“The Jethros–a well tasty mob of old hippies from Exeter–are going up the West End to start trashing Oxford Street, waterfalls of glass cascading everywhere. The Jethros had some idea about crashing a load of cars together at the junction of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road and torching them but they’re talked out of it in case innocent bystanders get blown away. One of them mutters Emile Henri’s famous line “there are no innocents!” The Jethros line was either fight with us or get what’s coming to you. Oxford Street is duly trashed. All the out-of-towners act the same, forming little hit squads with their mates, coalescing, melting away and striking again. The cops are ill-prepared for the diversity of the actions and completely taken by surprise.”
After reading the June KSL Bulletin which included a review of Ian Bone’s memoir Bash the Rich: True Life Confessions of an Anarchist in the UK, I decided to pull the book from my shelf and start reading.
Bash the Rich is a lively read, covering seminal incidents in Ian’s anarchist life (there are very few personal details here), and Ian’s sense of humour seeps through on every page. On page 66, I knew that I was going to really enjoy this book:
“One of the best compliments I had in my Alarm-writing days was that I wrote just like I talked. Since every other word I use is ‘fucking’, to write without swearing would have been impossible. The swearing caused a lot of arguments – some people thought we’d be restricting our audience to youngsters or politicos or punks (this was 1977 by the way!) or men. I stuck firmly to the ‘let’s have lots of fucking swearing’ line. If you call a council leader a ‘wanker’ in print that was fine, but if you called the council leader a ‘fucking wanker’ that was even better. If you called the council leader a ‘FUCKING WANKER’ and stuck it on the front page, that was better still.”
After finishing the book, I felt as though I’d spent a few hours with Ian having a chat–him with a pint in one hand, and me listening as he recounted the story of his life from his birth in 1947 to where the book ends in 1985.
Ian’s father came from mining stock and would have been down the pits like everyone else if he hadn’t had the ‘lucky break’ of becoming a servant. Ian’s father rose from the dizzying heights of third footman to butler by the time Ian was born, and so he grew up in a succession of “big houses” as his parents passed through a series of employment situations as butler and housemaid. It was certainly this exposure to the lifestyles of the rich and famous that put Ian onto the path of Class War. A few pages are spent establishing Ian’s Class War roots as he explains the ‘tied cottage’ system and early exposure to instances of gratuitous selfishness on the part of his parents’ wealthy employers.
After discovering anarchism at 15, Ian later attended Swansea University and remained in Wales for 17 years. Producing leaflets, mingling with Welsh nationalists, anarcho-punks and members of the Angry Brigade, as well as attending marches, and selling papers in an ever-growing anarchist scene, Ian went on to co-produce the Swansea Solidarity paper with its emphasis on “encouraging workers on strike or facing redundancy to organize sit-ins and take over the running of their workplace and kick the bosses out.” Another highly successful venture Ian was involved in was the Dole Express–a paper geared towards the unemployed. And some of the results from this anarcho-agitation make for hilarious reading.
In 1977, Ian along with some like-minded comrades began producing Alarm: “an organ of organised class hatred.” The paper amassed stories of scandal and corruption in local politics, and I had a good laugh when I read that Welsh politico Sid ‘Vicious’ Jenkins when (finally) arrested on corruption charges shouted to a TV reporter on the scene who had a copy of Alarm in his hand: “I haven’t read it but it’s all untrue. It’s all the work of anarchists.”
In 1982, Ian moved to London, and he really shook up the established anarchist scene, noting “the twin pillars of English anarchism Freedom and Black Flag and their respective gurus Albert Meltzer and Vernon Richards. The labyrinthine feuding between the two stretching back over 30 years had been a major factor in rendering the English anarchist movement impotent.” The book’s implication is that the anarchist scene was–well more or less dead–and needed a swift kick in the bum: “Apart from trawling through the obscure anarcho-periodical section at Compendium and Housemans, Freedom Bookshop and 121 Railton Road were the anarchist bookshops where you might hope to pick up signs of any sentient life in the anarchist movement.” And with Ian Bone’s arrival in London, the anarchist movement certainly livened up, and by 1983, The Sunday People newspaper ran the headline stating that Ian was “unmasked… the evil man who preaches hate to children.” Ian’s response: ” ‘Evil man’ and ‘children’ have a kind of Gary Glitter feel about it rather than your Che Guevera ‘dangerous revolutionary’ kind of tag.’ ”
With Ian’s move to London came the creation of Class War–a no-holds barred, confrontational tabloid style newspaper that was “pro-action and violence.” The book includes some of the Class War headlines, cartoons and articles. Ian’s description of the goals of Class War includes the following: “It would be big and tabloid brash, lots of short articles and graphics, no long boring shit. It would be fucking funny as fucking fuck. It would plagiarise and pinch like there was no yesterday.” I’ve never seen any of the Class War newspapers, so it was great to see these clips included in the memoir. Details here include: The rise and fall of Class War–the triumphs, the problems, and the arguments with other anarchists and anarchist groups that began to emerge over issues such as heterosexuality.
Ian describes the principles of Class War, the paper’s growing circulation, the mistakes made and its phenomenal successes. Also covered are the Class War Conferences, the riotous Stop the City action, the Bash the Rich march, and Class War solidarity with the striking miners. And through it all Ian unabashedly admits: “Our real political influence was the English mob and we intended to be the proud inheritors of that mob tradition stretching back to the Peasants’ Revolt but finding its first real form in the London mob of the civil war period.”
Irreverent, unapologetic and with flashes of witty wisdom (many points taken), Bash the Rich also includes some great lessons learned: “Delusional triumphalism has been refined to perfection by the SWP which keeps its members in a permanent state of retarded ejaculation by news of a cleaner’s strike in Barnoldswick, five papers sold in Rugby or a tide of global events interpreted by the leadership as proof of that their cogent analysis of capitalism has, yet again, been demonstrated correct by events.” Ian, if you read this, we need part II of your True-Life Confessions. To quote Ian: “Those were the days my friend. Oh yes, those were the days.”
Ian Bone just sold the rights to Bash The Rich for the whooping sum of 10 pounds to British filmmaker Greg Hall www.bashtherichfilm.wordpress.com Can’t wait for that one….
For Ian’s blog and to read about what he is up to these days: www.ianbone.wordpress.com