Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Banned '... with what I believe are best interests of "Freedom" in mind,' ' says Editor

As Historic Anarchist Journal Succumbs to Blackmail

YESTERDAY FREEDOM, the anarchist journal founded over 125 years ago by the geologist and scientist Peter Kropotkin, effectively declared itself intellectually and morally bankrupt when its new editor, Matthew, changed his mind about the inclusion of a statement from the Northern Anarchist Network, and e-mailed Northern Voices to say:

'I am sure that you are aware from Donald's (Rooum) e-mail (see below) about the discussions we have been having re the inclusion of your 'Statement to the movement' in Freedom. Although I had some basic prior knowledge of the issues, I was not fully aware of the problems that publishing the document may lead to. In retrospect I naively, and with honest intentions agreed to include the statement.  Following further discussion and debate within the wider collective, I have now decided against its inclusion. I understand that you will no doubt be unhappy at this decision, but I can assure you that the decision was not made in haste, and was done with what I believe are the best interests of 'Freedom' in mind, and without any 'taking of sides'... (I have never to my knowledge) met yourself, Bob Miller, his family, Barry Woodling, or Nick Heath).'

Just over a week ago on Monday 7th, January 2013, the same editor of FREEDOM, Matthew, e-mailed Northern Voices to inform us of his decision to publish what has come to be called 'The Burnley Declaration', drafted by Barry Woodling, agreed by the Northern Anarchist Network on the 8th, December 2012, and now supported by some sixty individuals.  Matthew's 7th, January e-mail was as follows:

'I am just letting you know that your statement will be appearing in the Jan issue of the paper. I am a bit behind schedule at the moment, but would expect it to be ready to print in a week - ten days from now. I also wanted you to know that in the interests of fairness /not taking sides, I have contacted the anarchist federation and asked them whether they would like to write a response to your statement. If they choose to respond then that would also be included in the same issue.'

This was Matthew's first instinctive and sensible response to Northern Voices, which had already published the Burnley Declaration on its own Blog.  Matthew then properly did has he promised and sent the Burnley Declaration to the Anarchist Federation for them to comment and to respond to its content.  The Anarchist Federation is a body of about 100 members nationally.  We do not know the precise details of the reply from the Federation to FREEDOM, that has yet to made public, but last Thursday Northern Voices' received an e-mail from Donald Rooum, a veteran on the FREEDOM Collective, the relevant excepts we publish here:

'Poor Matthew. Just been appointed editor of Freedom, and already faced with this controversy. He circulated the collective asking for views on whether your letter should appear, and got a nasty letter from Nick Heath saying if your letter was published, he would withdraw co-operation, including his offer of a book.  You already know my opinion. If I take sides at all in the quarrel between Norther Voices and Anarchist Federation, I am on the side of NV. But I am against the publication of your letter in Freedom...  Freedom is a propaganda sheet, aimed at the general public, hoping to convince people of the anarchist point of view. Any fracas within the movement should stay within the movement, in internal newsletters and bulletins.  Regardless of Nick Heath's threats, I ask you to withdraw your letter. Not all publicity is good publicity.' 

To which I, on behalf of Northern Voices, replied as follows:

'Much as I respect your views and the implied wisdom of your intention, I can't consider withdrawing this statement because it strikes at everything I believe is most important to anarchism: civil liberty and the right to free expression. The Burnley NAN declaration has now been signed by well over 50 individuals from a wide spectrum both within the anarchist movement and outside it by people who believe in decent behaviour.  You ought to understand that this last incident is not unique and there has been a long history of attacks both on members of the NAN, and by people who have approached the sales outlets of Northern Voices with bad intent together with threats of legal action against the small company who do our printing. Only last January we made approaches to some of these people to meet with us to try to resolve their problems; it came to nothing. In November, the page-viewings on our NV Blog exceeded 11,000 and the readership of Northern Voices is probably in the thousands, though most are probably not anarchists. But even if we only reached a handful of readers the principle would still be the same as the view taken by George Orwell in Tribune in 1945, when he wrote his essay 'Freedom of the Park' about the arrest of a Freedom paper seller at Hyde Park: at that time he took the view that this kind of thing should cause 'more public clamour than a flutter in the minority press'.  I believe that the best thing the minority press can do in this situation is to uphold the freedom of the press.  If this gets into the mainstream media, so be it, it is a matter too precious to hide under the carpet. To be honest though, we are fighting for our very existence against people who are trying to put us out of business.'

In the interests of justice and transparency, I believe that FREEDOM ought to publish the contents of all the communications sent to FREEDOM from Nick Heath and the Anarchist Federation.  What we have here is an authoritarian and conspiratorial body, the Anarchist Federation under Nick Heath, which is both demanding and getting immunity from criticism whatever it does, and an 'independent anarchist' publication FREEDOM which is now succumbing to blackmail, and paying protection to Mr. Heath, who's feeble-minded philosophy appears to be based on blackmail, bullying and threats.   To ignore these practices, and protect those who use them from criticism, is merely to encourage a form of irresponsibility and authoritarian methods, which merely reacts violently to the agenda set by others; whether it be the establishment, the government or even to Northern Voices, or anyone else they don't take a shine to. 

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