What do you know about the Czech Republic? Probably not too much, so here are few geopolitical facts: it is situated in the middle of Europe, with 10 million inhabitants; it originated in 1993 (before, it was part of Czechoslovakia, which split into 2 separate states). There is 1 city with a population over 1 million (Prague), and a few cities with a population of several hundred thousand people (Brno, Ostrava, Plzeň)…). From 1948 ’til 1989, the nation lived under the iron fist of a socalled “Communist” regime that turned the state into one big concentration camp. After some years of a rightwing “economy at any cost” government recently came an equally arrogant social democratic (left) government. The country is currently suffering a recession caused in part by widespread corruption in government and business. Enough for a beginning? I hope so.
Filip / Insane Society Recs. 1999
Although there were some alternative activities before 1989 as well, they were only marginal and weak, because of the ruling regime’s repression. From November 1989 onwards, we can speak of the rise of anarchist, ecological, animalrights and similar movements and of course also of hardcore and punk music.
The anarchist movement’s activities began mainly in Prague, but they slowly reached other towns as well. C.A.S. (the Czech Anarchist Association), which was formed shortly before the November “revolution”, has organised several demonstrations in Prague, mostly against racism (after 1989, there was a boom of the naziskinheads movement over here), but also against the National Exposition, which cost a lot of money and was surrounded with financial machinations. Some of these demonstrations led to violent conflicts with Nazis and the police, who were of course on their side. The Nazi skinheads started to be a real threat directly after 1989; their popularity was constantly rising; in line with the nation’s general hidden racism and intolerant mentality (especially against the biggest ethnic minority here Gypsies). Also, the most popular skinhead band, “Orlik”, hit the music charts and they easily managed to sell more than 100.000 records. Lately they were replaced by more outspoken and more “hardcore” types of nazi bands, who weren’t so wellknown, but still had an influence on young Nazis. In spring ’90, there was a flood of racist attacks on Gypsies, blacks, etc., in Prague and in the northwestern part of the country. These were the first victims of the new Czech fascism, and the number of such attacks is higher every year. Anarchists were the first ones who took a stand against Nazis, back in these times, when police, the media, and politicians absolutely ignored the problem. It took them 7 years and more than 25 murders to make them realise it and do something about it (the turning point was the murder of a Sudanese student in Prague in autumn ’97, though the passivity of the police towards Nazis’ actions is still relatively high in some areas).
Back at the beginning of the 90’s, the anarchist movement was based mostly around the magazine A-KONTRA, which was issued more or less regularly, with a print run of several thousand copies, and was distributed throughout the country. It stopped publishing after several disputes in the editorial collective in ’95, but there are now some hopes of resurrecting it. A-KONTRA faced several state repressions and one of their editors was even charged for attempted murder of the leader of the Czech Communist Party the police lied that he had confessed to it, but later he was found innocent and the police had to apologize to him and to pay damages. AUTONOMIE was another magazine, founded in’93, and later the people around it formed the A.F. (Anarchist Federation), which had several branches, but didn’t last very long. AUTONOMIE stopped publishing in 96.
In 1995, the C.S.A.F. (CzechSlovak Anarchist Federation) was founded, and began publishing SVOBODNA MYSL (“Free Mind”) magazine. After a dispute in ’97, the C.S.A.F. continued under this name, but some of the former members left it and formed the Federation Of Social Anarchists (F.S.A.), with their own magazine called SVOBODNA PRACE (“Free Labour”). SVOBODNA MYSL changed its name to EXISTENCE, which is now the new magazine of C.S.A.F. The reason for the dispute was the typical conflict in anarchist movements everywhere the conflict between the “true anarchist”, promoting class war and anarchosyndicalist approach, here represented by F.S.A., versus the approach of the more “autonomous” anarchists, less ideological, more open to other alternative movements (mostly squatting and ecological activities), represented by C.S.A.F. Both organisations are based in Prague, but they have several branches around the country. Besides publishing their quarterly magazines, they organise different actions and demonstrations F.S.A., who is a member of the International Workers Association, has organized demonstrations against unemployment and syndicalist propagation work among workers, while C.S.A.F. has set up solidarity demos/street theatres for the Zapatistas, and antifascist demonstrations and has participated in some squatting activities.
KONFONTACE is a new magazine in newspaper format published by former editors of AUTONOMIE. It comes out every 2 months and manages to get the attention of “normal” people outside the anarchist ghetto. It’s quite radical and in it you can find wellwritten articles on police repression, the media, elections, etc.
