Saturday, 9 December 2017


by Dave Douglass (South Shields}
THE annual Anarchist Bookfare in London was for many many years the highlight of the Anarchist and radical Marxist calendar.  It brought together the most splendid , vivid fascinating and eccentric, profound and trivial, exciting and profane, hilarious and spiritual assortments of people.  They came in thousands, they bathed in the rainbow variety of factions, tendencies, visions and issues.  Workshops and presentations, entertainment and discussion filled the entire day as the crowds crammed past stalls laden with literature and art, T-shirts and stickers, posters and badges, cards and calendars, a myriad of interesting and unique stuff you would never find anywhere else under one roof.  The Vegan food commune outside the venues hawked the most interesting of pastries and butties, tatties and cakes, rich wonderful chocolate cakes and angel cakes which tested the will power of the most dedicated of health freaks.  In my own judgement the Anarchist bookfare almost vied with the Durham Miners Gala (almost) in terms of ‘not to be missed’ events.  Ancient aud Anarchists rubbed shoulders with the Mohican punks of yesterd-a-year, born again hippies, young activist, and what a Glasgow paper talking of the anti polaris demonstrators of the 60’s called ‘ beardies, weirdies and lang lagged beasties’ 
Sadly the great spirit of comradely diversity, the ‘let a million flowers blossom let ten thousand schools of thought reign’ which Mao had once said and may actually at one time believed, had started to change and smoulder into authoritarian intolerances.  In a gradual change of attitude which I think has spread from the Ultra PC ‘no platforming’ ‘shut them up’, ‘safe space’ evangelists of the US campuses, only very particular schools of thought would be allowed to be heard.  

Invited to speak one year I suggested I bring the famous ‘red’ miners banner of the Follonsby Lodge.   The banner originally drafted in 1928 famously sets forth the options and variety of radical working class ideologies and ‘roads’ depicting as it does Social Democracy, Bolshevism, and Anarcho-syndicalism, the ballot box and the gun, in the form of Kier Hardie, James Connolly in the uniform of the ICA, V.I.Lenin , A.J.Cook and George Harvey.  The banner encapsulates the trajectory of ideological struggle and events which led through the birth of the IWW, the ILP, the development of the Soviets, the General Strike, The Easter Irish rising and the Russian revolution. In this trajectory the debate around the nature of the state and working class democracy ideas of the anarchists and syndicalists, the Industrial Unionists, how society could function once capitalism was defeated were all marked by the birth of this banner. 

I had concluded that the Anarchist Bookfare was an ideal platform to retell this story and the way in which working class history had developed.  'Nope’, I was told , the bookfare couldn’t guarantee the banner’s safety.  One look at the central portrait of Lenin flanked by the hammer and sickle would be enough to stifle any debate and could lead to the destruction of the banner.  It was an early demonstration of the chain of thought which would seek to re-write history by tearing down all statues and memorials and references to un-pc historic figures.  It would be the fingers in the ears while shouting’ lalala’ to stop the sound of words too wounding to be heard. 
Then four or five years ago we had a gang attack on Comrade Brian Bamford of the Northern Anarchist Network.  Brian has a knack of rubbing folk up the wrong way it must be said, he had been irreverent to an old stalward of traditional anarchism who had passed away, Brian’s obituary was thought to be insensitive, which it undoubtedly was.  But it led to his stall being turned over his books trashed and he beaten up and sprayed with ketchup.  This was in the middle of an event of Anarchists who are supposed to believe we can govern ourselves without enforcement and laws imposed upon us.   It got worse, as first Brian then members of his group were banned from regional anarchist bookfares, not simply from having a stall but attending on pain of violence.   Book and Newspaper shops which stocked the NAN magazine were visited and warned not to stock the journal, the printers likewise were given the Gypsies Warning.   He hasn’t mounted a bookstall since. 
Last year, a section of the Anarchist wing fighting alongside the PKK against ISIS were invited to speak at a workshop.  The hall was invaded by students from the Gulf states who although purporting to be progressives were basically supporters of the Jihadists and Theocrats.  They stamped and chanted and no platformed the speakers.  Bending over backward to preserve our traditions of free speech they were invited to present an alternative view before the anarchists spoke, which they did, and then broke up the meeting and stopped them being heard. 
This year was the final straw.  One of the anarcho-feminists had been circulating a leaflet saying why they didn’t allow transmen to attend women only sessions and workshops, when she was surrounded and shouted down and threatened by a gang of 'transmen’, who not only stopped those sessions but demanded a whole list of demands from the bookfare in general be met.  This was as to content of stalls, workshops, items displayed and on sale.  The organisers under a constant barrage have just said ’bollox’ you organise your own, we’re done’.  ‘That’s it, were done organising this event’
I cannot in conscience blame them.  The only way to stop this march of intolerance would have been to not tolerate it and to physically impose free thought and free speech on people who plainly don’t believe in it.  Which would be a contradiction too hard for Anarchists to cope with.  Its a sad reflection on where mostly middle class ‘safe space’ victim-mongering, no-platforming , witch hunting, tyranny has taken us.   It is a very sad day in my view.  We have to ensure that this intolerance and denial of free speech and basic liberty is not fed into working class organisations and events. 
Tyneside anarchists in conjunction with the Follonsby Wardley Miners Lodge Association will be hosting a Guy Fawkes Workers Bookfare in Newcastle next year, Nov 3rd.   This will be an opportunity to present books on working class political ideology and history and progressive thought which one would not get the chance to see in conventional book venues. It will very much be in the tradition of the once famous bookfare although we don’t expect the same numbers.   At this bookfare the principle of free speech and political liberty will be guaranteed, and anyone who doesn’t accept the principle ‘left’ or right will be not invited and if necessary excluded.  

Blacklist Support Group Day of Action

BLACKLIST Support Group (including 4 UNITE EC members) occupying London offices of Skanska was just one of the highlights of the Day of Action against Blacklisting which included protests against blacklisting firms across the UK and ended in lobbies of parliament in Westminster and Holyrood.

