Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Robert Hughes on 'God's Architect', Antonio Gaudi - 'Visions of Space'.

Robert Hughes, the historian, writer, and art critic, died recently. Although he wrote extensively, he will certainly be remembered for his excellent documentary television series 'The Shock of the New' in 1980, and 'Visions of Space' that was first aired by the BBC in 2003 and which dealt with the lives of three architects - the NAZI, Albert Speer, Mies van der Rohe, and the Catalan, Antonio Gaudi.
Although Hughes referred to Gaudi( 1852-1926) in this series as 'God's Architect' and pointed out that Gaudi's work such as the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona (Church of the Holy Family) is revered world wide today, and is one of Barcelona's most popular tourist attractions, this was not always the case. In July 1936, at the outset of the Spanish Civil War, Catalan anarchists set fire to to the crypt and destroyed the workshop and models. Of the 58 churches destroyed in Barcelona, only the cathedral was spared. It also seems that many of the Catalan intelligensia also disliked Gaudi's masterpiece.
Construction of the Sagrada Familia commenced in 1882 and Gaudi took over the project the following year. Gaudi spent the remainder of his life on the project until his death in 1926, when less than a quarter of the building was complete.


The printed version of NORTHERN VOICES 13, now on sale with all sorts of stuff others won't touch and may be obtained as follows: Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included). Cheques payable to ‘NORTHERN VOICES’ at c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.

Tel.: 0161 793 5122.    Email:

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Civil liberties group 'Liberty' threatens legal action if ICO doesn't prosecute companies for blacklisting!

The civil liberties group 'Liberty', have written to the Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, demanding that the Information Commissioners Office (ICO), prosecute 44 building firms that have illegally blacklisted 3,213 workers. In their letter to the Information Commisssioner, Liberty say:  'The limited action you have taken so far is completely inadequate.'

The letter also says that it is 'unlawful' for the Information Commissioner not to use his Data Protection Act and Human Rights Act powers and adds:  'You should seek to prosecute firms involved or hand over the results of your investigation to the police to enable them to bring prosecutions.'

Although 44 major UK construction companies including Carillion and Sir Robert McAlpine, have been linked to a clandestine organisation known as the 'Consulting Association'( C.A.) that was found to be operating a blacklist of workers following a raid by officers of the ICO in February 2009, and sharing this information illegally, with these companies for a fee, none of the companies involved with the C.A. have been prosecuted. Former Special Branch officer, Ian Kerr, who ran the C.A. from an office in Droitwich, was subsequently fined £5,000 after being prosecuted by the ICO.

Corinna Ferguson, a 'Liberty lawyer' told the Daily Mirror newspaper:"We can't believe the inaction of the Information Commissioner on a human rights violation of such wide public interest. If we cannot persuade the commissioner to discharge his public duty, we will consider seeking assistance from the courts."

The ICO told the newspaper that they had received the letter from Liberty and would be responding in due course. The GMB trade union is also taking legal action to force the ICO to contact people who they know are on the blacklist. The GMB estimates that that there are 2,863 people still unaware that they were on the list and being blacklisted for their trade union and political activities.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Northern Radical History Network October 2012 Meeting

The 3rd Northern Radical History Network meeting will take place on Saturday 6th October 2012 at Manchester Metropolitan University.

The day will run from 11am to 4.30pm in the John Dalton Building (Rooms E244 & E246), Manchester Metropolitan University on Oxford Road, Manchester.

Speakers include:

• Bill Williams, respected historian of Manchester and author of ‘Jews and other foreigners’: Manchester and the Rescue of the Victims of European Fascism, 1933-1940

• Steve Higginson, researcher and writer, who will be discussing his work ‘Writing on the Wall' and other Liverpool projects

The day will also include opportunities to share project work, concluding with open discussion around the themes of the radical history and its uses.

Programme for the day:

11am-11.30am Welcome, Introductions, Network business

11.30am-12.30pm Speaker 1- Paper plus discussion

12.30pm-1.30pm Lunch

1.30pm-2.30pm Speaker 2- Paper plus discussion

2.45pm-4.15pm ‘What is Radical History?’& projects

4.15pm-4.30pm Feedback, Comments, Close of Meeting

A map of the Manchester Metropolitan University All Saints campus is here (opens PDF).

A map of Manchester Metropolitan Map is available at  and
Any queries, please contact us.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

BLACK ROSES: The Killing of Sophie Lancaster

IN Northern Voices No.13 - the Summer 2012 issue, I interviewed Sylvia Lancaster about her daughter  Sophie Lancaster, who on 11th, August 2007 was beaten unconscious in Stubbeylee Park, Bacup and later died from her injuries in hospital. Sophie then was 20 years old, had just passed her A-Levels and was working out what to do with her life:  She was killed because she was different.

On the 19th, September The Studio of the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester will be putting on a performance of 'BLACK ROSES' with words by Sylvia Lancaster; Poetry by Simon Armitage.  The production will be co-directed by Sarah Frankcom and Susan Roberts.  In Northern Voices No.13, our arts correspondent, Christopher Draper placed the Royal Exchange among the top six theatres in the North of England.  BLACK ROSES continues showing until the 29th, September:  Box Office 0845 450 4808.

BLACK ROSES is an elegy for Sophie in which she tells her own story through a series of poems by the award-winning poet Simon Armitage, alongside the words of her mother, Sylvia Lancaster, remembering her daughter’s shortened life.

The piece provoked an unprecedented response when it premiered on Radio Four last year, winning the BBC Audio and Music Best Speech Programme of the Year Award.

Now re-imagined for the theatre with Rachel Austin and Julie Hesmondhalgh (CORONATION STREET), BLACK ROSES is co-directed by Royal Exchange Artistic Director Sarah Frankcom and award-winning BBC Radio Drama Producer Susan Roberts.

The printed version of NORTHERN VOICES No.13, now on sale with all sorts of stuff others won't touch and may be obtained as follows:

Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included). Cheques payable to 'Northern Voices' at c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.

Tel.: 0161 793 5122.


Tuesday, 14 August 2012

From Paris plages to River Roch, Rochdale

IT is some months now since Colin Lambert, leader of Rochdale Council, and I, were both sitting on a 471 bus as it began its depressing descent down Drake Street, past the wire-netting landscape that surrounds the high-vis jacketed labour force planting the new Metro tracks, approaching Rochdale Town Centre (see posting Tuesday, May 29, 2012:  'No threat to Touchstones').  On that very day Councillor Lambert, disturbed in his game of Sudoku, had assured me that by this Christmas the River Roch and its Medieval Bridges, covered by concrete early in the last century, would be uncovered and at last be visible to the townsfolk to enjoy. 

In 2010 in Northern Voices No.11, I argued that the River Roch ought to be exposed in the Town Centre, basing my argument on an article in the International Herald Tribune on July 16th, 2009 by Andrew C. Revin, in which he wrote:  'The restoration of Cheonggyecheon (river in Seoul) is part of an expanding effort in cities around the world to "daylight" rivers and streams by peeling back pavements that was built to booster commerce and serve automobile traffic decades ago.'

If Rochdale's Labour Councillor Lambert carries through his promise to open up the River Roch and creates his socalled 'culture corridor', he will, perhaps unwiitingly, be reflecting what the current Socialist mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, is now intending to promote with 'Paris plages (beaches)' and other planning decisions.  Bertrand Delanoë is reversing a previous era of urban planning in Paris brought about in the 1960s under president Pompidou, in which both banks of the Seine were paved to become urban expressways.  Mr. Delanoë says:  'We are committed to transform the road along the riverbank into a place of life, beauty and culture.' 

