Greyzone in Germany: The Cult Of Randomness

Once more the Greyzone will be the number one topic of this summer’s festivals, especially with those who won’t attend them anyway – because they don’t feel like partying with those that partied with Nazis the weekend before and only came to enjoy songs with pub level debate lyrics in a subcultural setting. So why do Greyzones get more and more accepted in “alternative” surroundings? This question inevitably leads us to the topics alternative/subcultural business, aesthetic criticism, men’s worlds, skinhead cult and to the search of meaning behind political labels.

The increasing establishment of the Greyzone means a decrease of emancipatory values. Oi-festivals provide a stage for defamation of “asylum seekers” and gays, Hardcore-concerts are stomping grounds of testosterone gym gorillas and shouting the names of the firm they belong to. It’s a subject that polarizes. Antifascist watchblogs like Oireszene are busy collecting information while being criticized for filing too many bands as Greyzone. Those being criticized by Oireszene feel they are being wrongly accused and go digging for “mistakes” in publications in order to discredit “The Antifa”.

Public discussion was entered in October 2008 by “Rotes Hetzpamphlet” (“red agitation” pamphlet”), a (polemic) text highlighting and documenting the involvement of a self-proclaimed “anti-racist” band in (extreme) right wing circles. Stomper 98 are shooting stars of Oi, still they are only an example of dozens of bands who are not only structurally intertwined, but also share major images and characteristics. Especially Tattoo-cult and (male) brutish aesthetics are the meeting points of right-wing, anti-right-wing, and “unpolitical”. We will be looking at these kinds of aesthetics in detail in issue #92.

Right-wing Environments And Greyzones

“Right-wing Environments” are protopolitical levels where a persons own actions and conduct are often not only perceived as “political”, but rather apolitical, but is still are determined by patterns and values that can only be considered right-wing. “Greyzones” are social environments within (Music-)Cultures that pretend to be apolitical or even “anti-right-wing”, but are intertwined with the (extreme) Right structurally, socially and as regards to content. The Punk and Oi Greyzone is a heterogeneous structure of cliques and fan-circles with fractions and boundaries, but nonetheless in mutual contact. It has its own network and common grounds: staged masculinity, values ranging between conservative and reactionary transported by lyrics, statements, symbols and aesthetics.

In our opinion, having shared the stage at festivals once or twice with bands fitting that description is NOT enough to be considered as belonging to the Greyzone, same goes for having the odd dodgy facebook-friend. “Guilty by association” can only be one indication in a line of argument. Focusing on (assumed) friendships does only lead to a fruitless clash of opinions of what is allowed and what is “verboten”. It also obstructs the view on the contents that are being represented – by Stomper 98 for example, who we’re gonna look at in the following article.

Political Labels As Image Enhancers

“Unpolitical” band Gerbenok are going to play the “Back on the Streets” festival on the Loreley. According to their own statement, they play “Oi music the way it has to be”. Here’s a sample from the lyrics of their song “The new Hippies”: “It may sound racist, but that much is true: asylum seeker selling drugs in train station loos. Long hair and tanned they lean against advertising pillars, make children work the streets (…)”. In 2009 Gerbenok was scheduled to play a festival in Greifswald that was self-labeled “Love Music Hate Racism”. Antifascist intervention prevented the gig.

This is just one example of how devoid of meaning such labels are being used. Labelling yourself “against Racism” has advantages: it takes the wind out of critics’ sails, and works as a mood enhancer for social workers at the youth club in charge of okaying a location for an event. And sometimes one self genuinely believes to be “anti-right-wing”.

Increasingly, and not only in cultural scenes, we come across an understanding of politics that reduces “politics” to those who define themselves politically (political parties, parliaments, “the antifa”) and can at the very most find something “political” in unmistakable Neo-Nazi slogans. Government-decreed “Anti-Extremism”, the equation of the left and the right and defining right-wing by focusing on self-confessed out-of-the-closet Neo-Nazis is on the rise in subcultural environments. There’s less and less awareness of the multiple levels and ways in which social discrimination and exclusion expresses. Rock-against-the-Right concerts are too often only a way to enhance the image of a municipality or institution, or a band or a promoter, and are a way to prove the endeavour to “do something against the Right”.

