|Sozialismus von unten|
Magazin für antikapitalistische
Debatte & Kritik
Hrsg.: Linksruck Netzwerk
Tel: 030 - 188.8.131.52
Fax: 030 - 63.22.56
Folgend ein leicht gekürztes Interview aus dem Fanzine No Answers #9, 1990 mit der Hardcore Band 'ManLiftingBanner'. Mehr von und über 'ManLiftingBanner' ist auf www.crucialresponse.de verfügbar.
Peter Kent: Why did you change the band name from Profound to Man Lifting Banner?
Michiel: I was fed up with the old name, I really don't know why. It was just really pretentious sounding, but, you know, really hard to explain. The meaning behind it wasn't that clear to people. This is where I think that Man Lifting Banner is more seld-explanatory, besides being original and totally cool. But at the time when we changed the name, I don't know, I can't give a clear explanation. I just wasn't satiesfied with it anymore.
Burt: Profound didn't seem such a profound name at all, a bit too generic maybe. In fact any other name would be better. Then we suddenly found a picture in a Russian art book called, "Man Lifting Banner", it shows the centerpiece of the Tryptych "The Communists" from Gheliy Korzhev. The scene shows a man literally lifting a red banner which has been dropped by his fallen comrade. Really impressive. We thought it to be a filling name for the resolution we pretend to have.
Kent: Your lyrics seem to combine straight edge themes with political concepts, but do you think that the two topics are that mixable?
Michiel: I don't think we really carry any typical straight edge values in our songs. We actually have only one straight edge song. "X's For Respect", that's all. I'm sick to death of all those straight edge bands with their complacency. When something becomes a trend, it will lose it's creativeness, it's initiative. Straight edge has become all image and no content. Buy ten straight edge records, look at ten straight edge ads, it fucking shows. I hope this will be over soon so the serious, the sincere will stay. I'm not interested in writing about friendship, fake unity, etc... I don't want to dwell in some complacent attitude. There are real problems, I face them. Only losers stay away. Most straight edgers are a bunch of cowards. They change and speak out only on a safe level. If they go beyond that... It's sick, I mean what's the use of being aware when awareness doesn't show on a political or social level. They're just cowards and I'm not interested in sticking on that level. Maybe politics and straight edge don't mix, but I am straight edge and I am aware of the real problems. If people can't take that, then that's there problem, not mine.
Olav: I think there's only a political approach. Within that approach there are things like straight edge, vegetarianism, etc... I think it's stupid only to sing about straight edge. You can only solve problems in society on a political level. But if you want to call straight edge an approach then i would say, "Yes, they mix."
Burt: Yeah, we hardly have any straight edge songs, most songs are social, political, or personal. Fact is that all Man Lifting Banner members are straight edge, although one might believe in it to be more important than the others. You could see the band as a political band of which the members happen to be straight edge. I don't really see straight edge and politics as two seperate things. They are kind of related I guess.
Michiel: Yeah, I think straight edge and politics, even straight edge and communism, fit together really well.
Burt: Really isn't it stupid to care about not doing drugs while at the same time not giving a fuck about politics? Take, for instance, McDonalds. We boycott them from a vegetarian point of view, but at the same time we don't forget about the way they're exploiting the Third World. That's the political aspect of it.
Kent: Did the name change reflect a changs in direction? For instance, a move away from straight edge image to a more political image?
Olav: Well, the change of name is because a lot of people thought we were a limited straight edge band, which Profound never was, but nevertheless, some people thought that. So we thought, maybe change our name, because we want to be seen as a political/ social band. That's what punk/ hardcore means to us; being political aware.
Michiel: I don't think it has anything to do with the change of name. If we had been satiesfied with Profound, then we would have travelled the same road. I do think that Man Lifting Banner represents our political attitude better than Profound. In that way you might be right.
Burt: We always had a political approach, even as Profound. The new name just fits better to the meaning of the band.
Kent: Do you think your straight edge songs are as important as your political songs?
Michiel: I guess I gave a response this question earlier on, the more I repeat straight edge songs the more trivial they become. Political songs are more important, though it is also possible to combine the two.
