Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Are Smith and Corbyn two sides of the same coin?

Thinking the Unthinkable
by Les May

As the delegates left the Labour conference after the result of the leadership election was announced one of the people the BBC had assigned to cover the event asked an interviewee ‘How will Corbyn’s centrist MPs react’.

Now forgive me for asking but does not the whole history of the party, how it came into existence and where it derives much of its support and funding indicate that if it is anything at all it is a distinctly left of centre party?  If it isn’t and does not see its future as being just that, then why does it exist at all? 

As I have pointed out before the whole locus of British politics has moved sharply to the Right in the past thirty years.  Even Tory politicians like Ted Heath pursued policies which by contemporary standards would be viewed as dangerously left wing.  As William Keegan pointed out last year the Tory press attacks Labours policies which are ‘far less radical than those of the Attlee governments’.

One thing that even Corbyn’s fiercest internal critics cannot deny is that he has shifted the debate about what policies the Labour party should pursue sharply to the Left.  Both Angela Eagle and Owen Smith realised at once that there were no votes in promoting or advocating the Blairite policies.  Apart from Smith’s advocacy of a second referendum on leaving the EU he seems to have set out an agenda very similar to that advocated by Corbyn.

But I would urge a note of caution on both Corbyn supporters like myself and the ‘centrist’ MPs in the parliamentary Labour party. 

Re-nationalising the railways is a ‘no brainer’ to many Labour supporters but whether that would improve peoples’ daily experience of train travel depends upon whether you think that ownership is the problem or whether you think that it is more a question of how the railways are run.

Is the prime concern to run an ‘efficient’ service, i.e. an over optimised service being run at the lowest possible cost, or is it to run the railways as a public service.  By the latter I mean trains run sufficiently frequently and with sufficient seating to ensure that commuting is not a misery, and that the present over complicated ticketing arrangements will be abandoned and it will once again be possible to walk into any station and book a train to anywhere in the country at any time.

If the choice is for ‘railways as a public service’ re-nationalisation alone will not do the trick.  It needs a recognition that there will be costs to the public purse.

The MPs who voted to show that they had ‘no confidence’ in Corbyn seem to think that it his leadership which is the major obstacle to winning the 2020 election.  What they fail to recognise is that we no longer live in a predominantly two or sometimes three party political world.  Like it or not we  can no longer rely on a Scottish Labour vote and in England we now live in a five party world, Labour, Tory, Liberal, Green and UKIP.  Dividing the total vote in this way and factoring in the likely effects of the upcoming boundary changes suggests to me that there is a real danger that the Tories will win irrespective of who is Labour leader.

Preventing this may mean that Labour MPs and party members have to ‘think the unthinkable’, and both form a united front against the Tories and abandon uncritical support for the present ‘first past the post’ electoral system which it has been argued favours centrist policies designed to attract ‘swing’ voters in a few key constituencies.

I’d love to think that Labour could get the sort of electoral mandate that Attlee’s 1945 government had, but it’s just not going to happen.  Recognising this I can either ‘keep the faith’ or become a dissenter and run the risk of being called a ‘traitor to socialism’.  As I live in the real world and not a fantasy world I’ll choose the latter.

One of the claimed advantages of the ‘first past the post system’ is that it keeps the link between the individual MP and the voters, i.e. you vote for an MP first and the party second.  But think on this.  I’m likely to be moved into the Rochdale constituency under the boundary changes.  At present the MP is Simon Danczuk and if Rochdale Labour party endorses him for the 2020 election, pigs will fly before I’ll vote for him.  And I’m not alone.




Monday, 26 September 2016

Rotten Boroughs: Censoring News in Tameside?


We recently drew attention to the difficulty that some people were having in getting their letters published in Tameside's only weekly newspaper, the Tameside Reporter & Chroncile, that is owned by the registered social landlord New Charter Housing Trust, via 'Quest Media Network Ltd'. The CEO of New Charter Housing, Ian Hamilton Munro, is a Director of 'Quest' and was a Director, when it went under the name of 'Piccolo Communications Ltd', which had the same registered address as New Charter. The Trust, has very close links with the Labour controlled council in Tameside and also owns and controls Tameside Radio. 

There is evidence, that Tameside Council have been involved in censoring the local news.  In Autumn 2008, 'Private Eye', revealed that agents acting on behalf the council, had been holding regular meetings with local newspaper editors to suppress news stories.

The following (insert) was written for the document 'Guidance for local authorities on community cohesion contingency planning and tension monitoring' by the then Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in May 2008, and was written and signed-off, by the then assistant chief executive of the council, Steven Pleasant.


We are publishing below, in full, a letter that was sent to the newspaper from the trade union body, Tameside Trades Union Council, in August 2016, which wasn't published. We would be interested to hear from anyone who has experienced similar problems in getting letters published in this newspaper, as we are investigating what could amount to a potential conflict of interest and duty and are considering making a complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO).


14th August 2016

The Editor,
Tameside Reporter,
Cavendish Mill,
Ashton-under-Lyne.


Dear Sir,

In last weeks Tameside Reporter, you reported upon the weekly protest that is taking place outside Ashton Jobcentre, which has just completed its second year.

We would wish to point out that this protest, which began in August 2014, was launched to highlight how benefit sanctions are being used in what many consider to be an unfair and unjust way by Jobcentre staff. We know from speaking to many claimants who use Ashton Jobcentre that people have been sanctioned for the most petty and trivial of reasons:

For example, a young jobseeker was told by Ashton Jobcentre that he would lose his benefits if he continued to protest with us, outside Ashton Jobcentre. Another was sanctioned for three months, when he arrived 2 minutes late for an interview, and a man was given a 3-month benefit sanction, by Ashton Jobcentre, for making a spelling mistake.

A nineteen-year-old lad from Ashton, recently told us that he'd been sanctioned for one-month, because he'd applied for too many jobs and hadn't received enough interviews. As a result, this young man lost his home and finished up on the streets.

In the case of Tameside Trades Council delegate, Charlotte Hughes, her 19-year-old daughter, had her benefit stopped by Ashton Jobcentre when she told a prospective employer - who was offering her an unpaid work placement - that she was 23-weeks pregnant. This case was the catalyst that led to this weekly protest outside Ashton Jobcentre.