In September, a kilometre, or just over a mile of the right bank, starting at the City Hall, will be sharply narrowed, with a series of six new traffic lights designed to slow traffic.  Along the riverside, there will be more pedestrian walkways, pontoons for electric boats, riverside cafes and bars.  Next spring, two and a half kilometres of the left bank will be shut entirely to cars, from between Musée d’Orsay and the Pont de l’Alma, converted into an 11-acre park with volleyball courts, sundecks, and floating gardens perhaps including a branch of the well-known cafe and restaurant from the Buttes Chaumont Park in the 19th arrondissement, Le Rosa Boheur:  this has been nicknamed 'guinguette' and is an informal place for eating, drinking and dancing.   Elsewhere in France there are other attempts to take back the city rivers as in Bordeaux under Mayor Alain Marie Juppé, in Lyons and Toulouse, where there is a project to build a riverside park the size of Central Park in New York.  I wonder if Councillor Lambert's 'culture corridor' and the Council's exposure of the River Roch in Rochdale, will match any of these French projects?   
The printed version of NORTHERN VOICES No.13, now on sale with all sorts of stuff others won't touch and may be obtained as follows:
Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included).  Cheques payable to 'Northern Voices' at c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.
Tel.: 0161 793 5122.

Workers sacked and replaced by prison labour. POA says government's use of prison labour, is immoral and disgusting!

Earlier this year the Daily Mail newspaper, ran a story that the Swedish company IKEA, had used political prisoners in STASI camps in East Germany during the 1970s and '80s to make the IKEA sofa. Mail readers were told that prisoners working three shifts a day were used to assemble cheap furniture for the company whose founder, the Swedish billionaire, Ingvar Kamprad, had been an active recruiter for a Swedish NAZI group the SSS, while a young man. In 1987, IKEA had also ordered 45,000 tables to be manufactured in Cuba, most of which, had also been made by prisoners. The newspaper stated that all this had been revealed on Swedish national television and that Kamprad, had apologised and doubled his charitable donations to £100m.

Now, as we all should know, the former GDR (East Germany) and Cuba, are Communist country's and amongst other things, what is implicit within this story written in a right-wing English newspaper, is the view that the use of prison labour is what you might expect from any beastly communist regime that imprisons its citizens for their political opinions. We are expected to be shocked by this, because we're being led to believe, that such a thing could never happen in a country like little old England.

Of course, prisoners have always undertaken work within prisons and are often glad of it. But as Britain heads towards a triple dip recession, the clueless Con-Dem government, have latched onto a novel way to boost the profits of companies which has the potential to undercut the wages of those in work, and to put more workers on the dole.

Increasingly, what we are now seeing in Britain is the use of prison labour to work outside of prison for a pittance, for the benefit of private companies, which is euphemistically described by the government as 'training' or 'work experience'.

Last week, the Guardian newspaper revealed that dozens of prisoners from Prescoed prison in Monmouthshire, Wales, were being ferried in busses to go to work in Cardiff for a call-centre that is operated by a company called 'Becoming Green' a roofing and environmental refitting company. The prisoners are being paid the princely sum of £3 per day and according to the newspaper, since being taken on, the company has fired 17 paid members of its staff. Although not 'political prisoners', the Guardian says their convictions range from murder to fraud and drug offences. A former employee of the company told the newspaper:

"As they started bringing more and more in, they (the company)started firing people... They would have kept their jobs if it wasn't for the prison thing... Everyone was pretty miffed because at the end of the day there's no way you can compete with £3 a day."

The company confirmed that since starting the prisoners, it had sacked other workers for "performance issues" but denied that they had been sacked because it was cheaper to hire prison labour. The Ministry of Justice (MoJ), said they had sought assurances from the company that the prisoners would be put into "genuinely vacant" posts.

Steve Gillan, the General Secretary of the Prison Officer's Association (POA), said:

"For any company to rely on the cheap labour of prisoners was 'immoral and disgusting'. The POA wants to see prisoners working and leading law-abiding lives, but not at the expense of other workers being sacked or laid off to facilitate it."

GMB Blacklisting Motion for Trades Union Congress 2012

Page 15:  Illegal corporate bullying

Congress agrees the maintenance of secret lists of individuals or groups, (so-called 'blacklisting'), is illegal corporate bullying causing misery for individuals and their families.


i.  condemns activities exposed in 2009 when the Information Commissioner’s Office raided the Consulting Association, which operated lists on behalf of over 40 UK companies including Carillion, Balfour Beatty, Mowlem, Laing O’Rourke and Wimpey, and maintained records on trade unionists, politicians, journalists, lawyers and academics.

ii.  agrees with Keith Ewing this was ‘the worst human rights abuse in relation to workers’ in the UK in 50 years.
iii.  is alarmed that only a fraction of the 3,213 listed are aware of their inclusion.

iv.  believes the ICO list is evidence of an endemic, systemic and deep-rooted culture.

v.  agrees the level of wrong-doing and abuse exposed in the construction industry is equivalent to newspaper phone-hacking.

vi.  welcomes assurances won by Labour MEPs from the European Commission on ‘blacklisting’ of trade union activists.

Building on the resolution agreed by Congress 2010, Congress instructs the General Council to:

a.  campaign to expose these illegal activities.

b.  enable the ICO to reveal the names of the known victims of the Consulting Association.

c.  call on politicians to bring social justice for the victims and their families.

d.  encourage public bodies to review whether public contracts be awarded to companies involved in such activities.

e.  call for a public enquiry on a par with the Leveson Inquiry and changes in the law to make 'blacklisting' an imprisonable offence with unlimited fines for damages.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Rob Ray's Response to 'Tales of Hoffman' etc

This reply has been a while in compiling, as Hoffman has, for a man regularly protesting how little he cares about the opprobrium of the anarchist set, been remarkably hardworking in his efforts to send letters to pretty much anyone who will listen to him say what a great guy he is and how Freedom is basically Dr No's richer, more unscrupulous successor.

I'm dealing here only with direct allegations Hoffman has been making over the last couple of weeks, in an effort to clarify matters.  The issue of how the broader left deals with intellectual property, which is often the only way for writers, photographers etc to make a living out of capitalists but which also opens us to pathetic in-fighting over an issue that Proudhon pretty much put to bed over 120 years ago, is a much bigger argument which really deserves its own post.  That's something I can't dedicate time fully to now, as I have more practical matters around helping sort out the Press to attend to, but which I hope to come back to sometime.

In this case, the nutshell version of our position is: We got photos from the authors of 'Beating the Fascists' which they said were theirs and fine to use, which we believed.  We scanned them, gave them back and published. Hoffman then came in demanding the photos, which we didn't have, and the names of the authors, which we couldn't give as they were confidential sources who could be endangered if their names were officially linked to a book about street-level fighting.  Eventually, maintaining they had the right to them (fwiw I believe that although the law says otherwise they are probably telling the truth), the authors did us a favour and handed the folder over, though allegedly not with all the pictures. Hoffman responded by demanding we pay £4,000 and, not being able to afford a court case or put individual collective members at serious financial risk, we paid.

