Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Who Killed Freedom?: an unauthorised history 2.

Horny Handed Son of Mum & Dad

Unlike Toby, Simon had no track record of Marxism, in fact he had no track record of anything:  'I had no idea what I was doing…bear in mind my politics, whilst veering towards class-based, were very much those of a left-liberal at this point. I had read Kropotkin, and some of the Anarchist FAQ, but I had only a vague idea of what I wanted to see happen in society.  Days before I started, when a guy commented about a bunch of SolFed pamphlets I was handing out “You’re a syndicalist then?”, I’d had to shamefacedly admit I had no idea what they were talking about'

What Sauders lacked in knowledge and experience was more than made up for in middle class confidence, for the kids of the affluent middle class expect to inherit whatever section of the earth they fancy, whether Parliament, the City, charities, the media or editorship of FREEDOM.  Ignorance was no check on Simon’s ambition or opinions and, as editor, he was soon dismissing the ideas of seasoned anarchists with arrogant aplomb.

Financed by mum and dad ('one parent a Liberal, one a Tory') FREEDOM provided a valuable internship for Simon who, just out of college, fancied a career in journalism and was duly enabled to gain an NUJ card. FREEDOM was less fortunate, under his regime the paper exhorted readers to revolt whilst its editor hid behind the fantasy name 'Rob Ray'. Simon’s adolescent obsession with computer games, especially, 'Dracula in London', shaped his politics.  Whilst his avatar 'Rob Ray' fearlessly roamed the world proclaiming violent revolution on screen and throughout the pages of FREEDOM, in real life he was the mild mannered Simon Saunders un-associated with anarchism lest it limit his career prospects ('I keep my real name off such things…as it becomes immensely easy for a prospective employer to keep me out of a job').  Before Toby Crowe, editors of FREEDOM had the courage of their convictions, after 2004 anonymity and aliases became commonplace at FREEDOM.  Anonymity might be essential in the immediate period before revolutionary overthrow, but has no proper role in our everyday political task of 'pre-figuratively' modelling a better, more anarchist society.

Under 'Rob Ray’s' editorship examples of self-help and mutual aid so meticulously identified, described and promoted by FREEDOM anarchists from Kropotkin to Colin Ward were notably absent as the paper echoed the politics of other 'class-struggle' publications.

Anarchists who weren’t yet entirely alienated by the paper’s content continued to be discouraged by the offhand treatment they received as prospective contributors. Cumbrian anarchist Martin Gilbert was first asked to submit a collection of articles on 'Anarchists in Social Work' for publication by FREEDOM as an edition of its journal the RAVEN but when this was closed down by Toby, Martin financed publication out of his own pocket. FREEDOM under Simon first agreed to review the book but then didn’t.  Martin Gilbert subsequently asked me to review the book and this review was duly submitted to the collective.  Determined to force FREEDOM to belatedly acknowledge the value of Martin’s work I persevered until Simon eventually published my review but it is illustrative to read the accompanying admission (reproduced verbatim): 
'There has been a catalogue of errors and let downs regarding both the book and this review.  In the case of the book, the manuscript was originally intended for the Raven, but this journal ceased publication before his hard work could appear.   He then, as Chris mentioned, printed it himself and got Chris to review it for him.  The review was then lost, found, lost again, re-found and finally disappeared completely.  Following his letter in the last issue, we had it re-sent to us, and have now finally printed it here.'

At least as an authoritarian Toby was efficient; under Saunders’ editorship, 'Correspondence went missing or unanswered, features were lost and former disagreements and feuds went unnoticed, only to resurface months down the line as the group struggled to cope…Freedom’s organisation began to unravel.'

Having belatedly learnt the meaning of 'Syndicalism' Saunders joined the 'Solidarity Federation'  (SolFed) and as FREEDOM’s editor continued to pursue Toby’s failed strategy of appealing to 'class-struggle anarchist organisations' to support and sell FREEDOM with a similar lack of success. In 2009 Saunders resigned his editorship (but remained part of the editorial collective) to spend more time writing articles for the newspaper of the British Communist Party.

Perks for the Privileged

By 2009, little remained of the paper’s former politics and sales continued to nosedive yet FREEDOM provided perks for a privileged few. For A.F. and SolFed FREEDOM supplied free advertising, an enhanced profile and a convenient central London location for meetings.  For student radicals it offered informal political experience and credibility that led on to other fields, professional journalism for Saunders and editorship of libcom website for others (collective members Jim Clarke and Steven Johns for example).  FREEDOM’s book publishing business offered another invaluable opportunity that the collective were soon to exploit with disastrous consequences.
In tomorrow's exiciting installment of 'Who Killed Freedom...' we get another star turn of anarcho-syndicalism with Dean Talent of the Solidarity Federation and the Copywrite Kid!

1 comment:

S said...

For clarity, almost all the quotes above are (very selectively) taken from a freely available libcom blog about my early editing of the paper, done under a pseudonym because I value my privacy and have to work to live. Like any sane person.

I suppose I should at least clear up some of your more ridiculous assertions (the insults are of no consequence). Frankly if it weren't for the fact that people who don't know you or I very well may visit this page I wouldn't bother, but you do have a habit of slinging emails at random people I've never met.

My "financing" when I first started was that I lived with my parents for a while and held down other full time jobs while editing, a fact which you appear to have deliberately skirted.

My interest in gaming has nothing whatsoever to do with my politics - in fact the only way you could know about my interest in it as a hobby would be via my recent (unpaid, btw - another thing you got wrong) column in the Morning Star, in which case you deliberately ignored the content of the article, which was arguing the exact opposite by noting how gaming lacks a class perspective.

I keep my name off things because it's standard in journalism to search people's names when they apply for jobs and generally speaking, no modern trade unionist, let alone a radical type, wants to be picked out as such by management before they even start - a lesson you and Brian have apparently never learned while continuing to tout people's names around without their consent. It remains the single biggest reason why no-one wants to work with you any more, as nobody can trust you not to blab information.

Readership of the paper remained broadly stable from the time Vernon died until it closed - around 300-400. And it never covered its costs, not even under Vernon. It also continued for five years under several editors after I stopped doing it. So neither Toby nor I "killed it," as you so dramatically argue, in fact it was only our unpaid efforts that kept it open much beyond his death, and your own absence made no difference at all.

On correspondence, as I was on my own and commuting to the office in London from Ipswich at the time (on my day off, on my own dime) I found it somewhat difficult to keep up, for which I apologised on the occasions I let people down. I should stress, as one of the many things I noted in the blog which you "forgot" to include, that I was forced to run the paper on top of a 40-hour work week as no-one else would - it wasn't some jolly student hobby.

As for my joining of SolFed, I did so before starting at Freedom, and yes I was learning about politics as I went, which I am and was perfectly open about with contributors at the time.

You also might want to think about the incongruity of saying I used Freedom as a platform for working in the media and that I'm simultaneously hiding my real name for fear of its impact on my career. Which is it, Chris?

In sum, it is disappointing, but I suppose not surprising given your recent similar smear campaign against the AF, that you have decided to take the decade-old decision from Toby that you weren't worth dealing with and use your anger with that to run together this rather pathetic series of smears.

Despite your long history of snide comments, attempted slanders against comrades from many different groups, sectarianism and obsessive behaviours, I did my best to be cordial and respectful to you and Brian throughout my time as editor, telling you my real name as a mark of trust. It is a shame that this piece was the ultimate outcome.

I have said to Brian and shall now say to you - have a good life Chris, for I want no more to do with you.