Tuesday, 11 July 2017


(“FREEDOM’s” posthumous annual report 2 – July 2017) 
by Christopher Draper

REGULAR readers will recall how FREEDOM – one of the world’s longest running radical newspapers was destroyed by authoritarian “class warriors” who refuse to vacate its valuable (£1.5m) London premises.  FREEDOM’s Board (FFP) is obliged to resume publication of the newspaper but for two years made negligible efforts to regain the building or restore FREEDOM and effectively colludes with clowns claiming rents from fellow occupants of their self-proclaimed “anarcho-hangout”.  This situation provides nothing for anarchists around the country and achieves even less in spreading anarchist ideas.  On the contrary this whole embarrassing episode is a text-book example of anarchist ineptitude.  NORTHERN VOICES will not collude with this nonsense and we’re happy to expose the absurdist antics of the clown “collective”.

Andy Exits the Circus
Two of the funniest clowns Simon Saunders (“Computer Game-boy”) and Andy Meinke (“Beer-belly”) are jealous performers.  Last year they laughably named and blacklisted four of our NV team for publishing critical reviews.  Simon issued a fatwah – the Northern Voices 4: “should not be given any support by anarchist or progressive organisations…they should not be welcome in anarchist spaces nor published in anarchist outlets – they are persona non grata…”   Now Saunders has banned his fellow clown!  Apparently Andy over-indulged in the beer tent, made off-colour remarks about female artistes and on 7th June 2017 was sacked by the clown collective.  Simple Simon is now ringmaster but the Big Top’s tatty, the audience has drifted away and new management is itching for change.

Last Laugh?
Just a year ago Andy taunted audiences mourning the loss of FREEDOM with his arrogant boast, “Kropotkin might have started it but we fucking finished it”.
You might recall, Simon first entered the Big Top selling Syndicalist programmes whilst simultaneously proclaiming ignorance of anarchist politics – now he claims infallibility.  What a funny old circus!  There’s no performance and the Big Top leaks like a sieve.  Can a pair of plucky new governors save the day?

  Vero Richard’s Dying Circus
Decades ago, when wily old ringmaster Vero Richards re-founded the FREEDOM tradition he was smart enough to create a board of management (FFP) to guarantee the set-up after his death but before he was in his grave miscreants moved in, drove away audiences and threatened outsiders. When aged ex-performer Brian Bamford turned up at last year’s FFP AGM he was knocked to the ground by clowns Andy and Simon, whilst FFP Company Secretary Sorba deleted the digital evidence from the victim’s camera.  What a performance!

New Friends of FREEDOM
Now the show’s over, the clowns have had their day and the audience want their money back. Fortunately, since last year’s AGM management has been refreshed. There are now nine FFP members and the majority are not amused.  FFP now comprises the following nine members;
Stephen Charles Sorba – director of a printworks
Carolyn Jane Wilson - cycle trainer
Jason Holdway - unemployed (rarely attends FFP meetings)
Martin Howard - compiled quizzes for “Black Flag”
David Goodway - libertarian writer and historian
Ernest Rodker - veteran peace campaigner
Jayne Clementson - long-time stalwart of “old” FREEDOM
David John Douglass - libertarian communist ex-coal miner
Peter Marshall - anarchist author of “Demanding the Impossible”

Past Failures
Until now the FFP Board failed every bit as badly as the “collective” to act as anarchists, both preferring to operate as secretive cabals, accountable to nobody.  Neither “collective” nor FFP publishes minutes or identifies its members.  Fortunately, our contacts abound and NV is proud to Wikileak details of what’s been going on.  Now it’s time for radical change.
Whilst the first four people on our FFP list - Sorba, Wilson, Holdway, Howard seem determined not to re-establish the open-minded anarchism that long characterised FREEDOM the last five named are more solid FRIENDS OF FREEDOM.  Significantly the sectarian four all exist in the London bubble (with at least 3, Sorba, Wilson and Holdway concentrated in the South East corner of that bubble), whilst Goodway travels to meetings from Keighley, Marshall journeys from Plymouth and Douglass from South Shields.
Northern Voices has always criticised FFP’s London bias only to be dismissed by ringmaster Saunders for speaking “from the other side of Britain”!
FREEDOM newspaper was formerly the forum for anarchists across Britain, now the Aldgate “anarcho-hangout” is no more than clubrooms for metropolitans.  Anarchists are supposed to reject structures that dis-empower yet the collective are content to exploit their privileged position as Londoners.  Merely to travel to the FREEDOM building is an expensive disincentive for many anarchists around the country yet neither the “collective” nor FFP rotates its meetings around England or even offers a fare-pool so for the recent AGM NV put its money where our mouth is and chipped in £40 to enable one of the northern FFP members to attend.

