Freedom must be saved

Freedom must be saved

The potential closure of an iconic publication such as ‘Freedom’ is an absolute travesty, and would be in whatever circumstances that it may have arisen. However, the reasons for which it found itself in such a perilous financial state makes me feel sick to the pit of my stomach.

Freedom was founded in 1886 by a group of volunteers, and despite format changes, is still in publication today, 125 years from when it first appeared. Freedom has been written and edited by some of the most legendary figures in the movement, and has a well-deserved reputation.

I am no expert of the finances at Freedom, but clearly those finances are limited. Any substantial or unexpected cost was bound to put a spanner in the works. What you would not expect is an allegedly ‘left leaning’, anti-fascist, photojournalist, to near bankrupt the newspaper over the accidental use of a photograph in a book.

David Hoffman, a well-established photojournalist, took issue with a photograph used in the 2009 book, “Beating the Fascists”, that didn’t have his permission. Rather than just accepting an apology for a genuine mistake, the rat bastard decided to go after Freedom and threatened them with legal action. Ultimately they have had to hand over £4,000 to the cunt, which has left them in dire straits.

Freedom is launching an appeal for donations and subscriptions. If nothing changes then it will cease to exist in its current printed form in October.

I started writing the international news pages a few months ago, which has given me an insight into the hard work and commitment of all those involved. They really do bust their asses every month to ensure the paper is finished.

Freedom has given so much to the movement for well over a century, I really hope the movement can pull together for a really worthwhile cause.

***Please click on this link for more detailed information and how you can help***

Posted By

working class s...
Jul 19 2012 00:52

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raw
Jul 23 2012 08:14
Jared wrote:
It was my personal concern actually Robin: as a cis man I'm not comfortable with that term thrown around, especially when used negatively by (I'm assuming) other cis men. I've already said why on page 3, if anyone wants to PM me they can, but lets not derail the thread as there's been some constructive ideas put forward on how to move Freedom forward.

Sorry what is a cis man?

Rob Ray
Jul 23 2012 08:20
Croy
Jul 23 2012 13:40

This is sad to hear, I wrote for the paper once before. If I have got anything to spare or find myself employed soon, I will be donating or subscribing.

Robin Banks
Jul 23 2012 15:06
Jared wrote:
It was my personal concern actually Robin: as a cis man I'm not comfortable with that term thrown around, especially when used negatively by (I'm assuming) other cis men. I've already said why on page 3, if anyone wants to PM me they can, but lets not derail the thread as there's been some constructive ideas put forward on how to move Freedom forward.

Sorry, it's just whenever I've ever seen this crop up it's usually a couple of men outraged without even bothering to ask the women what their feelings are which makes it a bit ironic to be using the patriarchy card. But yes, sorry for the derail, as you were.

Robin Banks
Jul 23 2012 19:00

My suggestion: are anybody undertaking street sales of the paper? On the many demos I've attended I've seen plenty of socialist worker and socialist paper sellers but don't think I can recall Freedom ever being available. With the larger demos this could be due to anarchists having thier own actions planned on the day but I don't see why other demonstrations couldn't be targetted. Same with a street stall, have those avenues ever been considered?

no1
Jul 23 2012 19:46

I'd be surprised if the trots sell a lot of papers at demos, I think it's mostly a way to dominate political space with their brand.

Robin Banks
Jul 23 2012 19:58
no1 wrote:
I'd be surprised if the trots sell a lot of papers at demos, I think it's mostly a way to dominate political space with their brand.

Possibly so. But the fact remains that you only really encounter Freedom if you are one of the few who are into niche hard left politics and stumble upon it through reading of it online, attending the book fair or chancing upon the shop (or one of their distributors). 'Presence' can actually lead to paper sales and subscriptions along with perhaps more sympathisers and activists to the movement.

Rob Ray
Jul 23 2012 21:11

Yeah street sales are actually a good way of getting the name out - Black Flag will often sell out on a big demo and that's actually more expensive. We were hoping to get that going but again, needs people to volunteer and organise it.

working class s...
Jul 23 2012 22:29

I remember reading something saying that @ the TUC march last year, they sold around 1500 copies of socialist worker on the streets. which fair enough, is not a lot in the context of a march attended by 500,000 people, but it is still a decent amount.