Burt: Yeah, political songs are more important, although, as pointed out before, I don't see both topics as two sperate things. Olav. In the end it all comes down to your political beliefs... If you really care about this world. If you want to be an apolitical dick that's fine, but that's not what I want.
Kent: It seems that the straight edge philosophy is easily adapted to fit the Krishna religion, as can be seen by its rising popularity. Do you think that there is a religious aspect to straight edge that makes it compatible with Krishna consciousness?
Michiel: The question is a little bit confusing, I have no doubt that there is a distinguishable difference between the two. I guess what you want to know is what I think about the Krishna movement trying to integrate in the hardcore scene. (...) Krishna as I see it is both negative and positive. Their positive sides: anti-materialism, anti-greed. Their negative sides are more, they look down on women, most of them look down on homosexuals. Their way of reasoning, their strong belief in destination, I guess the whole negative side of it is that the whole Krishna belief, to me, comes off as a drug. It leads people away from reality into the unprovable (...) it leads people to acceptance of the negative (exploitation, inhumanity, etc...), just like most other religion. (...) I don't see what Krishna has to do with straight edge... (...) Krishna devotees don't control themselves, they are controlled, that was straight edge was opposed to... back in the days.
Kent: You seem to stress the Do It Yourself attitude a lot. "No Compromise" and "Bow For The Bucks" both address that. Is the D.I.Y. attitude that important?
Michiel: Okay, "Bow For The Bucks" is a song about sell out bands and D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself). "No Compromise" might be applied to this topic, but its actually about something else. It's about political sell out. (...)
Burt: D.I.Y. is the only way to keep our scene together. Aren't the basics of hardcore about doing it yourself? Hardcore becomes nothing more than just another music genre when it loses the D.I.Y. attitude. (...) Integrity (political) is something that can only be found whithin the hardcore movement. It's something which makes our "music" more than metal, disco, or any kind of entertainment what-so-ever.
Olav: Without the D.I.Y. attitude, punk would have died when the Sex Pistols split up. After that the big record companies were no longer interested in punk. People said it was dead. But there were people who thought, "We'll do it ourselves. We don't need them anyway." Since then punk/ hardcore was done by the people involved themselves. There was total control over what people did, be it a fanzine, a band, releasing records, setting up gigs, etc... The D.I.Y. attitude is the vital foundation of this "scene" (...)
Kent: Do you really believe that violence is an effective way of dealing with racists? Is that not reverting to their mind-set?
Burt: Racism in its essence is oppression. If there are people who are attracted to this philosophy, we have to teach them a lesson. If words won't do it, our fists will. This sounds like a tough guy talk and maybe it is, but most of these people are so determined and convinced (although in fact they are nothing but insecure) that only physical resistance can show them that there are people who are fighting and who will always fight their views. Most of these fuckers will laugh at you in the face when you approach them with arguments. What we're trying with Man Lifting Banner is to urge people to literally stand up against racism and to convince them that "action speaks louder than words!"
Olav: Violence is the only answer they'll understand. Imean, kicking a Nazi in his balls is politically correct. I just don't tolerate fascists and racists. One day you'll have to make up your mind, you can't always walk away from it. What would you say to someone who's been stabbed in the back because of the color of his skin? That you think violence against fascists/ racists is just another form of oppression? Well, I don't. There are just a few things in this world which you can solve through talking. Skinheads are not interested in discussion, they want trouble. When you fight them, then they might get the message and then you might talk. But, as far as I can see now, violence towards fascists and racists is the only solution.
Michiel: I've seen people who tried to talk to Nazis skins, all they got was a kick in the head. I don't see people who celebrate racism and Adolf Hitler as human beings. They don't have to be treated like that. I think that I can use violence when truth is on my side. I don't think there is any sane human being that wants to doubt that truth. There's no reason for racism or fascism. Both are enemies of mankind.
Burt: Yeah. There are people who claim that violence itself can never solve problems. Does that mean that we should sit back and do nothing about it? History should be a lesson!
Michiel: Should the people in South Africa let the government kill their children? What is pacifist resistance? That means nothing, it doesn't solve much. It's not a game we're playing. It is fucking war on racism. (...)
Kent: There are quite a few references to Marx and Marxist ideology in your material, would you consider Man Lifting Banner to be a communist band?
