Is Atari Teenage Riot Still an Anarchist Band?

Or do they have laissez-faire sympathies now?

Adrenaline coverLast week I have ordered a German pressing of 60 Second Wipe Out double LP vinyl from abroad. I love that album from 1999. Along with The Future of War from 1997 it is, in my opinion, one of Atari Teenage Riot’s (ATR) best two, and for me it is really hard to decide which one of the two is better. When I confirmed my order in the morning, I couldn’t imagine that in the afternoon of that same day ATR would release a new single, “Adrenaline”, announcing an upcoming new album. Cool, I thought at first, but then I have read the announcement for the single:

Atari Teenage Riot’s first single from the upcoming new album.

The song is about:

anti-fascist street fights

using crypto currencies to smash the central banking system

All big streaming platforms have prevented this EP from going up.

We have to bypass the entertainment industry 100% now.

Freedom is more important to us than equality (which always means conformity).

The first three lines were expected, the fourth one was pardoned for the time being, but the last sentence made me question their anarchism. Purists will argue that their anarchism could have been question even much earlier in their career, but I don’t usually fall for that kind of debates. First reason for it is that I am convinced that the political tendencies of aesthetic formations are to be found primarily in their aesthetic procedures themselves, and just then we can discuss how goodly or badly these tendencies are represented by the artists’ own non-artistic statements, or concrete political and economic choices and activities, or lifestyles. Secondly, these non-artistic facts tend to be repeatedly and vainly debated between anarchists of various variants of anarchism, and they tend to be a useless waste of time and energy, because most of the people questioned really are more-less honest anarchists that just try to live somehow in this world hostile to the ideal – nobody can live truly anarchically in a bourgeois regime of state and capital, but every anarchist will try to find a way, however big or small, to contribute somehow to the dismantling of such regime, and to the progressive achievement of a truly free society.

Songs are obviously aesthetic formations, and should be treated as such, meaning that they might and might not contain both the artists’ own convictions, as well as all that is contrary to them, and it is all part of a general meaning that might not be given at face value and should be investigated. But what I cited above is not a song, it is an announcement for a song release, so question remains: should it be treated as an aesthetic procedure or as a non-artistic statement? If the latter is the case, this announcement becomes quite problematic from an anarchist point of view.

One of the general characteristics of all the variants of anarchism is the philosophy that insists that freedom and equality are interdependent, in fact, that they are a prerequisite for each other: you cannot have freedom without equality, as well as you cannot have equality without freedom, and if we can quantify them, they are proportional to each other: more freedom means more equality, and vice-versa. An Anarchist FAQ explains it quite extensively and in-depth in section A.2 “What does anarchism stand for?”

It is known, however, that right-wing “libertarians”, i.e. the various proposals of laissez-faire capitalism, crypto-neo-feudalism et al., tend to believe that equality means trading off freedom, and so they “heroically” reject equality and side by whatever they see as “freedom”. A detailed debate on this topic is beyond the scope of this particular piece of text, but I do invite you to consult anarchist literature on the matter, and An Anarchist FAQ is a very good place to start. Now, if we take ATR’s announcement for their latest single release at face value, it looks like a grave departure from basic anarchist philosophic principles.

We also know that proponents of laissez-faire capitalism are also very fond of cryptocurrencies, which on the left are strongly debated, and there is no general consensus about them. And so these two statements combined – pro-cryptocurrencies, contra-equality – give the impression that the ATR decided to side with laissez-faire and “anarcho”-capitalism this time around. A situation that makes me feel extremely nostalgic for the Atari Teenage Riot of the 1990’s. By listening them both in the same afternoon, as I did, it feels almost real, as if the ATR of the 90’s are screaming at “Adrenaline” and its announcment: “THAT’S TOO DEAD FOR ME… I DON’T WANNA LISTEN… / IT WOULD DESROY THE LAST DREAMS I’VE LEFT FOR YOU…” (from the song “Too Dead for Me”).

And I must emphasize here that I was honestly happy about the ATR re-forming in 2010, I went to see them live, I like Is This Hyperreal?, and all that jazz. But I found myself with a few question marks regarding this latest release. Is that announcement to be treated as artistic text too, or is it what it is at its face value? Are the ATR still an anarchist band? Or is it time to redefine the enemy, again? Hopefully, things will be clearer by the time the new album is released, and I do not want to rush into conclusions too early. So I finish this without one. Feel free to let me know what do you think.