Every parliamentarian who attended the events at Westminster & Holyrood, including John McDonnell, Richard Leonard, Jack Dromey, Chris Stephens, Neil Findlay, Laura Piddock, Rebecca Long Bailey, Angela Rayner, Louise Haig, Jon Ashworth, Chuka Umunna and many others publicly called for 3 key demands:
  • Full public inquiry into blacklisting
  • Blacklisting to be made a criminal offence
  • No publicly funded contracts for firms involved in blacklisting
Great contributions from Tony Sweeney, Paul Filby and Shrewsbury campaigners to keep the MPs and unions on their toes. As acknowledged by Gail Cartmail, UNITE AGS, nothing will ever be achieved unless the rank and file keep pushing for it. 

Friday, 8 December 2017

Rochdale Labour Party Boss Jumps Ship!

Faced with a no-confidence motion Councillor Farnell resigns
WORKERS at Rochdale MBC have been betting on when Richard Farnell would step down ever since he made a fool of himself at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse, last October.  With each week they have been disappointed, but next Wednesday at a full Rochdale council meeting he was facing a motion of no-confidence tabled by Councillor Andy Kelly, the leader of the Lib Dems.  The motion stated:  “This council has no confidence in the leader of the council and calls for him to step down and resign his position until such time that the findings of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) are made public.”
The Lib Dem motion follows the resignation of the secretary of the Rochdale Constituency Labour Party who protested at the party’s handling of the scandal.

The findings of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse are expected to be published before April.
Councillor Farnell e-mailed fellow councillors claiming he stepped down to prevent causing 'disunity.':
'Following the evidence to the child abuse inquiry there's been a persistent campaign from a small minority of members in the party calling for my suspension in an attempt to undermine my leadership and cause disunity in the party and group,'
In his letter to councillors, he blamed a ‘small minority’ of Labour members for ‘undermining’ his leadership ever since the Child Sex Abuse hearing.#

His resignation is immediately effective and his responsibilities will now be taken over by the council’s two deputy leaders, Allen Brett and Donna Martin, until a replacement is chosen.
In an agonising cross-examination at the Child Sexual Abuse Inquiry, Farnell continually denied ever having known about abuse in Knowl View boys’ school when he was last leader during the early 1990s - and placed the blame firmly on senior officers.

In the summing-up at the end of the Child Sex Abuse Inquiry it was concluded that it was ‘inconceivable’ that Coun Farnell had been unaware of the scandal.

Farnell's evidence was quickly condemned by the solicitorr acting on behalf of victims and since then four Labour branches in Rochdale have passed motions of no-confidence against him.

However, the Labour Party’s standard response has been that it must wait until the inquiry reports back next April until a decision was made on Councillor Farnell’s future in his role. Until now, the leader had appeared to be keen to hang on to power at least until next April.  The healthy stipend.he is on must have been tempting.

Dave Douglass, libcom comment & Mr. Saunders

N.V. Editor:  the comment below was written on libcom following the Dave Douglass statement by MH who is an editor on the libcom website.  The MH comment seems fair and reasonable.  What is more interesting is the swift breakfast-time response from Rob Ray or Simon Saunders, the somewhat half-baked anarcho-syndicalist editor of Freedom when he's not acting as a hack for the Morning Star.  We have no hesitation in doxing a juvenile pen-pusher such as Simon from East Anglia who admitted he had difficulty getting his head around the concept of syndicalism, not having even one working-class bone in his body.  Meanwhile, Rob Ray/ Simon speaks of 'stirring'!  He might well, many people are now saying the FREEDOM COLLECTIVE STATEMENT is feeble minded, and it seems the COLLECTIVE is split over it.

MH  Nov 21 2017 00:36
Well those comment pieces/statements on the London Bookfair keep rolling out, although with some glaring ommissions - AFed & SolFed nationally, Freedom collective amongst others?
Anyways here's Dave Douglass writing in Northern Voices on 17 November. He's a former striker in 1984/5 miners strike & NUM activist. He's also spoken at a variety of Bookfair's including London several times. He's toyed with anarcho-syndicalism, and flirted with Class War in the distant past, these days he's more of a historian (i think). He may come over as a bit rough & ready for Libcom towers, but that shouldnt reduce the validity of his viewpoint. So grit your teeth and read on:
by Dave Douglass
(South Shields}
THE annual Anarchist Bookfare in London was for many many years the highlight of the Anarchist and radical Marxist calendar. It brought together the most splendid , vivid fascinating and eccentric, profound and trivial, exciting and profane, hilarious and spiritual assortments of people. They came in thousands, they bathed in the rainbow variety of factions, tendencies, visions and issues. Workshops and presentations, entertainment and discussion filled the entire day as the crowds crammed past stalls laden with literature and art, T-shirts and stickers, posters and badges, cards and calendars, a myriad of interesting and unique stuff you would never find anywhere else under one roof. The Vegan food commune outside the venues hawked the most interesting of pastries and butties, tatties and cakes, rich wonderful chocolate cakes and angel cakes which tested the will power of the most dedicated of health freaks. In my own judgement the Anarchist bookfare almost vied with the Durham Miners Gala (almost) in terms of ‘not to be missed’ events. Ancient aud Anarchists rubbed shoulders with the Mohican punks of yesterd-a-year, born again hippies, young activist, and what a Glasgow paper talking of the anti polaris demonstrators of the 60’s called ‘ beardies, weirdies and lang lagged beasties’
Read the full piece here -
Northern Voices has a couple other bits on the Bookfair - here and here - note the second (Letter in Weekly Worker) contains certain factual errors, the most obvious being that the writer says Helen Steel is a member of the London Bookfair Collective. This is not true, and never has been, as far as i know.
Rob Ray  Nov 21 2017 08:33 
I'll break my silence on here briefly to note that Northern Voices are habitual doxxers and liars, and their admin tried quite hard to get someone from Freedom arrested after he himself had assaulted our members. I'm mildly surprised Dave Douglass would want much to do with them tbh [to be honest].
As for "glaring omissions" if groups do or don't want to make statements that's up to them, tbh [to be honest] this smacks of stirring a bit.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

The Ethics of Intersex:


Northern Voices Editor: 

GIVEN that in the Guardian on the 26th, November 2017, the writers Ben Quinn and Dulcie Lee concluded that 'Choosing whether one is a man or a woman is a matter of self-identification, trans activists assert', we at Northern Voices thought it may be as well if we published an account of an earlier study in 1967 by Harold Garfinkel of the transformation of what was then believed to be an intersex person into woman with a 'manmade' vagina.  I say 'intersex' because that is what Agnes in 1967 passed herself off as, she later after the operation admitted 'to one of her doctors that she had been taking very high levels of estrogen since the age of 12'. We think the case of Garfinkel's girl called Agnes, a transexual who passed herself off as intersex, is relevant to the recent debate that is raging among anarchists, feminists, trans folk and even within parties like the Labour Party.

