In the 80s he founded Class War, whose newspaper featured photos of beaten-up policemen. He went on Bash the Rich marches and was labelled Britain's most dangerous man. Now a grandad with a dodgy brick-throwing arm, Ian Bone still believes in violent action to overthrow the state. Emine Saner meets him
Friday October 20, 2006
I am not sure I have got the right house. A pleasant semi in a Bristol suburb, the recycling bin placed neatly outside the front door containing a few copies of the Guardian and an empty olive oil bottle. Surely an anarchist can't live here. And when Ian Bone opens the door, he does not look much like an anarchist either. Wiry, balding, with little round glasses and wearing a shirt and slacks (slacks!), can this really be the man described by one tabloid newspaper as "the most dangerous man in Britain"?
He makes a cup of tea and I scour his kitchen for evidence. Magnetic words arranged on his fridge read: "those who shall not be ruled or governed". He asks if Earl Grey is all right. I ask him if that is what anarchists drink. "I do," he says. In his sunny sitting room, he places his cup on a Che Guevara coaster. Smashing the state is one thing, but presumably even anarchists don't like rings on their coffee tables.
In the 80s, Bone founded Class War - a cobbled-together tabloid newspaper costing 20p that became a whole anarchist movement. Bone's notoriety grew with the paper's circulation. Well-known to the police and security service, it is a wonder he was never jailed. Through Class War's support of striking miners, dockers and print workers, and at riots - Brixton, Toxteth and Stonehenge - in the 80s, the paper was, at its height, selling 15,000 copies every week (though once it had been passed around, its readers numbered many more thousands). Not bad for a group of anarchists who spent most of their time in the pub.
Memorable front pages included Margaret Thatcher with a hatchet buried in her head, a picture of gravestones, with the headline, "We have found new homes for the rich", and to commemorate the birth of Prince William, the headline "Another fucking royal parasite". One of the most popular pages was the "hospitalised copper" page - a picture of a policeman being beaten up or laid out. "We loved that," says Bone. "But it was done with humour, so even though it was violent, it didn't come across as psychotic violence."
So what made Bone, now a 59-year-old father of five and grandfather, devote his entire life to anarchy? "I guess I'm the radical from 1968 who never grew up," he says. "I feel just as strongly about politics and anarchism and injustice as I did then. I'm glad I'm still angry, there's plenty to be angry about. I never thought about having a job or a career. Jobs and material possessions have never loomed large in my life."
He lives with his partner Jane and manages a youth work project outside Bristol. "I'm not a full-time revolutionary," he says. "Too many aches and pains."
Having given up drinking, he has used his spare time over the past year to write his autobiography (reading it, you get an idea of how much he used to drink - in fact, it is a wonder he can remember any of it). Until last year, he wrote, published and sold the Bristolian, four mouthy sides of A4 costing 20p, exposing suspect council dealings (and for which he was runner-up for last year's Paul Foot award for campaigning and investigative journalism) but he gave that up because it became too exhausting to produce every week.
Bone became an anarchist after reading about it in Punch magazine in a dentist's waiting room. "It gave the address of Freedom, the anarchist paper, so I wrote off to them asking for information about anarchy," he says. He was 15, the only anarchist in the village in Hampshire where he lived with his parents. His father, John Bone, was the butler for Sir Gerald Coke, grandson of the Earl of Leicester, and the family lived in a cottage on the estate. He remembers rich children addressing his father as "Bone" and the servitude that was required of him. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he grew up with a hatred of the upper classes.
The Bones had high hopes for their son, the first of the family to go to university. Instead of becoming a teacher, as his mother wanted, Bone became a full-time anarchist, supported, once he left university, by the dole. "I thought I might as well be unemployed so I could be a full-time radical revolutionary and the state would pay me to do it."
That was the late 60s. Peace and love was over, replaced by student demonstrations, largely against the Vietnam war. In 1968, he thought anarchists would be able to overthrow the state and was cheered by reports of student demonstrations across the world. "One day we heard that anarchists had burned down the French stock exchange and we were like, 'Yeah, we've got to do something.' It was ridiculous - all we did was occupy the university. It's funny now. 'Anarchists in Swansea have seized control of the canteen building.'"