Besides C.S.A.F. and F.S.A., there is another active anarchist group, called AKTIVITA CABARET VOLTAIRE, an informal anarchopunk group, based in the northwestern part of the Republic. They publish ‘zines, do distribution, organise and participate in different actions, and do a lot of support activities for the anarchist movement (such as money collections, etc.). You can get more precise information on all of these anarchist organisations directly from them contact information is at the end of this scene report.
Although the first squatting attempts took place already at the very beginning of the 90’s, the first relatively longterm and successful squat started in March 1992 the SOCHORKA squat in Prague on pplk. Sochora street 28. It was a typical apartment house, squatted by the anarchists around A-KONTRA magazine.
Despite an attack of cca 150 Nazi skinheads in December ’92 and a subsequent police eviction, it was resquatted shortly after eviction and managed to exist until September 97. The inhabitants left it after an agreement with the local council that they will get a new place for their activities (they got the new place in the end, but it’s in very bad condition now; there are plans to do something like a “Free University” there). The SOCHORKA squat was the centre of anarchist activities for a long time; it was the home of the A-KONTRA editorial staff and printing press and also contained a small gig place in the basement.
LADRONKA : the most famous Czech squat last year it celebrated 5 years of existence. This old fortress from the 17th century, situated in the Prague suburbs, was squatted in August ’93 by people related to AUTONOMIE. LADRONKA faced eviction several times, but after massive protests and demonstrations, the city gave up the idea of selling it to real estate speculators, and now there haven’t been any eviction threats for a long time. The squat has hosted a large number of gigs, exhibitions, rave parties etc. and is a very important place for the Czech autonomous movement. The adress is Tomanova street 1, in the Brevnov quarter, and the building is situated in the middle of a park. Some of the recent gigs included Varukers, Detestation, Cripple Bastards, Hellkrusher etc.
Squatting is not very widespread over here, particularly because of the very tough sentences that you can face if you try it (a large fine or up to 2 years of imprisonment), but also because there doesn’t seem to be enough active people willing to gather together to do it, with the exception of the bigger cities. In summer ’97 a group of people in Prague squatted a new house ZENKLOVKA on Zenklova street. They made agreements with the owner that they could use it until its demolition, but after pressure from the police (their antiextremist branch), the owner changed his mind and agreed to let the police to evict the squatters. After some nonviolent resistance (ocupation of the roof), the squat was evicted in the beginning of ’98. The same group of people later found a new building, and so on May 1st ’98 the MILADA squat was founded, in the Holesovice quarter near a railway station and student campuses. It’s old villa, scheduled for demolition. Squatters have made some minor repairs and opened the bar. There were several police and security agency attempts to evict them in October (again, after their agreement with the owner, police pressured him, convincing him that they found hard drugs in the squat). When the same nonviolent tactic was used to defend the house, the cops finally gave up, and MILADA is still going strong. You can get more information about its current situation from the C.S.A.F. contact adress. There was a squat in Brno from August ’til November ’97, when the house was violently attacked by police. Squatters were beaten down and had guns pulled on them, and in the end cops locked them all in one room and then threw a tear gas projectile inside. Meanwhile, they managed to destroy/steal most of the furnishings. The second day, the squat was definitively evicted.
There are several other places in Prague for punk and alternative activities the PROPAST punk pub (Lipanska 3, quarter Zizkov) there is also small record shop near from here BASS RIOT STORE (Chvalova 8), the UTOPIE autonomous cafe (Wenzigova/Lublanska street corner, Nove Mesto quarter) and the 007 CLUB (Strahov Hill, among the university campuses). There used to be a socialcultural centre called BLACK HAND, which was quite wellknown worldwide, but from the beginning of its existence in ’93, it had lot of problems with the local authorities, and it never attracted the wider attention of the people. The centre closed down in ’97 and later was demolished, there’s now a very nice concreteparking lot in its place…
Animal rights and ecological activities, over here are mostly official and mainstreamoriented they aren’t very radical at all. They do some useful activities, but most of them have clearly distanced themself from any autonomous or anarchist activities, because they fear for their public reputation. They have chosen instead to cooperate with politicians; they give advice on which party to vote for in the elections, and so on. Summer blockades of the construction site for the Temelin nuclear power plant were one of the few examples of good cooperation between anarchists and ecological activists. These went for several years, but have now stopped. The general “step backwards” in the strategy of these organisations has also something to do with the policy of their funding most of their income comes from foundations established by the European Union or other official sources, who don’t like to see very radical activities. You can find more honest and more “grassroots” groups; the problem is that they are too small and they lack finacial resources. In the animal rights field, the most active are probably SVOBODA ZVIRAT (“Freedom for Animals”) and ANIMAL S.O.S., who both organise info stands, demonstrations, petitions, exhibitions, etc. against several forms of animal abuse. Brno is home to NESEHNUTI (“The Unmoved”, more officially the “Independent Social Ecological Movement”), which works in the human and animal rights fields, and is also active against a planned motorway, which will spoil an important recreation area in Brno. The Czech chapter of EARTH FIRST! was established some months ago in Prague. They put out an Action Update newsletter and also plan to have an internet site. There are some other smaller groups working on these issues spread all across the country, often working on local problems.