Although the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP), claim that they are making work pay, some 40% of Jobcentre workers, according to their own trade union the PCS, qualify for the state benefit Universal Credit, because they are "fantastically low paid." Some Jobcentre staff that are in receipt of Universal Credit, are now signing-on, and are facing possible benefit sanctions, because of the requirement to satisfy "in-work conditionality" which is currently being piloted at Ashton Jobcentre as part of the roll-out of Universal Credit.

The Government deny that Jobcentre staff set people up for sanctioning or have national targets for sanctions. But this is refuted by the PCS union that represents Jobcentre workers. They say that staff come under pressure to sanction jobseekers or face disciplinary action. Alan Davis, a former Jobcentre worker from Leicester, told a recent Channel 4 'Dispatches Programme', broadcast on 2nd March 2015 -

"The pressure was enormous. I just felt what they were asking me to do, was totally wrong - they were asking me to 'hammer people' who in their own way were doing their best to get a job."

Yours faithfully
Brian Bamford,
Secretary Tameside TUC

The Tameside 'Vision': A Library fit for the 21st Century!

Buckets collecting rainwater at Ashton Library

Have you noticed how British managers have suddenly become 'passionate' about everything they do - it's the latest buzzword. Incompetent hospital bosses are passionate about the hospitals they run and politicians and ministers are always so passionate, the word has become a standard bromide in professional circles and seems to mean almost nothing.

The Labour controlled council in Tameside, Greater Manchester, have recently conducted yet another consultation exercise aimed at reorganising its library services. In their questionnaire the council say - "We are very passionate about the much valued library service within our communities." and talk about a 'vision' of a library service fit for the 21st century.

How passionate Tameside Council are about their library service is a moot point. For the last two-years, the roof at the central library in Ashton-under-Lyne has been leaking in and nothing appears to have been done about that. Last week, there was panic in the computer room (not for the first time), when the heavens opened up and there was a torrential downpour which came in through the library roof. Staff hastily ran for buckets to collect rain water and sought to unplug computers in order to avoid electrocuting library users as the rain cascaded down the wall. 

Five years ago, Tameside Council outsourced its 'Facilities and Estate Management' to the global construction giant 'Carillion'. However, we have been informed that Carillion say that they cannot repair the library roof because they don't have a pair of ladders big enough to get up on the roof! Is this the same "major global infrastructure partner' which the Labour council in Tameside, speak so highly of? If it is, then two-years seems an awfully long time to wait for them to get a pair of ladders in order to repair a roof. So much for privatization!

Friday, 23 September 2016

Conference on Bullying & Blacklisting


Grappling with the paradox of Carolyn Wilson
by Brian Bamford
ON my way to the University of Greenwich for the conference organised by the Blacklist Support Group, I picked up a copy of the Morning Star with a leading story about an undercover policeman who had used the alias Carlo Neri, who had successfully seduced three women to infiltrate the RMT  trade union and other leftist organisations in the early years of the 21st century.  When I got to the conference a lass he targeted who used the name 'Andrea' described how he won her over with his plausible Italian personality. 
More revelations of the involvement of the security services and the police in the practice of blacklisting trade unionists and spying on radical organisations have been documented in the 2nd  edition of 'Blacklisted:  The Secret War Between Big Business & Union Activists' authored by Dave Smith and the journalist Phil Chamberlain.
The Blacklisting conference itself which lasted for two days last weekend, was attended by well over 200.  The Conference Programme was populated by many academics like Pro. Sian Moore (University of Greenwich), Dr. Jack Fawbert (Anglia Ruskin University), Pro. Keith Ewing (Kings College London) and Pro. Phil Taylor (Strathclyde University); trade union leaders like Gail Cartmail of Unite, Amanda Brown (Assistant General Secretary of the NUT), Roger McKenzie (Unison) and Matt Wrack of the FBU; legal advisers like the barrister David Renton and Shamik Dutta; and activists like Helen Steel of the 'McDonald Two' and a participant in the Pitchford Enquiry.
Issues such as bullying at work; the tragedy of modern performance management and its consequences for the workforce; Edna's Law; protection for whistle-blowers; the campaign opposing police surveillance; 'Angry Women' and the Pitchford Enquiry were all discussed at the conference.  All in all I told Dave Smith in the interval that this was another triumph for the London based Blacklist Support Group, and as a proud northerner I don't give my praise to Cockneys that easily.
Strange Paradox at the Blacklisting Conference
ZENO, the Greek philosopher who adopted the concept of paradoxes in philosophical debate may have confounded to find someone who has been party to a blacklist figuring at a conference on blacklisting.  And yet that is what happened effectively last weekend when Carolyn Wilson, a supporter of 'Angry Women' and recently elected as a member to the board known as Friends of Freedom Press the anarchist newspaper, featured prominently in a session entitled the 'Spy-cops plenary'.   The problem is that the body known as the 'Friends of Freedom Press', an anarchist board of directors that has responsibility for what happens at Freedom in Whitechapel, has itself allowed itself to become party to a blacklist promoted by its auxiliary management committee 'The Freedom Collective'.
It must be a strange form of double-think that allows someone like Carolyn Wilson to involve herself seemingly approvingly in a political blacklist operated by a body known as 'The Freedom Collective' and at the same time figure prominently in an anti-blacklist campaign that some of us as trade unionists at Tameside Trade Union Council, have been involved in since 2003.


www.northernvoicesmag.blogspot.comFreedom Collective Statement!  on this blog 09/08/2016

 

A Year in the Death of FREEDOM


(part 2 of, “Pensioner Attacked at Anarchist HQ”)

by Christopher Draper

WHEN Simon Saunders and Andrew Meinke dragged 75-year-old Brian Bamford from FREEDOM HQ in June 2016 it marked a new low point in their illegitimate occupation of the Whitechapel building. Lower even than that notorious day in October 2014 when Meinke closed down FREEDOM newspaper after 128 years publication with the inappropriate boast, “KROPOTKIN MIGHT HAVE STARTED IT BUT WE FUCKING FINISHED IT!”

 In part 1 of this article I examined the background to the former event, here I consider the activities of Meinke’s self-appointed “freedom collective” (FC) and the response of FREEDOM’s Board of Trustees (FFP) over the last year. 


