Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Leon Kuhn, Colin Gill - Topple the Mighty
If, like me, you enjoy walking around the streets of London looking at sites of historic importance, then you will have often raged at the statues to extremely wealthy, reactionary members of the ruling case. Often what distinguishes these people is not their work for the greater good, but their ability (or sometimes inability) to create and defend the immense wealth of the tiny strata at the top of society. Some of them so eager to protect this system of inequality they put tens of thousands of ordinary people to the sword.
This book is a breath of fresh air; the first part looks at the people behind a number of statues in London - war criminals like Bomber Harris and rich wastrels like George IV. The stories are well illustrated by Kuhn’s artwork caricaturing the statues and in the case of Nelson’s column, imagining the crowd that will one day pull down that ugly edifice.
But it’s on the subject of destroying statues and icons that this book really comes into its own. When May Day protesters attacked the statue of Winston Churchill in parliament square, labelling him an anti-Semite and a murderer, they were the latest in a long line of ordinary people, who destroyed the icons of hated monarchs and religious figures.
This little book brings that history alive, through the story of the English revolution and other revolts and in doing so reminds us that history isn’t the story of a few great men, but about working people struggling for justice.
So I hope this book encourages a few alternate historical walks through London. Indeed, I’m off to Holborn viaduct, where there is a statue to the man who killed Wat Tyler during the peasants’ revolt - something that really ought to be removed.
More information about some of the statues, and a walk through London with the authors, at Socialist Worker's website here.