Mark Ames asked me to write about National-Bolsheviks’ Party and punks movement. So I am forced to take a look at my past, despite the fact that I am very much involved in the present time, because Mark.
I have arrived to New York City from Soviet Union in February, 1975. That was exactly the year punk movement was born. The first what I see of punks in 1976 was fanzine called “Punk.” It was sort of samizdat publication, black and white, formatted A4 size, made on Xerox machine. One of the editors had a strange name — Legs McNeil. That name “Legs” have shocked me. It was a lot of comics inside and caricatures. I remember one where a girl denied some guy his invitation to dance. She said, “Sorry but no, I only dance with faggots.”
Russian immigrants didn’t understand my excitement with “Punk” magazine (I showed it to everybody), they thought that was a piece of trash. So it was, but new movement was intentionally acclaiming trash as its ideology. Year later punk shops were prospering in Lower East Side, amongst them was a shop called “Trash and Vaudeville,” they sold clothes.
Punk magazine have advertised new music. “Hottest groups in town” they said. I went to check it out at CBGB, the black hole at Bowery and Bleeker streets. In 1975 it wasn’t a much crowded in it. Two years later CBGB was the hottest place in the United States.
Then I met Julia Carpenter, she was 21, daughter of FBI officer. She worked as housekeeper at Peter Sprague’s house at 6 Sutton Square, Manhattan of course. Julie’s best girlfriend Marianne Flint was a girlfriend of Mark Bell. Julie introduced us to each other. Mark bell was a drummer for Richard Hell. O Brothers, Richard Hell was a key figure of punk’s musical scene. Actually he was a father of punk with his album “Blank Generation.” Mark gave to me that vinyl, as a present. He also critically despised my simple, black T-shirt, and brought me Richard Hell’s T-shirt instead — white with a map of the subway lines on it. He said that Richard Hell gave many interviews wearing that T-shirt. T-shirt was slashed here and there.
At that time neither I, nor Mark Bell, have understood all the importance of Richard Hell. Not only “Blank Generation” was first album of totally new music of young protest, but Richard Hell influenced Malcolm MacLaren, who invented Sex Pistols later, when he came back from New York to London. It is known now that MacLaren was very much impressed with music played by Richard Hell, so he wanted Sex Pistols to play similar music.
Looking back to myself, sporting in those years that “IRT Lines” T-shirt, I am thinking it was a sort of symbolical T-shirt, as sacred object, what tied me to punk. Both my books written in New York, “It’s Me, Eddie” in 1976 and “Diary of a Loser” (1978), are written in aesthetics of punk. “No doubt about that I fuck all of you, fucken into mouth beaches, go all to cocks!” — the very end of “It’s Me, Eddie.” If it is not punk, what is it?
Then Mark Bell was invited to join Ramones. I met Ramones many times, but my destiny forced me to move to Paris. When Ramones touring Europe went through Paris I went to hotel “Meridian” to greet them. Couple of times visiting New York I would each time to see Marianne and Mark Bell, or “Markie Ramone” as he was rechristened by Ramones.
My interests have switched from literature towards politics in the end of the 1980s. But, when founding National-Bolsheviks Party in 1993 I contacted Egor Letov, biggest Russian punk idol of all times. National-Bolsheviks flag was first showed to public at concert of Egor Letov at club of “Armed Forces” at Moscow. It was choking: four meters, red, white, and black monster, hanging above stage. Certainly it was irritating, provocative, outrageous punk, our flag. It is even still irritating, provocative, outrageous now. Egor Letov was given National Bolsheviks Party membership card number 4. I believe that such card could be given to Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten (the Johnny Rotten of 1977) and such membership would be accepted.
Letov, as all punk artists, proved to be inconsistent, capricious, and unpredictable. He quarreled with us in 1996, came back to party later, then went to his own punk solitude. Sometimes he is declaring himself Red and National-Bolshevik, sometimes he makes believe he doesn’t know us. But his presence in leadership of National-Bolsheviks Party gave Party thousands of recruits over the years. Not all of them become hard-working party activists, some just have passed through Party, but punks were skeleton of Party organizations in first years of our existence.
Loud denial of so-called values of civilization, grotesque, trash, screamigns, some borrowings of Rightist aesthetics, were common for New York City punk movement of 1970s as well as for first National-Bolsheviks in 1990s. Beside of Egor Letov dozens of violent musicians were incorporated in NBP. “Pauk” Sergei Troitski of “Korrosia Metala”, Dimtry Reviakin of “Kalinov bridge” and “Day of Donor,” as well as my defunct wife Natasha Medvedeva and leader (also defunct now) of “Pop Mechanics” Sergei Kuriokhin were among National-Bolsheviks.
Newspaper of National-Bolsheviks Party “Limonka” was in 1990 the most radical and most punkish of whole world. With its slogans like “Eat the Rich!” or “Good bourgeois is a dead bourgeois!” or “Capitalism is shit!” we were in punk tradition, what else?…
The official invitation to join NBP had the slogan: “Don’t take a piss! Join the NBP!” illustrated using a man with a death skull, wearing a tie and the arm band of the NBP. Dozens of writers were raised in the climate of the radical newspaper “Limonka.” Some of the writers’ NBP works are available in a book called “Generation of Limonka,” other names became well-known, such as Zarhar Prilepin, author of the novel “Sankia,” about a life and death of NBP activist, or Alexei Tsvetkov, author of numerous books.
NBP’s actions, however non-violent, are bearing aesthetics of punk, for example occupation of Bolshoi Theater on May 7, 2004, the day when Putin was inaugurated. Putin was expected at Bolshoi that evening, so National-Bolsheviks erupted on stage, took over president’s box. They were burning fires as football hooligans, wearing flags and screaming slogans. That was beautiful. That was punk.
So, my friend Mark Ames, you were absolutely right in your guess about punk origins of National-Bolsheviks. But National Bolsheviks Party story is going on. I believe one day NBP will be thoroughly analyzed, scrutinized. Many heavy books will be written on subject “NBP and Punk.” I just made a sketch.
Edward Limonov, The Exile