Anarchism Begins at Home
From their next meeting in October 2017, FFP need to start acting as anarchists and tackle this issue.   Either move your meetings around the country or share the costs.  It is written into FFP’s formal constitution (para. 32) that members attending should have their expenses paid but this has just been ignored by Company Secretary Sorba and guess where he lives.
Next, FFP must put the old FREEDOM building up for sale.  It was bought to provide premises to layout and print the paper but this is no longer required to publish either an electronic or print edition. A sale would raise £1.5m to £2.0m which could finance a publications fund split between maintaining a new high quality FREEDOM anarchist news site and a separate book-publishing programme of say two titles per year.  This could be overseen by a publications sub-committee of FFP.  A website editor could be appointed by this group and granted, say, a renewable, modest biannual stipend.
The existing fixed metropolitan asset must be liquidated to discontinue further privileging a London elite and refocus on the needs of the widely scattered, isolated anarchist community.  When the clowns trashed FREEDOM and cast aside the loyalty of former subscribers, only FFP member and FREEDOM stalwart Jayne Clementson expressed any sensitivity or understanding of the harm they caused to the anarchist movement.

Time for a Change
Since FREEDOM was shut down Northern Voices has ceaselessly campaigned for a revival.  We’re heartened by the exit of Meinke and appointment of Dave Douglass and Peter Marshall and encouraged by the response of someone close to the collective, “I have no doubt your group’s commendable efforts precipitated this”, but fine words butter no parsnips.  We call on Dave Douglass and Peter Marshall to put some iron into the soul of other well-intentioned but irresolute FRIENDSFREEDOM, like the Norwegian Blue, might appear deceased but now, in July 2017, the FRIENDS have the individuals, the ideas and the resources to get FREEDOM squawking again. They owe it to anarchists around the country not to let a few London clowns reduce our whole political philosophy and movement to chucking custard pies.

Christopher Draper – for Northern Voices (July 2017)


Charlotte Wilson said...

After decades of decay the only way Freedom will succeed is if others are prepared to support their plans. To that end the FFP should consider engaging with anarchists other than themselves. Having a regular open session at the London Anarchist Bookfair with a proposal of what they intend to do would seem to be the obvious option for this.
Regardless of whether the Freedom moves or stays at the current location the FFP need to give serious thought to the shop. With the protracted collapse of the FFP and poor quality staff, Housmans became in everything but name the main anarchist bookshop in London.

Christopher Draper said...

Dear Charlotte Wilson,

How lovely to hear from you again after such a long absence from the anarchist scene.
Perhaps you might consider returning as editor of a relaunched FREEDOM. I realise it's more than a century since you stepped down and over 70-years since you died but you'd still do a better job than Simon Saunders.

Peace & Love,
Christopher Draper.

Charlotte Wilson said...


An update to my earlier thoughts. As one would expect we were in Housmans bookshop for last night's Kropotkin book launch. The staff has reduced their stock of anarchist books to between half and a third of previous levels. The last time we were in their premises was for an event early last November. At that time the shop had nearly four bookshelf cabinets of anarchist books, but last night they only had one and a half. The remaining selection was both distressingly poor and out of date with the dramatic developments in anarchist thought over the last few years.

bammy said...

Owing to one of our editors recently being in hospital there has been a delay in publishing this comment from Charlotte Wilson. We apologise for this.

Christopher Kropotkin said...

Oh dear Charlotte,
As you know, FREEDOM was brought down by a clique who constantly disparaged your politics
as “liberal pacifist”. Now there’s no paper, the bookshop is dysfunctional but the occupiers won’t hand over the assets. Meanwhile Housmans veteran Ernest Rodker, who NV supported onto the FREEDOM BOARD (FFP), remains deafeningly silent. Milan Rai’s excellent article in the current Peace News shows the Peace Movement’s (and FREEDOM’s former) politics are far from liberally passive. It’s time Ernest and the rest of FFP got off their arses,
liquidated the assets) supported HOUSMANS and revived FREEDOM.

Peace & Love,
Christopher Kropotkin