 A 1960s Ethnographic Study of a Girl Called Agnes

AGNES was a 19-year old woman with an accidental penis appendage.  Studied by anthropologist Harold Garfinkel and written about in a 1967 report titled Studies in Ethnomethodology, Agnes became recognized by her researchers as an example of “passing.”  After undergoing a sex transition operation at UCLA in 1959 that amputated her existing penis and transformed it into a “manmade” vagina, Garfinkel’s research presents Agnes’ construction of her own personal history of femininity, draws attention to the secrets she refuses to disclose to anyone, and paints a portrait of a woman raised as a boy and fighting to fit into a society of “normal” gendered people.

At 17, Agnes (then identified by society and her family as a male) left home to live with her grandmother for a month–leaving one day with all of her belongings, changing into “female” attire in a booked hotel room, and creating a new life for herself as a woman.  Because she was living in a society that “prohibits willful or random movements from one sex status to the other,” (125)  Agnes consciously learned the accepted and expected mannerisms that accompany being a woman.  She “passed” effectively–noticed in bars and mistaken for a wife when she ventured out with her brother. She gained a boyfriend and avoided (for as long as possible) the day when she would have to tell him about her “vestigal penis.”

In interviews about her experiences both before and after the UCLA “castration,” Agnes identifies as a natural woman living in an environment that does not recognize her penis as accidental.  She is the victim of a mistake made by nature and corrected by man.  After the operation, Agnes still fights to conceal her past.  She has lived a life of concealment and aversion (hiding breasts as a 12-year old “boy” due to a later diagnosed excess of estrogen) and  claims to have 19 years of her life to “make up for.”

Her stories to researchers are filled with positive overtones and rosy colors.  She claims her sex transition was easily accepted by her parents and her boyfriend, and easily constructs a plotline that gives an impression of herself as she wants to be seen.  Garfinkel struggles with separating the truth of Agnes’ story from its reality.  He seems to cringe at her stories of learning (from her boyfriend) about the norms of femininity–that she should not give her opinions too readily and should fulfill his sexual needs.

Reading through the conflicted and often confusing accounts of Agnes, I was most shocked by her determination to subscribe to the black and white traditional definitions of man and woman.  Despite her own personal ambiguous “sex,” she is dismissive of homosexuals and transsexuals.  She is extremely uncomfortable when these categories are seen as parallel to her life, and she recurrently refers to them as “abnormal.”  She does not want to be classified with “them.”

Unlike many transexuals known to work toward raising public awareness and acceptance, Agnes only wanted to fit easily into the mainstream.  She did everything possible to become the media representations of housewives and ladylike women that were ubiquitous in the 50s and 60s (and today.)  She didn’t long for a greater social openness or even think that she should not have to hide her “condition.”   As Garfinkel explains, avoiding any examinations or inquiries that could reveal the presence of her penis (prior to castration) became a game.  Agnes learned the script of society’s stereotypes and rules to a T.  This was the act of “passing.”

Reminiscent of the “passing” that occurred during the Harlem Renaissance as light-skinned African Americans reaped the benefits of being acknowledged as white in American society, I was uncomfortable with Agnes’ cover-up. I wanted her to be accepted by society as a woman, but I also wanted society to accept sex and gender more openly.   I wanted it to be seen as a choice–to give the opportunity to identify with what Agnes referred to as her “natural” femaleness.  Perhaps this is more true in our modern age, but I think that the black and white boundaries of male and female still exist (even if they have blurred a bit.)

Watching an MTV reality show called “Plain Jane,” these stereotypical boundaries are more than evident.  A grungy-looking brunette with glasses and a monotone black and baggy wardrobe stands beside a smokey-eyed and stiletto clad British fashionista guru.  She walks through a street fair with an ear piece feeding her tips from the glamorous tutor about how to flirt–given advice like “guys like to hear themselves talk!   Ask him questions!”

By the end of the show, the formerly drab 20-something has been made into a Va-Va Voom hourglass model in a bright purple dress and honey-colored tresses.  She flirts through bright red lips and bats hyper-extended eyelashes.  She is a complete success.  I look at her as she delicately forks her salad, and I see the stigmatized version of the beautiful woman made real.

I think then about the Irish “Real Rape” stereotype I learned about recently in a policy class at NUIG. Until 1990, men could not be raped. Even today, legislation does not allow for the possibility that a man can be raped by a woman. Until the 1980s, “marriage rape” did not exist in Ireland.  This traces back to the idea of women as property–the consent of marriage synonymous with the consent of sex. In 2011, the false belief that rape usually is perpetrated by a stranger, at night, and with resistance from the victim results in cases that don’t fit this outline are quickly dismissed.

We read facts like these (and see black and white stereotypes play out on screen,) and we recognize that they are troubling.  And yet, they persist.  How could (or should) we change the way society perceives?

Agnes might have told us that we don’t necessarily need to.

Agnes’ story carries with it a twist ending.  At the time of her operation at UCLA, it was believed by her doctors and researchers that she possessed male organs, but that her estrogen levels were naturally on the same level as a “normal” woman.  They saw removal of the penis as the most “humane” thing to do–particularly because Agnes was experiencing extreme depression at the time.  They agreed to perform the procedure with minimal fees if Agnes participated in ongoing follow-up research.  Agnes agreed.

