Thursday, 12 February 2015

Chris Draper replies to his critics


Thanks for publishing, WHO KILLED FREEDOM?

I leave readers to judge the accuracy of my analysis for themselves but it seems polite to respond to a couple of correspondents who appear aggrieved.

Matthew Black makes 3 claims:

* He is a not a member of the Anarchist federation (AF) *  Illness was the deciding factor in his decision to leave Freedom *  Matthew insists that having agreed to publish an account of Anarchist Federation (AF) violence on a specified date it was entirely his own decision to go back on his written promise and suppress all mention of the incident.  He was not 'overruled', 'it was my decision'.   As I did not claim Matthew was a member of AF I readily accept his first point.  On the second point, I know he had pneumonia and this may have been an overriding factor in his resignation but his discomfort could only have been exacerbated by his role in the suppression of 'The Burnley Declaration'.

This document described and denounced the violent attacks launched by AF thugs upon two elderly anarchists, it is an important statement organised by Barry Woodling and signed by 150 concerned individuals. In December 2012 Matthew emailed its organisers to say, 'I am just letting you know that your statement will be appearing in the Jan issue of the paper (my emphasis)…I have contacted the Anarchist Federation and asked them whether they would like to write a response to your statement.'  Whether Matthew changed his mind or had it changed for him readers can judge for themselves for on 10th January 2013 his fellow collective member, Donald Rooum emailed (the organisers) to say:

'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 the offer of a book… Regardless of Nick’s threats, I ask you to withdraw your letter.'

Precisely how and why Matthew went from a promise to publish to colluding with suppression requires psychological determination rather than the historical explanation I offer but common sense suggests some link between the activities of the collective and Matthew’s volte-face.  In any event, as I make clear in my original essay Matthew was only put in at the end, after the key players had decided the paper was no longer their prime concern.  Any difference of emphasis between my interpretation and Matthew’s leaves my original account unaffected, except to belatedly note Donald Rooum’s role in trying to persuade those promised publication to perform an act of self-censorship and effectively collude with their own oppression.  In contrast to Matthew’s modest, reasoned submission Simon Saunders’ response is an ill-considered farrago of lies and unsupported assertions. Although it’s not always clear what point Saunders is trying to make I’ll endeavour to answer each in turn; * 'quotes' - Where possible I’ve quoted from easily accessible sources so readers can judge for themselves whether my selections are a fair representation.
* 'A habit of slinging emails at random people I’ve never met' - This is a lie and a spectacularly inept one at that for I am well known as someone who rarely and reluctantly communicates by email and never 'sling emails at random people'. * 'financing' – In the current radical argot, 'Check your privilege' Simon!

Unlike Saunders I come from a working class background; born in Warrington, cleaner/dinner lady/factory worker mum: Co-op stable boy/railway clerk dad: council house and the rest of it and know how difficult it is in the real world to talk to ordinary people about anarchist ideas. People like me don’t take to being lectured on class by posh boys from privileged backgrounds. * 'gaming' – I believe Simon’s addiction to computer gaming shapes his absurdly simplistic politics. This point runs in to the next, in that his avatar ('Rob Ray') operates as an anarchist whilst Simon Saunders inhabits the real world.

* 'name' - If our politics are to mean anything we must be our real selves in the struggle. Throughout my forty-year working life I was always “out” as an anarchist and despite being told by an employer that I was blacklisted I refused to hide my identity or politics. I would encourage all anarchists to come out of the closet and openly argue for anarchism. Simon Saunders was involuntarily outed because he colluded in the attempted cover-up of AF violence. Simon’s petulant assertion that 'no-one wants to work with you anymore' is an absurd claim more reminiscent of a playground taunt than serious political debate.

* 'readership' – In 2014, 'A Statement from the Freedom Collective' announced…the number of paying subscribers has fallen to 225. As a result annual losses now amount to £3,500 an unsustainable level for our shoestring budget”, yet Saunders claims, “Readership of the paper remained broadly stable from the time Vernon died (2001) until it closed”. If the position was stable as Saunders now claims then its financial stability remained unaltered, if as the collective announced on closure the number of subscribers had fallen to an unsustainable level then Saunders is once again indulging in falsehood.