Also, the socialist worker has a very well established networks of distribution, and regular weekly paper sales, so is bound to sell less on demonstrations, because most people who would want to read it will already have access to one of those well established distribution networks, and already have a copy

the same cannot be said for freedom

I think freedom would go down really well at a big demo if it was readily available. The other thing with socialist worker is that (for some people) its like marmite, you love it or hate it. its very well known and widely read, and instantly recognisable. So far a lot of people, freedom may be something they would buy, and if they like it...who knows

Robin Banks
Jul 23 2012 22:30
Rob Ray wrote:
Yeah street sales are actually a good way of getting the name out - Black Flag will often sell out on a big demo and that's actually more expensive. We were hoping to get that going but again, needs people to volunteer and organise it.

I'm not part of the collective but would gladly offer some of my time doing that for the cause. Will pop in the shop in the next week or two to register interest, or is everything on hold until the bookfair?

Jared
Jul 24 2012 07:32

This is a long shot and you may not want to try, but you could let the International Institute for Social History (Amsterdam) know the plight of Freedom. They hold quite a lot of Freedom archives after all, and may see a point in helping out financially?

georgestapleton
Jul 24 2012 13:38

I don't know. I've tried doing street sales before and its very slow. I think people should do it on four or five occasions before proposing it as a means of selling the paper.

The WSM changed from doing street sales to a free sheet when they realised that if all the hours spent doing street sales were spent working for McDonalds then the paper print run could be increased and given out for free. ex. you stand on a corner for two hours and sell four papers making £4, work in McDonalds for the same period you make £12, which pays for 12 papers which can then be given out for free. The point is that peoples time is worth something and as a source of finance for a radical paper its a pretty shit use of our resources. (I've spent lots of time on street corners handing out leaflets to get out message out, and thats fine. But standing on a street corner and getting the message to four people because you are charging for the paper - its not fun and a bad use of time.)

Rob Ray
Jul 24 2012 14:39

It's less street corner sales and more targeted things like events that make the time worth it tbh - we've not been able to put papers in at a lot of the regional bookfairs and alternative press events for example, or have people out on the big marches to nearly the degree that we should.

Robin: Yep we're looking to be coming out again next month and for October, depends on how much support we get whether we can continue much beyond that.

Android
Jul 24 2012 14:45

I agree with georgestapleton. When I was in AF, we did regular street distribution at Oxford Rd Station / Cornerhouse in Manchester. Resistance was free, so we always managed to get rid of some. But my impression was that it was quite a low strike rate, as in people who actually read it etc. And if we had charged for it I suspect we would have sold very few. I think it is difficult to make this work as when people come across you, especially at a distance, there isn't much to distinguish you from someone employed by nightclub handing stuff out or a charity mugger.

To reiterate what GS said I would think carefully about how this would work practically before committing to it. Maybe talk to others who have done this kind of activity before.

Edit: cross-posted with Rob Ray, that sounds a lot more effective way to get it out there. Maybe ask local groups of either of the anarchist federations to put it on their stalls at the local/regional bookfairs etc.

Steven.
Jul 24 2012 14:48

I do see George's point, and in general people should factory and the amount of time they spend doing something intensive evaluating whether it is worthwhile.

However, actual readership of things given out for free is much lower than that of something which people have paid for, which is worth bearing in mind. Although we can't really accurately assess the quantitative difference.

Harrison
Jul 24 2012 15:40
georgestapleton wrote:
I don't know. I've tried doing street sales before and its very slow. I think people should do it on four or five occasions before proposing it as a means of selling the paper.

The WSM changed from doing street sales to a free sheet when they realised that if all the hours spent doing street sales were spent working for McDonalds then the paper print run could be increased and given out for free. ex. you stand on a corner for two hours and sell four papers making £4, work in McDonalds for the same period you make £12, which pays for 12 papers which can then be given out for free. The point is that peoples time is worth something and as a source of finance for a radical paper its a pretty shit use of our resources. (I've spent lots of time on street corners handing out leaflets to get out message out, and thats fine. But standing on a street corner and getting the message to four people because you are charging for the paper - its not fun and a bad use of time.)

agree, but theres also a problem with free distributions where a lot are just thrown away by disinterested people.

if you charge something like 10p or 20p then it strikes a perfect balance between people not taking it if they just want to be polite, whilst still not making it costly.

smush
Jul 25 2012 17:13
the button wrote:
... while I salute the efforts of those involved (among whom I number some of my closest friends), I have to ask myself if it's worth it for the sake of 300-odd subscribers and minimum public sales.

