We by influenced my political opinions and through

 We can all stand by the fact that the 1970’s was a complex time for the British economy and politics. The 70’s had, unfortunately, inherited the inflationary pressures of the 60’s which influenced a large amount of industrial conflict. With this in mind and the rise of inflation and unemployment, it is not a surprise so many were quick to rebel. In this essay, I am going to address the issues the people of the 70’s had to plough through and whether punk was beneficial to the quickly changing economy. Growing up surrounded by many punk fanatics it was the norm to assume punk was a form of rebellion towards the government, however, the majority of ‘punks’ I have come across in my life have been left wing. How and who I was raised by influenced my political opinions and through research and discussion I want to reveal how the punk movement influenced others and their political engagement, especially those living through the 70’s.   Despite the 70’s being the decade of rising living standards, a continuous fight for equality and the growth in credit, the rise in stagflation was the main focus of this time. Although this was a period of rapid economic growth some would believe this is not what we needed. Inflation had risen towards double figures, accelerating 20% by 19732, the main factor towards this growth was the rise in oil prices which had, shockingly, tripled. Alongside this, the growth in credit, consumers spending and rise in wages had an input towards the inflation people faced.  The graph above, figure 1, visually presents the changes in UK inflation since the 1860’s. Other than during the war/post-war years inflation hit an all-time high in the 70’s. It had reached a point where the Government were attempting a number of techniques to solve the socio-economic crisis. An example of this is the Three Day Week cap applied by former Prime Minister Edward Heath, also known as Ted Heath. This Three Day Week cap only allowed the use of electricity on three consecutive days’3 and was applied during 1974 after the miners’ strikes. The socio-economic and political unrest in British media evoked further tension across the UK. This led to James Callaghan scrapping Labours commitments towards the Keynesian economics and appealing to the IMF (International Monetary Fund) for an emergency loan in an attempt to secure the countries stability during his time as Prime Minister (1976-1979)5. With the UK being on the brink of war with the IRA and their bombings and also with the many breakouts of inner-city racial violence often advocated by the NF (National Front, right supporters, which formed in 1967) the British left supporters interpreted these events as those in power being unable to control and cope with the global capitalist crisis let alone the UK’s crisis. “Britain, as Richard Clutterbuck put it in 1978, appeared to be ‘in agony'”6. During the winter of 1978-79, there was a further industrial protest leading closer towards recession. This period of time was known as the Winter of Discontent. This appeared at the end of James Callaghan’s run as Prime Minister which was followed by Margaret Thatcher’s first Conservative Government. During Margret Thatcher’s run unemployment ended up reaching record levels which continued to escalate into the 80’s, rapidly rising to over three million out of work by 19837.  Although punk had been around for a number of years, remaining underground, it advanced towards the public eye in 1976 with the outside world discovering The Ramones and The Sex Pistols8. To some punk was about the aesthetics, to others it was an opportunity to rebel, some were only involved in the music. Whatever the case was for the audience it was an influential movement anyone could get involved in. Punk was always more than music, it was an ideology, it was an expression of views and ideas. Allowing youths to become more politically aware and engaged. Both the far left and far right had initially perceived punk as an expression of youthful revolt – essentially involving the working class. “In both cases, such a reading was instigated below the level of party leadership, thereby revealing a generational shift”9. Punk incorporated a lot of political signifiers such as swastikas and the anarchy symbol. With the use of these symbols, it drew a lot of attention including the attention of racists which was expected. This was seen to reflect on Britain’s deteriorating moral and economic standing.  The visuals of punk was an input towards their rebellion towards society. Mahican, also known as Mohican, was a Native American tribe10. Authors like Karl May wrote stories about this tribe describing them as: “Indians were the underdog: Vicious, exotic and savage.”11 It is understandable that with punk being the rise of the underdog that this movement would take the influence of the Mahican’s and turn it into their own with the classic mohawk.    