There is some disjointed and semi-repetitive stuff below, which is in the nature of the diverse sources from which it is cobbled, but hopefully it should cover the majority of the issues raised.  Other than for Hoffman himself as the person I am responding to, I have removed full names throughout, as is standard practice to avoid outing radical comrades permanently in the public domain.

Finally, as a little disclaimer, I'm only writing as an individual here.  As a collective Freedom has resolved to leave matters with the original statement and will make no further comment.


'I have 104 items in my "Freedom" robbers folder, that's 10 times what there should be and that's because I bust my balls trying to find them a cheap easy way out.'

It is quite possible that other mistakes have been made over the last few decades of Freedom's existence, as of the many collectives which have kept it running only a limited number included people with the time, energy and expertise to properly check up on photos used. If there are a load of other copyright infringements in our body of publications, it would be good to know about them. However at present I have no idea what he’s talking about here.


'It seems that the current collective hasn't sufficient conviction in their own case to allow any of this on their site.'

Actually he was offered the chance to send in to the collective for a decision on right to reply on three separate occasions ( ) and never did so, to the best of my knowledge. I’ve only been able to respond to the points below, which are from an email Hoffman has been circulating to people making inquiries, because a friendly comrade passed it on.  At this point my guess is more people have seen his many, many posts on the matter than have actually seen our statement (not that he offered us right to reply...)


'They are in no danger of bankruptcy.'

Actually we’ve been behind on our gas bills, the business rates and have been unable to pay for basic repairs to the building. We’re hopeful that donations we've been receiving due to this debacle will keep us running for now, but the only major assets we have are three rooms full of books, which sadly aren’t recognised as legal tender.


'I'm told that FOFP has paid bookshop wages and met other expenditure. If true that would break their 'dormant' shield.'

I doubt anyone 'told' Hoffman any such thing, because it’s nonsense. All wages are paid by the Press via proceeds from donations, sales of books, papers and such. The collective also pays the balance of the rates that rent from other groups doesn’t cover, hence having had to put off things like paying for gas and electric recently, or our inability to replace broken windows, or the fact we’ve been unable to stump up a £365 bill to put an A-board out on the high street, or the pay cuts that our few remaining paid members have had to take.

Anyone who’s visited Freedom at any point over the last few years will be able to testify to the generally run-down nature of the building, the foreshortened store stock etc. It’s not because we like keeping it that way while we sit on a hoard of gold upstairs, but because we have very little money.


'Freedom also owns a holding company with the building worth well over £1m (they deny that but had it valued recently - let's see the valuation?)'

The building is worth £400,000 according to an estate agent we got in in 2007 or so - they don’t give written valuations. The figure, which is lower than others in the borough, is due to its position in an industrial area and lack of planning permissions. It's almost certainly worth less now.

However, Freedom Press couldn’t sell the building if we wanted to, it’s owned by the Friends of Freedom, which is a different collective with a responsibility to not just the Press, but the other six or so groups involved and the wider London movement, which uses it for a huge variety of events and meetings. There is literally no way we could replace the building with something similar elsewhere and even if we could, it would have taken substantially longer to find somewhere else and get a buyer in this market than Hoffman is suggesting.

Either way even if we could sell the building to pay for his snaps, it certainly isn't his "ethical" right to demand the destruction of one of the few remaining bricks-and-mortar assets of the anarchist movement to pay for a single error by the 2011-2012 collective. Even if the 12 members of the current Press were Bane, the Joker and Ra's al Ghul rolled into one (we aren't), most of us will almost certainly be gone in a decade or less, as is always the case for volunteer-run organisations, and his only "victory" from it would be a legacy placing him in the unenviable position of having achieved what Combat 18, the combined efforts of the secret state and a grab-bag of other nasties have been unable to do.


'There have been a few hints at much larger sums than my £4k going adrift in one of the threads I saw. Maybe M's Crow Kollective, not sure, they blocked me when I tried to post.'

This is just clutching at straws – M doesn’t take any money whatsoever and is simply a volunteer in the collective. I can understand Hoffman wanting to discredit him though, after his little stunt posting up a picture of a dead crow with a prominent copyright notice up on M’s Facebook page (M was the only collective member whose Facebook he was actually on) went so badly wrong.


'Re your "it was a honest mistake on their part." that's not the case. The question of copyright was raised at the collective meeting that decided to publish the book and just brushed aside.'

Because as far as we knew the photos were AFA’s (Anti-Fascist Action's).


'Sometimes they say "it was a honest mistake". Other times they say that they thought they had permission - if that had been so then how come they never even told me they were publishing or gave me a credit?'

Because we thought they were AFA’s, ie free to use however we liked. We didn’t credit the authors either as it happens – guess why? I’m not sure how more simply to put this. Our mistake was not to investigate further, and we’ve held our hands up to that.


'The initial correspondence which would have settled it for a few hundred.'

Actually, as far as the person who was dealing with it at the time recalls, Hoffman took an extremely long time to even point out which photos were his, let alone put in a price. When he did so, it was on condition that we hand over photos we didn’t have and failing that, the names of the authors, which we couldn’t give as it goes against every journalistic ethic to out confidential sources who could face serious jail time as a result.


'W claims I tried to make him reveal his sources but then little of what he says holds up to examination. I have an email from him asking if I am trying to get him to name sources and my reply saying that I am not.'

From a Trading Standards letter we got in April:

"Again as you are aware, Mr. Hoffman is demanding that the prints of the offending photographs used in the book, together with any others from the file to which he owns the copyright, are returned to him forthwith. However, to date, the authors have refused to comply with this request.

"Hence in order for me to further my investigation into this matter it would now seem necessary that I speak to the authors or those representing them. I am therefore formally requesting from you the names and contact details for the authors or their representatives."

Now not only does this bely his claim that W is lying, not only would doing so have potentially opened the way for court cases, this is documented evidence that Hoffman reckoned we didn't have the photos - making his "they could have settled early" claim utterly meaningless.


'Left me looking for other ways to track down my prints - which required getting more info on the people concerned.'

Well that’s the crux, isn’t it. Hoffman was putting us in the invidious position of having to choose between ratting out confidential sources and paying out substantially larger sums of money than NUJ rates. What he appears to be taking an “ethical stand” on for not inconsiderable cash gain is his right to force radical publishers to break their codes of ethics (not to mention those of his own union (No.7)).


'Since I'm being so widely monstered anyway I might find time for a bit more research and another claim or two. If it really is true that they've been ripping me off for 20 years then it's a tribute to their ineffectuality. I've been on dozens of demos every year and have never seen a single one.'

Or more plausibly, their story is pretty accurate and Searchlight originally gave the photos away so no-one bothered to track them, and it’s only now as Hoffman is approaching retirement and (so I hear) has managed to alienate pretty much every picture desk in the country that he reckons he has nothing to lose by cashing in as fully as possible. For a man as “ethically” litigious as Hoffman, it seems inconceivable that he would have simply not bothered to check up on a group that had actively stolen his copyrighted material for upwards of two decades, or even mentioned the loss.


'Then it turned out that many of the photos in the book had been scanned from prints that AFA [our bold italics: Northern Voices] or RA had stolen from a magazine.  A worker there had drink and mental health problems and they'd exploited him.  That pissed me off and, more professionally, I wanted to recover those stolen prints (my property, loaned to the mag) to stop them being used again.'