It's obviously a difficult financial situation, but far out, if I was involved in a monthly 24-page publication with a subscriber-base of 300 (!) that would give me every reason to keep going. Maybe it's a matter of scale: 300 people sounds like an awful lot to me but maybe to someone who lives in a town that has twice as many inhabitants than this whole country (Aotearoa/NZ) it seems like nothing...?

Jared, support your korero all the way!

slothjabber
Jul 26 2012 10:04

If Freedom only ever gets 300 subscribers, then perhaps it's time to let it die, becaue if only 300 people in the world care to read it then it's not a newspaper it's an expensively-produced club newlestter.

However if an attempt to raise its profile means more people subscribe and/or regualrly read it then it's going to be worth saving, surely?

I agree with Rob Ray that selling on demos is better than random street corner sales, which seems fairly futile, unless there is a particular 'pitch' that can be guaranteed and then presumably only in a location that doesn't have a stockist anyway; better still I would think in the long term would be people approaching local bookshops and suchlike and asking if they'll take some. Demo sales are good for 'hooking' people (if you have something that hooks, anyway) but they need to be able to get hold of it afterwards, either through subscriptions or a local supplier. Local stockists have the added advantage that 'passing trade' might pick it up as well.

Improving the quality of the paper - and everyone I know who's actualy offered an opinion on this says quality is improving all the time - is obviously a good start; but convincing people to take the punt is the trick. The more often people see it, the more likely they are to buy it, I would suspect; so that means stockists, and a higher profile at events, and possibly more street sales, bearing in mind what georgestapleton said - £4 for two hours selling is not as efficient as working in McDonalds for two hours and making £12 which you then donate to the organisation. On the other hand, with two hours selling papers (or not selling papers) you don't have to work in McDonalds for 2 hours. I know which I'd rather do on a sunny Saturday, or even a windy rainy Wednesday.

Strret sales and even sales at demos won't save Freedom. Significantly increasing the number of subscribers will, obviously, but finding more stockists might, or can be an important part of a strategy that might, and I think that should be a (not the only) priority.

Current stockists are: 9 in London; 1 in the suburbs of Birmingham; 1 in Brighton; 1 in Bristol; 3 in Edinburgh; 1 in Liverpool; 1 in Nottingham; 1 in Southampton - and I've just persuaded a shop in Leicester to take them, but they haven't arrived yet.

Nothing in: Leeds; Glasgow; Manchester; Sheffield; Aberdeen; Norwich; Plymouth; Cardiff; Swansea; Newcastle; Belfast; Coventry; York; Dundee; Carlisle; Stoke...

Maybe comrades in those places could start looking for possible places that might stock them?

Choccy
Jul 26 2012 10:15

Might be worth contacting the Warzone Centre for distro in Belfast, they have an open cafe almost everyday, and gigs/talks etc might consider taking a few.
Also, give Just Books a shout.

Harrison
Jul 26 2012 11:10

There should be more licensed anarchist bars in England.
- makes a tonne of cash for the movement, whilst being managed collectively.
- looks great.
- promotes the anarchy.
- stocks anarchy stuff on the side.

Croy
Jul 26 2012 20:55
Harrison wrote:
There should be more licensed anarchist bars in England.
- makes a tonne of cash for the movement, whilst being managed collectively.
- looks great.
- promotes the anarchy.
- stocks anarchy stuff on the side.

I didnt know there was such a thing ?

Choccy
Jul 26 2012 21:14

Bradford 1 in 12 was licensed as private members was it not? Played there in 2004 but can barely remember, they defo served alcohol.

Harrison
Jul 26 2012 21:58

whoever downrated my post, let them be crushed under the iron fist of an effective libertarian movement.

they are fairly prevalent in europe. and you can get non-anarchies drinking their as well if the bars are clean/nice and in busy-ish areas.

