The political revolution forming around the Bernie Sanders campaign is certainly exciting, but it is not a new phenomenon. The United States has a long and storied tradition of social movements forming around shared interests, goals, and hopes. And in a society such as ours, an oligarchy where a cabal of elites controls our lives systemically, even artistic movements often become political out of both affinity and necessity. The history of punk rock in the United States is no exception.
The American punk tradition began in the late 70’s and early 80’s, when young people, frustrated by the fascism of the Reagan administration and the hopelessness of its policies, and fully aware that the corporate music industry had no interest in promoting revolutionary acts not trying to be the next vapid new age stars, began taking their artistic and political goals in their own hands and formed organically grown networks of likeminded punk rockers – bands toured the nation in vans, playing basements and fire halls, countless people made their own magazines, or ‘zines’ as we called them, and friendships developed between people who always felt a little out of place in their small cities and towns.
In the meantime, while people were getting the opportunity to see great bands being ignored by MTV and the rest of the corporate establishment, shows were also becoming places were marginalized and suppressed voices could be heard and anti-establishment ideas could be discussed. And while not everyone agreed on everything, we were all part of an independent movement that was determined to climb the uphill battle against a corporate establishment that just wanted us to shut up and take what they were willing to give us.
In the spirit of solidarity and movement building, and also because they fucking rock, here are 5 classic American punk songs that have messages relevant to the political revolution we are building around the election of Bernie Sanders for President.