Despite years of interviews and research, Agnes still had secrets.  After she was finally settled into a new life as a married woman with nothing recognizably “unnatural” about her outward sex, Agnes revealed to one of her doctors that she had been taking very high levels of estrogen since the age of 12.  She was a biologically “normal” male until she stole her mother’s pills at this young age.  The supplements were taken at just the right time–halting the developments of male puberty and beginning the development of breasts.  Scientists believed that her “feminine” skin, breasts, voice, and convincing “passing” were a result of biology.  This added knowledge made clear that her transformation was an even clearer choice.

How does this change her story?  Does it discount it, or give it even more credibility?

I don’t have the answers, but this week will be full of wondering.

Guardian report on Book-Fair Blues

AN annual book fair that has served for more than three decades as the most important meeting point for the British anarchist movement has become the latest casualty of widening splits over the issue of transgender rights.

Organisers say that they no longer have “the appetite or the energy” to stage next year’s London Anarchist Bookfair, following fraught scenes at the event last month. A group of feminists were confronted by other activists who accused them of distributing “transphobic” leaflets that promoted prejudice against transgender people.

The acrimony follows highly publicised splits in universities, women’s organisations and political parties over the issue. Lily Madigan, a 19-year-old who has just won a vote in Kent to become Labour’s first women’s officer from a transgender background, has been at the centre of a row within the party.

The executive committee of another constituency Labour party resigned this month in solidarity with Anne Ruzylo, a women’s officer who claimed she had been the focus of complaints by Madigan and others.

This weekend it emerged that Madigan is applying to join the Jo Cox Women in Leadership programme, launched after the murder of the MP to encourage female participation in politics.
Meanwhile, the Women’s Equality party has confirmed that its executive committee is considering complaints about one of its members, Heather Brunskell-Evans, an academic whose invitation to speak at King’s College in London was cancelled after she took part in a discussion on transgender issues on Radio 4. On the programme she called for caution to be exercised in relation to children who expressed confusion over their gender. Brunskell-Evans said the party told her that three members had alleged her “conduct” on the programme had “promoted prejudice against the transgender community”. She is also alleged to have said on Twitter: “we have to #ROAR about the harms of transgenderism for children and young people”.

The leaflets handed out at the Anarchist Bookfair suggested that predatory men might be among those who choose to call themselves women, and might abuse the system by gaining access to women-only spaces such as refuges. Trans activists say the issue is being used by opponents – some of whom they label “terfs” (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) – to sow the seeds of hatred.
The increasingly angry disputes follow government proposals to streamline the process for how people can change their gender, under the Gender Recognition Act (GRA). A public consultation is to be held on speeding up and demedicalising the process, with the current need to be assessed and diagnosed by clinicians seen by some as intrusive.

Choosing whether one is a man or a woman is a matterof self-identification, trans activists assert.

For full Guardian story go to:

Wednesday, 6 December 2017


ACTIVISTS need to find better ways to struggle with each other and to fight with each other, argues Milan Rai
'People ask me how we would defend the bookfair from a fascist attack, but I’m not worried about them out there.  I worry about what we might do to each other in here.’ – one of the organisers of the London Anarchist Bookfair, [said] on 28 October.
A few hours later, a group of trans rights activists stopped some feminists handing out leaflets that they found oppressive to trans women.  A nontrans woman, Helen Steel, objected to this censorship. About 30 trans rights activists then surrounded Helen Steel and shouted at her for having stood up for the leafleters.
The confrontation went on for a long time.  Some people (including members of the bookfair collective) surrounded Helen Steel to protect her from possible assault.  An unknown person then tripped the fire alarm, leading to an evacuation of the building.
After the bookfair, there was sharp criticism of the organisers.  The collective have decided not to organise the London Anarchist Bookfair next year.  We’ve published lots of relevant documents in this issue, in full or (in one case) nearly in full, to give PN readers the chance to make up your own minds about what’s happened at one of the most important radical gatherings in Britain.

We believe this conflict has wider significance for grassroots movements for change, not just in Britain,

Steel by name
Our starting point is that standing up for free speech is necessary and important.  It is appalling that 30 activists gathered to threaten someone for standing up for the right to leaflet. It is shocking that people in the crowd shouted ‘ugly TERF’, ‘fucking TERF scum’, ‘bitch’, and ‘fascist’ at her because she refused to accept their harassment of two women leafleters.  This kind of bullying is completely unacceptable. (The word ‘TERF’ is now mostly used as a derogatory term meaning ‘someone with transphobic views’.   It originally stood for ‘trans-exclusionary radical feminist’.)   It’s shameful that groups have issued statements of solidarity with the trans rights activists without criticising this intimidation.

When Helen Steel stood up for freedom of speech, when organisers of the bookfair helped to protect her, these were courageous and principled acts.

We shouldn’t allow anyone, whether the government or any activist group, the right to dictate what ideas should be allowed to circulate.  Freedom of speech is deeply connected to freedom of thought. Most of us discover what we really think by talking with others, by expressing ourselves, and then hearing other people’s responses.  Everyone should have the chance to find their own political truths, to make mistakes, to grow and to stand on their own feet intellectually.

There is an old slogan: the answer to bad speech is more speech. In 1969, US anarchist Noam Chomsky wrote: ‘a movement of the left condemns itself to failure and irrelevance if it does not create an intellectual culture that becomes dominant by virtue of its excellence and that is meaningful to the masses of people who, in an advanced industrial society, can participate in creating and deepening it’.

Our arguments should become dominant by virtue of their excellence, not because we have shouted down the other side.

Shutting down debate – by shouting people down or blockading a talk or triggering a fire alarm – can be seen as a lack of confidence, a lack of belief that you have the arguments to win the argument.

Free speech
Defending someone’s freedom of expression is not the same as approving of what they are saying. Chomsky points out:  ‘If you’re in favour of freedom of speech, that means you’re in favour of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise.  Otherwise you’re not in favour of freedom of speech.’

When should free speech be limited?  Chomsky stands with the US supreme court ruling of 1969 which said that speech should always be protected from legal punishment except when people are trying to incite, and likely to produce, ‘imminent lawless action’ with their words.  According to this standard, the law should not be used to stop or punish speech that justifies or advocates oppressive violence in general.  The law should only be used against speech when those words are being used to try to start an actual violent attack right here, right now (‘imminently’).

