Wednesday, 28 October 2015


The article below was published on page 10 of the last edition of Private Eye:

 SINCE it was founded in 1886 by the Russian geographer Peter Kropotkin, the anarchist journal Freedom has included among its contributors and supporters George Orwell, Alex Comfort, Augustus John, Herbert Read, Benjamin Britten, and Cliff Harper.  For almost 50 years it has owned its own building, next to the Whitechapel Art Gallery in east London. 

However, after the death in 2001 of Vernon “Vero” Richards, who had presided since the days of the Spanish civil war, it was run into the ground:  first  under the editorship of Toby Crowe, who was more hardline Marxist  than anarchist and eventually packed it in to become an Anglican vicar; then under a young thruster called Simon Saunders, whose consuming passion is for computer games. 

Last October the paper closed down altogether, with a final edition that bizarrely boasted:  'Never mind, Kropotkin might have started it but we fucking finished it!' 

The build at Whitechapel High St, recently valued at £1.1m, is now occupied by a bunch of scribblers, activists and Class War enthusiasts who style it an 'anarcho-hang-out' and call themselves the Freedom Collective – though one veteran Freedom supporter tells the Eye it's less a collective than 'a bunch of oiks and morons' whose anarchism seems to consist largely of swearing a lot.  One denizen rejoices in the moniker Gawain 'the Cunt' Williams. 

Needless to say, there was much jubilation at Class War's '#fuckparade' assault  last month on a nearby hipster cafe selling breakfast cereal. 'The Cereal Killer cafe is a legitimate target,' the Freedom Collective's website declared.  'Yes hipster businesses aren't the actual problem  - capitalism and landlords are – but it is certainly a good thing that these people are made to feel unwelcome.' 

But will the oiks themselves be made unwelcome soon?  The building owned by a formerly constituted company, Friends of Freedom Press Ltd, and under its articles of association its board is obliged to sell if the magazine ceases regular publication, and to use the proceeds for other editorial ventures. 

The hitherto somnolent board of FFP Ltd – mostly old-style anarchists – will meet in London on 21 October to initiate formal eviction procedures.  Meanwhile, despite having spectacularly failed to publish a newspaper, the occupants of the anarcho hang-out refuse to recognise the board's authority and claim ownership of the building 'on behalf of the movement'. 

Regular visitors to Whitechapel Art Gallery can anticipate some lively impromptu performance-art next door in Angel Alley in the coming months. 
And, naturally, a lot of swearing.  

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