Again, not the way they tell it, which was that the photos were in return for intelligence. Now I can’t say for certain who’s telling the truth, but again, why did no-one bother to go after the photos once they’d been “stolen”? And why would AFA even bother going after them in the first place if it was highly likely any publication using them would get into trouble for breaching copyright, as we did?

It’s the 20 years of total inaction that made (indeed makes) AFA’s assurances so plausible, while Hoffman seems to be suggesting he simply didn't notice that they were gone (which I can’t help but circle and link to other lines of his elsewhere about these photos being his much-cherished “life’s work”).


'Freedom refused to do anything to help, claimed they had no idea where they were, couldn't contact the people etc.'

There’s no “claim” about it.  We didn’t have them as we’d handed them back, and weren’t about to turn over the names of the authors.


'I was still keen not to issue a summons until everything else had been tried so I brought in Trading Standards as the lightest of my heavy weaponry. That brought about an agreement to bring the file of prints into the office for me to identify my ones and take them back.'

ie.  To spare us worse we were given prints to hand back.  And note the second part.  By Hoffman's own words he hadn't even identified which ones were his - surely a simple matter of picking up the book, given how important to him they are - until after he'd brought in Trading Standards [our bold italics- NV] to demand names and addresses.  Which somewhat undermines his claim that we were made a realistic offer early on.


'There were many empty pockets that still had the marks of the prints that had been in them.'

Again, there may or may not have been missing shots but that's nothing to do with us, why would we hold back something we can’t use and which we’ve already admitted Hoffman has a legal claim on?


(Hoffman’s “quotes”)

DH:  'Maybe you can put some pressure on them [AFA / Anti-Fascist Action] to come up with this file [containing the prints of mine that AFA had stolen] then?'

Collective member:  'I think we should. We made no effort to clarify whose photographs they were.'

What he’s done there is conflate the views that he says one member expressed with those of the collective. Even so, it actually somewhat corroborates our version of events, as his “insider” - indeed his one and only quoted source of information - suggests that we didn’t have the prints and thus couldn’t initially give them all to him in return for his “reasonable rates”.

Personally, I was under the impression that they were AFA’s, as was the rest of the collective. We have all since admitted that we should have checked further, but that’s far from the conspiracy to defraud and steal that Hoffman is accusing us of, let alone a justification for the punitively high damages he demanded.


Now, moving on to his somewhat shorter piece on  I’ve already answered most of his allegations there, and afaict the majority of the post is about how 'hurt' and 'betrayed' he feels (all of which would assume a deliberate malicious intent to steal on our part that, as I hope I’ve shown above, wasn’t there) but there’s a couple of new ones.


'Several of the photos were marked clearly “Copyright David Hoffman”.'

The sub doesn't remember them having clear copyright notices but assuming they did, in any case this would ...

a) be irrelevant if ownership has been given away (as we were told it had been by the people actually holding them at the time),

b) assume that the layout person was checking for such (which they wouldn’t if they believed the pics had been freely given to AFA) and

c) suggest that we might actually decide to proactively put the real name of an anti-fascist photographer in the public domain - something which is traditionally rather frowned on given that naming journalists has historically often seen them targeted for reprisal. It may be his legal right to force us to stamp every single book with "some of these photos are by David Hoffman," but it's not normal practice.


'I support anti-racist and anti-fascist activism. I make no money from that.'

Fact is he's made his living from photographing far right v far left for over 30 years, saying he "made no money" from it is farcical. And in this case Hoffman has walked away with around £4,500 from suing people who have tried to get important anti-fascist works into the public domain (and as he admits, we actually made a loss from doing so). I haven’t heard of that sum dropping into any anti-fascist bank accounts yet, though doubtless it would be much-appreciated.


'Freedom spun that as me trying to get the “names of sources”.'

'Spin' would suggest that this is not in fact what the line in the Trading Standards letter saying 'I am therefore formally requesting from you the names and contact details for the authors or their representatives' actually means.

Hoffman: a profile

Now on to who Hoffman really is. I don’t think I actually need to use my own descriptive powers, or report what I’ve heard from his colleagues about his behaviour on demos, or on how he’s regarded within the NUJ generally – anyone with some mates in the union can ask around and get the skinny. I’m just going to post three links and let you judge the reality of this 'left wing sympathiser'.

First, this is a link to an incident in 2009 during the election campaign to decide on an editor for the Journalist, the in-house magazine of the NUJ:

Second, this is a link to Hoffman successfully suing a charity for use of his pictures, even though it was accepted they had done so in error, rather than deliberately:

Third, this is a link to a conversation about Hoffman’s background. While it gets distracted a lot and is mixed in with some vitriol against his actions in suing Freedom, the explanations and observations on his potential motivations are, shall we say, interesting.

And that's it from me for the moment, if you made it this far congratulations. You're clearly made of stern stuff, because frankly if I hadn't had the motivating factor of putting right a laundry list of inaccuracies and self-serving paranoia I doubt I would have.
Posted By Rob Ray: Aug 11 2012 13:40

Judge rules benefit sanctions unlawful after DWP fails to comply with its own regulations!

Thousands of unemployed benefit claimants who lost money after being sanctioned, may be due a refund following a judicial review brought by two unemployed jobseekers.

In a fifty page ruling, Mr. Justice Foskett, declared that a six-month benefit sanction imposed on Jamieson Wilson a 41-year-old Midlands lorry driver who refused to work unpaid for six-months on the government's 'Community Action Programme (CAP), because he considered it 'forced labour', was unlawful because a letter sent to him by the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) was "not sufficiently clear and precise to comply with the government's own regulations concerning benefit sanctions." After being sanctioned, Wilson was forced to live on handouts from family and friends after being stripped of his benefits.

The ruling will apply to tens of thousands of jobseekers who received the same or similar letters and were sanctioned. In his ruling, Foskett said:

"It should not be necessary to ferret around for what most people would be inaccessible regulations to find out his or her position...there could be no question of sanctions being validly imposed if no proper notice of the sanction consequences was given."

The ruling says there had been a catalogue of errors surrounding Wilson's right to benefits. He had been told his benefits could be stopped for up to six-months if he refused to participate in the 'CAP' but his benefits could only have been stopped for two weeks.

A claim brought Cait Reilly, a 23-year-old geology graduate from Birmingham, that working for her dole money for 'Poundland', breached Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), that prohibits forced or compulsory labour, was dismissed by Foskett. Although both claims brought by Wilson and Reilly contended that being forced to work unpaid for their benefits amounted to 'forced labour', Foskett ruled that the government work-for-your-dole schemes were "a very long way removed from the kind of colonial exploitation of labour that led to the formulation of
Article 4." But in the Reilly case, he stated that the DWP had broken Jobseeker regulations because she had been wrongly told the 'Work Experience Scheme' was mandatory, when in fact, it was only mandatory after she'd agreed to take part.

Lawyers acting for Reilly and Wilson had also argued that because the DWP had failed to publish enough information about the schemes setting out jobseekers rights and responsibilities, the schemes were unlawful. This claim was also rejected by Foskett.

