Interview originally on BBMA. You can read it there, or order our first 7″ from their website.
Q: Who or what is No Holds Barred and who is the Anti-Fascist Army?
A: No Holds Barred a collaboration of hardcore and punk musicians who have decided that the time has come to tackle a variety of crucial issues head on, and with a militant, unapologetic response.
The rise of global popularism and the resurgence of fascism in the United States that can only be characterized as the “Era of Trump” has made it clear that the time for argument and debate is really a thing of the past. For many of us, we have been preparing in multifarious ways for years – even decades – for a time when our proverbial “line in the sand” would be crossed.
For us, that time has now come. That line has been crossed.
No Holds Barred and the “Anti-Fascist Army” album serves as a call to arms for those who feel similarly…
As for the Anti-Fascist Army or “AFA” itself, this designation has been an underground name utilized by Antifascist activists and revolutionaries, SHARP traditional skinheads and RASH skins – usually those members who might be characterized as anarchistic in nature and approach.
For years the term has been used for what the FBI has termed a “sleeper cell” approach to individuals they designate as “terrorists” training in and for the long term and in a number of important ways, for an inevitable “activation” date in the future. This date when the “sleeper cell” activates is when their training and preparation culminate in actions that will have a greater impact than those that would have, could have, and often times were engaged in on the fly, impromptu, in the streets.
The AFA title and track is an articulation of this phrase that was used in the underground by those training for such a time, such an inevitable movement, and such a militant reaction to our collective line in the sand being crossed by governmental fascists in office and Neo-Nazi fascists in the streets who have similarly been preparing for and orchestrating these unfolding events since their planning and inception in the late 1980s according to those who have defected from their ranks and joined ours – even betraying their former fascist brethren at the highest levels of some of these groups, once they had a change of heart and chose to live a life after hate.
The AFA “Manifesto” insert in the album was essentially the direct source of inspiration for the title track. We request that those who have read this text continue to keep it offline and spread it directly, face to face, person to trusted person, in the underground.
Q: What are your goals and future plans as a band/music-project?
A: We are currently finishing up our second 7” entitled “Sleeper Cell.” The lyrics to the songs on this follow-up album elaborate on the message and mission of the first release of “Anti-Fascist Army.” This second release should be out in 2018, as was our first. There are currently additional tracks in the works for releases down the line.
We hope in the future to collaborate with some groups that have inspired us either musically or ideologically and politically for split 7 inches perhaps, or other collaborations that have yet to be exactly determined.
There are some additional ideas for much bigger projects a little further down the line that must remain under wraps for the time being. Some of the ideas that we can allude to at the moment include intended projects with a larger number of vocalists trading off segments of tracks in the vein of Path of Resistance or Wu Tang Clan for that matter.
The focus of those projects and potential musicians involved are still being theorized and discussed. When this manifests, however, the intention is for the group to be called Sleeper Cell, like No Holds Barred’s most recent album.
Q: Reading the lyrics of the EP, it seems like you choose to portray a very militant path. Why is that so?
A: At the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota in 2016 I realized something very important… For years I had worked with militant organizations and cells engaging in what many of us call “eco-defense” of some sort. Over the years I grew weary of how few joined our ranks and just how painfully small the number of those willing to dedicate and even sacrifice their lives or freedom for the sake of our Mother Earth was.
Then at Standing Rock I saw something else…
I saw many people who previously had no activism or revolutionary background take a stand, endure abuse, arrest, brutality, and many engaged in sneaking off nightly at the camp to carry out DIRECT ACTION that was so common that signs were put up threatening lethal force if one even so much as scaled the fences to approach what Earth Crisis so eloquently phrased the “Yellow Death Machines.”
I similarly saw many people disregard those signs, scale the fences and destroy the machines. In a short period of time, people with no background in this sort of activity were radicalized and revolutionized on a scale that would have seemed unbelievable to me before witnessing it first hand.
Security for the Oceti Sakowin main camp was stationed on Route 1806 and would try to prevent people from going out. The fear was that militant direct action would give the feds a reason to invade the camp. The elders of various communities similarly cautioned against bringing weapons onto the camp – which is something that very few militant revolutionaries on site actually complied with.
