Class War and the Shard

Class War continued their successful court record, with Ian Bone raising his fist in a victory gesture for the photographers (I think there were two of us) as he makes his way out of the High Court in the Strand, where lawyers acting for the Qatari royal family had tried to get an injunction to prevent a Class War protest against the ten empty £50 million pound apartments in The Shard, and to claim over £500 in legal costs from the 70 year-old south London pensioner. Smiling at the left is his brief, barrister Ian Brownhill who on hearing of the attempt to stifle legitimate protest had offered to conduct Bone’s defence pro bono, and at right, Bone’s partner, Jane Nicholl.

Ian Bone proudly reads the description of Class War presented to the court by lawyers for the Qatari Royal Family

Class War are a much misunderstood bunch, bringing out an existential fear in the hearts of the bourgeoisie, and in particular of the press and police force. At some of their protests they have been outnumbered five or ten to one by uniformed officers, with a number who look suspiciously undercover hanging around. The idea of anarchism still arouses a class memory of bombs, sieges and the mob running in the streets, but Class War is more an anarchy of ideas, with actions as spectacle rather than armed struggle.

Despite their small size – or perhaps in part because of it – they have been remarkably effective in many campaigns, particularly those around housing and low pay. Some of their own campaigns – such as the series of around 30 ‘Poor Doors’ protests I photographed – have shown a remarkable tenacity and have done much to bring the issues to wider attention. Led by a small core, hard for undercovers to infiltrate, they have at times attracted the support of hundreds of others. It’s not a group with membership or rules but a truly anarchist lack of organisation, a group of friends who share common ways of thinking about politics and life and are prepared to act – and anyone who thinks and acts in the same way can be Class War too.

“Want to get involved? We have no leaders, no bureaucracy, no fees and you don’t have to sell a paper! Just come along to an action and get involved.

Join in * Reject cynicism * Life’s more fun with Class War!”

Though it does require a good sense of humour, they are deadly serious about politics and the need for change, for a society that works for the ordinary people rather than being arranged for the one percent, and they and others in groups close to them often bring out some of the more glaring inequalities that those at the top would prefer to keep hidden. We all know that there is a housing problem in London, and that much of the building that is going on over London is not aimed at reducing this, but at allowing largely foreign investors to profit from rising property prices, buying luxury flats which will often never be used, just sold a few years later when their value has risen – with developers publishing investment proposals suggesting huge rises and quick profits.

At their protest outside the Shard, Class War pointed out that the ten £50 million pound apartments in it have remained empty since the building was completed, and that developers currently plan to build a further 26,000 flats costing more than a million pounds each, many replacing current social housing, when London has a huge housing crisis with thousands sleeping on the street, and over 100 families from Grenfell are still in temporary accommodation. Official figures show that despite the huge and increasing need, London is losing several thousand properties at council rents each year.

Although the court decision had made it clear that the protest was permitted outside the Shard, so long as the protesters did not enter the property, police still insisted that Class War move further away, across the road.

Their attempt to justify this seemed even more pathetic than usual, suggesting that Class War, who were standing to one side of the normal pedestrian routes, were causing an obstruction; there was a clear obstruction, but this was caused by the line of police officers. But Class War did take their banner across the road, though some members continued to protest as the court had allowed on the clearly marked edge of the property.

The Shard presents something of a challenge to photograph from a close distance, and even from across the road it was hard to show the building as a whole as well as the protesters. Even my 16mm fisheye couldn’t do the job sensibly in landscape format, and I had to turn it 90 degrees to get it all in.

While the software I use to convert perspective does a good job with landscape format images, it doesn’t cope well in portrait format. Playing a little in Photoshop with its Adaptive Wide Angle and a little more fiddling, including a change in aspect ratio and a little image rotation can produce a straighter result for the tower, which may be more acceptable.

More pictures on My London Diary:

Class War protest at Shard
Class War victory against Qatari Royals

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My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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