For Winston, the protagonist of George Orwell’s 1984, all hope for change lay in the “proles”. Only in those swarming, disregarded masses could the force to destroy the Party be generated, he wrote.
One wonders what Winston would have made of the 100 or so protesting ‘proles’, gathered in London’s Portobello Road, on 3 November. Would he have been angered or amused or disappointed, by the presence of more policemen on the scene than protesters?
The ever-widening gulf between rich and poor had roused the demonstrators’ wrath. Egging them on was Ian Bone, once labelled “Britain’s most dangerous man”, and founder of the cult 1980s anarchist paper Class War.
“The wealth divide is nearing what it was in Victorian times, and there’s a serious housing crisis,” Bone told newstatesman.com. “Fairly soon, we’re going to see a re-enactment of the mass squatting movements that followed World War Two. There is discontent in the air, and it’s growing by the day.”
“We’re going to get rid of the rich,” insisted the protesters. How? By reclaiming the streets – albeit just for a day – from the ‘Party’, or rather the “posh toffs” that had come to dominate them.
Their first target was David Cameron’s Notting Hill residence, where they planned to demand a politics “representative of the masses, rather than old Etonian elites like him”. Later they intended to demonstrate that the class struggle was alive and well by protesting outside the homes of shadow chancellor George Osborne and Tom Parker Bowles.
Unfortunately for them, they didn’t get very far. As they neared the Camerons’ luxurious town pad, policemen raced ahead to form a human barrier in their path. A few brief scuffles ensued – and not much else.
The police, perhaps so they would have something to show for their pains, proceeded to make a few arrests. The demonstrators retreated to nearby Meanwhile Gardens, walled in on all sides by officers as they marched, disrupting the evening traffic but doing little to further the cause of revolution.
When they arrived there, Bone (pictured below) took the stage to commend the campaigners’ efforts. And then, both demonstrators and policemen decided to call it a day.
Afterwards, over drinks in the pub, some young protesters described themselves as “gutted” at the poor turnout. “”If we’d had even 500 show up, we’d have made it to Cameron’s house. We still had fun though, and that’s what counts,” one said.
But fun was the last thing on Ian Bone’s mind. He described the march as “the day the British anarchist movement took to the streets again”.
“This was just a small step in a campaign that’s aiming for the total overthrow of society as we know it,” he told newstatesman.com.
Two decades since the last march of its kind, the time again was “ripe for change”, he added: “That’s why we organised today’s event. It needed to be done, simply to get things going.
“There were only 100 or so people here today, but wait until the full import of the housing crisis sinks in – they’ll come in their thousands.”