Although the judge in this judicial review dismissed the main claim that working-for your-dole money was analagous to 'slavery' or 'forced labour', many who have been forced onto these government schemes, perceive it to be so. Likewise, so do the firms who have pulled out who say involvement in the schemes, is damaging their reputations. It is difficult to see how a scheme described as 'mandatory work activity', could not be forced labour even if if it doesn't fall within the meaning of Article 4 of the ECHR. Moreover, there is little evidence that these work-for-you-dole schemes increase peoples' chances of finding work. People who refuse to take part get sanctioned and face destitution and there is increasing evidence that these schemes, are undermining the pay and conditions of those in work. Naturally, employers are attracted to workers costing very little and people who work for nothing, are even more attractive. The government says that it wants to end the "something for nothing culture." We couldn't agree more! Why should the British taxpayer be paying a subsidy to high street stores making billions in profits by providing them with free labour. If these companies want workers, surely, they should be paying for it.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Robert Hughes: No Cookbook Art Historian!

Robert Studley Forrest Hughes, art critic and historian, born 28 July 1938; died 6 August 2012:
Northern Voices drew on Robert Hughes in its issue Number Two from his book 'Barcelona' (1992), in which he had repeated a conversation he had had with the Catalan artist, Salvador Dali, in which Dali had told him that the great unknown modernist artist (apart from himself) was Joseph Pujol.  Pujol, as Robert Hughes writes:  'performed under the nickname of Le Petomane, the Fartomaniac.'   For us, Hughes was an anarchistic art critic who so contrasted with the gentle anarchist art critic of the middle of the 20th Century, Sir Herbert Read, and the 'Toff' 1970's presenter of 'Civilisation', Lord Kenneth Clark.  And yet, on the day of his death at the age of 74 this week, one commentator on Radio Four's 'Front Row' actually likened Hughes to the 19th Century art critic, John Ruskin.  It was Hughes presentation of 'The Shock of the New', that tackled the job of criticising and analysing modern art in a country, Great Britain, that was probably the most sceptical of its value.  After all, hadn't Wyndham Lewis, the Vorticist, long ago warned us all of fashions in art in his brilliant essay 'The Demon Progress in the Arts'.  Robert Hughes on TV and in his book has helped a sceptical public to make sense of modern art in the late 20th Century.

Besides the Shock of the New, Hughes wrote The Art of Australia, Heaven & Hell in Western Art, The Fatal Shore, Lucien Freud, Frank Auerbach, and Nothing if not critical:  Selected essays on art & artists.  The book by Hughes that I am most focused on right now is Barcelona (1992), mainly because I am about to review the Liverpudlian Professor Paul Preston's recent book The Spanish Holocaust.  Knowing Spain and the Spaniards, I am impressed by how much better the Australian art critic is at getting under the skin of the subject than the anointed English Professor Preston.  In Chapter 2 of The Spanish Holocaust, which Professor Preston entitles 'Theorists of Extermination' he concentrates on the tendency of the right-wing theorists to use ethnic or perhaps racial categorisations to distinguish themselves from their Republican opponents on the left.  Thus, Preston is able to quote from Onésimo Redondo Ortega writing in the fascist monthly JONS*'Marxism, with its Mohammedan utopias, with the truth of its dictatorial iron and with the pitiless lust of its sadistic magnates, suddenly renews the eclipse of Culture and freedoms like a modern Saacen invasion ...  This certain danger of Africanization in the name of Progress, is clearly visible in Spain'.  Paul Preston, with his superficial historical analysis, here applies a North European rational and explanation to a proposition by a right-wing propagandist that is really rooted in the culture of Spanish and Moorish anthropology at a deeper level.  Preston offers us a North European analysis of  the complexities of Hispanic culture to justify his own crude thesis and the argument of a Spanish right-wing racism not so different from that in Hitler's Germany or perhaps the English Defence League right now.  In doing so, in trying to simplify Spanish politics and culture to make it easier for outsiders to understand and to sell books, Professor Preston displays an anthropological illiteracy and cookbook analysis in his attempt to translate developments on the Iberian peninsular. 

By contrast, Robert Hughes in his Chapter One 'The Color of a Dog Running Away' describes this same phenomena as a deeply rooted xenophobic part of the Iberian culture and civilisation, and not as something specifically confined to right-wing Spaniards, like the old Falange Party or Onésimo Redondo Ortega.  Perceptively, Mr Hughes wrote that even in perhaps the most European part of the Iberian peninsular, Catalonia, the slogan 'Catalans de sempre' ('Catalans since forever') was 'somewhat xenophobic', and that a friend  of his from Barcelona that had met a peasant in the Catalan village of Ampurdan, who had told him of the city folk that had bought second homes in the village, and he had said of them:  'Son tots moros' - 'they are all Moors'.  This habit of calling the inhabitants of neighbouring towns 'Moors' was widespread when I was living in Spain, and Robert Hughes writes:  'The key expression of xenophobia is violently loaded:  xarnego... it shifted to "foreigners"; a peasant living in one valley of the Ampurdan, for instance, would use it of a peasant the other side of the hill.  But with immigration, it came to denote - in the pejorative sense - any working-class person of non-Catalan Spanish origin living in Catalonia.' 

I offer this contrast between Robert Hughes's anthropological approach and Paul Preston 's cookbook analysis, to show how the Australian gets inside the subject in a way that Preston imposes his own Anglo-centric bias and prejudices upon the Hispanic world in order to create a Civil War portrayal as being between Cowboys and Indians, with the occasional renegade thrown in for good measure.  With Robert Hughes in his Barcelona, we get what Frederic Raphael describes as 'the most accessible - art critic in the world ... in Barcelona his art-historical and his sociological talents converge in what is often a dazzling collage of Catalan peculiarities';  with Preston we also get a very accessible historian but one who sacrifices the special sociological qualities of Spain to a narrative to cater to an Anglo-Saxon and North European mind-set.  Professor Preston, like Hegel, wants to say that things which look differently, as in Spain, are really the same, and in overlooking the significance of these distinctions and special qualities of Spain and the Spaniards, he retreats into stereotypes and caricatures.

Robert Hughes writes:  'I became a Barcelona enthusiast, as near as I recall, in the spring of 1966.'  He went there because he was fanatically keen on George Orwell, and Hughes wanted to see 'the one city in Europe about which that insular Englishman felt moved to write with wholehearted affection'.  Of the city of Barcelona he wrote:  'Taste cannot be legislated, but at least the integrity of the past can be.'  He felt that after Franco died in the 1980s Barcelona 'developed the strictest historical preservation code of any city in Europe', and that this code 'works somewhat to the advantage of traditional Catalan crafts - ceramics, iron forging, high-grade joinery, glass - which were dying twenty years ago'.   Like the anarchists, who 'particularly loathed' the Sagrada Familia Church,  Hughes writes:  'With few significant exceptions, the Catalan intelligentsia has never liked it'.  And yet, it is too much of an attraction to Japanese tourists to be torn down.  Its original designer, Antoni Gaudi had said 'Poverty preserves and keeps things' and 'Many monuments have been saved from the ravages of the "academics" through lack of money'.  At the moment Catalonia, like other regions in Spain, is in deep trouble economically and perhaps Barcelona will not suffer the municipal vandalism like Manchester, and some of our Northern cities and towns have.  Mr. Hughes ends by saying that the Sagrada Familia will always be a 'divisive building', just as Barcelona 'for most of its life ... has been a divided city'.   Mr. Hughes, himself, was a divisive and controversial critic.

