Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bash the Rich

Well I've just finished reading 'Bash the Rich' by Class War co-founder Ian Bone. Bone was touted by the Sunday People as 'the most dangerous man in Britain'. Wow! Nice accolade. Bone has also been a major character in the Bristol political scene. I was going to write a short prece about what he has been up to, but I was beaten to it by the discovery that he has a wikipedia entry!

In 2001 Bone started the Vote Nobody campaign which encouraged residents in Easton, Bristol to turn out for the local election and vote for 'Nobody'...In that same year he started The Bristolian, a scandal-sheet that purported to give "independent news from Bristol that the other papers won't touch". Freely distributed throughout the bars and pubs of Bristol -- and by Bone himself in Bristol's Corn Street -- the newssheet gained a weekly circulation of over 15000. ...The Bristolian gave way to the Bristolian Party, which stood in the local elections in an attempt to mobilise widespread discontent with Bristol City Council's policies...On 1 May 2003 a total of 2560 people voted for the Bristolian Party, which gained an 8% share of the vote within the 12 wards they contested. The Bristolian was runner-up for the Paul Foot Award for investigative journalism in 2005....

Unfortunately the book only goes up to the mid/late 80s and does not cover his time in Bristol. 'Bash the Rich' is his account of his radicalisation in the 60s up to the end of the miners strike in the 80s. The book draws on Bone's considerable experience of street level politics and while a trawl through history, always sounds current. For example while describing the momentous events of '68 during protests against the Vietnam war, he remarks;

Indeed 35 years later the same Oxbridge crowd – Tariq, Pinter, the redgraves, Ken Loach – have led the anti-Iraq war movement into the same cul-de-sac of mind-numbingly boring rallies in Hyde Park instead of direct action on the streets to bring effective opposition to the war. The new generation of anti-war activists have had themselves saddled with the very same movement leaders so effectively bottled it in Grosvenor Square in 1968.

Many have critisised Bone for a lack of 'theory' to his politics. I think the book, while an easy read and very funny, does offer a pretty sharp political insight. Take this example, from his days in Swansea in the 1970s;

What we discovered with the Swansea Mafia pamphlet [about council corruption] was that it was possible to engage the political attention of the punters by concentrating on local issues but not presenting it in an overtly political way. People told us that the pamphlet wasn't political because it was 'the truth' what was needed was something that wouldn't just gain their interest in a passive way but would encourage them to organise and act now for themselves...

Bone also spends the last chapter on a jaunt through history to expalin his personal ideology. This is, I think, the best section of the book. Take this example as Bone describes a pivital moment from the Putney Debates:

Cromwell and Fairfax are increasingly exasperated by the leveller's demands for equality – not apparently made with any reference to religion, Christ, or god, as was the custom.
“By what right or power do you make these demands?” Inquires Fairfax. After a pause the reply came.
“By the power of the sword, Master Fairfax, by the power of the sword.” Whoops! Jesus Christ! What did he fucking say? Stick that up your warty old nose master Master Cromwell!

As you can see, the book is full of swearing. Would you expect otherwise? No! The book is a funny, brutal honest, often self-critical and absorbing account of Bone life from birth to the mid 80s. Once I got going with it, the momentum of his tale takes over and before you know it, it's all over. The book claims not to be a 'dry tome destined to gather dust in leftie bookshops' – an opinion I would concur with. A great read and I hope Bone writes a volume two. And some kids books too!

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