Whatever else you might say about them, none of the gender-related leaflets passed out at the bookfair either justified or tried to incite anti-trans violence.  The nearest the bookfair came to imminent violence was when 30 people surrounded Helen Steel.

It has been claimed that what was written in these leaflets was a form of violence.  This is to bend the meaning of words completely out of shape.  Offensive or oppressive speech is not violence.

If you choose to define oppressive speech as violence, and if you accept the right of violent self-defence, then it is justified to carry out violence against pretty much everyone, because we all say things that are oppressive or that can be seen as oppressive.

Yes, hate speech can help create a climate of intolerance and hatred which encourages violent attacks. That doesn’t mean hate speech is violence or that it should be subject to legal punishment. (We’re not saying the leaflets were hate speech.)

How to destroy ourselves
In our last editorial, we described how conservatives, liberals, socialists and communists all helped to create an authoritarian climate in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, paving the way for Nazism (PN 2610–2611).

The socialist SPD banned meetings, newspapers and demos.  The communist KPD broke up meetings.  Together, they undermined democratic habits and independent thinking within German working-class movements, leaving them paralysed when the Nazis came to power.

When we stop public discussions, either through the law or through some kind of force (like a fire alarm), we move politics away from debate and persuasion, what pagan activist Starhawk calls ‘power with’, towards the world of force and compulsion, what Starhawk calls ‘power over' others.  If politics turns into a ‘power over’ game, the winners will be those who are most brutal.  That outcome won’t favour any kind of feminist.

Every time disruption or threats make it impossible to hold a public meeting – whoever is speaking, whatever their views – we undermine free speech and we weaken our already weak movements for change.

We need to find better ways to struggle with each other and to fight with each other, to disagree deeply while continuing to work together where we can.  We need to create bigger, stronger activist organisations, independent media, radical publishers and bookfairs.  We need to support the London Anarchist Bookfair, not destroy it.  We should be inspired how it makes freedom work.

Editorial note: In five articles ([1], [2], [3], [4], [5]), Peace News is documenting the free speech conflict at this year’s (2017) London Anarchist Bookfair. The origins of the Anarchist Bookfair are briefly recounted here, and the issues concerning free speech are the subject of this issue's editorial above.

Forensic Analysis of M/c Bookfair etiquette

ON the 26th, October, I wrote by e-mail to 'David Under the Pavement' asking for a space to organise a talk at the then forthcoming Manchester Anarchist Bookfair.  I wrote as secretary of Tameside Trade Union Council asking for the opportunity to hold a meeting about blacklisting in the British building trade, and I offered to try to get Ricky Tomlinson of the Shrewsbury 24 Campaign to come to speak at a Tameside TUC sponsored event.

On the 6th, Nov., I wrote again reminding David of my original offer.  Yet, reply came there none!

In mid-November 2017, Martin Gilbert applied quite separately to the Bookfair organiser 'David Under the Pavement' for a meeting space at the same Manchester Bookfair to take place on the 2nd, December.   This time Mr. 'David Under the Pavement' acknowledged Mr. Gilbert by text asking him to ring him on his mobile phone.  Martin Gilbert now says he rang the number David gave him on about eight occasions before the date of the Manchester Bookfair and had no reply.

Meanwhile, on the 25th, November we at Northern Voices received the following e-mail from the Manchester Anarchist Bookfair organisers:
'Here is potential list of talks for next Saturday's Manchester & Salford Anarchist Bookfair.
'This is likely to change so keep an eye on website for updates.'

On the 1st, December, at 4.37pm, Northern Voices was sent the following e-mail invitation:
'Interested in anarchism and anarchist ideas?
'Come along to the Manchester & Salford Anarchist Bookfair tomorrow at Partisan from 11am.'
In addition we were promised that if Northern Voices attended this Manchester Bookfair event and went 'Upstairs there will over ten talks covering introductions to anarchism, brandalism, radical bird watching and more!'
'Plus,' the Bookfair organisers offered 'to feed your body as well as your mind, there will be vegan food available from Hulme's Teatime Collective.
'This is a free event and everyone interested in finding out more about anarchist ideas is welcome.'  
Manchester & Salford Anarchist Bookfair

Despite all these lavish and tempting invitations to attend the Manchester & Salford Anarchist Bookfair, when I went to the Partisan venue for the Bookfair at around 1pm on Saturday the 1st, December, I was thrown out by four people including a bookfair organiser.  Other people with me were ushered and pushed out.  So far as I know no one was specifically asked to leave.

Curiously, given what had transpired at the Bookfair on Sunday the 3rd, December, we at Northern Voices received the following e-mail from the Bookfair organisers:
'Thanks to everyone involved in this year's Manchester & Salford Anarchist Bookfair.
Hoping to announce next year's book fair early in 2018.
In the meantime a date for your diary: Liverpool Anarchist Bookfair Saturday 7th April at the Black-E'

Some folk are now suggesting that the Bookfair organisers keep inviting us to attend their events just so they can have the pleasure of throwing us out when we get there.?

Well it might be more of a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand does.  On Monday evening the 4th, Dec.,. 'David Under the Pavement' finally got back to Martin Gilbert and began remonstrating with him in a self-rightous manner for daring to attend the bookfair.  It seems in the end that we were not welcome, and also that he'd neglected to ring Martin earlier before the Bookfair because he'd 'been away' somewhere.

The Helen Steel Story in Peace News:

N.V. editors:  Below is the first of several articles published in Peace News which we believe deserves wider circulation:
[Editorial note [from Peace News]: In five articles ([1], [2], [3], [4], [5]), Peace News is documenting the free speech conflict at this year’s (2017) London Anarchist Bookfair, starting with one of Britain’s best-known anarchists [Helen Steel].
The origins of the Anarchist Bookfair are briefly recounted here, and the issues concerning free speech are the subject of this issue's editorial here.]
'PEACE NEWS' article by Helen Steel:

I was in the process of writing a longer article around the events at the Anarchist Bookfair on Saturday [28 October 2017], but I am also trying to stay on top of the rest of my life while dealing with the horrendous bullying of people around me which is underway by some trans activists and allies.

I have been traumatised by my experiences on Saturday and by events since, resulting in a lack of sleep and inability to concentrate.

