Friday, 13 March 2015

Freedom Press: Another Historical Account

By Martin S.Gilbert.
IN the early 1990's the wars in the Balkans occurred, and Brian Bamford reported on them first hand for FREEDOM who allowed him to use their documentation when he applied for a visa when he went to Crotia in the 1990s during that war, and later when he went to Serbia in December 2000, at the time of the collapse of the Slobodan Milošević regime. Charles Crute, then editor of Freedom in the mid-1990s, came up to Bury for a meeting of northern anarchists: others in attendence were Harold Sculthorpe: at that time Secretary of the Friend's of Freedom [Hebden Bridge]; Derek Pattison [Tameside]; John Lawrence [Leeds]; Jim Petty [Burnley]; Bob Crane [Bury]; Laurens Otter [Wellington, Shropshire]; Guy Cheverton [Hull]; Martin Gilbert [Eccles, Salford] and Brian Bamford [Rochdale]. FREEDOM was printing almost everything we sent at that time which amounted to regional reports from the North of England. Charles at that meeting in the Bury Unemployed Centre invited Brian to become the Northern editor of FREEDOM, which was accepted.

In 2002, Toby Crowe became editor and after a while came up to a NAN meeting in Liverpool. Sadly, much of the time at that meeting was taken up with a row between Brian and Toby. That editor was failing to print articles sent by Brian. Accusing each other of hyperbole the row chucked more heat than light on alleged problems. Some of us would have liked to have heard both sides, calmly in detail. It was not to be. Others present at that well attended meeting were excluded from the discussion / row. I felt very embarrassed because newcomers would have had the worst picture of anarchists.

This was not the first time that Brian had lost his temper with no thought given to the impression made on a big meeting. After such events I wasted time speaking to Brian about his behaviour. I got on well with Toby although we only spoke infrequently. At the Liverpool meeting it might have been shown how Toby was being manipulated and by whom. Hindsight shows that those manipulators were neo-Marxist of what we might call 'the workerist tendency' elevating the working class to be the only driving force of 'the revolution' (or second coming) as if that class had no authoritarianism. In doing so, that trend denigrated the importance of changing how we lead our lives. It took over FREEDOM by default and manipulation much to the paper's detriment. The awful scene described above gave no chance for such details to be uncovered. Brian and our network could have had a grievance to act upon.

There were murmurs of complaint when Toby left to become a C. of E. minister. How could one of such beliefs become a Freedom editor? Those murmurers failed to see the breadth of vision needed for an effective anarchist movement. It is as if only one type of anarchist, one explanation is correct. It was a trend that became increasingly used in FREEDOM.

Toby was not alone in being attacked for having religious leanings.

Jim Petty is a life-long anarchist who is also a Anglo-Catholic lay preacher. He was expelled by Solidarity Federation (S.F.)due to this work. It showed how parts of S.F. had been damaged by the 'workerist' trend mentioned above. Jim's church is in a rather out of the way part of Salford and Anarchist Federation (A.F.) stickers were put on the wall of that building on several occasions. Intellectual challenge or what?

Another example of that authoritarian, narrow approach was applied to CATHOLIC WORKER. Its an American-based movement set around a journal of that name. In spite of the 'catholic' tag its approach is radical libertarian left. Around 6 years ago it's helpers were told to remove their stall from a London Anarchist book fair.

Similarly, a good friend of some northern anarchists Laurens Otter has also had brick-bats disguised as anarchism . Laurens is a regular Church goer, who when younger was a seminarian. He was imprisoned for anti-nuke activity various times and still a fine contributor to our ideas. Father Ken Leach worked in a selfless libertarian way with London's homeless. Laurens says that Gresham Kirkby was a major influence on him and father Ken. While working in Nottingham in '79 I met Father Kileen who impressed me as one of those mentioned above. The list here is far from complete.
In fairness, a strain of libertarian sanity was allowed at our London book fairs. In 2012 and 2013 "Anarchists and Spirituality" had well attended discussions at that venue. Jamie and I showed how organised religion had corrupted spirituality, to the benefit of the State and its agencies. (see
ANARCHISTS IN SOCIAL WORK, pp 33-34, as above)

Below is another example of unthinking authoritarianism posing as anarchism. Some 18 months at the Casa club in Liverpool, Ciaron O'Reilly of PLOUGH SHARES was giving a talk. He was fund raising for mega- whistle blower Julian Assange (sp?) Julian was wanted by a government for an interview about an allegation of rape. He had not even had allegations made against him. Julain was attacked by a group, mainly women associated with Solidarity Federation, one of whom threw a glass at Julian. This caused much bother subsequently, for other users of that club. Never mind that quite possibly those reports were made to discredit Julian and his revelations. Too many people act first and think later.

How many of these authoritarian class warriors have actual "done time" for their beliefs? I do not mean getting arrested and having fines paid for by tired old farts like me but going to prison time and again like Laurens Otter. Rather, these people delude themselves and others with false promises of revolution. They are like the Socialist Workers Party acolytes who in '84 were fighting, to the striking miners last breath. Nowhere were they to be seen in the pit villages when that action failed, to help support and comfort those people.

martin s. gilbert, Ulverston, Cumbrian Feb.'15.

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