This movement was a chance for the minorities to be heard and offered society a challenge using music and youth culture to open space for others to voice their emotions towards current events. Those supporting left saw this as an opportunity to protest whereas the right applied a more structural approach which included attempting to claim ownership of the venues, localities and even the bands. NF (National Front) went onto hiring young people, taking advantage of the rise in unemployment, thus forming the YNF (Young National Front). However, they were not alone with this decision as BM (British Movement) were also known to hire youthful recruits. In response to this, the left went on to form the RAR (Rock Against Racism) and ANL (Anti-Nazi League). Immigration and national identity found their way to the top of political agendas; this provided a prejudicial explanation allowing members of the United Kingdom to easily direct their anger towards a set group of people for the rise in unemployment and other social issues. As fascism emerged strongly after this ‘issue’, driven mainly by NF, the far right went onto using aspects of punks imagery to reinforce their political opinions. YNF began the Bulldog magazine – they tended to incorporate punk bands if they withheld their desired imagery which involved references towards race, violence, fascism and anti-communism. Many punk gigs became a place for opposing political factions to vent their opinions and “it did seem that the British media was just totally against it at the time”13. Although not many bands allowed physical confrontation Crass, a band who popularised and promoted the anarcho-punk movement14, actually found themselves playing host to these confrontations, mainly between members of the NF, BM (British Movement) and SWP (Socialist Workers Party). The most vicious of events took place during a benefit gig for the activists involved in the ‘persons unknown’ trial, 8th September 1979, at London’s Conway Hall. Many saw Crass as a threat due to the lack of knowing how they’d react to any given political movement.    The anarcho-punk scene, inspired by the band Crass, served as an opening for a range of political movements such a Feminism, Anarchism and Animal Rights Activism. Along with the ‘Stop The City’ campaigns in the early 80’s. These campaigns came about in protest against the Military Financial Complex. With all these movements many people were still prejudiced towards race, gender and sexuality. However, this is not a shock as the “media and establishment absorbed punk ideas and so diluted their impact”15. The BBC even went as far as banning God Save The Queen by The Sex Pistols in 197716. It was not only the media and elderly against this movement but also some of the younger generation. Those against punk often liberated others to express their inner punk.  Many punk groups listed in the critical history of punk mainly involved males, or at the most one or two females18. With that in mind, it was the beginning of a new chapter for women. For once, women were allowed to be crude and assertive instead of being the ‘typical’ reserved female. One female band whom really fought against sexism was The Slits, formed in 1976. This band developed, as Jon Savage would say, “Theatre of Female Power”19. This was another way of expressing the fact these women managed to offend the audience more than male bands when playing live. The Slits were determined to work independently unlike bands like The Clash and The Sex Pistols who preferred to work with powerful male managers. This encouraged women to scrap what they were ‘meant’ to be and to just be. Another example of how punk influenced others would be the Ska movement, which was the first movement in the United Kingdom where skin colour did not matter. Black and Whites were equals. The clash was an extremely influential band at the time as they also incorporated reggae into their music. This was rather unusual to the majority of the White population as it was normally the Caribbean immigrants who celebrated this genre. In Andy Medhurst’s article “What Did I Get: Punk, Memory and Autobiography” he states that’s “Punks most important and long-lasting influence on White British culture was its alliance with reggae”20. The controversy of punk did not stop there though. Punk was the first youth culture to raise awareness and debate over the idea of homosexuality. For the gay community, it appears this movement did a fair bit to make others more accepting of the variety of sexualities there are. An example of this it The Roxy club managed by Andy Czekowski during the mid-1970’s, formerly known as the gay club Chaguaramas. All varieties of people would congregate here to celebrate the freedom this movement came with. The former bassist for the Buzzcocks, Tony Barber stated:   Politically homosexuality was still not approved of. Although England and Wales had decriminalised homosexual acts between two males over the age of 21 years in private, this decision took place in 1967, it was clear people were still uncomfortable with same-sex relationships. Exhibit A would be when Maureen Colquhoun, a Labour MP, came out as a lesbian in 1974. When she was elected she was actually in a heterosexual marriage. However, after coming out her party went on to refuse supporting her. Obviously, issues of racism, sexism and homophobia were still buzzing around the atmosphere. Due to this many British punks gravitated towards the gay community as they were a lot more tolerant of those who were different to the norm.