I wanted to complete the longer article, but as lies are being circulated by those who attacked me, I feel I have to put out a shorter statement now.

When I refer to trans activists in this statement I mean people who are activists on trans issues, I do not mean that all of them were trans, nor that they represent the views of all trans-identifying people.
“Refusing to validate other people’s belief systems is not the same as threatening to harm them.”
For those who don’t know what ‘TERF’ means, it is an acronym for ‘Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist’, but whatever its origins it is currently used as a term of abuse to dehumanise women and so excuse violence and bullying against them.

I thank everyone who is taking a stand against bullying and I urge more people to stand in solidarity too.

Those trans activists and allies who are carrying out the bullying can be defeated by growing numbers of people resisting that bullying.

This will facilitate a proper space for the concerns of women and trans-identifying people to be discussed.

Short statement on the facts:
  • The Tories are planning to amend the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) to include ‘Gender Identity’ as a protected characteristic in law.  This does affect women and as such, women have a right to express their views on this issue.
  • I am aware of three leaflets which were distributed at the Bookfair. I did not actually write or distribute any of them, but I supported other women’s rights to distribute them.
  • The three leaflets that were distributed [are displayed on the Helen Steel solidarity website].
  • None of them call for violence against trans-identifying people, obviously I would not have supported them if they had.
  • Refusing to validate other people’s belief systems is not the same as threatening to harm them.
  • Bullying people to force them to accept your views does harm people.
  • If you think that other people should not be allowed to question your ideology, it makes you an authoritarian NOT an anarchist.
  • Women are oppressed in our society on the basis of our sex, those who deny this perpetuate that sexism.
  • It is a basic concept of progressive politics that oppressed groups have the right to self-organisation and autonomy in their fight against their oppression.
  • I intervened to stop the bullying of two women who had been distributing leaflets about the GRA at the Bookfair and who were surrounded and being threatened by trans activists. Women’s voices have been silenced throughout history, which is why so many people have internalised misogyny and the assumption that women’s concerns are unimportant.
  • Half an hour later, I was surrounded for over an hour by a baying mob of around 30 trans activists who shouted misogynistic abuse in my face and at others, and who would not leave me alone. This included: ‘ugly Terf’, ‘fucking Terf scum’, ‘bitch’, ‘fascist’ and more.  That kind of behaviour should have no place in anarchism or any other progressive politics.
  • Despite that provocation, I did not at any time threaten or assault anyone. No trans activists were threatened by anyone else in my sight or hearing.
  • While I was surrounded, I saw a man’s hand moving towards my face and when it was within inches of my face I blocked it and pushed his arm away.  He then started shouting that I had assaulted him and I should be thrown out.
  • Some of those in the baying mob tried to stoke anger and division by calling me a snitch, making false claims that I had filmed them assaulting a feminist at Speakers’ Corner [in central London] and had handed that footage to the police.  Footage of the incident is available and actually shows me intervening to protect the victim of the assault, not filming it.  The videos embedded in this article [link given below] show what actually happened, please do watch them and see the truth for yourself.
  • Their claim of ‘snitch’ in the circumstances is obscene in any event – when you assault women you do not get to claim the moral high ground by complaining that they have reported your behaviour to the police.
  • Those in the mob asserted that the leaflets setting out women’s concerns about the GRA should not be handed out because they amount to violence against trans people.  They then used this to justify actual physical violence and intimidation.
  • They didn’t care about the distress caused to others in close proximity, including children. Nor did they care about the trauma they cause to women by surrounding us, threatening us and using violence to silence women’s voices, repeating the patterns women face throughout our lives when reporting sexual harassment or assault or other sexist behaviour.
  • Women’s experiences are always erased – we are asked what were we wearing at the time, what did we say and do. Always the message is; as a woman it’s your fault, shut up. So what’s new here?
  • It is absolutely ludicrous that anyone could think that the behaviour of the mob was justified in any way by my actions or those of other women. That is victim-blaming. People need to take a reality check.
  • Progressive people need to call out sexism, male dominance and violence and stop protecting sexist behaviour. Those offering support to bullies need to stop appeasing sexist behaviour.
  • Nonsense claims equating feminism to fascism are an insult both to feminists and to those who have endured racist and state violence under fascist regimes.
Of course I believe that all trans-identifying people have the right to live their lives free from harassment and abuse, as does everyone.  But I note the double standards that while women are repeatedly told to explicitly affirm that right, there is never a requirement on those advocating for trans issues to acknowledge the level of violence and harassment that women face or to state their opposition to sexist abuse, or to challenge the outrageous statements made by some trans advocates which repeatedly deny women’s experiences and silence women’s voices.  This is a power imbalance based on the long-held expectation in society that women should be subservient.

It is notable that a statement issued a few days ago, calling for groups to boycott the Bookfair in future, makes no mention of sexism or of women’s rights or for the provision of women-only meeting spaces.

There is no acknowledgement at all that women are subject to oppression, sexual violence and harassment on the basis of our sex. It appears that those who have signed the statement are in denial about women’s experiences in much the same way that the rest of society is.  Only the recent and snowballing reports of sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood, parliament and via #MeToo [on social media] have started to awaken people to reality.  It is time those who signed up acknowledged that reality too.

The Anarchist Bookfair organisers do a huge amount of work to facilitate an amazing event which allows thousands of people to learn about alternative views and experiences of oppression and to discuss ways to improve society for the benefit of all.  The self-entitled mob attacking women for leafleting thought they had the right to dictate who could say what in that space rather than arguing their views and listening to the counter-arguments to develop critical thinking.  They need to think again.

I am lucky to have so many friends and comrades who put themselves in the line of fire to protect me. I thank them for this, especially those who were assaulted and abused.  I also thank everyone who has sent messages of solidarity and support which are enabling me to get through this horrendous experience.  I include in my thanks those trans-identifying people and supporters who may not agree with my views but who recognise the importance of women being able to speak too and who are resisting the intimidation they face from people claiming to act in their name.

I want to add that a couple of people have commented that while they agree with women being able to speak on these issues, they feel that in a few places the wording used is not helpful.