In June 2015 a twofold task faced FFP:


                     To assess whether FC fulfilled FFP’s legal obligation to publish FREEDOM journal


                     If not, FFP must sell the building to finance the resumed publication of FREEDOM under an editorial team appointed by FFP 


A Ghostly FREEDOM

In the old days, to avoid legal difficulties, rail companies intent on closing down branch lines resorted to running “ghost trains” to support their dubious claim to continuity. It is an idea adopted by FC who pretend that offering a FREEDOM website with a post every 2 weeks (30 posts June 2015 – June 2016) and printing an occasional free-sheet (2 free-sheets June 2015 – June 2016) fulfils FFP’s legal obligations.  
In June 2015 the newly re-established FFP Board began to assess the performance of FC.   At that stage the “editors” were Adam Lawrence Barr and Ella Harrison, with Adam effectively running the show. He’s a student, like most recent FC editors with little knowledge or experience of anarchism but a compensatory enthusiasm for crude class analysis and violent profanities.  Of course, inexperience alone needn’t disqualify anyone from editing anarchist free-sheets but FREEDOM had (prior to the arrival of adolescent “class-warriors” ) a unique responsibility to maintain a high standard of intellectual and political discourse and analysis.  
Barr’s track record wasn’t propitious for he’d just been arrested for walking around with a banner bearing the insightful slogan; “Cameron, Clegg, Corbyn, Farage – All Fucking Wankers!”   A July 2015 re-tweet also appeared a little intemperate, “David Cameron is a fucking fascist cunt pass it on”!  
Adam’s 2015 Bookfair “FREEDOM” free-sheet would have shamed Albert Meltzer for the naivety of its politics and presentation but at least it had the merit of convincing sceptical members of FFP that they had a serious problem on their hands. Typically, the final words of the poster-style back page read; “CAN WE RIOT YET” but it’s unclear if the absence of a question mark exemplified a rhetorical flourish or incompetence.  
Mr Barr’s editorship of the website ploughed a similarly shallow furrow with its admiration for the trashing of a Shoreditch breakfast bar in September 2015 headlined, 'FUCKPARADE – What the Fuck is to be Done?'  Adam Barr assured readers that if the assault, 'offended the sensibilities of the mainstream liberal left as much as the reactionary hipster wankers the protest was ostensibly about, in a time of turbulent politics that can only be a good thing.' 

'Big Tent' or Straitjacket?

To be fair to Mr Barr, he is young and the relentless degradation of FREEDOM fosters a crude, intolerant, intimidatory climate that encourages aggressive rhetoric and inhibits sensitive expression of individual opinion. He wouldn’t last long if he acted otherwise. In autumn 2015 after interviewing a representative of the “Catholic Worker Movement” Adam felt the crack of class-warrior Nick Heath’s rhetorical whip:  “Oh dear, is FREEDOM reverting to its old big tent synthesis politics again? People like Catholic worker shouldn’t be given the time of day.”  Barr defended the interview but felt obliged to reassure Heath:  'And no. we’re not returning to big tent whatever.'  Despite the spat it’s significant that both Barr and Heath reject the former, 'big-tent' FREEDOM approach.   A free-sheet Barr issued to impress the June 2016 FFP AGM shows just how narrowed down and unworldly FC’s political vision has becomes.  Barr’s free-sheet didn’t mention the forthcoming EU Referendum but found room to print an impenetrable verse that reassured readers, “I fucking vaped with God”.  FFP remained unimpressed.
Public Eye
In October 2015 Lord Gnome investigated the antics of the FC rabble who were subsequently satirised in the pages of PRIVATE EYE.  Presciently the EYE concluded:  
'Regular visitors to Whitechapel art Gallery can anticipate some lively impromptu performance-art next door in Angel Alley in the coming months. And, naturally, a lot of swearing.'  
FC’s twitter feed spotted the piece:  'Accusing us of being oiks. Which we probably are, in fairness'.  One of FC’s tenants publicly supported the occupation but in doing so let the cat out of the bag, for as Barry Woodling pointed out in a subsequent EYE, FFP retain the building solely to publish FREEDOM journal and the self-confessed 'oiks' aren’t at liberty to act as rentiers.  FC knows this and so insistently claim (Andy Meinke, NV 16.6.2016) 'The Freedom Collective does not rent out any of the property'.   This is a barefaced lie as every single occupant of that building (and every single member of FFP) knows!  
Despite FC’s fondness for secrecy and anonymity I know far more about what goes on at FREEDOM than Mr Meinke imagines so he should be more circumspect in telling lies.  His own 'Budget Proposals 2015/16' for example, state 'Rents are £2100 per room' and suggest that would be an appropriate amount payable by the tenant who contacted the EYE.  In theory FC rake in over £8000 p.a. renting out a building that doesn’t even belong to them but they’re as inefficient in collecting the rent as they are at publishing  ...
End of the Road
The party’s almost over.  Even FC are reluctantly coming to realise their position is untenable.  The building has no fire certificate let alone disabled access and no prospect of obtaining or paying for insurance.  If a further fire resulted in injury to a tenant or consequent damage to the adjacent Whitechapel Gallery it would be difficult for anyone involved to deny criminal negligence.  The moral if not legal liability of individual members of FFP would also be difficult to defend.  
Despite this, FC are loathe to vacate the building for it is their powerbase. As long as they remain in occupation they enjoy a central London location for their self proclaimed 'Anarcho-Hangout'.  Their rentier business provides 'Bookshop Manager' Meinke with pocket money and the ability to distribute largesse to tenants by way of cheap accommodation.  This in turn generates spurious support from grateful clients.  FC exploit the cachet of the FREEDOM brand and address to legitimate and aggrandise themselves and altogether indulge in political empire building yet still they’re worried.
Friends and Enemies

Back in June 2015, FFP were a disparate bunch unconvinced that there was any need for urgent action but the behaviour of FC over the year has persuaded most members of the accuracy of the analysis we offered in, 'Who Killed FREEDOM?'  The performance of FFP itself has not however proved entirely praiseworthy.  


The Board met roughly bi-monthly throughout the year but after attending infrequently Martin Peacock resigned prior to the AGM.  Tragically, Board Member Sonia Markham passed away during the year and this deeply affected her long-time partner and FFP colleague, Ernest Rodker who consequently missed the AGM. 
A survey of the FREEDOM building commissioned by FFP revealed that it required at least £50K to bring it up to an acceptable standard. As FREEDOM owns no substantial assets apart from the property itself, in February FFP resolved to sell. Accordingly a letter advising all users of the building (FC and its tenants) that they should prepare themselves for just such an eventuality was drawn up by solicitor Richard Parry and issued by the Board.




