Festivals of commemoration, marks of respect, monuments to shared history... Britain is full of them, places where we gather together and show our gratitude to those who have fallen over the years. Cenotaphs, monuments, Remembrance Day – all signs of our shared struggles and sacrifices. This month we have seen more marking of the end World War 2 and the end of the greatest and most costly exercise in humanity's self-aggrandising idiocy. But! Are there some wars we should pay more attention and respect to? That may give us more lessons for the future and warnings from the past? Like, for example, the Goth Wars?
Many people generally categorise the Goth Wars as being a mainly localised conflict between two groups of armed non-state actors – the Mission and the Sisters of Mercy – which came to the perception of being a proxy war spanning the whole of the gothic world. But really it makes more sense to perceive it as a regional conflict involving several other insurgent groups (Ghost Dance, New Model Army, Skeletal Family, Rose of Avalanche) in a more complex geopolitical battle.
Furthermore, although we perceive the Goth Wars as being completed in a relatively short period of time - a year of conflict from 1985-86, ending with a ceasefire that (more or less) holds to this day – it makes more sense when seen as longer struggle, one which was most intense from 1985 until 1991 but actually lasted much longer than that. In fact, is it time we asked – are the Goth Wars really over at all?
The background to the conflict is now public knowledge – a failed coup led to two rival groups locked in a bitter struggle for the rights to lucrative musical and financial assets in Leeds, by then the most heavily gothicised city in the world. Although potentially dangerous the war was formally ended by a ceasefire which was eventually brokered by the United Nations and Warner Entertainment. This led to the Eldritch Faction being recognised as the legitimate government of the Sisters of Mercy and the Hussey-Adams Gang being given rights to form their own independent republic. However, that did not stop military excursions on each other's musical territory, which continued for years to come.
The Mission's detonation of a bona fide A-bomb chart hit in 1986 did much to dent the pride of the Eldritch faction, although the fact that it did not achieve the desired velocity was a relief. Undeterred, tSoM hit back with a brace of H-Bomb nukes of their own in 1987. Their pride humbled, the Mish Brigade were able to regroup to further dent the chart ground with stunning new weaponry in 1988. Both sides, by this point exhausted, refrained from further military activity in 1989.
By this point the other splinter group from the Eldritch empire, of a Marxist persuasion, were greatly enhanced by a top-level defection from a rival group of gothic insurgents and were soon making their own attempts to carve out territory between the two larger armies. The other Army involved, hailing from Bradford, was much more politically motivated and puritanical - to the extent that thousands of followers fled to seek refuge in other less demanding territory.
Between them all they would trade blows (mostly legal or musical) throughout the late '80s, but the cost was high. The Marxist faction were obliterated in 1990, and the Eldritch tendency were becoming ever more divisive by courting high-profile defections from neutral groups. Soon both main factions would undergo extensive refits and purges, and bar a brief resurgence with tit-for-tat retrospectives in the mid-'90s neither have been able to find the numbers to launch any major assaults since.
Maybe it is too soon to ask what we can learn from the Goth Wars, but I'm sure you can all agree that 'never had so much been made by so few to so few for so little' – lest we forget the hairspray, the delay pedal, the snakebite and black.