The problem with requiring leaflets to be perfectly-worded before they can be distributed is that it excludes very many people from being able to express their opinions.  Only the confident will feel able to speak.

It particularly excludes those born female who are generally socialised from a young age to keep quiet about their views and so who are less confident about expressing them.  Perfection is certainly not a qualification used to prevent men from speaking.  And ultimately, who decides what is right? That is the purpose of having debate, so we can all clarify our thinking.

Monday, 4 December 2017


by Chris Draper
ANOTHER Bookfair, another outrage!  On Saturday 2nd December 2017 two gentlemen calling themselves, “Veg” and “Under the Pavement”, assisted by assorted other subterranean botanicals physically assaulted and ejected two anarchist comrades from the “Manchester & Salford Anarchist Bookfair”.

As bystanders witnessed, the pair had done nothing to disrupt proceedings yet were set upon without rhyme nor reason.

Another Isolated Incident?
Anarchism is viewed as an essentially violent, destructive and irrational pursuit by most normal people in Britain and the organisers of this “Manchester & Salford Anarchist Bookfair” (2.12.17) are evidently the latest self-proclaimed “Anarchists” to add substance to this popular prejudice.

Bookfairs in London, Bristol and Manchester, Liverpool’s Casa Club and London’s Angel Alley have all witnessed violent attacks on comrades in recent years and almost every anarchist website is littered with foul personal abuse.

Generally, perpetrators hide behind anonymity or pseudonyms such as, “Battle Scarred” or “Under-the-Pavement”, pseudo-identities that reinforce perception of anarchists as juvenile, aggressive phantasists.  Anonymity encourages irresponsibility and fuels fake courage. In the 1960’s anarchists were popularly perceived as tolerant, morally courageous, peace-loving individuals, now sociopaths are to the fore and good comrades have allowed themselves to be pushed aside.

Another Brick from the Wall
I live in rural Wales, but apparently I’m banned from both FREEDOM (ironic) BOOKSHOP and “Manchester & Salford Anarchist Bookfair” because both cliques dislike my opinions and that’s the crux of the current malaise.  When the Soviet Empire collapsed it torpedoed the popular appeal of Marxist politics and many youngsters who would formerly have drifted into some variety of Trot organisation instead attached themselves to Anarchism as it appeared untainted as well as sexier and more street cred.  Down the line we’ve ended up with the lunatics running the asylum.  The wall might have been torn down but these faux anarchists are reusing the bricks as brickbats.

I don’t propose an inquisition, banning, censorship or blacklisting (all currently in operation in Angel Alley) I merely appeal to decent anarchists to kick open the closet and speak out.  When you have to be positively vetted before you can join the so-called “Anarchist Federation” and to register and accept the party-line before you can post on “Lib-Com” or “Freedom” it’s clear that free-speech, tolerance and fellowship have given way to narrowing ideology and party-building.  Our clothes have been stolen by the intemperate and intolerant.  By people who refuse open debate.

Prior to the Manchester debacle Messrs “Pavement & Veg” received formal applications from one anarchist (not myself) to host a workshop on “Toleration in the Anarchist Movement” and another from Tameside Trades Council offering a workshop on “The Blacklist Campaign” (with the prospect of Ricky Tomlinson, one of the blacklisted Shrewsbury Pickets taking part).  Neither offer was taken up, no excuse was provided.

Northern Voices remains a rare outpost of tolerant, outspoken anarchist opinion that positively relishes a frank exchange of views but the bigots keep quiet and prefer to operate in the shadows.  I challenge “Veg & Co” to come forward and explain themselves and maybe even have the courage to do so in their own names but I suspect I’m more likely to get an answer from a carrot in my fridge. 


Blacklisting new claim in High Court

UNITE launches new blacklisting claim at High Court
Blacklist Support Group
Today, 14:53

Unite the Union has today launched a new blacklisting claim at the High Court. This time around they have named key individuals at the centre of The Consulting Association scandal as defendants including; Cullum McAlpine, David Cochrane (from Sir Robert McAlpine), Danny O'Sullivan (Kier) and Stephen Quant (Skanska), with the intention that these senior executives who orchestrated the conspiracy will be forced to account for their actions.

Following the settlement of the original High Court litigation in 2016, blacklisted workers have repeatedly stated that 'compensation is not the same as justice' and called for the union to use every means possible to ensure that directors of multi-national construction companies behind blacklisting were brought before a court. Blacklist Support Group fully endorses the new litigation and hopes that given that the costs risks have now been substantially reduced, this time around the guilty parties will be forced into a full trial. The sooner the better. 

Roy Bentham, secretary Blacklist Support Group commented:  "Blacklisting of union members and those prepared to stand up for basic legal entitlements is not just a breach of the law it is a violation of human rights. It is not just in the construction industry: blacklisting takes place in the NHS, in the North Sea and increasingly in the so-called gig economy where the lack of employment rights means the bosses continue to get away with it. This epidemic of victimization needs to be sorted out once and for all".    

The announcement comes in the same week as the Day of Action on Blacklisting that will see protests and lobbies of parliament across the UK.

Day of Action - Wed 6th December - please show solidarity at whichever protest you can get along to:

09:00 - Skanska office, Goswell Road, Barbican, London 
12:00 - Westminster lobby of parliament and rally 

9:30 - Meet at Unite Edinburgh Office
10:00 - Protest at St James Centre 
12:00 - Lobby the Scottish Parliament 
08:00 - 10:00 City Square, Leeds, LS1 2, United Kingdom

10am - Balfour Beatty, Sussex University, Brighton, BN1 9RH 

12.00 - McAlpine site Exchange Square, Urban Village Site, Gate 4, Dale End, B4 7LN

17:00 - McAlpine site, Durham city centre (Milburngate shopping centre).

Video of the previous Day of Action on Blacklisting in 2013:

Press coverage of the new High Court claim:

And finally, BSG would like to send our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Tommy Finn R.I.P.
Former chair of the Construction Safety Campaign, convenor of Hackney DLO in the 1990s, blacklisted and spied on by undercover police for standing up for the rights of his fellow workers. 

