Power is Dysfunction


Where are we? Crass.

Some of the band have settled down to using a series of ‘Crass’ projects as their private source of income. The same with various Crass franchises – t-shirts to ersatz Crass gigs. Necessity breeds a sense of entitlement.

Southern Studios will use the company’s capital to crush any attempt by other band members to challenge the annexation of Crass, of our catalogue and the uses to which it is put: ‘there is no authority but yourself’ – the bullies’ charter and capitalism at work.

But this muddies the water. Nearly thirty years to unpick the rhetoric and understand the damage that Crass did in the radical movement, the dysfunction of the band. This is outlined in the letter written to the author of one of the early Crass books, included here. The abuse that some band members suffered at the hands of the ‘Crass legacy team’ seemed worthy of note and was posted on this site, but the dysfunction turned out to be unexceptional, power at work, a twig in a global forest.

There is co-operation, and there is power.

I think what follows is the key I have been seeking. Good luck.

Pete Wright August 2013

You are free to copy and republish this material providing you credit it to Pete Wright
and give the web address www.crassunofficial.com as the source.



“In the beginning was the subject. Power is wielded over the object, and every ill or shortcoming is the fault and failing of the object.”
Power does not corrupt – and never did.
It uses an existing skill-set, a skill-set we have all acquired.

The conversation and exercise of power, all power, employ techniques learnt from family dysfunction. All else is isolation or co-operation.

Power is practised dysfunction.
Here are the formulae that immerse us every day. They are the same for war or government as for a domestic spat. This is what we do:

  1. State or imply our default position of rightness.
  2. Dismiss out of hand anything that does not suit us.
  3. If that fails, minimize the importance of what does not suit us.
  4. If that fails, go sideways, distract, muddy the water.
  5. Then attack, blame.
  6. Project our own reactions and feelings onto our challenger, and react as if this was truly their behaviour.
  7. Return to our default position.
  8. Classify our opponent’s input as inherently flawed and unacceptable.
  9. Lie.

The exercise of power:

  1. Ignore or co-opt anyone who opposes us.
  2. Undermine and destabilize them.
  3. Destroy their self-esteem.
  4. Form cliques, in-group/out-group, to isolate and intimidate.
  5. Scapegoat, blame, ostracise, demonise, so we can
  6. Attack without empathy. Terrorize.

Here is the root, the consequence of our social grammar. Our creation myths set in place the syntax of power, neatly and irrevocably. Our gods are human artefacts. We will believe in anything that suits us, suits our purpose. The secular is God writ god.
It is simple.
In the beginning was the subject. Power is wielded over the object, and every ill or shortcoming is the fault and failing of the object. That is it. God is good. Less than god is bad. The ‘I’ is better than the ‘you’; I am better than you.
From our desire to control come the techniques of power.
The myths ratify and justify its exercise. Nietzsche elevated his ‘will to power’ to a grand pursuit. It is, instead, the hallmark of dysfunction and damage.

The seat of power is dysfunction within the family. The skill-sets learned here are used throughout our lives, depending on opportunity and the extent of childhood damage, moderated by our degree of self-awareness. We all know how to be dysfunctional. It is reflex behaviour. We are encouraged to peer upwards for the paradigms, the eternal principles, rather than look to our poor selves. The abuser is truly unaware of their abuse and abusiveness, the powerful of their abuse, of being its child.
The leverage of power and the drive to power derive from what was inflicted on us, and on what we learned to inflict on others:
The parent attempts to protect their damaged self at any cost by abusing their family members – then the damaged child abuses – then the damaged child’s child abuses. Self-defence hurts others.
Since we fail to heal ourselves and find security, since ‘help’ is threaded through with dysfunction, we are driven by our internal magic, ‘I want; I want control; I want more; I want it all; then I will be safe’. The outside world, other people, become symbolic and threatening constructs in our minds, relationships subservient to our shaky sense of self, our instability. We reconstruct the outside world for our own protection. We objectify in order to control. Empathy flies out the window. The behaviour is so so efficient, so low in entropy, because we are damaged and vulnerable and they are damaged and vulnerable. Catalysts all, child in the adult.

This is family. This is the media. This is politics. This is commerce, advertising, sport. This is the military, the police, the courts. This is social institutions. This is religion. This is everywhere. This is us.

Institutions are constructed on the premise of subject over object – ‘good’ over ‘bad’, voiced as the more able over the less, the ‘natural’ order of things.
Meanwhile, the bulk of our lives – cooperation – struggles against this syntax of power.
Our lives are made miserable by the various prescriptive power creations, ‘free’ market, ‘us and them’, nations, one or another ‘deity’, ‘competitiveness’. We feed on separation. Locked in a disastrous mindset, we wreak a terrible vengeance on the world that hurt us, while, in the cracks, the gaps of power, we cooperate and share.
But, over it all, power; dress it up however we may.

And my point? I fear what I see and my place in it.
The powerful in any sphere cannot negotiate a reduction in their power, influence or income.
Demonstrations against the powerful are communication. For those demonstrated against, if their democratic or autocratic power base or their economic viability is not at stake, why would they change? Their confidence is a measure of how far from success is our posturing.
The dismantling of any power base will require sacrifice by those who have direct access to, and direct effect upon, the powerful, not by those who are its distant victims.
To step beyond the respectable, liberal critique of power and into action is a one-way journey. The cost is such that there is no going home.
Power is small, concentrated, affecting the whole, reaching out, controlling by the damage it does, a carcinoma on the cooperative body.
An individual in a dysfunctional family may manage to get away and stay away, excising it from their life. On a larger scale, there are no surgeons present.

Our current methods of opposition and attempts at change have little effect – from the march, to the occupation, to the suicide bomber. They push in the wrong place. We end up with the same disordered narcissists rising, the same vested interests.

As ever, the number in the powerful elites is about the same as the number of those who might be prepared to deal with them. This is an uncomfortable realization. This is not democracy. And, like Moses, the pioneers won’t reach the promised land.

Pete Wright August 2013


  • Dysfunctional family
  • Narcissistic personality disorder
  • Passive/aggressive behaviour


Occupy is an education if we care to look

Click here: New Statesman March 2012

Letter to Mark Hodkinson of Pomona Books

Click here: Letter to Mark Hodkinson