EDIT: i think 1in12 still is private members, don't know if they still sell alcohol though..

Steven.
Jul 26 2012 22:18

With getting freedom stocked elsewhere, I know when I was one of the editors at least none of the places that stocked it ever paid for it. The money together they owed was in the thousands of pounds but we never got well organised enough to invoice them for it… I don't know if that situation has changed now.

As others point out, the key to long-term stability is having more subscribers, and supporting subscribers in my view

JoeMaguire
Jul 26 2012 22:21

Members bar is not a bad idea, but it does open the discussion about managing a business under capitalism.

Theft
Jul 27 2012 09:45

It would also be worth them having a paypal option, as Google checkout only allows for people with Credit Cards.

lzbl
Jul 27 2012 11:08
the croydonian anarchist wrote:
Harrison wrote:
There should be more licensed anarchist bars in England.
- makes a tonne of cash for the movement, whilst being managed collectively.
- looks great.
- promotes the anarchy.
- stocks anarchy stuff on the side.

I didnt know there was such a thing ?

There's one in Brighton, licensed as a private member's club. Although they're nice to have around I really don't think they're the answer to anything. Plus you have to have enough dedicated not-flakey anarchies to actually sort it out and run it well enough not to give police and licensing authorities an excuse to shut it down. I can't think of many towns where that is true.

As for funding freedom:

I suppose that the response to this will indicate whether or not people actually want Freedom to carry on existing.

There are websites like 'gofundme' etc where you get the money immediately rather than waiting for a funding level to be reached a la kickstarter, but I don't know whether that is better than having a paypal donate button.

Given the importance of this, I think that keeping some kind of appeal button in a visible space at the top of the website would be helpful right now. It's not immediately apparent how to bung money freedom's way.

If there is an easy link to a donations page etc, could someone post it up here? I think that if we started sharing that round the internet you might get a fair bit from people who can't/won't subscribe.

slothjabber
Jul 27 2012 12:06
Steven. wrote:
With getting freedom stocked elsewhere, I know when I was one of the editors at least none of the places that stocked it ever paid for it. The money together they owed was in the thousands of pounds but we never got well organised enough to invoice them for it… I don't know if that situation has changed now.

As others point out, the key to long-term stability is having more subscribers, and supporting subscribers in my view

I don't know if you're agreeing with me or not Steven; but I agree that subscribers are the guarantee of survival.

I think shops can be an important strategy, but there are problems and they can't be the only stretegy.

How many copies of Freedom remain unsold, back in Whitechapel? At the end of the month, how many are left? Those, could, potentially, all have been sent out into the world. If they're still unsold, you are down the cost of some bundles sent out. If some of them are sold and you get the money back, then you offset the postage against what you get back. If some are sold and you don't get the money back, you're down the postage but more people are reading it and you might get more subscribers. But having back copies in Whitechapel doesn't beneft the paper at all.

Not all shops will work like the bookshop that I've persuaded to take Freedom: it's not a case of Freedom dispatching copies to the shop and the shop sending back money. I've volunteered to take the copies to the shop, and I'm doing the stock-take. At the end of the month, I'll tell the shop how many copies have been sold, and I'll get the money which I'll send down to Freedom. If no money comes in, Freedom can chase me. So what I'm saying I suppose is that shops, plus some local people who are prepared to help with distribution and collection of cash, will be a way to expand sales.

Rob Ray
Jul 27 2012 13:30

Yeah that comes down to needing someone who deals primarily with distribution - as a role it's actually more important than getting a new writer or even page editor because it's the sort of thing which needs someone to regularly maintain a track of income/outgoings, who's paid what and what's owing etc.

Have had a word with the web person, apparently we're not allowed to take direct donations through the website for some reason so supporter subs are the best way around it atm - or a cheque made out to "Freedom Press" and sent to 84b Whitechapel High Street, London E1 7QX will also do the job. Paypal's being looked at but there's a lot of hoops to jump through so may take a wee while to get done.

Harrison
Jul 27 2012 18:15
JoeMaguire wrote:
Members bar is not a bad idea, but it does open the discussion about managing a business under capitalism.

true. but i think if its self-managed by staff (a cooperative) then its not so bad.