Last year saw 2 street parties, which were among to the Czech autonomous movement’s biggest actions ever. The GLOBAL STREET PARTY took place 16.5.98 in Prague, organised by EARTH FIRST!, C.S.A.F., and other groups as a protest against world globalisation and against the city’s unsustainable traffic situation it is plagued by cars and pollution. The action was attented by cca 3.000 people and started peacefully, until the demonstration went onto Prague’s most important traffic artery and blocked it. Cops tried to stop the demonstration, but they were fought back and had to escape. A cop car was turned over, and some other were smashed with bricks. Then part of the march headed to the city centre, where the McDonalds’ and Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants were attacked, causing big damage to their property. The police, who at first weren’t able to handle the situation at all and let the people riot, then arrived in big numbers and went absolutely mad. They beat up lot of people, including innocent passersby. In their obvious “nobrain style”, they couldn’t pick up the actual rioters, but arrested mostly those demonstrators who didn’t manage to escape. The arrested people went through several punishments and beatings and were thrown to jail for about 2 weeks, but in the end they were released, because the cops couldn’t charge them with anything. The GLOBAL STREET PARTY made headlines in the mass media for many days and caused public discussions about globalisation, police brutality, the problems of young people, etc. Also, a special antidemonstration police squad was formed.
A LOCAL STREET PARTY was organised 3 months later,-this time with cca 4.000 participants. It started in a park, with a rave party, info booths with alternative press materials, etc., and the march was shorter this time, with a route avoiding the possible conflict points, such as the abovementioned restaurants. It must be said that this time police showed up in all force, with thousand of cops readied and several dozen plainclothes cops among the demonstraters themselves, some of them dressed as punx. These “masked” cops tried to provoke some action that would give a reason to attack, but they weren’t successful. The demonstration went OK, without large conflicts, the only exception being the march of cca 100 people on a McDonalds’ restaurant after the official end of the demonstration finally the plainclothes pigs managed to provoke a few confused punx who were immediately arrested after their first attempt to break the police line. If you are interested in seeing pictures from both parties, check out the lidskaprava.cz site on the internet.
No need to say that no action was taken against the cops who beat up and humimilated the people after the GLOBAL STREET PARTY. Police brutality against anarchists and punx is already something common over here, after several wellknown cases such as the beatings of protestors against the Velka Pardubicka Steeplechase in ’92, the raid on the Propast punk pub in ’96, and the attack on the demonstration against police brutality in ’97 (which, ironically, was supposed to commemorate the Propast raid). The “antiextremist branch” of the Czech police is investigating not only the anarchist and autonomous movement, but also the official ecological organisations like GREENPEACE, which led to an international scandal a few years back. Cops and nazis are surely the biggest threat to punx like everywhere. As a reaction on widespread naziskinheads movement, the Czech version of Antifascist Action ANTIFASISTICKA AKCE (A.F.A.) was formed some time ago, they do newsletter called “Akce” (previously “Antifa News”), but otherwise aren’t very active.