At this stage the Board had not yet decided exactly how the capital raised by a sale would be disbursed. Realising his empire was under threat, Meinke and his FC associates invited FFP to a 'Social', ostensibly to repair their somewhat frayed relationship.  However, at the same time Meinke posted a call-out for FC, tenants and hangers-on to assemble to defend their 'Anarcho-Hangout' from avaricious FFP parasites intent on their eviction.  Guileless Board Members who turned up for the 8th March 2016 'Social' were met by a mob baying for blood and demanding that the informal letter from FFP be immediately withdrawn.  Board Member, David Goodway informed us that 'they feared if they didn’t comply they would be lynched'.  So FFP gave in and the letter was withdrawn.  Furthermore, an architectural partnership interested in purchasing the property, (another Parry initiative), dropped out after FC denied them access to the building.
Privately FFP confided that they feared we were right all along and they had initially credited FC with far more than they demonstrably deserved.  FFP were frankly embarrassed by FC’s efforts.  They concluded that the years record of, no books published, 2 poorly produced free-sheets, and an inadequate website failed to fulfil FREEDOM’s publishing obligation.  Nevertheless FFP itself was no beacon of good practice.  Although we maintained excellent 'unofficial' contacts with FFP after a couple of Board meetings it was apparent that Secretary Sorba didn’t intend to publicise their proceedings so I emailed Sorba, to request copies of FFP agendas and minutes.  After he failed to even acknowledge my request it seemed to have no more intention of performing FFP’s proper functions than formerly. 
A Meeting of Minds


In anticipation of their 22nd June 2016 AGM Richard Parry of FFP produced a concise report looking back over the previous year.  The key conclusions of this report are as follows:


                     FFP own the building, FC merely occupy it

                     The remit of FFP  “to facilitate anarchist publishing is very barely being continued”

                     Legal advice indicates that FFP’s legal obligations are unalterable
                     FFP cannot finance essential repairs and therefore a sale is under active consideration

                     The Board’s “attempt to move forward was shut down by the buildings users and their allies in a meeting billed as a Social” 


Despite our initial scepticism, Richard Parry has acquitted himself admirably.  As his report demonstrates, he accurately assessed the Board’s responsibilities, the occupants’ failure to fulfil the publication obligation, the unsustainable nature of the occupation and FC’s use of intimidation to retain their position.   Parry’s resolute approach to fulfilling his duty as a “Friend” made him so unpopular with the occupants that they’ve now elbowed him off the Board.  They achieved this by charging him with 'conflict of interest'.  Parry was accused of compromising his role as legal representative of a group both involved in the Pitchford Inquiry and liable to eviction from FREEDOM HQ.  A squalid, self-serving manoeuvre but no more than one has been led to expect from the shameless occupants of Angel Alley.  

Putting Up not Shutting Up 



Parry’s report fulfilled FFP’s primary task.  The Board now officially recognise that they are morally and legally obliged to act but unfortunately backed down when confronted by the mob.  Realising the Board needed help to stiffen its resolve, especially after Parry’s departure, an ad hoc group of Northern anarchists offered our services.  Labelling ourselves OFIN ('Our Friends in the North') we published the following programme of action and slate of four names to be nominated as candidates for Board Membership at the forthcoming AGM. 

1.                    Within 12 months, selling the 84b Whitechapel High Street property to liquidate FREEDOM assets
2.                    The creation and maintenance of a new, professionally designed, sophisticated FREEDOM website within 6 months of liquidation 
3.                    A Webmaster-Editor to be formally appointed on a bi-annual basis by a newly created FFP Publications Sub-Group (PSG) with an annual budget of 15K (1% of liquidation capital), to include a modest stipend
4.                    A three-person PSG to be appointed from within, and responsible to, FFP (by secret ballot if excess volunteers)
5.                    Furthermore, to challenge London-centricity OFIN proposes convening all future FFP meetings in Birmingham
6.                    All future FFP agendas and minutes to be published online


'If appointed, all OFIN candidates commit to working cooperatively and constructively with existing FFP members to revive the fortunes of FREEDOM.  On this basis we ask you to endorse the following: 

Brian Bamford - Rochdale

Christopher Draper - Llandudno

Martin Gilbert - Ulverston

Barry Woodling – Salford'
With a combined total of over 200 years of anarchist activism and a proven record of involvement with FREEDOM we were willing and able, if elected, to grab the FC bull by the horns and reclaim the FREEDOM heritage.  We each appended brief CV’s to our application documents.  
The response from FC was depressingly predictable:  'If we need a group called Annoying Dicks Who Want to Fuck Up Freedom Press we’ll let you know'  (Andy Meinke). 
A Propitious Time for Action  
The prospects for the AGM looked good.   By June 2016 the original nine members had reduced to just six and Ernest Rodker would be absent, leaving just five expected to attend the meeting and through a particular demand of FFP’s constitution both Stephen Sorba and Donald Rooum would have to temporarily stand down and could only return if formally agreed by the three remaining Board Members.   Of these, at least two could reasonably be expected to support our campaign.  Jayne Clementson’s is “old-school” anarchist, involved with FREEDOM since the days of Vero, Nicolas Walter and Colin Ward, she has an intimate and extremely negative opinion of Meinke’s rabble whilst David Goodway has consistently not only expressed a similar assessment but owes his own appointment to our determined campaigning.   He acknowledged this to me in an email of 5.7.2015, following the successful June 2015 reconstitution of the FFP Board:  'Once again hearty congratulations on all your hard work and intervention(s).  None of the positive developments on 24 June would have been achieved without them.'  
If at least two of the three had the courage to grasp the nettle they could vote off FC apologist Donald Rooum and the rather unreliable Stephen Sorba, and vote us (with our published programme of action) on.  Once Ernest Rodker returned we would have a Board of eight members determined to give proper effect to the conclusions of Parry’s report. If agreed, Sorba and Rooum might then be reinstated onto this strengthened Board.  Decent tenants would be treated decently, with sympathy and patience but FC would be obliged to leave forthwith.  The unique circumstances of the 22nd June 2016 AGM wouldn’t reoccur, it was now or never. 
Mr. Goodway, I Presume?
The four OFIN candidates had first to be proposed by an existing Board member and David Goodway was the obvious choice.  Our collated candidates' papers were posted to David Goodway on Manday 13th, June 2016, and he confirmed receipt on Wednesday 15th, June.  Curiously, he then prevaricated.  Brian Bamford assured Goodway, and several other FFP members he would attend the AGM to represent OFIN, yet even as he arrived at the FREEDOM HQ to address the FFP meeting he wasn't entirely sure whether our nominations had been formally registered by Secretary Sorba.  Before he had the chance to speak to Stephen Sorba he was confronted by Andy Meinke. 
FREEDOM or Tyranny? 

