Music: Refused, THE POLITICS (Part 3/3)

Fuck the System in a Dozen Bursts and Chimeras 

The Swedish band Refused from the northern industry town of Umeå shaped the punk scene of the 90s as well as the straight edge hardcore genre. With their masterpiece album The Shape of Punk to Come they earned pop cultural fame in epic proportions. In proper distinction to others of the branch Refused caught the very essence of punk music: politics.

by Kilian

politics: “alienation is not commodity” 

“Politics is not about wearing cool uniforms and singing songs about how fucked up the system is. Politics is about focusing and adapting it into your life. It’s about organizing and fighting.” The 1996 Handbook for Revolutionaries was conceptualized as a fanzine and is one of the most explicit manifestations of the band's political views and historical ambitions. In the course of their musical advancement Refused became a poetic and boisterous voice of the radical left.

For the band it is necessary to overthrow capitalism which is the cause of the many sufferings of our time: “Our current capitalist system has proved itself outdated and dysfunctional. A system that breeds on exploitation of others. The benefit of the few at the cost of everyone else. It's time to fight back against those who are constantly using and abusing us. It's time to take back what is ours. It's time to regain the power. It's time to do something about the people who are cutting our child support, closing down youth centers, kicking out old people and deporting political refugees”. Fundamental change can only be reached by immediate and organized action: “It's time to take command of our own lives. It's time to burn all flags in the name of freedom. It's time to take back what is ours. It's time for a revolution. So set it off…”. Refused pursue a marxist policy of change regarding the collapse of the dominant system: “Revolution is a historical fact, it's not some obscene event in storybooks. It's an important part in out development. When the current system is not working anymore, a revolution takes place."

Under an inhumane regime which capitalism indeed is, repressive norms deform the people's sexuality. Sexism and homophobia are a result of the patriarchal family model, of the “tradition bound patterns” that the conservative state builds on and so they “are just as big and dangerous problems as racism and fascism. But it's just harder to see. We need to see, to take control and to change. Destroy prejudice. Destroy stereotypes. Destroy the nuclear family.” Under liberated social conditions a basal change of values would evolve and new mentalities of solidarity and love would emerge: “It's time to […] learn to love and care. […] It's time to love, to explore our sexuality and to live on equal conditions.”

In their Handbook for Revolutionaries the band claims that capitalism is utterly entangled with nationalism, racism, fascism, sexism and homophobia. Only a here-and-now revolution can liberate from these shackles. Their vision is a humane, free and pacifist anarchy based on equality. Human (and animal) rights could only be realized in a post-revolutionary society without rulership, violence and submission.

Unlike their initial ambition Refused didn't witness the frequently invoked uprising against the corrupt system during the years of their activity. And still today, 15 years after the band's climax, the forerunners of an overthrow are hardly in sight. In their final manifesto from 1998 the band referred to this fact:
“It is impossible to take part of a revolutionary program when every aspect of existence has to be projected as entertainment and music, a tradition that both in expression and creation has been dead for far too long. We were hoping that we could be the final nail in the coffin of the rotten cadaver that was popular music, but unfortunately the reification was too big for us to succeed with our feeble attempts to detour this boring discourse. When every expression, no matter how radical it is, can be transformed into a commodity and be bought or sold like cheap soda, how is it then possible that you are going to be able to take 'art' seriously? When the single purpose of every song written is to accumulate capital for the record companies that will only kill every attempt at spontaneity and creativity, how are we then expected to create? When every show played just becomes another brick in the wall between people, between 'fans' and 'stars', when we instead of getting communication and interaction are being forced to become nothing but consumers and producers. When people are being praised as geniuses and idols just because they play music or write books or something equally boring and 'cultural', when the widespread belief that their creation is more important than that people take part in everyday life...What does that say about the rest of us and what does it say about the system that we have? […] When we become just another subculture with all the right attributes instead of a real counter-culture, then it is time to die, to revalue the position that we are in.”

conclusion: “through tales of objectivity you shake my hands” 

Refined creations such as those of Refused condense at the edges of pop music, many of them unlikely to ever see the light of day, to get out of the cage and through to the people who unconsciously always seem to await such astonishing messages from the underground. At any point of history there has been a random noise in the background of every day life, an odd feeling that there is something amiss, a sudden anxiety to disquiet and unsettle people. Set in the modern era, a distraught constellation like that once bore the essence of punk. Refused were the ones to form the shape of it to come back for another time.

large and substantial fan page

sources of pictures