Smart, Volkisch And Three Sheets To The Wind

This is how the (extreme) Right infiltrates “left” environments and locations: by coding their racism and homophobia or keeping them on pub talk level. According to himself, veteran English Skinhead and “Pub Musician” Frank Marshall aka Franky Flame who also sings in Oi band “Superyob” claims to make “music under no political banner”. “Our shows aren’t political gatherings, they’re entertainment for working class people like ourselves. But that doesn’t keep him from naming “massive uncontrolled immigration, “economic migrants” and race war between different ethnic groups” as England’s problems in an interview with fanzine “Der Trinker”.

Asked by right wing Fanzine “Feindkontakt” why he is wearing a Thor’s Hammer (pendant) he answers in the diction of the volkisch Right: “„(…) and I am aware of my history, the traditions, the language and script (runes) and the origin and development of the peoples of northern Europe. I am one of them and they are my people! (…) What interests me is our heritage, not hating others because they aren’t like me, but first I take care of my people, because it feels right and natural to do so!” Asked why he became a skinhead Franky explains: “The Hippies and the peace, love and drug culture they brought about made us sick and we wanted to be different, do something against that and lead our lives the way we wanted: proud of ourselves and our country, and staying smart, fit and hard!”.

There is indeed hardly a photo of Franky Flame without him obviously hammered and with a beer in hand. One can picture Franky and his boys rambling the city, pissed and bawling Oi-hymns („Knock it back, have another one, drinking and driving is so much fun“, The Business), getting sick at the sight of hippies smoking pot at the bus stop. The glorification of legal, masculine drunken stupor and demonization of illegal, hippiesque use of Marihuana is the primacy of the ultraconservative at the regular’s table.

In 2007 Franky Flame played an “Oi-Meeting” at the Conne Island in Leipzig, together with Stomper 98. In 2009 he played the Conne Island again, then a St. Pauli Fan Pub in Hamburg, and also “Endless Summer Festival”. Between those concerts he also played several gigs in Neonazi-locations “Skinhouse Menfis” in Thuringia, and the Kastelein / Moloko Bar in Brugge, Belgium. For 2011 he is announced for “Back on the Streets Festival on the Loreley, one of the sponsors being Punk Mailorder “Nix Gut”.

Pragmatism And False Labeling

Some fans of “unpolitical” Oi have a wardrobe that can be adjusted to the flavor of the event. Hannah who belongs to the circle of right-wing Oi-Band “I don’t like you” wears a Skrewdriver Shirt when she goes to Skinhouse Menfis and chooses a shirt with a smashed swastika for Punk Festival “Force Attack”. She is only one example. Sometimes, the label “unpolitical” is only a means to camouflage a right-wing fun fair that would otherwise be subject to repression and law enforcement.

To illustrate this method of false labelling this issue of AIB features an article about “Bootboys Hildesheim”, leading organizers of “unpolitical” right-wing rock-events, and another one on Neonazi band “Endstufe”, who also play at “unpolitical” parties. An event labelled “unpolitical” is easier and less risky to arrange than a right-wing rock (i.e. RAC) concert – there’s no need for conspirative mobilization or alternative locations in case of prohibition by the authorities. Those legal events reach more people and enable the RAC business to break into new markets. While the number of Neonazi-concerts drops, the number of right-wing or greyzone events rose significantly over the past few years.

But interpreting the phenomenon of subculturally-orientated right-wing extremists turning to the “unpolitical” as moral fraud and tactics only would fall short of the fact that the extreme Right is changing. NPD and Kameradschaften (militant Neonazi groups or “Brotherhoods”) are losing ground and coherence. Less and less scenesters subscribe to a ideological frame dictating all aspects of life. While the NPD bore their audience with political speeches in between band’s performances, Oi and Hardcore meetings provide an excessive party experience without police monitoring the event and enforcing bans and regulations by the book.