In consequence of what happened next the 75-year-old Brian Bamford was requested to provide a written report for the Metropolitan Police.  I have a copy of that report before me from which I quote at length: 
   'I paused not quite knowing which of the rooms the AGM was to be held in. Mr Meinke arrived at the top (of the stairs), where I stood, immediately after me. He had already been shouting after me: Well, look who’s here! and You can clear out! And he said: Pity I was a bit slow off the mark there!  
'I stood on the small landing at the top of these stairs and told them that I intended to attend the AGM company meeting of the Friends of Freedom Press. He glared at me and said No you’re not, you’re going out, and proceeded to push me around the landing presumably intending to get me down the stairs. At this point I took out my mobile phone to photograph Mr Meinke’s assault upon me. When he saw the camera he pushed me more violently and I fell towards a door of the old editorial office of Freedom newspaper…’ 

When Bamford sat down in the editorial office Meinke fetched an FC tenant named, 'Carolyn Wilson (who) then began to upbraid me and immediately grabbed my camera while Mr Meinke held me in position on the chair…'  Meinke then resumed his attempt to eject Bamford from the building but was interrupted by the arrival of Board Members….  'At some point David Goodway explained to Steve Sorba and the other Friends how he had witnessed Andy Meinke manhandling me and trying to force me to leave the premises.'  Andy Meinke was still objecting that the Friends are only the landlords and that he and the others had a right to run the building according to his own wishes.
   ‘Simon Saunders then arrived, reinforcing Meinke’s determined attempt to prevent Bamford from addressing the FFP AGM.  'In the end Andy Meinke agreed to give the Friends a concession of allowing me to address the AGM for 5 minutes…The meeting then began with the first item on the agenda being… the proposed nominations together with the OFIN program” however Secretary Sorba informed Bamford that the Board could not vote on OFIN nominations as Goodway had not submitted them! Secretary Sorba ”suggested these nominations be submitted at the next meeting of the Friends…he also asked that I wait outside and be prepared to re-attend when called on to do so…  I then left the room and as Jayne Clementson came to close the open door behind me we both noticed Carolyn Wilson sitting on the stairs outside the meeting fiddling with her mobile phone. Jayne made some joke about being careful of the “Collective” outside.  As I stood part way down the stairs she followed me and pushed me towards the door at the bottom of the stairs – this door was slightly ajar and Simon Saunders came to grab me and pull me off the stairs into the bookshop area and he was quickly joined by Andy Meinke.  At this point the two men proceeded to drag me across the bookshop floor towards the main entrance to the bookshop.  While this was happening Carolyn Wilson was inciting the men verbally…   They then deposited me in Angel Alley and when I rose to my feet Simon Saunders immediately shouldered me in the chest and I fell to the floor again. By this time there was a large number of people in Angel Alley around me: including Simon Saunders by the door, Andy Meinke and Carolyn Wilson who proceeded to snatch my briefcase from my hand as Simon and the others held onto me. Carolyn Wilson proceeded to open my briefcase and examine the contents . At this point, the man I later found out was called Jason Holdway intervened and asked Carolyn Wilson: Give him his case back. To which Carolyn Wilson retorted: No I’m not going to.'  
Immediate Aftermath 
Bamford, who has a heart condition, was left outside FREEDOM, bruised and with badly bleeding elbows.  When his assailants eventually returned his possessions all photographs of them assaulting him had been deleted from his mobile.  He afterwards received medical attention and was advised to refer the matter to the police.  Several Board Members subsequently contacted Brian Bamford to reassure themselves of his well-being but it is not yet clear if they will take decisive action or simply continue to collude with intolerable behaviour.  
Can they Sink any Lower? 
The outcome of these events is both shocking and bizarre.  Carolyn Wilson, who was previously unknown to either David Goodway or Jayne Clementson was appointed to join FFP as was Jason Holdway (Sorba and Rooum were also returned).  Despite Sorba’s invitation none of the members of OFIN are prepared to join an organisation that tolerates such intimidatory behaviour on their premises.  To refuse to act is to condone this mob rule.  
Whenever Meinke and Saunders objected to any aspect of our ongoing critique of their occupation of FREEDOM HQ we always hosted their remarks on the NV website, despite their frequent resort to crude language and anonymity.   FC, on the other hand, consistently refused to publish articles from us (even the 'Burnley Declaration'  signed by over 150 people) and Meinke banned Northern Voices' magazine from the Bookshop.  Saunders cynically labels all reasoned criticism as 'defamation' yet significantly fails to identify any specific inaccuracy.  As an academic teacher and commercially published author, as well as a lifelong anarchist, I always operate out in the open.  I don’t try to hide behind ridiculous aliases (“Rob Ray”, “Gawain the Cunt”, “Laura Dinosaur” to name but three 3 FC examples).  The practice of 'The Freedom Collective' stands in stark contrast. Who are the members?  Why do they conceal their identity?  They publish no accounts or minutes yet claim to 'represent the movement'.  Where is the accountability?
Much of my extended, and continuing, critique of Meinke and co rests on their own writings, of which Meinke’s arrogant and inappropriate crowing over his destruction of FREEDOM (above) is but one typical example.  Compare anything, in print or on the web, emanating from FC in recent years with, for instance, any edition of FREEDOM from the year 2000 (when I was a regular columnist) or any of the earlier FREEDOM books, articles or magazines produced by Colin Ward, Nicolas Walter or Vernon Richards.  You will be immediately struck by the distinct intellectual, ethical and political cleavage.  
Friends and Guardians of FREEDOM 
Sadly Mr Bamford received more support and sympathy from the Metropolitan Police than from either FC or FFP.  Last year when we nominated and campaigned hard for the accession of David Goodway we did so in the teeth of opposition from Richard Parry but ironically Parry then did more than any other Board Member to fight against the destruction of FREEDOM, whilst Goodway failed to even endorse our nomination papers.  Even Corbyn’s critics had the decency to manage that! 
When it came to the crunch Goodway retreated to the shadows, preferring to accommodate the baying mob than stand up for FREEDOM.  Last year he formally thanked me for launching his FFP career, this year he didn’t have the decency to apologise.  Unintimidated by recent violence or Saunder’s pitiful subsequent 'Fatwa' inciting acolytes to follow his example we will continue to shine the light of publicity onto this ongoing affront to FREEDOM.  We are much heartened by the encouragement of countless comrades around the country who commend our efforts, like John Couzin in Glasgow who posts on his 'ANNARKY' website:
  


