Saturday, 16 May 2015

Under the Black Flag!

IN an e-mail extract below Iain McKay questions the concern of some of us on the Northern Voices Blog have about the plight of Freedom Press in particular and the left press in general, saying:

'All in all, I'm not sure why you are doing this Brian – all you seem to be doing is alienating people. ....  Given what you have written about me all I can say is that I would suggest your readers take everything you write with a very large pinch of salt.  All in all, I really do have better things to do that (sic) to reply to obvious distortions and insults.  If you want to help build the anarchist movement in the UK, well, that would be good but, to be honest, it does not look like you want to do that – if you did, you would not be writing such nonsense....  if you want to do something constructive then please consider getting involved with Black Flag – like the “Freedom” Kropotkin helped create, it is a communist-anarchist journal...' 

Comrade McKay then patronises me suggesting:

'If that (Black Flag) is not your version of anarchism, get involved with something more suitable for you (apparently “Anarchist Voices” is still going).' 

The fact is that, as I have already pointed out, I have never to my mind ever written anything about Iain McKay.  So far as I know I have never set eyes on him, and though I know the name I cannot recall having read anything he has written much beyond his recent e-mails to me.  Other people have remarked upon him and what he has written, but I have no pre-conceived ideas about him. 

As an alternative to the historic publication Freedom (first published 1886), which was put to death last year, Mr. McKay proffers Black Flag (circa 1970).  It is hard to take Iain McKay seriously here if only because, it seems to me, that Black Flag had its historical origins in a failed projected that I was involved in, in the 1960s.  Black Flag evolved out of a charitable venture called Black Cross which was set-up by Albert Meltzer and Stuart Christie.  In the early 1960s, both Stuart Christie and I took part in a campaign organised by the young Spanish anarchists of the F.I.J.L. to discourage tourism in Spain as part of the general struggle against the Franco regime. In the end, we clearly failed to discourage tourism to Spain; and in August 1964, Stuart Christie was arrested in Spain and served three years of a 20-year sentence.  For my part and that of my then wife, we were involved in research and propaganda, which involved us in providing photographs of shanty towns around Barcelona and Barcelonetta.  We sent reports of working and living conditions in Spain and later Gibraltar to our contacts in Paris for publication in the F.I.J.L. the Spanish underground periodical Nueva Senda as well as providing reports for 'World Labour News', 'Worker's Voice' and 'Direct Action' in the UK.  

When he came out of prison, Stuart Christie was taken care of by Albert Meltzer and, as I understand it, they first formed the Black Cross and later the journal Black Flag.  It may well be that the Black Cross did its job in providing assistance for prisoners held in the jails of General Franco,  but Black Flag was never a publication which had any significant status in the British labour movement.  I joined a trade union in 1957 – the ETU as an apprentice electrician; but, in all my years on the shop-floor I have never known a working man or woman who had ever heard of a publication called Black Flag.  Certainly none of the blacklisted electricians that I'm involved campaigning with today will have heard of such an obscure journal.   Its exotic and melodramatic contents and title may well appeal to young students but not to the working people and trade unionists, I know.   

Stuart Christie knows my views on what happened in the 1960s, and he knows that I am critical of his historic aloofness with regard to the British labour movement to which I belong as a lay trade union official, and his literary failure to seriously re-examine what transpired at the time of our involvement with the Spanish resistance to Franco.  However, having said all that, when Tameside Trade Union Council published its tribute to the 70th anniversary of the Spanish Civil War in 2006, Stuart had no hesitation, when at my request, it came to him writing an introduction in our booklet (see 'Other publications' on this Blog).    
If Iain McKay had owt about him he would know that I already edit the regional political and cultural publication Northern Voices, perhaps he unaware of this because he lives in London and works at a University.  Because it is so well publicised he ought, however, to be aware of my involvement in the campaign against the blacklist in the British building trade if only because since 2009, when the Blacklist Support Group was set up, there has been a London aspect to this struggle.

1 comment:

Jonathan Simcock said...

For information of all involved in this 'exchange', Anarchist Voices is indeed still going both in printed form and online.

See!projects/c10d6 for back issues and the current edition is available from
The next edition is due out in July.