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Bash the Rich: True Life Confessions of an Anarchist in the UK


This highly readable autobiography outlines some of the adventures and misadventures one of Britain’s highest profile and most influential anarchists. Ian Bone’s story.

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This highly readable autobiography outlines some of the adventures and misadventures one of Britain’s highest profile and most influential anarchists. From his upbringing as the son of a socialist butler, to his first tentative engagement with anarchist groups, to his passionate involvement in the student protests, anti-apartheid direct actions, and punk movements, to his most infamous production – the ‘unruly tabloid’ Class War, Ian Bone has never lacked in imagination or guts. The book gives the impression that wherever Bone goes, a riotous good time seems to follow. So it was an endearing, almost reassuring, feature of Bone’s autobiography to read him lamenting that he too felt that the action always seemed to be elsewhere. Indeed he abandoned the highly successful local newssheet Alarm based in Swansea, whose campaigning style not only lead to corrupt councillors serving time, but helped produce a lively anarchic subculture (66-70), to come to London to set up Class War because he was frustrated that the South Wales city had failed to rise up during the ‘81 riots (271).

The autobiography shares many of the same brilliant features of the early editions of Class War, as well as many of the faults. It is hugely entertaining, easy to read and deliberately provocative. It is also slightly chaotic, and occasionally a little cliquey, there are often huge rafts of names, with little fleshing out of who they are – so there is a slight sense of exclusion if you, like me, aren’t amongst Bone’s coterie.

There are also a number of surprises. Bone and Class War‘s image was largely unapologetic and anti-intellectual. However the autobiography indicates that there were occasional moments of regret, although even those are tinged with a malicious humour. One example is the mistimed disruption of a middle class CNDrally in which rather than the pompous leader of her majesty’s loyal opposition, Neil Kinnock, being bottled off stage, the elderly historian (and a hero of Ian’s) E. P. Thompson was accidentally targeted instead (139). He also indicates a highly sophisticated political brain (rejecting the elitist division between the ‘intellectual’ and ‘non-intellectual’ by no means requires endorsing ignorance instead). There are critical appraisals of the different factions within Class War, and unexpectedly, Bone suggests that an autonomist version of the paper, which had been side-lined for being too theoretical, should have been given more attention, and could have helped shape future Class War tactics (151).

The problem – which Bone and his various propaganda tools such as Alarm andClass War and the bands Page Three and The Living Legends attempted to counterbalance – was that within the anarchist movement dry anonymous theorising often took precedence over practical action and personal fulfilment. As Bone rightly notes: ‘If you where to build a revolutionary movement people want to relate to real, living, vibrant, exciting human beings not anonymous balaclava wearers or people too scared to give their views a public hearing’ (176). This lively first volume of his autobiography presents just such an effervescent, personable and anti-elitist account of anarchism. There should be should be more books like this, and more activists like Bone (but not, perhaps, too many).

Benjamin Franks, March, 2008

Bash the Rich: True-life confessions of an anarchist in the UK By Ian Bone TANGENT BOOKS £9.99 Labelled “the most dangerous man in Britain” by the Sunday People in 1984, Class War founder Ian Bone has now produced a book about his days putting the boot into the ruling classes. It isn’t subtle, and it isn’t any kind of blueprint on how to successfully start a revolution, but it is very funny. People of all kinds of different political persuasion may find this a problem: violent activism reduced to the level of a comic book. On the right, there are still many who’ll remember the cover of the Class War newspaper with a picture of Thatcher being brained by a meat cleaver; on the left there have always been humourless “realists” – the kind who’ve subsequently taken over the Labour Party and weeded out the socialism. But from the first page, where Bone’s mother and father are described hurling cow-pats at a Tory MP (“…my dad had scooped the fly-blown dry-crusted cowpat expertly on to his newspaper, raced across the road and squelched it deep into Sir Tufton Bufton’s Knight of the Shire patrician grin”), to the lyrics quoted from the song “Tory Funerals” by his band, the Living Legends (“I couldn’t care less, I couldn’t give a toss / At the sudden death of a factory boss / The ruling class are really hated / All I want… is them cremated”), it’s clear that, while Bone may be dangerous, he also knows how to entertain. Did any of it make any difference? Who knows where Britain would be without irritants like Class War picking at the boundaries of state control. Their bigger aim may never be achieved, but some small battles can still be won. Four out of Five stars, Independent on Sunday –Independent on Sunday

Bash the Rich by Ian Bone (Tangent Books, £9.99) IAN Bone has spent his life dedicated to revolutionary politics. Whether on the wilder fringes of Welsh nationalism and the animal liberation movement or founding the infamous Class War newspaper, he has consistently provided ideas, dedicaton and leadership. This political autobiography starts during his childhood growing up in rural Kent. His father, a butler, and the rest of the local society were immersed in a semi-feudal existence only punctured by the irreverent Cockneys visiting for their annual hop-picking outing. The claustrophobia and injustice of life in this setting leaves a bright spark of disobedience in the young Bone, which fully ignites as he moves away to university in Cardiff in the 1960s. Repelled by the antics of the Trostkyist groups, he turns to anarchism, although his politics were a lot more complicated than this simple label. It terms of political strategy and effectiveness, much of the book reads as farce fuelled by alcohol, as countless yarns of smashed windows and fights with the police are told. Of course, this makes lively reading, but there is political content worth noting as Bone imaginatively searches for different approaches to politicise the working class and, in conclusion, notes the limitations of much of his riotous activity. Bash the Rich certainly has the capacity to entertain, shock and make you think. ANDY WALPOLE Morning Star –Morning Star

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