Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Floodlight of Publicity, 'Organisation' & Jim Pink!

Was Bob Miller a public figure?
THE father of Northern Anarchism, Jim Pink from Ashton-under-Lyne, who was in 1960s the international secretary of the anarcho-syndicalist Syndicalist Workers Federation (SWF), used to tell me that 'anarchists must always be ready for the floodlight of publicity to fall upon them.' Many English anarchists these days dread falling under the floodlight of publicity because they say that they have their 'jobs, careers and pensions to protect'.

'Jim Pink', as the engineering apprentices playfully used to call him after the national apprentice strikes in 1960, was really called James Pinkerton, was mentioned in a document circulated by the Economic League in 1964 to local employers in Oldham as being a political pal of mine, and was also accused of being a contributor to the paper 'Industrial Youth', put out by the Manchester Apprentice Wages& amp; Conditions Committee in the 1960s. Jimmy Pink was then a copy-taker at the Daily Herald and later worked in the same capacity for the Sunday People Copy Department. Although he insisted on describing himself as a 'syndicalist'as well as an 'anarchist', because he thought it was necessary to present a convincing organisational argument for social change to the public, and he felt it was harder to do that in England if one just simply called oneself 'an anarchist'.

Thus, what Colin Trousdale said at the branch meeting of the Manchester contracting electricians that the notion of 'anarchism'conflicted with that of 'organisation' * was not so strange if one of the most major intellectual figures of northern anarchism in the 20thcentury, Jimmy Pink from Ashton-under-Lyne, believed the exactly same. Jimmy Pink thought that the Spanish tradition of democratic anarcho-syndicalist trade unions offered a possible alternative structure to that of parliamentary democracy: it was not totally proved in Spain that anarcho-syndicalism could offer a working alternative, but some like Pedro Cuadrado have said that anarcho-syndicalist Barcelona was the first city in the world to halt the march of Fascism in July 1936, and the Italian writer Ignazio Silone (the Italian Orwell) has claimed that the Catalans with their sprite of improvisation and initiative had qualities that the more disciplined German, Austrian and Prussian trade unionists and other north European's lacked. Colin Trousdale would do well to consider how George Orwell describes the efficiency and decency of the Spanish anarchists in his book 'Homage to Catalonia' published in the 1930s. 
The argument about Bob Miller and his obituary in Northern Voices No.13, revolves around the question of whether you regard Mr. Miller as a public figure. It boils down to this, was Miller sufficiently important to warrant an obituary? There are those that argue that he was not politically significant, and therefore his obituary ought not to have appeared a publication such as the Voicesthat appeals to Joe Public and sells outside the narrow political area, but we published an obituary for Harold Garfinkel in the same issue, and he is not a well known intellectual in this country this too was somewhat critical of the subject.  In the Miller case I was comparing Bob Miller from down South to Ken Keating from Salford, and I was much more complementary to Mr Keating than Mr Miller the schoolmaster, because I believed then and I believe now, that on balance Keating was the more distinguished 'anarchist' of the two. Some people obviously believe that I was not entitled to that opinion, but they should bare in mind that I was treating each man as representative of a particular type of 'anarchist' just as George Orwell referred to W.H. Auden and Stephen Spender as the 'Pansy Poets' and 'Parlour Bolsheviks' when he wrote a letter about them to Nancy Cunard. I have discussed this matter with Bob's son Tom Miller, and neither he nor anyone else has persuaded me to alter any of the views that I expressed in the original obituary, although I wish Tom when he rang me in November 2012, had kept his promise to write a letter of 300 words to Northern Voices putting the other side of the story. .

* Significantly Colin Trousdale made a comment about what he actually said:
'Colin Trousdale did not attack anarchists (at the branch meeting of the Manchester electricians - see post entitled "Laughter as Militants Mock English Anarchists!"), Colin Trousdale (me) laughed at the thought of Anarchists having a Federation/Organised structure which I feel flies in the face of my interpretation of Anarchy . NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS WE ARE THE SPARKS M/c CONTRACTING BRANCH. Brian please refrain from mis-quoting me in print to further your petty arguments that now having the benefit of both sides of the story I feel you were in the wrong about . This problem is hardly the re-unification of Ireland or the rights of Palestinians to live in peace in Gaza. Grow up.'


Donald said...

History note which may be interesting.

In 1951, Kathleen Rantell, warden of Jerusalem Farm Youth Hostel, Colne, organised the Nelson and Colne Antimilitarist Federation. Groups included Colne and Nelson Anarchist Group (consisting of anarchists who stayed at Jerusalem Farm at weekends), Nelson branch of the PPU, Nelson branch of the ILP, and Burnley branch of the Syndicalist Workers Federation. The SWF was represented by Julian Pilling at the one public meeting of the N&CAF, but I met Jim Pinkerton (as he was then known) at meetings.

Keep up the good work, Donald

Horny old goat said...

Bloody hell Brian, after 40 odd years of trying to be a writer you don't half sprout some drivel.

The salad cream had dulled whats left of those rioja soaked brain cells.

bammy said...

Dear Donald,
Thanks for that. I did know about Julian Pilling and his wife from Jim Pinkerton & Jack McPherson from Dukinfield. The Pillings were keen Morris Dancers & I think I met him once well over a decade ago at a dance in Hebden Bridge one Easter. I asked Jim Petty who lives in Burnley what he knew about Julian a few years ago, when we were looking into the Burnley Coconut Dancers. It seems he had ceased to be an anarcho-syndicalist years ago.
Thanks for your support.

Anonymous said...

Ay oop, them pesky Southerners ( substitute Jews, Arabs, Pakis etc) Bamford, you are scum on Floodlight of Publicity, 'Organisation' & Jim Pink!

Rasstrelnikov said...

I can't wait to read Bammy's obituary about 'Horny old goat'. Should be riveting stuff! The way the old goat gets worked up about Bammy, he's certain to drop dead of apoplexy!

Anonymous said...

You've got it Rasstrelnikov!

The 'Horny Old Goat' is in reality that Mrs Grundy person, who lives with the lass with the poorly knee in leafy Didsbury.