Hardcore Punk Scene :
OK, OK, so now definitely something about the music. Now, at the beginning of 1999, there is really a good and strong hardcore/punk scene, but first let’s look a bit into the history of the Czech punk/HC scene. The first punk bands started over here in the beginning of the 80’s (A 64, ENERGIE G, ZIKKURAT, etc.) and slowly the scene started to grow. During the 80’s and especially at the end of 80’s, when the opression by the regime wasn’t as strong as before, there were more and more punk bands, such as F.P.B., VISACÍ ZÁMEK, PLEXIS, H.N.F., Z.N.C. etc. and later also first hardcore bands (TELEX, P.S., SUCIDAL COMMANDO, S.R.K., MICHAEL’S UNCLE, KRITICKA SITUACE, etc.). In these times, punk was in the deep underground, gigs were illegal, bands had problems with the authorities and it was absolutely impossible to release a record (the first official Czech punk record was a 7″ by VISACÍ ZÁMEK in ’88!). Punx always used to have problems with cops, in school and at work, because of their appearance. Some of them were sentenced for “crimes” such as “having a negative stance towards socialist system” or even “propagation of fascism”, etc. Society and especially the media looked on punk as a tool of Western imperialism, smuggled into our country to spoil the young people. Since 1989, all this has changed, and punk has reached a wider range of young people, official media, and record labels, and these old bands have started to release their first records (mostly on new commercial labels, but there was hardly anyone thinking about that back in 1990 here). Luckily, some new and fresh DIY labels, zines, bands, gigs, etc. also emerged soon, and the scene became more political and DIYoriented. Thanx to people like KRITICKA SITUACE singer Robert, Martin (MALARIE RECORDS) or Bergamo (and his Black Hand agency), the foreign punk/HC bands (Nausea, Murphys Law, Inferno, Chaos U.K., No Means No, Concrete Sox, Gorilla Biscuits etc. in the first years, and then tons more) started playing gigs here, and a relatively strong and independent scene was built.
So, who is who in current Czech HC/ Punk?
Let’s start with grindcore, which recently is quite popular over here. The trio MALIGNANT TUMOUR is playing a mix of grind/mincecore in the vein of Agathocles and Regurgitate, now with political lyrics. They have about 5 split EP’s and one split CD + tons of tapes out and have also played on festivals in Belgium and Germany. Future plans include a full CD and some more split EP’s. From the same city (Ostrava) as M.T. come CEREBRAL TURBULENCY (they have progressed from death metal to pure grindcore), P.T.A.O. (exSOCIAL DEFORMITY, heavy megabassed grind/noise, a split EP with Japanese Final Exit is out) and PURULENT SPERMCANAL (gore grind in the vein of Gut/Impetigo). It seems that this town is the capital of grind! Other grinders TWISTED TRUTH, influenced by old N.D., who just recently released a split EP with ROT on Fudgeworthy Records and plan 2 more split EP’s with MALIGNANT TUMOUR and WARSORE. INGROWING (exPLASTIC GRAVE, who released a split 7″ with Agathocles), one of the most popular bands in death metal/grind territory, have a split CD and a split EP out, some new releases out soon. NEGLIGENT COLLATERAL COLLAPSE do weird grind/industrial mixes, sometimes with the help of a computer, some tapes out, their drummer did a Czech grind core encyclopedia on the internet! GRIDE, from the southwestern part of the Czech Republic, do a killer mix of extreme hardcore and grind with great sociopolitical lyrics, they call their music “power gride core” and so far have done 1 split EP w/LIES AND DISTRUST and a split LP with M.B.. They have also played some gigs abroad. Besides the split EP, GRIDE also share a drummer with LIES & DISTRUST, who play classical scandiinfluenced crust core with growling vocals. L&D also plan a split EP (w/ EXEKUCE) and a split LP in Brazil later in ’99. Two other cool crust bands are located near the Polish border HOW LONG? (a split EP out, another planned) and R.A.F., both play dual voc crust butchery, R.A.F.even include a trumpet! This area is also home to HIBAKUSHA, DISNEY and ZRADCE RASY, all playing the crusty shit too. Another raw crustpunx EXEKUCE (based around the “Propast” punk pub) are one of the few bands currently playing in our capital Prague, with a split EP due out sooner or later. Brno is home to MRTVA BUDOUCNOST, fastasfuck dualvoc extreme core with 3 split EP’s. They have a split LP w/LEFT IN RUINS (on Six Weeks Rec.) and another one w/GRIDE (collaboration of Insane Society, View Beyond and other labels), future plans include an 8″ flexi in the U.S. and huge pile of compilations. M.B. did some touring abroad too. Also continuing the tradition of the extreme HC style (Hellnation fans take note!) are PANGS OF REMORSE from the Western part of the country, they did a split EP and a German tour with M.B. back in’96, but haven’t been very active since this time. Some new vinyl (probably with S.O.K. a mix of thrash/grind/HC + whatever… with 100% crazy lyrics) may come out sooner or later. Crust/grind/extreme HC is already wellestablished here with most bands of this style already going strong for long years. One of the brandnew additions to the family are MINDLOCK, producing some cruel sounds in the Sore Throat vein.