'I still feel strongly that the demise of FREEDOM newspaper was a loss to the anarchist movement in the UK, 128 years of a chequered history down the tubes with the statement, KROPOTKIN MIGHT HAVE STARTED IT, BUT WE FUCKING FINISHED IT! Which to my mind seems an unfitting comment, which only adds insult to injury. It is good to know that there are those who are fighting hard to see the paper rise from this degrading epitaph.' 

We certainly are John and we invite you fair-minded reader to interrogate the evidence for yourself. For evil to triumph it is sufficient for good men (and women) to do nothing.

PENSIONER ATTACKED at ANARCHIST HQ!


by Christopher Draper
This is the first of a two-part-update on the management of Freedom Press.
ON the 22nd June 2016, a 75-year-old pensioner invited to address a small political meeting in London was dragged from the building by a couple of ruffians and deposited, bleeding on the pavement outside.  An accomplice egged on the bullies, snatched the pensioner’s mobile and outside on the pavement grabbed and rifled through the victim’s brief case, whilst he was restrained by his attackers.

After receiving medical attention the victim was advised to provide a comprehensive report of his assault to the Metropolitan Police.  I have a copy of that report before me and it identifies the assailants as Andy Meinke and Simon Saunders, who claim to be anarchists occupying the FREEDOM building in Whitechapel High Street.  This dramatic development demands an effective response from the body, “FRIENDS of FREEDOM PRESS” (FFP), which not only owns the building but is legally obliged to ensure it is properly used for the continued publication of FREEDOM journal.  Instead the self-proclaimed “FREEDOM COLLECTIVE (FC)” in occupation closed down the journal in 2014 with the triumphant declaration by Andy Meinke, “Kropotkin might have started it but we fucking finished it!”

This occupation of FREEDOM HQ is illegitimate.  The victim proposed a scheme to reclaim the building and restart publication so he was vindictively attacked and ejected by Saunders and Meinke.  I detailed the narrative background to this occupation at length elsewhere (“Who Killed FREEDOM?”) and here present an updated précis-analysis underlining the key roles of Meinke and Saunders.  This article concludes with the revival of FFP in June 2015.  Part two, “A YEAR IN THE DEATH of FREEDOM” (to be published here on August 1st,) will describe and analyse events at FREEDOM and FFP from June 2015 up to, and including, the violent assault of 22 June 2016.

 An Illegitimate Occupation

The FREEDOM building is owned by FFP, a legally constituted company with “Articles of Association (AoA)” and “Memorandum of Association (MoA)” registered at Companies House.  These documents commit the Friends of Freedom Press Board to 3 crucial legal obligations (nb my emphasis);

