Interview with Class War's Ian Bone
Ahead of the May 2015 General Election, Tug Wilson speaks to the notorious troublemaker and anarchist behind Class War; ‘Britain’s most unruly tabloid’.
From issue 22 of Now or Never! available to buy now.
Illustration: Vicki Carey.
Ian Bone was born in the post war years to socialist parents with a proud working class heritage. He grew up with an awareness of the inequality and injustice in society, something reinforced by the experiences of his father during his years as a butler. Stories of the contempt that the rich held towards their servants, alongside his family’s political values, resulted in that contempt running both ways.
Bone’s active participation in politics began in the 1960s at university as one of the ‘Swansea Anarchists’, a group of long haired militants, who mostly caused trouble in local bars when they weren’t producing their weekly paper or occasional leaflet. Over the years he would be involved in countless political struggles, from anti-war protests to community action and produce many publications, most notably The Alarm, The Bristolian and of course Class War; the paper and organisation that his name is most often associated with. Still as active as ever, with an involvement in activism spanning 50 years, Bone has experienced more of the ebbs and flows of radical politics than most. When asked about the eras that he felt held the most promise for change, it was a toss-up between two notorious periods of social unrest “1968 was the most optimistic for World Revolution, and 1985 was a near miss for Class War – if the Miners’ Strike hadn't ended 5 months before the Tottenham and Brixton Riots kicked off, they wouldn't have had enough coppers!”
First published April 1983, Class War soon rose to prominence thanks to its winning blend of humour and hard hitting, populist attacks on working class enemies. Bone’s motivations for creating the paper were to “fuck things up, bring back class politics, get rid of pacifism and create a mass circulation anarchist tabloid.” These aspirations were soon realised, as within a couple of years Bone was declared ‘the most dangerous man in Britain’ by the mainstream press, the pacifism preached by influential punk band Crass had begun to lose its popularity and Class War’s circulation was in the tens of thousands. The humour of the paper was a vital breath of fresh air amidst the stagnant, tedious publications of the various socialist factions; he felt that something different was needed because “the left can only ever play the victim and be advocates of miserabilism”. Class War stood out from the crowd because it was funny and refused to focus solely on the suffering of the working class; rather than being portrayed as passive casualties of ruling class attacks, the paper instead championed a violent fightback, something perfectly captured by the regular feature ‘Page 3 Hospitalised Copper’.
In the years after Class War first appeared, groups emerged and by 1986 a national federation had been founded. Class War could be found agitating amongst existing struggles; they were well received amongst the ranks of striking miners, and they also instigated many rallies of their own, including the notorious ‘Bash the Rich’ marches.
Of all the publications and campaigns Bone’s been involved with, of which there are far to many to mention here, it is clear that Class War is a source of pride for him “the fucking name is so good for a start…..I mean Class War or Anarchist Federation? I just like the complete fuck you nature of it. I also like the loyalty of all our ex-comrades round the country…waiting...biding their time…some Sheffield comrades gave me a bottle of quality plonk at the Thatcher Funeral do – I was moved by their thinking of me in a generous way.” Class War has recently seen a resurgence, something that Bone puts down to the domestic situation of old comrades more than any similarity between the current political climate and that of the 1980s “I think its more an age thing – a lot of our candidates are old punkers who’ve done the family stuff and fancy coming back for round two.”
Round two includes a Class War Party general election campaign that’s been quickly gathering momentum. Among the dozens of candidates already signed up are punk poet Tim Wells, environmental campaigner and former Playboy model Marina Pepper and of course Ian Bone himself, who will be encouraging the electorate in Lewisham to “vote Class War because all the other candidates are scum!” Typical to form, Class War have adopted populist policies which don’t disingenuously chase an acceptability imposed by a middle class view of the working class. Bone sums up their main policies as “Double dole, double pensions, abolish the monarchy and public schools, seize the great estates and a mansion tax!” With policies like these, it is clear that Bone and Class War are pursuing the voters that have been ignored by all the other parties; those that don’t actually vote. As this demographic is larger than those that vote for the winning party in any given election, even if a small proportion can be persuaded into the polling stations, there is certainly potential to ruffle feathers.
Class War hasn’t forgotten the importance of having a presence on the street, adopting the position of ‘by the brick and the ballot’. Its campaign against the separate entrances for poor and rich in a London apartment block has seen weekly demonstrations demanding the end of class ‘apartheid’.
Bone contradicts the adage that we all get more conservative as we get older; he is clearly as angry as ever and every bit as radical. When asked if he had any words of wisdom for the new generation of troublemakers drawn to Class War, his advice was “Resilience, resilience, resilience... and have a sense of your own ridiculousness.” Something he is perhaps exhibiting when asked what he would be if he could choose another life for himself: “I’d be a polar explorer”.
Look out for the skull and crossbones on your ballot paper May 2015.