Saturday, 9 July 2016

A Modest Proposal for Freedom Press

'It is hard to tell someone who is shortsighted how to get to a place.  Because you can't say “Look at that church tower ten miles away over there and go in that direction".'

Ludwig Wittgenstein (Manuscript 107 70 c: 1929)
THE modest program below sets out to sets out to provide a signpost for the forthcoming Annual & General Meeting of Friends of Freedom on the 23rd, June.  The four advocates of this modest program for change at Freedom Press are Barry Woodling; Martin Gilbert; Brian Bamford and Christopher Draper.  
In 1962, Vernon Richards for the then editors of FREEDOM addressed the readers in a Preface to a volume of Selected articles
'You, our readers, will, we hope, agree with Mr. Colin McInnes when he described FREEDOM as “about the only authentically polemical weekly surviving in our country” (New Statesman 7/9/62) for this very reason, and in fairness to our correspondents, comrades and sympathisers, we must mention that these Selections reflect the editorial approach of FREEDOM, an approach which on certain issues has been hotly contested, by comrades we esteem as anarchists and friends.'
Like the philosopher Wittgenstein quoted above, Vernon Richards was the son of a foreign businessman.   Both also had European origins.  The Austrian, Wittgenstein carried Tolstoy's Gospels in his pocket and Vernon Richards identified with the Italian anarchist Erico Malatesta.  James Pinkerton, a former International Secretary of the Syndicalist Worker's Federation (SWF) and a severe critic of Freedom, had to admit that Vernon Richards and Freedom's position on civil liberties was a distinguished model of radical journalism in the UK in the 1950s and 60s.
Over a year ago Chris Draper and Northern Voices* played a major role in re-establishing the Friends of Freedom Press as a functioning body and helped to install David Goodway as a new Friend.  What everyone of goodwill now wants, including the Friends of Freedom, is that some tidying up is required at 84b, Whitechappel High Street, and that the Trustees must now fulfil their obligations: the requirement under the Memorandum of Association is for the Friends to ensure that 'the anarchist journal “Freedom” ' is published properly.  For this reason we believe all the signatories to this modest program below should now be elected to the board of Freedom Press at the forthcoming AGM:
*  The publication Northern Voices was founded on the initiative of a former Friend of Freedom Press, Harold Schulthorpe, and others in 2003.

OUR FRIENDS in the NORTH      June 2016:

* For over a century FREEDOM was uniquely important in the exchange of ideas between anarchists and the wider promotion of anarchist ideas and activities
* “Friends of Freedom Press“ (FFP) exists “To assist financially the printing and publication of the anarchist journal “Freedom” (Memorandum of Association; para 3(A)1).
* Despite this unequivocal obligation to ensure FREEDOM maintains its historic role, FFP (as currently constituted) has proved ineffective
* FREEDOM’s assets currently facilitate some positive activities but these assets are legally required to be used for maintaining FREEDOM as a lively, inclusive and effective Anarchist Journal (in print or web form). The existing website and recent print offerings have proved wholly inadequate and exemplify regrettable and embarrassing indulgence. 
* Having initially been instrumental in the revival of FFP and subsequently witnessed a demonstrable lack of progress towards re-publication, “Our Friends in the North” (OFIN) now propose a slate of four well-qualified candidates committed to resurrect FREEDOM with a clearly articulated programme;

** Within 12 months, selling the 84b Whitechapel High Street property to liquidate FREEDOM assets
** The creation and maintenance of a new, professionally designed, sophisticated FREEDOM website within 6 months of liquidation  
** A Webmaster-Editor to be formally appointed on a bi-annual basis by a newly created FFP Publications Sub-Group (PSG) with an annual budget of 15K (1% of liquidation capital), to include a modest stipend
** A three-person PSG to be appointed from within, and responsible to, FFP (by secret ballot if excess volunteers)
** Furthermore, to challenge London-centricity OFIN proposes convening all future FFP meetings in Birmingham
** All future FFP agendas and minutes to be published online

If appointed, all OFIN candidates commit to working cooperatively and constructively with existing FFP members to revive the fortunes of FREEDOM.  On this basis we ask you to endorse the following;

Brian Bamford – Rochdale
Christopher Draper – Llandudno
Martin Gilbert – Ulverston
Barry Woodling - Salford 


David said...

