Thursday, 9 May 2013

New Editor for Freedom

THERE hasn't been an issue of the monthly Freedom (the anarchist paper) since February.  It is likely that the March, April and May issues will arrive in the next month or so, as the new editor Charlotte takes over.  Freedom has had a rocky existence over the last year partly because of the copyright challenge from David Hoffman last year but also more recently because of a fire apparently inflicted maliciously earlier this year.  At the time of this incident it seemed that the police had good photographic evidence of the culprits but this later proved not to be the case.

Curiously another Charlotte, Charlotte Wilson, was the first editor of Freedom when it was founded in 1886.  Charlotte Wilson was also a member of the Fabian Society.  David Goodway in his book 'Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow' (2006) writes:
'Unlike such countries as France or Italy, Britain had never had a numerically significant anarchist movement; and so in the 1930s there was neither a tradition of sympathy for libertarian ideas and aspirations let alone, as in France, the resurgence of a major movement to provide solidarity for the Spanish Revolution (in 1936).'

Goodway adds:
'In Britain even the principle anarchist journal, Freedom, founded back in 1886, had folded in 1927.'

The Russian/ American anarchist, Emma Goldman wrote in 1937:
'... there is no Anarchist movement in England.... we have nothing in London or the provincial cities...'

David Goodway observes in his Conclusion:
'It has been seen that in Britain pure anarchism - unlike the broader libertarianism during the second decade of the twentieth century of syndicalism, industrial unionism, the Shop Stewards' and Workers' Committee Movement, and Guild Socialism - had never achieved any better than a minuscule following (other than among the Yiddish speakers of London's East End and possibly on Clydeside).'

In the late 1940s, Marie Louise Berneri wrote about Freedom:
'The paper gets better and better, and fewer and fewer people read it.'

Of Freedom in the 1950s, Goodway writes:
'The political and intellectual isolation of British anarchism, together with its lack of numerical support continued throughout the 1950s, leading (Colin) Ward to comment that "the problem of the 1960s is simply that of how to put anarchism back into the intellectual bloodstream, into the field of ideas which are taken seriously".'

Now in the 21st century, for the first time Freedom opted to advertise for a new editor and got six applications.  The former editor Matthew had taken over at a difficult time following both the David Hoffman copywrite business and an internal dispute with a former editor.  Matthew had been unfortunate in getting caught up in the dispute between Nick Heath and the Anarchist Federation (AF) in their dealings with Barry Woodling, the Northern Anarchist Network (NAN) and Northern Voices.  This had led to him receiving a nasty, and some would say threatening letter from Mr. Heath, who works part-time in the Freedom Bookshop.  Ultimately, Matthew was to suffer an attack of pneumonia  and resigned his editorship.

Freedom has had a long history, and I attended its 75th anniversary Anarchist Ball at which Mick Mulligan played and George Melly sang in 1963.  In the 1960s that was a point of anarchism's greatest influence and when Freedom, then a weekly, sold about 3,000 copies a week.  Since then it has had some great people on its editorial board including John Retty, Peter Turner and Bill Christopher, as well as Vernon Richards and Charles Crute.  But last year readers were shocked to learn that Freedom, now a monthly, only had a print order of some 300 copies, and little discernible influence beyond a small circle.  Colin Ward did much to place anarchism on the intellectual agenda during the last half of the 20th century, the question is can it retain any credibility now when the British left is in such a derelict state?
The next issue of the printed issue of NORTHERN VOICES No.14, will soon be available for sale with a with a review of one of Dave Goodway's books 'The Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow: from William Morris to Colin Ward', Northern Voices can be obtained as follows:
Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included). Cheques payable to 'Northern Voices' sent to c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.
Tel.: 0161 793 5122.

1 comment:

Donald said...

Dear Brian

Just a small point. Charlotte Wilson was indeed a member of the Fabian Society, and wrote the Fabian Society pamphlet on anarchism. But as you know she resigned, with William Morris and others, when an AGM voted that the Society would be exclusively parliamentarian. Much later she joined the new Labout Party, but not until after she had changed her mind about anarchism.

Thanks for your good wishes for Freedom. All the best Don