Friday, November 17, 2006

Swansea Anarchists are Revolting

Ian Bone is co-founder of anarchist newspaper Class War. His new book Bash the Rich is that rare beast a political tome which isn't cardboard-chewingly dull. In fact, as well as being highly informative, these true-life confessions of an anarchist in the UK are often very funny indeed.

Bone offers us an insider's view of some of the major disorders of recent times from Grosvenor Square to the Miners' Strike. Basically, if there was a riot going on in Britain he was there.

From a Welsh prespective this is a compelling book. For 17 years Bone lived in Swansea where he served a kind of anarchist apprenticeship. Almost by default Bash the Rich provides a fascinating and previously untold account of the political underground in Wales during the Sixties, Seventies and early Eighties.

Bone first arrived in Wales in 1965 to study at Swansea University. He quickly became involved in student politics producing leaflets like Swansea Anarchists are Revolting and Sex, Drugs and Vietnam. During the heady days of 1968 he was amongst a group of students who occupied the University registry for four weeks and who proceeded to hoist the anarchist flag. In 1969 he fought hand to hand with police when the Springboks rugby tour arrived in Swansea.

Things got even more interesting in 1972 when Angry Brigadists Hilary Creek and Anna Mendelson moved to the Gower. As these bonafide revolutionaries prepared for their trial they would often secretly meet at Bone's house in Windsor Street which was a kind of open house for radicals. Amongst the people who passed through his doors were the women who flour bombed the Miss World Contest!

Inevitably Bone forged links with Welsh radicals. He gives us his take on the Free Wales Army (including the Swansea show trial of 1969); Welsh bomber John Barnard Jenkins whom he interviewed; and the Heddlu Cudd - the Welsh secret police.

One interesting aspect of Bash the Rich is the background it provides on the author's production of anarchist literature. Whilst in Wales he published Class War antecedents like Dole Express; a pamphlet called The Swansea Mafia which exposed political corruption in the city; and Alarm which at one point had a weekly readership of 5,000. Other publications included Fuck Off and The Scorcher.

Bone also occupied his time in Swansea selling badges, flour-bombing council meetings, and forming anarcho-punk groups. The Living Legends achieved some (very) moderate chart success while "porno rockers" Page 3 were notorious for their live performances which included actual strippers on stage.

The first edition of Class War itself was put together in Swansea in 1983 and printed at Fingerprints in Cardiff. Bone's account of the hectic creation of a radical publication in just 48 hours should be an inspiration to anyone wanting to get a fanzine or lo-fi magazine off the ground.

Bone then moved on to London where he continued to annoy the British establishment and the media, and where in 1984 he earned himself the moniker: 'the most dangerous man in Britain'. All of which is related with self-deprecating honesty and a comic awareness of the often absurd situations he frequently found himself in.

Bash the Rich is available from all major bookshops and is published by Tangent Books.