So in order to fund another website among thousands of others, offering an undefined selection of content to an undefined audience, featuring an undefined selection of writers, with no paid staff beyond an editor, in an environment where even fully-staffed professional media companies aimed at much larger audiences can't sustain themselves, you want to evict a building which houses eight groups doing the following tasks:

- Corporate Watch: Regularly publishes investigative magazines and books
- Freedom Press: Maintains a bookshop, website, freesheet and publishes books (whether you like them or not is irrelevant)
- Haven: Distributes literature to thousands of prisoners nationwide
- SolFed: Regularly publishes pamphlets and books
- Afed: Regularly publishes pamphlets and books
- Bargee Traveller Association: Campaigning organisation for river dwellers
- Advisory Service for Squatters: Campaigning organisation for squatters
- DeCenter: Open social space hosting talks and workshops every week on a wide range of anarchist topics

Essentially what you're suggesting then is to destroy one of London's most important anarchist assets, causing enormous disruption to the work of large numbers of people, including numerous existing publishing operations to fund something that you've not even defined beyond the crassly basic idea of having "a website" with "an editor."

And you wonder why people say you're clueless.

Adam Barr said...

Not that modest really. Just FYI the we've just raised the money for a website redesign and we should be receiving sketches and quotes today or tomorrow. What you are suggesting is pretty unanarchist, an attempt to steal away the means of production from the workers using it by a bunch of old irrelevant white men. Judging by the content you put out on Northern Voices it seems your pretty out of touch with actual anarchist politics today. I would direct you to the work done by Corporate Watch or Haven Books, or the Advisory Service for Squatters or any of the other groups who use the building to put further anarchist politics but I'm sure you wouldn't really care. I'd have been quite happy to discuss the problems with the website at the last London anarchist bookfair (which i believe you attended) but you didn't seem too interested on that occasion. I have to thank you for your donation for one of the freesheets we were distributing though! We got rid of all 1000 copies over the course of a month you'll be happy to hear.


Unknown said...

Sorry for the few errors in the email I sent. I'm on my phone so difficult to go back over. Plus ur proposal is so vague and I'll thought out it made me pretty angry. I second what David said above. Adam xx

bammy said...

Dear Adam,

Yes we at Northern Voices know all about the rent regime at Freedom Press. Be that as it may, it is not what is required under the Memorandum of Association. That document requires the Friends of Freedom Press to ensure the publication of the anarchist journal 'Freedom'. In what passes for a free-sheet you say that 'We got rid of all 1000 copies over the course of a month you'll be happy to hear'.
Is that the best you can claim? In the course of a month you were actually able to give away 1,000 copies of something that hardly matches up to anything I could ever respect.
Even members of the Friends have told us they don't regard this as up to much. As for the website they regard it as laughable. I'm sorry if inside the 'hangout' you delude yourselves that this is good enough, but outside of London many people see what you are doing as less than mediocre. None of this is to suggest that your tenants are not worthy people, on the contrary! But Freedom is not supposed to be lodging house for worthy causes.

David said...

But Freedom does publish - why would your opinion on how good it is have any relevance? Critics have been shouting about how terrible Freedom is since the early 20th century, if it had sold up every time that happened there would not even be a Freedom Press for you to moan about.

As for your viewpoint on what Freedom is "supposed" to be for, if you think that putting multiple publishers out of business, including Freedom itself, for the sake of mounting a startup you personally approve of should be the aim then you are no longer talking about supporting or defending anarchism, but of indulging a vanity project.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Adam could tell me what he has against men and old people and white people and why he thinks they are irrelevant. As an outsider, it seems that Freedom (or whatever is left of it) has been hijacked by the same juvenile social justice warriors that have colonised everywhere else. The last time I visited 84b was a few years ago. It felt like a self satisfied clique and it didn't feel welcoming. I stopped buying Freedom even longer ago as it seemed to have given up on writing about anarchist ideas and had settled for photos of people throwing things and regurgitating crap from the Guardian about saving the NHS and state education. No wonder people have given up on anarchism.
NG Poplar.