On December 5th, with thousands of veterans from the U.S. military in attendance pledging to back us up if the brutality and repression of the State continued, the Obama Administration and Army Corps of Engineers announced that the Enbridge corporation that controlled the Dakota Access Pipeline could not go forward.
Fireworks lit up the sky and that night was known as the conception night for many “NoDAPL babies” in tipis and yurts throughout the various camps. My whole family was there with me on that day, though I had been there throughout the protests and actions off and on. The energy was electrifying when the announcement came in. The sky lit up with fireworks. We truly had hope that our actions and sacrifices had made the difference that we needed to see in the world – that Mother Earth itself required to restore the balance of the Natural Order.
But when Trump got into office, his first order of business only a month and a half later was to reverse this and allow the pipeline through. Social media algorithms were altered in the month following the election and it became impossible for those of us organization and – one might even say “propagandizing” for the movement – to get the word out about continued focused actions.
Today those encampments and many of the die-hard activists who remained there from the time JB set up her tipi until the last tipis were burned at Sacred Stone, have disseminated and disbursed to various other anti-pipeline camps and even to Flint, Michigan to fight for clean water for the community. But the algorithm changes induced by the pressures of and reaction to the new administration have proven to make it impossible to organize the way we did in 2016. Most have no idea that the struggle continues with many of the same people leading the charge as we had at Standing Rock.
All of this led some of us to the inevitable conclusion that now is the time for even more militant courses of action to be taken: namely the assassination of those guilty parties directly responsible for destroying the eco-systems which we are all a part of. This must include but should not be limited to heads of corporations, as well as politicians setting these policies, gutting environmental regulations and kow towing to the true eco-terrorists: those huge industrial polluters which we have dedicated our lives to fighting, if not stopping.
Q: These lyrics seem to even draw influences from the Hardline-era, is that correct?
A: Put simply: the term “Hardline” means “extreme.” As you might have noticed in the new track “Total Liberation,” we mention the Eastern notion of the “Tao.” It is widely understood around the world that the notion of “Tao” indicates a balance of Yin and Yang energy in all aspects of the Natural Order.
The concept of Yin and Yang describes how seemingly opposite or contrary forces are complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the Natural Order, and how they even give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.
In Chinese Nei Jia “internal” systems of Kung Fu the “Tao” is synonymous with the notion of “Taiji” or “Tai Chi” as it is often transliterated, which is another name for the Yin and Yang symbol so widely recognized in the world as an Eastern symbol of the balance of Nature itself. More to the point, the symbol itself is called the “Taiji” which is a term indicating balance and a character that is a synonym for the Tao itself – the Tao being what we might simply call “Nature” or the “Natural Order” in English.
Now how does the notion of “Hardline” come in to play with all of this?
When there is an imbalance in society, in Nature, in any system, sometimes an immediate counterbalance in the extreme opposite direction is the reaction. Sometimes that extreme reaction causes people to lose their balance in the other direction. Sometimes it just helps them recalibrate back and forth to gradually rebalance little by little. Other times still it is just enough for some people to regain immediate equilibrium and sustain it. Either way, once equilibrium – balance – is regained and maintained, the need for an extreme or “hardline” counterbalance dissolves.
Hardline as a movement, like many movements focused on restoring the balance in a wayward society, took some extreme positions. Personally there are some of those positions that I do not agree with entirely, but I see why the Hardline movement reacted extremely in the direction that they did, even if I do not believe all of those positions to be balanced ones in some cases.
Take the two most contentious positions of the historical Hardline movement: abortion and sexuality.
On the issue of abortion, societies have engaged in methods of early term abortion that we might term more “natural” (without resorting to the philosophical fallacy of Appeal to Nature), that helped maintain not only the balance of those individual communities one was a part of, but also of the individual themselves.