Michiel: To the extent that some, or most of us are to be considered communists, but be a little careful with calling us a communist band. We are a band with communist sympathies. We're not to be considered totally dogmatic in that sense.
Burt: Man Lifting Banner definitely has strong communist beliefs and sympathies. Each member might have a different view on the details, but generally speaking we agree on the basic idea, which is equality for all, REAL equality.
Michiel: Real brother and sisterhood.
Olav: We're all thinking along the lines of Marxism, which means we want a society based on equality and social justice. People must have control over their own lives. Society has to be controlled by the people, not by businessmen.
Kent: How do you respond to the accusation that Marxism is dead now that reform is sweeping through Eastern and the Soviet Union? Or would you agree which the claim that those countries were not Marxist or communist countries in the first place?
Michiel: That's the general feeling, yeah. It proves nothing though. The system that's disbanded in Eastern Europe is nothing more than state capitalism, that's not a cheap excuse from my side, it's just the way it is. How can one compare the legacy of Stalinism with communism or socialism? The system that fell was nothing more than post-feudalism with a socialist sauce. I still believe in Marxism, although I have some critical remarks on its ideas. Nicaragua could have been a good example of successful adaption of socialism. U.S. intervention brought it down though. The crimes committed against mankind. (...)
Burt: Marxism/ communism certainly is not dead. I see it this way: there are people who live under the flag of capitalism, who thus live by the means of greed and thus only have one goal in life - being rich and being umber one. There are, though, other people who don't simply give in to that "human greed" and who still have some real ideas: a world where everyone is equal and where oppression (capitalism) has been destroyed. Now, at the moment, the so-called communist world is going to some changes because in the past quite some things happened which were wrong and didn't have anything to do with the idea of communism. As always the capitalist Western World (starter of the Cold War) takes its chance and declares the "Commie World" as dead. But we should know better. Capitalism is the easy way. Just because things are changing in the Eastern Block, it doesn't mean that communism is dying. It's not as simple as capitalism always wants it to be. Communism is about ideals and these are still strong! In the Eastern Block they might be weakened, but let's not forget communism world wide, which changed a lot for the better and still has lots of participants. You can't kill idealism!
Olav: The U.S.S.R. and the other Eastern Block countries were never "Marxist" countries. They were trying to build a socialist society, a goal which they never achieved. On one side, because of Stalinism, a lot of people in power are Stalinists or at least conservative, not in favor of progress within the party, and, on the other side, because Western countries were more or less were boycotting them so they were never able to really develop their society towards socialism. The Marxist theory is not dead, on the countrary, it will prove its right in the future when Eastern Europeans countries see that capitalism is not everything.
Kent: There is the traditional dispute between those that argue for a revolutionary approach to socialism/ communism, and those who seek socialism/ communism through democratic reform. Which direction do you see as most effective?
Olav: The democratic reform method only works when you have an elected majority behind you, when not, it does not work. Since I don't see that will happen... If you really want a Marxist society.... Revolution is the only way. Marxism doesn't fit in this so-called democratic society. Look at the Social Democrats, they betray all their voters. Real cahnges are only achievable through revolutions.
Burt: At the moment I don't think that revolution could work. Workers have to start it, but in many countries they're not class conscious at all; they are blinded by capitalism and very much concerned about eating themselves to death and having a car just like the neighbours have. I guess capitalism has to suck the people dry even more to finally open their eyes and move their asses to kill it. But on the other hand, getting a big party together, existing of so-called left wing groups, thus making compromises, and then participating in elections will certainly not to be the way. You might get more votes, but will it change anything? I don't think so. We don't need more voices and concessions, but more class conciousness.... (...)
Michiel: (...) If we're not gonna change real soon, change might be too late. Either this world will be killed through environmental destructions or war. Another possibility is a new fascist regime throughout Europe. Nationalism and Neo-Nazism are gathering incredible momentum. I think the only solution to these problems is a socialist revolution. Capitalism is a system which is self-destructive. Capitalism has been victorious for such a long time because it's based of the evil side of man, on greed, selfishness, hate, etc... This system, which is based on "living at the cost of others", kills. Look at the Third World exploitation, the weapon industry, the drug mafia, etc... Until now we've been push the debts beyond our borders. But, what goes around, comes around. We'll end up paying if we don't erase injustice, if we don't get ourselves back in balance. Democracy's not going to solve anything. We'll have to change the force. Show the people their responsibilities. Build a system which is based on the good side of man, on unity, solidarity, equality, brotherhood and sisterhood. Work together instead of against each other.
