, Pink Fairies, The Deviants and the Edgar Broughton Band. These bands, along with Detroit's MC5, set a precedent for mixing radical politics with rock music, and established the idea of rock as agent of social and political change in the public consciousness. Other precursors to anarcho-punk include avant-garde art and political movements such as Fluxus, Dada, the Beat generation, England's angry young men (such as Joe Orton), the surrealism-inspired Situationist International, the May 1968 uprising in Paris, and the CND. Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys has cited the Yippies as an influence on his activism and thinking.[2][3]

Post 1977

A surge of popular interest in anarchism occurred during the 1970s in the United Kingdom following the birth of punk rock, in particular the Situationist-influenced graphics of Sex Pistols artist Jamie Reid, as well as that band's first single, "Anarchy in the U.K.". However, while the early punk scene appropriated anarchist imagery mainly for its shock or comedy value or at best as a desire for hedonist personal freedom,[4][5] Crass along with neighbours Poison Girls may have been the first punk bands to expound serious anarchist ideas.[4] The concept (and aesthetics) of anarcho-punk was quickly picked up on by bands like Flux of Pink Indians, Subhumans, Chumbawamba and Conflict.[6]


While anarcho-punk bands have been often ideologically varied, most groups could be categorized as adhering to anarchism without adjectives, in that it embraces the syncretic fusion of many potentially differing ideological strains of anarchism. Some anarcho-punks identified with anarcha-feminists (e.g. Poison Girls), while others were anarcho-syndicalists (e.g. Exit-Stance). The Psalters are a folk punk band with an affiliation with Christian anarchism, though most anarcho-punk bands are generally critical of Christianity. Many anarcho-punks are supporters of issues such as animal rights, racial equality, gay rights, feminism, environmentalism, anti-corporatism, worker's autonomy, the anti-war movement, and the anti-globalisation movement.

Anarcho-punks have criticized the perceived flaws of the punk movement and the wider youth culture in general. Bands like Crass and Dead Kennedys have written songs that attack corporate co-option of the punk subculture, people who are deemed to have sold out, and the violence between punks, skinheads, B-boys and other youth subcultures[6][7] and within punk itself. Some anarcho-punks are straight edge, claiming that alcohol, tobacco, drugs and promiscuity are instruments of oppression and are self-destructive because they cloud the mind and wear down a person's resistance to other types of oppression. Some also condemn the waste of land, water and resources necessary to grow crops to make alcohol, tobacco and drugs, forfeiting the potential to grow and manufacture food. Some may be straight edge for religious reasons, such as in the case of Christian, Muslim, Buddhist anarcho-punks (see Anarchism and religion for more background).

Although Crass initially espoused pacifism, this is not necessarily the case for all anarcho-punks. Despite the broader punk subculture's antagonism towards hippies, the ideals of the hippie counterculture were an influence on anarcho-punk. Crass were explicit regarding their associations with the hippie counterculture,[6][7] and this influence has also carried over to crust punk.

Direct action

Anarcho-punks universally believe in direct action, although the way in which this manifests itself varies greatly. Despite their differences in strategy, anarcho-punks often co-operate with each other. Many anarcho-punks are pacifists (e.g. Crass and Discharge) and therefore believe in using non-violent means of achieving their aims. These include peaceful protest, refusal of work, squatting, economic sabotage, dumpster diving, graffiti, culture jamming, ecotage, freeganism, boycotting, civil disobedience, hacktivism and subvertising. Some anarcho-punks believe that violence or property damage is an acceptable way of achieving social change (e.g. Conflict). This manifests itself as rioting, vandalism, wire cutting, hunt sabotage, participation in Animal Liberation Front-, Earth Liberation Front, or even Black Bloc-style activities, and in extreme cases, violence and bombings. Many anarchists dispute the applicability of the term "violence" to describe destruction of property, since they argue that destruction of property is done not to control an individual or institution but to take its control away.[8][9]