Delusions Of Grandeur And Paranoia

“The Cult” is a movement turned to stone. It offers self-assurance and on top leaves no room for doubts, questions, development, changes. It surrounds itself with anti-attributes and is never in favour of anything, except a nebulous “Way Of Life” and free beer. The Bands and Fans of the cult summon their scene, but as soon as criticism pops up it is being discredited as an accusation from an external source. Greyzone band “Combat 77″ whose name refers to the founding myth of the Punk movement (1977) say making an issue of the Greyzone is “a witch hunt, and certain promoters or bands seem to forget the real enemy and are dividing their own scene without reason”. Stomper 98 see themselves as “always standing in the dock” and badmouth their critics as “brave stalinists”.

The purely fictional accusation of their critics “holding a whole scene responsible by means of “sippenhaft” (a form of collective punishment practised in Nazi Germany towards the end of the Second World War) works a charm to close their ranks. It wasn’t the photo of the band’s singer arm in arm with a well known Neonazi that enraged their fans. It was the fact that it was commented („Reclaim the Scene and kick out Stupidity“) and circulated as a sticker by Antifa. The mere highlighting of contradictions becomes illegitimate and a threat to internal peace. They seal themselves off, stage themselves as victims, feel affirmed to be outcasts and wallow in smugness.

Delusion of grandeur and paranoia are the stuff that right-wing environments are made of. The resemblance to role-models “Boehse Onkelz” is striking.

Faking Rebellion, Living Stagnation

There’s one trait all exponents belonging to the Greyzone have in common: they are staging a rebellion that isn’t rebellious and isn’t meant to be. Punk, Oi and Hardcore are selling a rebellious image that comes at no cost for the individual, creating the possibility to reproduce a petty bourgeois way of life while pretending to be counter-culture.A quote from an 2011 interview ( with Combat 77 illustrates that kind of nonsense perfectly: “„Nowadays a lot of people seem to forget that Punk is just rebellion and not extreme left wing propaganda.“

It’s the paradoxical construct of Oi that dwells on rebellious attitudes while preaching “unpolitical”. By the way: rebellion is by definition resistance against authority, thus it is opposes – political – circumstances. The actualities of musicians from that scene have some peculiar similarities: marriage and relationships with traditional gender roles, work ethic and being proud of being accepted as a Punk or Skin due to being a labourer – self-stylized “outcasts” almost begging for participation and recognition – because they have no alternative draft to offer.

Ambitions And Reality Of The Left

No more beating about the bush – those who knowingly distribute CDs like the 4 Skins 2010 CD “The Return” containing a song with racist lyrics are spreading hate speech. This does not only apply to “Greyzone” labels and mail-orders like Bandworm Records or Randale Records. Those who provide a stage for Gary Bushell, singer of “cult” band the Gonads and candidate of right-wing part “English Democrats” in 2008 are sponsoring a radical political right-winger, even if’s he’s only booked for making music (at 2009s Punk and Disorderly Festival).

In the end the Greyzone is only a subcultural mirror of public mainstream that has over time spread to alternative milieus. Commerce, Anti-Extremism, Fit for Fun, anything goes, which also means to always be able to take the path of least resistance. The appeal for well thought through actions remains unheard, the Left’s new openness becomes randomness. Antifascist circles mingling with hooligans create the need for a music culture providing war chants and an aesthetic for a collective battling on the streets. It’s plain to see why even political bands like Slime do play festivals with bands that reek of Greyzone: Broader audience, more fans, more money.

The establishment of the Greyzone in environments labelled “left-wing” is a result of commercialization and a drift of left-wing subcultures towards the bourgeoisie. To stop these developments we need forces that fill “leftist” logos and environments with values and live – not label – radical criticism of society.

This is a translation of

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Filed under Analysis, Boneheads, Germany

One response to “Greyzone in Germany: The Cult Of Randomness

  1. Pingback: The Oppressed are SHARP-dressed men | Cult MTL

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