Blacklist Support Group

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Anarchists Attack Anarchists at M/c Bookfair

by Barry Woodling
ANARCHISTS within Campaign against the Blacklist found themselves blacklisted by Manchester Anarchist Bookfair.   An incredible happening took place at Saturday's bookfair.  

A meeting at the event on the blacklist was refused by the authoritarian clique in charge.  When two Unite members and Northern Anarchist Network (NAN) supporters Brian Bamford and Barry Woodling attended they were forcibly removed by one of the organisers Veg and several of his henchmen.  Remarkably both are citizen journalists on Northern Voices, indeed Brian is the editor and the magazine received an invitation to attend.  Spurious and bizarre reasons were given for their ejection ranging from anti-Semitism to Health and Safety.   

The resort to violence, bans and proscriptions is taken right out of the Stalinist textbook and seriously damages the credibility of the wider anarchist movement and therefore should be condemned unreservedly.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Inevitable roughhouse at Manchester Partisan!

Background to anarchist bookfair antics
THE promoters of the Partisan venue in Salford on Cheetham Hill Road and within sight of Strangeways Prison, have declared in their mission statement as follows:
“The aim of Partisan is to create a space in Manchester for grassroots or DIY music, political and cultural events,” explains Kate Hardy, one of the founding members. “The aim is to make somewhere that everyone can go to, even when they don’t have much cash.”
Not so at the Manchester Anarchist Bookfair today when a few folk hitherto associated with the Northern Anarchist Network, attempted to gain entrance and enjoy the event at around 1pm.

First of all the veteran anarchist Barry Woodling and several others mingled peacefully with folk buying books untroubled, but then the tall man Barry who stood out like a sore thumb with his garish black and red fleece was spotted by one of the organisers.  Since the 2012 bookfair, when this same bookfair bod, who hides behind the name 'Veg', had accosted and abused Barry accusing him of being an 'anti-semite', there has been much bad blood between anarchists in Manchester over the events at this 2012 event.  This was entirely provoked by the 'Veg' attack on Barry Woodling and particularly because having called Barry an 'anti-semite' and pushed him, Barry had to leave the premises of the bookfair venue, the People's History Museum, using a fire escape.  The manager of the People's History Museum later told me that Barry had to leave the premises by this strange route in the interests of 'his own safety', a baying mob having assembled including the leader of the local Solidarity Federation, Ronny Marsden and the national leader of the Anarchist Federation, Nick Heath.

Today's events followed the usual uproar seemingly now common at anarchist bookfairs nationally, and which this year, following a confrontation between radical feminists and trans activists, has led to the organisers of London Anarchist Bookfair to abandon plans to have a London bookfair in 2018.

This is the background to what happened at today's Manchester Anarchist Bookfair, and we hope to have more news on today's events as soon as we have more information of what went on.

Meanwhile, the Marxists in Manchester and beyond are laughing their socks off.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Former Gay Mayor 'gutted' after his de-selection!

Carl Austin Behan - former Gay Mayor of Manchester

A former Mr Gay UK who was the first openly homosexual man to be elected the Mayor of Greater Manchester, has been blocked from standing in May's council election because of de-selection by Labour Party members.

Carl Austin-Behan, said he was "hurt, upset and gutted" after a packed meeting of Labour's Burnage branch, decided not to back him to stand again. According to Labour sources, Momentum activist, Ben Clay, is likely to be adopted by Labour Party members.

Although Austin-Behan's supporters claim that the gay councillor is the victim of a witch-hunt and a Momentum 'coup' within his Burnage branch, others have said that the decision to de-select him, had more to do with his lack of visibility within the ward.

Following his election as the Mayor of Manchester, Austin-Behan, pledged to use his year in office to highlight prejudice towards the "tran's community" and to work to make HIV testing more readily available in Greater Manchester.

What the Mayor thought about child poverty and homelessness in Greater Manchester wasn't clear, because he was too wrapped up with LGBT issues. This led to accusations that his horizons were severely limited and didn't stretch much further than Canal Street and the 'Gay Village' and that he was politically myopic.

Cllr Austin-Behan said: "The Labour Party I knew and loved was democratic and I genuinely wish the best for the person who will replace me."

Spy-cops inquiry ducks disclosure of victims

Sir John Mitting - A Judge with a background in secrecy

1. Wed 6th December is the Blacklisting Day of Action. 
Protests are planned across the UK plus a lobby of MPs at Westminster.
Blacklist Support Group urge all our supporters to publicize the events and where possible to attend. Bring your banners and wear your 'Blacklisted' t-shirts with pride. 

Lobby of Westminster parliament
Assemble at Old Palace Yard, Westminster, SW1P 3JY 

12pm  – Rally with speakers from Unite including Gail Cartmail, assistant general secretary
1pm – Photo call with MPs
2pm – Meeting with MPs in the Boothroyd room - please note, this is in Portcullis House not the Palace of Westminster  
4pm finish & pre-Xmas drinks 
  • Full public inquiry into blacklisting 
  • Make blacklisting a criminal offence 
  • No public contracts for companies involved in blacklisting
More info for the regional events via UNITE:

2. Spycops public inquiry update

Sir John Mitting is the new head of the undercover policing public inquiry. Last week, in his first ever speech he told us that he was not intending to disclose which campaigns have been infiltrated by spycops or even all of their cover names during deployment. To paraphrase the rest of Mitting's statement -  spying on the Stephen Lawrence family and what happened to the women activists was morally unacceptable. What happened to everyone else is a matter of national security and therefore we were considered fair game.  Jonathan Hall QC representing the Metropolitan Police argued that it would be “extraordinary” if blacklisting by undercover police officers is to be considered as wrongdoing. 

Currently every state institution complicit in the human rights violations carried out by the political policing units has a huge legal team including a 11 separate QCs for the Met Police, Home Office, ACPO etc.. all paid for by the taxpayer  Whereas those who were spied on including the relatives of murder victims, the women activists, anti-racism campaigners and blacklisted workers have to share one counsel. The trade unions who were infiltrated have been officially denied any funding, so must pay their own legal costs. This is a massive imbalance of power and exactly what we talk about when people say that the legal system is stacked against us.   

We responded to Mitting by protesting inside the courtroom.

3. other bits & pieces