Hardline historically accepted the reluctant validity of abortion when a mother’s life was jeopardized, but what if her over all health was? What if her mental health was? What if, forced to carry a baby to term, a mentally ill mother murdered her infant after giving birth? Is it really better to force a situation where a sentient infant or toddler is murdered rather than have a woman terminate a pregnancy early term before there is empirically demonstrable sentience? Is forcing her to be a mother and try to raise that child or to responsibly make the decision of whether to put the child up for adoption really something we should assume she is in a psychological position to do, when she has indicated to her community and her doctor or midwives that she is clearly not?
I don’t think so.
Similarly, in cases of rape and incest, carrying a fetus to term would not only in most cases psychologically harm the mother, but it could also physically harm her and perhaps perpetuate birth defects and congenital defects that would harm the child well into adulthood.
In short, there are too many variables, too many factors for one to decide from the sidelines what is best for the woman simply because she has a fertilized ovum. To go one step beyond that and claim that the government should be involved in that complicated and very subjective PERSONAL decision-making process is nothing short of proposing that violence of the State itself be used to enforce a philosophical position that must be grappled with and determined on a case-by-case basis and by the individual carrying the gestating child.
As for sexuality, the historical Hardline movement focused on the Taoist notions of Yin and Yang balance in sexuality, but in practice, many of the heterosexual relationships that individual Hardliners engaged in were anything but balanced. As well, the notion that Yin always manifests as extreme Yin in a normatively effeminate “female” gender role, or Yang always as extreme Yang in a normatively macho “male” gender role is belied by not only casual observation, but also by science.
In homosexual couples, whether male or female, we see a common tendency for Yin and Yang coupling to manifest in pairing between homosexual partners just the same as we do in heterosexual ones. Nature maintains the balance more often than not in coupling – whether heterosexual or homosexual.
Appeals to ideas that male homosexuality is the result of Yang deficiency – a view that at one point became commonly expressed in some Hardline circles – are also contradicted by numerous studies indicating that male bisexuality is typified by higher than normal levels of testosterone. This in fact accounts for why we see the aggressiveness and need for defensive fight or flight response in male prisons, result in elevated testosterone or “yang” energy, and thus in widespread bisexual behaviors and desires that are commonly carried on by the individuals even after release from imprisonment. It is why many extremely “Yang” male athletes are known “on the down low” to engage in bisexual behavior, even while conditioned to not publicly talk about it.
These issues are not opened up about by many of the men who could provide the most insight into them, particularly because of the homophobia in many lower income communities. Still, there have been numerous studies conducted on this subject and the science is conclusive.
But the way I look at it, homophobia too is a reaction – an extreme reaction of struggling communities to try to preserve reproduction the same way that we find birth rates go up areas where there is poverty, even though we would think of this as counterintuitive. Racist politicians and pundits blame these elevated birth rates on lack of education or ignorance, but the reality is that birth rates actually decrease as we climb out of poverty. In states of diminished resources, ape societies – including those of the homo sapien sapien ape – will tend to be very heterosexual. We see this with chimps who also find it necessary from their perspective to engage in limited meat consumption. But in regions of plentifulness and abundance we see the nearly identical bonobo apes – our other closest primate relative – engaged in a completely herbivorous diet and social bisexuality.
Neither meat eating nor homophobia should be the desired take-away from this. Rather, we should understand that both emerge in the societies of our closet ape relatives when resources appear to be threatened. As we provide for the needs of human societies, we thus afford them the opportunities to sociologically evolve on these issues, rather than assuming we can just judge and aggressively prove and prod them into enlightenment without improving their situations or alleviating their suffering.
It is thus very easy for some to judge from more middle class or affluent communities those lower income communities and musical art forms like hip hop in the inner city or regions like Jamaica where homophobia as a theme in the works of many reggae musicians is quite normal. But the reality is that this unbalanced, extreme reaction to poverty and limited resources is part of the process too. It is up to us to help balance those attitudes, to help them evolve, not to accept them just because they happen to be a reaction, and not to judge those communities by the standards we see white liberals often holding their own communities and socio-economic segments of society to.
