By Meredith Jacka
Socialist Party Australia
November 4th, 2013
‘How to make trouble and influence people – Pranks, protests, graffiti and political mischief making’ provides a brief yet diverse historical account of Australian radical politics over the last 225 years.
But unlike many other history books, this one is delightfully easy to read, you can pick it up and open it to any page and you’ll learn something. It could be about a convict uprising in 1798 or anti nuclear activists in 1986.
There’s no need to sift through dry, academic, text book style stuff, Iain McIntyre has done that for us, with the result being an aesthetically pleasing and easily accessible resource book for anyone interested in progressive activism.
You certainly don’t have to be a history buff to enjoy this but by the time you get to the end you will be armed with a very good picture of the ways in which people in Australia have developed through two centuries of struggle. McIntyre documents the rise and fall of various movements and how they are all intertwined throughout history.
The first section of this book is comprised of short accounts, all are a paragraph or two long, of regular people standing up for their rights.
From the moment Captain Cook landed his boat, and two Indigenous warriors tried to warn him off, right up until the Occupy movement in 2011, and everything in between. And if like me, you like visual aids, there is an amazing archive of photos to go along with it.
These snippets of history highlight the willingness to struggle and the progressive views and held by the working class since the beginning of the colonial era. The book also highlights the continuous and unrelenting exploitation by the ruling class, whether it is at the hands of governments, police or bosses.
‘How to make trouble and influence people’ pays particular attention to some of the more obscure social movements that wouldn’t otherwise be published in mainstream capitalist press. Very importantly McIntyre doesn’t neglect to mention the many battles fought by Indigenous people over the last two centuries.
The second section of the book contains interviews with pranksters and theatrical activists and again there are some very interesting insights in to how some of Australia’s most famous stunts came into being. From The Chaser team making it into the ‘red zone’ of the 2007 APEC convention dressed as Osama bin Laden to my personal favourite – the John Howard Ladies Auxiliary Fan Club. A group of women who frocked up like it was the 1950’s and followed John Howard around drawing attention to his racist and bigoted policies.
All of the interviews provide us with a many ideas for challenging the system and having a bit of fun along the way. However where this section falls flat is the lack of politics in the views of many of the interviewees. There is very little mention of organised class politics or even of the use of direct action. While the people interviewed have many creative ideas most lack a clear political strategy to actually build movements and win lasting social change.
I love street theatre, graffiti and pranksters, but these things alone can’t change the world. Certainly there are times when the radical left could use some added vibrancy, but we mustn’t lose sight of the strength of ordinary people collectively organised and fighting for a common goal.
How to make trouble and influence people By Iain McIntyre Published by Breakdown Press Available in Melbourne from the New International Bookshop, Brunswick Bound, Polyester Books and Readings Carlton. Sydneysiders can find it at Jura Books and Resistance Books. Everyone else can order it directly from pmpress.org