*  Onésimo Redondo Ortega wrote this in J.O.N.S. (Juntas de Ofensiva National-Sindicalista) in 1933 and, according to Gerald Brenan, the J.O.N.S. merged with the Falange Espanola of José Antonio Primo de Rivera in 1934.  Redondo studied Law at the University of Salamanca, but according to Paul Preston's comments elsewhere Redondo's anti-Semitism derived more from fifteenth century Castilian nationalism than from Nazi models (see wikapedia entry for Redondo).   This would seem to contrast with what Preston is saying above.  Preston admits José Antonio Primo de Rivera the leader of the Falange had 'little or no interest in the "Jewish problem",' but he struggles to build a case of right-wing racial bias generally while ignoring hostile Spanish attitudes to 'los moros' and the Jews among the wider general public.
The printed version of NORTHERN VOICES 13, now on sale with all sorts of stuff others won't touch and may be obtained as follows:
Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included)
Cheques payable to 'Northern Voices' at  c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.
Tel.: 0161 793 5122.



Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Tales of Hoffman: Part Two

FURTHER to our post 'Tales of Hoffman:  Part One' on this Blog last week, Northern Voices was sent another  commentary from the photo-journalist, Mr. David Hoffman, on his involvement with Freedom Press and his subsequent claim which resulted in Freedom paying him £4,000.   Here is what he has to say on reflection; in some of this he repeats what he has already said in 'Tales of Hoffman:  Part One':

Dear xxx,
'I found the [copyright] saga depressing, a Greek tragedy.  Entirely foreseeable, entirely avoidable and entirely inevitable.  If Freedom had had the respect that I might have expected for what is my lifetime's (well over 36 years so far) work against racism none of this would have happened.  Dozens of left publications ask me for my pics, pay at an appropriate rate and we all work together generously and honestly.  Freedom pissed in the soup to save a few bob and out of a feeling of arrogant entitlement.  Just like a banker.

'This is a roughly pasted together e-mail that I've been adding to, that's why you'll find it a bit disjointed.  At some point I might flesh it out with specifics like times and dates for the numerous attempts I made to get Freedom to settle for a few hundred (NUJ rates) and the return of my stolen prints used for a book.  And there's a lot more  that I did trying to avoid this slow motion train wreck.

'I have 104 items in my "Freedom" robbers folder, that's 10 times what there should be and because I bust my balls trying again and again to find them a cheap easy way out.  I've never worked so hard trying to save an infringer from its own death wish.  Freedom just ignored me, made promises they didn't keep, wasted my time, lied repeatedly and dug themselves deeper and deeper in their own poo.

'That's why it became so expensive.  Mind you, if it had been Getty's pics they'd nicked it would have likely been five times as much.

'It seems that the current collective hasn't sufficient conviction in their own case to allow any of this on their site, so I'll leave the handful who have been cursing me to get on with it on their own.  I've had my teeth knocked out by cops, had my life threatened by a (now serving life) BNP murderer (and by a dozen others from '70s NF to 2012 EDL) and I've survived every major riot in the UK in my lifetime.  I can probably cope with a few rude tweets from people who lack the courage to use their own names.

'There's a lot more to this than Freedom are putting into the public realm.  Unfortunately you are unlikely to see it, as a response alongside the allegations on their site would expose their deceit.

'I've been a fan and supporter of Freedom since 1970.  I've been asked to speak at the Book Fair and have been to many of the events in Angel Alley.  I've rather lost touch with them over the last decade as the collective has become inward looking, defensive and irrelevant.

'I put 3 months into trying to to get a cheap, amicable resolution.  Twice, neutral, independent friends of theirs tried to resolve this.  Both said Freedom should settle.  At the start it would have been a few hundred to cover the standard NUJ recommended fees and they could have had time to pay if needed.  They were ignored.  Freedom stonewalled, lied, obstructed, refused to make any offers at all, claimed they had permission, blamed others and accused good people I know of some seriously treacherous behaviour - all lies.  They left me no choice but to walk away or go in hard.  It was Freedom who ruled out an amicable solution.

'I'm not inclined to walk away from oppressive behaviour from the right or the left.  I put a great deal of time and effort into protecting the rights of my colleagues (and myself) and I'm not about to undermine that 30+ year struggle by letting a bunch of armchair anarchists deliberately pillage work that I have put together since the'70s often at considerable risk.

'Freedom also owns a secretive holding company with the building worth well over £1m (they deny that but had it valued recently - let's see the valuation?) plus significant other assets secret.  Just like the Barclay brothers.  They are in no danger of bankruptcy - other than moral bankruptcy.

'In any case the readership of the paper has been falling for years, long before this spat.  The collective has discussed whether they can or should continue to produce it on a number of occasions.  Pretending that the doubts over its future are down to this single payment is a deliberate deceit against its own supporter.

'The [Freedom] collective pretends that using my photos "was a honest mistake" that's not the case.  The question of copyright was raised at the collective meeting that decided to publish the book and [was] just brushed aside.

'Freedom are professional publishers with more than 100 years of publishing behind them.  They know about copyright.  They mark all their own books with clear copyright notices!  Some of the photos (prints stolen from another mag.) had my name and copyright notice and contact info. on but they deliberately ignored that.

'Sometimes they claim "it was a honest mistake".  But  other times they say that they thought they had permission - yet they never even told me they were publishing my work or gave me a credit.  Why?  Because they didn't want me to find out.

'There's loads more but I've wasted enough time on this.  I've been insulted and subject  to daft allegations for 30+ years.  Let them rattle on about how evil I am if it makes them happy.  Me, I'm happy to be judged on my record.

'And some of the £4K has gone to Kiva, some to the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, some will go to other good causes and some is for me to take down to the pub with my friends.

'I might also have added that the collective were deeply split on whether to go ahead with the book (voted to publish by 1 vote).  And Dean Talent (the collective member who really pushed for publication) told me apologetically that trouble it had caused was his/ their fault.  Then they slung him out of the collective, they certainly blame him (see Dean Talent's comment disputing this beneath Tales of Hoffman:  Part One). 

'My recent claim is only the tip of the iceberg Freedom are sailing towards.  There are plenty of other photos infringed in that book and Freedom have made no attempt to head that off or try to resolve it.  There are many, many other books published by Freedom.  I'd be amazed if there were not hundreds more copyright infringements just waiting to fall in on them.'


'PS - The are currently 3 copyright infringements by the far right, one really major one that I'm working on.  Do you think I should just let them go?  If any of those end up in court my case would be badly weakened if it turned out that I am partisan about who I choose to take action against.'

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Coroner slams Tameside hospital over death of child!

Where does the buck stop at Tameside hospital, when it comes to taking responsibility for hospital failures and incompetence? For years now, we have hardly seen a week go by where we've not read about the death of an hospital in-patient brought about by incompetence, negligence, and systemic failure. And yet, in spite of this catalogue of failure, many on the hospital board and senior managers at the hospital, have continued to remain in their positions.

Last week, the tragic death of 12-year-old Emma Stones, from Dukinfield, who died at Tameside hospital last February, was reported in the press and on the TV, after the local coroner criticised the inadequate care the hospital had given her. Emma who suffered from cerebral palsy, was admitted to the hospital on the advice of a community nurse, but died the next day of blood poisoning. The inquest heard that no blood sample had been taken because a registrar had been too busy to attend and that a team of nurses, - who should have observed her every four hours - had failed to regularly monitor Emma throughout the night. It also heard that the "lack of observation in the morning had been appalling" and that she "may have died almost four hours before her father saw her."