  • FFP exists to facilitate, “the printing and publication of the anarchist journal FREEDOM and books, pamphlets and journals published by FREEDOM PRESS (MoA 3(A)1)
  • FFP owns “the Freehold premises at 84b Whitechapel High Street, London, E1 and the fixtures and fittings and machinery situated therein for the purposes of making the same available to FREEDOM Press for the printing, publishing and disseminating of the journal FREEDOM and other literature” (MoA 3(A)2)
  • In the event of FREEDOM PRESS ceasing to exist or for any reason being unable to continue the publication of FREEDOM and other anarchist literature, to assist financially and promote the publication of anarchist journals, books and pamphlets by such persons, firms or bodies as the Company shall approve of” (MoA 3(A)3)
    As the 'Freedom Collective' ('FC') are demonstrably not engaged in “the printing and publication of the anarchist journal FREEDOM” they have no legitimate reason to remain. The FFP Board is therefore obliged “to assist financially and promote the publication of anarchist journals, books and pamphlets by such persons, firms or bodies as the Company shall approve of”. As the building is the Board’s only asset it must therefore be sold to finance the resumption of publication of FREEDOM by persons deemed suitable by Friends of Freedom Press.  As I will demonstrate presently, FFP formally agree with both this analysis and the need for action.  I will explain in Part Two why this has not yet come to pass.
  • The Aldgate Cuckoos
    The 'FC' have been allowed to get away with it for too long and have developed a misplaced sense of entitlement.  They NEVER believed in FREEDOM.  They only ever intended to exploit the legacy for their own ends.  Despite claiming allegiance to anarchism the 'Freedom Collective' have little understanding, appreciation or respect for the long-established ethics and values of FREEDOM.  In so far as they represent any form of anarchism it is a crude, self-proclaimed commitment to “class-struggle” and an alignment to the moribund “BLACK FLAG” politics of Albert Meltzer. Both Saunders and Meinke, claim allegiance to BLACK FLAG and exploited their base at FREEDOM to republish BLACK FLAG magazine.
    Whilst FREEDOM promoted tolerant, civilised, constructive open-minded anarchism, BLACK FLAG (as a faction and magazine) celebrated confrontation and destruction, dismissing critics with insults and intolerance. FREEDOM’s Aldgate HQ was bought half-a-century ago by veteran anarchist Vernon Richards to provide a publishing home for FREEDOM journal (founded 1886 by Peter Kropotkin and associates). Throughout much of his life Vernon Richards and FREEDOM were reviled by Meltzer and BLACK FLAG.  The Friends of Freedom Press Board Member and Socialist Historian, David Goodway, in his “Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow”, outlined Meltzer’s BLACK FLAG approach, he romanticised anarchist violence, imagined the existence of a significant historic anarchist working-class movement in the British Isles and altogether indulged in much fantasy.”
    Despite his prejudices, it was typical of FREEDOM’s inclusive politics that Meltzer was invited to contribute an article to the journal’s commemorative centenary edition. Instead Meltzer devoted a special BLACK FLAG supplement, “LIARS AND LIBERALS – THE OTHER ANARCHISM” to trashing the FREEDOM tradition.  FREEDOM stalwart, Nicolas Walter maintained that, “In a sense, anarchists always remain liberals and socialists, and whenever they reject what is good, in either they betray anarchism itself.”  Meltzer and BLACK FLAG derided liberal values and Saunders and Meinke energetically maintain that tradition.  In 2006, Saunders as newly arrived FREEDOM editor, belittled stalwarts of the Vernon Richards era as, “reeking of allotments, of forgetting class, of irrelevance and reformism”, whilst Meinke arrogantly dismissed Vero as “someone of a rather liberal bent”.
    In 2007, a relaunched BLACK FLAG announced; “BLACK FLAG has returned…we are working closely with the editors of FREEDOM…Now we are sure that is something that Albert Meltzer would never have expected”!
    In the Summer 2009, BLACK FLAG exemplifies just how closely Black Flag was working with the Freedom Collective as it featured a lengthy interview with Andy Meinke written by Simon Saunders (under the guise of “Rob Ray”).  Despite exploiting FREEDOM’s assets the 'Freedom Collective' ultimately achieved no more success with BLACK FLAG than they have with FREEDOM.
    Meinke and Saunders aren’t alone in their quest to eradicate all trace of liberal, open-mindedness from FREEDOM.  In January 1985, class-war warrior Nick Heath, then proclaiming Libertarian Communism, now leading the misleadingly named “Anarchist Federation (AF)”, wrote to FREEDOM rejecting its liberal editorial policy: “Why devote so much space to right-wing libertarians and anarcho-capitalists… I’m sure most of the readership…don’t want to read such trashAs Donald Rooum observed in an email to me of 6.3.2015:  “Nick Heath wanted the paper to stick to an anarchist communist workerist line, while the editors, when I was one of them, wanted the paper to be open to genuine anarchists of other persuasions and to arguments against anarchism.”   Rooum helpfully contrasts the open forum tradition of FREEDOM with the narrow “class-struggle”, party-line politics favoured by both Heath and Meltzer.  Rejecting the option of arguing out his opinions in FREEDOM, as Rooum explains, Heath, like Meltzer before him, “went off to found a paper and an organised group more to his liking.”  Rooum here, as elsewhere, is being disingenuous, for Heath and the “workerist…organised group more to his liking” is now headquartered alongside BLACK FLAGGERS Meinke and Saunders at FREEDOM HQ!  With no suggestion of a Damascene conversion it’s evident that FREEDOM HQ is now occupied by individuals opposed to the politics it was bought to promote. 
  • Regime Change
    To be fair to the class-war warriors, they didn’t force their way in.  They sneaked in through a gap opened up by Donald Rooum.  I’ve described elsewhere (“Who Killed FREEDOM?”)   how Rooum shoved out both FREEDOM’s existing editor and bookshop manager as Vernon Richards relaxed oversight and died (2002).  For the key role of FREEDOM editor Rooum imported a Marxist former General Secretary of the Socialist Party of Great Britain.  Rooum claims it was a modernising move designed to save money and spruce up the paper.  I agreed the paper needed a facelift but argued at the time that the unique politics of FREEDOM were being destroyed.  Slogans and depictions of petrol-bomb-throwing predominated and thoughtful analysis of alternative ways of organising society were rejected. Where eminent sociologists Laurie Taylor and Jock Young once offered insightful social analysis we now had an editor content to describe society as, “the fucking steaming pile of horseshit we live in”. Thus was established “New FREEDOM’s” literary house-style.
    The innovation of a “WHAT WE SAY” editorial column would have been risible were it not so ominously indicative of the arrival of authoritarian, sub-Marxist group-think. My correspondence with “New FREEDOM” charts the immediate and profound consequences of this regime change. Spurning Nick Walter’s advice, after 2001 FREEDOM not only rejected what is good in liberalism, it positively spat in its face.
    Lest sceptics fear I exaggerate, I offer a couple of observations of bookshop manager Meinke who relishes the change and welcomes the, “shift in the people attracted to FREEDOM.  Until 2002 it was virtually owned by someone who was of a rather liberal bent and that has shifted”. Meinke recognises the opportunistic nature of the takeover: “When Vernon Richards died he handed FREEDOM over to the movement on a plate but it was too surprised to notice. It was comrades coming out of the anarchist youth network who saw the opportunity with the paper and reclaimed it for class struggle.”
     
