Thursday, 7 September 2017

Toby Crowe & 'Freedom' - Comment by SPGB

 IN 2015, Christopher Draper wrote an unauthorised account running to several essays about the decline and fall of the Freedom, the anarchist newspaper, following changes brought in after 2000.  Part of Mr. Draper's critique was focused upon the then controversial recruitment to the job as Freedom editor of the then general secretary of the Socialist Party of Great Britain (SPGB), Mr. Toby Crowe.  Mr. Crowe was a primary school teacher who seemingly suffered from what for want of a better description, we might call 'the teacher's disease'.  In other words his demeanour to others was somewhat authoritarian, supercilious and pompous, and in no way suitable for the job of a Freedom editor.  Judging by the letter below from Charmian Skelton, who knew the now Revd. Toby Crowe when he was in the SPGB; Mr. Crowe appeared by nature to have a bit of a top-down attitude when he was in their organisation as well:

Who Killed 'Freedom'?

(Dear Northern Voices),

I have just found the Christopher Draper article ('Who Killed Freedom' from 2015).
 Re Toby Crowe: I was – and am still - a member of the SPGB.  Toby Crowe, like his friend Robin Cox, became a new broom in the SPGB, having joined via a Guildford Branch. He was himself from Guildford and from a very affluent family.
 Robin Cox had ideas of his own, preferring ecology to class politics. Later he left the SPGB, in disagreement with its rejection of religion.
 Toby Crowe found his way to becoming the Party’s General Secretary at a time when the faction of opportunists, libertarians and Utopians were acting to split the Party. This led – on trumped-up charges – to the expulsion of some London Branches and others like myself who resigned rather than continue with the faction that had got control of the Party.
 Re Toby’s authoritarian ways as an editor: please do not blame the SPGB for this attitude of “I know best”. If, as your article says, he responded to criticism with sarcasm, that used not to be the SPGB way.
It is however a characteristic of the SWP and others influenced by Lenin!
Editorial re-drafting of articles was something I objected to when some of the faction became editors of the Socialist Standard. As a result, for some time before the ‘split’, I had stopped writing for the Standard, as had – long before me  – a number of other comrades.
 We continue to put the case for Socialism as a bottom-up not top-down movement, working democratically for a world “society based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community”.
 While we do fundamentally disagree with Anarchism, I consider many of the old FREEDOM supporters would have found some common ground with us, even while arguing with us.
 Since the ‘split’ we have published over 100 issues of our quarterly journal Socialist Studies, and more than a dozen pamphlets, also leaflets etc.
Our website is :

Yours for Socialism
C Skelton

Northern Voices: Who Killed Freedom?: an unauthorised history 1.

1 comment:

robin cox said...

I refer to C. Skelton's comment as follows:

"Robin Cox had ideas of his own, preferring ecology to class politics. Later he left the SPGB, in disagreement with its rejection of religion."

This is misleading. I have never at any time renounced "class politics" and while ecology is an interest of mine (amongst several) it has never in any sense substituted for or crowded out, my commitment to class struggle. It is also a bit sweeping to say I left the Party because of its rejection of religion. I dont have any problem with the rejection of organised and/or theistic type religions, for example.

I should mention also that I have recently re-joined the SPGB and indeed have contributed an article to this month's Socialist Standard

Regarding Toby yes I knew him but I wouldn't really describe my relationship with him as a "friend". I didn't really see him enough for that to be the case. I did find his subsequent political evolution a little puzzling to the say the least...