Giving evidence to the inquest, Dr. Nelly Ninis, a consultant paediatrician at St. Mary's Hospital in London, said there had been 'systems failure' and that it was 'probable', "Emma would have survived if her symptoms had been recognised and treated on the evening before she died." She added:

"The system that didn't work at all is the system of recording there is a sick child on the ward."

When asked if she believed that Emma had been dead for some time, she replied:

"I think so, unfortunately. My reason is the fact that she was noted to be ice cold and there was some evidence of rigidity and some rigor mortis present." Her father, Mike Stones, had been told by hospital staff that Emma had died at 8.50am but she was "ice cold to touch when he was allowed to see her 10 minutes later."

Recording a narrative verdict, the coroner John Pollard, said:

"The nursing and medical care of Emma fell below the standard that most people would consider satisfactory...the inevitable conclusion was that the care was inadequate to such a degree that it played a part in Emma's death."

Mike Stones and his family say they are "disgusted and appalled" by the care given to their daughter by Tameside hospital who they believe, left her to die in hospital. The family are considering taking legal action and hope that lessons can be learned from what as happened to their daughter so as to prevent a similar situation arising in the future.

Although the hospital's medical director, Tariq Mahmood, says the hospital "has taken every possible step to prevent any re-occurrence" it seems likely that such a tragic event could happen again, given the hospital's recent history and management.

As far back as 2002, the 'Commission for Health Improvement' said that morale and patient care had been compromised at Tameside hospital by poor communication. In 2005 Milton Pena, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at the hospital spoke out publicly about how staff shortages at the hospital, were putting lives at risk. After disciplinary action was taken against him, other consultants said they had no confidence in hospital management. In September 2006, the coroner John Pollard, called care at the hospital 'absolutely despicable' and 'chaotic' after inquests into the deaths of four elderly people in one day. The hospital responded by making a complaint to the Office of Judicial Complaints(OJC) that the coroner had insulted staff and had added to the distress of families. The OJC rejected the hospital's complaint.

In their latest report released in May, the local health watchdog Tameside LINk, put Tameside hospital on the critical list. Although the LINk report says there was significant improvement in some areas, the hospital was given the lowest-possible 'red' rating in three out of five domains - 'leadership and complaints', 'getting the right care at the right time', and 'communication and information'. The report says that many of the LINk's concerns that were raised two years ago, have not yet been eradicated and that patients are still not getting basic help with washing, bathing, toileting and assistance they require with feeding. Pointing out that there had been an unprecedented level of formal complaints, the report says:

"The fact that we still have these concerns suggests to us that the hospital's leadership culture, systems and processes have not been effective. Executive Directors must take full responsibility. They must initiate urgent remedial action and hold to account those charged with devolved responsibility for its effective implementation at all levels. They themeselves must in turn, be held to account by the Board's Non-Executive Directors."

In its report on the death of Emma Stones, the Manchester Evening News, is calling for heads to roll at the hospital and had dubbed Tameside hospital 'shameside'. This is a view that many people share.

Liverpool Transport Strike 1911

TO commemorate the two workers killed by British troops during the Liverpool transport strike on 15th, August 1911, a plaque will be unveiled by the Unite union boss, Len McCluskey, on Vauxhall Road on Saturday the 18th, August 2012.  A meeting will also be held at 10am on the Saturday in the Eldonian Village Hall on Vauxhall Road.

Following Liverpool's Bloody Sunday of 13th, August 1911, with a national rail strike spreading and dockers, seamen  and other workers locked-out, Liverpool and Britain seemed to be on the edge of chaos.  The Government mobilised 58,000 troops across the country.  In Liverpool, two workers, John Sutcliffe and Michael Prendercast, were shot dead by the army when troops opened fire in a disturbance on Vauxhall Road.

As a memorial to these two victims of the Liverpool labour movement, the North West TUC and the Casa Club have sponsored a plaque commemorating their sacrifice at the site of the shootings.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Protest at Balfour Beatty in Glasgow

Protest call against Balfour Beatty:
At 10am on Friday 24th August at Balfour Beatty Engineering Services HQ, Lumina Building, 40 Ainslie Road, Hillington Park, Glasgow, G52 4RU

The protest is being called jointly by: Blacklist Support Group and UNITE Scottish Sparks Rank & File:

Balfour Beatty is one of the worst of all the blacklisting firms with six Enforcement Orders against the company by the Information Commissioners Office because of their role in the Consulting Association scandal.  Gerry Harvey - Director of Human Resources for Balfour Beatty Engineering Services Limited - is a proven blacklister having been identified in parliament and in court. Balfour Beatty is continuing to victimise workers who raise concerns about safety issues including: Jonathan Carr from Birmingham and Alan Dransfield from the South West.  Balfour Beatty were also the lead firm attempting to drive down wages and de-skill the electrical contracting industry during the recent BESNA dispute. Electricians in Scotland involved in the dispute have been targeted by Balfour Beatty for redundancy (when no other workers were made redundant on the entire site).

Francie Graham and Steuart Merchant represent blacklisted workers in the attached press cuttings. Spread the word – let’s make this a big one.



Friday, 3 August 2012

Manchester TUC Planning Meeting

AN organisational meeting took place last Tuesday July 31st to plan for the TUC anti-austerity demonstration in London on Saturday October 20th.    The meeting was called by the Greater Manchester Asssociation of TUCs.    It was ably chaired by Steve Hall and about 40 trade unionists and community activists attended.   Detailed proposals were discussed re maximising the turn out in London.    However, there was no discussion about the objectives of such a demonstration bearing in mind the complete failure of the trade unions to organise effective action against the the Coalition Governments debt reduction and austerity programme.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Tales of Hoffman: Part One

Northern Voices promised to give Mr. Hoffman a fair crack, and an opportunity to put his side of the story in his dispute with Freedom Press (see post below), over their use of his photos without his permission.  Below are the ruminations and comments in an e-mail from David Hoffman about the circumstances of his copyright claim with Freedom.  Members of the Freedom Collective may well question some of his allegations here, but Northern Voices will refrain from further comment at this stage:

Sadster that I am - I am on the computer a great deal of the time.  If you wanted facts you could have had them in a 5 minute phone call.  Clearly you don't.  WGAF (Who gives a fig).  You might mention the Freedom have £1m plus asset squirrelled away in a holding company just like any City fat cat.  They don't need an appeal for money, they're just greedy.  But you won't.  You might mention that Freedom used stolen pics for the (rather crap) book ['Beating the Fascists'].  But you won't.

You might mention that I spent 3 months trying to settle this for just a few hundred quid but Freedom wouldn't negotiate.  But you won't.  You might mention that at the meeting where the publication was discussed (before they went ahead) they discussed the copyright position and knew they were ripping off myself and several other photographers.  But you won't.  You might mention that the (Freedom) collective were deeply split on whether to go ahead with this ripoff of our work (voted to publish by 1 vote).  But you won't.

I could go on but you've already decided what you want to write and have limited time.

If a handful of armchair anarchists want to be rude about me then I expect I can take it.  I've had my teeth knocked out by cops, had my life threatened by genuine BNP murderer (and by a dozen others from '70s NF [National Front] to 2012 EDL [English Defence League] ) and I've survived every major riot in the U.K..

Two more things - Jayne ... was one the best of the bunch, honest, open and a thoroughly decent woman.  And Dean Talent (the guy who really pushed for the publication [of 'Beating the Fascists'] told me apologetically that it was all his/ their fault.  They then slung him out of the collective.

