Freedom Background Part One: Unwilling editor

When I first started Freedom, it was with a full set of people working on it. T was in the final few weeks of his stint at the paper, but John and Jim seemed to have no plans to leave, and around them was a small coterie of people writing, helping with the accounts, and generally hanging around.

T was, although I didn’t know it at the time, a fanatically organised person. He had an entire file full of correspondence, he replied to everything. Most of the copy he got in he rewrote, and he used the full force of his personality (and not inconsiderable physical size) to loom over the entire enterprise and make sure it ticked over. Deadlines were never missed.

But T was not long for his role. He had been looking forward to a break, and once he began it, he would turn away from the radical left altogether, taking on Christianity instead. He had in his short time at the paper revolutionised it. He broke with much of the old support network – often derided as reeking of allotments, of forgetting class, of irrelevance and reformism – and enforced a strict ‘class first’ line which carried on to his successors.

This move had severely weakened the structure of the paper in some ways, necessary though it perhaps was. Some readers had been alienated, writers had stormed out, sometimes never to return. T’s system itself was highly individual, and months later I was still finding files of things which would have been useful – but which I had no idea even existed until far too late. Correspondence went missing, unanswered, features were lost, and former disagreements and feuds went unnoticed, only to resurface months down the line as the group struggled to cope with his departure.

Bar the fickle network around the young trio of John, Jim and John’s Canadian housemate, few people worked on the paper and fewer mailed it out. When T went, so did John’s friend, and as Jimmer spiralled off into a partying phase which sapped his ability to help, Freedom's organisation began to unravel.

I came in primarily as a writer, but as the group found it more and more difficult to meet on a ‘production Sunday’ as T had done, I found myself taking on the editorial functions more and more. The role for Freedom quickly split into John in one issue, Jim in the other, but as Jim couldn’t keep up his end, I ended up holding his place and doing the paper alongside John.

Finally, John, who was in a difficult position at home and was exhausted from the strain of dealing with both that and the paper, as well as wanting to move on to Libcom, left. As the only one remaining, the paper became my responsibility, barely a few months after I had started and less than a year after I’d finished my university course and first gotten involved with politics.

I had no idea what I was doing. I had pleaded with both Jim and John to find replacement editors for themselves, rather than leave it to me, but they couldn’t, and I had little option...

---

This'll continue another time. In the course of writing up the last couple of years I am at some point leading up to thoughts on how it all panned out and how it could do better, and where to go next - atm it’s a summary piece in progress.

NOTE// Bear in mind this is only my own perspective, I’d be interested in how John and Jim (even T) saw what was going on personally.

Comments

Steven.
Oct 9 2006 21:30

My housemate was american, not canadian!

But yeah that's pretty much how I see it. I didn't have as much time to dedicate as T. I tried to think up some ways of dividing it so it was manageable - namely going monthly magazine with defined sections with their own editors.

But yeah it was too much work, too little reward. You get one good article, or one good issue, but then it's gone. Seen by a few hundred people who largely agree with you anyway. Not trying to slag off the paper in this way but that's how I felt. Whereas here you find a good article and it's here forever...