Finally, returning to the notion of the “Tao” that was so emphasized in stages of the historical Hardline movement, in Taoist sexual practice and Inner Door teachings, there are many sexual practices and methods of hormone development and training that would be seen by outsiders as nothing short of bizarre. Even among those typically seeing themselves as heterosexual, Taoist prostate massage is not only common, but widely recommended for various methods of energy cultivation associated with Taoist meditation. The idea the homosexuality was or is foreign to Taoist sexual practice or disciplines is simply incorrect.
While Yin and Yang coupling between heterosexual or homosexual partners is the tendency in relationships and Nature itself, there are Taoist sexual practices that cannot be dismissed as anything other than very masculine homosexuality for the purpose of giving rise to extreme Yang energy, resulting in what we could scientifically quantify in the West as heightened testosterone production. Even on a microscopic level, we see that sperm from two heteronormative males will fight one another – as an old Hardline publication made note of – but from the perspective of these practices, that energy of conflict between Yang-on-Yang forces can be harnessed to amplify and cultivate masculine hormone production, and thus life-extension and health in an internal parallel to the testosterone replacement therapy so common in Western medicine these days.
Obviously this is a huge issue unto itself that could easily derail the focus of this interview if we let it…
Beyond that, there is the issue of trans and non-binary identity which is another vast historical and sociological topic – also interrelated as an LGBT rights issue – which Hardline reacted against in a way that I believe warrants critique. Various Native American communities were characterized by rigid gender roles and even homophobia, but many others accepted non-binary and trans gender roles and identities. Literally dozens of North American indigenous communities had at least one other gender identity besides male or female – many with five in total.
In the East, trans gender identities were so common that they often were glossed over in ancient works of history and religion as a given. In many cases we see religions that are commonly associate with transphobia and homophobia, laying down jurisprudential rulings accepting trans gender identities. Biblically, the notion of a “eunuch” – historically speaking – was not generally some poor soldier who had his genitals shorn to ensure he didn’t engage in sex with a ruler’s harem. Instead, this was usually someone who was what we would today call trans. In the regions of India and Pakistan these non-binary identities were and in some cases remain common. The idea that traditional societies abhorred or rejected trans individuals and identities as anathema to Nature is simply not true. As such, though I do understand where the Hardline movement was coming from, I believe it’s reaction to these issues of human sexuality and abortion were not fully informed and required further research.
The underlying theme and overarching principle of Hardline, however – one of returning to a state of harmony with the Natural Order – is one that appealed and appeals to me, as it seems to have with many in the hardcore scene. The influence this movement had on vegan straightedge, veganism and militant eco-defense groups and scenes should not be ignored just because one holds a different stance on these aforementioned issues.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add? Anything important to you?
A: There is no more time to waste. If you feel moved to action, now is the time to act.
The era of preparation and training has long passed, so if you are new to the game, you need to get in it and get your hands dirty now, but also start diving right in to serious training concurrently, so that each action proves more successful and of greater impact than the one before it.
Whether your initial focus is eco-defense or anti-fascist revolutionary action (in reality these are both intersectionally connected) you need to begin regular training in martial arts and firearms weapons craft and tactics. No doubt, it would have been better if you could have began when many of us did – preparing in the 90s or even before – but as the saying goes, it is “better late than never.”
Get involved. Get your hands dirty. Make a change and stop holding on to the pipedream that somehow if you live a safe and cautious life, death will not come for you. Death comes for us all, and the Earth will be here long after all of us are gone. It is better to die a courageous death with honor than to live a slightly longer life as a coward.
Paradoxically, I have found in my experiences that when one is engaged in actions of any sort – whether direct action or simply a fight with a single adversary before you – it is only when we let go of our attachment to not getting hit, not getting cut, not getting caught, not getting shot, not getting locked up, not getting killed, that we seem to absorb into the very stream of LIFE itself, into the FLOW of Nature, and swim with the currents that seem to be sweeping others away as they fight against them.
By letting go of our terrified attachment to this life, we ironically have a greater likelihood of truly living.
It’s time to stop TALKING about Revolution and start LIVING it.