To be biblical - (not my usual style) 'The giggles of fools are as the crackling of twigs under the cooking pot'.

Nobody whose opinion I care about will do anything but laugh.


Copyright & the fruits of photographing Fascists

The need to defend Freedom

THE copyright laws and the theft of intellectual property, is a bit of a mine-field and is something that will trouble any publisher, but for a small anarchist publisher like Freedom Press or Northern Voices it could be fatal. In 2009, Freedom Press, the London publishing house in Angel Alley, Whitechapel, published a book 'Beating the Fascists' containing a number of photographs, and thus fell under the litigious eagle-eye of the freelance photographer, David Hoffman. Mr. Hoffman is a member of the NUJ and is apparently a distinguished photographer, who wields his camera in the radical cause on anti-Fascist demonstrations in our capital city, and until now has been so loved by the left that he has been protected on protests.

Explaining the consequences of failing to check out the copyright status of photographic material before publication, Freedom writes: 'When we published this book (Beating the Fascists) in 2009 it was illustrated with photographs supplied by the authors. Unbeknown to us, these included pictures by David Hoffman and were still under copyright. We ended up paying him £4,000 for the use of these pictures rather than face legal action. While this was a stupid mistake by us, it's very disappointing that someone who claims to support anti-fascist politics and made money from their photographs, while enjoying the protection from the far right on demonstrations, should chose to extract money from a radical publisher for a genuine mistake.'

Because of Mr. Hoffman's copyright complaint and the settlement, Freedom now says: 'The result is that we have had to reconsider our future ...', and 'we will still be able to carry on at 84b, (Whitechapel High Street) with the shop and distributing books and, other activities in the building (next to Whitechapel Art Gallery). However we are going to look seriously at continuing producing a hard-copy paper.'

Freedom has long been the only regular paper in the anarchist movement in London, and it has a long history going back to the 19th Century: as things stand the last hard copy version of Freedom will appear on its 125th anniversary this coming October. 

Why did Mr. David Hoffman, reputably a radical journalist, threatened to sue Freedom? Clearly Freedom was in breach of the law, but Freedom is a hard-up left-wing publication, not Rupert Murdoch or even Searchlight, the anti-Fascist journal to which Mr. Hoffman reportedly owes his allegiance.

When David Hoffman showed up at Freedom Press office in Angel Alley, Whitechapel, having already alerted the editorial collective to the copyright breach, he is alleged to have told the layout artist, who is originally from Yorkshire, that: 'Of course, I'll have to sue you, and you could lose your flat in Greenwich'. When this was recently put to Mr. Hoffman, he replied by e-mail saying that this quote is 'wrong'. Since then, despite several requests that he put the record straight as to what he said, if anything, he has failed to explain further what was said in this encounter. He has said that he is very busy and doesn't have time to write '1,000 words' giving his side of the story. Two weeks ago he did offer to answer any questions from Northern Voices over the phone, and even in a later e-mail suggested that we record the phone call to avoid any misunderstandings. I took the view that this was absurd and said that I didn't believe that it would require 1,000 words to clarify a quote of a dozen or so words or even for him to enlarge on the issues surrounding this case.  Mr. Hoffman forwarded a further e-mail:  'The quote without the context would mislead' and he added:  'If you want a rounded story I'll certainly help and tell all.'  For this reason I publish in full above the e-mail he sent to me dated 19th, July 2012 giving his 'rounded story' under the title 'Tales of Hoffman'.

It seems that David Hoffman has a history of putting in complaints and going to the Courts to seek legal redress. He successfully sued the police for some dental treatment after an injury on a demonstration, he won £10,000 in a case he took out against a government drug charity, and he received £390 off another journalist, Brian Whelan, when he refused to reveal some sources in his review of the book 'Beating the Fascists'. Why did David Hoffman and Searchlight, it seems, want details about the authors of the book? It may be a sad sign of the times in which we now live that some folk feel it necessary to operate in this litigious manner.

What are the likely consequences for small radical publications like Freedom or Northern Voices, of the people sifting through copy and photos in our journals as a possible income source? It will lead to a less free and less fearless left-wing media as editors exercise greater caution. Judging by the comments on one website it may serve to feed the left with a paranoid reaction and distrust of journalists in general. But it is not just the copyright laws that worry editors and publishers:  Northern Voices in its ten years of existence has been threatened more than once by folk complaining that they had been libelled; one of our complainants describes himself as an 'anarchist'. Then there are the threats from the authorities themselves; in 1944, during World War II, some awkward political minorities - pacifists, anarchists and left-wing socialists - were imprisoned or otherwise messed about by the police. Some political parties such as the Communists and the Tories, argued that in wartime, freedom to criticise and protest should be relinquished so as to safeguard the greater freedoms for which Britain was struggling. Others, like George Orwell and the people at Freedom Press held, according to George Woodcock, then an editor of War Commentary (Freedom): 'that freedom of speech and writing were the most important of the freedoms over which the war was being fought and that, once abandoned, they might never be regained.'

We ought not to be too surprised about the actions of Mr. Hoffman, who has links to the publication Searchlight, because there has always been on the British left a legalistic and authoritarian tradition. In the 1940s this was prevalent, and George Woodcock drew attention to this in his book 'The Crystal Spirit: A study of George Orwell''An agitation for discriminatory legislation against former Fascists had been going on in Tribune, and the Labour Party had embarked on a purge of Communists in the Civil Service, using methods of investigation which did not allow suspects to confront their accusers'.

The Freedom Press offices were raided by Special Branch in 1944. As a result, the Freedom Defence Committee was set up in the Summer of 1945, and this lasted until 1949. Its participants were drawn mostly from the arts and literary worlds; a few politicians took part like H.J. Laski, then chair of the Labour Party. Among the most active members according to George Woodcock, were E.M. Foster (novelist), Bertrand Russell (philosopher), Cyril Connolly (critic), Benjamin Britten; Michael Tippet, Henry Moore, Osbert Sitwell and Augustus John (artist), Herbert Read (art critic and poet) was in the chair and George Orwell was the vice-chair.

Now with sharks circulating it may be worth considering forming another kind of Freedom Defence Committee, to deal with attacks on our liberties from whatever quarter they may come.

Petition against Liverpool City Council's over-regulation of Street performance

Sign the petition here or at http://  :

The policy stipulates where, when and whether performances can happen. It states how long they can happen for, and that even approved performances can be stopped for any reason at the whim of a council official or police officer.  It removes all spontaneity from street life, and may empty the major streets of all but a few, officially sanctioned performers. It will make it much harder to earn a living from street art and performance in Liverpool and will discourage good acts from performing in the city. If this policy had been in place in 2006 then people like George Samson, the street dancer who was 14 when he won Britain's Got Talent, would not have been allowed to perform in the city.  Instead, he would have been served a trespass notice and threatened with arrest.

Street entertainment is an activity that happens organically and costs nothing.  It is free, and provides a cultural and communal dimension to city centre life at a time when many of our high streets are under threat from internet shopping and the economic downturn.  After all, you cannot buy street performing online! You need to go to town to experience it.  Most of the problems caused for councils by street performers relate to a very small minority of people and can be dealt with adequately using existing polices without the need for another layer of bureaucracy.

So if you value impromptu performances in public spaces, if your spirits have been lifted by a good busking experience, and if you think spontaneity in city life is important, please sign this petition!

Sign the petition here or at http://