    From the outset, editors, in their own words, “enforced a strict class-first line”.  The unique FREEDOM ecosystem was shredded.  Meinke’s fellow assailant, Simon Saunders, admits the new regime, “broke with much of the old support network…severely weakened the structure of the paper…readers have been alienated, writers have stormed out”.
     The New Regime in Action
    The new regime systematically alienated FREEDOM’s readers, writers and subscribers. There’s some truth in the FC’s claim that the FREEDOM journal became unviable but they were the cause.  Inappropriate policies pursued by incompetent individuals.  When Saunders assumed editorship in 2005, he boasted of his ignorance of anarchism so why on earth was he gifted such responsibility?  The answer is helpfully supplied by Meinke:  "Within the FREEDOM Collective only a small minority were involved in producing the paper, not so much lack of commitment as not seeing it as central to what FREEDOM as a building was for”!  (nb This amounts to a total negation of the Friends of Freedom Press’s legal obligations)
  • Originally the Freedom Collective agreed to publish “Anarchists in Social Work” produced by FREEDOM traditionalist, Martin Gilbert, but then “lost the manuscript” so Gilbert, had it successfully published elsewhere.  When I sent a review of the book to FREEDOM, editor Simon Saunders eventually admitted, “The review was then lost, found, lost again, re-found and finally disappeared altogether.”
  • Perhaps Saunder’s incompetence rather than censorship was to blame but after elderly anarchist Barry Woodling was bundled out of Manchester Anarchist Bookfair in 2012, the FC simply refused to publish a letter signed by over 150 anarchists and socialists deploring this action. Although Donald Rooum revealed that the editor had received “threats” from Nick Heath he in any case justified the censorship by claiming “Any fracas within the movement should stay within the movement”.  It is just such collusion with censorship, bans, intimidation and violence that provides carte blanche for this most recent assault.  
    After publishing a very un-FREEDOM celebration of political violence entitled, “Beating the Fascists”, Andy Meinke had to hand £4000 of FREEDOM’s money to David Hoffman, a press photographer whose pictures had been stolen and printed without permission.  Hoffman said he would have settled for less but, “From the start Meinke refused to accept any need to apologise, let alone negotiate.  He didn’t actually say 'Fuck off, we don’t give a toss and there’s nothing you can do because we’re holy anarchists and can beat the shit out of you' but that was the subtext.”
    At that point Meinke & Co hadn’t yet entirely burnt through the last of a £70,000 legacy bequeathed by an old-school FREEDOM anarchist.  That went after Meinke forgot to renew the Buildings Insurance before the 2012 fire.
    Abusing and intimidating critics is de rigeur at FREEDOM.  Revolted by the FC’s continued, crude celebration of profanity and violence, in 2010, Ian Pirie, who had subscribed for 30 years (and his father before him) wrote, in sadness and disgust, to cancel, questioning, “What has this thuggery got to do with anarchism?...I will continue to do my best to propagate the positive and constructive aspects of anarchist politics where we I can. But FREEDOM is no longer any help in doing this.”  FREEDOM responded with a diatribe delivered by “Gawain the cunt Williams” (his self-chosen moniker) that concluded:  “Finally, Mr Pirie, maybe you should realise that if the word cunt offends you so much it might be because you are in fact…a cunt. FREEDOM’s been doing a cracking job.”
  • Donald Rooum popped up again at this point to defend “Gawain the Cunt” and accuse Pirie “of yielding to prudery…and sliding into intellectual snobbery”.  No one would accuse Meinke of prudery after reading his “Bookfair Song” (FREEDOM 24.10.2009);
     “Cos our scene is not a playground,
    For wankers to hang out,
    And pose at revolution,
    Whilst fucking us about”
    (plus 4 more similar verses and chorus)
    The failure to publish FREEDOM is sufficient ground to prove the illegitimacy of the FC, but for more than a decade successive, self-appointed “Collectives” revelled in their rejection of both the ideology and ethics of FREEDOM.  In their behaviour and propaganda they dance on the graves of FREEDOM stalwarts Vernon Richards, Colin Ward, Nicolas Walter, Philip Sansom whose legacy they so shamelessly exploit.
    A Sleeping Giant?
    For a decade or so decent anarchists hoped FREEDOM would reform but it proved impossible to shift the London clique from afar. Determined not to allow the FREEDOM heritage to be extirpated, in 2012, after collecting opinions and information from comrades around the country I initiated a campaign to reclaim the legacy (see “Who Killed FREEDOM?”).  As it was evident that FC was beyond redemption our immediate goal was to revive the FFP Board.  Originally constituted by Vernon Richards to hold FREEDOM assets and maintain publication, the Friends of Freedom Press Board retains full legal powers to liquidate the assets and resume publication.  The problem was that although FFP existed on paper it hadn’t convened for years and in recent times its Secretary had improperly conducted its affairs.  Could I shame the few surviving members to reconstitute the Board on a proper, legal basis and then encourage the Friends of Freedom Press to take action against the illegitimate occupants?
    Victory for Common Sense!
    The Freedom Collective was incensed as the light of publicity was shone upon its shameful activities.  The rabble couldn’t decide when to respond and when to keep quiet and the ill-judged outbursts of Saunders and Meinke encouraged anarchists around the country to provide us with further information and encouragement.  Having initially improperly insisted our nominated candidates for Board Membership, Peace Campaigner Ernest Rodker and Socialist Historian David Goodway, first gain the approval of the 'FC', the FFP Secretary realised the error of his ways. Following further intellectual jousting with an improperly appointed Board Member, sanity prevailed and the FFP finally reconstituted itself on June 24th 2015 to include Ernest and David our two nominated candidates.
    In proposing Goodway and Rodker we didn’t ask them to do anything other than act in accordance with their Friends of Freedom Press legal obligations to revive FREEDOM. Significantly, one of the FC’s favoured candidates was none other than “Gawain the cunt Williams”. When Gawain’s candidature was rejected by the Board and the full list of appointments revealed it appeared a “Victory for Common Sense”.  The confirmed new Friends of Freedom Press Board consisted of the following 9 members;

  • Jayne Clementson – graphic artist, long-time layout artist for Freedom Press
  • David Goodway – historian, author and admirer of the anarchism of Colin Ward
  • Martin Howard - Solfed member, writer of “Svartfrost” column in Freedom
  • Sonia Markham – anarchist, retire TV make-up artist and daughter of founding FFP member, pioneering feminist-anarchist and children’s author Olive Dehn
  • Richard Parry – solicitor and author of “The Bonnot Gang”
  • Martin Peacock – founder of the London Anarchist Bookfair
  • Ernest Rodker – veteran peace campaigner
  • Stephen Charles Sorba – FFP Company Secretary, printer with Aldgate Press
  • Donald Rooum – Stirnerite anarchist and cartoonist

 A Prospect of FREEDOM?

It was impossible to predict how this new cookie would crumble.  First the Friends of Freedom Press had to apprise and agree an analysis of the Aldgate occupation.  We trusted that the facts would speak for themselves, and that any fair-minded observer would recognise the accuracy of our analysis.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t be entirely sure whether the personal and political allegiances of each and every Board Member would not interfere with their rational assessment of the behaviour of the 'FC'.

Even if FFP agreed that there was no proper publishing going on at FREEDOM would FFP have the courage to act appropriately?  Would the FFP Board survive intact the predictable slings and arrows the 'FC' would likely employ to resist eviction?

We felt the FFP deserved a decent opportunity to build up mutual trust and offered to abstain from publishing a blow-by-blow commentary BUT promised that at the end of the Friends of Freedom Press’s first year we would publish a comprehensive analysis of both the 'FC' and FFP's recent activites.  This will be published under the title, “A Year in the Death of FREEDOM” on this site on August 1st 2016.

 

Christopher Draper (Llandudno)

13.8.2016