DIY punk ethic

Many anarcho-punk bands subscribe to a do-it-yourself ethic. A popular anarcho-punk slogan is "DIY not EMI", a conscious rejection of a major record company.[10][11][12] Many anarcho-punk bands were showcased on the Bullshit Detector series of LPs released by Crass Records and Resistance Productions between 1980 and 1994. Some anarcho-punk performers were part of the cassette culture. In this way, an attempt was made to bypass the traditional recording and distribution routes, with recordings often being made available in exchange for a blank tape and a self-addressed envelope. The anarcho-punk movement has its own network of fanzines or punk zines which disseminates news, ideas and artwork from the scene. These are DIY productions, tending to be produced in runs of hundreds at most. The zines are printed on photocopiers or duplicator machines, and distributed by hand at punk concerts, in radical bookstores and infoshops, and through the mail.

Musical style and aesthetics

Generally speaking anarcho-punk bands are often less focused on particular musical delivery and more on a totalized aesthetic that encompasses the entire creative process, from album and concert art, to political message, to the lifestyles of the band members themselves.[13] Crass listed as band members the people who did their album art and live visuals. The message is sometimes considered to be much more important than the music.[6][13] According to the punk aesthetic, one can express oneself and produce moving and serious works with limited means and technical ability.[13][14] It is not uncommon for anarcho-punk songs to lack the usual rock structure of verses and a chorus, however, there are exceptions to this. For example, later Chumbawamba songs were at the same time anarcho-punk and pop-oriented.[15]

See also


  1. ^ Anarchist Punk Music Highlights AllMusic
  2. ^ Vander Molen, Jodi, Jello Biafra Interview, The Progressive (Feb. 2002)
  3. ^ Colurso, Mary (2007-06-29) Jello Biafra can ruffle feathers, The Birmingham News
  4. ^ a b Dines, Mike. "No Sir, I Won't: Reconsidering the Legacy of Crass and Anarcho-punk". Academia.edu. Retrieved May 29, 2013. 
  5. ^ Savage, Jon (2002). England's Dreaming, Revised Edition: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock, and Beyond. St. Martin's Griffin. p. 204. ISBN 978-0312288228. 
  6. ^ a b c d Berger, George (2006). The story of Crass. London: Omnibus Press. pp. 67–68. ISBN 1-84609-402-X. 
  7. ^ a b "...In Which Crass Voluntarily Blow Their Own..." Southern Records. Archived from the original on 2014-10-23. 
  8. ^ "César Chavez on the Pragmatics of Violence". Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy (SAAP). Retrieved May 29, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Fringe anarchists in middle of violent demonstrations". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved May 29, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Maximum Rocknroll" (255). 2004: 14. 
  11. ^ "Peace News for Nonviolent Revolution" (2236–2259). 1985: liv. 
  12. ^ "DIY (not EMI) in 2010". Thee Faction. Retrieved May 29, 2013. 
  13. ^ a b c allmusic quotation:

    ...its ideology of personal freedom (musical self-expression ought to be available to anyone, regardless of technical ability), and also that the message tended to be more important than the music.

  14. ^ David Byrne, Jeremy Deller (2010) Audio Games, in Modern Painters, March 1, 2010 quotation:

    I think I embrace a bit of the punk aesthetic that one can express oneself with two chords if that’s all you know, and likewise one can make a great film with limited means or skills or clothes or furniture. It’s just as moving and serious as works that employ great skill and craft sometimes. Granted, when you learn that third chord, or more, you don’t have to continue making "simple" things, unless you want to. Sometimes that’s a problem.

  15. ^ "Chumbawamba's Long Voyage". Jacobin. 


  • Geoff Eley - "Do It Yourself Politics (DIY)", Forging Democracy: The History of the Left in Europe, 1850-2000, chapter 27: "The Center and the Margins: Decline or Renewal?." Oxford University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-19-504479-7 p. 476-481.
  • Ian Glasper - The Day the Country Died: A History of Anarcho Punk 1980 to 1984 (Cherry Red publishing, 2006 ISBN 978-1-901447-70-5)
  • Craig O'Hara - Philosophy of Punk: More Than Noise (AK Press, 1999 ISBN 978-1-873176-16-0)
  • George Berger - The Story of Crass (London: Omnibus Press 2006, ISBN 1-84609-402-X)

External links