Further evidence is supplied by Richard Griffin who Saunders in 2006 described as, 'among the best stalwarts…always reliable'. Griffin records that whilst he was at Freedom, 'from memory we sent out 600 or so'. In 2014 Griffin published an article recording the death of Freedom in which he stated, 'Falling subscribers and fewer volunteers means the paper made an annual £2,500 loss in the end'. Such glaring discrepancies are alone sufficient grounds to prompt fair-minded observers to question the un-accidental death of an anarchist newspaper.

* 'killed it' – Saunders claims that because the paper survived for years after he finished editing, 'neither Toby nor I killed it.'  He misunderstands; I do not accuse Toby or Simon of stabbing the paper to death. I claim that between the years 2001 to 2014 Donald Rooum, Toby Crowe, Simon Saunders and Dean Talent sometimes acting jointly but more often individually effectively poisoned Freedom. It was a slow lingering death, sapping the vitality and integrity out of the institution. For more than a decade several of the aforementioned continued to play a more or less active role until in 2014 Simon Saunders, Donald Rooum and ten others finally delivered the coup-de-grace.

* 'incongruity' – there is none! I learned lots of useful skills writing for anarchist magazines that came in very handy when I secured commercial book contracts. * “smear campaign” – Whilst I’m flattered to learn Simon is now a regular reader of my critical essays I feel he might be exaggerating to claim my study of the Anarchist Federation (AF) amounts to a “campaign”. I suppose I should accept it as a back-handed compliment. In any case I’m content to let readers judge the AF piece on its own merits.

* 'long history' – I certainly have a long history of anarchist activism dating back well before Simon was born and I’m touched that he has made some effort to learn more about my career.  However I fear he may have confused me with someone else for as I intimated earlier I have no record of slander etc.  He might care to flick through a few old issues of Freedom, Total Liberty, Anarchist Voices, Libertarian Education or many other mags or papers and actually read what I’ve written about constructive anarchism. Of course I can’t prove a negative but it won’t have escaped readers’ attention that Saunders’ lie is yet again entirely unsupported by evidence.

* 'decade-old decision from Toby' – Ultimately, of course, my critique of those who destroyed Freedom is no more than a splenetic discharge of long fermented bile originating from my 'decade-old' ejection from the columns of the paper by Toby Crowe, or so Saunders claims, referring to, 'The decade-old decision from Toby that you weren’t worth dealing with'.  Unfortunately for Simon I retained my original correspondence with Toby who in contrast to Saunders was unfailingly polite, reasonable and scrupulously honest.  I rejected Toby’s semi-Marxist politics and after several discussions and letters I made it perfectly clear that I no longer wished to write for the paper until open-minded anarchism was restored. Toby continued to try to persuade me to change my mind:

'So the dilemma is to reconcile arguing for my vision of what Freedom should look like while at the same time persuading you to carry on writing for it.'
'I want you to continue writing for the paper.  We seem to differ over our views of what Freedom should look like, ultimately over what it is for.'
'I have always thought the stuff you wrote was excellent and that is why I am particularly keen that you should carry on submitting material for the paper.'
'I would urge you to reconsider your decision to stop contributing.'

* It requires no further comment from me to show why Simon Saunders should never have been allowed anywhere near editorship of Freedom he has achieved that most eloquently for himself.

1 comment:

bammy said...

Like Chris, I come from working-class stock: son of a mill-girl & semi-skilled engineering worker, with a maternal grandmother who came out of the slums of Salford. Life-long friend of Freedom editor, Pete Turner, from the late 1950s. I first wrote for Freedom about 1960, it was a short review of a book by Ray Gosling. After that I wrote on-and-off over the decades, and became Northern Editor of Freedom in the 1990s. I couldn't hit it off when Toby Crow became editor, although Harold Schulthorpe later told me Toby wanted me on-board with his projects.