chapter  7
16 Pages

The Creation of an Anti-Fascist Icon: Joe Strummer and Rock Against Racism

WithJeremy Tranmer

Joe Strummer has frequently been presented as a passionate and articulate advocate of anti-racism and anti-fascism.1 His participation alongside young blacks in the disturbances at the 1976 Notting Hill carnival, his songs including "White Riot", and his fusion of punk and reggae are all cited as examples of his beliefs. However, central to his elevation to the iconic status of an anti-racist and anti-fascist activist was his performance with the Clash at the 1978 Carnival Against the Nazis. Organized in support of Rock Against Racism (RAR) and the Anti-Nazi League (ANL), the outdoor concert gave Strummer the opportunity to express himself in front of a crowd of tens of thousands of people. It will be argued that his limited involvement with RAR does not correspond to the accepted conventions of political activism and results from a combination of political, cultural and personal factors. The depoliticization of the British music scene has contributed to transforming Strummer into an anti-fascist icon.