Kent: Do you think a socialist revolution will really occur?
Michiel: I'm not a prophet and I'm not too optimistic about it. Capitalism, as I explanined earlier is strong, stronger and more flexible than most socialists believed it to be. (...) But as with all evil, it bears the seeds of its own destruction. Problem with capitalism is that collapse will mean collapse of planet earth. If we don't want it to happen, we'll have to stop it while we can. (...)
Kent: What authors or books would you recommend to someone who wants to know more about socialist thoughts? Besides the obivious choices such as Marx, Lenin, and Engels.
Burt & Michiel: (...) Trotzki, Che Guevara, Isaac Deutscher, etc... A good introduction to socialist and communist ideologies is "Marxism and Communism" by Robert V. Daniels... (...)
Kent: What about anarchism. There is always conflict between anarchists and communists. Are they compatible or only oppositional?
Michiel: (...) I think that anarchy could never work out on a large scale. I don't oppose anarchism as a life style, but I don't think that it will be anarchy that leads us out of this fucked situation. We do have to conquer authority. That is a step every anarchist will oppose, their reasons for it are somehow understandable. The way to communism, as it showed in a lot of so-called socialist countries, is hard... power corrupts. To make it right this time, we not only have to fight the ruling class, we have to fight ourselves, we have to fight our own evils. How can you create communism, if you haven't changed yourself, your ties to complacency, greed, hate, violence, etc... Both for anarchy and communsism to work out, you have to gain control over your negative senses, that's where I see straight edge fitting right in.
Kent: In "Push To Start" you make references to gay rights. Do you think that is an issue that hardcore should address and do you think hardcore can come to terms with that issue?
Michiel: I think it's really important. I don't see why people judge people for the way they were born in: black, white, yellow, man, woman, lesbian or homo. It's stupid. Even in the hardcore scene there's still a lot of prejudice, especially towards gay. Gays needs support, we try to give that. There's so many losers who always get down on minorities, that's the safe way. We try to confront the cowards. I don't think we'll be able to ban it from the hardcore scene 100%, but if more people speak out against homophobia then we might come close to it. (...)
Kent: Why do you think that hardcore is so male dominated?
Michiel: (...) I can't really come up with a good reason. I don't feel there's room for sexism in our scene. Generally speaking, (this doesn't go for our scene, where the girls are involved) most of the girls "involved" just happen to have a boyfriend who's into hardcore. When I look at this pattern, it's a direct result of the female role in society. On the other hand, hardcore is an aggressive form of music, and the slam dance, stage diving, etc... don't seem attract girls. (...)Kent: On a political topic, what do you think about the reunification of Germany?
Burt: The reunificaion of Germany means the opportunity for (extreme) right wing forces to unite and become stronger. (...) Western markets have another area to sell their stuff and make lots of profits. (...) But what real change is there for people? The opportunity to travel might be there finally, but social securities are taken away in the name of a free market economy prices go up, and unemployment will rise. Let's certainly not forget the great role Gemany is going to play in world politics. It's more and more becoming a dominate power and with the influence of the right wing, nationalist people in power, horrible things from the past have the chance to repeat themselves.
Olav: Reunification in itself is not bad, I mean, less borders, that's okay. But the way it's been done... The G.D.R. (East Germany) has been sold to West Germany in a very bad way, and much too fast. The G.D.R. had to give up all their laws (a good social system, cheap transport fares) and all prices went up. They had to bow for capitalism. Nothing of the forty years of the G.D.R. is left, none of the good things... That's how capitalism works. What about the balance in Middle Europe, has it been broken? Only time will tell. (...) I don't want to get into the threat of a big Germany, although it might be a problem in the future when more so called old "German" country parts want to join Germany again. I hope that mistake will not be made again. (...)