By this time, I’d guess that quite a lot of people in the UK anarchist movement probably know about Freedom’s current financial troubles; if you haven’t heard about them yet, you can catch up on them here and here. By the way, David Hoffman’s been whining about his right to reply, so if he sees this, you’re welcome to use the comments for this post to say anything you like, and I promise not to censor it, except possibly to remove identifying details of individuals; if you don’t fancy taking it up and arguing your corner, then you can hardly be surprised if everyone carries on thinking you’re a greedy sack of shit.
Anyway, all this raises two related questions: is Freedom worth saving, and if so how? A lot of the discussion about saving it seems to range around increasing the number of individual subscriptions, which doesn’t seem that helpful in my view. Financial stuff isn’t my strong point, so maybe subscribers are the only way to make the publication viable money-wise, but when we talk about people willing to subscribe to Freedom, we’re talking about people who are willing to spend £22 on a year’s worth of anarchist news – in other words, people who’re already quite interested in and committed to the anarchist movement. With all due respect, I don’t think Freedom is that great a resource for these people; as a monthly newspaper, all the news it contains is gonna be a month old by the time it hits the streets. I could be wrong, but I’d imagine that most people who’d consider paying £22 for a year’s worth of Freedom are also probably interested enough to check libcom, bethemedia, and other radical news sources on a regular basis, so a monthly newspaper isn’t going to have much that they haven’t already seen. And as a space for ideas, Black Flag is a fair bit more heavyweight. I appreciate the internet can be a bit of a self-containing bubble, and there must be a fair few people without regular internet access, but “people who want to keep up with anarchist news but don’t use the internet” doesn’t seem like the most stable base for a publication.
None of this is to say I want Freedom to die, or that I don’t care either way. I’ve written for it before, and hope to do so again, and I think it’s important that it survives. But I think that it’s important because of the stuff that print publications can do which the internet can’t; that is to say, because it exists in real life. As anarchists, we turn up in various areas, from union demos to Occupy camps and beyond, which are mostly made up of people who aren’t already anarchists but are, in some way, involved in struggles that we support. Anarchists tend to be quite good at making ourselves visible at these sorts of things, but not necessarily so good at making the contents of our ideas obvious. It’s these sorts of places where I think a paper comes into its own, as a fairly accessible way of introducing new people to our perspectives. It’s understandable if people in the AF or Commune aren’t interested in distroing Freedom, since they have regular free papers that’re easier to get rid of, as well as having more defined politics, but Catalyst’s very irregular, as is the Alarm paper, and there’s a lot of local groups around the country, like Norfolk Community Action Group, Wessex Solidarity, York Anarchists and so on, that aren’t affiliated to any of the national federations. Some of these groups produce their own papers, but local papers can take a lot of effort in small groups, and can often end up either being very irregular or looking a bit crap, or both – even the Hereford Heckler, which was one of the best local anarcho papers in the country for a long time, is now online only. And there’s no reason why a local group can’t distribute both a local and a national paper.
So, that’s my take on Freedom’s crisis. The editors may not thank me for saying this, but I’m not sure that making a one-off donation to a paper you’re not that interested in is a good use of anyone’s resources; but if you think that newspapers can be a good introduction to libertarian ideas, and you’re not already committed to Resistance or the Commune, then you should think about buying a bulk order to sell on a regular basis, thus sending some cash the paper’s way and, even more important, increasing the number of people who’ll actually read it.
There’s a lot more going on at the moment, but the raids happening in the US right now deserve an article of their own, which I’ll try to get round to writing at some point. In the mean time, I’ll just do a quick plug for Ruth, Jess and Charlotte’s fight to get their money back off Victor Stone.