Then there is the cast of fellow anarchists: prostitutes, punks and my favourite, Brother Silas, an anarchist monk from an East End monastery who always wore the brown robes of his order and never carried money so other people would have to buy him pints in the pub. The agendas of their group meetings would include topics as diverse as class war, the miners' strike and sexual politics (it was argued that everyone was bisexual and all comrades should be "forced to be free"; that is, they should all have sex with each other).
Bone had started his first anarchist paper, Alarm, in Swansea. It comprised handwritten sheets of paper with punchy graphics and funny headlines. "There was a lot of corruption in Swansea and we got a couple of council leaders sent to jail. That taught me you could do a working-class paper that people actually liked, as opposed to a leftie paper full of agitprop."
When he moved to London in 1982, he was planning to replicate Alarm on a national level. Hadn't he realised anarchy wasn't going to work? "We were never bothered about anarchy working as a system. It was about fighting back in the here and now. Part of that was because of Thatcher. You can hate Blair quite a lot but Thatcher was clearly out to destroy the working class. Also, anarchism offered immediacy. You didn't have to develop a 10-year programme, you could go out in the street and shout at people."
What Bone did not - and does not - like are rich people. Class War held two Bash the Rich marches in affluent areas of London - one in Holland Park, another in Hampstead - to intimidate the "ruling" class who lived there and also went to the Henley regatta. Did they actually bash any rich people? "No. A few got laid out at Henley but not on the Bash the Rich marches. But it felt good walking down there. We gave a lot of abuse and shouts and they did cower, a few of them, behind their curtains."
He still thinks he, or rather the anarchist movement, can overthrow the state. "I've still got aspirations ... the best is yet to come, without a doubt. I still think radical social revolution for social change is possible but the possibilities are very low at the moment. Since Blair got in, the belief that you can affect radical social change is way down the agenda."
He dismisses the march against the Iraq war even though it was the largest ever peacetime demonstration. "So what? They had a million people and what did they do? What should have happened was direct action - blocking roads, attacking Downing Street, trying to seize half of London. It needs opposition on the streets to stop the Iraq war."
Violence, he says, is key. "Not [attacking someone] individually, but if you're fighting back as a mob against a particular thing like the poll tax or the Iraq war [then] yes. The police are there as the front line of the state so if you're opposing the state, you have to have a go at the police. If the rich or the ruling class or the police are defending their interests, they deserve everything that's coming to them."
I spot his slippers (well-worn moccasins) by the sofa. Is he the most dangerous granddad in Britain? He laughs. His next big thing is a march on Downing Street next May. "Blair's going to go sometime in May. We're going to get people down as near as we can to Downing Street and we're going to stay there until Blair goes. Hopefully, we'll get tens of thousands of people, not just a few anarchists. If he was to go a day early because of us rather than his timetable then that hopefully will be a way of re-energising working-class politics."
And if it turns nasty? Bone may be approaching 60 but he says he has still got a lot of fight. Is he still violent? "In the right circumstances, yes. If on May Day we need to push and shove and throw things and kick and fight to get to Blair, absolutely. We won't be sitting in the road singing fucking peace songs. No music or jugglers - that's the kiss of death."
He seems genuinely excited about his plans for May, although one of his biggest concerns is his arthritis. "The old petrol-bomb arm, you know," he explains. "It's really going to affect my brick-throwing. I'm going to have to learn how to throw bricks left-handed." And I like to think that when Bone is out by the pretty fish pond in his neat back garden, this is what he likes to practise.
· Bash the Rich, by Ian Bone, is published by Tangent Books, price £9.99.
Also out now and of interest is Antifascist by "Martin Lux" .
They will be at the The London ANARCHIST BOOKFAIR ( on Saturday 21st October (10am – 7pm) at the Voluntary Sector Resource Centre at 356 Holloway Road, London N7. ). ..at the "Campaign For Real Anarchism" meeting some time in the afternoon? there's a couple of meetings I think....
Cannot remenber what time - the bookfair site is currently down as it has had too many hits aparently. anyone for putting up a programme timetable on Indymedia? John Pilger is also ther I believe?