The above 'There is No Authority But Yourself' is a Dutch film directed by Alexander Oey documenting the history of anarchist punk band Crass. The film features archive footage of the band and interviews with former members Steve Ignorant, Penny Rimbaud and Gee Vaucher. As well as reflecting on the band's past the film focusses on their current activities, and includes footage of Rimbaud performing with Last Amendment at the Vortex jazz club in Hackney, a compost toilet building workshop and a permaculture course held at Dial House in the spring of 2006.
The tile of the film is derived from the final lines of the Crass album Yes Sir, I Will; "You must learn to live with your own conscience, your own morality, your own decision, your own self. You alone can do it. There is no authority but yourself."
There is No Authority But yourself premiered at the Raindance Film Festival at the Picadilly Circus, London Trocadero in October 2006 and was part of the Official Selection film programme at the Flipside film festival in May 2008.
I remember when I first heard Crass many moons ago, their lyrics taught me to question and took me on a journey of discovery.Led by radical free thinkers Penny Rimbaud, a ex-art teaching, middle class situationist and Steve Ignorant who was a working class street punk.Their songs offerered meaningful angry thoughts on societies many ills, and led many people to question injustice. Their angry defiant polemics and messages at the time chiming with the underclass that was emerging from the wreckage of Thatcher's Britain. They based themselves at their Essex communal house called Dial House, and from 1977 until their demise in 1984 released a succession of powerful provocative albums and singles. With words they articulately explained the ideas by which they were living, and with deeds , promoted a fierce critical viewpoint, financially supporting the peace movement and a whole myriad of radical causes.Many people taking their ideas further in a series of anti-capitalist Stop the City demonstations, held in the financial centre of London, between 1883-84, and the emerging New Age Traveller movement. They came to be seen as central to the opposition of the cruel redundant social and economic policies that were being pushed at the time, which have direct parallels to what is being pushed by our current incumbents..
Their refusal to compromise was inspiring then, and continues to be today, to all who dream of peace, freedom, love and justice. Cental to their core was a a D.I.Y Punk ethic which they used to preach subversion,whilst living by their ideals and words, advocating a form of individualism, hence the title 'there is no authority but yourself.'
I have never personally been a purist, but there are some people around today that say that Crass sold out. Crass were accused of lifestylism, back in the day, not engaging with wider struggles.Currently there are arguments raging about copyright law, with Crass apparently not allowing people to share their music on file sharing sites, like Media Fire, but their original message for me still worth savouring, still worth sharing, which will hopefully continue to inspire, and perhaps tomorrow there will emerge people with even deeper truths. Perhaps the higher we set our ideals the deeper we fall, but the overall result is the fact that none of us are perfect. Crass only offered us suggestions, they served as a pulse, absorbing and spreading ideas, and it was directly because of Crass's ideas that many people engaged in the battlefield of radical ideas, some taking up the ideology of anarchism, some taking their own path, but inspiring many to start creating another world, and challenging the system, and all its failures, it is I guess, up to us, in which direction we take it.
At a time of socio-economic decline, we should not get sidetracked, distracted. Division does not make the world a better place, Crass promoted solidarity,by action as well as words. That for me is something we should be grateful for. Am also eternally grateful to them, because they inspired the artist and musician Jeffrey Lewis, who released one of my favourite albums in recent years, with his own homage to Crass.
The message still rings out, another world is not only possible, it is inevitable. We must not give up on our dreams. Become your own spark.
Almost 30 years later Crass's legacy still ripples with much symbolic potency.
Not sure when I'll be back, probably when the libraries reopen.
Next year sometime...... in the meantime Happy Crassmess.
All the best.....heddwch/peace
You must learn to live with your own conscience
your own morality,
your own decision,
your own self.
You alone can do it.
There is no authority but yourself
Crass - Yes, Sir , I will, 1983